The New York Times ran an article the other day talking about how institutional advancement (i.e. fundraising from alumni) is faring in the current economic climate. There are a few interesting parts of the article which I’ll share below, but I encourage you to read the article linked above if you have the time. From the article:
But for everyone else, this year’s giving season is an exercise in a different sort of asset allocation than the one we’re used to for our retirement accounts. It’s about competing demands, the rising need to pay for basic human services in our communities versus the emotional pull from the educational institutions that helped shape us.
I used this quote from the article to highlight the last sentence regarding how we are shaped by our educational institutions. I hear this line from my undergraduate institution, my graduate institution, and my fraternity time and time again and frankly, it’s insulting. I’m sure that there are some people in the population who go to college as chunks of clay and who are then shaped into whatever artwork their professors can manage, but how prevalent is this type of person in society? I know many more alumni from my undergraduate institution who can’t stand the college than who adore it and thank it for making them who they are today.
In fact, the comment that I hear most often from my fellow alumni is that the school was too expensive to attend and that one or two overbearing professors really left a negative mark on some students. In fact, it gets a little humorous to hear how one or two of the English professors are out of line (and out of the times) with their stance towards educating college students and how their methods are not replicated in the working world at all. Stupid professors…
Plus, what ever happened to the idea of students being their own people and bringing something new to the university? Why is it that some people think these universities and organizations shape individuals? Isn’t it the opposite? Don’t the individuals shape the climate and the culture of the organization? Anyway, the following text is also from the article:
The Amherst endowment, which stood at $1.7 billion at the end of June, lost about a quarter of its value over the next four months. The families of its students suddenly need more financial aid because of the economic downturn. And now the college is turning to its alumni for help, at the very moment that many of them are experiencing their own catastrophic financial losses.
Again, I focus on that last sentence with respect to my experiences with my undergraduate alma mater. At some point in November I received the annual phone call from a Freshman at my old college asking me to donate. The new strategy for these solicitations is to have you talk a little bit about your time as an undergrad and give your suggestions to the student on the phone about how he or she can make the best of their time on campus. It’s all an effort to get you to donate to the university – nothing more, nothing less. Well, after about thirty seconds of my babbling about undergraduate life to a Freshman who wasn’t listening anyway, the girl made the “ask.”
If you haven’t been solicited by the telephone before, the “ask” is when the person on the other end of the phone gets to the point in the script where they need to ask you for a donation. They usually start out high and are willing to go as low as they need to go in order for you to say “yes” to their request. This girl asked me to donate $1,000. I almost fell on the floor! Go back and read the last sentence quoted above – alumni are feeling the financial crunch, too! How dare my undergraduate institution (where I paid nearly $100,000 in tuition) ask me to donate $1,000 in this economic climate!? I told the girl that I was offended by the number and that if the university knew about my current status (which they SHOULD know about – I teach there), then they’d know that the number was out of my range. So she asked me for $500 and I told her that I wasn’t going to donate anything and thanked her for her time.
Up until now, I haven’t asked to be taken off of the solicitation list from my alma mater because I wanted to get the phone call and to consider an annual donation to a cause of my choosing (as stated in the article). However, after the ridiculous ask by the college this year I think I’m going to request to be taken off of their annual solicitation list. I donate my money to the Sigma Pi Educational Foundation not because the fraternity “shaped me” in anyway (it did not), but because I know where the money goes and I see the end result with my own two eyes. I would encourage all of you to do the same in terms of researching and understanding where your scarce donation dollars are being spent.