Why I’m sick of alumni magazines

The requests for money never cease


An appropriate meme from QuiteRly.com

The other day, I got a copy of the Alumni Gazette, the magazine sent to alumni of the University of Western—sorry—Western University. This was no surprise, of course, since they’ve been sending them to me for years. In fact, as an alumnus of three universities, I get these things frequently.

They are always slickly produced—and they always make me a bit queasy.

I open these publications in the vague hope that I’ll see something about someone I went to school with, or hear some news about a favourite professor. It never happens.

Instead, I get a series of breathless articles about people I never knew who are changing the world.

A more charitable version of myself would swell with pride to be associated with such luminaries, but the cynic in me can’t help feeling like the whole thing is a big soft sell for the fundraising division of the university. Because, of course, that’s what it is. Nobody sends you a glossy magazine four times a year out of the goodness of their hearts.

And sure enough, in the middle of the mag is a multi-page spread on “The Campaign for Western” (is Western running for something?), and then another ad featuring smiling students imploring me to “Fund the Future,” and, then, near the end, still another ad urging me to consider giving good old UWO—-sorry—WU, a “planned gift” which means leaving money to the university in my will. Yes, they even want my money after I die.

All of this might be more palatable if I felt like I was getting the real story about a place I called home for four years. But I know enough about universities to know that’s not true. There’s no talk of controversy, let alone scandal. Because, recall, that’s not the point. The point is to get you feeling good about the old Ivey-covered halls. And it’s not just Western. All universities, so far as I know, do the same kind of cheerleading.

See how great we still are? Aren’t you proud to be one of us? Shouldn’t you write a cheque?

The irony of it all is that this reaction is never the one I actually have. Because to be perfectly honest, seeing all those uber-successful people—hob-nobbing with Bono or conquering the film industry—doesn’t make me feel better about the university, it makes me feel worse about myself.


Why I’m sick of alumni magazines

  1. I agree! The one good thing, though, about the magazines is that they can go into the recycling bin. The phone calls, on the other hand, can only be ended by hanging up, giving the impression that you are either rude or not sufficiently successful to have extra cash on hand for a donation.

  2. I too get the Gazette and find the articles about as stimulating as the newsletters I get from my local MPP. But at least they are less annoying than the phone calls I used to get – which finally stopped after I reminded them that I graduated almost 50 years ago and was reluctant to cash in any of my rapidly-fading RRSPs to donate.

  3. Methinks Judy and Joe are being somewhat harsh on this subject. Education at all levels is being forced to beg for what they should be given freely. We want education, because a changing world demands that we keep up with its demands. And we need those degrees to get the jobs we aspire to… Frankly, as the son of a poorly paid minister a long time ago, I was helped through scholarships and part-time work to get the various degrees I hold. So, gratefully, I’ve been “paying them back” ever since… The total contribution over the past 72 tears has been tax deductible in the States, and we get some help here in Canada too. So I say: “Just do something about those innumerable telephone calls and mail requests”!

  4. I agree as well. What a waste of money and trees.
    Almost as bad as a university hitting up its own staff and faculty for donations.

  5. Omigoodness! I hate hate hate those magazines! I get them from Western and Laurier and am just sick to death of seeing the money they waste on them! Yes, sure! send me this super glossy and expensively produced magazine about people I don’t know or care about… and then ask me for money! Of course! That makes perfect sense!
    We get two of the Western mags delivered to our house thanks to the fact one of the previous owners (who moved out at least 15 years ago) went there too. What.A.Waste.

  6. I wholehearted agree with you. Fortunately I’ve managed to restrict the 3 that I receive to digital format – and I delete them as soon as they appear in the in box. My US universities tend to promote football and the Canadian one generally profiles people who are making the world a better place. And all done at great expense in the hope that I (and others) will contribute either with a cheque or put them in my will.

  7. Our offices of propoganda never cease to send us crap. How much does all of this cost the universities compared to how much additional they gain from donations? Besides if I want to give money to the university, I will send a cheque to my department… I trust them a whole lot more than the beurocrats in the “advancement” or whatever they call it offices!

  8. I graduated from an Ontario university in 1986. Back then, I noticed the exactsame thing the first few years after I graduated: glossy magazines sent to me on a quarterly basis, full of the same content and continual begging for money. I seized the opportunity to shake loose from their alumni list when I happened to move and not inform them of my new address. It would be trickier today in our e-world. Good lesson to not give up that type of information to your alma mater.

  9. Further to this article, let me add this.TRY just TRY to get off the(in my case UVIC)mail list.These glossy little missives from hell only serve to remind me of a misapplied degree from 1976 no less, and years of crushing debit into the bargain. I moved on years ago.You would think the University of Victoria would have the mental organizational or at least moral acuity to respect my written and telephoned instructions to desist.This article confirms they are all into this little aggravation caper.
    Abandon all hope.

  10. The university is a non-profit organization. It is no where near funded to the level it needs to be to support research or to support the thousands of students that are trying to get the degree you were fortunate enough to get. They are hoping that yes, some folks will see the benefit of donating. Sorry you have no interest…but someone besides you and your folks funding YOUR education (tuition doesn’t come close to covering the real costs of the education, nor the knowledge you were taught which -gasp!- came from research).

    This is no different than any other non-profit putting their best foot forward to hope you will write a check. The day when Greenpeace, or Save the Children, or the Conservative party sends you mail about its cons and controversy along with the good stuff…well hell will freeze over. Welcome to the real world buddy.

    I’m sure those resumes you send out convincing people to hire you are full of objective reality too.

  11. Canadians get what they put into their universty experience: crap.