A few weeks ago, I stood in the Bear’s Den, asking seniors that were coming in to consider giving to the Senior Class Campaign. In general, people responded kindly, either with a yes or a no. But there were a few that responded extremely negatively. One particular interaction went like this,
“Hi, are you a senior?”
“Would you consider giving to the Senior Class Campaign to help generations of Cornellians after you have a positive experience at Cornell?” Smily face.
“No, and I will never, ever give to you.”
I have been asking people for money basically my whole college career because I have been involved with global health on campus and that is what you do with global health: you raise money around issues. However, when you are raising money for malnutrition or a natural disaster, people may say no, but they are not obnoxious about it, for obvious reasons. But when it comes to Senior Class Campaign, it seems as though people all of a sudden forget that the senior asking you to give a gift, is also a senior, who probably has debt, and will probably accrue a lot more by going to law school for the next three years, and is thinking about that paper he didn’t finish but is due later tonight. Still, this senior has found a reason to give back, and so, perhaps, just maybe, there is a reason he feels passionately about the Senior Class Campaign?
In fact, tuition covers only 60% of the costs of education. The rest of the money is covered through gifts. The Senior Class Campaign helps raise funds for financial aid for students, innovative projects (including helping fund proposals and planning for the tech campus bid), as well as maintaining the libraries, plantations, things we all use and take for granted.
I’m not going to paint a rosy picture. In fact, my experiences at Cornell have been difficult, particularly in my first two years of school. However, I still realize how much I’ve grown through the various experiences and how much I have enjoyed even this past year. In fact, I have had mentors that have helped me along the way. Cornell is not just made up of the buildings or lawns. Rather, Cornell is defined by the people, the mentors that helped me through difficult times, the professors that guide me, the grants that have helped me do research or plan student programming. All of these things make Cornell, and personally, that is what I am giving to. I am giving on behalf of those that made my experience here special whether the experiences were difficult or easy. And I am giving because I feel I owe that guidance to the next generation of Cornellians, so that they may have resources, and maybe, just maybe, have an even greater experience than I have had.
Not all of us are Chuck Feeneys or Marcia Mortons. In fact, the Senior Class Campaign doesn’t expect you to be. The campaign understands financial difficulties and gives an option to give back with your time and talent as well through philanthropy projects planned throughout the semester. Plus, even a $5 gift is a meaningful one, if given knowingly that you are giving for the sake of giving, for the sake of improving the lives of future Cornellians.
Perhaps if we all stopped being offended on the spot as we hear the words Senior Class Campaign, we would understand that, at the essence of it, what the Senior Class Campaign is simply doing is encouraging seniors to understand the concept of philanthropy, recognizing that Cornell has indeed given us many different things, and reminding us to be thankful for our experiences – whether they be positive or negative – that have helped us grow in different ways.
I’m going to be in a lot of debt for the next many years due to medical school, but I still want to participate in the growth of my university through time, talent, and treasure. Perhaps it’s because I’m a second semester senior, but I’m really going to miss the memories that I’ve had at this place. I want future students to feel the same way.