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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Editorial: Finance students first

Published: February 27, 2009
Section: Opinions

Senior Vice President for Institutional Advancement Nancy Winship recently explained that her department will refocus its fund-raising efforts on financial aid in response to the growing concerns families have about their abilities to pay private-school tuition. While her department has always presented financial aid donations as an option, at times, the prospect of seeing a modern structure adorned with one’s name may have distracted some donors. Winship and her department will now work to highlight financial aid over new structures. In a time of economic distress, this is precisely the type of fund-raising we need the most.

Recent discourse surrounding the university’s financial crisis would suggest that students agree. As news of the budget cuts broke last month, many students grumbled about the spending of money on a new admissions building rather than channeling that money towards the university’s operating budget, which includes funding for need-based aid.

Those grumblings were a bit unfair. The Shapiros donated the funding for the admissions building before Wall Street collapsed. More importantly, the university must abide by the conditions of a restricted gift. If the Shapiros decide to donate $1 million to buy gold forks for Usdan, then we’ll have $1 million worth of gold forks, but no spoons.

Though students must understand the realities of fund-raising and development, the frustration behind such grumblings is understandable. The foundation of our university is people, not buildings. Redirecting fund-raising efforts towards financial aid for students appropriately acknowledges that a university cannot function without its lifeblood – students – and sends the message to current students, prospective students, alumni, and donors that our goal is not to be the flashiest campus with the shiniest buildings. Rather, our goal must always be to provide the most qualified, talented, and deserving students with the best education possible, regardless of their ability to foot the enormous bill.