May 12, 2003

Weekend move a better fit for AEA

By Eric Rangus

When the Association of Emory Alumni (AEA) announced earlier this semester that, beginning in 2004, its annual Alumni Weekend would be moved from the third week of September to the weekend preceding Commencement, the change was met with a less-than-enthusiastic response by the Emory student newspaper.

Editorials in The Emory Wheel came out against the move, saying among other things that students were not consulted during the process. Just a short time later, though, any perceived controversy had blown over, and the paper’s editorial stance had switched to promote the move.

“There never was a groundswell of opposition,” said Bob Pennington, vice president for alumni affairs and special development programs. “There were a couple people who chose to rise up, but we are very pleased with the way things have come out.”

The plan to move Alumni Weekend to the spring began more than a year ago. From there, AEA had to leap through several hoops to make the change a reality. First it had to go to the AEA Board of Governors, then to the Commencement Committee chaired by Vice President and Secretary of the University Gary Hauk.

From there, a host of individuals and organizations reviewed the plan, ranging from President Bill Chace and interim Provost Woody Hunter, to the Facilities Management Division and the Student Government Association, to the Emory Police Department. All of them signed off on it.

Students had several opportunities to speak up on the subject, Pennington said. Public meetings were held and student groups were involved in the signing-off process on the plan, and several student leaders attended an informational dinner at the Miller-Ward Alumni House.

Pennington said the reasons behind Alumni Weekend’s move to spring are manifold: Programming is broader and more flexible in the time approaching Commencement; the weather is friendlier; and the schedules for prospective attendees are better in the spring than in the fall. All of these issues, Pennington said, should result in higher attendance for the event.

A LearnLink conference explaining the justification and process behind Alumni Weekend’s move debuted in mid-April, clearing up any confusion caused by earlier stories. Once the conference debuted, published criticism of the move disappeared.

Although the conference appeared after the first oppositions were aired, its creation was not a response to them, said Allison Dykes, AEA’s associate vice president for operations. A conference detailing the issues was planned all along, it just hadn’t hit the web. Since the conference was created, no posts have been critical of the plan.

A proposed schedule posted to the LearnLink conference sketches out a variety of programming geared to include graduates, alumni and their families. One of the new events is a concert in the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts that will feature students and alumni.

“It’s our hope that we can create some alumni events that undergraduates will be excited to participate in, as well,” Pennington said.