On Tuesday, Dec. 3, the Eastern Michigan University Student Senate unanimously passed Resolution 106-12 as part of a recent effort by a number of university-related groups to help alleviate student housing insecurity. Passed in a 17-0 vote, the resolution is addressed specifically to EMU Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs, Rhonda Longworth, and the university president, James Smith, asking for their support in three recommendations that are listed in the resolution.
Authored by student Sen. Colton Ray and supported by Sen. Luis Romero, the resolution asks the university provost and president for their support and to “speak in support [regarding the resolution] to the Board of Regents, EMU Dining, ParkEMU, Housing and Residence Life, Ypsilanti City Council, and other institutions who [would] be vital in implementing [the recommendations]”. The resolution is aimed at addressing and alleviating student housing and food insecurity at Eastern Michigan University. The resolution asks for the implementation of the following three recommendations by the university for the 2020 winter semester.
“Create a housing insecurity fund for students to request a one-time, [$]5,000 grant to pay for a semester of housing.”
“Allow students to donate leftover meal swipes and flex dollars to Swoops Food Pantry and EMU Dining, for them to distribute to students in need.”
“Increase accessibility to Swoops Food Pantry by providing students who use Swoops during the Winter and Fall semesters with hour-long parking passes for metered parking on or off campus (in partnership with ParkEMU and the City of Ypsilanti), so they don’t have to walk long distances with their groceries.”
This resolution comes less than one month after GameAbove, an Eastern Michigan University alumni group, donated $3.5 million to University faculty and students. Of that $3.5 million, $1.5 million was gifted over five years as part of the “Students Matter Most” initiative, of which $300,000 is specifically granted this year to help combat student housing and food insecurity, as well as to the Student Emergency Fund. The emergency fund assists students with items such as books and course materials along with challenges such as short-term loss of transportation for commuters and other emergency items that limit class attendance.
Sen. Ray hopes to, in addition, use a caveat of the grant to access more funding for the resolution, as the initiative is one created by Student Government which also has access to GameAbove funds
According to Sen. Ray, “the aim of Resolution 106-12 is not necessarily to create any specific program, but rather to find where Student Government could assist students who are housing and food insecure.”
“We initially thought that [it] could work in tandem with the Student Emergency Fund but that is a separate fund and we feel like creating this fund specifically would be a more immediate way for students who are experiencing possible student homelessness or [who are] at risk of homelessness to be able to get funds immediately.”
When asked to further detail the structure and implementation of the Housing Insecurity Fund, the first clause of the resolution, Sen. Romero explained, “the whole point of this [the resolution] is that we're just trying to ask them [the university provost and president] if they support this idea, its laying a foundation . . . If they just say that they don’t support it then like, so what, this is us just trying to put our voice out there [to say] what we’d like to see kind of start to [be] implemented.”
According to the resolution, approximately 45 students at Eastern Michigan University currently have “unstable housing situations or are without housing altogether”. In a survey of the students who use Swoops Food Pantry (the campus food pantry for those currently enrolled in classes at Eastern Michigan University), 56% of those surveyed report experiencing “housing insecurity”.
The resolution states, “[p]ersonal reasons and financial insecurity are the two leading factors for students leaving Eastern Michigan University.”
This resolution comes two weeks after Student Government hosted a “Campus Sleep-Out for Homeless” to bring awareness to student homelessness at Eastern Michigan University.