Would it be possible if Stony Brook took a cue from the University at Albany and offered free caps and gowns that are paid for by their Alumni Association? Students at the University at Albany pay $20 a semester through an optional partnership fee that is charged to all students taking six or more credits each semester. According to the University at Albany, “the Student-Alumni Partnership allows students to tap into a network of more than 145,000 alumni, take advantage of the numerous events that is designed to help students gain business, professional and leadership skills. From networking and spirit events to scholarship opportunities, the Partnership is designed to help students make these years the most of their Albany experience. If a student did not want to support the partnership, they would opt out.” The Stony Brook administration should consider a proposal for a similar line item fee. In turn, current students would be able to help foster a connection between fellow and future students.
According to the Alumni Association at Stony Brook website, “As a new graduate from Stony Brook University, you are now an official Seawolf for Life.” That being said, the mission of the Stony Brook Alumni Association is to reach, serve and engage all Stony Brook alumni and current students in order to foster a lifelong intellectual and emotional connection to the university. I believe there is no better way of propelling this charge to help the greater community through a potential opportunity given to current students.
Exploring that for a minute: the Alumni Association operates on fundraised monies and on very limited state support. And through those monies, the Alumni Association provides services to campus that ultimately help foster a sense of community. If the Alumni Association had more resources at its disposal, it would be able to bring more well known speakers to campus or hold more activities on campus that departments might not have the resources to organize. In addition to the events on campus, the Alumni Association supports scholarships to both undergraduate and graduate students every year who demonstrate Stony Brook’s tradition of excellence in and outside of the classroom. I would imagine that would be only enhanced if the Alumni Association had more funds.
As it stands now, the Alumni Association sponsors many Stony Brook annual traditions including Homecoming weekend, the Distinguished Alumni Awards Dinner and dozens of enriching workshops, social networking events and other alumni-exclusive programs on campus. Take a look at that next event flyer you see, you might just notice a particular tagline that would have otherwise gone unnoticed before: “Proudly supported by the Alumni Association.” The impact of the Alumni Association is ever so present even though we might not have given it much thought. I can only conjecture how an influx of donations would lead to more support given directly to departments, student clubs or to available research.
The potential magnitude of support is impressive. During the May 2017 commencement, there were 4,292 baccalaureate graduates, 1,999 masters and 449 doctoral candidates who became alumni. In December 2010, 2,346 Seawolves earned their degrees. If those same students gave $20 dollars during one semester, the Alumni Association would have received $49,920. In a single academic year, the Alumni Association could have raised a tentative $99,840 if there was a 100 percent collection rate. If the Alumni Association took those monies and put it into an interest bearing savings account, the yearly interest would be $998.40. That would potentially be enough money for a total reimbursement of 15 cap, gown and tassel packages at the bookstore.
It is hard for a student to ask other students to pay more for anything. It is even more difficult to suggest that other students pay more in associated broad-based fees on campus when there is no fee to join the Alumni Association presently. However, the potential benefits to this “partnership” would be seen immediately if you decided to donate while you were still a student. For example, this elective fee could go toward your cap and gown at graduation. I feel no student should need to stress about the affordability of a ceremonial outfit after they labored four, five or even six years for a degree. The respective student governments could even potentially consider subsidizing caps and gowns for students in the short term.
In closing, I am asking the administration to start a dialogue around the potential benefits to the greater community if we as a university created a new elective fee that would be paid semesterly to foster alumni relations. This partnership would theoretically create a living “Alumni Connection” for students (undergraduate and graduate) to participate in the hopes of making a lasting impact, proverbially going far beyond your own time on campus. I wonder, if the current 136,000 alumni of Stony Brook were given an opportunity to invest in their college and by extension their future selves as alumni while they were still students, would they?