Princeton Student’s Column Criticizing Annual Giving Prompts Online Comments War (#acpsea @Princetonian)

A Princeton University senior’s column in yesterday’s Daily Princetonian calling “the whole premise of annual giving . . . problematic” has spurred a wowzer of a debate in the online comments section.

A majority of the commenters, proclaiming themselves Princeton students and alums, are nastily ripping into the student columnist as ungrateful for the education and Ivy League experiences she has received.  At least one commenter has even brought her family into the mix, prompting the student’s mother to comment back (hat tip IvyGate).

In the column, Princetonian guest contributor Emily Rutherford’s main point is that simply passing along some money to one’s university is a narrow way of conceptualizing ‘giving back’.  As she writes, “We’re Princeton students. We can be a little more ambitious, dream a little bigger and morally challenge ourselves a bit more intensively.”

She also takes issue with the idea that she is forever bonded to the university financially because it offered her enrollment and financial aid.  In her words, “I’d like to think I’ve shown my gratitude for my scholarship throughout the past four years: trying my hardest at my schoolwork, remaining very involved in institutional committee work and other kinds of campus activism and serving as a mentor to younger students. . . . And now my commitment is done. I didn’t sell Princeton my soul for a financial aid grant; I don’t owe the university for the rest of my life.”

Many commenters disagree with her sentiments, calling them shameful, frustrating, selfish, and naive.  Her name has even been twisted from Emily Rutherford to Eminently Righteousford by some.  A sample comment: “I would’ve had more respect for this column if it was just a blown up picture of the [middle] finger.”

A second: “This is a piece of sh*t. Donating isn’t about doing something ‘morally good,’ it’s about helping a university that has given you so much, and will not be able to do so for future generations if students stop giving. It is unlikely that at another university you would have been able to study abroad at Oxford, been openly and safely gay, or won a Marshall.”

The oddest, and frankly most out-of-bounds, comment drags Rutherford’s mother into the fight: “Emily is a legacy, and her mom shares Emily’s disdain of Princeton (or perhaps, it was her mother who inculcated said disdain).”

A portion of her mother’s reasoned response: “If I actually ‘disdained’ the university, I would not have encouraged my daughter to attend it, nor would I have supported her in all she’s done to try to make it an even better place.  (And her efforts, whether you value them or not, indicate that Emily herself does not “disdain” Princeton; a personal decision regarding Annual Giving is hardly the only– or best– measure of an individual’s commitment to a community.)”

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