Peace alumnae, students cut off donations

Posted August 2, 2011 9:57 p.m. EDT
Updated August 3, 2011 7:04 a.m. EDT

— Some alumnae and students at Peace College in Raleigh said they are suspending or canceling donations to the school in light of the administration's decision to change the college's name and admit male students next year.

"By suspending or canceling gifts, it's one way to send a message," alumna Karen Sinclair said Tuesday. "The way some things have rolled out, that's really the only way we've had to express our concerns." 

Peace College President Debra Townsley said the changes to the 154-year-old women's college, which will be called William Peace University starting in the fall, boil down to economics. She said admitting men is a measure to increase enrollment and bring in more money.

Approximately 80 percent of the college's revenues come from tuition, so increasing enrollment should raise more funds, Julie Ricciardi, vice president of development, said. It's a better way than increasing tuition, she said.

Students and graduates said they feel left out of the decisions and don't want to support a school that is changing its focus.

Sinclair said donors aren't necessarily averse to change but want to be part of the process. 

"You want to feel like the gift, as well as the gift of your time, is going to support a shared mission," Sinclair said. "With that mission changing so significantly, we all have to reassess if this is indeed where we want to put our resources."

Sinclair, a donor for the past 10 years, said she has suspended her monetary gift to the school. 

"Nearly everyone I have talked to have stopped all giving due to the secrecy and general lack of regard for alumnae by Townsley," Class of 2000 alumna Jamie Averette Mitchell said.

Tildsley Clifford, a 2008 graduate of Peace College, said she won't be donating to the school anymore because of the changes.

"What little I do have will not go to William Peace University. My alma mater is Peace College. Why would I donate to a school that is not printed on my diploma?" Clifford said.

Ricciardi said the college is planning ways to reach out to alumnae and celebrate the college's traditions and history.

"Our alumnae have always been passionate, and we hope that they will embrace this opportunity," Ricciardi said in a statement.

An online petition to remove Townsley started before the announcement of the name change. Organizers would not say how many signatures the petition has, but said alumnae response has been swift and encouraging.