Saturday, September 9, 2017

Why Not Bring Thomas Calhoun Back? Plus, the HLC Shows Up Again

In another accreditation dog and pony show, representatives of the HLC and the Chicago State “community” did their dance, reprising previous farces this past Thursday and Friday. Since our financial issues have basically been resolved, the most recent HLC visit focused on “governance” whatever that means to our accrediting body and university administrators.
The clown show included a range of the usual suspects; Frank Horton and his crusade against Paul Vallas, and by extension Rachel Lindsey; the happy, happy, joy, joy pronouncements of a number of university employees; and the faculty and staff expressing concern about a number of issues—concerns for the past eight years that we have articulated consistently to no effect. Some of those nagging issues included questions about why HLC now seems so interested in the internal affairs at Chicago State after years of inaction as the university went into a near-death spiral. Questions about why the university continues to employ a Provost with no support from any campus constituency, and near unanimous opposition from the university faculty. Questions about why the HLC representatives saw fit to interview former interim president Cecil Lucy, someone who never held a permanent position at the university; a spectacularly unqualified nonentity who worked assiduously against the interests of the university by being a key member of the senior administrative staff undermining President Calhoun. After the sound and fury of the past two days, the HLC will make its determination as to Chicago State’s status sometime in November. It will be interesting and instructive to see what they decide.
Since at least February 2016, this university has existed in sort of a limbo. The financial problems created pressure, at least until the school received state appropriations in late April and late June of 2016. The abominable performance of arguably the worst university Board of Trustees in the United States created additional unnecessary chaos by its stupid declaration of “Financial Exigency”; its stupid decision to grant former President Watson unearned perquisites which allowed him to essentially create a shadow administration working against the interests of the properly constituted university leadership; then capped off the whole fiasco by dumping the president and installing Lucy as interim president, apparently based on the understanding that he would do nothing to disturb the status quo. Most important, as the Board betrayed the university and its various constituencies in September 2016, the only voice raised against that action came from the student trustee. A disgraceful chapter in the university’s history, one from which we have yet to recover.
We have been and are now standing at a fork in the road. One fork leads to an uncertain new way of doing things, a commitment to including faculty and staff in the governance of this institution. Not in the way that has been done for years—a cynical effort to provide the imprimatur of legitimacy for some actions in direct contravention of the best interests of students, staff, and faculty—but in a way that actually uses the untapped resources available in the ranks of university employees. The other fork continues us along the path we have been traveling for years; the path of unimaginative and stagnant institutional and academic practices, the path of continued struggles to attract sufficient students to keep our doors open, the path of continued top-down management that has been so ineffective for so many years.
I see some evidence that we are taking tentative steps to start down the path of future uncertainty, but as I have noted in previous posts, before we can commit to the future, we must shed the excess baggage of the past. I consider that proposition to be self-evident. First, we must stabilize the upper management ranks by putting competent people in key positions; people both credible and acceptable to the university community. We are now in our nineteenth month of uproar created by our previous board. Once again, we start yet another search for a new president, hoping she or he will be someone who can unite the university community; someone with a coherent and imaginative vision of what this school could and should look like in a few years. Make no mistake, we must reinvent ourselves if we are to prosper, bringing in another political hack like the fool we had for most of the past 8 years will seal this university’s fate.
One of the constants over the past several years has been the Board’s steadfast refusal to listen to anything the faculty had to say about university governance. Nikki Zollar described our concerns as “noise.” I think the results of that Board animosity are painfully apparent. Our enrollment has dropped more than 4,000 students and we have good faculty and staff either laid off, retiring, or like our students, simply walking away from the place. The band aid of another presidential search will do nothing to stanch the flow of our institutional life blood.
There is, however, a simple solution to this predicament. There is a possible presidential candidate who possesses the qualifications, knowledge, and experience to step right into the job. There is a possible presidential candidate who has the support of every constituent group on this campus. There is a possible presidential candidate with a vision of what this university could become, given imaginative and vigorous leadership. Most important, there is a possible presidential candidate who can bring this campus together and begin the healing process. I speak, of course, of Dr. Thomas J. Calhoun.
I can assure the current Board members that the support for Dr. Calhoun among Chicago State’s faculty and staff has not waned in the year since his disastrous dismissal. Most important, his reinstatement would enable us to immediately begin the work of rebuilding this university. The current university leadership has taken some important steps in the right direction and Dr. Calhoun is an entirely logical choice to continue that important work.
The university’s leadership situation must be stabilized as soon as possible. Dr. Lindsey apparently has no intention of remaining in her position any longer than necessary. We have had interim presidents for almost a full year, and a new search will not yield another candidate for at least another full year. Dr. Calhoun represents a completely viable alternative to the continued uncertainty surrounding this university’s leadership. I can assure the members of our current Board that, on behalf of the faculty and academic professionals at this university, I will continue to advocate for Dr. Calhoun’s return. The previous Board made a terrible mistake in firing our President. We should not have to live with that mistake, let’s fix it. I urge the members of the current Board to take seriously the proposal I have just articulated.








Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Is Another Palace Revolt in the Offing? Rumors Abound

Back in the days of Thomas Calhoun's presidency, a coterie of senior administrators: Patrick Cage, Renee Mitchell, Cecil Lucy, and Angela Henderson prominent among them, reportedly worked assiduously to undermine Dr. Calhoun with a sympathetic Board that included Nikki Zollar, Anthony Young, and Marshall Hatch. Eventually, this sleazy effort succeeded as Zollar, Young, and Hatch led an about-face by the Board which the other members, Joseph Smith, Michael Curtin, James Joyce, and Spencer Leak endorsed. The only person on the Board to speak out against the railroading of the President? The student trustee Paris Griffin. With the appointment of Cecil Lucy to replace Dr. Calhoun, the Board effectively returned Chicago State to the control of Wayne Watson. The results speak for themselves. More scandals, further enrollment declines, and ultimately a university close to extinction.

The anniversary of that disgraceful, back-stabbing Board action is approaching. On September 16, it will be one year since the raucous meeting at which the Board betrayed the University. As we begin another academic year, I am hearing rumors of another attempt by Henderson and her diminished number of cronies to discredit another university president. This time the target is Dr. Rachel Lindsey. Although the new Board includes three new members, two of the participants in that 2016 debacle remain on the Board, Horace Smith and Marshall Hatch. We now have a new student trustee. Once again, I understand that dissident administrators are appealing to the Board, this time possibly through an outside intermediary, to remove Dr. Lindsey and keep Henderson. Will the Board again enable persons whose sole concern is for their own welfare, not the university's? whose performance for years has been abominable and destructive? whose dishonesty has been exposed numerous times? Will the Board enable persons who have no support from any segment of the university (remember the 116-1 no confidence vote last spring against Henderson)? Will the Board again champion the interests of the few over the interests of the many? Will the Board stand up for Chicago State University? We'll see.

My advice to Dr. Lindsey is this: Fire the Provost. Fire her cronies. Pull us out of this mess and give the University a fighting chance.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Is the War Against the CSU Faculty Over? Don’t Hold Your Breath. The UPI explains the recent arbitration.

As we enter the third year of crisis at CSU, if you think we have turned a corner, think again. One could be lulled into a false sense of security that our financial struggles have been eased by the injection of money from the state of Illinois budget settlement last month.  Maybe for this year there is a veneer of stability, but we continue to be in a war of attrition with the state. The slow strangulation of our programs and our university has been taking place semester by semester.  With the exodus of a number of faculty this summer through retirement or offers of greener pastures CSU’s academic side lies decimated. I have heard that there are currently no faculty in Bilingual Education. There is only one faculty member in Criminal Justice. God knows what the situation is like in the library, the university’s academic heart and soul.  And these are simply the few things I have heard about.

In the midst of this situation, last week, UPI President, Bob Bionaz, informed the faculty that nine tenured and tenure-track faculty colleagues who were wrongfully terminated last year will not all be back with us any time soon. Many of us hoped that Dr. Lindsey would put her energies toward undoing the damage that Provost Angela Henderson and the Watson-infested Management Action Committee had perpetrated, but no. We return to CSU to find that over the summer our colleagues were forced to endure a humiliating arbitration process by a university hoping to save a few bucks. The university seems determined to fight tooth and nail and spend upwards of $150,000 in lawyer’s fees (and these bills will grow) to prevent having to pay the fired faculty $289,000 in remuneration (the cost, by the way, is close to Angela Henderson’s annual salary).

Of all the assaults on the faculty and academic side of the university that we have endured at the hands of Wayne Watson and his posse the greatest assault came from the political and corrupt Management Action Team. If Dr. Lindsey and the new Board of Trustees do not understand the level of anger and pain many of us hold against the MAC in its decision to fire our colleagues, let me clarify for them. The MAC was fashioned by a Board of Trustees tethered to Wayne Watson and intended to keep the Watson remnants (Provost Angela Henderson, Lawyer Patrick Cage, Human Resources Director Renee Mitchell and a few sundry others of lesser importance) on campus and in power. After massive lay-offs of staff and lower order administrators in the spring of 2016 the MAC accomplished what Watson and Henderson wanted so badly to do—avenge themselves on those departments that were the most vocal opponents of their regime.   Nine faculty members found their academic careers ruined in the summer of 2016 when they were told that “financial exigency” condemned them to termination of employment. The people fired were not the major culprits Watson and Henderson would have liked to have tossed out. Phillip Beverly in Political Science and Bob Bionaz in History were not fired, but colleagues with less seniority in their departments were: one professor in political science and two professors in history. Philosophy and Music were two other departments in the College of Arts and Sciences with vocal critics of the administration. Philosophy lost one faculty member. Music lost three.

