Thursday, March 12, 2020

Poor During A Pandemic: Harvard FGLI's A Microcosm


thecrimson |  Most days, Jordan H. Barton ’23 wakes up in his Canaday dorm to a 9:30 a.m. alarm.
On Tuesday, though, he woke up earlier. His phone was ringing as he began receiving a flood of texts informing him Harvard College would require undergraduates to vacate campus by Sunday to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“To wake up in the morning and receive what can only be called an eviction notice is something that only invalidates what the school’s mission has stated since they’ve been inducted,” Barton said.

Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana wrote to Barton and more than 6,000 other undergraduates on Tuesday morning that campus would not reopen after spring break, which stretches from March 14 to 22.

Within hours, the email sent students scrambling to pack up all their belongings and make plans to vacate. But Barton and others say it hit one group of undergraduates particularly hard: first-generation and low-income students, many of whom depend upon Harvard for food, housing, and stability.

“They've been evicted from their stability, they've been evicted from their homes, they’ve been evicted from their ability to live comfortably and safely,” Barton, who is an FGLI student, said. 

“There's already enough concern, and now they're concerned about being able to get home and have stable housing and food.”

Some students must ship or store their on-campus belongings without financial support from Harvard. Others who planned to stay on campus must now book unexpected flights home and accrue additional costs. And those who rely on term-time employment must confront additional financial concerns as they lose their primary sources of income.

Nicholas T. “Nick” Wyville ’20 called the College’s announcement “outrageous,” adding that he believes it will weigh most heavily on him and his fellow FGLI students.

“Harvard prides itself on having a massive student body that is a large percentage on financial aid,” Wyville said. “I think that they forget that those are the same students who often come from home situations that are uncomfortable.”