On Friday, March 13, 2020, and in response to the growing concern over COVID-19, St. Jerome’s University students received word that all in-person classes would be suspended for a week to allow our faculty to transition their courses to a remote delivery method. By Saturday, March 21, 2020, St. Jerome’s had closed the campus to the public, with only critical service staff and a handful of students in residence remaining on campus. In effect, St. Jerome’s has been operating as a remote university campus for more than month now and we are preparing to go into the summer and fall working from our newly christened home offices (otherwise known as our kitchens, basements, TV rooms, bedrooms, and unused nooks in our living spaces).
I am writing to you today to highlight the urgent financial need facing many of our students. Simply put, our students need help now from our St. Jerome’s community if they are going to make rent payments, buy groceries, and continue with their education. We are hearing stories of students struggling. Lost income due to cancelled co-op placements, job offers being rescinded, and layoffs have created precarious situations in which students are being forced to make decisions that affect their health, well-being, and future.
The story of our student Lillian, who is a third-year Honours Political Studies major, reflects the reality our students are facing in this pandemic:
I'm a full time SJU/UW student who was accepted into the SJU Beyond Borders program and had prepared to spend my spring term working with our partners at Cafe Femenino in Peru. I had a sublet lined up to cover the costs of my apartment while I would be travelling. But because of COVID-19, the student supposed to sublet my apartment is no longer able to travel to Waterloo and takeover my apartment. To make things worse, because I was planning to be abroad this summer, I did not have a job lined up at home. The effects of the pandemic have left me in an unfortunate situation where I am paying rent and trying to navigate my own academic calendar while looking for ways to manage the cost of living during a time where I have no income and do not receive financial aid. Now that I will not be abroad this summer nor will I be working, [I’m] still try[ing to] make this time as effective as possible. I have registered for online classes for the Spring term, but, unfortunately, I do not qualify for government benefits at this time, and I have also used my OSAP funding for this academic year.
St. Jerome’s University is joining the University of Waterloo in creating the SJU Student Emergency Relief COVID-19 Fund. The purpose of this fund it to support SJU students who are experiencing immediate and urgent financial need directly related to the pandemic.
How we respond to those most at risk in our community defines who we are, and I am proud that the St. Jerome’s community has always responded quickly and compassionately to urgent student needs. I realize the pandemic has created economic hardships for many in our community. But I am asking that you join me, to the extent you are able, in supporting the Student Emergency Relief Fund. Your contribution will make an immediate impact in the lives of our students.
Scott Kline, PhD
Interim President and Vice Chancellor
St. Jerome’s University