In light of Yale’s decision to hold online classes and ask students to leave campus, alumni have created a spreadsheet with resources they can offer to help students with emergency finances, transportation and housing.
The spreadsheet, which has been posted in numerous Yale groups and boosted on social media, includes tabs for housing, financial and travel assistance and for student requests, where students can more specifically state exactly what they need. The spreadsheet is continuously being updated: currently, over 180 members of the Yale community collectively have either offered financial help or lodging to students in need.
Timothy Cooper ’02, the initial creator of the spreadsheet, decided that the spreadsheet was a necessary step forward on the evening of March 11, University President Peter Salovey wrote in an email to the Yale community that Yale would be moving its classes online until at least April 5.
“It seemed like the students didn’t have a place or knew what was going on or what they could fall back on,” Cooper told the News. “In particular, a lot of FGLI and international students seemed to be unfairly targeted or at extra predisposition to potential issues surrounding a return home, especially if they couldn’t return home or had other barriers to that action.”
A similar idea was first utilized at Harvard: Cooper implemented that model, with modifications suggested by other alumni. For example, while Harvard’s spreadsheet focused largely on housing needs, Cooper’s spreadsheet also has spaces for alumni to donate Amtrak or airline miles for transportation, as well as for students to request assistance for more specific situations.
In an email sent out a day after the spreadsheet was first published, Yale College Dean Marvin Chun clarified that all students on financial aid have the option of having their travel home covered by Yale. The spreadsheet reflected this update, but noted that “it appears jobs, housing, travel assistance, and much else is still needed. Bottom line: This form will remain active!”
Rachel Merrill ’23, who used the spreadsheet to make requests for assistance, said she has already been contacted by one alumnus. Although she feels like Yale’s response has not been completely articulated — especially in regard to students without health insurance beyond the University or with no income to support themselves — she said she is appreciative of Yale’s acknowledgment that the closure puts some students in a difficult situation.
“The Yale community is really working to keep this from being a burden to FGLI students and that makes me very proud,” she told the News in an email.
She also added that the alumni were included in this Yale community, and that she was especially heartened to see their immediate mobilization.
For alum Kinsley McNulty ’18, the alumni response was necessary to counter the unknowns from the administrative side, especially for those students who might slip through the cracks.
“‘Where will I live? How long can I sustain myself without being able to work on campus? How will I be able to access online classes without WiFi or a computer of my own? What am I going to do without access to medical resources?’ These are just some of the questions that I’ve had and have received from some students I’ve spoken to so far,” he wrote in a message to the News.
During his senior year at Yale, McNulty was a First Year Counselor, and he recalled the immense number of resources that he could therefore access. He said he considers part of his responsibility as an alumnus to continue to be that resource, even though he isn’t physically on campus anymore. McNulty emphasized that the spreadsheet is not meant as a replacement for Yale’s initial resources, but as a supplement — residential college deans and heads of college should still be the first line of support for students.
Cooper agreed, considering his spreadsheet just one piece of a larger puzzle. Still, he also hopes that the response helps reassure students that Yale alumni, from all over the world, are here for them.
“We support them, and they don’t have to worry,” Cooper said. “We have their back.”
For students looking to access the spreadsheet, they can email YaleAlum2020@gmail.com from a Yale email address or with proof that they are Yale students or alumni.
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