Today, we are reaching out to organize on behalf of the students at Wesleyan University displaced or otherwise uncertain about their financial well-being, 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.
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 will soon be 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. 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 need-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. To be clear, this campaign is not an official Wesleyan University fundraising campaign; this campaign has been created by and for first-generation, low-income students.
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, our team has created this 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:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. We aim to keep this exchange between at-risk students and kind-hearted, able members of our community as egalitarian, quick, and stress-free as possible.
Timeline for this Campaign:
We believe that our community organizing effort has a life outside of this immediate campaign. As of now, the timeline for our campaign is as follows:
March 15th - The gofundme goes live via email, and members of our community forward this message to as many trustworthy, generous supporters as possible.
March 16th -19th - The campaign organizers reach out to the Office of Advancement and other administrators concerned with the financial well-being of at-risk students in hopes of putting institution-driven campaigns in conversations with our community-driven campaign, rather than in competition.
March 19th -21st - The initial round of donations will be transferred into the organizer's account while Jessi Russell ('20) and Mya Valentin ('19) take two days to travel down South from Wesleyan University.
March 22nd - The campaign organizers will be creating a separate bank account to accumulate and redistribute the donations to at-risk students. As checks are sent out, the campaign organizers will keep record of all the payments sent on a live document included in the original spreadsheet, a link to which can be found here .
March 23rd - 27th - Simultaneously, the campaign organizers will be cutting the first installment of checks (details in the "Fund Redistribution Details" below) and organizing high-need students as well as concerned donors and administrators into a formal advisory board. Our intention is to bring together a group of administrators and students that can work with each other on any future community-driven or institution-driven campaigns.
March 28th and beyond - The campaign organizers will be cutting checks to at-risk students in installments (details in the "Fund Redistribution Details" below). Weekly, the advisory board will meet with the original campaign organizers to discuss the distribution of funds as well as any pertinent updates. Once all the funds have been reallocated, the original campaign organizers will step down, transferring any additional donations to the Resource Center to help FGLI students beyond us.
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. Below, you will find the breakdown of how this money will be dispersed among the 140+ at-risk students. In a sentence, the $950,000 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 our goal might change as more high-need students come forward. All changes can be monitored on the google sheet below.
Level 5 (approximately 5% of students) - These students expressed the need for immediate financial assistance with the hope of receiving steady, long-term support. It is our goal to offer the students who have ranked themselves at a level 5 $20,000 to support themselves and the people who depend on them as the sole provider of the household.
Level 4 (approximately 10% of students) - Students who ranked themselves at a level 4 expressed the need for steady, long-term financial assistance. Many of these students are housing insecure or frequently put in situations where they are asked to compromise their safety to help provide for their loved ones. It is our goal to offer these students $12,000 in donations.
Level 3 (approximately 50% of students) - These students feel unsure and worried about their future financial stability, but know that they need immediate financial assistance as recently unemployed, low-income students. It is our goal to offer these students $6,000 in donations.
Level 2 (approximately 30% of students) - Students who ranked themselves at a level 2 expressed the need for short-term relief to pay recurring bills and grocery costs for the next few months. It is our goal to offer these students $3,000 in donations.
Level 1 (approximately 5% of students) - These students requested immediate, short-term financial relief to pay for relocation and travel fees. It is our goal to offer these students $1,000 in donations.
Fund Redistribution Details:
Originally, the spreadsheet linked below was meant to connect high-need students to kindhearted 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 primary contact for redistributing funds will be Jessi Russell ('20), one of the co-creators of this campaign. Jessi is a FGLI, housing insecure student forced to reconcile recurring bills and the cost of living with their newfound unemployment--a predicament similar to the 140+ high-need students named on the below spreadsheet. While employed at Wesleyan, Jessi worked as Contract Manager for the Wesleyan Student Assembly Financial Office, where they oversaw the budgets of 150+ student groups on campus. In contributing their labor to this campaign, Jessi promises to reallocate funds as quickly and transparently as possible. The money will be directly deposited into Jessi's bank account. From there, Jessi will initiate electronic transfers on a rolling basis, reaching out to students via a Google form for their payment information. Jessi will verify that the students are in fact members of Wesleyan University's campus by using the Student and Faculty Directory available online. As payments are sent out, the campaign organizers will keep record of all the payments mailed on a live document included in the original spreadsheet, a link to which can be found here. Monthly, Jessi will upload a scanned copy of their bank statement to guarantee transparency.
The money will be reallocated to high-need students in four installments that occur on a rolling basis. By rolling basis, we mean that students with the highest need will be offered funds first. For example, once the campaign has received enough funds to cover the first installment of donations ($1000 per student) for approximately 5% of the at-risk student body, Jessi will begin cutting checks and redistributing to the students whose indicated need is level 5. (see the "Tiered Donation" section for numerical values). The same logic applies for each tier and installment amount. Please see details regarding the installments below.
1st installment - As soon the campaign begins to receive donations, Jessi will write checks for $1000 to each of the 130+ high-need students, starting with those at a level 5. Once the first installment has been received, students at Level 2 or above will be prompted to readjust their level of need to ensure that the individuals who need the most support receive it.
2nd installment - Level 2 students will receive checks for $2000 on a rolling basis; students Level 3 and above will receive checks for $3000.
3rd installment - Level 3 students will receive checks for $2000 on a rolling basis; students Level 4 and above will receive checks for $6000.
4th installment - Level 4 students will receive checks for $2000 on a rolling basis; students with a Level 5 need will receive checks for $10,000.
In the total campaign goal, there has been an allotment made for the cost of stamps and gofundme's platform fee as well as compensation to Mya Valentin ('19) and Jessi Russell ('20) for their work on this campaign. The FGLI Advisory Board formed between March 23rd and 27th (see the "Timeline for this Campaign" section above) will vote on the amount of money given to the organizers as compensation. Presumably, the value of their compensation will change depending on the length and scope of the campaign. In an effort to keep this redistribution of wealth as egalitarian as possible, however, both Jessi Russell ('20) and Mya Valentin ('19) promise to take no more than $10,000 in compensation fees between them. If we exceed our goal, the leftover money will be reallocated to the Resource Center and put under the control of the FGLI Advisory Board. There, the money will be kept as an emergency fund for FGLI students of the future generation.
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. This link also contains the live-updated accounting sheet where Jessi will keep track of the reallocations.
If you would like to provide any other resources to high-need, at-risk students, please navigate to this link.
Please direct any questions regarding this campaign to Jessi Russell ('20) at [email redacted].
"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
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