By SAM RAPPAPORT
The (I)IRON Student Network, a coalition of University of Chicago (U. of C.) student organizations, held an on-campus rally, Thursday, May 19, that drew just over 200 people. Organizers said that the event, loosely titled “The Protest to Democratize the University,” aimed to highlight the institution’s persistent neglect of student-body concerns.
Representatives from the student organizations Fair Budget UChicago, Students for Disability Justice, UChicago Climate Action Network and Campaign for Equitable Policing spoke at Thursday’s rally, which began outside Ratner Athletic Center, 5530 S. Ellis Ave., and culminated on the steps of the university’s administration building, Levi Hall, 5801 S. Ellis Ave.
“As students of this university, we should have a voice in matters of university governance,” said Kenzo Esquivel, a third year undergraduate student. “How hard it is to even get a meeting with administrators is absolutely unacceptable.”
Student activists said that Thursday’s protest was less about furthering the agendas of a few organizations than it was about calling attention to the opaqueness of a handful of high-level administrators.
Juhi Gupta, a first year public policy student, said that administrators have continually refused to meet with student groups.
“CFO Rowan Miranda, Dean of Students John “Jay” Ellison, President Robert Zimmer, current Provost Eric Isaacs and future Provost Daniel Diermeier have ignored and continue to dismiss the needs of individual students and student groups,” Gupta said. “They never directly communicate with us.”
Gupta said that Provost Isaacs had taken part in public forums over the past year, but said that those appearances were hardly sufficient to assuage student frustrations of not being heard.
Following Thursday’s protest, U. of C. spokesman Jeremy Manier issued a statement at odds with the claims of student neglect.
“Faculty and administrators routinely engage with students through a variety of channels, including discussing issues at Student Government meetings,” Manier said. “Dissent and protest are integral to the life of the University of Chicago. The university welcomes a wide range of voices, and has policies ensuring that all members of our community have broad freedom to share their opinions and engage in rigorous debate.”
Hyde Park residents Sam Guard and Roderick Sawyer were in attendance on Thursday and said they supported the efforts of the students.
Members of Teamsters Local 743, a union representing hundreds of university clerical workers and dining staff, were also in attendance on Thursday.
Local 743 spokesman Jarvis Gutter said that his union has consistently aligned itself with the work of student organizations.
Gutter said, “We’ve always supported the students in their efforts to democratize the university, this is how people are heard.”