Consider this solicitation (pdf) from the Gargoyle Society:

On this frigid homecoming day in Williamstown, I write to you as a fellow member of the Gargoyle Society because Gargoyle needs your help.

As you know, the Society has long been known as a positive agent of change at Williams−from the abolition of fraternities, the establishment of the College Council, to the creation of the JA system. More recently, we conducted a comprehensive reassessment of the Williams honor code, reviewed the role of alcohol on campus culture, and championed an increased focus on students’ mental health. In addition, Gargoyle made a key donation that helped ensure the completion of the new Sawyer library and reconstruction of the historic Preston room.

In the wake of decreased direct financial support from the College, however, that important donation has had a larger-than-expected impact on the Society’s limited endowment. As a result, Gargoyle’s efficacy has been limited. That is why we have come to you, notable alums of the Society, to ask for your help. So, please make a donation to the Gargoyle Society−in any amount. You played an important role in the Society’s lauded past, and we need you now to help ensure
its future.

1) If Gargoyle wants to raise money, it needs to be more engaged. For example, there is no way to find out the current members of Gargoyle or what they are working on. Past delegation membership was listed in WSO. Sometime in the last few years, some Gargoyles decided that they wanted to keep their membership secret. That is stupid, and makes money raising much harder. Why would anyone give money to a group with a secret membership? Gargoyle should tell all applicants for the 124th delegation that the membership will be public.

2) Is Gargoyle not subject to the rules associated with student fundraising? Recall the controversy over Uncomfortable Learning soliciting alumni to pay for speakers. From the Student Handbook:

Students who wish to raise money for any campus activity by soliciting alumni, foundations, or other sources of funds must receive advance approval. Students interested in fundraising should contact the Assistant Director for Student Involvement in the Office of Student Life at least two weeks in advance. Most fundraising requires approval from the Dean’s Office, the Provost, and the Vice President for College Relations.

I bet that Gargoyle did not receive approval since, I bet, the College never (?) allows student groups to raise money in this fashion.

3) I am in favor of direct solicitation of alumni. Recall:

WSO hackers like pizza. Three years ago, they (jokingly) solicited PayPal donations for their pizza fund. I bought them $200 worth. This made them happy, since neither College Council nor the Williams Administration is likely to fund their eating habits. It made me happy because I got to contribute something small but tangible to a student group that I like and respect. Every Eph wins.

Why doesn’t this sort of interaction happen more often between students and alumni? Because College bureaucrats trust neither students nor alumni to behave responsibly, at least as far as fund-raising is concerned. The College wants to control the money. It does not trust students to ask for reasonable things. It does not trust alumni to refrain from funding unreasonable requests. It worries that student awkwardness will harm its relationships with alumni donors.

Read the whole thing. If Gargoyle has not yet chosen a project for the year, creating Ephs Choose would be a worthy one.

4) Is it just me or does Gargoyle seem less effective/important recently? Back in the day, each Gargoyle worked on their own projects, sometimes along and sometimes with others. Gargoyle was a platform which engaged students could use to try to improve Williams however they saw fit. It was a useful platform because random administrator X was more likely to engage with you if you came to her as “Ephraim Williams, a member of Gargoyle” instead of “Ephraim Williams, random student.” Weekly meetings were useful because they provided a forum for updates, information sharing and encouragement. You felt bad if you weren’t accomplishing much on your project because you knew that your spot on Gargoyle could have gone to someone who would have worked hard.

Now, however, there is only one Gargoyle project each year. (Perhaps a recent Gargoyle could explain/clarify?) The entire delegation decides in the fall to work on X and then spends the year working on X. This seems a recipe for accomplishing nothing. First, what happens when members disagree about X? In the old days, that was not a problem because you worked on your project and I worked on mine. What happens when a member does not care about X? Why should she work on it? My concern is that Gargoyle has turned into a society which rewards people for what they have already done on campus rather than providing them with impetus for accomplishing more. If that concern has merit, I would predict that people like the editor of the Record and the co-presidents of College Council are more likely to be members now than they used to be. That is a mistake because those Ephs already have a platform to use and more than enough stuff to work on.

My advice: Go back to the old system of individual projects. Select next year’s members based on what they propose to improve at Williams and their likelihood of achieving their goals. Gargoyle membership is not a reward, it is a promise.

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