How two presidents in a row, neither with any experience running a small college, brought Mills College to the brink.
President Janet Holmgren steps down after serving for 20 years, raising more than $130 million in the Sesquicentennial Campaign, and increasing Fall enrollment by 33%. During the final decade of her tenure, enrollment breaks records nearly every year. The College remodels five buildings and constructs eleven, including the state-of-the-art Lokey School of Business and Irene Moore Natural Science Buildings.
The Board of Trustees appoints Alecia DeCoudreaux as Mills’ 13th President. DeCoudreaux is an attorney and has no experience in academia.
DeCoudreaux hires a new executive to oversee enrollment, who lays off the Dean of Admissions and several of her team members responsible for Mills’ highest enrollment numbers ever. The administration never course-corrects to recover prior numbers. Applications drop by about 37% over the next admissions cycle (2017).
Eric Roberts joins the Board of Trustees and leads the Resources and Sustainability committee that generates the reports on the College’s finances. Roberts is a forensic accountant working for Morrison Foerster. His expertise is narrowly focused - he works to defend firms and individuals under investigation for violations of SEC regulations, usually involving allegations of fraud and violations of generally accepted accounting principles. Administration begins to openly publicize Mills as being financially troubled.
For 2014-2018, total giving / unrestricted alum giving (not including bequests) to Mills would be $1million to $7million above the average for women's colleges, and better than or on par with comparative co-educational colleges.
Faculty vote to conduct a no-confidence vote; DeCoudreaux steps down as president before the vote takes place.
Elizabeth Hillman becomes the President of Mills College. Hillman is the third-choice candidate. She’d been rejected for president in 2011 in favor of DeCoudreaux.
In her inaugural speech, Hillman discusses the need to “embrace changes.”
Multiple sources have indicated that President Hillman began secretly discussing a possible sale of the college as early as 2017.
Within 10 months of arrival, Hillman declares a state of financial emergency and implements a Financial Stabilization Plan (FSP). Hillman announces a vaguely defined “signature experience” supposed to attract more students. There is no evidence of a cogent, responsible strategic financial plan.
The only clear detail of the FSP targets the faculty.
Hillman wants to lay off 12 tenured Mills professors. Hillman tells the Alumnae Association of Mills College (AAMC) Board of Governors that this is to “cut excess spending” on “problem” faculty. Amid student protests and an alternative plan proposed by the faculty, she reduces the number to 5 tenured faculty, but causes the resignation of several others, and effectively ends 6 academic programs. Hillman reduces faculty benefits and upward mobility.
Hillman and the Board’s actions draw condemnation from faculty associations and departments around the country, including UC Berkeley, University of Pennsylvania, Wellesley, Bryn Mawr, Smith, Barnard, and the AAUP (American Association of University Professors).
October 20, 2017
An amended Memorandum of Collaboration (MOC) between AAMC and the College is signed, ensuring "mutual transparency." The MOC states that “the AAMC and the College will share financial reports on a regular basis,” and “will maintain their respective financial books and records in auditable form. Upon written request, each will provide the other with reasonable records.” The College tells AAMC there are no conversations or interest in “going co-ed.” The College promises the AAMC that they will be allowed to help with recruitment again and ask alumnae to actively help with fundraising. None of these promises are ultimately honored.
The AAMC announces it has loaned the College $2 million at the behest of Hillman. The line of credit is to fund the “signature experience” and an online platform for graduate classes (“Noodle”). Loan repayment is set for 2022.
Amid concerns about Hillman’s need to borrow funds, the AAMC asks about Mills’ financial status. Hillman assures the AAMC Board of Governors that the loan is just for “line-item budget ease” and that the College is now financially sound and “can last another 25 years or more.”
Per its audit, the administration does not enact proportionate reduction in spending on itself. Administrative and auxiliary spending increase over the previous year, until they eclipse all other budgets.
There is still no evidence of a cogent, responsible strategic financial plan.
AAMC Governor Alexa Pagonas hears from an educational consultant at the Hoover Institute that "Mills College is for sale." Pagonas asks Alumnae President Viji Nakka-Cammauf to discuss with President Hillman. Hillman responds by saying, “It is just a lease of some buildings.” The consultant states it definitely was a request for sale.
The administration institutes two drastic structural changes simultaneously. One, a tuition "reset" which lowers overall tuition - a questionable strategy which arguably only benefits wealthier, full-paying students. And two, a drastic change to Mills' traditional recruiting strategy.
