Sorry Gumby, Students are too Broke for Giving Day

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I’ve received 13 emails since the beginning of February telling me all about Giving Day, an annual opportunity for the California Lutheran University community to donate back to the institution.  Even while writing this article, I got another notification about how the fundraiser went, letting me know there is still time to donate, and I’m completely over it.

“They keep harassing me through my email,” said Jacqueline Warfel, who graduates next semester.

Warfel said she hasn’t donated to the fundraiser and she doesn’t intend to this year, in part because of the expense of attending the university in the first place.

In addition to paying regular tuition and other university-related expenses, graduating students have the added expense of robes and commencement announcements, graduation fees and the widely encouraged class gifts, but still receive email marketing notifications for Giving Day.

“It’s a private university and I’ve already paid them so much, so why do they keep asking for more?” Warfel said.

Warfel isn’t the only one annoyed by the constant barrage of emails over the last eight weeks soliciting money in various ways. I’m sick of them too and so are other members of the so-called “Cal Lu community.”

“Even my mom was annoyed by it,” said Emily Graybill, a graduating senior whose family has been involved with the university for years. With no way to opt out of the emails, those on the mailing list have been implored to donate several times a week for the last two months.

The problem isn’t that the university pushes the idea that students and alumni should give back to their alma mater — that makes sense. I take issue with how often they’re messaging and how hard they keep pushing fundraising despite the fact that I haven’t graduated yet.

“I think it’s just overwhelming in the face of graduation and everything else. It’s overwhelming that they want more money than I already have to pay off,” Graybill said. “I appreciate everything Cal Lu has done for me, but I’m not at a point where I can give back yet. I haven’t even finished my degree.”

As a Pell Grant-eligible student, I have no spare cash to donate back to the university right now. Or, frankly, for the foreseeable future. I’m living off of student loans with two part-time jobs, while trying to manage a full-time class schedule. On the rare chance that there’s extra money in my bank account, it’s more likely to go toward a tank of gas to get me to class than to a fundraiser for my school’s unbuilt science building.

What’s worse is that the appeals to donate often come with the added element of feeling guilty if you don’t. Giving Day is touted as the best time to donate, calling students to action with the idea of contributing to challenges, earning bragging rights, stepping up and expressing themselves as a member of the community.

“They almost make you feel bad if you don’t give anything, which isn’t what it should be,” Graybill said. “It should be more like, ‘if you can help or would like to help, here’s one way to do it.’ Not like this is the only opportunity.”

At the very least, these fundraising campaigns should come with the option to opt-out of receiving so many emails, so I don’t get spammed with requests for money. Or, better yet, Cal Lutheran could wait to solicit extra funds from me until after I’ve gotten a job with the education I’m already in debt for receiving.

Katherine Lippert
Reporter