In 2012, the then-Marymount College invited many members of our community to participate in an advisory board in support of the new Lakeside campus in the historic Lucerne Hotel in Lake County.
Subsequently members of this group formed the Friends of Marymount California University Lakeside as a support and advocacy group for students enrolled at the Lakeside campus, with the specific objective of raising scholarship funds. As a result of their efforts, more than $18,000 was raised, to be disbursed to local students according to detailed criteria established in advance.
When Marymount California University abruptly abandoned the Lakeside campus on June 12, stripping the building of furniture and IT equipment, the Friends of MCU Lakeside sought assurances that the money remaining in the fund would be spent on behalf of Lakeside students rather than disappearing into a general scholarship fund or being redirected toward university operating costs. We are glad to learn that the money has been awarded to local students.
On the other hand, we cannot express too strongly our abhorrence at the university’s underhanded manner of departure, “like thieves in the night,” in the words of Lake County Supervisor Rob Brown.
No advance warning whatsoever was given to staff, faculty or to Lake County, the university’s landlord. Above all, the university’s obligation to the students at the Lakeside campus was ignored in the most reprehensible manner. The first option offered to them — to transfer to Marymount California University’s main campus in Los Angeles County— is so infeasible the mere suggestion reeks of cynicism. Most Lakeside students have jobs, homes and families here in Lake County and nearby Mendocino County meaning a move to Southern California is out of the question. Transfer to another four-year university may eventually be possible for some, but it’s too late for the 16 students registered for the Lakeside fall term to enter classes elsewhere. For the several dozen ongoing students who entered Marymount California University Lakeside in the fall of 2016 or spring of this year, the unsatisfactory prospect of completing their degree work online may be the best alternative available.
It is important to remember that the only inducement for most Lakeside students to attend Marymount California University at all was the opportunity to complete their education locally. With that promise snatched away, many now have no viable alternative. In the circumstances, respect for the standards of academic probity and simple human decency demanded the implementation of a coordinated, transparent departure plan that honored the university’s commitment to existing students. Apparently, nothing of the sort was even considered.
Instead, the university chose to release self-serving, disingenuous public statements claiming that it invested “significant resources in the Lake County initiative, including improvements to the site,” even though the substantial costs of renovating the building were all borne by the county, and falsely implying that the Lakeside campus was a financial drain on the university.
Although the Friends of MCU Lakeside no longer exist under that rubric, our group will continue to advocate for Lakeside students, will continue to assist local students to pursue higher educational goals both in and out of Lake County, will continue to seek creative ways to repurpose the historic building in ways that benefit the community and will continue to do what we can to encourage a four-year university to become established in our community. We also intend to support the county should it become necessary to compel Marymount California University to abide by the terms of its agreement.