Andrew Siddons: Encourage seniors to give for the future

Every year, the departing senior class presents a gift to the University – a legacy by which the class will be remembered as long as GW still stands. Some past gifts have included familiar landmarks around campus, but in recent years, the gifts have been financial.

After a bumpy start – I shouldn’t have to remind seniors of the spam generated after the first senior gift e-mail allowed many students to reply to the entire senior class listserv with unsubscribe messages or inane commentary – the Senior Class Gift Committee announced that our class’ contribution to GW will be a “Campus Green Fund.” The money collected will help fund the construction of new green spaces and recycling receptacles around campus. The funds will also go to upgrading campus buildings with energy efficient infrastructure.

The green fund was the right choice out of the available options. The philosophy behind a senior class gift should be to improve this campus and life at GW, and this year’s gift will certainly be a step toward making those improvements. But the Senior Class Gift Committee should ensure that this strong idea turns into a reality.

Sadly, the senior gift doesn’t have much of a mandate. Out of a senior class of nearly 2,000, only a pathetic 250 voted for our gift (I wasn’t a part of that number). What’s troubling, though not surprising, is that this number could be indicative of how many seniors will actually give for the gift.

Since the campus green fund is an endowment, by definition it will need at least $50,000 to get off the ground. The $58,000 collected for last year’s senior gift represented contributions from 32 percent of the class of 2006, as well as their parents. With a larger graduating class, it shouldn’t be a problem to exceed that figure.

But the problem of GW apathy remains. The sad truth that we eventually learn is that too many students don’t give a damn about this campus. While it’s a very good thing that we don’t approach University of Maryland at College Park in terms of nihilism, it would be nice to see a mild degree of enthusiasm for our GW experience.

Many of you are going to complain about the exorbitant tuition you paid to go here, which makes giving back to GW at this point a harder sell. But if every member of our class gives just $25, we’ll meet the minimum. The Class Gift Committee could take a cue from both the class of 2006 and Girls Gone Wild: a free T-shirt makes people do things they wouldn’t otherwise do. In this case, a T-shirt for each donation, or any other novelty gift, would be a low-cost way to generate funds for the endowment.

Luckily, once the money has been given, there seems to be a fairly solid framework in place for the management of our money. Although our class will get to set parameters for the money’s use, GW Facilities Management will ultimately administer the endowment. The newest buildings on campus have been built to United States Green Building Council Standards, so let’s hope that future expansion will too, and that older buildings continue to be upgraded with more efficient lighting, plumbing and climate control.

Finally, I’d like to call for the participation of the most prominent member of the class of 2007: President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg. President Trachtenberg will already be leaving a robust legacy behind when he retires next year, but perhaps he could reach into those deep pockets of his one more time by matching the contributions of this year’s graduating class. Our president has already established a GW scholarship for a student from Darfur, but he admitted in a Hatchet letter to the editor that “we cannot rest on our laurels.” Taking part in the class gift this year would be an excellent opportunity for Trachtenberg to accomplish this goal.

We need to prove that we are serious about the legacy we leave behind by giving until it hurts. The Senior Class Gift Committee ought to start pressing us to give. Give us incentives, even clog our inboxes with reminders – whatever it takes to make all of the members of the Class of 2007 participate. Such motivation can help us make this campus something that we’ll want to return to as future classes take our place.

-The writer, a senior majoring in international affairs and anthropology, is a Hatchet columnist.

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