When I was first asked to help with the Senior Class Gift, I was hesitant. I didn’t know if I wanted to donate, much less be an active voice in asking others to do the same. Many objections came to mind: I had given money, time and energy to a University that continually made choices I believed were harmful for campus culture and student well-being. The flawed way in which the University handles issues of mental health was only one of several burdens I considered as I determined what my financial and emotional relationship with my alma mater should be.
I firmly believe that those who do not adequately manage what they have should not be given more. After considering the recent fiscal success of the Yale Investments Office, I felt absolved from any moral obligation to give to the University. If I did choose to give, it would be to my college, the architecture department or my campus ministry — to people who had given to me and whom I trusted to give responsibly in the future.
When I learned more about the Senior Class Gift and the Yale Alumni Fund, I was surprised by how independent their joint effort is from the endowment. I did not know that only 5 percent of donations to the endowment goes towards current students. The rest is rendered inaccessible to present endeavors. Meanwhile, the Alumni Fund, which includes the SCG, covers what we students experience in the day to day. Every donation to the Alumni Fund is used within one year.
My own perspective on the SCG shifted when I discovered that this communal effort helps support deep community at Yale.
Aspects of residential college life that are highlighted in every brochure (from Master’s Teas to study breaks) are funded independently from the fees we pay each semester. They receive their funding from the Alumni Fund. The colleges are advertised as a means for students to have “cohesiveness and intimacy” and to experience “a sense of community” at Yale. For most, though certainly not all, this is true to experience.
Though my time at Yale has been equally divided between LDub and Pierson proper, my college is (in the words of my former master) “so much more than a building made of bricks and mortar and stone; for it is above all a place that makes you feel good as well as decent and that compels you to love those around you and do what you can for them and for others.” It was my first home away from home, and the people and opportunities afforded by residential college life have been among my favorite aspects of Yale.
When my uncle died very suddenly last year, it was in Pierson — through conversations with my master, dean, suitemates and friends — that I processed that tragedy. I am not suggesting that the colleges are a replacement for a fully functioning Mental Health & Counseling Department or that coping with a family death is comparable to depression; I cannot begin to comprehend the frustration that my friends and freshmen have experienced in the current, broken system. But I can say that those whom I love have found resources outside the walls of Yale Health. Some of these resources (FroCos, Peer Liaisons, clubs and organizations) are funded by the SCG. These are the aspects of Yale that our friends and classmates hate to lose when they are forced to take a leave of absence, and these that will be waiting for them upon their return. These are the resources that convinced me to give to the SCG because without them, I can’t imagine life at Yale.
To those who are petitioning for reform, I stand by you. It is unacceptable that friends and loved ones have to fear asking for help. It is unacceptable that they are sometimes exiled from Yale, where there is community that can provide support. But it is important to remember why we all chose Yale in the first place, and by boycotting the SCG, we will hinder that which makes Yale a place where community thrives.
Maggie Inhofe is a senior in Pierson College and an agent for the Senior Class Gift. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.