For many alumni, the current financial crisis is a catastrophe. Many face losing their jobs, their homes and their financial security.

With many former Hoyas in the financial field, Georgetown endeavored to show compassion and sent a letter expressing its sympathy to the alumni in the New York area. Showing that the university is thinking of those former students who are currently struggling was considerate; however, their execution of this kind gesture was unpropitious.

This letter should have been one which expressed sympathy and assured alumni that we would stand in solidarity by them during this trying time. It could have reminded individuals that there was strong Georgetown alumni network for them to turn to. The administration could have set up a support line or an online forum to help those who are struggling. Instead, the administration sent a letter of condolence. When they should have been providing solace and offering specific means of support, the administration managed to offend several alumni.

In cases like these, the Office of Advancement needs to be sensitive that people might perceive an ulterior motive.

It is not hard to see how people could make the mental leap to assuming Georgetown is attempting not-so-subtly to solicit donations. It is understandable that the letter garnered responses like that of Mark D. Kingstone (LAW ’92), who said, “What an utterly disingenuous and offensive e-mail. Your only concern is for alumni giving.”

We are not accusing the Office of Advancement of being so callous as to attempt to solicit donations from people’s whose livelihood is threatened. But in moments like these, when emotions are rampant, the office must be incredibly sensitive in its choice of language and aware of how its actions could be interpreted.

A letter expressing sympathy and help from the university could be a welcome sign that someone cares. But sentences like, “Our thoughts and prayers are with you as the crisis continues and details of remedial efforts are announced,” are more likely to depress than to comfort.

We are aware that the Office of Advancement’s mission includes alumni relations and community-building along with fundraising. But, certainly, this letter would have been more appropriate coming from the alumni association than from the Office of Advancement. And listing a few concrete ways in which Georgetown would endeavor to help the alumni would surely not have been unwelcome. We do not mean to discourage Georgetown from showing support for alumni in times of crisis.

One respondent, Jamal R. Epps (COL ’01), wrote, “Unexpected note and fantastic (for no other reason than that)!” However, the fact that Georgetown offended even a few members of our community negates the positive intention with which the letter was written. In the future, they must tread lightly and with greater forethought in similar situations.

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