Facing backlash from lawmakers and the public, wealthy colleges have begun to announce that they will not accept the stimulus money they had received under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Harvard University announced its decision to relinquish funds on Wednesday; Yale, Princeton, Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania soon followed suit.
The CARES Act allocated $1.12 million to Bowdoin, and the College has yet to announce whether it will accept the money or, if it will, how and to whom it will be distributed. We trust the College to make informed decisions about this money. But, as students, we feel the need to voice our concerns about the restrictions that the Trump administration placed on these funds explicitly to exclude some Americans, including members of our community, from receiving funds.
Under the restrictions set forth by the Department of Education, colleges and universities must distribute half of the money as emergency grants to students facing financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the guidelines prevent schools from distributing money to students who are ineligible for federal financial aid—thus excluding students registered in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and international students. The government’s decision to deny aid to students on the basis of their immigration status is antithetical to the College’s mission, and we ask that the College oppose such political schemes and choose instead to support all students in need.
It is important to consider the broader political context within which the restrictions were issued: the Trump administration has been trying to get rid of the DACA program and end deportation protections for 700,000 young people. Attaching new restrictions to a piece of legislation meant to bring relief to those who need it most is just another insidious display of this administration’s xenophobic and inhumane political agenda.
The College should bear in mind that stringent travel restrictions and dire public health circumstances have uniquely affected international students. Disruptions of immigration status also threaten the quality of education they stand to receive in the future.
Shortly after declaring that it would not accept the allotted funds, Princeton University announced that it had created its own emergency fund program that would cover DACA recipients and international students. This is one way Bowdoin could take a stand. Alternatively, the College could accept the federal funds while promising to allocate the same amount of its own funds to aid students excluded by the law. This is a compromise solution that ensures that all of its students have access to the relief that they need.
Particularly after the recent shutdown of the student-organized mutual aid fund, students in need may not have access to a comparable source of funding for emergency situations.
The example has been set. Though Bowdoin’s financial health has been tested in recent weeks, the College must ensure that international students and undocumented students are not left without access to aid, regardless of whether or not it accepts the CARES Act funds. It is particularly important now for the College to recognize the hardships of all students—not just those who hold an American passport.
This editorial represents the majority view of the Orient’s Editorial Board, which is comprised of Emily Cohen, Julia Jennings, Rohini Kurup, Nina McKay, Alyce McFadden, Jaret Skonieczny, Reuben Schafir and Tianyi Xu.