Successful campus card program should be expanded to donations

Should campus card funds be allowed in fundraisers?

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A few weeks ago, Student Life showcased Student Union’s and various student groups’ efforts to raise money for the crisis in Haiti. The SU drive has raised over $6,400, and thousands more have been raised through other student fundraisers. A major boon in these outreach drives was the use of campus card readers, which made it so students who didn’t carry cash on them could donate money through their Wash. U. card accounts.

A campus card account is an undeniably convenient and practical part of the Wash. U. student experience. We can swipe our campus IDs for toasted ravioli at Bear Grill, a new load of laundry or a fresh pack of paper from the campus store, and unlike meal points, these campus card funds don’t expire until graduation. However, a University policy technically prohibits donations from being made via campus cards. Money in your campus card account can only be applied to the purchase of physical goods.

So, students have to be creative to make their fundraising drives work within University sanctions. SU was in fact impelled to sell $10 chocolate bars and donate the profits to charity. We assume that such workarounds are an acknowledged fact of life within the Wash. U. community. Many groups are content to nominally provide cupcakes, bracelets and other trinkets in exchange for charitable aid, or merely restrict their monetary donations to cash.

Yet this restriction places an unnecessary burden upon students’ ability to donate money to worthy causes. Without the campus card option, donating becomes much more difficult for students and potentially much less successful for student groups. Requiring only cash donations eliminates the chance of spur-of-the-moment donations that might greatly expand a fundraiser’s success.

We acknowledge the finances of the average college student are always difficult to assess. You might buy the argument that as people still financially dependent on our parents, the administration might be within its rights to limit the financial ruin we might wreak on behalf of our pet causes. And yes, if the campus card did in fact function like a checkbook, we might have reservations as well. But every transaction of the card is recorded, which allows parents to look over the bill. This means that for any student giving above his or her means, there will (or at least can) be consequences. As long as this system remains in place, we think it unlikely to be a source of irreparable financial damage.

Another argument might be that the campus card is not intended for inessential purposes beyond books and food. The fact of the matter is that the campus store remains a dispensary for chic consumer goods like iPods and laptop computers. As long as we can be expected to be responsible enough to buy a $2,000 Macbook, we should be trusted to give money to a greater good.

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