Mills traditionally had recruited nationally and internationally. Under Hillman, recruitment is suddenly shifted to recruit exclusively from local Oakland area schools.
Approved by the Trustees, this change leads to a precipitous decrease in total net tuition: the College loses over a quarter of its tuition revenue and one fifth of its total revenue in only three fiscal years.
The administration makes no effort to do the work required to make these changes sustainable or to subsequently course-correct.
February 26, 2020
The Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) grants reaccreditation to Mills for 8 years, indicating WSCUC’s belief that the College is financially sustainable until at least 2028. WASC commends the efforts of the alumnae in supporting the College.
June 25, 2020
Hillman and Board of Trustees Chair Katie Sanborn announce for the first time that the College entered into partnership discussions with UC Berkeley earlier in the year. Blaming the pandemic, they paint a dire picture of the College’s finances. (It would later become clear that the College had actually financially benefitted from COVID due to federal and insurance payouts). The donor community is told the plan is for Mills to be a residential college at UCB.
AAMC considers gifting the $2 million loan to the College if it would keep Mills independent, but Hillman convinces the Board of Governors not to, describing discussions with UC Berkeley as “preliminary and exploratory.”
September 17, 2020
At the Alumnae Town Hall with Hillman and the AAMC, the administration celebrates the fact that Mills brought in a record $9.4M in fundraising over the past year, including $2 million from alumnae and $4 million in alumnae bequests. This was $2.5 million above the College’s goal for the year.
AAMC Vice President Pagonas asks Hillman how much money needs to be raised for Mills to stay an independent women’s college. Hillman simply says, “a lot.” Hillman does not respond to AAMC President Nakka-Cammauf's question as to how alums can help recruit more students. Pagonas asks if an alumnae-led capital fundraising campaign would help. Hillman responds “It's not about raising money... It’s not about fundraising. It’s more about leveraging the resources Mills has to sustain our impact.”
Hillman meets with the Alumnae Board of Governors and says conversations with UC Berkeley are continuing. The Governors assure Hillman that they understand the College may need to “change” but ask to be a part of the process and have greater transparency from her.
January 28, 2021
External auditors Crowe LLP issues Mills’ FY2020 Financial Statements, noting nothing of concern.
Mills financial health is rated by auditors as 2.9 out of 3 in the US Department of Education’s Financial Accountability Score, an almost perfect score of its financial health. This score is used
March 2, 2021
Two days before the Board will vote on the disputed teach-out plan, Hillman meets with the class of 1990 to celebrate that it raised the most money in a fundraising challenge.
The meeting morphs into a presentation where Hillman states the College will stop offering degrees and become an Institute instead. She provides no details about the Institute other than a vague mission of helping “marginalized people” and that it would thus be funded by Mills’ endowment of more than $200 million.
March 4, 2021
The Board of Trustees meet. In a departure from normal practice, the “consent agenda” is used for non-routine (indeed, critical) items typically not found on a consent agenda, including a proposed Resolution buried at the end of the Board Packet, for the development of a “Teach-Out Plan,” and design of a “Mills Institute.”
The consent agenda also improperly includes a recommendation to approve certain amendments to the College Bylaws. The consent agenda is glossed over and approved pro forma.
According to their lawsuit, Alumnae Trustees did not believe at the time that they were approving the decision for Mills to cease issuing degrees or admitting first-year students. They merely thought they were approving the development of contingency plans to be considered later.
Two of the Alumnae Trustees later would come to believe that Northeastern discussions had already been taking place before this vote.
March 17, 2021
Hillman publicly announces to the press that Mills will “shift away” from being a degree granting college and be replaced with an “Institute”. This announcement is made at the worst point in the 2021 recruitment and enrollment season, when incoming students are making their final decisions to come to Mills and in the middle of midterms for current students.
It is immediately and widely reported in the press as a decision to close the College. This leads to a predictable and significant drop in new enrollment of first year and transfer students for Fall 2021, creating a self-fulling prophecy and the public impression that Mills is insolvent.
Some Trustees are taken aback by the announcement. In a sworn declaration submitted in the subsequent lawsuit, Alumna Trustee Tara Singh stated that the “announcement by College President Elizabeth Hillman... came as a complete shock, in that it stated publicly (among other drastic measures impacting the very existence of the College) that the College would cease to function as a degree granting institution. Having participated in a March 4, 2021 Board of Trustees’ meeting, which preceded the announcement, I was not asked to make such a decision, nor was such a decision presented to the Board at large.”
