Loyal Douglass women everywhere who are concerned not just about the organization but about the future of Douglass itself have jumped in to lend their support. We have been encouraging people to write letters to protest this drastic change to the President of Rutgers, Dr. Robert Barchi (email@example.com), and Douglass Dean Jacquelyn Litt (firstname.lastname@example.org) as well as the Board of Governors (email@example.com) and to insist that a negotiation take place to resolve this issue. Feel free to lend your voice to the cause. Here is my (long) letter to President Barchi. Next month, back to funny business for this blog, I promise.
April 25, 2015
Dear President Barchi:
Writing this letter is probably a waste of time since all of the responses you have sent to my Douglass sisters and supporters of the AADC have been canned, but I’d like to add my name to the volume and my voice to the cause.
The completely unfair way in which the issue between the AADC, Douglass and the University has been handled is an embarrassment. For your administration to blindside a valued partner is unconscionable. Clearly, this is an orchestrated campaign with plenty of paid staff and resources behind it that has taken time and resources from the University that should be devoted elsewhere.
The demand that the AADC agree to the conditions imposed on it would not even be possible within the 30 days – not specified as 30 business days – allotted for this purpose. The AADC has a certificate of incorporation and by-laws that would have to be completely reworked if it were to agree to these onerous conditions.
This treatment of the AADC by the University and Dean Litt amounts to no more than bullying. Dean Litt has shown the AADC disrespect by eliminating the role of the official Alumnae organization in such treasured moments as Reunion, Sacred Path and the Senior Brunch (or whatever she changed the name to). Funds contributed to the AADC have paid for these events. And don’t tell me that they are paid for out of “corporate funds,” as I heard the Dean say last year. If I make a donation to the AADC, my former employer, Johnson & Johnson, will match it. It is these “corporate funds” to which the Dean refers, and they wouldn’t be available to Douglass if alumnae didn’t contribute and initiate a gift match in the first place. If I don’t give, they don’t give. We are talking about transparency, aren’t we?
The Dean has set up her own Alumnae Advisory Board without the courtesy of informing the AADC. If she really wants to establish relations with alumnae apart from the AADC, why not give the AADC the courtesy of telling them instead of doing this on the sly? After all, she serves as a member of the AADC Board of Directors. This kind of act shows a blatant disregard for transparency and is insulting to the organization on whose Board she serves. And what kind of example is it for students? If you don’t like something, destroy it?
In your canned response, which I fully expect to receive, you say:
“Contrary to what you may have heard, the proposed changes in the arrangement between the Foundation, the University and the AADC will not dismantle the AADC. The intention is to ensure that funds raised for Douglass Residential College are raised in the most efficient ways possible and to ensure transparency.”
I take it you believe that recruiting, hiring, funding and onboarding a new development department for Douglass with no connection to alumnae is a more efficient way to raise money than having an organization with long-standing ties to alumnae and an outstanding track record continue to serve as the conduit with which funds are provided to Douglass. In your 2014 Strategic Plan, you concede that Rutgers has not done a very good job of raising money for the University:
“Rutgers also lags its peers in key financial metrics: our fundraising per student is 44 percent of the AAU public average; our endowment per student is $20,000 compared with the AAU public average of $62,000 and the AAU aspirational peer average of $81,000. In 2011, Rutgers’ endowment totaled less than half of the average endowment of our AAU peers, and less than one-quarter of the average endowment of our AAU aspirational peers. Our alumni giving rate is 9 percent compared with an average of 14 percent among both public AAU institutions and aspirational peers.” – Page 24, University Strategic Plan.
The AADC rate of participation is on par with the rate of 14% that you cite in your report, so how is the University’s lower rate (which includes the AADC rate) better for Douglass? So many of my friends have already told me they are changing their wills and their pension beneficiaries and that they pledge never to donate through the RUF. Are you prepared to see that money evaporate when the University is suffering its own financial problems? Your participation rate may be even lower because of these proposed changes.
The assertion that the AADC can be a “vibrant” organization with all of the rights and privileges of the rest of the alumni associations will not be possible once it is prohibited from raising money even for operating expenses and is likely removed from the campus home where we have resided for decades and which was rebuilt with funds provided by generous AADC donors. Without the ability to fundraise for an operating budget, we won’t even be able to keep the lights on.
You say, “I am confident that the new relationship between the AADC, the University Foundation and the University will benefit the alumnae as well as current and future students of Douglass Residential College.” I am not. If scholarship donors angry about this new arrangement decide not to give, or others considering establishing scholarships for Douglass women change their minds, that will have a deleterious impact on students. It was the AADC that worked with Victoria Dabrowski Schmidt ’42 to fund a Career Day for students each year, a perfect example of how the AADC fulfills its mission and can partner successfully with DRC. If this donor rejects the new role proposed and decides to terminate her support, who will support this program for students? And will others feel the same way?
Douglass women are justifiably skeptical of any actions taken by Rutgers that relate to Douglass because the University attempted to eliminate Douglass once. There is no way to preclude that effort from taking place again without the vocal support of its chief advocate, the AADC.
If the Douglass alumnae who support the AADC no longer donate to Douglass through Rutgers as a result of this draconian change imposed on the AADC by your administration, Douglass will suffer and its demise will be inevitable. And perhaps that IS the strategy here after all.
You entered your term as President with the vision of “One Rutgers.” I guess this is a step toward that end goal. You can retire or find another position. I cannot get another alma mater.
I ask you to facilitate a return to negotiations between the AADC and the leadership of Rutgers University and establish a meaningful dialog that will resolve this dispute amicably for all.
Tina Gordon ‘72