Returning the Favor

by Sandeep Ramesh | 5/3/04 5:00am

The world can be a better place if we constantly remind ourselves of the immortal words spoken by former "Male Model of the Year," Derek Zoolander: "I'm pretty sure there's a lot more to life than being really, really good looking. And I plan on finding out what that is." Luckily for Zoolander and other aspiring male models, we have already found what that something "more to life" is: it's being really really supportive of UNICEF-Dartmouth recognition.

Eva Vivalt's "Tips for a New Organization," (The Dartmouth, April 28) presented a few ideas on how to get UNICEF recognized. Thank you for your tips, Eva. However, such kindness and advice cannot go unreciprocated. Therefore, Eva, I have a few tips for you.

Tip Number One: "To know that we know what we know, and that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge" (Henry David Thoreau). This tip is particularly helpful in the context of your advice that "instead of blitzing the Tucker Foundation, go over there and talk." If, in fact, we know that we know what we know, then we know for certain that your tip has already been played out. Moreover, what you don't know that we know is that several UNICEF members have personally talked to representatives of the Tucker Foundation. Indeed, on two occasions, UNICEF's attempts to make an appointment to meet with Tucker representatives have been ignored for mysterious reasons.

Tip Number Two: "Razors are not just for shaving." In discussing UNICEF recognition hurdles, it would serve us all to "step back" (as you suggest) and recall Occam's Razor: The simplest answer is often the correct one. I was told once that this translates in Latin to "pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate." In your letter, you create proverbial "doomsday" scenarios, arguing that if Tucker recognizes UNICEF, then "a plethora [of fundraising groups] would spring up -- think the Red Cross, etc. -- and it would be overwhelming to handle." Think not of the Red Cross; instead, just think about two simple points.

First, as evidenced by the past few terms, UNICEF's mission is decidedly not fundraising as you claim. Specifically, UNICEF has been working on a petition campaign (signing one's name on a sheet of paper is surprisingly quite cheap), preparing a kite-flying event with local children to celebrate Children's Day and even promoting a commitment to early education by setting up interactive programs with elementary schools in the Upper Valley. Close examination will reveal that the total amount of money raised by these non-fundraising activities is zero dollars and one cent. This point alone renders your criticism a massive non-sequitur.

Second, let's not pretend that UNICEF recognition would end up restaging the sliding deck chairs on the Titanic. The simple fact is UNICEF requires no college money, no college oversight or consultants, and no college resources in general. All that is required is a BlitzMail account and the ability to reserve legitimate meeting rooms -- not the small jail cell study rooms in Baker-Berry Library -- for the 100-plus interested members. Just remember the words of international male model, Derek Zoolander: "What is this? A center for ants? How can we be expected to teach children to learn how to read if they can't even fit inside the building?"

Tip Number Three: "To see the right and not to do it is cowardice" (Confucius). Your point that "even though the College's system might be frustrating it just throws you on a detour" is undoubtedly the logic of infinite resignation. This is precisely the overly cautious ethic that makes genuine possibilities of a world outside the "matrix". Not a big fan of that phrase, I'm not sure its relevance is impossible. Yes, you are correct that "there is a lot a group can do while unofficial," but this does not mean that UNICEF should not be recognized. Obviously, there is a lot more an official group can do both in the material sense of obtaining mere space to host weekly meetings and the symbolic sense of acquiring local and national legitimacy via the college's solid name backing UNICEF's worthy causes.

Of course, the inability to gain recognition is without a doubt a detour, to borrow your word. But, I prefer not to get lost. Thus, Tip Number Four: Throw away roadmaps.