Recently, the Class of 2010 received a letter soliciting donations towards the Senior Class Gift. This in itself is nothing out of the ordinary; donating is a great way for students to give back to their school, to ensure that in a time of economic crisis others will have access to the same educational opportunities.

At the same time, I start to wonder where our priorities are when the Office of Development and Alumni Relations brazenly admits the following:

We encourage each member of the Class of 2010 to make a gift of at least $20.10 so that we can maximize our support of other students and beat the participation record of 68% set by the Class of 2008. Participation, regardless of gift amount, is important because every gift help’s Brandeis’s national rankings, thereby increasing the value of the degrees that we will shortly recieve. We hope to reach 80% participation this year.

This sort of self-interested philanthropy is nothing new, but it is a bit suprising to see it so openly attested to. Other schools play a similar game – in exchange for a donation, they will give you a coupon for a larger amount at the bookstore. Since college rankings (for whatever reason) include the alumni donation rate as a barometer for institutional excess, these schools try to make up in a rankings boost what they lose in cash flow.

So, on the one hand, this sort of solicitation makes great sense from an institutional perspective. At the same time, it’s more than a little depressing to see how Brandeis can enthusiastically capitulate to an unfair, absurd rankings system, one at which it is a disadvantage anyway. Would it be so bad for a school that prides itself on an activist, contrarian history to take a stand on something like this?


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