University News

DIAP to double OCL’s Emergency Fund

Responding to feedback from high-need students, plan creates new position for financial advising

By
Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Office of Campus Life and Student Services will double its Emergency Fund in response to feedback from high-need students regarding the Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, said Dean of the College Maud Mandel.

The fund supports “a vast array of unexpected needs that come up for students who don’t have the resources to cover them and for which timeliness is of the essence,” Mandel said, citing emergency wisdom teeth removal and the destruction of a family home as examples.

In past years, the Office of Campus Life has received more requests than can be covered by the fund, and emergencies have been covered on a case-by-case basis. The increase in the fund was also motivated by student feedback on the difficulty of financing a Brown education.

“Last May, the (Undergraduate Council of Students) organized a series of conversations with the Corporation and high-need students about some of the hidden costs of a Brown education, and I was in the room for those meetings as were several other key administrators,” Mandel said.

According to Mandel, administrators direct students in need to the application on UFunds, a portal on the Brown website for soliciting the fund’s resources. But Mandel said that the fund is publicized largely through “word of mouth.”

“Even with doubling the fund, we’re aware there’s still more work to be done,” Mandel said.

Gwendolene Mugodi ’18 indicated that, as an international student, she has not always been able to rely on administrators to help her quickly find resources and solve problems.

“When I have a problem, I don’t want to be told that I need to go this person and then I get to that office and someone tells me ‘that’s not my job,’” Mugodi said. “It’s very frustrating when you have a problem and you want to have it solved … especially when it doesn’t seem like it’s such a hard thing to do.”

Divya Mehta ’18 also said that she encountered difficulty accessing University resources last year.

“In my first year, I would definitely say it was more difficult to navigate this campus and to get to the right resource,” she said. Mehta also expressed concern about the availability of the Emergency Fund for international students.

“I know it’s easily accessible to most American citizens, but I’m not sure how easily accessible it is to international students,” she said. “I have a friend who did have some sort of financial need, and when he did … visit the (Office of International Student and Scholar Services), they kind of just rejected him.”

Mandel said that, as part of the DIAP, the fund is intended to make “sure that if you’re here at Brown, the time that you’re here is well-supported so that you can focus on what we want you to focus on, which is your studies.”

Other elements of the revised plan include the hiring of an assistant dean of financial advising, whose job is intended to resolve concerns such as those voiced by Mugodi and Mehta about the advertisement and accessibility of the fund and other financial resources.

The administrator’s role “is going to be specifically to support low-income students navigating the various financial resources that are available here at Brown ­— how to understand loans, how to think about financial literacy or mapping the resources that are available to you over time so that they’re used in the way they’re supposed to be,” Mandel said.

The DIAP also contains a provision providing food for students who stay on campus during vacation periods, which addresses concerns that Mugodi said she felt about the availability of meals over breaks.

The expansion of the fund is a significant step for high-need students, especially international ones, but Mehta believes more can be done.

While Brown has limited funds, “if it wants to continue recruiting a larger international population, it needs to make the life of an international student a little easier on campus,” she said.