Seven graduate and undergraduate students at Loyola University Chicago were arrested Monday after they held a sit-in in front of the university’s downtown campus, the latest attempt by the graduate student union to pressure the administration to negotiate a contract.
The group voted to unionize in February 2017, but has faced resistance from the university. Administrators maintain the students are not workers and will not negotiate with them.
“None of us should have to go to work every day to teach students, to grade papers, to conduct research and have our employers pretend like what we do isn’t work,” said Alec Stubbs, one of the graduate students who was arrested.
The students were joined at the sit-in by other graduate and undergraduate students, union members of SEIU’s local chapter, a state senator and priests from St. Agatha Catholic Church. It comes a year after nontenure track faculty members at Loyola held a one-day strike over working conditions. Students also said they would hold a walkout on April 24 if the university does not negotiate a contract before then, a sign the graduate student workers are increasing pressure on the university administration.
A Loyola spokeswoman has said the university has increased stipends and added other new benefits for students in good faith over the past few years, including dental coverage and more money for graduate students to travel to conferences. But students argue none of those changes would have been made without their efforts as an organization and nothing guarantees those added benefits will remain.
After the sit-in Monday, Thomas J. Regan S.J., dean of The Graduate School and the College of Arts and Sciences, said students had his word the university would not go back on the enhancements provided.
“We’re taking them very seriously,” Regan told reporters. “We’re giving the best possible package that Loyola can afford.”
But graduate students say the administration’s word is not enough.
“If it’s true we have their word, then I don't see why they also can’t meet us at the bargaining table to bargain a contract,” said Ph.D. student Claire Lockard. “We are not going to be satisfied with their word. What we want is them to come to the negotiating table and bargain officially.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Sal Mormino's last name.