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STANFORD -- President Gerhard Casper commented at the Faculty Senate meeting Thursday, Dec. 1, about the controversy between some student groups and the university administration about who controls solicitations of alumni and how gift funds are allocated.
On Sept. 1, a new policy went into effect that is designed to reduce multiple solicitations to alumni from departments, schools and the university. It would centralize solicitations of undergraduate alumni through the Stanford Fund, the proceeds of which will support undergraduate programs. Departments and schools can solicit their graduate, but not undergraduate, alumni.
Under the new policy, a student organization could solicit direct donations only from alumni who had contributed at least once to that group in the five years preceding the solicitation. Several groups have protested that this would limit their ability to function, and would give the university too much control over student organizations.
Casper told the senate that he has been concerned about Stanford's low rate of alumni giving and about the “relatively small amount of unrestricted dollars available to the provost and me for special projects, opportunities and innovation.”
He said that the Development Office had concluded that alumni receive too many fund appeals from different sources at Stanford and “in confusion or frustration, end up giving to nothing.” The new policy was adopted after lengthy consultations with the schools, Casper said.
Casper said that discussions are under way with representatives of the Council of Presidents and the Associated Students that he hopes “will help resolve the matter.”
He told the senate that faculty, staff and students at Stanford do not have a “God-given right to solicit alumni under the Stanford name, regardless of institutional priorities.”
Casper emphasized that he is trying to serve Stanford's best long-term interest. “I have to worry about what is best for most and for the long run rather than what is better for a few in the short run.”
In an interview on Monday, Dec. 5, trustee Charles Ogletree, who chairs the Stanford Fund, said that student fee refund requests by graduate students last year had created a strain on student organizations. “It doesn't surprise me that the students responded by saying 'We've got to go after funds.' ”
Ogletree said alumni are supportive of student organizations because they were the source of many meaningful experiences during their student days.
However, he said alumni support of the Stanford Fund would be the “best and most efficient way to address the needs of the student body.”
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