DuPage Co. (ECWd) -
Great leaders become great because they don't just lead, but they listen! I recall my NCO Leadership school in the Air Force in which I attribute much of my personal success in life to the attributes learned in that course. The single most valuable attribute was the ability to listen to those who are under your command, and then apply that information accordingly. Those under you command are the front line of information and more often than not have valuable incite to both good and bad things to come.
I believe that principle applies to any organization, but I also believe it applies to every citizen as it is the citizenry that is responsible for placing people in charge of their local government.
As this relates to COD, I published a snap shot of the tens of thousands of dollars being spent illegally by Breuder and his team back in November, (This little piggy went to the Waterleaf).
Since that exposure, and much more by the local media to include the most outstanding front page Chicago Tribune article today, the people are awake! Not only are they awake, it appears they are finally getting engaged in the process of civic involvement, but I must ask, why has no one listened when the very people on the front line raised this concern clear back in 2007?
I received a document today from a citizen wanting to bring light to matters at COD. A light that was being shined almost 10 years ago. The document, linked below, had the author's phone number and fortunately it was still a good number.
Rick Kambic, a student journalist who was attending COD back in 2005-2007 was fighting to institute ethics and reform, to include public awareness, and his efforts were scuttled by the Administration at every turn.
An example of the justification for the project he was wanting was described on the application:(Click here for project proposal)
"Jane Herron resigned citing ethics concerns and concerns about contracting. Gavin Tun's interview raised many of the same issues. There are other concerns at board /administration levels. This results in increased tuition, reduced programming, and casts the college in a negative light. Thus this project seeks to inform the community about the current situation and concerns at the college."
After speaking with Mr. Kambic it was made clear the very people who should have been listening to him did everything but listen to him.
They should have listened to this student!
"As a student journalist I did the obligatory meeting stories to chronicle the many decisions made from week to week. As time went on, however, my untrained and politically naive eyes were catching subtle contradictions. I was confused as to why hundreds of millions of dollars were being invested in creating new buildings and more classrooms when the college was eliminating faculty positions and talking about reducing enrollment."
The more Rick asked for information and documents, the more things looked not right. He sought out people who could explain what was on some of those documents, and quickly word spread about a gutsy student searching for answers. Rick slowly built a following.
"I was maybe the most dangerous adversary of all: I was not a teacher who could be fired or a college-sanctioned program that could lose funding, nor was I a politician who could be blackmailed, or a cash-strapped news agency that could be out maneuvered. I was a common man with a lot of questions and all the time in the world."
However, as the bigger picture took form, Rick routinely lost sleep wondering how these things were allowed to happened and why people of authority who knew what was happening chose not to act. But regardless he pushed on, and relayed findings to anyone who would listen, interpret, or give tips.
At one point the college threatened to press charges for harassment when Rick sat in the public information office for an entire day trying to enforce FOIA response timelines.
"I filed the paperwork to start my own club because the public needed to know what was happening and I wanted to be responsible for the content of the message, not a scared student body president, or bold but cautious student newspaper editor. I knew the college would stop me, but the rules guaranteed me the right to start a club with certain start-up money and so I decided to try and see what happens."
Rick's answers on the form were quite bold, but everything was laid out that way because the student activities department could shut the club down if any activity goes beyond the club's mission and scope. Rick instead left a long paper trail of his questions and findings.
"I was 19 years old at the time. Now, eight years later, I'm a professional journalist and I realize a few of the things I did back then boarded on activism journalism. I was a great fan of Studs Terkel and in that very same year he sued AT&T over their decision to give copies of all phone conversations to the NSA. Now knowing that activism journalism is dead and investigative journalism is on life support, I in a way regret crossing the line on those few occasions. However, my quest was an education that no classroom can provide, so I would certainly do it all over again."
I suppose you can say Rick didn't have a publication to vet his information, but his FOIA requests became common knowledge at the college and raised frequent discussions, causing others to take stands, such as what happens when people read articles. Local media also monitored what Rick was doing and sometimes ran with information he uncovered by requesting copies of his FOIA requests.
Rick was named the Associated College Press Reporter of the year in 2006. It was clear after speaking with him he lived through some of same issues at COD as we see today. He is currently employed with the Chicago Tribune. (ACP awards listed here)
I believe the things he lived through, which are being replicated today, give credence to the fact the matters at COD are much bigger than Breuder and the Board of Trustees. These matters revolve around money and power, of which the political class "thinks" it controls.
Some of the same names during Rick's experiences are still intertwined in today's problems at COD. It has become a political pawn for the well connected to solidify future business dealings, all while forgetting that the people voted to create an institution for learning, not a factory for no-bid politically connected business expansion.
I personally want to thank Mr. Kambic and send a message to him and the brave and wise COD students from a decade ago, that we hear their voices now! I want to let them know that we share their concerns, and we ask for their help and the help of all taxpayers and concerned citizens to return integrity to their alma mater, to return integrity to DuPage County, to return integrity to Illinois, with the promise that we will do all we can along the theme of NEVER AGAIN!