For the past twenty years or so, I’ve been a semi-regular donor to my private undergraduate college.* I write some pretty big checks in reunion years, and while I sometimes miss a year or two, I’ve given that institution between $1000-1,500 in the past four years. On the other hand, the pleas from my graduate institution go right into the recycling bin, as does their monthly alumni magazine. (Honestly: what a waste of paper and fuel!) When I get mail from this university, I am disgusted that this large, private research university (which benefits from all kinds of government contracts, including morally objectionable work for the Pentagon, etc.) dares to ask me (me!)for a share of my modest income.
But let’s think about which institution has done the most to help me earn that modest income: clearly, it’s my graduate institution, which granted me the Ph.D. that made me eligible to work as a tenure-track historian in the first place. Besides: my undergraduate college charged me and my parents thousands of dollars a year for the honor of matriculating, whereas I went to grad school for free! It’s true: I had a T.A.ship and two years of dissertation support, so I not only didn’t have to pay or even borrow a dime, they paid me! So why do I react with such disgust and resentment when my graduate institution asks me for money? That seems pretty unfair, doesn’t it? But the fact of the matter is that I was happy in college, and I was (mostly) unhappy in graduate school, at least in my first year there. Continue Reading »