GU Mutual Aid Faces Operational Challenges as Donation Rates Decline

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After 13 months of operations, the Georgetown University Mutual Aid Network has struggled to keep its request form available as campus opened fully for the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Megan Huynh (NHS ’22) and Binqi Chen (NHS ’22) created the GU Mutual Aid Network in August 2020 to provide grassroots financial assistance for members of the Georgetown community amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Since its founding, the program has redistributed over $130,000 to community members. Yet as the organization fundraises for the first time in a fully in-person campus environment, its request form has closed repeatedly because of a lack of community donations.  

Kirk Zieser/The Hoya | GU Mutual Aid struggles to keep its request form open amid a drop in donations from community members.

A decrease in donations is typical for the start of a new semester, according to Huynh. 

“As we’ve typically seen with the start of a new semester, this fall, we have seen increased demand for requests and have seen less and less donations from students, which has caused us to have to close our request form several times because we do not have enough funds to fulfill everyone’s needs,” Huynh wrote in an email to The Hoya. 

Closing the form is concerning for the community’s well being, since GU Mutual Aid provides students with necessities, according to Huynh.

“Many students rely on Georgetown Mutual Aid’s funds to support their basic needs like groceries, textbook costs, and transportation. The longer the form stays closed, the more students do not have their needs met,” Huynh wrote.

During the pandemic, the presence of mutual aid networks has increased throughout the country. However, these grassroots newsworks have existed for centuries, originating from communities of color seeking to pool resources for community support. 

Huynh said the $130,000 milestone shows how community collaboration can help alleviate wealth inequality at Georgetown. 

“Being able to serve as a source of support for Georgetown students throughout these difficult times has been such an impactful experience, and reaching such a large amount raised has shown that community care can and does work as we continue practicing wealth and resource redistribution in a student body with so much wealth inequality,” Huynh wrote. 

In 2017, Georgetown ranked 12th out of 38 schools in a study detailing wealth inequality, with more students coming from the top 1% of the income scale than the bottom 60%. The median household income from Georgetown’s class of 2013 was $229,100, while the national median income for a household in 2013 was $51,939.

Students with the means to do so should donate to the fund, according to Georgetown University Student Association (GUSA) Senator Brett Guessford (COL ’23), who organized a social media fundraiser for GU Mutual Aid in April. 

“I will continue to support Mutual Aid whenever I can, as I know that, despite my own hardships, I am in a better position than some of my peers, but I would still like to see more participation in Mutual Aid among the more elite sections of the Georgetown community,” Guessford wrote in an email to The Hoya. “There is a lot of untapped potential and good work that could be done if (even marginally) more wealth from upper class students were shared in solidarity with their less fortunate peers.”

Last spring, GU Mutual Aid collaborated with The Corp to help provide students with greater food options on campus by reallocating student Flex dollars, which can be used at many Georgetown dining services, to students in need. 

While The Corp is not currently accepting Flex dollar donations, it periodically opens the donation form when Mutual Aid funds dip below $1,000 and during the final week of the semester before Flex dollars expire, according to Rose Dallimore (SFS ’22), community engagement chair and board member at The Corp. Dallimore said that as of Sept. 20, The Corp had redistributed $2,362.99 Flex dollars and had $4,160.34 left to redistribute.

The Corp supports GU Mutual Aid’s commitment to the Georgetown community and values the opportunity to help the organization achieve its goals, according to Dallimore. 

“We love GU Mutual Aid’s infrastructure and the support they provide to the community, and this was a way for us to use our services and flex collection abilities to help students support each-other,” Dallimore wrote.

Huynh said she is grateful for the support of students over the last year. 

“We could not exist without the support of the student body, so we are so grateful to everyone who has ever donated or shared our posts in helping us raise $130,000 in a little over a year,” Huynh wrote. 

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