The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

U-High Midway

The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

U-High Midway

The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

U-High Midway

Budget cuts disappoint, dishearten

As programs face cuts due to Lab’s financial strain, community reacts passionately
Nathan Li
In a German 5 class, junior Oliver Go works with teacher Marianne Zemil. The news that Lab’s German program will be phased out sparked communitywide protests and other reactions.

The announcement of budget cuts that will eliminate sports teams, an academic program, and staff positions prompted passionate student, family, and faculty opposition, including protests, petitions, and the potential hiatus of a prominent student-driven program. Facing financial challenges, Laboratory Schools Director Tori Jueds announced the cuts in an email on May 6.

A combination of rising interest rates and a drop in operating income provoked the cost-cutting measures across the university, which include a temporary staff hiring freeze and voluntary staff retirement packages, as well as budget cuts for programs. 

U-High sports teams — sailing and squash — will be cut in the administration’s new financial plan, and Lab’s German language program will be phased out by 2028. A separate email to Lab employees explained that nine staff positions will be cut, four of which are in the libraries. Sixth grade sports teams will be eliminated beginning next year, and middle school team sports will have participation caps due to the elimination of the “no cut” policy, resulting in two girls teams and two boys teams. 

The cuts prompted a protest in the middle school on May 9, a march of U-High students on May 10, and several petitions posted across social media. 

U-High librarian Susan Augustine said the impacts of eliminating the library assistants will be felt not only by the faculty and librarians but by the students as well. With fewer helping hands in the libraries, the work will be less light, and service to students will be slower and more difficult for those doing it, she said.  

“One of the things that was most upsetting is just the way that it was done,” Ms. Augustine said, “because the library assistants’ positions were eliminated before their bosses even knew and before the chair of the library knew. It all just came down suddenly, and it felt like a lack of respect.”

As a result of the elimination of library staff positions, librarians from all four school libraries announced a “hiatus of the Zena Sutherland Awards program” in a schoolwide email on May 17. 

The Sutherland Award, which has run for 30 years, is a child-selected accolade for children’s literature. The candidates are chosen by a committee of sixth graders and voted on by fourth and fifth graders. 

After meeting with librarians on May 24, Director of Schools Tori Jueds announced in an email to employees that the program would in fact remain in place for next school year.

Reactions were passionate from those involved in academic and athletic programs that will be cut. On May 10, a group of around 20 students — both from U-High and the middle school — marched around the building to protest the elimination of the German program, chanting slogans like “German is our choice, hear our voice.” 

Sophomore Adam Tapper, one of the protest’s leaders, said the German program has been an integral part of his experience at Lab that he wouldn’t want to see taken from younger students. 

“This program has been really important to me,” Adam said. “I’ve met some of my best friends through it, and the exchange program was one of the best experiences of my life. It would just be really devastating to see the program lost.”

Seventh grader Jonah Dennis said removing the no-cut policy at the middle school would mean a significantly less enjoyable experience on the court for him and many of his friends. 

“Next year, we’re gonna be in basketball, and there are cuts,” Jonah said. “So, even if I get in, there are gonna be a lot of my friends, who I really enjoy playing with, who don’t. And I might not even get in. So that’s gonna affect all of us a lot, in and out of sports.” 

Ilana Umanskiy, a junior on the sailing team, felt blindsided by the announcement. She wishes the administration had spoken to the sailing team before cutting the sport.

“I want them to know that you can’t make decisions like that without compromise or at least letting us know,” Ilana said. “Like, you can’t let our entire school know at the same time as us, ’cause it’s going to affect a lot of kids.”

Other cuts that will be made under this plan include faculty summer pay for service on hiring committees, print copies of Lab Life alumni magazine and new faculty extra service positions.

Reporting contributed by Taariq Ahmed, Jaya Alenghat, Chloë Alexander and Clare McRoberts. This is a developing story. Visit for updates.

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About the Contributors
Light Dohrn
Light Dohrn, Assistant Editor
Light Dohrn is a member of the Class of 2026 and a Midway assistant editor. As a ninth grader, she joined the journalism team during the 2022-23 school year. Her favorite piece she has written for the Midway is “Through authenticity and humor, biology teacher inspires passion among students.” Outside of journalism, she enjoys Middle-Earth fantasy books and Tarantino films. Awards: 2023 Journalism Education Association National Student Media Contests, Boston convention: Excellent, review writing 2023 Journalism Education Association National Student Media Contests, San Francisco convention: Honorable mention, press law and ethics
Nathan Li
Nathan Li, Photographer
Nathan Li, a member of the Class of 2025, is a beginning photojournalist. His favorite part of photojournalism is documenting sports and being able to include his friends. Outside of photojournalism, Nathan likes playing basketball and listening to music. 

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