Why would you give to an imperfect institution that has more money than anybody can really imagine? Every year when the Senior Class Gift campaign launches, some iteration of this question is asked — quite reasonably.
The gift has seen a downturn in participation in the most recent years. But in the long history of the campaign, countless graduating classes of Yalies have affirmed that the Yale mission is worth supporting, reaching 96.6 percent participation in 2014, for example. How does this happen? What can a community as diverse, opinionated and independent as Yale College seniors all agree upon? The answer is, and has to be, gratitude.
Every student here experiences a mind-boggling array of resources dedicated to the improvement of our minds. Professors who have revolutionized their fields spend their precious time on us, giving the gift of selfless mentorship. We live in castles kept beautiful and welcoming by deans, heads of college and college staff who dedicate their careers to our growth and happiness, keeping us comfortable and well-fed. The University funds hundreds of clubs, many of them even dedicated to challenging the actions of the University itself. There’s room for debate about the efficacy of any policy, but Yale’s mission is clear: to light the way for each student’s intellectual and personal growth, in the process showering us with more than anyone could ever ask for.
We give to the Senior Class Gift to recognize that Yale did us this service over the last four years and to help the next generation of students experience this magical place. Donations to the Senior Class Gift go directly to the Alumni Fund, which comprises all alumni donations for immediate use. Donors can make an unrestricted donation or designate their donation to support financial aid, faculty support, campus facilities, library resources and undergraduate life. If giving to financial aid is your priority, you can ensure that every penny goes to support next year’s class of first years.
Yale uses these funds immediately where it will make the greatest impact on students’ lives. This is in contrast with the endowment, whose funds cover only 34 percent of the annual operating budget and are directed to restricted purposes. Each dollar donated to the Senior Class Gift has the same effect of income generated by $20 of endowment funds — and immediately. If you’re concerned with how Yale invests its endowment, you’re not contributing to it by supporting the Senior Class Gift. Without the Alumni Fund, fewer students would walk through these gates, fewer courses would be offered and fewer books would be on the shelves. Put simply, this place would lose much of what makes it so special.
As a new feature this year, seniors have the option to make a gift in honor of a person or an organization. If you relied on faculty member for guidance or found your place at a Cultural Center, you can acknowledge them with your donation. In celebration of the Class of 2018, we encourage a donation of $20.18; even a $5 donation would support our goal of 100 percent participation.
In recent years, a growing number of people have asked why they should support Yale when there are problems they want it to address. To this, there is no simple answer. But we must remember that students have always been the central agents of change at this institution. A gift that helps Yale stay open to as many students as possible is one way of ensuring that future Yalies continue to carry on this proud legacy of addressing institutional ills. Wanting to improve Yale and wanting to support it are complementary.
The Senior Class Gift affirms our shared beliefs: Anyone, regardless of family background, should be able to afford tuition; Great faculty are the core of our education and students learn through research, travel and service abroad. There’s so much on this campus we can and should debate, but this gift is one place where we as a community can stand in unity.
The current form of the gift dates back to 1997, but the idea itself has existed since Yale’s founding, making it one of Yale’s longest traditions. It is a testament to Yalies’ sense of commitment, pride and gratitude — that year after year we continue to pay it forward for generations to come. The campaign gives us the opportunity to graduate knowing that as seniors we made this institution stronger. Why will you give?
For more information about the Senior Class Gift and to give, visit scg.yale.edu.
Brendan HELLWEG is a senior in Silliman College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org . Catherine McGeoch is a senior in Ezra Stiles College. Contact her at email@example.com . Samuel Wade Newville is a senior in Hopper College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .