Letter to the Editor: More on why seniors should give class gift

I’d like to say a few words in response to Michael Gsovki’s article, “Gsovski: Saying no to the class gift tradition.” As a fellow senior, an exec member of the Senior Class Gift Committee, and as Mike’s old dorm-mate freshman year, I feel a compelling urge to dispel some misconceptions about the Senior Class Gift in his article.

First off, I think it’s great that Mike is encouraging people to give to charities that students support. However, I wanted to correct this notion that giving to the Senior Class Gift detracts from other important causes. Personally, I think that there are tons of organizations that need our help, which is why I gave a $35 donation to the Human Rights Campaign in January and why I volunteer twice a week at Equality Illinois. I think it’s incorrect to assume that my support for Northwestern prevents me from doing good for other organizations that I believe in, and I’d like to believe that most other seniors feel this way too.

So what is the Senior Class Gift for? Mike talks about the law of diminishing marginal returns and, while it’s totally true when I’ve had that fourth bowl at Flat Top, the money from your Senior Class Gift goes to the Annual Fund (or to a group/sorority/fraternity/sport/etc. of your choice), which certainly does not have $3.5 billion dollars, and which supplies the money that critically funds year-to-year expenses at Northwestern. This is not the endowment, and the money in the annual fund is completely allocated each year to student life, salaries, scholarships, security, etc. So, when we have improvements that occur on campus from a year-to-year basis, it occurs when that Annual Fund grows in size, which happens when more alumni and seniors give, or when they give more.

And what are some of these changes?

Well, how about the opening of the Great Room, which created more opportunities for students to enjoy the quality of their life at Northwestern, without sacrificing another dorm to find more money? Or the creation of the Latina/Latino Studies Program in March of 2009, without diverting funds from, say, the Asian American Studies Program?

So, what is the Senior Class Gift for? Ultimately, it’s about making Northwestern a better place when you leave it than when you entered it. Improving life on campus, whether it’s the Great Room, the Latina/Latino Studies Program, or the Norris renovations, does not require sacrificing other aspects of the university in part thanks to support we’ve received from people who’ve walked through our campus, slept in our dorms and studied in our libraries before we did.

The Senior Class Gift is a way for us to help Northwestern continue that legacy. I hope that seniors who read this know that, while it may seem like you’re just giving to your soon-to-be alma mater, what you’re really doing is helping all the people who will follow in the footsteps of the Class of 2010.

– Johnston ChenWeinberg senior Senior Class Gift Committee member