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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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    Melinda Jess over 1 year ago

    I support Vice Mayor Kaplan's and President Pro Tem Thao's calling on the CA Bureau of Private and Post-Secondary Ed and the US Department of Ed to conduct an independent investigation into the circumstances of the merger between Mills College and Northeastern U. Mills has been a leader for women's and BIPOC/LGBTQ's education and for the performing and visual arts for over 170 years. Please do not allow Mills' legacy to be obliterated by this sham of a merger with Northeastern.

    With the recent demise of SF Arts Institute and California College of the Arts' recent leaving Oakland for SF, it's essential that Oakland support its remaining liberal arts colleges.


    Dr. Melinda L. de Jesus
    Associate Professor of Critical Ethnic Studies
    Former Chair, Diversity Studies (2008-2011, 2014-2018)
    California College of the Arts

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    Wendy Pearson Cohen over 1 year ago

    The current President did not do her job and deliberately undermined this college to suit her own ambitious agenda. Fundraisers were turned away, students could not even fundraise through the alumnae association because somehow the president blocked it. I will say it again, any and all fundraising was deliberately thwarted by this president. Money was diverted from academics, professors, students, marketing and put towards her novice staff. Lawsuits were dismissed because they were filed by people with more passion than experience and not because they were without merit. In the midst of financial problems. Mills opened and then abandoned at scrutiny new offshore accounts, cozy relationships with investment professionals and the board resulted in money loss, it has been alleged. We have here an experienced adult litigator undermining, alienating, and dusenfrznchising inexperienced young wonen. She tried to shove this deal through and actively prevent Mills students, both present and former from finding out about it. This is obviously in not for the benefit of the college. She alienated every single aspect of this college before even trying. Please bring this deal into the light. The community as a whole is owed that. This is a not for profit college and answerable to the community, not a handful of people people. Please do not let her get away with this sham.

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    Jeff Ja over 1 year ago

    I’m a former Mills administrator and an Oakland neighbor to the college for 20+ years. I strongly urge the Council to reject this misguided call for an investigation - the latest step in an effort that has justifiably failed at every scrutiny: lawsuits that have been dismissed, allegations that are demonstrably false, and profound dismay in the broad court of public opinion.

    Mills’ financial difficulties have been known for years. I witnessed these implacable structural challenges from the inside and came to know well the range of external pressures that exacerbated them. And these challenges are not unique to Mills. Accusations suggesting that its difficulties or this merger are the product of mismanagement are factually incorrect, institutionally injurious, and ethically compromised.

    The merger with Northeastern is a once-in-an-institutional-lifetime opportunity to preserve as much of Mills’ legacy as possible. It will reinvigorate Mills’ ability to contribute to the cultural, activist, public-service, and innovation ecosystems that are special to Oakland. It will make additional opportunities available to current and future Mills students, faculty, and staff. The facts remain clear and the course of events continues to show how misguided and ill-informed these anti-merger efforts are. Please vote no, in order to allow Mills’ to move into a thriving future, protect its proud legacy, and ensure its greater engagement with Oakland.

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    Suzy Edwards over 1 year ago

    Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Please follow the money. If there has been any corruption, punish the guilty.

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    Beth Young over 1 year ago

    The so-called "sale" of an educational and cultural institution was fraudulent from the start. The administration lied to students, faculty and the public about Mills' enrollment numbers, financial health, and program strength solely to pad their own pockets. Mills has been a treasured and valuable asset to Oakland and attracted students and faculty from across the country. BPPE and DOE both should investigate the facts and nullify the sale, along with fining those who profited for the amounts they stole and the damages they did to Mills reputation and continued growth.

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    Meredith Sh over 1 year ago

    As a Mills College Alumna and a resident of CA, I feel it is a moral imperative to launch an independent investigation into the circumstances of this merger. The frantic rush to close the college and the subsequent stampede to give away Mills to a for-profit east coast company is deeply concerning. Mills College has been a pillar to the City of Oakland since before there even was a city. As a Mills student in the 90's, I tutored for Upward Bound and had so many economically disadvantaged students from Oakland schools that turned to me by the end of their lessons and say "I'm going to apply to come here" or "I didn't know I would like it here so much". These kids need an explanation as much as the rest of us as to why they do not have Mills College (which offered many scholarships and free tuition to local students) as a post secondary option in their neighborhood anymore.

