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Nominations to Run for the Board of Directors

In order to be a candidate for the board, nominees must either be a current member of an FC chapter or currently serving on the Board.

All nominees must provide a bio and a platform statement by e-mailing them to Bios + platforms are due Sunday, November 4, at 11:59pm Eastern Time.

List of Nominees

(in alphabetical order, by last name)

  • Brendan Ballou, Columbia
    • Nominated by Elizabeth Stark, Harvard
    • Bio:

Brendan Ballou (that's me!) is a junior at Columbia University (though I'm spending the year at that other English school - Cambridge University), majoring in philosophy. I founded Free Culture @ Columbia, where among other things we:

  • Put public domain versions of Columbia's Core Curriculum on 250 flash drives and gave them to students for free. If everyone who received a drive used only 1/3 of the books on them, we would have made $30,000 in textbook savings.
  • Built and distributed CULATOR, a modification of the Tor anonimyzation service that ran only on the Columbia campus, thus making it run much more smoothly and quickly. Ron Gejman is now working to build a version that will work on any Internet2 campus
  • Ran One Laptop Per Child's New York City Journalism Jam. In three days we built journalism and blogging software for students who will receive the laptops, and tested that software with real students in the area. The product produced may well be included on some of the laptops being sent to third-world countries

This biography sounds suspiciously like a resume, so let me just conclude by saying that I enjoy running, checking my email, and listening to Fleetwood Mac.

    • Platform:

The Free Culture movement is stronger for allowing its chapters a high degree of autonomy - one campus can focus on digital art, another on Internet privacy, and so on. But that sort of freedom can make it very hard to start a new chapter - without some set projects or national campaigns, it takes a huge amount of motivation and personal creativity to put together a working chapter. That's why I suggest that the national free culture organization offer at least two national campaigns a year - one for each semester - that new and existing chapters can choose to help with. The topics can be broad, but here are a few suggestions:

  • Wireless net neutrality. The right to attach the devices and applications of your choice to a wireless network is a pretty intuitive one for student our age - who hasn't been frustrated that the iPhone is locked to AT&T, or that the coolest cell phone apps are only available in Europe and Japan, where there is greater competition among carriers. I suggest Free Culture, with the help of Washington non-profits like Public Knowledge and the Media Access Project, draft a Petition for Notice of Proposed Rule-Making (PNPRM - not a pretty acronym) to the FCC, which would ask the commission to draft right-to-attach rules and submit them for public comment. If our PNPRM is any good it will help spark a debate within the FCC, online, and in the telecom industry. And if we're effective activists within that debate, we might just get a right to attach.
  • RIAA survival guide. Probably the most useful thing we can do for college students at a national level is connect people who are getting 'pre-litigation notices' from the RIAA with organizations like EFF. I suggest we combine existing resources to build an RIAA survival guide which new chapters can distribute to students. That way we'll be helping campuses and building new chapters' reputations.
  • Network neutrality. Free Press is continuing to do great work on this issue, and they're integrating it into a host of larger broadband deployment goals - rural Internet access, affordability, etc. We should consider sponsoring joint events on campuses with Free Press to not only build awareness of the issue, but to associate it with the youth vote. That way, congressmen and women may be more hesitant to vote against net neutrality legislation if they think it will cost them the 18-28 vote.

I don't want to change the organization into a top-down sort of structure - that just wouldn't do any good, and it wouldn't be much fun either. However, I think offering regular national campaigns that chapters can opt into will give existing chapters new momentum and new chapters the energy they need to get started.

  • Fred Benenson, NYU
    • Nominated by Elizabeth Stark, Harvard
  • Christopher Budnick, Northeastern
    • Nominated by Elizabeth Stark, Harvard
  • Kevin Driscoll, MIT
    • Nominated by Elizabeth Stark, Harvard
  • Christina Ducruet, Brown
    • Nominated by Nelson Pavlosky, current board member

Bio: I am a senior at Brown University in Providence, RI. I founded the Brown Free Culture last semester in reaction to the RIAA law suits on Brown's campus and other campuses throughout the country. Last semester we had a launch party to raise money for the students and also sought legal counsel from the EFF to advise students on how to deal with the threat of a lawsuit for illegal file sharing. This fall I coordinated with the Digital Freedom campaign to hold a panel on consumer rights in the digital age and a concert on Brown's campus as a part of the Digital Freedom University Tour. In addition to launching Brown's chapter, I have also worked closely with the national organization, helping current members of the SFFC board to coordinate volunteer efforts, manage press, and foster relationships with other organizations such as the Digital Freedom Campaign and EDUCAUSE.

