Ibbotson-Sindelar: Yale doesn’t need my money

Yale just ended a three-week campaign to raise money for the Senior Class Gift. For seniors, this is just the beginning of a long relationship with the Development Office — and with Yale’s fundraising machine.

Through student representatives and repeated e-mails, the University encouraged and cajoled us to donate. Each college set up a Senior Class Gift Council. For those who gave, there was a happy hour, a talk by David Swensen and a cocktail party at the master’s house. The three colleges with the highest participation rate are awarded a $1,000 prize.

It seems like an awful lot of effort just to get me to give the measly $5 minimum. But then, it’s the participation rate Yale cares about, not the amount. Yale knows that someone who gives once is far more likely to give again. It wants to get young alums in the habit of giving, so that if they ever come into a sizable fortune and are hankering to find other hands to hold it, Yale will be on the list.

So when Yale asks for a donation, before reaching into your pocketbook, stop and think about what you’re getting yourself into. Giving $5 is not the same as spending $5 on a burger at Louis’ Lunch. It signals a commitment to giving and an approval of Yale’s use of its funds.

Enjoying your time here doesn’t mean you approve of Yale’s funding decisions. The senior class gift Web site says, “Giving to Yale shows your class pride.” But I wish we would separate the gratitude we feel for our experience from the act of giving money.

I feel privileged to have had such rich experiences at Yale. I have grown academically, and more importantly, I have grown as a person. But most of what I’ve learned has come from interacting with my peers and professors.

The lavish expenditures Yale devotes to beautifying the school and providing luxuries are only incidental to the actual learning experience.

Many of my classmates who donated say they gave to support financial aid; therefore they gave restricted funds. But we all know money is fungible. Your money may be directed at financial aid, but Yale will just redirect some of its budget elsewhere.

Yale uses its donations to compete in an arms race with other elite universities and vies for top students and top professors by creating a material paradise.

Yale should end this practice and direct all future donations toward research or financial aid. The undergraduate experience lacks nothing that money can buy.

Instead Yale constantly builds and renovates. In my four years here I can think of at least nine buildings on top of the four residential colleges that have been built or renovated. There are surely more.

We learn to expect that everything will be perfectly clean and new, that every classroom will have a full range of AV equipment, that snow on the ground will be immediately cleared away by a swarm of day laborers, and that we will get grants for summer vacations — er, research — in exotic countries. It’s easy to forget that Yale is a non-profit working for the greater good — that is, a good greater than personal luxury.

I think many of us disapprove of this arms race. Unfortunately a vestige of our imperialist sense of nationalism encourages us to give anyway. We may feel the arms race is bad, but as long as it’s going to happen, we want Yale to win. It’s like saying that as long as colonization is happening, we want England to win.

But if it’s a dirty race, we shouldn’t be in it in the first place.

Giving to Yale isn’t a bad thing to do; it’s just that there are a lot more pressing causes out there. Give to help the environment, to stop diseases or to control the population explosion. These are causes that desperately need money. If we all stopped giving to Yale, the University would have to cut back on spending, but it would still be an elite institution that provides far more than most schools can hope to.

While it’s too late for me to stop seniors from giving this year, in the future I hope alumni will consider thwarting the efforts of the Development Office.

The reason to withhold donations is not because Yale isn’t doing a good job, but rather because it’s doing a great job. It doesn’t need more money. It’s an unfortunate tradition that showing appreciation has to come in the form of money.

Tyler Ibbotson-Sindelar is a senior in Branford College.


  • Jeez…

    Cynical, short-sighted, and insipid all at the same time? Wow. There goes my $5 contribution to club squash, T.

  • Uhh…

    Good thing Mr. Brady didn't take this attitude about the nice new squash courts, though? Or would you prefer the dark dank moral purity of what preceded them?

  • Wandering Aengus

    Once again Mr. Ibbotson-Sinclair waxes negative about Yale. Big surprise. There is a distinct pattern in all of his writing.

    In response to this Soap Boxing piece in particular, I ask this, if Yale did not spend money on maintaining state-of-the-art facilities, would these peers and professors you have learned so much from, come here?

