Last weekend, I along with thousands of others (many alumni, many admirers) descended upon the beautiful upper quadrangle of my beloved alma mater.  O Howard, I sing of thee.  Although I love my school, there were times when I didn’t. Simple growing pains of being far away from home and in a totally different city from where I came from, but like all complex relationships, my experiences there forced me to expand my mind, maturity and also my pride.

Just like any relationship I hold dear to my heart, if you talk about Howard I might take it personally, it’s hard to explain but it’s one of those situations where only I myself and others who attended the Capstone can talk about it. For example, I can talk about my sister, but you can’t! Howard is no different, but I understand it’s one of those things that people sometimes love to hate, and with our illustrious list of former students and historical events, I don’t blame them. Nobody could ever question how I feel about the school I once called home. I wear my HU tee’s to the gym, I attend different alumni events, I cheer on the football team at the Urban League classic, I even donate money back to the university….wait a second, no I don’t.

How could this be? How could the place that played a major part in nurturing the woman I am today never have seen a check, money order, paypal click, credit card payment or pigeon telegram from me! How dare I throw away the requests I receive in the mail from Howard University before I even take the time to read them?

Thinking back to the time when I was in undergrad working two jobs (one of which included me driving a campus shuttle from midnight to 8am, don’t ask) and still struggling to pay my tuition, I remember thinking, “When I finish, Howard isn’t gonna see one red cent from me, (proceed to imagine me rubbing my hands together while lightening strikes in the background and I belt out an evil “I’m gonna rule the world!!!!” laugh) MWAAAAHHH HAAAAAAH HAAAAAH HAAAAAH HAAAAA!”

Even though I’m still paying off student loans, I know that I can afford to give back, so if I’m able to and I love this place so much, then why don’t I? Maybe I don’t see the importance of giving back to my school, or maybe I’m not sure where the money will end up.  I know that I’m not a selfish person, but I do prefer to give money directly to people in need or people on a mission and I do like to know where the money is going. Speaking of missions, I just recently went on a mission trip to South Africa and I set up a donation page to help pay for my trip, if it weren’t for a few generous friends and family members, I would absolutely believe that people don’t like to donate, and part of me still feels that way, which left me wondering, is this the case for everyone?

While I haven’t conducted enough research or case studies to make that conclusion, I still couldn’t just leave it at that, I had to speak to people on the street, in the subway, during dinner and see what they thought about giving back. I focused specifically on giving back to your alma mater and not charities and I also made sure that I questioned all different types of people.  I can say that the majority I spoke to do not give back, and the reasons varied but some of the most popular were, “I gave my school enough money when I was there,” as told to me by Kristin Rosenberg of Brooklyn, to “I wouldn’t give my school money unless I was at a point where I could donate a large sum and regulate where the money was going,” said Lateef Caldwell of Harlem. He wondered, “What’s the point of giving $50, that’s a drop in the bucket to these universities?”

I must say that I understand where both were coming from, but there were also those who said they do give back, whether it be financially or with their time, because people gave back when they were in school, so they felt it was their duty.

So I ask you, do you donate to your beloved alma maters? Or do you give the same excuse I do “I will start a scholarship fund one day soon.”

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  • Racial Rachel

    I went to a well-endowed PWI for High School and and even wealthier one for college. Every year I was in school, thousands of dollars from some alumn somewhere paid my tuition. My undergraduate indebtedness was under $10,000. My high school gets the first check. My younger brothers attended the school as well and I recognize the benefits it provided me. Classic story: Poor little black girl from the hood is given a scholarship which changes all of her life chances. If I don’t give back, then stories like mine won’t happen as often.

    I realize HBCU’ers tend to have some emotional tie to their maters. I don’t know much about them, but I do know that I avoided them due to their lacking endowments. I find the pomp and pride without the checks to be problematic. You do realize that if your old school is poor, run-down, has a high dropout rate and can’t attract the best candidates then YOUR degree begins to look like BS, right?

    Why do people think I went to one of the best schools in the world?
    Best professors, most competitive students, world changing research, high graduation rate, premier students services…All these things cost money and without that money to maintain those things the overall value of my degree would be diluted.

  • I donate enough, over $50,000 and all I got was this expensive ass dust pan.

  • Tracey

    I have not given to my former school. I think in the beginning I was frustrated, mad and broke because it was difficult for me to find a decent job that covered my expenses and student loans. I am now in a better place financially although still paying the student loans and plan to start giving. I think it is a great idea and a way to support our HBCU’s.

  • beautiful explosion

    I was one of those people that called alumni and begged for money. If I have a job when they call, I will give simply because I’ve been there and I can help a student get a bonus.