__MAIN_TEXT__
feature-image

Page 1

STUDENT GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS

APRIL 28, 2021 FIFTH WEEK VOL. 133, ISSUE 24

PAGE 6

Essential at UChicago: A Special Series On Labor

KIRA DAVIS

VIEWPOINTS: UChicago Labor Chicago says the University failed to protect workers during the pandemic

PAGE 15

NEWS: Graduate Students United’s ongoing fight for recognition

NEWS: Maintenance and trade workers on their experiences during COVID-19

PAGE 3

Like our Facebook page at facebook.com/chicagomaroon and follow @chicagomaroon on Instagram and Twitter to get the latest updates on campus news.

PAGE 2 chicagomaroon.com


THE CHICAGO MAROON — APRIL 28, 2021

2

Maintenance and Trade Workers Reflect on Employment During the Pandemic By YIWEN LU News Editor One year ago, after the University announced a remote spring quarter, the campus closed down with one week’s notice. While students left the dorms and classrooms, a group of workers continued working under the title of “essential,” keeping the campus running at an abnormal time. “We can’t perform our jobs at home––even in the beginning when things weren’t really bad,” said Bernard Gillespie, a building engineer at the University, about working during the pandemic. His crew, the building maintenance group, takes care of campus buildings, making sure that heating, air conditioning, refrigeration, fencing, and plumbing function on campus. Amid rising COVID-19 positivity rates in spring 2020, this maintenance still needed to be done. Ensuring safe working conditions became the top priority for Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73, the union that represents two separate UChicago chapters, Facilities Skilled Trades and Collegiate Assistant Professors. Thus, in early April, Facilities Services initiated a skeleton crew structure under rotating shifts in early April, during which only one or two workers from each skilled trade group were physically present on campus to perform daily maintenance of the facilities at one time. While the idea was to keep as few crews on campus as possible to minimize the risk of viral spread, there were still complications. For example, all workers at the Steam Plant––a seven-floor building at East 61st Street and South Blackstone Avenue––had to work their normal schedules instead of rotating to make sure that enough steam was produced to keep UChicago Medicine running. “We have to be creative even within our own group,” union representative Elizabeth Towell said of navigating unforeseen events during COVID-19 operations. “It’s not always easy for essential workers, especially during a pandemic.”

The rotational structure lasted for a few months before workers gradually returned to normal work in July. When the City of Chicago started to vaccinate essential workers in late January, skilled trade workers were also able to receive vaccines through the University. Both Gillespie and Joe Pruim, the president of the Facilities Skilled Trades chapter and a carpenter at the University, spoke positively about the University’s handling of COVID-19 safety protocols. “Everywhere it’s been very hard for people to get shots, and the University really comes through on that,” Pruim said. In the months where maintenance workers were the only staff on campus, the administration’s oversight and responsiveness lagged. Towell told The Maroon that when filing grievances or asking questions, the responses from the University’s Employee and Labor Relations department have been significantly delayed compared to pre-COVID times. She had to escalate the requests to Brett Leibsker, the executive director of the department, because she did not hear back. “Everybody’s working from home except for us, so it’s just a disheartening feeling,” Gillespie added. The University also implemented new policies to adapt to uncertainty during the pandemic. On March 19 last year, days after the University announced its plan for a remote spring quarter, Associate Vice President for Human Resources Casey Cook confirmed that all staff employees would receive up to six weeks of additional paid time off for reasons related to COVID-19, such as being infected with COVID-19 or taking care of family members who were ill. However, the policy was reverted on July 1 of last year. Since then, a few workers at the skilled trades unit tested positive for COVID-19, but they were not able to take paid time off, according to Gillespie. Towell pointed out that in one circumstance, a worker was sent home without pay because they were infected. The union filed a grievance to the University, and Policy on University Quarantine Orders was later implement-

ed. Although this policy did not directly address the grievance, it allowed for up to 10 “missed regularly scheduled workdays” to be paid if the worker received a quarantine directive from a University contact tracer. The quarantine directive may be issued if a contact tracer determines that “the employee was in close contact with an infected person in the course of performing their duties for the University.” “That’s a process [which is] actually subjective to the University’s new contact tracing department,” Gillespie explained, pointing out the gap between the current policy and the previous 240hour allowance of time off. “I can’t really say it left a bad taste in our mouth because it was a generous offer in the first place, but it does make us wonder, ‘Why did that just stop?’” In a comment to The Maroon, University spokesperson Gerald McSwiggan wrote, “This was a temporary policy provided as an additional benefit to help support employees during the initial transition period. As remote work roles developed and University offices adapted to the pandemic, it was possible to rely on standard benefits for personal and family issues.” Food Service Workers During the Pandemic At the dining halls, most workers faced changes in their normal duties when the demand for food service reduced during the pandemic. Teamsters Local 743, the union that represents food service workers at the University, had worked closely with Bon Appétit, the University’s current food service provider, to ensure that workers received regular payments and benefits while performing different work. In late March 2020, the University announced a partnership with the Greater Chicago Food Depository to provide food to South Side residents through leveraging existing University resources. Bon Appétit employees who worked at the dining halls were paid by the University to prepare and deliver packed food to the community so that they could stay employed during the

pandemic, according to Local 743 President Debra Simmons-Peterson. The implementation of this program followed an announcement in March from University Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Ivan Samstein that the University was working with its “food service contractors to establish new roles and responsibilities for their employees to meet pressing needs in our community.” The food service workers were not directly paid by the University since they worked for the University under a contract with Bon Appétit. With food service company Chartwells slated to take over campus dining in July 2021, Local 743 is in the process of negotiating a new labor contract. “It’s going to be very intense because we only have a small window,” Simmons said. The contract between Local 743 and Bon Appétit ends on June 30, and members would lose the benefits they receive through the contract, including medical insurance, if a new contract with Chartwells––which would have to start anew––is not in place. However, Simmons also expects the union to have a “good relationship with Chartwells” as it had with Bon Appétit and the University’s former food services provider, Aramark. “The union will have an emergency meeting with employees and let them know the importance of mobilizing and being united so we can fight for a good contract.” Envisioning a Post-Pandemic Campus For the skilled trades, one ambitious post-pandemic plan is to establish a training program for youth in the surrounding neighborhoods. When hired, workers such as Gillespie and Pruim were all required to have at least five years of experience in the trade, after which they become known as journeymen. “One of our big things is the lack of apprenticeship to extend to people in the neighborhood [and] younger skilled talent, to hone their skills and actually [get] trained and have a roadmap to become journeymen if they get hired as an CONTINUED ON PG. 3


THE CHICAGO MAROON — APRIL 28, 2021

3

“I just hope that students can also take [safety guidelines] to heart and take it as seriously as we are” CONTINUED FROM PG. 2

assistant, or helper, with these respective positions,” Gillespie said. Before the pandemic started, the Skilled Trades chapter formed a training committee to plan the expansion of training. In its bargaining process, the chapter initially proposed a set number of trainings provided by the University, which the University shot down, citing logistic difficulties, according to Towell. In the 2019 Collective Bargaining

Agreement reached between the union and the University, both sides agreed to form a training committee that would meet quarterly and “work to facilitate greater access to training for all union members.” “It wasn’t what we wanted initially, but we were able to get something that we think is going to be an improvement,” Towell said. “[Training] is our goal for the next academic year.” Data from UChicago’s Office of Civic

Engagement show that the University is the largest employer in Chicago’s South Side and that nearly one-third of its employees live on the mid–South Side. But among the skilled trades, a majority do not live in Hyde Park, according to Pruim. Through extending apprenticeship to more residents close to campus, the chapter is trying to change that statistic. “That was the whole point of trying to come to some agreement with entry-level positions,” he said.

Expecting a full resumption of in-person activities in the fall, The Maroon asked workers about their expectations for students. “Anybody that’s on campus could be affected by anybody that doesn’t accurately report their test results,” Gillespie said. “I just hope that students can also take [safety guidelines] to heart and take it as seriously as we are, because we are here to serve you, essentially, and we hope that you would pay us the same respect.”

Looking Back and Forward: GSU’s Fight for Graduate Student Rights and Recognition By NIKHIL JAISWAL News Editor In 2007, 15 graduate students founded Graduate Students United (GSU) in response to an administration decision to exclude current graduate students from new funding packages for health insurance and residency fees. The group’s first fliers stated, “Join the fight for fair: funding / teaching / health insurance.” The first Maroon article about GSU was published in 2008. In it, Jack Lesniewski, a GSU member, said that the goal of the organization was “to build the power of working graduate students. Not to be relying on ad-hoc committees or on a particular administration at particular points but to have a sustained power and presence that democratically represents the interests of working graduate students.” This goal has remained constant over the years. Stephen Cunniff, a fifth-year philosophy Ph.D. student, has been involved with the GSU since his first week on campus. He currently serves as the chair of the GSU’s Worker Action Committee—the group responsible for planning actions for the union. “Any major decisions made by the union are made at general membership meetings. We do not undertake any

direct action, and we do not make any basic decisions about the union, except at general members meetings,” Cunniff said in an interview with The Maroon. “This has always been the case and this is always going to remain the case, that all membership participates in the most important decisions we make,” he said. In 2009, GSU first waded into issues outside the realm of graduate student wellbeing when it released a statement objecting to the creation of the Milton Friedman Institute for Economic Research. The statement raised two points of contention: that “it was instituted without enough campus input and that it endorses Friedman-style free-market politics.” The decision to release the statement was made by a general membership vote with 76 percent of members voting “yes.” And even while GSU’s current constitution, which was ratified in 2018, established a steering committee which serves as the union’s “executive body.” While the Steering Committee organizes and plans union activities, the membership of the union remains the organization’s “supreme decision-making body.” Graduate students seem to appreciate the support of the GSU. When the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)

organized a union-recognition vote in 2017, just under 70 percent of graduate student workers voted “yes.” “Those kinds of percentages aren’t going to be changing significantly,” Cunniff said. “There is and there always has been broad support for the basic aims of the union.” Despite the overwhelming support for a union among graduate student workers, University administrators have refused to recognize GSU as a union. In a statement from June 2019, then-Provost Daniel Diermeier said in a statement that “the University of Chicago is not opposed to unions” but that “unionization would fundamentally alter the decentralized, faculty-led approach to graduate education that has long been a hallmark of the University of Chicago,” and that it “would not address many of the critical concerns students and faculty have identified, and could put current progress at risk.” When asked why he thought the University had not recognized GSU, Cunniff said, “I think that UChicago’s identity is not among the most receptive to labor organization, but at the same time, in many ways, they’re following the trend which we’ve seen across private universities. Which is to increasingly consolidate power within the administration. To me, the most significant driving fac-

tor to the administration in their opposition to GSU is precisely that, they want to hold all the strings in terms of how resources are distributed across the University.” GSU’s fight for recognition had seemed at its end in 2017, when the regional office of the NLRB—the federal body which adjudicates unionization issues—sided with UChicago graduate workers and mandated that the University recognize GSU as a union. The decision by the regional office was based on a 2016 ruling by the national board of NLRB which had ruled that graduate students at Columbia University had the right to unionize and be recognized by their employer. Despite that, the University of Chicago decided to appeal the decision of the regional office to the national board. The reasoning behind such a move was the prospect of a new Republican majority on NLRB, one appointed by former President Trump. The original 2016 decision had been decided by an NLRB with a Democratic majority, and activists across the country feared that a Republican majority would use the opportunity presented by the University of Chicago’s appeal to overturn the Columbia decision. GSU decided to withdraw their case from NLRB, saying in a blog post that their CONTINUED ON PG. 4


THE CHICAGO MAROON — APRIL 28, 2021

4

“The way we can refuse our passive participation from this administration is to withhold our money from them.” CONTINUED FROM PG. 3

move would “prevent the University of Chicago from using the Trump Administration to overturn the Columbia precedent.” Looking back, GSU member Laura Colaneri stands by the decision, saying “the University didn’t have an opportunity to make a case that would overrule the previous Columbia ruling. We protected graduate organizing throughout the United States.” But the depth of internal support that GSU enjoys has allowed the organization to undertake large scale worker actions for University recognition. In June of 2018, the GSU conducted its first graduate worker walkout, which consisted of hundreds of graduate students striking for 3 days. GSU repeated this a year later, striking for another three days. Laura Colaneri, a fifth-year Romance Languages and Literature Phd student and member of GSU’s communications committee, referred to the strikes as the “high point of a series of escalating actions based upon looking for recognition.” “One of our lessons from over the years has been that you can’t put all of your eggs in one basket. The govern-

ment will sometimes support you and sometimes it won’t, and when you know you’re in the right, in terms of your actions, and that you’re trying to improve people’s working conditions on campus, you’ve got to really be exploring all your options. As of right now, we’re not relying on any one strategy in particular. We are in the process of listening to our membership and trying to do things that will have immediate benefits on campus, and won’t be subject to the shifting tides at the federal level,” Colaneri said. Currently, GSU is engaged in a campaign to have the student services fee (SSF) that graduate students pay either reduced or eliminated. According to the University, the SSF “covers many services dedicated to enhancing the quality of student services and campus activities,” including “services provided by UChicago Student Wellness.” In a statement on Twitter, the organization said that “hundreds of grad workers at UChicago pledge to refuse payment of the Student Services Fee until the administration meets our demands.” The demands outlined by GSU include a reduction of the SSF to at most $125 and a public disclosure of where the money from the SSF goes.

