Senior Gift and the change we don't wish to see.: Why The Office of Development should leave Senior Gift the way it is

Posted by The Editorial Board

Note: We originally attributed the proposed changes mentioned in the following editorial to the Office of Alumni Affairs. That was incorrect, it was the Office of Development that engineered these proposed changes. Our apologies.

Also, The Office of Development has as of now rescinded their proposed changes.

Senior Gift is one of Skidmore's few lasting traditions and, since 1980, has asked seniors to donate money towards a scholarship for a rising senior who is burdened with a significant amount of debt and does not enjoy any other scholarship. Generally, this rising senior is in good academic standing and has proven him/herself to be a valuable contributor to the community.

Senior Gift is arguably the first time the graduating class gives back to Skidmore. After being the recipient of all the college has to offer for four years: the education, professors, friends, events and general college experience, seniors, through this act of largesse, allow one student the opportunity to look back upon their time at Skidmore after that time expires, without being crushed by the financial realities of the Skidmore experience. It relieves them of the enormous debt that would have weighed them down upon graduation, hampering them from pursuing their own goals and hopes.

Recently, the Office of Development was able to secure alumni matching, meaning that each dollar donated by a senior is matched with a dollar donated by an alumnus. The Office of Development -however - is now contemplating and moving ahead with offering seniors the option of choosing a beneficiary to donate their senior gift to that is not a traditional scholarship fund. Seniors will have the option to donate money to the athletics department, sustainable Skidmore, office of campus life ( in which donations could fund other awards or clubs, for example), or the traditional scholarship fund.

The Office of Development's logic behind this drastic change is that, disappointed with the amount of senior donations, they hope this change will increase senior participation to 80% of the class.  The change then, seems economic; the thinking goes that athletes would be more willing to donate to the athletic department, environmentally-conscious students would donate to sustainable Skidmore, and those that did not necessarily fall under any of the new categories could still donate to the original scholarship.

This paper feels the need, however, to suggest that the Office of Development has underestimated the detrimental nature of this change and - most importantly of all - has forgotten the purpose of Senior Gift. Senior Gift is one of the few acts of solidarity a class truly experiences. A class may come together for school events, but these events are hardly conscious endeavors to better Skidmore and its students. Senior Gift is one of the few events that unite a class in the act of giving back. It is meant to foster camaraderie, to bind students in a final act of magnanimity and charity, in the hopes that it will set them on a philanthropic track for the rest of their lives. It is the opportunity for a whole class to come together, for each student to give just a little, but, as a result of their collective efforts, relieve a fellow student of their debt. Offering students a choice of preferences divides the senior class into their respective cliques that has defined them in their four years at Skidmore. Senior Gift will be reduced to nothing more than donating money - not to some worthy student in need of aid - but to the student's own individual taste, one that is already being funded by a multitude of other sources. This change will remove the benefit of seeing the tangible results of the seniors' generosity.

Senior Gift is just as much about tradition and the senior community as it is about philanthropy. This newspaper asks that the Office of Development does not tarnish one of Skidmore's few worthy traditions. There must be better ways to raise the money needed to finance Skidmore's other activities.

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