State of the University recap, new housing policies and Chartwells strike

And a new Netflix show to watch between classes

Happy Monday, everyone. To our returning readers, welcome back! To our many new newsletter subscribers, let us introduce ourselves. We’re the 14 East newsletter team — Claire, Grace DV., Cam, Elly, Kate, Grace V., Ally and Emily — and we’re so happy for you to join us!

We’ve got a lot going on in today’s newsletter: DePaul’s updating housing policies, the latest stats on the university’s enrollment and endowment and news of the dining workers’ strike. But before we get into all that, we consider this a formal invitation to DePaul students interested in being a part of media to join us at our student media mixer on Monday October 4 at 5 p.m. Be sure to RSVP


Enrollment, endowment and morale at the 2021 State of the University

Cam Rodriguez, Managing Editor

President Esteban opened his 2021 State of the University address on Thursday morning by thanking faculty and staff for making DePaul a special and welcoming place for students.

"I would like to thank all of our faculty and staff who have made students so welcome these past few weeks. I want to emphasize how grateful I am to everyone here... because of you, you make DePaul a special place."

While presenting the updates to the 2024 Strategic Plan, Esteban stressed that retention of all kinds was a priority for the university, particularly in year two of a remote learning environment. Numerous freshman retention-focused programs, like the Chicago Quarter Program in New Student and Family Engagement/First Year Program, are being extended to sophomores, particularly students of color and first generation college students. 

These fall into DePaul’s goals of increasing diversity and inclusion at the university, something that Esteban applauded. Preliminary enrollment statistics showed that the “university broke a record” with the most students of color enrolled — 9,414 students that make up approximately 43 percent of the student body. 

When comparing the statistics provided at the event with the 2020 Enrollment Summary, things become a little clearer: a 40-student increase caused the broken record, a scant 0.46% increase.

The biggest drop came with graduate students, which Esteban acknowledged was an area of growth for admissions. 

Fiscally, revenue from tuition was down by $27 million from the last fiscal year, and auxiliary revenue, which includes things like the campus bookstores, housing and dining, dropped by $26 million from last year. Gift and grant revenue rose by $54 million, and for this school year, donors have committed $93 million, the highest in the school’s history, according to Esteban.

What seems to have dropped the most, however, was faculty and staff morale. 

In a Q&A session following the address, numerous members of DePaul faculty and staff voiced concerns about morale and pay. Members of student media were told to not record the Q&A in the interest of allowing faculty and staff to openly ask questions and feel comfortable, but could include quotes if question askers were approached individually.

Dani Blackwell, a member of Staff Council and who works in one of the departments mentioned as a source of retention for students, asked about retention for staff. 

“How many staff members didn’t use their stress relief days because it would have been more stressful to take the day off?” Blackwell asked. “Getting our raises back, our 403 match, is important, but what are we doing now that we’re back on campus -- but what are we doing for the faculty and staff who are back on campus, but are tired, and we can’t stop?”

For a full livetweet thread of the event, check out @14eastmag on Twitter.


DePaul News

Housing Updates: Guest Policy and COVID-19 Quarantine 

Beginning today, students residing on campus will be allowed to have up to two parent or guardian guests, provided they are vaccinated, pre-register via this online form and wear a mask at all times (unless they are within a dorm room with the door closed).

Director of Housing, Dining & Student Centers Rick Moreci said DePaul Housing Services will “re-evaluate the guest policy every two weeks moving forward.” The next update is scheduled for Monday, October 11. 

According to the new policy, guests will still have to provide identification at the reception desk as well as be escorted by their student at all times. Siblings, friends and other students are prohibited from visiting residence halls at this time.

Over the weekend, five new cases were added to DePaul’s COVID-19 dashboard.

This comes at a time when a portion of COVID-19-positive students are returning to campus after spending over a week in DePaul-designated quarantine housing. For more information on housing protocols, keep an eye out for our latest piece “Isolated: Inside DePaul’s On-Campus Quarantine Housing” coming to our website this week.

Chartwells Workers Authorize Strike

Last Thursday, 92 percent of DePaul’s dining workers, employed by Chartwells under the parent company Compass Group, voted to authorize a strike to fight for better wages. 

According to a press release from Dan Abraham of UNITE HERE Local 1, the average Compass worker made $25,033 in 2019, just over $700 below the poverty line for a household of four people in Chicago. Compass, Chartwells’s parent company, has not given their employees a raise since 2019. 

According to a survey of Chartwells employees by UNITE HERE Local 1, “43 percent of respondents went to a food pantry this year, 49 percent of respondents receive government welfare program benefits and 17 percent of respondents have household members who have gone hungry this year.” 

This Wednesday at 4:30 pm UNITE HERE Local 1 and the student organization DePaul Accountability Alliance will host a community meeting over Zoom to discuss the strike and potential impacts. The link can be found here.


