Dear Mr. Ross,
The University announced on Wednesday that you donated $200 million — the largest single gift in the history of the school. As a fellow alum of the University, I want to thank you for your donation to our alma mater, but with reservations.
As reported by The Michigan Daily, your gift allocates $100 million to the Athletic Department and $100 million to the business school. While the gift is commendable, I question if it will best serve the University’s community with its current recipients.
The Athletic Department already has $386 million in net assets and a $64 million endowment. Dave Brandon, the University’s athletic director, presented a budget in June expecting $8.9 million in profit this year. Anyone who has attended a game at Michigan Stadium, the Crisler Center or Yost Ice Arena knows that our stadiums are the best in the country. Additionally, the athletic campus has grown immensely over the last few years, and our resources for fostering student athletes are second to none. The Ross School of Business is the premier business school in the country. Neither department needs your money to continue their success.
As University President Mary Sue Coleman said in her 2002 inaugural address, “The glory of the University of Michigan resides in its ability to re-invent itself continually, to cherish its roots while inventing the future.” Donated elsewhere, $200 million has the ability to do just that. And I’ve come up with some alternative, transformative ideas for your donation.
The money could go toward scholarships for underprivileged and underrepresented groups. We should continue to commit to diversity on campus and give as broad a range of individuals as possible access to the University.
We should also support public service students who may wish to serve in the military before attending school or after graduation, whose only deterrent may be the financial consequences of attending the University.
Your donation could fund initiatives fostering student research and creativity. The next Facebook or the cure for cancer could be in the mind of an incoming freshman. These funds could help creative individuals make their dreams a reality.
More social engagement programs could be implemented within the local community. With more than 40,000 students, the University can better serve the poor, sick and disenfranchised. More funds toward these objectives would make practical and quantifiable improvements in many people’s quality of life.
You’ve said you wish for the University to be a world-class institution and to train our students for leadership opportunities in their futures. Former University President James Angell once remarked, “…every appropriation to the University sows seeds in the most fruitful of all soils.” I hope that you use your success for the good of the greater University community so it can continue to be the school that we love.
Colin Keiffer is a University alum.