Compact Members Mobilizing for Communities in a Time of Crisis

March 27, 2020

In the weeks since the American public began to focus on the emerging COVID-19 crisis, nearly every facet of life in our homes, our workplaces, and our communities has been transformed. The scope and pace of change have been head-spinning.

And while no sector has been left unaffected, few have had to respond more quickly and thoroughly than higher education. Within a very short time, bustling campuses were vacated, and students, staff, and faculty members across the country adapted to new modes of teaching, learning, and engaging.

Institutions of higher education would have been forgiven if they had focused only on keeping their own core functions up and running. Yet despite the enormous challenges of transitioning to remote education and attending to the health and safety of students and employees, Campus Compact member colleges and universities throughout the United States have found time and capacity to demonstrate their commitment not only to the wellbeing of their students but also to the common good.

There are far too many examples to name here, so I’ll mention just a few: The culinary arts program at Kapi’olani Community College in Hawaii sprang into action to feed kids who could no longer rely on their schools to do so. At Stanford, an inter-disciplinary group of students built a mapping tool so families could find locations offering meals to kids who lost access through school. Students at Otterbein University in Ohio are ensuring that the 1600 firefighters in Columbus have childcare now that schools have closed. At Prince George’s County College in Maryland, Cottey College in Missouri, and institutions across the country, every department that uses the personal protective equipment so desperately needed by health care workers has stepped up to donate what they have.

We have seen leading research labs turn on a dime to focus on providing treatments–and ultimately a vaccine—for COVD-19 and coronavirus. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University and Washington University in St. Louis are leading a collaborative effort involving 50 institutions to test the effectiveness of a longstanding method—transfusing blood plasma from those who have recovered from a disease—in treating COVID-19 patients. The National Emerging Infectious Disease Laboratories at Boston University has been testing the effectiveness of thousands of existing drugs on cells infected with the live virus in an effort to locate a treatment without having to start from scratch.

Just miles from Campus Compact’s headquarters in the Boston area, Tufts University has prepared to make every aspect of its campus available to serve the health and wellness needs of the region as the pandemic grows here. In an op-ed in the Boston Globe, Tufts University President Anthony Monaco provides a roadmap for other institutions to follow suit.

To help all of us develop a deeper understanding of the common good in the face of a pandemic, the Civic Engagement Center at Macalester College has created a Google doc with resources suitable for reflective discussion in class or other contexts.

In all of these efforts, community engagement professionals are playing a key role, mobilizing their local knowledge and relationships to connect institutional capacity with pressing needs. Across the country, Campus Compact staff are supporting our members, sharing examples, identifying tools, and making introductions. One example of these efforts is Iowa Campus Compact’s compilation of resources on coronavirus and the engaged campus.

We will bring as much of this to you as we can in the weeks and months ahead. We also invite you to share your stories of actions by students, faculty, and staff to support communities in the face of COVID-19.

To that end, we invite you to share with us your Mutual Aid Moments, so we can share them with the world.

Mutual aid systems are an essential aspect of human life. They are hyper-local systems of community support in which community members take responsibility for each other to ensure that everyone’s immediate needs are met. We would love to hear about your Mutual Aid Moments. You can share short videos (30 seconds or less), images, and short descriptions of what you are doing. We’ll post them in various places. At Campus Compact, we talk about LOVE—living out our value of equity—and mutual aid is a crucial way of making that value real. These acts of community solidarity are sources of inspiration in difficult times.

Go here to upload videos, photos, and text:

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