Dear Wesleyan Alumni, Community Members, and Everybody Else!
Today, I am reaching out on behalf of the GoFundMe that launched on March 15th to support first-generation, low-income, and/or housing insecure students in light of Wesleyan University’s closure. The purpose of this article is threefold:
- To clarify the goals of our student-led grassroots campaign
- To distinguish our effort from the official Wesleyan emergency fund
- To encourage students to donate their RCF refund to the GoFundMe campaign.
- Our Campaign in a Paragraph
The goal of the GoFundMe is to place resources directly into the hands of high-need, at-risk students. Since Wesleyan’s closure, low-income students have either returned home, straining the budget of their already hardpressed households, or petitioned to remain on campus. As a first-generation, low-income student whose mother works as a janitor, each day is filled with the constant worry that we will lose our income. I have had an unprecedented amount of stress worrying about my financial stability. Social distancing and large-scale efforts to quarantine, though necessary for the safety of the public, have only exacerbated the everyday conditions of poverty. Rapidly, parents are losing their jobs, and our fellow FGLI students do not know how they will afford rent, utilities, groceries, routine medical expenses, and other recurring costs that do not stop for national emergencies. Moreover, the recent U.S. stimulus bill does not contain any financial relief for adult dependents, meaning that students do not qualify for monthly relief checks. The needs of Wesleyan’s at-risk student body cannot be reduced to a single narrative, but each and every story shares a sense of urgency. Therefore, our campaign, which is titled FGLI Wesleyan Student Donations, operates under the belief that direct financial donations best meet the fluctuating, varied needs of low-income students as they face the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Contrasting the GoFundMe and the Wesleyan Emergency Fund
The graphic below visualizes the differences between the official Wesleyan Emergency Fund for Students and the student-led GoFundMe. I encourage y’all to reuse all infographics in this article when sharing the mission of our student-led campaign with family members, friends, and colleagues.
Without question, this incongruity demonstrates a series of conflicts and tensions bigger than Wesleyan. It is, in a phrase, the condition of poverty. In moments of crisis, the cost of living – which includes but is not limited to rent, utilities, transportation, routine medical expenses, groceries, and childcare – becomes untenable for low-income communities. Access to food, housing, and job security plummets the longer students and their loved ones remain unemployed, yet the University, limited by its status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, cannot and will not offer sustained relief to low-income students. To qualify for the official Wesleyan emergency fund, students must first prove their need and then submit receipts for reimbursement or schedule a credit card appointment, meaning that a single purchase must occur in order to access the funds. While the Wesleyan Emergency Fund for Students provides short-term, immediate relief, our campaign is organized to fulfill the long-term consequences of unemployment.
- How You Can Help
At an institutional level, the University has leveraged the alumni network to amass donations for the Wesleyan Emergency Fund for Students, which offers short-term relief for unexpected costs. Unfortunately, the University has made it clear that the Office of Advancement cannot give us access to these institutional fundraising tools, as any written acknowledgment of the GoFundMe can be misinterpreted as an endorsement, thereby threatening the University’s status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. So far, support for the GoFundMe has come from sympathetic students and their parents, recent alumni, and faculty members, and, as of Monday March 26th, we have reached over $200,000 in donations! Though it is heartwarming to see such a large value as a grassroots campaign, the amount of money needed to support the 270+ at-risk students at Wesleyan University keeps growing. It is with this information that I come to the students with a proposal. If you have the means, please consider donating a portion if not all of your 50% RCF refund to the student-led GoFundMe. A cash refund can be requested using this form. As demonstrated in the graphic below, harnessing the economic power of the approximately 3,217 students enrolled at our University could single-handedly meet the needs of our at-risk students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you do not have the means to donate a portion of your RCF refund, there are other ways to be a proactive ally to the FGLI community. Please see the below list for alternative ways to support our student-led GoFundMe as a financially secure student.
- Become a well-informed spokesperson for our campaign. Throughout this article, we have included helpful infographics that visually show the mission and impact of our campaign. You can view the Instagram posts that have used these images here. Post these images on your story. Post them on your feeds. Share them with family members, alumni, or friends who might be interested in donating to the FGLI community!!
- Reach out to your wealthy family members who have the disposable income to donate to the campaign. We understand that students personally may not have the income to donate to the GoFundMe, but we hope that you will consider using the below templates (big thanks to Ginger Hollander ‘20 and Ariel Munczek Edelman ’20) to engage with your networks and communities. No one individual needs to donate tens of thousands of dollars! This campaign will be successful so long as we have many individuals donating according to their means.
- Ask alumni and other well-connected people who care about the Wesleyan community to share and donate. To contact potential donors via email, we suggest the format presented to you in this article, which includes a short and sweet description of our campaign, its relationship to the official Wesleyan emergency fund, and how the audience of the message can help. Please use this link to access a template of this email format. There are indicated spaces where you can directly address the communities you are reaching out to.
The COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated economic inequalities too often ignored in academia, and it is the hope of our campaign that we, as a community, recognize this moment as an opportunity to empower first-generation, low-income students. It is time to act. Let us come together in pursuit of unconventional, bold strategies to meet the needs of our at-risk peers.
With love and in solidarity,
Melisa Olgun (‘20), Jessi Russell (’20), and Mya Valentin (’19)
Text Message Templates:
(1) Hi Grammy! I hope you’re doing well and staying safe. Wesleyan’s campus got closed for the rest of the semester and we have to do the rest of our classes online. I’ll be fin though, staying in [location]. If you want to help the other Wesleyan students who are now homeless and jobeless because of the shutting down of school, you can donate to this GoFundMe. My parents each donated [amount]. Thank you so much! Love you xoxox
(2) Hi Dad! Wesleyan is doing a GoFundMe for first-genertation, low-income students who are facing homelessness and being jobeless with the cancellation of the semested. I donated [amount] but I’ve already sent out like [amount] to students individually and mom donated [amount]. Please donate what you feel is appropriate to help these students who are way more fucked over by this than we are!! Thanks! Xoxox
(3) Hi mom! If you wanna help the low-income Wesleyan kids who need money for food and housing you can donate here! Love you xoxox
(4) Hi [blank], It was really hard for me to have to leave campus early this semester but for many of my Wesleyan peers this situation has left them housing insecure, without any income, or otherwise in a way less stable situation than me. [If you have a specific example of a friend who was impacted more than you, it might be more convincing to use their story (with permission!) than talking generally.] A couple low income students have organized a fundraiser to support students who were cut off from housing and jobs. (bit.ly/2QKt7IQ) Donating to first generation and low income students directly is more effective than using the Wesleyan Emergency Fund because that fund won’t cover any recurring costs like rent, childcare, or prescriptions. Please donate as much as you’re able, many Wesleyan students don’t have the relative financial security that we do!