‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌   ‌
In this issue:
  • A Note from WLRC Director
  • Agitation, Mobilization, and Education: UIC Graduate Students in Action
    • An interview with Alexis Grant, co-founder of Black Graduate Student Association
    • Black Graduate Student Association
    • Good Trouble Coalition
    • UIC Graduate Employees Organization (GEO)
  • Staying Connected: Updates about COVID-19 and WLRC/CAN
  • Connect with us!
A Note from WLRC Director

This has been a challenging semester, more than most.  As we finish the last of the reports on the to-do lists, submit the grades, tidy up our electronic desktops, and make the transition to Winter break mode, there’s also some reflection to do.

I hope that administrators, unit leaders, faculty and students take a moment to consider what the institution did well in its pandemic response and where we need to do better for the coming semesters.  While most universities have focused on evaluating efforts to contain COVID-19 (remote learning; testing; managing movement), it is also true that there were both predictable and unintended consequences for faculty, staff, and students alike.   Given that some of our community members did become ill,  I hope that there is a way to hear from them, and to gain insight that can help all of us do better as the pandemic rages on.

UIC’s Office of Institutional Research reported the findings of its survey of students in Spring 2020 and Fall 2020, respectively.  The majority of the respondents were female-identified, White, Latina and Asian American. While focused on questions that the institution thinks is important (the student-led survey is here), the report offers important insight about how our students are experiencing education in the context of the pandemic.  I urge everyone to read it and consider how we can organize Spring 2021 to prioritize connection, community and wellbeing.

As we speak, there’s a lot of data-gathering happening to document how the lives of women faculty have been affected.  The patterns from the media stories maps onto the patterns showing up at individual universities: more caring and support work (for family members and students); expansion of teaching work; less research and writing; more emotional stress; more service work; fewer resources for childcare.  The perspectives of tenure-track women faculty are overrepresented in these studies though; less visible are the stories of contingent faculty, where more women of color tend to clustered. The accounts of women faculty at Stanford University give some insight into the personal and professional costs (for graduate students who are interested in becoming faculty members, you can learn a lot from the comments).  The good news is that research by Dr. Irina Buhimschi at UIC’s College of Medicine is already underway to document the experiences of women faculty here; I expect that the study will be expanded across the campus, and I hope that it includes non-tenure, clinical and contingent faculty members who teach many of our students and large courses.

While various tools and metrics are being created to assess the impact of the pandemic on women faculty – from surveys to covid impact statements – no similar effort has yet surfaced to document the experiences of university’s administrative staff.  The overwhelming majority of administrators at UIC are women; they have been absorbing the expanded workload and shepherding reorganizing efforts to ensure that remote learning, research and everything else continues to flow.  If we do not ask questions about childcare, mental stress, physical health, financial security, impact of funding/research on work output and job security, etc. of the people who make the institution run, we cannot know the full impact of the pandemic on the university.   Faculty members’ and students’ pandemic stress is now rightly recognized as “chronic.” When will we have words – same, different, layered - to characterize what is happening to the people who are the essential workers of the institution?


“I wanted everyone to see how terribly I was treated…they didn’t care about what was happening to me.”   These are the words of Anjanette Young, an alum of the UIC Jane Addams College of Social Work.  Over the past few days, and because of her bravery, we have been learning how easily police violence enters and disrupts the lives of women of color in this city.  The video, by now public and widely circulated, is available to us because of Anjanette’s insistence that we, collectively, need to bear witness to how police violence looks, feels and takes form when it touches Black women.  Police violence against women of color is a Black feminist issue, and as scholar-activists like Andrea Ritchie (Invisible No More) have demonstrated, Anjanette’s story is part of a collective Black women’s story of dehumanization and resistance.  Dr. Eve Ewing at the University of Chicago has spearheaded a campaign to support Anjanette’s legal battles. WLRC provides an overview to the topic of Black women and police violence on our website. Make it part of your holiday reading!

For our final newsletter of the Fall 2020 semester, we feature UIC graduate students who are engaged in anti-racist activism at UIC.  These activists are building new platforms and opening up spaces for students of color to speak out on university-wide issues; the UIC education they are receiving through this work extends far beyond academic study.  Graduate students are the future of every discipline, and yet there are academic departments where there are few women, and no women of color.  These students are also becoming specialists in their respective fields in a cultural context where racist and sexist disrespect of women’s advanced credentials and expertise persist, and where women are questioned about how they represent themselves.  I ask that you learn about the individuals, the collective efforts they are helping to shape, and support the work they are doing to make UIC a more inclusive and equitable university for all who study and work here.

Listen to Mariame Kaba talking about hip-hop’s role in shaping abolitionist imaginations, and engaging in conversation with Fatima Warner, the Chicago-based rapper who goes by the moniker No Name (begins at 41:21).

Make something:  Crafters are invited to make winter items for houseless people.  The official #Warm4Holidays event will be on December 31 and January 1, but feel free to get started now!

Gift something: Check out Say Her Name by Zetta Elliott, award-winning YA writer and activist (as well as a recent transplant to Chicagoland!), is making its way onto many “book of the year” lists.

In the words of Mariame, may 2021 bring us more justice and more peace.

Take care of yourselves and each other,

Dr. Natalie Bennett

Agitation, Mobilization & Education: Graduate Students in Action
Alexis Grant, BGSA 

Priscila Pereira, doctoral student in Mathematics Education and Graduate Assistant in WLRC, had the pleasure of speaking to Alexis Grant about her involvement in Black Graduate Student Association, and being a graduate student activist at UIC.  Part of the interview is presented here. Please check out the full conversation on our website.

