Karbhari: ‘We are not trying to replace alumni association’

UT Arlington President Vistasp Karbhari said Monday that he is starting an alumni relations office but that it is not intended to replace the original alumni association, which seems to be on the brink of ending.

The UT Arlington Alumni Association was ready to disband because of financial difficulties, but alumni voted 52-30 against the measure Saturday with two members abstaining.

Current and past board members have said some of their financial problems started when Karbhari cut funding citing advice from University of Texas System attorneys.

Board members and the executive staff met with legal counsel Monday to discuss the nonprofit’s future after the vote left them in limbo.

“We just have to regroup and see what our options are,” Executive Director Daniel Kauth said. “… I don’t even know myself right now.”

Kauth said the group will post more information on its website as it becomes available.

Current leaders of the association have declined to answer questions about how much money it needs to continue operating.

The association’s most recent public IRS filing shows $695,649 in total revenue for the 2011-12 school year, but with $1.7 million in expenses the association had a $985,231 loss that year.

Neer Patel, the association’s immediate past president, said the $985,231 was not a loss but was handed over to the university to be matched with natural gas program royalties for student scholarships.

While the 3,000-member organization is figuring out how to move forward, Karbhari has appointed a search committee to find a vice president for development and alumni relations.

The leader will take on an expanded role within a renamed Office of Development and Alumni Relations. Currently, the university has an Office of Development with no vice president.

Whoever is hired will collaborate with the president on university fundraising and alumni engagement. The university will also establish an alumni relations program and will appoint a director for alumni relations.

Ronald Elsenbaumer, provost and vice president for academic affairs, heads the committee. Alumni Association President Patti Diou is also a committee member.

Karbhari is also using the executive search firm Witt/Kieffer to guide the national search, which started about a month ago.

The university is also forming an alumni advisory group that will work with the new director to plan and manage events. An advisory task force will be created to keep Karbhari aware of “pertinent issues.”

At the request of the Alumni Association, the university will now oversee the Distinguished Alumni Awards Gala, mud-volleyball Oozeball Tournament, and the Maverick Marauders, which govern the Student Alumni Association.

“We are not trying to replace an alumni association,” Karbhari said. “… We are trying to put together a program where we can connect and engage with alumni.”

He said most large universities have a separate alumni relations department, and UT Arlington’s 180,000 alumni would be best suited to have one, too.

“We need to have significant more engagement with alumni on a variety of levels,” he said.

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