Platform: I am interested in developing the foundation we provide new chapters in order to better equip them in their first year and to help sustain their initial momentum. I imagine this foundation would consist primarily of nationally coordinated chapter projects, promotional efforts and the establishment of a general guide based on the trial and error of established chapters. These goals presuppose strong communication between the national and the local that I would advocate as a board member. In addition to this inward focus, one of my main priorities would be to nurture relationships with outside organizations who could help SFFC and its chapters. This would involve maintaining current partnerships and actively arranging new ones wherever SFFC could benefit from and bring something to an existing organization. Finally, in keeping with this goal for outside recognition and engagement, is my goal for SFFC to garner more attention from the press in the future through the streamlining of national events, and the distribution of effective event execution methods to chapters so their projects see the light of day and have a lasting impact. I am excited by the potential of SFFC to continue to grow and evolve and see myself playing an active role in this development.

  • Jan Hendrik Grahl, U Florida
    • Nominated by Nelson Pavlosky, current board member
  • Nicholas LaRacuente, Swarthmore
    • Self-nominated
  • Ben Mazer, Swarthmore College
    • Self-nominated
  • Hani Morsi, The American University in Cairo
    • Self-nominated
  • Cameron Parkins, USC
    • Nominated by Elizabeth Stark, Harvard
  • Nelson Pavlosky, current board member
    • Self-nominated
  • Parker Phinney, Chadwick School
    • Nominated by Nelson Pavlosky, current board member
    • Bio:

Parker's first name is actually David, which is weird because everyone calls him Parker. He likes web development, frisbee, writing, photography, atheism, feminism, dadism, surrealism, coffee-shop discussions, F(L)OSS (including linux), cc-licensed tunes, and memorizing move sequences that will beat GNU chess (on "easy"). He has a site at He started Chadwick School's SFC chapter (yes, I'm still in high school), which has had Nelson Pavlosky come and speak, petitioned for taxpayer access to government-funded research, and held a discussion about "piracy" on national Talk Like A Pirate Day. We're planning to have an open art show by the end of the year.

I've been working closely with the web team and frequent the IRC channel, so i'd like to think i have a good feel for the dynamic of SFC national.

    • Platform:

Although I would be strongly opposed to an overall top-down structure for SFC, I'd like to see some more activity at the national level, in order to give chapters more resouces. The recent blog and wiki hosting given to chapters, from national, is a great step. Last year, the ATA National Day of Action went extremely well because the resources necessary for the event were sent down from national, to the chapters, so that they could participate easily, without devoting time and resources to preparation.

I would like to see more events like the ATA NDOA. Perhaps there ought to be a strongly urged suggestion (not a requirement) for chapters to report back to national after having an event--to write up a tutorial and publish posters or other materials to the wiki (this is already done sometimes, to an extent), or even arrange to guide a chapter-wide event. Info about these events could be sent out on the chapters mailing list, and a link could to be added to the wiki sidebar, reading "chapter events," containing the tutorials and materials. This would help give chapters ideas and materials for their own events.

I also think we could use a few more "teams." There ought to be a wiki team to maintain the content on the wiki and on the static pages of the main site. There is already quite a bit of good info on the wiki about starting a chapter and how to hold events, but it's often partitioned or duplicated, difficult to find, and outdated. There could be teams devoted to organizing (annually?) the national events described above. And, of course, we need to get the core team going.

Existing chapters that are going strong will not by any means be disrupted or taken over, but new or struggling chapters will be given a hand by national, and in turn asked (not required) to contribute resources back to national.

  • Rajesh Ramakrishnan, Columbia
    • Nominated by Brendan Ballou, Columbia
  • Karen Rustad, Claremont
    • Nominated by Nelson Pavlosky, current board member
    • Bio:

Karen Rustad is a senior Media Studies major at Scripps College in Claremont, CA. She is the founder and president of Free Culture 5C and a current member of the Board of directors. She likes webcomics, indie rock, and blueberries. She dislikes Internet Explorer, security theatre, and stand-up comedy.

    • Platform:

The Board needs to put the new bylaws into effect by creating the two other official entities which the bylaws call for: the Coordinator and the Core Team.

Students for Free Culture needs someone--the Coordinator in the bylaws--to handle all the administrivia and help coordinate grassroots volunteer efforts. I strongly believe that this position must be paid--while previously Nelson essentially filled this position, relying on there being a student volunteer willing and able to sacrifice their personal and academic life to make sure that everything that needs to be done gets done is neither sustainable nor realistic. Of course, in order to pay a Coordinator, we need money. Probably the first duty of the Board, working with the Core Team, will therefore be to work on grant applications. Once we have sufficient funds, we can then search for a suitable individual to be our Coordinator.

