Sunday, June 27, 2010

Notes from the June BOT meeting

So what better way to spend a Friday morning and afternoon than at the BOT meeting. I thought I would bring you, our loyal readers, up to date on the goings on at the highest levels. First, I would like to extend my congratulations to Professor Victor Sorrell on being named Professor Emeritus. His long and distinguished service has been noted by the university in awarding him this status. Thank you Victor for you wisdom, perseverance and willingness to be of service to the highest ideals of the Academy and this university.
I did get some phone calls on another matter facing the university, namely the fallout from Professor Madhubuti leaving the university recently. The questions were about the future of the Gwendolyn Brooks Center, the Black Writer’s Conference and the acquisition of Ms Brooks’ papers. For those who don’t know, the Gwendolyn Brooks Center was approved by the Board of Governors in 1992. This center is the repository of the works of the Illinois Poet Laureate and focuses on advancing the study of black literature and poetry. I thought it only appropriate to broach the subject during the Academic Affairs Committee meeting to wit the following was made public by Dr. Rachel Lindsey, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. First the Center will remain open under the direction of Professor Quraysh A. Lansana. The Center will continue to host the Black Writer’s Conference, with the next one scheduled for April 2011. Unfortunately, we were informed that the university would not be receiving Ms Brooks’ papers, though a contract and earnest money was paid. Upon questioning by the BOT Chairman, it was discovered that the university president demanded an appraisal of the work be done before the contract was executed. There was no language in the contract calling for an appraisal and the agreement fell through.
I did take a moment to remind the full Board later in the day about good news of the Center remaining at CSU and the disappointing news that once again, the university loses a valuable asset. First, CSU eliminated the Hospitality Management Program and three years later DePaul University opened a new Hospitality Management Program. Second, Professor Haki Madhubuti leaves the university under circumstances that are less than cordial and then is hired by DePaul University. I would fully expect DePaul University to become the repository for the papers of the Illinois Poet Laureate within a few months. Is there no way to compete with DePaul University? Yes, I believe there is; by valuing the assets we have here and not casting them off out of hubris.
I also took some time to speak about that subject near and dear to most faculty, shared governance. Apparently, some $4 million was released by the State to the university to begin work on the West Side Campus (WSC). The money is contingent on having a plan on how to use the funds. I implored the BOT not to waste one second of time on this idea until the campus has addressed its $75 million of deferred maintenance amongst other things. Rumor has it though, the CEO and BOT Chair were out scouting for sites on the West Side, an activity your humble narrator finds curious as the faculty haven’t even been asked what we will do at this new campus. I would think that we would want to have some vision of what we are doing before we go looking for where we will do it. I reminded all in attendance that whether it is something as expansive as the next Strategic Plan or as specific as the WSC, faculty need to be involved in the discussions.
And on another facilities note, the elevator in the Cook Administration building will be the first to be repaired in the elevator upgrades. Timing on the other buildings will follow. I am glad our senior administrators will not be forced to use the stairs any longer than necessary.
I have heard from more than one new administrator that the university doesn’t function like corporate organizations to which I replied because it isn’t. The inherent presumption of the superiority of the corporate model relative to all others is misplaced and incorrect. If that were the case, the self correcting market would have prevented the financial crisis we are in, the environmental disaster in the Gulf and the unprecedented concentration of wealth in this society. So the corporate model is not superior or inferior. It is what it is. The academic model is the same. Respect for the difference is typically what educated people practice. I appreciate the struggle of those who have never been in Academe AND there may be some professional Darwinism here. Adapt or die. No single person is able to change a system. Presidents have come and gone and the system remains in place. So the complaints about the dysfunction or inefficiency of the Academy vis-a-vis the private sector are noted. And as scientists have long accepted adaptation to surroundings has proven to be the best survival strategy in history.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Epilogue: Madhubuti moving on...

What do they say about a prophet in his own land?

"He's swapping one iconic black heroine for another. Haki Madhubuti, the founder and director emeritus of the Gwendolyn Brooks Center at Chicago State University, has been named DePaul University's new Ida B. Wells-Barnett university professor. This fall he will teach two classes, lecture and conduct faculty workshops on race at
--Laura Washington, Chicago Sun Times, June 7, 2010,CST-EDT-laura07.article

Friday, June 11, 2010

AAUP Conference on Shared Governance

Given the discussions at CSU in the past year plus, I thought I would point out that the AAUP is holding a conference on shared governance this fall, with a call for papers right now. Here is the information directly from the AAUP's website:

"The AAUP Committee on College and University Governance is holding what it intends to be its first annual fall conference on shared governance on November 12-14, 2010. This conference will be held in Washington, D.C. The conference will be a combination of training workshops for governance leaders and those aspiring to positions of leadership, as well as sessions consisting of paper presentations exploring all aspects of college and university governance.

The Committee is therefore soliciting proposals for paper presentations from individuals or groups of individuals on all topics relating to college and university governance. Some possible topics for presentations and discussions are:
  • corporatization and challenges to shared governance;
  • principles, structures and effective best practices of shared governance;
  • faculty governance, pedagogy, curriculum and curricular reorganization;
  • the relationship of faculty governance to central administrations;motivating faculty to participate actively in governance structures;
  • the role of tenured faculty, contingent faculty, junior or untenured faculty in shared governance;
  • faculty participation in budgeting, financial exigency or strategic planning;
  • shared governance and assessment, accountability and accreditation;
  • governance and faculty hiring, promotion and tenure;
  • faculty governance and collective bargaining or governing boards;
  • shared governance and individual faculty or departments.
Presenters need not limit themselves to the listed topics. The Committee requests that brief proposals of one- to two pages be sent to: Lenore Beaky (, Committee on College & University Governance.