“The way we can refuse our passive participation from this administration is to withhold our money from them. We’ve been doing this since the beginning of winter quarter and plan to continue this throughout the spring until the University plans to either reduce or eliminate the Student Services Fee,” Cunniff said. According to Cunniff, as the public health situation in Chicago improves, the GSU is poised to return to in-person activism. “We are definitely looking forward to increasing mass engagement on campus from our students, and we are going to be starting that as soon as possible,” Cunniff said. Any discussion about the future of graduate students on UChicago’s campus must now consider incoming University President Paul Alivisatos. The University of California system, where Alivisatos has worked for the last 32 years, has had a graduate students’ union since 1998. While Alivisatos’s individual relationship with Berkeley’s graduate students is unknown, his predecessor at the University of Chicago, President Robert Zimmer, has had a distant relationship with GSU. While former Provost Dier-

meier made multiple statements about graduate student unionization, Zimmer’s last written statement was an email to the University community from 2016 which addressed NLRB’s Columbia decision. An online record of the email ends with, “We hope all members of our community will take the time to look more deeply into the challenges and potential negative consequences of a union and participate in dialogue around these issues.” Cunniff himself has reserved judgment of the new administration, saying the turnover is “a new opportunity that may prove to be beneficial, or not,” and characterized GSU’s outlook on the situation as “cautious.” “What we know, and what’s been shown both in our case and around the country, is that if we want union recognition, we’re going to have to fight for it. The only question is how deep will the administration dig in its heels against this fight,” Cunniff said. “Unionization is not going to come from the initiative of the administration in any case and we expect them to fight against it to some degree, the question is if they will fight it as tooth and nail as the previous administration did.”

Entering Contract Negotiations, Non-Tenure Track Faculty Union Talks University Governance, Communication By LAURA GERSONY News Editor In June 2020, Marie Berg, a lecturer in the French department, received an email from the Office of the Provost, sent to all of UChicago’s teaching staff. The email said that while teaching fall courses in person was strictly voluntary, “we believe strongly that in-person interactions between students and instructors in a safe setting profoundly enrich learning and the student experience.” Berg agreed with the sentiment and she signed up to teach three in-per-

son classes in the fall. When she and a handful of other colleagues began teaching, however, they quickly ran into a problem: they didn’t have access to office space where they could safely prepare for or spend time between classes. Harper Cafe was used for this purpose at first, but reservations had to be made daily, and it did not open until 9:30 am, too late for her 8:00 am class. Eating was also not permitted. So Berg was forced to get creative.   “Last week,  I worked in my car. That was not cool. It’s one main reason that makes me hesitate to teach again

in-person in the winter,” Berg wrote in an email to a supervisor on October 20. “I was lucky to find a spot on University [Avenue], so I could catch the WiFi from my car.”  UChicago Faculty Forward, the union that represents lecturers, raised the issue at their quarterly meeting with University representatives, but the responses they received never fully addressed the issue, union members said. At one point, University administrators told the handful of affected lecturers to “eat discreetly” in Harper Café, where eating was officially forbidden at the

time; at another, administrators proposed Logan Center as a preparation space, a location far too distant from the main College quad to be a viable option during the short breaks the lecturers had between classes.   Months went by without an adequate solution and lecturers continued to lack office space—a provision which, per Article 18 of their union contract, UChicago is contractually obligated to provide.  “I felt that I was supporting the effort of the University to welcome the first-year students and the desire to CONTINUED ON PG. 5


THE CHICAGO MAROON — APRIL 28, 2021

5

“We call our union ‘Faculty Forward,’ but they will not even acknowledge that we are faculty.” CONTINUED FROM PG. 4

have somewhat of a campus life,” she told The Maroon. “It was as if it was annoying that I had accepted to teach in person.”  It wasn’t until winter quarter, six months after the union first raised the issue with UChicago administrators, that the University arranged for the three remaining affected lecturers to have  space to prepare and eat. At this point, many others had already informally arranged to use the unoccupied office space of tenured faculty members.  The University’s inability to solve such a simple issue bewildered Berg and her colleagues. They all agreed it was not malicious, and more likely, in the words of humanities Core lecturer Geoffrey Rees, just “a bureaucracy not being able to solve a simple problem.”   Regardless of its cause, the incident reinvigorated many union members’ concerns with the University’s operations, including a lack of open communication, increasingly centralized University governance, and a sense of being taken for granted—concerns that predate the pandemic.  Dysfunction in Communication Channels  Faculty Forward Network is a nationwide union representing non-tenure-track faculty members. UChicago’s chapter was founded in 2015. One of its first major victories was the creation of a promotional hierarchy in its first union contract, and, more recently, the University exempted all members of the union’s parent organization, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73, from the salary freeze announced at the onset of the pandemic.  Rees, a member of the union’s bargaining committee, said that, on the whole, the relationship between Faculty Forward and UChicago is “productive.” He and other union members gave the University administration credit for its skillful handling of the transition to remote learning and the flexibility it offered instructors when resuming in-person learning. 

However, in his experience, the formal avenues of communication between the union and the University have often proven ineffectual.   “Some individuals were able to work out solutions by being in contact with some administrators. But most individuals were not…The official channels of communication didn’t produce any results,” Rees said. “This [prep space issue] was just a really vivid instance in which the lack of more open channels of communication caused unnecessary problems and got in the way of us doing the jobs that the University asked us so much to do.”   Currently, there are two main avenues for formal union-University communication; first, the two organizations meet at quarterly Labor Management Committee (LMC) meetings, in which five union representatives meet with five total University lawyers and administrators. The union also communicates with UChicago through a representative from SEIU, who passes their communications along to lawyers in the Provost’s office. But dysfunction in these official channels has often caused union members to seek informal ways to address their concerns, as in the case of finding preparation space this past year.  The theme of open communication recurred over the summer when the union sent a letter to the Office of the Provost requesting additional details about the University’s reopening plan. This included queries about COVID-19 testing, ventilation, access to indoor spaces between classes, and other issues. While University staff were in contact with union representatives throughout the fall, they received no formal response to this letter, noting that some of these concerns such as access to preparation space were not resolved for several months.  “Second Class”: Remoteness from Power in University Governance  Several members diagnose the union’s struggles as a symptom of two interrelated, decades-long trends in academia.  

The first is the erosion of shared governance and the consolidation of power in universities’ central administrations—a trend that defined  the tenure of former UChicago  President Robert Zimmer. In 2019, over 100 professors wrote to University administrators after UChicago announced cuts to its doctoral programs. The letter called the move “a purely top-down, non-consultative imposition of a comprehensive transformation of the structure and substance of academic life in this university,” and a “betrayal” of the principle of faculty governance.   Stephen Haswell Todd, a humanities Core lecturer and member of Faculty Forward’s steering committee, believes that this trend contradicts the University’s values of free intellectual exchange.  “One thing that the pandemic has brought out, but that also precedes the pandemic and is independent of it, is an increasingly stark contrast between the official University values of free speech, critical thinking, and intellectual exchange…and the utterly hierarchical, bureaucratized, opaque structure of University governance that makes those very conversations structurally impossible for us to have with other parts of the University,” Haswell Todd said.  The second trend complicating the union’s goals is universities’ growing reliance on non-tenured instructional staff—what has been called the “casualization” of academic labor. Several decades ago, tenure-stream faculty members constituted the vast majority of academic appointments; now, an estimated  three  quarters of new faculty hires nationwide are off the tenure track. Non-tenure  track labor is appealing to universities as it is generally cheaper and more flexible than tenured positions, though the lack of tenure makes positions significantly less secure for the faculty occupying them.   Despite the University’s increasing dependence on them, only tenured faculty members are represented in UChicago’s faculty governing body, the Council of the University Senate. This is not the case at all universities; many

do represent full-time, non-tenuretrack faculty, and some also represent part-time ones.   University spokesperson Gerald McSwiggan wrote in an email to The Maroon  that representation on the University’s governing bodies is defined by “longstanding University statute.” These statutes specify that “Professors, Associate Professors, and Assistant Professors who have completed one year’s full-time service on academic appointment at whatever rank” are represented on the Council of the University Senate.   But many union members read the lack of representation as a sense of being taken for granted by the central administration.  “The view of the administration [is] that ‘you’re not really that important, not really significant,’” said Dmitry Kondrashov, a member of the union’s bargaining committee and an instructional professor in the Biological Sciences Collegiate Division. “That sticks with a lot of us as their attitude…This notion that you are lesser is always there.”  Per University statutes, lecturers are technically designated “other academic appointees.” Several union members said that the symbolic importance of this label is telling.  “The University will not even dignify us with the name ‘faculty,’” Kondrashov said. “We call our union ‘Faculty Forward,’ but they will not even acknowledge that we are faculty.”  “One’s job title shouldn’t matter in regards to who can be a part of the conversation,” Rees agreed, noting the importance of representation in the University’s governing bodies.  Reached for comment, McSwiggan wrote in an email to The Maroon that “academic appointees are valued members of the University community and are extremely important in fulfilling the educational mission of the University.”  The union’s four-year-long contract expires on April 30, 2021. Negotiations for the new contract are ongoing. 


THE CHICAGO MAROON — APRIL 28, 2021

6

Cases Drop Following Stay-at-Home Order By ROSHINI BALAN Senior News Reporter Twenty-three new cases of COVID-19 have been reported this week, according to a UChicago Forward email sent to the University community on Friday. The email credited the dramatic decrease in COVID-19 cases to the adherence to the UChicago Health Pact, which resulted in the decision to lift the extended stay at home order at 7 a.m. on April 20. The positivity rate is 0.11% this week,

down from 0.60% last week. Currently, 10 students reside in on campus isolation housing and eight are isolating off-campus. Of the 23 positive cases from this week, 14 close contacts were reported. This week, the University began lifting restrictions imposed by the stay at home order including reopening library study spaces for undergraduates, resuming in-person classes and opening campus laboratories for research.

The University requires that students continue to refrain from unmasked in-person gatherings in order to finish the spring quarter without another outbreak of COVID-19 cases. UChicago Medical Center began offering doses of vaccine to students through a random lottery this week. The City of Chicago has moved into Phase 2 of vaccine distribution, under which all residents over the age of 16 are now eligible to receive a vaccine. The University

strongly encourages students to receive the vaccine from any available provider, and reminds students that those leaving at the end of spring quarter (June 12) need to receive their first dose no later than May 21. “With a growing number of vaccination options in Chicago and around the nation, there should be enough capacity for the majority of University students and employees to be fully vaccinated by the end of June,” Rasmussen wrote in her email.

