Why I won’t be giving to the senior class gift

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Photo Credit: Kathleen Quinn | Daily Texan Staff

Apparently, bleeding students for everything they are worth through tuition isn’t enough. Student Government’s Senior Class Gift Committee seeks to raise about $120,000 dollars from the class of 2018 in student donations to fund student wages for the Interpersonal Violence Peer Support program, stock the food pantry and build a selfie-friendly Longhorn silhouette to “memorialize the return of the tradition of the class gift.” The Longhorn silhouette alone costs $55,000.

Understandably, tuition can’t cover all of these costs. Successful capital fundraising campaigns that target students and alumni help fill in the funding gaps between tuition and support from the Legislature. While I’m happy that alumni choose to give back to the University, guilting current students into donating these funds is not a good look.

I think I speak for many of my peers when I say that UT does not need my money as much as students do. Government and spanish senior Yanett Heredia, who owes about $20,000 in student loans, said she lives on a tight budget to support herself at UT.

“It’s unrealistic to expect us to donate when we have to pay thousands of student debt,” Heredia said. “I’m a first-generation college student, and I support myself financially 100 percent, and every month, I’m working to pay rent and my bills. I don’t have extra money to give to UT on top of all the money I’m already paying.”

We are not Bevo-shaped piggy banks. We are students who are going to need all the help possible to get that first job or into post-graduate schools. We’ve already done unpaid internships, volunteered to help our community, shadowed doctors, done unpaid research in labs and waitressed to make ends meet.

It doesn’t help that tuition is increasing — UT will raise tuition by $420 per year by Fall 2019. That’s not ideal, but understandable. We give our hard-earned dollars to UT to invest in our own futures. In return, the University needs to do its part — and that means funding vital student services adequately. Finding funding for peer support for the interpersonal violence program and the food pantry should rest on the shoulders of administrators, not those of graduating seniors. And Lord knows we don’t need a Longhorn silhouette.

As Heredia said, “It might sound a little selfish, but if UT isn’t helping us out that much, why should I help it out?”

Even some of us who can afford to contribute know better than to pay $20.18 to wear an orange and white “philanthropy pin” at graduation. UT doesn’t need to tell us through class pins whose parents can afford to donate as opposed to those who can’t. Inequality should be eliminated, not worn at graduation.

Some of the funds from the class gift will solve real problems. Students who don’t know where their next meal will come from need a place to pick up vegetables and fruits without judgment. We must compensate students who do the emotional labor of helping their peers navigate the scary, confusing aftermath of interpersonal violence. But when we ask for that money to come from the very students it is supposed to be helping, the University is relying on a vulnerable population.

SG hasn’t raised money for a class gift for almost 100 years. They should have kept it that way.

Wong is a Plan II and government senior from McKinney. He is a senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @calebawong.