Artist’s conception of senior fund

Every year, deep-pocketed alums full of Columbia school spirit volunteer to donate a large amount of money to the school if a certain number of seniors donate to the Senior Fund.

It’s a good idea; college seniors don’t have that much money, so their donations are really symbolic. It shows that they have faith in the university. This year, that donor is Charles Santoro, CC ’82:

In addition, Charles Santoro ’82 pledged to donate $5,000 to the College Fund when the Senior Fund has 250 donors, another $20,000 at 500 donors and another $75,000 at 750 donors.

Inspiring! And how will the Senior Fund inspire 750 seniors to donate to the Senior Fund? By using straw donors, of course! Here’s an email a message that some Columbia College seniors received from a member of the Senior Fund Committee [emphasis added]:

Hey! I noticed you haven’t donated to Senior Fund yet. We’re trying to get 750 seniors to each donate $1 at least so that we can get a $100,000 donation from an alumni — and this money is going to financial aid, whee! Would you mind donating online right now? Or if you’re unable to, would you be okay if I donated myself, in your name? Thanks so much!

This tactic may have happened last year as well, with a slight difference: more than a few seniors discovered that they were listed as Senior Fund donors, despite never having donated to the Senior Fund. At least one of them took his concerns to Deantini, who apologized and pledged to “monitor the policies and practices in the Senior Fund in order to continue to encourage participation in a meaningful and appropriate way.”

That senior also contacted Amanda Kessler, Director of the Young Alumni Fund and last year’s Senior Fund advisor. She assured him, “We will be re-evaluating our donation collection and entry process for the Class of 2013 Senior Fund so as to avoid mistakes like this going forward.” Perhaps that’s why this year the Senior Fund is asking permission to donate in the names of seniors who would not otherwise give.

But will Santoro still donate if the money is collected in the names of 750 seniors, but 750 seniors don’t actually donate? We’ve reached out to both the Senior Fund Committee and Santoro for comment, and we’ll update if we hear back.

Bag of money via Shutterstock