November 17, 2019

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Re: ‘Down with Fake Philanthropy!’

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To the Editor:

In a recent Sun column, Nicholas Nguyen ’22 writes about his experience interacting with a philanthropy event on campus, voicing his discomfort about many on-campus organizations that seem to not care enough about the causes they support.

As members of the sorority holding the event Nguyen referenced, we want to respond to this criticism. It is heartening to mention that on that fall day, we raised over $680 to support the Wounded Warriors Project, a nonprofit organization that serves veterans and service members who incurred a physical or mental injury, illness or wound while serving in the military on or after Sept. 11, 2001. That money, we are proud to say, will directly contribute to initiatives for supporting injured veterans. For the past six or so years, our sorority has been holding this fundraiser to bring the community together to raise money, support a good cause and have fun while doing it. Those hosting the event fully support and understand the organization’s goals, and we were happy to talk about it with those who participated and donated.

Cornell’s approach to philanthropy may not be flawless and we will be the first to recognize this. However, at a time when our society is so divisive, we should not be criticizing people for trying to help. Philanthropy is a way for students on campus to feel that they are making a positive contribution to their communities and using the privilege granted to us as students to give back to those around us. In our view, taking the time to raise money to support an organization that we believe in adds more good to the world than it detracts.

Although the author may not have remembered where his donation was going that day, that should not belittle the value our chapter places on philanthropy.  It is perhaps a flaw that attendees of our event may have simply wanted a s’more. On our end, the ultimate goal of our event was never once lost — to raise money to contribute to the Wounded Warriors Project. Though we cannot guarantee the intentions of everyone who attended such fundraising events, this message was conveyed clearly by our chapter via all promotional efforts, as well as at the event itself.

While we acknowledge the benefits of active philanthropy, we will not apologize for our attempts to better the lives of others. Philanthropy events should always strive to be better, and as Cornellians, we should hold ourselves accountable for ensuring that our initiatives have a real impact. However, by setting a standard that “true” service can only be achieved through hours of active volunteering, we exclude many students’ attempts to help. That being said, the notion that our sorority simply sat around a fire as an attempt at philanthropy is somewhat upsetting.

The narrative created by this article, regardless of intent, fosters an environment where individuals feel discouraged from trying to help out of fear of being ridiculed for “not doing enough.” Regardless of personal beliefs, no philanthropy with good intent and tangible outcomes should be deemed “fake.” Although we respect all opinions, we hope that future efforts will be focused on improving and participating in philanthropy events on campus, rather than criticizing them.

Sama Joshi ’22

Hannah Strauss ’22

Jordan Rusoff ’21