Four members of the Mills College board of directors filed a lawsuit against a small number of Mills College administrators last month to slow down the impending closure of the college.
Private liberal arts college in Oakland, California, Announced in March No more recruiting new students-this is the first step in the final closure.Recently, the college stated that it is negotiating Acquired by Northeastern University.
The plaintiffs Adrienne Foster, Viji Nakka-Cammauf, Tara Singh, and Deborah Wood are asking the Alameda County High Court judge to issue restraining orders against the dean of the college, Elizabeth Hillman, and other college administrators and members. Mills College Board of Trustees. The order will prevent the defendants from closing the college or making a potential acquisition of Northeastern University until 60 days after they provide the trustee with the required financial information.
The lawsuit highlights the huge disagreements between trustees, alumni, and university officials over how an institution that has been struggling financially for years should move forward. University officials have repeatedly tried to balance Mills’ budget in the past few years.they Declare a financial emergency, Fired dozens of faculty and staff, and in 2017 Reset tuition. They also implemented a Financial Stability Plan with Even the signed works are sold From Shakespeare and Mozart.
The lawsuit stated: “This action took place at a critical moment-in fact, a critical moment-for Mills’ future and its existence.” “In the past few months, Mills-the defendant was at the helm of the college and its board of directors. -Publicly announced the imminent closure, and the apparent end of that. However, these plaintiff trustees have not yet approved such actions or such messaging. In fact, the plaintiffs are not even required to authorize such actions. As far as they know, the board of directors None of the other members.”
The four plaintiffs are also alumni of the college and serve on the board of the Mills College Alumni Association. Alexa Pagonas, a spokesperson for the association, said they were caught off guard by the college’s closure and acquisition announcement.
“The trustee believes that they have voted to start a dialogue about closing the college,” she said. “They don’t believe they voted to close this university.”
The plaintiff also stated that Hillman and other Mills executives refused to share the requested financial information with the trustee, and asked the trustee to “review, consider and vote on the proposed action for their refusal to provide information,” according to the lawsuit.
Hillman was one of the nine defendants mentioned in the indictment, and he lashed out at the plaintiff’s actions.
Hillman wrote in a statement released on Friday: “The lawsuit filed by the four alumni trustees is actually incorrect and legally wrong. It undermines confidence in the leadership of the college.” “All other Mills College alumni on the Mills College Board of Trustees agreed that they reviewed enough information to make all decisions about the college’s future.”
Hillman also stated that one plaintiff’s term on the board of directors expired at the end of June, and two of the plaintiffs will withdraw from the lawsuit. A spokesperson for the university declined to disclose who Hillman was referring to the plaintiff. The plaintiff’s lawyer did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.
The defendants also include Katie Sanborn, chairman of the board of directors; Maria Cammarata, vice president of finance and administration and treasurer of the college; and Renée Jadushlever, vice president of the college in charge of strategic communications and operations.
After students and employees went on strike on campus in 1990 because the college decided to mix men and women, college officials reformed the board of directors to include several alumni trustees who were elected by the alumni association and served on the association’s board of directors .
“The point is to be able to create transparency in the dialogue between the two groups,” Pagonas said.
The alumni association is funding the trustee’s legal battle. According to the Alumni Association website, the association spent $165,905 in April and May alone to retain the Greenberg Traurig law firm and hire a forensic accountant and higher education consultant.
The website said: “Some people have discussed that litigation itself can easily cost millions of dollars, and that litigation should only start if they promise a complete settlement.”
The association will use its general fund to pay legal fees and plans to initiate fundraising activities to support legal work. According to the website, several anonymous alumni of the Alumni Division of Los Angeles Mills College have pledged to provide sufficient funds to cover the expenses so far.
Hillman suggested that the association should spend money on students and alumni.
She wrote in the statement: “We urge the Mills College Alumni Association to reinvest resources to support our students and Mills College instead of funding a costly legal battle.”
Save Mills College Coalition-a group of Mills students, parents, alumni and employees who advocate for the university to remain open and independent-supports the legal actions of alumni trustees.
“We are very grateful to them,” said Darcy Totten, a spokesperson for the alliance. “I am very happy that they are brave and show a real commitment to their duties as trustees and try to truly set what I think is an example of effective leadership.”