Sunday, December 6, 2009

News and notes....

So is it true that our fair university has taken a page from the corporate world’s playbook and moved us into the realm of mergers and acquisitions. To wit, is it true that Chicago State University is merging with Daley College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago in a heretofore unprecedented ultra articulation agreement? The proposal which has not been formally presented to the Faculty Senate for its consideration is but the first step in the assimilation of CSU into the Chicago City Colleges in some 21st Century higher education hybrid. Your humble narrator can only hope that the university administration has done its due diligence by thoroughly investigating whether this ‘merger’ needs approval by either the Illinois Board of Higher Education or the North Central Association; whether the Illinois House or Senate Higher Education Committees need to investigate this process; whether the university Board of Trustees needs to approve the agreement; or whether the faculty of the university will be consulted given the clear curricular implications of such a merger. If the administration has not received in writing, the blessings of the aforementioned bodies, then they have demonstrated a deplorable degree of negligence that continues to engender a lack of confidence in those associated with the university. If all of those agencies have given their blessing, why has there been no public discussion of such a major change in the operation of the university? Is this project an indicator of a more opaque communication process than the prior administration? Is there something in this merger that is being deliberately hidden from the faculty? It is time for the Faculty Senate to demand information on the university’s first foray the mergers and acquisitions world.

So our women's basketball season is off and running. The Ladies played at a tournament at the United States Air Force Academy this past weekend. They will be off during finals week but will have their next home game on December 17th against Akron. Unfortunately for some that is the same night as the Commencement. How are the women going to play a home game in the Jones Convocation Center if the Commencement is scheduled for the same night? The short answer is that they won’t. They will play at the Jacoby Dickens Building in a clearly inferior athletic facility. The real down side is that the university is now liable for a $10,000 penalty for breach of contract with Akron because the contract the university signed months ago stipulated that the game be played in the JCC. Because the university could not de-conflict its events and schedule the commencement for Saturday we will now pay our opponent to come and play against us. I would think some administrator would have caught this and saved the university $10,000. How much athletic equipment could have been purchased for that amount?

So has anything really changed after the trumpeting of new leadership by of BOT chair, who by the way has some interesting financial challenges outside of the university.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

CSU ≠ Southside Community College

Sunday's New York Times (Nov. 28th 2009) brought this article edited by the Chicago News Cooperative: "Chicago News Cooperative: Problems and Discontent Bedevil Chicago State"

The story has been "bedeviling" the Administration for the past few days. One can almost hear the condemnations of "the white-controlled media" ringing through the corridors of the Cook Building. It must be quite stinging after the love letter Wayne Watson and Leon Finney received in the Chronicle of Higher Ed two weeks ago. Blumenstyk's article there is so highly esteemed by the CSU powers that be that it is posted on the mainpage of the CSU website! Of course, no faculty or representatives from the Faculty Senate were quoted in that unbalanced portrait.

Granted, the NY Times article itself meanders from Convocation center costs to graduation rates and is bedeviled (word of the day) by its own inaccuracies. Are budget cuts so severe that there are no fact checkers left in journalism? Wayne Watson has not been president of CSU since 2008, the Presidential Search Advisory Committee resigned in April 2009, not in July 2008. These are journalism 101 failings. And yet one cannot dismiss the article merely on these points.

The most interesting comment comes from our own alumnus, Sen. Edward Maloney, and gives one a glimmer of hope that someone in the Illinois State political web cares a little bit about what is happening with us. It's the first public stand I've seen him take since a contingent from the CSU Faculty Senate and Alumni Association met with him in June to discuss the problems connected to CSU's flawed presidential search. It seems Sen. Maloney does not share Trustee Finney's desire to lower standards in order to raise enrollment. And he disagrees with Pres. Watson on Rickey Hendon's west-side pork project to build a CSU extension campus over there. More importantly, he sees CSU as a state university, not a "south-side university," let alone an extension of the Chicago City colleges. Thank God someone in politics has said it. And considering what I've heard about CSU linking up with Daley College, I hope Sen. Maloney will be true to his words. But more on that later.

Here are Sen. Maloney's comments:

...But State Senator Edward D. Maloney, Democrat of Chicago, a Chicago State graduate and chairman of the Senate’s Higher Education Committee, said improving the university’s graduation rate should be at the top of the list.

“They have to raise standards, be aggressive about recruiting quality kids who are going to graduate,” Mr. Maloney said. “It’s a state university, not a South Side university.”
Dr. Watson supports a move initiated by State Senator Rickey R. Hendon, Democrat of Chicago, to create a $40 million Chicago State satellite campus on the city’s West Side. Mr. Maloney opposes the proposal.

“I will do whatever I can to see that doesn’t happen until there is some proof at the current campus that there’s a willingness to improve,” Mr. Maloney said. “I can’t see anyone appropriating that kind of money for another campus when the current one clearly is not fulfilling its responsibility.”

Saturday, November 14, 2009

CSU in last week's news

Just in case you haven't been watching the latest on CSU in the news...

Peter Sachs is back reporting on education in The Chicago Current the new on-line local watchdog for Chi politics. Two articles from November 9, 2009 to check out:

"CSU Students Question Quinn Appointments"

and a follow-up to Dr Watson's actions at City Colleges, "Questionable Spending for Watson's Posh Party"

The Chicago Tribune hopes the appointment (at last) of four new trustees will help the situation at CSU:

"Starting Over" November 11th,0,1204074.story

And if you can access the Chronicle of Higher Education you can read what is really a love letter to Dr. Watson and Rev. Finney. Note--not one faculty member or representative of the faculty is quoted in this article even though two students appear. Is Hermene Hartman ghostwriting for the Chronicle now?

Chronicle of Higher Education November 8, 2009

"A Real-Life Lesson in Why Accountability Matters" by Goldie Blumenstyk

Saturday, November 7, 2009

First Amendment Anyone?

This week a draft document titled "CSU Policy Manual" made its way into our e-mail boxes with a request for comments. Self-described as "a reference tool to help managers understand and implement University policies," it is troubling on several levels.

First, the document is vague about which employees are being addressed. Sometimes, there is a reference to "all employees," although the majority of the document's text seems to be directed at CSU staff rather than faculty.

Second, the section titled "Public Relations" is extremely problematic. The full text reads:

"The Public Relations policy reflects and supports the University's one face to our students, community and supports. The policy makes it easier for everyone at the university to work with the news media and improves coordination of media relations throughout the organization.

All university employees are required to comply with this policy.

All inquiries from the press or other media must be referred to University Public Relations.

When anyone receives a call from the news media, ask and record the following information, then contact Public Relations:

Date and time of call
Caller's name
Name of publication, station and location (city, state)
Phone number
Specific question
Deadline, if any"

Again, this section is quite vague, other than its insistence that the policy be followed by "all employees." For example, all inquiries from the media must be referred to the university's public relations section? How about questions that pertain to a faculty member's area of expertise?

However, with the caveat that this document is simply a draft, I think the tone of the policy is the most troubling aspect of this particular section. I wonder how this policy squares with the first amendment to the constitution? As long as a particular faculty member does not claim to be articulating official university policy why the need for censorship? Or for a unified message? Given the recent admonitions from our incoming administration to avoid talking to the press, this seems like an attempt to muzzle dissent at a time when we should be engaging in vigorous debate.

Am I being an alarmist here? I would like to hear from others about their thoughts on this matter.

