Sudden closure of cash-strapped LaVerne causes ire

The sudden closure of the University of La Verne’s branch in Athens earlier this month due to financial problems has angered hundreds of students and staff members. The university said this was done in order to allow students to make alternative arrangements before the academic year began. The university’s California headquarters decided to close the 29-year-old branch on September 17, the day after receiving a report from accountants Deloitte and Touche revealing «serious fiscal problems» and two days before the beginning of the fall semester. More than 600 students have the option of continuing their education at the Athens branch of the University of Indianapolis, although the careers of some 100 teachers and other staff is less clear. «The financial figures… were far worse than anyone here had anticipated… (the Athens corporation) was going to be in such financial duress that there was no way they could finish the term,» Charles Bentley, the university’s director of public relations, told Kathimerini English Edition yesterday. But officials at the Athens branch say those in California had been aware of an alleged net deficit of 2.5 million euros for at least a decade and had allegedly used that as an excuse to close the Athens branch. Indeed, Craig Sexson, former president of the Athens branch, accused California officials of «following a legal strategy which they hope will absolve them of all the liabilities which are rightfully theirs.» A representative of the Athens university’s community, who asked not to be named, was more direct: «They have the right to close the institution but not in the way they did it, leaving 650 kids and 106 staff out in the cold,» she said. It was unclear how many students had taken the option of transferring to the Athens branch of the University of Indianapolis before today’s deadline. Sources at the La Verne Athens branch said that not all students will be able to complete their courses there. Those juniors and seniors who do will have their degree accredited by La Verne, Bentley said. Teachers and students are appealing to US Ambassador Thomas Miller and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to press La Verne to allow the Athens branch a 90-day transition period «to give us enough time to integrate our program with another American university.» There has been no response to the appeal as yet. Meanwhile, La Verne University is taking legal action against the Athens corporation to retrieve student records, saying that it has to keep them confidential, under US law.