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My Letter in Today's New York Times

For all the letters on the subject, see Letters - What Do Graduates Owe the World?, about the article “Big Paycheck or Service? Students Are Put to Test” (news article, June 23)::


To the Editor:

As a Harvard graduate, I am fascinated by the school’s recent focus on trying to get recent graduates to consider low-paying public service jobs instead of high-paying financial services jobs. What about Harvard’s reliance on alumni donations?

Two years after I graduated, I became a teacher. Many years, I was unable to make a contribution to Harvard. Never did Harvard send a letter thanking me for my public service; I received letters of thanks only when I was able to contribute.

If Harvard truly wants its graduates to take low-paying jobs in order to serve the public good, it will need to account for the fact that those alumni will be making a choice to support society as a whole over supporting Harvard.

Perhaps naming a building after one of them would be a good start.

Michael A. Burstein
Brookline, Mass., June 23, 2008

Comments

Ha! I like that. Great letter.

Someone once remarked that college is the only place where you spend a ton of money and then for the rest of your life they hound you for more.
Touché!
Cari Amici,

Quod haud dubte fit vobis certum ex hac epistula tam eleganter Latine scripta me dedicavi ad studium litterarum antiquarum quae ut fortasse scias bene negotium non sane quaestuosum est. Ergo nunc non possum nec umquam potero vobis reddere ullam pecuniam. Pro certo habeo autem quemquem dolorem ob illam rem sentiatis omnino compensatum esse ab aestimatione coeptorum eruditorum unius ex vestris discipulis prioribus.
Ok, showoff! :-)

I can make out most of the nouns, and some of the verbs, but Latin grammar escapes me, so I'm not certain of what you've said. I get the gist, but I suspect I'm missing something important (as I usually do when I try to decipher Latin.)

Or is this too personal/private for public consumption?
Dear Sirs,

As you can no doubt tell from my superb Latin, I have dedicated my life to the study of the classics, which, as you probably know, is not a financially lucrative occupation. Therefore, I am not now, nor will I ever be, able to send you any money. I am sure, however, that any disappointment you may feel at this turn of events is more than compensated for by the great pride you have in the scholarly commitment of a former student.
Quiquid latine dictum, altum videtur.
He who speaks Latin, (gets) greater .... something.

Oh, wait, I know. Longer life, right?
Great letter. The letter from the New York Supreme Justice who regrets ever having become a judge is really depressing though.
as alum, could somebody push for such an honor? It's a great idea for all schools.
Nicely said. I should raise the same point on the Princeton list. I think all the Ivys should recognize graduates that go on and do lower-paying public service/public interest work.

Edited at 2008-06-29 05:08 pm (UTC)
I don't usually look at the signature lines (except when there is an explanation of how the writer may have a particularly informed view of a matter) so I missed your byline.

I did notice the letter, however, and applauded. This is not a mistake my alma mater (Smith College) makes. Maybe because Smith has one of the leading schools of social work in the world.
NICE. Well put, sir.

At commencement, the graduate speaker and Rowling both spoke at length about the importance of giving back to society, whereas Faust spent most of her time telling us to give to the alumni fund. (The boyfriend and I had hoped for something a bit more uplifting, given the historic significance of the first commencement speech by the first female president at Harvard.)

Harvard's disingenuous song-and-dance act about their valuing service from its graduates is particularly galling to me as a graduate of the School of Education, which is one of the last schools (if not the only) to provide almost no grants, fellowships, assistantships, or other financial assistance that does not involve incurring massive debt.
Bravo!
I admit that when I get letters asking for money, I can't help but recall that Harvard is one of the richest institutions in the world (worth $35 billion as of June 2007, probably much more by now). When I consider my tzedakah (charity) budget, I would much rather give to one of the local chesed committees (that help local people down on their luck), or a place like the Meir Panim soup kitchen in Jerusalem, where I know the money is truly needed.

In fact, I think a strong argument could be made that donations to Harvard shouldn't even be tax deductible -- Harvard clearly doesn't need the money, and the only logical reason to donate would be to get something tangible in return, whether it be a building named after one, better networking opportunities with other donors, or even a hoped-for incremental increase in the chance that one's children would be accepted.
Great letter!
Nice.
*applause*

(Anonymous)

Great letter, Michael!

Susan
http://www.rixosous.com

I Don't Know What Possessed Me, But . . . .

Dear Mr. Burstein:

I am writing in response to your recent letter addressed to the Editor of the New York Times. Please accept my most sincere pat on the back for your public service. It is always gratifying to hear about alumni who have elected to share their Harvard education with those less fortunate, and we encourage you to write us with further details. If we do not respond, we hope you will understand that we must give priority to letters accompanied by checks for at least $100,000.

Harvard also appreciates your interest in its Legacy Building program. Please note that Legacy Buildings currently begin at $25,000,000, although we do make occasional exceptions for particularly worthy graduates in public service. For example, Harvard had already named Adams House in recognition of the public service of President John Quincy Adams, even before his highly successful HBO mini-series.

Finally, as required by the Internal Revenue Service, we acknowledge your implied pledge of $1,000, for which no goods or services have been provided. We are pleased to welcome the American Express Card. If you elect to pay by personal check, please use the enclosed return envelope and be sure to include in the memo line the reference code "SmartAssWiththeLetterInNYT."

Yours in Crimson,

Tamara Rogers
Vice President, Alumni Affairs and Development

p.s. As you know, it is not Harvard's mission to provide direct financial support to universities elsewhere in the world. School teachers not so much, either.
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