I realize it’s been awhile since I’ve posted an entry–my apologies, dear readers. Truth be told, I’ve been extremely busy at work lately, and at home too, so time and lack of inspiration (writer’s block) have been working against me here, but I’m back–although given that it’s summer, and I like playing outside, I will likely not be posting as frequently as I have in the past. Today, I am grateful for the facts that (1) the crazy busyness at work is finally passed and, (2) inspiration for a post came to me in the mail (e-mail, that is). The dry spell has been broken–for now.
Today’s topic is one I haven’t really touched on much here, but my fellow blogger at Kindism has been on this subject several times and until now, I’ve been content to cover other ground, as she does an excellent job covering this topic; the topic at hand being the ongoing issue of Principia’s discriminatory policy against homosexual students. So, it’s more of a discussion on a Christian Science-related institution, rather than on Christian Science itself.
It seems fitting that this topic comes to me now, given the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to strike down the Defence Of Marriage Act. It was inspired by an e-mail I just received from my class agent, asking me if I would re-consider whether or not I wish to give some of my hard-earned money to my alma mater, Principia College. I have previously indicated that I would not, and I will be indicating to her that until the trustees of this esteemed institution see fit to stop with their bigoted policy against homosexuals, I will not even send one penny to Prin. I am voting with my chequebook.
For those of you that are not aware, Principia does not admit students who identify as homosexual. This policy has caused many to hide their sexual orientation, caused enormous amounts of emotional stress, and caused many to consider suicide. This policy is based on a conservative attitude that, within the Christian Science community at least, is uniquely American–in on-line conversations I’ve seen and participated in with Prin alums from outside of the United States, many of whom are still Christian Scientists, most do not consider sexual orientation to be any sort of issue at all, and are perplexed at Principia’s stance. This policy is firmly rooted in American social conservatism, NOT in any of Mary Baker Eddy’s teachings or writings, and the Bible verses that bigots point to do not necessarily directly attack homosexuality in their original languages, according to reliable scholarship I’ve read (sorry, I can’t quote or cite directly).
Interestingly, an often overlooked fact about educational institutions, and charitable giving to such institutions, is the fact that how many alumni give to the institution is equally important as how much in total dollars the institution receives. So, a college could receive an aggregate amount in a fiscal year of say, $3,000,000.00 from, let’s say 100 alums out of a total of 2,000 alumni. That’s 5% of alums donating. Now, let’s say they got $2,000,000.00 next year, but they got it from 1,000 out of 2,000 alums, that’s less money received, but they got it from 50% of their alums. Way higher percentage of alumni giving. That’s actually better for the institution in the long run.
Why is this percentage of alums that give so important? If a small percentage of alums give, that says something not so good about the college or university. It says that the alums do not as a whole value their experience there, they do not feel that the institution is worthy of their support. An institution that gets strong alumni support is seen as a strong and very viable organization. This is all important in how colleges are rated, and potentially how much support they can gain from large institutional donors. If I am the head of a large charitable trust, and I am choosing between college A that receives support from 10% of its alums, and college B that gets support from 25% of its alums, I’m going to go with B–even if A is getting more money than B. Also, if a college is strongly supported by its alumni, it has an easier time recruiting new students (who hopefully become generous alumni donors), as well as top-notch faculty. It’s kind of like the circle of life, if you will.
So, back to Principia. My class agent’s e-mail, which looked boiler plate to me: something that the alumni office pre-packaged for class agents to send out, does touch on the importance of this percentage of us alums who give. Right now, Principia receives support from approximately 20% of its alumni–which is actually fairly good. According to US News and World Report1, the top ranked educational institution in the United States for percentage of alumni giving is Princeton University with 62.6% of alums giving. The top liberal arts college (which would compare to Principia) is Williams College at 57.5%. The article goes on to state that, “$5.00 is counted the same as $500.00, as long as it came from a graduate who left the institution with a bachelor’s degree.” The top 10 schools range in percentage of 50.2% on up to Princeton’s 62.6%. The nationwide average is 13%, so Principia’s 20% is good–it’s well above average, although not in the stratosphere inhabited by Princeton or Williams.