Running Unopposed, Thrive Slate Promises “Transparency, Advocating for Marginalized Groups, and Reconnection” By PRANATHI POSA News Editor Thrive is the sole declared executive slate running for Student Government (SG) this year. Third-years Parul Kumar, Murphy DePompei, and Natalie Wang are running for the positions of president, vice president for administration, and vice president for student affairs, respectively. Thrive described its platform as centered around “transparency, advocating for marginalized groups, and reconnection.” While Kumar and Wang have been involved with SG since their second year, DePompei only got involved this year, contributing to SG’s COVID-19 Committee, which was established “to create additional channels of communication between students and administrators in regards to the pandemic.” “I never felt like any of the policies touched me,” DePompei said of her previous impression of SG. “All that pretty much changed this year with the work of College Council (CC) in particular. Suddenly, Student Government seemed way more accessible…with the advocacy around pass/fail policy and around the academic calendar. I was super impressed.” Both the pass/fail and academic calendar policies pursued by CC were propelled by vocal student demands. Thrive consistently emphasized its commitment to listening and responding to students. “What’s unique about us is that, you

know, we’re not just standing here and being like, ‘Here’s the platform that we wrote’ without talking to anyone about it or [only] talking to a few groups,” Wang said. “It’s really important to us to uplift other people on SG and acknowledge that they have really brilliant ideas.” The slate has met with almost two dozen groups, such as UChicago Quest+, #CareNotCops (CNC), performance RSOs, and Students for Disability Justice, over the past few weeks. The slate has also committed to maintaining quarterly meetings with them after taking office. Many of the ideas from those meetings have already been incorporated into Thrive’s platform on its website. These include many of its policies to advocate for first-generation, low-income (FGLI) students and students on leaves of absence. “We want to make sure that not only are we crediting them for these ideas but [that] these are ideas carried out [according to] the visions that they had,” Kumar said. Thrive has committed to a set of policy goals to accomplish within the first hundred days of taking office on June 13, such as reinstating the 10-week academic calendar, increasing accessibility accommodations, and establishing a student advocacy office (SAO). “A lot of our platform is small, measured steps that will have a tangible impact on every student’s life,” DePompei said. “I want to see people be impacted positively now. And I think we know that

and we’re going to do that.” On the Academic Calendar In February of last year, it was announced that the University would switch to a nine-week quarter system, effective autumn 2021. Undergraduate students have expressed dissatisfaction with this switch and Thrive hopes to work with University administrators to return to a 10-week quarter. “Admin is oftentimes very responsive to conversations driven by data,” Kumar said. “Luckily for us, CC has actually put out a survey regarding student attitudes towards the academic calendar. I think I’ve received about 800 student responses…and the average rating was like a 1.5 out of five for how students felt about that calendar.” Thrive also wants to address the shortcomings that led to the creation of the new nine-week schedule. “A lot of that was driven by career prospects, like students not being able to have their summer plans…. We really want to find ways to work around that… [such as whether] standardizing petitions for early finals would be possible,” Kumar said. Emphasizing the need for communication with admin, Wang said, “I think that this just really demonstrates [that] admin needs to be talking to students because we heard from other Student Government members that when admin heard about the pushback from undergraduates, they were surprised that we had all these ob-

jections.” Wang continued, “One of the things on our platform was having an academic affairs committee who would be on the front line of talking to admin about these issues and making sure that students are getting their input.” Such a committee would be structured similarly to other SG committees, consisting of individuals involved in SG and other undergraduates. On Accessibility The Thrive slate is also concerned with making campus more accessible for students in a variety of ways. For instance, it will seek to collaborate with Student Disability Services (SDS) to continue the use of Zoom even after in-person classes resume, similar to the existing notetaker accommodation. “Being able to participate and not having to worry about [missing class due to doctor’s appointments] and just focusing on your own well-being—I think that’s just so critical,” Wang said. Wang also spoke of how existing resources for students with disabilities are difficult to access, such as those to receive accommodations for ADHD. “The website is just very hard to navigate [and] the process is very complicated…. That immediately is not accessible.” Thrive is also hoping to expand the hours of Student Counseling Services (SCS). “Right now, I’m looking into whether it’s possible to expand SCS’s hours so CONTINUED ON PG. 7


THE CHICAGO MAROON — APRIL 28, 2021

7

Thrive hopes to redistribute some UCPD funding towards students. CONTINUED FROM PG. 6

that people can make appointments for the evening or weekend,” Wang said. She noted that it was important to keep in mind SCS and admin’s “concerns about cost and [make] sure that clinicians aren’t burning out.” On Supporting Marginalized Students Uplifting marginalized students is central to Thrive’s platform, according to its three members. They hope to establish an SAO that can address some of those goals. “[The Student Advocacy Office] is a group made by students, for students, consisting of students from all over the University who identify as survivors, FGLI students, students who have taken leaves of absences, to help other students navigate Title IX, navigate leave of absence policy, [and] navigate advising when you’re an FGLI student so that students will feel heard and represented by people who have similar experiences to them,” DePompei said. Both DePompei and Kumar emphasized that the positions in SAO would be paid. “Wanting this position to be paid is very much influenced by our conversation with the Odyssey Scholars fellows board [Odyssey Scholars Community Fellows], where they talked about how difficult it was to find on-campus jobs,” Kumar said. “And I think if this is one thing that we can help with, we’d love to do that, especially for marginalized groups on campus, to make sure that they have support and [that they] are compensated for that support.” “We can’t possibly represent every single student’s individual identities, but we can listen, we can learn. And we have

learned so much from the conversations that we’ve had this week and that we hope to continue to have…to better advocate for these students,” Kumar said. On Greek Life As a whole, DePompei said that “we as a slate [were] pretty satisfied up until a couple of weeks ago with how COVID measures have taken place on campus purely in terms of limiting spread, which is the most important thing [for] student health.” “But, with the recent outbreak that was largely driven by off-campus fraternity parties and traveling after [during] spring break, we think our platform for our idea for Greek life recognition is probably the most salient issue in terms of the COVID outbreak,” DePompei continued. The initial outbreak resulted in over 60 cases of COVID-19, though that number has risen. To limit the spread, the University instituted an extended stayat-home order for students in on-campus housing that began on April 7 and was lifted on April 20.. “Greek life recognition is something that has been a conversation for years, prompted by survivors in groups like PSA [Phoenix Survivors Alliance],” Kumar said. “I think that this year, we very much see the other harm that a lack of recognition can bring to campus, especially as they impact everyone with COVID violations and things like that.” “The most important element of recognition is that with University oversight and communication with national chapters, there is greater oversight over the resources that frats are oftentimes able to use as a means to host parties, meaning their houses,” Kumar continued. Kumar outlined how national chapters

own the houses that frats are housed in, which means that “the University doesn’t have oversight over [the houses] right now in terms of leasing.” “Right now, a lot of the accountability measures are figured out by men in fraternities, and when you’re punishing your brother that you have pledged with, that you’ve rushed with, it doesn’t necessarily mean the safest space for accountability,” Kumar said. On Graduate Students United (GSU) “In the past, SGA [Student Government Assembly] has not really taken a stance toward GSU recognition as a body, I think because Graduate Council prefers to remain more neutral,” Wang said. But if the recently proposed referendum to split Graduate Council from Undergraduate SG (USG) passes, that may no longer be the case for USG, which would then be operating separately from Graduate Council. “While we want to remain on good terms and have good communication with Grad Council, we also want to make sure that we take this opportunity to talk to GSU and really uplift the work that they’re doing,” Wang said. That uplifting would take on a few forms, according to Wang. “We want to bring up GSU recognition in meetings with admin,” Wang said. “Undergraduates benefit from grad labor. We all have grad students as TAs, [and] they can also be mentors. We owe it to them to advocate for them.” But Wang also believes that undergraduate support of graduate students can take on other forms, such as “connecting undergraduate students to a graduate student [or to] parents who might need someone to help babysit their child [when] they’re at class or doing an exam.”

On the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) “We as a slate want to lift the curtain on what operations UCPD has and has not done,” Kumar said. UCPD’s current jurisdiction stretches beyond campus limits, from East 37th Street to East 64th Street and from South Cottage Grove Avenue to South Lake Shore Drive. Kumar noted that the size of the patrol area means that community members unaffiliated with UChicago are also policed by UCPD. “Why does the University have such a large private police force when it clearly isn’t only students who are being policed, right?” Kumar asked. Thrive hopes to redistribute some of the funding for UCPD towards students. “The work that [UCPD does] is oftentimes reactive as opposed to preventative. When harm occurs on campus in the form of a mugging or something like that, UCPD takes note of this, but students are oftentimes left on their own to pay for things like hospital bills…. We really want to push for transparency in the budget to be able to make the argument that these funds should then be distributed to support the student,” Kumar said. “This comes back to our differentiation between big tangible ideas and small tangible ideas,” DePompei added. “While we are supporting carrying out CNC’s vision for defund, disband, abolish UCPD, we also, in the interim, care about supporting students’ mental health [and] supporting FGLI students in their move-in and moveout processes. We care about supporting students and not policing them and giving them tangible actions that [do not involve] police.” “In our vision for what a safe campus looks like, safety looks supportive, safety looks inclusive, and safety doesn’t police,”

Thrive Elected Executive Slate as Referendum to Split SG Passes By MICHAEL MCCLURE Senior News Reporter Thrive was elected Student Government (SG)’s next executive slate on Friday, April 23, as the spring 2021 elections came to a close. Third-years Parul Kumar, Murphy DePompei, and Natalie

Wang ran for president, vice president for administration, and vice president for student affairs, respectively. They will assume office on June 13. Thrive, which ran unopposed, received a total of 1,107 votes from the student body. There were 781 abstentions, while write-in slates received a

combined 57 votes. “We are honored and thrilled to formally accept the position of Student Government Executive Slate. In the past week, we have had the pleasure of speaking with so many wonderful students and we cannot wait to continue these conversations,” Thrive wrote in

a statement shared with The Maroon. The ballot for this year’s election also included a referendum on splitting SG into a separate Undergraduate Student Government (USG) and Graduate Council (GC), intended to improve internal coordination and student representaCONTINUED ON PG. 8


THE CHICAGO MAROON — APRIL 28, 2021

8

Thrive’s total 1,107 votes is the hightest of an unopposed slate. CONTINUED FROM PG. 7

tion. From the spring 2022 election onward, candidates would form a two-person slate consisting of a president and College Council (CC) chair, with an executive vice president appointed by CC. The vote passed with 1,291 voting yes, 149 voting no, and 405 abstaining. The result means that on June 21, the first day of summer quarter, DePompei will become CC chair and Wang will become the executive vice president for external affairs, a temporary role created for the 2021–22 academic year. Kumar’s title will not change. Thrive encouraged voters to vote “yes” on the referendum and, in its written statement, reiterated its support for the referendum after it passed. Meanwhile, Grace Schlesinger, a first-year M.B.A. candidate at the

Booth School of Business, was elected graduate liaison to the Board of Trustees with 668 votes, 487 of which came from Booth. Schlesinger defeated Alex Levi, the outgoing SG vice president for administration, who campaigned on a platform of disbanding the Board of Trustees. Schlesinger was endorsed by the outgoing co-presidents of GC, Kimberly Liu and Rohail Premjee, and by Steven Wendeborn, the outgoing graduate liaison to the Board of Trustees. The sole official candidate for undergraduate liaison to the Board of Trustees, third-year David Liang, was elected with 539 votes. The remaining 391 voters abstained or wrote in candidates. With the passage of the referendum, CC will be expanded to include five representatives for each class, meaning that Isabel O’Malley-Krohn,

Allen Abbott, John Fuentes, Alex Vinarov, and Harry Gardner will be the CC representatives for the Class of 2022. From the Class of 2023, returning members Tyler Okeke, Bianca Simons, Summer Long, and Parv Golwelkar will be joined on CC by Ángel Rosales. From the Class of 2024, Connor Lee, Ash Arian, Jefferson Lind, Evelyn Li, and Julia Brestovitskiy were the five candidates with the highest number of votes. No candidate officially declared to run for community and government liaison, meaning the election results were decided by write-in votes. Brestovitskiy received at least 53 write-in votes, the most of any student, leaving her with the choice to serve either as a CC member or community and government liaison. She decided to accept the latter role on Monday afternoon. Since Brestovitskiy accepted the

position of community and government liaison, Darya Foroohar will become the fifth CC representative for the Class of 2024. Had Brestovitskiy chosen to remain on CC, first-year Jack LeGrow would have been next in line for community and government liaison, having received at least 22 writein votes. There were 486 first-years, 166 second-years, 224 third-years, and 50 fourth-years casting ballots this year. According to SG historian Abbott, Thrive’s total of 1,107 votes is the highest number of votes accumulated by an unopposed slate in SG history. The referendum also passed by the largest percentage in SG history, with 89.65 percent voting affirmatively.

