21 Dec 2009

Conditional giving

At this time of the year, many people are thinking of giving, and it's appropriate to think about the different types of giving. This article mentions eight ways from the tradition of the Torah, ranging from "Level Eight: Giving grudgingly, with a sour countenance" to "Level One: Helping someone become self-sufficient."

It's obvious that the value of the gift is increasing in the giver's generosity.

What's interesting to me is when someone calls a gift a "gift" and then attaches conditions to that "gift." That's not really a gift, is it? It's more like an exchange, a trade of money for something of value.

That's what makes this threatening letter from David Wood (President of the Harris Ranch Beef Company) to Warren Baker (President of CalPoly, SLO) so interesting. Wood basically says "you invited Michael Pollan to talk on campus, and we don't like him. Further, we don't like others who like him. Unless you stop that stuff, I will take my financial support of CalPoly elsewhere."

That's my paraphrase, but you can decide for yourself.

Seems that Mr. Wood needs to call his "financial support" something else, like "payment for indoctrination."

Bottom Line Universities are places where ideas are debated, and donations to universities should not be contingent on echoing the "giver's" opinion.


  1. Yet another example of the "Golden Rule." You know- He Who Has the Gold Makes the Rules. *cringe*

  2. WaterSource/WaterBank21 Dec 2009, 14:20:00

    Similar to when I provide Aguanomics with technical analysis of water data and expect/request in return being allowed to mention of my solution for solving the water dilemma on subject ...

    If it is free, it is not worth anything ...

    That includes "gifts" ... more strings than just 'thank you' are expected and attached ...

    Feliz Navidad

  3. Many may call your view naive or idealistic. I've had a number of "we've got to face reality" conversations, lately, and what bothers me is that we create reality when it comes to these constructs.

    Thank goodness SLO is a public institution and protected by nonprofit status, so this type of corruption has a better chance of being beaten back.

    Schools have to be those places you describe.

  4. These kinds of controversies are as old as private universities and tenured professors. I think the SLO administration could have handled this better. They *are* to be commended for exposing their students to many points of view; particularly at Poly, where "industry" rules the roost. And Pollan is hardly an Angela Davis or Huey Newton, or any of the other outrageous frauds that some otherwise educated professors were suckered into believing in *my* day.
    BTW a nice way to give an Xmas gift is through Kiva (a micro-loan outfit). It is a particularly nice way to get teenagers thinking a bit more clearly.

  5. Good points, Mister Kurtz.

    By the way, I'd prefer an option to invest in Kiva for a gift for somebody, rather than just give a donation. That sounds a tad heartless, but I want folks to be invested, and a micro-investment into a micro-loan may be a good idea, too.

  6. I take issue with the comment that it is easier for public universities to beat back against this pressure. In my experience working for for both public and private universities, I have found private institutions to be more protective of academic freedom and more likely to tell donors to take a walk. I have found public university administrators to be far more susceptible to this kind of pressure. Thanks to price controls, they are more desperate for a buck. Thanks to politics, they are used to having more external control over their operation. In fact, the Cal Poly president did bend to the pressure a little in switching to a panel discussion.

    Others may have had different experiences.

  7. Yeah, Josh, your idea is what I meant. I open a Kiva account for someone with $50 or $100 bucks in it and let them decide whom to loan it to (or just take it back and buy crap for themselves if they want to). Give you some idea if they have any moral compass at all; so far, so good.


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