COD trustees, accreditation team will meet in public
When College of DuPage board members meet with an accreditation team Tuesday night, there won't be any question about who says what, because the session will be open to the public.
The three-person evaluation team from the Higher Learning Commission is scheduled to be on COD's campus Tuesday and Wednesday to investigate issues critics have raised about the Glen Ellyn-based school's administrative practices. The commission is trying to determine if the state's largest community college still meets all 21 criteria required for accreditation.
In addition to the public session with the board at 6 p.m. in the Student Services Center, evaluation team members plan to meet privately with administrators, faculty and students.
COD trustees legally could have met with commission representatives behind closed doors, but school officials decided instead to keep the meeting open.
"If they were here to talk about specific personnel matters or something like that, that would be one thing," said Trustee Deanne Mazzochi, who is an attorney. "But since they are here to evaluate criteria and college issues ... we should try to keep the meeting open."
Maintaining its accreditation is vital for COD, officials have said. If the college loses it, students could find it difficult to transfer credits to other institutions. It also could affect the college's ability to participate in financial aid programs.
The commission was expected to renew COD's accreditation for an eight-year period after giving the school a positive review last fall.
But the agency launched an inquiry after newspaper accounts raised questions about no-bid contracts for insiders, administrators dining at the school's upscale Waterleaf restaurant and other issues.
Until the commission representatives visiting COD report their findings, the college's pending reaccreditation will remain on hold.
COD board Chairwoman Kathy Hamilton said she's looking forward to the meeting with the evaluation team. She said the revamped board, operating with a new majority since May, is working to address all the issues raised about the school's administrative practices.
"We are reviewing our policies and they are consistent with criteria of accreditation for the college," she said. "The college offers a fabulous education, and what we do meets the criteria for accreditation."
In addition to meeting with the trustees, the commission representatives will have discussions with full- and part-time faculty members.
"It's my hope that faculty will be open and honest about the issues that we've brought forward to the learning commission before," COD Faculty Association President Glenn Hansen said.
It's unclear whether the evaluation team will speak to school President Robert Breuder, who is on paid administrative leave and was banned from campus after some board members questioned actions taken during his administration. A commission spokesman said he doesn't know if Breuder is scheduled to be interviewed.
Meanwhile, Trustee Frank Napolitano said he's "pretty confident" COD's accreditation will be renewed.
"I believe a lot of the policy changes that we have put in place will correct the things they had concerns about," Napolitano said.
From an academic standpoint, he said, "I don't think they have anything to be concerned about."