Alumni group crowdfunding for new diversity center

A group of young alumni called the Viking Gift Committee (VGC) have recently decided to campaign to fund changes at Lawrence, specifically focused on inclusivity, anti-oppression and diversity issues. So far, the campaign has raised $1,500 in less than 48 hours. The VGC is headed by alumni Erin Watson ’08 and Gayatri Malhotra ’14, who are looking to support students of color and push for further education for non-minority students. The group formerly focused on raising money solely for the Lawrence Fund as part of their dedication to communicate the importance of donor participation and financial support from fellow young alumni. They currently have 35 volunteers, each of whom choose 10 to 15 of their classmates to contact throughout the year.

Their final goal is to raise $10,000, all of which would go to the Diversity Center. The staff will have access to these funds in order to enhance campus life through inclusivity. The Diversity Center provides a home for students; it is a unique, welcoming place that is open to all, is fun and builds community. It has 18 student workers and two full-time staff, despite the fact that the budget has decreased in the past six years.

With the VGC funds, the Diversity Center plans to make a new space that would be a true sanctuary for students—to take a nap, to eat food—and in general, a place where students could feel at home. Senior and current Chair of the Committee on Diversity Affairs (CODA) Jaime Gonzalez said that “the most important part of the Diversity Center is to create an atmosphere where all students can see themselves in.” The Diversity Center also plans to have professional development for student workers, organize more educational programming on campus and meet the emergency needs of the student body.

“The idea of crowdfunding for the Diversity Center came from wanting to show students that young alumni care about their concerns regarding diversity, inclusion and safety on campus and want to help,” said Assistant Director of Annual Giving Kari Swanson. As the main coordinator, Watson echoed these statements by saying that the “VGC wanted to find a meaningful way to make a statement in support of current students, in response to recent events at Lawrence.”

Watson also said that they chose to raise money for the Diversity Center not only as a demonstration of solidarity with current students, but also “as a way of showing the administration that [they] pay attention to campus events, and that [they], too, value a more inclusive and diverse campus climate where all students feel safe and comfortable.”
In Watson’s recent letter to the editor published in The Lawrentian, she wrote that “it is our hope that our efforts are seen not only as a show of support for current students and their fight to make Lawrence a more inclusive, accepting campus, but also an indication of the kind of campus environment we value.”

Although young alumni are often not able to make large contributions to causes other than student loans and living expenses, Watson hopes these donations are seen for what they are—“a significant portion of [their] budgets, allocated toward a cause about which [they] still deeply care—ensuring that every student at Lawrence will be given the opportunity to enjoy their Lawrence experience, regardless of their race, gender or sexual orientation. Using crowdfunding as a method for this campaign has been an opportunity for small contributions to take a more meaningful position and show current students that this group of alumni is thinking of and valuing them.”