Several readers forwarded this New York Times article.

For three years, a handful of Harvard University alumni have waged a quiet effort to persuade the university to expand its mission far beyond its Cambridge campus, the students it educates there and the multitude of research labs, libraries and other facilities available to them.

They call themselves Harvard Alumni for Social Action, or HASA, and their goal is to prod the university to use its vast wealth, including its $35 billion endowment, in unprecedented ways, like supporting struggling colleges in Africa.

“There are large amounts of money being given to Harvard and other wealthy universities every year by classes like ours, and they don’t really need it,” said Jennifer Freeman, part of the HASA outreach committee for the Class of 1983. “They should be thinking of new things they could do with it, which would re-energize alumni and be good for the university, too.”

Both Drew Gilpin Faust, Harvard’s president, and her predecessor, Lawrence H. Summers, have been unwilling to even discuss the proposals. The development office, as fund-raising operations are known in the charitable world, politely refuses to share its list of alumni, frustrating HASA’s recruiting ability.

Does Williams “need” the money we donate? On one hand, obviously not. With a $1.9 billion endowment (although I suspect this number will go down once the new data comes out), the College is almost unimaginably rich. On the other hand, without ever increasing wealth, the College will inevitably fall behind its peers. Don’t care if Williams turns into, say, Gettysburg College? Stop giving and it will.

The trick, of course, is to make it easier for alumni to donate to causes that both benefit the College and about which they feel passionately. Previous discussion here. More suggestions welcome.

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