When they heard I had no money to give them, the conversation ended abruptly.

On the eve of my 35th college reunion I have experienced a sour taste-in-the-mouth moment with my alma mater, Tufts.  They couldn’t care less about me unless money is on the table.  The contract – if ever there was one between an institution and their alumni – is now all about the money.  The original contract – my family paid them for my education so that I would get a good job is long since expired.  And for the record, the University really played no role in my employment, but that’s another story.

The background – like many colleges and universities Tufts has contracted a vendor to produce an alumni directory.  The vendor obtained all alumni addresses from the university and set upon us like wolves.  Emails filled my in-box with increasing urgency asking why I had not responded divulging all my contact points as well as information about spouses and children.  They pleaded that I give them what they needed.  In fact, on the basis of my giving away this information, this treasure trove of data, the vendor would compile a record that would bind me to my university.  In point of fact the inestimable value was to 3rd party marketers, merchandisers, pirates and profiteers alone.  Ultimately I gave in… I caved.   I surrendered some data in hope I would be left alone.

I was mistaken.  This has prompted round 2 — a sales pitch soliciting an order for the new directory — at a cost of over $900!  I don’t know about you – but I might care a bit about my actual classmates and a few others, but I have very little need for information on alumni dating to the turn of the 20th century.  And for $900?  Who are they kidding — but wait, didn’t they obtained the information for free?  And, now they want to sell it back individually at almost one thousand dollars?  Who’s getting the value of this?  The wolves devoured the poor sheep while the University acted as shepherd!

It’s true the famous circus showman P.T. Barnum gave his celebrated elephant Jumbo to Tufts, in turn it became the school mascot.  Barnum apparently quoted Lincoln when he said, “You can fool some of the people some of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time.”  Tufts must have taken this quote to heart… along with their vendor… to think that many (any?) one really has $1000 to spend for a compendium like this.  Their supreme arrogance… the bravado of this thinking is mesmerizing.  The point is that the vendor has sold a white elephant… only other marketing companies probably have the interest in so much data, and to sell it at a usurious price to everyone who contributed in a genuine effort is distasteful at best.

I did contact Tufts – I subsequently requested they remove me from all mailing lists – and in turn I received 2 emails back from staff who repeated that my name has been removed.  Emails which arrived many days apart…

They say an elephant never forgets.  This Jumbo will remember!  I won’t be sending them any money, now or later, I won’t forget.

It’s time to fight back – to fight when organizations are abusive or people are rude.  When wrong, admit it.  When wronged, stand up and be heard.  The late Congressman and Jesuit priest Bob Drinan (D-MA) would explain why he voted against legislation he actually favored explaining that the means to get there was every bit as important as the result.  A great leader, teacher and inspiration, Father Drinan was right.  Do the right thing the right way… it’s a good rule for life.  I wish I was more consistent myself.

Stand up, fight back, be heard.

Author: Peter Shaplen Productions

More than four decades of experience as a journalist, producer, reporter, writer and professor of news, corporate production, crisis management.

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