Editorial: UConn Foundation shouldn’t direct alumni relations

UConn’s 126-year-old Alumni Association recently voted to dissolve itself. The decision is a response to UConn’s decision to stop funding the Association, as well as revoke permission for the Association to use the UConn logo and brand. Next week, pending approval from the Board of Trustees, the UConn Foundation will formally take control of alumni relations on behalf of the University. Concerns over the Alumni Association’s membership fee as well as its relatively low rate of membership, led the University to withdraw funding. The annual membership fee was $50, far from excessive. $50 is equivalent to six months of Netflix or Amazon Prime. When it comes to membership rates, perhaps the University has a point. It is clear that the Association was only able to capture a small amount of UConn’s alumni. Only 10,000 alumni, about 4 percent of all living UConn alumni, were members of the Alumni Association. Whatever the reason for the withdrawal of support, the University now believes that the UConn Foundation can do a better job of networking with UConn’s 230,000 alumni.

However, the way that the University engineered the Association’s dissolution and then the subsequent handing of the Association’s duties to the UConn Foundation prompts additional questions of transparency. Some suggest that the University, worried about a $40 million dollar shortfall in the State budget, sought to dissolve the Association so that it could take control of the $9 million in assets it possessed. Others similarly suggest that the Associations dissolution was motivated purely by financial strain; and the University simply did not want to spend about $500,000 a year supporting an organization that it, in the past, had tensions with. Yet, alumni relations may suffer because of the University’s decision. The loss of the Alumni Association as an organization independent of the school means that alumni relations could become more corporate and less grassroots. The choice of UConn Foundation as the new custodians of alumni relation seems like a particularly poor choice. Only a short time ago, the UConn Foundation found itself under increasing scrutiny due to concerns over their own transparency. The Foundation was the target of at least one bill in the state legislature that would have increased the organization’s accountability and made the organization subject to Freedom of Information Act requests.

Finances are an important consideration when it comes to decision-making, but it should be the end all be all. A strong network of alumni is imperative to all UConn students seeking careers once they graduate. Transparency should also be a priority, especially for a public university that is connected to the state.

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0 thoughts on “Editorial: UConn Foundation shouldn’t direct alumni relations

  1. This is a great editorial that does a solid job of outlining the concerns behind dissolving the University of Connecticut Alumni Association. As a brand new member of the UCAA Board of Directors, it is my opinion that the BoD is moving down a path that my fellow directors believe has some light at the end of the alumni-operations-tunnel. However, I am troubled by the universities shenanigans in regard to pushing our organization to dissolve. My first meeting (in the fall of 2014) had the President strongly encouraging our board to move to a non-dues paying association. The UCAA BoD agreed to do that; once we agreed to work the non-dues paying model, the next directive from the university was that they were going to cease funding our organization, take away our use of the UCONN brand and logo and stop providing the UCAA with contact info to our alums. Finally, the President did in fact address our organization and was direct in her negative assessment of the UCAA. Personally, I was insulted.

    To date, there is still no plan from the Foundation nor the university to tell the UCAA BoD how they plan to operate alumni activities. Once we fold under the Foundation umbrella, the Foundation will run the alumni operations as they see fit.

    Frankly, all of the UCONN alumni (whether they are dues-paying members or not) need to petition the university to understand how the Foundation plans to run alumni operations. Questions such as:

    1. What is the Foundation planning to do with the UCAA fiscal assets?
    2. What is the Foundation/university planning to do with alumni building?
    3. What happens to the UCAA employees?
    4. How will this impact chapter operations?
    5. What will the Foundation bring to the table that the UCAA could not?
    6. Are there any metrics/goals for the Foundation to measure their success after they take over? Will membership increase by X%?

    I am anxious to hear the answers to this questions and if the university/Foundation had a solid plan, they would not be difficult to satisfy but unfortunately, there is no plan…..yet.

    Like

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