It's that time of year again. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping and the emails from the Senior Class Gift Committee are the only things more obnoxious than the pollen.

Each year, the senior class is coerced -- er, I mean encouraged, to make a donation to the University of Richmond. We're supposed to "leave our contribution at UR" and "make our gift count." But for every year I can remember, seniors have complained about what is supposed to be a gift to their beloved university.

I wonder why? Maybe it's because they don't have jobs yet, and thus don't have much disposable income. Or maybe it's because their parents are still paying thousands of dollars for them to inch closer to that coveted college degree. Or perhaps, they simply disagree with some of the university's decisions or choices and would rather donate to a more charitable cause.

There are plenty of reasons not to give, most of which are valid. But don't worry, the committee has a great reason for you to make your "gift:" free beer.

The whole idea of the senior class gift is just another way to nickel and dime Richmond students out of more money than we've already poured into the university. It's coercive, it's unnecessary and in no way does it represent what charity should really be about.

My reason for not donating to the Senior Class Gift is simple: my Richmond degree has yet to prove its worth. Yes, I've grown as a person and enjoyed my time at college, but when I signed the dotted line four years ago, I (read: my parents) was making an economic investment in the future. I haven't found a job for after graduation yet, so as of now, I've yet to see a return on that investment.

I like Richmond, but I just don't see the logic behind asking me to donate money to my alma mater before I've even made a dime off my degree.

I know a lot of other seniors share my sentiment, but some of them donated anyway. With this Friday's senior gift social on the horizon, many seniors have surely given in to the pressure and forked over a whopping $2 so they could get some free beer tickets and permission to enter the Greek Theatre. Heck, I don't blame them; it will probably be a fun time, but please don't try to play that off as a "gift" or "donation." It's not. It's college students doing what they do best: finding cheap booze.

The University of Richmond doesn't need my $5. It represents a theoretical drop in the Westhampton Lake-sized bucket. Richmond asking its own broke students for money is more ridiculous than the panhandler with an iPod asking for lunch money. And yet if I don't give, I'm harassed and excluded and made to feel like I'm somehow not showing my appreciation for my time at Richmond. The entire operation is just sleazy and dishonest.

If Richmond seniors really wanted to give a senior class gift, they should host a social to benefit an organization that helps feed the hungry in Africa or give $10 to help victims of the earthquake in Haiti. That would be a true gift; a sign of how our Richmond education has taught us our responsibilities in an often unfair world.

But instead, Richmond is teaching us the same lesson it has taught with countless parking tickets and hundreds of dollars in alcohol write-ups: it's all about the bottom line.

So, since I'm making a conscientious objection to the Senior Class Tax, I won't be at the social on Friday night. Instead, I'll have an open event at my off-campus house. All seniors are welcome and a $5 donation to Partners in Health (www.pih.org) or a charity of choice is encouraged but not required.

One day, I'll show Richmond my appreciation with dollar signs, but that day won't be tomorrow. For the love of Spidey, please stop begging.

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