Finding community amid a snowstorm: students, faculty, alumni are supporting each other during inclement weather

Fiza Kuzhiyil

After UT students spent Monday sledding, dancing and taking pictures in the snow, Justin Phan and his roommate spent two hours picking up the trash they left behind on the South Mall lawn.

“If we can make (custodial staffs’) lives easier with just a simple act, we should maybe walk a few feet next time to a trash can,” said Phan, a psychology and sociology junior.

Heavy snow and freezing temperatures have left 2.7 million households across Texas without power as of Wednesday morning. As ice and snow piled on the Tower, UT students, faculty and alumni have found ways to help the community. 

“I completely understand we are college students. You want to have fun, and that's perfectly OK,” Phan said. “However, I do not think it's OK to do this at the detriment of your community and your peers.”

For Sam Miles, a communication and leadership senior, power has been stable in her dorm. She said she wanted to take advantage of her resources and help other students, so she sent out a Google form on Twitter asking if anyone needed a warm meal delivered. 

As the tweet gained attention, people started to donate oatmeal packets to Miles. She then microwaved oatmeal and distributed it to students without electricity.

“If power is still going to be out, a warm meal is something that I think can make a difference, and I think oatmeal is already such a comfort food,” Miles said.

Miles said she delivered oatmeal to over 50 people Wednesday morning with the help of a few friends. Having grown up in Indiana, Miles said she learned how to drive in the snow, so she felt she could safely deliver food around campus.

“If anybody's gonna drive, it should be someone who's at least used to it,” Miles said.

On Tuesday, Kevin Robbins, associate professor of practice, saw a tweet that said J2 and Kinsolving dining halls were open for meals but were charging students without unlimited meal plans. The dining halls worked with students on an individual basis if they could not pay, but Robbins helped reimburse meals for those who already paid.

Robbins said he invited students to email him from their UT account, tell him how much they spent on food and include their Venmo so he could reimburse them. He said he reimbursed over 10 students for their meals.

“This situation has given us a chance to rally around each other and hold each other close and help each other,” Robbins said. “It’s just one day at a time. Just get through this day, and whatever comes tomorrow, we'll deal with that too.”

UT alumnus Zach Price said he saw professors’ tweets offering to help pay for students’ meals and wanted to do the same. Price said after tweeting out his own offer to pay for warm meals, 15 people on Twitter chipped in to create a pool of over $500. He said he used Venmo to distribute the money to UT students, Texas State students and others without power across the state.

“It’s always important to help out your neighbors, and I try to live by that principle even when things are good,” Price said. “I think bad times often bring out the best in people, and it’s been so heartening to see so many people in the UT community and across the state stepping up to help out.”