The weather is warm, the trees are in bloom and the canvassers are back for another round of harassment. In response to the 40th activist who tried to accost me for money this week, I have written up my feelings – and, to my knowledge, the feelings of many Temple students – in a letter that I think you will enjoy.
I am curious as to why you continue to choose Main Campus as your location to stand with a clipboard and ask for money to help save the planet. Though you seem to be someone who clearly prides themselves on your awareness of “the big picture,” I think you may need a little reminding about the microcosm going on where you are. As such, here is an explanation of why your time would be better spent elsewhere.
Temple is a semi-state funded research institution. Many students in-state are losing considerable amounts of aid, while those who are out of state are facing significant increases in their tuition. This coupled with the costs of our necessities – books, housing, coffee, transportation, alcohol, food, etc. – means that we actually don’t have 20 bucks to contribute. At least not all at once, anyway.
Though it is obvious that our priorities are out of whack and that we’re selfish and inward focused, it doesn’t make it any less true. In order to spend those precious $20 to help you save the environment, we would probably need to give something else up in order to avoid toppling our delicate financial balances.
I’m in an economics class right now, so I’ll spell it out for you in technical terms. The opportunity cost (highest valued opportunity foregone) of contributing to planting trees is too high. The benefit of a dollar to your organization is less than the cost of a dollar to my beer fund.
Part of what makes college campuses such an attractive place to canvas is that in theory, they offer a lot of support. Culturally, we as Americans still cling to the image of the progressive college activist, who walks out of class, wants to save the world, believes in equality and some sort of liberal agenda.
Given the youth-vote demographic data from the last few elections, it seems that the population fitting this archetype is alive if not quite thriving. The members of the dwindling – or, more fairly, “changing” – choir that will stop to listen to your diatribe will likely channel their passion for your cause into physical service and not a monetary contribution, just like you did.
Gone are the days when information was hard to get a hold of. If you’re working for an organization that’s doing well enough to hire you, then it probably has a website. That website probably has a “donate” button as well as a “volunteer” button that someone could click. In fact, they could probably make a donation in the time it takes you to make your speech. Besides, holding up someone on Liacouras Walk who’s late to class or on their way to buy a pack of cigarettes with a pocketful of dimes and $1 bills is not productive. It not only annoys them into wanting to tell you and the environment to go to hell, but also wastes your good intentions.
I am just as idealistic, passionate, busy and broke as you are. With this in mind, please stop asking me for money. Please do, however engage me in a conversation, give me a petition to sign or some other concrete way to contribute. And please convey this message to your supervisors, because I know you probably know better than to pick a college campus during finals time as the best place to ask for donations.
P.S. Are you all that slightly-alternative-dirty-ish-hippy brand of sexy, or just the guys I have to force myself not to make eye contact with for fear of getting trapped? Whoever hired you was sneaky.
Victoria Marchiony can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.