UTA, its alumni hit a rough patch

University of Texas at Arlington President Vistasp Karbhari, like other university presidents before him, is pushing hard to build and maintain strong relationships with the school’s alumni.

Former students have a crucial supporting role for any university, financially and in spreading a positive message that helps draw future students.

But unlike previous presidents, Karbhari may have to build on that relationship without help from the UT Arlington Alumni Association.

That’s sad, but the association is struggling financially and may not survive.

Association members gathered in a UT Arlington ballroom on Saturday to vote on whether to disband. Not many showed up; the vote was 52-30 against dissolving the nonprofit association, with two members abstaining.

A statement about the problems released by the university on July 18 says the association “has said that its membership levels and revenues are not sufficient to sustain its business model.”

Association Executive Director Daniel Kauth told Star-Telegram reporter Monica Nagy that the group’s leaders are uncertain what they’ll do next.

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

Association leaders have some reason to feel let down by the university.

Financial arrangements between the two are governed by an annual agreement, and that agreement changed significantly when it was renewed in October, the university said in its July 18 statement.

Previously, the university helped pay benefits for association employees and for other “human resources administration.” The UT System’s Office of General Counsel nixed that arrangement, saying it was “not consistent with best practices for a public university and a separate (nonprofit) organization.”

That left the association to pay all of its employee costs.

Karbari is setting up a new alumni relations program within the university, which he insists is not an attempt to replace the Alumni Association.

He has no real choice. Large universities typically have such programs, and UT Arlington must have formal ways of staying in contact with its 180,000 alumni.

The current financial and organizational difficulties of the Alumni Association only make that need more urgent.