This past week, the Wesleyan Student Assembly passed the No Hungry Student Act, a resolution to create a stipend program for students who remain on campus over winter break. Discussions concerning the resolution took place on Sunday, Nov. 20 in Boger Hall, Room 114. The Act is primarily focused on students receiving need-based aid, especially international students. In addition to the stipend, students will be placed on a free meal plan for the last two weeks of the break when Usdan Marketplace is open. The pilot program is set to begin this winter break.
“Food is a right,” the press release for the Act states. “The University must live up to its promise to provide for its students. While the No Hungry Student Act does not resolve this issue in its entirety, it gives us a starting point from which we can address the issues plaguing those neglected during breaks.”
The Act was introduced to the WSA by Emma Austin ’19, Claudia Kahindi ’18, and Jacob Maiman-Stadtmauer. It argues that the University has failed to live up to its promise to meet its students’ needs for the entirety of the academic year.
“The University has neglected the 5 week-long winter break when campus is desolate, barely anything is open, the weather is brutally cold, and the closest affordable grocery store is a 30 minute walk,” the press release reads. “Students who stay over winter break are not being supported, provided for, and their basic need of access to food goes unacknowledged by Wesleyan.”
Although need-based international students are provided with plane tickets during orientation and after they graduate, they are not granted travel stipends in the intermediary. As a result, many of these students remain on campus for the five-week vacation, when most University dining options are closed, though Usdan Marketplace is open for the last two weeks.
“During breaks, the university does little to help international students,” the press release reads. “Leaving them on their own to feed themselves with the work study money they are supposed to be using to pay tuition and books. If the University essentially requires these students to stay on campus, why do they not take care for them during the most isolating time?”
Kahindi, who is from Kenya, reflected on her experience freshman year during winter session.
“My first winter break at Wesleyan was quite depressing,” Kahindi said. “It was not only due to a matter of factors that were beyond my control such as unfamiliar weather and homesickness, but it was also due to a feeling of neglect from the University. I was quite surprised that an elite school like Wesleyan that had promised to care for my well-being when I was so far from my home had failed to do so by not accommodating me for something as simple and necessary as food.”
Although students on need-based aid are provided with a work-study allotment, those on campus during breaks are faced with the choice of spending their funds on food and other essentials or their tuition. There are few opportunities for international students to be employed during winter break because they are only allowed to work on campus, where many facilities are closed.
The Act also drew upon programs that other universities have in place to meet the needs of students during winter break.
University President Michael Roth commended student organizers for introducing the Act.
“I want to thank the Dining Subcommittee of the WSA for singling out in its ‘No Hungry Student Act,’ a hardship faced by some students who cannot go home during winter break,” Roth wrote in a campus-wide email.
Reflecting back on the WSA’s role in passing the Act, Kahindi said she had renewed faith in the University administrative process.
“My being proactive led me to join WSA in order to try and address these grievances,” Kahindi said. “Despite being in the academics committee, I spoke about this issue during a WSA meeting and the dining committee took it up. This Act will enrich the campus experience of many international students and domestic students who stay here over breaks. I honestly did not think this would pass as soon as it did, so this restored my faith and I believe that of other international students who’ve felt neglected by Wesleyan in the administration.”