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Chicago State of Illinois Ethics Test

Considering the sham of "ethical" governance that we labor under in Illinois (and forget about shared governance on campus), I find that the mandatory state ethics test for employees to be even more insulting this year than in the past. As I was starting to answer its ridiculous questions I wondered what the test for my superiors (sic) in governance looked like. Maybe it's something like this:

1. As a member of a Board of Trustees at a state university you are allowed to:

a. reward your supporters (or relatives) with university contracts, why else did you become a “trustee”?

b. make university policy such as set admission standards and lower ACT scores

c. play the race card with the media and do the same with local ministers you know when any of your actions are criticized

d. direct the president and provost to fire people who try to stand up to you

e. ignore your major role in donating money to the school

f. all of the above

2. As a member of a state university Board of Trustees, you are conducting a presidential search at your university. You know the candidate you would like to hire, but there are pesky constituencies on campus (like students, faculty, and administrators) who must be given the appearance of consultation. You can dispense with any “equal opportunity employment” laws —the Governor is in your pocket (it’s an election year), he won’t interfere, so you

a. hire a local search firm you know for $78,000 under the guise of conducting a “national” search to give a veneer of legitimacy to the process

b. select a top adminstrator to act as a buffer between you and the tedious faculty who don’t know their place—why should You have any direct conversation with Them?

c. refuse to let those pesky campus constituencies anywhere near the portfolios of all the applicants for the president’s job because they might see the more qualified candidates who have applied from outside of Chicago

d. use your lawyer to issue memos corroborating that same veneer of legitimacy (see “a” above) so that the governor will keep his nose out of your southside business

e. all of the above

3. As a President of a state university you are allowed to

a. blame faculty teaching as the root of the problems at the university

b. use your university’s media equipment to film advertisements for your politician friends

c. fire people who refuse to do things that they worry are illegal—how dare they question you

d. surround yourself with people who know how to say “yes”

e. believe your own publicity about yourself.

f. all of the above

4. As Governor of the State of Illinois you want to be known as someone who will reform your corrupt state government, but you are too weak and tied into the system to be effective, so you:

a. make a great show of power by publicly targetting a really minor infraction of the trustees at a major university

b. ignore the truly major infractions and malfeasance of the trustees of a very minor university under your jurisdiciton

c. back down from your own ultimatum when faced with anything that might offend black ministers whom you think will deliver you a lot of votes from their congregations

d. reveal your own inner racist by deciding simply to let “those people” on the southside of Chicago deal with the problems down there

e. all of the above

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Why Can't Pat Quinn Just Do It?--Laura Washington

And one more article in case you haven't seen this one...

The Washington Report written by the Sun Times' Laura Washington (Oct. 19, 2009)

Just do it.
Gov. Pat Quinn plans to appoint new board trustees at Chicago State University “with all deliberate speed.” Chicago Sun-Times, May 11

“The governor’s senior staff has been working with all deliberate speed to ensure that the vacancies on the board are filled. Staff members have spoken with the faculty senate and alumni to assist in the search for strong candidates for the board.” Chicago Tribune, Sept. 25

“Quinn’s press secretary, Bob Reed, says … the governor is close to filling vacancies.” Chicago Sun-Times, Oct. 18

For months, Gov. Pat Quinn has been ignoring the debacle at Chicago State University. For months, he has failed to fill longtime vacancies on the board of a school in desperate need of quality leadership. Why can’t he “just do it?” My take: Quinn is afraid of some black folks and doesn’t care enough about others.

For the last couple of years, under the the previous administration of President Elnora Daniel—and the Chicago State Board of Trustees—the university has been roiled by highly critical financial audits, charges of gross corruption and mismanagement, a disintegrating physical plant, and plummeting enrollment. The school suffers a miserable 16.2 percent six-year graduation rate. Last month the Chicago Tribune reported that Chicago State “is at risk of losing its accreditation” by the Higher Learning Commission. The agency cited its “remarkably poor” graduation and retention rates, and its chaotic leadership and finances.

On Saturday, Chicago Sun-Times columnist Carol Marin reported a new lawsuit that “pours fresh gasoline on the matter.” The suit against the university and its trustees, comes from two former Chicago State administrators who were fired earlier this year. One alleges her dismissal “coincided with the board’s awarding of no-bid, short-term public relations and marketing consulting contracts” to two politically connected operatives, Marin reported. Another claims he was fired after he reported inappropriate board activities to the state’s executive inspector general and the auditor general.

As of this posting, Chicago State officials have not commented on the specifics of the lawsuit.

It’s not Quinn’s fault that the school is a disaster area, but he has the power to help it heal. Last spring, the school was rocked with controversy when students, faculty and staff launched a campus revolt against the board’s flawed search for a new chancellor, which culminated in the April 29 appointment of Wayne Watson as Chicago State’s new president. Critics said the was infected by “insider politics” and urged Quinn to intervene, halt the selection process and replace the board, which included several lame-duck trustees and vacancies.

Illinois law provides that the Quinn can remove gubernatorial appointees “for incompetence, neglect of duty, or malfeasance.” Quinn refused to step in.

If you have had a heartbeat over the last few months, you’ll know that the governor didn’t hesitate to leap into the case of the University of Illinois’ “clout-list” scandal. Last summer, egged on by screaming headlines in the Tribune, Quinn pushed out and replaced the university’s board of trustees.

With all due respect to the U of I, there are other schools with more urgent needs. Chicago State, an underesourced stepchild of the Illinois educational system, serves a predominantly African American, working class population. Many of its 7,000 students are the products of the Chicago Public Schools, and we know where that leaves them on the opportunity quotient.
Why the double standard? Why can’t Mr. Reform, the self-proclaimed champion of the disenfranchised, “just do it?”

Marin has a few other good questions about our accidental governor: “With the February primary fast approaching, is Quinn reluctant to jeopardize African-American support?” Marin wrote. “Is that why he backed down and kept the only two African-American trustees on the U. of I. board. And hasn’t jumped in to challenge the CSU board?”

Yes. Absolutely. Without a doubt.

It seems that Quinn cares more about Tribune’s editorial page and the heavyweight interests at the University of Illinois than he does about a crucial but beleaguered black institution on Chicago’s far South Side. He is loathe to offend the politically connected black big shots like Watson and the Rev. Leon Finney, the chair of Chicago State’s Board of Trustees. Quinn’s press secretary, Bob Reed, told Marin that is not the case, and assures his boss is “close” to filling the slots.

Why can’t he just do it? As reader James Reyes opined at “They don’t call him ‘Quivering Quinn’ for nothing.”

Saturday, October 17, 2009

"Fresh gasoline..."

In case you haven't read the latest about the leadership at CSU see Carol Marin's article in today's Sun Times.

To read the full story:,CST-EDT-carol18.article

Why isn't Quinn fixing Chicago State U.?
October 17, 2009
BY CAROL MARIN Sun-Times Columnist

How come Gov. Pat Quinn, in the wake of a clout scandal at the state's premier university, can sweep out the University of Illinois' board of trustees (with two notable exceptions) but can't do the same for our most beleaguered university?
I'm talking about Chicago State University, the mostly African-American school on the Far South Side with a horrifically low 16.2 percent graduation rate.

Many, including my Chicago Sun-Times colleague Laura Washington, have asked that same question. Now a lawsuit, which was filed Friday, pours fresh gasoline on the matter.
The suit, targeting the university and its trustees, was filed by Patricia Arnold, hired in 2008 as the executive director of university relations and marketing, and Stephen Seth Hosick, hired the same year as director of human resources.
They arrived on campus in the wake of a yet another damning audit by Illinois' auditor general, who cited egregious fiscal mismanagement at the school, such as former President Elnora Daniel's absurd, state-funded "leadership seminars" aboard cruise ships with her family in tow.

Daniel resigned, and an interim president, Frank Pogue, was brought in to right the ship as trustees looked for a new president.

Pogue hired Arnold and Hosick. Then all three allegedly ran afoul of Leon Finney, the chairman of the board of trustees.
Arnold's firing, according to the suit, "coincided with the board's awarding of no-bid, short-term public relations and marketing consulting contracts" to two people. One was Hermene Hartman, publisher of N'Digo magazine, a friend of Finney and supporter of Wayne Watson for the presidency. The other was Marilyn Katz, owner of MK Communications, a firm that does a lot of business with the city of Chicago.
Hosick's firing, the suit contends, came when he blew the whistle to "the Executive Inspector General and the Auditor General [about] the Trustees' intricate involvement into the Univer- sity's personnel matters and files, and its demands to approve the hiring of all full-time employees . . ."
Finney, according to Pogue, openly interfered. "Definitely, yes," said Pogue, whose one-year contract ended in August.
Finney declined to comment.

