Beginning this semester, some professors have added a new section to their syllabi called “Basic Needs Security,” which is geared toward helping students who are struggling to afford basic needs like housing and food.
Created by higher education professor Sara Goldrick-Rab, the policy encourages students to contact the Dean of Students Office if they are faced with difficulties due to food or housing insecurity. Students would then be directed toward the resources from their professor or Dean of Students.
Goldrick-Rab said she was preparing for a graduate class she is teaching this semester when she created this addition to her syllabus.
“It was in the course of writing that syllabus that I came up with this idea of adding this language to the section of the syllabus where you have all of those other policy statements,” Goldrick-Rab said.
“I realized that a big part of what I research, what I study, is the challenges that undergraduates are facing in paying for college,” she added. “In particular, I have been studying the growing number of students who are dealing with not having enough money for their food and their housing.”
Once a student approaches the Dean of Students office, the office provides them with some options to help them get their basic needs, said Rachael Stark, the senior associate dean of students. These options include reconnecting the student with Student Financial Services to evaluate their aid package, apply to Temple’s emergency aid fund for money or connect them with food banks in Philadelphia to receive food.
Some schools or colleges like the Fox School of Business, Klein College of Media and Communication and the College of Liberal Arts also have emergency funds that students could be referred to, depending on their major.
As a very last resort and based on extreme circumstances, students will have a conversation about whether they should stay in higher education at the time, if they are really unable to achieve their basic needs.
These are all programs the Dean of Students office has had available to students for several years, Stark added.
By adding the “Basic Needs Security” section to syllabi, students are directly referred to the Dean of Students to be connected to these programs more easily.
Students were invited by Goldrick-Rab to share their stories of challenges they face while attending Temple. The confidential survey, called #RealCollege, was sent via email to students on Monday. For completing the survey, students can win one of $100 Diamond Dollars.
The “Basic Needs Security” section is currently not a university-wide requirement for professors, but some have decided to add the new section to their syllabi anyway.
David Mindich, a journalism professor and the department chair, heard about this new policy from David Boardman, dean of Klein College of Media and Communication. Mindich had then suggested it to the journalism department.
“The two reasons for including it in the syllabus is one, for the students who are in need and two, for the students who are not in need but who should be aware that other students are,” Mindich said.
He added that it is a useful tool to spread awareness and hopes more professors will add the policy to their syllabi.
“I am hoping that it is the beginning of a trend,” he said.
Jillian Bauer-Reese, a journalism professor, said it is important that her students feel supported by the university.
“Above all else, on the first day of class I want my students to leave the classroom knowing that I care about them as people,” Bauer-Reese said. “I thought that this was one way for us to tell our students on the first day that we do care about them as human beings and want to make sure that their needs are met.”
Goldrick-Rab said she posted a blog post on Medium.com about the new policy.
After tweeting out a link to the post, Goldrick-Rab conducted a survey to track who would use her new statement. She reported that more than 200 faculty members at different colleges across the country said they would add this policy to their syllabi.
Goldrick-Rab is the founder of Wisconsin HOPE Lab, an organization dedicated to assisting students with financial difficulties in college.
The organization will hold a national #RealCollege conference at Temple in October in order to address food and housing insecurity among college students.
“It’s a place for people to come and learn about the housing and food challenges that students are facing and what they can do about it,” she said. “To me, this is at the heart of what we do as teachers.”
Editor’s Note: Additional information from the Dean of Students office has been included in this story, updated on September 12. This information describes what services students are connected to once they contact the Dean of Students office.