In case you haven't noticed, Princeton is rich. Each of us pays nearly $32,000 a year to attend the University, which is nothing compared to the $25 million being spent on a new student center, which is nothing compared to the $750 million being raised by the "With One Accord" anniversary campaign, which is nothing compared to Princeton's endowment of over $4 billion.
I don't know about you, but I cannot even fathom such great sums of money. It's obvious the University possesses enough wealth to feed and clothe the citizens of at least three Third World countries, let alone satisfy the needs of its mere 4,500 undergraduates. So then why is every student organization on campus so poor?
As a fundraiser for a new student organization, I have spent countless hours asking various facets of the University to "Show me the money!" Thus far, I've seen about as much money as I could have gotten from mowing lawns or delivering newspapers. Where has Princeton hidden its fortune? And more importantly, WHY has it been hidden?
Before coming to Princeton, I never imagined I would find myself groveling at the feet of every academic department, residential college and administrative office on campus, but here I am, begging for spare change like a street urchin. It was my understanding that Princeton encouraged its students to take an active role in campus life, broaden their horizons and enrich themselves in more than just academics, but now that I've had firsthand experience with the University's bureaucracy, I am not so confident in the validity of such an assumption. After all, how is it possible to advocate student involvement on one hand but deny financial resources to student organizations on the other?
If I didn't know any better, I would assume the solution to this financial crisis could be found in the USG Projects Board. Now, however, I realize that this committee hardly has enough money to fund even a handfull of activities. What happens if a group's budget extends past a few hundred dollars? What happens if a group's agenda does not involve on-campus events? What happens if a group chooses to host a banquet or study break, activities not covered by Projects Board funding? Then it's time to go door-to-door, begging money from anyone and everyone.
Not only have I experienced this great fun for myself, but I have witnessed many others in their attempts to do the same – for I have played the part of moneylender through the Rockefeller College Council. Each week the council receives two or three requests for funding, and each week we must reject most of these pleas. It is not because we are cruel people who despise art magazines, outreach programs and ethnic pride assemblies – we just don't have the money to give. What we are provided with can only be stretched so far, and thus I am greatly angered and disappointed that the council must turn away so many good causes, especially since I know what it is like to be rejected by your last resort.
Through these trials and tribulations, I have come to understand why Princeton turns out so many investment bankers – after dealing with finance problems for four straight years, a lot of students become quite accustomed to a life of buying, selling, bargaining and begging. Shouldn't this time be spent participating rather than planning? Enjoying rather than imploring? I find it quite ironic that my high school, which had an endowment of exactly zero dollars and no cents, was able to fund most activities in their entirety. Of course, these activities would hold an occasional candy sale, but funding was never a real concern. We didn't even have to pay $32,000 to attend the school in the first place! Some families of four live off less money than that for an entire year – where are our dollars going? If they are going towards a well-balanced education, they are certainly taking the scenic route.
My suggestion to the University is that the administration should set aside a couple million dollars specifically to fund student organizations. There is no question that this "pocket change" would be well-spent. I mean think about it: If you were a rich alum planning on giving a donation to your alma mater, wouldn't you prefer that your money was put directly to use by the students themselves rather than stashed away in some untouchable endowment?
Planning for the future is a commendable practice at times, but it should never be worth sacrificing the present. After all, many of us are destined to incur huge debts in the future anyway as we must pay back our student loans. Is it too much to ask that we stay out of debt while we're still here?