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Boston College professors, staff, and alumni open homes to displaced students

Katie Rapier, an assistant professor at Boston College, has offered to store students' belongings after classes were canceled because of COVID-19.
Katie Rapier, an assistant professor at Boston College, has offered to store students' belongings after classes were canceled because of COVID-19.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

After Boston College president William Leahy announced earlier this month that the school would be closing, students suddenly faced uncertainty and anxiety.

But dozens of BC faculty, staff, and alumni have stepped in to offer displaced students an array of services — and even opening their homes to some who had nowhere to go. The services also included storage, financial support, food, language services, and transportation.

The offers came after dozens of institutions of higher education the Boston area shuttered their campuses and largely moved learning online.

Katie Rapier, an assistant professor of philosophy at BC and a Quincy resident, offered her university office for storage, her SUV for transportation, and helped to bring meals to students on campus.

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“This has been a hard time for everyone and I had space in my office and I was happy to be able to help in some way,” said Rapier, whose office rapidly filled with boxes and dorm fridges. “I think it’s important to come together to show that we support our students, not only in the classroom but in all aspects of life as best we can and show that we’re there even in times like this.”

Ali Erol, assistant professor of communication and Newton resident, offered students a place to stay, as well as food and help moving.

“[This pandemic] is not something that we have faced before. Everybody is sort of winging it,“ Erol said. "We need to stand in solidarity with everyone and we all need to do what we can during this time.”

To connect students with potential donors, the volunteers created a Google spreadsheet — containing contact information and services they could provide to students — that was shared widely on the Chestnut Hill campus and beyond.

BC alumni Amirah Orozco, Gianina Chua, Xinyan Liu, and Michael Osaghae, president of BC’s Undergraduate Government, used the information to raise money for the effort. So far, they have collected $5,665 from about 200 donors.

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Jennifer Chiao, a senior sociology major, received money to help her parents travel from New York City to see her; she has been granted a housing accommodation at BC.

“I feel that we all need to depend on each other and because everyone is in the same situation, it’s so important that we communicate with each other about our needs,” Chiao said. “It’s a hard time for everyone and everyone around me seems to be struggling with something.”