Chicago Headlines

  • Chicago auto mechanics ended their eight-week strike on Sunday after signing a new labor contract that will remain in place for the next four years. The strike initially started after the union rejected the New Car Dealer Committee’s proposal. The new agreement was narrowly accepted due to a lack of initial demands being met, but all employees were encouraged to return to work today. Robert Channick of the Chicago Tribune

  • New police body-camera footage revealed Nikkita Brown pleaded with the Chicago police officer to let her go as she attempted to exit Lakefront Park. A bystander’s video of the altercation on Aug. 28 went viral online, prompting COPA to open an investigation. The new footage released shows the officer grabbing the woman and threatening to arrest her. Brown’s lawyer claimed this was a case of racial profiling due to a number of other civillians present in the area.  Jake Wittich of Block Club Chicago

  • Governor J.B. Pritzker signed district boundaries into law on Friday based on the 2020 U.S. Census. He faced criticism from reform groups claiming the new maps steal voting representation from minorities while Pritzker’s republican rivals accused him of gerrymandering.  Mitchell Armentrout of the Chicago Sun Times


National Headlines

  • Pfizer booster shots have arrived. After much debate, the CDC and FDA have concluded that booster shots should start being regularly distributed to adults aged 18 to 65 who are at increased risk of contracting COVID-19, to those over the age of 65, and to those who live or work in a high-risk area. While over 2 million people have already received a third dose of the Pfizer shot, those don’t count as boosters. They were simply an extra dose given to those who are immunocompromised. If you are six months out from your last dose of the Pfizer vaccine, you are eligible for a booster if you fall into a high-risk group. Maggie Fox of CNN has the details.

  • Over the weekend, an Amtrak train derailed in Montana traveling from Chicago to Seattle, killing three people. The derailment occurred during a switch in the line, where one track turns into two. Federal investigators are examining the case and have said they will look at “everything.” The identities of the victims have not been released. Amy Beth Hanson, Martha Bellisle and Anita Snow of AP news report updates.

  • The annual Tony awards took place last night with “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” and “The Inheritance” taking home top honors. “A Christmas Carol” also received best original score, marking it the first play in a year without any original musicals nominated to win the prize. Nancy Coleman of the New York Times reported live updates.

  • R. Kelly was found guilty of all counts and is now facing life in prison. The six-week trial in Brooklyn showcased disturbing evidence and graphic testimony regarding the sexual abuse suffered by victims. The trial represents the most high-profile #MeToo story in the music industry. Troy Closson of the New York Times has the story.


Recommendations

If you haven’t already seen it, Netflix’s Squid Game is a must-watch. The Korean drama follows contestants as they compete in children’s games, like Red Light Green Light, for a cash prize of almost $40,000,000. Just win all six games, over a period of six days. The catch? You are playing to the death.

But the story isn’t that simple. The show begs the question, how far would you go for money? Not just for the games, because everyone in the games is “at the brink of financial ruin.” It’s no coincidence they all ended up there. They’ve entered into what they thought would be some quick, easy and life-changing money. But, the contestants aren’t necessarily the people you might expect. Anyone from the gambling addict who lost his job to the successful corporate business man can find themselves at the squid games.

Oh, and the people running the games -- they have their ways to ensure they are never caught.

With just 9 episodes, the show is an easy binge that kept me guessing what the next game could be and how they were going to survive. I grew attached to the characters and their stories, which made it harder and harder to think about who might not survive. Every episode had another twist that changed the stakes of the game.

But beyond this gory surface, the real conflict lies within each contestant, as they struggle to balance their humanity with thoughts of killing and survival. | Emily Soto, contributor


Resources

Rental Assistance 

  • The Illinois Housing Development Authority periodically offers rental payment programs which send vouchers directly to landlords to subsidize rent costs. The program is currently closed to new applicants. However, housing stability service providers are offered year-round. Check out the resources here.

  • The city of Chicago’s Rental Assistance Program provides funding for Chicagoans who are at risk of becoming homeless. 

  • The Brave Space Alliance currently offers multiple housing resources. In order to distribute aid accordingly, they have a housing intake and assessment form that you can find here

COVID-19 Testing and Vaccine Resources

All of these testing sites and vaccination sites can be accessed for free and without insurance. 

  • Howard Brown offers free, walk-in COVID-19 viral and antibody testing at multiple locations from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, in addition to mobile testing sites that are updated weekly. The organization also offers the Moderna vaccine for individuals 18 and older. You can check all of their current COVID-19 resources here

  • The Illinois Department of Public Health and the city of Chicago offer free COVID-19 testing sites in the city and surrounding counties, which are listed with more information here. IDPH also offers COVID-19 vaccines to all residents 12 years and older. Call 833-621-1284 to schedule an appointment. 

  • The city of Chicago partnered with the Community Organized Relief Effort to set up free drive-thru and walk-in testing sites in the city, primarily on the South and West sides, with appointments available Monday through Friday. Register here. 

  • The city has also updated its COVID-19 testing program with more mobile sites, which change weekly. More info here. 

  • Know someone 12 years of age or older who has yet to receive their COVID-19 vaccine? Check out appointments via Zocdoc, the city of Chicago’s Vaccine Finder or pharmacy websites such as Walgreens and CVS to see what is available in or around your ZIP code. 

Mental Health Resources

  • At Open Counseling, there’s a list of people and nonprofits with counseling services available for free or low cost.

  • This website compiles mental health resources, including therapist directories and other online resources. 

  • The Center on Halsted offers behavioral health, anti-violence and educational resources for LGBTQ+ people.

  • Howard Brown Health offers anti-racism resources and sliding scale counseling specializing in the LGBTQ+ community.

  • This document is a resource for Black people experiencing racial trauma. The master list includes specific resources as well as protesting tips and donation links.

  • This link is a directory of Black therapists in Chicago who provide services for under $75.

  • Here’s 7 virtual mental health resources supporting Black people right now, including Chicago-based community organization Sista Afya’s support groups.

  • The Trans Lifeline’s peer support hotline is a resource operated by transgender and nonbinary staffers for the trans community: 877-565-8860.

  • The Center for Religion and Psychotherapy in Chicago is a nonprofit that provides affordable, sliding-scale counseling. Call 312-263-4368, ext. 9081 to schedule an intake appointment (counseling is not religious-centered). 


Thanks for tuning in! See you back here next Monday with more news to start your week. 

The 14 East Newsletter Team