Sphere College Project

A New World of Learning

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A clarification… we’re using PayPal for our online donations. And we’ve had a good number of donations come in over the web. Very helpful! Then the online donations fell off. I thought it was because I shifted my focus away from soliciting online donations. Well, no. What appears to have happened is the following:

PayPal sent me a note saying (my paraphrase, of course) “Hey, you’re a charity and we gotta verify you’re a charity.” (Never mind the fact that we allowed you to collect donations and withdraw funds up to this point.) “While we’re waiting on this you can’t access your money.” “Ok, fine”, I thought, “I’ll get to it when we’re ready to transfer the funds.”

Well then Paul Kroon, a former student of mine from Ursinus College with whom I worked closely for years, and his fiancee Aileen Dalton strolled into Artisans Cafe in Phoenixville and we had a very nice visit. During our conversation Paul mentioned, much to my surprise, that he had tried to use the online donation link and was denied. Oh, my! We really need the donations! Time to act! So I went to the PayPal site and discovered that yes, they had removed the ability for people to make online donations until I get some paperwork to them. (Oh, this fact may be buried in my unread emails at some point. My bad. Hey, I’m trying to run a new College over here!)

SO… I’ve been working on responding to their requests for information. It’s a long story and I certainly don’t need to bore you with the details. If I were in my less-than-centered mode I’d go off on PayPal right now. And the whole corporate structure as well. In short, it seems we’ve created a society that has too little respect for our humanity and that adds far, far too much stress in our lives. It is my sincere hope that we will come together to build an environment that fosters more of a sense of peace and well-being in the world. It’ll take time, but it’s worth the effort now. Our way of working on this is through education.

We really, really do need your donations. Things are really tight right now and we appreciate your support. And I’ll let you know when I’ve sufficiently jumped through the PayPal hoops and online donations are active again.

SO, for now if you wish to send a donation to support Sphere College, please send a check to:

Sphere College
P.O. Box 1024
Phoenixville, PA 19460

And if you’re in the East, stay cool—it’s hot out there!

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Classes Continue

We had another very interesting class on Thursday night. We had planned to discuss the first chapter of Looking for Spinoza, but we never got around to it. Usually when something like that happens, it’s a very good class. Instead, we ended up using the entire time discussing two primary things: our transition to a new structure for Phase I: Self and Other, and use of the phrase “free or pay-if-you-can college”.

The new structure comes about for multiple reasons:

  • The College has not yet attained a state in which income exceeds expenses.
  • Michael is in the process of developing his business and writing a book.
  • Richard must seek income in order to continue to support himself and the College.
  • With feedback from class discussions, the Steering Committee has adopted a structure that will provide us with a more tangible entity that gives us all more of a feeling of direction.

The new form of the College will be as follows:

  • Marking the transition there will be no class on Thursday, July 29. Instead we will have a Reflection and Recognition Potluck Dinner at Michael’s home on July 31.
  • We will move to quarters of 12 weeks with 10 classes, leaving time to breathe and prepare for the next quarter. The first class of the first quarter will meet on Thursday, August 5. Plans are to continue in the Colonial Theatre, but they will soon need us to begin paying for the space so we may be hunting for another location.
  • Topics treated in the next quarter will be determined ahead of time. The subject matter will emerge from both the class facilitator—most likely, me (Richard)—and from suggestions from students.
  • As always, we are soliciting feedback from the students about how this new form of the College is working for them and we will work to incorporate their suggestions.

The discussion about use of the phrase “free or pay-if-you-can” was a very open, honest discussion emphasizing the importance of language and thinking clearly and as thoroughly as possible about the implications of a move like this. Instead of trying to recapture all the positions and nuances of the discussion here I’ll just mention that we really felt as though we were getting into important concepts. For example, we began to come to grips with what our ideals really are, and what we do when they come into conflict. I also felt as though we were actively putting into practice the material we recently discussed in the classes, Crucial Conversations, which made me feel quite proud. And as we discovered great differences in how people reacted to the phrase under discussion we were also learning a great deal about Self and Other, which is part of the point of what we’re doing. This, too, made me feel proud. So to my mind the College is working, albeit not exactly as I had envisioned. But things never really turn out exactly as one expects, do they?

Meanwhile, since I appear not to have learned enough about how to raise funds for such a forward-thinking insitution as Sphere College (I really thought it would be a lot easier—I mean, it seems to me that people are ready for real change that can only be brought about through a more compassionate, thoughtful population!), I’m putting myself on the market for a software management position that can help me support my education habit. So if you know of anything in the Phoenixville area, please do let me know.

By the way, we didn’t come to a conclusion in the class about the phrase “free or pay-if-you-can”, but we do have a great deal more to discuss in the next Steering Committee meeting. And this week we’re taking a break from the class since the Colonial Theatre needs the space for their biggest event of the year: Blobfest!

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New Directions

Ok, big update here: the College has not yet become financially viable. It will, but it hasn’t yet. It seems that everyone is playing it safe. This is understandable in the current economic climate, but it makes it hard for new, innovative ideas to flourish.

In the meantime, I’ve got bills to pay and have to remain solvent, so I’ve begun looking for work in the software industry. My preference is for short-term part-time project work in C/C++ and/or moderate-term software management. If you know of anything, let me know: jrichardliston AT gmail dot com.

This doesn’t mean that I’m abandoning the College, BTW. Quite the contrary: it means that I’m doing everything I must in order to take the College to a place where it is self-sustaining. Although I’m not thrilled about shifting my energy away from the College, perhaps I’ll make enough income to hire someone to handle some of the tasks that we need done.

Another change is that the students and Steering Committee have opted to move to a “quarter system” for the Self and Other classes. 12 week sessions of 10 classes with a little break in between so we can prepare for the next quarter. Also, Michael Reddy is taking a leave of absence until we can find the funding to support his participation. These changes will take place at the end of July. Now I’m off to write up an information sheet for the students explaining the details of the transition.