Guiding Principles

The Sportula: Guiding Principles

  • We are open to all, and reject donor/recipient power structures in favor of mutual aid.

We provide microgrants to students equally regardless of institutional affiliation, research interests or academic merit, or political affiliation. Although our founders personally stand in solidarity with radical leftist student and economic justice movements, we are here for ALL students including ones who may disagree with our political philosophy. We believe that no one should have to pretend to be someone they’re not or curry favor with power just to get their most basic economic survival needs met.

This is also why we seek to formalize/supplement the informal systems of micro-help already existing in contemporary classics departments—because these systems are often based on creating or maintaining relationships with professors and as such are disproportionately available to students who are already comfortable/connected within academia.

We also believe that one way to begin healing political fractures within our field is to “scale down” the conversation—from whether or not classics is inherently classist/colonialist for example, to how we can meet the small, non-explicitly-political needs of our currently marginalized students. Rather than debating Bertelli’s Columbia Spectator article for example, we want to be materially offering students like her what they concretely need—in their case money for a Greek summer course.

  • We are a BIPOC-led, multi-racial coalition that recognizes the intersections of financial need with other oppressed groups.

We affirm the complicated intersections of race and class. For some of us, especially Black and Latinx classicists, asking for money can feel especially fraught in the face of a culture that already stereotypes Black and Latinx communities as being inherently impoverished or blames us as individuals for the historical looting of our communities and labor. We conceive of giving to microgrants to BIPOC as the very least we personally can do to provide reparations for, for example, the at least $2 trillion and more properly $5.9-14.2 trillion dollars worth of Black labor stolen in the US alone.[1]

For other BIPOC, we may feel hesitant to ask for financial aid because our ethnic groups have been stereotyped as uniformly wealthy and on that basis “threatening” to white supremacy. In our experience teaching at UC Berkeley for example, we have met multiple economically marginalized Asian diasporic students whose struggles are erased by racist tropes of “wealthy Asians” that not only lump multiple cultures together but also elide the specific struggles of groups like Hmong, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Laotian, and Pilipinx students– who face some of the highest rates of poverty in the US.[2] As an entirely BIPOC led coalition, we especially encourage BIPOC students to ask for help and assure you all that your requests are being read by an organization mindful of your multiple identities.

Several of us are LGBTQ, and also recognize the intersections of homophobia, transphobia, and classism. We especially encourage queer and trans students to reach out for help with needs that aren’t covered by traditional scholarship programs. For example, if you are a transgender student who comes from financial security but needs a microgrant to cover the cost of a binder because your only access to that money is through your parents whom it is not safe to come out to—we are also here for you! We also affirm the experiences of those facing other forms of discrimination such as ableism, fatphobia, anti-semitism and Islamophobia, sexism, etc—and see these intersections as intimately related to class. For example, multiple studies have shown that fat women receive less parental financial support for college, even when controlling for parental education, income, ethnicity, and family size.[3]

We also see the way that our culture often invisibilizes or dismisses the class struggles of people such as straight white men who may not face other forms of oppression, and we see and take seriously that struggle too. We are in this for ALL economically needy Classicists.

  • We are a cultural organization as much as a financial one.

The Sportula’s raison d’être is not only to aid economically marginalized students financially, but to enact a cultural shift within the field of Classics. We dream of a field where economic need is unstigmatized, and the assumption Classics is a field for the wealthy and elite is expanded to include the lived experiences and resiliency of poor, working-class, and financially struggling classicists. We hope to one day produce zines, art, and anthologies about poor and working-class reception of the classics; but our first and more important focus will always be materially assisting students like us!

  • We aid students by any means necessary.

The Sportula is not afraid to provide “under the table” cash assistance to studnts for whom a more formal gift might reduce financial aid awards, get food stamps or GA taken away, put one’s status at risk as an undocumented person, etc. Just the way an entire industry exists to aid wealthy people in taking advantage of tax loopholes, etc. The Sportula prioritizes the immediate survival of economically marginalized students over institutional bureaucracy. While we ultimately plan to pursue 501 (c) or sponsored status, we will do so only if we are able achieve this without discarding needs like these. We affirm the power of diverse tactics, and respect those who may feel more comfortable donating to a charity that conforms to a more traditional stance. But we also feel that this policy of ours addresses a major gap left by these more traditional programs. We have already heard from multiple students who worried about our microgrants reducing their other forms of assistance, and we assure you that we will always be willing to work with you on this issue to prevent that if need be!



[3] (Fn. 113-115, and see „Educational Settings“ portion of article.)

How It Works (For now)

My name is Stefani Echeverria-Fenn, and if you are receiving this, that means you expressed interest in donating to The Sportula: Microgrants for Classics Students (or your friend pranked you by sending a wonderfully generous/heartfelt email to us in your name).

First: Thank you so, so much for reaching out! Even if I am too behind in reading for my PhD exams to respond to each one of you personally, I read every email and was so touched by every single one. Especially those of you who talked about how you wished this fund had been around when you were students/want to pay it forward.

Basically the way our fund works is: We currently have a slush fund of $2000. We’d love to keep/grow that as a reserve for students who have larger financial needs. Because we are still trying to gauge the volume/amount of requests we will be receiving, right now we encourage you to check our twitter ( periodically to see our work.

For now, until we can gauge how what’s most sustainable, we will be doing the following:

  • Answering all requests for aid out of our slush fund. That fund is Sportula on Venmo.
  • Once we’ve given the student that aid, we will post a screenshot (keeping the student anonymous) of the paypal/venmo transaction, any details about what it was used for if the student is comfortable with that, and solicit donations to cover that aid amount. Once we’ve recouped that amount, we will post on twitter that we made it/fundraising is over 🙂
  • Once we are able to keep this going successfully for a while, we might think about soliciting donations beyond ones that are pro re nata to grow our slush fund. But since so many of you aren’t rolling it in yourselves (somehow it always happens that the most generous people are often the ones who themselves don’t have a ton to spare) we’d like you to keep your money until we really need it!
  • If you’re not on twitter you can still see our account, but I will also be occasionally sending around mailing list updates about needs that we have difficulty recouping just from twitter outreach.

As it happens, just to show how much this is needed, we got our first request within an hour of our site going live today! We were able to send a brilliant undergrad $100 for a pair of required steel toed work boots so they can go on their otherwise-covered dig overseas this summer! So if you have some extra cash around… if everyone on this list contributed like $5 bucks we’d be able to recoup our costs for that (see our twitter for more details within 48 hours).

Thank you again for your interest!!

Why is the sportula so necessary?

“Yeah sure, let me just shell out a couple thousand dollars for a Greek class, more than my entire family contribution for the academic year,” I thought to myself, frustrated with what came across to me as my adviser’s failure to consider that some students don’t have the financial means to further their studies over the summer.”

“One of the many ways in which the schism between rich and poor in Britain is reflected educationally is in access to Greek and Latin grammar. In 2013 (the last year for which figures are available), 3,580 state-sector candidates took A-levels in classical civilisation or ancient history. Greek A-level was taken by 260 candidates; 223 of these were at independent schools, which only 7% of our children attend; Latin was taken by 1305 candidates, a depressing 940 of whom were at independent schools.”