Capital campaign enters faculty stage

By Peter Wright

Macalester began its first efforts appealing to faculty and staff to participate in the college’s ongoing capital campaign on Thursday, Feb. 14, by hosting a breakfast for Facilities Management and a lunch for the Humanities building and the library. Macalester will now focus on targeting employees through a series of similar breakfasts and lunches, in which representatives of the advancement office will discuss the capital campaign and how faculty and staff can contribute to fundraising efforts.

Assistant Vice President of Advancement Operations Kate Abbott said that she would like to see 100 percent participation from faculty and staff at Macalester, but emphasized that if the campaign reaches 50 percent, an anonymous donor will create a new $100,000 financial aid scholarship.

“It could build to be a great gift from the faculty and staff,” Abbott said.

Soliciting faculty and staff is intended to provide solid backing for future fundraising in Macalester’s capital campaign, an effort to raise $150 million for renovations and construction on campus, as well as financial aid, Abbott said. She said that being able to demonstrate a high participation from employees could instill more confidence in organizations considering a donation to Macalester.

“By having a supportive community on campus, that really gives the fundraisers a tool,” Abbott said.

The events on Thursday were intended to generate interest in the campaign, and to motivate employees to join the effort. Events are divided by buildings on campus.

“We hope it will change the culture of giving,” Abbott said.

Professor emeritus Jack Rossmann, who serves as the faculty representative in the campaign, said that the lunch for Humanities consisted of a series of speeches by each of the campaign liaisons (himself, Chaplain Lucy Forster-Smith, and coordinator for the political science department Roxanne Fisher), as well as selected professors and staff from the Humanities building, followed by a short film of Macalester employees talking about supporting the college.

“The goal at this point is to get as much participation in the campaign as possible,” Rossmann said.

He added that it is too early to tell how effective the campaign will be, but that the turnout at the luncheon was good.

Abbott agreed, saying that since people can make their donations online, the full level of success in the campaign won’t be revealed until the end of March.

Linda Schulte-Sasse, Chair of the German and Russian Studies Department and representative of Humanities professors, said that participation is needed now because it has historically been too low at Macalester. Brian Longley, Director of Media Services and the campaign’s representative for staff in the Humanities building echoed her sentiment.

“There’s kind of an individualistic streak here,” Longley said. “Alumni giving has been lower here than it has been at other places.”

According to the website for the Development Office, the goal for alumni participation in the college’s annual fund is 43 percent. Current participation among faculty and staff in the capital campaign is 29 percent. Abbott said that participation from employees at Macalester in the past has averaged at about 25 percent every year.

“I actually think [the level of participation] is OK,” Longley said. “It’s good, but not good enough.”

Longley, who along with Schulte-Sasse is a representative for the campaign in the humanities building, said that convincing employees to donate to the college has been difficult. He said that a lot of people feel that giving money back to the organization that writes their paychecks just doesn’t make much sense.

“Most of us want to get more money from the place where we work,” he said.

However, Longley countered that notion, saying that since Macalester is a non-profit organization, it relies on donations in much the same way any other group, like public radio, would. He said that the donations are needed because tuition alone is not enough to cover everything the college needs.

“This place gets better and better the more people are interested in it,” Longley said.

Schulte-Sasse has faced similar questions from faculty. Like Longley, she said that, although she has been happy with participation, some people have questioned the idea of donating to their employer, alluding to the “beggar’s friend” in the play Threepenny Opera, who has the task of collecting money for a non-profit organization from people who are hesitant to give away their earnings.

Schulte-Sasse added that professors can sometimes become so involved within their own academic world, they tend to not feel responsible for undertaking a role beyond what they teach in sustaining the college.

“As faculty we tend to suffer from a delusion of purity,” Schulte-Sasse said.

Both Longley and Schulte-Sasse were quick to point out that no one has specifically said that they don’t support the campaign. Schulte-Sasse said that not everyone she was in charge of convincing to go to the fundraising push came to the luncheon, but that those people who missed it can still easily participate online.

Overall, organizers of the campaign are optimistic that it will be a success.

“What I’ve seen is that the positive is really accentuated around here,” Abbott said.

The next event will be held on Wednesday for faculty and staff in Kagin, the International Center, the Campus Center, the Chapel, and Winton. The participation campaign will officially end on March 31, but the capital campaign will continue, with a formal announcement of the effort expected next school year.