Last spring, the search for a new president was ugly. Members of the search committee -- including faculty -- walked out after Finney and the board narrowed the choice to the two finalists the committee found least attractive: Wayne Watson, the longtime chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago, where low graduation rates are also an issue, and Carol Adams, onetime head of the Illinois Department of Human Services, who battled a controversy over using a well-paid state employee as her chauffeur.

Watson got the job. And Adams got a consolation prize: Illinois trade representative to Africa, with a salary of $110,000.
"Does Illinois need Carol Adams or any other person as a trade representative in this economy? No," said Comptroller Dan Hynes, Quinn's main Democratic primary opponent. "I've called for the closing down of the trade offices to save millions of dollars for the state."

And Hynes adds his voice to the call for Quinn to fill three vacancies out of seven trustee positions on the CSU board immediately.

"You've got to bring in new leadership to address the problems of accreditation, graduation rates, retention rates," he said.
With the February primary fast approaching, is Quinn reluctant to jeopardize African-American support? Is that why he backed down and kept the only two African-American trustees on the U. of I. board. And hasn't jumped in to challenge the CSU board? And gave Adams a job Illinois may no longer be able to afford?

Quinn's press secretary, Bob Reed, says absolutely not. Moreover, the governor is close to filling vacancies.
Let's hope so, because 7,000 or more African-American students are in need of his urgent advocacy

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A different tact

So, at its October meeting the Faculty Senate discussed what its agenda should be for the upcoming year, one that promises to bring more attention to the university. One idea that received a good deal of support was for the faculty to talk more about our students/alumni and ourselves in terms of what it is that we do. We need to take the lead on restoring the reputation of the university since the administration and BOT seem to be incapable of doing so.
It was very fortuitous that at my departmental meeting, my colleagues shared the accomplishments of three of our students and former students. Alonzo Ward, has completed his comprehensive exams at the University of Illinois and is now ABD in the History Department. Justice Kali, a Political Science graduate, has completed her PhD at the University of Alabama. And finally, one of current students, Alexander Amponsah, was the recipient of a private scholarship from a Tennessee businesswoman who was a fare in Mr. Amponsah's cab. She was so impressed with him that she has forwarded a scholarship to him to continue his studies here.
It appears that on the academic side, we continue to do the good things we do and our students continue to excel in their intellectual lives. Faculty has the opportunity to share with the world via this blog the accomplishments of our students and our colleagues so that when journalists read this blog they will see the great things the university does for its students.
Please share with me stories of achievement of students, alumni and faculty at so that I may post them here.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Say, what?

With such terrible acoustics in the Convocation Center it was very difficult to hear the entirety Dr Watson's very long speech outlining his "vision." Can anyone confirm that I heard (in no particular order):
  1. we should build a 1,000-room dorm?
  2. administrators should put in 12-hour a days? (as if they didn't do that already)
  3. that he slipped up and referred to us as "City Colleges"?
  4. that his outline of plans to counter the accreditation issue came across as the usual adminstrative "top down" decision-making that we have always had?
  5. that "faculty must be part of the university?" what exactly does this mean? what does this imply?
  6. that there was a strong paternalistic attitude toward the students --as if we were teaching high school or (gasp!) community college students?
  7. that the whole thing did not end until around 3 p.m.?
  8. that there was anything substantially different from what he said in his "interview," such as it was, in April?

I really want to know--it is clear the Convocation Ctr. is a terrible venue for this sort of thing. Please do feel free to post and offer your clarifications and perspectives.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Just more of the same stuff that doesn't work

So, much has been reported about the university’s upcoming visit from our accrediting agency. If you spend any appreciable time on campus you will see much activity in preparation for that visit. I long ago learned not to mistake activity for accomplishment, so when my class was interrupted yesterday by one of my colleagues attempting to locate a student who received an academic warning I had enough. Something has to be said. Here are the facts as I understand them.

On June 1st, the university submitted a monitoring report to the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association to address the progress the university had made since 2006 when the last monitoring report was submitted. This 2009 report, as yet unreleased, highlighted several deficiencies in the enrollment management and retention areas as well as in university governance and leadership.

The university received a response to the monitoring report dated in the first week of July that recognized the university’s lack of progress in the areas that were noted in the 2003 accreditation report.

By the second week of the semester, the Deans, Chairs and Directors were sworn to secrecy about the report in a meeting with the Provost. The next week, members of the Faculty Senate were given information about the situation a day prior to an all campus assembly that informed the university community for the first time about the seriousness of the situation the university found itself in. Several members of the Senate asked pointed questions about accountability and communication of this information. They were informed by the then ‘unpaid consultant’ that there would be no accountability for decisions made that led to this situation. The faculty was assured by the Provost that the process for preparing for the mandated focus visit was going to be transparent. The ‘unpaid consultant’ communicated through his comments that the process would be less than transparent. I inquired at that meeting whether the Governor’s office, the Illinois Board of Higher Education, the IL Senate Higher Education committee chairman, or the IL House Higher Education committee chair. I was told then that none of the people or agencies had been contacted since the letter was received in July. I encouraged the Provost and the ‘unpaid consultant’ to thoughtfully approach how we would boost our retention and graduation rates. Given our history of lack of accountability and open communication, I suggested that the university not rush into policy shifts, personnel changes and reckless activities that would impact the confidence of the campus community.

An ad hoc committee was formed to address the situation, which by my reckoning was completely the responsibility of the administration and the Board of Trustees. The participation of faculty in this process smacked of tokenism. At the all campus assembly I made remarks to the effect that the faculty’s hands were clean in this. It was an administrative and leadership / governance failure. The university was informed that it would be hiring a Vice President for Enrollment Services. This is curious decision for two reasons. First, no other state university has a vice president for enrollment services. Only Northern Illinois which has a VP for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management has enrollment management directed at the vice presidential level. Is this creation of yet another administrative position necessary? Is that the interpretation of the problems with leadership noted in the monitoring report? Is the Student Affairs area going to be short changed by not having a VP like every other state university? For a regime purporting to be student friendly, that is a clear lack of leadership depriving the student affairs area while attempting to shore up the retention/graduation problems on the administrative side. Second, according to the Board of Trustees governing policies, “...the appropriate and duly constituted committees of faculty government shall participate in the decision-making process of the university in the following areas: ... 3. Creation of administrative positions at the level of Dean and Vice President and selection of administrative officers for such positions as well as of the President of the university.” It is clear that the faculty was not consulted in the creation of the Vice President for Enrollment Services. So yet again the administration fails in their duties and there is no accountability for the failure from the BOT. That leads me to believe that the BOT is the core problem. They historically have hired presidents who prove to be incapable of providing the necessary leadership to prevent situations like this instead of ineptly responding to them.

This leads me to yesterday. While in the middle of my lecture a department chairperson from my college inquired as to the whereabouts of one of my students who had received an academic warning. The student was not in class, nor was the telephone number he tried contacting her on a good one. Sadly, we have gotten to the point of department chairs being truant officers. If any of you good readers have any academic references for the efficacy of department chairs as truant officers raising retention rates please provide that citation here so that my intuition can be proven faulty. Otherwise, my story is that using chairs to chase down students will likely not be successful in any appreciable way in addressing the underlying dysfunction at the university, namely a lack of accountability and no clear or transparent communication process. I asked when the duties of the chairs had changed. What I discovered was there is no connection between the university’s academic warning system and the oft criticized mid term grade process. It appears that the absence of a thoughtful approach to the retention/graduation problem has in large measure shown the academic warning system in its current configuration to be useless and I imagine the mid term grade system will prove to be equally useless.

