This year, as in the past three academic years since the event was organized, fundraising was not allowed over Meliora Weekend. In previous years, student groups were able to raise funds over Family Weekend and Alumni Weekend and many groups made a substantial amount of their money during these times.
“There’s a time and place to raise funds,” Dean of The College William Green said, “and this weekend is not one of them because it sends mixed messages about the true meaning of the weekend. It is about a celebration, not about raising money.”
The decision to put a stop to solicitations over the weekend was made by the college deans before Sesquicentennial Weekend in 2000 because they feared that it left a bad impression on the alumni and parents who came to campus for the weekend.
“The big complaint is that we only really reach out to [alumni] when we want their money,” Dean for College Advancement Robert Bartlett said.
Meliora Weekend, which spun off the success of Sesquicentennial Weekend, kept the policy in place. The weekend now combines alumni reunion weekend, parent’s weekend, the Stonehurst Regatta and Homecoming.
Despite the policy, last year Habitat for Humanity was offered an exemption and became part of the celebration when they built a playhouse on the Wilson Quadrangle. Their nail-driving contest raised over $800 for charity. This year they were planning to do the same contest. The Office for College Advancement did not inform the group that they would not be able to raise money before the weekend began, junior and Habitat for Humanity member David Niles said.
“I heard the week of Meliora Weekend, through word of mouth, that we couldn’t do it,” he said.
“We were still out there but it wasn’t as effective without the donation thing,” Niles added.
Another group affected by the policy was the UR Cycling Team. The team is a new club sport and therefore does not get any funding from the university.
“We need money for uniforms and travel,” junior and UR Cycling team member Joel Thompson said.
The group could not raise money as planned because they were told they could not solicit by the Office for College Advancement. The team did bike for 24 hours as planned, but eliminated the fundraising component.
“Our plan was to cycle for 24 hours on two bikes,” Thompson said. “We wanted people to sponsor us per mile or just give a donation.”
Though UR Cycling could not make money, Thompson said that it did attract attention for the club. “We wanted to let people know that we’re out there and we also did it for fun,” he said.
Bartlett said Meliora Weekend organizers still wanted groups to publicize. “I personally encouraged [UR Cycling] to do that. We just don’t want solicitation to take place,” he said.
Green said he understands the financial constraints that some student groups operate under and is open to reexamining the issue. “We’re very happy to sit down and revisit this thing,” he said. “We want student groups to know that this decision wasn’t made to short-change them.”
Bartlet said that few groups approached him about fundraising. “Quite frankly, it hasn’t really been a big deal,” he said.
Students hope that the policy will be changed in the future. “I am personally against [the ban on fundraising]. Habitat is not SA funded and so Meliora Weekend is a major event for us to fundraise,” Niles said.
“If the alumni are there, they see a program they want to support it, they should be able to.”
Reporting by Mansi Desai, Kara DeSantis, Todd Hildebrandt, Chadwick Schnee and Karen Taylor.