From: Amy Pulver
Date: Mon, Feb 27, 2023 at 7:19 PM
Subject: Open Letter to Whittier College Board of Trustees from an alumna
To: Whittier College Board of Trustees
February 27, 2023
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As a proud Poet alumna, I have been concerned about my alma mater since the beginning of the pandemic. My training as an economist and a public health professional, combined with my knowledge of Whittier College’s financial history and endowment, led me to be worried when the pandemic hit our country. Whittier was not as well-positioned as better endowed institutions to face such a cataclysmic event, and our students were highly reliant on student aid to continue their education paths. As a loyal alumna, I contributed directly to funds to help students who were struggling financially to meet these new challenges. I responded to requests from the development office to assist in asking fellow alumni to contribute.
As the days, weeks, months, and now years have passed, my concern for my college has moved from concern and worry to questioning the ability of the current leadership to weather this storm, to downright outrage and anger at the path the leadership has recently chosen in its treatment of two esteemed alumni, Chris Cross and Barbara Groce, in suspending them as trustees.
I have the honor and pleasure of knowing both Chris and Barbara through my own years of service to Whittier College as a trustee (2001 – 2006). I know both of them through other shared civic interests outside of Whittier College. I personally know them both to be individuals of highest integrity, honesty, intelligence, and devotion to the College. Both have been constructive in discussions, courteous to different points of view, and willing to ask hard and challenging questions – the very things we all learned as students at Whittier were our responsibilities in civic engagement. Both are generous contributors to the college. In short, they both embody what most institutions look for in members of boards – presence and participation; sharing of time, talent, treasure, and testimony; colleagueship. It is impossible to believe that these two fine trustees suddenly became completely different participants than I have known them to be.
I am appalled that the board would suspend two trustees without prior notice to them or without explanation to them or the wider community. Each trustee has responsibility to seek information from the institution to fulfill his/her fiduciary and governance responsibilities. Were Barbara and Chris asking questions the President and her Executive Committee did not want to hear or engage with? I am also distressed that the reflex action of President Oubré, when confronted with hard questions, is to engage in some sort of legal action or threat thereof. It is increasingly clear to me that the current administration is incapable of engaging in honest dialogue within the Board and within the wider Whittier College community (faculty, staff, alumni, parents, and Whittier community members).
Over the years, I have been a Faithful Friend, contributing my time, talent, treasure and testimony to an institution I love beyond measure and to which I own a huge debt of gratitude for my excellent education – the best foundation for a career that has taken me places I never would have imagined. I have made provisions for the College in my estate plans and have made financial investments in endowments, capital campaigns, and unrestricted giving. When I make my annual gift this year, I will not be contributing to unrestricted giving, as I do not intend my hard-earned resources to go to support legal expenses to litigate what should be normal community discussions conducted with openness, honesty, and adherence to our Quaker values.
As an alumna with a deep commitment to and investment in Whittier College, I respectfully ask each of you as trustees to look inside yourselves and ask if you are fulfilling your roles with honesty, integrity, and openness and in the best interests of our college and, most importantly, our students. What part did you play in punishing Barbara and Chris for some imagined slights? And what kind of role models are you for our students and for the broader Whittier and national communities that Whittier College desperately needs in our court as we navigate difficult times?
With respect and deep concern and disappointment,
Amy Pulver ’72
Service to the College Awardee, 2015
Alumna of Board of Trustees
Alumna of Poet Council