The Committee on Student Employment (CSE), which was created last year by Student Government (SG), recently published six position letters regarding the new Trump administration and the executive orders that affect student workers on campus, as well as long-standing problems that concern student employment at the University.
According to the official CSE website, the committee drafted the letters to advise the SG Executive Slate on issues related to student employment, and to open up more discussions both within SG and the campus community in general.
The letters addressed the executive orders regarding immigration, University administrators’ subsequent e-mails to the campus community, graduate student unionization, why the University’s 20-hours-per-week work limit negatively affects student workers, and why auxiliary labor should be paid labor.
The mission of CSE is to monitor and investigate issues related to student employment at the University. “The position letters were not part of the original mandate [of the committee],” said Claudio Sansone, a third-year Ph.D. student in the Humanities and chair of CSE. “[The letters were] more a response to fast changing concerns.”
The first two position letters characterized President Trump’s executive orders regarding immigration as “violently discriminatory and anti-labor,” and urged the Executive Slate to “propose in both College and Graduate Councils that it does not condone the above-cited executive order and that it will take whatever measures available to support affected student employees at the University of Chicago, as well as stand in solidarity with those affected more broadly.”
The third letter charged the three e-mails sent to the University community in January from President Robert Zimmer, Provost Daniel Diermeier, Executive Vice Provost Sian Beilock, and Dean of Students Michele Rasmussen as “offensive” and symptomatic of the administration’s “hypocritical language and policies.” CSE pointed out that the e-mails found the ban problematic only because immigrants might provide economic and academic profits to the United States. The letter then urged the administration to address “the undue pressures created by the tones and implications of such official responses,” and that the SG Executive Slate be careful and critical with respect to its own language.
The last three letters asked that the SG Executive Slate explicitly support Graduate Students United (GSU), denounced the University’s limit on working hours, which requires that student employees only work for a maximum of 20 hours per week, and addressed the issue of auxiliary labor in the broader debate about compensation. Auxiliary labor refers to labor essential to but currently not counted as work that is paid by the hour. Auxiliary labor may include preparation for teaching and for work done outside of class or laboratory hours.
According to Sansone, many of the problems that the letters addressed are not new and have been of the labor community’s concern for a long time. “For example, auxiliary labor…has been a problem for a long time, and no one has addressed [it]. Everyone in the Student Government probably knows it’s a problem, but we hope that by formalizing this [problem of auxiliary labor] in a certain way, we could push them to make it a real problem of discussion,” Sansone said.
According to Sansone, CSE is also investigating how the current minimum wage impacts labor on campus, among other issues. However, it will take months before the committee can publish its preliminary reports based on research and interviews with participants of its online survey on campus employment climate, which was circulated on social media in January.