OAKLAND (KPIX) — After more than a century in Oakland, Mills College announced it would no longer be a degree-granting college and would become a part of Northeastern University, centered in Boston. Now, Trustees and alumni from this private women’s liberal arts college are suing in court, to try to stop that from happening.
Mills College is beloved by generations of its graduates, so it sent shock waves through the community when President Elizabeth Hillman announced in March that the largely all-women’s college would begin shutting down its normal operation for economic reasons.READ MORE: Arrest Made In Fatal Weekend Shooting Outside Walnut Creek Nightclub
“After careful consideration, the Board of Trustees has decided that, after this Fall, Mills will no longer enroll new first-year undergraduate students,” Hillman said in the video message. “In addition, Mills will most likely confer its final degrees in 2023.”
But some of those Trustees say they had no idea that was what they were voting to do. Four of them, representing the Alumni Association of Mills College, filed a lawsuit Tuesday saying the matter had been hidden within the Board’s consent agenda, a group of housekeeping issues that don’t require discussion.
Alexa Pagonas, Vice President of the Alumni Association’s Board of Governors, said those Trustees never intended to authorize shutting down the college.
“It’s being alleged that happened with that vote,” she said. “Yeah, yeah, on a consent agenda!”READ MORE: South Bay Fire Crews Contain Vegetation Fire in San Martin
The lawsuit is demanding that Mills open its books to the Alumni Association to prove it is necessary, and refrain from taking any further action for 60 days after that information is released.
The college’s President responded with a written statement saying, “This lawsuit is a factually incorrect and legally mistaken effort to undermine the confidence in the leadership of the College.”
Pagonas said she’s not surprised by that.
“President Hillman, when she came to speak to us, gave us this, ‘Oh, I don’t know why everyone questions everything I say. This is so upsetting to me.’ As if, asking a simple question like ‘what happened’ is somehow questioning her integrity,” said Pagonas.
It seems a lot of people are questioning what’s happening at Mills. In May the faculty announced a 73 percent vote of “no confidence” for the school’s leaders.MORE NEWS: Golden Gate Bridge District Bus, Ferry Passengers Slow to Return To Pre-Pandemic Levels
Nevertheless, on Tuesday, the day the lawsuit was filed, the school issued a press release announcing raises for faculty members and saying that 300 Northeastern students, including men, will study on the Mills campus this Fall.