Mariam Taleb, a third year PhD candidate and an organizer with the Coalition of Graduate Employees, said the university’s decision came as no surprise and believes it’s a necessary choice.
But she said parts of the response could leave some students scrambling.
“When we had seen some concerns that were coming out of schools like Harvard, schools like Cornell and some of the other schools that had already started with their closures, we understood that there are going to be gaps,” Taleb said. “With the closing of dining commons, we know that there is already food insecurity on the campus. So to close some access is always going to increase some of that insecurity. And so that's a big concern that we're trying to address. And the same is true, I think, for housing.”
A few hours after the university’s announcement, the coalition created an online form for volunteers to sign up with offers to help provide food or housing.
Taleb said, as of the end of Thursday, 40 people had made offers. A separate form is collecting requests for help. It had two submissions, but Taleb said she expects that number to grow.
“I think in any time when we experience hardship as a society, it is always going to be true that those who are already most vulnerable will be hit the hardest,” Taleb said.
She hopes with volunteer offers already in place, CGE will be able to respond quickly to any new requests for help.
In addition, the group is looking to offer tutoring to undergraduates as they make the switch to online classes until April 6th.
There are no known cases of COVID-19 at any Penn State campuses.
In a press conference Thursday, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced statewide social distancing measures in response to the spread of the coronavirus will begin Friday.