The organization formerly known as SA4C (Students and Alumni for Colgate) has reemerged as the independent alumni organization “A Better Colgate” (ABC). With their new name and look, the organization has also shifted their focus from “protecting Greek Life and promoting intellectual diversity” to having a majority of members on the Board of Trustees elected directly by alumni. Disheartened by the governance and spending policies of the University, the organization sets to put power in the hands of alumni with the hopes of salvaging a weary Colgate. However, some alumni have raised their voices against the organization, claiming that it is misleading.
In a recent Alumni Column in The Maroon-News, alumnus and ABC Board of Directors member Greg Narag ’89 expressed the views of ABC and his hopes for rallying support from both alumni and current students. He outlined ABC’s goals of an alumni electorate and having a stake in the election of Colgate’s next president. He argued that considering the financial support alumni give, a say in Colgate policy is warranted.
“While relentlessly asked for money, you [the alumni] will never be asked for your input regarding how Colgate is governed or operated,” Narag said.
In the February 2009 newsletter distributed by the organization, ABC observed that schools such as Amherst, Colby, Middlebury, Yale and Harvard all allow their alumni to have a say in electing trustees. Narag argued that given the current economic status of our country, citizens want to know how and where their money is being used. For similar reasons, alumni should know how their enormous sum of donated money is being used. According to Narag, by having alumni on the Board of Trustees who are elected by alumni, the proper use of their money would be ensured.
Narag’s commentary cited the rising cost of Colgate, as well as the spending and governance of the University, as a problem that could be alleviated by ABC’s goals. According to CampusGrotto.com, Colgate ranks as the fourth priciest school in the nation in terms of tuition costs. Factor in room and board and it still makes the top ten. In terms of spending, Narag claimed that the University went millions of dollars over budget in new projects such as the Case Library and Geyer Center for Information Technology and the Robert H.N. Ho Science Center. Narag stated that hiring what seems like “deans for every special interest group,” has led to an unnecessarily large administrative staff.
Despite these alarming claims and seemingly noble incentives, other alumni have voiced their vehement dissent of A Better Colgate. In the same Alumni Column, President of the Alumni Council and member of the Board of Trustees Ronald Joyce ’73 called ABC out on its misleading views.
“What I find troubling, offensive really, is ABC’s repeated promotion of mistruths, distortions of fact and exaggerations in its claims,” Joyce said. “Such tactics reflect badly on ABC’s leadership and, as a result, erode our ability to have a direct, productive conversation about the health and future of alma mater.”
Joyce pointed out several relevant facts. For one, 31 of the 35 current trustees are alumni, three are Colgate parents and the final member is President of the University and Professor of Philosophy and Religion Rebecca Chopp.
The Alumni council, which manages the affairs of alumni, lends six of its members to the Board, including Joyce. Council members are nominated by alumni but are voted upon by the Council’s Nominations Committee.
“It sure doesn’t seem to me that the alumni point of view is missing in the calculus of strategic decisions and governing Colgate,” Joyce said, after further citing alumni currently in the Colgate administration.
What is more, Joyce attempted to put down ABC’s claims of a “decaying” Colgate and their use of misleading “facts.” For example, the February newsletter claimed that Colgate students have 674 majors, while students know that there are really only 51 — a mistake Joyce alludes to as well and which was rectified in a new ABC newsletter this week.
“The facts are that Colgate in the past seven years has improved itself on most of the key indicators that are used to judge the quality of liberal arts colleges,” Joyce said. “Colgate has advanced itself in demonstrable, data supported ways. I can produce the evidence and would be pleased to do so.”
A Better Colgate has amassed more than 1,600 alumni signatures on their petition to change governance at Colgate, yet their ambitions will most likely continue to face scrutiny from other alumni and the Colgate leadership.