Monday, July 23, 2007

And all I got was this lousy keychain 

A successful fundraising campaign should be celebrated, and I'm sure the alumni and benefactors of Purdue are a generous bunch. But some celebrations can get a little out of hand.


That's the response from many students and staff when told Purdue spent more than a half-million dollars for a party last month to celebrate the end of its Campaign for Purdue fundraiser.

"That seems like a big waste," said David Hoover, a junior studying actuarial science. "Pay for renovations to some of these buildings. A lot of the buildings need it."

The bill for the June 30 event, in which donors were thanked for $1.7 billion in contributions over the past seven years, totaled $576,778, according to documents gathered by the Journal & Courier. About half was paid for by the Purdue Research Foundation; the rest came from money raised through the campaign.

Joe Bennett, vice president for university relations, said the event had to be upscale to properly thanks donors, many of whom donated more than $1 million.

"It's part of what you do to raise money at that kind of level," Bennett said. "That's what the people who made contributions to us deserved."

The article goes on to other justifications. But you simply have to wonder whether the alumni who gave, say, $500 or $1000 -- for whom this is a significant donation -- would like to know that even a small fraction went to a bash so large that an event management firm was paid almost a half-million to run it. They act like it just got a little bigger than planned, but that fact should demonstrate it was planned all along. The article suggests these opportunity costs:

What [$576,778] could have paid for:
  • Salary for almost seven full-time faculty members at average salary for a year.
  • Rooms for 82 students for a year in a university dorm.
  • Tuition for 81 students for a year at Purdue.
  • Salaries for 41 graduate teaching assistants for 10 months.
  • The debt of 30 graduating undergraduate students.
  • Former Purdue President Martin Jischke's yearly base salary of $406,950.
Yes, former. There's a new president, who has no comment on this bash because it was planned by President Jischke.