September 10, 2007

My Alma Mater is Downright Shameless Sometimes

THIS EVENING, I got a nice call from the University of Michigan, which is apparently still laboring under the delusion that I want to give it money. I tend to avoid these calls through the judicious use of Caller ID, although on days when I'm feeling particularly clever I pick up the phone and immediately hang up. Yet these efforts of mine, although somewhat satisfying, have not deterred my alma mater from trying desperately to get its hands on my cash.

So when the phone rang just now, I looked again at my Caller ID and initially decided that I would again not answer the phone. Then I thought about Saturday and the Saturday before that and I grinned as I hit the talk button.

The girl on the other end of the line was a polite student who started off the conversation through confirming my address and asking some polite questions about what I did for work. Despite my great desire to tell the student that I sold methamphetamine for a living and, on the side, stole copper from utility lines, I actually answered these questions succintly and honestly, and demonstrated I was in fact gainfully employed.

This, in retrospect, was Mistake Number One. For our student then informed me that she was raising money for scholarships, and after a bit of babble about how my donation would help needy students without the wherewithal to otherwise attend Michigan, asked me if I would be interested in donating $250 for the cause.

I about choked.

However, after regaining my train of thought, I said this was out of the question. Well, actually, I said, "$250?! I'm a journalist -- I don't have that kind of money!" (Left unsaid was the phrase: "at least, not that I'd give to my bloody college.") Besides, I said, I sure wasn't inclined to give money to the University of Michigan while Lloyd Carr continued to coach the football program.

This garnered sympathy from my inquisitor to a point. However, she then went into a spiel about how the University was truly needy and suffering from budget cuts -- and who the hell isn't? -- and how there were just 572 scholarships available to 18,000+ undergraduate students, and would I be interested in donating just $100?

ME: "No! I'm not interested in donating anything."
SOLICITOR: "Would you be interested if we were 2-0 right now?"
ME: "I'd certainly be more *open* to it!"

It was about this point, if I remember rightly, that my solicitor suggested that, surely, withholding my donations from the school's scholarship program was unfairly taking things out on the unfortunate students and not the athletic department. I had to bite my tongue at this argument. So now it's my fault the University is so damned stupid in how it allocates its endowment proceeds? It's my fault my alma mater can't manage its football program?

Although, given the source, this blame-the-prospective-donor argument isn't all that surprising. Let's say, for instance, that a couple was getting their heat shut off because the gas company wasn't giving them a break. At the University of Michigan, neither the couple nor the gas company would be held to account, but rather the cruel and uncaring society that did not recognize the universal human right to gas heat and did not allocate billions to ensuring everyone had adequate gas heat, even during the Bitter Memphis Winter.

But anyway. I held firm and so my solicitor ratcheted down again. Apparently, ineffective Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman -- "who is not firing Lloyd Carr" -- has embarked on a program to match the scholarships or somehow stretch the money, I don't know what, and could I give just $50? Hmmmm. Let me think about that. Oh, that's right, the answer is always No!

Well, how about $35?

No! Non! Nein! Nyet!

At this point, the poor girl gave up and half-heartedly said something about understanding that "not everyone can give" -- can had nothing to do with it -- but thanked me for my time and assured me the University would check back in future, to make sure its contact information was up to date and what not. This news was almost enough to make me look into moving someplace where I could avoid the University's solicitations, like rural Guatemala. Trouble is, I don't think I could watch football there.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at September 10, 2007 08:34 PM | TrackBack
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