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Investigation Reveals Concerns Surrounding Whittier College's Board of Trustees and Alleged Nepotism

By Rebecca Canales

Founder & CEO

Whittier 360 News Network


Introduction:

This article is the second installment of our investigative series on Whittier College. Our research involved interviewing alumni and faculty members, and we discovered several concerning issues regarding the college's Board of Trustees. These include a significant reduction in the number of board members, their lack of connection to the Whittier area, and their limited experience in running a college. Additionally, there are allegations of nepotism and potential conflicts of interest within the board.


Reduction in Board Members and Lack of Local Representation:


Our investigation revealed that the Board of Trustees, which typically consists of 35 members from the local communities around Whittier College, has been reduced to only 17 members. Most of these individuals have no prior connection to Whittier College or the local area and lack experience in managing a college. Furthermore, some new board members do not reside in the Whittier area and seem to disregard local history and traditions. Notably, one member, who supports President Oubre, is a Facebook employee with involvement in Democratic political campaigns. However, that individual is a Whittier College alumni.


Image shows Whittier College Board Member Erin Clancy's Whittier College Bio which states she is a public policy manager at Facebook and is actively supportive of Democratic Party political campaigns
Whittier College Bio of Erin Clancy Trustee at Whittier College

For more information on Whittier College Board members: https://www.whittier.edu/about/presidentsoffice/trustees


Response from the Save Whittier College Group


When approached for comment, a spokesperson from the Save Whittier College group defended the board members. They acknowledged that it is not uncommon for a Board of Trustees to include non-alumni members or individuals from outside the area. However, they claimed that President Oubre had replaced long-serving, dedicated board members with her acquaintances. The spokesperson expressed concerns over the decreased board size and the lack of requisite experience among the current members, raising potential accreditation issues. They also pointed out that several of President Oubre's personal friends had been appointed to the board, despite having no prior connection to Whittier College.


The spokesperson for the Save Whittier College group stated in email, "It is not uncommon for a Board of Trustees to have non-alumni members or members from out of the area. That said, President Oubre has pushed out long-serving, devoted Board members and appointed her cronies. Typically, a Board has a range of professional expertise and demographic backgrounds with as many as 40 members. The current Board has decreased to 17 members. " He also stated, in the same email, "Tim Yamauchi, Yvonne Romero da Silva, Francisco Rodriguez, Matt Knight, and Christina Bouchot. These are all personal friends of President Oubre with no prior connection to Whittier College." Christina Bouchot is the wife of former Whittier City Councilmember Henry Bouchot who often embroiled the Whittier City Council in hyper partisan controversies. Regarding the number members the Whittier College Board of Trustees is supposed have, the spokesperson, going by the name John Greenleaf, said, "there would normally be 35 Trustees and they would be primarily alumni. 7 non-alumni out of 35 is 20%. 7 out of 17 is over 40%. That is a significant difference. More importantly, the current Board does not have the requisite experience. Only 6 Trustees have served more than 5 years. And very few have nonprofit or higher education experience. This is an issue for accreditation. WSCUC is the accrediting body and they have standards for independent oversight and expertise." He said the Board of Trustees is appointed by the Governance Committee which is chaired by Interim Board Chair Kenya Williams. "The Board elects new Trustees by a simple majority. President Oubre pushed her friends on the Board which is highly irregular. She worked with Yamauchi and Knight at the Times Mirror Co. And she attended U Penn with Romero da Silva. Christina Bouchot is the wife of former City Council member Henry Bouchot. Rodriguez is a UC Davis alumnus and part of Oubré's (and Miguel Santana's) network. With the massive turnover (30 Trustees have resigned or not stood for reelection; 2 passed away), President Oubre has recruited inexperienced alumni with no prior nonprofit board experience. The only white person she has nominated is Matt Knight. All of the other white members of the Board were elected prior to her hire" Greenleaf added in the email indicating that Oubre and her administration were focusing exclusively on race and ignoring professional qualifications and experience. "Her focus is to diversify the Board and to secure her leadership with acolytes. Qualifications for key roles such as Audit, Investment, Advancement, and Governance are in the hands of inexperienced people." Our investigation found the claims to be based on truth.






