i am writing you this afternoon to ask for your solidarity in an issue that is affecting graduate students who live in campus housing here at the university of cincinnati. graduate and family housing is closing on august 31; the university has claimed that the closure is happening because they must do safety-related renovations. however, these claims have not been substantiated. in fact, UC representatives have said in meetings with concerned students that they do not need to include, nor explain to, students in this decision. my understanding at this time is that after they closed down sawyer hall (an undergraduate hall), they wanted to close down both morgens and scioto halls - the graduate residence halls in question. they did not have good reason to do so at that time, but have now used the excuse that a sprinkler system must be installed immediately. however, these halls will not reopen to students and their dependents; after the renovations, graduate students will no longer have a physical space on campus.
UC's "just community" and "UC|21" policies claim that students are at the center of all decisions made for the univeristy. these written policies also claim the need for a diversity of voices and experiences on campus. what UC's administration is doing by closing graduate and family housing flies in the face of that goal.
a group of concerned graduate students has met with UC administration, although these meetings have not been successful in turning around UC's decision. media outlets in cincinnati have either ignored the pleas from students for media attention, at least as of this email, and the one television station that *has* given the issue attention has bought into the administration's talking point that without the sprinkler system, the safety of the building is compromised.
the two major issues at stake:
** THE DECISION: the way the decision has been made and has been carried out, without consideration for families and students and without resident involvement in the decision-making process, has displaced 427 residents, which include graduate and undergraduate students, their dependents, and staff. there was no plan when the decision was announced and has been no plan put forward to help the residents who have been displaced, specifically the families with children. 38 of the units in the building have children! let's not forget that 82% of the residents in scioto and morgens are international students and 86% are people of color. UC administrators say they are committed to students, but are not showing this commitment through their actions.
** THE FUTURE: what is the future of graduate family housing? after august 31, there will be no on-campus housing for graduate students and their families. the administration's ad-hoc committee formed to deal with this problem has suggested that an international house in stratford heights (across from campus) could be used for international graduate student housing. but families cannot live there! they have also discussed securing another apartment building, piedmont mews, for graduate students. but there's no guarantee that this housing will be affordable. (much of the new housing on or around campus is not necessarily affordable for most students, especially those who are not receiving financial help from their families.) this housing will NOT be specific to graduate students, at least as it's been proposed now.
the lack of physical space on campus for students also means that UC can continue to quietly discourage any type of organizing around student issues such as housing OR unionization by graduate students, who are the only body of employees on campus *without a union*. without a physical space on campus such as student housing, a community of graduate students across disciplines will be very difficult to organize, even if a union never materializes. non-traditional students (aka older students) and commuter students regularly complain to me that they feel isolated on the campus and often hear about events and policy changes way after the fact. their age, geographic location, or other factors often limit their visibility and involvement on campus; UC *still* has an obligation to them, especially as "customers" who pay tuition. ultimately, this lack of space, organizing, and visibility to UC administration only serves to keep students disconnected, uninformed, apathetic, and uninvolved in the process of creating a "just community" for all and for holding UC accountable to the "just community" and "UC|21" policies. even if a union is not a feasible goal given the current circumstances on campus (since UC's policy, according to the graduate student handbook, prohibits graduate students from taking part in faculty union strikes and states that grad students may face the revocation of GA/TA awards), it seems that the morgens/scioto housing crisis has highlighted the disconnection between administrative policy and the needs of students, in addition to the disconnections between graduate students themselves.
ACTION: i am asking you to send an email or letter of solidarity for the graduate students who are now being forced to find housing before the august 31 closing, to urge UC's administration to reconsider their decision to both displace the 427 residents AND to end graduate student housing altogether. Please remind UC of its publicized commitment to STUDENTS and its obligation to put people over profit. you can address your emails or letters here:
dr. nancy zimpher
office of the president
university of cincinnati
university pavilion 625
p.o. box 210063
cincinnati, ohio 45221
i realize that many of you are across the country, but most of you are current or former graduate students, activists, educators. students' rights may still be of vital interest to you. letters, emails, calls, and faxes from far away would definitely be helpful at this point, since the university has been unresponsive to meetings with students and to the petition (which has over 500 signatures from students and faculty) that has been circulating for the past few weeks. i think it's time to place even more pressure on the administration to respond to this situation in a more compassionate, just manner. please forward this message far and wide to your friends, classmates, colleagues, and graduate student unions and organizations.
i am including peggy shannon-baker's original FB note about the issue. the graduate family housing survey blog, for current information and links to more about UC's policies and letters to the president so far, is included, as well as the petition. peggy is a graduate student at UC and a morgens resident. i think she has done an excellent job of trying to educate and organize around this issue that affects her personally.
i know that this is a rather lengthy email, but i do appreciate your time, support, and positive thoughts.
senior, university of cincinnati
[Check out the Graduate and Family Housing Blog with posts from residents at: http://gfhsurvey.blogspot.com/ ]
Hey UC people! As some of you may know, the buildings in which I live and work, Scioto and Morgens of the Graduate and Family Housing, will be closing as of August 31. The decision powers that be have given current residents until then to leave the complexes. This has angered many of us so a small group of active people, myself included, have started to combat this closing in any way we can. We have met with university officials, sent letters and information points to the News Record (the campus newspaper), negotiated the presence of student residents on the committee for this decision (since there was no such representation when the decision was originally made), and have elicited the Graduate Student Governance Association (GSGA) to help us. They have recently formed a petition online for the student body to sign. I have sent it through my Blackboard emails, but I wanted to post the link here as I know some of you do not regularly check your BOL emails.
Please consider signing the petition. While it may seem like your name will not matter, the more names we can show in support of the GFH residents' feelings the better.
You can visit the petition at:
If you have any questions, please ask me.
UPDATE: There was a 2nd (and probably final) meeting today of the UC Administration (and 3 student representatives--2 of which are residents of Scioto/Morgens--from GSGA) about the closure of Graduate and Family Housing on campus. During this meeting, Administration officials informed the three student representatives that UC does NOT have any obligation to tell them OR the residents of Scioto/Morgens if there are any safety/building problems. They were informed that despite EVERY OTHER CONVERSATION WE'VE HAD WITH THE ADMINISTRATION that there are "fire/life safety issues" with Scioto/Morgens, there are no longer such issues, and even if they existed the Administration would not tell us since we do not "need" to know. Please consider this when deciding if you should sign this petition.
30 April 2008