The Save Mills College Coalition (SMCC) is created by a student the night of the announcement.
March 24, 2021
Over 1000 alumnae register for the AAMC Town Hall after the announcement. Alumnae express anger that College communications led them to believe it was pursuing a “partnership” with UC Berkeley, not closure of the College. Alumnae express anger that they were not approached earlier to fundraise to save the College. Several consider the Institute a mere land-grab.
Alumna Trustee Tara Singh tells the AAMC that the Board did not vote to close the College. She states nothing was ever presented to her as a Trustee to show that Mills was in a life-or-death situation. She hopes to form a working group of all stakeholders to solve whatever issues the College faces.
March 25, 2021
Students receive an email from Hillman announcing that the UC Berkeley “Changemaker in Oakland Program” will bring 200 first year UC Berkeley students to live and study on the Mills campus.
Alumnae Trustees state that this program had been posed to the Board for approval as supposed supplemental income, not the replacement of Mills itself, which is what it now appears to be. The Alumnae Trustees had believed that this program for supplemental income was what Hillman was going to announce on March 17, 2021.
January – May 2021
Alumnae Trustees continue to request relevant documents, including financial data, term sheets, due diligence, and consultant reports, to discover the facts underlying the announcement and upcoming changes to the College. An Alumnae Trustee tells the AAMC Board of Governors that there is a “cabal” on the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees who are hiding information from them and the entire Board.
April 2, 2021
AAMC issues an email demanding an immediate halt to the "transition", release of all financial documents to the Alumnae Trustees for review, and that time be given to explore all paths for Mills to remain a degree-granting college.
April 4, 2021 (Easter Sunday)
Trustee Marilyn Schuster calls a meeting with the AAMC Board of Governors to discuss “writing the blueprint” for the new Mills Institute. Schuster acknowledges that no plans had been made and no studies had been conducted on the viability, feasibility or even mission of a Mills Institute, even though Hillman had already announced the College would close and be replaced by it.
April 6, 2021
A recorded Alumnae Town Hall with Hillman and Board of Trustees Chair Katie Sanborn reaches maximum capacity with over 1000 alumnae registrants. Pressured by alumnae to name a fundraising target to save the College, Hillman says, “$500 million to $1 billion.” She offers no financial substantiation for the astronomical number - and range between millions to billion.
Hillman goes on to assert that “Mills can’t be saved by fundraising,” and “alumnae don’t have the capacity to fundraise,” despite the fact Mills had significantly exceeded its fundraising goals just 6 months earlier.
Pagonas raises serious concerns about the Trustees' conduct, their sudden and total lack of transparency and ignoring the AAMC’s many offers of assistance.
Sanborn is questioned if she, as the Chair of the Board, had seen the term sheets for the UC Berkeley deal and would she share them. Sanborn refuses to answer, saying the question “doesn’t provide correct information.” Sanborn is either unwilling or unable to explain whether there was a finalized agreement with UC Berkeley, and similarly unable or unwilling to provide clear answers about the reasons or decision-making process behind the College’s announced closure.
When alumnae collectively voice their support for Pagonas’ questioning, Hillman and Sanborn abruptly leave the meeting.
April 16, 2021
The Board of Trustees invites the Mills community to a “Listening Session” on April 22, 2021, where very limited speakers are hand-picked by the Trustees to share their thoughts on recent announcements. Everyone but the speaker is muted. No questions are permitted and the conversation among Trustees afterwards is limited to 15 minutes total.
April 27, 2021
Although they were not informed at the time, Alumnae Trustees later discover that Northeastern negotiations had already begun by at least this date, if not earlier.
May 3, 2021
The Mills College Faculty pass a “No-Confidence Vote” in President Beth Hillman, the Provost, and the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees. It passes by a 73% majority.
Faculty demand that Hillman and the Executive Board of Trustees step down, citing twelve particulars of mismanagement and demanding a wholesale restructuring of the college. The press release from the faculty underscores a pattern of major structural and oversight failures by Hillman's administration.
May 13, 2021
Hillman stonewalls AAMC President and Alumnae Trustees’ requests for more information on the financials of the College and terms of the planned agreement with UC Berkeley. Hillman primarily repeats vague, general information that had been included in public announcements of the College’s plans.
