Class Gift May Break Records
But Endowment for Divestiture Still Flounders
Senior Class Gift donations may reach a record high this year, but the paucity of contributions to the Endowment for Divestiture (E4D) appears to indicate that devotion to Harvard comes at the price of abandonment of activist goals.
The Class of '89 has already made pledges of $34,485, almost $3000 short of the record set in 1986. This year's class gift could end up as much as $15,000 more than last year's total. In addition, the partipation rate has risen from 33 percent to almost 45 percent, according to Class Gift Committee Co-Chair Jack Orchard '89.
"I fully expect we will break the  record by graduation," Orchard said yesterday. "Class spirit really starts to build as graduation gets closer. Fundraising goes though the roof."
E4D, on the other hand, has not benefited from any increased class spirit. Its $25,000 fund has grown negligibly since last year, even after a ballyhooed re-establishment of ties with the Undergraduate Council this spring.
The council, responding to anti-apartheid activists, initially created E4D in 1983 to allow students to express their displeasure with the University's policy of holding investments in South Africa. Money donated to E4D is kept in an escrow account until Harvard divests of stock in companies that do business in South Africa.
If the University does not divest by 2003, the E4D trust fund will be turned over to a local charity.
The money raised by class gift donations goes directly to the College but is not deposited into Harvard's endowment accounts, so the class gift and E4D "aren't mutually exclusive," according to Nancy L. Slotnick '89, the other class gift committee co-chair.
Even so, E4D has struggled since it broke off formal ties with the council in 1986, and activists hoped re-establisment of relations would revive interest in divestment issues.
Sean J. Bolser '89, the council member in charge of relations with E4D, said that even though the program has lain dormant this year, he believes E4D will gain strength with continued Council support.
"I think next year the investment will pay off," Bolser said, even though he acknowledged that E4D workers spent little time trying to popularize the program among juniors. "We focused on trying to get seniors to support us, and that was hard enough."
Council Chair Kenneth E. Lee '89 said problems with E4D can be blamed on the current political climate. "E4D was founded when divestment was a very big campus issue," Lee said. "Obviously, here at Harvard and nationwide, interest in divestment has been waning."
"How much interest there is in the class changes with the times," Lee said. "What the council has simply tried to do was revive the administration" so that a well-run program would exist should interest pick up again, he added.
Lee said that current Council Vice-Chair Noam Bramson '91, next year's probable head of the services committee, will be responsible for giving E4D continued support next year.
Unlike E4D, the class gift is not meant to foster social reform, but to get graduates into the habit of sending a check to Harvard every now and then.
"A big part of our campaign is education--educating seniors about what giving to Harvard means," Slotnick said.
"We're establishing the principle of giving to your alma mater," said Nancy Couch, director of special programs for the Harvard-Radcliffe fund.
Students usually earmark about 75 to 80 percent of money donated to the class gift for scholarships, said Orchard. The remainder passes into the "current-use fund" to help pay for maintenance of museums, libraries, athletic facilities, and faculty salaries.
Although the average individual donation to the class gift is $45, Slotnick said, "We ask people to consider giving $89, for the Class of '89, but no gift is too small...We want people to think about giving."
Even with the total amount of donations reaching a possible record, the participation rate of about 45 percent is slightly below average, as in some years as much as 60 percent have contributed.
Couch said that class gift participation rates are poor indicators of future alumni activity, however. "I don't really worry about this at all," she said.
"We do pretty well for a six-week campaign," Couch said.