Rory Bennett: In Loco Parentis in Crisis

While many parents of college students have been worried about getting their own children home in the wake of the coronavirus, Rory Bennett has been helping anxious parents from around the world.

Bennett, a mom of a University of Southern California senior and a USC alumnus herself, runs a Facebook group of over 3,000 parents and students. She started the group in November, when the university saw an uptick in student deaths, to check in on students for parents who lived far away and help them find on-campus resources.

Now, in the midst of a pandemic, Bennett is working as many as four hours each day to connect students with local parents and provide answers for parents who are out of town. So far, the local parents have stepped in to drive students to the airport when the prices of Ubers and Lyfts to LAX shot up, provide boxes for sudden moves, and deliver groceries when they saw students posting photos of empty shelves at stores around campus.

“We’re trying to just figure out a way that we can help the students because the university is not there for this kind of stuff,” Bennett said.

As more coronavirus cases are diagnosed and more shelter in place orders are announced, Bennett expects more requests for help with groceries and other supplies. And as students go longer without receiving weekly paychecks, she worries they won’t have enough money to purchase any of it.

For now, she’s asking parents in the group to set aside extra toilet paper, frozen meals, and nonperishable food so if a rush of requests comes in they’ll be prepared. Another mother in the group is stocking up on tampons, deodorants, and other personal hygiene items.

Bennett never expected the small Facebook group she created a few months ago to become an important communication network in the thick of a global crisis.

“It’s been so rewarding and gratifying to know that people aren’t out there in need,” she said.