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Ephs Choose Rugby

Donate money to Williams Rugby: Who recalls my EphsChoose idea?

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Spring Street Books

Spring Street Books seems like a great organization.

Spring Street Books.org hopes to make the Williams Community a better place by helping students find and sell used textbooks on campus, assisting the search for cheap books on the internet, and donating profits back to the community.

The idea for Spring Street Books was originally conceived in the Mills 2 common room in the spring of 2008.

SpringStreetBooks.org was purchased and work began on October 1st 2008 by Joey Kiernan. Six days later, a preliminary beta site was released to the Williams community on a WSO discussion.

Currently, the Spring Street Books Board of Directors includes: Peter Huang, Joey Kiernan, Briana Marshall, Jared Nourse, Rachel Teitelbaum, Evan Skorpen, and Jack Wadden.

Great stuff. Latest news here. Have any readers used Spring Street Books? To the extent that these students hope to create an organization that will outlive their time at Williams, they ought to recruit faculty members and/or Williamstown-area alumni to their Board.

If they are ever interested in branching out beyond books, EphsChoose needs leaders . . .

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Surprising Opposition

Sad news in the latest Record:

In the months since College Council Co-Presidents Jeremy Goldstein ’09 and Peter Nurnberg ’09 took office last February, they have used their position both to pursue their goals and to address student issues that have arisen on campus.

The three issues that made up the majority of the presidents’ campaign platform have not, however, come to fruition for various reasons. First, they have been unable to allow alumni to earmark up to $50 donations to specific student organizations. Nurnberg and Goldstein hoped that if enacted, this program would increase donations from alumni who felt a connection with specific groups more so than to the College as a whole.

Upon exploring the idea, Goldstein and Nurnberg encountered “surprising opposition” from administrators. “We met with a lot of different people, but in the end they weren’t receptive to the change,” Goldstein said. “They had their reasons – good reasons. There were concerns that earmarking would detract from the donations to the College as a whole, and there were problems with the equity of different student groups with respect to how supportive alums might be.”

Who could have predicted that the Administration would try so hard to block this worthy effort? Me.

College officials will try to delay you, will insist that they are interested in working with you on this project. Trust me: they’re not. They hate this idea. They will do everything they can to stop it, including every college officials’ favorite trick: smiling delay. If they can keep you busy with proposals and meetings for a few months, they know that you will lose interest and then graduate.

Most importantly, the College will try to stop you – will insist that it is interested in your ideas and wants to “help” you. The Sirens of Hopkins Hall will claim that you don’t need a separate organization, that the Alumni Office is eager to assist you and that your effort falls naturally in the work that the College is already doing. Avoid those rocks.

Previous discussion here. Don’t Goldstein and Nurnberg read EphBlog? They needed to set up a separate organization. I, and other alums, were standing by to help them. They failed. Were they ever really that interested in the idea in the first place? I don’t know.

But, good news! It is not too late! If Goldstein and Nurnberg are actually interested in, you know, accomplishing something rather than just burnishing their resumes they can start Ephs Choose right now. They don’t need an OK from the Administration. It is a free country. Then again, it takes time to find just the right font . . .

Saddest part is that the listed objections are so pathetic. There is zero evidence that directed donations would detract from aggregate College fundraiser. Writing a check for $200 to WSO does not make me less like to contribute to the Alumni Fund. If anything, the opposite is probably true. The more connected that I feel to Williams, the more likely I am to contribute. (But it is also true that directed donations decrease the power of the Alumni Office and Administration. That’s the real issue.)

Issues of equity among student groups is a feature of the process, not a problem. If WSO is better than WUFO at raising money, then that’s a useful lesson for my WSO buddies. Learning how to get strangers to give you money is one of life’s more important skills. If you are not good at it now, you should get better by practicing, not look to Hopkins Hall (read: Mommy) to bail you out. A competent EphsChoose board of directors will also ensure that each student group can only request X dollars worth of projects. Once they are maxed out, donors will have to select from the remaining options from other student groups.

