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Agenda Item

2.25 22-0621 Subject: Celebrating Mills College And Investigating The Merger Between Mills College And Northeastern University From: Vice Mayor Kaplan And President Pro Tem Thao Recommendation: Adopt A Resolution Celebrating The Contributions Of Mills College To The City Of Oakland And Beyond, And Calling On The California Bureau Of Private And Post-Secondary Education And The Us Department Of Education To Conduct An Independent Investigation Into The Circumstances Of The Merger Between Mills College And Northeastern University [TITLE CHANGE]

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    Renel Brooks Moon almost 2 years ago

    For nearly 200 years, Mills College has served women, people of color, and LGBTQ students long before the rest of the world caught up. It will now end and become part of a university which did not even accept women until 1941, and for whom equity does not appear to have been a priority.

    Students who were promised that Mills College would exist until 2023, have now been rushed to transfer, have had to scramble to complete their classes, and have even seen their majors disappear. This is beyond unethical.

    It is Mills College that gave me and countless other powerful women our voices and our purpose. We have taken our Mills education and experience out into the world to make a difference, to foster change, to serve as role models and influencers, to teach, to advocate, and so much more.

    I am devastated by what the college has put its students through.

    To be clear, this detrimental loss of a safe, empowering space has always been worth fighting for and speaking up about, but we now must ensure that this sale has been done legally and fairly. It is our duty as a community, and your duty as our city leaders, to fight until we have the answers that we so very much deserve.

    Most sincerely,

    Renel Brooks-Moon
    Mills College, Class of 1981

    San Francisco Giants

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    Carol Wolf almost 2 years ago

    After hearing Dr. Matthew Hendrick's financial report on the financial health of Mills College, I understood that the giveaway of Mills to Northeastern is a financial scam. I wholeheartedly endorse a thorough investigation into the destruction of Mills College.

    If a corporation is a person, then our immortal grandmother, Mills College, is being murdered for her assets. It is a crime in progress. Please help.

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    Noah Gaiser almost 2 years ago

    I am a Mills graduate and I support a robust investigation. As a general principle, a decision of this magnitude should be subject to rigorous public inquiry. In particular, given the facts of the situation and the unique value of Mills as a historic haven for progressive education for BIPOC/LGBTQIA+ students, the merger should undergo a high level of public scrutiny. Mills leadership should be accountable for their decisions and their impact.

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    Ami Atkinson Combs almost 2 years ago

    I am a 1992 graduate and was genuinely shocked by the sudden announcement of Mills College’s closure. Alumni have been denied every opportunity to contribute ideas, guidance, and support in finding or developing a solution to allow this vital, precious organization to remain an independent, degree granting, Historical Women’s College. It feels clear to me that an active choice was made by The College to ambush the Mills community, and to exclude us from the decision-making process.

    If this "merger" WERE, in fact, the best thing for Mills' Legacy, if there were NOTHING TO HIDE, then WHY all the secrecy? I know I am far from alone in feeling disregarded, disheartened, distressed, and deeply distrustful of President Elizabeth Hillman and this administration.

    How is Northeastern University acquiring billions in assets, between the 135-acre campus, rare book & art collections, a several-hundred-million-dollar endowment, and much more for the cost alone of Mills’ debt (mere tens of millions)? I have felt for some time that the very insanity of this deal is largely what has allowed it to progress this far – I mean, it’s hard to believe such a thing is even possible! And yet . . . here we are.

    I thank you for bringing this recommendation forth and strongly support the call for all appropriate agencies to conduct an independent investigation into the highly suspicious circumstances of the “merger” between Mills College and Northeastern University.

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    Heather Malley almost 2 years ago

    Increasingly, across our nation, small colleges with sizeable endowments are being sold or dissolved while larger universities take over. This undermines the mission of programs like these, and disempowers the women and men who relied on them for guidance and education. This is happening without necessity, without regard to the students or staff or faculty and without financial or leadership accountability from our government entities. An investigation is needed so that we can fully see the management of these situations and so that this college and it's invested community can fight to save what has been a safe haven and place of empowerment for generations of women.

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    Ze Fenske almost 2 years ago

    Please investigate this predatory deal.