The Core Team needs to exist much sooner. It is where the meat of Students for Free Culture work--organizing national campaigns, communicating with new chapters, updating our online presence, and so forth--should and will take place. The board should set up a rudimentary schedule, create agendas for the first core meetings, and encourage past and potential volunteers to attend, until the Core Team is up and running. It should also be made board policy that at least one board member attend each Core Team meeting, at least until the Coordinator is hired, to ensure that both branches know what the other is up to.

One priority I have for Students for Free Culture, for the Core Team to carry out, is to create a well-organized, complete collection of project and event packages to assist new chapters. Starting a chapter is hard. Starting a chapter on something as obscure as intellectual property policy is even harder. The central org should, as its number one goal, provide services to chapters in order to lower the barrier to chapter entry and increase the life expectancy of the average SFC chapter. Creating flyer templates, SFC pamphlets, multimedia packages, event checklists, and general advice and information would go a long way toward achieving this goal. Thus, in my interactions with the Core Team as a member of the board, I would encourage the Team to work on this 'activist packet' project.

  • Elizabeth Stark, Harvard
    • Nominated by Nelson Pavlosky, current board member
    • Bio
      • Elizabeth is finishing her third year at Harvard Law School, where she has spent the last three years dedicating much of her life to free culture-related issues. Founder of Harvard Free Culture, she has spoken on free culture, organized many related events in Boston and beyond, and collaborated on various SFFC campaigns. She has worked to establish ties with a variety of organizations, including the FSF, PLoS, SPARC, Creative Commons, Wikimedia Foundation, OLPC, and iCommons. Elizabeth also works for the Berkman Center for Internet Society, where she has fostered a key relationship with Harvard FC. She loves learning languages, traveling, and (electronic) music.
    • Platform (draft, working on getting it below my own word guideline)
      • Increase communication and collaboration between chapters
        • I propose that we put better measures in place to better enable chapters to communicate with each other about their projects, collaborate on various projects, and find out about what is happening on other campuses. This could be implemented by asking each chapter to briefly report on what they've been doing, providing a platform for chapters to collaborate, nominating a person to facilitate such collaboration, and better utilizing the wiki to share chapter resources.
      • Foster new chapters, help pre-existing ones
        • It's important that we increase the quality of our materials to get new chapters started. I think it makes the most sense to have a full-time "coordinator" that works on chapter outreach, as a full-time student can only do so much. As for existing chapters, many of them may also need help, in the form of campaign ideas, collaboration, names of potential speakers, connections, and otherwise. Both the coordinator and the SFFC community can help in this regard.
      • Better engage the SFFC community
        • Currently, it's hard to know where one fits with regard to getting involved with SFFC, particularly on the national level. I agree that it's a good idea to restart the "core" team, a group of individuals who are able to represent chapters and make decisions on a national level. Ideally, each chapter would have at least one core team member. I also believe it's important not to ask too much of each team member, and that we should seek to effectively "crowdsource" many of the tasks by using the core team.
      • Help to internationalize and diversify the SFFC community
        • SFFC purports to be a global movement, but so far we've mostly remained within the USA. As someone who has had a good amount of international experience, I think establishing ties among students around the world is extremely important for fostering free culture, and will work to do so. Furthermore, I will work to recruit a more diverse community within SFFC, including reaching out to women, people of color, and people around the world.
      • Encourage strategic collaboration with other organizations
        • SFFC has some great opportunities to work with organizations in similar fields. I think there are potential opportunities for collaboration that will both help SFFC and other organizations working toward similar goals. If elected, I will seek to foster this kind of collaboration, while also consulting the community to ensure that it's in our best interest.

Quick Candidate Statistics

What do we know about the candidates who have been nominated and who have accepted? How diverse / representative is our lineup of candidates? (This should be moved to the page listing the official candidates once that page is created.)

There are 15 candidates so far. (There are no citations verifying this information, nor am I specifically noting who possesses the characteristics listed below.)

  • 4/15 of the candidates are self-nominated
  • 4/15 of the candidates have previously served on the board
  • 12/15 of the candidates are male
  • 3/15 of the candidates are female
  • 10/15 of the candidates are from schools in the northeast USA (1 is studying abroad)
  • 1/15 of the candidates are from schools in the southeast USA
  • 3/15 of the candidates are from schools on the west coast of the USA
  • 1/15 of the candidates are from schools outside of the USA
  • 13/15 of the candidates are from private schools (1 attends a public university but does not have a chapter there)
  • 4/15 of the candidates are graduate students
  • 10/15 of the candidates are undergraduate college students
  • 1/15 of the candidates is a high school student