Wang: Parents should not be targets of donation requests

Colin Wang, Columnist

Northwestern announced Thursday that the School of Law will incorporate the Pritzker name, following a $100 million donation by J.B. Pritzker (Law ’93) and M.K. Pritzker. This donation, the largest single donation to a law school in the country, will help pay for scholarships and grants, as well as support the school’s social justice, entrepreneurship, and civil and human rights initiatives, according to NU.

The year 2015 has been a highly lucrative one for NU. In January, Roberta Buffett Elliott donated $101 million to boost global studies at NU, establishing the Buffett Institute for Global Studies. In March, NU announced a $92 million donation from Louis Simpson and Kimberly Querrey to the medical school to fund biomedical research and regenerative medicine.

The recent surge in donations is part of “We Will,” a massive fundraising campaign launched in early 2014 to raise $3.75 billion. As of Aug. 31, the We Will campaign had raised $2.41 billion.

I am proud to announce that my family has also contributed to the We Will campaign. Last October, my parents donated to the Parents’ Fund and in return received a fancy thank you card printed on NU-embossed cardstock.

When my parents first told me of this donation, I was surprised. I wasn’t surprised they gave money. Back in October, my parents were still wrapped up in NU pride and hysteria. I was shocked the school had the audacity to ask for a donation merely weeks after processing my tuition payment. Why on earth would NU want more?

The Parents’ Fund homepage offers several options for how a donation can be allocated. These options promote an improved student experience and are extremely diverse, ranging from Northwestern Career Advancement to Counseling and Psychological Services. No one can dispute the importance of such programs. In fact, the availability of enrichment and assistance programs sets NU apart from many other universities.

With a cost of attendance sticker price approaching $70,000, NU should not expect extra donation money from parents to promote an improved student experience. In 2011, the Parents’ Fund raised $1.9 million. Individual donations topping $90 million are becoming surprisingly common, and NU’s revenue-generating endowment is approaching the $10 billion mark. It’s laughable to think the paltry sum raised by the Parents’ Fund is so necessary that it could not be covered by other sources of revenue.

NU should at least make drastic changes to the way it finds parents and targets them as potential donors. It doesn’t make sense to ask the family of a student on financial aid like me for more money. In fact, it borders on insulting when the caller ironically explains that the donation could be used to provide financial assistance for other needy students.

The Parents’ Fund is a flawed fundraising method that should either be completely reevaluated or, even better, phased out. NU is already massively wealthy, and to think that it needs another $500, $600 or $1,000 from my tuition-paying parents is ludicrous. Today, the thank you note from our last donation hangs on the fridge, right next to the calendar that has the due date for Winter Quarter tuition circled. NU must find another way to cover the money raised by the Parents’ Fund because the next time someone calls asking for a donation, my parents will politely decline.

Colin Wang is a Weinberg sophomore. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].

The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.