Future financiers

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SEPTEMBER 30, 2011

With the state funding about 11 percent of the University of California’s budget, officials are turning to wealthy alumni. Campuses like UC Berkeley are investing in highly paid administrators to wine and dine those former Bears who maybe still bleed enough Blue and Gold to shed a little green for their alma mater. But to little avail.

UC Executive Vice President for Business Operations Nathan Brostrom lamented to the Bay Citizen in an article published Tuesday that instead of giving back to the university, many alumni are taking the mentality that “If I did it, why can’t they do it?”

There are many factors for why current alumni are not donating, all reflective of a culture of weak alumni networks and a historically insufficient emphasis on building these relationships. But perhaps the most important question now, with administrators focusing on philanthropy as a major part of the campus’s fiscal future, is whether we — the current generation of students and next crop of potential donors — will continue the trend of not contributing. As of now, we are not so confident that we would give back.

UC Berkeley struggles more than many other universities to garner alumni support. A mere 12 percent of alumni gave back in 2010, and 40 percent have donated in their lifetimes.

A key to resolving why many alumni are reluctant to give back is understanding that due to our campus’s large population (with over 35,000 students), many feel the need to find their own unique niche on campus.

We feel the strongest allegiance is to student groups, academic majors, living spaces and other affiliations that we identify with while on campus. We will recall these bonds most vividly when we reminisce. In contrast, when we look back at what “UC Berkeley” means to us, we will think of continuous tuition increases and staggering debt — not exactly the kind of memories that would encourage us to write a check when an unknown telephone caller announces a fundraising drive.

In seeking a solution to the dilemma of apathetic alumni, the campus must not solely maintain an outward-looking view, focusing on how it can better pull alumni back in. It must look internally as well, to foster a culture in which graduates look back once they receive that diploma.

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SEPTEMBER 29, 2011