Sister Jean’s 100th birthday was a day of university-wide celebration. Administrators, government officials and hundreds of students came to the Damen Student Center for her birthday party Aug. 21.
The university also used Sister Jean’s centennial as an opportunity to fundraise. The “Worship, Work, Win” fund, named after Sister Jean’s trademark saying, was created to raise money toward student athletes. The fund raised $89,954 as of Aug. 27. It was also announced that an alumnus donated $250,000 toward a scholarship named after Sister Jean, and the university would match that total.
While the university has an obligation to use this chance to fundraise, it missed the mark by capitalizing on the birthday of one of the most beloved members of Loyola’s community. From the sheer amount of emails sent to the student body to the excessive outreach to others around the country, the university went overboard — appearing insensitive.
Students received about six emails from Aug. 20 to Aug. 22 about “Sister Jean’s Birthday Challenge,” asking them to donate to the “Worship, Work, Win” fund. The emails were listed as coming from different people — including men’s basketball head coach Porter Moser and Loyola mascot Lu Wolf — but were from the same address: annualgiving@LUC.edu.
The execution of the fundraiser seemed to paint Sister Jean as little more than an advertising and fundraising tool. Anyone who attends or works for Loyola knows she’s much more than that — Sister Jean’s a guidepost for students, a consistent smiling face, a light on campus and an irreplaceable human. Her 100th birthday should be cause for celebration and fun, not for shaking down students and alumni for money.
Not only did they send college students — who already pay thousands of dollars in tuition — six emails asking for money, but they all came over two and a half days.
It makes sense why the “Worship, Work, Win” fund would be for student athletes since Sister Jean is team chaplain for men’s basketball. It also makes sense why the university would have to market such a fundraising opportunity. But to repeatedly ask members of the student body is overkill.
The barrage of emails also prompts the question of why the university is suddenly capitalizing on an opportunity to raise money. It hasn’t in the recent past.
After the men’s basketball team made the NCAA Tournament Final Four, Loyola’s popularity skyrocketed and the exposure amounted to more than $300 million, The Phoenix reported. It was the perfect chance to tap the donor base.
Loyola turns 150 years old this year, which is a milestone fit for a fundraiser. It’d be a great time to ask alumni for donations.
But students haven’t been bombarded the same way in relation to these events.
When Sister Jean — who became a self-proclaimed “international sensation” during the Final Four run — turned 100, emails and tweets flooded students’ inboxes and timelines. The athletics department tweeted links to the fund four times over 48 hours and one athletics department employee tweeted the link 14 times — including 10 replies.
Again, it’s great to see an effort to raise funds. But there’s a point where it starts to become overpromoted.
This editorial board has voiced concerns that our university has evolved to look more like a business than a vibrant community of passionate students and staff. Following the closing of the Loyola University Museum of Art and the disappearance of the English Language Learning Program — both due to financial reasons — this marketing decision is just the latest proof that the university cares more about preserving its financial gain than providing its students with a wholesome and meaningful college experience.