Since the Senior Class Gift campaign kicked off Feb. 1, the numbers have constantly been e-mailed, shared on Facebook and tweeted at us: 97 percent last year, 91 percent for the class of 2010 and 82 percent so far for the class of 2012. It’s overwhelming, especially for the seniors who gave and want to be done with it, or for those who haven’t given, or for those who are tired of seeing nothing on Facebook but updates on the Senior Class Gift and new Yale memes.
I’m not majoring in anything remotely quantitative, but even I know there’s a simple reason why these numbers keep getting forwarded, posted and retweeted: They matter. The whole point of the campaign is numbers — not dollar amounts, but participation.
I like to think of the ultimate participation rate of the Senior Class Gift as a grand gesture. The dollar amount probably won’t be large enough to cover the average cost of a single Yale College financial aid package. But the percentage is large enough to do a lot. That percentage is a direct sign — not necessarily of approval, but of gratitude for an opportunity. It is a sign that we seniors are willing to pay it forward and make the Yale experience even better for the class of 2016 — and for future generations of Yalies, too.
Moreover, that overall grand gesture of a percentage is a combination of a lot of individual gestures. The reasoning behind individual gestures varies as much as the 1,320 freshmen who moved into Yale College on Aug. 29, 2008. Every individual gesture is unique, as are passions we have each pursued here at Yale that have allowed us to spread out and meet others, to challenge ourselves and grow. Collectively, these passions and interests are what make the class of 2012’s Yale experience so distinctive. Similarly, the combination of individual gifts makes the overall giving percentage from the Senior Class Gift so powerful.
Why are you grateful for Yale? Perhaps it’s because whether or not you received financial aid, tuition only covered about half the cost of your Yale education with the rest coming from donors. Maybe it’s because you made a few close friends here, or because you became more open-minded here, or you discovered your calling in life. Maybe you still have no idea what your purpose is at all, but you feel prepared to go in an unlimited number of directions come graduation.
Whatever feelings we may have about our time at Yale, each of us has the power to send a message in giving. At the end of the day, a high rate of participation shows that the class of 2012 appreciates the Yale experience and that we joined together to make Yale a better place. Moreover, each donation, in contributing to something larger than itself, increases the sense of cohesion and unity among the class of 2012.
The senior class runs the gamut from athletes to actors to activists, but we are united by a common sense of gratitude for the past four years. The percentage is more than just a number — it is a testament to our collective commitment to Yale’s future.
Margaret Greenberg is a senior in Calhoun College. Contact her at email@example.com.