Baruch student starts nonprofit to encourage political expression
Despite what the company’s Facebook page might say, Eric Butkiewicz, a Baruch College senior, has not yet found a permanent location for Doxa, a nonprofit organization he started with aims to raise public discourse and promote community involvement within New York City.
Doxa serves as a nonpartisan group in which people of varying political ideologies can feel comfortable. The intention behind Doxa is to create an organization centered around the idea of involvement that attracts younger members to interact with and learn from each other. Specifically, Butkiewicz hopes that the organization will cater to people 35 years of age and younger.
Doxa representatives operate primarily on the Baruch College campus, since all of the board members are enrolled there. More frequently, the members have turned to Skype as a method of reliable communication among one another. Although neither a regular nor tangible gathering place has been established for the nonprofit organization, Doxa members still hold regular meetings following firm agendas.
Butkiewicz explains that his prime motivation for starting Doxa was to facilitate conversations where the voices and concerns of a diverse array of parties could be heard. “When you look at the current climate, you don’t have many organizations that are nonpartisan that promote involvement among young people,” he said. “In the local community, there are civic groups but those have different slants in what they focus on, and, on top of that, they are generally populated by much older individuals.”
The lack of younger participation creates a void that discourages millennials from getting involved, he explained. Therefore, Doxa’s prime focus is to enable people to get together, belong to and build up a community.
Generally, Butkiewicz and other members devote the beginning of their meetings to social time and playing catch up with one another. The lax opening, however, does not replace the professionalism. After having socialized, Butkiewicz refers back to an agenda and starts the official portion of the meeting.
Doxa members are fundraising by selling blue bracelets with the words “Think Freely” etched onto them. Butkiewicz said that he invested into the organization and will be selling these bracelets to friends and family members in order to spread the word about Doxa and its goals. Currently, the fundraiser precedes most other items on the agenda.
Ordinarily, the agenda would include time allocated to planning more public forums or community outings and expansion. Butkiewicz indicated that he set up an elaborate sheet on Google Drive that detailed every position occupied and needed over the next two years. Since Doxa is a small organization right now, the positions and their accompanying responsibilities are distributed among the board members.
Butkiewicz, a public affairs student, first hatched the idea for Doxa when he participated in the debate between the Baruch College Democrats and the Baruch College Republicans during the Fall semester. Butkiewicz argued on behalf of the Baruch College Republicans, also known as the Right Wings, of which he is a member. Despite having formed a team with a few members of the Right Wings, Butkiewicz claims that Doxa is politically diverse. “It’s not like everyone in the room agrees with one another now,” he said. “We have a big range of political opinions ranging from libertarian to conservative but we want a wide range of political opinions because that’s really how you stir up good successful discourse.”
Rather than go through the process of registering as a club on campus, Butkiewicz jumpstarted Doxa as a nonprofit organization with a goal of heavy expansion in mind. He hopes that a nonprofit will encourage members to stay in Doxa even after they receive their degree, a feat that cannot happen within school-sanctioned clubs and organizations after graduation.
Ideally, Doxa will expand to include members and representatives from large-campus schools such as New York University and Columbia University. Butkiewicz also wants Doxa to reach past Baruch and into the rest of the CUNY system.
Currently, Doxa members participate in public forums and attend community events. The most recent outing was in a soup kitchen in West Harlem. Butkiewicz expected to see many homeless people there but, instead, noticed low-income families who just needed some extra help. This outing, for him, demonstrated one of the reasons he started Doxa: to promote intellectual growth and “community involvement. I think they go hand in hand. In order to have discussion on the community, you have to care about the community,” he said.
Butkiewicz cites another reason for founding Doxa: he does not want to see motivation deplete in today’s youth. He says there are “no outlets for [young people] to contribute their motivation to.”
A process of attrition causes them to lose that motivation, so they go into the workforce and they are no longer interested in being involved. “Much later in life, they have a reinvigorating moment and want to get involved, but you lost them while they were in that young and very motivated stage of their life. So really we want to provide an outlet for them to come and express that motivation in a healthy, productive way so that process of attrition doesn’t go in where they lose that motivation.”
There is the concern that after having graduated, participants will lose interest in the organization. In order to keep Doxa relevant post-graduation, Butkiewicz hopes to make the community outings happen on a monthly basis. This will, hopefully, encourage people to remain involved and interested in the organization and its goals.
Continuing to look toward the future, Butkiewicz disclosed that he anticipates six organizations to partner up with Doxa, the aforementioned food bank being one of them. He hopes to work with each of the six organizations twice a year in order to maintain a solid relationship and provide a variety of opportunities to members.
Doxa has already successfully partnered with the Marxe School of Public and International Affairs. The next public forum will be held on May 4 in Room 301 of the Administrative Building at 7 p.m. Both Doxa and the Marxe School will host the event.