Random Commentary (You can skip to the next paragraph)


It goes without saying that one of the most important of American values is that experience must trump race otherwise you can't really call yourself American. At the same time, some members of disadvantaged groups need a helping hand based on economic, not racial, disadvantages. We are not a nation based on equal outcomes and equal rewards for everyone but we are a nation based on equal opportunity and you can't have equal opportunity without a fair and level playing field. That is why while we oppose the poison that is DEI, we do support something like IOHDP which the acronym for Investing in Opportunities for Historically Disadvantaged Peoples, an alternative to DEI that aims to level the playing field for all Americans by ignoring income status, working for a level playing field so that those who love America, who swear absolute allegiance to the US Constitution (as originally interpreted by the White people who created that Constitution) and who want to be here can have a fair shot at the American Dream. People want to talk about the American Dream for immigrants but what about the American Dream for Ethnic Americans who have already been here for hundreds of years? You ought to have a right to expect fairness and a level playing field. But where is the level playing field for Descendents of Africans Enslaved in the US? Where is the level playing field for the people who are Indigenous to the United States of America and their overseas territories? Surely something can be done to ensure that everyone who has a legal right to be in this country gets a fair shot and that everyone is able to play by the rules and can be positive that everyone else do the same. I am not sure how this would apply to appointments for the Board of Trustees but the process of selecting trustees is not very democratic for a group of people who claim to be pro democratic. The students at Whittier College should be given a chance to elect someone to represent them on the board. Faculty and alumni should each also have such an opportunity. Maybe local cities like Whittier, Santa Fe Springs, Pico Rivera, and La Habra could be allowed to send their own representatives to sit on the board to represent the interests of their communities? The idea that a single person can appoint all the members of the Board of Trustees sounds less like democracy and more like despotism. But Whittier College is a private institution so there is that. One thing is clear is that the Board of Trustees at Whittier College needs to be reformed and the biggest reform needed is the manner in which trustees are selected.



Allegations of Self-Dealing and Nepotism


There are allegations of self-dealing and nepotism within the college. Our investigation found that President Oubre did not recuse herself from the applicant selection process when her son was appointed as the Director of Innovation and New Ventures. This contradicted her earlier statement to the media. Furthermore, it was discovered that her close friends and appointees to the Board of Trustees played a significant role in her son's appointment. Although a direct conflict of interest was not present, there were indications of secretive indirect conflicts of interest. At a minimum, a backroom deal was made.


However not all backroom deals are illegal and neither are appointments involving conflicts of interest necessarily illegal. But illegal or not, all backroom deals and all conflicts of interest are highly unethical. We make no judgement on this matter except to point out that it is suspicious and may be supportive of claims of in direct self dealing for the Oubre family. But more information is needed to make a final determination. We can tell readers with high confidence that his salary is about $100,000 which is at least $20,000 higher than what most Whittier College professors are making according to the Free Press. So while there was not a direct conflict of interest, Whittier 360's investigation found there was a secretive indirect conflict of interest in the appointment. The American Aristocracy Tries to Fight Racism. It's Not Working. | The Free Press (thefp.com)



Image shows a screenshot of the online job posting for Director of Innovation and New Ventures and shows its salary range and job duties
screencapture from job posting for Director of Innovation and New Ventures at Whittier College




According to the Free Press article, everyone who questioned the deal was threatened with being called racist. The term "racist" is often used as a weapon to silence one's opponents and to strip them of their rights as whistleblowers. Other statements made in the Free Press article will be addressed in our next report.



Qualifications and Selection Process


Concerns were raised about the qualifications of Nate Oubre, who was appointed as the Director of Innovation and New Ventures. According to his LinkedIn profile, his professional experience was limited, with short tenures at various organizations. The qualifications for this position typically include a bachelor's degree and several years of experience in relevant fields. The selection process for the position lacked transparency, as it occurred during the summer when most students and faculty were absent. There was no formal search committee or process, leading to suspicions of a backroom deal.


According to Mr. Oubre's LinkedIn page, (32) Nate Oubre | LinkedIn , he wears “wear many different hats in my responsibilities. I build marketing and alumni databases, manage an e-commerce operation, anticipate the direction of current technological trends, manage and programmatically automate a Canvas instance, build open-source projects, build and test new technology. “ The qualifications for a Director of Innovation & New Ventures can vary depending on the organization. However, some common qualifications include a Bachelor’s degree with a record of high academic achievement and 7+ years of experience in investment banking, investing (PE / VC firm), management consulting or corporate strategy. Prior to his current roled at Whittier College, Nate Oubre was a corporate manager at US Metro Group, a janitorial service firm where he worked a little over a year and a half. He was also Senior Legal and IT Coordinator at the Alto Group an internationalist loss prevention venture. He said “managed the legal research and operations teams responsible for client experience on our platform .” He last barely a little over year at the job. Prior to this he was founding editor at Throne. At none of these jobs did Nate Oubre last more than a year and a half. Nonetheless, according to the experience requirements on the job posting itself, "Previous Experience: 7-10 years' industry experience in venture capital, business development, marketing, consultative sales, new ventures, and strategic planning. At least seven years of leadership experience building, nurturing, and motivating highly talented cross-functional teams. Demonstrated experience in successfully launching new initiatives and in developing strategic partnerships." As you will see below he does appear to have limited experience in these areas. At none of these jobs did he work for more than a year and half so it is very clear he did not have the 7 to 10 years experience the posting was looking for. Nor did he have a degree relevant to job.