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    Ryan Cusick over 1 year ago

    I want to encourage you to conduct an investigation and to file charges for breach of support. This isn't right.

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    Angela DeMoss over 1 year ago

    As a Mills College Alumna (Class of '99), I am appalled at the rushed, slipshod deal whereby Northeastern University in Boston acquired my Alma Mater. In March of 2021, Mills College President Beth Hillman announced that the college was going to close (allegedly due to financial problems) and later decided instead to give it away- 170 years of history, billions of dollars in Bay Area real estate, and priceless collections of art, artifacts, and musical equipment for pennies on the dollar. Independent reports revealing the true state of Mills' finances have been available for some time, yet all the leaders who could have made a difference have failed to act upon the information. Much evidence has come to light that Mills did not have to close and that this deal with Northeastern will be a disastrous one for women’s education, which so many claim to be in favor of protecting, along with women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and other types of civil rights. Now, students are suing Mills College, asserting that they were tricked into enrolling and/or staying when the college knew it could not fulfill the promises it made to them, costing them considerable time and money. This shady deal can and should be investigated immediately. Shine the light, and let truth and transparency prevail, for Mills and for Oakland!

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    Linda H over 1 year ago

    I strongly support this investigation. The more I read about the explanations for the merger and the more misrepresentations and deceptions are uncovered, the more suspect the merger seems. We should investigate its circumstances - especially since there seem to be alternate paths open that keep these historic resources in California. Please investigate this merger!

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    Abra Quinn over 1 year ago

    Mills' Upward Bound program helped several of my West Oakland students become the first people in their families to go to college and graduate -- many of its programs are unique and many of them cannot be integrated into Northeastern's curriculum. This merger does not serve Oakland's interests and from what I've seen, its circumstances should be investigated. Please support this resolution!

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    Christa Lewis over 1 year ago

    As a Mills College alumna I strongly support an investigation of the Mills College and Northeastern merger. A sound decision can withstand scrutiny. This is the opportunity to investigate why a weighty decision of closure was concealed in consent agenda, why independent audits do not support the financial crisis cited by administration, why Mills defied a court order in providing financial documents to its alumnae trustees, and why Mills, which through WASC accreditation is required to provide a teach out plan to students, has left students without reasonable pathways of completing their degrees. This is the opportunity to understand why decisions that defy Mills College’s Board of Trustees’ own bylaws, the California Attorney General’s Guide to Charities, WASC accreditation standards, Mills’ founder and donor intent, and the Alameda County Superior Court have been made in a rushed merger. This is the opportunity to understand how $30 million can buy a 135-acre college campus stocked with valuable art, rare book collection, and music archive.

    Residents of Oakland and California should be gravely concerned that educational resources available to under-represented populations are being dismantled and incoming first year students will not be able to use CalGrants to study at Mills at Northeastern.

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    Julia Murray over 1 year ago

    I strongly support the resolution calling for an investigation of the merger between Mills College and Northeastern University.
    As a Mills alumna I am appalled at the rushed and dishonest manner in which the Mills President and Board of Trustees have entered into the so-called merger--actually a take-over--with Northeastern University (NEU). They have provided misleading information regarding Mills' financial status to justify its closure. They led on current Mills students with promises that they would be able to complete their Mills degrees by 2023, then subsequently announced that 2022 would be the final year of granting Mills degrees. Many of the majors and programs for which Mills has been renowned are being terminated, as they are not offered by NEU. Thus, many students will need to transfer, take additional semesters of courses, and pay thousands of additional dollars to obtain a college degree. This includes teacher training as NEU is not accredited to offer California teaching credentials. NEU has a history of predatory college takeovers. Their tuition is higher than that of most other colleges. They have historically been an institution serving white upper class men. In contrast, Mills has existed for 170 years for the purpose of educating women. Mills' historic mission is being destroyed by this so-called merger. It is a terrible loss for Oakland, all of California, and for the thousands of women who have benefitted from their Mills educations over many years.

