Newly elected College of DuPage board member Bernstein sets sights on board harmony
Charles Bernstein, a new member of the College of DuPage Board of Trustees, did not waste any time getting down to business at the board's first meeting after the April elections.
At the meeting on April 30, Kathy Hamilton was named the board’s new chair and the board voted 4-3 to place its beleaguered president, Robert Breuder, on administrative leave one day after he announced he was taking an “approved medical leave.”
“We’ve positioned ourselves for bringing things back to normal. The college is going through a lot,” Bernstein said.
The board placed Breuder on leave due to ongoing state and federal criminal investigations into a variety of areas at the college, including reports that Breuder charged the school for personal purchases such as hunting trips and expensive dinners at the school’s restaurant.
The board also named Executive Vice President Joseph Collins as acting interim president, and announced it would put together a transition team to help direct the future of the college.
“The team will consist of members of the community with various skill sets,” he said. “We want to get as much community involvement as we can.”
The mission, Bernstein said, is to assess the state of the college from various aspects, including the college’s financial state, best practices, and how the board can improve faculty relations.
Looking forward, Bernstein said at the board next meeting in June, there would be some discussion of board policies.
“I think there needs to be changes to board policy. I believe under the previous presidency there was a strong imbalance in the power of the president, to the detriment of the board’s oversight responsibility. We want to redress that imbalance and bring it back into balance,” he said.
The board will also take a close look at where the college’s money is being spent.
“The Waterleaf Restaurant is losing half a million dollars a year,” he said. “We need to make a decision as to the future of the restaurant.”
Bernstein also said the school’s foundation board needs review as well.
“Whether or not the foundation board has done something illegal compared to something unethical, especially regarding no-bid contracts, that just looks plain bad. I think it makes a lot of people wonder ‘what the heck is going on here’?”
The biggest challenge Bernstein sees is working with board members who supported former president Breuder.
“I’d like to see a coming together of the old board members with the new members where we are not at odds with each over matters that are extraneous to the college,” Bernstein said.
“On a personal level, I feel no animosity to anyone on the board,” he said. “I just want us to return to the normal operation of excellence at the college.”