Nearly 30 students gathered in Hamilton Hall to discuss financial accessibility, inclusion, and community at First-Generation Low-Income Partnership’s first general body meeting on Monday.
FLIP aims to provide support to students who are financially insecure. Since its creation two years ago, the organization has attempted to tackle food insecurity on campus and the high cost of academic materials like textbooks, with mixed results. In addition to founding CU Meal Share,a Facebook page that facilitates sharing of meal swipes,two years ago, FLIP promoted and then withdrew support from Swipes—a student-designed app with a similar goal—following low participation last year. Last year, FLIP also created the Lending Library Book Fair, where members can borrow otherwise expensive textbooks for free, an initiative that will continue this year.
According to FLIP Co-president Lizzette Delgadillo, SEAS ’17, the meeting on Monday was organized in the hopes of fostering a stronger first-generation, low-income community. Student leaders led a discussion in which members shared their struggles regarding a lack of awareness from peers, difficulties with accessing services on campus, and gaps in financial assistance from the University. Similarly, students spoke on how coming from a low-income background hindered making connections with a student body prone to seeking recreation off campus.
“There are things that other people do that aren't accessible to first-generation or low-income students. You can't always afford to take the subway and spend the day in Brooklyn with your friends if you're low-income. It can even be hard when your friends are like, 'Let's go to Chipotle,'" FLIP Treasurer Lorenzo Talbot-Foote, SEAS ’19, said.
In order to confront these difficulties, FLIP will organize its efforts in the coming year through three committees—food insecurity, mentorship, and alumni relations—according to Delgadillo.
At the meeting, students discussed the confusion they experienced stemming from a lack of information about what to expect at college—a disadvantage FLIP has attempted to combat since its inception.
“It's especially hard to figure out, like, ‘Is it okay to go to office hours? Is this a dumb question?’” Chelsea Wicklem, BC ’17, said. “It's not only not having that support when it's needed, but not knowing where to go to get that support."
To combat this, FLIP will seek to expand its fledgling mentorship program, which pairs upperclassmen with first-year students in order to provide them with guidance and support as they navigate Columbia’s campus. Similarly, having produced a significant number of alumni since 2014, FLIP’s alumni relations committee will aim to form a unified alumni network that connects past students with current students.
Delgadillo said that FLIP’s effort to combat food insecurity in the coming year will hinge on CU Meal Share. Additional resources promoted during the meeting include FLIP’s Lending Library Book Fair in Butler, as well as its Class Confessions page on Facebook, on which low-income first-generation students can anonymously share their experiences in a forum visible to the public.
FLIP will continue to hold general body meetings every two weeks in Hamilton Hall.