Rutgers Alumni Relations in Turmoil

Vividly proving yet again that it is clueless about alumni sensitivities and concerns, the McCormick Administration in the past month has managed to alienate essentially the entirely compliment of class correspondents — the volunteers who file class notes blurbs for the alumni magazine, say sources who have forwarded literally hundreds of emails protesting planned changes to the magazine that apparently were dictated from on high, with little consultation and no real advance warning for alums. Many class correspondents have resigned, more say they will quit, and so far all they have gotten from Rutgers vice president, alumni relations Donna Thornton is a whole lot of mumbling and vague promises that maybe things will get better, report our sources.

That’s in between Thornton making scolding, chiding phone calls to alums who apparently have ruffled her delicate feathers by screaming foul about this whole process. Thornton of course is another of McCormick’s high-priced hires, so let’s mull on how she is performing.

Flashback to May 27. That is when a memo went out from one Lori Varga, assistant alumni editor, to the class contributors — and indeed the memo detailed that their titles would change (no explanation given in a stroke that is pure Dilbert) from class correspondent to the much disliked “class contributor.”

Then things got worse. Class contributors were ordered to file 200 word contributions that follow a rigid format (“Think of your Class Column as a personal essay about a topic of interest to your class,” stipulated the memo). Worse: they were told that only a maximum of 24 class columns would actually run in the magazine. The rejects will be relegated to a website (which of course puts older alums who may not be ‘Net savvy at a sharp disadvantage — but that wasn’t considered, apparently).

Keeping in mind that this means dozens of class columns would be put on the Web, with little or no readership, the memo breezily presented this decision as engraved in stone, no comments invited. “For each edition of Rutgers Magazine, we will choose up to 24 Class Columns for the print magazine and publish the remaining columns in a special section of our Alumni Relations website.”

Even so, all of this might have been acceptable to the class contributors — barely — but what apparently pushed many over the brink was a pervasive high-handedness evidenced by magazine staff and vice president Thornton.

As one longtime class correspondent wrote in an email: “It is difficult enough to come up with material for class columns under the old format. Trying to come up with a ‘subject of interest’ for the class and then maybe see it printed == guess I really don’t have time to play that game.”

As another alum said about the Varga memo: “Basically she tried to treat all of [class correspondents] like stringers for the Star tabloid — ‘get the meat in that story or we will not run it! You won’t get paid!’ Except of course [they] are volunteers who fight an uphill battle squeezing info out of mute classmates.

Remember, class correspondents are indeed volunteers, who serve the university out of an abiding affection for their time on the banks. They do not deserved to be pushed around and disregarded — but apparently in the new math of the McCormick administration alumni really just do not matter. That is indeed curious, what with state contributions to the budget dwindling, but the problem with alums, from McCormick’s perspective, is that too many just are obstreperous and cantankerous…so off with their heads, kill their columns, silence the lot.

But many alums are telling us that this year they will keep their wallets shut when Rutgers come calling in its annual fundraising appeal. Maybe that gives them the last laugh, as McCormick-Thornton and the rest of the Old Queens mandarins fiddle as Rutgers plummets yet deeper into disrepair and academic disrepute.

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5 Responses to Rutgers Alumni Relations in Turmoil

  1. Steve says:

    Just curious, but does the information you allude to in your post, as being eliminated or blocked from the Rutgers Magazine, in its the new format, not appear? Are alumni being told they can not post information under the new format? Are class notes being eliminated from the magazine, or is the presentation simply being reformatted?

    By the way, why the personal attacks on Rutgers and alumni relations? For me, these personal attacks raise credibility issues, and, more specifically, call in to question your intentions.

    Back to your point, I’ve heard the magazine will now go to all alumni, where before it only went to a select few. Isn’t this better?

    I see lots of accusations in your post, but, why? The way you attack the “McCormick administration” in your post leads me to believe that there is another agenda here, not just Rutgers… You note, with concern (apparently), “That is indeed curious, what with state contributions to the budget dwindling, but the problem with alums, from McCormick’s perspective, is that too many just are obstreperous and cantankerous…so off with their heads, kill their columns, silence the lot.” My own curiosity leads me to point out that you may have vividly illustrated just what you are arguing against, but, you have nothing to say (in this post) how the situation could be made better.

    By the way, I am presuming your comments are presented in the best interests of the University. Out of curiosity, how is your diatribe going to help the situation? Do we, or don’t we want Rutgers alumni get involved? Do we, or don’t we want the state to support Rutgers? You allude to it in your post. If we (you) do, how does your posting help?

    With all of this said, who is the Rutgers 1000? I’m not trying to be nosy, but even under the “about” or “contact us” sections that there doesn’t seem to be anyone willing to publicly take credit for this website… Why?

  2. John Lister says:

    That’s OK. Revenues will come from elsewhere: Alumni members of the gyms run by Recreation Services have been told that they will have to pay $60 for parking for the 2008-2009 year, a service that was previously free. I know several alumni members who are extremely displeased by this move and are threatening to reduce their contributions to the Rutgers Foundation by $60 with an explicit note why.

    I guess the Alumni Relations management only care about big donors, like the Nicholas family. Oh, yes, that’s right. They don’t even care about them!

    I’m also guessing that zero progress has been made towards finding the $30M for the stadium. I’m sure that if there had been any positive news, it would have been trumpeted from the rooftops.

    By the way, welcome back!

  3. Frank says:

    “It is difficult enough to come up with material for class columns under the old format.” I find this comical – if it’s so difficult for these correspondents to come up with news – with things to say in their role as correspondent – why fight so hard for them to maintain a volunteer position that, from their quotes, is difficult and not yielding results?

    I agree with Steve’s comment that there seem to be other agendas at work here. In reading the magazine – including the RAA Notes section of course – for many many years, the columns often simply serve the writer’s ego and his small circle of cronies who love to see their names in print. But what about all the other alumni who don’t get their names in – because their class is so big that the correspondent isn’t in contact or because, in the smaller classes, there is animosity between correspondents and certain classmates, and correspondents won’t concede to share news about the peers they don’t care about. Open your eyes a bit, RU1000 – the alumni office IS trying to give alumni a voice – not just to this small group of correspondents/contributors, but to the thousands who are not being represented by those correspondents in their columns.

  4. Chris Franceschini says:

    After reading this and many other articles like it, both here and elsewhere on the Internet, I have decided never again to give even a single dime to Rutgers University. This edifice has become a cash-cow for an elite group of individuals that are prioritising athletics and cronyism at every echelon within the institution.

    This sort of blatant disregard and utter contempt for Rutgers alumni, individuals whom have kept this sodding institution afloat (through initial tuition and post graduation tax dollars), is enough to make me wonder how much longer this circus can tour.

    If there is anything left to be saved, the time is now to do it, lest this once formidable and respectable institution be allowed to crumble into dust.

  5. Anna says:

    If in fact what you say is true, why do you behave so aggressively? wouldn’t it be better instead to, for lack of a better term, to boycott? and what exactly do you want alumni to do? Would you rather we take a stand or stand back.

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