Let’s take a minute to digest this week’s “Break Up With Another School” event. During this event held on Valentine’s Day, students were encouraged to “Donate a shirt from a different college to St. Vincent DePaul and get a free I Love UD shirt while supplies last.”
Is this really how charity works? Can this even be called charity? It’s challenging to see this as much other than a marketing strategy attempting to veil itself in good intentions. Those good intentions mask what will certainly be an unintended consequence: slighting the people who use the services of St. Vincent DePaul.
Exchanging T-shirts from other schools for brand-new UD T-shirts accomplishes two things: it gives students a new UD branded T-shirt, and it gives the least among us a used T-shirt screaming the names of prestigious colleges and universities – taunting them with an education they likely do not have. And all of this pseudo-charity in February, a month when the cold weather makes a T-shirt essentially useless.
Most troubling, this apparent effort to help others fails to respond to the bigger question: “Why do people in the Miami Valley need the services of St. Vincent DePaul at all?” Phrased another way, “Why are some people in the Miami Valley unable to enjoy the dignity of making basic consumer choices about their living conditions?”
To ask and answer these questions is to seek justice. For the UD community to receive new goods as a reward for charity pawns off a Gospel responsibility.
There’s an expectation for a university to run a fundraising campaign – and this is good. But there’s a way to tastefully raise money and increase school spirit, and this is not it. A top-tier research university in the Catholic, Marianist tradition deserves better than a campaign with the depth of a scratch-off lottery ticket. Raising money is a necessity, but we need to ask if this type of gimmick exploits our community for something it’s not.