Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, groups representing minority populations on Ithaca College’s campus, like PRISM and Ujima: Black Student Union (BSU), immediately picked up the slack and began coordinating mutual aid initiatives with organizations in Tompkins County.
As of 2021, BIPOC and LGBTQ+ students account for about 20% and 30% of the college’s student body, respectively. Minority groups such as those often have the biggest disadvantage financially. They can often be the ones who are overlooked or prioritized less than majority populations, which causes inequitable disparities and further marginalization. If someone from a particular group were to go through a situation where they require assistance financially, the college might not be able to help them because the expense is more than the allotted amount.
It is for reasons like this that many people from groups like PRISM and BSU feel frustrated about lack of participation from other students who may not be involved with the organizations.
“We haven’t seen any engagement from the rest of the campus community at all,” junior Angela Russell, social media and community engagement coordinator for the BSU, said. “But mutual aid is for everybody. It has to go to people who actually need it. … What we’re really asking is that people show up and give more donations.”
Mutual aid begins with mutual respect between at least two people. It means that an individual must recognize another’s struggle along with their own so they can mutually protect one another. This respect builds trust which can grow to build friendships, support systems and communities. Anyone can participate because the point is to give what you can, whether it be financial or emotional support, providing resources for appropriate assistance or spreading word to others.