I will remind Dr. Lindsey and the new Board of Trustees that prior to this, Wayne Watson had attempted to orchestrate a false sexual harassment charge against Phillip Beverly—see LaShondra Peebles’ statements in her lawsuit and Angela Henderson’s claim of harassment by Willie Preston, a vocal student critic the Watson regime, that forced him into the criminal justice system and into paying ruinous defense fees. Watson and Henderson treated their campus critics like Chicago ward bosses. They meted out brutal punishment to those who opposed them including the use of off-campus thugs to pass flyers out slandering Phillip Beverly and his family before a board meeting; intimidating students trying to get petitions signed; and employing the campus police to arrest student protesters for the flimsiest reasons. The firing of nine faculty members may not seem like a lot people, but the lives Watson and Henderson have scarred or ruined in their time at CSU goes far beyond the number nine.

In case you think it was mere coincidence that those particular departments saw faculty fired, consider what happened to Dr. Thomas Lyons who got on the wrong side of Watson and Henderson by actively supporting Willie Preston. Tom was the director of the HIV/AIDS Policy and Research Institute in Health Science. His presence at Willie's criminal hearing was followed by a campaign on the part of Angela Henderson to close all the Institutes on campus. In January 2015, the HIV/AIDS Policy and Research Institute was abolished without explanation and Tom was demoted at a greatly reduced salary. Tom eventually left the university. Another CSU academic career ruined. Another coincidence?

Bionaz’s letter last week to the CSU faculty shows clearly that CSU was given an infusion of money by the state of ILL in June of 2016 and the argument that financial exigency necessitated the firings last summer withers in face of his evidence. That President Lindsey and the Board of Trustees allowed this matter to go to arbitration indicates that not much has changed for faculty on this campus.

A year has passed and I have not forgotten these colleagues of mine fired by Angela Henderson and the phony Management Action Committee. Far from fading from memory I think of them every time I walk on campus, every time I pass their empty office doors. I refuse to “move forward” as the administration might wish. The fatal flaw at CSU is not wanting to point fingers, not wanting to cast blame, not wanting “to air our dirty laundry in public.”  You move forward when you cast blame when and where it is warranted and those responsible own up to their mistakes and give restitution or are let go. You can move forward when there is an atmosphere of trust and respect. This atmosphere does not exist on this campus and wishing it to be there by not talking about the bloodbath that occurred last year will not make it happen.

I refuse to accept that my fired colleagues, most of whom had more than a decade’s worth of service at CSU, were the unfortunate victims of the times and events of difficult period under Governor Rauner. The option of firing of tenured and tenure-track faculty was chosen by a vindictive and retaliatory administration. I lay this decision directly at the feet of the one person on this campus who was supposed to be the leader of the faculty, the Provost Angela Henderson. 

Why does Angela Henderson deserve her job and faculty members she fired do not?


For those who missed Bob Bionaz’s recounting of the process leading up to the arbitration between the university and the UPI I am including it here.

Robert Bionaz             Mon, Aug 7, 2017 at 8:20 AM

Dear Colleagues:
I apologize for the length of this e-mail, but I am going to cover a great deal of ground. I will endeavor to make this as digestible as possible.

As you all likely know, in June 2016, the University laid off 9 faculty members. Subsequent to those layoffs, the union filed a grievance which proceeded through steps 1 and 2 and ultimately to arbitration. Yesterday, the arbitration hearing concluded. What follows is a recap of the events of the past 14 months.

Three weeks after the CSU Board’s February 4, 2016 declaration of “financial exigency” we were all given layoff notices. On June 29, 2016, the administration decided not to recall nine (9) faculty members. According to the letter sent each faculty member, “The University remains in extreme and immediate University-wide financial exigency. . . The decision not to recall you at this time is based upon a careful analysis of trends in program need, enrollment information, and staffing capacity in your discipline.” The term “extreme and immediate” is the important part of this letter. Under our contract, after layoff notice, faculty members are entitled to a one-year terminal contract (24.5). However, this requirement “shall not apply in cases of extreme and immediate financial exigency.” There is no definition of “extreme and immediate financial exigency” anywhere in the contract. The university’s refusal to provide a year’s terminal employment allowed it to cut $590,365, or 57/100ths of 1 percent of its net 2015 expenses of $103,074,597.

The grievance we filed argued two main points: 1) the university had failed to adhere to the contract in its layoff process; 2) the university had violated the contract by failing to provide a terminal contract, since at the time the layoffs occurred, the university, was not in a state of “extreme and immediate financial exigency.” The step 2 hearing board agreed completely with our arguments. Their decision was:) reinstatement of all laid off faculty members; 2) full back pay for all reinstated faculty members. Predictably, the university rejected this decision.

For the 2016-17 schoolyear, the University offered either full- or part-time lecturer positions to 7 of the 9 faculty members who had been laid off. Three accepted, and were paid a total of $157,455 during the year, reducing the university’s actual cost cuts to $432,910. The other four rejected the offers, which would have cost the university an additional $117,618, further reducing the actual cost savings to $315,292.

Earlier in 2016, the administration had paid nearly $1.6 million in severance to terminated administrators, an additional $300,000 to the terminated President, committed to pay another $300,000 to the terminated president, paid another $1.5 million to hire 17 new employees (15 new administrators), and paid out $411,000 in benefits to terminated administrators. So, a university unable to afford $590,000 to pay faculty terminal contracts, could afford $4 million for administrators. On April 25, 2016, the Governor signed legislation appropriating over $20 million to Chicago State for fiscal 2016. On June 30, 2016, the university received another $12.6 million which it could use for 2016 fiscal year expenses. The university with no money had received around $33 million in two separate appropriations.  

