U.S. Colleges and Universities Respond to Ukraine Conflict

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, the world has continued to watch in horror as events unfold. Photographs and footage of explosions, civilian injuries and groups gathering in bomb shelters are flooding social media feeds and news channels and sites and people around the world are tensely monitoring the situation, fearful that it could escalate into a world war.

While current U.S. college and university students have not lived through a world war, of course, they’ve lived through America’s extended conflicts with Afghanistan and Iraq. The prospect of a war can be terrifying to students, who are bombarded with online images of injuries and destruction.

Colleges and universities are responding in differing ways to the Russia-Ukraine situation. Administrators at many schools have issued statements of solidarity and announcing their support for the Ukrainian people. At the University of Connecticut, for instance, interim president Dr. Radenka Maric issued a statement this past week, announcing the school’s stance with Ukraine and its Ukrainian students.   

Vigils are taking place on many campuses across the country, with administrators speaking to gathered students, faculty and staff. Last week, Marshall University students and faculty gathered to demonstrate solidarity with Ukraine. Students reported that they’ve made close friends with Eastern Europeans through online gaming, while others have friends and family in Ukraine. Before the vigil, university educators met for a panel discussion to discuss Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, and all four panelists have friends and family in the country.

Students and faculty at other institutions like Colgate University, are individually and jointly coming up with more practical solutions for students – and the public. Colgate University Professor Aleksandr Sklyar created a document, Aiding Ukraine & Ukrainians From Abroad, that outlines verified resources to help guide donations to organizations that help refugees fleeing Ukraine and the citizens still remaining. 

The Penn State Ukrainian Society, which began as a means to bringing Ukrainian culture to students and community members on campus, now provides emotional support and comfort for members personally affected by the conflict. In the past, the organization typically met up to learn about Ukrainian art, history and food, but lately, meetings are for strategizing ways to raise money and making posters for on-campus rallies.

At University of Buffalo, student-organized rally raised support and awareness for Ukraine. Organized by the student-run group, Friends of Ukraine, the rally collected donations and featured professors from the Department of Political Science, who offered perspective and history of the conflict. Staff from the University’s counseling center were on hand for students with family ties to Ukraine who might have needed support.

Louisiana State University’s International Cultural Center hosted an event this past week, organized by Ukrainian students. The event hosted speakers and provided resources for ways to donate to the Ukrainian army. 

Some institutions are going for a more personal approach to learning about the conflict. East Carolina University students, faculty and staff spoke with students at a university in Ukraine on Tuesday morning. During the conversation, Ukrainian students gave first-hand accounts of how the war are impacting them and their family.  

The University of Michigan developed a free short course on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It’s available for students and public on the Coursera platform and outlines the reasons for the aggression, the historical and cultural context and how we can support Ukrainian refugees and displaced people.

For related news, see: U.S. Universities Exit Academic Partnerships with Russia over Ukraine War