Rebel Aid, a grassroots social media campaign, will be launched Tuesday and Wednesday (April 7-8) by the University of Mississippi’s Office of the Chancellor, Office of the Provost, Division of Student Affairs and Department of Intercollegiate Athletics to secure assistance for students and student-athletes struggling under challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the past three weeks, Ole Miss – like other institutions of higher education – shut classroom doors and playing fields and courts, and transitioned to online and alternative-format learning for the remainder of the spring semester, intersessions and summer terms to help keep the community safe.
“Many of our students need help during this incredibly challenging and unprecedented time,” Chancellor Glenn Boyce said. “We welcome all gifts as any gift, regardless of size, will make a difference.
“There are significant needs that must be met when ensuring the safety, health and well-being of our community members.”
Rebel Aid will raise funds to support the Ole Miss Food Bank, Christopher Holman Student Emergency Fund, University Health Center, University Counseling Center, Academic Support Fund, Fins Up Fund and Rebel Relief Fund. A few of these initiatives will have monetary goals and others will have participation goals.
Gifts to the Rebel Relief Fund already have exceeded $13,000, and those funds have helped meet student needs, with the university responding within 24 to 48 hours to requests. More resources are needed, as the remaining funds can address only about 40 more student requests, said Noel Wilkin, provost and executive vice chancellor.
“While our delivery of offerings has changed, the commitment that the University of Mississippi has to taking care of our students, employees and community has not changed,” he said. The needs range from additional resources to support their academic pursuits to basic needs such as housing, food and health care.
“Our alumni and friends’ commitment has supported UM through the years, helping elevate the university to the prominence it enjoys today. Now, we’re asking this same group to stand with us to help when times are tough. This includes being supportive, respectful and compassionate of all members of our university community during the uncertainty and anxiety that accompanies widespread illness.”
UM leaders are encouraging donors to come together – online – for Rebel Aid to reflect the spirit of the Ole Miss family. Among examples of needs are:
- In just one week of the crisis, the Ole Miss Food Bank distributed as much food as it usually does in an entire semester. Every week since has seen the same demand.
- Since in-person classes moved online, 3,000 students no longer have on-campus jobs. For many, these jobs paid for their food and housing. Still more students lost off-campus jobs as Oxford closed all nonessential businesses and schools.
- More students applied for small grants from the Student Emergency Fund in the past two weeks than have applied in all other months of the year. Most of these students need small amounts, around $200-$400, just to pay essential bills or obtain medicine.
- Although residence halls are officially closed, roughly 200 students still live in on-campus alternative housing. International students, graduate students and some others rely on the university during this difficult time. Among their needs are funds to pay rent and utilities, purchase groceries and basic necessities, buy replacement eyeglasses, pay for prescriptions and more.
Using the Rebel Aid website at https://rebelaid.olemiss.edu or the Ole Miss Athletics’ site at https://ignite.olemiss.edu/
Some Ole Miss student-athletes are facing “extreme circumstances,” Athletics Director Keith Carter said.
“Money raised for the Fins Up Fund will go directly to assisting with medical bills and other necessary expenses resulting from illness to either the student-athlete or his or her family members,” he said. “Other examples of expenses could include groceries, toiletries, academic supplies for online classes and more.”
Charlotte Fant-Pegues, interim vice chancellor for student affairs, said that every gift made during Rebel Aid, no matter the size, does so much to help the university.
“There are many things we’re missing this spring – instruction in classrooms and labs, collaboration with peers and colleagues, awards ceremonies, baseball and softball games, live concerts and theater, Commencement in the Grove and more,” she said.
“But we can come together as one Ole Miss family to help support those who are struggling because we can do great things together even when we’re apart.”
The goal for Rebel Aid is to make alumni and friends aware of needs and provide a way for them to make an impact, said Maura Langhart, director of annual giving in the Office of Development.
“There are specific challenges with the COVID-19 crisis, but we believe the response to Rebel Aid will reflect the heart of our university community,” she said. “The Ole Miss family has always responded well to taking care of our own, and the need to support each other has never been so great.”
For more information about Rebel Aid, email Maura Langhart at firstname.lastname@example.org or Angela Atkins at email@example.com. All gifts from the Ignite Ole Miss crowdfunding platform go to the University of Mississippi Foundation and are fully tax-deductible. For more information on the Fins Up Fund, email Fowler Staines at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ole Miss Communication Staff Report