Immediately after receiving the administration’s response in mid-November 2016, we filed our demand to arbitrate. At first, the university delayed, but ultimately we settled on an arbitrator and began arbitration on May 12, 2017. Beginning in late April 2017, I had conversations about the layoffs and upcoming arbitration with the new university President, Dr. Rachel Lindsey. I advocated strongly for avoiding arbitration, for attempting to work out an amicable settlement which I argued would both right a wrong and generate considerable goodwill for the new President. Lindsey acknowledged that the layoffs had been done “wrong” and committed to reinstating the three (3) laid-off faculty who had worked as non-tenured lecturers in 2016-17. She said she desired to settle the matter, asked that I give her a justification for recalling the other six (6); which I provided on May 4, 2017. Lindsey also asked if she should go in front of the arbitrator to tell him that the university wanted to “make this right.” At that point, I was cautiously optimistic that we could negotiate a settlement.

The May 12 hearing did not complete the arbitration so it was necessary to set another date. We tentatively agreed on May 31, 2017, as a continuance date. Then, on May 22, 2017, the university fired Patrick Cage, its General Counsel and the man handling the arbitration case. In discussions with the union’s attorney, Cage had talked about the possibility of reinstatement for the three faculty members who worked in 2016-17. That reinstatement would cost the university $31,464 in “back pay.” In the wake of his termination, the university’s position on the layoffs became indeterminate.

That next day, I spoke with President Lindsey. She waffled on her previous commitment and said that maybe it would be best for the university to go to arbitration. I again mentioned the risks I felt were associated with that action. I subsequently discovered that on May 22, the university contracted with the legal firm that employed the CSU Board attorney LaKeisha Marsh. That contract, for “legal services in connection with employment litigation,” was for $90,000, a figure I expect has already been exceeded. Thus, the university was and is obviously willing to spend money to fight the arbitration, a direct contraction of Lindsey’s expressed desire to settle the issue.

Despite my growing sense of betrayal, I continued to advocate for settlement. I spoke with the President by telephone on June 30. She reiterated her belief that it might be best if the university proceeded with the arbitration. We had no additional substantive discussions about the matter.

Ultimately, the arbitration hearings took place August 1-3. Prior to the hearings, the University offered reinstatement to two faculty members. During the hearing, the University agreed to reinstate an Academic Support Professional and another faculty member. All the reinstatements included reduced compensation for the year’s forced absence. The faculty reinstatements did not include two faculty members the President had committed to reinstating on May 2. Two of the three faculty and the Academic Support Professional accepted reinstatement on the University’s terms; a rational decision that, for the most part, ended their ordeal.

That left the other 6 faculty members the university insisted would not be reinstated, although one had been offered a full-time lecturer’s position and the other had the “possibility” of a part-time position. The cost to the university to make these people “whole” by agreeing to pay the contractually-mandated one year’s terminal contract came to $289,638, or ½ of 1 percent of the recent appropriation of better than $58 million. However, the attorneys hired by the university, aided by testimony from the Provost, battled tooth-and-nail to insure that these faculty members got nothing. I will not discuss specific testimony, but I will say that the remaining grievants were demeaned, insulted, and ultimately came out of the proceedings angry and hurt. As for the Provost’s testimony, to call it mendacious would be gracious.

I do not expect a decision on this matter until at least mid-October. Both sides still must submit briefs and the arbitrator must wade through a mountain of evidence. Obviously, I do not know how the arbitrator will rule, although I think we put on as good a case as was possible to present. However, I do know that the university is committed to treating these laid-off faculty members as shabbily as possible. Despite the conciliatory rhetoric, the university’s actions demonstrate that its attitude toward laid-off faculty members, whose only offense seems to be a commitment to the school and its students, is a hearty “fuck you.”

Bob  


Monday, August 14, 2017

As the New Semester Approaches, Why is the Provost Still Here?

As we enter August, Chicago State continues to employ a University Provost with absolutely no support from the University faculty. Why? There seem to be two rationales circulating: 1) that former President Wayne Watson gave her a “five-year contract”; 2) that the Higher Learning Commission’s concerns about Chicago State make it extremely difficult to take action against the Provost, in effect, providing her “cover.” However, looking at relevant documents reveals that neither of those conditions obtain. The Provost continues to have a job because the University has chosen to retain her. I will explain.

The Regulations of the Chicago State Board of Trustees specify employment conditions for various classes of employees at the University. Administrative positions are “at-will,” and the authority to hire employees rests with the University President or her/his designated representative. On December 9, 2014, Renee Mitchell appointed Angela Henderson Provost of Chicago State University, effective December 1, 2014, at an annual salary of $225,000. She has served in that capacity until this date. The memorandum appointing her to the Provost’s position contains no special agreements or any extended terms of employment. Thus, the Provost is an at-will employee who can be discharged at any time, with or without cause.


