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Letter to the Editor: Daly’s accusations misguided

Katherine Kihs, Contributing Writer
November 15, 2012 • 1,477 views

After reading last week’s (Nov. 9) opinion piece by James Daly ’13, I was intrigued by the confirmed misconceptions of the college’s developmental pursuits within our community. In the article, Daly accused the Piper Center for Vocation and Career of violating the college’s moral creed through its associations to large banks. Additionally, he perceived its function as “[creating] a new base of wealthy donors … morally irrelevant [to] how future donors will have made their money.”

Though I strongly advocate that individuals question the moral ideology of societal systems, this view seems limited and does not account for the greater nuances within those systems. Ultimately, an individual cannot attack a system to which they have an intrinsic connection.

Throughout his article, Daly critiqued the Piper Center for its associations with alumni, large banks and its donors. Personally, I find it difficult to say with strong conviction that an individual must be immoral through its connection to an institution that played a role in the economic recession – an accusation that Daly levelled against Harry and Tad Piper. Since I lack both credentials and space to address the economic misinformation presented in the previous article, I will focus my response to the problematic implications that Daly’s accusations bear for the developmental initiatives of the college.

College tuition covers roughly 30 percent of what comprises the St. Olaf experience; the remaining percentage is accounted for through the college’s endowment. An affiliate of the Annual Fund, the St. Olaf Fund is often designated to the greatest need on campus: financial aid and scholarships, building renovations, heating dorms, etc. The gifts of countless alumni, parents and friends of the college provide those amenities that we often take for granted. As financial aid and scholarships make up a large portion of the St. Olaf Fund, I deeply feel that my education would not be possible without the donations from such individuals.

As a result, I want to help replicate this experience for future students, particularly those, like myself, who could not attend St. Olaf otherwise. I feel profound gratitude to the generosities of the alumni and friends of the college who have all made contributions to my St. Olaf experience.

By virtue of being a private institution, the college relies on individuals who feel that St. Olaf has impacted their life in some way. Daly argued that the Piper Center serves to create a new base of wealthy donors; I couldn’t be more opposed. The Piper Center seeks to ensure that each St. Olaf student utilizes his or her education to its fullest extent. As a result of the economic recession, our higher education doesn’t bear as much weight, and many more college graduates are unemployed. Without a job, my education cannot fully thrive, and the Piper Center provides the resources necessary for me, and others, to attain such goals.

In Daly’s article, he described the alumni whom the Piper Center connected with various students as “servants of greed” who “use their talents to perpetuate institutions that destroy lives and families.” These alumni indubitably want to enhance students’ St. Olaf experience, and I cannot justifiably see their generosity as immoral.

Furthermore, Daly argued that these individuals are immoral through their implicit connection to an allegedly immoral institution. If his logic stands, then he, too, is immoral. By virtue of being a college student, Daly directly, and perhaps unknowingly, reaps the benefits of the college’s endowment. If he is connected to an institution with, as he claims, immoral developmental initiatives, then he, too, is immoral. In doing so, Daly creates stringent and perhaps unattainable conditions for morality.

I firmly believe that as social citizens, we question the moral ideology of our social systems. And as someone who has directly suffered the widespread consequences of our economic recession, I abhor those who catalyzed it. Yet, I recognize that there are greater complexities within any social system or institution. The economic recession had many causal factors, in part the large banks. However, I remain optimistic that well-intentioned individuals – including the alumni Daly attacked – can nudge these large banks toward righting the confirmed reality of corruption. To effectively enact social change, we cannot merely abandon the system, for we are ultimately a part of it.

 

 

Katherine Kihs ’13 (kihs@stolaf.edu) is from Monterey, Calif. She majors in English and philosophy.

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