Whose University is it? - What is the role of Alumni?

Submitted by UMdad on December 3rd, 2010 at 10:09 AM

This is a public University, so the easy answer is that the University of Michigan is the State of Michigan's.  In reality, though, I think that the University belongs to those of us who have attended or are attending.  The University is a body of people, past and present, a history and future as well as the buildings on campus.  Having said that, I want to object to the people here who continually argue that David Brandon needs to ignore the old, out of touch alumni.  I don't want this to degrade into a cc discussion, so I am going to remind everyone that there are pro-RR and anti-RR alumns.  I think that it would be an arrogant travesty for the 20 thousand kids attending the University currently and the people on staff at the present time to disregard the opinions of the hundreds of thousands of people who were there before them.  Why shouldn't the opinions of all alumni, former players, major boosters, etc. weigh heavily into any coaching decision?


david from wyoming

December 3rd, 2010 at 10:14 AM ^

What? Who said that alumni, former players, and major boosters don't matter?

This is really getting out of hand. David Brandon is going to do a great job with a tough decision, but since this is the internet age, everyone on mgo expects him to do this at the speed of light. Give the guy time to make a important decision.


December 3rd, 2010 at 10:16 AM ^

Just to touch on your first sentence: UM is not really the state of Michigan's either -- we get an unusually small amount of funding from the state in comparison to other state schools -- I can't remember the exact figure, but I'm guessing that we only get 5% of our funding from the state, whereas other public schools normally get 15-20% of their funding directly from the state government.


December 3rd, 2010 at 10:45 AM ^

We joking call ourselves a "Federal University" at work.  My lab alone has about 10 million in grants, with 9+ million coming from the CDC and NIH.  Overall I know the hospital system is basically the same.  Lots of money from federal agencies, some private money and not much from the state.

I figure we remain a State U though so we can use eminent domain to gobble up parts of AA. I know in the past we've taken flack from conservative state reps over our pro-minority or pro-homosexual stance and the U's response has been "Oh no, what will we ever do if you cut our funding? Oh right continue to sit on the world's largest public endowment, 80 billion plus billion federal grants and massive alumni donations. Go fuck yourself Congressman So and So."


December 3rd, 2010 at 12:31 PM ^

I would imagine MSC could go one step further and threaten the state with any number of actions in response that would be far more damaging.

Mthinks the U provides much more in the way of boosting the state than the state does in funding the U.


December 3rd, 2010 at 1:02 PM ^

Yeah, my lab for example is pure research.  We have two MDs who are practicing and a bunch of researchers (PhD, MS, etc).  All our grants though target local communities and when we do research in Detroit we're the closest thing a lot of the people have to a doctor.  Federal government funds a study and in turn we're able to bring under served people into the hospital for "research" and ensure they get some care.  A lot of benefit comes simply from being able to bring these people in and while they're here mention "Hey you should fill out the following forms to get free health care for your kids" and things like that.  It's amazing how many people are eligible for government support healthcare but don't know it.  

If it wasn't for that federal grant that let us make house calls or whatever those people never would have gotten any care or learned about a program they're eligible for.  


December 3rd, 2010 at 2:31 PM ^

nice way to make a difference, kudos.

Laughable that a politican would ever threaten UM funding in any way, considering on an ROI basis it is likely by far the best return on any funding they make. Sort of like calling your stock-broker where you represent 7% of his 'book' and threatening and to pull it because you don't like his lack of a an office dress code, despite the fact that he gets you a year-on-year gain of 20%. Good thinking.

My mom runs a non-profit in Michigan that addresses healthcare provider (all levels, NP through MD/surgical) shortages in areas throughout the state and saves them ?x millions of $ in recruiting fees and relocation assitance to address the shortages (not to mention the boost in employment stats through helping h.s. students find and enter educational programs early) and she still gets all of her funding through fed grants or private corp. donations b/c the state's funds come with too many limiting strings attached. Take aim, shoot at foot, hit, win.


December 3rd, 2010 at 11:18 AM ^

This New York Times article puts it at 7%. When I worked in LSA, my boss (an associate dean) claimed that it was higher than that, and I've seen estimates that put it as high as 11%. That seems to be the general range, though.

Besides, the Athletic Department became profitable under Bill Martin, so it doesn't receive money from the state regardless (aside from the fact that it uses the 'University of Michigan' name, which is owned by the Regents).


December 3rd, 2010 at 10:24 AM ^

What exactly is irrational about my question?  I have started to notice comments that people have made in regard to the opinions of alumni and wondered what role we should actually expect to have.  I have an opinion and was wondering what the opinion of the blog was.  If anything is irrational it is the "the media causes this" response.


