Editor's note: This story previously included language that incorrectly stated that Graduate Village residents were facing eviction, rather than lease non-renewals. The headline and body text of the article have been revised to reflect this error.
Updated on June 22: This story was updated to include quotes from UO spokesperson Saul Hubbard.
The Graduate Teaching Fellow Federation held a rally yesterday to protest the University of Oregon’s decision to not renew the leases of half the residents living in Graduate Village. UO plans to use the units as COVID-19 quarantine and isolation rooms.
Protestors said UO did not warn Graduate Village residents of the upcoming lease non-renewals until finals week of spring term, despite the fact that the university had a year to come up with a plan. They said the lack of communication did not provide residents a lot of time to find housing for next year. While UO’s actions were not illegal, the protestors said UO’s Graduate Village lease decision was “wrong.”
"The University of Oregon wants to be congratulated when it deserves to be shamed in the treatment of its students — again," GTFF wrote in a press release. It wrote that while UO recognized the situation was difficult for residents, the university had not offered any “solution, additional time, or even resources to help us cope with the disruption.”
University spokesperson Saul Hubbard said that UO has accommodated every graduate and law student who asked to renew their lease. He said the nine former Graduate Village residents who asked to renew their leases will move to different UO apartment units, with the university providing moving assistance.
"Throughout the process, the university has been committed to helping find other university housing options for any students who potentially might need to move," Hubbard said. "And we are pleased that we have found university housing for every student living in Graduate Village last year who wanted to renew their leases."
The rally began in front of Johnson Hall at 2 p.m. as about 20 people gathered on the steps. Protestors held signs saying “Where do we go, Schill?” and “Dear President Schill, can I stay in your house since you’re kicking me out of mine?”
At 2:30 p.m., the group took to the street and began heading west down 13th Ave. They marched through campus, stopping and standing in every intersection to chant and voice their grievances. Most stops blocked traffic for a minute or two.
Protest leaders led chants through a megaphone, including phrases, “What do we want? Affordable housing! When do we want it? Now!”
The group ultimately landed at the north entrance of Hayward Field — currently the site of the Olympic Track and Field Trials — at 3:00 p.m., where they sat down in the street and continued to chant. The protesters stayed for roughly 30 minutes.
Protestors said student housing is unaffordable in Eugene and cheap options are difficult to come by. By GTFF’s calculations, graduate students would have to work 81 hours at minimum wage to afford rent at average off-campus housing options. They said that this schedule is “impossible” to maintain on top of school.
Protesters pointed to both Walton and Hamilton Halls as possible alternatives for quarantine and isolation units. According to a GTFF flyer some of the protestors handed out, Walton Hall could allow for 651 units, while half of Graduate Village would only have a capacity of 36.
GTFF previously held a protest outside of Johnson Hall and collected signatures on a letter to the university to push back against lease non-renewals in Graduate Village.