About a week ago, I got a very disturbing phone call – from the ASU Foundation. They called me to ask for a donation.
I graduated less than six months ago. The average debt for ASU law grads is $89,000. Some of my classmates don’t have to pay back their loans yet, and the school is asking us for donations. I was nearly speechless.
I suspect the ASU Foundation is trying to get donations based on the idea of reciprocity. In their eyes, they probably think that ASU gave me a great education so I should want to thank them by giving a donation. In my eyes, I bought a great education from ASU, and now they’re asking for more.
Part of philanthropy is building relationships with the people who want your money. I completely support ASU keeping in touch with its new alumni and cultivating relationships so it will be easier to ask for money in the future. Six months is too soon to ask.
If the ASU Foundation had taken the time to get to know me, it would have seen that I publicly said that I was so unhappy with the law school’s previous administration that I would not be a donor until changes occurred in the program. The foundation would have known how frustrated I was that my tuition went up 32% during the three years I was a student and that it would have been in their best interests not to ask me for money at this time.
I do think it’s possible for ASU to redeem itself in the long run. I am very pleased with the decision to appoint Douglas Sylvester as the interim dean and some of the changes he’s made since taking over the school. It’s a good start, but I won’t be convinced to open my wallet until I see the new dean in action.
Unfortunately for the law school, the ASU Foundation is compounding an existing problem in the law school. This week, Dean Sylvester said that state funding cuts couples with a lack of alumni donations has required the law school to raise tuition for next year’s students. Many of the law school’s recent graduates were pissed off when they graduated. Asking us for money too soon is keeping us pissed off, and therefore the school has to work harder to get back into our good graces.
One of my classmates had a brilliant response to the call from the ASU Foundation. She said she’d donate as much money to ASU as ASU donated to her. (Bummer for ASU – they gave her nothing.)