Yesterday morning, KU Chancellor Doug Girod reacted to the proposed International student rule change by sending an internal KU email calling this proposed policy “misguided and deeply cruel”. While we appreciate his sentiment, we have found that no problem has ever been solved by sentiment alone.
While Girod’s denouncement of this proposed rule change to local media was appropriately scathing, he failed to offer even a single specific action that he is willing to take to defend our International workers and students from this viciously xenophobic assault. He made a vague reference to possible coordination with other organizations to “encourage” federal lawmakers to “reconsider” this proposed rule change and seemed to lean on the assurance that Harvard and MIT would take care of this problem for him.
In many ways, this reflects our experience from the 2017 Justice Department “rule change” attack on our Dreamers and the 2018 USCIS “rule change” attack on our International workers and students. In 2017 and 2018, just like today, KU did nothing to protect our International comrades. Instead, the 2017 DACA rule change was defeated by lawsuits brought by our labor union with the NAACP, and universities including Princeton, University of California, and others, while the 2018 proposed rule change was thwarted by a lawsuit brought by our labor union in concert with four other universities because when we fight, we win.
But why is it always AFT/GTAC and other universities fighting for us?
Just as the newest assault on our International comrades is more brutal, Girod’s response is even more inimical than in 2017 and in 2018. In addition to implicitly refusing to act to defend our International workers and students, longtime Chancellor Doug Girod is now allowing new Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer to use this assault on International students to create profit for our University by coercing faculty and graduate workers back onto campus, where some of them will die.
The University of Kansas cannot condemn this attack while also facilitating it. The University of Kansas cannot denounce this war while profiting from it. The University of Kansas cannot defend the human rights of our students by violating the human rights of our workers.
Doug and Barb, please understand: The best way to “help” our students is not to coerce faculty and graduate worker to teach in-person courses in a raging pandemic – the best way for you to help is to directly fight ICE in a manner which ensures their understanding that we will aggressively defend every single member of our community against all ICE attacks. Anything less is mere lip service.
Finally, because much of the seemingly positive rhetoric on the topic of fighting for International students and workers centers on the benefits we receive from “their” presence in “our” communities, we feel that we must be clear about the purpose of GTAC involvement in the fight to defend International workers and students:
We do not have a transactional relationship with International members, International workers, or International students. Rather, we stand in solidarity with our International comrades. Our International comrades are not separate from “the rest of us”. This is not something happening to “them” that “we” should help “them” with – this is happening to us because an injury to one is an injury to all.
As such, we will not fight this because our University benefits from International tuition dollars, because our domestic students benefit from International diversity on campus, or because our University benefits from the brilliant research conducted by our International comrades. Instead, we fight because our International comrades are human beings with an inherent right to a safe, secure, respectful, and dignified University and workplace.
Administrator sentiment is less than nothing: Instead, the University of Kansas must join this lawsuit against ICE and pledge to fight any ICE involvement in our community.
Coercion is a violation of our rights: Instead, Chancellor Doug Girod and Provost Barb Bichelmeyer must follow through on their promise to respect the inherent rights of workers by ensuring that “no instructor will be asked to teach on campus if they feel it will compromise their health or their family’s health to do so.”
When we fight, we win: But we can only fight when we stand together, which is why every GTA should join our union today.
Right now, AFT locals and other grad unions across the nation are collaborating with one another to defeat this attack. Be a part of a nationwide movement of graduate workers to in-better our lives, protect one another, and ensure higher education is a place for all.