Close examination of the corporate double-speak used in press releases issued by Northeastern and Mills provides few discernible facts about the acquisition.
We'll add new questions for investigative journalists as documents and sources are made available to us.
President Hillman has pushed this deal through at lightening speed, much to Northeastern's advantage. Why should Hillman be trusted to represent Mills, rather than her new boss, Northeastern, in this deal? What will Hillman's compensation be for brokering this deal for Northeastern?
In a recorded call with Mills alumnae/i on March 2—just 2 days before a highly controversial and potentially illegal Board of Trustees consent agenda vote—Hillman mentioned Mills land use and ongoing discussions with UC Berkeley as if no decisions have been made yet. Although Hillman never explicitly mentioned Northeastern, she said she was in talks with UC Berkeley and "other potential partners." Why would Hillman push through a teach out vote designed to close Mills before she had a deal in place? Or would she? Litigation shows that most voting Board members were completely unaware of the Northeastern deal. Did a Board of Trustees subcommittee engage in secret discussions about the Northeastern deal prior to the teach out vote?
Leaked documents show that several other universities pursued potential deals with Mills during the spring of 2021, including University of San Francisco and Arizona State University (which would have kept Mills an historically women's college and provided an opportunity to be part of an Institute), among others. USF complained that they weren't given enough time to provide a well-considered partnership RFP. How much time were they given? Considering the timing, it seems likely that Hillman and the Board decided on the deal with Northeastern before exploring these other options. Why would they do that when exploring all options fully would be in the best interest of Mills? Based on the timing it sounds like the Board was pursuing a Northeastern deal while they were still engaged in potential partnership talks with UC Berkeley?
In litigation filed by the Alumnae Association of Mills College (AAMC) against Hillman and several other Board of Trustees members for hiding important financial documents, the defendants, including Board of Trustees members and staff, provided financial and enrollment information that seems discernibly false and misleading. (More details to come in a future blog.)
Unless Mills Leadership is hiding privatized debt from public audits, Mills' actual debt is in the range of $25 million, which is owed for capital development, including new construction for the Business school. For a college with a $227 million endowment and annual revenue in the range of $50 to $60 million, this debt level seems relatively low, not high.
Normally, any multi-billion-dollar institution that is considering being acquired—whether public or private, for profit or non profit—performs financial feasibility analyses. However, the Chair of the Board of Trustees, Katie Sanborn, stated to Mills alumnae/i that no such analyses had been performed. Instead, 3 such financial analyses have been subsidized by Mills faculty and alumnae, or provided pro bono.
Why would an institute of Mills' size and considerable wealth ever agree to a deal like this without conducting financial feasibility studies?
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