COD faculty called on Breuder to resign last September

  • Robert Breuder

    Robert Breuder

  • Glenn Hansen

    Glenn Hansen

  • College of DuPage President Robert Breuder listens to mostly unhappy public comments during special meeting last month to address the severance package awarded to him.

      College of DuPage President Robert Breuder listens to mostly unhappy public comments during special meeting last month to address the severance package awarded to him. Mark Black | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 2/20/2015 6:44 PM

The College of DuPage Faculty Association first called on President Robert Breuder to resign five months ago, according to a newly released document.

The union, which represents COD's 306 full-time faculty members, has gone public with the 14-page resolution detailing concerns that led it in September to take a historic vote of no confidence in Breuder.

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The report lists 10 major complaints about Breuder's leadership that include dissatisfaction with his financial priorities; concerns with his ability to balance his roles in academic leadership, management and administration; the loss of trust he has generated both on and off campus; and his "coercive, authoritarian and secretive" leadership style.

Breuder could not immediately be reached for comment, but college spokesman Joseph Moore said Breuder plans to release a response Monday that he originally prepared in October. "The answers will speak for themselves," Moore said.

The faculty resolution also called on Breuder, who has been with the college since January 2009, to step down immediately.

"He has shown repeatedly that he lacks the basic qualities and skills necessary to lead the institution ethically and responsibly," the document says. " ... We ask Dr. Breuder to resign for the good of the college and the district that we serve, and the board to select a new president who is an educator that shares the core ethical values of the college ..."

Faculty Association President Glenn Hansen said the union decided to release the report to make others aware that its concerns with Breuder go beyond the financial and transparency issues that have been much talked about in recent weeks after Breuder accepted a $762,868 buyout as part of an agreement that will have him retire in March 2016 -- roughly three years before his contract was scheduled to expire.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Hansen said the association offered to discuss its concerns with the school's board of trustees several times, but the board never took it up on the offer. He said the association was scheduled to meet with trustees Erin Birt, the board chairwoman, and Dianne McGuire in January, but Birt canceled the meeting and never asked to reschedule.

Birt and McGuire didn't immediately return telephone messages seeking comment.

Hansen said the association also decided to release details of its vote, which was tabulated Sept. 10, so the board and public would be aware of its concerns as the search begins for a new COD president.

"We wanted to have an impact on the conversation going forward," he said, "but also to make it clear that when you look for the next president, these are the issues to be aware of."

Breuder, who ran Harper College in Palatine from 1998 until his move to COD, was given a similar no-confidence vote in April 2001. At that time, Harper's faculty senate complained of his confrontational style.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Moore said the vote of no confidence at COD was part of an ongoing campaign to discredit Breuder and force him from office. He said that effort also includes a letter-writing campaign, grievance filings and other tactics "that unions use to discredit a president."

Moore said it's well-known that contract talks with the union in 2011 were contentious, but Breuder had been directed by the board to recapture some of what had been lost over the previous 20 years of negotiations.

He said officials have heard the COD faculty senate leadership "leaned heavily" on faculty members to support the no-confidence vote, especially newer and nontenured teachers. If that's true, he said, it would "reshape the results."

Hansen said nobody was pressured to participate in the vote. Union officials have said 250 of the 306 eligible members cast ballots, with 189 voting "no confidence." The remaining votes included 53 faculty members who supported Breuder and eight "spoiled" ballots.

The association report lists several characteristics of an ideal president, including someone who is able to establish fiscal priorities consistent with the college's mission; someone who can balance academic leadership, management and administration; someone who can build trust in a community of sometimes strongly divergent views; and someone who is "an inspirational leader with a clear vision and the ability to rally support for his ideas."

The report indicates Breuder falls short in virtually all those categories.

Among the faculty's complaints:

• Breuder failed to establish fiscal priorities consistent with the college's mission. "He has squandered large portions of $550 million slated to renovate and rebuild the college ... by spending money on projects not associated with the academic mission of the college." He also diverted large amounts of money to build up $200 million in reserves, the report says.

• "He has shown repeatedly he does not possess the skill necessary to balance his roles in academic leadership, management and administration."

• "Dr. Breuder has destroyed trust internally at the college and externally with the college district and so cannot implement effective and responsible changes ..."

• Breuder is a "coercive, authoritarian and secretive rather than an inspirational and collaborative leader. Tactics of intimidation and isolation, up to and including threats of dismissal, have become commonplace during his tenure ..."

• Breuder has "demonstrated a pattern of behavior that seriously draws into question his commitment to the college's core ethical values of honesty, integrity, respect and responsibility."

• Breuder has hired administrators at "very high salaries without comprehensive job searches ..."

• Breuder doesn't seek input from various groups when making decisions.

• Breuder "neither understands nor respects the unique culture of community colleges ..."

• Breuder "does not foster excellence in academic programs."

• Breuder has "shown a total lack of respect for the history, culture and the core ethical values and mission of the College of DuPage and its community by systematically destroying and replacing them with his preferences and vanity projects."

Moore said school officials received a letter from Hansen on Sept. 18 citing only three areas of concern: plans for a teaching and learning center, contention with Glen Ellyn, and a general lack of collegiality.

COD has been dealing with a firestorm of controversy since the board decided last month to approve the $762,868 retirement buyout of Breuder's contract.

Breuder's deal will pay him nearly three times his base salary when he retires. It also calls for the school to name its Homeland Security Education Center in his honor.

The deal sparked outrage from residents, students and faculty members. It also prompted several state lawmakers to propose several bills to prevent other public institutions from approving similar agreements. Some have called for a performance audit of COD finances since 2011.

COD Trustee Kathy Hamilton, a vocal Breuder critic, said she also believes Breuder "has personally soured the community's relationship with our first-class faculty. Since teaching is our mission, his alienating teachers to this breadth and depth is utterly inexcusable."

Trustee Kim Savage and McGuire told the Daily Herald earlier this week that their own support for Breuder was shaken as a result of the no-confidence vote.

On Friday, Savage said she shares "many of the concerns" expressed by the faculty members.

"I am hopeful that the board will select a new president that possesses the basic qualities and skills that the faculty, students and community expect in a leader," Savage said. "The search process should include input from all stakeholder groups. We are starting a new chapter. We need to move on."

Hansen said the association didn't publicly say in September that it wanted Breuder to resign because it was hoping Breuder would leave the college quietly.

"We were trying to work something out with the board so that he could leave in an honorable way," Hansen said. "That's why I wanted to meet with the board. I didn't want to go public with it, but they chose not to do that."

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