So why not try something new? Let’s hold those responsible for the problem accountable. How about publishing the monitoring report and response from the HLC on the university website in the spirit of transparency. It is one thing to say there will be transparency and another to actually have transparency. The Provost has promised transparency while the now board selected president has been notably silent on the issue of transparency and communication. At least the BOT is consistent in its selection of presidents, professional administrators with no connection to students or faculty and no experience or inclination in communicating or being accountable.

And the saga known as CSU continues.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Oh Governor, Where Art Thou?

Jack Stripling's latest article in Inside Higher Ed is worth reading for getting to some of the heart of why CSU is the way it is. One can only hope that if the state authorities won't exercise oversight, maybe the federal authorities will. Wayne Watson may be in the Cook Bldg., but the story is not over.

Oh Governor, Where Art Thou?
October 1, 2009

Friday, September 25, 2009

Students Voice Concerns to Provost, President-to-be

For those who were not aware of all that transpired at the teach-in on Wednesday, I would like to describe what was for me the highlight.

At our lunch break we were having an open mike in the cafeteria. One speaker proposed that, if we wanted to ask questions directly of the trustees, they had an office at ADM 300, and we could go there to talk with their representative. At this point, some students started to leave, and I decided I wanted to be with them.

When I arrived at the third floor of the Cook administration building, I encountered 10-15 students walking toward the President’s area. Some of them spoke to the person who seemed to be responsible there, telling her that they were told to go to the President’s Conference Room. That door was opened. By the time I sat down (about 12:45?) there were about twenty students in the room. A few minutes later, there were 30-35. After a short time, the Provost, Sandra Westbrooks, came in to speak with the students.

They were concerned about a number of issues: Would the university lose its accreditation and the degrees be worthless? Why didn’t the plumbing in the dormitory work properly? Why were whiteboards in the classes so dirty? Could anything be done to insure better treatment by people who worked in the financial aid office? Why wasn’t UPass in place by now? These and many other questions were raised in the two hours I was there. Over a half-hour period the deans of the Honors College, Arts and Sciences, Health Sciences, and Graduate School arrived, as did Wayne Watson, the president-to-be.

Westbrooks responded to nearly all of these questions herself. I thought she explained the accreditation situation well and clearly, but I am not knowledgeable; it was suggested to me later that the lack of shared governance could be an issue for accreditation. Still, Westbrooks was clear in asserting that the university was satisfying two concerns raised by NCA (a plan to address retention and enrollment and evidence the plan was working).

For me, the most important thing was the initiative taken by the students to demand that their questions be answered. I was very proud of these students for asserting themselves. Balogun (dean of Health Sciences) took charge of calling on people, criticizing their shouting out of their concerns. When, after two hours, I was called on to speak, I said I thought the main point was that the students were to be praised for their concern and activism. I pointed out how remarkable it was that the provost, four deans, and the president-to-be had shown up. Although Watson had criticized the students for leaving in the middle of the meeting, he had missed the first half hour (I pointed this out). The students, in leaving to go to class or care for their children, were fulfilling their responsibilities. I was proud to be a faculty member teaching such students. Congratulations to them!

Please comment on this action. If you were there, add your observations--please.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Senate Sponsors Teach-in Sept. 23

What follows below are a letter from Yan Searcy, President of the Faculty Senate and a letter from Pancho McFarland, chair of the teach-in committee.

First, the letter from Yan:

Greetings Senators,

after much reflection and consultation with the chair of the TEACH-IN committee it has been decided that the Faculty Senate will sponsor and promote the TEACH-IN on September 23rd. The work of the committee is valuable and the momentum that they continue to build has been encouraging.

Share with your colleagues that the problems that plague the university affect all of us. Certainly everyone is aware of the upcoming focused visit. The future of the university rests with the results of that focused visit. Documented faculty input and perspective is imperative.

Below, please find the update from the chair of the committee.

This is an important endeavor. This is a faculty directed event that attempts to maintain the institutional integrity of CSU.Please understand that the Faculty Senate's concern has consistently been about process, shared governance, transparency, integrity and accountability.

Your support is imperative. In the coming days, information will be forwarded to you. Please inform your colleagues via departmental meetings, phone calls, and emails. Flyers will be posted around campus. Some may be emailed to you.Please distribute these.

In service,

Yan Searcy
CSU Faculty Senate President

Here is the letter from Pancho McFarland, sent Friday Sept. 11:


Today several members of the teach-in committee meet to discuss details concerning the teach-in scheduled for September 23. This message is to brief you all on what was discussed and decided upon.

First, we have many more faculty members who have volunteered to facilitate the sessions. A list of topics and facilitators follows. We can still use more facilitators and notetakers. The more facilitators we have the more small discussions we can have which allows for greater participation.

Second, we discussed publicizing the event. We need everyone to talk with their colleagues about participating in whatever manner possible. Faculty, staff and students can be facilitators or notetakers, audience participants, pr people, etc.

Third, we discussed the role of the facilitators and notetakers. Facilitators are expected to do the following: briefly present relevant information, facts, or questions to the other participants in the session and to moderate the discussion that will ensue. We want the facilitators' presentation to be short so that a true dialogue can take place. The teach-in is designed as an all-campus dialogue and not experts speaking to the masses. In addition, facilitators can decide on other aspects of the session which might include bringing "experts" or concerned citizens to briefly address the audience. Notetakers are asked to record comments and proposals on large boards. This facilitates participation and dialogue. We will gather all of the notes and discuss how to put together a strategic vision at the 2 to 4 session.

Fourth, our needs list. We need more volunteers. We need markers, easels and large blank notepads. We need to get the word out about the teach-in and encourage all of our colleagues to participate at whatever level they can.

Fifth, we are working a set of questions that we will circulate prior to the teach-in so that the entire campus will be focused on the same issues. Please add your questions. Some initial questions include:

What can I do to change/impace media perceptions of CSU?
What is the CSU mission?
How can I help achieve the goals set out in the mission?
What should the university's relationship to Chicago communities look like?
How can we develop a curriculum that emphasizes social justice and community building?
What role should studetns faculty and staff have in the governance of CSU?
How are decisions made currently?
What should be the proper roles for presidents, upper administration and Board of Trustees in the decision making at CSU?
What expectations should we have of each other?
How do we nurture and maintain good relationships between the various CSU constituencies?

Finally, we will meet again next Friday at noon in the first floor library cafe. Please join us. In addition, we will be discussing the final details of the teach-in via email so please respond to this and other communications that are forthcoming.

One unreported item. We have received confirmation to use Conference Rooms a, b and c for this event. We currently do not have a venue for the evening session from 6 till 7. We will also use the open space outside of the cafeteria if needed.

In addition, we need to develop a strategy for notifying and involving Chicago media. Any ideas?

Proposed Schedule (please let me know if you are able to facilitate during the assigned times; if not we can move things around)
10-11: Shared Governance (Phil Beverly, Ann Kuzdale); CSU in Broader Context (Marc Bouman, Paul Gomberg)
11-12: CSU Mission (L. Baker-Kimmons); Community-University Links (Pancho McFarland; Danny Block)
12-1: Lunch Session
1-2: Media (G. Toth, Kathy Rosas)Students' Education (student leaders, B. Mohaimani, Floyd Banks)
2-4: Rap Up (will require a number of facilitators)

Friday, September 11, 2009

...In The State of Denmark

I have been thinking about the past two weeks worth of Administrative song and dance first to the Deans and Chairs, then to the Faculty Senate, and finally at the All-campus Assembly last Thursday. To paraphrase the oft-quoted Claude Rains as Captain Renault in Casablanca, "I'm shocked, shocked to find administrative failure going on here."

And I was puzzled by the apparently contradictory perspectives of Provost Westbrooks and the Not-Yet-President of CSU Wayne Watson. In her presentation, Dr. Westbrooks emphasized that there would be "transparency" throughout the process of responding to the NCA's scathing critique of administrative neglect at CSU. The Not-Yet-President of CSU Watson, however, who was allowed to speak at the end of Dr Westbrooks' presentation, I guess in his capacity as CSU's only "unpaid (sic) consultant," began by admonishing those assembled not to talk to the media about this.