The former Board’s stupid decision to declare “financial exigency” in February 2016, exposed the University to scrutiny by the Higher Learning Commission. In July of that year, the Commission put the University “on notice” because of its financial uncertainty. In September, the Board fired President Thomas Calhoun and replaced him with an Interim President, Cecil Lucy. In January 2017, the Governor appointed four (4) new Board members. In March, the Commission issued a draft report that recommended removing Chicago State from “notice,” and returning it to normal accreditation status.

In March, things began to go pear-shaped. First, the Board announced that it would install a new Interim President by April 7, 2017, and that Lucy would be demoted back to the position of Interim Vice President of Administration and Finance. In late March, Lucy reportedly met privately with one of the HLC staff people, Dr. Anthea Sweeney. On April 7, 2017, the CSU Board announced the appointments of Dr. Rachel Lindsey as Interim President and Mr. Paul Vallas as the University’s Chief Administrative Officer, a newly created position.

On May 24, 2017, Anthea Sweeney sent a letter to Chicago State asking about its lines of authority and wondering whether the Interim President had the “unfettered authority” over “all other employees of the institution.” Her concerns stemmed from an understanding that according to his job description, Mr. Vallas was able to make “make recommendations to the HR Committee of CSU’s Board on personnel changes and improvements and . . . upon consent of said HR Committee, carry out personnel directives.” Sweeney wrote: “Commission staff perceives within this job description the implication of Board encroachment in day-to-day affairs . . . as well as an ambiguous reporting structure vis-à-vis the Interim President.” Based on the information cited in the letter, these concerns seem entirely appropriate.


On June 29, 2017, the HLC Board voted to extend Chicago State’s “on notice” status. In a letter dated July 10, 2017, the HLC notified the University of this action. The pertinent portion of the communication reads: “the University should submit a brief report that provides any additional details that are available related to the University’s current governance and administration and planning as highlighted in the Staff Analysis, which was provided to the University in May 2017.” Additionally, the HLC asked that the report “include an update on terminations, particularly among executive staff and senior administration. The report may also include any additional information you have about the University’s financial resources in light of the adoption by the Illinois legislature of a budget. This report should be prepared and submitted to the Commission within 30 days of this letter, or no later than August 9, 2017.”


Nowhere in the HLC letters is there any specific reference to the University Provost. There is also no suggestion that the President’s ability to discharge employees should be restricted. In fact, the language about the CAO job duties cited in the May 24, 2017, letter is ambiguous and should be clarified. In reality, Dr. Lindsey has “unfettered authority.” That must be made clear to the HLC. To summarize, there are no internal contractual or external accrediting impediments to the discharge of Chicago State’s Provost.






Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Higher Learning Commmission Wakes Up: Who is it Protecting?

If you thought the recent administrative and Board changes would insulate the University against the kind of sleazy political moves we’ve seen over the past several years, think again. This time, however, it looks like the attack on Chicago State comes from an unexpected source: the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), one of our accrediting bodies.

What is the HLC and what are its principles? First, it describes itself as “an independent corporation that was founded in 1895 as one of six regional institutional accreditors in the United States.” Here are some excerpts from its “Guiding Values”: “The responsibility for assuring the quality of an institution rests first with the institution itself”; and, “Continuous improvement is the alternative to stagnation”; and “Integrity means doing what the mission calls for and not doing what it does not call for; governance systems that are freely, independently and rigorously focused on the welfare of the institution and its students; scrupulous avoidance of misleading statements or practices”; and, “The well-being of an institution requires that its governing board place that well-being above the interests of its own members and the interests of any other entity”; and, HLC “holds the governing board of an institution accountable for the key aspects of the institution’s operations. [the Board] . . . must . . . hold itself independent of undue influence from individuals, be they donors, elected officials, supporters of athletics, shareholders, or others with personal or political interests.” How did HLC do over the past several years? As the Watson administration ran the institution into the ground while saddling it with a pack of incompetent cronies and other hacks, HLC stood by and did nothing. In fact, it essentially endorsed the corruption and malfeasance going on at Chicago State.
https://www.hlcommission.org/About-HLC/about-hlc.html
https://www.hlcommission.org/Publications/guiding-values.html

Thanks to the previous Board’s stupid decision in February 2016 to declare “financial exigency,” on July 11, 2016, the HLC put Chicago State “on notice” for its financial instability. The July notice included this: “The Board will review the Assurance Review documents at its June 2017 meeting or thereafter to determine whether the institution has demonstrated that it is no longer at risk for non-compliance.” The accrediting criteria cited in the July 2016 report included 5.A. “The institution’s resource base supports its current educational programs and its plans for maintaining and strengthening their quality in the future”; and 5.C. “The institution engages in systematic and integrated planning.” The HLC concerns about 5.A. stemmed from the state’s budget impasse. Its concerns about 5.C. revolved around the University’s failure to sufficiently clarify “roles among its Management Action Committee, the University Advisory Committee and the University Budget Committee to optimize the decision-making process”; its failure to create a long-term plan for “student recruitment and retention”; and “While the HLC evaluation team expressed strong confidence in the leadership of the University’s new President (Thomas Calhoun),” it noted that “there has been high turnover in recent years, and many key staff members are relatively new.”

https://www.hlcommission.org/Student-Resources/public-disclosure-notices.html


HLC’s action triggered an “Assurance Report” by the University in December 2016, a draft “Assurance Review” report by HLC in March 2017, then a “Staff Report” in May, and finally, a July 10, 2017, letter to the University about its status.

