The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Record fundraising year fails to impress

The university boasting 2003-04 as a “record fundraising year” is one of those “eh-that’s-kinda-cheap” moments in our school’s history. CSUN’s Office of Public Relations and Strategic Communications has made the $28.8 million raised last fiscal year its shining beacon of positive university growth, flaunting it every chance it gets. In all the Public Relations-sponsored publications, such as “Northridge,” “@csun” and university press releases, this accomplishment is the biggest of news, headlining our school’s website and quickly becoming one of a few defining moments in CSUN President Jolene Koester’s tenure here.

The record fundraising year is made possible through an undeniably generous donation by Valley-born entrepreneur Roland Tseng, which was announced in 2003. By 2007, Tseng looks to have donated nearly $38 million in Chinese antiquities to the university.

During 2003-04, the value of Tseng donations for the year rose to a whopping $17.3 million, up from $9.5 million during the first year of Tseng donations. Taking into account other contributions made to the university by corporations, alumni, parents, and other organizations, the university raised a total of $28.8 million in 2003-04 alone.

That’s a record, and they’ve been bragging about it ever since.

Without the Tseng-related donations, the university’s fundraising total for 2003-04 would still be around $11.8 million. That’s nothing to scoff at either, unless one takes into account the fact that the university managed to raise $12.5 million in contributions in 2001-02, way before the start of so-called Tseng dynasty in university fundraising.

Without Tseng’s ongoing donations, the most generous in CSU system history, CSUN simply wouldn’t have had that record fundraising year it so brazenly likes to boast about. But the obvious counterpoint to this criticism is that we do, in fact, have Tseng’s donations, that they are valuable, that they do contribute to how much money our university has taken in during 2003-04, and that it can’t be ignored.

To that I say…big deal.

A very small percentage of this campus’ student body actually cares about, or is aware of, the Tseng antique donations. It is impressive that CSUN’s higher-ups were able to finagle the deal that brought us these historically impressive artifacts, but no amount of finagling can change the fact that students, as well as a lot of the campus community, probably could care less in the end.

This collection of antiquities will most definitely thrust CSUN into the “historical artifact collection spotlight,” and will get our school some much-needed attention from certain sects of academia. My friend is a graduate student studying historical archiving, and he’s just in love with the Tseng antiquities, mainly because it will provide him and his nerdy pals an opportunity to study artifacts they would otherwise have to travel to China to get a look at.

But people who will directly (or indirectly, for that matter) benefit from these artifacts being in the Oviatt will be few and far between. The new professors who will come to our campus, the national attention we’ll receive, the research, the historical significance; it’s all lost on this campus, because that’s not what we really wanted in the first place.

Boasting about a record fundraising year that essentially consisted of being given a bunch of old Chinese doodads and expecting students and community members to be impressed is like waving a Wall Street Journal in front of a toddler and expecting her to jump for joy at the rise in tech stocks. It’s just not going to happen, and expecting it to happen is the worst kind of na?vet?.

Fundraising on college campuses is impressive insomuch as it actually helps Joe and Jane Student in all their educational endeavors. During the 2003-04 fiscal year, what were Joe and Jane Student most concerned about? Probably graduation rates, being able to make their tuition payments, getting the classes they needed to graduate, finding parking every morning, and wondering why their academic advisement is so weak.

The record fundraising year didn’t begin to solve any of these problems, as CSUN can’t exactly liquidate the collection and use the money to hire new professors or build another new parking structure. This wasn’t a donation of capital. It was a donation of something that will bring our campus “notoriety,” which really doesn’t do that much for students. The tourists aren’t exactly going to pour in to see the Tseng artifacts, at least not in great enough numbers to affect the lives of Joe or Jane Student.

But even still, what’s the point in complaining over these donations? A teenager who really wanted that iPod for Christmas should still be thankful his aunt got him a package of athletic socks instead, right?

Sure, and CSUN should be grateful. I know I am, and I’m pleased we renamed the College of Extended Learning for Tseng, as he is quite deserving of such an honor.

But the difference here is that my aunt didn’t go around bragging that she got me an iPod for Christmas. CSUN administrators should stop shopping around this record fundraising year accomplishment like it’s solved all our problems, because it hasn’t.

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