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Tufts Public Health

Tufts Community Rallies to Support Students in Need

“We have seen so many people committed to coming together during this challenging time and supporting each other,” said Margot Cardamone, FIRST Resource Center director. Photo: Alonso Nichols
Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The Tufts community is coming together to raise funds for students who face unexpected expenses as a result of the university’s decision to close residence halls, move classes online, and curtail travel.

Many Tufts schools are now seeking support via crowdfunding campaigns as “unprecedented changes in the school’s academic programs and day-to-day life have resulted in unforeseen circumstances . . . [that] can be difficult to overcome without support,” as organizers at the School of Medicine described their challenge, a sentiment that is shared across the university.

Classes are now being offered online, almost all students have moved off campus, and all travel for the university has been suspended through at least April 30.

The contributions support students experiencing unexpected financial hardship related to accommodation, travel, or disruptions to employment. Students may also have unexpected expenses related to the technology needed to move to a virtual learning environment or commuting costs, according to the crowdfunding initiatives. (See the end of the story for options to donate.)

Response was fast and generous to a Tufts crowdfunding project that eclipsed its initial goal of $25,000 in its first twenty-four hours and soon set its sights on a $100,000 goals.

Financial contributions are expanding the university’s Unexpected Hardship Fund, a long-standing resource created “for just this moment—when students face unexpected crises that can be difficult to overcome without financial support,” according to the crowdfunding site. “We don’t know the full extent of need to follow, but we know it will exceed $100,000 in the coming months.”

In fact, as of March 24, the project had raised more than $103,000 from 864 donors, with students, alumni, parents, and friends pitching in. Funds are helping students pay for plane and train tickets and securing storage space, among other emergency needs, but there are longer-term needs as well, including possible stipends for students who lost work-study jobs and funds that cover the cost of medical insurance, remote learning internet access, and food insecurity.

Students also came together quickly to support classmates. As reported in the Tufts Daily, junior Marley Hillman launched Tufts Mutual Aid when they posted on Facebook news about a Google form on which students can list resources offered to those in need—from storage space and food to frequent flyer points and transportation to the airport.

Hillman told the Tufts Daily that student responses “exploded” in the short time between them going to sleep at 2:30 a.m. and waking up the next morning.

“People are wondering, ‘Well, what do we do now?’ We have to leave [on March 16], we’re not coming back,” Hillman said. “We said, ‘Here’s something you can do.’ So I feel like that’s been part of why we’ve gotten so much material support—we’re offering an avenue for action.”

Both donation streams, now managed by the Tufts Annual Giving team in University Advancement, are dispersed through the FIRST Resource Center. “We have seen so many people committed to coming together during this challenging time and supporting each other,” said Margot Cardamone, center director. “It’s been incredible to see that show of strength of community.”

Cardamone said that while university’s FIRST Resource Center was established to support first-generation, low-income, and undocumented students, “anyone who has needed help has found it.” By March 13 that support had added up to more than 100 plane tickets, plus bus and train tickets.

The swift fundraising follows Tufts’ decision—along with other colleges and universities—to close residence halls for the rest of the semester and move to online instruction to avoid transmission of the COVID-19 virus. President Anthony Monaco on March 10 announced that students living on campus should move out of residence halls entirely by March 16, in keeping with a global social distancing strategy.

As a result of a shortened school year, some organizations donated unused funds to help their fellow classmates, including the Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate, which transferred $100,000 to the FIRST Resource Center.

Crowdfunding Essentials

Arts, Science and Engineering: Goal: $100,000-plus. Go to giving page. Students can request aid from the fund by emailing FIRST@tufts.edu.

Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine: Goal: $15,000. Go to giving page. Students should e-mail barbara.berman@tufts.edu to submit a request for aid to receive immediate help.

School of Medicine: Goal: $25,000. Go to giving page. Medical students requesting assistance should contact the School of Medicine Office of Student Affairs at med-osa@tufts.edu; and public health and professional degree students should contact Janice Gilkes at janice.gilkes@tufts.edu.

Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences: Goal: $5,000. Go to giving page. Students requesting aid may contact Alex Israel at Alexandra.Israel@tufts.edu.

The Fletcher School: Goal: $50,000. Go to giving page. Students can contact fletcherhardshipfund@tufts.edu.