June 3, 2008

The giving spirit

The Senior Gift is in many ways symbolic, but it has more of an effect than you may realize: Reaching certain levels of participation translates into challenge gifts of substantially more money.

By this point, you have heard about it, you have read about it, and you have probably been asked about it a few times. I am talking about the Senior Class Gift.

I have certainly heard and understand the opposition to it. Many of you have told me that you will not donate because of "philosophical and moral" reasons, though you could not really nail down what those reasons were. Some of you tell me that you will give later, and for you, I just want to make sure that you realize that "later" is now.

Others of you tell me that your money is better donated elsewhere. I do understand that feeling, but I would like to remind you that we request a minimum donation of only one dollar. For the price of a milkshake on Shake Day you can take us approximately 0.1 percent closer to our participation goal. This truly makes an enormous difference.

Yes, your gift is in many ways symbolic, but it has more of an effect than you may realize: Reaching certain levels of participation translates into challenge gifts of substantially more money. I would like to sincerely thank all the fourth-years who have already donated to the Senior Class Gift. Your participation allowed us to meet our goal of 55-percent participation in the class, which means that we have already secured a $25,000 challenge. In fact, today we are at 60-percent participation, which means that we are very close to beating the Class of 2007's 71 percent participation. For every one percent that we surpass last year's mark, we will receive $4,000.

At the beginning of this year, the Senior Class Gift set a lofty goal of 80- percent participation in the class. We understood how difficult it is to get 80 percent of any group to do anything, but we believed that the Class of 2008, as a group, had been extremely dedicated to the ideals of the University of Chicago. We have been involved in different ways, and I will be the first to admit that I did not like every day that I was here. But I hope that as we turn in our final papers and realize that these are our last nights studying in the A-level, we are hit with more than just a sense of bittersweet relief. I hope that we all appreciate how the last four years have affected us and how the University of Chicago is unlike any other school that we could have attended.

I know that we pride ourselves on being a little different here, that we revel in our simultaneous love of and aversion to the University. We will shell out $15 for a shirt about how fun dies here, how it crushes our soul, how Dante could have described a whole new level of hell here, all the while knowing that the T-shirt money goes directly to supporting University houses and student organizations. At the end of the day, most of us love it here. If not love, at the very least I hope you appreciate this experience.

Many of you don't support everything that the University does and the truth is, I don't either. A donation to the Senior Class Gift is not a sweeping endorsement of the University; it is an endorsement of the opportunities that we believe future students should have. The College Fund goes directly to supporting internship opportunities, financial aid, and study abroad, among other things. The truth is that most of us have taken advantage of at least some of these programs and our way was paid, in however small a part, by the willingness of fourth-years before us to give a little something back.

Helping future students doesn't just give me warm and fuzzy feelings; it also satisfies an ulterior motive. Our gifts help the University's ranking in U.S. News & World Report, as alumni donations are factored in (and we count as alumni now). I know that we are not really supposed to care about how we rank, but I think that most of us will admit that we like to see our position move up. And while we are on the subject of other colleges, may I also point out that Dartmouth and Yale last year both had 80-percent senior class gift participation rates? If they can do it, we certainly can.

The Class of 2008 has a chance to make a real difference to the future of this University as well as a chance to make a real statement to our peer institutions. Excuse the cheesy song lyric reference, but let's give them something to talk about. Let's leave our legacy. Let's set the bar. Let's make history. It only takes a dollar.

Wendy Gonzalez is a fourth-year in the College majoring in sociology. She is a member of the Senior Class Gift Committee.