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    Alice Hallaman almost 2 years ago

    I am writing for all the women past, present and future that deserve to have the legacy of Mills College protected. The world needs Mills College to continue to empower women and promote social justice!!! Mills College is a valuable, irreplaceable treasure to Oakland and the world!! Please investigate the merger and stand up for women and justice at a time when we need to have our voices heard and protected more than ever!!

    Mills College is a place where the actualization of dreams and the birthplace of meaningful purpose can be unleashed. My great grandmother attended classes at Mills, my grandmother graduated from Mills as well as my mother and so did I. Please save Mills College!

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    Christy Herron almost 2 years ago

    Thank you Sheng and Rebecca for introducing this item. My name is Christy Herron and though I now live in Castro Valley, I lived in Oakland for 11 years, including the four years I spent as an undergraduate at Mills College. I have been following with interest the acquisition of Mills by Northeastern University. My Mills experience remains very special to me, and though I understand that institutions like Mills need to change in order to stay strong, the acquisition by Northeastern just ain't it, babe. I wholeheartedly support the investigation into the circumstances of the acquisition.

    I am very interested to understand the impact of the acquisition on students: for example, were they lied to in order to make them keep paying tuition after it was against their interests to do so? In addition, I want to know about Northeastern's capital improvement program for Mills, and whether it includes adequate consideration for the impact on the bottom line of the local planning and State-level environmental review (CEQA) process.

    Thank you for recognizing the contributions of Mills College to the City of Oakland and beyond, and for this important resolution. -Christy Herron

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    Tina Marsh almost 2 years ago

    I support the original resolution draft, calling on the CA State Auditor and a joint legislative committee to investigate, and adding the Departments of Education. CA State Auditor has authority to investigate CA regulatory entities. The sponsors were intentionally misled by guidance from an interested party who subsequently opposed the resolution.
    $35.00 – Thirty-five DOLLARS. That was the transaction cost that “entitled” Northeastern University – an out of state entity - to take over the Mills College campus and all associated intellectual, physical and financial assets. $35.00 was the filing fee of a Merger document that was routed around California regulatory, indeed any oversight and stamped by the Massachusetts SOC . The CA AG had authorities, responsibilities and tools at its disposal that it could have and should have engaged but chose not to. Why? There has been no accounting by any regulatory agency of the assets that were, or are in the process of being transferred, and some already disposed of by Northeastern. There has been no formal approval of this merger by California regulators. There are only date stamps on a Merger document filed by Northeastern University and a “no objection” letter sent to the Mills Trustees. Thirty-five dollars – for an estimated 2 to 4 BILLION $ in intellectual, physical and financial assets. If that doesn’t call for an investigation, what does?

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    Christina Rodriguez almost 2 years ago

    As a current doctoral student in Educational Leadership at Mills College, I am disappointed it took this long for the City Council of Oakland to look into this but nevertheless support the investigation of the Mills College and Northeastern merger. One thing I will say is that nobody is taking into the account the voices of current students at Mills College. As a first generation Latina to attend and graduate college, I have constantly thought about dropping out but I refused to be another statistic of Latinos dropping out of college. History is continuing to repeat itself in academia: to hold back students of color from attaining a college degree and this merger is continuing to do the work that these systems were built for. Doctoral students didn't even get an offer or option to transfer at another university during this merger. We had no choice but to stay or drop out. I personally tried to transfer my doctoral units at other universities and was denied admission or they would only accept 9-12 units. What will happen to the other college units I completed and paid for? I can't just throw those units away just because another university will not accept them or validate them. I understand every university has their "policies" in place when accepting new students but under no circumstances should a student's education be disrupted in the middle of their program. How is this educational leadership? I know it doesn't look like this. Bring back Mills College!

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    Adrienne Jardetzky almost 2 years ago

    I am extremely pleased that you are considering a resolution regarding Mills College. This is an important issue that deserves your attention. I am a Mills alum, class of 1980, and my mother is in the class of 1951.

    Please take a few moments to reflect on the impact that Mills has on the Oakland community, the state of California, the country, and the world. At a time when low income, minority students, women and gender non-binary individuals are under attack from society, Mills is one of few places that strengthens and educates them. ‘Programs’ such as those vaguely referred to in relation to the Institute or by NU’s intentions, are not the same as granting degrees.

