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Respect Needs to be a Two-way Street

While the outcome is still up in the air, one thing is for certain in the continuing negotiations between the College and the Alumnae Association. The story is hard to get at, layered in rumor and speculation, and fraught with volatility.

No one disputes that the alumnae association is virtually unique in its independent status; there are very few others like it around the country.

Nor is anyone disputing the College’s “firm intent” to start its own annual fund on July 1, regardless of negotiations.

Buoyed by the successful Sesquicentennial campaign, the totals of which included the alumnae annual fund it was then compared against, the College made a bold move, one that, by and large, appears to be succeeding.

Succeeding, if the goal is an annual fund at the sake of a demoralized and alumnae.

The alumnae annual fund, after meeting their costs, has historically been earmarked for student scholarships and faculty salaries. If operating budgets are to be provided by the College, then it seems perfectly logical to reason that the AAMC loses a significant amount of power in its voice. Independent status as a non-profit doesn’t mean much without an independent budget, and you don’t often bite the hand that feeds you

Whether the “underperforming asset,” as the administration called the AAMC, was a valid concern or a strategic move no longer matters. What does matter is the relationship between Mills and its alumnae.

It’s a bad faith move by the administration to charge ahead on fundraising before negotiations are done, and it’s no wonder they’re angry.

At the same time there has been an extraordinary amount of hostility towards the president and administration in the debates on this issue, and one may wonder what they hope to accomplish with often insulting remarks. But, at the same time we realize that unfortunately, the administration asked for it.

Alumnae should argue vehemently, but respectfully, toward their goals, or risk making it easy to discredit their argument.

And many alumnae have been vocal in their involvement in this issue; ultimately, those involved are doing so because of their love for the College and hope for its success.

So what’s most frightening is the disconnect that has been created by the College’s insistence on starting its own annual fund. More than anything, we want a College that respects its alumnae, and offers an opportunity for improvement before it throws its weight around.

The AAMC was an invaluable support during the strike of 1990, and has helped support a history unique not only specific to the undergraduate women of Mills, but to Mills as a whole.

While it may appear too late, students, alumnae and concerned community members should still make their voices heard in this issue.

There are undeniable concerns among members of the community about the direction Mills is heading in, and sure, change is a difficult thing no matter what sometimes but this issue perhaps suffers from want of respectful negotiations more than anything else.

The College should help the AAMC, not take over the fund, and a better approach would get a better reaction.