DONLEY: A gift worth considering

Last Wednesday marked the start of the 2013 Senior Class Gift campaign, an annual three-week opportunity for members of the senior class to give back to Yale. As one of four co-chairs for the campaign, I want to explain why I hope you join me in donating to the University. I also want to address some of the concerns I’ve heard about the class gift.

When you talk with recent alums, they often remind you to appreciate your time at Yale — how your environment will never be the same again after. In these conversations, I always respond, out of habit: “Oh, of course, how could I not be appreciating it?” In truth, I usually get so caught up in the day to day that I take Yale for granted. Despite what I tell those alums, I don’t appreciate the experience. I think it’s normal.

But in my eighth and final semester at Yale, I’ve realized how much I should have actively treasured my time here. Many things at Yale seem commonplace, but simply do not exist in the outside world. I realize next year I won’t live somewhere where the guaranteed minimum wage is $12. Nor will I be able to walk less than a block — surrounded by beautiful Gothic architecture, no less — to see a Van Gogh. Next year, no one will be planning a study break for me during the most stressful time of the year. Nor will anyone fund my personal librarian and summer internships.

This does not mean my Yale experience was perfect — far from it. There were times of stress, and moments when I felt frustrated. I’m sure that each of us could come up with a list of things we might want to change about this place. For me, the Senior Class Gift is not an endorsement of every choice that Yale has made. But a donation can serve as part of the financial aid package that gives a student who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend Yale the opportunity to do so.

The Senior Class Gift is a donation to the University’s unrestricted funding — money that goes toward immediate spending needs. We by no means expect huge monetary donations, and we hope to focus on the reflection behind the gift more than the amount given. This year, students will no longer have the ease of using bursar for their donation, and they also must make a minimum donation of $5 rather than $1. Donations can be given to a general giving fund or one of five specific subcategories, including financial aid, facilities and library resources.

We do not want this to be a campaign that thoughtlessly nags seniors to donate for the sake of reaching a quota. We do not want this to be a campaign in which students feel undue pressure to give. Fundamentally, both of these tones go against the meaning and mission of the Senior Class Gift. As a result, we have structured our campaign so as to avoid emphasizing competition or berating of those who have personal reasons for not giving. We hope the Senior Class Gift will be one way we reflect the sincere gratitude of our class toward the details that made our Yale experience just that: the Yale experience.

Each of our individual Yale experiences has been radically changed by the generosity of past generations of students. They are the reason we have state-of-the-art labs and libraries, and why someone’s means do not determine whether they could attend Yale. In just one month, the class of 2017 will be on campus for Bulldog Days. I hope you choose to join me in recognizing the importance of giving back for their benefit and saying “thanks” for all that we’ve received.

Katie Donley is a senior in Ezra Stiles College. Contact her at katie.donley@yale.edu .

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