    An investigation into this aggressive take over is critical. We have not been given any solid reason as to why this needs to happen. The administration’s claims of financial hardship are not supported by publicly available documents on the college’s finances. The Save Mills College Coalition has done a lot of research and found information showing that the college does NOT need to be acquired. There is copious information on the problematic nature of this acquisition on the Save Mills website:

    Please pass the resolution and pressure those who are in a position to hold a public hearing and investigate the details of this damaging take over.

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    Gray Adams almost 2 years ago

    This merger erases all the things that made Mills College worth attending, and I mean ALL. This should not be an agreement that the board of trustees and President Hillman get to make, speed through, and then sweep under the rug unchecked. (Nonbinary Mills College Alum, B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Class of Fall 2021)

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    T Lee almost 2 years ago

    I am fully in support of an investigation since March of 2021, the announcement of the closure of Mills College have been shrouded by a lack of transparency. During one of the first phone call alums asked how much money would need to fundraise in order to save Mills College the president and the administration could not provide us with a clear answer. The college administration then made a commitment to current students that they would have a teach out plan and a commitment that they will be able to receive a Mills College degree if they could graduate by 2023. Unfortunately the current administration decide not to honor that commitment by choosing a partner that does not have transferable degrees and many current Mills students will be force to take on more debt and transfer schools, but the college did not provide them with information until really late in the semester which further limited their choices. To add insult to injury it appears that through independent analysis it appears that Mills College is financially healthier than College its size and therefore did not need to be acquired by another college. Mills was the first historical women’s college in the West that have created many leaders, it important to investigate what occurred and find a way to honor the commitments that were made to its current students and for us to find a way for it to continue to serve vulnerable BIPOC communities and first generation students.

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    Mark Claes almost 2 years ago

    The problem since the March 2021 announcement that Mills College would cease being a degree-granting school is that Mills was never theirs to give away – Mills belongs to the future. And the future is decidedly more congruent with the OG Mills College student populace – queer, trans, female, black, brown, first-generation, resumer. The idea that a school, diametrically opposed to the mission and spirit of Mills, Northeastern University, will come in to save the lil old ‘women’s college’ is absurd, offensive, and probably corrupt. To not investigate this acquisition is to look every person in the eye who warned that they’d overturn Roe, who has a same-sex marriage, who exists under the constant marginalization of white cis male patriarchy, and ask them sincerely, yeah but did you die, though?
    But here’s the thing, once it’s gone, it’s gone. If you want the possibility of a future free of fascism, you have to fight for it. You have to fight for the safer places, as there are no legit safe spaces. You have to fight for the people who will need this space long after you are gone. Investigate. Fight for the future.

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    Erica MacKinnon almost 2 years ago

    Investigating the merger between Mills College and Northeastern is a matter of fairness, a matter of transparency, and a matter of integrity. Throughout the entire "closure" process, the administration of Mills has never been forthcoming with the shapeshifting numbers. It has never answered difficult questions about WHY a 170-year-old college has to close so quickly, especially when it has a 300+million dollar endowment and other assets. Instead, President Hillman and the Board have spoken in generalities and about "legacy" or "carrying on tradition."

    Many people from many groups were all asking the same essential questions: Why rush a closure before alums and others could do a capital campaign? Why did/does the timeline keep shifting? What are the plans for the Endowment? And if this Board and this President were not able to run Mills College, why didn’t they step down and let others in who could do the job they (clearly) failed at.

    There is a video of Katie Sanborn, Chair of the Trustees, being asked a direct question from the alums, and she is unable to answer it. There were events with President Hillman where desperate students were looking for answers, and she gave them nothing. If closing and merging was the only option, if the numbers were on their side, why hide, why obfuscate? This monumental loss that was conducted in the dark with no transparency to all the groups that care so deeply about Mills College and what it stands for is wrong. Please investigate.

