Conditional Donations I Hope to Make to Bennington College

By Emma del Valle '13

As graduation approaches, I have begun to look ahead at the vast panorama of my future as it spreads itself before me like Ciara in the video for “Ride (ft. Ludacris),” and I’ve been thinking about what I’m going to do with it.  Naturally, I’m postponing that whole gauntlet of e-mailing “contacts” and begging for “leads” until my guilt and anxiety reach their Wagnerian crescendo.  But that’s just the small-picture vision, and what I’m interested in right now is arranging my plans on the Bruckheimer scale, specifically as they pertain to Bennington College.  

My relationship with this institution after my graduation will be entirely dependent on my monetary situation; if I’m a Forever 21 cashier in 20 years, the College isn’t getting a penny, but if money somehow happens to me, I intend to divert some of my funds to the betterment of Bennington.  But let me make it clear right now to those members of the fundraising staff probably not reading this: I’m not parting with a cent unless I have a say in what it goes toward.  My specifications for what projects I fund are going to be so gruelingly specific that I doubt I will be able to contribute to any preexistent causes. 

But I’ve lived, worked, and liked at this school for four years, and I know from experience what it needs.  So I’ve made a list of conditional donations that I am prepared to hypothetically make to Bennington College, if by some aberration of the natural order I become nouveau riche before I die and/or the College loses its accreditation and becomes an assisted living facility for elderly cats or a polygamist colony or an enormous gaping sinkhole. Que sera, sera.

Photo by USCPSC (Flickr)

Photo by USCPSC (Flickr)

  • Little things first: I propose to donate $30 for the purchase of a coffee maker for VAPA, to be installed in an accessible location.  Note the single zero: Keurig, although convenient and modern, is too intelligent a machine to escape my suspicion of technofascism.  It looks like a spaceship and it is capable of asking you for your money, and you can’t see what’s happening inside.  Now, you can get a good old-fashioned coffee brewer for next to nothing online; $30 is in fact a generous budget.  Yes, a more manual machine requires more responsibility on the part of the user, but if you can’t figure out how to make a cup of coffee and clean up after yourself, you deserve to go pay a robot to do it for you.
  • Furthermore, on the subject of coffee, I propose to match all funds currently spent on purchasing coffee for Student Life and the Dining Hall, and to donate $5,000 for the development of a short, intensive workshop for all who operate these machines that will detail the coffee-to-water ratios necessary to produce a fluid that looks more like coffee and less like the tears of a Dickens orphan.
  • I propose to donate two streetlights, one of which will be installed over the steps leading from the Post Office in Commons because whenever I walk down them at night I feel the spectre of Death looming more purposefully over me than usual, and the other will replace the one currently endangering the path to Jennings, for the exact same reason.  Seriously, is that shit spooky on purpose?  Did they rewire it to turn off when approached one year for the orientation Ghost Walk and then just forget about it? 
  • I propose two additions to the curriculum, which I would fund in their entirety.  The first is a mandatory module for freshmen, which will familiarize them with the layout, operations, and etiquette of the Dining Hall and prevent a small but meaningful proportion of debilitatingly irritating habits from forming. Planting yourself in front of the drink machine or soup station while having a conversation results in automatic failure. The second is a 4000-level class that will focus on getting high and deconstructing rap videos, which I have found to be the source of some of the most profound realizations I have had here. The 2000-level version of this class would be much the same, only the course material would be a selection of Youtube videos of devotional music such as Dvorjak’s “Requiem,” and the discussions would revolve around poorly articulated personal ideas about God.
  • $30,000,000 for the construction of a new academic building, non-negotiably named “MAPA,” which will be dedicated to a comprehensive exploration of the planet through the perusal of Google Maps.  This building will include a small satellite structure that will serve no function whatsoever, and will house all of the printers on campus.

Obviously this is only the beginning of my philanthropic vision. This list is in fact a small selection from a longer list, which is constantly expanding. But no matter what I donate, if I do find myself in a position to do so, one thing is absolutely certain: whatever it is, it’s going to have a big fucking plaque with my name on it.