In the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, individuals and organizations around the world have been taking initiatives to support victims of the conflict, one of these being students at Harvard University. Taisia Kulyk started a petition to the Harvard administration called “Petition to Harvard to Support Students Affected by the War in Ukraine.” This petition urges the administration to offer a range of academic, financial, and legal support to students and scholars from the regions of Ukraine, Russia, and Belarusia. 

In the footsteps of Harvard students, Brandeis students Berta Muza ’25 and Aeryn Rowe ’25 tailored the Harvard petition to suit Brandeis. The Brandeis petition emphasizes the values of Justice Louis D. Brandeis and the University’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion statement which speaks to the core social justice values of the University: “safeguarding the safety, dignity, and well-being of all its members.” The petition highlights that the University has thus far acted according to its values and in order to keep doing so, the petition “calls on Brandeis to support our Russian, Ukrainian, and Belorussian community members not only through student-based actions but as a University.” As of March 25, the Brandeis petition has 199 signatures from students, faculty, and alumni.

The petitions, both Harvard and Brandeis, give an overview of the devastating consequences of the Russian invasion on Ukranians, as well as on Russians and Belarussians. Addressed to the respective administrations and leadership, the petition asks for formal support for students and scholars affected by the war.

Following the framework of the Harvard petition, the Brandeis petition also highlights sections where the University can provide support. The first section speaks on academic and mental health support. The petition asks the University to implement proactive academic support for students affected by the violence and destruction in Ukraine. Academic extensions and accommodations from professors will allow Ukrainian students and scholars to “grieve, organize, communicate with loved ones,” and anything else they may need as a result of the war.

In regards to mental health support, the petition asks for proactive mental health support from Student Accessibility Support, the Brandeis Counseling Center, and (if needed) finding and financing external specialists.

The second section discusses Financial and Housing assistance. Ukrainian students “need to support their loved ones who have had to flee the country or who are endangered in Ukraine,” and since it is unclear what the short and long term consequences of the war are, the petition identifies a need for financial support for Ukrainian students, Ukrainian-American students, and scholars whose families are affected. 

In addition to the financial consequences for Ukranians, Russians and Belarussians are facing financial repercussions of the war, including government imposed capital controls. Furthermore, according to the petition, Western economic sanctions have caused devaluation of the ruble against the U.S. dollar and a significant income decrease for ordinary Russians. The current economic situation is deteriorating in both Russia and Belarus, causing “families to lose their savings and have to choose between supporting their children’s education and providing for their family’s basic needs.”

With an overview of the dire economic situation, the petition asks that the University provide emergency grants to cover expenses, summer housing, and meal plans for students who can’t return home; alleviation or reduction of tuition costs; a grace period of debt relief for both students and alumni; and a review of financial aid decisions for incoming students from Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus. The petition also asks that the University fundraise through international alumni outreach. 

The third section is dedicated to legal and immigration assistance. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues with “tanks, armored vehicles, and high-precision artillery directed at the Ukrainian capital and other cities, firing at schools, orphanages, and apartment buildings indiscriminately,” making it dangerous for Ukranians to stay in their country, or return due to lack of necessary documentation. The petition urges Brandeis to provide financial and legal support for Ukrainian students and their families who wish to apply for asylum and refugee status in the U.S., as well as pressure policymakers to support Ukranians seeking refugee status. 

The legal danger for Russian and Belarussian individuals is less obvious, yet also a pressing issue, explains the petition. It urges Brandeis to help these students and scholars in applying for asylum and in legal support for violators of Russian laws that have been implemented to prevent Russians from helping Ukraine. Brandeis should also support opportunities for students and scholars from these countries to stay and work in the U.S., as well as actively resist measures restricting these individuals from studying and staying in the country, the petition states. 

The last section of the petition asks the University to publicly announce their commitment to these actions in supporting affected students in terms of academic, mental health, financial, and legal support. A public statement will draw more attention to the war, offer reassurance, and, as the petition expresses, “save lives.”

The petition calls on Brandeis to “uphold its legacy of protecting international students” during this new crisis, and take the opportunity to lead “nationwide institutional support behind students and scholars from the affected regions.”

Muza and Rowe urge students, faculty, and alumni to sign the petition and support the nationwide initiative to help Ukranians affected by the invasion, as well as Russians and Belarussians.