Students work to form alumnae network

by Clare Coffey | 11/21/11 11:00pm

A group of female upperclassmen and young alumnae are working to create an alumnae network through Blunt Alumni Center, although they will also pursue external channels in order to make the group a reality in time for the 40th anniversary of co-education at the College, according to Deanna Portero '12, one of the students spearheading the effort. While the idea of the alumnae network has received support from alumnae, undergraduates and the administration, there is still no consensus regarding what form the network should have, Portero said.

Dani Levin '12, who is president of Sigma Delta sorority and is also involved in the effort, said female students envision the network as "a personal identity-affiliated group," which is a categorization currently reserved for organizations based on ethnicity and sexual orientation, according to the Blunt Alumni Center website. Alumni in these networks can donate to Dartmouth through their network rather than through the College general fund, which ensures that the gift will support the community they most felt they belonged to as an undergraduate, according to Inter-Community Council member Christian Brandt '12. Female alumnae currently have no way to guarantee that their contributions will fund programs that directly aid Dartmouth women, he said.

"The point is to recognize that these groups have had very unique and particular experiences at Dartmouth, and their members are best suited to determine what aspects of Dartmouth they want to support," Levin said.

Several female senior societies broached the topic with College President Jim Yong Kim in a meeting last spring, Kim said in a Nov. 10 interview with The Dartmouth Editorial Board. During those meetings, Kim promised to raise support for the project among female alumnae while he was "on the road," he said.

Kim gave female students the "go-ahead" to gauge alumnae interest, according to Levin. Several upperclasswomen and recent alumnae have launched a campaign, "40 Years And Where Are We Now?" that ties the need for an alumnae network to the 40th anniversary of co-education this spring. The campaign's website, which is hosted by Tumblr, includes a letter calling for the network's creation signed by approximately 200 undergraduates and alumnae.

The next steps in the process of creating such a network involves the Alumni Center distributing a survey to 200 to 500 potential members asking if they would be willing to commit to at least five years' involvement in the organization. The Office of Alumni Relations repeatedly diverted students who were attempting to follow up on the survey to Career Services, Levin said. If the network is created through Career Services or the Dean of the College's Office, it becomes a smaller, "non-affiliated" interest group, according to Levin. While Kim had suggested that students create a non-affiliated group, students interested in creating the alumnae network rejected Kim's proposal, Levin said.

"Career networking is great and mentorship is great, but we wanted those things under the umbrella of a fully empowered affiliated alumni network with development capacity," Levin said.

Access to alumnae contact information and the ability to solicit alumnae donations would be lost in a non-affiliated network through an office other than the Alumni Center, according to Levin.

"White male alumni donating-power has significant effects on campus that we can see every day," Levin said.

An alumnae network would provide a more equitable distribution of power since women comprise half of the student population, she said.

Levin, Portero, Hikaru Yamagishi '12, Mayuka Kowaguchi '11 and Maria Carolan '12 met with Vice President for Alumni Relations Martha Beattie three weeks ago to discuss the status of the alumnae network, Levin said. It was apparent at the meeting that the Alumni Center would not support the creation of an affiliated female network, because gender did not qualify as personal identity in the same way as race or sexual orientation, according to Levin. Beattie's counterproposal was a non-affiliated "common interest" group, Levin said.

"Actually, it was great to get closure on that, because we were wondering if it was bureaucracy or being low on the priority list that was holding us up," Levin said. "We'd really like to work with Blunt and the administration on this, but if there's support for it, time will tell."

Portero said she is "optimistic" about the possibility of continuing to work with the Alumni Center.

"I think they chose what they presented to us because that was what works best for them, but I think they are earnestly seeking feedback," Portero said. "I'm not sure they've made their decision."

Students involved in creating the network are reaching out to alumnae to garner support for the project, according to Levin. The network will only become a reality if enough alumni "clamor" for it, she said.

Yamagishi, Kowaguchi, Carolan, and Beattie could not be reached for comment by press time.