Seventy-eight percent of seniors donated to the class of 2015 Senior Class Gift, a drop of 18.6 percentage points from the previous year.
The Senior Class Gift, which is a part of the Yale Alumni Fund, provides unrestricted and immediate funds that are independent of the endowment. Last year, the three-week-long fundraising campaign raised $33,387, but the class of 2015 co-chairs announced Wednesday that this year’s campaign generated $26,396. The last time senior participation in the gift fell below 80 percent was in 2008.
Eric Stern ’15, who was a residential college representative for the gift, said he was not disappointed by the lower rate of participation. He still believes that the Senior Class Gift is a powerful way to express thanks to the University, he said, though he acknowledged that seniors should choose for themselves whether or not to donate.
“Giving to the Senior Class Gift is an individual’s choice, and it was important — and it is important — that every person make this decision him or herself,” Stern said.
Students interviewed attributed this drop to the boycott of the Class Gift, which was organized in an effort to urge Yale to improve its mental health and readmission policies.
Geoffrey Smith ’15, one of seven seniors who organized the online pledge to boycott the gift — which amassed over 80 signatures from seniors as of Tuesday night — said boycotts did not occur during fundraising campaigns in previous years.
“One of the key goals of the boycott was to make the stance of the student body clear on this issue,” Smith said. “I’m very happy that so many people decided that this was something they wanted to take a stand on.”
Though Smith acknowledged that many seniors may have abstained from donating for reasons unrelated to the University’s mental health procedures, he still saw the boycott as largely effective in reducing SCG participation.
Other seniors involved in the boycott agreed.
Tammy Pham ’15 said in an email that the boycott was “not an idle protest.” She added that she thought the issue of mental health at Yale drove the student body to boycott the SCG.
Students interviewed agreed that because the fundraising campaign usually has such high participation, the gift is an opportunity for the senior class to send a message to the University.
“It has to do with using the one voice that I have and thinking about where it will be heard most,” Adrian Lo ’15 said.
Shalmoli Halder ’15 said the boycott was in direct response to long-standing problems with the way the University handles cases of student depression and readmission.
The goal of the boycott was not to reduce student participation to a specific number, said Lo, but was instead designed to spark conversation on campus and debates among seniors about the merits of donation.
“To that end, the boycott has very much done the job,” Lo said.
Lower participation among seniors is not unprecedented in the past decade: Over one quarter of the classes of both 2006 and 2008 did give to the SCG.
However, Yale tends to have a higher participation rate in Senior Class Gifts than other Ivy League schools. Yale’s participation record is 97.5 percent. Harvard’s is 82 percent.
“Reluctance to donate to the SCG due to disagreement with Yale policies is nothing new,” Pham said. “However, I think the participation rate would not have dropped so drastically had there not been an organized boycott for an issue as urgent and important as mental health reform.”
Daniel Pearson ’15, who donated to the SCG, said he thought most members of the class of 2015, regardless of whether or not they donated, felt conflicted about the issue of mental health and donating to the gift.
Among residential colleges, Timothy Dwight had the highest participation at 95.2 percent. Pierson College had the lowest participation but raised the most money, capping the donation amounts at $3,568.