Paying for college is hard. It costs an insane amount of money, and that cost increases annually. For independent students, finances are an even bigger stress factor. After four quick years, we’re abruptly thrown into the “real world”, and expected to immediately begin paying off our student loans (or, more likely, we’ll be stuck with them until we die and our credit score will cry great big tears of misery). Remember asking your parental figure to check under your bed for that scary, imaginary monster? Yeah. That monster is now made up of at least five digits and will follow you from country to country, refusing to die even if you declare bankruptcy!
…Can anyone tell I’m feeling pretty anxious about beginning loan payments post-graduation, with a microscopic art intern paycheck?
We’ve essentially exchanged our financial souls for knowledge! We’re so poetic!
But… wait… Randolph isn’t done with us. Senior Dinner/Dance tickets? Absolutely! Graduation fees? Well, I guess I don’t have choice. Caps and gowns? Curses! I was hoping Commencement would just be like a lengthy Dell Run. Fine.
Aaaannnnd a senior gift? You want a donation… for a bench or a fountain. From us. From the same people who have already pledged all our past savings on top of the student loans we’ll be struggling to pay off for decades?
With what money? Randolph, honey, you already took all my money. What are you expecting? Aren’t you supposed to wait until I’m moderately successful and wrinkly to ask for donations? You can’t even wait until I receive my diploma?
To make matters worse, when approached by more affluent peers, we are judged for being unable to contribute to a gift we didn’t consent to give. This strikes me as a remarkably classist tradition. I’m very aware that senior class gifts aren’t solely a Randolph College or RMWC tradition. It’s incredibly common. But, at a larger school, you’re protected from judgement and harassment if you cannot (or choose to not) donate. That isn’t the case here.
Yesterday, I was approached by a student helping to organize the class gift. I responded honestly that I didn’t have any money. Glaring, he snapped back, “You really don’t have any money?” No, I really don’t have any money. That wasn’t my first negative encounter with someone about not donating, and I doubt I’m the only one.
If you’re judging someone for not donating, really think about your reasoning. We have a very diverse campus, with students coming from a wide array of circumstances. Assuming that someone isn’t donating because they’re “cheap”, “lazy”, or “apathetic” isn’t reasonable.
So how do we make this better? Perhaps if donations were anonymous or only staff members had access to the names connected to donations, this problem would be solved. Have you faced classist criticism on campus? How did you handle it?