Thursday, June 1, 2006

Guess who sent me a letter today.

My Young Alumni association.

And now, guess what they want. Give up?

Money. What a surprise. The thing that is a little surprising is how much they want, the cheapest box on the little form for the Young Alumni Leadership Fund is $250. For $5000, I can get two invitations to the Dean's Luncheon, whatever that is. Or I could get like an eighty-inch plasma TV. It seems like such a difficult decision — I mean, if I had five grand and it wasn't totally moot.

I'd never give a dollar to Columbia — beyond the hundred and fifty thousand I already gave them — not only because I got a whole hell of a lot of frustration out of them and not much more (certainly not any financial aid), but also because the Columbia bigwigs have spent countless hours trying to coax, wheedle, guilt-trip, and peer-pressure money out of their alumni (like, they mailed me a list of all my classmates who are already Young Alumni Leaders) and I'll bet they've never given a thought to lowering the goddamn tuition! I mean, for $250, at least PBS gives you a tote bag.

One time, I even tried suggested to one of those trustee-student liaisons that Columbia lower its tuition so they wouldn't have to keep hitting up the student population for financial aid donations. Not eliminate the tuition totally, like at Cooper Union, just maybe put off buying all of Hamilton Heights for a few years or something, and this guy just stared at me like, "We should who in the what now with tuition? The liberal elite at our fine institution don't want to share dorm rooms with middle-class riff-raff!"

I don't actually think that's the students' or administration's attitude, either consciously or subconsciously, but it's always been pretty clear to me that the school looks out for itself more than the students. The trustees are locked away in their little $5000-a-plate dining room, smoking cigars and drinking brandy, thinking of all the wonderful things they could do if just twenty-thousand students contributed thirty-five thousand dollars apiece to the endowment. It's partly an ego thing, too — as a Columbia student, at least twice a day you'll get a friendly email from someone on the student council reminding you that Harvard has an $18 billion endowment while Columbia rots in penury with a mere $4.2 billion — but it's more that attitude rich people who chair boards and donate to philanthropic organizations and have their names on hospital wings have where "I can afford to drop fifty grand without batting an eyelash, I don't see why it's so hard for the rest of you to do the same."

Well, rich guy, we don't have fifty grand. We, just out of school, don't even have $250 to hand over to someone else. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that the company you worked for and made you rich back in the eighties is now outsourcing all its jobs to India and China for twenty cents an hour, cutting back on employee benefits, and raiding the pension funds for the stockholders. Tell you what... if you give me some money first, then maybe I'll make a donation or two.

But probably not.