Imagine that you don't have a lot of money to donate to Penn. In fact, imagine that you're still paying off your student loans. Imagine that all you have to give to Penn, for the time being, are your talents, your voluntary services and your dedication to the University. Naturally, these images probably aren't all that difficult for many of you to imagine. In fact, these ideas are probably ones that you live with on a daily basis, ideas that govern how you go about your everyday Penn-funded activities. Now, for something a little bit different: Imagine that organizations related to Penn don't want you. They don't want your talents or your voluntary services, and they certainly don't care about your dedication to the University. In fact, as far as they're concerned, you're not even important enough to merit a returned phone call. This is exactly what happened to me last week. As a member of a performing arts group at Penn, I called up one of Penn's many alumni organizations, the Penn Club in Manhattan, to ask them if they'd like us to perform for them in New York over fall break. I called five times, and left five voice-mail messages, each specifying that I would appreciate a call back with an answer either way. But despite the fact that the Penn Club had expressed interest in having our group perform for them, I was not called back by any of the five people for whom I left messages. A toast to dear old Penn? Hardly. As a test, I called up the Penn Club one last time, posing as a recent alumna, claiming I'd like to speak to someone in charge of donations. Again, I was directed to a voicemail box. But this time, my message was this: "My name is Ariel Horn and I live in the Philadelphia area. I'm extremely interested in making a generous donation to the Club. "Please have someone call me back." Perhaps not so shockingly, this phone call was returned. Hurrah, hurrah, Pennsylvania! Suffice it to say, being called back to give a donation as an alumna -- but not for the services and talent I could lend as a student -- was pretty damn scary. To be fair, the Penn Club's rudeness is hardly representative of all alumni organizations. The Pennsylvania Gazette is dedicated to fostering and cultivating the talents of the University community, and even includes student columns in the magazine to help the alumni community learn about what's going on campus from a student's perspective. The E. Craig Sweeten Center on Locust Walk hosts many events for alumni families, students included. Myriad organizations, uncountable within these inches, create incredible programming for Penn alumni and make great efforts to include students while they are students, to prepare them for their future as alumni. For the most part, the dedication of Penn's alumni programs and organizations to the University is amazing; these organizations just can't do enough to bring all Penn students, past and present, together. And their actions have yielded immeasurable benefits for the University community, from funding financial aid packages and valuable programming to alumni career fairs for students. For whatever reason, though, the trend just hasn't picked up at the Penn Club. Theoretically speaking, each one of us will someday be an alumnus of Penn. Theoretically speaking, then, shouldn't we be treated with courtesy? How about being treated with courtesy no matter who we are? And worst of all, as a club that is connected to the Wharton School as well, from a strictly business point of view, wouldn't it be more intelligent for the Penn Club to embrace students who could potentially be members -- or donors -- rather than shun them? Granted, it's not fair to condemn an entire organization for a few unreturned phone calls. I don't doubt that the Penn Club has the capacity to do all these things other alumni organizations have done, or that the Penn Club has had similar programming in the past. Penn's community is one that fosters learning. Perhaps it's time for the Penn Club to learn from the other alumni organizations than it's wiser to build your bridges than to burn them.Comments powered by Disqus
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