Breuder: COD union's accusations are 'irresponsible and unfounded'

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

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

  • Robert Breuder

    Robert Breuder

 
 

College of DuPage President Robert Breuder responded Monday to a teachers union report blasting his administration by releasing a 34-page document that accuses his critics of making "irresponsible and unfounded accusations."

Last week, the College of DuPage Faculty Association -- the union representing the Glen Ellyn-based community college's 306 full-time faculty members -- went public with the resolution detailing concerns that led it in September to take a vote of no confidence in Breuder, who has been with the college since January 2009.

That 14-page 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 responded with a lengthy statement addressing an extensive list of issues, from the 2009 redesign of the school mascot to claims the college has a toxic environment.

Breuder said his administration's accomplishments "speak for themselves."

"No amount of unfounded criticism or bullying from a cadre of angry faculty who believe they are the epicenter of the college (and) who will never appreciate this great institution will jeopardize our future," Breuder wrote. "We have built a strong root structure that can withstand hurtful people. Our branches will sway and one or two will be lost, but the tree itself survives."

The faculty association's resolution, which called on Breuder to resign, was released after COD trustees came under fire for voting in January to give Breuder 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.

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The retirement package sparked criticism on many fronts, including from some state lawmakers who have proposed multiple pieces of legislation to prevent other public institutions from giving similar packages in the future.

Since that vote, some college trustees have said the faculty's vote of no confidence inspired them to seek a change in leadership.

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.

But a spokesman said the latest vote of no confidence at COD was part of an ongoing campaign to discredit Breuder and force him from office.

As part of the September vote, 250 of the 306 eligible members cast ballots, with 189 voting "no confidence," union officials said. Fifty-three faculty members supported Breuder.

Breuder said he wasn't surprised by the no-confidence vote at COD. He said the unhappiness originated in 2009, when the faculty union wasn't pleased with the search that resulted in his hiring.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"An antagonistic relationship existed between union leadership and the (former board Chairman Michael) McKinnon board of trustees," Breuder wrote. "The national search culminated in my appointment, much to the chagrin of the union who saw the search process as flawed."

When the economy took a turn for the worse, Breuder said there was an opportunity to "realign and reconstitute expenses" with the approaching expiration of employment contracts with the school's four unions.

"This additional (union) list (of complaints) is nothing more than piling on," Breuder wrote. "Continue to throw everything possible, even if it has no merit. Continue to discredit the administration at all cost. The 'bury the enemy' mentality will not have the effect the Senate leadership hopes."

On Monday, Faculty Association President Glenn Hansen said he had not yet finished reading Breuder's response. But he said Breuder still is missing the point.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"He doesn't understand that it's not about me, and it's not about the union," Hansen said. "It's the full-time faculty who are individuals, who are people, who have all their own reasons besides these, that are unhappy with his leadership. What he doesn't address yet is the internal climate."

Specific issues Breuder addresses in his response include the elimination of college programs, the past tensions between the college and the village of Glen Ellyn, and a perceived reduction in funding for supplies.

Among his responses:

• Breuder says faculty members had input in developing educational specifications for building projects at the college.

• He says hiring practices at COD are designed to find the most qualified candidates.

• He says the college added more than 60 degree and certificate programs in the past five years.

• In response to claims that Breuder de-annexed the college from Glen Ellyn, the president said the school has never been de-annexed and continues to pay applicable village taxes. He said the village and college reached an agreement in 2012, giving authority over college campus construction to DuPage County while the college remained incorporated in the village.

• In response to claims of a toxic environment at COD, Breuder said surveys from last year indicated employees were more proud of working at COD now than they were in 2010, and a majority of students who responded said COD was their first or second choice for higher education.

"We are the flagship community college in the state, which others look to for innovation, change and excellence," Breuder wrote. "I believe there are many faculty who share this view and hope one day they have the courage to stand tall and speak out. I know many will not. Not because they fear the administration. They fear their faculty colleagues' reprisal. This is not how I would choose to live and work."

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