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Letter to the Editor: Let's be honest about student philanthropy

By Albert Nabiullin and Margaret Roddy     1/16/18 11:56pm

We are overwhelmingly thankful to attend Rice University. After three and a half years, we have learned, grown and experienced more than we ever dreamed was possible. Additionally, we could not be more different. Albert is an economist from Russia, and Margaret is a chemical engineer from Tennessee. However, we’ve been brought together by a shared feeling of privilege to attend this university in both senses of the word: privileged because it has been an incredible experience and honor to attend this university, and privileged because it is only due to the generosity and kindness of those who came before us that we have been able to attend Rice. Our shared gratitude led us to volunteer for the Annual Fund, which was unfortunately misrepresented three separate times (article, editorial and cartoon) in last week’s Thresher. So let’s take a step back, check the facts and reflect on why philanthropy, why the Annual Fund and ultimately, why Rice.

Why philanthropy? Philanthropy encompasses time, energy and money. Someone helped you get to where you are now, whether it was your parents, a teacher or a coach who invested in you and taught you confidence, or a Rice donor you’ve never met who helped fund your time here. We believe in philanthropy and in paying it forward to the next generation of Rice Owls even as we continue to benefit from the generosity of others.

Why the Annual Fund? In addition to raising vital resources for scholarships, the Annual Fund provides for aspects of our undergraduate experience that tuition alone doesn’t completely cover: residential colleges, club sports, Alternative Spring Breaks and more. There are many misconceptions and misunderstandings surrounding the Annual Fund, so we’ve broken down one simple reason to give to the Rice Owls Give Back annual campaign.

Large ranking systems, such as the U.S. News & World Report, use metrics like giving participation to measure a school’s “success” rate. If students and alumni donate to the school, then they likely had a good experience there. Moreover, charitable organizations use these national rankings to distribute funds to various “successful” universities. Essentially, your $2 donation may translate into millions for the university from other sources.

Why Rice? BEER BIKE! But in all seriousness, everybody has their own personal reasons for attending Rice. Albert chose Rice for the cultural opportunities of a metropolitan city and the generous financial aid package. Margaret chose Rice because it’s (typically) warm in Texas, and because of the unique competitive yet collaborative environment of the engineering school. Three and a half years later, we both still think we made the right choice.

At the end of the day, the Annual Fund is one of the few organizations on campus that unilaterally positively affects everyone. There is no mandate or sentiment that you “must” give back to Rice. We fully acknowledge that not every member of the Rice community has a level of disposable income such that they feel comfortable donating. But let’s be honest — for many of us, donating $2 is more likely to set us back one boba instead of one tuition payment, as last week’s Thresher cartoon suggested. We feel passionately about philanthropy and the Annual Fund because we were able to attend Rice only because of the generosity and kindness of those who came before us. Let’s all do our part, however big or small, to support future generations of Owls.

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