College augments spring break funds

Over the two-week spring break later this month, nearly 100 students will travel to different parts of the country and beyond U.S. borders to take part in one of eight alternative spring break projects. Trip costs for students are in large part alleviated by group fundraising, but also by College funding, which has undergone alteration this year. New policies dictate the way in which groups apply for and receive funds from the College.

Unlike last year, when group organizers had to approach several different campus offices for grants, the Center for Community Engagement (CCE) decided to pool contributions, combining their own funding with grants from the Lehman Council, the Dean’s Office, the President’s Office, the Multicultural Center, the Gaudino Fund and the Office of Campus Life.

“Consolidating the process of assembling and distributing funding for trips was intended to streamline the process for all concerned, and I think it actually worked that way,” said Rick Spalding, college chaplain and community service coordinator.

College Council (CC), which serves as an additional resource for funding student groups, decided not to contribute to the CCE’s pooled funding. CC opted instead to continue rewarding grants only to student groups that approached it directly.

“CC’s decision not to join the CCE’s funding pool really has to do with CC’s desire to maintain some discretion over how student funds are spent,” said Rachel Levy ’09, former CC treasurer. “This also provides us with the opportunity to make sure that student funds are being allocated to the groups that need them the most.” Although CC did not join the funding pool, the treasury board did extend grants to student groups who approached them, depending on the trip’s need.

Although the current financial situation has called for budget streamlining in many places, the money available to alternative spring break trips did not decrease this year. Spalding pointed out that this year’s total pool of $16,900 is larger than the $14,900 total contributed last year.
“Given the budget reductions that everyone at the College has to make this year, the fact that the funding allocated to alternative spring break service trips went up this year instead of down is particularly significant,” Spalding said. He went on to mention that the Dean’s Office was able to contribute a slightly high amount of money this year, and that both the Multicultural Center and Office of Campus Life contributed to the fund for the first time.

In addition to CC and College funding, some trip’s funds came from affiliated on-campus religious associations. The Jewish Association, Williams Catholic and the Christian Fellowship are each sponsoring humanitarian projects and helping to cover the costs of their respective trips.
The spring break groups have seen success this year in making their trip costs more manageable, in part due to the generosity of College funding. In addition, groups have traditionally been able to find other ways to raise money on campus. The Hurricane Relief Coalition group, who will be working with Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans, worked with Dining Services to hold a benefit dinner in Greylock dining hall last week. Maddy Haff ’11, co-organizer of the trip, explained that their CCE grant, along with funds from the dinner, covered the price of their trip enough so that participating students only have to cover their tickets home and a $50 participant fee.

The First-Year Bible Study group was able to gain additional donations for their trip to Chicago. “We had a fundraising coffee house event in Dodd that raised some money as well,” said Carl Vos ’09, one of the trip’s coordinators. “Additionally, we have asked a few local churches that several students attend for their support.” Vos added that the organizers were able to lower the student cost down to $50 from $75.
The type of funding that the groups have received is something of a unique feature to the College, according to Spalding. “Williams is one of the only colleges I know that allocates so much funding to spring break service trips like these,” he said. “In many schools, students who want to participate in trips like this have to pay the whole cost.”

Spalding explained that student service engagement has expanded steadily since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The financial support provided by the College is in many ways due to both the student initiatives taken as well as the lessons learned through service projects. “The recognition that these experiences are valuable on a number of different levels – as humanitarian hands-on service, as experiential education, as an immersion in issues of social justice and social transformation – probably accounts for the higher funding priority,” he said.