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.