Senior Gift Teaches Graduates about Harvard's Finances


As Senior Class Gift co-chairs, we are writing in response to Ted Rose's Feb. 14 editorial, "Give the Senior Gift (the Boot)." What Mr. Rose is missing is the purpose of the Senior Gift. It is to educate our classmates about the financial apparatus of Harvard. If the purpose, as Mr. Rose suggests, was simply to get our classmates into the habit of giving, we could use the phone.

We see it as our job to educate our classmates while we are all geographically accessible rather than trying to reach them with an impersonal mailing in the future. Therefore, we make every effort to approach each member of our class in person so that all questions can be answered an the meaning of giving money to Harvard is fully understood.

Mr. Rose balks at the $41,000 dollars raised last year, a senior gift monetary record. Admittedly, this does not amount to a sum crucial to the future of Harvard. And it doesn't claim to be. Instead, that sum is a symbol of how well our classmates understand that the future of Harvard will be in their hands. Alumni giving accounts for 37 percent of Harvard's income. Thus, gifts are essential to maintaining the caliber of students, faculty and facilities that we have at the college.

He also takes issue with the Special Gifts Committee. This Committee has been formed in an effort to encourage proportional giving. The Committee has no access to financial records of any sort. It simply asks people to consider the idea of giving a larger sum consistent with what they can afford. We are not trying to create a financial hierarchy or single people out. On the contrary, we are suggesting to these people that they might make a sacrifice proportional to what others are making.

The Senior Gift does not deemphasize non-monetary ways of giving back to Harvard. Instead it attempts to supplement those ways and maintain them through financial resources in the form of gifts.

We are simply asking our classmates to look back and pick out what they have enjoyed about Harvard. It is more than likely that finances had much to do with that source of enjoyment whether it be time spent with a roommate on financial aid or a favorite class.

Everyone contributes to Harvard in their own way and that is what stimulates the unique environment we are in. But what also plays a role is the diversity of students admitted to Harvard. Not many people realize that the average undergraduate receives a scholarship of $13,000 to attend Harvard.

In order to afford every admitted student the opportunity to come here, Harvard relies in large part on alumni gifts. Our hope is to convey this message to our class even before we leave here. The Senior Gift is a symbol of this spirit and understanding.

In an era when many colleges, such as that of Brown University, are eliminating need-blind admissions due to financial constraints, we must work that much harder to ensure that this unfortunate trend never affects us. And we are confident enough in Harvard's future and the spirit of classes like ours that we will do so for years to come.

We encourage every member of the senior class not to blindly open their checkbooks, but to think about what they have gained from Harvard and to understand the financial backing behind it. Only when this happens will we consider our job a successfully completed one. Jabbar Abdi '94   Samantha Ettus '94   Senior Gift Co-Chairs