There has been a great deal of anger and debate over the recent Tuition Free Day and a number of students expressing their frustration with the college and their decision not to give to the Senior Gift. Before anything else, I want to say thank you to the students who have contributed to this debate on both sides. I would also like to say up front that I have worked for Star 47, the student fundraising organization on campus, for four years both as a caller and as a manager. Though my work there has definitely shaped my view, I am not writing this on behalf of the Annual Fund, Alumni Office, Star 47 or any other organization on campus. I am writing as a Pomona student who has already given to the Senior Gift and, job security permitting, will continue to contribute to the Annual Fund in the future despite any frustrations I may have with the college.
First off, I want to make clear that our gifts, and indeed all gifts to the Annual Fund, only go to help students and student activities. Absolutely no funds will go to support the administration, non-faculty staff, alcohol by default, new buildings or anything like that. The vast majority of it will go to financial aid, and the rest goes to academic programs and student life activities. In fact, if you want you can specify where you want your gift to go, such as to financial aid. While this may seem like a boring argument compared to some of the passionate opinions against the Senior Gift, it is important to understand that you aren’t giving money so that kids can have a keg at Pub. Instead, the money is helping a kid come to Pomona who can’t afford the $50,000 a year it takes to come here or helping to bridge the very real gap between the actual cost of sending a student to Pomona (roughly $80,000) and what tuition covers. But these are arguments that are tired and used frequently. Though it is important to address some of the misconceptions, there is a much more important reason to give to the Senior Gift.
It ensures the vibrancy and diversity of the student body. Many people have complained that they feel wrong giving to the Senior Gift because they can’t separate their frustration with the college from the act of giving it money. But honestly, if you want Pomona to change and continue to grow, wouldn’t you want to ensure that students had the most opportunities to learn, debate and challenge what it means to be a Pomona student?
Our gifts, however small they may be, are a message that we want the future of Pomona to remain bright and ever-conscious of the harsh realities of the real world, ready to change and adapt to stay at the forefront of society. I’ve worked in the Admissions Office and I assure you that the people there want Pomona to have the diversity of perspectives that will continue to push the administration through positive and constructive discourse. But they can only do so much.
And that is why I’m giving. I want to give them the tools to be able to say, “Don’t worry if you can’t pay, we want you to be a member of our community and our family.” I want every student, current and future, to be able to attend forums, hear guest speakers and have faculty who will continue to make our students vivacious, energetic and curious. I can understand if your anger and frustration are too much, that your gratitude shouldn’t feel forced or if you simply don’t care. But I want to make sure that I can give the gift of a Pomona education to people I never will meet, and be sure that they will use their experiences here to make the world a better place. My words may appear hyperbolic, but this is why I have given my gift and why I hope you might, just maybe, possibly, consider giving a gift if you feel comfortable doing so.