Courtesy of the Basic Needs Coalition

Students work and eat in Mann Library on Sept. 8, 2022.

November 22, 2022

Cornell Student Organizations Come Together to Help Students in Need

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On Wednesday, Nov. 16, the Cornell Basic Needs Coalition, in collaboration with Cornell Progressives and the Office of the Student Advocate, hosted their first pop-up event across Cornell’s campus and Collegetown, to provide essential goods to students in need, such as personal hygiene products and household goods.

This event marked an important step in the Coalition’s plan of a “one-stop shop”, an idea they began to work towards this summer.

The pop-ups took place at various locations on campus, including Mann Library, Robert Purcell Community Center, Willard Straight Hall, Noyes Community Recreation Center and the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts. 

Sanvi Bhardwaj ’24, a member of the student assembly who joined the Coalition in August, discussed how the coalition worked to find and prioritize those in financial need.

“We did outreach to specific groups that we knew would have students that would benefit from [the pop-ups],” Bhardwaj said.

In order to identify students in need, the coalition sent out a google form for students to order goods in advance. Kieran Adams ’24, Cornell Progressives’ outreach chair, said there were 25 orders filled through the form. Students who did not register in advance were also able to pick up goods, and according to Bhardwaj, the pop-ups were met with positive feedback from the community.

Cornell Progressives assisted the Coalition by planning workshops, creating promotional graphics and purchasing the goods to be distributed. According to Adams, at the beginning of the semester, the Cornell Progressives general body members voted on collaborating with the coalition and addressing basic needs across campus, culminating in the pop-ups.

Amisha Chowdhury ’23, student advocate in the Student Assembly Office of the Student Advocate, expressed how the pop-ups were just one of many ways her office has worked to address the basic needs of students.

“With the rise of basic needs concerns on campus, our office is working with the administration to seek long-term solutions while simultaneously engaging in community care efforts to address the direct needs of students,” Chowdhury said.

Although the Basic Needs Coalition had met with members of the University administration over the summer, Bhardwaj expressed her disappointment in the university’s pushback and lack of support for their efforts.

“They’re starting to do some things now, which is great, but it really is not at the level and intensity it should be because it truly is a crisis on campus that they are failing to address,” Bhardwaj said.

All of the goods handed out were funded by Cornell Progressives and the Office of the Student Advocate, and not directly by the University administration. Bhardwaj expressed the Coalition’s wish that the University could help directly fund future pop-ups rather than student organizations. 

According to a survey conducted by the OSA in collaboration with the First Generation Student Union, 44 percent of respondents are struggling with food insecurity, and 58 percent reported difficulty finding housing assistance from the University. Bhardwaj expressed how she found this unacceptable.

“This is an Ivy League institution and it honestly is ridiculous that there are students who are homeless and struggling with food insecurity and health insurance … when their main priority should be their education,” Bhardwaj said.

The Student Assembly has been actively working to continue addressing issues surrounding basic needs. At their Oct. 6 meeting, the assembly presented President Martha Pollack and Vice President for Student and Campus Life Ryan Lombardi with a list of demands from the Coalition. Additionally, the SA recently passed a resolution advocating to establish a Basic Needs Center, as well as expanding the university’s low-income resources.