The Illinois Juvenile Justice System Faces COVID-19 By CLAIRE POTTER Grey City Reporter

This is the third article in The Maroon’s series on how the pandemic has affected youth involved with the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. The last two articles focused on the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), while this article discusses how the pandemic has disrupted the lives of youth in the state’s juvenile jails and prisons. Many of the most vulnerable children in Illinois come into contact with both systems. Approximately one third of the children involved in the child welfare system come into contact with the juvenile justice system. The pandemic has exacerbated systemic issues in  Illinois’s  juvenile justice system, ranging from the overuse of pretrial detention to the disruption  of already struggling education

programs. Meanwhile, it has also exposed juveniles to new challenges, including infection and isolation. Despite the hardship over the last year, some advocates are optimistic that the pandemic may have built momentum for reform.  Early in the pandemic, the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice (IDJJ) moved quickly to release children and teenagers from detention across the state. In February 2020, there were 219 youth in IDJJ youth prisons. Two months later, only 120 youth remained. A total of 38 youth in the IDJJ system have contracted COVID-19 to date— approximately one in four. As of February 2021, 136 youth are in the IDJJ system, which remains  significantly lower than pre-pandemic levels.  “They’ve shown that that’s a sustainable number,” said Luis Klein, who works with the Juvenile Justice Initiative (JJI). JJI is a nonprofit that

advocates on behalf of youth involved with the criminal justice system in Illinois. Advocates can now point to the pandemic months as evidence that the population of the state’s juvenile prisons can stay low.  He explained that IDJJ has more f lexibility in sentencing than other divisions of the Illinois criminal legal system. In Illinois, juveniles are not given a finite sentence when they are sent to prison. Instead, IDJJ retains the option to release juveniles if it decides that they no longer need to be in an institutional setting and that parole is in their and their community’s best interest. However, in particularly serious cases, juveniles can be tried as adults. In those cases, they do not have the benefit of indeterminate sentencing, and IDJJ does not have discretion over how much time they serve.  “When a juvenile is sentenced to effectively juvenile prison, they’re sent

on an indeterminate sentence, so it’s up to the discretion of the director of IDJJ, who sets your release,” Klein explained. “And the current director [Heidi Mueller] really made an effort to get as many kids out as she possibly could.” The pandemic accelerated an ongoing effort to reform IDJJ. The population of incarcerated juveniles has been declining steadily in recent years.  Six  years ago, there  were  700 juveniles in the IDJJ system. Over the last 15 years, the agency has responded to the growing nationwide consensus that children and teenagers should not be held in  adult prisons  because juvenile detention is both expensive and ineffective at rehabilitating youth and improving public safety. IDJJ used its discretionary power to release many juveniles at the beginning of the pandemic. Incarceration facilities across Illinois housed  a  daily  average of 218 CONTINUED ON PG. 9


THE CHICAGO MAROON — APRIL 28, 2021

9

“When the government builds a prison, there’s an incentive to put people in it.” CONTINUED FROM PG. 8

juveniles in  February 2020. By April 2020, that number had already fallen to just above 135—approximately a 38 percent decrease in just two months.  Amy Williams works with the nonprofit New Life Centers  of Chicagoland and manages youth programming at  the  Illinois  Youth Center (IYC) in St. Charles, located about 40 miles west  of Chicago. Many of the teenagers with whom she works were able to leave prison early and escape the risk of infection because IDJJ prioritized getting as many youth out as possible.  “If you see a kid who is doing well, who’s participating in all the programs and not getting into any trouble, and then here comes COVID, then they would make for a good case to say,  ‘Well,  he’s doing well, so why don’t we just release him early?’” Williams explained. “There were several cases that were just like, ‘He’s only here to serve three months, he’s doing well, [so] let’s cut his time in half. He earned it in good time.’”  Kate Burdick is a  senior  attorney with the Juvenile Law Center. She advocates for improving the outcomes and education of youth involved with the criminal legal and child welfare systems.   “We’re  hoping that even  if [or] when  the pandemic resolves, we can continue to capitalize on the gains that have been made in reducing the population to show you’ve never needed to be in these places,” Burdick said. “We want that momentum to continue and not to be a return to, ‘Okay, well, now everybody’s vaccinated, so let’s incarcerate more kids.’”  Illinois is in the middle of an overhaul of its juvenile justice system. Last July, Governor J. B. Pritzker announced  that IDJJ was transitioning to a close-to-home model that will keep incarcerated youth in small,  group homes near their communities rather than concentrate them in youth prisons where their friends and families struggle to visit them. Illinois youth centers such as St. Charles,  where  Williams works, should be closed within the next few years.  “IDJJ currently has one facility in

the city of Chicago—they don’t even own it, they rent it—and it used to be a warehouse. It is totally inappropriate to house youths there, so that part is very much transformative,” Klein said.  Some activists have criticized IDJJ for building a new youth center in Lincoln because they were concerned that IDJJ was effectively expanding its former model instead of embracing reform. Klein, though, was inclined to trust the current administrators of IDJJ.   “I want to give IDJJ the benefit of the doubt because they have earned the benefit of the doubt,” he said.  Still, he said that he would keep watching to make sure that the state does not end up adding more prison beds than it takes away.  “When a government builds a prison, there’s an incentive to put people in it,” he explained.  Juveniles who are charged and detained do not immediately receive their sentences. Instead, they go to detention centers, which are effectively juvenile jails, for their pretrial detention. “Illinois Youth Centers,” the state’s name for juvenile prisons, are only home to youth under 21 who have received their sentences and  who  are serving their time. Unlike those in prison, youth in juvenile jails cannot earn early release through good behavior. IDJJ does not have jurisdiction over the state’s jails; instead, they are part of the court system. For example, the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC), a jail for children between 10 and 16, is part of the Circuit Court of Cook County.  “On pretrial, I really wish I could say that we’ve seen the same efforts [as in youth prisons]. We have not. There was not a decline in the population,” Klein said.  How Coronavirus Disrupted Illinois Juvenile Detention Centers  The first wave of the pandemic caught the Cook County court system off guard. As it scrambled to establish remote options, Cook County suspended hearings for juveniles. Then, on April 7, 2020, the Illinois Supreme Court suspended the right to a speedy trial. Normally, juveniles cannot be held in jail for more than 30 days without a trial.

But they lost that right during the pandemic, even if they were being held for months for a minor crime for which they had not been tried. Arrests did not stop during the pandemic. There was a steady flow into pretrial facilities such as  the JTDC  in Chicago even though the population of youth prisons, which hold juveniles who have already been convicted, had dramatically decreased.  “If in your initial detention hearing you weren’t released, you were stuck,” Klein said.  Despite a drop in crime early in the pandemic, the population of  Illinois’s  youth jails remained relatively steady. In July,  an average of more than 450 youths  were in pretrial detention, a little less than 10 percent lower than the average from the year before. Meanwhile, the number of monthly admissions to Illinois youth jails decreased by  more than  36  percent  between July 2019 and July 2020 because of a drop in arrests. July 2020 was the last month when each court district fully reported its data.  However, the pandemic did indirectly open more opportunities for diversion for juveniles who were arrested. “Diversion”  describes  an  intervention that removes juveniles from formal criminal processing and instead focuses on community-based alternatives to detaining or convicting them. Usually, diversion is only readily available to juveniles arrested for misdemeanors.  Dana Weiner  is  a  senior  policy  fellow at Chapin Hall, the University of Chicago research center that focuses on children’s issues and welfare. She explained that the courts were under pressure to move juveniles out of detention centers quickly after the temporary order that suspended the right to a speedy trial trial expired. The courts were still backed up because of the pandemic, so they looked for ways to offer diversion to more juveniles.  “They created the opportunity to offer diversion to kids with other more serious charges, so kids who have gun charges or vehicular theft or other things that are more serious than misdemeanors. And  so  we’re measuring that and we’ll hopefully accumulate evidence that can inform the field,”

Weiner said. Although her and her colleagues’ research is still in progress, she described the increased opportunities for diversion as a “silver lining” of the pandemic.  Despite increased diversion efforts, the backlog in the courts kept many juveniles in jail during the pandemic. An analysis conducted by Klein and his colleague at JJI showed that four times as many juveniles were awaiting trial in youth jails as there were juveniles in prison. He explained that many of the children in  pretrial  detention could not be sent to prison even if they were found guilty. Illinois has banned the incarceration of juveniles for low-level misdemeanors, but they can still be arrested prior to trial. Moreover, no child under 13 can be sent to a youth prison, but children as young as 10 can be sent to a youth jail. In January and February 2021, one 10-year-old and one 12-yearold had been detained in the state’s detention centers.  “Children should not be locked up before trial if they can’t be imprisoned after trial”  has  become a refrain in Klein’s advocacy’s work.  The Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission (IJJC) monitors the juvenile justice system in the state and advises the  governor, the state legislature, and the Illinois Department of Human Services.  In February 2021, it released a report on the detention of youth under 13.  “In the first half of 2020—in the midst of a pandemic—there were 39 detention admissions of 10–-12 year old children in Illinois,” the report said.  A wide racial disparity plagues every part of the state’s criminal justice system. In the general population of IDJJ, nearly 67  percent  of the juveniles are Black. Among children between  ten10  and  12, the disparity is even more extreme. In 2019,  more than  70  percent  of the children between 10 and 12 who were detained were Black, even though only 15 percent of the state’s youth population is Black. The IJJC report explained that the inequity corresponds to the widespread “adultification” of Black children, in which they are perceived as less “innoCONTINUED ON PG. 10


THE CHICAGO MAROON — APRIL 28, 2021

10

“Children should not be locked up if they can’t be imprisoned after trial.” CONTINUED FROM PG. 9

cent” and therefore more deserving of punishment than their white peers.  “Racial inequality is a chronic part of every part of the criminal legal system,” Klein said. “In that small population—even worse. It somehow manages to be worse.”  Klein is lobbying lawmakers to pass bills in the Illinois General Assembly to make the detention of youth under 13 illegal. Although a similar bill has been proposed in past years, he is optimistic that there may finally be enough momentum behind the issue to pass a bill this year.  “There’s a sense that the status quo isn’t working, that locking up kids that young doesn’t make sense. And it’s never made sense, especially given that the minimum age for detention to  DJJ  is 13,” he said.  Klein is one of many advocates working to improve the conditions of youth involved with the criminal legal system. Paul Pearson, who runs the DuSable County Community Coalition, advocates on behalf of youth involved with the criminal legal and child welfare systems. Before the pandemic, he managed a class for youth at the JTDC, but he was not able to go inside the facility after restrictions were put in place to protect youth from infection. He struggled to find information about how youth inside the JTDC were being treated, and he has been gathering whatever information he can to raise awareness about the issues at the JTDC.  Pearson grew up in housing projects on the South Side of Chicago and saw firsthand the ongoing damage that youth incarceration had on his friends.  “Being raised there,  I saw a lot of youth offenders—peers, friends, acquaintances, people that I had known to be normal kids,” he said. “Quite a few of them were arrested and detained for things that I later learned were very trivial.”  Pearson has joined parents and other advocates in socially distanced rallies outside of the JTDC. “We’ve seen parents who come around [to] get access to the young people, and they were turned away,” he said, describing how children at the JTDC were indefinitely

cut off from their families. He emphasized that only a handful of the children at the JTDC are subject to automatic sentencing, which is a requirement for serious violent crime charges. “[Most children] are pending charges. This is a holding facility. This is not a facility for youth who have long term issues or concerns,” Pearson said.  Tim Evans, the  chief  judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, had organized the releases of many detainees at Cook County Jail, the adult version of the JTDC. He issued an emergency order allowing other divisions of the circuit court to hear emergency cases. Some judges allowed for a blanket emergency provision that accelerated releases. But  Cook County judge Michael Toomin, presiding over the juvenile division, opted to personally decide whether each case warranted an emergency hearing, resulting in slower processing and a slower rate of release. Advocates tried to remove Toomin, and the Cook County Democrats  withheld  its support from his reelection campaign. However, his supporters argued that he was an experienced judge interpreting the law who was the target of a politicized attack.  When Safety Concerns Disrupt Education   When youth become involved in the criminal legal system, they often face setbacks in their education,  an issue which the pandemic has exacerbated. Burdick explained that when children do not have personalized classes that give them room to ask questions and engage in real time with teachers, youth are much more likely to fall behind.  St. Charles resumed much of its in-person programming during the fall and winter, although Williams said that some older youth who had been taking college courses had to temporarily suspend their studies. Meanwhile, at  the  JTDC, the Nancy B. Jefferson Alternative School, a specialized school affiliated with Chicago Public Schools, runs the coursework. Last spring, the school started distributing instructional packets and coordinating Zoom meetings in lieu of in-person class time. 

