June 18, 2019 | 65° F

Douglass alumni association oppose fundraising changes

Photo by tim li |

The relationship between the University and one of their alumni associations is turning rocky, the Associate Alumni of Douglass College openly opposing the school's efforts to strip the association of its fundraising role.

Under a new plan, the historic women's college would begin handling all formal fundraising duties itself, without help from the AADC, DRC Dean Jacquelyn Litt said in an email to students. 

The University has asked the AADC to transition to a "more conventional" university-chartered alumnae organization, as part of Rutgers University Alumni Association, Litt's email read. The DRC will get full fundraising support from the Rutgers University Foundation (RUF), rather than their own alumnae association.

But the AADC has openly opposed the new plans.

On Thursday, Douglass supporters created a petition on Change.org, titled "Do not force the AADC to become a regular chartered Alumni organization," calling for Rutgers to allow the alumnae association to continue its fundraising role.

The petition has garnered more than 1,100 signatures in three days.

"The AADC has raised millions of dollars to support Douglass programs, to provide needed scholarships, and to provide access to needed resources," according to the petition. "The loss of the AADC's support would result in a loss for women's education ... We must come together to support the AADC, just as it has always supported the advancement of Douglass, Douglass students, Douglass Alumnae and women's education over all."

AADC leaders, who were informed by Rutgers officials that they have 30 days to agree to the changes, encouraged members to contact University President Robert L. Barchi voicing opposition to the plans.

"We are proud to call ourselves Douglass alumnae and to be a member of the outstanding Associate Alumnae of Douglass College. Now, the University is putting all of that –– and the very existence of Douglass –– at great risk," said Fox and Anderson in a message sent to AADC members.

Still, the University is pushing back, arguing that the the change will improve transparency surrounding fundraising efforts.

"When money is raised for an institution like Douglass, there are certain obligations and procedures that must be followed," Litt said. "Since the AADC raises money on behalf of Douglass College, and Douglass is part of Rutgers, the University has a legal responsibility to ensure that proper steps are being taken. Unfortunately, there has been a lack of financial and fundraising transparency from the AADC..."

For every dollar donated, Litt said a greater percentage will go directly towards Douglass programming.

Litt said in her email that the AADC has circulated a "great deal of misinformation" about the new arrangement, causing confusion among DRC students and faculty.

The alumni association and DRC leadership do not agree on a few fronts.

While AADC leaders argue that the association raises 43 percent of of the programmatic operating budget for Douglass, Litt pushed against the claim, saying the AADC represents less than a quarter of DRC funding, while the University provides more than 40 percent.

And where the AADC says the group played an integral role in raising funds for the construction of the Global Village Living-Learning Residence Hall, Litt said the residence hall is an $11.5 million building project with the University covering more than half.

The AADC recently completed their Capital Campaign effort, which raised more than $42 million, according to the petition. But School of Arts and Sciences sophomore Rachel Landingan is wary of how that money is being allocated.

"How is the AADC giving that money?" Landingan said. "Half of the money (for the Global Village project) was given by Rutgers and the other half was AADC. It’s not like the AADC was all on top of that and gave all the money."

Landingan said she believes the new fundraising arrangement will affect the uniqueness of Douglass campus, and is another effort by the University to create a corporate system. The change is mainstreaming the fundraising process, but at a cost.

"It is easier for Rutgers to handle these things through a mainstream Rutgers University fund, but it would be taking away that Douglass way of doing things," she said. "The AADC is staffed by people who are from Douglass ... no one outside of Douglass understands what it means to be a Douglass woman."

Landingan said the new arrangement has divided DRC students and opposing viewpoints are already emerging. She said a majority of students she has spoken with are in support of the AADC, while many DRC student leaders stand behind Litt's decision.

"I have friends who are part of Douglass programs getting briefed on how to respond to this issue," Landingan said. "A Douglass student leader told me it was illegal to have an alumni association in charge of the Douglass programs and finances. So, who do we believe? These are student leaders being fed information."

Overall, she said that students simply lack adequate information. Yet, Landingan has heard students talking about rallying around the AADC and protesting to save their presence on Douglass campus. On May 1, Dean Litt will hold an open meeting to address the issues.

"I feel like they are trying to strip away what makes Douglass unique," she said. "It will be like how Livingston campus is today. Livingston campus used to be Livingston College. It was a more diverse campus back then. Rutgers wants an alumni association that is complacent. Douglass woman aren't like that."

Avalon Zoppo

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