I hope you’ve all been made aware of President Bottomly’s $11,000 gift in good faith to College Government (CG) either by attending Senate, reading our Senate minutes from the past three weeks, attending House Council meetings or reading last week’s Wellesley News editorial reflecting on last year’s first-ever execution of Ideafest—why that sum of money should sponsor such an event again this year and some ideas for making communally generated projects more effective.
I could not agree more with this editorial. However, Senate and I believe in the importance of having more constituents weigh in on how to allocate this addition to CG funds, precisely because there has never been a precedent for this gift.
My hope is that we as a campus can think expansively, optimistically and creatively on how to best use this money, in a way that would allow it to serve as many students as possible and encourage more knowledgeable groups to put their heads together in an innovative, dynamic way to carry out student-determined solutions to campus-wide problems. Because we already have a separate $11,000 pre-allocated to this spring semester’s Ballot Initiative (as we always do, per CG policy), I think there’s an opportunity and a charge here to think bigger and bolder. I hope you’ll join me and the rest of CG Cabinet in doing this.
The answer to this question, for me, is resoundingly Ideafest. CG Ideafest is a communal, Hackathon-esque event in which every student is invited to think innovatively about what student-run projects could be generated to better our community. The event was explicitly created to ensure that community change could occur on students’ terms, without relying on structural, administrative support.
Last year’s Ideafest had a pledge of $2,000–a sum of money coming directly out of CG funds—and addressed categories of equity, sustainability, wellness, career development, transportation, academics, arts and community service.
Students from co-ops, cultural organizations, residential life teams, sports teams, mental wellness organizations and all other parts of campus came together for over three hours to brainstorm, in targeted tables, solutions to those categories. Roughly 250 students attended Ideafest, and from that night, five events won the votes of those in the room. Some of these projects required money but some of them did not:
(1) Community Hoops, for which thirty-five $20 hoops were purchased from Cafe Hoop by CG and lended out to seniors to participate in Wellesley’s hoop-rolling tradition;
(2) Guerrilla Arts Workshops, allowing folks to develop greater appreciation for the arts through participation in communal art projects;
(3) Check-Out Fun, encouraging recreational material kits to be placed in each dorm, with items such as but not limited to pots and pans, boardgames, and balls;
(4) #TweeterPan, a free solution asking students to send out tweets regarding the loca- tion of the Peter Pan bus and
(5) “Event Guidebook” iPhone app, envisioned as an app to be created by a group of student programmers as a way of keeping track of and publicizing campus events.
Community Hoops was an immense success. We were able to distribute every hoop to a student who asked for one. Guerrilla Arts also materialized into several projects carried out during last spring semester in which our campus participated in group chalk murals or responded to questions on large sheets of paper—postered in public spaces—using hand-drawn images and doodles. #TweeterPan was adapted into a bigger Facebook group that is now widely used by folks on a daily basis to post—in one accessible location—the whereabouts of the Senate bus.
Although Check-Out Fun and Event “Guidebook” App did not take off from the ground in the way that folks had originally planned—and so did not receive their original pledged amounts from CG—that’s not to say that the follow-up meetings conducted after the event didn’t spark more ideas and opportunities to help along the community service element they were created for. The original project leaders—still active members of CG—are continuing to think creatively about how to best bring those ideas to fruition in their current CG Committees and in Senate.
This week, your Senators will be bringing back this discussion of what to do with CG’s $11,000 to House Councils and organization meetings for a fi- nal time before Senate will conduct an official vote on Nov. 9. All of you will be presented the four options that Senate as a body will be voting on: (1) allocating President’s Bottomly’s gift to Ideafest, (2) allocating a fraction of the gift to Ideafest, (3) using this gift to sponsor an additional ballot initiative in the spring.
In recognizing the newness—but also the huge potential—of events such as Ideafest, we have a very rare opportunity to pledge a sum of money we didn’t previously have to something that in only its first year brought together very different members of our community under this single charge of dreaming and planning, together. This second time around, I envision Ideafest featuring tables on themes such as but not limited to multiculturalism, accessibility, recreation, social life, equity, wellness and sustainability.
As I also mentioned in a previous President’s Corner, I’m looking to add to the mix both faculty and administrators, whose notions of past and present Wellesley are in- formed by their own rich memories, experiences and years spent as members in this community. I’m also hoping to make more rigorous the follow-up process for winning projects: appointing Executive Senators and my own College Government President’s Council members as managers and finding more creative, dynamic ways of informing the campus about project progress (perhaps through videos as well as regular visits to House Council). As this year’s President, I hope you’ll consider the momentous- ness and uniqueness of events such as Ideafest and not pass up this rare opportunity to realize them on a much grander scale: to pledge even more money to fund even more projects, to think even bigger about the impact of such projects on cur- rent and future students and to witness first-hand how our community strategizes and works together with funding right in our grasp and high hopes on the line.
All my best wishes,