Jessica Gingold is a staff attorney with Equip for Equality, a nonprofit that gives legal aid to people with disabilities in Illinois. She works in the Special Education Clinic and with court-involved youth. In November 2020, Equip for Equality, Legal Aid Chicago (LAC), and the Cook County Public Defender’s office filed a complaint with the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). They claimed that youths did not have enough access to special education services. Nearly 70 percent of the youth involved with the justice system nationwide have a disability. 49 percent of the children at the JTDC need Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), specialized education plans that help make sure that their particular needs are met. State law requires that initial special education evaluations are conducted within the first 60 days of receiving parental consent for the evaluation. In response to the complaint, the board initiated an investigation.  “Basically,  we discovered, because of some of our clients and then also [through] talking to the public defender and talking to LAC, that effectively youth in the detention center in Cook County  who had IEPs  were  not really having their special education needs met because of the pandemic,” she explained. “So if you have a kid who has an IEP and requires individualized instruction or related services, they’re essentially not getting [that] right now at JTDC.”  On April 14, Equip for Equality received a heavily redacted copy of the completed investigation. The  board’s investigation revealed that youth only received education packets while they quarantined for the first 10 days of their stay in the JTDC. The board also found that children in behavioral pods were unable to access any synchronous education and were given packets instead.  After the initial quarantine, detained children enroll at the Nancy B. Jefferson Alternative School. The school district’s statements were included in the investigation and gave more insight into how education was being conducted. No spokesperson was listed, and the statements were

attributed to “the district.” The school district explained the many challenges it faces at the JTDC: Many children have a history of truancy; approximately 50 percent of the students are enrolled in “out-of-compliance” IEPs because of absences from their home school; and many others have changed schools multiple times. Moreover, children are only ever at the JTDC temporarily. Although the district insisted that all legally required reevaluations were conducted on time, it was unable to supply records to confirm this during the audit.  The district also pointed to the restrictions put on education services by  the  JTDC to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and maintain security. Children received all instruction in their pods because convening in Nancy B. Jefferson’s classrooms would increase the risk of infection. The JTDC does not group students according to their education needs,  but rather based on security concerns, age, and gender.  The  JTDC considers headphones and laptops contraband, so the school cannot distribute them to students. The JTDC also considers pencils to be dangerous, and controls their use.  Working w ithin these limitations, the district explained that Nancy B. Jefferson conducts remote education through one laptop connected to a television for each pod of 12 to 14 students. A general education and a special education teacher work together to manage three hours of synchronous instruction each day. Then, they give each student individualized instructional packets. The board concluded that students were not receiving the services outside the general education system that they are legally obligated to receive. Moreover, children with emotional disorders were not receiving one-on-one time with social workers. The board emphasized the extenuating circumstances and also established a “corrective action” plan that was redacted from the report. “There’s a bit of pointing fingers at each other,  of  ‘Whose  fault  is it?’”  Gingold said,  characterizing the relationship between administrators of the JTDC and Nancy B. Jefferson.  Burdick is not familiar with the edCONTINUED ON PG. 11


THE CHICAGO MAROON — APRIL 28, 2021

11

“Children are resilient, and everyone who wants to learn has the capacity to learn.” what’s going on, and you get no phone ucation programming at any particu- calls. It was terrifying,” she said. lar facility in Chicago, but her work on Before the pandemic, she made the education issues has given her insight three  hour trip to visit her son at the on the issue nationwide. According to Illinois River Correctional Facility in her, the  JTDC’s setbacks during the Canton seven times a month. She has pandemic are not atypical.  not been able to see him in more than a “We know that education and ju- year. In December, Eric contracted venile justice facilities were typically COVID-19 and moved to a quarantine pretty subpar before the pandemic. unit. He was asymptomatic, but he was There were some places  [which]  were an infection risk. He went two to three trying hard and doing some good weeks without a shower and without work, but on the whole, the outcomes clean laundry. After he testified in were pretty devastating,” Burdick said.  court in January, he had to enter an The pandemic made these preexist- isolation unit. He went to the yard for ing issues that much worse, but Burdick outdoor recreation in November and emphasized that youth often defy ex- did not go again until February. Anpectations. “Children are resilient, and derson had little to no contact with her everyone who wants to learn and has son until the end of February, when he the capacity to learn.”  That said, she finally had consistent access to a phone added,  “The fact that they have been again. Now she is able to talk to him evdenied education and meaningful edu- ery other day for about 20 minutes.  cation is definitely a problem.” The pandemic also interfered with her advocacy work. In 2019, she worked Limiting the Risk of Infection and with Marshan Allen, a formerly incarthe Consequences of Isolation  cerated advocate, to pass the Youthful Youth prisons and jails are congre- Parole Law, which expanded the opporgate care settings where COVID-19 tunities for parole for people incarcercan spread easily. As correctional staff ated when they were under 21.  come and go, they open youth up to the “In order to get that bill passed, [Alrisk of contracting the virus. However, len] and myself traveled all over Southmany of the precautions taken to pro- ern Illinois  meeting with legislators tect youth have had painful, long term who, maybe even though they’re Demeffects on their wellbeing.  ocrat in name…are not on our side of Some of the residents of youth pris- criminal justice,” she said. “We changed ons such as St. Charles are serving de- some hearts and minds—so first their cades-long sentences.  They  will leave hearts and then their minds, and we got youth prison for an adult facility when that through.”  they turn 21.  This year, Restore Justice’s legislaJulie Anderson’s son, Eric, was sen- tive agenda includes a bill that would tenced to life in prison when he was 15. expand the rights of family members Since then, she has dedicated herself visiting their incarcerated loved ones to advocating for more humane laws and another bill that would make firefor youth who come into contact with arm enhancements—mandatory addithe juvenile justice system. She works tional sentencing for the use of a weapwith Restore Justice, a legislative advo- on—discretionary for adults emerging cacy nonprofit, and she is the founding from prison.  coordinator of a support group called Juvenile prisons and jails across Communities & Relatives of Illinois In- the country have isolated children carcerated Children (CRIIC).  from outside visitors in order to limit “When they went on lockdown, I the possibility of an outbreak. Families didn’t hear from Eric, originally for are depending on phone calls and interthree weeks. A lot of family members mittent Zoom sessions to check in on didn’t hear from our loved one for two their children, and many facilities have to three weeks, which means you don’t limited outside programming such as know if they’re sick, you don’t know Pearson’s class.  CONTINUED FROM PG. 10

COURTESY OF KFF

Isolation makes detention and incarceration that much harder. “[Youths] are apart from their families at a key time for their development during adolescence. They are apart from supportive services and connections in their communities,” Burdick said.“They’re at risk for all kinds of harmful practices like use of force or solitary confinement.”  Fewer outside observers means less accountability. “One theme of the pandemic has also been that there are fewer eyes on these facilities because lawyers and family members are not able to go in person,” Burdick explained.  In particular, advocates were concerned about the conditions in quarantine units. “There was a lot of concern in the pandemic that places would be increasingly relying on solitary as a means of keeping youth apart for not spreading COVID,” Burdick said.  Burdick raised concerns about how quarantine in juvenile detention centers often closely resembles solitary confinement. The longstanding negative consequences of solitary confinement  are particularly pronounced in youth.  At the JTDC, limiting the spread of the virus has reduced contact among residents. The yout h at the JTDC live in  30  separate housing pods that are home to between  12  and  14  residents. Mary Wisniewski, a spokeswoman for the  Cook County  Office of the Chief Judge, answered some questions  via email about how the JTDC is reducing the possibility of infection. All of the juveniles have their own rooms, and they eat from trays alone. Three intake pods are being used as quarantine pods. When juveniles test positive, they are completely isolated until their quarantine period is over. Upon first entering the facility, every juvenile is isolated to prevent the risk of infection.  Despite precautions, residents and staff have contracted COVID-19.  On April 1, the Office of the Chief Judge announced that three employees at the JTDC tested positive for COVID-19. Within a week, two residents and an additional employee tested positive.  As of April 22, 2021, a total of 87 residents

and 111 employees at  the  JTDC have tested positive over the course of the pandemic.  At IYC St. Charles, the staff are particularly sensitive to the potential negative effects of isolation. Each “cottage” of residents does not interact with the other cottages on the St. Charles campus, but they all have access to outside programming. Williams explained that the facility is using the same part of the facility to isolate youths who need to quarantine  that  was formerly used for solitary confinement. However, they have not been kept from interacting from one another in a safe way.  The residents who are quarantining cannot participate in programming, but Williams and the other programming coordinators are sensitive to keeping them engaged and mentally stimulated. She and other programming facilitators bring them books, puzzles, decks of cards, movies, and other activities to keep them engaged while they wait to return to the general population. “Everybody’s isolating together. They don’t put him in his cell and leave him there for two weeks. They get to have movement,” she said.  Rapid testing is available at St. Charles, so every volunteer and correctional staff member takes a test once a week. “One thing about St.  Charles was they’re definitely on top of [testing]. I’m sure that the kids are as safe as they possibly can be,” Williams said.  Still, youth struggled with being apart from their families. Several of the youth she works with at St. Charles are parents themselves, and they went months without being able to see and hold their children. Visitations have since resumed, but many went months without being able to see their families. They were able to talk on the phone daily so long as they had enough money to make the calls, but those conversations could not compensate for in-person visits.  As Williams explained, “They’re not able to get hugs and kisses and touch and those things that are so crucial just to being a human, but being a teenage human and not having your parents’ affection has been really difficult.” 


THE CHICAGO MAROON —APRIL 28, 2021

12

VIEWPOINTS Student Government Is Working as Intended — So I’m Resigning Who you vote for doesn’t actually matter; Student Government members are just generic, unpaid interns for the administration. By KEVIN YAN Student Government (SG) elections and SG itself is a sham, but not in the way you’d expect. In October, I ran for College Council and promised to “obstruct every SG meeting and SG vote as much as possible until SG is either abolished or significantly reformed to stop the scandals and toxic careerists that have plagued SG year after year.” I thought SG was an insular, elitist body that didn’t truly

reflect the opinions of the whole student body, and I was determined to bring it down from the inside. Given that SG still exists and that I haven’t yet been impeached and removed from my seat, that promise didn’t exactly go as planned. When I entered SG, I wanted to give it a chance before I drove up with a metaphorical wrecking ball and ripped it from its foundations. I reached out to every member of the College Council individually to gauge their sup-

Matthew Lee, Co-Editor-in-Chief Ruby Rorty, Co-Editor-in-Chief Adyant Kanakamedala, Managing Editor Suha Chang, Chief Production Officer Charlie Blampied, Chief Financial Officer The MAROON Editorial Board consists of the editors-in-chief and editors of THE MAROON.

NEWS

Peyton Jefferson, editor Pranathi Posa, editor Yiwen Lu, editor Kate Mabus, editor Laura Gersony, editor Nick Tarr, editor GREY CITY

Alex Dalton, editor Avi Waldman, editor Laura Gersony, editor VIEWPOINTS

Gage Gramlick, head editor Elizabeth Winkler, associate editor Kelly Hui, associate editor ARTS

Gabi Garcia, editor Veronica Chang, editor Wahid Al Mamun, editor SPORTS

Alison Gill, editor Thomas Gordon, editor Ali Sheehy, editor COPY

Rachel Davies-Van Voorhis, copy chief James Hu, copy chief Cynthia Huang, copy chief Gabby Meyers, copy chief Charlotte Susser, copy chief

DESIGN

Matthew Chang, head of production Claire Dennis, deputy designer Natalie Manley, design associate Matthew Rubenstein, design associate BUSINESS

Graham Frazier, director of strategy Astrid Weinberg, director of marketing Michael Cheng, director of marketing RJ Czajkowski, director of development Dylan Zhang, director of operations WEB

