Imagine that you, a Drexel student, could give back to your community. Imagine that, even by only giving five dollars, you could make a real difference to someone, maybe far away in a third-world country, or maybe just some homeless person on the street in West Philadelphia. Imagine that you could, with your own hard-earned dollars, make a really palpable, positive change.
Now imagine that instead of that, you take those hard-earned five dollars, which could have fed and clothed a Haitian child for a week, or bought food for a famine-stricken Somali village for a day, or bought a school uniform for an independent young Malaysian girl who wants nothing more than to attend a school and make something of her life and escape the cycle of poverty that so many of her neighbors have been trapped in for generations, and give it to Drexel University instead. Who might use it to buy, say, a stapler.
Welcome to #MyLegacy.
The Office of Institutional Advancement at Drexel is launching a new fundraising campaign this month. The My Legacy Student Campaign is a campaign to solicit donations for our perpetually cash-strapped University. From currently enrolled students.
The Facebook page proudly states, “It’s time to build an all-around Drexel pride!” and “Join your classmates in giving back to your Drexel community!” and so on in that fashion. It says this to us, the impoverished students, many of whom already have or are well on the way to hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt and who have no guarantee of finding a decently paying job out of college.
Frankly, it’s insulting. Not only that, it’s immoral. “Building Drexel pride” by giving cold hard cash donations is a deliberate hijacking of the idea of school spirit. My Legacy suggests that it is no longer enough to know the Drexel Fight Song or go to the basketball games or even to buy the $40 sweatshirt from the bookstore. Now you have to donate to the University out of your own initiative because you are a Drexel Dragon and that’s what Dragons do.
Linking school spirit to a financial ability to donate is a dangerous idea, one that will increase the visible effects of income inequality in what should be an egalitarian community of learning.
The other gimmick, of course, is that My Legacy allows donors to control where their money goes. It can, for instance, go to a student organization of one’s choice, as if the student activity fee isn’t enough and donating to these organizations independently isn’t “showing Drexel pride” or something.
We find it hard to imagine that this campaign to solicit donations from current students will be successful, considering that most students are not in a financial position to donate. We hope that students will realize that tuition should be enough and that they have no obligation to donate to show their Drexel pride.
We also take no issue with My Legacy soliciting donations from alumni. The campaign will, in fact, allow alumni more control over how their money is spent. We view this as a positive development.
However, the fact is that soliciting donations from current students is immoral and ineffective. Donations should not be expected of or even asked of tuition-paying students, and a fundraising campaign directed at tuition-paying students should not exist. A possible alternative that the Office of Institutional Advancement could take is one similar to what the University of Pennsylvania has recently launched. They have begun a philanthropy campaign that allows donors to give directly to scholarships that will help current students graduate with less (or no) debt. Those working in Institutional Advancement would be better off asking alumni for funds to help alleviate the financial burden on current students rather than asking those who will be repaying loans for years to donate even another dollar.