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.
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. 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.
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!
 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1038/oby.2001.108/full (Fn. 113-115, and see „Educational Settings“ portion of article.)