EphsChoose is my official Best Idea of 2008. Surely there are at least some students at Williams who agree . . .

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EphsChoose Again

Some kooky alum has an op-ed in the Record on EphsChoose. Other discussion here. Even though I think that this is a great idea, my prediction is that nothing meaningful will come of it because Williams administrators will be able to cajole/trick the interested students into dropping the project. The College is happy to have students fund-raise for projects that the College already approves of. It will do everything it can to prevent students from contacting alumni about projects it would not otherwise fund.

With luck, students will prove me wrong.

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What I Said

Just back from a fun speech and dinner. More details later. In the meantime, here is a copy of my prepared remarks. I will probably take these down in a couple of days (since I plan to give the same talk next year), but feedback on the substance is always welcome. (Apologies for the formatting.)

Also, for those interested, I will be speaking to the Purple Bull Investment Club at 1:00 PM Sunday in the Rogers Room at the top of Hopkins Hall. I don’t have prepared remarks but will be happy to talk about whatever the members are interested in. I will certainly try to sell them on the idea of working more closely with EphBlog to create a forum at which students and alums might discuss finance. 

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Thankathon

Why not cut out the middle man from this?

Help support the Alumni Fund and earn additional funds for your Williams student athletic team, club, or organization. Each hour that is spent by each student sending Thank Yous to Williams Alumni for their contribution to the Alumni Fund is counted toward the 25-hour goal, which is necessary for each reward.

So, I send in money to Williams so that it will fund student organizations that I care about. Great. The College then bribes students from those organizations to send me a thank you note. Perhaps we should cut out the middleman by having me send my money directly to those student organizations. Remember Ephs Choose? Read that post. Most of my goofy ideas are too nuts to work. But not that one! That one was genius. More to come in 2008 . . .

By the way, it’s the last day for 2007 charitable donations. Feel free to suggest worthy Eph-related causes in the comments. I’ll start with A Window Between Worlds, founded by Cathy Salser ’88. Other recommendations welcome.

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EphsChoose

Hey Gargoyles! Have I got a project for you . . . (or anyone else who wants to fundamentally alter the relationship between Williams and its always-loyal alums).

Upon reading that Matt Furlong ’10 lacked funding to participate in an unpaid internship this summer working for a “NYC-based NGO, uNight, which advocates and runs programs for the victims of Northern Uganda’s 20-year-long civil war,” Brent Yorgey ’04 offered

to support his cost of living while doing the internship with uNight. If other readers of EphBlog were willing to do the same, we could probably raise a good amount of money. Do others think this is a good idea?

I think that it is an amazing idea but one which applies much more broadly than just to Matt and Brent. Consider the work of Donors Choose, “the future of American philanthropy.”

DonorsChoose has won several awards as the most innovative nonprofit in the United States. Best’s brainchild was to create a market in teacher proposals, which are posted on donorschoose.org in informal, non-grants-proposal language by the teachers themselves. So for example, this week a teacher in Richton, Mo., posted a request for a $392 camcorder for her kids to act out stories they’re reading; a teacher in New York City asked for a rug on which to read stories to kindergarteners ($474); and a teacher in a 100 percent low-income school in Los Angeles wants a $414 telescope to teach astronomy to her students. Donors scroll through the hundreds of proposals (searchable by region, subject, level of school poverty, etc.) and fund them in whole or in part with a couple of clicks. If there’s no market for the proposal, it doesn’t get funded, though most eventually do. DonorsChoose handles all of the discounted purchasing from vendors, so no money goes directly to the teacher.

Genius. If there had been a way for Matt to post his proposal (quick — someone check the domain status of www.ephschoose.org), Brent would have already donated him the money, and gotten a tax deduction. But, without a mechanism to easily coordinate the transaction, this is tough to pull off. More comments below:

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