December 3rd, 2010 at 10:37 AM ^

All you need to do is listen to the radio for 1 minute and you'll hear "I am a UM grad and a huge fan and Valenti you couldn't be more right about UM football".  This alone proves that the Media might not be the only one "causing" this, but they play a huge huge part, especially for those people that do not research the and follow the team past the broadcast of the game and box score on Sunday.


December 4th, 2010 at 7:51 AM ^

I think you are putting way too much emphasis on alumni.  David Brandon isn't going to listen to each and every alumnus for their opinion.  Nor will he listen to each and every booster.  I do think that large boosters have the ability to influence his decision, and especially boosters that have bought suites.  Way too much emphasis on the role of the alumni has been touted constantly on this board.


December 3rd, 2010 at 10:44 AM ^

I just think it's irrational that you even had the slightest bit of doubt that the University doesn't care about older alumni. 

However when it comes down to it, Dave Brandon was hired to run the AD. His job is essentially to make donors feel empowered without actually giving them any power. The media is leading people to believe they they are more empowered to influence decisions than they actually are.


December 3rd, 2010 at 11:19 AM ^

I never suggested that the University doesn't believe that alumni matter.  I specifically referenced the comments of people on this blog and on other sites.  I was just throwing out a topic for discussion as to whether they are right, and any decisions by the AD should be made without input from alumni, or, is the other side of the argument true, and do all alumni have a part in the program, a vested interest through donations, and thus, a say in the decisions.  I can see valid points from both sides. 


December 3rd, 2010 at 1:21 PM ^

As a legacy alumnus with 5 of 6 people in my immediate family attending UM for undergrad, with two also going there for for grad school (law and public policy),  my opinion is that as far as coaching goes, we should have zero influence on a coaching decision. Zip, nada, nothing, unless it pertains to an egregious, clearly evident lack of character or any disgregard for player welfare in any respect.

In terms of results, nobody outside the program has enough information to judge anything and I completely agree with Brandon's repeated opinion that anyone not inside the program knows about 5% of what is going on.  That is, quite simply, not enough to produce an informed opinion.

I donate to both the university and the athletic program and do so without any strings attached because I contribute to support each over the long term, not this year or next, nor this season or next. In terms of running the university side of things, I believe MSC is, quite literally, beyond reproach in that respect and would challenge anyone to refute her results, however she didn't do it all in her first year. Everything Brandon has done to this point leads me to believe he will also manage the AD toward long term success and I trust him to do so. He is right to take a measured and careful approach to any decision, especially one that will have such a lasting impact on the football program. Changing your methodology to accomodate a loudmouth segment of the fanbase with litle knowledge of the reality of the situation, or to reassure a single class of recruits, is not going to generate the best result.

Those alumni that believe they should be able to weigh in are, quite simply, wrong. for anyone whose support and/or donations are completely based on the W's and nothing else, I would strongly encourage you to examine the basis of your loyalty.   


December 3rd, 2010 at 5:14 PM ^

Loyd Carr might still be coaching. Furthermore, If W's and nothing else is not the goal, why did we hire RR in the 1st place? Why not promote Ron English or Mike Debord.

 I am not a perfect person, I can't donate money to the athletic dept when i'm not happy with what is going on over there. I don't expect Brandon to act on my opinions but goodness, if they do not want to hear it then they should not be calling me looking for donations every year. I have yet to hold back my usual contribution, but at some point if this keeps up it will stop. I feel like the amount of grey hair on my head has doubled in the past few months. Maybe I am a loser and need to "get a life" as RR said, but Michigan football has always been one of the best things going in my life, lately not so much. If you think I should keep my mouth shut and keep giving, I apoligise but i'm not that kind of person. I give because I feel like I am contrubuting the best I can to the success of the program.  When it gets to the point that I feel the money is being wasted, why exactly would I shut my mouth and continue to give?


December 4th, 2010 at 7:54 AM ^

Not all alumni donate, and not all alumni donate in the same fashion.  Some donate a lot and some donate a little.  These are the facts, it may not be fair.  But Al Glick's donation is more important than your donation.  Not trying to be a jerk, just the truth as I have witnessed.


December 3rd, 2010 at 10:18 AM ^

The role of alumni is to insure the high standards of the University academic mission through giving donations. The university main mission is academics not athletics despite the misguided and warped view of the general populace. For all intents and purposes Mary Sue Coleman and the Reagents are excelling in this regard. The funding level, tenured faculty hiring rate, student retention rate, and endowment have improved under the current academic leadership. The role of athletics is to grant admission to students who would not otherwise gain admission and to market the university. 


