After more than six months on paid administrative leave, the fate of embattled College of DuPage (CoD) President Robert Breuder may finally be resolved Tuesday evening.
The college Board of Trustees has scheduled a special meeting for 6 p.m. with a “Resolution to Terminate the Employment of the College President” as the only specific item of business on the agenda.
That follows the release of a report from the Higher Learning Commission, which accredits CoD and dozens of other institutions, laying out reasons for concern that could lead to probationary status for the college.
The proposed resolution to terminate Breuder lists eight specific charges including improper electioneering, mismanaging college and foundation funds, and improper conduct regarding a state grant.
The HLC team that visited the Glen Ellyn campus in July found evidence that “raises concerns regarding whether College of DuPage operates with integrity and/or follows its own policies and procedures for fair and ethical behavior.”
HLC review of board records for more than a year prior to the visit resulted in the conclusion that “the Board’s deliberations do not always appear to reflect priorities to preserve and enhance the institution and raises questions about whether the Board’s conduct is responsible in terms of its oversight of the institution.”
The report noted that the new board majority of Chairwoman Kathy Hamilton and three new members elected as reform candidates last spring is very “hands on” and that Hamilton, who has been on the board since 2013, “characterized herself to the Acting Interim President as ‘the boss’.”
The report also quoted Student Trustee Gloria Roark’s description of board discussions: “Many times the discussion progresses and falls into a political or financial debate accompanied by bickering that focuses on the past and rarely the future.”
This latest report, issued to CoD on Oct. 12, is the second report by HLC in the past 14 months. A “Quality Checkup Report” was presented in September 2014 following a campus visit in May of that year. That report is a normal step in the accreditation cycle, according to HLC.
The Quality Checkup Report did not express the concerns that were discovered during the July visit, which requested a response by Oct. 29.
CoD Acting Interim President Joseph Collins said in a statement that the college would need more time.
“To report comprehensively on COD’s remediation and progress against the very issues identified by HLC, and other advances at the College,” he said, “we are requesting a 60-day extension for our formal response.”
Hamilton said in the same statement that “COD will take every necessary step to answer the HLC’s concerns … We will do so in full compliance with the HLC’s criteria.”
The board also posted a list of more than 30 “Actions and Board Policy Changes” enacted since April 30 under the new board majority.
Among the issues cited in the HLC report were:
- Breuder’s actions regarding a $20 million state construction grant
- The faculty vote of no confidence in Breuder
- Construction and other contracts awarded to vendors associated with CoD Foundation Board members – some without bids
- Improper investment of CoD funds in violation of established rules and procedures
- Excessive expenses by Breuder and other college officials for food and alcohol at the college’s fine-dining restaurant
- Contractual perquisites for Breuder that included dues at a shooting club, limousine rides, wine purchases, and global satellite phones
- A contract “buyout” for Breuder worth more than $760,000 approved by the board before the spring election
- The Board of Trustees censure of Trustee Hamilton for comments about Breuder, other members of the administration, and fellow board members
- Questionable employment and purchasing practices at the CoD radio station
- A “general lack of civility and professionalism” during Board of Trustees discussions
- A lack of formal training in ethics policies and practices
Breuder became president of CoD in 2008, six days after he “retired” from Harper College with a severance package worth roughly $550,000. At CoD, his annual compensation package has risen to nearly $485,000.