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Letter to the editor: UB alumnus feels defrauded after donating to swimming and diving teams before Athletics' cuts


Dear Mr. Tripathi,

I agreed to become a Sponsor Level Donor with the expectation of donating up to $50,000 to the University at Buffalo men’s swim/dive program, because I was led to believe that I was investing in the future of this program, a program which supported kids, like me, who spent much of their childhoods training 3-5 hours a day on a pool deck in order to be able to pay for college. As this warming altruistic thought went, a nobler investment could not exist.

It is both unprecedented and shocking that on April 3 the University at Buffalo, with absolutely no notice, no public input, and no alumni contact or input, would announce that it was ending the men’s swim/dive program, along with three (3) other sports. See attached Exhibit. No thought apparently was given to the shocking fact that the time to apply to other schools’ swim/dive programs and/or to obtain scholarship monies, had already passed for the UB swim/dive team members. Student athletes who have spent typically 5 hours a day for their entire lives training and competing to be the next Michael Phelps, have had their dreams ripped from them from the very people they were supposed to be looking up to. This is plainly outrageous and immoral.

The improper conduct was even present just days before the University at Buffalo’s surprise April 3 announcement; the Athletic Department was reportedly out in full force recruiting and “signing up” more incoming Freshman swimmers/divers, aka victims now, for the fall semester, as if the administration had not totaled up enough victims with all of the kids who had already entrusted their swimming/diving careers to the University at Buffalo. Because of this, administration’s immoral conduct, failure to live up to its promises, and more specifically, its reported failure to disclose its true intentions to warn swimmer/divers in a timely manner, these young students forwent real opportunities and meaningful scholarship awards at other schools; now, it is just simply too late…the money and opportunities have already been given away.

The apparent decision-maker and supposed example to the students at the University, you, President Tripathi, refused to discuss the matter with objecting alumni, including alumni donors, by retreating to your very disconnected ivory tower. Apparently, it was just a simple business decision to you; notably, your life was unaffected by your decision.

This is particularly true when just shortly after your surprise announcement, a group of themen’s and women’s swim/dive team alumni presented to the Athletic Director a bona fide Endowment Plan, that had worked well at other Universities, to fund the men’s swim/dive teamat no cost to the University. This Alumni group was informed that you would not even attend a meeting to discuss the matter, which is perplexing sinceyour stated reason for termination of the men’s swim/dive teamwas lack of funding. You were being handed the funding yet you refused it. Your response indicated to me that there existed a very high degree of frivolousness and indifference in which your injurious decision wasmade, perhaps even hubris.

The timing at this late date in the school year appears obviously calculated to drag any negative publicity or talk of ruined student athletes into the silent obscurity of the summer vacation. When the fall semester comes around, “Voila,” no one is left to complain since all of President Tripathi’s student athlete victims are no longer around.

It is simple Mr. President, you promised these college kids a swim/dive team, they relied on your promise by attending the University at Buffalo and foregoing all other collegiate swim/dive teams and scholarships, and now you are reneging on your promises. Promises made, promises broken! No notice given to lessen the blow.

Similarly, the University solicited thousands upon thousands of dollars, if not millions, from alumni of the sports programs, just like the men’s swim/dive program, promising it to be an investment in the school’s team, while never disclosing the highly material fact that the University was already actively considering the termination of these sports teams. Thus,there was no investment, just an utter waste of alumni money. Thatwas never disclosed, among other things.

It is my opinion that a court could determine that the University at Buffalo’s swim/dive program alumni fundraising was highly improper and actionable. Personally, I feel as if I have been defrauded.

This begs the fundamental question, why would any alumnus donate to an institution whose administration cannot be trusted? It is my opinion that this was an immoral decision, plain and simple. Moral failures never occur in isolation; they permeate one’s character and judgment. Thus, howcan any alumnus donating to any sport or academic program at the University at Buffalo believe that their sport or program will remain intact. Today, the bell rung for men’s swim/diveteam alumni, tomorrow the bell may ring for other alumni donating groups.

Demand is hereby made for the immediate return of the $15,000 I have already donated on my $50,000 dollar written commitment as well as release from my commitment. In addition, I am formally putting the University at Buffalo on notice that every fundraising dollar received from the alumni of any cancelled sports are ill-gotten gains, the fruits of the University’s improper conduct, and shall be returned as well.

Demand is hereby made that the University abate its decision for a period of two (2) years before terminating the men’s swim/dive team so as to permit its current and incoming student athletes to continue training and competing until they can arrange a transfer to another University. Further, that an Alumni Endowment plan be permitted time to be put in place.

GOVERN YOURSELF ACCORDINGLY.

Sincerely,

/s/ Richard J. Lydecker

Richard J. Lydecker, Esq.



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