The Courier’s Editor-in-Chief Ashlee Berner and News Editor Kelly Wynne sat down with College of DuPage board of trustee Chairwoman Kathy Hamilton on Aug. 19. Hamilton discussed everything from her vision for the school year to the board’s decision to close Waterleaf. For the full interview, visit our website www.codcourier.org.
Courier: What is your vision for the upcoming year at COD? Is there a certain direction you’d like to see the college go after this past year?
Kathy Hamilton: Yes (laughs). I would like to see the college go in a direction of calm and to focus on educating adult students to meet the challenges of our globalized economy.
C: Is there any particular thing you’d like to see around campus, or anything you’d like to see stay the same?
KH: What I would like to do is support the students, faculty and administration and work with them on their vision for change if they believe change needs to happen.
C: You want to see campus become more calm. How do you think this will impact students?
KH: I actually think that their education has not been affected by external factors. I think their education has remained, and will remain, excellent. But, I am going to be working for calm. I think we need that.
C: The board was close to unanimous on the decision to close Waterleaf. Where did the decision come from and how will it affect students? What should hospitality and culinary students know about the upcoming changes?
KH: I think it was a growing awareness on the part of the community, students and faculty that the Waterleaf was not being used properly. It was a matter of people understanding the issues. We went through a process with Dr. Stewart and Dr. Collins, evaluating possible uses of the Waterleaf and then made our decision off of that. We just want to refocus it so that it’s an academic resource. The students were the main focus of that decision and the administration and faculty supported it resoundingly.
C: I know that at the board meetings, a big discussion that kept coming up was if it was possible to transition to a student work space and also rent out the space..
KH: It didn’t make sense. If you look at the way the space is structured, the classrooms were too small to be operational, so we just decided that that just didn’t make any sense.
C: At the last board meeting it did sound like the restaurant will continue to be open a few days a week, run by students.
KH: What we’re going to be doing is closing it at the end of the month and then during the time period between September and December the deans are going to be working on developing a curriculum and then, I think they’re going to be introducing different classes slowly and see how those classes work.
C: How does the board feel about lower enrollment this semester?
KH: You know, we’re always watching those numbers but I’m confident that the college is very strong and that enrollment will be very strong.
C: Do you think it has to do anything with The Higher Learning Committee visiting or any of the bad publicity this year?
KH: It’s hard to say.
C: What would you like to see come from The Higher Learning Committee visiting? Is there anything you hope changes because of it?
KH: I’m not sure what will come of it. I think that we will get accredited. I don’t think that’s ever been a question. They may have suggestions to improve what we do, and of course we welcome them.
C: “So you’re not worried about losing our accreditation?”
KH: “No. Not at all. But we do welcome their suggestions.”
C: When the HLC met with faculty, many full-time staff members mentioned feeling manipulated and ignored by the Breuder administration. Is this a problem you have seen? How does the board plan to regain faculty security and trust in the administration?”
KH: I’m completely aware of what they’re talking about and I have always reached out to them to understand their issues. I will work directly with them, and I know the rest of our board members will as well, to regain trust and confidence.
C: “The presidential search: what are you looking for in a potential candidate?”
KH: “That’s a good question. I am looking to help this community find the kind of president they want. That means having an open, inclusive process to have all stakeholders identify what they want in a president. We intend to reach out to the stakeholders through hearings, probably, where they express what they’re looking for, and convey that back to a search committee, which will find a president. That’s sort of the process. I’m looking to facilitate that. My personal goals for a president, I can’t impose my own opinion. I’m facilitating what everyone wants. What the community wants, what students want. It’s a big group of people that have input into this process. I’ve learned from my research, if you do not have an inclusive, expansive search, that president is not a good fit for your institution.”
C: “What is the timeframe for the search? Is there a particular month you’d like to have a decision by?”
KH: “No. As long as it takes to find someone who will be a good fit for this institution.”
C: “How do you plan to attract candidates to the position following the federal investigation and the negative portrayal of the college by media outlets?”
C: “Or do you think you’ll even have a problem because of that?”
KH: “I think that depends on timing and the resolution of issues. I can’t say conclusively what the effect is of the negative information that’s out there about College of DuPage. But I know that this institution stands by itself regardless of the negative media attention and many, many prospective presidents know that, and they know that this is a passing issue.”
C: “So would you say that the good reputation of the college will speak for itself?”
KH: “I believe that’s true. How could it not be? If you look at it, all of the scandal that has been around the college is not about the education. It’s about the administration. If you change the administration, then you have more calm.”
C: “Do you think any community members or students may be nervous that changing the whole administration will change the college in general?”
KH: “People always have reason to worry, but I don’t think they should.”
C: “Will any internal candidates be considered for the position?”
C: District 502 has put a spotlight on the board’s disagreements; you mentioned your dedication to bringing the board together at the Accreditation meeting. What are your ideas to bring the board together?
KH: Well, I placed Dianne McGuire on the education committee. Joe Wozniak is going to be working on the outreach committee. I have been trying to speak with them via phone. I’ve been reaching out with them via email. That’s what we can do. We can talk to each other. The plan is to have some team building exercises and I’m working on a board retreat. I must say that although we are going to be doing these things, they are really tied to the prior board and the culture of the prior board. When there’s a culture shift I think it’s difficult to adjust.
C: It sounds like it’s almost a power struggle.
KH: Definitely. It’s a sense of culture and how you think people should interact with each other and also the administration. We have an Acting Interim President and it’s not Dr. Breuder. We have a different board chair who isn’t Erin Birt and so it’s just a culture shift, and sometimes culture shifts are difficult. But this is democracy. This is change. This is how we do change in a democracy.