Hannah Rosenberg / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

Office of the Student Advocate provides resources for the Cornell community.

March 13, 2020

Student Leaders Bridge Gap in University Resources Through Office of Student Advocate

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While inboxes flood with emails headlined by top University officials, student leaders are stepping up to help bridge the gap between University resources and students’ needs through the recently-founded Office of the Student Advocate.

The OSA is made up of undergraduate students acting as caseworkers in different fields to help their peers navigate issues including conduct violations, grade disputes, enrollment issues, financial aid problems, residency concerns, discrimination and harassment.

Many have raised concerns that moving off-campus and shifting to online classes on short notice will prove to be financially, emotionally and logistically difficult for students.

An increased volume of students in need of support has prompted the OSA to launch a peer supporter program. The program seeks to train volunteer student caseworkers to support their peers, helping them book flights, fill out housing forms and email professors and landlords, among other services. Peer supporters will also log questions that need to be relayed to administrators.

Student Advocate Liel Sterling ’21 said that one of the objectives of the peer supporter program is to compile and distribute accurate information to students, with an aim to “consolidate the information that is true but also dispel a lot of dangerous rumors.”

In addition to peer supporter office hours, which will be held in Willard Straight Hall beginning this Saturday, the OSA has compiled a list of resources and frequently asked questions.

Students can sign up to become a peer supporter online on the OSA’s website, and training will occur on March 13 at 4 p.m. in Morrill Hall.

The Student Assembly is taking initiative in providing financial support to students by donating to the access fund. The access fund — administered by the Office of the Dean of Students through the First-Generation and Low-Income Student Support Center — exists to provide Cornell students with access to financial support to help mitigate on-campus barriers, access basic necessities and cover emergency expenses.

By the end of this week, the Student Assembly and Student Activities Funding Commission will donate $200,000 to the access fund, according to S.A. President Joseph Anderson ’20. $28,000 of this donation comes from the S.A. reserve fund, and $150,000 comes from the SAFC.

Anderson said that his main concern was “getting money into the access fund to help low income students or students in need of financial support to purchase tickets home, to buy laptops if they don’t have a laptop, to have storage.”

In addition to coordinating the donation, the S.A. is working to have the University administration build a comprehensive FAQ, secure storage options for students leaving campus and to subsidize the cost of bus tickets.

According to Anderson, the S.A. aims to ensure that “every student does get home safely and does not experience adverse impacts in that process.”