Editorial: Transparency needed in next Pitt Day of Giving

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Editorial: Transparency needed in next Pitt Day of Giving

401(K) 2012 | Flickr

401(K) 2012 | Flickr

401(K) 2012 | Flickr

401(K) 2012 | Flickr

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

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If you’re just now hearing about Tuesday’s Pitt Day of Giving, you probably haven’t checked your email in the past week.

The Day is the first of its kind at Pitt, strategically placed to celebrate the 230th anniversary of the University’s founding.

According to its website, the Day of Giving is meant to inspire the Pitt community to “come together to transform tomorrow” by decreasing future student debt, connecting the community and fostering Pitt pride.

By donating, you can “be a part of something big,” says Pitt.

The Day, which resulted in nearly $5.5 million in raised funds, was certainly big. What should result from this injection of money are small, obvious and sustained changes — and ones that we’ll see immediately.

The goal of working ahead now to create scholarship programs for future Pitt students is admirable, and an innovative way to create more affordable collegiate experiences in the coming years. But many aspects of the Day of Giving are still vague. We aren’t clear exactly how we will see the donations will benefit future classes. If the Day of Giving is to become a time-honored Pitt tradition — and we hope it does — it’s imperative to increase transparency, so we know the benefits are extending to as many students as possible.

If you donated online, you had an option to give to the Pitt Fund, a general fund of financial resources for University programs in need; to University Scholarships, a fund that offers financial support to need-based students who qualify; to specific Schools or Colleges, Pitt experiences or student organizations within Pitt or to “other.”

If you donated to something other then the Pitt Fund or the University Scholarships, there was many options for where your money can go — with helpful pop up information about specific scholarships or resources it might fund. Some are more vague than others: within the options for Pitt experience or student organizations, you can choose to give to different scholarship programs or more general funds dedicated to retaining and attracting faculty, updating facilities or supporting “top strategic priorities” of the unit.

As we move on from this successful fundraising initiative, it’s important to ensure that the Day of Giving is not merely a marketing technique that exploits Pitt pride and community for the sake of money that doesn’t cause sustainable change — we must see real, tangible benefits starting as soon as the donation checks can be cashed.

“The University will be sharing impact stories in the coming future to highlight the impact of donations to Pitt,” said Alexandria Rigby, the annual program coordinator in the Office of Institutional Advancement, in an email to The Pitt News.

Inquires about the millions of dollars in donations should not be satisfied by a few video clips and quotes of first-year students who received scholarships. We, especially current students being asked to donate, need more transparency in where our funds are going and who they are benefitting.

There is not a very high bar for transparency with financial matters at Pitt. The University approved its annual budget for 2016-2017 last July but beyond short explanations for the tuition increases, the amounts the University budgets for more specific issues like scholarships or financial aid is not as readily available.

It would be helpful if Pitt published reports showing exactly how much scholarships are going to increase and how many students will benefit from this money before the next fundraising campaign.

In the next few months, we expect Pitt to keep us updated on impact stories, scholarships and other changes that come from the money collected on the anniversary of our founding yesterday.

Plus, if we’re able to see the direct impacts of this year’s Day of Giving directly, we’ll be more willing to shell out money next year.

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