Huh? I thought she just said the whole process would be "transparent."

The week before, in the meeting with the deans and chairs, Dr Watson had admonished them not to tell the faculty about this report.

In his address to the all-campus assembly Dr Watson did what he does best, parrot the Finney party-line. Remember Leon Finney's comments last April after one of the incendiary Trustee meetings where protests over the presidential search reached epic proportions? He accused "the white-controlled media" of playing the race card in the corrupt and trumped-up search he and Dr Tolliver headed. Dissatisfaction at CSU he attributed to a few disgruntled "white faculty."

So, Not-Yet President Watson told us last week that we shouldn't talk to the Sun Times or the Tribune (read "white media") which doesn't understand CSU and "always gets it wrong." Well, I guess Watson thinks he knows his audience.

It is gratifying for me to include a couple of links here for our own students' Cougar Chronicle and the ChiTown Daily News that have stories on just these very topics that need to be kept transparent. I would applaud the students in particular for publishing their story before either of the so-called "white-controlled media" Sun Times or the Tribune have done so.

And while I heard the term "transparency" bandied about last Thursday, I did not hear much about how real "shared governance" among the administration, faculty, and students would be incorporated at the university to make some lasting reform at CSU. Alas, it might not be possible with the Trustee by-law changes that Leon Finney instituted last year that accrue nearly all university power to that body. But then, the NCA may be interested in that document too.

Something is rotten in the administration of CSU. And as a biologist might say, the best way to cure an infection is to expose it to sunlight.,32303,32304

Monday, September 7, 2009

What has the BOT done on summer vacation?

So not understanding the pressing demands of being a volunteer board member,I am just wondering out loud what they might spend their time doing. It has been almost five months since the Faculty Senate asked the Governor to replace the Board of Trustees for “misconduct, incompetence and malfeasance.” In the intervening months a more important scandal emerged. Yes, political influence peddling of admissions at the University of Illinois superseded the questionable selection of a president at CSU. A retired federal judge and a commission were needed to sort through the U of I scandal. Meanwhile, on the South Side the BOT has not even made any official notification of who is running the university. Instead the Board appears to be focused on faculty work load and program elimination, and firing and hiring of university personnel. The Board does not appear to be focused on issues I imagine a board of trustees of a troubled university would be focused on. Maybe some attention to the issue of restoration of MAP funding for the Spring semester would be of some help to the 3,000 students who won’t be here without that funding. Maybe some attention to getting a university budget approved earlier than a month prior to the end of the fiscal year. Since that has been identified as a problem by the HLC, I would think that our volunteer trustees would want to address real problems. Maybe some attention to the risk of losing accreditation would inspire the volunteers to speak up.

In its May meeting the Faculty Senate took the unprecedented step of creating a Summer Committee in order to have an official presence at the university to ensure neither the administration nor the BOT got up to unobserved mischief. One of the issues that emerged was how the university was spending money. One of the things the university was spending money on was lobbyists. I believe faculty would agree that effective intergovernmental relations is critical to the institution. Lobbying is just one element of those activities. Since FY 2000, the university has spent roughly $850,000 on lobbyists. The question is not about how much was spent. The question is about the oversight and return on investment. I have seen no documents, memos, letters, reports, or any other written statements about the work products of these lobbyists. What did the BOT and the Presidents they supervised get in return for the $850,000 spent? I would think the Board would be more interested in stewarding scarce university resources and ensuring the university and its students and faculty benefit from its efforts.

And then there was the recent newspaper story and editorial about the university’s $40 million surprise. The BOT chair stated that he didn’t know anything about the capital development windfall. One might think that maintaining communication links with legislators would be a job for the volunteer trustees.

I spoke to Governor Quinn’s staffer who manages higher ed issues and she told me that it was “very likely” new trustees would be appointed by the end of September. If I were to guess I would imagine there would be new appointees after the September BOT meeting on the 23rd. Given Illinois politics, there are no guarantees.

Could it get any worse? Probably. And it is bad enough having a board of trustees that continues to be malfeasant and incompetent. Will the end of September come soon enough?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

What else could go wrong???

So loyal readers you may have noticed I have not posted much this summer. Let me assure you that it isn’t because there has been nothing happening at our fair university. It is because too much has been happening. For the next few days I will attempt to bring you up to date with the interesting goings on and hopefully inspire some exciting dialogue. So let’s begin our inquiry into the local happenings with the following.

This past Wednesday all available members of the Faculty Senate were invited to the President’s Conference Room by the Provost. No, we don’t actually have a President but we do have a President Elect or Unpaid Consultant occupying the President’s office but don’t let me digress. The purpose of the meeting was the viewing of a PowerPoint presentation and the answering of questions related to the subject raised by the Provost. This meeting was also a prelude to the Campus Assembly held this past Thursday.

Here is the situation as I understand it. In 2003 we were joined by North Central Association (NCA) evaluators for our continued accreditation visit. The good news from that visit was the university received a ten year stamp of approval. The bad news was that the NCA determined that the university did not have a comprehensive enrollment management and retention system. The university was given three years to begin correcting that problem and then report back to the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the NCA about the systems that had been implemented, the progress of those systems with accompanying data and analysis to ensure that the university was making progress on improving its retention and graduation rates. In 2006 when the report was due the then serving Provost was given three weeks notice the report was due to HLC. Of course, no policies had been implemented and no data collected. A report was generated containing three weeks worth of policy implementation and no data. The university was then given three more years to show progress on the 2006 report. A report was prepared earlier this year and submitted to the HLC. The response of the Commission was to schedule a “Focused Visit-Mandated: 2010 - 2011; on all of the enrollment management issues at the University, including leadership, funding, infrastructure, retention and recruitment.” The possible consequences of this Mandated Visit are significant. The university could receive probation, lose its accreditation, or have its regularly scheduled accreditation rescheduled to an earlier time frame. A loss of accreditation would result in a loss of the ability to receive federal financial aid which would in effect force the closing of the university. This “death penalty” sanction is possible and unlikely. What I believe is more likely is that the university will create some response for the evaluators and promise to do better and would agree to an accelerated visitation schedule.

The troubling elements of this situation are numerous. First, who is going to be held accountable for this Mandated Focused Visit in the first place. When asked the unpaid consultant responded the university wasn’t going to look back. This is very curious given those who don’t learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them. Second, I am concerned that this situation is symptomatic of a larger and deeper dysfunction in the university that only a visionary leader would be able to address. A visionary leader is needed to change the culture of the university. Otherwise, when the university is visited again for its Continued Accreditation visit, it will most certainly demonstrate the underlying cracks in the foundation. Third, I inquired about where the resources for this herculean effort will come from. Will the Academic Affairs side of the house be pillaged again for what is clearly an administrative failure? With more financial resources this situation would be much easier to address but with so many self inflicted wounds around the university’s financial management, those with resources are understandably reluctant to help. Finally, it occurred to me that the faculty’s hands are clean in this situation. This is an administrative failure compounded by an obvious absence of oversight by the Board of Trustees which has focused its attentions in other areas. It is likely the HLC team will find that the Board has failed the university, its faculty, students and ultimately the taxpayers of the State of Illinois.

So what happens next? The faculty has essentially three options here. First, we can help maintain the status quo of token representation in the committee/task force hand picked to rescue the university from withdrawal of accreditation. Second, faculty could sit this one out and prove to the HLC that there are indeed deep dysfunctions that are likely to be exacerbated by the next occupant of the President’s office. Or the faculty could demand to oversee this process. The faculty could become the dominant force in this effort and demand the authority to design and implement whatever policy is needed to ensure the university doesn’t receive the death penalty or any sanction that would significantly impede its progress. Of course I realize that the university administration will never relinquish control even in the face of these dire circumstances. The university will continue doing the same things, expecting different results and with no accountability faculty will watch as the professional administrators roll the dice with our professional futures and the lives of our students.

