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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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    Tracy Peerson over 1 year ago

    As a Mills alum from 2009, I ask that you support this resolution for an investigation of the questionable aquisition of Mills College by Boston-based Northeastern University. Mills was a 170 year old majority queer, POC and trans inclusive, women's college; the first women's college West of the Rockies; the only women's college that was also considered a Hispanic serving institution. Mills had 135 acres of the largest urban college campus in the country, right here in Oakland. Mills had the only Book Arts Master's degree, was one of the first places to offer a Modern Dance degree and Ethnic Studies department, and had a unique influential experimental music department. Mills had an over $230 million endowment that was meant to fulfill it's mission of educating women. That mission is no more. For so long Mills created a safe space for women, trans, Black, brown and queer folks to find their voices. Don't let that legacy disappear without even a decent explanation as to why. We cannot allow the culture, land and over $1 billion in assets of this college be given away to an out-of-state entity with no due diligence done. Even President Holmgren, who successfully ran Mills college for 20 years, has called this aquisition rushed and a bad deal for Mills. Why is President Hillman- who broke contracts with tenured staff, broke contracts with students, and failed to keep Mills a viable college- now being hired to run Northeastern's new campus in Oakland? Please investigate.

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    Isabel Henry over 1 year ago

    Please note this petition which has over 2,300 signatures from people asking for an investigation of Mills College. There is a lot of good information here on why an investigation is needed -- and a LOT of people asking you to HELP.

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    Sophie Ceo over 1 year ago

    Dear Oakland City Council et al,

    I graduated from Mills College in 1994. I have been deeply distressed by what has come to pass with our beloved Mills College. It had always been a safe haven for many women, a source of pride, and something very special that “belonged” to me, and all the strong independent women who came before us. Mills College made me feel like I was a part of something both special, and empowering.

    So, What is the big deal if another educational institution buys Mills, yet retains the name and the look of the original college? Mills is unique in its goal of helping women use their intellect and their voice to become something greater than they perhaps were, and to learn the power they truly possess. It is a place of growth in a small but mighty community of support. Who knows what it will become under ‘new ownership’? It will no longer be the same place no matter the look.

    Mills’ financial troubles and planned sale was not communicated clearly enough to its former and current students. And there are other viable ways to turn things around. There should have been far better transparency. It is my hope that we will have an impartial investigation of what happened and what other options could be considered. At the very least I believe there should be a stay of some reasonable amount of time until things are explored more fully and every option considered that might save Mills College.

    Thank you, Sophie Ceo (born Susan Schramm), Class of ‘94

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    Alexa Pagonas over 1 year ago

    I am a former Oakland resident and a lifelong Bay Area resident. I am writing to urge to you call for an investigation into the acquisition of Mills College. The College lied to the Superior Court of California in the case brought against them by the Alumnae last fall. It would be easy to review the court documents to prove this. One has to wonder why a former dean of a law school (coincidentally also my alma mater) would risk contempt of court for perjury.
    The College filed tax audits and made statements on their financial stability for their accreditation extension, yet they have told staff and faculty that this deal needed to be done post-haste least they are foreclosed upon “with a month and could not meet payroll”. To which group was the college telling the truth? This really should have been investigated by the Attorney General -- He went to law school with the President of Mills, which begs the question of why he didn’t recuse himself? At what point is there a checks-and-balance on a transfer of over 2 billion dollars worth of assets belonging to a beloved gem of Oakland in exchange for a 30 million dollar institute?

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    RaeAnn Goldberg over 1 year ago

    The merger is a travesty. Never should have happened. (Rae Ann Goldberg class of 1973)

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    Katherine Mahood over 1 year ago

    Please investigate the merger of Mills and Northeastern University. It does not make sense that a college with such a robust endowment would suddenly declare a financial emergency and then chow to solve that unsubstantiated problem by giving away an asset worth millions of dollars to a private university on the east coast. In a time where women’s rights, voting rights and the right to chose who you love and the right to feel safe regardless of your race or origin are under siege on a national level, there is a need for a historically all women’s undergraduate focused liberal arts college. The acquisition of Mills by Northeastern is the loss of a place of empowerment for those who are marginalized and a place for collaboration within the community of Oakland. The fact that Northeastern’s parent university is in Boston means that these unique and meaningful collaborations will stop. In addition, the world renowned Music, Art and Dance Departments will be erased and their contributions to the community will be an additional loss. This merger needs to be investigated and reversed.
    Thank you for your time,
    Katherine Mahood class of 1993

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    Juana Rojas over 1 year ago

    Le pido al City Council de Oakland que apoye la resolución de Mills. Yo e sido residente de Oakland desde 195. Mills a sido parte de Oakland desde 1871 y es parte de la fábrica social de esta comunidad que yo tanto amo.

