Giving Day: Yet Another Bad Decision by an Uncaring Administration

UC San Diego hosted its first ever Giving Day between May 16-17, an event aimed to encourage donations through challenges and matched-gift initiatives, attempting to create a snow-ball of philanthropy. The concept of a “giving day” is not unique to our campus, it is a tried and true practice to create an event around university benefaction and prompt donations from previously unreached donors. The problem was not the fundraising itself, but rather the multiple emails sent to the undergraduate students of this campus, reminding them to donate to the campaign. This is not only unrealistic given that most students do not have the disposable income to make any significant contribution to giving initiatives anyway; it is also an extremely tone-deaf action in a campus that is currently still trying to address massive food and housing insecurity.Although for this event donors could choose what campus are they wanted to designate their money to, with categories like Athletics and ArtPower, these donations were clearly not targeted towards fixing the most fundamental problems on this campus. Far from being a surprise however, this demonstrates the lack of humanity with which the administration is willing to treat its students.

The brand of this university is research first, everything else second, and actions like mass-mailing undergraduate students who can’t afford to eat requests for donations is just one more example in the list. They so proudly announce initiative after initiative to placate the student body as we continue to complain about the miserable conditions we find ourselves in but by including us in those emails they prove yet again the bottom line of this institution, that it is not student-centered but rather prestige-centered. Our tuition money buys us a yearly ticket to the spectacle that is UC San Diego, Researchers Extraordinaire, and we are told we are lucky that there are so many research opportunities on this campus.

Every measure of improvement on this campus is reactionary, it is not because the university thought of its students but rather because there was public resentment against the conditions of the institution itself. There is a long and storied history of student activism on college campuses, a perpetual struggle against administrations with regressive goals and policies, and the ways in which it is the students that combat oppression. Most of the major activism campaigns we have on this campus are for worker’s rights, standing in solidarity with AFSCME and the other labor unions on campus, and that’s not even a UC San Diego problem specifically, but rather a UC problem. However, UC San Diego’s biggest problems are not an administration that is inherently opposed to progress and liberal ideologies, but rather one that wants to forget its a university altogether.

That is, an institution dedicated to higher education, which implies that central to that role are the people being educated (students) and their well-being during their time at the university would be a priority because they are paying for their time at the institution. Instead we are asked to fund, with our loan money and our part-time job money, some sixty-year-old researcher down at SIO who is neither a student nor a professor and whose research will bring accolades to the institution.

Hypocrisy between claiming to have students best interests at heart and the constant disregard for the student experience on this campus is nothing new. That being said, as this university continues its blatant prioritization of research and growth at the expense of the current enrolled population, it becomes increasingly clear that something has to change within the student body in the face of an administration that is unwilling to recognize its role as a university first and foremost.

2 thoughts on “Giving Day: Yet Another Bad Decision by an Uncaring Administration

  1. I enjoyed reading this conversation from a student standpoint. As a “regular” staff person (not high in administration and not making a six-figure salary), I can tell you that these mailings are also mostly met with the same “smh” response. Many of us have stagnated salaries and if you peruse the UCSD job listings with any regularity, you will see many posts — especially in student affairs/student support positions — have a salary range around 35-50K per year, which is barely enough to live on as a single person in San Diego. When actually hired, note that the salary offered is almost always at the low end of any proposed range. Mandatory parking, taxes, insurance, and retirement fund withdrawals take at least a thousand a month off the top of each monthly paycheck.

    It can be difficult not to feel bitter amusement toward university announcements crowing over massive construction and improvement projects, multi-million-dollar donors, corporate research funding and more, when many staff are not only trying to make ends meet from month to month, but are also working positions that used to be held by 2-3 separate human beings 10-20 years ago.

    Yes, I am loyal to the university’s mission and to its students (obviously, or I wouldn’t still be here), but then to ask me to donate some of my salary is…. problematic. Thanks for listening.

  2. Adriana, you have good points.

    The graduate students – and I am guessing just about everyone with a UCSD email account – received the Giving Day message as well.

    Graduate students, similarly to undergraduates, are also struggling with food and housing insecurity. Some of us earn an income while in graduate school, others do not, a lot of us have college loans to pay off, and a family to support.

    Although I know there are administrators who do genuine work for the benefit of the students, it is indeed the case that a number of people in top positions seem to disregard the problems, or simply show they are oblivious.

    It was just a couple of months ago when the graduate students had a joint presentation at a GSA (Grad Student Assoc.) Council meeting given by the Executive Director of Housing (HDH), Hemlata Jhaveri, and UCSD’s Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, Alysson Satterlund.
    The former was presenting about UCSD campus housing based on the request from graduate students about why campus housing costs are increasing so significantly lately burdening the grads, and the latter was presenting about the services offered by the Basic Needs Hub. They were standing right next to each other and supporting each other with nods…

    The incongruity of the joint presentation was striking. On the one hand HDH was saying how they have no option but to close down affordable housing for graduate students and raise the rent beyond affordable (without showing any data to support this; see Guardian article from 3/31/19 On the other hand VC Student Affairs highlighted the services of the Basic Needs Hub and said something to the effect of, “Come and use the Basic Needs Hub services when you need it, they are here for you. We look forward to seeing you there!”

    This shows blindness to the reality on the ground and a disregard for the fact that with funding for Basic Needs, the University is putting a band-aid on the very wound it inflicts to begin with.

    The old adage about money and power distancing people from each other is very true. The fact that this is happening right here on our modern-day, 21st century, research-focused, “forward-thinking”, “un-traditional”, self-respecting, $2-billion-dollar-in-gifts-generating UCSD campus is no surprise: these are apparently not mutually exclusive characteristics. (?)

    As you state, the reality is that, “it becomes increasingly clear that something has to change within the student body”. What is it, Adriana?

    It is disheartening that it is our own student governing body (for sure the GSA, I don’t know much about the AS), and especially some of the student leaders in this body, who are treated by the University administration with special privileges, and who go out of their way to blindly please this same administration which at the same time is so seemingly oblivious to the plight of the ordinary student.

    In other words, is there potentially a student element in our midst which doesn’t mind the elitist treatment, the high rent (room-and-board fees) and tuition fees, the fundraising campaigns (which some of their parents are proudly supporting), the increases in student fees, and the meetings and dinners with Chancellors and Vice Chancellors (and a reference letter here and there by those)? Is this student element cooperating with the administration to squeeze the last penny out of their fellow classmates? Is this student element hoping to become the next high ranking administrator, vice chancellor or chancellor?

    This is indeed the case within the graduate student body at UCSD.

    So what needs to change within the student body…? Those who care and want to see a change need to take an active role and rise against the machine.

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