October 24, 2014
Two weeks ago, the Senior Class Gift Co-Chairs announced the Class of 2015 Senior Gift– an outdoor classroom named for the late James L. Ferguson Professor of Psychology Jonathan Vaughan. While the Senior Gift Campaign generally makes a positive impact on campus and allows seniors to give back to the school, we at The Spectator wanted to point out a few things the Senior Gift Committee can do better.
First, we would like to talk about the process of selecting the gift itself. Senior Gift Co-Chairs work with a group of approximately 40 Senior Gift Committee members to brainstorm ideas. After voting, the committee comes up with three options that all seniors are allowed to vote upon. Whichever idea receives the most votes ends up being the Senior Gift.
This year, the options for the gift were vague. The options were: a career center summer internship fund named for Mary McLean Evans ’82, an outdoor classroom space and a renovation of the Babbitt Pavilion. The email sent out to seniors provided very little information on the vision for each of these options. Only after many rightfully questioned the committee for more information did they send out a similarly unclear email, though at least pointing out that the summer internship fund would be endowed. Nevertheless, it was still unclear what renovations would be made to the Babbitt Pavilion, where the outdoor classroom would be on campus or what it would even look like. The location of the outdoor classroom still has not been announced. The committee should have provided much more information, or if they did not have the information, they should have come up with it before sending out the email listing the options.
As previously stated, the senior class chose the outdoor classroom, but it was chosen by an uncomfortably slim margin. Given that there were three options and due to the narrow outcome of the vote it is likely that the outdoor classroom won only by a plurality. We at The Spectator believe there should have been a runoff vote in order to have a gift actually chosen by a majority of the class.
The other criticism we have involves the ultimate goal of the Senior Gift Campaign. Every year, the senior class attempts to ‘outdo’ the previous years’ senior class, at least in terms of the rate of class participation. For example, this year the senior class is attempting to achieve 99 percent participation, which outpaces last years’ senior class’ record-breaking 98.6 percent participation.
While achieving nearly universal participation is certainly an honorable goal, the committee should focus less on competition with previous classes and concentrate more on the importance of the gift, how it will make a positive impact on the school and in what ways it will embody the senior class. Rather than framing the Senior Gift Campaign as a competition, the committee is more likely to be successful in achieving such a lofty goal of a high participation rate if they explain the answers to these questions. In fact, that is what made last years’ gift campaign so successful; the campaign focused heavily on the fact that the class of 2014 was the first class admitted under the need-blind admissions policy. This message resonated with the class who so clearly valued equal opportunity of education. A need blind terrace was obviously a very sentimental and class defining senior gift. Coupled with exemplary messaging, the Class of 2014’s Senior Gift Campaign was extraordinarily successful.