About Alexis

Alexis Grant is a third-year PhD student in the division of Community Health Sciences at the UIC School of Public Health.  Her research focuses on public health system partnerships, particularly for the purposes of implementing interventions in community settings. Alexis is the Community Engagement Fellow at the UIC School of Public Health Collaboratory for Health Justice, has a master’s degree in Behavioral and Social Health Sciences from Brown University, and bachelor's degrees in English and Psychology from Howard University.

Getting involved 

Having attended Howard University (an historically Black university) for her undergraduate education, Alexis was exposed to the celebration of Blackness in all its multifaceted forms and really wanted to continue occupying spaces where people ‘get her’, where she didn’t have to prove herself, and that people cultivated pride in being Black. She also knew that the Black graduate student population at UIC was not representative of the Black population in the city and, being the first person in her family to pursue a doctoral degree, she was intentional about finding Black-centered spaces of support. When she inquired about Black graduate student organizations at UIC and didn’t find any, she decided to create one. [More]

Black Graduate Student Association (BGSA)
BGSA group photo. Retrieved from BGSA facebook page 

UIC's Black Graduate Student Association is a student-led organization founded in 2019 to focus on providing academic, professional, and social support to Black graduate students.  Currently led by Alexis Grant, a graduate student in Public Health, BGSA strives to " provide a place of refuge where Black students are encouraged to share ideas, concepts, and frustrations" (BGSA website).

In the summer of 2020, and in the wake of wide-scale protests against police brutality and the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and so many other Black and brown folks, the BGSA – in collaboration with Black Student Union, its undergraduate counterpart – spearheaded a new wave of student activism by compiling a list of demands which were presented to Chancellor Amiridis.  The demands spoke to the ways in which UIC and the University of Illinois System  have been complicit in anti-Black violence, police brutality, institutional racism, and other forms of discrimination.  The letter demanded that UIC and the U of I administration take genuine actions towards dismantling oppressive systems, structures, and practices in the university.   Signed by hundreds of students, faculty, staff, and organizations, you can read it in its fullness here.

How to get involved with BGSA 
BGSA hosts monthly programmings, general member meetings, a mentoring program, study halls, social events, among other things. See contact info below to learn more and get involved

Good Trouble Coalition
 group of people holding signs
 Retrieved from Good Trouble website

Good Trouble is a interdepartmental coalition organized to coordinate efforts to hold leaders accountable for UIC’s compliance with systemic, institutional racism and to divest from the police and invest in students, as articulated in the student demands letter delivered to the UIC administration on June 15, 2020.”

Good Trouble fosters collaboration between like-minded students to coordinate action across the University in all departments, colleges, and domains. Their bi-weekly meeting is the primary gathering space for coalition members to discuss relevant developments in the work at UIC, field ideas, share information about what they are doing, and be linked to other coalition members who can support their efforts.  

Coalition members can be any UIC student, faculty, or staff who is engaged or interested in being engaged in antiracist, abolitionist advocacy.  Join GT on their Google Groups and check their website out here. 

Gradient blue background with solid blue circle centered 

In August 2020, and in solidarity with the demands spearheaded by UIC's Black Graduate Student Association, the Society of Black Urban Planners (SBUP) wrote its own list of demands addressed to the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs (CUPPA).  The Latinx Planning Organization of Development, Education, and Regeneration (LPODER) joined this interdepartamental effort to address inequites within CUPPA. Among the demands was the call for a critical reexamination of the Urban Planning curriculum and creation of permanent funding mechanisms for Black students who wish to enroll in the program.

Both efforts were led by women of color graduate students, Rukaya Abdallah and Jazmin Vega, who are enrolled in the Masters of Urban Planning and Policy program.  Jazmin is also a Graduate Assistant in WLRC.  Rukaya and Jazmin see SBUP and LPODER as important ways for advocating for Black and brown students in their graduate programs and in the college, and reflect their personal commitments to dismantling racial injustice at this public university.

GEO Local 6297 black circle logo with gradient red stripes 

The Graduate Employees Organization is the labor union that represents more than 1,400 Teaching Assistants and Graduate Assistants at UIC. GEO is a democratic union run by and for its members, the more than 1400 graduate employees at UIC. GEO is affiliated with the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and the AFL-CIO.

During their impact bargaining in March and coordinated pressure exerted onto the university, GEO collectively won workplace protections in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among these protections included: 

  • All expenses related to the testing and treating of COVID-19 for employees who utilize Campus Care or who go to an Emergency Room will be covered at 100%; Urgent Care will be covered at 70%.
  • A commitment that Facilities Management is ensuring that soap and sanitizer will be available on campus and a phone number to report shortages. 
  • UIC allows employees not required to report to work to perform their work remotely.
  • A task force, including graduate students, to work towards a solution for academic and economic security over the summer, particularly international graduate students.

More information can be found on the GEO website or Facebook.

Aerial photo of UIC's campus 

WLRC will be working remotely for the Fall 2020 semester. We can be reached at wlrc@uic.edu and will continue to stay connected with you through email and social media.

The Campus Advocacy Network will continue to serve UIC students, faculty, and staff. Our confidential advocate is available for virtual appointments. To schedule a meeting or request more information, please email can-appointment@uic.edu. You can also call (312) 413-8206 and leave a voicemail.

We are open to connecting with you in multiple ways:

  • Phone: (312) 413-8206 or (312) 488-9784
  • Video conference (Webex or Google Hangouts)
  • Online chat (Google Chats)
  • Email

More info & resources

Connect with us!
Icons for website, Instagram, Facebook,and Twitter 


Have you checked out our websites (WLRC and CAN)? We add lots of useful content throughout the year, so be sure to bookmark both!

Get social with us!

We post regularly on WLRC's Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter and on CAN's Facebook.



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