Section 8: Student Mutual Aid Networks

Mutual Aid and Kinship Circles in Academic Spaces

by Uzo Ngwu

Keywords: kinship circles, mutual aid, informal networks, academia

This portion of the syllabus focuses on mutual aid, kinship circles and informal networks among students. This pandemic has highlighted the various ways universities have fallen short when it comes to supporting their students, but it has also galvanized students to create structures that help themselves and their communities. In this project I specifically focus on mutual aid outside of material goods, such as shared resources and support, but I also highlight resources that showcase students across the country providing material mutual aid for those who need it. The community I observed for this project was the virtual Harvard undergraduate community, but the ideas I explore can be applied to any college community. Another facet of my community care project is how technology and social media have played a role in the construction of these informal networks. Without the ease of being in close proximity to other students, the pandemic has forced students to adapt their network building and mutual aid efforts to a more virtual world. Yet despite the transition to more virtual forms of connection, these informal networks that students had built before the pandemic began still exist. This can be seen by the peer-counseling groups that have adapted to a virtual climate as well as the students who use their social media platforms to share useful information with other students. The person I interviewed for this project, Samyra, does exactly that by using her platform and presence on social media to share information and start necessary dialogue among students. Throughout the summer and this past semester Samyra has used her instagram platform to share resources and information with the Harvard community about Harvard’s plans for the upcoming semester. She has shared emails from Harvard that she does the work to simplify so students can access the most important information. Additionally, because her reach is so wide-spread, she is able to connect with tutors and faculty at Harvard and get quotes from them which she anonymously shares to her followers. She also allows space for other students to share how they feel or share their dissenting opinions on issues she brings up on her account. Samyra’s instagram has always been a place where she discusses controversial topics and engages with her followers. So, in her words, the transition to sharing resources and information about Harvard’s fall plans on her Instagram story was nothing new. Not only does Samyra do the labor of dissecting information from emails and sharing the most important parts, but she also lets people send her information to share on her Instagram story. The resources I compiled will allow readers of my micro-syllabus to understand the various ways college students have built informal networks and engaged with mutual aid efforts during this pandemic. The resources I chose also highlight the importance of mutual aid work and caring for your community. A few of the resources I included also tie to the technology aspect of my project and explore how technology has been used by college students in the age of COVID-19.

Interview Audio


Resources

“Coping with the COVID-19 Pandemic as a College Student: Psychiatry: Michigan Medicine.” Psychiatry, 4 May 2020, medicine.umich.edu/dept/psychiatry/michigan-psychiatry-resources-covid-19/adults-specific-resources/coping-covid-19-pandemic-college-student

Students Organize Their Own Aid Networks as Campuses Close for Virus, www.insidehighered.com/news/2020/03/17/students-organize-their-own-aid-networks-campuses-close-virus

Kass, Posted by Emily, and Zuma. “The Power of Community Care During COVID-19: Mutual Aid & Resource Guides.” Swipe Out Hunger, 17 Nov. 2020, www.swipehunger.org/community-care/

Shihipar, Abdullah. “These Students Took Care of Each Other When Their Universities Didn’t.” The Nation, 13 Apr. 2020, www.thenation.com/article/society/these-students-took-care-of-each-other-when-their-universities-didnt/

Spade, Dean. Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity during This Crisis (and the next). Verso, 2020. 

Sembrar, Colectiva, and Marina Sitrin. Pandemic Solidarity: Mutual Aid During the Covid-19 Crisis. Pluto Press, 2020. 

“College Students Expect a More Connected Technology Experience Outside the Classroom.” Ellucian, 31 Oct. 2017, www.ellucian.com/news/college-students-expect-more-connected-technology-experience-outside-classroom

Noble, Safiya Umoja. Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism. New York University Press, 2018. 

“Mutual Aid in the Classroom.” Taylor & Francis, www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10437797.2002.10779096

Academic Mutual Aid Foundation, academicmutualaid.org/

“PRINTMAKING.” Fiona Avocado Art, 17 Nov. 2019, fionavocado.com/art/printmaking/

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