News, On Campus, Coronavirus Updates

Faculty Lend a Hand to Students In Response to Coronavirus, Closure of Residence Halls

A Google Form in which students can request assistance for housing, storage, or transportation has been circulating on campus in the wake of Boston College’s move to online courses and closure of the residential halls. In a separate Google Sheet, community members have been signing up to provide assistance.

At the time of publication, 114 people had signed up to provide help. The form was created by BC Law professor Hiba Hafiz with help from other faculty in Faculty for Justice, an informal faculty group committed to fighting injustice on and off campus.

“We ended up finding a couple templates that had been developed from community organizing efforts to help students in the Boston area,” Hafiz said. 

Hafiz said she believes students are unsure where to go for help and that a lack of communication from the University has caused students to rely more heavily on faculty members for help.

“I’ve been contacted by four students and am busy coordinating this, probably doing a bit of reorganization in my basement first,” Franziska Seraphim, history professor and director of the Asian studies program, said in an email to The Heights. “This was a great idea and I’m glad to help.”

Communication professor Michael Serazio reached out to his current students offering assistance, and he signed up on the form to provide help to any BC student.

“I had sent an email to all of my classes, all of my students, basically offering the same thing—  which is if you need lodging, we have a spare bedroom … if you need food and things like that,” Serazio said. “I had informally done that with my students that I have right now, so I was really pumped to see that there was an organic, grassroots effort to try to figure out faculty, staff, admin to collectively help out students.”

Responses from faculty to students in need of help have been swift, according to Serazio.

“I got a call around noon from a student, but I was busy so it rolled to voicemail, and I called back 15 minutes later—it was someone who needed storage but within 15 minutes had already found someone else on the Sheet to help out,” Serazio said.

Serazio said that one student had contacted him from the Sheet and that he was taking students from his classes out to lunch next week.

“We’re called to be men and women for others. There’s no pats on the back that are deserved for extending a helping hand, as we’re able (and in my case, fortunate), in the middle of a crisis,” Serazio added in an email to The Heights. “I’ve advised my students to take care of themselves— physically, emotionally, psychologically—and take care of others in the same way and, as best as possible, to keep calm and carry on and to let me know how I can help.”

Christine Caswell, a professor and director of undergraduate studies in the communication department, said she made herself available to provide support to students via the Google Form and has been contacted by about five students, who were mainly requesting storage space.

“It’s the right thing to do—we are all about cura personalis at BC, and when any unpredictable situation like this occurs so suddenly … it naturally causes anxiety,” Caswell said. “I’m fortunate that I have space in my home, and I am privileged to have the space that I have, so I wanted to pay it forward and help students who are stuck.”

Featured Image by Maggie DiPatri / Heights Editor

03/15/20 4:11 p.m.: This article corrected the pronoun “he” to “she” in reference to Hiba Hafiz.

March 13, 2020