Apologizing to the University
I must begin this column with a tip of my hat and bow of my head to some people whose only job is to use all of their people skills to keep this University in the black.
More to the point, I must apologize.
I wrote in a column on the Friday before fall break that numerous attempts were made by my family to get the University development office to change my father's status because of his death nearly four years ago.
I wrote that line in response to my mother's complaint that he continued to receive requests for renewal of the Sorin Society membership and notices of upcoming reunions (his 35-year reunion would have been in the summer of 2001).
I was contacted by the director of development operations, Timothy Rippinger, two weeks ago and I went back to my mother and asked her who she had talked to and how many times she had contacted the office. After a few moments, she couldn't recall ever having contacted anyone at Notre Dame about this situation. Evidently she had received condolence letters from the University at the time. I remember receiving similar letters from Father Malloy and then vice president for student affairs Patricia O'Hara. My mother said that she must have confused contacting Notre Dame with another group that she had to contact at the time.
So, in response to Mr. Rippinger and everyone in the development office I sincerely apologize to them and to you, the readers of this paper, for my misleading statement.
Mr. Rippinger and I had a lengthy conversation in which he described the concerns that the development office has in addressing the student and faculty needs. He answered many of the questions that I had posed in my article, including my demand that someone pay attention to the ancient nature of the only Arts and Letters building on campus, O'Shaughnessey Hall. He mentioned the new faculty offices being built into the breezeway between O'Shaughnessey and Decio as an example of his office trying to address just that problem.
He told me of the percentage of the Generations campaign that went to scholarships and that the development office was always looking for ways to help to improve the lot of students. He quoted many figures to back up his statements (including the target goal of $178 million for undergraduate scholarships). I actually took down a quote that he said, but then realized that we were speaking informally and decided not to use it. But, believe me, the journalist in me longed to use it as a lead for how the development office cares.
When we were done and I hung up the phone I realized something. I realized that I had been wrong on almost everything that I had said. The only thing that I still disagreed with was the idea of paying for the right to buy football tickets. Mr. Rippinger explained that they needed to determine who was interested in tickets and that mailing out applications to everyone was not cost effective and that some people were even annoyed to receive applications in the mail every year.
I'm not sure that I fully accept that idea, but it is as good a reason as any.
Anyhow, it was the first time that I have ever aired my complaints about anything at the University and immediately heard back from a University official.
That Mr. Rippinger cared enough about the performance of his department to call me and answer my questions meant a lot to me. It means that we do have people in this administration who are willing to stand up and explain their office. In fact, that there are people who are eager to tell you what they are doing.
When I was a student I encountered people at the President's Office, Office of Student Affairs and Office of Student Activities, each telling me that they would not only refuse to explain their actions, but they wouldn't tell me about something that I already knew was happening.
It was very refreshing to talk to someone who was so open and candid. I will be on campus in late November and I will definitely stop by the development office to talk to Mr. Rippinger in person.
But, back to the point of the column. I am deeply sorry for any anguish or stress that my column may have caused Mr. Rippinger or his co-workers. I do not make a habit of false accusations and am greatly embarrassed about making such allegations of the development office.
Matt Loughran is a '97 Notre Dame graduate and is currently working as assistant editor at Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group in Lanham, Md. His column appears every other Friday.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Observer.
All Viewpoint Stories for Friday, November 3, 2000