Two Hundred Fifty Thousand Dollars!

Exciting news, everyone.

The Harry Potter Alliance, an innovative non-profit run by Brandeis alum Andrew Slack, recently won a $250,000 grant from the Chase Community Giving challenge on Facebook.

Woah dude. Congratulations are in order.

Let me tell you just a bit about the Harry Potter Alliance, and why it’s so great. First off, this what they have to say about themselves:

Did you ever wish that Harry Potter was real? Well it kind of is.

Harry and his friends start a student activist group called Dumbledore’s Army when the adults and politicians of their world fail to address the concerns of the day. The Harry Potter Alliance is a Dumbledore’s Army for the real world.

Just as Dumbledore’s Army wakes the world up to Voldemort’s return, works for equal rights of house elves and werewolves, and empowers its members, we:

  • Work with partner NGOs in alerting the world to the dangers of global warming, poverty, and genocide.
  • Work with our partners for equal rights regardless of race, gender, and sexuality.
  • Encourage our members to hone the magic of their creativity in endeavoring to make the world a better place.

Exciting, huh?

Here’s a more specific example: They might say something like “Hey! Weren’t you weirded out in the books where the Daily Prophet was the only newspaper around? What was up with that? That was Voldemedia – and it’s happening in the real world. That’s why we’ve partnered with the good folks at Free Press to stop it. Here’s how…”

It works really well. They join up with wizard rock and fan communities. (What’s Wizard Rock? Harry and the Potters. Draco and the Malfoys. Remus and the Lupins. All these are actual bands!)

Whereas many groups take existing activists and try to marshal them more effectively or just try to get them to do more (I call it the MoveOn model of online organizing), HPA is different. It grows the pie. It takes people who are passionate about making the world a better place and shows them how.

HPA is impressive. Their model works. They’re one of the most innovative and creative online organizers in the business, and their audience is totally different from all others. They have tons of volunteer staff, and very engaged members. I could go on. Maybe I will. But for now, let me just say this:

Andrew Slack is the man. He just got $250,000. Congrats!

Help bring cool alumni to campus

Tomorrow, at 1pm in the faculty club, a bunch of us are meeting Professor David Cunningham. Professor Cunningham is the head of the Social Justice Social Policy program. For his Social Movements class, Cunningham wants to bring kickass activist alumni or possibly just kickass alumni. After they show up, ARC will try and host them for dinner so they can chill with students.

Do you want to have a say on what kickass alumni come to campus? We can choose cool alumni or activist we like, get them to come to campus and teach us, and then we can learn from and chill with them afterward.

Plus, lunch with Cunningham! Do you want to show up? If more than 6 people show up, then we have to make reservations, I think. So email Professor Cunningham and tell him that you’re coming, or email me.

Did Too Much Debt Cause Brandeis’ Financial Woes?

The following was sent to the editors of Innermost Parts by a recent alumnus of Brandeis, who has been following the news and decided to do some of his own research on Brandeis’ finances. Most of his conclusions come after examining data from this document, the University’s publicly available FY 2007 990 tax form required of all non-profits. We thought his questions were compelling, and hope this post fosters further investigation and research. These are questions that need to be answered.

~ Loki & Sahar


During public conversations about the current state of Brandeis’ financial crisis, much has been discussed about the state of the University’s endowment and its current financial situation. However, none of the articles I have read in the Brandeis press or national press discuss the University’s substantial debt.

Numbers can tell a story. Hard data is necessary to look more deeply into the fiscal health of an organization. Numbers can also raise questions.

Every year all non-profits – including universities – must file 990 forms detailing their financial activities with the IRS. Brandeis last filed its 990 following FY 2007. At that time we were led to believe, from pronouncements in fundraising appeals and in the twice yearly Presidential letters, that the university was the paragon of financial health. Brandeis was in the midst of a successful capital campaign, which was bringing hundreds of millions of dollars into the University.  The financial crisis was not even on the horizon.

Yet that very year, Brandeis was saddled with debt. The University increased its liabilities (by issuing Tax Exempt Bonds and taking on Mortgage Debt) by $67 million, to more than $200 million — a 51% increase in debt in one year.

Continue reading “Did Too Much Debt Cause Brandeis’ Financial Woes?”