The University of Oregon announced last week that it is providing crisis response, counseling and financial resources to students afflicted by the wildfires burning throughout California. The wildfires and the university’s support came at an especially challenging time for students right before the Thanksgiving holiday, said Dean of Students Kris Winter.
“What if these students don’t have a home to return to? ” Winter said, noting that with finals coming up, this extra worry only build on their existing distress.
Six different fires continue to burn throughout California, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
One of those fires, the Camp Fire near Chico in northern California, is the deadliest and most destructive fire in the state’s history, according to CAL FIRE. Data from the agency show that, as of Nov. 19, the fire burned more than 15,000 structures and claimed 77 lives.
Winter’s office reached out to about 150 students who have permanent addresses — where they live outside of their time in Eugene — in the areas under evacuation. The total number of students affected is hard to estimate, Winter said, as others could have family or friends in the impacted areas.
About 23 percent of all UO students come from California, according to fall 2018 data from the Office of Institutional Research.
One resource available to students, Winter said, is the crisis response staff. The staff is available for any student experiencing crisis to receive support and access to additional resources.
“Students can define what ‘crisis’ means to them. It could be navigating a process of the institution, or they want referrals to other resources on campus because they’re trying to manage homesickness or they’ve lost a loved one or a break up,” Winter said.
Since the beginning of this academic year, the Dean of Students crisis response staff members have had authority to offer students assistance from the “students in crisis” fund. The fund offers a few hundred dollars to students who face unforeseen financial crisis that could prohibit them from continuing at the university, such as textbook costs or a death in their family.
Winter said the fund, with about $24,000raised by the UO Foundation and the Parent’s Leadership Council, has assisted two students so far this term. Winter said she hopes to increase the size of the fund to impact more students.
Other university resources are also available to students affected by the fires, such as the University Counseling Center drop-in hours or self-care remedies in the EMU’s Duck Nest. Financial aid staff are also available to meet with students whose ability to cover the costs of attending the university is in jeopardy as a result of the fires.
Others on campus are supporting those affected by the wildfires as well. On Tuesday, members of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity collected about $200 in donations to send to the Red Cross.
“We said, ‘Hey, this is going on, let’s put something together real quick and let’s see if we can make a difference,’” said Michael de Miranda, the fraternity’s philanthropy chair. “A lot of people were really inclined to donate.”
De Miranda, a native of a Los Angeles suburb, said the fire displaced some of his family and friends in the area, and the fundraiser was his way of “helping out from a thousand miles away.”
“Do your part, help people out and give what you can,” de Miranda said of the efforts to help those impacted by the fires. “That’s all I’ve really got.”
The Dean of Students crisis staff is available for any student experiencing any form of crisis to speak with and offer resources Monday through Friday from 1 to 5 p.m. in Oregon Hall 185.
Other resources available for students impacted by the wildfires and other crises are listed here.
Donations can be made to the Students in Crisis fund here by putting “Students in Crisis — fund number 8113” in the additional instructions box.