Editor’s Note: Graduate Students United will be hand delivering this letter to the administration office Nov. 18.
As graduate employees of the University of Chicago, we write to you in regard to the consistent and widespread delays in pay that have affected us and our colleagues. Even prior to this year, Graduate Students United (GSU) was aware that delays in payment have been a longstanding concern for our membership. However, due to the recent implementation of revisions to the payment system and timelines, and as a result of cuts to administrative staff, many graduate employees at the University find themselves in a precarious situation that is unprecedented in scale.
This recent change in payment structure affects us alongside other measures taken (and not taken) by the University administration. This summer, graduate employees were affected by an increase in rent prices on the part of the administration because of the selling-off of University property, which forced many of us to move, incurring further expenses. Last year’s cap on working hours for graduate employees in a number of divisions lowered our standard of living, also affecting our ability to pursue academic work.
Our members were informed of changes to their payment structure on June 1 and were told these changes would take effect on September 25. Even so, many of us had our first payments arbitrarily delayed until late October without announcement, meaning that previously budgeted-for expenses were left uncovered by our relatively smaller summer stipends. Unable to receive effective communications from administrators and departmental finance officers as to when and how we could expect to be paid, many of us paid rent under strain and continue to have our Student Life Fees outstanding, as well as the late fees that have accrued due to the fact we missed the standard deadlines.
Graduate Students United hereby demands an explanation as to why graduate employees of the University suffer regularly from delayed payments even though comparably complicated payroll systems in comparable institutions do not suffer from similar problems, and the faculty and administration of this institution seem to have not been affected. We ask that the University administration recognize its negligence and errors, and that it intervene immediately in order to make the employees affected whole. Graduate Students United asks that the employer:
- Pay employees who have not been paid what they are due, carefully considering differences in taxes, deductions, etc., so as to not cause further mistakes and delays.
- Waive late payment fees for the Student Life Fee.
- Immediately make accessible a 0 percent interest emergency loan to employees affected that is commensurate to the outstanding payments, if for any reason the above requests cannot be fulfilled promptly.
- Commit to providing a transparent explanation of how payment is handled, and to designing a clearer and more efficient procedure for reporting errors, communicating to affected employees, and resolving issues, be they systematic or occasional.
- Make an official apology to its employees.
- Abandon “Shared Services” and plans for staff layoffs and review other administrative decisions that have caused the problems in payment and communication outlined above.
Further, if the University administration foresees that the issue of late payment will continue into winter quarter, we request that the quarter’s Student Life Fee be waived and the aforementioned remedies be made available to all affected employees, and that an announcement to that effect be circulated immediately.
—Daniela Licandro, Claudio Sansone, and Agatha Slupek are all graduate employees of the University of Chicago. The letter has been endorsed by Graduate Students United
Correction on Nov. 18, 2016, 1:34 p.m. CST:
The print edition of this article incorrectly states that Graduate Students United planned to deliver this letter November 17. They will deliver it November 18.