Believing the July 10, 2017 communication to be a public document, I made a Freedom of Information Act request to the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) for a copy of the letter. On July 20, I received a denial of my request from Karen Helland. IBHE claimed that “The HLC has conveyed to me that the information is pre-decisional because the HLC Board has made no final decision regarding Chicago State University. Thus, the letter is subject to confidentiality. Pursuant to Section 7(1)(g) of the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the letter is considered confidential and was submitted to IBHE, a third party, under an express promise that it will be kept confidential.” Given the information in this letter, I guess the HLC does not want to do its business in the open. Obviously, I plan to appeal this denial to the Public Access Counselor, we’ll see if the claimed exemption (which deals with the confidentiality of “trade secrets and commercial or financial information”) is a valid basis for denial.

Since the University is already “on notice,” a very public status, why is HLC so concerned about the confidentiality of this letter? Our financial position has clearly improved, the abominable Management Action and University Advisory Committees expired with the end of “financial exigency,” and turnover now results from the new administration’s completely appropriate effort to terminate senior administrators who are responsible for the multiple failures of the past seven years. I am told that we remain “on notice” and must submit another report to HLC in early August. Again, why? Here’s my interpretation: Certain members of the HLC apparently desire to insure that the University remains a political patronage pit. In order to do that, it is necessary to retain a number of Watson holdovers and engage in delaying tactics in an attempt to protect them. The new Board and our current administration represent a threat to that status quo and must be neutralized. Although the July 11, 2016 letter from HLC endorsed President Calhoun’s leadership, as we all know, a concerted back-stabbing effort by senior administrators and Board members ultimately resulted in his firing. The new Board is apparently not going to be receptive to that kind of activity. As a result of the new Board’s concern for the well-being of the University, it seems that playing Russian Roulette with our accreditation is the only remaining way to protect the failed Watson holdovers.

The University’s Board of Trustees failed to place the well-being of the University above the well-being of Watson and his cronies for several years. Now that avenue appears closed, and the HLC is apparently stepping into the breach.


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Democratic State Comptroller Susana Mendoza Starts to Release MAP Funds.

Here's something sent out today by the Democratic State Comptroller. Things look a little different when you have a budget. By the way, how exactly was this a win for Bruce Rauner?


Monday, July 10, 2017

Here is Our Appropriation for 2017 and 2018

Based on my rough calculations, CSU will receive nearly $60 million in state appropriations, around $23.6 million for fiscal 2017 and another $35 million for fiscal 2018 (plus around $1 million in grants from the state). Also, the legislature appropriated $401 million for the Monetary Award Program.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Illinois Finally Has a Budget!

The House has just overriden Rauner's veto. After two years, Illinois has a budget.

Friday, June 9, 2017

It's Been an Interesting Summer So Far

An update on some of the upper management personnel and CSU Board changes that have occurred since April 7, 2017, when the Board appointed a new president and Chief Administrative Officer:

1. Trustee Nikki Zollar resigned her position on the Board. Given the role she played in undermining President Calhoun while simultaneously advancing the interests of the corrupt Watson administration, its Godfather and his assorted cronies, good riddance.

2. Associate Vice President of Human Resources Renee Mitchell resigned sometime in March or April.

3. Police Chief Patricia Walsh no longer works at Chicago State. I knew her only slightly, she seemed nice enough, but was the hand-picked successor to the execrable Ronnie Watson. Most important, she had no support among her officers who last year unanimously voted "no confidence" in her.

4. General Counsel Patrick Cage no longer works at Chicago State. His performance speaks for itself.

5. Interim Vice President of Administration and Finance and former Interim President Cecil Lucy no longer works at Chicago State. He played an important role in undermining President Calhoun and was determined to maintain the destructive status quo after Dr. Calhoun's termination.

These are positive changes for the university. We must root out all vestiges of the Watson administration in order to begin the healing and rehabilitation which is a precursor to moving the university in a positive direction. I applaud the new university administration for these moves and look forward to more of the same in the near future.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Friday, June 2, 2017

The West Side Campus Redux: Another Financial Scandal Brought to You by Wayne Watson and Friends

Here's another installment in the continuing West Side Campus fiasco. Some of the highlights: our former General Counsel Patrick Cage is caught lying again (as Sabrina Land says, he "misspoke"); we not only used grant money for expenditures on a feasibility study, an architect, marketing, and a non-refundable deposit on property. Additionally, the administration (read Wayne Watson and his crony Ronnie Watson),spent at least $324,000 of appropriated or income funds on lawyers, site selection, and a "project manager" named Bruce Washington, a politically-connected insider who reportedly received $267,000 for three week's work. Current university officials admitted that "former school officials needlessly and improperly spent institutional funds on the project." Of course, "It does not appear that any of the spending went before the board for review or a public vote."