    In response to all of the previous Soap Boxing pieces, I say, thanks goodness Mr. Ibbotson-Sinclair is a senior because many are ready for him to take his negativity elsewhere.

  • alum

    how ignorant

  • Princeton Alumnus

    Absoutely. Keep your money for yourself. Aren't you far more important, far more enduring, far more meaningful than some punk university? Get a grip, kid.

  • Anonymous

    Actually, Yale could use the money---to get better science professors, especially in the Physics department.

  • Yale 10

    I personally wouldn't donate tons of money to Yale. Partly because I don't have much to give and partly because there are other causes that I think are more important.

    Even so I think this article was pretty ridiculous. 'The undergraduate experience lacks nothing that money can buy'? seriously? The math building didn't have a functioning women's restroom throughout most of last year… there's so much equipment that my lab would love to have…a student center would be great…there's a big demand for more theater and dance studio space. The list could go on.

    It's ok to not want to donate money to yale, but it's pretty naive to say that nice facilities have absolutely no impact on one's college experience.

  • Anonymous

    The argument in giving should shift:
    -There is little point anymore in blanket gifts to a University. Yale earns or loses so much on the endowment that one individual's giving is unlikely to financially change the University.
    -That said, giving to very specific purposes may help to expand underfunded areas and shed light on certain research areas (e.g. "the Physics department"). In other words, specialized giving likely still makes sense if it is about realigning the University's priorities or helping out in an ignored area.

  • Anonymous

    You were the recipient of the generosity of alums who came before you. In fact, the $50K/year cost of tuition/room/board does not come close to the actual costs of a Yale education. The fact that you would not consider giving back to your school, to support the people who come after you, makes you a taker. Shouldn't we all aspire to be givers? Thank goodness you are graduating -- we will all be better off without you.

  • robert99

    If Yale cannot get by on, what, an endowment, even today, of around $17 or so billion when other, equally good schools such as Brown, for example, scrape by on $1 billion or so, something is seriously amiss.

  • Anonymous

    What we need as a university and what luxuries we as students would simply like to have are very different.

    I know that I will have serious reservations about ever giving any money to Yale. Yes, they have done a lot for me, but they really do not need the money. Yale alumni giving to Yale is the rich making the rich richer.
    Yale's endowment per student is many times that of schools like Brown while only returning marginal, if any, benefit to the quality of education.
    If you are concerned about education, give your money to a cash strapped public school so that students can get affordable quality educations. Elite private insitutions like Yale are luxuries, and Yale certainly does not need the money.

  • 2010

    …because any squash court could ever signify a dank dark moral purity.

    Don't give money to support the Yale endowment until you can be sure that your donation will be invested with an eye for social responsibility. If you are supporting the mission of the University, supporting the lux and the veritas, then you cannot give to something that one, undeniably conservative man controls.

  • Anonymous

    I plan on giving to Yale indirectly. Specifically, I would like to give donations directly to the undergraduate organizations or publications I would like to support. Or, if I make enough money, I'll provide one of those specific scholarships they have. That way I can express my gratitude, and support Yale by helping its students out, without giving to an institution that already has an enormous endowment.

  • Anonymous

    Yale seriously needs to ensure that its professors make teaching students a priority over research. I agree with #6, science at Yale needs some serious *teaching* improvement.

  • anon

    The fire and vitriol some people are displaying is silly. It does not contribute to a dialogue about the pros and cons of giving back to the university. Mr. Ibbotsen-Sindelar takes a negative view of this and brings up some valid points. Sometimes the money we donate does not go where we want. Personally, some of Yale's investments could be considered immoral and supporting them would be questionable. On the other hand, no one is against working bathrooms. Knowing Mr. Ibbotsen-Sindelar, he would actually be happy sitting in a dank cellar discussing issues. Other people have other ideas about what education should be.

    Valid points are brought up. I think your money would go farther for humanity in other places (see: developing nations). But, if I have some control over where my money goes I might think about giving some of that money the "Y" on my degree will surely (sarcastically) deliver me.

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