Two Ivy League Colleges Attempt to Shame Students Into Donating to Senior Class Funds

Filed under: In The News, Education: Teens

Who cares if you have student loans? Start donating! Credit: Getty Images

The typical "Walk of Shame" on college campuses involves coeds decked out in last night's clothes, reeking of alcohol and strutting home across campus after a one night stand.

Or so we thought. Now, two Ivy League institutions have created a twist on the shame game, posting the names of students who haven't given their money away to their senior class fund. The goal: Embarrassing peers into philanthropy, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

Forget thank-you notes, buildings, benches and the insides of library books as a way to recognize names of donors. At Dartmouth College and Cornell University, school administrators are trying a different approach, publicly admonishing seniors who aren't contributing to the giving campaign by distributing their names to peer volunteers recruited to solicit donations, and, in one case, publishing a student's name in the Dartmouth school newspaper, according to the Chronicle.

The volunteer student fundraisers also emailed students who had not made their suggested $100 contributions, and in some cases, sent email blasts with the names of non-givers to organizations such as sororities, according to the Chronicle.

Rachel Louise Ensign, author of the Chronicle's report and a senior at Cornell, states in her bio that ran with the story that she is among the scorned non-givers.

She's also created her own put-it-in-print twist on the name shame with a second piece she penned for Onnidan.com, listing tips for inspiring college alumni donations: "Positively recognize students who give, rather than publicizing the names of those who choose not to," her tips conclude.

Call it the new version of an annual report. You know how nonprofits list donor names in big books no one reads? In this case, college administrators supplied more than 40 student volunteers with the names of non-givers, encouraging them to single out their peers to contribute, the Chronicle reports. In many cases, these volunteers armed with lists, called, texted or emailed to solicit donations, according to the Chronicle.

But not everyone participated happily. The single student from Dartmouth's 1,123-student Class of 2010 who did not contribute this year was criticized in a column in the college newspaper and on a popular blog, which posted her name and photograph. The student emailed a testy response to fellow classmates describing her position that she resented the public ridicule, the report states.

At Cornell, the 42 seniors who volunteered to run the senior gift campaign were provided lists of classmates who had not given, and one volunteer shared some of the names with other students. In singling out delinquent classmates, volunteers were told by school officials to send multiple emails and to call students on their cell phones, telling them that they were among the few who had not yet given.

At least one student didn't donate because she was turned off by the persistent contact, the Chronicle reports. Though matched by large alumni gifts, the $10,000 that seniors at Dartmouth donated to the class gift last spring would barely cover one year's housing and books for one student, according to the report. The $80,000 donated by students at Cornell covered two years' tuition for one student, the Chronicle reported.

Rob Henry, executive director of emerging constituencies for the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, tells the Chronicle he doesn't think it is important for a senior class gift to make money.

"The goal is not to raise money, but to begin a pattern of behavior," he says

Apparently, senior class gift programs are a new trend at college campuses, where alumni-giving programs have gone sour along with the economy, the Chronicle reports.

But since the purpose of such appeals is often to educate students and build donor loyalty, these approaches can actually undermine the gift program, Henry says.

"There are two likely outcomes. Either, 'Oh, I feel bad, here's my $20,' or they don't give anything and feel bad," Henry, who has worked with student-giving programs for more than a decade, tells the Chronicle. Whichever happens, "It's going to be harder to get them to give as young alumni."

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