I will e-mail Michael Roth, after all.

Dear Z,

I hope you enjoyed The Modern and the Postmodern. If you would like to support Wesleyan’s effort to offer future Coursera courses, please consider making a gift to the Wesleyan Fund in support of online education by clicking here. Any amount you are able to donate will be greatly appreciated.

Of course, this is entirely optional and will have no bearing on your future participation in any Coursera course. We plan to keep our classes free, but we do have costs in producing them.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely yours,
Michael Roth
President, Wesleyan University

Please help me work on the answer. Draft:

Dear Professor Roth,

Thank you for the course, which was truly enjoyable. Regarding this fundraising appeal, could you explain the financial arrangement you and your university have with Coursera?

It is my understanding that Coursera is a for-profit corporation, and that it is in fact turning a profit. You and your university are apparently donating time, equipment, work and expertise to Coursera, which charges students money for its “signature” diplomas. Student data may also be used by Coursera to profitable ends.

Now, we are also asked to donate money to you so that you can donate effort to Coursera, which will then profit by our donations to you as well as your own, and your university’s donations to Coursera.

That is, we are being asked to donate to Wesleyan so that it can donate to a for-profit corporation. In what understanding of the concepts of “reputational assets,” of “branding,” of “market exchange,” or of “public service” does this make sense?

I strongly feel that this form of revenue creation is beneath the dignity of Wesleyan University–not to mention your own, and the dignity of our fields and our profession. I also question its legality. I do hope you will rethink these tactics.

Yours very truly,




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