Michigan State University’s Spartan Solidarity Network, or SSN, announced its Furloughed International Student Mutual Aid fund, or FISMA fund, for former MSU Residential and Hospitality Services, or RHS, international student workers. The fund is entirely student-run and provides international students with a monetary income that many have lost due to university unemployment.
In September, RHS furloughed more than 700 student employees. The decision disproportionally affected international students because due to the current immigration laws regarding current student visa passes, these students can only apply for jobs on campus. Hence, the university’s decision to furlough these students eliminated a source of income for international student workers who relied on employment to pay rent, utilities, food expenses and other living costs.
Donations will be collected to be put forth towards the FISMA fund to support MSU’s student workers.
“This forced international students to not only navigate the current economic state due to COVID-19 but also move past various hurdles that required them to secure permission to even work off of campus,” social relations senior Gabrielle Sheets said. “dreaMSU wanted to instill a way that the student could have some form of income, so we decided to work with SSN to make that a reality.”
For an international student to qualify for the FISMA fund, they must have been affected by the RHS furlough. The student must provide SSN with their student email address to confirm an employment position at the RHS employment center, and once that is confirmed, they are automatically qualified for the FISMA fund. dreaMSU and SSN are available to help navigate any international student through the process to be eligible.
SSN has collaborated with dreaMSU to establish the mutual aid fund from the Graduate Employees Union and meet weekly and discuss the project’s logistics. Both groups split the work between research, social media content creation, reaching out to helpful contacts and understanding the project’s financials.
“There were other individuals from other organizations on campus who helped us make these connections and we would not be in the position we are now without them,” international relations sophomore Peyton Klochack said. “The way we made these decisions was always democratic and we were open about everything that we did. We made sure to have a debate and that everyone was on the same page before taking any actions.”
Sheets said that SSN is working its best to be transparent about where the funds are coming from, who has access to the funds, how much distributed money there is and where the funds are going. Both dreaMSU and SSN have access to the Venmo account and have begun to create a spreadsheet to track the deposits and transfer the funds.
The support that international students will receive will be directly through monetary aid, or in other words, directly financial. Once the funding efforts are raised through the FISMA fund end, SSN and dreaMSU will work with the international student workers who applied to ensure that they receive as much money as they requested. However, SSN does recognize that this is to be an initiative dependent on crowdsourcing, so that will be kept in consideration when distributing money.
Donations are welcomed by anyone and everyone through Venmo @theFISMAfund. If a person is unable to donate financially at this time, SSN encourages them to promote and share information about the FISMA fund on social media. Visit https://fismafund.wixsite.com/furlough to get a direct link to Venmo or for more information.
“Both SSN and DREAMSU want the same thing,” Sheets said. “Even if this fund helps one person, then we feel as though we have been successful.”
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