The Messy Dismissal of President Robert Breuder

Bob McCaffrey

The ongoing drama about our beloved College of DuPage has been well covered here in The Courier and also the Chicago daily major newspapers and television news. Our beloved school has been slandered, smeared, and disparaged by some in the news media for what appears to be more of a personality conflict that malfeasance, and I’m not so sure who to blame. But one thing is for sure. The students deserve to know that if former President Dr. Robert Breuder accomplished so much for COD and its students, then why did he deserve to be fired?


As a law enforcement officer, like Sgt. Joe Friday would say on the old TV show Dragnet, please just give me the facts. I’ve read every newspaper article on President Breuder, and as far as I know, there are five main reasons, mostly lame in my opinion, behind his dismissal in October.


First, Dr. Breuder is accused of overspending on treating our college guests on lunches and dinners. At least Breuder dined at our own student restaurant The Waterleaf instead of going somewhere off campus. Regardless, if Breuder overspent, then it is the Board’s responsibility to impose spending limits on food and beverages. Are we really going to micromanage if someone ordered an appetizer or another bottle of wine?


Second, Dr. Breuder opened an executive campus locker room at the PEC. This doesn’t sound so unusual as to have a separate locker room for administration. You may disagree with me on this minor perk, which is fine, but is that worthy of dismissal? Really?


Third, Dr. Breuder appears to have a very generous benefits package, but that’s not his fault. Those perks are common for college presidents, which were offered and confirmed by, you guessed it, the COD Board.


Fourth, Dr. Breuder was accused of engaging in political activity. We don’t know the exact details, but with the burden of raising millions of dollars in public funding from politicians in order to control rising tuition, how exactly is a college president supposed to advocate on our behalf? This political line seems too easy to cross. One thing is clear, Dr. Breuder appears to have been acting in the best interest of the college, and didn’t do anything to line his own pockets. But if he did cross the line, let the punishment fit the crime, but don’t overreact, and consider his good intentions when considering any possible corrective action.


Fifth, Dr. Breuder received a no confidence vote from the teachers. Remember, the teachers are part of a union, and a common negotiating strategy for more money is to let a college president know they are not happy with their contract. Dr. Breuder must do what he reasonably can in order to control school costs which ultimately are borne by students and taxpayers.


Dr. Breuder had three years left on his employment contract. The Board originally offered Dr. Breuder $763,000 to retire early. You would figure Dr. Breuder could have demanded his full three years of pay left on his contract, which at his base salary totals $942,102 ($314,034 x 3). As the saying goes, a deal is a deal. By my calculation the severance package saved the college $179,102 ($942,102 – $763,000). So it appears that COD made out on top with this severance agreement offered and approved by the Board.


But the Board recently rejected this agreed upon severance package, and instead voted to terminate Dr. Breuder’s contract. So Dr. Breuder immediately sued for more than $2 million. Good for him. So far the Board is on the hook for more than $1 million in legal fees. And you know who will end up paying that still growing bill (again, students like you and me and the taxpayers).


One can’t help but wonder if all this infighting is more about juvenile personality conflicts with certain Board members than any actual bad behavior by Dr. Breuder.   Regardless of who is right, this immature squabbling is costing the college a lot of money, and a big black public relations eye.


I’m not a friend or foe of Dr. Breuder. I don’t know him and have never met him. Like you, I just know what I’ve read about these shenanigans involving the two sides. But enough is enough. Stop the personal attacks. We’ve heard that Breuder can be abrasive. To that I say – so what? (By the way, I’ve also heard Dr. Breuder is a great guy.) You don’t have to like someone in order to work with them. We all have to work with people we don’t like, or even downright despise. That’s life. But to run Dr. Breuder out of town, disparage his name and reputation, and then cost the college millions of dollars seems petty. The Board should act like adults, and set a better example for students on how to conduct themselves. Remember what your mother once probably told you when you were younger, if you don’t have anything nice to say about someone, don’t’ say anything at all. Learn to play in the sandbox together.


The Board needs to treat the next college president with more respect, if they can even find someone who wants to work here. Or else we will see this same circus play out again, with more legal bills to pay. The Board needs to behave themselves and lead by example. Students and the taxpayers deserve better.


Bob McCaffrey