ContribUTe 2018 raises over $4,000 for student aid services

Sara Schleede

Many on-campus facilities aim to help students with financial emergencies, food insecurity and interpersonal violence, but these services cannot function without enough funding.

ContribUTe 2018, led by the UT Student Foundation and the University Development Office, encouraged students to donate money to Student Emergency Services, the campus food pantry UT Outpost and SURE Walk. The campaign received a total of $4,105 from 411 donors throughout October.

“The culture of philanthropy at UT should be that Longhorns all care about each other intrinsically,” said Hussain Alkhafaji, UT Student Foundation president. “We should be empowered to dedicate as much time and resources as we can.” 

Students could pick any campus facility to help fund and donate through Venmo or the campaign’s HornRaiser page. But Alkhafaji, public health and journalism senior, said he wanted to focus the fundraiser on departments that are particularly dedicated to ensuring student success in college and life. 

Student Emergency Services received $1,515, UT Outpost received $1,457 and SURE Walk received $1,112.

Kelly Soucy, Student Emergency Services director, told The Daily Texan  in October that Student Emergency Services can provide up to $300 through grant scholarship fees to students struggling to pay for rent, utilities or groceries. Alkhafaji said Hurricane Harvey created a surplus of students asking for aid, depleting Student Emergency Services’ funds for the semester.

“Any student that had come after … we’re going to be getting the crumbs of what they had,” Alkhafaji said.

Alkhafaji said SURE Walk, which provides nighttime transportation for students, has been struggling for the past few years to receive enough funds to pay its staff as well as buy and maintain its carts. 

“SURE Walk is pretty backed up right now,” said Keerthana Chakka, UT Student Foundation’s vice president of finance. “The wait time if you want to get a SURE Walk back to campus is long. That’s because the carts cost so much to buy and operate.” 

UT Outpost, which opened in May and offers students free monthly food packages, runs entirely off of donations. Its shelves are often bare, Alkhafaji said, but the donations will purchase more food for the pantry, serving the 25 percent of UT students that the Counseling and Mental Health Center
reported face food insecurity.

“If that need exists, we have to address it ourselves,” said Madeline Nassif, UT Student Foundation’s vice president of development and social work senior. “We can’t wait around for more funding. Students have to be responsible for each other.” 

Chakka, Plan II and biochemistry junior, said these services are important because worrying about affording groceries or rent can distract students from succeeding academically.

“I don’t think a quality education should be limited to a subset of students,” Chakka said. “It’s crazy how many students are facing the difficulties we’re talking about.”