Obviously, this is all the Tribune's fault for reporting on this. Once again, if we stop doing stupid things, we won't make the paper for this kind of financial malfeasance. More important, in order to prevent these scandals from emerging on a piecemeal basis, we must have a forensic audit done at this University. Another scandal on the balance sheet of Wayne D. Watson and his corrupt administration.

Here's the story:
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-chicago-state-west-side-campus-spending-20170601-story.html

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Friendly Reminder that May is Almost Gone

We are now past spring graduation. We are also now past Memorial Day. Too many of Watson's holdovers remain at this school; Watson himself was again sighted a few days ago. Why are these people still blighting the campus? There is no support for anyone tainted by complicity in the Watson-era shenanigans; the faculty and staff have clearly signaled their desire for new senior leadership. Every day these people are allowed to remain in place, making decisions and influencing events, is a day wasted. Frankly, we are running out of days to squander. Last week's personnel changes were a nice start. We all know who else needs to go, let's just get it done.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The University With No Money Spends over $3 million on Administrators.

With the University finally filing its 2018 report to the Illinois State Legislature, the scope of last year’s layoffs/terminations becomes clear. Notably, talk of staff reductions of “350” or even “300” must be taken with more than a grain of salt. That number is only achievable if non-permanent employees are included in the total. Here are the actual numbers: Administrators terminated without cause: 46; staff laid off: 84; Unit A faculty laid off: 9. Total number: 139. Additionally, 8 employees classified as “Temporary Administrators” (including 4 Undergraduate Advisors), lost their jobs. The University also laid off a total of 159 Unit B Lecturers (72 full-time, 87 part-time). Adding temporary employees and non-tenured tenure track faculty to the total brings the reductions to 306. However, the University in 2016-17 employed 126 Unit B Lecturers (44 full-time, 82 part-time), so the actual number of persons who did not return for the fall semester comes to 180. One final caveat, several of our laid off staff members have returned as temporary employees, so that 180 figure must be further reduced, perhaps to 170 or so. In any event, a far cry from the number the administration has publicly floated.

Our recently departed (and not missed) Board member Nikki Zollar claimed that the Management Action Committee, particularly Cecil Lucy and Angela Henderson, “saved” the University with their staff reductions. As has been noted on this blog, that claim is not supported by the facts. In fact, the 2016 layoffs/terminations did incalculable damage to the school. The University claimed the state’s budget crisis necessitated the carnage of April/May/June 2016, another assertion not supported by evidence. I’ve detailed much of this in previous posts, but as a refresher, I’ll again provide some data. The people who made the layoff decisions saw the University’s “fat” in two places: the academic side (faculty, departments, colleges, student-serving functions, etc.) and the facilities/plant services side (custodial services, purchasing, central stores, parking, etc.). Of the 306 layoffs, 245 (80.1 percent) came from the University’s academic endeavors, including 168 faculty. Facilities and Plant Services contributed 37 victims (12.1 percent). The final 25 layoffs/terminations came from
Computing/Network Services: 7 (2.3 percent), University Administration (Provost, Legal, Marketing, and Auditor): 7 (2.3 percent), University Services (Human Resources, Police, Accounting/Budget): 6 (2 percent), and Athletics: 4 (1.3 percent).

The proportions change if only full-time permanent employees are part of the calculation. Of those 139 employees, 81 are from the academic side (58.3 percent), 37 from Facilities (26.6 percent), with the remaining 15 percent coming from the other categories. The 7 Upper Administrative terminations accounted for 5 percent of the total.

Of course, the University continually told us that our “financial exigency” necessitated those draconian staff reductions. After all, we were out of money, right? Not exactly. First, on June 30, 2015, Chicago State had cash and cash equivalents of $24 million. On June 30, 2016, of $21.7 million. Just prior to the layoffs/terminations in April 2016, the University received an appropriation from the state of $20.7 million. Just after the faculty layoffs in June, the University received an appropriation of around $13 million. On May 31 and June 15, 2016, the University paid out over $2.2 million in cash to terminated/laid off administrators and staff. The breakdown: Severance for administrators, $1,569,992.50; benefits for administrators, 411,287.83; benefits for staff: $252,455.60. When the University laid off 9 faculty members on June 29, it claimed “financial exigency” to avoid giving them their contractually-mandated terminal contracts, which would have cost Chicago State only $590,000 spread over 18 paychecks in fiscal 2016-17. Eventually, the faculty who lost their jobs received nothing.

