Wednesday, October 31, 2007

"Legitimate" Spamming & Alumi Donations

This morning while checking my blogs, I laughed at this post on spam a college friend of mine made. It references what is likely a huge blogosphere controversy since I checked it 7 hours ago: Chris Anderson's public blocking of spam emails. The comments are hilarious, ranging from PR rants about how their voice should be heard, discussions on the ethics (and maturity) of deliberately posting emails so that spammers can pick them up and so forth. Some even led to offenders posting their own "defenses" on their websites; but I'm with Anderson on this one -- there is no defense for sending out unwanted, solicitous emails. So I laughed, went to classes and came home to a perfect test example. So I'm pulling a Chris Anderson (to quote Big Head) and complaining about my alma mater. This is also a general rant about the way universities ask their alumi for money, which I have a long treatise waiting to publish.

It's nearing Homecoming and, of course, the warm and fuzzy memories drive you to pull out your check book and donate to that worthy cause your alma mater. And for those who don't, your alma mater believes that you should be hounded a million times a year (by phone, letter/postcard and now emails) for requests for money. When those are ineffective, they ask again. And when that only raises "just over HALF OF WHAT WE EXPECTED" (today's email) they begin to demand.

Case in Point: Alumni Class Chair has set up a gmail account that I have twice requested to be removed from to no avail. (Which I've now given its very own filter that sends it directly to the trash!) But, apparently since I went to a university I am forever bound to pay attention (and give) money on a regular basis. After all, it was the best time of my life, why wouldn't I want to?

But what annoys me as much as these regular emails, phone calls, letters is the tone. I have seriously seen one (wish I'd kept it, I'd post it for you) that demanded I give to the university because it was my obligation. Yes, that's circular reasoning. Today's email is at once threatening and conciliatory: the subject line -- "[Name of Class Chair] says PAY UP... or else (last volley)." This violates about every known standard of email etiquette, but am I the only one who just finds this tone of expected giving to be completely out-of-line?. Have they noticed the recession? Have they noticed that ever since the Spring of my senior year (they didn't even let me graduate!) I have received this rhetoric of obligation -- this might suggest why I don't actually give? Have they wondered why their methods garner less than ideal results? (Here's the screen shot of the email, btw, so click on the picture & you can read its absurdities for yourself. And, yes, see the name of the class chair.)

More generally, I'm fed up with this whole notion of required college giving. College is expensive. I was given generous scholarships, which I greatly appreciate. They allowed a very poor kid to go somewhere different in life. But I should be able to "pay it forward" (reference to a movie that was awful and don't recommend) in a way I see fit. I hope to one day be in a position to endow scholarships; I use to think that would be at my alma mater. These days, I think I'm more interested in helping people who want to go to many schools rather than those who want to go to only one particular place. Yet, apparently my donations are constrained because I have a duty and obligation to donate to my alma mater. How absurd is this?

I think the general lack of giving among people my age is emblematic of the way we find fundraising to be obnoxious, limiting and even impossible at this juncture in our lives. I wonder, too, if it's because we realize that education is important, but so is giving money for rape victims in the Congo. When so much is at stake, how ridiculous is it to receive 2 emails in the past week on alumni giving?

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