Many politicians across party lines turn a blind eye to College of DuPage scandal
With the College of DuPage (COD) shrouded in controversy of late, the Illinois' delegation to Washington D.C. has been all but silent on the biggest active scandal in higher education in Illinois, which involves allegations of unethical behavior and fraud.
"Across party lines, more visible, influential politicians are AWOL," Adam Andrzejewski, founder of OpenTheBooks.com and one of the people who helped bring the unethical behavior at COD to light, recently told Higher Ed Tribune. "Local state representatives have been more attentive to the issue."
The community college in the Chicago suburb of Glen Ellyn was placed on a two-year probation earlier this month by the Higher Learning Commission due to concerns about its financial and academic integrity based on investigations finding excessive spending and fraud committed by high-ranking administrative officials.
"The scandals at College of DuPage have been front page news for the last 18 months," Andrzejewski said. "Our oversight at COD proved the need for robust financial transparency. Every dime of public spending must be subject to sunlight, which allows for stakeholder scrutiny."
COD drew public outrage after its former board of trustees offered a $763,000 exit package to President Robert Breuder three years before his contract ended. Breuder was eventually fired by a new board of trustees, but not before his extravagant use of taxpayer money came to light, including thousands of dollars spent on meals and wine, satellite phones paid for with taxpayer money so he could keep in touch with the school while on safari in Botswana and membership in a shooting club.
"True stakeholders, such as students, college faculty and local property taxpayers, were most harmed by previous administration and college governance practices." Andrzejewski said.
Andrzejewski explained that the COD violated its reputation as one of the best community colleges in Illinois because, "Only the connected contractors and politicians mattered to the COD administrators. Tuition, spending and taxes were repeatedly hiked to benefit these insiders and, of course, the administrators ‘gamed-the-system’ for themselves."
During its investigation, the Higher Learning Commission also voiced concerns about whether "the institution’s mission demonstrates commitment to the public good" and whether "the governing board is sufficiently autonomous to make decisions in the best interest of the institution and to assure its integrity."
The commission said the college was out of compliance with criteria that "the institution operates with integrity in its financial, academic, personnel, and auxiliary functions and it establishes and follows policies and processes for fair and ethical behavior on the part of its governing board, administration, faculty and staff."
Even with an interim president in place, the College of DuPage remains in turmoil with the board of trustee's chairwoman suddenly resigning soon after the Higher Learning Commission handed down its ruling, leaving the board evenly split between two groups.
A meeting of the remaining six trustees the day after the commission's ruling had to be canceled after three board members boycotted it. Those members have since ended their boycott and called
for a special meeting on Jan. 7 to elect a new chairperson.
As for students at the College of DuPage, the commission's action does not affect their ability to receive academic credits or transfer them to another institution, school officials have said; and the college will remain accredited by the Higher Learning Commission during its probationary period.