Mutual aid initiatives relaunched on campus

The Student Basic Needs Coalition has relaunched its Food in the Snow Program, and Vanderbilt Mutual Aid has reopened mutual aid requests.

Central Library in the snow

Noah Srulovitz

Central Library after snowfall, as photographed on Jan. 16, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Noah Srulovitz)

Katherine Oung, Deputy News Editor

The Student Basic Needs Coalition (SBNC) and Vanderbilt Mutual Aid (VMA) have relaunched their mutual aid programs for the Spring 2022 semester. These initiatives were largely in response to community hardship due to inclement weather on campus and the recent surge of the omicron variant, per SNBC executive board member and senior Meron Cassa.

As of Jan. 15, students with mobility issues can sign up to be connected with student volunteers to pick up meals, mail and other necessities for them as part of the SBNC’s Food in the Snow program. Volunteers can sign up on the same form; as of publication, 20 volunteers, but no students in need have signed up. 

Volunteer pick-ups began on Jan. 19. Cassa clarified that the SBNC plans for Food in the Snow to be a continuous program available throughout the whole semester, regardless of weather. She also stated that the organization is flexible to help students with other items they might need to get picked up and hopes to instate grocery runs in the future.

“We recognize that snow might make it more difficult for individuals with mobility issues to go to Rand and pick up food or mail,” Cassa said. “It’s not an accessible campus and generally, even beyond this campus, it’s just not an accessible environment.”

In the 2020-21 school year, students who participated in Food in the Snow could pre-order their meals on the GET App, and volunteers could pick their orders up for them. Because GET App pre-ordering is selectively available this year, the SNBC plans for students to give their physical Commodore Cards to volunteers to pick up the items and disable their mobile Commodore Card during the pick up.

Also on Jan. 19, VMA reopened their Aid Request Form. Through donations crowdsourced by the Vanderbilt community, the organization offers monetary assistance to Vanderbilt students, faculty and staff facing financial hardship. 

Donations can be sent to the organization’s CashApp, and requests will be fulfilled via the same method starting on Jan. 21. VMU no longer operates through Venmo. Requests can be up to $50, but individuals can submit a new funding request through the form once a month. In a message to The Hustler, VMU stated that they no longer have an automatic weekly donation period, but are hoping to reinstate it in the future. Per the VMA Donation Tracker, VMA has redistributed $9,152 since its founding in March 2020 and has $1,171 available to distribute, as of publication.

In addition to their Food in the Snow initiative, SBNC created an email template addressed to the Vanderbilt Administration asking for classes to be held online during the Commodores Care period, which will end on Jan. 24. The email also asks for students to receive additional meal money during the Commodores Care and the recent inclement weather period. It states that this policy would help students with mobility issues more easily receive food and reduce COVID-19 exposure for dining staff.

As of publication, the QR Code to access the email template has received about 200 clicks. Per Cassa, SBNC has not received a response from administration regarding the requests made in the email. On Jan. 18, graduate students also protested the university’s COVID-19 response by gathering in front of the Harold Stirling Vanderbilt statue. 

“We all say we hope that they respond to us, but with the school’s passion for having classes in-person all the time and jeopardizing student safety for profit, I am not sure that we will get one,” Cassa said. “We plan to keep pushing and applying pressure and, you know, figuring out other ways to get the administration to listen to us and hear us out.”

The Student Access Services Office has not immediately responded to The Hustler’s request for comment.