Harriet Harris Letter to the Board of Trustees

From: Harriet Harris
Sent: Wednesday, February 22, 2023 3:34 PM
Subject: Whittier College and the future

To:  The Whittier College Board of Trustees

My name is Harriet Harris, and I am the widow of Willard V. Harris, Jr., Class of 1955, a Trustee Emeritus who passed away March 14, 2022. I am writing to you to express my concern about the many actions currently under way undermining the future of Whittier College. Bill and I have been major donors to the college over the last 50 years. Currently, our name is on the student club, “Bill and Harriet’s Club 88”, “Harris Residence Center” and I personally helped manage the construction of Turner Hall. Bill was on the board from 1977 through 2005, and he served as Vice Chair for many years. He also headed the Building & Grounds Committee during his tenure which included the construction/remodel of Whittier Law School. We have put our love for Whittier College into financial support as well as being good ambassadors for the college. Our children and grandchildren are alumni, too.

I am also a Founder of the Brethren Community Foundation currently being administered by the Orange County Community Foundation. You may or may not know that Brethren has provided multiple Fellowship grants to Whittier College under the direction of Professor Andrew Wallis. This fellowship was suspended during Covid-19 for obvious reason. However, we are withdrawing all future support.

We have grave concerns about the financial future of the college due to some of the current actions including the cancellation of the legendary football program and other competitive sports teams. These and other actions have led to a diminishing population of enrolled students and a dis-harmony among the administration, staff, board, and faculty. 

Whittier College, founded by the Quakers, has been a very diverse college for decades. The former Board of Trustees provided financial contributions to ensure academic success, renovating and constructing new buildings such as the library and the science center. What has happened to those members of the board? I understand that many of them have left the board due to intimidation and threatening comments. I’ve read the President’s statements about how she inherited a “country club” Board and set about dismantling it. This reveals how little she knows about the leaders who built the institution that she is dismantling. The Trustees of Whittier College worked their way through college and worked hard in their careers to achieve enough success to give back to an institution that helped launch them.

Please be advised that I am not alone and represent the view of many faces of the college community. I cannot stand by and allow one individual to lead the college into financial ruin, turmoil, and intimidation. Many of us object vehemently to the obstruction of the board members in exercising their powers as trustees to oversee, collectively and in good faith, the matters before the college. The impression to many of us is that there is no plan to improve enrollment and financial stability. This can only be done if there is an open investigation that allows the public to understand and mitigate the potential disaster heading toward the college’s future. This should be an open forum with transparency and goodwill.

Cc:  IMoisa@aalrr.com

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