Senior Class Gift


Ask a random senior how the senior class gift was chosen, or even how to join the board that makes that decision, and odds are they won’t be able to tell you much. Unlike, for example, the choice of a graduation speaker, choosing the senior class gift should be transparent and accessible to all students. With choosing a graduation speaker, there are a lot of people involved – many of them high profile – and the suspense is part of the process. But when students are expected to give their money there is no reason why the process cannot engage more of the senior class. There is valid criticism of the decision to give the class gift money to the Annual Fund. By directing the donations to the fund, the class loses a chance to make a distinct mark on the college. It doesn’t make sense to have increasing numbers of benches, sundials and other physical donations cluttering campus, but this reality shouldn’t prevent the class from leaving a legacy through the establishment of a scholarship, an activity fund, or some other financial donation that could bear the class’s name. The change would still help ease the financial burden of the college – something we don’t deny is increasingly important – while also reminding those who come after the graduating class of their contribution to Macalester’s history and their generous actions during a time of economic uncertainty.

Setting all that aside, though, the issue of transparency still remains. The process of getting onto the Senior Class Gift Committee should be more public. The majority of seniors had not heard about the commitee until the already-formed group announced their decision this past fall. Who is on the committee and how they got there should be clearer. There should be more input from the senior class regarding where their money goes.

One way to rectify the situation would be to do a better job of publicizing opportunities to get on the committee through ads in the Daily Piper or an e-mail blast to the senior class list in late spring or early fall, so that those who want to be a part of the process can be. Another change that would make a big difference would be to alter the job of the committee from singlehandedly choosing the destination of the money to choosing several potential options and then letting the class decide on a final choice through a democratic process. With Google Docs and other online survey programs, there is no good reason not to open the decision-making process up to the people involved.

It always seems like an epic struggle to get seniors to donate in the spring. Could part of the problem lie in the perception that the decision seems out of their hands, leaving seniors without a sense of ownership and, consequently, less motivation to participate? It is impossible to make everyone happy, particularly at a place as opinionated and heterogenous as Macalester, but by opening up the process, we predict that there would probably be less grousing and more giving.

The opinions expressed above are those of The Mac Weekly, as determined by the staff. The perspectives are not representative of Macalester College.