Rockefeller, Harvard, and Elitism

The comment on my post about Rockefeller and Harvard deserves a response. Basically, 3 items: First, Rockefeller did not profit from Harvard in any meaningful way; Harvard, on the other hand, profited from Rockefeller. Rockefeller profited from a family fortune--Harvard probably had little to do with it. Rockefeller was probably well educated before he went to Harvard and would have been as successful as he was had he gone to any city or state college. Second, I don't think the motivation for giving should be based on where you went to school or what organization you're a member of, but rather on where your money can do the most good. And, Harvard, isn't the spot, IMHO. Third, this type of giving is just an example of the elite giving to the elite to perpetuate their own elitism. Having said this, I believe that Rockefeller has the right to give his money where he wants, but I don't have to believe there was such noble purpose to this gesture or that the money could not have been spent more wisely or more honorably. Success--whether financial or academic--entails responsibilities and I don't see this $100,000,000 gift to Harvard as meeting the responsibilities of someone so enormously wealthy.

1 comment:

maestra said...

In response to your statement that you don’t think the motivation for giving should be based on where you went to school. While this may be true, I don’t think that private colleges and universities necessarily look at things this way. If they did, then schools like Manhattan College, Duke U, and Gettysburg College, would not be hounding their alumni and/or parents of their alumni for donations. I’m sure Harvard is no different in this respect-seeking endowments and large amts of funding from its alumni. That doesn’t, of course, negate the fact that being a wealthy alumnus, regardless of how that money came into one’s possession, does not mean that one is obligated to give to one’s alma mater, or should, if that school is already rich and in possession of massive endowment monies. If one is truly a philanthropist, then one’s wealth should be dispersed among the poor-whether in terms of monies for medicines, education, housing needs, food, to help abused women and children, etc. A man of such wealth should be making a charitable contribution to some needy cause rather than a donation to some institution which doesn’t need its money. I suspect that Rockefeller had other motives in giving such a large endowment to his alma mater. For one thing, he does not have to pay tax on his endowment money, nor do his descendants, or the non-profit university to whom the endowment is being made. Another thing is that he will go down in history as the person who gave the largest sum to the university and, I’m sure, the university will add his name to some additional campus fixture or building. And, his giving his money to an already rich institution does perpetuate the old adage that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. To have Harvard giving financial aid to families who earn up to $180,000 is ludicrous, and certainly endowments like Rockefeller’s are responsible for allowing the misuse of such funds to occur. I just can’t understand how tuition at these larger private universities keeps going up when they are banking profits from their endowment investments, or why such a university is even charging tuition in the first place? But that’s a separate issue and certainly a digression here.