BOWLING GREEN -- Alex Solis gets it that most college students today don't have extra cash on hand. He gets it that the U.S. economy is weak, but the president of the Undergraduate Student Government at Bowling Green State University still believes in a new student giving campaign announced Friday.
"We are college students. We have loans. The economy is bad. We realize those things," he said. "But it's taking that mind-set that if we invest now, we only add value to our degree."
The Student Legacy Campaign seeks to raise $250,000 to be used to support re-creation of the original entranceway to campus along Thurstin Street.
Plans include demolishing the 1963 Administration Building and opening the view between campus and downtown.
Ryan Sowers, a BGSU junior and chairman of the campaign, told students gathered for lunch inside the Bowen-Thompson Student Union that the idea was hatched last spring when student leaders began talking about creating "a culture of giving" on campus.
"Other universities around the country have already done so and have made this a tradition. They have a strong sense of spirit and an immense belief in giving back to one's school," he said. "We said to ourselves, 'Why can't we do this too?' Here at Bowling Green we want to lead a campaign that will create a new belief in giving back to this beautiful campus. We want to do so with the students leading the charge."
The six-person campaign committee presented a check for $5,000 to BGSU President Mary Ellen Mazey -- money they personally contributed to launch the campaign to set an example.
"We can't ask people to donate unless we commit to this cause," Mr. Sowers said, adding that even a $5 donation will be appreciated.
Mr. Solis told students pledge cards were available.
"Today, not only did I give my first dollar to the campaign, but I encourage each and every one of you to do the same," Mr. Solis said. "Though we pay tuition, though BGSU receives state funding, private donorship has never been more important. I believe as students we have to do our part in securing the future of this university."
Ms. Mazey said encouraging students to support their university while they're still in school plants a seed.
"It creates the culture of giving," she said. "It's certainly not going to make a major difference in our next campaign, but in a campaign 20 years from now for the university it will make a difference because you've created 1,000 students out of our graduating class who want to make a gift, if they're capable, back to their university."
In addition to the $5,000 contribution from the campaign committee, Ms. Mazey unveiled a matching $5,000 check from Theresa Popp Braun, chairman of the BGSU Foundation, and her husband, Ray Braun, to add to the campaign.
Pam Russell, spokesman for the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, said private colleges and universities "have been teaching students to give for decades," but the trend is now catching on with public universities across the country.
Students eating lunch had mixed reactions to the idea of student giving.
Roman Buetel, a junior from Green, Ohio, said he would not donate to help beautify the campus.
"If they want to attract new students, they should continue to renovate buildings and build programs," he said. "This seems like a cash grab."
Katie Edinger, a junior from Rochester, N.Y., said she would give "to something that would be more worthwhile like scholarships for students who can't afford school. I don't have a lot to give, but I would give some."
Freshman Zach Conkle from Pemberville said it doesn't hurt to ask, but "money is tight nowadays."
"I'm not sure I would give," he said. "I guess some people would want to help to make campus look better, to make it more appealing."
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