This year, the Class Gift committee is ready to revolutionize the campus culture. The relatively small committee (only seven members) is keen to see Class Gift become much more integrated into student life as people become more familiar with its purpose. Founded in 2009, Class Gift raises money for the Students’ Association Bursary Fund through bake sales, donations and partnerships with other societies, such as the Fellowship of St Andrews and the new alumni committee. (In the past, Class Gift has also contributed to other areas of the University, including the renovation of the library.)
While class gifts typically denote the contributions of the graduating class, this year’s committee is quick to emphasize that Class Gift is a collective effort and is not restricted to fourth-year students alone. (In fact, there is only one fourth year on this year’s committee.) Natasha Warby, Head of PR, says: “I think we as a University really value our education,” which is why she believes that Class Gift has the potential for unbridled success.
However, both Natasha and Amy Chubb, convenor of this year’s committee, admit that not everyone is familiar with the concept of Class Gift. While American students are encouraged to donate to their alma maters starting as early as high school, Class Gift is still a relatively new phenomenon in the UK. “I think sometimes people are hesitant as to why they would donate money to the University rather than a charity,” Amy says. “But we kind of represent a charitable thing.” Both she and Natasha stress the tangible benefits that donations to Class Gift affect. “You’re literally helping someone that you’ve sat next to in class,” Amy says.
Class Gift is perhaps more relevant now than ever since university fees have increased so significantly. “Up until so recently we didn’t have to pay to go to uni, so now it’s a lot more of an issue. I’ve got friends who are younger who are saying that they’re hesitant to even come to university,” Natasha says. “So I think Class Gift is going to become more important.”
The University has been criticized for its exclusive and elitist reputation and has long struggled with the issue of widening access. According to a 2012 Freedom of Information request submitted by the Guardian, St Andrews admitted only 14 students from the 20 most deprived Scottish areas in 2011. Under these circumstances, the creation of a Class Gift fund may go a long way towards making new students feel welcome and supported. For members of this year’s committee, the issue of a class is a personal one. Natasha says, “As someone who has personally benefitted from [a bursary], like most members of the committee, I know that it’s really important.”
Class Gift raises money for the Bursary Fund in a variety of ways. In addition to tried-and-true bake sales, the committee has partnered up with the Fellowship and will be involved with this year’s St Andrews Ball. Class Gift also receives support from the Development Office, which ranges from shared office space to free printing. “The University is really helpful,” Natasha says. “They have the same vision for Class Gift that we do.” The committee’s decision to donate solely to the Bursary Fund is certainly a positive reflection of the student body and of the committee’s belief in the power of the St Andrews experience.
Class Gift is also looking to strengthen ties with the Rector’s committee this year as Catherine Stihler has been vocal in her own interest in widening access during her tenure. “She basically embodies everything that we’re trying to accomplish,” Natasha says.
Next semester, the committee will be focused on its involvement with this year’s alumni weekend. Last year, the Class Gift was doubled by a donation from one alumnus, so the committee is focused on making its presence known at the reunion event. “It’s something that is done so well in the States. People do still connect to their universities so long after they’ve left,” Amy says. “I believe that Class Gift will nurture that and will help people keep a part of our University community,” Natasha adds.
“Which I think St Andrews has. People get married here,” Amy says.
Even though St Andrews is a small town, it certainly has an outsized effect on its students. “When people say, ‘Charity starts at home,’ this is it. This is your home,” Natasha says. “And because of what Class Gift does and because of what people generously donate, we’re able to give that experience to someone else. And it’s invaluable, that kind of experience that university can give you.”
To make a donation to this year’s Class Gift, text CLAS15 £[amount] to 70070.