In support of residential life staff pay, President Kim Bottomly generously gifted the College Government an $11,000 endowment to replenish the ballot initiative that had originally funded the Student Leadership Stipend. Not only will student leaders receive monetary compensation from the College, but the student body can now use the $11,000 gift for projects focused on improving student and academic life at Wellesley. The endowment entails countless options, but using the money to finance an Ideafest project will both respond to students’ persistent demands and encourage the Wellesley community to collaborate on community projects.
While ballot initiatives are worthwhile endeavors, an IdeaFest provides a communal, vast distribution of opportunity to many students. Instead of one ballot receiving the entire lump of money, an IdeaFest allows multiple projects to be pitched and funded. Likewise, it allows Wellesley students outside of College Government to participate in the process of creating campus change. Last year, 250 students showed up to the first Ideafest meeting and contributed their ideas and concerns to everyone else involved. Concerns most people brush aside materialized as a common issue during the meeting — even something seemingly trivial like the Senate Bus schedule or the lack of exciting activities in the dorm. The College Government does its best to communicate regularly with the student body, but regular email updates provide only a one-way communication. Ideafest meetings can enable a better exchange of information between the CG and the students. Allowing students to collectively decide the terms of their own life closes the gap between the Government and the student body and brings common concerns to the forefront.
However, an Ideafest project should be a continuous process, not limited to one productive meeting at Tishman Commons. For example, a group of students last year came up with an excellent Ideafest project named “#TweeterPan”; basically, a Twitter hashtag that allows people to check updates on Peter Pan delays, weather, and traffic. However, not until later did the project members figure out that most Wellesley students prefered Facebook over Twitter, and “#TweeterPan” was quickly dropped to make room for a Transportation Updates Facebook Page. Resources and time were needed to update the new project. Scheduling follow-up meetings every month could prevent the chaotic scramble that results from project or idea changes.
Moreover, several Ideafest projects that were supposed to materialize by the end of the year have failed to do so or not become as apparent. In addition, some of the Ideafest projects, while useful, detracted from addressing campus concerns at large. While purchasing a box of fun games and activities per dorm can contribute to improving mental health on campus, an Ideafest project could have larger impacts and can tackle the campus issues, such as mental health, at a higher level. Rather, the $11,000 should be focused on projects that fulfill purposes other than those of existing organizations. They should be innovative and creative.
Along with the visionary projects, the $11,000 should tackle glaring campus issues. For example, we have yet to attain sustainability. Several concerns permeate the campus, such as food waste in dining halls and campus water supply. Waste management and basic resources are important issues anywhere one goes, and neglecting such issues can threaten the health of the student body. The issue of campus sustainability itself is a broad topic that branches off into many lines of inquiry. How can provide beverages in lectures without spending environmental capital recklessly? What are inventive ways we can get students to increase their green footprint? The possibilities are endless.
The $11,000 endowment is a great opportunity to launch a new Ideafest project, but we as a student body need to devote our most valuable resource (time) to research an idea and create something that will not only improve our lives, but also future Wellesley generations. It is essential we improve the residential and academic life not only of ourselves, but of those in the future. By allowing numerous student projects to be funded, both College Government and the Wellesley community would be making a strong support of start-up culture. Effectively, dedicating $11,000 to independent projects would be in spirit of our motto: Non ministrari sed ministrare.