Firat Ciftci, lead developer Kate Hu, developer Joshua Bowen, developer Perene Wang, developer Editor-in-Chief: Editor@ChicagoMaroon.com Newsroom Phone: (312) 918-8023 Business Phone: (408) 806-8381 For advertising inquiries, please contact Ads@ChicagoMaroon.com or (408) 806-8381. Circulation: 2,500. © 2021 The Chicago Maroon Ida Noyes Hall / 1212 East 59th Street Chicago, IL 60637

port for SG abolition, and, to my surprise, I found many members who were sympathetic and who deeply cared about my concerns and me personally. I think there’s a perception from the student body that SG doesn’t care about them or their concerns or that it is unwilling to advocate for or support them when it matters. I don’t think that’s true. The SG members with whom I have become personally acquainted are some of the most dedicated, passionate people I have ever met, and I am confident that they are doing their utmost to improve student life at this university and to influence the administration to address student concerns. This year, I think SG has done a lot to more effectively hear and represent student voices and to use its unique access to the administration to advocate for change. I’ve realized both that SG has good, caring people, and that none of this actually matters. Deceived by the smokescreen of spearheading policy change and uplifting student voices, elected members of SG simply become generic, unpaid interns working for the administration. For that reason, I am resigning from College Council, effective immediately. The recent controversy over fraternities and COVID-19 illustrates the above perfectly. On April 7, within an hour of restrictions being announced in response to clusters of COVID cases, College Council began discussing fraternities, large gatherings, and punitive measures. SG issued a statement on

the issue within 12 hours, and more than 200 students came to a College Council meeting to discuss the issue within 24 hours of the enforcement of the restrictions. Over the next week, dozens of hours were spent meeting with students, negotiating with representatives of Greek life, and communicating with University officials. SG members were so passionate about getting this issue resolved in the right way that many even became highly emotional or defensive on camera. What will all of this accomplish? Nothing. Student Government is not meant to represent students, and it doesn’t need to do so. SG cannot accomplish anything because its voice does not matter unless it advocates for something consistent with the administration’s preexisting priorities and objectives. SG’s role in policy change is essentially spellcheck’s role in revising essays—it may help identify obvious errors, but it will never change content. You can observe this yourself by asking this rhetorical question: What meaningful, ideological change has SG ever accomplished? Rather, the real function of SG is non-ideological—the staffing of committees and the disbursement of funds to RSOs and other student organizations. SG elections, then, serve as a filter to recruit students who are motivated enough to show up and who will not abuse their position as unpaid administrative interns. SG elections save the administration labor in determining which students have a genuine famil-

iarity with student activities and life on campus, and they serve to keep students motivated in fulfilling menial bureaucratic work with the illusion that they might accomplish policy change somewhere along the way. To this end, the fact of running for election already selects the students that are ideal to be worker drones; who wins SG elections is irrelevant because candidates’ naively hopeful platforms have no relation to the bureaucratic job they will actually be performing. For the rest of the student body—fear not! SG will continue to be an entertaining source of drama and controversy, year after year! Just this year, several months of SG work were spent on the topic of impeaching our own executive slate, and SG members frequently subtweet each other and exchange pot shots through UChicago Secrets. SG has no real power over policy, and because there’s no avenue to actually accomplish anything, getting distracted by infighting and pettiness is almost inevitable. The lack of material accomplishments can lead to SG members inflating their own rhetorical and symbolic importance. Being relegated to spending dozens of hours debating and releasing meaningless statements and resolutions, SG members can be deceived into believing that their opinions and statements have heightened value despite producing no tangible results. With this inflated sense of importance, it’s no wonder that in 2018, SG overwhelmingly voted CONTINUED ON PG. 13


THE CHICAGO MAROON — APRIL 28, 2021

13

For the rest of the student body—fear not! SG will continue to be an entertaining source of drama and controversy, year after year! CONTINUED FROM PG. 12

to pay itself $9000 per year, a move so despised by the student body that more than 1,000 students signed a petition to overturn it in less than six days. That almost 80 percent of voting SG members supported something more than 68 percent of students opposed is a clear indication of how SG members can quickly become out of touch with the student body once delusions of

self-importance take hold. Luckily, unless SG decides to pay itself again in the future, we can rest easy knowing that SG members are diligently performing their duties as unpaid administrative interns. As evidenced by the public and private responses to the College Council’s open forum on “Greek Life & the Campus Closure,” many students are currently frustrated with how

SG has handled fraternities and the recent spike in COVID cases. Some believe that SG has been too lenient on frats, too reluctant to advocate for sanctions like suspension and expulsion, and too deferential to Greek life and University administrators in a matter of life and death. Others believe that SG has become an activist mob, hell-bent on using an isolated incident as an excuse to push

their anti–Greek life agenda and punish fraternities wholesale. It doesn’t matter who’s right, and because Student Government will never accomplish meaningful policy change, students will always be frustrated with how it is operating. Students from both sides will be motivated to run for SG to make it more representative of the student body, to improve its advocacy on important issues, and to better life

at this university. Such students will be passionate, reliable, and detail-oriented—ideal drones to be entrusted with administrative duties and some monetary funds. Under the intention of reforming SG and advocating for students, SG members will, year after year, provide our University administration with free labor. Student Government is working as intended.

A Waste: Engage Slate Is a Disgrace On top of a tenure defined by infighting and inefficacy, screenshots show that Engage Slate wasted thousands. By MATTHEW PINNA As the Thrive Slate prepares to run unopposed in this year’s spring Student Government (SG) elections, this columnist has obtained screenshots of SG’s Slack channel that show that the incumbent Engage Slate—composed of fourth-years President Raven Rainey, Vice President for Administration Alex Levi, and Vice President for Student Affairs Myles Hudson—wasted thousands of dollars on gifts that were never distributed to the student body. Through my conversations with members of SG, it is clear that this error is just one of several instances of a complete ethical failure by Engage. These instances include obscuring details of its mismanagement of sexual assault victims’ sensitive, private data and, most recently, its attempts to derail the College Council’s exploratory committee on reforming Student Government as it advocated a restructuring of the executive slate. On November 21, 2020, En-

gage tweeted a picture of the SG office in Reynolds Club completely filled with boxes and notebooks, captioned “[FIRST YEARS], get ready for your ‘survived first quarter at UChicago’ gift!! The way u [sic] take notes will forever be changed, courtesy of the @SeminaryCoop and SG.” The gift is again referenced in Engage’s autumn review email, which states that first-years will receive their notebooks “by the start of winter quarter.” These notebooks, one for every firstyear, cost the Executive Committee approximately $5,000 in Student Life fees from its discretionary fund. As any first-year could confirm, though, the notebooks were never delivered. According to messages from Student Government’s Slack channel, they are still piled up inside the SG office. In the messages from April 8, Undergraduate Liaison to the Board of Trustees Itzel Velazquez points out the obvious irony behind nearly $5,000 worth of “Welcome to UChica-

go” notebooks that will never be delivered. The worst part is that the notebooks can’t actually be reused, unless Thrive wants to hand out notebooks that—according to an SG representative— say “Welcome to UChicago from the Engage Slate.” This mishap is merely the latest example of Engage’s incompetency. In March, Rainey, Levi, and Hudson quietly posted a statement to Engage’s official Twitter account, apologizing for mistakenly giving “certain individuals within Student Government” access to Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Committee data that contained sexual assault survivors’ sensitive, private information. They neglected to mention that, tucked away in the sterilized details of the specific by-law violation, those “certain individuals” numbered roughly 70 members of the Student Government assembly. Even worse, the data leak happened in November, when committees are sat at the fall assembly; the apology came four months later,

in March. When asked why College Council didn’t speak out about the $5,000 worth of notebooks, especially given Engage’s history of mistakes, two College Council representatives—on the condition of anonymity—told The Maroon that they did not want to ruin the already tenuous working relationship between slate and College Council. According to Transition Committee representatives, College Council overwhelmingly preferred to handle matters in-house, including concerns with Slate, to avoid tarnishing the work that College Council has done this year. Despite this desire to keep disagreements behind closed doors, tensions between slate and the Student Government Transition Committee bubbled to the surface in a comment thread on UChicago’s Poll Party page between third-year representative and Transition Committee Chair Allen Abbott and Levi. In the thread, Levi accused Abbott of making “disingenuous” and

“misleading” claims about the way he chaired the Transition Committee. The process had been rushed and done “without deliberation,” according to Levi. “Real transparency,” Levi wrote to Abbott, “looks like owning up to that.” The scrap in Poll Party wasn’t the first time the executive slate has criticized Abbott over the work of the Transition Committee. It also arose on March 8 in an SG Executive Committee meeting at which, by virtue of being only for Executive Committee members, Abbott was not present. During a 10-minute discussion on the Transition Committee, Executive Slate attacked Abbott, with Rainey declaring that Abbott was not only “very stubborn” but that he had an “agenda” with “a looooooot [sic] of unchecked power.” Levi agreed, saying that the committee was “going really fast and not consulting with anybody.” As Abbott and the Transition Committee explained in their CONTINUED ON PG. 14


THE CHICAGO MAROON —APRIL 28, 2021

14

But to be utterly inept is one thing. Why is Engage actively trying to sabotage the Transition Committee by claiming that it suffers from a lack of input, when all the evidence points to the contrary? CONTINUED FROM PG. 13

recent letter to the editor, these claims and others that were made by Levi in recent Marooncoverage are entirely unsubstantiated. Levi, in fact, should know better than anyone: According to the committee’s letter, Levi and “dozens” of other SG members had access to the committee’s work for at least a month in advance of the official review. Levi personally, along with the other members of Engage, was contacted for feedback on several occasions through “email, Facebook, and Slack.” In total, “over 60 percent” of Student Government weighed in on the Committee’s work. Worse is the fact that the letter issued by the Transition Committee isn’t the first time Levi has had to be reminded of the truth. Shortly after the March 8 SG Executive Committee Meeting, Abbott drafted a memo to the Executive Committee, which was distributed in private. Much of its content, unfortunately, had to be repeated in the Transition Committee’s letter. Clearly, Levi, who calls for transparency in public, isn’t a fan of practicing it himself. Why did the Transition Committee initially not go public with the executive slate’s attempt at undermining its work? Why did it wait until Levi made several inflammatory comments in public forums? When asked for a comment by The Maroon, Abbott replied, “Prior reform efforts in the ’90s and 2000s failed due to graduations, burnout, and exhaustion from political infighting. We didn’t want a once-in-adecade chance at reform to fail because of the politicking or toxicity of the past several years.” In other words, the Transition Committee was very concerned with the idea that its months of work could be politicized. In a last-

ditch effort to stop the Transition Committee, though, Engage has done precisely that: politicizing the committee’s work in public forums and interviews with The Maroon. Still, the Transition Committee retains hope. Committee member and second-year representative Summer Long told this columnist that “[Committee on Marginalized Student Affairs Co-Chair and second-year representative] Tyler [Okeke] and I are in frequent contact with them when we attend executive meetings. We have assigned individuals to reach out to every committee. They are welcome to continue to voice their concerns.” Engage’s odd dysfunction isn’t restricted to College Council; by the way the administration treats the Executive Slate, it is clear that it recognizes Engage’s inability too. In Engage’s Twitter announcement of its presidential selection survey on December 16, it called the survey a “unique opportunity to add [student voices] to the presidential search.” A month later, its only Maroon publication echoed that sentiment, demanding selection criteria and telling students to “seize this historic opportunity to set the University of Chicago on the right path.” It touted its meeting with the faculty selection committee, which, according to Engage, “agreed that these criteria cannot go unconsidered.” Right before encouraging students to respond to its survey, Engage also mentioned that the selection committee “could not comment on the exact details of the presidential search” but that slate is “confident” that it will listen to student concerns. As it would turn out, however, hidden in the minutes of the College Council meeting held the day after the letter was published, the

selection committee had been holding out on Engage. The University had, in Levi and Hudson’s own words, likely already chosen the next president. Likewise, the goalposts of the presidential selection survey were shifted behind the scenes from providing meaningful input into the presidential search to “inform[ing] the president about students’ concerns.” Levi and Hudson noted that they needed 1,000 responses for their data to be seen by the faculty as “statistically significant” and thus meaningful. That night, five days before the survey was due and after more than a month of the survey being public, they only had 200 responses. Barring a water-walking miracle, it is safe to assume that Engage did not reach its goal and, just like that, one of the few initiatives that Engage made during its term ended in failure. Engage neglected to tell the undergraduate student body, though, that it believed a selection had already been made, meaning students filling out the survey in hope of contributing to the presidential search process were wasting their time. Had Engage admitted its survey was never going to contribute to the administration’s independent selection process, this wouldn’t be as much of an issue. But instead of setting the record straight, it chose to lie by omission in a weak attempt to save face. It would appear that even Levi knows that his executive slate has been ineffective. In the comment section of the UChicago Poll Party Facebook page, one student commenter remarked that, over their four years at the University, “student government has…failed to push back against nearly any administrative action, and has not significantly impacted the

lives of students.” Levi responded, but not to say that Engage had “significantly impacted the lives of students.” No, instead, he pointed to the work of last year’s executive slate, CARE. That’s like replying that, when your boss says you suck at your job, at least the last guy was pretty good. But to be utterly inept is one thing. Why is Engage actively trying to sabotage the Transition Committee by claiming that it suffers from a lack of input, when all the evidence points to the contrary? To be clear, Levi, in his comments to The Maroon, does not advance any counterargument against the merits of the proposed IDEA Act; other than calling for more deliberation, at least according to the public image Levi presents to The Maroon, it would appear that he has no real problem with the content of the bill. Most of the minutes of the March 8 Executive Committee meeting don’t exactly explain Engage’s rationale either. Beneath a veneer of personal attacks and disproven claims about the Transition Committee’s openness, there are exactly two vaguely substantive claims. Hudson makes the first, pointing out that “SG power at its core is kind of fake.” Expanding SG, he argues, just makes it seem more fake to the student body. The second part of his point, a vague gesture to the addition of “more positions,” is irrelevant. As the Campus Policy Research Institute found last year, people don’t pay enough attention to the composition of SG as it is to quantify any sort of additional “fakeness” produced by new SG positions. Before COVID-19, over 50 percent of the student body couldn’t name a single member of the executive slate, an even

