From: M. Rene Islas and Michele (Gagliano) Islas
Date: Thu, Feb 23, 2023 at 2:17 PM
Subject: Statement from M. Rene Islas and Michele Islas regarding President Oubré and Chairman Santana
Dear Members of the Whittier College Board of Trustees,
With great sadness, we write to share our concern about the direction of Whittier College, our beloved alma mater. We are concerned about the College’s financial health due to declining enrollment. We are appalled by the irregular suspension and libelous charges levied against Christopher Cross. We are perplexed by the questionable decisions by President Oubré, advanced by the Chairman of the Board, Miguel Santana.
We request the removal of President Oubré and Mr. Santana from their leadership positions at Whittier College due to the persistent turmoil and damage they have done.
According to reputable news sources such as U.S. News and World Report and Forbes, college enrollment rates are declining across the nation at a rate of 4.1 to 4.7 percent. These declines are slight compared to the precipitous drop in enrollment of over 40 percent experienced by Whittier College, which now has a little over 1000 students enrolled and is expected to slip under 1000 next year. The slashing of enrollment is sure to have an outsized negative impact on the financial standing of Whittier College and, in turn, reduce the reputation in the eyes of prospective students, families, and competitors. This level of slippage is a harbinger of the demise of my alma mater’s sustainability. Fiduciary responsibility is one of the primary duties of the Board of Directors and should be of primary concern under Mr. Santana’s watch.
The second matter of concern is the inappropriate and potentially illegal action of suspending Christopher T. Cross, a member of the Board of Trustees. Mr. Cross exemplifies the characteristics that distinguished Whittier College as a successful Hispanic Serving Institution with a track record of helping people of color move up the economic ladder. Since graduating in 2000, Mr. Cross has personally mentored my wife Michele (Gagliano) Islas, Class of 2002, and me through career and personal development. We are both Hispanic Americans and first-generation college-goers.
As a Hispanic student whose mother did not complete post-secondary education, he allowed me to develop my career in education policy and non-profit leadership upon graduating from Whittier College. He afforded this person of color to work at a leading education think tank in Washington, DC. Based on his mentoring, I served as a political appointee in a U.S. Presidential Administration, in leadership roles in the for-profit sector, and as a senior executive in several leading national non-profit organizations. This holistic care is indicative of the Whittier Way.
In addition, Mr. Cross is an asset to the Whittier College Board of Trustees. He demonstrated his ability to ask tough questions and lead organizations such as the Education Commission of the States, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) to greatness. It is disgraceful that the Whittier College Board of Trustees suspended the distinguished gentleman from serving the Board and stifled his contribution to his love, Whittier College. Christopher T. Cross is just the type of Board member Whittier needs to climb back to the position it once held.
Finally, we have been watching intently as the College, under the direction of President Oubré and Chairman Santana, continues to make missteps that are detrimental to its success. We noticed a growing chorus of alums, now up to 1356, complaining about flawed decision-making and even plagiarism in an administration pronouncement about the ending of several sports programs. Academic dishonesty is just another example of the decline of our beloved institution under the leadership of President Oubré and Chairman Santana. This group has also asked for the President and Chaiman’s removal.
New leadership is needed to restore Whittier College to its past glory. Because of these three concerns and the unfair treatment of Christopher Cross, we respectfully request that President Oubré and Mr. Santana resign from their positions of leadership immediately. If they do not, we ask that the Board of Trustees act swiftly to remove them before their actions and behavior continue to soil Whittier College’s reputation, integrity, and financial health.
M. Rene Islas
Class of 2000
Whittier College 2007 Outstanding Young Alumni
Former President of the ASWC
Michele (Gagliano) Islas
Class of 2002