May 14, 2021
SMCC and UC Mills present their plans to the Board of Trustees to prevent the closing/sale of the College. Since late March, Alumna Trustee Nakka-Cammauf had repeatedly implored Hillman and the Board to allow alternatives to closure to be presented and been repeatedly denied.
The AAMC’s counsel eventually intervenes and advises counsel for the College that it would show bad faith if Trustees would not even listen to alumnae alternatives that would save the College. Board Chair Sanborn finally relents and allows SMCC and UC Mills to present their plans.
Each group is given only 7 minutes to make their presentations. The Board asks no questions during the presentations and provides no response afterward.
One Trustee later informed the AAMC Board of Governors that no discussion ever took place among the Trustees as to why these options were not explored, even though discussion had been requested.
Internal documents reveal that Trustees felt that the fundraising offer of $10 million that SMCC had offered to raise to implement the turnaround was not enough. But Trustees never told SMCC how much money they needed or allowed the group to address any concerns. Later conversations with Senator Nancy Skinner’s office reveal that the legislature was open to discussing UC Mills’ proposal at the state level.
June 7, 2021
Alumnae Trustees Dr. Nakka-Cammauf, Tara Singh, Deborah Wood and Dr. Adrienne Foster file a Complaint for Damages and Equitable Relief, claiming that "without information and documentation, they cannot fully exercise their fiduciary duties and continue to have decisions attributed to them that have never been made".
The Complaint alleges that by refusing to provide trustees with this information, Hillman and the College have "breached their obligations under, at a minimum, the College's Bylaws, and have breached their fiduciary duties owed to Plaintiffs and the College.” Singh is particularly concerned about misleading reporting on the endowment.
Following the lawsuit filing, the College censors the AAMC from communicating with alumnae by taking down its website and terminating access to alumnae contact information.
June 9, 2021
Hillman sends an email refuting a news article in the Cal Alumni Association magazine that suggested Mills was closing and Cal was taking over the campus. Hillman states that the UC Berkeley Changemaker program will be housed on the campus in the 2020-2021 academic year, and that it would bring in much needed revenue to Mills.
June 10, 2021
The Board of Trustees hold a meeting and Alumnae Trustees Dr. Nakka-Cammauf and Singh learn for the first time that Mills is considering merging with Northeastern University, although it becomes clear during the meeting that negotiations have been ongoing since at least April. At least two Alumnae Trustees believe that conversations between Northeastern and Mills were taking place even before the March 4th vote.
After the meeting, Alumnae Trustees send the College a written request for records regarding the Northeastern deal. No response is ever received.
According to internal documents, the College sent invitations to a number of colleges and universities giving them 10 days to submit a bid if they were interested in partnering with Mills. These bids were presented for review by the Board, along with a “rubric for evaluating partnerships and options,” which the Board was to use as selection criteria. The “rubric” reveals a 100% bias to selling the College, with no consideration given to saving the college or bringing in new leadership.
Most proposals are 1-3 pages long and express initial interest and a desire to visit the campus. Northeastern’s offer is 53 pages long and had clearly been given preference and significant additional lead time. Northeastern representatives had already met with select faculty heads and obtained statements of support to include in their submission. Northeastern provided a complete offer including financials and conveniently addressed every point in Hillman’s “rubric” perfectly.
Among the proposals from other schools was an offer from Arizona State University that proposes to preserve—and even enhance—Mills’ mission as a women’s college by turning it into a National Women’s College. The proposal showed a clear intent to create a true partnership that preserves Mills' programs, diversity and current curriculum.
The Board’s Negotiation Committee unilaterally recommends pursuing Northeastern, with no mention of the offer preserving Mills’ mission and charitable purpose as a women's college, and its liberal arts curriculum.
June 14, 2021
AAMC sends out a survey regarding the “Next Steps of the Future of Mills.” The survey results showed overwhelming support for the proposition that Mills should keep its current admission policy and fight the lack of transparency by the College by taking legal action.
June 17, 2021
One week after her email regarding the UC Berkeley Changemaker program, President Hillman announces to the press an imminent “merger” between Mills College and Northeastern University. President Joseph Aoun of Northeastern issues a simultaneous announcement. The previous announcement about the “Mills Institute” and UC Berkeley is quietly pulled from the Mills website.
