Breaking down the senior class gift

The 26 students on the Senior Class Gift Committee created the goal of raising $11,000 from 40 percent of their class before the school year is up. So far they have just over $3,000 from six percent of the class. Some students have shown reluctance to donate at this time.
Julie Woods, ’11, does not plan to donate this year.
“Honestly, it was because I had $97 in my bank account when they asked and then I forgot, but if I knew where it was going, I’d be more willing,” Woods said. “The English department doesn’t have a whole shit ton of resources to fund things like the Single Voice Readings, so I’m much more likely as an alum, if I have more than $97 in my bank account, to give money directly where I want.”
Others see the Senior Class Gift as an important investment. Jennifer Reinwald, ’11, has donated $25 from her $300 matriculation deposit.
“It helps the entire school,” Reinwald said. “And yeah, I give Allegheny a lot of money in tuition but if we didn’t give to the senior class gift, then tuition would probably be higher.”
Meghan Perry, ’08, is an Advancement Officer in Alumni Affairs. She is the adviser for the Senior Class Gift Committee and oversaw the recruitment of junior students for the committee last spring.
“I sent in a request to faculty and staff and asking for recommendations of students that really fit ‘the Allegheny model’ and felt could have great connections with their peers,” Perry said. “Also, anybody who might have interest in nonprofit work and higher education.”
Dan Donahoe, ‘11, is one member of the Senior Gift Committee and has already donated $300 – his entire matriculation fee. According to Donahoe, the Senior Class Gift goes directly into the college’s annual fund.
“There are so many things that students couldn’t do without the senior class gift,” Donahoe said. “Like the fancy equipment in Steffee came from the annual fund, research funding, scholarships, or keeping a certain temperature in the dorms during breaks so the pipes don’t freeze. Imagine if you came back to a freezing dorm. The Senior Gift really helps with the operating expenses of the college.”
Samantha Stanko, ’11, would prefer to choose and know exactly where her money goes.
“I was considering giving $40 but I don’t want it to go to stupid shit like those umbrellas outside of Arter,” Stanko said. “I want it to matter; I want it to go to Women’s Studies or some sort of social justice group and I don’t trust the institution to give it to something like that.”
According to Perry, individual donors have the ability to designate where their money goes but the senior class gift is treated like the general donations by alumni, parents, foundations and corporations in the annual fund.  It pays for everyday expenses at the college, at the discretion of certain administrators.
“The entire class isn’t involved in a specific department; if a senior class gift as a whole goes to one single department, it is not a class gift as a whole,” Perry said. “Financial offices decide where the seniors’ money goes. They’re obviously responsible for all the finances of the school.”
The senior class gift is different than years past. Senior classes used to decide on one department, program, or purchase to receive the students’ donations. According to Perry, the senior class gift was changed to support the annual fund in the early 1990s.
“It’s in contrast to years and years ago when the gift was adding another physical memento of the class,” Perry said. “A committee of seniors decided it was more valuable to support the things the annual fund supports and it’s a tradition that has carried on.”
Donahoe prefers this way of giving back.
“I’d rather see students have the same opportunities that I was able to have here,” he said. “Like the Class of 2010’s gift tag line from last year, we don’t want to be ‘just another bench.’”