The Senior Class Gift is an essential fundraising opportunity for the College of William and Mary, giving seniors the chance to donate to the program or department of their choice. A small but growing campaign is encouraging seniors to allocate their donations to the Counseling Center, which is not currently listed as an option on the donation form. Our mental health services are underfunded and the Class of 2015 has seen two on-campus suicides. The Senior Class Gift Committee should join the campaign to direct donations to the Counseling Center — and help publicize it. However, the Counseling Center must clarify where these donations would go and direct them toward something valuable to students.
Led by Chris Papas ’15, the campaign has spread by word of mouth. This needs to change. At minimum, the Senior Class Gift Committee should include the Counseling Center as a standard giving option. But even then, the committee or Papas would still need to promote the campaign. They could create a Facebook page, hold speaking events featuring mental health professionals, and partner with HOPE or the Counseling Center itself. The campaign should involve as many seniors as possible. Starting now would make a huge difference — most of the senior class has yet to donate and could be persuaded to give to the Counseling Center.
If the Class of 2015 creates a successful donation campaign for the Counseling Center, it will set a precedent for future classes. Building on an existing infrastructure, next year’s Senior Class Gift could raise even more money for the Counseling Center by fundraising during Family Weekend and Mental Health Awareness Week.
That said, the Counseling Center would need to explain why it is worthwhile for students to donate. The donations would need to provide a tangible benefit to the College community and make a lasting impact, one that seniors would be proud to leave as part of their legacy.
The Counseling Center should state how they would use the funds. Students will be more likely to donate if they know where their money is going. Further, the Senior Class Gift Committee will be better able to promote future donations if the allocation decisions are public.
The Class of 2015 has an opportunity to send a clear and powerful message to the College about its commitment to mental health — one that future classes can amplify.