From: Kristine Dillon
Date: Wed, Feb 22, 2023 at 12:40 PM
Subject: Concerns about Trusteeship
Dear Whittier College Trustees,
After reading that the Whittier trustees voted to suspend Barbara Groce and Christopher Cross from the Board, I was unable to imagine a scenario in which these long-serving, devoted and loyal trustees could be seen as anything but valued contributors to Whittier College’s best interests. I served with both of them during my time as a trustee from 1994 to 2012. I can’t recall a time in which either Chris or Barbara offered anything but constructive participation in our discussions. They were also generous contributors of their personal time and money. How is it possible that both of these Poets can today be viewed as so at odds with the expectations of Whittier College Board service? Have those expectations become out of step with the definition of a board of trustees as published by our accrediting body, WASC/WSCUC? I find it very difficult to believe that Barbara and Chris no longer follow the stated WASC/WSCUC expectations:
The governing board demonstrates sufficient independence to ensure that all board actions are taken in accordance with the institution’s best interests and those of the students it serves. Decisions reflect a balancing of interests and priorities consistent with the institution’s mission and related fiduciary responsibilities (such as asset protection, employee concerns, concerns of students and families, and interests of the community), giving appropriate attention to both short-term and long-term needs. The governing board must not be effectively controlled by a minority of board members or by related entities. For an institutional governing board to be considered independent, a majority of its members may not have interests that influence their impartial decision making, create multiple and potentially conflicting relationships, or result in competing loyalties.
As individuals, trustees have a responsibility to seek information from the administration in order to fulfill their duties. Did Barbara and Chris fail in this responsibility or did the Board fail to understand the importance of its oversight of the College and its resources? With my personal observations of Barbara and Chris as always respectful but responsible in their interactions, I cannot believe they failed to serve within the definition of their roles.
Were you as individual trustees fully convinced of Barbara’s and Chris’s falling short of their responsibilities as trustees of Whittier College? If not, you should realize that the broader community of the College is shocked and is seeking explanation of the treatment of these dedicated Poets. It is not just the Poet community but also the broader public and responsible governing agencies that are closely watching how this Board upholds its duties as fiduciaries of a nonprofit public charity. Perhaps now is the time for each trustee to examine personally the important role you agreed to fulfill and to reexamine the ways in which Barbara Groce and Chris Cross were punished for following their conscientious understanding of what the role requires.
Kristine E. Dillon, Ph.D.
Class of 1973