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    Linda Win over 1 year ago

    Mills College has been an amazing historical and educational asset to Oakland and the greater Bay Area. It promotes social justice as a core of every educational journey and encourages students to be open-minded and compassionate towards one another. Mills College has more than enough assets to manage the current debt and the merger has been handled in a very suspicious way. Please help students who committed to Mills College find a way that honors the promise they were made.

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    Amy Horstmann Orgain over 1 year ago

    As a Mills College graduate, I strongly support an independent investigation into the merger between Mills College and Northeastern University. Now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned and LGBTQ+ rights are being stripped away, we need places like Mills more than ever - respected educational institutions that unwaveringly support and celebrate women, POC, first-generation college students, older students, and queer culture in all its forms. It is confusing why a historic and well-established college with a large endowment and assets, as well as revenue equal or greater to other similarly sized colleges, would make such a drastic decision. The administration has not been transparent about its financials and the current and former students and community members who oppose the merger deserve clarity. If Mills was truly in dire financial straights and this merger was the only path forward, so be it. But if not, there needs to be an independent accounting of exactly what happened and why - with special attention paid to those who stand to profit from this merger.

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    Tiffany Schaefer over 1 year ago

    As a recent graduate of Mills College, I have not been assured that the takeover won’t have long term issues with how my educational background is perceived. I would appreciate an independent investigation into the very quick and highly hostile takeover.

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    Melissa Diaz over 1 year ago

    Over 200 Mills alums, employees and friends have written to the City Council expressing support for the merger with Northeastern as the best path forward for Mills students, faculty, staff, campus, and legacy.

    Mills has struggled financially for decades. Unfortunately, without the merger, Mills' future is sealed. With the merger, Mills College at Northeastern University will expand and strengthen what Mills can do both for its students and in the Oakland community:

    • Mills students will have broader opportunities and more comprehensive services.
    • Mills faculty will be supported in their research and will reach far more students than in the past.
    • Mills staff will not have to fear further budget cuts and layoffs.
    • The Mills campus will receive the care and attention it richly deserves.
    • The Mills Institute will be established as a national center for research and learning programs focused on transitional moments in the educational and career paths of women, gender nonbinary individuals, and communities of color.
    • Through the Institute and the College's committed staff and faculty, Mills' values around advancing leadership for women, people of color, first generation students, and the LGBTQ+ community can inform the Northeastern University system.

    We seek a brighter future for Mills, with Mills College at Northeastern University offering comprehensive undergraduate and graduate programs inspired by Mills' traditions in the liberal arts and in social transformation.

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    Spencer Harley over 1 year ago

    The college's lack of transparency is unbelievable.

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    Nadine Dixon over 1 year ago

    As a Mills College Alum that holds a undergraduate degree in economics 2009 and a graduate degree in Public Policy 2011 I am appalled that someone has not stepped forward sooner to stop this violation towards women and transgender individuals!
    These are the times that advocating from positions of power are most needed. Please investigate and reclaim our beacon of democracy for women and transgender people. Women are a majority in our world and need a place that is safer and inclusive to educate future leaders who will have the skills and knowledge to create an equitable world.

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    Melinda Mansfield over 1 year ago

    I strongly support an independent and thorough investigation into the circumstances of the merger between Mills College and Northeastern University. There are simply too many publicly inappropriate and seemingly corrupt actions to ignore. Please vote to support these efforts.

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    SS SS over 1 year ago

    The independent investigation has shown that there are financial inconsistencies that need to be examined. In addition, the College has failed to show how it will utilize restricted endowment funds which require court confirmation to move - given that those endowment funds programs are now eliminated they are functionally unable to be repurposed without this step. The College isn't taking the step, and has not filed any such request to utilize the funds to my knowledge. Additionally, the College has controlled and shut down the information flowing to alums by changing permissions on the alum database so that AAMC - its OWN Alum organization with standing MOU with the College - could not access. They did this simply because AAMC did not want the College closed. Investigate!