UB asking seniors to donate money to the university, students unhappy

Senior Challenge asking seniors to donate any amount of money


UB’s Class of 2016 will be paying back student loan debt in a few months from four years of tuition, but that hasn’t stopped UB from asking them to reach into their pockets for donations.

UB seniors are currently being inundated with a slew of emails and phone calls asking them to donate to the Senior Challenge, which is a an annual donation effort started in 1984 that attempts to solicit donations from graduating UB students. If 216 seniors donate any amount of money, Phil Kadet, UB School of Management Class of 1977 alumni, will donate $10,000.

Seniors are becoming increasingly annoyed by the phone calls and emails.

“It’s really frustrating because I know a lot of students are worried about getting jobs in the future already and other financial burdens, so being called when we haven’t even graduated yet is kind of ridiculous,” said Laura Aguilera, a senior international studies and global gender studies major.

According to Barb Byers, director of constituent communications in the Office of Development and Alumni Communications, the Senior Challenge is more about participation than dollar amount. Byers said Kadet started donating in the effort because he “believes in philanthropy and wanted to teach the next generation to give back.”

“Any senior can give any amount – just the act of giving is important,” Byers said.

Byers said for this reason the university does not keep a specific, detailed record of the amount of money raised.

This is the second year Kadet has offered a $10,000 donation. Last year the challenge met its goal of 200 student donors.

Seniors can choose which department they would like to donate to. The money raised through the project has gone toward various aspects of the university in the past, including the marble tile seal in the Student Union Lobby, a clock on the face of Norton Hall and flags in the Student Union, according to a 2004 UB news release.

Students can only donate via credit card or UB Card in order to set a protocol for all donations, according to Byers.

“Part of it is the mechanism – we don’t have someone to hand the physical cash over and cash is just not the way the protocol is set,” Byers said. “It’s a way to eliminate any improprieties.”

Emily Kicinski, a senior English major, said she finds the phone calls, which are done by students working in the call center, to be “invasive.”

Kicinski recently received a phone call and felt she was “being pressured” by the student fundraiser to make a donation.

“The guy on the phone was asking me if I wanted to donate and I asked to do it online and he said there is a time constraint on donations and that it would be easier to get it over with on the phone,” Kicinski said.

The challenge, which started Sept. 28, concludes on Nov. 6.

Kicinski said she did not “appreciate the pushiness” of the student fundraiser. Even the students working at the call center find it a bit unsettling that UB is asking seniors for contributions.

Kaeyla Kerr, a junior psychology major and call center worker said asking other students to donate makes her feel “kind of awkward.”

“Paying for tuition is hard enough as it is and here I am asking kids to pour more money out of their already limited pockets,” Kerr said. “I actually think it’s pretty inconsiderate to be asking seniors who aren’t only worrying about student loans, but also what’s their next step after graduation, to donate but, hey – the money is going toward a ‘good cause.’”

Brandan Radford, Senior Challenge chair and a senior pharmacology and toxicology major, has worked at the call center for two years as a student fundraiser prior to being promoted to a supervisor.

Radford said he would sometimes receive “horrific calls” from graduates who would call him “stupid [for not understanding] the word ‘no.’” He said he would also receive death threats from prospects if he continued to call them for solicitations.

But he said a highlight of his time as a student fundraiser were phone calls where he learned about history of the university through alumni and their first hand accounts of what happened when they were they were students. He said he also enjoyed phone calls with distinguished alumni.

Radford said asking for donations is beneficial to the university.

“An overall importance for participation in the schools’ various fundraisers is that U.S. News & World Report bases a portion of its rankings of universities on alumni involvement and the easiest way for alum to get involved through the annual fundraiser,” Radford said.

Still, some students are concerned about the prospect of a university asking students to donate money on top of tuition.

“I think the senior challenge is a bit ridiculous, I’m being bombarded with emails and phone calls when I haven’t even graduated yet,” said Jeffrey Talasazan, a senior psychology major. “Give me a chance to go into the working world, make some money and then give back to my past.”

Byers said Kadet chose 216 donors this year because the graduating class will be graduating in 2016. One hundred and six students have contributed to the 216-donor goal as of Thursday, according to the Senior Challenge website.

Ashley Inkumsah is a news desk editor and can be reached at ashley.inkumsah@ubspectrum.com.