December 3rd, 2010 at 11:38 AM ^

What most of the people on this site have no idea of is how much money is raised by the "Old Alums". I see many negative comments about us from people who have never attended The University of Michigan or even set foot on the campus.

I was involved in the most recent capital campaign and when I ask people how much do you think was raised? Typical answer is 2 million maybe 10 million. They are blown away when I tell them it was 3.2 BILLION $$$$.

The highlight for a lot of us Old Alums are football weekends. I personally have been back to about 250 games and travel anywhere from 450 miles to 1300 miles to attend. It always is more enjoyable to see a victory than the losses to MSU, Iowa, and Wis I endured this past season. A championship team sure does help when it comes time to ask for donations. 

The generosity of the Old Alums is one of the important things that makes The University of Michigan one of the greatest public colleges in America today. I would hope that the next time you think about making disparaging remarks about us, you realize what the University would be without us giving back to UM.



December 3rd, 2010 at 1:19 PM ^

That's a lot of cash, to be sure. I am a legacy alumnus and I donate to both U and AD. I have gone to home games since the day I was born and make it back at least once per year from CA where I now live. I met Bo on several occasions and live and breath michigan athletics, especially football.........win or lose.

I don't attach strings to my donations though, beyond any kind of character issues or even a hint of disregard for any athlete in favor of even a single win. Quite simply, I see everything I want in place, except for the W's and i see those right on the horizon.

I gave more this year as a show of support to RR, will likely do so again...purely due to the Brock Mealer-type, Mott's hospital sitting with family of dying infant, current player character and academic focus, team attitude,  team discipline (leaving Hagerup behind for OSU spoke volumes to me about a coach with exactly the right attitude for Michigan).  I donate for character, not W's.

I would never, ever, reduce or withold my donation because of a few down seasons or losses or expect any kind of influence over the direction the AD takes on a coaching decision.


December 3rd, 2010 at 1:23 PM ^

Also, I would say that much of my career would not be where it is today but for some of those grey haired old alumni realizing I went to Michigan and going out of the way to waste inoordinate amounts of time talking football and reminiscing about Ann Arbor.  I look forward to being one someday and would expect to be a part of the reasonable voices in the university community which help shape major decisions.


December 3rd, 2010 at 10:22 AM ^

Why shouldn't the opinions of all alumni, former players, major boosters, etc. way heavilly into any coaching decision?

Not disagreeing in theory but the old adage "too many cooks spoil the broth" may come into play here.


December 3rd, 2010 at 10:23 AM ^

How do we know there is even a decision coming?  All we know is that DB has consistantly maintained that he will sit down and evaluate the football program and the team and the coaches after the season is over just as he will every other sports program.

Seems to me he has been very busy hiring a Marketing Officer and continuing his evaluation and in depth examination of the football program along with spending a lot of time with the basketball program as well......


December 3rd, 2010 at 10:48 AM ^

The alumni base that actively donates is not making a difference one way or another, in fact they are giving more.  The big jump is due to the stadium luxury seat addition, but donations are increasing.

Athletic Budget 2009-2011:

Proceeds from Priority Seating and other annual gifts

2006 - $12,398,000

2007 - $13,085,000

2008 - $13,335,000

2009 - $13,600,000

2010 - $13,700,000

2011 - $20,972,000 (this increase is most likely due to the boxes and luxury seating)

Giving has increased and only time will tell if the giant jump will hold steady.




Ed Shuttlesworth

December 3rd, 2010 at 11:05 AM ^

It's pretty simple.  Here are the components of the football program, in descending order of legitimate interest.  The football program is operated for the benefit of:

1. Current players and coaches.

2.  The parents and families of current players.

3. Current students.

4. Alumni (including former players).

5. General public.

General public is a distant fifth and should have effectively no say over any important part of the football program.  I'm old school; even though I'm no longer a current student, I don't even like games being played on dates the students aren't on campus.  I'm not really a fan of games at places like Jerry Jones stadium, though I can rationalize it as akin to a "preseason bowl."

College sports are not pro sports.  Essentially every step they take to become more like pro sports -- made for TV games and game times, luxury boxes, significant corporate presence -- is a step I begrudge.   Understood that that's swimming upstream against a strong current in the real world.  Hopefully the pendulum will one day swing back to a point closer to where it should be.


December 3rd, 2010 at 11:25 AM ^

It's the Regents' university. They've hired Mary Sue Coleman to handle operation of the University. She hired Dave Brandon to direct the Athletic Department. It's his decision. if he wants to consult with the alumni, the students, the student-athletes, etc., then he is welcome to do so. However, the only people to whose opinion he has to listen are the Regents (and, de facto, President Coleman).