InFocus: Rachel Coleman, Class Gift convenor

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Photo: Henry Legg
Photo: Henry Legg
Photo: Henry Legg

For most people the words ‘Class Gift’ mean – if anything – planting a tree in the quad or donating a nice telescope. Maybe a couple of footballs. But here at St Andrews it is a far grander affair. The Saint talked to Rachel Coleman, this year’s Class Gift convenor, to discover what bounties await.

The Class Gift was set up by a group of fourth year students in 2009. It allows graduating students to leave a legacy for future generations and to thank the community and University for supporting them during their degree.

Every year half of the money raised goes towards accommodation bursaries for students who need financial aid. The other half of the money is used to improve university facilities. This year, Rachel said: “the students of St Andrews chose library resources, so more books, online resources and journals for the library.”

It isn’t just the committee who decide what to spend the money on – they try to get as many students as possible to vote.

“We worked with the development office and found the three most popular fundraising projects which were; redevelopment of the Union, funding for increased library resources and redevelopment of the sports centre. Then we allowed students to vote for it. So on Wednesday and Thursday this week we were outside the library and students were encouraged to drop ping pong balls into the box labelled with their preferred cause.”

345 votes were cast over a period of five hours. Library resources won by a considerable margin of 174 votes. The sports centre got 105 votes and 66 went to the Union redevelopment.

The Class Gift initiative was set up as a joint effort between students and the development office: “We work together. We definitely run it and decide on the events but they help out massively with support and giving us advice.”

No financial goal is set- their aim is just to get as many students involved as possible- but the more money raised the better. In order to do this, the committee is organising various events, the first of which shall be a Ceilidh during RAG. Rachel is confident that this RAG Week event will be a success: “We had that last year and it should work really well.”

There are also plans for events during graduation week. “These are all tentative ideas at the moment, but we’ll do something like a photo slideshow of people’s memories of St Andrews. We’re looking to do that on Monday of graduation week. That’s something that we really hope to do.”

I asked whether the majority of students support the fundraising, or if some people just don’t see the point of a class gift. Rachel feels that the general feeling is positive. “I think there is support and I think everybody does relate to the idea of giving back to the University and do support the fundraising that we do. I do think perhaps a little bit of the problem is that people have heard of the class gift but they’re not entirely sure what we do. So it’s probably just a case of raising awareness. But we’ve definitely not had any negative feedback.”

For Rachel (and presumably many others) it is a case of paying back a place and University which has given her so much. “I love St Andrews. I’m a fourth year now and the whole idea of the class gift is a way of students giving back to the University as they approach graduation, to sort of say thank you. I think it’s a really important thing to do, and what better gift could we give than to improve student life for future generations of students at the University.”

You can donate £5 to the class gift fund by texting CLAS14 to 70070.

1 COMMENT

  1. “We worked with the development office and found the three most popular fundraising projects which were; redevelopment of the Union, funding for increased library resources and redevelopment of the sports centre. Then we allowed students to vote for it. So on Wednesday and Thursday this week we were outside the library and students were encouraged to drop ping pong balls into the box labelled with their preferred cause.”

    Considering you were outside the library, there’s bound to be bias in the voting… Had you conducted the survey outside the sports centre, I’m sure the outcome would’ve been very different. Perhaps a fairer voting system should be considered?

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