In Memory of Janet Smith

Janet provided strong leadership for the union and will be missed by all who came in contact with her. I’d like to share a quote from an old Jewish text, that I believe appropriate for honoring Janet’s memory:

There are stars whose light reaches the earth only after they themselves have disintegrated and are no more; and there are those individuals whose memory lights the world long after they have passed from it. These lights, which shine in the darkest night, are those which illuminate the path for us.

Stephen Melamed
Professor Emeritus, Industrial Design


Janet Smith has been an inspiring figure for me and my family, and we will miss her deeply. We admired her courage, determination, graceful eloquence, and the joy and passion with which she engaged in social activism. 

Most of all, her generosity and profound sense of social justice have been a reminder and encouragement for us all that we can do better, and we must do better for one another.”

Chiara Fabbian
Director of the Italian Program, Director of Undergraduate Studies in Italian


Janet was such a powerful advocate for social movements in Chicago. I met her in 2015 when I was in a community coalition in Humboldt Park working on housing displacement strategies along the 606 Trail. I moderated a panel with her and she spent a Saturday morning teaching residents around rent control/housing deconversions. She was really important for housing advocates because she openly shared knowledge. Showed me what scholars/academics could do with their research for good! She really cared about people and social justice.

Lynda Lopez
Community Member


Although I’ve been a member of UICUF for the past year, I worked most closely with Janet during my time as an activist with UIC GEO, especially when I was GEO co-president from 2018 to 2019. She always backed the grad workers 100 percent, and her solidarity- which translated into solidarity from the entire faculty union- made all the difference when it came to GEO winning our 2019 strike. Janet was our most trusted and valued ally in that fight, proactively asking us how UICUF faculty could best support us. Throughout the strike, she was willing to help out in any way, including lending us materials, speaking at our rallies, and talking to the media to demonstrate a united front between faculty and grad workers.

I was always so impressed by her knowledge of how UIC actually works, the ins and outs of the budget, how to organize a protest at Board of Trustees meetings, etc. But even more impressive was her tirelessness and passion when it came to fighting for justice for all workers and students not only at UIC, but everywhere. No matter how busy or hectic or stressful things got, she always remained enthusiastic, energized, kind, and generous with her time and attention.

Jeff Schuhrke,
Visiting Lecturer, History


Engaging with Janet in a group setting was its own kind of joy. As a young woman in union work, I’ve found it valuable in ways I’m not even sure how to articulate yet to have Janet as an example of leadership, commanding well-deserved respect and taking nobody’s shit.

Sophie Bauerschmidt Sweeney
Staff Organizer, UICUF