There are still unanswered questions that I am trying to get answers to and when I do, you will be the first to know.

Maybe I am just jaded given the twelve years of continued mismanagement I have witnessed. Maybe what will really happen is that the university will be rescued and we will all live happily ever after.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Please attend teach-in committee meeting Friday Sept. 11

The teach-in committee will be meeting again Friday, Sept. 11, 12:00 noon at the Library 1st floor cafe. Faculty should inform students and encourage them to attend as well as attending themselves.

The post below, about the teach-in, was posted by me on behalf of a colleague.

Voice Your Support for September 23 Teach-In & All-Campus Dialogue

At the Faculty Senate meeting on Tuesday, the Senate approved a proposal submitted by the Ad-Hoc Teach-in Committee to conduct a campus-wide teach-in on September 23. At the Senate meeting, it was determined that all faculty should participate (Unit A, Unit B, adjunct, and emeritus). Over the next week, Senators will be polling all university faculty to determine their support and participation. Full participation is essential to ensure the success of this event, so please let your senator(s) know of your support and willingness to participate. Senators will report faculty support and participation by Wednesday, September 9 at noon � so communicate with your senator(s) today! This event is extremely important in light of the ongoing challenges being faced by the university, particularly in response to the news to be revealed on Wednesday in the all campus assembly headed by the Provost.

The intent of the teach-in is to educate ourselves relative to recent changes and challenges faced by Chicago State University and strategies for developing a CSU environment of shared governance. The teach-in will bring faculty, staff and students together to develop an agenda that benefits the entire CSU community.

Here are the details of the event:

The event begins with attendance at the September Board of Trustees meeting held at 7:30am and continues until 7:00pm with a two-hour break between 4:00 and 6:00pm. There will be four hour-long dialogues, an informal lunch meeting, and a two-hour session between 2:00 and 4:00pm. Dialogues will be led by facilitators who present information, ideas, and questions for all to discuss. A note taker will record all of the ideas and resolutions presented at each dialogue. A proposed schedule with session topics is at the end of this blog post.

Faculty members can contribute to the dialogues in a number of ways:

First, the teach-in committee still needs members to help finalize the event. Any interested parties can contact Dr. Pancho McFarland ( to be added to the committee email list.

Second, faculty members can volunteer as facilitators and note takers at the events. Please contact Dr. McFarland for information regarding the roles of facilitator and note taker or to volunteer.

Third, please bring your classes to participate in the dialogues on September 23.

Finally, we hope that faculty will continue these discussions in their classrooms, informally with colleagues, and in groups that will continue to work on these issues throughout the school year. In the spirit of I am CSU, we hope this event will help us begin to create a shared vision, take shared responsibility, and achieve shared excellence at CSU.

Proposed Schedule: Coyuntura/Linkages: CSU All-Campus Dialogue, September 23, 2009

Session #1: 7:30-9:30--Board of Trustees Meeting
Welcome: 9:35-9:55
Session #2: 10-10:50
Session #3: 11-11:50
Session #4: 12-12:50 All-Campus Coyuntura
Session #5: 1-1:50
Session #6: 2-4 Rap Up: Toward a Student, Staff and Faculty Strategy
Session #7: 6:15-7:15 Evening Session

Session Topics
Community-University Links
Shared Governance: Understanding and Impacting Decision-Making
CSUs History: How does CSU Fit Into Our World Today?
CSU Students' Education
CSU and the Media: On the PR Offensive
CSU's Mission and Our Role in It

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Cautionary Tale

"What happens when a university’s corporate management betrays the institution’s core educational mission; when it abandons its key constituencies; when it hides its intentions and plans; and when it manipulates or withholds essential financial information?"...

No, I'm not talking about CSU.
But I encourage everyone to read below what happened at Antioch College when that institution's Board of Trustees usurped functions that belong to faculty and systematically excluded faculty from governance. See also the AAUP Report Association's "recommended standards for faculty participation in program development, curricular control, budgetary allocation, declaration of financial exigency, and treatment of faculty..." at the following link:

Gary Rhoades, General Secretary of the AAUP, has a parable for us in this article.

The Near-Death Experience of Antioch College: A Cautionary Tale

What happens when a university’s corporate management betrays the institution’s core educational mission; when it abandons its key constituencies; when it hides its intentions and plans; and when it manipulates or withholds essential financial information? The AAUP’s investigative report on Antioch University provides disturbing and disheartening answers to these questions.

Antioch College, founded in 1852 in Yellow Springs, Ohio, has had a long history as a pioneer in liberal arts education. Significant innovations, subsequently adopted by many other institutions, have included cooperative education, experiential learning, community governance, recruitment of African American students before and after Brown vs. Board of Education, and the country’s first study abroad program. Through good times and bad, Antioch has produced distinguished graduates such as Coretta Scott King, Stephen Jay Gould, and Eleanor Holmes Norton. It has received top rankings among colleges whose graduates go on to complete the PhD as well as continuing recognition in the areas of academic challenge, enriching educational experience, active and collaborative learning, and student-faculty interaction.

The Antioch University administration and board of trustees, in suspending the operations of Antioch College and then closing the institution on June 30, 2008, appears to have decided that the college’s rich history of progressive education and its residential liberal arts setting were luxuries that its 21st-century management philosophy could not afford and did not need. Antioch’s closure is thus of concern to everyone interested in high quality liberal arts higher education. The report of the AAUP’s investigative committee analyzes the protracted dissolution of Antioch College in the light of the Association's recommended standards for faculty participation in program development, curricular control, budgetary allocation, declaration of financial exigency, and treatment of faculty under such exigency. The report details the gradual deterioration of faculty governance at Antioch through a series of administrative actions over several decades that led ultimately to the closure of the college. Key managerial decisions made by the administration repeatedly disregarded longstanding principles of faculty consultation and shared governance.

Specifically the report reveals that the Antioch University administration:
  • usurped the faculty’s responsibilities by mandating a new curriculum that the faculty neither initiated nor approved;
  • failed to consult with the faculty regarding the college’s financial condition prior to the declaration of financial exigency and the process by which university administrators and board members had reached that decision;
  • failed to provide faculty members the right to examine or challenge the decisions both to declare financial exigency and to close the college;
  • systematically reduced the flow of budgetary information to the Antioch College faculty and its governance bodies;
  • failed to protect the autonomy of Antioch College and, in fact, significantly undermined it by approving a shift of administrative functions from Antioch College to the university administration without ensuring means for communication or sharing of governance;

During its 156-year history, the college had struggled through many hard times but had been sustained by the strong tradition of its faculty's engagement with enlightened boards, distinguished administrators, eminent alumni, and talented students working together to serve the common good.

Fortunately, those devoted to the Antioch tradition have once again taken critical steps toward reopening Antioch College. As announced on June 30, 2009, the governing boards of Antioch University and the college’s alumni have reached agreement on opening a new Antioch College, independent of the university. Reopening is anticipated for fall 2011. Antioch College, it seems, will rise again phoenix-like and survive to continue its tradition of progressive education. But its near demise provides clear and eloquent testimony to the havoc wrought by a board and administration that abandoned their commitment to liberal arts education and to the fundamental principles of shared governance.

Gary Rhoades, General Secretary
The AAUP Online is an electronic newsletter of the American Association of University Professors. Support the work of the AAUP. Join today!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

We're back...

The placid atmosphere at CSU since the aborted August 3rd "meet and greet" of the Trustees' flunky Wayne Watson, now termed "president-elect," should not be mistaken for docility or reconciliation on the part of the faculty, staff, or students. While there have not been many posts this month to this blog, a lot has been going on behind the scenes.

