One week ago today (6/23), I asked if I might come back as Chairman of the Alumni Board. This past week, I made a preliminary assessment of where we are as a Board, alumni organization, etc. We have some challenges ahead:
• Reactivate an effective board structure – meetings, elections, etc. Right now, it’s “three men in a room,” to quote a local PBS station’s ad about how New York State is really governed. That’s wildly dysfuctional, especially for us.
• Reactivate basic communication among the alumni. There’s a Scorpion TKE Facebook group, but the Antares has whithered on the vine. Hopefully, this website will start to fill in some gaps until we’re able to put out the Antares again.
• Short-term financial issues: The well is running dry. For the past two years, renting to grad students has brought in a basic income, but not enough to meet expenses (upkeep, utilities, fees, taxes and insurance). Alumni donations via the Stewart Howe helped pay the taxes and insurance. By not publishing the Antares, however, those donations have stopped. To cover immediate summer expenses, our undergrad accounting firm (Student Management Corporation – SMC) has loaned us $5K. Board members have or will be providing about the same in personal loans to our alumni accounting firm, Sciarabba Walker.
To state the obvious, we need to restablish regular funding from alumni ASAP. Doing so will help close the summer budget gap, help reestablish our reserves, and (most importantly at the moment, see below) provide a revenue stream which will vouch for our ability to pay back a mortgage we’ll need in order to update the house sprinkler system. This last expense is Cornell requirement before we can come back as a chapter. To that end, I’d like to suggest a regular annual dues system: $100 (or more) / brother / year. Starting today. Please send a check payable to Scorpion TKE to: Sciarabba Walker, Attn: Kassandra Sinn, 410 E. Upland Rd., Ithaca, NY 14850. By popular request, we’re also looking into electronic payment options. I’ll keep you posted as I find out more about them.
• Long-term financial issues: We need to update the house sprinkler system to cover the entire structure. We have a partial system now but Cornell is requiring all Greek houses to be fully sprinklered. “But we own our house?! How can Cornell tell us what to do?” You’re right: We do and they can if we want to return to campus. (Running a boarding house is much less stressful than a fraternity, but Westbourne Manor was always meant to be a fraternity.) In talking with Sciarabba Walker about what similar systems have run for other houses, totals have run from $80K to $180K. The basic procedure is to tear the house apart, install the system, then put the house together again. Add in some renovations we need to do anyway and we’re easily at $200K-ish. That’s where a mortgage comes in. We’ve talked with a local bank and they’re interested in helping, however, we don’t have the revenue to show we can pay back a mortgage. (There are a few other options other than a traditional mortgage available, but we’ll explore them later.) When we have a full house again, we’ll have a muchbetter cash-flow. For now, though, we need alumni help to prime the pump. After that, we’ll be back to look at options for alumni to donate — or loan — the house vast pools of money for the sprinkler and renovation work.
Finally, why in the world have we been seemingly asleep at the helm for the past two years when it came to alumni relations, fundraising, etc.? Denial? Distraction? I don’t know and will neither speculate nor condemn. I left as Chairman out of frustration with the university and thought it best not to “hang-on” inappropriately after doing so. Unfortunately, we then lost momentum. I keep reminding myself, “We’ve never done this before (ie., a house shut-down). We’ve made mistakes and we’ll no doubt continue to make them.” As for the future, my hope is that with an uptick in alumni interest and support, we’ll reestablish momentum while minimizing the bad results which often arise from the best of intentions. The Board’s role is to manage the process as best we can and keep you informed along the way.
More to come. Thank you for your ongoing patience and for your immediate financial support.
- James K. Boodley ’82