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    Deborah Anderson almost 2 years ago

    As a graduate of Mills College class of 1973, I remember when the tagline for Oakland was “The Armpit of the Nation.” I believe Gertrude Stein gets credit for that. Gentrification is pleasing to the eye and the silk purse. Investigating a rushed takeover/give away takes courage. Gentrification doesn’t take any courage. Mills is the canary in the mine. Women’s Rights, Education infused with truth, Truth in civics. You have the courage. Do it! Investigate!! Or be the ones who help the country implode. Yes, it’s that dramatic. Yes, it’s that real. Everyone already knows why this happened. Once upon a time Oakland was ground zero for cultural and civic change. Reclaim the heritage. Be leaders in integrity, and vision and what is good for all, not just for some. Thank you. Deborah H. Anderson ‘73

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    Rachel Cefalu almost 2 years ago

    Dear Honorable Members of the Oakland City Council:
    I respectfully ask for you to vote yes to support the resolution to conduct an independent investigation into the circumstances of the acquisition of Mills College by Northeastern University. Mills College is one of only 33 remaining historically women’s colleges in the United States, and Mills is the LAST private independent historic women’s college in the state of California. With women’s rights currently under direct assault, now more than ever, it is incredibly important for women to use their networks to help support each other succeed. Women’s colleges serve as a network unlike any other, and California cannot afford to lose a women's college that so uniquely prepares women to be leaders in today’s global society. The Mills College President and Board of Trustees violated their fiduciary duties to Mills College by providing misleading and inaccurate financial information regarding the college’s assets. With over a $220 MILLION endowment, an endowment that is higher than 80% of 4-year colleges and universities, Mills is one of the wealthiest colleges in the entire United States. Mills Leadership "sold" the college to Northeastern for less than 1% of its total worth (under $30 million). The sale price and terms of the transaction were outrageously unfair to Mills College. Mills deserves better. Stand up for women, stand up for Mills College, please vote yes to support the resolution to conduct an investigation.

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    Kimberlee MacVicar almost 2 years ago

    I appreciate this effort, thank you, yet we all know it is a year too late. Oakland must remind everyone, especially Northeastern University, that Mills College is an important piece of Oakland's History. My main question is where has the entire city council been, including the Mayor, since the March 17, 2001 announcement by the Mills College president? Tweets were not enough as the school was still sold. From what I could see, Oakland's elected officials were not advocates to block the sale. Even Mayor Schaaf tweeted on 3/17/21 "The end of an era and the start of a new chapter. @MillsCollege is an Oakland gem that has empowered women since 1852. I look forward to this next phase as they shift to an institution..." Where was her outrage to fight to #SaveMills? Why was this not upsetting to her? Instead, she seemed fine with it like she knew this was coming. Investigate Schaaf too, along with the Bontas if you can. Thank you.

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    AJ Robb almost 2 years ago

    Dear City of Oakland Councillors,
    At this time when the rights of women, of LGBTQ+ people, of BIPOC citizens are under increasing threat, California needs Mills -an institution that has for more than a century and a half sought to make education accessible to those who would be shut out- more than ever. Unfortunately those who were charged with protecting Mills and ensuring it’s legacy instead chose to gift it for a mere fraction of its worth to a Boston based institution that seeks to treat the East Bay as an exotic summer camp for superficial virtue signaling by those stopping by en route to Silicon Valley. From the vote to end teaching to the failure to ensure an orderly and supportive transition for students enrolled prior to the acquisition, the process has demonstrated either the height of incompetence or the height of subterfuge. Either way it needs investigation. Do not let this Oakland institution disappear without demanding that the tough questions be asked.

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    Kerri Thorp almost 2 years ago

    Dear Oakland City Council Members,

    I encourage you to support the request to have the circumstances regarding the acquisition of Mills College by Boston-based Northeastern University be investigated.

    We need an investigation to understand why the acquisition timeline was rushed. Mills manipulated students so they would stay enrolled and pay tuition even if it was no longer in the best interest of the students' education. They told students they would be able to finish their degrees and students stayed enrolled on that belief.

    Mills College and Northeastern University have engaged in rampant deception throughout the merger. In January 2022 Mills and Northeastern announced the elimination of undergraduate degrees in Education, Early Child Development, Business Administration, Ethnic Studies, Women's - Gender and Sexuality Studies, Art History and all six separately accredited MFA programs will be collapsed into a single degree at NEU in Interdisciplinary Arts. Mills Students deserve better, Oakland deserves better.

    I respectfully ask that for your yes vote to support this resolution and the request to investigate the circumstances that led to this acquisition.

    Kerri Lynne Thorp
    Mills class of 2011