The same day, Board Chair Katie Sanborn sends an email to the AAMC and SMCC stating that the Board decided not to move forward with the alumnae proposals, citing the rubric which effectively compelled the Board to reject any options other than selling the College to Northeastern.
June 23, 2021
The AAMC meets with Board Chair Sanborn. When asked to explain the College’s finances, she simply says that they are “very complex.” She doesn’t answer any questions about the Northeastern or UC Berkeley deals. When asked directly about whether a feasibility/financial study was done prior to the March 4, 2021 vote, she stated that no study had been performed.
June 27-30, 2021
Alumna Trustees Wood and Foster meet with Hillman and Sanborn without notifying the AAMC, and subsequently withdraw from the lawsuit, citing being uncomfortable with press.
July 1, 2021
Despite mismanagement and closing the college she was president of, Hillman is appointed as a chairman of WASC/WSCUC, Mills accrediting body, which had given Mills a glowing reaccreditation just one year before the closure, stating that Mills had the financial resources to continue for at least another 8 years.
July 2, 2021
The College blocks the AAMC from sending an FAQ email regarding the lawsuit and denies the AAMC access to the shared database. The same day, President Hillman is quoted in a press piece calling the alumnae complaint “factually wrong.”
June 31, 2021
Alumna Trustee Tara Singh’s term ends on the Board of Trustees.
July 13, 2021
SMCC’s report containing Dr. Stefano Falconi’s financial analysis of Mills College is completed and sent to the California Attorney General. Dr. Falconi has over 30 years’ experience in higher education finance, at Harvard, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, as well as overseeing the turnaround of small colleges such as Simmons University, a women’s college in Boston, MA.
Falconi analysis notes a deep level of mismanagement and irresponsibility by the Hillman administration and concludes that the College leadership mischaracterized the College’s financial status, which it then used to justify rushing into acquisition talks. He states that in 30 years in higher-ed, he had never seen a public closure announcement like the one Hillman made in March, because it wasn’t compelled by an objectively untenable financial situation, an accrediting body, or a state oversight agency.
July 19, 2021
The College offers an impossible “solution” to the Alumnae Trustees’ request for financial and related documents to prove the College must close: Trustee Nakka-Cammauf can come to the College alone and in person during the last week of July to physically inspect “hundreds of files comprising (at least) many thousands of pages.”
July 25, 2021
AAMC Plaintiffs file an Ex Parte motion for an order staying the vote on the Northeastern deal and requiring the College to produce documents for Trustee Nakka-Cammauf to review before any vote on the Northeastern deal takes place.
July 28, 2021
Trustee Nakka-Cammauf sends the other Trustees an email from University of Tulsa economics professor Matthew Hendricks and a presentation from Mills’ economics professor Dr. Roger Sparks, with their independent analyses of Mills finances. Nakka-Cammauf requests that the Trustees read their analyses, but her request is ignored.
August 5, 2021
Alumnae Trustee plaintiffs request 23 categories of documents regarding Mills’ overall financial health and its conversations with Northeastern. Over the vocal objections of the College’s counsel, the Alameda County Superior Court issues a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the College, prohibiting further action on the Northeastern deal. Judge Pulido further orders the requested documents be delivered to Trustee Nakka-Cammauf, and orders that she be allowed to review the documents with counsel and an accounting consultant. Mills' counsel insists that Nakka-Cammauf is prohibited from sharing the results of her review with anyone beyond the Board.
August 6, 2021
The Alumnae Trustees report that the Board is told Mills will be “foreclosed on” and all staff will lose their jobs "within the next two months" if the Northeastern deal doesn't go through. This appears to be patently false, according to the College's own audits and tax filings, as well as SMCC's higher education financial consultant.
President Hillman sends an email to the Mills’ alumnae community discussing the TRO and suggesting that Mills might not survive because "the alumnae association prefers that Mills not change."
The AAMC is still unable to access the alumnae database and is prevented from sharing any information on the lawsuit with the wider alumnae community.
August 12, 2021
Trustee Eric Roberts makes further misleading statements regarding Mills’ finances in his declaration to the Court.
The College produces some of the requested financial documents per court order to Trustee Nakka-Cammauf. But the documents are provided in such a state that Counsel for the Alumnae Trustee plaintiffs inform the Court that “the organization of the material is so poor that it amounts to a bad faith effort to make coherent review of the materials virtually impossible.”
