Editorial: Breuder, Hamilton and a year of COD tumult

  • More than 300 people attended the College of DuPage board's special meeting to address the severance package awarded President Robert Breuder.

      More than 300 people attended the College of DuPage board's special meeting to address the severance package awarded President Robert Breuder. Mark Black | Staff Photographer

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Updated 12/31/2015 1:28 PM

That it has been a tumultuous year at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, there can be no dispute.

The year began with explosive meetings, an unexplained buyout package for the president, exposés on spending at the now-shuttered Waterleaf restaurant, breathtaking charge after breathtaking charge, subpoenas from the state's attorney's office, subpoenas from federal authorities, an institution under assault.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

How much is smoke and how much is fire is a bit hard to say. But what is clear is that the once-stellar reputation of what once was one of the suburbs' proudest institutions now rests in tatters.

That there was a political factor in all of this, there also is no doubt. In the spring election, a so-called reform faction seized control of the board, installing maverick Kathy Hamilton as chairwoman.

Immediately, she moved to place President Robert Breuder on leave, forbidding him even to appear on campus and in essence shutting him out of the accreditation investigation that by then was responding to the uproar at the state's largest community college.

As time moved on, the focus of controversy began to shift. Once it was all on Breuder, but increasingly, the spotlight soured on his chief adversary Hamilton, who turned out to be a better critic than leader.

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Joseph Collins, the "acting interim" president she installed, complained about her hands-on style. The old-guard faction, now a minority on the board, complained that she kept them out of the loop and filed Freedom of Information Act requests for records that typically are available without challenge. In an odd meeting with our Editorial Board, Hamilton conceded that much of the scandal at the college that had been so highly publicized prior to her faction's election was "political." An audio of an executive session board discussion of Breuder's buyout package turned up showing Hamilton to be complimentary of the settlement behind closed doors while harshly criticizing it in public. She spent money on lawyers and consultants with abandon.

Ultimately, Breuder was fired on a split vote and his buyout package eliminated. Predictably, he sued. Where that all will end and how much it will cost, the lawyers and very possibly the courts will decide.

Meanwhile, Hamilton and the board moved to pursue search efforts for a new president. But even that provoked controversy, possibly even with members of Hamilton's own faction although if it did, they aren't saying. Whatever the case, there were terse exchanges during a public meeting on the subject and a charge that Hamilton had exceeded the board's spending authorization.

Finally, the Higher Learning Commission issued its rebuke: A stunning two-year probation that cast aspersions both on college operations under Breuder and board interactions under Hamilton.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Then suddenly, Hamilton was gone, resigning without explanation on a late Sunday afternoon. Just as suddenly, the board has no apparent majority but two evenly weighted factions that must figure out how to get along.

Talk about someone caught in the middle, you have to wonder what it's like to be Joe Collins these days. He offered a glimpse in a refreshingly candid interview with the Suburban Life that included some words of praise for Breuder.

It has been a tumultuous year at the College of DuPage. Here's to a year in 2016 with a little less tumult. Here's to a year of putting 2015 behind and moving forward on common ground.

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