Watson, who is not to take office until October 1st, has been parading around campus, speaking at orientation, visiting dorm rooms, essentially calling the shots with or for Trustee Leon Finney (it's really hard to distinguish between them or to say who is really running CSU) since July. All this seems at best to be inappropriate action for someone whose job doesn't begin until October 1st. Watson claims he is "volunteering." Hmmm. At worst, it may be a violation of SURS and the board's own contract with him.

But I'm not here to go into those details right now. I do want to alert people that there has been a lot going on on our campus all summer and that those of us sickened by the Trustees' continued interference in the day to day workings of CSU and their contempt for the faculty, staff, and students that led them to give away our presidency to a politically- connected crony, will continue to be investigated and discussed in this blog.

I will also mention that at this time the student newspaper Tempo is on hiatus, hopefully not for too long, for a number of reasons. The on-line student paper, The Cougar Chronicle, however, has returned and its first issue is just out and accessible at See this issue for Yan Searcy's eloquent statement to the university community as we begin this school year. And the Cougar Chronicle trumpets the not-yet president Watson as "The Great Conciliator." We'll see.

a bientot

Friday, August 7, 2009

And the beat goes on.......

So, the first week of the new regime is over, well sort of. Below is the text of an email message sent by the Faculty Senate President Yan Searcy.

"Greetings Senators!

At a 9am conference call of the President's Executive Council, The Board of Trustees Choice for President of Chicago State University, Dr. Wayne Watson, was introduced as
"President Elect."

This was found to be a curious title. The contract of Dr. Watson allegedly states that his term as president was to begin on August 1st . After inquiry, it was discovered that the signatory on university related business remains Dr. Westbrooks. In addition it was found that Dr. Watson's monetary compensation is to begin on October 1st.

It is unclear why this is the case. Rumors have surfaced and some have suggested that this may be related to retirement pension issues. If this is indeed the case, then any type of compensation on the part of Dr. Watson would bring up ethical, legal, and professional concerns related to the state retirement pension system. State housing and state vehicle use are considered compensation. Again, we are unclear of the rationale. We do not wish to operate in a culture of rumor.

In addition, it is unclear what the responsibilities of a "President Elect" are. It is unclear whether the directives of a" President Elect" are binding.

Senators at this important juncture (at the start of a new school year and the beginning of a new presidential term) the university community must gain clarity, particularly as ethical concerns continue to plague the leadership of CSU.

In service,

Yan Searcy
CSU Faculty Senate President"

So the the first question I want answered is who is the president? Being unclear about who is in charge diminishes further the reputation of the institution. As Yan points out in his message, are any of the directives binding. For example, the number of personnel actions that have taken place in the past few weeks may actually have been illegal.

There was a possibility that the new regime would have started off on a high note with a meet and greet on Monday morning. About fifteen minutes prior to the start of the event the university community was notified that event was canceled without explanation. Rumors began to surface almost immediately, including a very plausible one that the 'President Elect" was summoned to Federal District Court to appear as a defendant in his most recent wrongful termination lawsuit. That would be the lawsuit referenced by my colleague on Monday.

A second, also plausible explanation, is that the "PE" could not participate in any activity which would indicate his acceptance of employment in a State University Retirement System (SURS) institution. So was the recent inspection of the university dormitory by the "PE" an activity indicating his acceptance of employment prior to the legally required period of no employment. I can fully understand wanting to make a good impression on the students in the residence hall, but wasn't the real reason for the inspection to get the dorms in top shape for the students from Mississippi Valley State who will be participating in the Bud Biliken Parade tomorrow? Was the continuous back and forth about the parade an indicator that the "PE" was actually serving in an official capacity? Was the installation of a telecommunication system at the official residence an indication of acting in an official capacity? Were the numerous meetings and requests for information from the "PE" as far back as May an indicator of acting in an official capacity? Who was responsible for giving the movers instructions about what furniture was to go where in the official residence? Was it the "PE"'s official cheerleader and chief sycophant, someone rumored to now be in charge of the marketing efforts for the university. The University Legal Counsel's office has not responded to my Freedom of Information Act requests in the legally mandated time period. What is the "PE" and his masters on the BOT hiding? Will we find out that what we are seeing is simply a continuation of the malfeasance and incompetence of the BOT manifested in the flawed hiring process of the "PE"?

Maybe a visit by 75-100 faculty to Governor Quinn's office will at least get a commission formed to investigate the activities of the university board of trustees. Or should we have something a bit less important like an influence peddling scandal. Oh wait, that's what we have. Go figure.

As usual I welcome any comments to clear up the proliferation of rumors surrounding our university.

Stay tuned!

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Latest on Wayne Watson

I had been thinking about posting something on my experience doing research while at CSU, and the importance of the summer for getting substantial research done. You know, to try to add another conversation to this faculty blog to reflect the diversity of our work as faculty members at CSU. But, then I saw these articles in both the Chitown Daily News and the Capitol Fax Blog, which report that WYCC, the City College's public television station, is the subject of a state ethics investigation as well as a federal law suit for allegedly producing free videos for politicians who were friends of then-Chancellor Watson.

Some choice bits from the Chitown Daily News: "The Daily News learned of the investigation from a July 15 internal e-mail titled "Meeting regarding Ethics Report." The e-mail was sent by LaDonna Perry, who works in the ethics office, to WYCC's general manager and to a college vice president who oversees the station at Kennedy-King College. The e-mail highlights more than a half-dozen issues and criticisms contained in an "Ethics Report." The report lists at least 15 programs that were never broadcast and were allegedly "distributed only to friends and associates of the Chancellor." The programs showcasing Jones included “Emil Jones fundraiser,” “Emil Jones State Senate California Trip,” "Emil Jones St. Francis Hospital" and four editions of "Emil Jones Golf Promo."Other programs included “Jesse Jackson Birthday Party" in 2006 and “Todd Stroger Registration Event” in 2004."

And, just slightly later in the article: "The e-mail also mentions Maria Moore, the former WYCC general manager who took issue with the Chancellor's request "to have WYCC assist with filming the Jesse Jackson birthday video …" Moore sued the City Colleges in federal court last week, saying that she was fired in 2007 after she voiced concerns about the television station being used for political ends."

And, then here's the substance of Moore's lawsuit: "“Each time Dr. Moore voiced her concerns to Chancellor Watson, he told her ‘I’ve heard your concerns. You’re wrong, I’m not asking you to do anything unethical. Do what I tell you to do or I’ll have you fired for insubordination,’” the lawsuit reads. Finally, the lawsuit says, she was fired in late 2007 after she was denied a medical leave, even though she had a letter from her doctor."

Perhaps it's time to renew calls to Gov. Quinn and others to act quickly and decisively before the fall semester starts. In the words of the title of the article from the Capitol Fax Blog, "Just when you think you’ve seen it all…"

Friday, July 17, 2009

From one of our untenured colleagues or What Does Illinois Gov. Patrick Quinn Have against Predominantly Black Chicago State University?

So part of the responsibility of tenure is to speak for the un-tenured. They are in the precarious position of not having the same protections and yet being part of the university environment and activities. I was contacted by one of our colleagues who requested to be heard and here is that piece.

As you’ll recall, several months ago, dozens of Chicago State University faculty members and students protested what we perceived to be a rigged presidential selection process: Following the Board of Trustees’ national search, which cost Illinois taxpayers $75,000, the final candidate was the politically connected chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago, Dr. Wayne Watson—a candidate rumored to have been tapped for the job prior to the launch of the search.

Faculty members appealed to Governor Patrick Quinn to restore fairness and integrity to the process. We demanded a new search. He did absolutely nothing. That’s in stark contrast to his instantaneous response to the board of trustees’ crisis at the University of Illinois, which is not located in a middle-class African American residential area, unlike Chicago State.

When members of the board of trustees at UIUC were accused of manipulating student admissions, the governor interceded with flourish, cameras rolling. When members of the Blagojevich-appointed board of trustees at CSU were accused of manipulating the selection of the most important position on campus, the governor cowered backstage.

