In an effort to continue its tradition of raising money for faculty salaries, student scholarships and Alumnae Association operations, alumnae are asking seniors this semester to donate money after graduation.
While many seniors are enthusiastic about contributing, others have mixed feelings about it.
Senior pledge coordinator Jennifer Moxley ’93, a member of the Alumnae Associations board of governors, said that the association asks seniors every year to make a promise to pledge any amount of money they choose.
Seniors who decide they want to donate are not required to do it before graduating. They are asked to make the donation any time within a year after graduation.
Moxley said that this year, the Associations goal is to have 30 percent of the class of 2003 give a monetary gift to the college.
“We want seniors to get into the habit of giving [every year] to the extent that they can so that future Mills women can get an education with support from the Alumnae Fund,” said Moxley.
“Senior pledge is all about education and philanthropy,” said Director of Annual giving Donna Chan ’90. “We’re hoping that through the senior pledge drive, seniors will be made aware of the Alumnae Association and its programs.”
According to Moxley, a portion of all the money donated by alumnae not only goes as a gift to the college for faculty salaries and scholarships but also to the Alumnae Association so that it can continue to support itself.
“We are an independent non-profit organization,” said Moxley. “The college doesn’t support us. Most alumnae associations are a part of their colleges. We are one of the few that’s a free-standing organization.”
Chan said that the portion of the funds that go to the Alumnae Association is used to help pay for special alumnae and student programs, postage, staff and the alumnae magazine, The Quarterly, which all alumnae and friends of the college get for free four times a year. The association does not require its members to pay a fee like at many other colleges and universities.
Moxley said that it doesn’t matter how much money an alumna gives, what matters is how many alumnae give.
“Last year a student pledged one dollar and that is just as important,” said Moxley.
Although many seniors will be facing loan re-payments, they are committing themselves to donating.
Senior Christine Couture said that she plans on donating because she believes it is important to give to the college.
“Mills has honored you with a degree,” said Couture. “The least a student could do is give $10 a year. That’s 83 cents a month, which turns out to be approximately 41 cents per pay period if you are paid bi-weekly. I could bum that much by asking someone at a bus stop. To withhold pocket change would be the epitome of selfish acts.”
Alice Kaminski is also enthusiastic about giving.
“One of the most important things a Mills alumna can do is to give back to their college,” said Kaminski. “Rating organizations use the percentage of alumnae who give to their school as one of the indications of how “good” a school is. This rating reflects not only on the institution but on its alumnae as well. The better Mills is rated, the better people will think of alumnae when they are searching for jobs, etc.”
Moxley said that publications like US News and World Report show these ratings.
Kaminski also said that because the United States relies more heavily on private donations than most developed countries, individuals have the opportunity and in her opinion, a moral obligation, to use their money to support what they believe in.
“We have lower tax rates than most European countries, which means that many things are not federally funded like they are in Europe,” said Kaminski. “These lower tax rates put more money in our pockets that we can use to directly benefit what we feel is important. If education is important to you… you should make sure that others have the opportunities that you were given.”
However, other students said they think it is inappropriate for the Alumnae Association to be soliciting seniors at this time because they have many other expenses to worry about.
“I have a hard time giving money to Mills knowing the amount of money I owe in student loans,” said Jannelle Taylor. “In addition, the unexpected art fee I was recently billed for makes things even worse.”
Barbara Postel echoes Taylor’s sentiments where student loan repayments are concerned.
“I have been living on next to nothing and have gone into a $24,000 debt in order to complete my undergraduate education,” said Postel. “Next year both of my sons will be in college and I dream of having a job that pays enough so that I can contribute to their educations.”
Gina Kim said that although she loves Mills, has had a great educational experience and would love to donate money, she is surprised by how fast the Alumnae Association has begun soliciting money from her, especially since she graduated last semester.
“I can speak for myself at least when I say that I am, after my studies at Mills, tens of thousands of dollars in debt and am in no position to be solicited for donations of any kind,” said Kim.
Other students said that they feel torn on donating because they are upset with the college’s decision to eliminate the dramatic arts major and minor.
“A year ago I would have said of course, I would do anything to support this institution,” said Maryssa Wanlass. “But now that the college is recklessly cutting departments and seems to care more about its budget than the students, I don’t feel comfortable giving them my meager support. As a drama major, I can’t justify contributing anymore than my inflated tuition to this school, which has left me with a second-rate theater training and no access to my department or faculty after I graduate.”
Kim said she also has mixed feelings about giving because of last semester’s student struggle with the administration over possible faculty lay-offs in the modern languages department.
“I have a problem with the ways in which student voices are not heard on the decision-making level at Mills, the ways in which finances are being managed and I have not been made to feel confident about the future of the school,” said Kim.
Another student, who wants to remain anonymous, said that she doesn’t know if she wants to donate because of the problems she has had with the M Center.
“They have been jerking me around, regarding whether or not I have enough credits to graduate.” said the senior. “They don’t realize the unnecessary stress they are causing. Experiences like this make me feel like Mills doesn’t need money. They need to look at how their students are treated.”
According to a brochure published by the Alumnae Association, in 2001-02, alumni and friends of the College gave almost $1.6 million to the Alumnae Fund. After paying off its operation budget, the association was able to give a $955,000 gift to the College for faculty salaries and student scholarships in 2002.