The College produces 955 individual and unlabeled files comprising 21,000+ pages, each of which must be individually opened for review in order to ascertain their content, and also containing entirely irrelevant materials (e.g.multiple pictures of flowering trees on campus, etc).
Trustee Nakka-Cammauf, counsel, and a retained accountant spend weeks reviewing the files and conclude that College only produced 11 of the 23 requested categories of documents. Entire categories of information have been excluded, including complete term sheets with Northeastern, current, updated financials for the College, recent asset sales, meeting minutes, and current conflict of interest disclosures.
August 16, 2021
Alumnae Trustees file an Amended Complaint, adding the AAMC as a Plaintiff, and re-stating that Plaintiffs are being deprived of information and documentation to which they are entitled and which they require to make critical decisions regarding the College.
August 26, 2021
AAMC moves for contempt, and requests a hearing to extend the Temporary Restraining Order “in light of... Defendants’ stated plan to move forward with a vote on September 3, 2021 regarding... Northeastern University, despite their knowing violation of the Court’s August 18 Order.”
AAMC attorney Lisa McCurdy states: “While we now sit a mere week away from a proposed vote, not only have Defendants failed to provide the materials identified in the Court’s Order, they have yet to provide trustees with even a complete draft merger plan (instead providing just one portion (Article VI) of a draft.... It is astounding that a proposed transaction of this scope, magnitude and far-reaching, historic significance is being treated by Defendants as something deserving of little more attention than a rubber stamp.”
The AAMC’s motion is accompanied by several declarations that are lodged under seal and not available to the public.
September 13, 2021
A hearing is held in the AAMC/Alumnae Trustee suit. The Court expresses surprise to learn that several Trustees had already made statements indicating they planned to vote in favor of the Northeastern deal without even having seen the complete acquisition agreement. Judge Pulido states that he would never vote on an agreement in the form he had been given and questioned if that was a breach of the Trustees’ duty, but acknowledges that this issue is not before the Court.
The Court ultimately lifts the Temporary Restraining Order based on the College’s representations that it is in a dire financial state, has produced all of the financial documents available, and that no substantive changes would be made to the excerpted portions of the merger agreement it had produced.
September 14, 2021
After being told that the College was facing imminent insolvency and foreclosure without the merger, the Board of Trustees vote to approve sale of the College to Northeastern. Mills’ property, assets, and endowment—worth several billion dollars—will be sold to Northeastern in exchange for taking on Mills’ debt of approximately only $30 million.
The draft agreement provided to and approved by the Board is allegedly 10 pages long and not in final form. Multiple sources have confirmed that, during the meeting, counsel for the College explained to the Trustees that a provision was being added requiring the College to repay the $30 million loan, along with a $50 million penalty fee, to be paid to by Mills College to Northeastern in the event that Northeastern backed out of the deal. The College’s counsel requested that each Trustee affirm that they understood the provision, but it was not included in the draft agreement provided for approval.
This provision was purportedly added only one day after the College had represented to Judge Pulido that no substantive changes would be made to the agreement filed with the Court.
A heavily redacted copy of the final agreement that was subsequently made public reveals that the agreement was executed the same day. The pagination on the unredacted pages show that the 10-page document presented to the Board for approval contained only a handful of provisions selectively excerpted from final agreement, which was actually more than 46 pages long. The Board did not receive or approve the full agreement or any of the referenced annexes or disclosure schedules.
Nevertheless, a majority of Trustees vote in favor of the acquisition and also abdicate future responsibility by voting to delegate authority to Hillman to carry out the remaining negotiations with Northeastern, reporting only to a small group of individuals on the Board and without need for further Board approval over the next several months.
While most of the provisions in the final agreement remain secret, the terms that have been made public do not preserve Mills’ mission for the education of women, legally protect the rights of Mills students, provide for salary increases, or protect faculty positions past 12 months.
September 14, 2021
The Fall semester begins at Mills. Hillman had stated in July 2021 that the anticipated incoming class of Northeastern’s students for Fall of 2021 would be between 200-300 students. Northeastern students were offered free room and board to entice them to come to Mills. Only 22 Northeastern students elected to come and the program is cancelled. The semester begins with only the remaining Mills students.
Current Mills students are given notice that June 2022 will be the last opportunity to graduate from Mills. This is a change from what they were told in March—that all current students would be able to graduate with a Mills degree, and that the College would continue granting degrees through June 2023.
