Swish club brackets shut down in middle school


The Swish club has recently been limited in their effort to raise money for the Winchester Project, a charity in Swiss Cottage. The club has launched a campaign to capitalize on March Madness, the NCAA Division I basketball tournament, culminating the college season, by selling brackets to students, where they can predict the outcome of the tournament at each step, for £5 each. Prizes will be given to those who have the first, second and third most accurate brackets. Prizes range from a £150 Selfridge’s gift card, Arsenal or Chelsea soccer tickets, and NBA memorabilia.

While they have already grossed a decent amount of money, their profits have been truncated by being limited by the administration to only selling to High School students. While selling to the middle school, MS Coordinator of Student Life Payson Bullard shut down their efforts, and contacted K-12 Director for Service Learning Tamantha Bibbo, and Dean of Students Joe Chodl to permanently cut the club off from selling brackets to lower and middle school students.

Bullard , Chodl, and Bibbo all agreed that it was inappropriate to bring the younger children into the fundraiser, but it is unclear what the real issue was surrounding their exclusion.

Bibbo said that the administration tries to limit fundraising towards the lower schoolers as much as possible, especially because the students don’t really understand where their money goes or why they’re giving it away, and it essentially becomes asking ASL parents for money without a clear reason. In the middle school, Bullard is making a concerted effort to teach the students that community service isn’t just about money, but about action.

Bibbo articulated this point by saying the administration was trying to teach the middle school students that “[they] can’t always pay to solve world problems,” but instead they should ask themselves the question, “what actions can we do to make a difference?” Bibbo thinks that continually asking for money and not action from the middle school students will instill wrong values regarding community service, especially because there have been an unprecedented amount of fundraisers in the middle school community lately.

Recently two middle school students asked Bibbo for permission to raise money for Kiva, an organization aimed at alleviating poverty, to which she replied that they needed to wait until next year, so as to spread out the fundraisers more. So, when the Swish club came to sell to the middle school without asking for permission from Bibbo or explaining the goals and process of the fundraiser to the students, the administration didn’t think it was fair to the two girls who weren’t allowed to fundraise to allow the Swish club to conduct their fundraiser.

The reasons for limiting the swish club were not, however, limited to the surplus of fundraising activity in the middle and lower school. The club was told that the gambling aspect of the brackets system was inappropriate for middle school students. Chodl said that he “believes that the lines between gambling and charity are blurred in the middle school,” for “both the parents and the students.” He went further, saying that the gambling aspect was “absolutely” the reason why the Swish club was shut down, not even mentioning any other reasons, at the same time as Bibbo said “Gambling wasn’t so much the reason that the club was shut down, but that the members of the club didn’t ask permission and too many groups were already asking for money from the middle schoolers.”

The question is, if gambling was in fact an important factor in limiting the club, are seventh and eighth graders too young to understand what they are doing? In an email advertising the brackets fundraiser, it explicitly says “you are encouraged to participate no matter your basketball knowledge.” Chodl believed that despite basketball knowledge, it was “harder for a middle schooler to differentiate between charity and gambling.”

Whether or not the Swish club was limited by fear of gambling or a service learning philosophy, all thats left is for the club to continue working in the High School, and for the Middle School clubs and students to continue to serve in the capacities that best serve the community and themselves.