    Luchemos por Mills college. Hay que desmantelar este merger lleno de fraude que le ha echo daño a miles de estudiantes y facturado su comunidad.

    Mills College puede mantenerse como una institución independientemente para mujeres y un Hispanic Serving Institute. Sus bienes raises, colección de arte y su endowment suman más de $3m+. El departamento de educación federal le otorgó una marca a Mills de 2.9, de 3.0 máximo . Esto indica que el gobierno federal siempre a clasificado a Mills como un lugar estable en sus financiera y con un nivel alto de programas educativos para sus estudiantes.

    Por que entonces es que la admiración justifica de Mills y sus Trustees justificaron su decisión en el merger con NU por problemas financieros?

    La ciudad, el estado y el gobierno federal tiene que investigar y

    Si se puede!
    Podemos salvar a Mills College
    y obtener justicia!!

    Que vivan las mujeres! Que viva Mills!

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    Cherlene Wright over 1 year ago

    Thank you for the time and thought you are giving to this matter.
    Mills College has been a place of creation and growth for generations.
    It has evolved into a launch pad for many who have spent time there.
    It has evolved into a place where people find and learn to use their voices.
    Many are first generation college attendees.
    Many are LGBTQ+.
    Many are non-European.
    Many are social justice scholars, advocates and activists.
    Many are receiving financial aid.
    Many are coming to or coming back to college non-traditionally aged.
    Many have learning, physical and mental health challenges.
    Many have children.
    ALL have been betrayed.
    The President and the Board of Trustees lied about enrollment, finances and intent.
    They deliberately placed students in academic, financial and personal harm.
    They deliberately limited and discontinued recruitment.
    They discontinued successful and unique programs.
    They disregarded they fiduciary responsibilities.
    They have acted in bad faith with the endowment.
    They have been acquired by an entity that has NOTHING in common in philosophy or style of education or teaching method.
    They moved forward without a plan.
    They still don’t have a plan.
    They have acted in faith, and have told repeated falsehoods.
    They need to be investigated and held accountable.
    I wholeheartedly support a broad investigation of a mills College, its President and its Board of Trustees.

    Cherlene Wright

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    Julia Almanzan over 1 year ago

    My name is Julia Almanzan, Mills class of 1992. I’m speaking as an individual, but I also hold the title of President of the Los Angeles Mills College Alumnae (LAMCA) Chapter, more than 1200 members strong. I absolutely support this resolution celebrating Mills College and seeking investigation into its acquisition by Northeastern University. While there are many areas of concern, I will share one here as an example of why many in the Mills community are asking for your help: The College has refused to release over $100,000 in LAMCA endowment funds to LA County Mills students, thus failing to honor the donors’ intent. Instead, the College has suggested to release the money to new incoming NU students attending classes on campus for just a short time during their “study abroad” to Oakland. Meanwhile we know that current Mills students—and those forced to transfer due to the loss of their degree programs under NU—are facing additional educational expenses and challenges as a direct result of this acquisition. On behalf of those students, LAMCA donors, and fellow alumnae, I ask you to support this resolution. After all, if the Mills College administration and Northeastern University have nothing to hide, then an investigation should be welcomed. I will close by thanking you for your support of 170 years of women’s education in Oakland. As Hettie Belle Ege—Mills College professor, dean, and president—said nearly 100 years ago, “Remember who you are and what you represent.”

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    Janice Holmstedt over 1 year ago

    I support this resolution because it calls for an impartial investigation by a relevant outside agency!

    No one is slandered by the call for an investigation. An investigation just seeks the truth.

    If there is nothing in this merger to cause concern, good! But suing didn't get us anywhere, because the lawsuit never addressed any concerns.

