The President of our Alumni, 81er Rajiv Bhatia, has chosen the Cat Alumni Blog (that he had set up in 2007), and also my blog to respond publicly to the issues.
It is a long post. I reproduce it in full. Many of you out there, especially many old timers, who have held my blog in great respect, to communicate your mature views to our alumni, expect nothing less.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
As President and Chairman of the Association I have tried to keep the workings and happenings as transparent as possible. As you have been made aware, I will be concluding my two year tenure as President & Chairman on 15-Oct-08 at the AGM at the Middle School which will commence at 6pm. I will not be continuing as ex-officio on the Executive Committee.
I have received an email from the respected Mr. H.S. "Ubi" Uberoi (1956'er) past president 1985 which I have reproduced below. He has, most rightly, asked for transparency, and I will respond with details
"On Tue, Oct 7, 2008 at 12:12 PM, HS Uberoi
wrote: Dear Mr.President, I have learned from sources other than the Association that plans are afoot to cancel this year's Alumni Association Dinner Dance. Why may I ask?And why is it being done in such a clandestine manner?Does the managing committee not believe that it owes it to the membership that elected it,to tell them about it? I for one,am very disappointed to learn of the cancellation,if the news is correct.I had made a large group for the occasion.I also believe that a large number of members are planning to do the same. But if what I have heard is true,that you as the President are being threatened at gunpoint that either you agree to the cancellation or the so called "effective"clique of your managing committee will boycott it,then I must say that the more the things in the Cathedral And John Connon Alumni Association change,the more they remain the same!The professions and protestations that the Asociation management is for the membership is all nonsense-it actually is a vehicle for the self interest of a few,who by hook or crook come back to the managing committee year after year! For God's sake let some new members and young blood take charge and rejuvinate the Association!And for God's sake go ahead with the Dinner Dance! Yours truly, H.S.Uberoi (Past President-1985"
I have also been questioned as to `why' by other Classes, junior and senior and therefore find it necessary to reproduce the extract of the draft minutes of the meeting of the Executive Committee held on 17-Sep-08.
"The preparations for Founders Week November 2008 were discussed. As Rajiv was not going to be a part of the continuing Executive Committee after the 24th AGM scheduled on 15-Oct-08, he had not attended an earlier informal meeting held between Chitra, Shyla, Rohita, Amit & Viral on September 1st, 2008 where the Founders Week November 2008 preparations were discussed. Shyla informed Rajiv that those who met had decided to cancel the Annual Association dinner scheduled on 14-Nov-08 at the Blue Sea for the following reasons: 1. Many of the older members felt that they could not attend an evening function and some felt quite left out as the crowd was 1980's and later. Some old teachers also said they found it difficult to come at night. 2. Past experience has shown that after every two or three big successes we have not been able to sell the required amount of tickets to break even. 3. There will be a big dinner in 2009 to herald the 150th year and we should keep this in mind. 4. Reuniting classes of 1958, 1964 and 1966 had indicated an indifference to the Annual dinner. The other events were confirmed and preparations underway and it was proposed that the Middle School Brunch be elevated to a more sumptuous event. Rajiv, disagreed with the reasons cited, found them as inadequate grounds to cancel the event, re-capped that most preparations were already streamlined & expressed his disappointment that the now largest annual event & much favored by the members, particularly the youngsters, being the Annual Dinner, was taken off the schedule this year but recognized that it was the privilege of the continuing Executive Committee to decide." This should fully clear the cloud and dispell rumours regarding the cancellation.
The last post below on this blog on 18-Sep, explains the situation as well.
Mr. Uberoi's mail may be further responded to with details about the workings of the Association.
The strategy paper introduced by me in Nov-06 http://catalumni.org/docs/bhatiaadd.pdf describes what it will take to make the Association sustainably successful. Essentially it is a function of
(a) its relationship with the school in terms of recognition as an Association as a whole and not the sum of the parts of individual member relationships with the School (b) its relationship with the larger membership
(c) its financial strength.
In terms of what is stated above,
(a) placing a helpdesk in school will not only be of operational benefit but also symbolic of the recognition extended by School. More in points 5, 6 & 7 further below. (b) in terms of b above, transparency and democratic methods have been deployed in the past two years which has considerably engaged the Association with the larger membership as never before.
