Shout with dollars for Senior Class Gift

By Michael Barnes

I recently read of the clamor surrounding the 2010 Senior Class Gift. I can understand how seniors, who have been encouraged to chart their own course in four years at Mac, might feel disillusioned at being stripped of a choice on their gift. Every student who spends time on our campus leaves a distinctive mark, and the Class Gift is a perfect opportunity to permanently affix that uniqueness to the campus. However, while the swing set and bell tower are symbols of joy and reverie (respectively), I doubt anyone can argue that they are somehow closer to understanding the thoughts and wishes of the classes of 1927, 1928, and 1992, which contributed these gifts. A symbol is only as strong as the memories attached to it, and while we may enjoy the presence of some unique physical structures, the memories we associate with these items are only our own; little survives the vacuum of time.

As far as the 2010 Class Gift is concerned, however, there are two points which might be of interest to all seniors that have currently been overlooked. The first is that gifts to the Annual Fund are not necessarily anonymous wads of cash tossed together in a great salad of “unrestricted funds.” In the filing cabinets stored in the attic above Weyerhauser rest letters from alumni that have been preserved for decades. All donors who give have the option of sending a message the college is honor-bound to preserve.

Second, while the college desires that all donations be free of restrictions, as a non-profit entity, they cannot deny donors the right to decide how their gifts will be applied. Taken together, this means that seniors can come up with a novel way of giving money to the Annual Fund, which would distinguish their gifts from all others. Perhaps, as an example, seniors who give may choose which area of the college budget their dollars will contribute toward. In this way each dollar is a vote that collectively records the areas of concern for the Class of 2010. Additionally, seniors may include a message that will be preserved for future generations to receive.

In the end, this giving campaign can be documented and recorded in a “profile of the Class of 2010,” which acknowledges where students’ dollars were applied, and preserves the messages seniors leave behind, with a directive that a copy of this profile be left in every department that has been touched by students’ generosity. As the former chair of the 2006 Class Gift, which endowed a scholarship, but saw its own controversy over the “democracy” of the gift, I recommend moving past this argument, and toward a vote. But instead of a ballot, let each dollar you give speak for you, and please, don’t just whisper, shout!

Michael Barnes ’06 can be reached at [email protected]