Ford: Giving back, paying forward

The Good of This Place

If you hadn’t noticed, it’s Senior Class Gift season.

The middle of February always brings a barrage of op-eds and letters to the editor regarding this tradition — usually equal parts reverence, loathing, love and resentment. I’ve read them every year since I was a freshman, wondering what kind of mess might unfold in 2011 when it came time for members of my own class to fork over their five dollars (or, as is cleverly suggested, $20.11).

Many students embrace the campaign in a big way. This year there was a cocktail party kickoff event in the President’s Room, and Handsome Dan (with devoted handler and SCG co-chair Haley Cohen) led a defiant parade through a sleetstorm the following afternoon. Yesterday, Saybrook became the first college to reach 100 percent participation; overall, the Class of 2011 has already raised over $30,000 with a week left in the campaign. By comparison, 2010 raised a total of $29,670.

But every year, those who are unsure or apathetic about donating turn misanthropic in response to the peer pressure that inevitably accompanies a large-scale student fundraising campaign. There are consistently two types of complaints: those easily alleviated by a visit from a well-informed SCG operative, and those made irreparably worse.

The former fall into the “Yale doesn’t need my money/I’ve paid enough already/this isn’t a good cause” camp. For the record: it does (donations are more pliable and effective in the short-term than endowment funds), you haven’t (even those paying full tuition only cover half the price of a Yale education) and it is (the colleges with the highest participation rates get to present one of their incoming freshmen with a $10,000 scholarship). And even if none of these practical reasons work for you, it’s something to do on principle, a way of showing Yale your appreciation. Sure, you might pay to be here, but Yale didn’t have to admit you in the first place.

The latter type of complaint, however, is more difficult: “I just don’t like Yale.” None of the counterpoints they teach at the SCG training workshops will help with this — just ask Dartmouth’s Class of 2010. Last year their senior class gift campaign came up one person short. One. That’s 1,065 students of 1,066. 99.9 percent overall.

A certain Laura DeLorenzo flatly refused to contribute. Friends begged and pleaded her, and aggressive ads were even taken out in the school newspaper demanding she donate. The Class of 1960 was even willing to give an additional $100,000 if the Class of 2010 hit their 100 percent target. Still no dice. DeLorenzo received a police escort to class on the last day of the campaign, and Dartmouth fell one student short of an unbeatable participation rate.

My initial reaction to this — one shared by the Dartmouth community at the time — was outrage. No abstract complaint could possibly be worth $100,000 and a lifetime of notoriety as the most stubborn and excessively obstreperous student to come out of Hanover. This girl was just trying to anger as many people as possible, and she succeeded.

But then I read her explanation, published on a Dartmouth blog. “I believe when one donates money to an institution/organization, one implicitly embraces the values held by that institution/organization,” DeLorenzo wrote. “After having spent four years at Dartmouth, I am comfortable with my conclusion that the values I see displayed by our student body on a daily basis are not values I endorse … precisely because of what I feel is a pervasive lack of a sense of community responsibility on campus.”

I hate to admit it, but that’s not unreasonable. And there’s the rub: I feel very invested in the Yale SCG because I, like most of my friends, absolutely love this place. But there are people who don’t. There are no facts or incentives that can suddenly make their last three and a half years more enjoyable than they really were. Calling them out with a full-page ad in the campus daily probably won’t help either.

Instead, look forward. DeLorenzo complained about a lack of community responsibility; what would have been a better way for her to change that than complete rather than impede a historic senior class gift? If you’ve never felt a part of the undergraduate community, here’s a good chance to join. Rather than refusing to endorse the elements of Yale you dislike, donate to develop the elements you’d rather see instead. In this sense, those most fed up are the ones with the most to contribute. You can specify where the money goes. We’re not just rewarding Yale for showing us a good time — we’re investing in helping it grow.

riley scripps ford is a senior in Saybrook College.

Comments

  • The Anti-Yale

    Boy!

    I live 6 miles from Dartmouth and TOTALLY missed this controversy last year. I guess the local media didn’t consider it “news”.

  • grumpyalum

    I refused to donate because of the absurd amount of pressure that is placed upon students. I’m certainly not going to give my five dollars for a silly campaign. I did not care about my residential college, so the idea that mine would have scholarships to give made no difference.

