March was a tough month for Berkeley Law, but alumni were swift to offer an unexpected lift.
In the days and weeks following Melissa Murray’s appointment as interim dean, donations poured in from alums, many in honor of the popular professor. Gifts from recent graduates (classes of 2005 to 2015)— some prompted by fellow donors’ Facebook posts— stood out.
“Our newest alumni are understandably the least able to make financial contributions,” says Assistant Dean of Advancement Amy Ambrose. “This outpouring of support for Melissa and the school shows our community’s resilience in times of challenge, and commitment to our future prosperity.”
Cara Sandberg ’12 says the movement was both swift and organic. “It started with one alumna making a donation in professor Murray’s honor and using a Facebook badge to share it,” explains Sandberg, who serves on the Boalt Hall Alumni Association Board of Directors. “When I saw that, I thought, ‘Yes, I have to do this, too.’ “
Young graduates began communicating via Berkeley Law alumni and the Women of Color Collective Listservs. “Professor Murray was our dream appointment,” Sandberg says. “We worked together to show we support this decision and the law school, and that we have complete confidence in her leadership.”
More than 150 donations have arrived in support of Murray’s appointment since it was announced March 22. Most of the gifts are small, but symbolic.
Camille Pannu ’11, who cofounded the Women of Color Collective, saw frustration and feelings of betrayal among recent alums because of the university’s handling of sexual harassment charges.
“Our giving was a vote of confidence in professor Murray’s appointment and in her ability to guide the law school in a new direction,” she says. “She has been a leader on diversity and gender issues and in making the law school more inclusive. Young alumni really trust her expertise and judgment.”
In addition to supporting Murray, Pannu says fellow young alums she spoke with donated because they felt they had been “heard and valued” in the interim dean selection process.
Targeted gifts are a great way to show support for the law school community, Ambrose says. Gifts of any size can be designated to specific initiatives, such as the Loan Repayment Assistance Program, research centers and clinics, student organizations and journals, or more generally to the Boalt Hall Fund or financial aid.
Pannu and Sandberg agree that sustaining a relationship with recent alums is essential for creating a culture of giving back to the school and to public higher education.
“Many young alumni have donated labor and time to the law school—and down the road, we’ll be better able to donate in other forms,” Pannu says. “I think professor Murray’s leadership will open a window to show that these relationships can be fostered and grown.”