A Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) resolution establishing a First-Generation Low-Income (FGLI) Support Fund passed unanimously April 19. The resolution gives $22,000 to the FGLI Support Fund from this year’s WSA Projects Budget and commits to allocating $10,000 each year to the fund, which will be administered by the recently established FGLI Advisory Board.
“COVID-19 is illuminating the fact that funding for first-generation low-income students on campus was not that great to begin with,” FGLI Advisory Board member and resolution sponsor Jessi Russell ’20 said. “I think the only source we really had was the Resource Center, so it’s nice to have this fund that is overseen by first-generation low-income students, particularly in the form of the advisory board that can work in collaboration with the Resource Center, but also has a life outside of just that building.”
As the FGLI Advisory Board’s primary focus is continuing to allocate as much money as possible to students through the FGLI GoFundMe, Russell anticipates the FGLI Support Fund will begin to be utilized next semester. Discussions surrounding the fund began following the passage of a WSA resolution donating $156,850 more, on top of the WSA’s previous $100,000 donation, in the form of stipends for students with no expected family contribution to their tuition. In these discussions, Russell highlighted how a fund designated for FGLI students could support the FGLI Advisory Board’s goals.
“I envision it being a lot more about community development, initiatives and things like that, as well as it says in the resolution, projects, and campaigns to challenge the university,” Russell said. “I see those as our two predominant places where we’re going to put money.”
WSA Community Committee Chair and sponsor of the resolution Emily McEvoy ’22 noted that the University’s current budget deficit motivated the sponsors to allocate WSA funds for student use. McEvoy also highlighted her dissatisfaction with the means testing the University used to allocate the WSA’s previous stipends to follow tax laws and expressed how important it was for the WSA to support a student-run initiative that focused holistically on FGLI student needs.
“I was personally disappointed at the fact that our $256,000 worth of QDRP funds to students was only available to those who met a certain threshold of need: this is a means-tested system that pits poor and under-resourced individuals against each other, and provokes jealousy,” McEvoy wrote in an email to The Argus. “The language of ‘highest need’ is particularly bothersome to me, because the numerical values attached to individuals provide so much less than a holistic picture of them as people, especially in the light of a crisis which tax returns from 3 years ago provide very little insight into. I am therefore glad to know that we are supporting long-term, inclusive programming that is student-run, rather than top-down and based on the numerical values attached to students.”
The FGLI Advisory Board will determine how the fund will be used over the summer, and McEvoy wrote that the sponsors of the resolution—WSA Student Budget Committee (SBC) Chair Aditi Shenoy ’20, McEvoy, Huzaifa Khan ’22, and Russell—will work with University departments to implement the FGLI Support Fund over the next few weeks. Instead of the WSA Office, the Director of the Resource Center will have administrative control over the funds.
The resolution also pledges $10,000 each year to the FGLI Support Fund to ensure the FGLI Advisory Board can continue to sponsor programming and offer support for FGLI students.
“I think that this fund, and the fact that we’ve committed to supporting it year after year, is important to guarantee FGLI students’ agency in the financial decisions that we are often at the whims of,” McEvoy wrote. “The FGLI Advisory Board is one of the most vital ‘student-led’ initiatives in recent Wesleyan history, as it speaks to the existential problems with the way student needs are assessed by those in power at Wesleyan.”
In addition to the WSA’s contributions to the fund, the sponsors of the resolution plan to engage with the University for support through alumni donations , while still maintaining the FGLI Advisory Board’s control over the fund.
“The Support Fund can likely be advertised as a place where donors to Wesleyan can ‘earmark’ their funds to go,” McEvoy wrote. “Just as donors can donate to financial aid, facilities, or other campus areas, we seek to promote the Support Fund as a not only possible, but respected and celebrated, place for donors to channel their money when they have community wellbeing in mind.”
Jocelyn Maeyama can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.