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Fountain Day ban outrages alums

By Damore Ramwa
On March 10, 2010

A change that bans alumni from Fountain Day has angered hundreds of current and former students.

A Facebook group titled "UAlbany Students & Alumni Outraged that Alums can't go to Fountain Day" was created last Wednesday after the Albany Student Press reported several changes to the upcoming Fountain Day 2010 schedule for April 25.

In less than 72 hours, the group's member total reached nearly 1,400.

Robert Moretti, an '08 grad,  and the group's creator, said "One of my friends heard that alumni weren't being allowed to come, and I was planning on going this year … I said ‘this was going to get a lot of people upset, let me see how many people agree with me.' So I started the Facebook group and invited all my friends, and it kind of grew from there."
Moretti, who finished grad school at NYU last month, said he spoke with several alumni who were upset about the changes, and "a lot of them are thinking about possibly not donating money in the future.

"[The university] calls my home number very often and at this point, I just don't pick up because I know what they're asking for and they're not going to give me anything back for it, not even let us go to Fountain Day," said Moretti.

Moretti said the sense of college spirit, reunion and bringing back memories with old friends are what attracts him to Fountain Day as an alumnus.

Colin Ebel, an alum ('09) and former SA Comptroller, calls the Fountain Day changes a "contradiction."

"The university preaches one thing — more involvement and alumni support — then doesn't invite us to Fountain Day. They're cutting off alumni," Ebel said.

Ebel said the biggest problem is that UAlbany lacks traditions like many other major universities, but Fountain Day was one to be proud of.

"This is the one tradition the school has and they're doing this?" Ebel said. "Albany missed a big one."

Jennifer Anderson, UAlbany's associate director of Student Involvement & Leadership, said the decision, was "not made lightly," and was not intended to make alumni less involved. The change was made to keep the event safe.

More than 9,300 people attended last year's Fountain Day, not including faculty and staff, Anderesen said.

Ebel dismissed the university's safety concerns about overpopulating the event.

"[The university] is using the safety card," Ebel said. "They could let [alumni] on the podium, give us a blocked-off section. We don't necessarily have to be in the fountain."

Lee Serravillo, executive director of the Alumni Association, said he was aware of the new changes.

Serravillo said the Alumni Association and the Office of Student Success sat down and discussed the matter.

"Traditionally, it has always been a student event focusing on the students," Serravillo said. "Years going back, [Fountain Day] was held in the middle of the week during the day, so it was never intended to be an alumni event. The last couple of years we gave alums the opportunity to register and be a part of it because it was moved to the weekend but it's been such an overly popular event … that just to keep it a safe and positive student event we had to manage and limit the participation."

Serravillo said 214 alumni pre-registered and participated in last year's Fountain Day.
The Alumni Association received several e-mails from disappointed students, most of which had graduated a year or two ago and still had many friends at the university,Serravillo said.

Brian Fessler, chair of the UAlbany Graduates of the Last Decade (GOLD) Committee, said talks regarding attendance issues began around this time last year.

"In the conversations I've been a part of, it hasn't been that big of a deal," Fessler said. "I enjoyed my Fountain Days … I don't want to be the ‘old guy' sticking around with a whole bunch of students who are trying to get the most out of tradition."

UAlbany senior Jennifer Speciale, who has attended all of her previous Fountain Days said she was looking forward to coming back and participating after graduating.

"Are they going to ban alumi from Big Purple Growl too?" Speciale asked.

The Student Association, which is sponsoring the event, released the following statement on their Web site:

"Participation in Fountain Day 2010 is limited to current UAlbany students."

Attendance at Fountain Day has risen more than 25 percent in the past two years. In order to ensure the safety of our students in the event area, the University has decided it must limit participation to current UAlbany students. Fountain Day is one of the most treasured student traditions here on campus, and our goal is to guarantee it remains a safe, memorable experience for our student body. 

Please note that the Student Association played no role in this decision. 

If you have any further questions about the Alumni policy, please contact the Alumni Association at (518) 442-3080.

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