Student Group Statement on U of Chicago Letter Issued by Dean Ellison to the Class of 2020

Chicago, IL –(ENEWSPF)–August 26, 2016.   Chicago Student Action Leaders at The University of Chicago make the following statement about the letter issued by Dean of Students John Ellison to the Class of 2020.

During the last 6 years, members of Chicago Student Action at the University of Chicago have organized students, faculty, other campus workers and allies in the broader community to fight for living wages on campus, challenge the university’s austerity budget, increase services and accessibility for students with disabilities, hold campus police accountable for policing tactics in neighboring communities and win fossil fuel divestment. All of these issues would require the University of Chicago administration to address the interests of students, workers and community members when making financial decisions and to share power with us. Although we support accommodations for students who have experienced trauma, we believe the university’s letter is a caricature of that issue. We also believe this letter serves as a distraction from the material issues which Chicago Student Action and other student organizations are fighting to win. Dean Ellison’s letter comes on the heels of the Aug 23 National Labor Relations Board ruling that student assistants at private universities are employees, giving graduate students on the University of Chicago campus the right to organize a union, which has already prompted a swift negative response from the university; as well as in the midst of unpopular budget cuts and layoffs that Chicago Student Action is currently fighting alongside graduate students, staff, and faculty members.

“During my time as a student government leader, Dean Ellison has repeatedly refused to meet with student leaders about critical issues, including living wages on campus, accessibility for students with disabilities and strengthening the university’s sexual assault policy,” says Eric Holmberg, incoming student body president. “It’s ironic that during my time at the University of Chicago, administrators have continuously sought to create a comfortable space for themselves free of challenge by avoiding engagement with student leaders about these issues.”

Chicago Student Action members organized a 250 person demonstration and sit-in on May 19, 2016, at the University of Chicago administrative building calling for democratization of the university, with the specific demands of a $15/hr minimum wage on campus, fossil fuel divestment, increased funding of disability services, and community accountability measures for the university’s private police force, that resulted in university disciplinary action against former student body president Tyler Kissinger. As a result of demonstrations and media attention organized by Chicago Student Action leaders, Kissinger was given a warning and allowed to graduate with his class.

Chicago Student Action, a project of The People’s Lobby, organizes students on campuses throughout the metro-Chicago area to fight for material improvements to the wellbeing of students, campus workers and the broader community.  Chicago Student Action is the largest, currently-active student activist organization at the University of Chicago. The People’s Lobby is a fast-growing, membership-driven organization devoted to organizing widespread support for public policies and candidates – including people from our communities – that put the needs of people and the planet before the interests of big corporations and the very rich.

Source: Chicago Student Action