Priorities in the Capital CampaignWhen the Institute announced on Friday a new capital campaign for an unprecedented $1.5 billion, it also had the chance to invest in its future by allowing students to participate in the process of raising funds. MIT, however, has thus far squandered this chance.
So far in the campaign process, the administration has done little to encourage student interaction with donors to both humanize the campaign and to give donors an idea of what type of issues students are interested in. With approximately $550 million of $1.5 billion allotted for “enhancing the learning community,” it is essential that students be allowed to interact with donors in order to determine what areas need the most improvement on campus.
More fundamentally, we are concerned that the Capital Campaign has focused attention on the academic side of the Institute without giving focus on the residential and life sections of the campus. While we realize that many donors may find it more palatable to give to a defined academic program, the future of campus life is perhaps even more important than academics as the campus itself will become even more important in an online era. Many groups of students have established priorities for funding campus life. These students would likely be very effective fundraisers for areas that they truly believe in.
Additionally, student support for unrestricted gifts, such as the unprecedented $100 million gift by Kenan Sahin ’63 last weekend may provide the Institute more flexibility in the future to fund student affairs.
Saturday’s events for the capital campaign involved a very small subset of the student population. Only ten students were invited for the capital campaign events this past weekend. Events included lectures by Frank O. Gehry, the designer of the Stata complex, in Kresge Auditorium, and by Professor of Economics Paul Krugman ’77 in Johnson Athletic Center. Gehry, who spoke about the “future of the MIT campus,” found himself lecturing to a half-empty Kresge. Considering students overflowed the room where Gehry gave his last lecture, it’s likely more students would have attended his talk if they had been invited.
Donors were given tours of dorms, such as McCormick Hall, but students, instead of being encouraging to talk to these donors, were ordered to clean up to make way for them. Students weren’t even informed until the last minute that these donors would be touring their dorms. In fact, aside from those in contact with the administration, very few students knew that a capital campaign kickoff was taking place this weekend, even though a space in their Student Center next to LaVerde’s was transformed into a exhibit to model the Stata Complex.
The Tech believes that students would be interested in raising funds for MIT. The Tech Caller program demonstrates that many students have been eloquent and effective fundraisers in the past. Still more students have walked into the exhibit of the Stata Complex and expressed opinions about the design and structure. Of all people, students, who work here day in and day out and put up much of the costs of attending the Institute, have a vested interest in the capital campaign. Student interests are especially strong in dormitory renovations, the curriculum, campus space, athletics funding, and with scholarships and financial aid.
Involving students now could have the added benefit of encouraging them to donate in the future. Students who are more involved in the process now will feel less distant from the Institute and be more inclined to donate in the future.