What’s important to note: Waterleaf scandal

Kelly Wynne, Features Editor

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College of DuPage recently graced the front page of Chicago Tribune with yet another scandal. The article dug deep into costs spent by top-level administrators, particularly those of President Robert Breuder, at Waterleaf, COD’s fine dining restaurant.

It was highlighted that checks collected by the president and senior managers totaled over $190,000 over the course of a couple years, and have been picked up by the college, using what is understood to be taxpayer money. While many of these purchases were spent on meals and parties, a large amount was spent on pricy alcohol, some noted to be for board members at pre-board meeting parties.

Along with these accusations it was revealed that Waterleaf has lost over $2 million since it’s opening in 2011.

I think we can all agree some changes are needed. While other college employees may disagree, I believe Waterleaf is an important resource for students to have on campus. Its  spotlighted faults weigh heavily on its mishandlings by the college’s administration. The restaurant may be in the red, but an educational establishment’s first priority should not be its revenue. Waterleaf would be better served as a completely student-run organization focused on giving hospitality and culinary majors the best possible hands-on experience.

The Tribune article speaks of the fact that Waterleaf is said to be a facility built for educational purposes, but only allows student access over the course of two classes. While it is implied that students get the first hand restaurant experience when pursuing a hospitality or culinary degree, the reality is that students are only working the restaurant two days a week, Monday and Tuesday when there is little to no traffic.

As a student who has taken one hospitality class at the college, I cannot speak with extensive firsthand knowledge, but I can say the Waterleaf experience is highly stressed. The program’s coursework depends on in-house experience in both Waterleaf and Wheat Café, each of which the Culinary and Hospitality Center is proud to include. Having a fine dining experience for students to operate, even in small stretches, gives all in the culinary and hospitality departments a hand up over students elsewhere with no behind the scenes experience.

The problem is this learning resource is being misused by those higher up on campus. Could this be partially to blame for the major financial loss of the restaurant? Maybe, but what really sticks out as a problem to me is those making the college’s most public decisions are having parties, alcohol included, before they head to work.

The checks racked up by college employees are hard to defend, but I’m going to let Breuder off the hook for this one. Another finger has been pointed at our recently villainized president, but in this case he is just one of many committing the same offense. Yes, his bills are the lengthiest at Waterleaf, and putting those expenses on the college is a bogus move, but this fault is on the college’s hands because they have continuously encouraged the behavior by paying off each tab.

The only thing we know for sure is the future of Waterleaf looks shaky. Media focus is bound to stay on the administration’s heels, hoping to expose more behind-closed-doors meal deals. As students, it is important to focus on the establishment’s purpose. This is a place mainly provided for our learning experience. There may be nothing we can do about the financial deficit, but we can voice our opinion on the restaurants’ benefit to our education.

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