September 24, 2021
The Board of Trustees amends its bylaws to neutralize any further dissent from the alumnae. Until this time, Alumnae Trustees had been elected by alumnae at large to represent their interests. The amended bylaws alter this so Alumnae Trustees can only be nominated by the AAMC, but the College Board will then decide whether it will elect them or not.
September 25, 2021
AAMC holds its Annual Meeting. Alumnae vote to recall the Alumnae Trustees who had withdrawn from the lawsuit. An agenda for the event provides that alumnae will determine whether the two Alumnae Trustees who withdrew from the lawsuit did so in “violation their duty of loyalty and illustrated a conflict of interest.”
A small group, including acting Trustees and Chair Katie Sanborn, vocally condemn the vote and attempt to disrupt the meeting. The results are overwhelmingly in favor of recalling the trustees. But a small minority of alumnae point out that the on-site meeting closed before online vote collection was completed, and the entire vote was nullified on a technicality.
October 9, 2021
Fourteen Mills alumnae donors from the classes of 1970 and 1971 send a letter to Hillman praising the acquisition and suggesting that Mills now had ‘too much diversity’ in race and sexual orientation, and this was why enrollment declined. The letter was leaked on Facebook and widely condemned by Alumnae.
December 6, 2021
Throughout the Fall, Northeastern puts significant effort and expense into advertising its relationship with Mills and recruiting for the Mills-Northeastern program. Northeastern students are again enticed to come to Mills by waiving all room and board and fees. Only 11 Northeastern students sign up to come to Mills for Spring 2022.
January 19, 2022
Students are suddenly informed that a slew of majors, many of them Mills’ best-known programs, will be canceled in the Northeastern takeover. This makes it impossible for students to transfer to Northeastern after June 2022 and continue in their existing programs. Other degrees have been cobbled together over multiple and often incompatible departments as purported alternatives for students transferring to Northeastern.
Northeastern lacks accreditation in most liberal arts fields, and because the acquisition agreement stipulates that Mills must cease to exist after June 2022, students can only continue in programs in which Northeastern is already accredited.
Students are given just six days, after the spring semester had already begun, to notify the Hillman administration of their interest to either stay at Mills or transfer elsewhere.
Contrary to Hillman’s prior representations, degrees issued after July 1, 2022 will no longer contain the name Mills. A Northeastern administrator confirms to a parent that Hillman has known about these canceled programs since early fall of 2021 and failed to tell students. He assures her that “Mills will be history on June 30.”
Mills' Faculty are informed that Mills cannot have any majors – or even departments — that compete with any program offered on the Northeastern-Boston campus. For example, there will no longer be a Business Administration or Biology major (or Biology department) because it already exists on the Boston campus.
Mills students who have filed “intent to transfer” forms begin to receive their Northeastern degree pathways. Some students are told they will lose several semesters or even years’ worth of coursework or will need to transfer to Boston. Northeastern won’t honor Mills’ dual-degree relationship with UC Berkeley, leaving students in those programs with no solution. At this point, transfer deadlines have already passed for most colleges.
Students still have no idea what their financial aid packages will be.
Hillman inexplicably holds calls to discuss donations from Mills donors, despite the anticipated closure in only four months. Many donors also receive a fundraising letter in March.
Alums who belong to the major donor societies because of their large donations to Mills, but who are known to be against the Northeastern merger, are repeatedly removed and booted off the calls.
March 18 and March 21, 2022
Mills undergrad students livestream student protests from Mills Hall (“Occupy Mills”) to demand that Hillman and the administration meet with them and fulfill the promises made to them at the time the acquisition was announced in June 2021.
April 1, 2022
Hillman tells faculty that 500 students from Northeastern will attend in the Fall. As of this month, purportedly 100 may come but remain unconfirmed.
Mills students livestream a Town Hall presentation in Lokey Business Center, with Hillman, Provost Patricia Hardaway, Dean Chicora Martin. Students give emotional testimonials and plead with Mills and Northeastern to fulfill the promises made to them. Hillman and Hardaway make vague promises with no committed timetable. Notably, a response about financial aid concerns is deferred for at least another month, at which point they are advised that a Northeastern financial aid representative will meet with students. Other concerns are ignored completely, including students’ questions about being forced to take extra classes or extend their time to complete their degrees.