screenshot of qualifications for Director of Innovation
Screenshot of Qualifications for the position of Director of Innovation


During his time at US Metro Group, his linked page says he led teams of three to four employees each in marketing, corporate operations, and accounting. Part of his job at Alto included “leading sales efforts by developing relationships with government institutions, and other days I worked with our clients to custom tailor our front-end and API to their specific needs.” At Throne he “Advised executives on operations, marketing, and corporate strategy” and drafted legal documents, contracts with vendors, employers, and corporate partners. “ He also worked less than a year at Auto Desk and Nelson Staffing as a recruiter.

We looked into how the new position of Director of Innovation and New Ventures was filled. According to John Greenleaf, “The position was posted briefly in July 2021 with a deadline of July 31 for applications. Nate's hire was announced on August 23, just three weeks later. The search was conducted by Timothy Anderson (VP for Innovation) and Cynthia Joseph (VP and Chief Administrative Officer). Both had been promoted to those roles on July 1, 2021. They both report directly to the President. The search occurred in the middle of the summer when students and faculty were gone from campus. There was no formal search committee or search process. This was a backroom deal. During an alumni town hall, Oubre claimed not hiring her son would be "DNA discrimination" and unfair to Timothy Anderson since other VPs could hire who they want. “



Emails between Rebecca Canales and the Save Whittier College Group discussing Nate Oubre Hire
Screenshot of emails between Whittier 360 and source

Based on the email, we could find no prior connection between Mrs. Oubre and Mrs. Joseph.


We found that not only did Mrs. Oubre have an indirect conflict of interest in the hiring of her son, but that Mr. Anderson also had a conflict of interest because of his friendship with Linda Oubre, Nate's mother.

Based on his work history prior to Whittier College, Mr. Oubre had very little experience and his mother's connection to Whittier College's president very likely played a huge role in him getting the job. We note that very few people were given an equal opportunity to apply for the position. Hence in connection to indirect conflict of interest we found that family connections played a significant role. Mr. Oubre was appointed to the job in 2021. We are now in 2023 and this is the longest that Mr. Oubre has been at any single employer. Any time you have someone working a prior employer for only two years or less, that's a red flag. His past jobs prove he did not have the requisite experience for the position for which he was hired but we also find that he may have acquired some of that experience during his past two years at Whittier College.


Need for Board Reform


Given the issues surrounding the Board of Trustees, reforms are necessary, particularly regarding the selection process for trustees. Suggestions include allowing students, faculty, and alumni to elect representatives, as well as considering representation from local cities such as Whittier, Santa Fe Springs, Pico Rivera, and La Habra. However, it is important to note that Whittier College is a private institution, limiting the degree of democratic influence over the board. We are recommending the entire Board be removed and replaced. We will provide more information in the next couple of articles on our reasons for this.


Ongoing Concerns and Whittier College's Response


Although President Oubre has announced her resignation, her appointees to the Board of Trustees, who were selected by her friends on the Governance Committee, continue to hold influential positions within the college. Furthermore, Nate Oubre, despite the concerns surrounding his appointment, remains employed by Whittier College. The resolution of these issues is a matter that must be decided by the college and the Alumni Association, as they hold the responsibility to address these concerns and ensure the best interests of the college, its students, faculty, and alumni.


Conclusion


The investigation into Whittier College's Board of Trustees has revealed significant issues regarding its composition, lack of local representation, and allegations of nepotism. Concerns have also been raised about the qualifications and selection process for the Director of Innovation and New Ventures position. While President Oubre's resignation may address some of these concerns, it is crucial for the college and the Alumni Association to address the remaining issues and consider reforms to ensure transparency, fairness, and expertise in trustee appointments. The ultimate goal should be to create a Board of Trustees that effectively serves the interests of Whittier College and its community.



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