Back when I was just a young dakini, and the prime rate was 20%, I found myself partway through Columbia University School of Law with a reduced scholarship for my third and final year.
I put myself through law school. My parents were both retired, and my dad was old and sick, when I entered law school, and the only financial support they were able to give me was $200 when I set off for New York City. By my last year in law school, I had no savings left, despite having a nice job in Manhattan the summer before my third year in law school.
I knew the score. I'd met a cab driver who told me he'd completed one year at Columbia Law School, and I had no reason to doubt him. I needed to finish my law degree to get a license to practice law.
When I protested to the financial aid director of the law school at the time (one John B. Snook), his response was, "Have your parents sell their house. You can buy them a new house after you graduate." The timing of this "advice" was particularly bad, since my dad had just had brain surgery, and was diagnosed with a previously-undetected case of prostate cancer immediately after the surgery.
Of course, I didn't even ask my folks about selling their house. It wasn't like they owned a palatial estate in Westchester. It was a modest three-bedroom house in a little factory town where no one lives unless they have to. I worked during the school year my last year in school, which brought my grades down, but I did finish with my class. And I made a solemn vow that I would never, ever donate a penny to Columbia.
I've made peace with this over the years--to some extent--but I will not break my vow. It was the only action that I felt I could take at the time to fight back against an interaction that I felt to be downright cruel. I've certainly seen greater acts of cruelty than this over the years, and in fact I'd now downgrade this to "callously insensitive." Nevertheless.
Now I am in receipt of a letter from the 25th Reunion Committee from my class at Columbia telling me that I have a "responsibility to give back" to Columbia. To which my politest possible response is, "I don't think so." I will forgive, but I won't forget.