This article has been updated to reflect that the fact that, according to the WSA’s Twitter account, the University has not yet determined how or if the funds can be legally donated.
The Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) unanimously passed a resolution on March 17 to give $100,000 to the independently-organized First-Generation Low-Income (FGLI) Wesleyan Student GoFundMe and creating an $80,000 WSA Supplementary Emergency Fund (WSASEF). This money comes from the remainder of the WSA’s Student Budget Committee’s (SBC) budget, which is funded by the Student Activities Fee (SAF).
The WSA’s pledged money to the FGLI fundraiser was recorded as an “offline donation” to bypass GoFundMe’s service fees. The fundraiser is intended to provide both immediate and long-term support for FGLI students. Rather than asking students to prove their need or cite specific expenses, the organizers asked those requesting funds to rank their level of need from 1 to 5.
At the time of publication, the FGLI fundraiser has raised over $180,000 from 827 donors and the WSA’s $100,000 contribution would be the largest donation to the fundraiser.
WSA SBC Chair Aditi Shenoy ’20 spoke with The Argus about the decision to make the SBC’s budget available to high-need students.
“The SBC’s mission, at least, is to provide funding to build a thriving community on campus; at times like this, putting our money into the hands of those who need it is part of that mission,” Shenoy wrote in an email to The Argus.
Jessi Russell ’20, one of the GoFundMe’s organizers, is currently working with the WSA on the logistics of transferring the donations. They attended the remote meeting of the WSA General Assembly (GA) to advocate for the fundraiser.
“I was sitting in on the three hour meeting and I had the opportunity to advocate for this GoFundMe and I just want to say I felt heard the entire time,” Russell said. “I think that the WSA kept in mind the fact that the University can be very successful at meeting short-term goals, whereas community organizing can be better with long-term relief such as recurring bills, things that folks who are very high need will not be able to get or will not be able to provide receipts for.”
Russell also hopes that the WSA’s donation will add legitimacy to the fundraiser and encourage more people to donate.
“Obviously we’re at the beginning stages of the campaign right now and part of our problem has been proving our legitimacy both to the administration and I think to potential donors, especially the older alumni,” Russell said. “This lump sum of money, which is what some alumni could also be batching and providing, is momentum. And it’s proof that it’s just not a few students trying to spearhead this effort. It is truly supported by multiple members of our community, including the majority of our community that are not low income. And that means a lot, I think.”
WSA Community Committee Chair Emily McEvoy ’22, who sponsored the resolution, also highlighted the importance of institutions like the WSA contributing to the fundraiser.
“The GoFundMe is a noble and unprecedented student organizing effort that needs institutional support more than anything else: if it has to be us to provide it, we will do that, and use it to pressure those with even more resources,” McEvoy wrote in an email to The Argus.
In addition to the $100,000 pledge to the FGLI fundraiser, the WSA intends to create the supplementary emergency fund within the week. This $80,000 fund will serve as an alternative source of funding for FGLI students, if the University denies or only partially funds a student’s request to the University Student Affairs Emergency Fund. If a student’s request is denied, Vice President for Student Affairs Dean Mike Whaley will advise students to contact the WSA to begin the WSASEF appeals process.
Shenoy, who sponsored the resolution, will chair all appeals decisions alongside other senators. University administrators will not be involved with the appeals process.
“Since the WSA will be using the WSASEF for funding requests that get denied by the administration, we would encourage students, in their petitions to Dean Mike, to ask for whatever they need, even if it seems like a lot [or] not fitting under the current criteria (for example, for money for groceries, healthcare, storage, etc),” Shenoy wrote.
“There are no funding criteria beyond facilitating an emergency transition because we recognize this is an unprecedented time,” sponsor of the resolution and WSA Student Life Committee Chair Huzaifa Khan ’22 wrote in a message to The Argus. “We hope to fund as much as we can.”
The WSA is currently working with administrators to sort out the logistics of allocating funds to students once their requests for funding are approved.
“We’re still working to see what the administration can do to allocate our funding as our back up, the WSA Office, is swamped with work,” Khan wrote. “Students shouldn’t worry, however. Their funding will be allocated one way or another.”
Any funds left in the WSASEF by May 24 may be put into the FGLI fundraiser. The WSA will decide what to do with the funding before its final meeting this academic year.
While the sponsors of the resolution initially intended to use all $180,000 for the WSASEF, they decided to donate the majority of these funds to the FGLI fundraiser during Tuesday’s meeting.
“The reason the resolution was amended tonight was due to the realization that the WSASEF would have institutional and legal restrictions in terms of what the money could be used for,” Shenoy wrote. “The need for receipts and reimbursements would lead to some level of means testing (although likely much less than the level used by the administration). The GoFundMe, since it is outside the institution, has no such restrictions; that is why we decided to donate the majority of our funding to it.”
Shenoy, along with the rest of the WSA, hopes to provide continued support for students as the semester continues.
“As the representatives of the student body and stewards of the SAF [Student Activities Fee], we want to do as much as we can, as quickly as we can, for students in need,” Shenoy wrote. “We will continue working our hardest to use our power to do all we can for the student body, whether that’s through our direct lines of communication with the administration, bringing clarity to members of the student body, or by donating our resources to those in need.”
Jocelyn Maeyama can be reached at email@example.com.