Many Prin alums are, like myself in the past, ones who just send $50.00 to $100.00, maybe upwards of $500.00. The important thing though is that a lot of us have been sending something. The older classes, of course, are the ones that give the most (in dollars, and in percentage of class members who give). Younger classes such as mine are lower on both counts. My class (1993) has a 16% participation rate, well below the Prin average. I can’t speak to how many dollars come out of us, but it probably isn’t much. Most of us are in the age range of 42 – 45, still raising families, and staring down the gun barrel of sending our own kids to college, so large scale giving isn’t on our radar screens right now. Now, my dear class agent knows that I do not have kids, I just inherited some money, and I also have a good job, so I could potentially afford to send a few dollars, notwithstanding the fact that I get no tax deduction for it, because, damn it all, the Canadian government doesn’t want to let me deduct donations to foreign charities on my taxes. Oh well…guess I shoulda gone to college here.
As I have stated, I will not give any money to Principia, and I have actively encouraged other classmates who feel as I do that Principia is holding to a bigoted policy that is NOT rooted in any of Mary Baker Eddy’s teachings, to not give anything either. If we can drive that percentage of alumni support low enough, the trustees will listen. Right now, they’re listening to the older, conservative donors who support this policy. Fight fire with fire, I say, and hit them where it hurts–the bank account and the statistics. Even though I am no longer a Christian Scientist, I am willing to send some money to Prin IF they change their policy regarding homosexual students. The Principia Trustees have had a meeting about the policy against homosexuals, and apparently they’re setting up a committee to look into the issue. I think eventually the policy will change, other anachronistic policies at Prin have gone by the wayside in the past, but I am not optimistic that it will happen soon, or easily.
UPDATE (December 23, 2013): The chatter I have seen in on-line groups indicates that there has thus far been little movement by the Trustees of Principia on this topic. It is unknown how many times the committee has met, if at all. One member of an on-line group received a response indicating that they are “praying about” the situation.
UPDATE (November 20, 2014): The Principia Board of Trustees issued a statement of policy on November 18th regarding same-sex relationships. It’s a step in the right direction, removing previous discrimination against LBGT individuals. Click here for my post on this statement.
1 Hopkins, Katy. “10 Colleges With the Most Alumni Donors.” US News and World Report. 18 December 2012. Web. 26 June 2013.
I haven’t heard from my Class Agent in a while now – probably not for 3-4 years, only I got a phone call! I politely explained that I’d paid off my college loans (several thousand dollars – which was really quite enough to give them) and as I wasn’t working outside the home, I had no extra income to share (and my husband certainly wasn’t going to donate his charity of choice is the ACUL). Haven’t heard back from her since.
I was recently talking to a current Prin student who was on the I Support Equality committee. She told me that they approached this issue without using anger and bitterness because that had been tried unsuccessfully several times in the past ten or so years. They were calm and tried to state the facts. Even though there were several “sit-ins” they were peaceful. They were then allowed to speak to the dean of students and a group of trustees. They gave a presentation about why they felt this policy was wrong and included information debunking the myth that homosexuality is condemned in the Bible. There was a group after them that gave the other side. I can’t imagine a twenty year old today who is against equality but I guess there were a few!!! I asked her if one of the issues is the donations provided by the older generation. She told me that they did research and that because so many Prin alums are NOT giving until they change the policy that it isn’t a financial issue. Part of that must be the percentage of those giving as you discussed. That is very important when applying for grants, etc. She thinks that even thought the Board is “looking into it” that it won’t change until the Board is made of mostly of people from her generation. What I wanted to tell her is that Principia probably won’t be around for that!!!
Here is the e-mail I just sent to my class agent:
“My decision about giving (or in my case not giving) remains the same. Until the Trustees see fit to get rid of this blatantly bigoted policy, I will not support Principia in any way shape or form. I am also quite ashamed to be connected to an institution that needlessly discriminates against people over something that those people have NO control over. This is pure unadulterated bigotry, and I absolutely refuse to support an institution that condones it.
I’m sorry if this comes off harsh, I do not direct this at you, but at Principia. The Trustees saying they will “look into it” and establish a committee is not even close to good enough. Can they not see how terrible and reprehensible this policy is? Saying they’ll look into it is nothing but a cop-out, and a capitulation to narrow minded conservatism. No, there are other charities that will get my support from now on. Principia is not moving in the right direction.”