One familiar principle upon which the time-honored act of gift giving has always stood is that “it’s the thought that counts.”That sentiment is apparently lost on the Office of Advancement and the Senior Class Gift Committee, who over the past two years have successfully transformed the annual memento from the graduating class into another cold, crass business transaction between the university and its alumni.

In the committee’s defense, the old method of choosing a gift, whereby seniors voted on how to spend the money they raised that year, rarely resulted in any kind of truly positive change on the Hilltop. There are, after all, only so many places on campus to put a new clock or picnic area. Diverting students’ contributions into the Georgetown Fund, at the very least, gives the university flexibility to spend that money on projects that meet the school’s needs for years to come.

Still, it’s hard not to feel a little bit used by the gift committee when they send letters and e-mails to their fellow seniors suggesting that the best way to “give back” to Georgetown is through the students’ already-strained checkbooks.

It also poses an intriguing question: What do seniors – or, for that matter, what do Hoyas – owe to Georgetown? And what is the best way to fulfill that debt?

That’s a complicated question, but one thing seems certain: For a university founded in the Jesuit mission, committed to social justice and encouraging its students to become men and women for others, mere participation in the awful presidential campaign-style fundraising bonanza that the senior class gift has become is woefully inadequate. That’s not a gift; it’s a token.

Georgetown was given a real gift when a group of students grew so fed up with homophobia and intolerance on campus this year that they demanded reforms from the highest levels of the university administration. Their work paid off when, in February, University President John J. DeGioia called for the establishment of a LGBTQ resource center on campus.

Another gift to Georgetown came from the students who started Run for Rigby and several other events each year, leaving a fitting memorial for a friend who died under tragic circumstances by improving fire safety on campus.

Three years ago, the Georgetown Solidarity Committee gave Georgetown a gift when its criticisms of the university’s business practices turned into a weeks-long hunger strike that garnered national attention and only ended after Georgetown promised to ensure that all workers on its campus received a living wage.

And in 2003, one student, Kate Dieringer (NHS ’05), went above and beyond the expectations for Georgetown students when she successfully challenged Georgetown’s disclosure policy for rape and violent crimes before the U.S. Department of Education. The federal government eventually ordered the university to inform victims of those crimes of the outcome of charges against the accused perpetrators.

Clearly, Hoyas have the capacity to give something back to Georgetown while they’re still a part of the university community. What, then, should be their obligation to the school after they’ve left?

Beneath the sometimes feverish on-campus dialogue here between the warring factions of GUGS and feminists, Israel and Palestine, pro-life and pro-choice, The Hoya and, well, everyone, ours is a campus with some serious problems that we should all wish to take part in solving.

And no, we’re not talking about short-term inconveniences like the Darnall cafeteria and GUTS bus routes, or endlessly stupid debates over the alcohol policy or the latest GUSA election nightmare.

As long as there are reports of students becoming victims of violent crime within blocks of their own university, as long as there are high school seniors who have to tear up their acceptance letters because they can’t receive enough financial aid to make Georgetown affordable, as long as there are departments who struggle to fill the rosters for classes whose titles include the words “race” and “gender” while classes without those words fill up immediately, there will always be more work for Georgetown’s alumni to do, and writing a check simply isn’t enough. More has to be done.

For starters, the senior class gift must be restructured. Seniors should once again be given the opportunity to designate how their gift money is spent, but rather than spend all of the money immediately on some time-telling folly, each class should wait several years for their donations to accumulate. That way, they can be spent on a targeted project that will benefit the entire community, like the expansion of one of the student programs that currently must compete for limited resources each year, like club sports.

But even if their funds are direct more appropriately, seniors themselves must still take up the responsibility that comes with being an alumnus of this school. Simply coasting through 99 Days to graduation and then filling out a pledge card year after year is no way to “give back” to anything.

It is depressing that the Office of Advancement has restructured the class gift to remove any semblance of creativity and student imagination. It is all the more depressing that students have allowed the office to do so.

So seniors, take this last month before graduation to reflect on the four years you spent at Georgetown: what it gave you, what it failed to give you and what you can continue to do to make it better. If you owe the university anything at all after you leave, it’s the promise to dedicate yourself to ending the Hilltop’s injustices and inadequacies as vigilantly as you would if you were still here. And if you do that, then you’ve given Georgetown the best gift of all.

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