Editorial: It's leaders' responsibility to 'move forward' at College of DuPage
It's long past a time when cooler heads might prevail at the helm of College of DuPage, but, in spite of a downpour of negative news this month, the opportunity always exists for everyone who cares about the college to stand tall, take a deep breath and, in the oft-used phrase of new COD Board President Kathy Hamilton, concentrate on moving forward.
Fortunately, for the college and its students, COD has maintained an excellent academic reputation despite the messy politics that have roiled its leadership for the past year and a half. And, it's interesting to note that the scolding the college took in the Higher Learning Commission's accreditation report last week had little to do with instruction or curriculum and much to do with leadership -- both before and after the departure of President Robert Breuder.
COD is not just a solid institution; it is an exemplary one, with outstanding academic credentials, high standards and an active, engaged student body. Such characteristics did not develop overnight and are attributable to no single individual or administration. But the actions of the coming months and years certainly could test their endurance.
Now, Breuder is officially fired, and he has filed suit against a board he feels has wronged him. The college also faces threatened suits by two fired Breuder-era administrators who feel that they too are being unfairly singled out. In such an environment, it's hard to see a scenario with a positive ending for anyone, but whatever happens as the issue winds through the courts, it is important for the public, the board, the teachers and the students of COD to remember the college's first mission -- to provide the best possible instruction for post-secondary learners in DuPage County.
Hamilton, responding to the HLC's complaints the COD board is micromanaging its administrators while not managing its own activities particularly well, says reforms now in place should help address problems of integrity cited by the HLC. She adds that under the circumstances, "a little micromanaging is not really a bad thing" and insists she's working "to have people get along better." Acting Interim President Joseph Collins says the micromanaging he sensed previously has decreased.
OK. But the clear message of the HLC report -- and the impression any reasonable observer of COD's recent affairs would have -- is that the college cannot continue to be run the way it has been for the past several years, up to and including the present day. This directive must surely be prominent as the board seeks a permanent replacement for Breuder, and just as surely should drive every discussion and action the board takes from this point forward.
The nasty politics of COD's leadership cannot help but attract the public's attention -- and they certainly demand to be watched carefully by anyone with an affection for or interest in the institution. But with forthright resolve and an unwavering commitment to students, the distraction can be just a temporary stain and not a debilitating injury to the school, its programs and its reputation.