Chatham University Issues Cease and Desist Letter to Chatham College Independent Alumnae Association
On Monday, June 9, 2014, the Chatham College Independent Alumnae Association (CIAA)/Save Chatham, through the Save Chatham Gmail account, received a letter from an attorney on behalf of Chatham University, issuing a request to cease and desist any and all uses of the term “Chatham.”
The letter, attached here, declares that Chatham University is the owner of the name and trademark “CHATHAM” and therefore they are concerned with our use of the name in any and all formats. Copied on the letter were the four individuals who had agreed to lead the formative committees for the CIAA/Save Chatham, and we were asked to provide written confirmation by June 20th that we would comply with the request.
The four individuals copied on the letter have been in conversation, both as a group and with legal representatives, to discuss the issue at hand and our possible responses. No decision has been reached yet, but we felt it important to let you, the members of the CIAA, know why we have had to stop all formative action until this issue is resolved. In addition, we feel the need to clarify a few points regarding the timing of this letter and the content therein.
The cease and desist letter was written and delivered via email to us on June 9, 2014. After some research on our part, we learned that the trademark request the letter speaks to, listed as “Educational services, namely, providing courses of instruction at the undergraduate and graduate level; alumni organization services” was not filed until June 6, 2014. We believe this indicates that Chatham had no long standing trademark of the name, and it was not until they perceived us to be a legitimate organization of alumnae that would not be dissolving after the co-ed vote occurred that they opted to trademark the name with the express purpose of requesting us to cease and desist use of the name. Indeed, to our knowledge, at no time before June 9th had anyone from Chatham University or its established alumni network ever ask the CIAA/Save Chatham organization or any of its publicized administrators to cease using the name, though even at that point the organization was clearly contrary to the university’s impending “mission and interest.”
Additionally, the letter states that the organization is currently raising funds. That is incorrect. At no time as Save Chatham, or in this initial stage of the CIAA, has there ever been a request made to raise funds. Conversations have occurred around whether this is something the disenfranchised alumnae of Chatham College (now University) would like to do, but it is purely an abstract conversation at this point, already delayed until a research committee could determine the best legal status for the organization and its ability to fundraise under that status.
In addition to the cease and desist letter, on June 11th, the four named individuals also received an email from Jennifer Potter Winton ’66, the current Chatham University Board of Trustees Chair. Her letter, attached here (with the only redaction being the email addresses of the four recipients), further explains the rationale behind the University’s decision to issue the request. She also expresses a (personal, and we assume institutional) hope that there can be reconciliation with alumnae to avoid a negative financial impact on students and faculty given potential diminishment of alumnae contributions to the University.
While many suggestions have been made between the announcement of the co-ed vote on February 18th and today’s date on how alumnae who no longer wish to support Chatham financially can use their donations in other ways, at no point has CIAA/Save Chatham, as an organization, declared that alumnae cannot continue to support Chatham, if they so wish. Indeed, the administrators of CIAA/Save Chatham have made it a point to remind alumnae that the decision to retain ties to the University, be they financial, volunteer, or participation in alumni events, remain solely with each alumna herself.
Any “destruction” of Chatham through the reallocation of alumnae discretionary funds that formerly would have gone to Chatham can only be seen as an individual disagreement with the University’s current mission and/or direction. Should CIAA/Save Chatham choose to fundraise in the future, each alumna contribution will be made with the express knowledge that their contribution will not be going to Chatham University, and they can make, or not make, that donation accordingly.
As was stated earlier, no decision has been made yet regarding the letters received requesting a cease and desist of all use of names including the word “Chatham.” Working with our legal counsel, we will have a formal answer by the deadline issued in the letter, and as soon as we are able to update you on that decision and any resulting action, we will let you know. Until that time we have suspended activity, and we ask that you continue to watch for updates. We look forward to working with interested alumnae, in whatever capacity we are able, in the near future.
The CIAA/Save Chatham administrators