by Sabrina Guilbeault ’18
At the very last meeting of the 68th Student Congress of Providence College, members of the congress passed a recommendation on the reallocation of the revenue made at Dunkin’ Donuts on campus from Catholic Relief Services to the politics of philanthropy class.
The recommendation, presented by Stachel Roberts ’18, a member of the class, and Sean Richardson ’20, stated that the funds will be used “for students of the class to distribute to community-based organizations based on values, interest, and causes chosen by students during the course.” The piece of legislation also stated that the reallocation works in accordance with PC’s “PC 200” initiative, as the reallocation of the funds will go toward providing “a rigorous and distinctive interdisciplinary academic experience that includes deep and unique connections among the liberal arts and professional courses of study.”
Professor Nick Loungo, head of the department of Public and Community Service at the College spoke to the Congress two weeks prior to the vote, and explained he was in full support of this piece, and valued student feedback and approval before moving forward.
John Sweeney, CFO of the College, explained that prior to 2012, “PC Perks” was located where Dunkin Donuts currently presides in Slavin. PC Perks worked similarly to the Ruane Café, where Starbucks was offered through Sodexo. When it was deemed necessary to place Dunkin Donuts on Campus, many student groups protests the move as not all of Dunkin Donuts coffee is not secured by fair trade.
According to Sweeney, when Dunkin’ was put in, sales went up between five and ten percent due to the longer hours offered by Dunkin’ and its popularity. “To meet the demands of students and help with the fair trade issue, we decided to donate revenue from Dunkin’ to Catholic Relief Services, which has a system that gives grants to fair trade and small grassroots organizations,” said Sweeney. “This program has had a huge impact, and we have at least $20,000 a year going to the program from PC.”
Sweeney explained that when Longo approached him about reallocating the Dunkin’ funds to the philanthropy class, he proposed that this move would not only support the local community, but provide students with an excellent education as they will be involved in real decision making. “Because we use the commission for trade, it was important to get student voices together to put together the proposal,” said Sweeney.
Roberts, who served as chair of the board for the class, explained that the class works as a board to come up with the grant, request for proposal, and application that organizations can submit to for the grant. “We also came up with a mission, and this year that was to help non-profits meet the immediate needs of the people they were serving,” she said.
This year, the class received funding from the Learning by Giving Foundation, the Bernard Ampers and Audre Rapoport foundation, and an anonymous donor.
Thirty organizations in Rhode Island applied for the class’ grant, and the class read through each application and went on site visits before selecting three organizations to receive a grant of $10,000 each. The selected organizations, which were celebrated by the class Wednesday night in ’64 Hall, are the following: Man UP, Inc., which works to “provide a broad range of unique workforce development and higher educational opportunities, resources and support services to adult men of color;” Easterseals, which provides services to “ensure that children and young adults with disabilities or special needs and their families have equal opportunities to live, learn, work and play in their communities;” and Fostering Families, which works to provide homes to all young adults in the community.
“We’ve had so many deep conversations, especially because we are working with real money that can make a real impact on the community,” said Roberts. “We each have our own personal values, and we have to find common ground with members of the class to select the organization we believe will make the most impact with the grant.”
The concept of “impact” is essential to grant-giving. Roberts explained that the PSP professors require organizations who have received the grant to write memos explaining what they do with the money, and push students to think about impact when they are going through the decision-making process.
According to Sweeney, he would like to see the Dunkin’ revenue contine to support CRS at the same level in addition to supporting the class. “Fair trade and fair payment is still an issue that resonates with our students,” said Sweeney. “Plus, as global citizens, we have seen the revenue from Dunkin’ make an impact globally through CRS.”
The College has three-year agreements with CRS to help them in planning what services they can provide and offer.
Sweeney expects more Dunkin’ revenue will be made in future years as the College is currently working with Dunkin’ through their To-Go app to prepare student orders before they get to Slavin to help assist with the long lines. If this works, a possibility of renovating Dunkin’ to meet new demands and orders is being discussed. “It’s definitely been a discussion we’ve had,” said Sweeney. “It would benefit the students with a speedier service.”
Sweeney explained that student support in this decision was extremely necessary, and the recommendation still needs to be taken to the cabinet and the president’s office. “When you are running a college, you need to work with the students and see what they want,” said Sweeney. “If this is something impactful and what our students want, then we will go with it, but we will always be evaluating how impactful it will be, because there are a lot of places the revenue could go.”
As for the class, which is cross-listed with political science, PSP, and the business school, and fulfills the civic engagement proficiency, Roberts insists that if students can fit it in their schedule, they should consider taking it.
“It was such a great way to be civically engaged,” said Roberts. “The whole experience was great, and I learned a lot about what philanthropy really means.”