Fourth-year students have launched a campaign, Reclaim Our Gift, to redirect student donations to the University from graduating students, a tradition known as the Senior Class Gift, to South Side organizations.
The campaign was introduced online in a statement released Wednesday, February 19. “Our goal is not only to prevent the University from siphoning more money from us through the Senior Class Gift, but to redirect funds to the communities this University harms the most,” the group wrote in its mission statement.
The campaign aims, according to the statement, to recognize “our legacy as benefactors of the University’s antagonistic relationship to its South Side neighbors, and redistribute the wealth that UChicago has accumulated through its long history of exploiting, displacing, and over-policing Black residents in the surrounding areas.”
At an information session held on Monday night, organizers emphasized that they do not want people to view the campaign as an act of charity. “This is really about establishing an ongoing relationship and using our collective power as UChicago students,” fourth-year Fikayo Walter said.
Reclaim Our Gift is an evolution of a campaign started in 2018 that called on fourth-years to not donate to the Senior Class Gift. That movement, spurred on by a viewpoints article in The Maroon written by a group of Odyssey scholars, encouraged fourth-years to withhold donations to the University.
Other student activist groups, UChicago United and the UChicago Student Activist Network (USAN), promoted the 2018 Don’t Donate to the Senior Gift campaign by distributing a petition to withhold donations to the University, and in a letter to the Class of 2019 and alumni, USAN encouraged donations to be sent to four South Side community organizations: Assata’s Daughters, GoodKids MadCity, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO), and Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP).
All the organizations Reclaim Our Gift wants to donate to say that they are working to repair the adverse effects of gentrification, displacement, police violence, and criminalization upon the Black and Brown communities on the South Side. STOP and KOCO organize education and leadership development for low-income families. Assata’s Daughters and GoodKids MadCity do the same for South Side youth, to effect multigenerational change through mentoring and empowerment.
Reclaim Our Gift organizers say their campaign encouraging fourth-years to divert their donations is not only a protest to the University, but is a productive alternative. At the information session, organizers said the campaign has partnered with Assata’s Daughters and will direct all donations to their youth programming.
The organizers of Reclaim Our Gift declined The Maroon’s request for further comment, explaining that their campaign is still under development.