Donations to the 2010 senior class gift will help create a scholarship for students who go on VISION trips, but some seniors are upset about a lack of student input on that decision.
Kristen Winchell, a development officer at St. Thomas and head of the senior class gift committee, said the scholarship will award one student with $1,000 for a January VISION service trip.
Winchell said like every year, all seniors are invited to be on the committee. It’s the members of the committee who ultimately vote on the designation of the senior class gift.
“Someone’s always not going to be happy with the designation of the gift,” Winchell said. “But really, that would happen if everybody voted. So the reason to be on the committee, and why we stress that in the Bulletin, is so you get to help decide what your senior class gift will be. And that’s why we welcome anyone.”
Senior John Gummerson wrote a letter to TommieMedia expressing his concern about the lack of student input in deciding the senior class gift.
“It’s just when I saw that it was going to VISION, and I didn’t know anything about the process,” Gummerson said. “I just felt like it didn’t include everybody. I think that’s important, that it should include everybody.”
One thing Winchell and senior class president Thomas Engrav made clear is that the class gift committee and the Undergraduate Student Government are two separate entities.
“Every year we ask the senior class president and the president of USG to be on the committee,” Winchell said. “So that’s the only way it has anything to do with a student club. And then otherwise, it’s all through development.”
Winchell said this restricts the committee’s ability to reach students and encourage them to participate in the committee.
“Our only way to get to students is to put articles in the Bulletin,” Winchell said. “And that’s what we’ve done every year in the past.”
Gummerson said it was poor communication from the senior class representatives that was the cause of his concern.
“The committee needs to be communicated properly,” Gummerson said. “Because even if they did put more than one article in the Bulletin I don’t think that one source is enough. Why not put some posters up or send an email to everybody?”
Gummerson said the numerous comments left on his letter demonstrates that the senior class is disgruntled about a lot of things this year.
“I realize we have to be flexible,” Gummerson said. “But with something like with the gift that is so easy to do and involve everyone, I don’t see why they couldn’t.”
In the past five years, all but one designated money to fund a scholarship. These included residence hall scholarships, assistance to students whose program requires more than four years of undergraduate work, and a study abroad scholarship.
The class of 2009 designated money to fund a Leadership Room in the new Anderson Student Center.
The senior class of 2001 decided to raise money for a scholarship as well as the flagpole in the quad.
“I thought about maybe doing a statue of the Tommie mascot,” Engrav said. “And maybe place that near the student center. It seemed too expensive and take too long to actually get it.”
In the letter to TommieMedia, Gummerson said he supported VISION but would not participate in the class gift because of the lack of student input.
Both Winchell and Engrav said it’s each individual’s choice to participate, but they encourage people to give back to the school.
“It’s their choice if they want to participate or not,” Engrav said. “We thought it’s a great gift, something that most students would be behind, and if they don’t want to, that’s their choice.”
Winchell agreed and said most students on the committee had been on a VISION trip, or knew someone who had.
“We hope people give back because they’ve had a great experience at St. Thomas, and want other students to have that great experience,” Winchell said. “So maybe if they personally didn’t go on a VISION trip but they know someone who did, or they know it’s a great program, they’ll want other people to participate in that program.”
The committee’s goal is 65 percent participation from the senior class, and Winchell said so far they have had great support.
“We have over 45 percent of the class who have already participated and given a gift,” Winchell said. “And that’s what we’ve stressed, just a gift of any dollar amount. So the whole goal is participation.”
Kelly Trussell can be reached at email@example.com.