Each year, Yale asks the graduating class to contribute to the Senior Class Gift fund, encouraging us to take our first step in joining the ranks of Yale’s illustrious alumni by donating money to our alma mater. There is something to be said for giving back to an institution that has shaped four years of our lives — however, Yale is not the only institution that has shaped our time here — there are many far less affluent organizations that are worth supporting financially. Today, we are proud to kick off the Alternative Senior Class Gift, a campaign organized by Yale seniors that raises money for various organizations doing important work in New Haven.
It is natural that seniors would want to donate to Yale. We’ve spent hours working in the libraries and cultural centers. Professors and other professionals mentored us through our education. Donations to Yale make it possible for many of us to attend Yale on financial aid, and we are grateful for that. Without the past generosity of Yalies, none of us would have had the experience that we did. When we look at Yale, we see tangible evidence of time and money spent on our behalf. A stroll through campus reveals monumental structures, funded by and dedicated to donors like Edward Bass ’67, Charles Johnson ’54 and, of course, the illustrious Stephen Schwarzman ’69.
But for all of Yale’s power, influence and money, it is not the only institution contributing to our college education. For one, the city of New Haven and its citizens do indispensable work alongside both Yale and its student body. New Haven residents serve on the Board of Alders, help maintain Yale’s day-to-day operations and show up for student movements. Whether it’s standing outside of Calhoun College every Friday until the name was changed or walking out for Nelson, New Haven residents have never failed to show up for us — now it’s our turn to show up for them. All of this work is done by people whose names are not emblazoned on any building. We are rarely, if ever, asked to consider what we owe this city that has given us a home for these past four years. The Alternative Senior Class Gift is an opportunity to do just that — to give back to and invest in the city of New Haven.
Our goal is not to limit students from donating to the Senior Class Gift. Instead, we hope that students will value the act of investing in our community just as much as that of giving back to Yale. We welcome donations from everyone, whether it’s students who plan to donate to the Senior Class Gift or those who are uncomfortable donating to Yale. While donating to Yale’s Senior Class Gift comes with many rewards: an open bar at Woads, a free T-shirt and a vague sense of charitable good, we believe that providing support to organizations that sustain and elevate the city of New Haven is equally if not more rewarding.
Even if you’re not planning on donating, there are many ways to participate in a community. Giving back isn’t always financial, and should continue after we graduate from Yale. If you’ve attended New Haven Pride, attended a rally for Nelson Pinos or volunteered at New Haven Reads, then you have already done something worthwhile alongside some incredible New Haven organizations.
Regardless of whether you choose to donate to Yale or not, we ask that you consider if Yale — an institution with annual revenue of $4 billion and an endowment of $29 billion — should be the first organization to donate to when reminiscing on our Bright College Years. As such, the Alternative Senior Class Gift campaign is focused on raising donations for four New Haven organizations: Amistad Catholic Worker, Unidad Latina en Acción (ULA), New Haven Reads and the New Haven Pride Center. Amistad Catholic Worker, located in the Hill, provides meals and groceries to those in need, organizes furniture and clothing giveaways and advocates for justice of all kinds in New Haven. ULA, a grassroots activist organization, defends the rights of immigrants and workers in the Elm City. For the past 425 days, it has supported Nelson Pinos, an immigrant father of three who is currently in sanctuary at the First and Summerfield United Methodist Church. New Haven Reads, based in Dixwell, works to improve children’s literacy by providing free tutoring services, teacher support and a community book bank. New Haven Pride Center supports the LGBTQ community, particularly LGBTQ youth and trans folks, through peer-led groups, scholarships, public performances and events.
Beginning today, we are accepting donations to our Venmo account: @AltClassGift2019. Specific donations can be made by specifying one of the above organizations, otherwise, all donations will be equally split between these four groups. Feel free to visit our Facebook page for more information.
As Yale students, many of us will graduate and move on into lucrative careers. We will have monetary capital and all the power to decide where that capital goes. Some of us already have that ability. We hope that all of you will take a moment to reflect on the great privilege we have been granted by attending this university and use that privilege for good. By donating to the Alternative Senior Class Gift, we help recognize how many different organizations play a role in shaping both the Yale and New Haven communities, the importance of showing up when it matters and what it means to give back post-Yale. We look forward to continuing these conversations about what kind of world we want to build together once we graduate — whether it’s at Feb Club parties, over penny drinks or at society meetings. We hope you will join us.
Seamus Houlihan is a senior in Trumbull College. Emma Keyes is a senior in Pierson College. Rita Wang is a senior in Morse College. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, and firstname.lastname@example.org, respectively.