Proposals should be submitted not later than July 15, 2010."

Sunday, June 6, 2010

"Contract, Contract..." (part 1)

"Contract, Contract, who said contract? Did you hear me mention contract?"
--Oscar to Lily in On the Twentieth Century

I've been keeping my head buried in the end of year paperwork morass that seems to demand more attention every year, so I haven't heard much of anything lately, but at some point this summer I believe we will be negotiating a new contract. The few faculty members I've spoken to have begun asking the same questions: "Has the contract negotiation started?" And more importantly, uh, "what are we negotiating this year?"

"And it's one, two three, what are we fighting for? Don't ask me I don't give a damn..."
I hope individual faculty members and the Faculty Senate in particular will give a damn about this summer's contract negotiations (apologies to Country Joe & the Fish). No, we're not fighting the Vietnam War, but we should start to grow some backbones around here and fight against the perpetuation of business as usual at CSU, kowtowing to patronage politics and Southside political interests (“contracts, contracts who gets the contracts?”) and the failure of CSU Administration to permit real shared governance on campus.

Since the debacle of last year's presidential search, when that rump board of Trustees gave virtually no voice to the faculty, staff, or students of CSU in the choice of its president, the union negotiators should demand that “shared governance” be built into the next contract. Last year should have opened up faculty eyes to the type of university in which we teach. Unfortunately, too many faculty want to avert their eyes, or worse yet, be active participants in the political game playing. Yes, we do good things around here that go unrecognized by a lot of people, both on campus and off, but let's face it, we do good things much of the time in spite of, not because of, who runs this place and allocates the campus resources, determines hiring, or doles out the contracts. And yes there are sincere administrators and some of those who even want to change this top-down structure (what a senior colleague of mine once referred to as Elnora’s “plantation model” administration and now our current CEO’s Chicago pol-style governance). Unfortunately too few administrators are afraid to say anything, let alone advocate for it. We’re all locked into the much bigger game of Southside patronage politics and until we look it in the face and admit it, however discomfiting that may be, we will continue to limp along and grumble, and the idea of “changing the culture at CSU” that we had hoped for two years ago at the end of Elnora Daniel’s tenure will truly fade into cynicism. How can we expect a different outcome if we keep doing things the same way?

“And its 5, 6, 7,” what are we waiting for?…
A president from another university outside ILL told me that there are two ways to get things to change at a university:
1. accrediting agencies
2. faculty & staff contracts
No one needs to be reminded that these are difficult times. Does anyone remember that at one of his town hall meetings this spring, CEO Watson said we here at CSU are going to have to trim the fat, tighten our belts, stop living high off the hog? --I can’t remember the exact clichés that he used. At the time I wondered if anyone else thought how little this CEO knows of CSU if he thinks we have been living so high all this time. I buy my own printer paper and printer cartridges by the end of most semesters and don’t forget those state of the art classrooms that we are in, and unlimited xeroxing privileges, and oh yes, how much did I get as a book budget from CSU last year? Can I call students from my office if the call is long-distance? Have I received a new computer every couple of years? Puh-leeze. I’m happy if I walk into a classroom that doesn’t look like a storehouse for broken down desks and has a chalk tray that is clean and a whiteboard that is not stained beyond use.

Let's face it, our days of selling out and abnegating governing power to the Administration for raises is ending, not, I am sorry to say, because a majority wants it to, but simply because there is no money to be had. Someone mentioned another faculty union negotiation in the state of ILL that concluded with a 0-1-1 contract (no raise the first year, 1% the year after that and 1% the third year). I wonder if we can even be that pathetically optimistic. Already word is coming down that the Admin wants to eliminate:
1. cues for coordinators/assistant chair positions
2. cues for assessment coordinators (gee, I wonder who’ll do that tedious time-consuming job for no cues)
And don’t forget, this year the CEO has already eliminated:
1. sabbaticals (except for one or two scientists who are already getting their own funding)
2. Research Cues except for those he will hand-pick à la the Chicago pol-style governance (he nullified any “advisory” input from the Faculty Research Cues Committee this year and put at the head of its ranking those he himself thought worthy). Why did he do this? Because contractually he could. Yet another “advisory only” committee that shows how powerless the faculty truly is.

If you think changing the culture on the CSU campus is hopeless look at the website for the Illinois Better Government Association (remember that they took an interest in the shenanigans of our presidential search last year). Andy Shaw, head of the IBGA, has been on NPR this week commenting on the great Blagovich trial. I’m wondering how many of CSU’s political friends will be paraded out to testify. Check out

And so far, none of CEO Watson’s connections to the Illinois pols seems to have bought us very much-- $42,000 worth of flat-screen tvs? Buy-in to the political pork project of a west-side campus? A fat contract given out for a feasibility study for the building of another dorm on campus? Nothing that could stave off employee lay-offs this spring.

CSU’s faculty, staff, and students were not given the pretence of a share in the determination of CSU’s president last year. The faculty did not share in the decision to eliminate sabbaticals or allocate research cues this year. The union’s contract team must keep the issue of shared governance in the forefront of its negotiations.

More on instituting shared governance at CSU in the next blog.