Editorial: Charity fatigue?

At this point in the semester, virtually everywhere you turn on campus, someone is raising money for some type of charity. With the Day without Shoes last Tuesday, Bands and Bikes and the Running of the Bison coming up this weekend, the Management 101 companies selling their products, many students already collecting donations for Relay for Life, and many more similar events on the horizon, there is no excuse to not be aware of how many important causes need our help. These philanthropic efforts are generally at least moderately successful, but at the same time, observing how people participate in them makes us question how much the student community really cares.

For example, we saw few people on campus actually participate in the Day without Shoes. While this was surely largely due to the cold and rainy weather, truly dedicated students should have participated nevertheless. The willingness of those students who did participate to brave the weather significantly increased the visibility of their cause, emphasizing the plight of people who must go without shoes in bad weather as well as good. We commend the students who went without shoes, but we wish that more would have joined them.

Despite the prevalence of philanthropic efforts on campus, we wonder just how deeply students actually care about them. Greeks raise thousands of dollars and work many service hours for various charitable organizations, but we suspect that these endeavors have more to do with Plan for Prominence requirements than with genuine passion—hence the many students who go out of the way to get their hours in the least effort-intensive ways possible. Most people who buy Management 101 products do so because they want the products, not because they particularly care where the profits go.

We wonder if the student community might be suffering from a sort of “charity fatigue.” Students cannot participate in all of the worthy causes without either spending a huge amount of money or ultimately contributing a small, insignificant amount to each individual cause. Furthermore, with so many people soliciting time and money for so many important charities, we are worried that students are starting to tune them out; the presence of so many events makes it harder to get excited about any particular ones. Perhaps if we concentrated more of our efforts as a community on a smaller number of causes, we could get more deeply involved and ultimately make more of an impact.

Still, with the possible exception of students required to do charity for classes, at least the students organizing all these events really do care deeply about them. The end result may not be enough to cause major widespread social change, but it is still more than what was started with. So while the attitudes of the larger University community toward charity may not be ideal, what does get accomplished is certainly better than nothing.

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