Op-ed: A no-donate pledge hurts students, not the University

Sebastian Weinmann, a third-year law student at GW, is a Student Association senator, Student Bar Association senator and Class of 2018 graduate.

Simply put, a no-donate pledge hurts students, not the University.

During more than three years working at GW’s student call center, I asked thousands of alumni to donate to GW. In the process of raising more than $35,000, I saw first-hand how donations from members of the University community are absolutely necessary for the success of our community.

The pledge does not “hit GW where it hurts,” as The Hatchet Editorial Board erroneously claims. Donations to GW can be designated with extreme specificity. As a result, most donations bypass GW’s wallet and go directly to students. Donors don’t usually give to operations budgets or the President’s Fund for Excellence, but rather to need-based scholarships, assistance funds, student organizations and resources that support under-privileged and marginalized student populations. When donations are withdrawn or withheld from these crucially important causes, the University does not supplement them. The money just disappears – not from GW’s bottom line but from students’ pockets.

A donation withheld from a scholarship fund means a low-income or first-generation student cannot attend GW. A donation withheld from The Store means a student cannot eat a proper meal. A donation withheld from an emergency assistance fund means a student cannot fly home last-minute to be with a sick family member. It is not a hypothetical that student access, support and resources are lost when donations are low and are gained when donations are high.

The editorial board claimed the pledge won’t be effective unless people sign on. The sad irony is that the more people who follow the editorial board’s well-intentioned but logically-flawed call to action, the more effective the pledge will be at hurting our most vulnerable student populations. This tangible detriment to students is why the SA Senate overwhelmingly voted in favor of abrogating Brookins’ executive order that included a University-wide, no-donation pledge.

I understand and share the frustrations of those that created and signed this pledge. I am in my seventh and likely last year as a GW student. It is clear GW’s most senior leadership, including University President Thomas LeBlanc and the Board of Trustees, have failed us. But them failing us is not a reason for us to fail ourselves. In fact, their failure is even more of a reason for members of the GW community – especially alumni who are less impacted by their irresponsible and incompassionate decisions – to step up and support those still struggling to be seen and heard.

After the pledge was announced, I not only proudly continued but also increased my monthly donation to causes on campus I care about. I urge all members of the GW community to donate to student-centric causes such as the GW Cares Student Assistance Fund, The Store, the Multicultural Student Services Center or any of the hundreds of student organizations and dozens of need-based scholarships.

It is students, not the University, who cannot afford to lose donations at this unprecedented time.

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