Saturday, September 29, 2012

License To Fail

 No, the UMass license plate was not issued in June

After today's fail at Gillette Stadium in front of a sparse crowd -- making it five losses in a row -- it's unlikely the UMass Alumni Association will suddenly see an urgently needed surge in orders for the UMass license plate, now seriously stalled two-thirds of the way to the goal line.

After all, a license plate is the kind of thing serious sports minded fan boys savor more so than your average academic high achiever, who was probably too busy studying to attend tailgate parties and all the other fun things built around sports.

 Fourth loss in a row equals "strong showing."  Gotta love PR flaks

On August 3rd I received an email from the Alumni Association with the headline "UMass license plate is a go!" that certainly gave the impression 1,500 orders required by the Registry of Motor Vehicles had been attained.

Of course what they meant was the "overwhelming interest" had generated 1,500 pledges to buy the plate, but when it came time for the $40 down payment, over a third of those pledges went MIA.  And even though the original pitch set an order deadline of September 7 their Facebook page (with only 139 likes) is still passively soliciting buyers.

Interestingly the Alumni email uses the term "UMass Amherst License Plate" but the actual plate does not contain the name of our beloved town, Amherst.  Hmm ...

With a potential client base of over 110,000 UMass graduates living in Massachusetts you have to wonder why the organizers of this drive can't seem to motivate 1.4% of them to "Ride with UMass pride."

First off, the plate really costs $110, not $40.

A vanity plate requires a  $50 "special fee" on top of the  $40 "regular fee", plus an initial $20 swap fee or $110 total.  Then, every two years renewal is $90 -- more than twice the amount as a "regular" plate.

Then there's the matter of where the "profits" actually go.  The Alumni Association pitch  originally pulled at the heartstrings by suggesting all the money raised would fund scholarships for deserving in state students.

But the Alumni Association website leaves a lot of wiggle room:  "Proceeds from the special plate fee will support scholarships and programs provided by the Alumni Association that advance UMass Amherst." 

When the Alumni Association suddenly dropped annual dues in 2010 and automatically made every UMass graduate a member.  At the time the Vice Chancellor of alumni relations was claiming about 5,000 dues paying members at $40 each.

Although an alumni program still exists for "investors" at $50 each annually, the number of takers comprises less than half the former dues paying membership.

So it must be awful tempting to dip into a new source of funds (if they ever materialize).

Even if the Alumni Association does get 1,500 fans to pony up all associated costs, there's still a catch:  The RMV requires the sponsoring body post a $100,000 performance bond to guarantee an additional 1,500 plates will be sold in the second year or else forfeit some of the insurance bond money.

And if the Alumni Association is having this much trouble with the initial 1,500 sales, the second batch will be an even steeper hill to climb.  

Perhaps it's time for the Alumni Association to punt.  


Dr. Ed said...

I think this shows the extent to which the alumni value and cherish their experiences at UMass.

I wouldn't put one of these on my car if Jesus Christ came walking across the harbor and personally asked me to -- and everyone else I know feels the same way.

We want nothing to do with that university. Other than schadenfreude, NOTHING.

And what Larry is not saying - and may not know - is that the membership fee was dropped because so few 21st Century graduates were joining it that their percentage of alumni who were members was down into the single digits and dropping fast.

I hate UMass and everything associated with it in a way that I have never hated anything else and I am by no means the only person who feels this way.

And I am glad that they can't sell their alumni plates -- and the other thing Larry doesn't mention is that I don't think you have to be a UM grad to buy one, as I understand it, anyone who has taken just one course at UM can buy one.


Anonymous said...

Anyone can get the plate, it doesn't even say Alumni on it.

Larry Kelley said...

Yes, the state does require proof for a Purple Heart, Silver Star, Congressional Medal of Honor plate, but not a diploma for the UMass plate.

Anonymous said...

At an earlier point (I graduated 25 years ago), I would have jumped at the chance to buy a plate, because 1) I was proud that I had graduated from UMass (I got a good education there and had student jobs that prepared me well for the working world); 2) the cost would have seemed like a good cause; and 3) the UMass logo wasn't absolutely hideous. But now, my UMass pride has been tempered by my time as an Amherst resident. I resent the hell out of students who don't seem to give a crap about the town, its residents, other students, public and private property, noise, or even how and where to safely cross a road. And I don't think UMass as an institution really cares either. You literally couldn't pay me to put something UMass-related on my car.

Dr. Ed said...

proud that I had graduated from UMass (I got a good education there and had student jobs that prepared me well for the working world)

By contrast, the graduate of today is proud of having survived UMass and considers the diploma more of a receipt than an accomplishment. And the student jobs of today more help one understand the corruption of the Commonwealth than anything else.

Family connections, skin color and sexual orientation, in that order, far supersede both effort and ability --- and everyone knows it. The kids who are conscientious workers all have off-campus jobs now, that is why there are so many more cars.

Anonymous said...

The town of Amherst does not deserve to be on the license plate. As an alumni I want nothing to do with the town that surrounds my old institution. I had much interaction with the town through civic organizations, and participated in the local elections process. People would openly badmouth the school, then apologize to me about it after finding out I attended there. The town is ruled by stereotypes and anti-institutional news.

The town clearly does not want the school there; why honor it?

Larry Kelley said...

I can see why an Anon would not put any importance in a name.

"Branded, scorned as the one who ran. Branded, marked by a coward's shame. What do you do when your branded, will you fight for your name?"

Anonymous said...

The plate doesn't say "alum" for an obvious reason, you don't have to be an alum to proudly display it. You can be a parent, grandparent, faculty member or staff.

Guy Fawkes said...

Amherst has no importance aside from the school. The buses, library, economy... these all revolve around the school.

Think not of me as an anonymous poster, but the voices of the mass.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it's time for the Alumni Association to punt."

Thank you, Mr. Negativity, for your sage advice.

Larry Kelley said...

The sun will come out tomorrow ... tomorrow.

Or not.

Anonymous said...

Nothing Larry enjoys more than watching someone else fail. It gives hims something to smile about as he does the laundry.

Larry Kelley said...

Not to mention the dishes.

Anonymous said...

I much prefer paper plates.
It so irritates the treehuggers....