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Judge halts Northeastern University’s plan to absorb California women’s college

Pedestrians walk near a Northeastern University sign on the school's campus in Boston on Jan. 31, 2019.Rodrique Ngowi/Associated Press

Northeastern University’s plan to absorb a women’s college in Northern California hit a roadblock Thursday as a California judge put a halt to discussions about the struggling college’s future plans.

An Alameda County Superior Court judge blocked Mills College from entering into any partnerships in response to a motion filed on behalf of two alumnae trustees who seek the release of financial data, term sheets, and planning documents relating to the college’s pending merger with Northeastern, according to a statement issued on behalf of the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs were seeking the information following the college’s announcement in March that it would stop enrolling new students beginning this fall, according to the statement.


One of the plaintiffs, Dr. Viji Nakka-Cammauf, was denied access to this information “despite being a sitting member of the Board of Trustees,” the statement said. Nakka-Cammauf also serves as president of the Alumnae Association of Mills College Board of Governors.

In a statement sent late Thursday night, Mills College President Elizabeth L. Hillman said the judge had denied the plaintiffs’ request for the records and argued that the plaintiffs “have chosen to serve the interest of the AAMC, not the College.”

“This lawsuit to obtain records that the College already offered to make available to the plaintiff is an unfortunate side-show engineered by the AAMC and its lawyers,” Hillman said in the statement.

“At a time when the College needs to focus on the path forward, we sincerely hope the AAMC will stop its divisive efforts targeting individual trustees and officers of the College, and will instead devote its resources to partnering with us in creating a future of opportunity,” she said.

The plaintiffs contend that the school said it would allow Nakka-Cammauf to review “thousands of pages of relevant information” under the conditions that she could only inspect hard copies and “would have to come to the meeting alone without counsel or financial analysts,” according to the plaintiffs’ statement.


Renata Nyul, a spokeswoman for Northeastern, said the university “remains very excited” about the proposed partnership.

“Change is rarely unanimous, but we believe that a Mills-Northeastern alliance will expand the capacity of both institutions to serve students and society for generations to come,” Nyul said in an e-mail Thursday.

A hearing on the motion is set for Aug. 16.

“I am thankful to the Alameda County Superior Court for its decision in this matter that hits the brakes and forces Mills College administrators to explain their lack of transparency to the Alumnae Trustees about the financial state of the College,” Alexa Pagonas, vice president of the Alumnae Association of Mills College Board of Governors, said in the statement.

The partnership would add to Northeastern’s growing presence on the West Coast, where it also has campuses in San Francisco, Seattle, and Vancouver.

In June, the board of trustees of Mills College, located in Oakland, voted to explore a “strategic partnership” with Northeastern. Mills College President Elizabeth L. Hillman said at the time that Northeastern’s “leaders understand and support the vital contributions Mills offers, and . . . we share a vision of what education can and must be in the coming decades.”

Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun said in June that under the proposed deal, students at Mills would receive degrees from Mills College at Northeastern University, and current students would have the option of graduating from Mills or applying for a free transfer to Northeastern. Northeastern would honor all of Mills’ existing financial aid commitments.


Nick Stoico can be reached at nick.stoico@globe.com.