Alumni donations to Ithaca College have decreased in the last few years; we can assume in part, because of the Academic Program Prioritization (APP) process and the choices the administration has made for the last few years. The college’s average donations from alumni are below the national average. On average, colleges receive upwards of 8% or more in donations, while Ithaca College has remained at around 6.2%. Let’s take a moment to step back and recognize why the college cannot increase its alumni donations as of recently. Students and faculty alike have been concerned and frustrated with the college’s lack of transparency or communication. So, it comes as no surprise that the alumni — who are already disconnected from campus more than any other group — have reservations about donating because of the APP. With the second phase undergoing, the entire community has not recovered from, and will probably not get over, the firing of over 116 full-time equivalent faculty positions and the discontinuation of 26 majors, departments and programs. Just as current students and faculty deserve more from the administration and the Ithaca College Board of Trustees, so do our alumni donors. They should know what the money they donate is going toward. The college has a responsibility to communicate how its finances are handled and how the donations affect the college — a responsibility it has time and time again failed to uphold. Another factor for the low numbers has been the COVID-19 pandemic. Many members of our community and alumni are still recovering financially from the pandemic and are unable to donate. Recently, the college has increased the cost of attendance for next year, and they are asking current students to give the college more money and on top of that, they will still ask recent graduates to donate. It’s common for recent graduates to be struggling, especially pandemic graduates who are struggling to currently find employment. How are they supposed to donate to the college when they are in no position to do so?
Sounding like a broken record, it’s crucial that the administration take the time to communicate, clearly illustrate the plans it has and be completely transparent in regards to the college’s finances. The college is now seeing the consequences of not doing so — for months the college community has argued for transparency and to have an opinion on what is best for the college. By ignoring student and faculty concerns, this has set a precedent for the relationship between alumni and the college. The college would receive more alumni donations if the board of trustees and the administration addressed concerns — the longer they take to mend the relationships with current students, faculty and alumni, the harder it will be to build trust or a sense of community down the line.