My best friend, Annette, a recent graduate of Monash University, today forwarded me an email sent out on behalf of her Vice-chancellor on Tuesday. Here’s some of it:
The university has established an appeal to help the Monash community donate money to those affected by the tsunami. Professor Richard Larkins has started the appeal with a $10,000 donation from the Vice-Chancellor’s Fund.
Under the Monash University Tsunami Disaster Appeal donors can elect one of the following four charities as recipients of their donation:
- Australian Red Cross Asian Quake and Tsunamis Appeal
- World Vision
- Plan Australia
“At least at Monash you get given a choice as to whether or not you want to donate!” she wrote. Well, there wasn’t any choice about the $10,000 donated from the Vice-chancellor’s fund, but at least it wasn’t the $250,000 given by the University of Melbourne.
Here’s an email I wrote to the Vice-chancellor’s office on 12 January 2005:
I wish to express my disapproval of the $250,000 aid package offered by the University to victims of the South-East Asian tsunami, as described in the recent email from the Vice-Chancellor. This is a substantial sum of money and it is, in my view, the university’s duty to use this money for the benefit of its staff and students, and not for other causes, however worthy.
On the other hand, I approve of the offers of non-monetary assistance. I also welcome the opportunity for staff to donate to the relief effort through salary deductions, especially if this reduces their taxable income. This is, however, a voluntary donation, unlike the $250,000 pledged by the university itself. I view this large donation as a form of taxation on the university community, much like the $1bn offered by the Australian Government.
Both the University and the Australian Government have exceeded their legitimate roles by donating money to the tsunami relief effort, money that should instead have been used for the benefit of their stakeholders. The success of private institutions in raising money for tsunami relief shows that survivors can rely for assistance on voluntary donations from charitable individuals. It is with such individuals that the provision of monetary aid should begin and end.