‘Significant gifts’ withdrawn after Aberdeen

Some alumni ‘frustrated,’ others continue to show their support

Alfred Bader
Alfred Bader
Credit: 
Courtesy of fluorous.com/board.html

The unsanctioned Aberdeen street party during Homecoming 2005 has prompted some alumni to decrease their contributions to the University, said Dan Rees, Comm ’92 and ArtSci ’93, and chair of the Queen’s University Alumni Association.

“I do know of circumstances where significant gifts that were pledged have been repealed,” he said. “… there have been occasions where important and influential alumni have chosen to adjust downward their financial contributions directly because of Aberdeen.”

Rees said that in some cases, alumni have offered financial support during other controversial incidents.

“There were alumni who stepped in to fill the breach when the Radler monies were given back, when the University chose to take a stand on the issue,” he said.

Rees said overall donations made by alumni this year haven’t decreased.

“The amount of money flowing in from alumni hasn’t gone down,” he said. “This year, the campaign continues to do well, despite the fact that Aberdeen happened.”

Rees said he is worried about what will happen at this year’s Homecoming.

“If it is worse this year, expect much bigger negative consequences from alumni. Guaranteed.”

Rees, a former Aberdeen resident himself, said the incident upset him.

“I was embarrassed to be associated with that kind of student behaviour,” he said. “I was equally embarrassed by what I saw, by the hail of beer bottles towards the police officers.”

Rees said alumni are disappointed with the behaviour of the minority of Queen’s students.

“A lot of people were really upset to the degree to which [that] small number went over the top,” he said.

Disappointment from alumni stems from media attention that incidents like the Aberdeen street party receive, Rees said.

“A lot of the average alumni get quite frustrated when they hear press on the national media,” he said. “There is a big difference between [an incident] being published in the Whig-Standard and having Peter Mansbridge say it on The National.” Principal Karen Hitchcock said she’s received feedback by alumni who were disturbed by events surrounding Homecoming.

“The input we received through e-mail, phone calls and visits, not everyone is upset, but there are many alumni that are quite concerned about the possibility of the reputation of Queen’s diminished through the media reports of this event,” she said.

Hitchcock added that while few alumni have decided not to donate, it can be hard to gauge.

“What we will never know is how many people were thinking of giving but didn’t.”

The University’s Alumni Review editor, Ken Cuthbertson, BAH ’74 and LLB ’80, said alumni support is important to the survival of the University.

“Alumni are the biggest supporters of the University,” Cuthbertson said.

“Government dollars help to keep the lights on, [but] alumni dollars are really the ones that keep the place humming.”

Cuthbertson said a degree from any university is akin to a consumer good.

“If something bad happens, it diminishes the value of everyone’s degree,” he said. “Alumni are very concerned with that [and] they really take notice.”

Kim Darlington, Comm ’93, said she doesn’t think events like Homecoming 2005 affected the value of her degree, but that some alumni might feel less connected to their alma mater in the wake of these incidents.

“I don’t think that one isolated incident affects the value of the degree,” she said. “In terms, perhaps, of alumni giving or alumni connecting to the school … the more bad publicity, the less likely they are to be connected.”

Darlington said while she feels more removed from Queen’s following the Aberdeen street party, it didn’t affect her inclinations to donate to the University.

“I don’t really feel that Queen’s is responsible for it,” she said. “People get caught up in the moment … I don’t think you can blame an institution for that.”

Recent alumnus Jon Thompson, ArtSci ’05 and MA ’06, said he feels the University experience contributes to creating an environment where incidents like this can occur, adding that he feels incidents like Homecoming 2005 have diminished the prestige of his degree.

“In regards to the outside world looking at our degrees, absolutely.”

Despite current reputations, some past alumni feel recent news cannot undermine their time spent at the University.

Alfred Bader, who graduated with a degree in chemical engineering in 1945, said he doesn’t think the events of last year did not diminish the value of his degree.

“Queen’s treated me so wonderfully well,” he said. “It isn’t going to affect our giving.”

Bader and his wife are two of the University’s most generous benefactors, having purchased and donated an English castle and a Rembrandt painting to the University.

Bader said he wants to purchase the J.K. Tett Centre and has donated money to turn it into a new performing arts centre for the University.

Rees said he feels alumni understand that incidents like the Aberdeen street party run in cycles.

“The only difference is that the [Aberdeen street party] bordered an absolute free-for-all and that Peter Mansbridge was talking about it,” he said. “It is going to go in cycles, but this might take a few more years to figure out.”

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