greater amount couldn’t name a single SG committee, and a whopping 40 percent didn’t even know that liaisons to the Board of Trustees existed. It seems likely that these numbers have significantly worsened during COVID and during the term of an executive slate that is apparently much less active than its predecessor. The worst-case scenario of adding more committees and positions, then, wouldn’t be that students will now consider SG to be “more fake.” Simply put, given the track record of SG literacy in the student population, most undergraduates wouldn’t even know that these positions exist. Hudson’s overarching point that SG power is “fake” is broadly agreeable. But it makes one wonder why—if Hudson really believes what he just said—his slate is going through all the trouble of attacking the Transition Committee just weeks before a new slate is elected. If Hudson truly thinks that SG power is ultimately fake, then why does Engage clearly care so much about it? The poignancy of this realization is doubled when one recalls a quote from Rainey as seen in representative Abbott’s response document to the Executive Committee: “I’ve only promised to ensure a functioning Student Government until the end of the school year, then it’s not my problem.” Both quotes from Hudson and Rainey seem to portray the same degree of skepticism and disinterest in the institution of Student Government. What caused their sudden shift in the complete opposite direction, a shift so large that Levi felt it fitting to break Student Government norms and air his grievances to the student body in a popular UChicago Facebook group? CONTINUED ON PG. 15


THE CHICAGO MAROON — APRIL 28, 2021

15

In lieu of actually serving the student body, Engage has settled on staging a hopeless performance to save its own image. CONTINUED FROM PG. 14

The second claim is made by President Rainey: “Admin expects there to be an exec slate— it’s what they work with.” But at this point, on March 8, Rainey should have already known better. After all, it had been just two weeks after the administration made the explicit choice not to work with the executive slate on the presidential selection. The single most revealing remark in the Executive Committee’s minutes is the unattributed introductory notation that “things are ~*really happening*~.” Hidden inside the asterisks and

tildes is a sheer panic, one that is evidently giving the members of the executive slate the feeling that, as Levi said, things are moving quickly. In this light, the observation made by Abbott in his document, that “the vast majority of [Levi and Rainey’s] contributions [to the Transition Committee] centered around advocating for a ‘three-person executive slate,’” makes much more sense: Engage is desperately trying to do whatever it can to avoid the embarrassment of being the “last” executive slate. Per the Transition Committee, it pushed aside multiple requests

to participate in discussion over the committee’s work, likely because it didn’t think the committee would actually get to the point of legislation. Now that the IDEA Act has become very real, slate has no choice but to pull out all the cards, whether those be lies or outlandish claims that the Transition Committee is unrepresentative of Student Government. Engage wouldn’t truly be the “last” slate—election reforms, if passed, will be put in place for 2022—but it would, for whoever really cares, be known as the ineffective slate that catalyzed the most sweeping electoral

changes to Student Government in decades. In lieu of actually serving the student body, Engage has settled on staging a hopeless performance to save its own image. Levi, for one, plans to continue his performativity into graduate school, vowing, if elected as Graduate Liaison to the Board of Trustees, not to meet with the Board of Trustees until it agrees to disband itself. When Graduate Council rightfully called him out in its candidate meeting, he replied that “their skepticism is just internalized hatred leaving the body.” But what is even more

troubling than playing pretend is the fact that Engage slate would have been more than happy to let the evidence of its numerous errors and malicious intent lie uncovered. This—so much more than its mistakes and lack of self-awareness—speaks volumes of the characters of President Raven Rainey, Vice President Alex Levi, and Vice President Myles Hudson. I hope that future slates, Student Government representatives, and employers will see the example that Engage set and shy away from such incompetence and dishonesty.

People Over Profits The UChicago Labor Council fights to protect campus and community workers harmed by the University administration during COVID-19. By UCHICAGO LABOR COUNCIL

It has now been over a year since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost in the United States, and countless more indelibly scarred. In Chicago alone, more than 5,000 of our neighbors, coworkers, classmates, and family members have died. And yet, for the past 13 months, workers at the University of Chicago—among them medical center nurses, building engineers and janitors, food service workers, faculty members, library workers, and graduate students—have continued, at significant personal risk, to labor to keep this institution running and profitable. In the midst of unfathomable loss and suffering, social isolation, mass political unrest, and economic depression, the University administration has expected us to continue working al-

most as if there was no pandemic at all. In the worst of cases, University COVID-19 policies have actively put workers in harm’s way. Reopening campus for in-person learning in the fall constituted a blatant disregard for the health and safety of the most vulnerable members of the University of Chicago community as well as the Hyde Park, Kenwood, and Woodlawn neighborhoods. In the months since, workers across University sectors have had to face inadequate or poorly enforced social distancing measures, lack of access to safe places on campus to eat and rest throughout the day, directives from on high allowing increased capacity in University facilities such as libraries (even as the data suggested that cases were not decreasing), and a dearth of PPE. What’s more, workers across the University were summarily informed throughout the summer

and into autumn quarter that we would have to further sacrifice for the bottom line of the University of Chicago—an institution with an endowment of more than eight billion dollars—as retirement contributions and other benefits were cut. These decisions were made with no financial transparency; in fact, the administration refused requests by National Nurses United (NNU) for disclosure of fiscal hardship, in contravention of established labor practices. In addition, more recently we have found that the University administration has failed to inspire confidence in vaccination efforts or even to include some workers—such as graduate students—in certain waves of vaccine eligibility, even when those groups of workers are included in citywide, countywide, and statewide eligibility categories. One final and particularly abhorrent blow to worker confidence in

the University as an institution has been the Medical Center administration’s decision to deny workers’ compensation claims for nurses who have been out of work for extended periods while recovering from the long-term effects of COVID-19. By denying such claims, the Medical Center administration not only shows blatant disregard for the health and safety of frontline medical workers who have sacrificed so much over the past year but also explicitly defies an emergency amendment to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation rules designed to ensure that essential workers who contract COVID-19 have the right to file claims for treatment and time off related to recovery. In short, workers at the University of Chicago have overhauled our lives to keep this institution running, all while dealing with the physical, emotional, and financial

effects of this devastating global pandemic. In response, the administration has offered little more than platitudes in recognition of our sacrifices, and has in fact cut our benefits and threatened our jobs for challenging their insufficient protections and harmful policies. Those changes that did make some work environments less toxic and more accessible—such as allowing many library workers to work remotely—are not guaranteed to remain as the administration discusses a return to “normal” throughout the summer and fall. At no point in this pandemic have workers at the University of Chicago had the autonomy to make decisions about which policies are most beneficial and keep us the safest, even while we are the ones with the best knowledge of what those policies would be, especially those of us forced to work in person. CONTINUED ON PG. 16


THE CHICAGO MAROON —APRIL 28, 2021

16

The Labor Council understands that it is we, not our bosses, who keep each other safe. As such, we have organized throughout the past year to provide support to University workers and community members where the UChicago administration has failed to do so (or has actively harmed workers). CONTINUED FROM PG. 15

Some workers feel as if the administration simply wants to pretend that this past year never happened, which is an insult to everyone we have lost. The Labor Council understands that it is we, not our bosses, who keep each other safe. As such, we have organized throughout the past year to provide support to University workers and community members where the UChicago administration has failed to do so (or has actively harmed workers). In the fall, we circulated a petition with demands for the administration to keep campus closed to in-person learning and to put in place more stringent safety protocols and better sick-leave policies. Later in the quarter, we organized a Reopening Experiences Forum, where nurses, adjunct faculty, graduate student lab workers, and library workers shared testimonials about the lack of adequate safety precautions for in-person work and thus the regular harm they faced in their workplaces. More recently, in response both to the news that just half of the Medical Center’s eligible staff opted to get

vaccinated in the first wave and to our knowledge of how convoluted and discouraging the process of obtaining a vaccine appointment could be, the Labor Council acted once again to fill in the gaps left by the University administration in keeping our community safe and informed. We organized a Vaccine Justice Forum with renowned Black public health experts, sociologists, historians, and journalists to address common questions about vaccine safety, medical racism and bioethics, and lack of equity in vaccine distribution. Subsequently, members put together a Vaccine Resource Guide with comprehensive information about how to obtain a vaccine appointment and where, what to know about vaccine safety and efficacy, and further reading about public health and health equity. We are planning a May Day action to commemorate workers’ sacrifices and those we have lost over the past year. The University of Chicago Labor Council seeks not only to support the members of our constituent unions and other groups but also all workers and marginalized people in our community. We

work closely with other UChicago organizations like the Library Activist Network, UChicago United and #CareNotCops, and the More Than Diversity campaign. We also collaborate and maintain close connections with broader neighborhood and city-wide groups like the Greater Chicago Industrial Workers of the World (GCIWW), Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP), and Tenants United Hyde Park/Woodlawn. We have begun to work with the nascent

Experimental Station (ES) Union to support ES workers in their fight to obtain voluntary recognition for their union and to fight back against the exploitative practices of their management and board of directors. The Labor Council understands that all our struggles for tenants’ rights, labor rights, anti-racism and abolition, and community autonomy are connected. We look forward to continuing to build solidarity and horizontal, working-class power with our fel-

low UChicago and South Side organizing coalitions. The University administration puts us all at risk and constantly devalues our labor and our communities. In the next year, as we “emerge” from the coronavirus pandemic and continue to deal with its profound, long-lasting effects, we understand that it is only through collective action that we will obtain more say over the health and futures of our workplaces and neighborhoods.

ALVIN SHI

Unpaid Is Unacceptable The UChicago Labor Council fights to protect campus and community workers harmed by the University administration during COVID-19. By JENNIFER RIVERA If there’s one thing I’ve noticed about UChicago students, it’s that they’re always on the hunt for internships. For a typical UChicago

student, breaks are used as a time to polish cover letters, tweak resumes, get their list of references together, and make a spreadsheet of internships that they’ll be applying for. I will even admit that,

during my breaks, I have even succumbed to this custom of constantly applying for the next available opportunity. Because I felt the need to be on my A game, last quarter I worked at an internship during the

academic year. Now, post-internship, I feel major burnout and don’t feel as if I truly gained any skills in exchange for my labor. The only thing I truly feel like I gained was the stipend I was paid. I can’t even

begin to fathom that similar—or even worse—experiences have occurred with students in an unpaid internship position. Employers often justify their unpaid or poor-


