Annual giving to Occidental last year amounted to over $18 million, or 4 percent of the school’s annual budget, according to the 2013 annual report. Much of this fundraising is thanks to Telefund, a team of student callers who reach out to alumni and parents for the donations that make many of the activities of Occidental students possible. However, recent negative publicity surrounding the school has made it increasingly difficult for these callers to perform their job, and while they are not the perpetrators of problematic actions taken by the school, they often bear the brunt of parent and alumni anger.
The past several years have not been kind to Occidental College’s reputation. From allegations that the administrators silenced sexual assault survivors to the firing of long-time Campus Safety officer Lt. Joseph Cunje, scandals have slowly eaten away at the image of the school alumni and parents hold in their minds. Some alumni and parents choose to voice their frustrations by abstaining from donating. Instead of voicing their concerns with the administration, frustrated community members have berated Telefund callers for the school’s actions. For the students who work at Telefund, this can be mentally and emotionally exhausting. The negative publicity has even caused Telefund leaders to cancel shifts, which spares workers from the diatribes but reduces their pay.
Some of this is understandable. Telefund workers call alumni asking for donations on behalf of the school, which has alienated many people with its actions. However, it is important to distinguish the student workers from the administration. They are not calling to bankroll the controversial decisions made by the school; they are calling to secure funding for scholarships, financial aid, athletics, improved facilities and numerous other programs not covered by tuition, student fees and room and board. Given that the bulk of this money ultimately benefits students, the community should be commending Telefund instead of berating them.
Donors can stipulate how they want their funds to be spent, ensuring that their money goes to causes they support. While outrage from alumni and parents may be warranted, it should be channeled in ways that do not harm the students who they are trying to protect. Telefund employees work hard to ensure that students are provided with various opportunities to learn and grow on campus. If alumni are concerned that the administration is inhibiting this process, they should discuss their dissatisfaction with the administrators involved in making those decisions.
This editorial represents the collective opinion of The Occidental Weekly Editorial Board. Each week, the editorial board will publish its viewpoint on a matter relevant to the Occidental community.