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.

Thank you.

The CIAA/Save Chatham administrators

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16 responses to “Chatham University Issues Cease and Desist Letter to Chatham College Independent Alumnae Association”

  1. mekung@comcast.net says :

    I am intrigued with the “owner and trademark of the word Chatham” on the part of the University because there is a Chatham Hall secondary school in Virginia and I wonder how they feel about this!  I visited Chatham Hall when I was in the admissions office in the middle 60’s and they were still smarting about Chatham choosing that name as they thought it was theirs .  I don’t know when they were founded but they did have the Chatham name way, way before we did.

    Marcia S. Kung ’60

  2. jasminerose says :

    Wow…here I thought they didn’t need us; didn’t feel our numbers worrisome (as far as how many of us there were). And for the love of all that is holy why do they have time/money to issue a cease and desist letter. There is so much to say and yet I’m speechless….

  3. Autumn says :

    And what about Chatham Center Garage? Geesh, they’re going to have their work cut out for them with all these “Chathams” floating around! You have my full support, ladies. Whatever the outcome, let’s not let this stop us.

    • sandykmiquon says :

      I guess that Chatham, MA will now have to change its name…(!)

      Interestingly, I did a Google search for colleges w/sustainability majors. While there were over 100 listed, none of them looked or sounded like “it which shall not be named”. Another well-kept secret??
      Sandy Kuritzky

  4. Tricia Chicka says :

    I wonder the same thing as Marcia. I know of several “Chathams”. And was this trademark request only “filed” not “issued”? If it hasn’t been issued yet, doesn’t that mean we could potentially fight the trademark?

  5. Kate Buffum Newmark says :

    Chatham, NJ
    Chatham, MA
    Chatham, NY
    Chatham, GA
    Chatham, NC
    Chatham, LA
    Chatham, IL
    Chatham, Ontario
    Chatham, Kent
    None of the public school districts in these towns are allowed to have an alum association? Puhleeeeze.

  6. aziza says :

    Wow. Thanks for the update. Agree with this wonderfully written note… this is chatham admin at its worst: incredibly insecure and vengeful. I can only speak for myself when I say this only serves to further alienate alumni who are vehemently disagree with the decision to go co-ed – for business reasons as well as sentimental ones. Will continue to fully support the independent association… name change or not!

  7. Kelly says :

    Chatham is a place in England, and other locations… It is also a person’s name – William Pitt was the Earl of Chatham (thus the name for the school). There are also countless companies which bare the name…

  8. Krystle Bates says :

    Well if they want to act childish why don’t we respond with cease and disist letters of our own: ask them to stop asking us for money.

  9. Sara says :

    If they filed June 6th doesn’t that mean that they won’t know for sure if it got approved until at least September?
    Do they have claim over a self-labeled independent association that has legitimate ties to the university?

  10. Cassie says :

    Immediately when Chatham U announced plans to go co-ed, and repeatedly since that point, MANY alumnae warned CU that if the school went co-ed, they would do so at the risk of losing alumnae donations. Esther, Sigo Falk, and others affiliated with CU repeatedly stated that the number of alumnae donations was so tiny that our donations didn’t matter. We were told, very clearly and repeatedly, that our donations did not make a difference to Chatham students. We were told we had no financial power. But now, suddenly, CIAA/Save Chatham is a threat because alumnae might not donate to Chatham U??? Oh ok, that makes total sense.

    Esther and the board intentionally ran off their alumnae, and now they’re mad that the alumnae aren’t coming back. They have to live with the consequences of going co-ed. Stopping CIAA from using a name (a name they didn’t even care about before) won’t bring alumnae back. It’ll actually do more to alienate us.

  11. sandykmiquon says :

    I agree, Cassie.
    Sandy Kuritzky

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