Even after the faculty’s concerns about Dr. Watson’s qualifications to lead this institution bore fruit, Governor Quinn has said and done nothing. As state lawmakers work to pull the state from the quicksand of an unprecedented budget crisis, Quinn has allowed the appointment of the man responsible for inexplicable cost overruns of 118% at new Kennedy-King College campus. Ironically, Dr. Watson counts this as one of the highlights of his career as the City Colleges’ chancellor. The project was budgeted at $93 million. To date, the cost is $202 million, and is expected to rise when all the bills are tallied. The additional $109+ million can’t be explained because records are missing. How convenient!

Patrick Quinn blazed into the governor’s chair promising reform. He has replaced entire boards at other state agencies. Incidentally, while much is being made about the ascension process of UIUC’s current board of trustees’ chair, no one has mentioned that Rev. Leon Finney maneuvered his way into the chairmanship of the CSU board after only two years on the board, without holding any other position. As vice chair, Rev. Richard L. Tolliver was next in line. Quinn has remained mum, allowing Blagojevich’s CSU trustees to put a plague on our house.

Rev. Finney, who is frequently mean-spirited, condescending and disrespectful to the University’s presidents and high ranking administrators at public Board of Trustees’ meetings, raised the faculty’s ire again when he ordered the admission of students with low ACT scores. And he wanted the tuition to remain the lowest in the state.

Again, Quinn said nothing about the devaluation of a state university with some of the finest minds in higher education. CSU faculty members hail from prestigious universities throughout the country and the world. We have produced some of the state’s most successful business, political and educational leaders—and more African American physicists than any university in the country. Yet, our expertise has less value than our colleagues at other state universities.

Incoming president Wayne Watson reportedly told the Chicago Tribune editorial board that CSU faculty members must learn to teach. To that end, he allegedly plans to provide us with additional methods courses. Has Dr. Watson has observed even one CSU class? Why is he so committed to spending taxpayer dollars to improve our teaching skills? Who’ll get that contract?

The faculty has protested. Governor Quinn has turned a deaf ear.

Quinn’s disrespect for the Chicago State faculty generously gave Rev. Finney, the man many say orchestrated Watson’s selection, carte blanche to treat the university, which belongs to the state’s taxpayers, like a carnival prize he’d won at the State Fair:

  • According to an Open Letter to the Board of Trustees written by then-Interim President Dr. Frank Pogue, Rev. Finney usurped Pogue’s authority to run the day-to-day operations of the University—authority granted to the CSU president in the board of trustees’ by-laws;

  • In a public board of trustees meeting, Dr. Pogue revealed that Rev. Finney also allegedly halted Pogue’s search for a vice president to run the University’s financial affairs, despite numerous past irregularities found by state auditors and the possibility for more without a senior financial administrator’s oversight;

  • Several administrators say Finney visited offices and instructed them how to do their jobs—jobs for which he has no expertise, educational background or previous experience;

  • In May, Finney sent a memo to the entire staff, prohibiting the hiring or reassignment of any personnel without the Board of Trustees’ approval. Among the effects of this order, the search for a new campus police chief was halted; and

  • When the interim president’s contract ended on June 30, Finney took the reins until Dr. Watson’s contract period officially begins on August 1. Both have been spending lots of time on campus in recent weeks.

Still, Quinn and the other Chicago State trustees have said nothing. As a result, what many staff members characterize as Rev. Finney’s reign of terror continues, and every taxpayer in deficit-plagued Illinois will pay the tab. He is now in the process of firing senior administrators and other staff—without cause, according to their termination letters—just because: just because they were appointed by Interim President Dr. Frank Pogue and just because he’s now in charge. Illinois taxpayers’ bill for this stunt will total hundreds of thousands of dollars. Why?

According to Chicago State University Board of Trustees’ Regulations, employees terminated without cause must be given notice three to 12 months in advance. It is University practice to send these employees home, instead of allowing them to continue working until their termination date. The rationale is that it minimizes the possibility that the employees will harm University property or personnel, in response to being fired for nothing—or in some of the recent cases, fired for doing a great job. It makes sense, under the circumstances. So off these employees go, remaining on the CSU payroll until their termination date finally arrives, three to 12 months later.

For CSU Provost Dr. Sandra Westbrooks, appointed by Rev. Finney and the board of trustees as the University’s most senior administrative officer until Dr. Watson officially arrives, this has been a tumultuous July: Allegedly at Rev. Finney’s or Dr. Watson’s behest, she has terminated at least five of her colleagues on the President’s Executive Council (PEC) and several other administrators.

On Wednesday, July 1, Dr. Westbrooks sent a grateful e-mail to one PEC member, wishing that she “could clone” her. The next day, she sheepishly entered that administrator’s office, pie-eyed and near tears, explaining that she had been ordered to fire the administrator—without cause, of course. And so, right or wrong, painful or not, the Provost did it, even while observing that after spending a month terminating her colleagues in preparation for Wayne Watson’s arrival, she’d probably be terminated herself.

Currently, none of terminated administrators has been replaced. None of their work is being done, and the University and the state are receiving no return on the administrators’ salaries. To add insult to injury, when they are replaced after Watson arrives officially, taxpayers will pay two individuals for doing one job until the terminated employees’ notice period expires. That’s consistent with the appalling lack of fiscal discipline that Watson exhibited at the City Colleges.

In the meantime, Governor Quinn and the other Blagojevich trustees are whistling in the wind. In a quest for great leadership and fiscal responsibility, the University’s faculty senate has implored Quinn to replace this board—a few of whom have expired terms—and he has done nothing. We asked him to fill the vacancies on the board, and he has ignored us. Why? Perhaps the good Rev. Finney has provided some clues.

No slave to subtlety, Finney has made only two new appointments during the past two weeks, most notably the reassignment of the attorney who formerly reviewed and approved large purchasing contracts. He will now do that again as the Associate General Counsel and Assistant Vice President for Auxiliary Operations.

The faculty has expressed concerns that the selection of Watson signaled the beginning of Chicago State’s use as a patronage tunnel for jobs and contracts. Clearly, room is being made for bodies. Monthly or quarterly FOIA requests for purchasing office records will reveal to whom the University is awarding contracts. Maybe with vigilant taxpayer oversight, no records will go missing.

Despite its top-notch faculty and staff and beautiful sprawling campus, Chicago State has been challenged with declining enrollment. Among the contributing factors is the board of trustees’ failure to approve a marketing budget for a number of years. There’s no advertising in online, print or broadcast media. The Office of Enrollment Services struggles to afford brochures and other marketing material while competitors advertise heavily to our prospective students. This is an anomaly among other state universities.

Few, beyond the range of a bullhorn, are aware of the treasures at Chicago State: Few people know that our students are engaged in significant alternative energy research with solar cells and fuel cells. Few know that our nursing students have a higher pass rate on the national certification exam than their counterparts in the state or the nation.

There’s been a lot of negative publicity about our graduation rate, which only counts those who enrolled as first-time, full-time freshmen. But with a student body of 6,800, more than 1,000 were conferred bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees at Chicago State’s spring commencement. They will be wage earners and taxpayers, and they’ll be outraged by the callous disregard with which this governor has treated their alma mater and their tax dollars.

August first has not yet arrived. Wayne Watson is not yet officially the president of Chicago State University. Governor Quinn has time to appoint a reform-minded board of trustees. It’s also not too late to investigate the legitimacy of Watson’s selection and order an legitimate, cost-effective, ethical search for a leader who can move the University forward, rather than turn it into a funnel for patronage jobs and contracts.

Quinn holds full responsibility for what is happening at Chicago State and has a vested interest in addressing it, because it glaringly reflects the credibility of his dedication to fiscal responsibility and educational excellence. Neither the University nor Illinois taxpayers can afford Watson’s reckless spending sprees. If Quinn continues to endorse cost overruns as the status quo, we certainly can’t afford him.

The contributors welcome your comments.