To the Editors of The Crimson:
Though I'm sure by now Thomas D. Warren's opinion piece, "Senior Gift is Apolitical" (April 12) has prompted a spate of replies, out here in the wilds of Berkeley California, the Crimson doesn't arrive until about two weeks after it arrives on Cambridge thresholds, so I'm responding as promptly as possible.
Warren's fundamental argument, or rather, assumption, is that because contributions to the Senior Gift do not directly offset the use of University endowment interest, even those who disagree with University endowment policy can in good conscience support the Senior Gift. This almost sounds reasonable, until you hold it up next to the following parallel argument: the South African government determines what part of its annual budget will be spent buying police weapons, housing political prisoners, and doing other unsavory deeds, without reference to those tax dollars collected specifically from American companies doing business in South Africa. Therefore, American companies who pay millions in taxes to the South African government in taxes each year need not think of themselves as "supporting" the regime. This "argument" is so vapid even the Corporation hasn't used it yet (as far as I know).
The fact is that Harvard, like the South African government and other multi-billion dollar entities, plans its budget at least in part by anticipating revenues from various sources. At Harvard, one (admittedly piddling) of those sources is the Senior Gift, and one (not so piddling) is the total alumni contribution each year. Warren himself tacitly recognizes the importance of this latter source when he says "a donation to the Class gift is an individual recognition of the necessity for annual giving and a pledge to further that cause." Warren can't have it both ways: either donations are unimportant for running the University, in which case the tone of urgency and desperate need Warren disingenuously adopts is ludicrous; or donations really are necessary for the functioning of the University, in which case a donation is explicit support for the way the University is currently run, including its investment policies. Supporters of E4D feel that at this time the University does not deserve such support, and because a contribution can be made in a deferred way (unlike tuition), those who want to use their donation to influence Harvard ought to support E4D.
Warren argues that Senior Gift money is used to benefit particular undergraduate groups and activities that might otherwise be jeopardized. That may be true, but one need not be an economics major to figure out that a much more efficient way to help those groups is to donate directly to them, rather than sending the money through countless layers of Harvard bureaucracy.
As far as "inconsistency" of supporting both E4D and the Class Gift, Warren is just plain dumb to suggest that it is shown false by the mere fact that some people don't care whether their actions have consistent justification. People do things they can't justify; the doing doesn't substitute for justification. And of course those in charge of E4D would rather have students give to both funds than only to the Senior Gift; self-defeating ideological purity ill serves everyone's interests.
If Warren's piece is the best defense the Senior Gift can come up with, prospects for E4D have never looked better. Diane J. Klein '87 Philosophy Department University of California, Berkeley
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