I just wanted to pass
on the New York Times article below about an interesting new student initiative
to impact policy with student ideas. I’ll acknowledge that I’m biased to the
cause since I know the group’s leaders and they’re wonderful… but I think the
article speaks for itself in saying why this is such an important



The New
York Times – 5/25/2005 – Hoping to Make Policy Waves, and Graduate,

to read the article on the New York Times’

Published: May 25, 2005

Calif. – Most of the newly minted research fellows at one of the newest public
policy institutions in the country have yet to be published in a scholarly
journal or to present a paper at an academic conference. Most do not even have a
bachelor’s degree.

But the Stanford University students who
recently founded the Roosevelt Institution, billed as the nation’s first
student-run policy research group, say the intellectual capital of college
students is an untapped resource.

The goal of the Roosevelt Institution, organizers say, is to bring the ideas
of students to the attention of politicians, policy makers and the news media
rather than let them "end up in a professor’s filing cabinet."
Officially, Roosevelt is nonpartisan, but its philosophy tends to be liberal.

Though the organization is barely four months old, it could quickly become
one of the largest policy research groups in the country, said Quinn Wilhelmi, 20, a Stanford sophomore from Eugene, Ore., and
the institution’s executive director.

"Every college campus is a think tank, and
we already have 15 million potential members," said Mr. Wilhelmi, a religious studies major. "All we’re doing
is organizing those existing voices and creating a mechanism by which students
are given a part in the policy process."

The institution has already attracted hundreds
of members at Stanford and is expanding nationally. Membership is free and does
not require submission of a paper. New branches are popping up at 30 other
universities across the country, and students at Yale,

Columbia and Middlebury
are among the first to organize their own Roosevelt Institution chapters based
on the Stanford model. The groups are linking up through the institution’s Web site,
rooseveltinstitution.org. Roosevelt’s
president, Kai Stinchcombe, 22, said disappointment at the outcome of the 2004
election was the catalyst for the institution’s founding. Mr. Stinchcombe, a
political science doctoral student from Evanston,Ill., with a background in
political activism, said a policy group of students seemed like something that
should already exist but did not.

"Everybody asks students for energy, nobody asks them for ideas,"
he said. "The election showed us that we needed an establishment to
generate progressive ideas."

Named for Presidents Theodore and Franklin D.
Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt, the group is organized around more than a
dozen policy committees, focusing on issues like international development and
progressive religious perspectives.

The students were considering a "Hoover
Watch" committee to provide a counterweight to Stanford’s
conservative-leaning policy group, the Hoover Institution, but have backed off.
Instead, they have been seeking advice from its staff and fellows. Within the
next few months, the organization plans to publish several thousand copies of a
100- to-200-page journal of student policy research, The Roosevelt Review, to
be distributed to policy researchers, lawmakers and journalists.

Roosevelt fellows at Yale presented the mayor and Board
of Aldermen of New Haven with a report examining the impact of a proposed
living-wage law on the city.The Stanford chapter recently posted its first
policy papers on the institution’s Web site, including a review of
religion-based initiatives, the Bush program that makes it easier for religious
groups to get government money for social programs. In April,

Organizers say interest in the institution has grown faster than they
anticipated. But for all of its promise, even the group’s leaders acknowledge
the challenges.

The institution lacks a steady source of
financing; it has been surviving on small private donations collected on its
Web site and at a few house parties the students have held on campus. Mr.
Stinchcombe and Mr. Wilhelmi say they hope to court
larger donors, but in the meantime they have run up large balances on their
credit cards to keep the institution running.

Even if the students prove to be successful
fund-raisers, producing first-rate research and managing a multicampus
policy institution could overwhelm the most involved
Roosevelt fellows, who also have to find
time for their studies. Larry Diamond, a senior fellow at
the Hoover Institution, said that while he supported the idea of a student
policy research institute, the Roosevelt Institution would eventually need a
permanent staff.

"Anything that might get young people more
involved in public affairs and politics is a good thing," Mr. Diamond
said. "But it’s always difficult for students to make something like this
work because they’re only here for a few years and then they go on. The problem
of continuity is enormous."

The Roosevelt Institution’s fellows are the
kind of students who spend the summer volunteering with genocide survivors in Rwanda or studying international trade policy at
the World Bank in Brazil. This
summer, Roosevelt leaders plan to shop The Roosevelt Review around

They also have an impressive list of advisers that includes William J.
Perry, a former defense secretary who is also a senior fellow at the Hoover
Institution; Steve Westly, the California state
controller; and Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, a granddaughter of President Franklin

As with other entrepreneurial projects that
started near Stanford, the Roosevelt Institution might exceed expectations,
said Mr. Westly, a former eBay executive.

"But when I started at eBay, no one thought we would have a larger market
cap than Ford and G.M. either.""Whether they will end up being as
influential as a place like the Brookings Institution, I don’t know," said
Mr. Westly, a likely candidate for governor of
California in 2006.

The question of influence is central to the Roosevelt Institution’s future.
Without an infusion of cash and a steady stream of good ideas, Mr. Diamond said
the student group was unlikely to have the clout of some of the country’s
better-known research organizations, like the Hoover Institution.