University News

Student activities endowment to get $1M

Senior Staff Writer
Friday, March 11, 2011

Clarification appended.

Chancellor Emeritus Stephen Robert ’62 P’91 pledged $1 million to the student activities endowment yesterday and has promised to lead fundraising towards its $17 million goal. Robert called President Ruth Simmons yesterday morning to discuss the endowment, created by the Undergraduate Council of Students, after reading yesterday’s Herald editorial critiquing the lack of contributions to the fund, he said.

Set in motion under the leadership of Ryan Lester ’11, a former UCS student activities chair, the endowment was created two years ago in an effort to reduce the $178 student activities fee currently paid annually by undergraduates. Simmons provided the endowment’s first — and until now, only — donation, personally giving $100,000 soon after the endowment was established.

“I thought, ‘this is ridiculous,'” Robert said of the fund’s stagnation. In particular, he cited concerns that with rising tuition and other auxiliary costs, the student activities fee might make it harder for students to “make ends meet.”

“It’s just another little burden that it would be better if students didn’t have to carry,” Robert said.

UCS President Diane Mokoro ’11 said she hoped Robert’s donation would jump-start the endowment, possibly inspiring others to follow suit. Ideally, she said, the money “wouldn’t be touched” until the endowment reaches the target of $17 million.

“If the endowment actually comes to fruition, it would be a great testament to how Brown feels about activities and their importance in creating the fuller individual,” Mokoro said.

Though she welcomes the gift, Mokoro said Robert’s offer to spearhead fundraising is more important.

“Everybody’s really excited — like, beyond excited,” she said. “It’s one of those projects that has been worked on for years and years.”

Robert said he wants to collaborate with UCS and other student organizations to raise the funds. He plans to solicit larger donations as well as whatever contributions students can afford to give.

“I love to see kids give, even if it’s a very small amount of money, because it gets them in the habit,” Robert said.

Ralanda Nelson ’12, student activities chair for UCS, said the council will have to “pick up the pace” in the future to raise funds for the endowment.

Nelson said future steps involve creating brochures to send to the donors Robert identifies. Next year, she said she expects UCS will hold phone banks to recruit potential donors, as well as have students speak in their hometowns about the importance of activities.

Nelson added that UCS has previously met with the Office of University Advancement to find cities where the University has historically found fundraising success.

“It’s something (students) told me they wanted, and I wanted to be accountable to Brown undergraduates,” she said.

Mokoro said a successful student activities endowment could fund events such as Spring Weekend or mock trial trips, as well as eliminate extra fees students may currently pay to take part in activities.

“I think the goal is to have it that any student can participate in any activity they want to without having to worry about the cost,” she said.

Robert said he thinks student activities are “extremely important” in helping students learn from each other.

“We go to enormous lengths to have diversity of the student body,” Robert said. “But you lose a lot of that if students don’t have activities and don’t have a place to convene.”

A previous version of this article stated that the student activities endowment was the “brainchild” of Ryan Lester ’11. The endowment was established under his leadership, but members of UCS conceived of the endowment before Lester assumed his position as student activities chair.