A Letter to the Campus and Chicago Communities

To the Greater Campus and Chicago Communities:

After weeks of serious discussion and deliberation, we are saddened to announce the formal disaffiliation of the Students for Education Reform chapter at the University of Chicago.  While this was by no means an easy decision, we believe it to be the best for us and the future of our organization.

Our disaffiliation stems from a complex organizational problem, a problem we have grappled with for quite some time.  While Students for Education Reform serves as an effective platform to engage college students within the field of education reform, we find that this engagement is narrow in scope. Over the course of the past year, we have adopted the belief that good engagement is local engagement, and in turn, good policy is local policy. A very important question arises: How can a national organization support and develop passionate leaders engaged in vastly different locales, vastly different contexts and communities?

We feel that this question has yet to be adequately answered, and in addition, this complex organizational problem has yet to be resolved.

Further complicating the issue are smaller but equally important gaps in communication and transparency, problems addressed at the most recent summit in New Orleans. While we appreciate the efforts and solutions created to address the concerns expressed by many chapter leaders and members,  we feel that they only serve as temporary solutions to a much larger problem.

And so, it seems we have reached a difficult impasse.

We find that we cannot perform the work we wish to perform under the guise of Students for Education Reform.  Instead of feeling more empowered through our association and interaction with the organization and National staff, we feel constrained both in what is expected and what is possible. We are often perceived not as Students for Education Reform at the University of Chicago, an organization with distinct individualities, personalities, and experiences, but a rudimentary extension of the National organization. Time and time again this has impeded our ability to learn and engage within our local communities.

Perhaps this is a result of a problem in organizational identity. While we know who we are as an organization, we feel increasingly worried that the national organization does not know who it is, who it represents, and what direction it wishes to go.  Perhaps we are wrong. Nonetheless, the ambiguity is just as dangerous.

We wish to place no blame for this feeling; we strongly believe it is a result of an organizational flaw, not maligned intentions.  We also wish to stress the importance in viewing our disaffiliation as a result of differing goals and visions.  A movement like Students for Education Reform is sustainable, but only if significant power and recognition is devolved to a local level.

With little time left in the quarter, this is our decision.

This does not mean we will discard the years worth of work, time, and energy our members have dedicated toward building this chapter.  Using the goals and policy framework established at the beginning of this Spring Quarter, we hope to complete the development of a new outlet that will continue to engage students in not just Chicago’s public schools, but its diverse communities.  As we start a new chapter in our lives as students passionate about education, we hope for your guidance and support.

We want to conclude by thanking the staff of National and the various chapters we have had the pleasure of working with for welcoming us into the Students for Education Reform family. The experiences afforded by this opportunity were simply invaluable.  Words cannot sufficiently show how much we have learned and grown as individuals and as an organization. As we all pursue exciting future endeavors, we wish Students for Education Reform and its members all the best. .

Sincerely,

Matthew Collins          Hannah Amundsen      Maira Khwaja
Kiara Nerenberg         Rachel Kulikoff               Bess Cohen
Daphne Chen                Jeanne Lieberman        Elizabeth Gilbert
Hamid Bendaas           Jenna Rozelle                  Toni Friedman

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3 comments

  1. […] of Chicago chapter of Students for Education Reform to divorce its national organization. In their Dear John letter, the Chicago students hint at their discomfort with being the fresh Chicago faces of SFER’s […]

  2. CitizensArrest · · Reply

    It remains to be seen if, now that they are a self sufficient entity, they will cleave towards a more fact and research based understanding of the problems facing education and the associated solutions. I decode their letter to mean that they can no longer function as foot soldiers for an agenda they have no say in the defining of. Time will tell.

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