the donations as of 20:37 EST on March 15th, one day into the fundraiser
A few days ago, we published an article outlining some FGLI student concerns regarding a campus closure due to COVID-19. As of now, the University has offered assistance through the emergency fund for immediate travel needs, but have not addressed issues of income loss as of yet. In response, this morning, Jessi Russel ’20 and Mya Valentin ’19 created a fundraising campaign for FGLI students who are affected by Wesleyan’s closure for the semester. Below is the email. You can donate to students who have self-identified as high need here.
Dear Wesleyan Alumni, Community Members, and Anybody Else,
Today, we are reaching out to organize on behalf of Wesleyan University students displaced and otherwise uncertain about their financial well-being as a result of the University’s closure, which includes but is not limited to access to safe and affordable housing, quality healthcare, nutritional food, and, at a time when we do not know how long states will be quarantining residents, remote job opportunities.
Context: On Wednesday March 11th, Wesleyan University informed students that, in light of concerns about the spread of COVID-19, they would need to either move out by the end of Spring Break (March 23rd) or petition to stay on campus for reasons of housing insecurity, citizenship status, or other limitations. We recognize that this eviction was necessary for the health of the Middletown and Wesleyan community, but it has left many FGLI students unemployed and worried about their financial well-being for the remainder of the semester and beyond. If you would like more information regarding the University’s closure, please navigate to this link.
As of March 15th, the organizers of this campaign were notified that the Office of Advancement has begun fundraising for the Wesleyan Emergency Fund. We were relieved to hear about this effort, but acknowledge that the administration is restricted in how it can give money to students. More often than not, the student must provide a description of their purchase–an ask that is hard in emergency situations such as these–and, in some cases, proof of payment (receipts, invoices, etc.). Our goal with this alternative campaign is to place funds directly into the pockets of high-need, at-risk students as an emergency preparedness effort. We fully recognize the scrutiny and liability placed on the organizers of this campaign as representatives of the student body rather than paid employees of the University. However, we believe that needs-based, community-driven relief is of utmost importance at this time. In the next few days, the organizers of this campaign will be in contact with the Office of Advancement and other administrators concerned with the financial well-being of at-risk students in hopes of putting these two campaigns in conversations with each other, rather than in competition.
The Campaign at a Glance: The weekend of March 13th, Jessi Russell (’20) and Mya Valentin (’19) reached out to the campus Resource Center in hopes of creating an email campaign to crowd-sourcing as many direct donations as possible to first generation, low-income, and/or housing insecure students. The first wave of this campaign was directed toward at-risk students. Demetrius Colvin, the director of the Resource Center, sent a campus-wide email requesting that all students populate a google spreadsheet with their name, class year, email address, preferred donation platform, and level of need on a scale of 1-5. A link to this google spreadsheet can be found here, and is also linked below.
As a Wesleyan alumni, community member, or unaffiliated person simply interested in supporting at-risk students, we are now asking you to participate in the second wave of our email campaign. Due to the number of students who have come forward to identify themselves as financially vulnerable as a result of Wesleyan University’s closure, the three of us have created a gofundme to amass as many direct donations to high-need, at-risk students as possible. Here are a few details about this campaign and the philosophies that drive it:
Above all else, it is our intention to help at-risk students prepare for indefinite unemployment and its consequences. Therefore, we ask everyone who comes across this campaign to take into consideration both current and impending financial instability.
The goal of this campaign is to place resources directly into the hands of those who find themselves most at-risk and uncertain of their financial situation due to Wesleyan’s campus closure. Many of us are in situations where we need to financially support our families or loved ones. The needs of our student body vary, and, for this reason, we are of the belief that direct financial donations are the most effective way to support FGLI students.
We hope to keep this exchange between at-risk students and kind-hearted, able members of our community as egalitarian, quick, and stress-free as possible.
Tiered Donation System: We are well aware that the amount of money that we have asked for is large, and we are fully committed to transparency regarding where these funds will go. In the description of the gofundme, you will find the breakdown of how this money will be dispersed among the 120+ at-risk students. In a sentence, the $900,000 will be distributed to the entire list of at-risk students based on their self-assessed level of need, which is measured on a scale of 1 to 5. Please note that this goal is subject to change as more at-risk students add their name to the list. The list where students evaluated the severity of their need can be found here.
Fund Redistribution Details: Originally, the spreadsheet linked below was meant to connect high-need students to kind hearted donors, eliminating the middleman and allowing all donations to be direct. However, the number of at-risk students has convinced us to pool and then redistribute the funds to keep the process as egalitarian as possible. The middleman in this interaction will be Jessi Russell (’20), one of the co-creators of this campaign. Jessi is a FGLI, housing insecure student forced to reconcile the cost of living with their newfound unemployment–a predicament similar to the 130+ high-need students named on the below spreadsheet. While employed at Wesleyan, Jessi worked at the Wesleyan Student Assembly Financial Office, where they oversaw the budgets of 150+ student groups on campus. Details about how Jessi intends to reallocate the funds as quickly and transparently as possible can be found in the description of the gofundme.
Other Important Links: If you would like to provide housing, share any leads on remote job opportunities, or directly contribute to the high-need, at-risk students at Wesleyan University, please navigate to this link.
If you would like to provide any other resources to high-need, at-risk students, please navigate to this link.
Next Steps: Within the next few days, we will be in contact with the Office of Advancement in hopes of partnering to expand this outreach to alumni. Our hope is to spread this email and gofundme campaign as far and wide as possible. In the meantime, if you have a network of people that you know have resources to give and love in their hearts, please distribute this gofundme to them. It’s time to show up for our community!
Please direct any questions regarding this campaign to Jessi Russell (’20) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Take care yourselves and others,
Jessi and Mya
“Part of the mythology that they’ve been teaching you is that you have no power. Power is not brute force and money; power is in your spirit. Power is in your soul. It is what your ancestors, your old people gave you. Power is in the earth; it is in your relationship to the earth.”
– Winona LaDuke