    The only thing last summer's lawsuit did was get a judge to ask the administration to show trustees a financial reason for Mills to close.

    It never did provide any. (And the story then changed to "we were being smart and closing before we had to [instead of firing a president whose Financial Stabilization Plan cost us millions and tanked our previously-high enrollment.]")

    The BPPE heard many concerns from Mills students, their parents, and alumnae, over the past year.

    They didn't investigate. We were told that this was not the BPPE's domain. That all they could do was relay our concerns to Mills. Or to WSCUC - which said, "The Mills administration knows everything that anyone needs to know."

    The BPPE has not "investigated and approved Northeastern." The BPPE's only requirement is that a school is accredited. It listed 800+ "approved programs" Northeastern could run at Mills' address well before the merger closed. Because Northeastern is accredited.

    We talked to the CA Attorney General's office for months. The Attorney General specifically stated that he was NOT doing an investigation into the merger.

    Please help us.

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    Elka Weber over 1 year ago

    As a Mills alum (both undergrad and graduate degrees), I implore the council to investigate the merger. The financials do not add up. Current students are being defrauded. Northeastern is currently in a land dispute with MA. Do we want a land dispute in our Oakland? Do we want to close a venerable institution that champions women and people of marginalized genders so that its endowment can be gutted and grifted?

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    Beth Majchrzak over 1 year ago

    This was an acquisition not a merger. The financial records need to be examined closely as it appears that Mills was not in dire financial straits. The entire process was rushed through at the expense of the students. Many of them have experienced financial hardships as it will take them longer to complete their degrees and many are unable to complete the programs they started as Northeastern does not offer them. The School of Education has been forced to shut down as Northeastern is not accredited in California. The School of Education was providing an excellent highly sought after program and working closely with OUSD. It was also bringing in steady income.

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    Max Horten over 1 year ago

    Please support this effort to investigate the closure and merger of Mills College with Northeastern University. Baffling and ruinous decisions were made behind closed doors. Get people on the record saying who knew what when.

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    Lisa Kremer over 1 year ago

    I’m an active alum of more than 30 years and I urge the Council to reject this resolution. I pledged to support Mills when I graduated in 1990, and since then I have recruited students for, solicited donations for, and given to Mills. I have watched Mills try different tactics to increase enrollment and stabilize its budget. I was heartbroken but not surprised when the Board of Trustees chose to merge Mills with another institution. It was a better choice than spending out all of Mills’ assets, leaving nothing but rotting buildings that no college could afford to take.

    The board that made this difficult decision was 2/3 Mills alums. The resolution accuses them of corruption. But the Attorney General has already investigated the merger and supports it. And the Bureau of Private and Post-Secondary Education has already investigated, and has approved Northeastern to run 800+ programs at Mills.

    So, what would this resolution accomplish? It would slander Mills alums on the Board of Trustees who took the responsibility of making a hard decision. It would legitimize baseless accusations that already have been investigated, sued over, and scrutinized. Mills' loss of independence is awful, but this resolution will not reverse it. All it does is slander and harass. This is a sad way for the Oakland City Council to commemorate Mills.

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    HH BB over 1 year ago

    Congratulations to the elected leaders and state agencies, (WSCUS, BPPE, and the California
    IGs office) tasked with overseeing and regulating financial transactions between higher
    education institutions in California. You all failed and have successfully allowed an out-of-state
    university to annihilate out of existence, the last private independent historic women’s college
    (HWC) in the state of California. A college that was educating a majority BIPOC and LGBTQ
    student population.

    Most elected officials in California go to great lengths to tout their commitment to social justice
    and equity for the traditionally marginalized communities they represent, and some may even
    come from, but when concerned Californians, Mills community members, and other friends of
    college began to reach out to these elected officials they concerns were greeted by crickets.

    By supporting this resolution to investigate this transaction, members of the City Council of
    Oakland can show their real commitment to represent and uplift the marginalized communities
    they currently serve and wish to continue to serve.

