Editor’s Column – Off-Campus, Off-Base

Until this week, the recent surge in alumni “concern” columns and letters flowing through my inbox and those of other Maroon-News editors struck me as nothing more than the usual Colgate self-obsession that our community exhibits on a daily basis. This week’s ranting, however, struck a nerve with me. Colgate lauds itself for producing graduates that lead the nation and the greater world. How, I must ask, do these people have the time right now to worry so much about the goings-on in a small town in the middle of Upstate New York? It seems to me that they really should have more pressing concerns.

Perhaps the reason that I never cared much about the alumni ramblings in this section of the paper relates to their monotony. The dire warnings promulgated by writers from a A Better Colgate (ABC) and its precursor organization seem to harp on the same points month after month, seemingly more like the whining of a disaffected minority of graduates than a cause for real concern. The assertions that only 1,600 out of 31,000 Colgate alumni have joined the group don’t really get me all atwitter to join up. Five percent of Americans probably support completely unrestricted gun rights, but I don’t think we have to worry about Second Amendment-loving vigilantes roaming unfettered through the streets any time soon.

I think what got me interested in this alumni chatter was President of the Alumni Council Ronald Joyce’s unusually metered, and indeed unique column condemning the ABC leadership for its tactics and message. Joyce’s point that Colgate alumni have a vocal position in both on-campus administration and on the Board of Trustees is probably better understood by current students than ABC’s ranting that they don’t have a voice at all. The point is personified in Dean of Admission Gary Ross, probably one of the campus’s best-known alumni. ABC’s use of inclusive pronouns — all of their beloved “we” and “us” rhetoric — would suggest that Gary Ross and friends are included in the greater alumni community. So then, ABC, are you saying that your views are in opposition to those of some alumni? Perhaps the organization’s position should be clarified to indicate that theirs is more guerilla movement than organized polar opposition.

Beyond this somewhat technical point, this week’s ABC article seems an affront to the issues and complaints of students who live and work at Colgate for nine months of the year, not those alumni who return for three days of bacchanal merriment each May. Yes, I completely agree that Colgate is incredibly expensive and that in these cash-strapped days accountability is a good thing. However, author Greg Narag’s disapproval of on-campus extras is just plain silly.

I apologize if winters at Colgate were akin to hardship duty in years past – although I wonder if the school maid service of yore made things any better for the ABC leadership, and would ask at what cost – but the fact is that buildings need to be modernized and other schools are doing so. If Colgate wants to maintain its competitive edge, apparently a major concern for Narag, it probably shouldn’t ask students to live in century-old buildings without making some improvements. Further, with administrators already wearing several hats – what student organization hasn’t been hassled by delay when working with one of one of Colgate’s student life offices? – I don’t really see the problem in hiring some new people to get the job done. If a Sustainability Coordinator means I won’t freeze when editing this paper because our leaky single-pane windows get replaced, I say hire the man tomorrow.

Finally, the ABC objections to cost overruns, the Edge-to-Cutting Edge Bistro transformation and incident bias reports just made me mad. On campus, most people agree that the library and Ho projects were too expensive and too slow, that Frank became overcrowded and that excessive hurt-feelings mediation can be a pain. Also, on campus we know that a large portion of the construction cost was the result of worldwide material price increases and shortages, that the new Edge was funded largely by an alumni donation and that people are slurred on a regular basis at this school. To me, the objectors seem more out-of-touch than their much-loathed on-site administrators.

My point here is that there seems to be a lot of misdirected, and in some cases unfounded, alumni concern flying around out there. I think a healthy amount of alumni involvement in a school is a great thing, but when that participation starts to stymie progress, priorities need to be readjusted. The majority of this type of rancor comes from people who do not live at Colgate and who regularly congratulate themselves on their plentiful success elsewhere in life. Perhaps the “concerned alumni” out there should spend more time addressing the major issues of the day and leave the problems at Colgate those who have a fuctional knowledge of daily life at Colgate.