Auction Sells Out the Senior Class
Published: Friday, January 31, 2014
Updated: Monday, February 3, 2014 17:02
Georgetown has been my home for four years. I am a senior who has gotten more from this community than I can ever hope to give back, and I am looking forward to bringing my parents into my world in its twilight moments for Senior Parents Weekend. Yet we will not be attending the Senior Auction, which is arguably the main event in the weekend’s programming.
The event is simply unaffordable. On top of the weekend’s base registration fee of $92.29 per couple, tickets for the Senior Auction run $70 each for standard seats, or $150 for “premium” seats. Before even reading the list of items up for auction or buying dinner beforehand (the auction is hors d’oeuvres only), three tickets and registration for my family would have racked up a bill of over $300.
Ironically, the auction exists to raise money to “make the events of graduation weekend financially accessible to all families in the Georgetown community.” The funds pay for senior week and enable the Senior Class Committee to offer half-price tickets to families in need. This is an admirable goal, but the logic of financing inclusivity in one event by excluding Hoyas along socioeconomic grounds falls short. The fundraiser auction model is premised on exclusivity. For an event billed as “the biggest party in between now and graduation” for Georgetown seniors and their parents, it prices out many of the Hoyas that the SCC exists to serve.
Yet the committee is not alone in this oversight. Universities are at the center of the tension between financial requirements and access to resources that are required to obtain a brighter future and socioeconomic mobility. The exorbitant cost of college tuition and related expenses places a burden on the poorest people in this country. The middle class struggles to make ends meet, sandwiched between a shrinking economic space and a lack of programs that address its needs.
Georgetown works actively to address socioeconomic inequality through initiatives like the Georgetown Scholarship Program, the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access and alternative programming by the Georgetown Program Board. Yet our community is no exception. The ebb and flow of student life often perpetuates the worst exclusion experienced by those among us who lack class privilege.
Our last great taboo tells us that so long as others can afford it, we must never mention what we can not afford. Maybe it comes from our desire to do everything at once — the pressure to do everything for everyone — that makes it so difficult to say no the first time new friends on your freshman floor want to enjoy a meal at Mai Thai together. Regardless of intent, moments like these accumulate over time to produce de facto exclusion.
Students of low socioeconomic status are critically underrepresented in the ranks of student organizations. Leadership roles in many of the most influential groups carry time commitments similar to those of a full-time job in exchange for little or no pay. While it is a testament to the good character of Georgetown students that those in a position to advocate for a salary have rarely done so, this selflessness is available only to those who can afford their living expenses. Students who need to work 20 or even 30 hours a week to support family, pay their tuition or cover costs like textbooks are in no position to seek these positions without significant hardship.
While inequality is a reality of life in the United States today, Georgetown’s values call on us to work to change that fact. Our Georgetown education empowers us to challenge the inequalities around us. We must repair our own campus so it can shine as a living example of that mission.
This must be done inclusively by including all members of the community, not proscriptively through charitable exclusion. We must end the taboo on class and build an understanding of the diverse needs of the student body. In understanding there is solidarity, and through that solidarity, we can build a Georgetown where class differences cease to impact the student experience. The SCC has an opportunity to take leadership in this regard for its future events.
Nate Tisa is a senior in the School of Foreign Service. He is president of the Georgetown University