Once a year, I get in my mailbox a packet of information about the latest capital campaign. This is not explanatory info telling us what the development office is doing, but an actual, bona fide pitch--they are soliciting my money.
This has always struck me as odd, and the more I think about it, the more I find it actually kind of offensive. What the university seems to be asking me, implicitly, is to take a voluntary pay cut.
Now I know that universities run on endowment, and I have given to my almas mater from time to time. I am less ambivalent about my undergraduate institution, which funded me with generous scholarships, than I am my graduate institution, for whom I worked for less-than-living wage as a TA and a graduate student writing program administrator. Sometimes, in my more blustery moods, I imagine that I'll only donate to them when I pay off all the loans I had to take out in order to live in a major metropolitan area.
But BRU is my employer, and this strikes me as a different thing entirely. We're in a poor state as it is, so salaries across the board are lower than peer institutions (indeed, lower than most four-year schools). But when they ask me for money, there is no implicit "giving back to the institution that trained you" kind of mentality. Instead, the underlying logic seems to be "sacrifice for the university you love."
This logic troubles me because of the way it continues to implicitly devalue intellectual labor: that we do it because we love it, and therefore it doesn't constitute a valuable commodity. Now, I have misgivings about the pervasiveness of commodification, and the reduction of everything to exchange value, but when it comes down to it, I work hard for a salary. A smallish one. So to have my employer ask me to give back a part of that salary for the benefit of my employer (presumably so we can pay our basketball coach almost 20 times my salary) seems a little insulting.
What am I missing here?
Edited to Add: Welcome IHE readers. There are some more cogent thoughts in the comments than in this off-the-cuff post. And as I've been thinking about it, I realize that there are a lot of reasons why development offices might want to solicit faculty, and why faculty might want to donate to their employing institution, and many of these reasons are contingent upon the kind of institution, the salary of the faculty, and the degree to which the institution invests faculty with power in the governance of the institution.
I don't want to say too much about those things here, but given my initial reaction, you might probably imagine how some of those things are configured here, or at least how they feel from the ground.
I do want us to think more about this, though: What kind of assumptions about faculty and intellectual labor are being made when we are given a cookie-cutter direct-mail solicitation? What other sorts of non-profits solicit their employees, and to what results? and what ends?
In the meantime, I do hope that new readers will comment extensively, if for no other reason that to continue informing me and the readership about the issues involved here.