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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Gift may prove Zuckerberg’s an OK guy

Seven billion dollars — seriously? I could have had that much dough if I had created Facebook? If that’s the case, someone get me a DeLorean. I’m going back to 2003 to hang out with Mark Zuckerberg, former Harvard student and founder of Facebook, the popular social networking site.

How popular? Recent estimates put the number of Facebook users around 550 million, which means the advertising department is probably poppin’ bottles as we speak. Zuckerberg’s personal worth is estimated at around $6.9 billion, making him number 35 on Forbes’ list of wealthiest individuals, above much older billionaires like Steve Jobs and Rupert Murdoch, and the youngest billionaire in the United States.

To understand how much $6.9 billion is, I’ll put this number in perspective.

What could you buy with almost $7 billion? Start with my car, a Toyota Yaris, for example; you could purchase a veritable armada — 437,000 of them. Not really a Toyota person? Have a taste for luxury? No worries. You could drive home a cool 25,000 Lamborghinis, or basically enough to drive a different Lamborghini every day for the next 68 years. Or perhaps you have an inkling for extra-planetary travel. At $1.7 billion a pop, you could commandeer yourself four space shuttles.

Enough with the fantasy; what I’m interested in is reality, and in particular the donation of $100 million to a school district in Newark, New Jersey.

That’s right, forget about what you might do with all his money. Zuckerberg is giving $100 million to the Newark School District, and surprisingly, not everyone is supportive. Some view this move, which was made public Friday during Zuckerberg’s appearance on “”Oprah,”” as a publicity stunt to soften a public image that will no doubt be called into question in the coming months.

“”The Social Network,”” an upcoming movie about the founding of Facebook, does not exactly portray Zuckerberg as a very nice guy. As a result, some believe that Zuckerberg has tried to launch a preemptive battle to buffer his public image. This notion is bolstered by the fact that that the usually frugal and low-key Zuckerberg — the man who can afford 25,000 Lamborghinis, drives an Acura — is clearly spending like he never has before, even if it is for charity.

After all, $100 million is a lot of money. However, again, let us put this in perspective; $100 million, which is more than what 99.9 percent of all humans would earn in several lifetimes, is only 1.4 percent of Zuckerberg’s net worth. A drop in the bucket, right?

Wrong. Rarely in history have we seen such large donations given directly in such a public forum. Looking at the largest donations ever granted, seven of the top 10 were granted directly from the owner to his or her own charity. This, although certainly honorable, is more of a cop-out in many regards, as the donors are more often than not merely shifting their money to another branch of their control.

So, are we to believe that Zuckerberg’s donation is inconsequential? No. Only two other donations of $100 million or more have been made in the United States this year, even though at least 34 people have even more money to give than Zuckerberg. In a Sept. 24 article of The New York Times, Patrick M. Rooney, executive director of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, called the donation “”exceptional”” and “”mind-boggling,”” especially given that Zuckerberg is only 26 years old.

Writing off Zuckerberg’s donation as a publicity ploy is unfair. It’s still $100 million, regardless of whether you’re Bill Gates or a starving college student. If the money is funding education, we should all be on board. Forget PR and image; Mark Zuckerberg should be commended. Let’s hope those Newark kids put the money to good use.

— Brett Haupt is a journalism junior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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