There is great cause for celebration this year, as the AADC marks its 95th Anniversary. Thanks to the foresight of the first graduating class of New Jersey College for Women in 1922, our alumnae association was established and continues today to bring together women whose bonds were born as college students and that grow as alumnae.
Among our signature events each year is Alumnae Reunion Weekend, a time when we gather together to catch up on life since college and recall those days on campus. Reunion takes place on Friday and Saturday, June 2-3, and we look forward to seeing many of you there.
A number of alumnae have contacted the AADC recently reporting to us that they are confused by invitations they have received from Douglass Residential College (DRC) about events taking place during the Alumnae Reunion Weekend. These DRC events conflict with our plans and programs and the efforts of the dedicated volunteers and staff who have worked for a year on Alumnae Reunion Weekend activities.
We would like to clarify several points for all of our alumnae about these issues.
1. As you are aware, the AADC, Rutgers University and the Rutgers University Foundation signed an Agreement on July 20, 2016 defining our respective areas of responsibility and emphasis. The AADC agreed to focus its attention on alumnae, and since last July has introduced new and exciting programs that provide additional services and opportunities for alumnae. AADC representatives retain fiduciary responsibility for stewardship of the Douglass Fund, the endowment created by the AADC in 1969 for the exclusive benefit of Douglass.
2. Under the terms of the Agreement, the AADC is permitted to continue to run its own Reunion for Douglass alumnae.
3. Several months ago, DRC contacted AADC leadership to propose setting up ancillary DRC events during Alumnae Reunion Weekend. We felt that these events would create confusion and take away from our planned activities and we responded accordingly. We were not informed that DRC plans for conducting its own events during Alumnae Reunion Weekend had proceeded and only learned about these DRC events when we received phone calls and e-mails from alumnae who were confused about scheduling after being invited by DRC to its events.
There is a DRC cocktail reception for the Vanguard Class of 1967 at 4 PM on Saturday, a time just prior to the Alumnae Reunion Weekend Cocktail Reception scheduled for 5 PM. This is a time when class gatherings are planned.
Members of Milestone classes received a letter from DRC inviting them to a “Douglass Dessert Social” on Saturday at 6 PM, competing with the end of the Alumnae Reunion Weekend Cocktail Reception and class dinners that some classes are planning.
• The AADC several months ago contacted DRC to offer several different timeslots on the Reunion program for a Q&A from alumnae and to speak at the AADC Cocktail reception on Saturday, but our offer was declined. The final program includes timeslots for DRC participation in the Vanguard luncheon and induction ceremony on Friday and during our morning Convocation session in the Chapel on June 3 to address alumnae.
4. The recent issue of the DRC’s online publication “Spotlight” includes invitations to the events listed above accompanied by a large graphic using the Douglass pine logo. The marketing and promotion of the pine adjacent to the invitation makes a visual implication that Alumnae Reunion Weekend is a DRC event, which is not the case.
5. The letter inviting members of Milestone Classes to the “Dessert Social” states: “The AADC no longer raises funds for Douglass, and instead focuses solely on supporting the AADC.” We believe this statement diminishes the value and mission of the AADC, and, more importantly, is inaccurate. While the AADC is no longer permitted to solicit money for Douglass Residential College, AADC representatives retain fiduciary responsibility for stewardship of the Douglass Fund. The Douglass Fund is a substantial endowment built over many years when the AADC was the primary fundraiser for Douglass and the Fund is for the exclusive benefit of Douglass. Annual distributions from this Fund support DRC and its students through scholarships, events, activities and programs.
6. The sustainability of our organization rests on our ability to retain existing members and attract new ones, which include the latest graduating class of DRC students. This year, for the first time, the AADC was not given a speaking role at the Douglass Commencement ceremonies, when we traditionally welcomed graduating seniors into the AADC alumnae sisterhood. This is disappointing for two reasons. As part of the Agreement, we are not permitted to conduct programs for students, and mass communications to them may only be done if DRC grants permission and sends them out. The result of that limited exposure means that members of the Class of 2017 have not had a chance to get to know the AADC as prior classes did. Also, money from the Douglass Fund historically has been used by DRC to pay for expenses related to its Commencement activities.
Since the Agreement was signed, the parties have met to discuss adherence to its provisions. All information about the AADC’s fundraising plans is shared with a Fundraising Committee and must receive approval in order for us to proceed. The AADC has followed the terms of the Agreement by focusing on alumnae and by working to enhance AADC programs and services for them.
These recent actions and communications by DRC have blurred the lines about alumnae programs and events and have caused confusion about who is sponsoring various alumnae activities. We believe these actions jeopardize the ability of the AADC to carry out its mission. We hope that we can address and resolve these issues with the Rutgers parties so that we may move forward collaboratively to achieve our respective goals and objectives.
This past year has been an exceptional one for the AADC. Our outstanding Victoria Dabrowski Schmidt '42 Workplace and Professional Development Symposium attracted more than 250 alumnae, and dozens of alumnae participated in the initial AADC Mabel’s Alumnae Mentoring Program. The AADC Black Alumnae Network took an engaging trip to the African-American Museum in Washington, DC. Our Zagoren lecture on sexual assault educated alumnae and friends in attendance that night as well as many who watched it on Facebook Live. We awarded AADC Fellowships to alumnae and graduating seniors pursuing graduate degrees. New book clubs have been started, regional groups strengthened and our ever popular Cabin Fever event featured a competitive and delicious sweet treats challenge. And even more plans are being made.
We hope you will take full advantage of these and many other programs and services in the coming year. As always, thank you for your continued commitment to the AADC and your Douglass alumnae sisters.