GSU 2019

Graduate Students United protesters at the University of Chicago Main Quadrangle, 5811 E. 58th St., June 3, 2019

Graduate Students United (GSU) at the University of Chicago launched a fee refusal campaign this week, with more than 500 students refusing to pay the school’s student life fee. 

GSU described the fee, which covers the cost of student services like the library, gym and counseling, as an “onerous and dubiously justified tax on graduate students” in its pledge refusing payment.  

The pledge demands that the U. of C. waive or reduce the fee for the current academic year, include notice of the fee on letters of acceptance to prospective students, and share “the specific uses and applications of these funds...especially under pandemic conditions and with limited access to campus services.” 

Though GSU is not calling for an end to the student life fee as part of this action, the group did write in a press release that “even in the best of times, necessary campus services should be covered by our funding packages.”  

“The particular demands of this campaign are really focused around the pandemic and focused around what the fee is supposed to pay for,” said Laura Colaneri, a GSU spokesperson. “But the fees are sort of ridiculous to begin with, so we’re utilizing the campaign to point to a larger inequity.” 

Colaneri said that GSU has not yet heard back from the U. of C. administration, which does not formally recognize the group as a union. 

In a statement, U. of C. spokesperson Gerald McSwiggan detailed the services covered by the fee, including budgets for student government and immigration services for international students. 

“The annual cost of attendance for all students, including the Student Services Fee, is published annually. Additionally, graduate students generally receive notification of applicable fees when they are admitted to the University,” McSwiggan wrote. “Students who live more than 50 miles from campus, whether because of the COVID-19 pandemic or for other reasons, can waive the Student Services Fee. The University also has committed extensive internal resources to help with unexpected expenses that have arisen as a result of the pandemic, in addition to facilitating student access to federal funds for emergency expenses.”


Christian Belanger graduated from the University of Chicago in 2017. He has previously written for South Side Weekly, Chicago magazine and the Chicago Reader.

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