This is what the membership sees and feels and is so appreciative of. To sustain this you need database accuracy and maintenance and quality communication. We need to spend more on our database, website, magazine (already of a better quality) and personnel. In terms of (c) above we may have well modeled funding, which has been considered in the strategy paper of Nov-06 but as all entrepreneurs know, to get a financial model to develop further and succeed you need seed capital or angel funding to first start-up. In the case of the Association it would mean contributions by the membership to the corpus.
Here, when we have been promised a large sum from overseas, we need the support of our CA who as of last year, and probably for the first time, is an ex-Cathedralite. The papers need to be processed by him and aided by help from influential and knowledgeable membership. More money towards the corpus needs to come in.
Whether or not future Executive Committees will continue the upward trend will depend on
(i) the continued progress in mindsets and (ii) adherence to processes. I do hope that my suggestions are taken in a positive light for a sustainable growth of the Association. I look forward to constructive dialogue at the forthcoming 24th AGM.
Based on the strategy set where do things stand today:
1) Membership - has continued to expand and are connected mainly online through the official web site, various regional-class-special interest groups, blogs such as cathedraliteheaven by Jacob Matthan (1959'er), this the one you are reading - the Presidents blog, very actively on Face Book and so on. The official web site database and role leaves much to be desired. Furthermore it was hacked earlier in Jun-Jul 2008 - fortunately no data pilfered, from what I am told, only injected with links to spam-ware locations. The site and these issues remain to be addressed between the web host and the Alumni representative web master, we hope they will soon. (Ed.: My blog is called Seventh Heaven.)
2) Corpus - in Dec-06 this was around 6 lacs today its around 18lacs. 1957'ers promise of Rs. 15 lacs hasn't gone through so far as the Association Chartered Accountant is yet to prepare the application under the Home Dept linked to at www.csirwebistad.org/pdf/fc1a.pdf This is pending since Dec-07
3) Alumni Ex-Staff benevolence - with Mr. Mazumdars case example (see http://catalumni.blogspot.com/2008/04/status-report-on-mr-mazumdar-and-role.html below) this has now been formalized as a fund and available to needy Alumni & Ex-staffers. This initiative has been led by Pranay Shah a 1971er. Mr. Harry Mirchandani of USA a 1975'er has donated Rs. 1 lac, through an Indian bank (not an FC remittance) towards this in the memory of his parents.
4) The magazine - The Nov-2007 issue looked good and well produced by the magazine team. Sunaina & Priya both 1992'er kick-started the initiative. Many members such as Meena Bhat a 1956'er contributed. It was well guided and completed by our own Shyla and Rohita. This years issue Nov-08 promises to be even better and our dear Miel is playing a lead role.
5) Alumni contributions to the School - Dr. Annirudha Malpani run discussion sessions on the `birds & the bees' which parents and kids actively participate in, Vikram Uttamsigh of KPMG organises office orientation placements for senior children and many others too which will be reported as I have requested. Much has happened over the years behind the scenes but has gone unreported, most unfortunately. The School has expansion plans in South Mumbai and more information will be made available pursuant to the Office Bearers meeting with the Principal on 09-Sep-08, so that the Association and its members can play a role.
6) The help desk - we are informed that at present there is no space but will be made available as soon as possible. I cannot overstate the importance of this; our Alumni Officer Reeta will have no desk post 15-Oct-2008, as things stand.
7) Formal relationships with the School - The office bearers and I met with the Principal on 09-Sep-08 which has been followed up by correspondence and the Principal and the Board are looking into providing a confirmation letter to accept the Alumni Association to be the only Alumni Association of the School, no-objection to the usage of the name `Cathedral & John Connon Alumni Association' as ours is a registered society for charitable purposes and therefore the activities are well regulated posing no threat, the School to be represented by the Principal on the Executive Committee of the Association, the Association not to interfere with the management of the School. All this being essential as the School is not a signatory to the formation memorandum of the Association. I hope to make a positive announcement at the 24th AGM on 15-Oct-08 at 6pm at the Middle School. `Insha'Allah!'
