Thursday, February 02, 2012

The Wonderful/Dreaded Class Campaign

A commenter asks:
Can we have a thread on the class campaign? I am a 3L and I don't really understand what it is. They are doing a poor job of explaining it. Is it just a fundraising campaign? Does the money go for a class gift or something (ie. named bench or sculpture)? Why do people seem to have such polarizing views on this? I'd appreciate anyone's thoughts. 
I figured I'd take a stab at each of the questions posted.  

Can we have a thread on the class campaign?


Is it just a fundraising campaign? Does the money go for a class gift or something (ie. named bench or sculpture)?

I love how use of the phrase "just a fundraising campaign" betrays how as law students we are conditioned to expect some fringe benefit any time money is forked over.  You don't just donate, you go to an auction! Or a prom barristers' ball. In a way, this trend continues beyond law school. Soon politicians will ask you to pay $2500 a person for dinner (about 10x more if it's a political party dinner). But when it comes to law schools, they just pretty much whack you over the head and ask you to open your wallets. The class campaign is your gentle introduction to this wonderful tradition.

I'm sure someone can explain it in better terms than me, but unlike say your undergrad where the class gift to the school was a park bench, Boalt's annual class gift is the donations that the members of each class make to the school. If I remember my class campaign, you could pick and choose precisely where your money goes, e.g., your favorite journal (BJIL shout-out), your favorite clinic (CARC!), financial aid, etc.

Why do people seem to have such polarizing views on this? I'd appreciate anyone's thoughts.

This has been debated ad nauseam. The problem starts with the goal of having 100% participation in the class campaign, i.e., every member of the class donate something, anything. Why does this matter? Because then the school, when it's whacking alumni over the head for money, can claim 100% participation in the class campaign, which only raises the question of whether alumni give a sh*t about these things. I think to an extent it matters. I don't think anyone gets hung up on 100% vs. 98%, but I think when students have an active interest in gifting to subsequent generations, then it gives us the comfort that the current stakeholders are just as invested. This may not be the perfect analogy, but at some psychological level, even as practitioners we come to work much more inspired and motivated when the client is just as invested and eager. So, yes, a large level of participation from the students helps further raise money from alumni.

What's so bad about that? I think some tension and friction begins to build because a) some people are opposed to donating when they are six figures in debt and b) when the number of students who have not donated becomes small, these students are very aggressively targeted. Sometimes even suggestions of "let us donate in your name" are thrown around. This can rub people the wrong way. I can't quite put my finger on it, but there is something unsavory about it. As I suggested above, the actual numbers aren't as meaningful as the message they carry. And I think I'd prefer if that message were based on each student's volition and conscience, as opposed to some behind the scenes arm twisting.

All that said, the Class Campaign is a great opportunity to give back to a school that you will be a part of forever. I won't go into detail how the school becomes an integral part of your very being, but suffice it to say, being a Boaltie is probably the most defining aspect of who I am as an attorney. Honestly, only the extreme cynics among us can walk away and truly never care about the school or ever look back. To those, I say good riddance. And I really hope no one donates a penny in their name.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an alumni, it is extremely important to me to see high participation in the class campaign.

Just like current students, I have over $100k in student debt. And just like current students, I hate parting with my money. What makes it easier to donate is the knowledge that other people are invested in Boalt's future.

I truly understand that not everyone will be able to donate. If you really can't part with $25 or $50, then don't. But, if you can donate at all, please do. If you want a say in where the money goes, then target the money to an organization that made a difference while you were at Boalt.

I'm sure a lot of students feel let down by Boalt in some way or the other and will choose not to give to make a point. People feel that way every year, and it's completely understandable. Rising tuition, constant disruptive construction, and a sometimes unresponsive administration can leave people extremely frustrated and annoyed at the prospect of forking over money.

I don't know what to say to those students other than to beg them to reconsider. Despite some frustrations and setbacks, I think Boalt was a truly great place with some amazing organizations, professors, and, now, facilities. These positives are in large measure due to generous alumni giving. I hope that current graduates will remember these positives and choose to support the Boalt community instead of cutting the cord.

2/02/2012 11:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very easy to to tout the class campaign when the OP went to Boalt when tuition was around 30k/year. I'm already "donating" 18k more a year for the same exact school which may have a few more teachers (which by the way are always Yale and not Boalt grads) and new law research centers I've never heard of that drains our tuition.

I already paid for this ridiculous spending spree and for an education which is clearly marked up from its actual cost. Consider that my donation.

2/03/2012 8:55 AM  
Blogger Armen said...

If you're directing that comment at me, then I actually paid a bit less than 30K a year, but about 100% more than the class of 2004. So what? I paid for a law school tied for 14th on USNWR. I paid for a law school with power strips at the front of the classroom as the only source of electricity for laptops. I paid for a law school where if you got grades in January or June then someone released them too early. I paid for a law school with chairs that were ready-made tort hypos (except not so hypothetical, people really got hurt). I paid for a law school that provided legal education on the cheap by hiring lecturers to teach core curricula. And for the most part, that was exactly what the class of 2004 got, at half the price. But without the support of alumni, my class, YOUR class, future classes (of law students born in the 90s, dear God the horror) would not enjoy any improvements without a far, far more sizeable increase in fees. So there's a bit of a chicken and an egg problem. You can carry yourself around with the smug attitude that you've paid for everything and you're done with the school, or you can appreciate how important the greater Boalt community is in ensuring that every class receives better and better legal education.

2/03/2012 9:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


11:22 AM here. I get your frustration, but you are not paying for the "exact same school." When Armen went to school, Boalt had ancient facilities and an aging faculty. It was just a matter of time before it slipped from the ranks of "elite" or even great law schools.

The new student center, the new library, the great new classrooms, and a bunch of terrific faculty hires are just a few examples of how Boalt has changed.

2/03/2012 9:32 AM  
Blogger Patrick said...

Actually, when Armen went to Boalt it was not among the ranks of "elite" law schools by the usual measures.

. . . probably because they used to admit people like him! Boo-yah!

2/03/2012 11:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not opposed to donating--in fact, I am EXTREMELY thankful for everything that Boalt has given me--but at a time when I have a steady source of income. That time is not now. Between May when I graduate and sometime-before-the-end-of-the-year when I start work (which I pray every day will be sooner rather than later), I will be completely on my own financially. With zero help. And with dependents--which means I have more expenses. And I know I am not the only one in this position. I don't come from a wealthy family, so in addition to my 180k in debt (yes, I financed this entire thing myself), I now have to take out another 15k bar loan to get me through until my start date. And since I am going to a firm, I am not eligible for any special grants or scholarships. I've checked. I have to tough it out.

So yes, I really do want to donate. In fact, my firm matches donations dollar for dollar. And I whole heartedly intend on donating as soon as I can. But I just can't right now.

Before everyone jumps down everyone else's throat, maybe we should all step back and consider that not EVERYONE is in the same position here. Some people are in public interest, some people have kids/husbands/wives/aging parents, some people have mortgage payments, etc. We are all at different posits in our lives, so there's no point in shaming one another into donating--especially when some of us are struggling.

If you're lucky enough to be debt-free, financially stable, or enjoying the help of mom and dad--that's fantastic. Just realize not all of us are as lucky as you are.

2/06/2012 7:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

our school is so chock full of rich kids pretending not to be wealthy it makes me sick. if another son of a partner asks me to donate money to a class campaign or guilt trips me for not working a public interest job... also, i would like to know where to sign up for people donating in my name. that would be win-win.

2/07/2012 1:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not related but ran across what must be a fellow boaltie judging from her tshirt.

Great job, love your video.

2/09/2012 8:40 PM  

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