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Ending the semester on a mixed note

At the end of another academic year, we are ending on a mixed note, especially concerning our students.

We have plenty to celebrate. Many families were able to join in recognition of the hard-won academic success of their kin at the recent commencement ceremonies. Congratulations to all the UIC students who made incredible sacrifices to get through the semesters they spent with us! Whether they engaged in professional, graduate, or undergraduate studies, I know that they did so with the support of peers, faculty, academic advisors, staff, family members, and even employers who want to see them cross finish lines, both here and elsewhere.

This semester, there have been some important wins for the institution.

After thirty-seven bargaining sessions, UIC’s Graduate Employees Organization (GEO, Local 6297) won a contract that gives the members better wages and more access to support and protection for survivors of sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment. This win came after one week of strike action, a lot of education about what graduate students contribute to the life of the university, and, I hope, a recognition on the part of the university about how much we stand to lose when graduate student workers are not compensated fairly and adequately for their labor.

Beginning in Fall 2022, UIC will offer Global Asian Studies as a major area of study for undergraduates, thanks to the fearless leadership of its founding director, Professor Anna Guevarra (joint faculty in Gender & Women’s Studies Program), Dr. Karen Su, the GLAS faculty, students, alumni, and community members who have pushed for this to happen. It has taken thirty years of unwavering advocacy and persistence to achieve this milestone of being able to award an undergraduate (Bachelor’s) degree in Asian diaspora studies. On a campus with a growing and diverse population of students from Asian backgrounds, nothing less is deserved. I suspect that GLAS is the winningest program on campus this academic year—from recognition for its stellar work in shared governance, to major awards and recognition of individual faculty members for their activism, research, and community-building work. WLRC celebrates with the entire GLAS community and looks forward to the various manifestations of its deep commitment to scholarly and community engagement in the near future! GLASapalooza 2022 will take place on Thursday, May 12.

A win for Chicago came in the form of a Pulitzer Prize awarded to Dr. Salamishah Tillet, co-founder with Scheherazade Tillet of A Long Walk Home. ALWH is a Black feminist organization based here in Chicago which trains young Black women to be social justice advocates and to use art to speak out against gender-based violence. WLRC has partnered with ALWH on multiple occasions and we could not be more thrilled about this well-deserved recognition of its co-founder.

Most recently, our campus community has also experienced loss. UIC Music student and TRIO senior Brittany Nicole Kinlow did not get to participate in the Spring commencement exercises because she was brutally murdered in her apartment building last week. While the School of Theatre and Music was quick to communicate with its community, there has not been official recognition of this tragic loss by the university administration. I hope that, at the very least, her name was lifted up at the graduation ceremony. Everyone needs to know that she was here, she was loved, she had dreams and ambitions, and she made positive contributions to the campus community’s wellbeing.

While we wait to hear the outcomes of the police investigation of Brittany’s death, we are also hoping for good news on the whereabouts of Natally Brookson, a UIC Psychology student, and Daniel Sotelo, a UIC graduate student; both of them have been listed as missing since April 30. I make mention of these students because they are members of this campus community and deserve our attention and concern. It is also fair to say that anxiety levels increase when students learn about harm to their peers. I encourage all of you to make use of and share the resources gathered in this newsletter, especially with students with whom you interact. If something is particularly helpful to you or them, I hope you will let us know.

As we speak, many universities are working to figure out how they will respond to the Supreme Court’s impending decision regarding Roe v. Wade. WLRC is committed to helping to educate the UIC campus and broader community about the harmful ideologies, policies, and practices that serve to limit access to abortion and reproductive healthcare, and uplifting the ways that activists, advocates, and scholars are making connections between movements for reproductive justice, disability justice, racial justice, anti-imperialism, abolition, etc. As a campus center, we want our students to become aware of these perspectives and be able to make connections between academic knowledge and social change work taking place within and outside the university. We hope to work with a variety of university units to continue raising awareness about this important issue for and beyond our campus community. Please join us!

Finally, a few changes in the Cultural Centers’ universe:

  • Asian American Resource & Cultural Center (AARCC) has moved to 723 Maxwell Street.
  • Arab American Cultural Center (ArabAmCC) has moved into AARCC’s old space in Taft Hall.
  • JT Turner, Director of Gender & Sexuality Center, will be leaving UIC for Princeton University. We will miss JT and wish them the best of luck in their new position and responsibilities!
  • In the coming months, WLRC will be moving out of the Taylor Street Building and to the Student Services Building at Harrison and Racine. We will keep you posted.

Next issue: Summer reading! If you have suggestions, let us know.

Until then, take care of yourselves and each other,

Natalie Bennett