For years, college endowments and donations have been mirroring the inequality trends of American society as a whole. The rich (schools) get richer and richer. This year, an annual report finds that donations hit an all time high, helped along by eight gifts of at least $100 million. Inside Higher Ed puts the scope of these donations in perspective: “The top 17 colleges and universities — less than 1 percent of the total universe of about 3,900 institutions — accounted for more than a quarter of the contributions, $10.42 billion. And 60 colleges and universities, under 2 percent of all institutions, received $20.15 billion, half of the total.”
Stanford pulled in $1.63 billion in donations last year, a record for any school, thanks in part to a donation of art worth more than $600 million. Harvard came in second with $1.1 billion in donations.
Hey, wealthy people: stop giving money to wealthy schools.
“What, hey, research universities do good things!” Lots of places do good things. Stanford has an endowment of more than $22 billion. Harvard has an endowment of more than $37 billion. They do not need your money. Go to Stanford or Harvard and take a math class—you’ll find that this checks out.
Are you bereft of ideas about what to do with the millions of dollars you want to donate? Here is a list of the world’s most effective charities. Give it to them. It’s nice that Stanford and Harvard will have nice new libraries and labs and things. Meanwhile, the amount of money donated to Stanford last year has the potential to save the lives of 488,000 people who would otherwise die from disease. Stanford is a nice school. Is its endowment worth more than the lives of 488,000 people?
No it is not.
If you have the ability to give significant sums of money to a charitable cause, don’t be a fucking prick about it. That counts as a moral responsibility. Fuck your alma mater, fuck getting your name on a building, fuck being glad-handed by a sophisticated and well-educated university endowment team, fuck American kids going to college. Yes—fuck college education, as a charitable cause! Save the life of a child who would otherwise die of malaria or malnutrition or schistosomiasis! “Gee, can you really say one good cause is better than another?” Yes you can. Saving a human life is more important than a wealthy university’s endowment.
In conclusion, stop giving money to these places. Give the money to better places.