This semester the Climate Justice Collective student organization (CJC) launched a mutual aid fund. Previously, CJC was heavily involved in the Stop Line 3 protest. Their objective within the Stop Line 3 movement was to not only show solidarity with local indigenous communities, but to also stop further environmental damage. Even more so, the environmental damage caused by the pipeline would directly and negatively impact many indigenous communities across the state. However, after the pipeline was expanded, CJC started a new project.
Despite the importance of working with local disadvantaged community members, CJC recognized students needed a more effective way to distribute resources on campus; thus, the mutual aid fund project began, but what is it and what does it mean for students? Mutual aid can look like: carpooling, getting meals for students who are unable to make it during scheduled cafeteria times, and even financial support. At its core, mutual aid is a system and network to meet students’ material, emotional, and spiritual needs. Mutual aid differs from other support systems offered on campus in that, instead of being funded by the college, it’s funded by community members. This makes assistance more accessible for students who may not meet all requirements for aid systems funded by the institution.
CJC member Mo Bayzaee ‘23 said, “the solutions to problems at the local, interpersonal level need to be addressed by community support.” In addition, Bayzaee elaborated on how institutional systems here at St. Olaf have failed students who are in need, specifically related to the emergency fund. For example, the emergency fund requires students to meet many requirements including: exhausting all other financial resources, being enrolled as a full time student, and it cannot cover any St. Olaf costs such as tuition, or housing and meal plans.
Typically, the emergency fund is only available for students once per year at a maximum of $500. In addition to the extensive list aforementioned, students cannot use the money for family needs. Therefore, the emergency fund itself is far from assisting students with their needs.
Mutual aid, however, does not have extensive requirements or force students to prove their need or worth, like the emergency fund. Instead, the fund is mutual; students add to the fund as able and can take from the fund when needed by request. Student CJC executives who manage the fund are aware of how their management of these monies may make students uncomfortable, so to be transparent, CJC has created a live count showing how much money has been received, requested, and given out to students who have requested to draw from the account.
Bayzaee ‘23 emphasized students should think about growing more comfortable with our peers and trusting our ability to care for each other. Through the mutual aid fund and project, Bayzaee hopes students will take this opportunity to get to know each other better and form campus-wide solidarity. To get more involved with the mutual aid project, you can attend a CJC meeting on Wednesday evenings from 7-8 pm in Holland Hall 522, follow the Instagram account @stolafmutalaid, and keep an eye out for future fundraisers and cross campus events with Carleton and St. Olaf students such as the St. Olaf Cross Campus Drag Show hosted by QOI (Queer Ole Individuals) on October 28. The event was in partnership with Carelton College to raise money for the mutual aid fund and project.