Monday, November 21, 2005

So What Happens Now?

Unsurprisingly, there's been some email chatter this morning about last night's post on the CMC Student Body increase.

The number one question: so what do we do?

Answer: I'm not sure.

The most often mentioned option is "mobilize the alumni" but I'm not sure exactly how to best go about that - though thankfully, the young average median age of CMC alumni makes an email campaign to get the word out much more plausible than for an older institution.

The second most often mentioned option is to cease giving to CMC.

Here's where it gets tricky for me. I'm on the Alumni Giving Committee - and though I frequently miss the conference calls, I've still served on the committee for 2 or so years and believe that active giving to CMC is good for everyone. My biggest - okay, one of my biggest - complaints about UC Hastings is the utter lack of connection between alumni and the campus and the absence of a so-called "culture of giving" that helps make CMC what it is.

Of course, if they keep upping the numbers, what CMC is will change dramatically. What it might become will probably be a fine school. But it won't be my school. It won't be the CMC small-campus culture that drew me to the campus.

To non CMC readers, arguing about a difference in student body size between 1000 and 1100 or 1400 students might seem petty. But look at the percentages. It makes a huge difference. Huge.

When I wrote last night's post, and when I was talking to phonite and making my pledge, I thought about whether I should threaten to yank my funding. I don't give that much, though, so it's not like monetarily speaking, I can instill much fear.

I'd like to think, however, that my service as a student and alumna would make the administration concerned about whether or not someone like me - someone who owns a CMC pillow and had her own stadium blanket embroidered with the school name - would so much as consider no longer supporting the school. I really don't want to stop supporting CMC. But then again, if the CMC I support ceases to exist, why give a dime?

What I am going to do, however, is talk with the giving people about insuring that NOT ONE PENNY of my meager donation goes to building a new dorm or harming a stone of Badgley Garden. I'll probably kick my funds partly toward the Rose and the DC program and perhaps a little to the Ath this year.

But I am sick about these changes. President Gann, if you ever read this or hear about it, I implore you to knock it the hell off. Embrace the CMC niche and run with it. Or move on to a campus where you'll feel more comfortable. Pomona has 1500 students, why don't you go hang out with them.

7 comments:

Richard said...

All right, I just gave PBG my 2 cents. It is posted below (please forgive the blatant self-promotion but I wanted to make sure she remembered exactly who I was.) Also, I cc:ed this to John Faranda. Let's find out what his deal is on this - my guess is he is unhappy.

RCJ

Dear President Gann,

I have recently learned of possible plans to build a residence hall on the site of Badgley Gardens in the heart of CMC's campus. As a CMC alum, former member of the President's Advisory Council, former Development intern and Senior Gift Committee member, I have to say that this news shocks and disturbs me. I hope that you can inform me that it is untrue or that plans have changed.

As Class of 2001 valedictorian, I was proud to lead my class into Badgley on commencement day and to stand before them while I delivered the Latin Oration. As a Beckett residence, I enjoyed many a dorm barbeque or outdoor study session in the Garden. As a brand new freshman, I remember meeting lifelong friends at the orientation parties held there. Normally I wouldn't be so sentimental about a field of grass, but to destroy it for purposes of expanding CMC's student body and diluting its small school atmosphere is wrong. I can forsee the use of this space for truly necessary facilities, but I see this move as taking a step backward for the school.

Whenever I promote CMC to others, I discuss the small class sizes, the intimacy of the campus, the specific focus of the curriculum and the opportunities to meet life long friends and career contacts. Expanding the student body and ruining one of the few open spaces left on the residential campus hurts the school in each of those categories.

Currently, I am a lowly graduate student who just sent his $35 to the Class of 2001 reunion fund. However, as a former Phoneniter, I understand the need for alumni giving and had always planned to be a lifelong donor to CMC. In fact, I had hoped to increase my donations substantially upon returning to the work world. If this step is taken, I will have to seriously reconsider my options in alumni giving. I will probably always donate to CMC, because I loved my time there, but I may not give what I had hoped to if the mission and environment of the school becomes indistinguishable from that of other campuses.

I know that institutions evolve over time, and I would not want CMC to remain static and stale. However, I hope that it will continue to earn respect and prestige for what it has always been: a school dedicated to government, economics and the professions, with small classes and a residential atmosphere. To do anything less would mean the loss of a unique institution in higher education.

I implore you to reconsider the decision to build on Badgley Gardens. Furthermore, I urge you to consider greater alumni involvement in these and other decisions facing our beloved alma mater. I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Richard C. Johnson
CMC '01

Richard C. Johnson
Masters in Public Affairs Candidate, 2006
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs
Princeton University
Princeton, NJ

Josh said...

Rich, nice letter. Please keep us informed as to a response.

cd said...

Yes, very nice letter, RJ. And please, by all means, toot your horn. I would hope Josh would do the same. Shoot - nearly all the alums with whom I maintain regular contact touched the campus in meaningful ways: valedictorian, research institute leader, ASCMC president, other student government officials, etc, etc. If any one can, and should, pipe on this issue, it's us.

For my own horn-tootage, I will relay/remind the world that during the Trustree restreat I attended my senior year (Josh was there too), Pam Gann, during her speech, employed a Clintonesque technique of identifying the student leaders in the room by their contribution to student life, X student does this, Y student does this. She got to me and said, "and then there's Christiana Dominguez - she is, she does, well, she's just everywhere and doing everything."

Dammit.

So if y'all can't figure out why my dying word will be a Rosebud-esque "Berger Award," you weren't paying very close attention during our CMC days.

Still - apparently my attempted advocacy against increasing the student body failed. And for that I am truly sorry.

But let's contact the holy hell out every one, alumni, current student, faculty, and trustees and let 'em know what's up.

You tangle with a Stag, you get the antlers. Bring it!

Richard said...

Thanks all. Damn I just found a typo. Oh well. That's what happens when you write something off on the spur of the moment.

No response yet but I will let you know what I hear...

Josh said...

My best effort -

Dear President Gann,

I, like many other alumni, recently I found out about the plan to increase Claremont's enrollment and build on Badgley Garden. I found this news to be very concerning and do not agree with the decision to increase enrolment.

I admit that I was not exactly the most "academic" of students during my four years at Claremont. I probably enjoyed the opportunities Claremont provided me a little too much. So I will let others express their opinions on the academic issues an increased enrolment will face. I did not spend much of my time in South Quad, so I will also let others speak to the Badgley Garden construction issue. What I do know, is "student life". Being involved in so many different activities, I did come to know and understand many students throughout many different walks of life. Participating in ROTC, playing sports, and I being elected the ASCMC President, I feel that if anyone can speak on student life at Claremont, I certainly can.

A strong student life is essential to the overall college experience. Student life is everything from athletics, to clubs, to programs, to living arrangements, to general student attitude around campus. It is my feeling that an expansion of CMC's enrolment will harm student life on campus. At Claremont, the ordinary student has the opportunity to become extraordinary. As you might remember, I came to CMC "wide eyed and bushy tailed". You even spoke of my first day at CMC in your speech during my class's graduation ceremony at Badgley Garden. "Hearing the older players talk about their stocks instead of girls and beer, awoke Josh to a coming college experience filled with opportunity." Claremont provided me with opportunities and I took full advantage, as most Claremont students do.

At first glance, one might think that student life will become enhanced. More students bring more opportunities. However, I feel this is not the case. Yes, opportunities might expand, but that does not necessarily mean students will take advantage of those opportunities. Students must feel comfortable in their surroundings in order to take risks and try new things. As the crowd increases and names become numbers, students will not expand their horizons and will not become the "leader" Claremont McKenna College has grown accustomed to produce.

Prospective students come to CMC primarily, above all other things, for the high academics in a small college feel. At most institutions it is easy for first year students to become lost in the system. Often, students remain lost until the end of their senior year. Remarkably contradictory to other college's first year students, first year students at CMC seem to find themselves. More often than not, Claremont students find a glide path to future success within their first or second year. I feel the small size of the college is a direct correlation to this occurrence. Claremont's small size allows students to feel at ease while trying out new activities and new experiences. Also, Claremont's size allows students the opportunity to start something new without the bureaucracy many larger institutions implore. Many new clubs and organizations are easily started every year.

While speaking of my Alma Mater, I most often find myself stating that if a Claremont student wants to do something, a Claremont student can do it. I feel it is Claremont's small size that directly allows for this statement to be true. I worry that an increase in enrolment will lead the college down a path to numbers and not names. As most colleges today seem to blend together and become one large haze of higher education, why not reject "going along with the crowd" and treasure what we have? Simply put, CMC is an amazing place of higher education where students take the opportunity to excel in the vast opportunities the college provides.

President Gann, I hope this email finds you well and I certainly hope you reconsider the increased enrolment plan. If I can be of any help in this process please feel free to let me know. I look forward to your response.

Aloha,
Josh Walter
CMC '01

We'll see if we get anything back.

Josh said...

Apparently, the pamela.gann@claremontmckenna.edu doesn't work? If anyone gives me her correct address I swear I'll fix the typos this time.

Richard said...

Try president@claremontmckenna.edu. Still no response though...