Alumni Association discusses student relations

(Alumni discussed ways to show students support. Photo by Amanda Martin.)

At the Alumni Association meeting on Jan. 25, members of the Alumni Association Board of Directors and University administrators worked to develop student outreach strategies to show support for students following the recent hate crimes.

Jeff Ritter, president of the board, discussed the community’s response to the ongoing investigation of the hate crimes.

Following this, Millie González, interim chief officer of diversity, inclusion and community engagement, gave a brief presentation on the current state of the hate crime investigation.

González talked about the need for transparency during the investigation. She said parents were concerned that the University was not reaching out to them directly with information.

“Certainly, we need to do a better job of making sure that the community knows exactly what we’re doing,” González said.

Ritter asked González what the board could do to help the University in regards to community outreach and general support.

González suggested a networking luncheon or another kind of event with students in order to build rapport between the association and the student body.

González also said faculty had written letters to students to show support and suggested the Alumni Association could do the same.

Ritter and other board members agreed with the idea of writing a collective letter to students from the association and discussed ways to advertise their support, such as through social media or the student newspaper.

Dianne Finch, class of ‘66, said these events are “part of our national conversation” and likened the current atmosphere to her time in college, during which the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement were ongoing.

“The damage control is our responsibility as well,” Finch said. “Bring it out, talk about it.”

Richard Logan, class of ’70  and chair of the Board of Trustees, agreed with Finch. In regards to recent student protests, he said, “It’s like us trying to explain how we felt during the war.”

President F. Javier Cevallos said the racial hate crimes are “unfortunately not a unique problem” and similar incidents have occurred at Westfield State University. Cevallos attributed the greater news coverage of the crimes at FSU to the University’s close proximity to Boston.

“Westfield has had 15 incidents, while we have had five. And nobody talks about Westfield, they talk about us,” Cevallos said.

[Editor’s note: The Gatepost has reported on six hate crimes at FSU this academic year.]

Eric Gustafson, executive director of the Office of Development and Alumni Relations, spoke about the Emergency Grant Fund Network. He discussed the importance of maintaining its funds and fostering the existing relationships between the University and its donors, as well as building new ones.

Since the board last met, the committee has awarded grants to three students in need, said Gustafson. This semester marked the first time the committee awarded the grant to a student in Continuing Education.

“The committee decided it was well worth helping the student so she could finish her degree,” Gustafson said, adding the student is a full-time worker and mother.

During the student-organized rally on Jan. 16, members of affinity groups, such as Black Student Union and Latinos Unidos N’ Accion, presented a list of demands to the University, one of which called for the creation of a scholarship for low-income minority students.

Gustafson said in an email, “We support these needs and will actively work to raise funds.”

Gustafson added, “Ultimately, our donors decide how to direct their gifts, and we must follow those directions. As funds are raised, they will be made available for awarding through the Office of Financial Aid.”

Logan said one of the board’s most pressing concerns is enrollment.

“There is a declining population of high school students, which essentially translates to less people applying to college,” Logan said. He added the board “has a fantastic staff” working on recruitment efforts for the University.

Ritter said efforts to add to campus diversity will be beneficial for recruitment endeavors.

Cevallos spoke about recent developments at the University in his report, including the acquisition of the Danforth Museum as a new space for art classes and studios. He also highlighted the ISS downlink.

Cevallos said the downlink was “well-attended” and “well-received.” He praised Christa McAuliffe, an alumna of Framingham State, and her significant impact on the field of education.

During the President’s Report, Ritter announced Cevallos’s election as the chair of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities for 2019.

He also talked about future plans for alumni, such as future trips and an event called Met and Married, where couples who met at FSU will share their stories.

According to Jennifer DeFronzo, director of alumni relations, 14 members of the association are planning to take a trip to Greece during the Framingham Public Schools’ spring break because many alumni are available.

DeFronzo said next year, the trip will be to London during the University’s spring break.

Ritter also spoke about the $1.5 million grant the University received from the U.S. Department of Education, which will be used to train 50 instructors in Teaching English as a Second Language, or TESL.

Ritter said this d evelopment supports the “diversity discussion” on campus.

Finch said, “Framingham is very much in the forefront of my discussions with people, and it has provoked a very healthy discussion. That’s the thing about these incidents – we learn from them, we grow and become better.”