Newly Formed Colgate Student Coalition Raises Over 30 Thousand Dollars in First Five Days


Keilani Blas

Graphic by junior Keilani Blas

The Colgate Student Coalition launched last week, gaining more than 70 individual members and more than 100 campus student organizations as partners in just a few days. With a 13-day fundraiser for bail funds for arrested protesters in four major U.S. cities, the group intends to organize the Colgate community around national protests over the killing of George Floyd and police brutality.

The group launched its fundraiser on June 5 to benefit the Chicago Community Bond Fund, the Silicon Valley Democratic Socialists of America Bail Fund, the Dallas Luke 4:18 Bail Fund and the New York City Liberty Fund. Its fundraising goal is 72,585 dollars, the cost of one student’s tuition, housing, meal plan and student fees for a single academic year at Colgate. The Coalition worked with the University to set up a TouchNet page for donations, a donation forum through the Colgate Portal. 

“[The symbolic fundraising goal is] a good way of drawing in some Colgate people and saying, ‘we kind of have a duty to pay our respects and do what we can for the larger national community,’” organizing member and senior Haley Taylor said. 

The fundraiser raised over 30 thousand dollars in its first five days. Taylor said that the Coalition chose to donate to these groups because they address the immediate needs of protesters in areas with high protester mobilization such as Dallas, New York City, Chicago and Silicon Valley. The Coalition met some resistance toward its decision to donate to the political organization Democratic Socialists of Silicon Valley, but organizing member and senior Nik Rajavasireddy said that the donations will be directed to their bail fund, as the group is one of few that supports protesters in the San Francisco area. Since the donations are facilitated through a TouchNet page, donations must benefit non-profit organizations.  

The Coalition has also shared a list of resources on their website compiled by alumnae Hannah Adkins ’20 and Gracie Morgan ’20 and a 13 days of Education Challenge to help educate the community on racial disparities in the United States.

Organizers met with Chief of Staff and Secretary to the Board of Trustees Hanna Rodriguez-Farrar and other representatives of the school on Saturday, June 6. The Coalition members sought help from the University to mobilize the alumni network and utilize University resources for both the immediate fundraiser and future endeavors

Rodriguez-Farrar said that as an educational nonprofit entity, state and federal laws restrict the University from giving to other nonprofits, making donation matching impossible. This restriction, Rajavasireddy said, is also what has restricted several Greek organizations from donating leftover funds from canceled spring events. With regards to reaching out to alumni, faculty and staff, Rodriguez-Farrar said that donor privacy remains a barrier to allowing Coalition members full access to contacts, and that the precedent a University correspondence may set would open the door for any other group to request the same. The University, however, has sent the group a list of Facebook groups to reach out to, will help Coalition organizers target particular alumni who may be interested in the cause, and moving forward will help the Coalition with their activism, primarily with financial support toward speakers such as Black Lives Matter Founder Opal Tometi.

“I just feel like the school could be doing more to support [us],” Rajavasireddy said. “We thought [it] would be more supportive, and [it] totally might be [in the future].”

Rajavasireddy said these limitations have been frustrating for organizers. Given previous correspondence with University leadership and overwhelming student support for the Coalition, organizers expected greater University support. He also said that, intentional or not, he perceived that meeting members thought political Coalition efforts were misguided.

“In a broader, theoretical perspective, human rights aren’t political and shouldn’t be political,” Rajavasireddy said. “It’s semantic over what the definition of political is, [but] even if it [is] political, I feel like the University should take a stand on something this important.”

Organizer and senior David White said the Coalition formed the weekend of May 30 when juniors Joanna Rodriguez and Sarah Silverman asked if they, in their capacity as members of the Delta Delta Delta sorority, could help White organize a fundraiser in his role as Co-President of the Black Student Union. Immediately, White saw an opportunity for a bigger impact by including the larger Colgate community. 

As the group continues to grow, Taylor said she is glad there hasn’t been too much specific role delineation or hierarchical structure, meaning Coalition members contribute their own individual strengths and capabilities. The group, rather, is split into committees. When individuals show an interest in joining, they are added to the larger Coalition GroupMe and choose which committee they believe they will be most useful on. 

“Every time someone gets added in the chat, they come with at least two or three ideas, so it’s really refreshing,” Taylor said. “Seeing that there’s so much within our capabilities to do… I want it to encourage people to see that there always is something that can be done.”

When groups decide to partner with the Coalition, a liaison joins the larger GroupMe to allow for inter-group communication. Partnered organizations include cultural groups, Greek letter organizations and other student clubs.

“Because there are so many different student groups involved with so many different types of people, we have enough people in here to actually genuinely consider so many perspectives, so it’s like, how can we find ways to meaningfully support each other now that we just have the numbers to do that,” Taylor said.

Rajavasireddy said the overwhelming student support for the fundraiser and the Coalition is unprecedented. 

Just from a Colgate perspective, I don’t think there’s ever been a fundraiser or organization that’s gotten this many groups on campus involved. I don’t think there’s ever been a fundraiser that all of Greek life, as well as all of the different cultural clubs have been involved in. That shows that it’s a unified [effort,] [and it] demonstrates how the campus is speaking from a unified perspective,” Rajavasireddy said.

Though organizers are not entirely sure what the Coalition’s next steps will be after the fundraiser, Taylor said that she anticipates the coalition being a really important space for the Colgate community to engage in much-needed conversations about racial injustice and define the future of student activism on campus. 

“We’re such a small school, we have such a tight-knit community you have to be each other’s keepers and you have to look out for each other. You have to understand that everyone’s different and experiences impact how they interact with that campus community,” Taylor said.  “Especially with our annual racist incident, it’s very disheartening sometimes to be a part of the Colgate community and feel like you don’t belong, so I think that this is a good way [for] us to call on our peers to actually do something and hold themselves accountable.” 

White also said that he hopes to see the Coalition engage students in national conversations about injustice, picking different causes throughout the year, or partnering with minority groups in surrounding areas like the Village of Hamilton. 

Both Taylor and White said it has been an incredible personal experience to see the community mobilize to fight racial injustice.

“Seeing so many people who are not Black identifying come together and truly care about this cause and really try to promote peace really touches my heart,” White said. “As a black man, having to see these injustices that are perpetuated [against] other Black men and other Black people, in general, is a very disheartening thing to see and so [seeing] so many people come together and trying to combat this is truly heartwarming.”

Editorial Note: The Maroon-News is a partner of the Colgate Student Coalition.