To Give or Not to Give: Is Gender the Question?

by Leslie Ye | 11/18/10 11:00pm

Thirty-seven years before anonymous senior women left "The Red Book," a self-purported "Guide to Dartmouth," under my door, another far more sinister pamphlet was slipped into the rooms of every Dartmouth woman living in Woodward Hall, an all-female dormitory. According to an article in The Dartmouth, the letter called Woodward residents the "enemy" and called women the "sexual property of Dartmouth men." In contrast, my pamphlet was filled with advice and helpful hints for navigating my Dartmouth experience. It was meant to support, not terrify. Things have definitely changed around here.

Despite any obstacles Dartmouth women may have faced, they do not seem to be any less committed tao Dartmouth financially.

"There are fewer women alums, but the percentage of women participation seems to be a little bit higher than men," College President Jim Yong Kim said.

Carrie Pelzel '70, Senior Vice President for Advancement, confirmed Kim's statement.

"Women are every bit as committed to the institution as men," she said. "The size of their gifts is less than those given by their male counterparts, and that's true at most institutions."

The typical participation rate of women is one to two percent higher than men, but men's gifts are typically 50 percent more, according to Pelzel.

"During lifetimes, women do tend to give less," she said. "Oftentimes this is because there is some period of time when many women decide to commit their full attention to family and volunteer activities, and often are no longer in the workforce."

The second largest bequest in the College's history came in 1996 from Florence Bennett Moore, widow of Lansing Porter Moore of the class of 1937. According to Pelzel, the $18.1 million gift was put towards construction of the Moore psychology building, which is named after its benefactor. In the early 1990s, Moore donated again, making gifts that restored Moore theater in the Hopkins Center for the Arts.

Such large donations are becoming more typical of women, according to Pelzel.

"Women tend to give very generously at end of life," she said. "Women tend to live longer than men, and so oftentimes what that means is they end up with the family estate. You will often see women and widows making large bequests to Dartmouth."

Recent trends only confirm that women from every era of Dartmouth history do not seem to harbor bitter feelings towards their alma mater. According to Pelzel, the last five to eight years has seen an increase in the number of women returning for reunions (such as 25th-reunion and 30th-reunion classes), and making "significant six-figure contributions."

"I think it's interesting because you wouldn't predict those kinds of numbers if this was an awful place for women," Kim said. "If this was just sexist and terrible, you wouldn't expect these numbers."

A recent Alumni Council initiative spearheaded by J.B. Daukas '84 calls for female alums living in the Upper Valley region to "adopt" a sorority that they were not necessarily a part of during their time at Dartmouth. A report published in May 2010 called for the expansion of alumni advisors in Greek organizations, according to Lynne Gaudet '81, Alumni Council Director of Leadership.

"Because many sororities have existed for a shorter period of time than their fraternal counterparts, the committee would like to identify alumnae who might be interested in adopting a sorority as an advisor even if they did not have the opportunity to join one," Gaudet said.

According to Kristi Clemens, Director of Greek Letter Organizations & Societies, the initiative aims to find alumnae to fill advisor roles at sororities.

"Sometimes it's hard for sororities to find local female alumnae because some of them are new for example, Alpha Phi and Kappa Delta," Clemens said. "[Daukus] thought, what if we could reach out to some of our female alums who weren't affiliated at Dartmouth because there weren't sororities then?"

The role of advisors in Greek organizations varies by house, according to Clemens. Advisors can range from alums of the house to Dartmouth faculty members, and their duties run the gamut from academic advising to financial advice.

"We've found that Greek organizations with an advising structure have better physical plants and better leadership transitions," Clemens said. "And we thought, wouldn't it be great to have that for sororities?"

Advisors also choose for themselves how involved they want to be, Clemens said.

"Every organization is different," she said. "Depending on their relationship with the house, advisors can come to weekly meetings and meet with the leadership of the house."

The initiative is so far limited to the Upper Valley area, though there have been advisors from as far as Boston, Clemens said.