Monday, May 12, 2008


I have yet to give any money to Oberlin since changing my membership status from "student" to "alum" 3 years ago. It's not like I haven't tried: I filled out the "Donate my matriculation deposit" paperwork completely the day it arrived in my OCMR yet the school still sent me my check. I certainly can afford to give but I feel no guilt about my current miserly ways. I figure I am already making a contribution by working for the school (as a wage slave, no less) and actually keeping one of the few profitable parts of the campus up and running and, dare I say, more profitable. I've actually tried explaining this logic to the student fundraisers (leaving out the profits part) but it seems to fall on deaf ears. Whatever.

Today I received a troubling e-mail. Here is how it began:

Dear Michael,

Hello, fellow classmates! I hope that this letter finds you well. I am not the most articulate when writing these types of letters. And, like you, when I see a letter asking for money, I simply throw it into the recycle bin. This letter, however, is different. The purpose of this letter is not simply to ask you for money, rather it is a letter designed to evoke your emotions and thus make you want to give back to Oberlin College.

Don't you love it when a form letter tries, and fails, to seem all personalized? I do give it points for the "throw it into the recycle bin" part -- I usually throw mine in the trash. Save your tar and feathers, it gets better.

I was thinking about starting this letter with some type of antidotal story, but I was not able to think of one. Then, I was thinking that I would just quickly tell you about the many changes at Oberlin, but the reality is that things haven't changed much in the past two and half years. While Oberlin does have a new president, the student body is still liberal, and they are still trying to change the world one person at a time.

"Antidotal"? Seriously? SERIOUSLY?! This person is trying to convince his fellow college graduates to donate money by using not just the wrong word but a word that Firefox is currently underlining with red? And Oberlin not changing that much in the last 2.5 years? Are you kidding me? There is a controversial new slogan, a couple new programs of study, new village housing with additional construction projects on the horizon, new scholarship and financial aid programs...none of these are worth highlighting?

He goes on to talk about the alumni website, which is a helpful resource from the various "antidotes" I've heard from others. But then:

While some of these options may not interest you, or you might be like me and want to do more, you can also give back with a monetary donation. The amount you donate does not matter because, like you, I know that things are financially hard being a recent grad. Nevertheless, I have decided to give back to Oberlin yearly because I want current students to have at least the same, if not better, experience that I had while at Oberlin. Furthermore, donating to Oberlin helps increase alumni participation rates. This is important not only for national ranking in U.S. News and World Report, but also for grant funding, which most ask for participation rates.

Besides the dubious politics of the U.S. News and World Report rankings, that seems like a pretty lousy reason to donate to the school. I would much rather my (currently hypothetical) donation go towards developing something more positive than elitism.

He concludes with:

I challenge you to walk with me in the pursuit of bringing Oberlin to the next level. If you have any questions, comments, or intelligent thoughts, then please do not hesitate to contact me.

Whenever I hear the phrase "bring [blah] to the next level", I immediately think of America's Next Top Model, where that phrase loosely translates to "we're dying your hair blonde." I don't think Oberlin would look good as a blonde -- it's more of a brunette.

As for intelligent thoughts: PROOFREAD.

Then I read the signature and busted out laughing. Apparently our '05 alumni shill happens to be a person who holds the distinction of saying one of the stupidest things I have ever heard in my time at Oberlin (7 years and counting). It was sophomore year in Dawson's Intro to Government class. A bunch of students were up in arms over some auxiliary staff getting sacked (this was when the College's financial future started looking gloomy). They wanted us to donate the class treasury (money collected from people who showed up late to class) to help out the recently jobless. This person made the argument that we should help them pay their cable bill, to which I asked "if times are tight, why not get rid of the cable?" His response: "But there are a lot of good shows..." We ended up donating the money to a recovering cancer patient. The alumni fund was not proposed.

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