8) 150th year - a 150th year Committee has been set up at the instance of the School. This comprises of select PTA members and select ex-Cathedralites. There was no formal interaction between the School & the Association when this was set up. I was most ceratinly not consulted. However the Office Bearers meeting with the Principal held on 09-Sep-08 had yielded positively and I reproduce the content:
"Mrs. Isaacs said that a 150th year Celebrations Committee was convened under the stewardship of Rangita Bhatnagar. The Committee had been meeting and discussing various plans which would be announced as they firmed up around Jan-09. She further said that most of the celebrations would surround Founders Day 2010. She also said that various ex-Cathedralites outside of the 150th year Committee had been meeting her to discuss their suggestions and participation. It would be appropriate for Rangita who was not only the Chair of the 150th year Committee & a PTA member but also a member of the Executive Committee of the Association, to list the ex-Cathedralite contributors/ participants and keep the Executive Committee of the Association informed of the list and the plans as they firmed up. Whatever information was available should be provided to the General Body of the Association by Rangita at the 24th AGM. This task is specifically assigned to Rangita."
9) Class leadership - This is a big gap. We need active class leadership to help keep the Alumni database uptodate and to communicate effectively. Classes have repeatedly been requested to send in Excel spreadsheet with updates but very little has come in. The Association has brief lists of the classes year wise, as obtained from the School, but these contain names only. This too is a help.
10) The working and efficiency of the Executive Committee - abysmal! Some individually play a very effective role and much gratitude to them for having kept alive the Association. But its time for youngsters from the 80's, 90's, 2000's to come in and start relieving the seniors who ought to act as mentors and not be saddled with continuing responsibility. I suspect this will not happen in the obvious way. There are no new nominations so far and the time line is later today October 8th at 3:30pm. What I suggest is an independent `Youth Wing' be formed to run parallel activities, in a small way, demonstrate their abilities and commitment to the seniors on the EC and thereafter get inducted to the work groups of the EC & EC itself. Retired seniors with the time and talent required to administer should come on too.
11) Why the reluctance to be President of the Cathedral Alumni?
The role of the President as envisaged by the constitution and as being practiced is quite different. The constitution envisages a large Executive Committee ( a President, 2 Vice Presidents, 2 Secretaries, 2 Treasurers) with office bearers defined to play specific roles. However in practice and under the misplaced garb of the phrase `the buck stops at the President’, he/she is expected to perform every duty and task and any performed by the others is to be appreciated as a favor to the `President’. WOW! We certainly need to rethink this and add more dignity to the office of the President so that the finest among the huge and illustrious membership may be attracted to the post, rather than shun it, for the unreasonable responsibility of task execution it entails.
http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/the-buck-stops-here.html this page explains what Harry Truman did and meant. Responsibility is not passed on beyond this point. U.S. president Harry S. Truman had a sign with this inscription on his desk. This was meant to indicate that he didn't 'pass the buck' to anyone else but accepted personal responsibility for the way the country was governed.
This was a responsibility he took upon him self. Responsibility for the way the Country was Governed. He did not perform every duty and task that officers of the Country performed in Governing the country.
So as in the case of the Association. The constitution (memorandum) of the Association provides for a large committee and numerous office bearers, envisaging a large volume of work to be done and be shared in execution. No where in the constitution does it state that the President of the Association will carry out all tasks necessary for the running of the Association.
I love my School and my Association & its members and have tried my best to go about the running of the Association as Professionally as possible and resources and man-hours input constraints have permitted. The Mid-Day reminder notice / advertisement released for the 24th AGM has also been funded by me so as the running costs over the past couple of years. If I have failed anyone in anyway then all I request is your forgiveness. But this is not about me. Its about the School, the Association and its members -
School First, House Next, Self Last.
Always proud to be a Cathedralite and a member of the Alumni Association
@ your service
Thank you Rajiv for your good work over the last couple of years and of taking the trouble to keep my blog in the loop.
I am sure that many members who read this blog await your views so that we can see how to ensure that our Alumni Association continues to work for the good of the members and spreads its reach over the entire spectrum of members.