Now, I never had any intention of contributing to this gift (I may have written in the past about when and why I stopped making my annual $25-50 donation to Instant Name Recognition U, and the explanatory letters that I wrote to my class secretary, the dean of the college, and the dean of the graduate school, and to which I received no reply), but I opened the letter and read it anyway.
Apparently, INRU is in the midst of a new capital campaign. I wasn't, actually, aware that the old one had ended--I suspect that they never really do end, just change their names--but our reunion chair was all burbly with excitement about the opportunities that this offered those of us desperate to give our money away:
In line with the University's priority to renovate campus facilities, two challenges are underway: an initiative that will match dollar-for-dollar outright gifts and pledges from $25,000 to $1,000,000 for [Important Building X]'s recent renovation, and a [Important Building Y] Challenge that will also match all new gifts or pledges of $10,000 to $500,000 for its restoration, which has recently begun. Both initiatives offer Class reunion fundraising credit and individual recognition opportunities for twice the amount of any qualifying gift. Recognition opportunities are limited, and on a first come, first served basis.Okay, I'm going to try not to throw myself out of my second-story window at the thought that there might be someone in my graduating class either interested in or able to donate $10,000+ to my alma mater, because what I find most interesting are those last two sentences. The implication seems to be that a large number of us might well have tens of thousands of dollars lying around, but we're too chintzy to donate it if we think we'd only get recognized for it once--and that we would, moreover, jump at the chance to donate a mere $50,000 (say), if we could publicly claim to have donated $100,000. In fact, there are so many of us with pots of money lying around, and so greedy to be seen as even fatter cats than we are, that we'd better act fast--recognition opportunities are limited!
And then there's the final paragraph:
I hope you are as eager as I am to give back to [INRU]--an institution that has given us so much. [INRU] and your fellow classmates appreciate your commitment to our alma mater and to the Class of 1997.Now, you know what? INRU probably gave me more than it gave the punk who wrote this letter: it gave me three degrees, my closest friends, and what I will admit was both an amazing education and a great set of personal and professional connections. I am the person I am today because of that school.
But that B.A. and M.A. were fully paid for (well, except for those pesky, outstanding loans, but nevermind them). It's probably untrue that my labor as a TA and as an instructor fully covered the expenses of my Ph.D., but I'm smart enough to know that alumni giving has no meaningful relation to grad student stipends--or to the wages that the university pays its clerical/technical/maintenance workers--anyway. I also know that there's no way to earmark any donations specifically for those purposes.
And that, ultimately, is what I find so frustrating about these solicitations: I wish that I did have that kind of money to give, if only so that the university would care enough to listen to my reasons for not giving it.