Friday, June 6, 2008

Night of the long knife

The Tuesday after Memorial Day began my third sojourn at Argonne National Labs, working with some COD students in the newly named Chemical Science and Engineering Division (it used to be CMT - Chemical Engineering Technology - how does one get CMT out of that?) on fuel cells. The previous day we had indulged in a quiet and meditative stroll around Oak Park gazing enviously at all the Frank Lloyd Wright houses and their knock-offs, remarking at the alarming number of Obama signs in front lawns. The day did not pass completely without incident as there was a tense moment at Poor Phil's over some incorrectly identified Three Floyds Dreadnaught. Just for the record, it's not Dreadnaught, despite their claims; but at least we didn't pay for it.

Anyway, back to the Tuesday, I did not get to read my e-m until early evening and so was completely shocked upon opening the mailbox to find an "Official Communication" informing the "transitioning" of President Sunil Chand to the position of "President Emeritus" effective immediately. In other words he had been whacked that very day, on the quiet of a Tuesday after Memorial Day, with all the students and most of the faculty gone to the country, in a hastily gathered and private board meeting. The gang of thugs, dummies and failed political hopefuls that is the BoT of COD had just performed its Soprano-esque dispatch of our leader.

Trustees of the College of DuPage regularly take the opportunity to say when the microphone is on that decisions are made with the interests of taxpayers in mind. Many decisions that have been made call this into question however. For the second time in five years the college will be paying for two presidents as Dr. Chand is under contract and a replacement, Hal McAninch, he of the Arts Center, had to be brought in as interim. The likely cost of this as-yet unexplained move is about $400,000. History reveals several other questionable costly actions by the Board. Notable examples include $650,000 for a parking lot that was never used, and $90,000 for a PR firm hired preemptively without discussion with the administration. One could go on: the soccer stadium fantasy, the Costa Rica cock-up...

More damaging to the COD infrastructure than these individual actions is the Board's intrusive, bullying and meddling style. Research revealed a review of the college performed in 1999 – 2000 by James Fisher, Ltd. In this breathtakingly scathing report the Board is described as being "…persistently guilty of inappropriate interference in the college's operations." There are other gems too: "Many of its actions provide text book case studies of how a board of control should not exercise its responsibilities."

Clearly the present group has neither read from nor heeded the message. Concerned taxpayers have a right to hear explanations about expensive and disruptive Board decisions. They also have opportunity and responsibility to make changes. There are four seats up for election in 2009. I urge voters to choose candidates that are committed to creating a board dedicated to strategic long-term governance rather than costly micro-management.

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