READ. de C. waives student services fees for doctoral students, marking victory in GSU’s year-long campaign | Local News

The University of Chicago announced this week that it will waive student service fees for all doctoral students at the school, marking a victory for Graduate Students United (GSU).

GSU, the unrecognized union of graduate workers, launched a denial of fees campaign a year ago, in part in response to the continued closure of campus during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are delighted that after more than a year of collective refusal to pay the Student Services Fee, it was announced today that Ph.D. students from HUM, SSD, Crown and Div will join those from physical and biological sciences to have SSF covered as part of their packages,” the group said. wrote on Twitter.

A spokesperson for the U. of C. said fees would be included in doctoral funding programs beginning this fall term.

“Over the past 15 years, the University has made substantial investments in doctoral education – increasing funding for annual stipends, eliminating reimbursable tuition fees, adding childcare allowances, expanding insurance coverage disease and offering a wide variety of programs and services,” the spokesperson wrote in a statement. “The extension of this support to cover student services costs is intended to help students as they progress through their studies.”

Andrew Seber, GSU’s divisional social science representative, said a notice went out to all divisions on Jan. 25 announcing the removal of student service fees and an increase in stipends for doctoral students.

“I was so, so excited. A lot of us have been working really, really hard on this for, honestly, over a year at this point. And so, there’s been a lot of meetings, e- emails, forums, data tracking and stuff to make that happen, so it was like a huge win,” Seber said.

Graduate workers had critical the charges, arguing that in addition to keeping them going during the pandemic, the U. of C. never disclosed what the student service fee was actually used for and that the fee made a substantial difference when taken from student paychecks.

“So when they closed the campus, they had initially reduced fees. And then the campus stayed closed for all of us here, but they put it back up to $416 (per term). And none of us were able to work on campus, and that’s when we decided to organize the action,” Seber said.

Hundreds of graduate workers have signed the pledge. Seber said the hardest part was the risk of punishing people with the amount of debt they accumulated.

“There was always a risk that people would be punished or forced to pay back large sums of money to the University all at once. And so personally, it was very stressful, in a sense, the responsibility that I feel for people who were getting these calls from the bursar’s office and being told to have to pay $1,200 of their balance or they would lose their Health Insurance.”

Seber said the GSU was still fighting for the cancellation of debt accumulated during the campaign – administrators said they would not forgive debts owed for charges withheld from last year.

“We have a lot of this debt unpaid and there are a lot of people who want to continue advocating and organizing to get rid of this debt both for the doctorate. and master’s students,” Seber said.

He says the union is also committed to pushing for improved dental and vision care for graduate students, as well as increasing annual stipends.

GSU launched a Hardship Fund to raise funds for graduate students who may face retaliation from the university for withholding funds during the campaign.