Phone-a-thon rescinds e-mail warning
Phone-a-thon employees were called into an emergency meeting at 8 p.m. Wednesday night shortly after an article was posted on The Hoot’s website exposing an e-mail received by Phone-a-thon employees telling them that they would be “placed on probation immediately” if they wrote anything or spoke out about the decision to close the Rose Art Museum. The Hoot article was also posted on the Brandeis Blog innermostparts.
In the meeting, Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations Mark Abelman assured his employees that they were, in fact allowed to comment on the Rose Art Museum so long as they were not at work.
In the e-mail, which was forwarded to The Hoot by an anonymous Phone-a-thon employee Tuesday night, Brandeis Giving Officer Mathew Magida wrote “You are all paid employees of the Brandeis University Office of Development and Alumni Relations. It is in incredibly poor taste for you to write anything that can be perceived as slanderous or offensive about the University. Several members of the Development Staff, including myself, are going through facebook, blogs, boston.com, and online petitions.”
“If I see you have written anything (positive or negative) about the Rose Art Museum, you will be placed on Probation immediately,” he wrote.
This e-mail came seemingly in response to university President Reinharz’ announcement that the university would close Rose Art Museum Monday night, which sparked an outcry among students. The announcement also put the university in the spotlight of the national media.
Students who work for Phone-a-thon, are employed by the Office of Development and Alumni Relations to call alumni and other potential donors to seek gifts for the university.
David Nathan, Director of communications in the Office of Development and Alumni Relations said that he was “absolutely not aware” of the e-mail being sent.
However, one student who wished to remain anonymous for fear of losing his job said that he was hurt by the e-mail.
“I’m pretty pissed,” he said. “I feel like I have to chose between earning money and caring for the university. How can I not express my opinions?”
The student also pointed out that students working for Phone-a-thon are not allowed to give their last names to potential donors, meaning that if the students’ names were published in an article speaking out against the closing of the Art Museum, potential donors would have no way of knowing that these students were Phone-a-Thon employees.
Magida himself would not comment on the e-mail, however Nathan did tell The Hoot in a phone interview that, “the e-mail was misguided.”
“It was written and distributed without the knowledge of senior members of our office.”
According to an employee who wished to remain anonymous for fear of losing her job, at the emergency meeting Abelman said that the information in Mathew Magida’s earlier e-mail warning employees against commenting on the Rose Art Museum’s closing was incorrect.
At the meeting, a student asked Abelman why they had been e-mailed untrue information, to which Abelman responded that “It was a mistake, but he wouldn’t admit that it was an error on the part of Matt Magida who sent the e-mail.”
“The impression that I got was that this actually was the error on the part of the staff member who sent the e-mail and was not approved by the higher-ups,” an employee wrote to The Hoot. “I also spoke with some of the student supervisors, who have more direct contact with staff members, and they confirmed this, saying that, from what they observed, it was just an error.”
While the Office of Development and Alumni Relations does routinely monitor blogs and facebook, Nathan said it is more to “gage alumni sentiment, not to identify phone-a-thon workers and punish them.”
As to what disciplinary actions would be taken against Magida, Nathan refused to comment, saying, “that is a personnel issue.”
More posts by Ariel Wittenberg
- Learning history beyond the campus bubble - February 8, 2013
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- Shades of Gray: The Mosaic: the reality of race in social life - April 29, 2011
- ‘Shades of Gray’ in-focus: a journalist’s notebook - April 29, 2011
- Shades of Gray: The Architects: Pedagogy and race at Brandeis - April 15, 2011