Alumni Column – More Than a Check: Alumni Demand Input

Todd Buchner '88

You may have read that President Rebecca Chopp is leaving Colgate this summer to take the job of President of Swarthmore College. We wish her and her husband, Fred, well in this new endeavor and thank them for their commitment to Colgate.That said, the Colgate community, and its alumni, now have a unique opportunity to help shape Colgate’s future by selecting our new president. Unfortunately, the Selection Committee mentioned by Chris Clifford over the weekend in his e-mail to the Colgate community included faculty, students and self-appointed University Trustees, but not one alumnus to represent our diverse alumni base of 30,000 outside the trustees.Alumni are key stakeholders for Colgate and account for over 70 percent of the University’s donations. Yet, despite their financial contributions, alumni appear to be excluded in the upcoming selection process for our next president. As key stakeholders, the organization A Better Colgate believes alumni, outside of the Board of Trustees, should be included in the Selection Committee and hopes this committee will include representation from the board of A Better Colgate. Moreover, the recruitment of our next president is an excellent opportunity for the Board of Trustees to show leadership and transparency by including alumni representatives on the Search Committee.Board of Trustees Vice Chairman Peg Flanagan has been charged with the effort of building a Search Committee. We are asking you to write her, and A Better Colgate, and suggest alumni be included in the Search Committee.In many ways, not including alumni in the Selection Committee again personifies why A Better Colgate is focused on reforming our current governing structure. We continue to believe that Colgate would benefit from our diverse alumni base and feel alumni elections would increase transparency and accountability to the Colgate community. Furthermore, we believe entrusting alumni to elect members to the Board of Trustees will increase alumni giving rates.It is worth noting that during the search Provost and Dean of the Faculty Lyle Roelofs will preside as interim president. While Dean Roelofs is certainly well qualified to lead Colgate during this period, many alumni have questioned some of the changes in our hiring of faculty under his leadership.Historically, Colgate’s hiring criteria was based first on an applicant with expertise in a primary academic area, then with expertise in a secondary academic area and finally, based on “diversity.” Under Dean Roelof’s leadership, Colgate has switched the second and third criteria, making one’s gender, race, ethnicity or sexual preference of greater importance than teaching expertise in a secondary area.A Better Colgate asks whether this type of change enhances Colgate’s competitive position and is consistent with Colgate’s DNA. Moreover, how does this decision help enhance our value proposition to students and their families going forward?Alumni are increasingly concerned with these types of policy changes and frustrated they are not included in the discussion. We believe having a voice to improve university governance is the first step in helping Colgate meet the challenges of the current environment while maintaining Colgate’s core values.With more than 1,500 alumni supporting A Better Colgate’s proposal for alumni elections of 18 of the 35 members of the Board of Trustees, we feel strongly that it’s time for alumni to become active members of Colgate’s governance.We need your help. Please join us in helping to change the governance of Colgate by empowering alumni to have a voice in the selection of our new president and by allowing alumni to vote for members of the Board of Trustees. We have an incredible opportunity to ensure that your stake as students and then alumni enables you to have a voice in the future.