Damn the Alumni, Full speed ahead!

Alumni affairs veep Donna Thornton today distributed a dense, three-page memo to class correspondents — who, yes!, get to keep that title, not the much loathed “class contributor” moniker which they had been told would be theirs — and first reaction from one reader was: Damn the alumni, full speed ahead!

Other than apparently infringing on the copyright of the New York Times (we hope we are wrong –more on that possible infringement momentarily), Thornton offered little that is new:

* She apologized for ignoring Rutgers alum input while this gaggle of UMass and Maine graduates in the RU alumni relations office revamped our alumni communications: “We should have communicated with you much earlier about the challenges and ideas we were contemplating and included you in the process. We regret that this left you feeling unappreciated and caught you by surprise.”

* She said buck up, dudes, we still insist on a maximum 200 wd. contribution.

* She backed off, maybe, the policy of printing only some columns in Rutgers magazine: “In the immediate future, we will explore a formula that allows every class to be in every issue as well as maximizes the online capabilities of our more internet savvy graduates. All class columns will be published in the Fall 2008 issue.” Note: there is no promise beyond the next issue.

* “Your title will continue to be Class Correspondent. This title has a long tradition at Rutgers and will continue to serve you and Rutgers well.” Funny that it took a mini-revolt to get an obvious point across but perhaps Mainers just are, well, different.

* In the cover note to her lengthy message, Thornton writes: “You will also receive a copy of this letter in the US mail along with a printed copy of the New York Times article I reference in the letter.” The New York Times article is here — but, Ms. Thornton, making hundreds of photocopies of intellectual property owned by the Times is a violation of rights. We trust — we hope, we pray — you have secured and paid for distribution rights, available by clicking on the “reprint” tab on the article page. (Linking to the article is not a copyright problem. Printing it and mailing it in bulk is.)  We mention all this because a remarkable cluelessness about publishing seems baked into the Rutgers alumni relations approach.

* Boil down Thornton’s turgid, murky miasma of prose and what she seems to be saying is –we don’t really know what we are doing, bear with us, we may figure it out.

* Lucky class correspondents can expect to receive much more of the same: “In the future, we will diligently communicate with you and engage you in a dialogue on items pertaining to the evolution of the Class Notes section in Rutgers Magazine and in the online community.”

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