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    Vanessa Joseph over 1 year ago

    I am a Mills College alumna (Class of 1988), and I strongly support your resolution to call for an independent investigation into the merger between Mills College and Northeastern University. Based on the public financial records I have seen, it is not clear to me that Mills College lacked the resources to remain an independent, liberal arts college. Additionally, the initial decision to close and the subsequent decision to merge with a truly dissimilar institution appear to have been made in haste by Mills College and without adequate process considering the College's long history and its numerous stakeholders. Lastly, the loss of a unique and vital educational institution that served female undergraduate students who were also largely persons of color, members of the LGBTQ community, and individuals from financially marginalized families merits deep analysis.

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    Kathy Roskos over 1 year ago

    Dear Honorable Members of the Oakland City Council:
    My name is Kathy Roskos and I am a former resident of Oakland, CA and an alumnae of Mills College, Class of 1980.
    I respectfully ask for your yes vote to support the resolution to conduct an independent investigation into the circumstances of the acquisition of Mills College by Boston-based Northeastern University.
    Mills College is a treasure within the city of Oakland and the historic value of Mills College must be celebrated. The Music Department and CCM have an illustrious international reputation for a progressive, experimental, innovative, and open-minded approach to art and technology. It is impossible to overstate the importance of the Music Department at Mills College. Mills College WAS a global magnet for composers, musicians, and trend setters re-shaping the world of music.
    And just as extraordinary, important global leaders such as Congresswoman Barbara Lee and renowned artist Hung Liu taught and studied at Mills College.
    The history of Mills College must not be lost to Northeastern’s Global conquests. The lack of transparency of the Mills College Board of Trustees and the lack of fiduciary oversight is shameful and criminal. Please investigate.

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    Melissa Howden over 1 year ago

    This acquisition should be fully investigated. All of the claims of the board and the college President have been debunked. They have rushed things, not been transparent in the least. I am of the opinion that the Board has been negligent in their fiduciary responsibilities possibly criminally.

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    Catherine Marinella over 1 year ago

    Jeffrey Jackanicz ("Jeff Ja")'s comment in opposition is a fantastic example of the misinformation this administration has put out, and the resulting need for an investigation.

    He refers to "lawsuits that have been dismissed." In fact, the lawsuit initially brought by four of the trustees was dropped by mutual agreement due to cost.

    There IS another lawsuit: a class-action suit brought by Mills' students. But it has not been dismissed.

    It's baffling that he says accusations "of mismanagement are factually incorrect, institutionally injurious, and ethically compromised."

    There is no Mills left to injure. No one stands to personally benefit from an investigation.

    And the concerns about mismanagement are that the overspending on upper administration, and systematic dismantling of enrollment efforts, were intentional actions, made at the executive Board level, working toward a merger like this.

    If the Board had sought to preserve as much of Mills’ legacy as possible, it would have considered the proposal from Arizona State University, which would have kept Mills an independent, degree-granting women's college. Northeastern is keeping nothing.

    Current continuing students do not have new opportunities. They don't know how they will graduate. Most of them cannot complete the degree programs they paid for, because Northeastern is not accredited to offer them.

    Both administrations rushed this deal through. And the students, faculty, and staff are paying for their choices.

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    Marsha Matsuura over 1 year ago

    I strongly support this resolution.

    I am born and raised in Oakland, graduated from Castlemont High School in 1966 and from Mills College in 1970. I moved from East Oakland straight into the dorm at Mills as a scholarship student. The liberal arts, woman’s education I received at Mills College and the experiences I had were transformational.

    A year ago I believed what President Hillman said, that she was acting in Mills’ best interest to save the legacy of the college by pursuing a merger with Northeastern University. Since then, I feel like her personal gain to lead the Mills Institute has influenced her decisions. Efforts to find out the details of the “merger” plans have been thwarted by the trustees and the president herself. The more I learned, the less I believed that this decision would preserve or protect Mills legacy.

    The Mills that I knew no longer exists. It doesn’t even grant degrees. Northeastern does not represent Mills’ values. I believe Northeastern is using the Mills name to lay claim to the endowment and to access alumnae donations. It has misrepresented this takeover as a merger. This is a land grab, a money grab. Information was withheld and obscured to prevent and delay the development of opposition to this deal.

    Mills College is an important part of Oakland. When you investigate you will see that this deal has been manipulated into being and be a detriment to Oakland. It must be stopped.