The University of Maryland’s SGA voted Wednesday to allocate $65,000 to the Student Crisis Fund, which has depleted recently in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The act, which passed 32-0 with one abstention, is an unprecedented measure. Under state law, the Student Government Association isn’t allowed to allocate money toward charities. However, after consulting with the university’s compliance office, the body concluded that the unprecedented circumstances meant a limited chance of being audited by the state, bill co-sponsor Victoria Nefflen said.
As of Friday, the fund has given out over $500,000 in grants to about 1,100 students struggling with financial insecurity, according to Maryland Today. However, there are still about 500 pending applications. Under normal circumstances, the fund usually receives only two or three requests per week, Jackie Lewis, vice president of university relations, told The Diamondback in March.
The money allocated by the SGA will come from several of the association’s accounts: the Emergency Funding Pool, Legislative Reserves and money previously reserved for its now-cancelled 100th Anniversary Celebration. Before the money can be transferred, the request must be approved by Patty Perillo, student affairs vice president.
However, the money allocated makes up funds that would have not been used due to COVID-19, said Nefflen, a Behavioral and Social Sciences Representative.
“It’s essentially just going to sit there, and we thought, ‘Why not put it to better use by sending it back to students who are in need?’” she said. “This is one actual, tangible way that the SGA can support students and help students especially during this crisis.”
North Hill representative Quintin Harry said the crisis fund is crucial for students in need. Last semester, he used the fund to pay for unexpected medical expenses, and he said he received everything he had asked for within a day.
“This is just very personal to me that we put all of the money that we can into this fund for all those people who are struggling now,” Harry said.
The SGA also approved a resolution urging administrators to postpone spring commencement ceremonies until the summer or early fall, after ceremonies in May were cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak. The resolution passed 31-0 with two abstentions.
While this university is still considering options such as postponement to a later date and holding virtual ceremonies, an in-person commencement provides graduating students with needed closure, said Nefflen, who also sponsored this resolution.
“It’s bittersweet knowing that in just a few weeks, I’m going to have to leave it all behind. However, what’s worse is the feeling as though I’ll never get the chance to properly say goodbye,” Nefflen said. “All of us deserve the chance to close out this chapter in our lives.”