    Let’s be frank: the idea of a Senior-Class-Gift is to establish a pattern of giving, in hopes that giving continues when incomes climb higher.

    I’ll give to Yale when I damn well want to.

  • River Tam

    The Senior Class Gift is one of the dumbest things about Yale. I gave $5 because it was easier to give than to not, but the entire experience (especially the SCG representatives – the sorts of people who end up as nagging, moralizing SCG representatives are almost always the people I like least at Yale: third generation legacies, YCCers, Scroll and Keyers, classics majors, and the interminably peppy) will make me remember Yale less favorably.

  • The Anti-Yale

    Interminably peppy. I like that. Reaction formation?

  • Y_2011

    Matthew 6
    1 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

  • The Anti-Yale

    “no reward from your Father in heaven”

    This is a master/dog relationship in which I care not to be involved.

    Paul Keane
    M.Div. ’80

  • Goldie08

    So the class of 1960 was all set to give 100 g’s if this girl donated even $1…but because she didn’t, they didn’t? Sounds like they are the losers in this situation.

  • MatthewGerken

    So correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m guessing the $10,000 scholarship goes to someone on financial aid who would have gotten the money anyway? So in other words you’ve actually done nothing for your college or anyone in it, they just slap some different labels on the money.

  • fnncld

    The class of 1960 ended up giving the $100,000 anyway despite the imperfect donation record.

    “DeLorenzo complained about a lack of community responsibility; what would have been a better way for her to change that than complete rather than impede a historic senior class gift?”
    The obvious problem with this logic is that donating isn’t a “responsibility” at all but a voluntary act.

    “If you’ve never felt a part of the undergraduate community, here’s a good chance to join.”
    Brilliant! Pay money so that you can feel closer to people whom you dislike. And if they start liking you better because of it—well, maybe you were right to stay away in the first place.

    “You can specify where the money goes.”
    Anyone with a basic knowledge of economics will realize that the university will simply redirect the remaining funds with unspecified destinations as it wishes. The distribution of funds will be exactly the same, whether you say where the money goes or not.

    None of this is surprising given your earlier article (http://www.yaledailynews.com/news/2011/feb/09/opinion-ford-beggars-can-be-choosers/), where you call people who do not donate “loners”, “drifters”, and “woodwork students” and the process of soliciting donations from them “whack-a-mole”.

    I will not be donating to SCG next year. My reasons are private and my character does not merit psychoanalysis or attack. Shame on you.

  • 201Y1

    I’m sorry you’re so unhappy, fnncld. Maybe you should transfer while you still have a year left. Better luck next time, and thanks for proving Ford’s point.

  • Y_2011

    @201Y1

    I don’t think fnncld proved Ford’s point. In fact, I think he made an excellent one. Suggesting there is something wrong with someone just because they choose not to endorse Yale with a donation at a particular time is repugnant tactic.

    The fact that Ford was initially “outraged” not because a student needed a police escort, but because one student didn’t donate tells you what you need to know about his attitudes. Dartmouth should have celebrated how high the participation rate was instead of sanctioning the one person who did not donate.

  • River Tam

    > I’m sorry you’re so unhappy, fnncld. Maybe you should transfer while you still have a year left. Better luck next time, and thanks for proving Ford’s point.

    I think you proved fnncld’s point.

  • The Anti-Yale

    I admire Ms. DeLorenzo’s courage. It’s easy to cave.

  • JohnnyE

    Pestering people until they “donate” just to get you out of their ear cheapens the tradition just a little bit, don’t you think?

  • blah

    my take (and clearly from the comment board, i wasn’t alone) on the ‘senior gift’ thing was that it was a transparent mind-game of getting cash-strapped students buried in debt and often with no job in the habit of giving to yale by extracting a piddly sum (should be obvious after taking salovey’s course). $10 is obviously a lot more valuable to these kids than to yale. 10 yrs ago there were the same old rubes who were insanely enthusiastic about getting students to give, using the same rationalizations. this scripps ford guy with the double-barrel last name however seems to take the cake. talk about having complete disrespect for your fellow yale students and their choices. how about trying to learn from and appreciate their attitudes instead of disdaining them.