Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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‘No funding cuts, no more lies’: NU Graduate Workers march after University withdraws fellowship funding

Jerry Wu/The Daily Northwestern
NUGW union members gathered outside of Rebecca Crown Center to deliver an open letter to University administration calling for adequate funding resources for graduate students.

Over 100 Northwestern University Graduate Workers union members marched from The Arch to the Rebecca Crown Center as part of a “March for Fair Funding” on Thursday.

The demonstration comes after some rising sixth and seventh-year graduate workers said University administration informed them earlier in May that Advanced Student Quarter funding, an internal fellowship offered by Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences departments, would be curtailed.

As students enter graduate school with five years of guaranteed funding, graduate workers have relied on the ASQ for extra funding to complete research and dissertations.

“We as workers can’t eat prestige and we can’t live on goodwill, and the withdrawal of Advanced Student Quarter has material outcomes,” said NUGW Organizing Co-chair Emma Kennedy, a sixth-year Ph.D. candidate in art history. “It means we as workers do not have job security.”

While marching down Sheridan Road, NUGW members hoisted banners and chanted “No funding cuts, no more lies,” and “What do we want? Fair compensation.”

Members delivered an open letter to Associate Dean of Finance and Business Operations Sergiy Kucherenko outside the Rebecca Crown Center calling on the University to provide graduate workers with adequate funding resources.

Demonstrators also shared their testimonies on how the loss of University funding has impacted their academic careers.

A seventh-year Ph.D. candidate in learning sciences, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, said she was informed in March that she would no longer be eligible for funding in the Spring or Summer Quarter.

“I was suddenly without the income I had expected to have through the end of August,” she said. “Instead of working on my dissertation and finishing this degree I’ve spent seven years working toward, I put everything on hold to start applying for jobs.”

International workers in particular bear the brunt of the funding loss, organizers said. In order to maintain visa status, workers must demonstrate proof of funding — including living expenses, healthcare coverage and tuition costs — or risk deportation.

An organizer read the testimony of Muhammad Ridha, a sixth-year Ph.D. candidate in political science from Indonesia, who said he may now have to leave NU and the U.S. because of the abrupt funding cut.

Many NUGW members said their application portals still show a “pending” status compared to past years when applicants often knew before May if they were selected for the ASQ fellowship.

On May 7, 32 Weinberg current and former directors of graduate studies and department chairs sent a letter to Weinberg Dean Adrian Randolph requesting that the funding for ASQ remains available for workers.

NUGW members on the Interim Grievance Committee have begun negotiating with the Labor Management Committee. Divjyot Singh, a first-year Ph.D. candidate in applied mathematics, said the union filed a grievance against the University on Monday. The group alleged that the administration is acting in violation of the tentative contract agreement ratified in March.

“We won a really robust grievance procedure in our contract where we can essentially file a grievance when there are violations of contract,” said Singh, a NUGW interim steward. “NU decided to change the working conditions of graduate workers without negotiating with us.”

All rising sixth-year graduate students in the history department were notified that they would receive ASQ funding on Wednesday. Yet Morgan Barry, a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate in the department and a NUGW interim steward, said had the University not provided her with the funding, her income, health insurance and dissertation would be in flux.

“This is sort of like the crumbs and the peanuts the administration is trying to throw at us to satiate the form of protest that’s happening,” Barry said. “But we’re not going to stop until every single person is covered.”

Ahead of Thursday’s march, NUGW workers requested to meet with NU’s Labor Management Committee. But organizers said they received word that the committee would only be available a few weeks later.

For several demonstrators, the rally’s large turnout raised the momentum needed in their talks to potentially secure full ASQ funding for workers in the coming weeks.

NUGW Co-Chair Kavi Chintam, a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate in chemical and biological engineering, said the union will continue to demonstrate until NU responds to its demands.

“The hope is that this is showing how much pressure and power we have as a union to force (the University’s) hand and to fix this issue,” Chintam said.

Update: This story has been updated to address safety concerns for quoted individuals.

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Related Stories:

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