Thank-you letters cause scheduling conflicts

Scheduling for classes was complicated further for some students when they found holds on their accounts for failure to submit thank-you letters for scholarships.

Those with holds placed on their accounts received a final email Nov. 6 sent from the Office of Development and the Scholarship Office notifying them of their change in registration status.

An initial email from these offices was sent Sep. 9 informing students of the requirement to write these letters and of their Oct. 1 due date.

Mason Vowels, junior from Louisville, Ky., said he did not receive any warning about needing to write a thank-you letter until last week.

“I don’t think that it’s fair for them to put a hold on your account,” Vowels said. “Especially because I was not told with any sort of notice that I needed to turn it in until this past Thursday.”

Vowels, a recipient of the John W. Carr Scholarship, said he felt writing thank-you letters should only be mandatory for students receiving more selective scholarships, not scholarships based solely on GPA and ACT scores.

“Most of those letters are going to seem fairly disingenuous,” he said. “They are required letters and so many other people are writing them too.”

While writing thank-you letters to the benefactors of Murray State’s scholarship was mandatory for several years, this was the first year a hold was imposed on students for failing to comply.

Mark Welsch, interim executive director of Development, said part of the reason for this new system was because some students were not complying and submitting their letters. In the past, he said, students were asked to mail thank-you letters themselves, however the number of complying students declined.

“I think overall it’s a good thing for it to be mandatory,” Welsch said. “I know there have been a couple of situations where students were unhappy, but I’ve talked to several students personally and none of them disagreed philosophically with the requirement to send letters. I think some of them just ran into some time management problems.”

Scott Mainord, sophomore from East Prairie, Mo., said he thought writing the thank-you letters should be mandatory.

“I think it’s great to show at least the benefactor that the students who receive the scholarships appreciate them and use them,” Mainord said. “It shows (that students) are getting their education and are being able to afford it.”

He said this was his second year writing thank-you letters and that this year it was more organized and an easier task to accomplish overall.

To aid students in writing their thank-you letters, several workshops were held from Sep. 8 through Sept. 19 across campus. Students could come and ask questions as well as sit down, write and print their letters.

Jamie Haynes, assistant director of Stewardship and Donor Relations, said due to the high demand for these workshops they experienced last year, they added 10 more workshops this year. In the 33 hours of workshops visited by 259 students, she said more than 450 letters were collected. A total of 4,000 letters are expected to be collected in total.

Haynes said students don’t realize the role they play in stewardship and the effect writing these letters has on benefactors. Many times, she said, the thank-you letters prompt benefactors to provide additional money to their scholarship.

“Scholarships are often viewed as faceless money rather than the gifts they are,” she said. “But there are faces and stories behind each one and they rightly deserve our gratitude.” 

Students demonstrate their good character to benefactors through the letters, she said. The letters act as a character witness, reminding benefactors who they are helping through their support.

“These letters are very meaningful to benefactors; reminding them of the impact of their support while gaining the satisfaction of knowing they make a difference in someone’s life,” Haynes said.

Story by Ben Manhanke, Staff writer