THE CHICAGO MAROON — APRIL 28, 2021

17

Quite frankly, I don’t think there could ever be a solid argument or reason good enough for justifying free labor when it comes to internship positions. CONTINUED FROM PG. 16

ly-paid internships by arguing that the experience itself gives you new skills in exchange for your labor. This argument is hollow, misleading, and riddled with classism. Unpaid internships are exploitative and extremely unethical. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 43 percent of internships are unpaid, which points to how normalized it has become. Internships are advertised as bridges that give students a jump start to their career, and, in many cases, they do. They allow students to gain necessary skills that they can apply to future employment. That being said, because we so often perceive internships to be pleasant desk jobs, we often overlook their more insidious dimensions. We’re so used to imagining any exploitative occupation to be one in which people work without breaks or one where people don’t receive fair wages for physically demanding tasks. These situations are cited by individuals who try to paint unpaid internships as a relative good, as nothing close to being exploitative. Yet, definitionally, all free labor is exploitative. Exploitation doesn’t always manifest itself in such a drastic manner, as in the examples I previously described. Quite frankly, I don’t think there could ever be a solid argument or reason good enough for justifying free labor when it comes to internship positions. They are exploitative because employers take advantage of current labor laws and aren’t willing to compensate their interns for their work. Instead, they’re profiting from their labor while interns are not receiving a single cent and are left to fend for themselves. This is not to say that there aren’t cases where students in unpaid internship positions haven’t obtained exactly what they were looking for, such as connections, glowing recommendations, or valuable skills, because there

certainly are. However, these are the very arguments used in favor of any form of unpaid work. These “success stories,” as they call it, of students who have moved their way up in their careers by doing free labor, are what is venerated with unpaid internships. The reality of the matter is that it’s not always like this. Sometimes you’re left wondering why you even took such a position when your effort could’ve gone elsewhere. While UChicago has implemented the Metcalf program, a program where students can receive funding for unpaid internships, it takes the responsibility to pay away from internship employers; this is not only limited to UChicago, as other institutions have set up similar designs so that students can receive some form of pay for their work. The existence of such programs further proves that even

universities know that not paying is unfair. However, when institutions do this, it sends the message to internship employers that not paying their students is somehow okay because the institution covers it. On the contrary, employers should not evade responsibility and rely on stipend programs to pay student interns, especially when it’s not a university’s responsibility to make sure students receive pay during unpaid positions—it’s the employers’. If employers truly cared for their interns, they would be the ones ensuring that they are paid. Employers justify unpaid internships by saying that students are being educated in the realm of their studies in exchange for their work. What this implies, though, is that, simply because one is learning, their labor is not of value as to guarantee them a wage. If anything, learning means that interns

are making themselves more of value to the employer and shouldn’t make them any less deserving of a wage. In general, employers that pay their interns tend to be better employers because they understand that people cannot subsist on education alone. Moreover, they comprehend that wages are necessary to survive and are more inclined to do right by their laborers. Any employer that is fine with not paying their interns should be boycotted, as interns are paid nothing for the value of their labor. Additionally, the mere existence of unpaid internships points to a larger issue, which is that unpaid internships are privileges that low-income students simply cannot afford. As I previously mentioned, this entire practice is classist in design and creates barriers for low-income students. As low-income students, we’re sold

the false promise of social mobility, and we’re forced to work and stay within these capitalist structures. We’re told that in order to climb the socioeconomic ladder, we must do everything to get ahead and this includes taking an unpaid position for our own benefit. The only reason I even obtained an internship last year was because of Odyssey Metcalf funding and career advising initiatives for Odyssey Scholars. If it weren’t for this initiative, I wouldn’t have taken an unpaid internship because I wanted to. I would have taken it because I have to. In a 2010 Viewpoints article, Matt Barnum cited that students take unpaid positions because they simply want to. No student takes an unpaid internship just because they “want to.” That’s absurd. On the contrary, students take unpaid positions because they feel as if CONTINUED ON PG. 18

ALVIN SHI


THE CHICAGO MAROON —APRIL 28, 2021

18

The amount of time and labor that goes into an internship should not go without fair compensation. CONTINUED FROM PG. 17

they have to, especially as this form of free labor has become the norm. We need to analyze why students even feel like they need to take unpaid opportunities to begin with. From my own experience, we’re often told that internships are a way to tell future employers that we already have the necessary skills and experience for the job. It’s ridiculous that potential opportunities that haven’t even come to fruition are advertised as being the substitute for any form of pay.

Students think that obtaining an internship will give them exactly what their future employers ask for, but this is an empty promise. From my own experiences, you’re not always going to be asked to do work that pertains to your own career. For example, you might be asked to do assignments that your boss didn’t have time to finish doing. This is not to mention that oftentimes, assignments go over the allotted time, and you might have to work extra hours. Furthermore, it’s also crucial to accentuate

that you’re not always going to be viewed as a student first, as a person who is still learning. The reality of the matter is that internships do not guarantee a job at the end of it, and no amount of so-called experience can make up for not receiving fair wages. On the other hand, even students who have the means to go on without being paid for their labor deserve to be paid in exchange for their work. The common argument made against unpaid internships is that they primarily harm low-in-

come students; and, I agree that it does, as low-income students are one of the demographics most impacted by these unfair practices. However, I believe that it does a huge disservice to any student, as they are targets of unfair practices and deserve fair wages. It’s unethical to do work and not receive compensation in return. The amount of time and labor that goes into an internship should not go without fair compensation. Furthermore, I don’t think that it’s unfair to say that working requires fair pay in

exchange for it. A year ago, I would have not agreed with the claims I’m making now, but after having had multiple internships, I know that if they weren’t paid then I would definitely consider them to be both unethical and exploitative. In a similar vein, any form of work without financial compensation should not be normalized. Students—and non-students—deserve to be paid fair wages for their labor.

ARTS Living and Moving in the Pandemic By SHIVANI SHUKLA Arts Reporter

It is not often that the global community shares a collective experience simultaneously. Since the pandemic, seemingly quotidian activities have halted and the absence of ordinary life has led to a fall in general well-being. This has birthed a body of introspective art, and How Do We Navigate Space? is one such brilliant, temporally relevant work by artists from Strawdog Theatre Company. How Do We Navigate Space? compiles responses from surveys sent out to Chicago residents and reenacts them through multimodal art forms. Some sections of the performance represent the responses through narration and dance, others use performative snippets. Most of the sections are filmed in varied settings, including the actors’ homes and snow-clad outdoor paths, while others have compiled stills and short snippets into a visual collage. The part “I Miss” shows the struggle of missing out on everyday experiences through flowing movements by four performers taking walks, while “Three Minds” narrates the transformed mind flow of a COVID-wary brain through viCONTINUED ON PG. 19

Terri Lynne Hudson in Strawdog Theatre Company’s “How Do We Navigate Space?” COURTESY OF CHARLES DUFFY


THE CHICAGO MAROON — APRIL 28, 2021

19

“...a resonance to one’s own pandemic experiences” CONTINUED FROM PG. 18

sual snippets of surroundings. “Pet Life” provides some respite from the gloom by showing clips of adorable pets overlaid with narrations of pet owners’ experiences. The sequence of snippets in “Hands,” showing the general avoidance of touch and hands being washed, lays out the hygienic procedure to neutralize the virus. Hands became the carriers of the microcosmic enemies during the pandemic and “wash

your hands” became the mantra of the day. One particularly striking portion was “I Didn’t Go,” which involved the movements of people getting ready for the Black Lives Matter protests, only to change out of their clothes and stay in out of fear of contracting the virus. Likewise, “Bored” and “Devour” felt complementary in their explorations of projects and failure to follow through. UChicago alum Terri Lynne Hudson

(A.B. ‘95) renders a brilliant performance. The performances by Yuchi Chiu, Josie Koznarek, Mah Nu, Gloria Imsieh Petrelli, and Erik Strebig are oh-so-striking, and the direction of the theatrical piece by Denise Yvette Serna is impeccable. The movements, coupled with music or narration, are intriguing and touching. Each section showed the rigors of different elements of the pandemic experience and the entire play speaks to every audience member in

one way or the other. It provides a resonance to one’s own pandemic experiences and the overall performance is powerfully resonant with the audience. How Do We Navigate Space? is currently streaming until April 18, 2021. Tickets (pay-what-you-can with a suggested price of $15) are currently available at www.strawdog.org. Following the production, Strawdog Theatre Company will share a portion of ticket sales with Black Lives Matter Chicago.

LILAC: Lyrics, Life, and Love By AAZER SIDDIQUI Arts Reporter

I’ve never been that into K-pop. While this may be an obnoxious way to begin a review of a K-pop album like IU’s LILAC, when writing about a genre like this, it feels necessary to establish one’s position right away. K-pop feels like more than a genre, driven by an amorphous, morally grey, all-powerful Twitter community of “stans.” Stans, for better or for worse, have left an indelible mark on K-pop: in the economy of signifiers we increasingly use to negotiate our identities, liking K-pop feels like the sort of choice that would label you as a “type of guy.” Put otherwise, it can feel like there’s a clear line in the sand that separates those who listen to K-pop and those who don’t. Beyond that, there’s the simple fact that K-pop is, mostly, Korean-language pop. Parasite director Bong Joon-Ho mocked the “one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles” that English-speaking audiences can’t seem to clear when it comes to foreign-language films, but the barrier can feel insurmountable for foreign-language lyrics, for which translations are scanty and often unreliable. These two factors, a clear ingroup-outgroup boundary encircling the genre and linguistic confusion leading to lyrical obscurity, can make criticism of K-pop difficult for an outsider to the genre. IU is, of course, anything but an outsider to the world of K-pop. She’s been in the music game since she was 15 and released LILAC, her fifth studio album, as she turned 29 in Korean age (in Korean age, you are born at the age of one, and your age increases by

one with each new year). It seems fair to say that IU could not have put out LILAC at any other age. LILAC is an album about surveying the rubble of your twenties and picking at shards of memory, not just the glimmering fragments of your best past selves, but also the singed photographs of exes and old friends. It is about the queasy recollection of moments where you gambled and lost, and above all, the flat realization that you are here, now, looking back at the end of an era. This may seem like a lot of talk, but IU walks the walk with her thoughtful lyricism. When she asks, “I hope the last page of us is well written/ What kind of goodbye can be this perfect?” over a thumping drumline and driving rhythm guitar on the title track, “LILAC,” the question is rhetorical. We can never know, after all, when or even how well-written our last page will be. IU recognizes that life does not always imitate art, which consoles us with its neat and memorable endings, and ties up its threads in a way that life rarely does. Life’s hanging threads run loose through the album. After a couple of middling tracks—namely, the infectious but insubstantial “Flu,” and “Coin,” which is three-plus minutes of a metaphor that isn’t even worth one—comes “Hi Spring Bye,” an 80s-style ballad that conjures up images of whirling karaoke screens with a soaring synth and the murmur of drum machine hi-hats. It begins, “Your name that used to hurt me/ Is no longer a regret,” but ends by peeling that patina of confidence off, “So that we can come across each other/ On a different street every day/ I’m walking diligently/ I’ll wait for you like this.” It’s a

painfully familiar feeling: what happens when the breakup song ends, and all you’re left with is a broken heart? The album rounds out its 36 minutes with the sweet and pensive closer, “Epilogue,” which asks, “Were you happy to have known me?/ Were you content to have loved me?” The past songs that I sang for us/ Do they still give you comfort?” and pleads for a “yes” to all three, “Just that is enough for me to nod at my life.” An epilogue happens in the aftermath when the story’s all done, but it’s also a hint at further life, simultaneously an end and a beginning. Life moves on, it’s a simple aphorism, one with a difficult realization that provides both the key to “Epilogue” and a beautiful resolution to LILAC. It’s not just that the metaphorical hanging threads come into view as framing life’s tapestry; the metaphor breaks down entirely. Life, after all, is not a tapestry that we weave by ourselves—it’s something unbound by any metaphors and richly shaded by the past, which for IU is full of love, regret, hope, and pain. You would not see IU’s lyrical talent shine through in the Western popular music press, which seems intent on papering over any glimmer of genuine artistic merit emerging from South Korea. Producing good-faith criticism as an outsider to K-pop is admittedly a difficult task, but Western reviewers make it seem impossible. At times, it seems like they simply couldn’t be bothered to actually spend time with the lyrics. How else could one make the misguided assertion that IU’s LILAC is “pure pop escapism,” which NME did so confidently as to make it the byline for their review of the album? How else could Beats Per Minute claim that LILAC is most-

ly “weightless and playful,” without citing a single lyric from the album? In their defense, it might be fair to pay less attention to IU’s lyrics and more to her production, especially since most listeners outside of Korea will approach her music from that angle. But IU has said herself that she deliberately stepped back from the production on LILAC: “When I looked at it from the perspective of a producer, I came to the conclusion that there’s no need for there to be a self-composed song by IU.” On the other hand, IU wrote all 10 songs on LILAC and was the sole songwriter of eight of those 10. If the lyrics are where the artist has left her personal mark, it’s bizarre to neglect them as thoroughly as these reviewers have done. Even for someone unfamiliar with K-pop, it should be easy enough to see that LILAC is far from “pure pop escapism.” There are, of course, moments where unadulterated pop sunlight slips through the cracks: “Troll,” a reggae/hip-hop-influenced head-bopper which features rapper Dean playing the delightful role of “fuckboy ex-boyfriend that you can’t stop coming back to,” and “Celebrity,” the lead single, which serves as a painful reminder of the not-distant-enough past with its Chainsmokers-esque drops. However, a couple of songs aren’t enough to motivate a reading of the entire album as bubblegum-y pop excess. What NME and Beats Per Minute’s reviews reveal instead is a worrying tendency for Western pop music critics to neglect the lyrics and immediately label all K-pop as saccharine and shallow based on production alone. Far from escapism, LILAC embraces life and love, in all its contingencies.

Profile for Chicago Maroon

042821  

The Chicago Maroon's April 28th, 2021 issue.

042821  

The Chicago Maroon's April 28th, 2021 issue.

Advertisement

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded