Smith Misses The Purpose Of The Senior Gift Mission

Letters to the Editors

To the editors:

In the op-ed by Luke Smith ’04 (“Senior Gift Shenanigans,” April 6) his ill-informed critique of the Senior Gift Campaign only serves to underscore the importance of its educational mission. Smith purports to offer advice to College seniors, but he only distorts and misrepresents the truth behind Senior Gift.

The “Senior Gift Survival Guide,” from which Smith draws much of his piece, is a synthesis of public, well-documented facts and figures on Harvard College. This information is not a secret. It was prepared for Senior Gift Committee members precisely because we recognize the difficult decisions that come with asking for, and pledging to make, financial contributions. The pamphlet—by whatever name—represents the belief of Senior Gift that all participants should have the appropriate information to make a conscientious decision. Senior Gift works to educate students about the importance of annual giving, not to coerce or harass them, as Smith would have readers believe.

Smith specifically points to the absence of a student center and late-night library hours as evidence that Senior Gift does not support Harvard students. However, he fails to mention the plethora of new initiatives and opportunities that have directly resulted from the unrestricted funds raised by Senior Gift. This year alone, we have seen new funding for study abroad programs, money for House gyms and an expanded freshman seminar program. The money raised by Senior Gift goes directly to areas and programs that need it most.  

Smith also argues that competitive financial aid and educational resources are merely self-serving and allow Harvard to beat out peer institutions in attracting students. With nearly 70 percent of students receiving some form of financial aid, we think most of our classmates would disagree. Alumni giving—to which Senior Gift is a prelude—makes it happen. Competition is part of what drives Harvard to offer the best need-blind financial aid and is probably what drew most of us to this institution. We should not decry the existence of these initiatives, but rather foster their continued growth for future classes.

For additional information on the Senior Gift Campaign, we encourage readers to view our website at







April 9, 2004

The first two writers are Senior Gift co-chairs. The other writers are participation chairs.