Altogether, in the period of “financial exigency,” the University spent at least $3.4 million on new hires, primarily administrators, and on severance cash-outs. In addition to the expenditures listed above, between the beginning of "financial exigency" on February 4, and its end on December 9, 2016, the University hired 10 new employees, 9 of them administrators. Cost for all 10: $876,000. For only the administrators: $796,000. Finally, on October 3, 2016, the University paid former President Thomas Calhoun $300,000 in severance, bringing the total expenditures for administrative hires/severance just during the period of “financial exigency,” to over $3.3 million. Clearly, the University had no money.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Once Again, Proof That the Provost Has No Support From Chicago State's Academic Community: A 116-1 Vote of "No Confidence"

Between May 6 and May 9, 2017, members of the CSU-UPI Chapter of Local 4100 participated in a poll that measured support or non-support for Provost Angela Henderson. As you may recall, here at Chicago State, two prior confidence/no confidence votes on Henderson revealed virtually no support among the Chicago State faculty for the Provost. In February 2014, the Chicago State Faculty Senate voted "no confidence" in Henderson by 25-2 with, I believe, 3 abstentions. In late November 2015, UPI members voted "no confidence" in the Provost by 142-4, with 4 abstentions. In that poll, Chicago State's tenured faculty voted "no confidence" by 86-3 with 3 abstentions. These results were reported to the University President and Board of Trustees.

The most recent poll demonstrated that Henderson's support had declined even further. The final result was 116-1-0 (99.1 percent) "no confidence" in Henderson, including tenured faculty members, who voted "no confidence" by 74-1 (98.7 percent). Thus, in three separate votes (2014, 2015, and 2017), Henderson garnered 7 votes out of 297 cast, a microscopic 2.4 percent of the total. Chicago State's tenured faculty have voted 161-4 with 3 abstentions, (2.4 percent support for Henderson) in the two polls conducted by the union (2015 and 2017). Based on these results, I think it accurate to conclude that Chicago State's Chief Academic Officer has virtually no support from the academic community she purportedly leads.

Frankly, Henderson's well-documented performance failures, insufficient credentials, demonstrated dishonesty, and a management style that has featured a commitment to cronyism have earned her the contempt expressed in these multiple repudiations of her "leadership." The enrollment declines alone should have gotten her dismissed, yet here she sits, continuing to draw her hefty salary, continuing to damage the university. In a viable organization, people at the top are held responsible, are accountable for their performance, and for the organization's success or failure. Chicago State is certainly not a success story, but despite years of failure, Henderson has been protected by a University President and members of a Board whose outrageous and frequently unethical behavior contributed materially to the current crisis. Given the latest demonstration of the faculty's and the academic staff's nearly unanimous opposition to this Provost, we must again ask: is anyone listening? will Angela Henderson be held accountable for her woeful performance and for the damage she has done to the University? We shall see.


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Congratulations to Our Newly Tenured Colleagues

Congratulations to our faculty colleagues who earned tenure this academic year; granted by the Board on May 5, 2017:

Dr. Bryon Martin, HPERS.
Dr. Garrard McClendon, GPED.
Dr. Tatjana Petrova, Pharmacy Practice

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Why We Need New Leadership Now.

As we reach the end of another school year replete with scandals, more enrollment declines, and bad financial news, it seems increasingly important for our new leadership to identify the persons most responsible for our predicament and to remove them from University employment. This process will likely take some time, but it must include rooting out every crony hire made during the Watson/Henderson regime, from the Provost at $225,000 to the Administrative Assistant at $45,000. This process will also be costly, as some persons will be entitled to generous Board-mandated severance payouts. Nonetheless, these personnel changes must occur, despite the expense. Unfortunately, the University is simply going to have to continue to pay for the cynicism, incompetence, and epic failure of our previous administration.

Once again, all evidence points to the inescapable conclusion that the previous Board/Administration abrogated their specific responsibilities to the students who placed their faith in Chicago State University, and their general duty to oversee the Watson administration’s academic stewardship. Rather than protecting the interests of the University and its students, the Board/Administration comprising Wayne Watson, Michael Curtin, Marshall Hatch, James Joyce, Spencer Leak, Horace Smith, Anthony Young, and Nikki Zollar embraced the cynical and destructive management style of Wayne Watson, and abetted his administration’s endorsement of academic and employment dishonesty, managerial misconduct, financial mismanagement, crony hiring, and a continuing enrollment disaster. The Board ignored its own presidential performance standards and ultimately rewarded the failed president with numerous perks. After Watson’s ”retirement,” the Board orchestrated Thomas Calhoun’s untimely departure by allowing his senior administrators to undermine the new President, then selected a cipher to fill that critical leadership position, effectively returning control of the University to Watson and the Provost. Not surprisingly, the University continued the enrollment decline that began in 2010, cratering at 3250 this spring.

The previous Board’s failure to act on the declining enrollment, the questionable hiring practices, the demonstrated dishonesty of senior administrators, and the continual financial shenanigans of the Watson administration, coupled with its railroading of a respected and popular new President represented a complete betrayal of our students.

Since the Board consisted of Watson loyalists, this betrayal hardly seems surprising. After all, Wayne Watson had been betraying students at City Colleges and Chicago State for years. His self-styled “distinguished” career as an “educator” is notably devoid of scholarly and/or administrative accomplishments. Instead, his performance has featured consistent enrollment declines, multiple scandals, a vindictive and paranoid management style that resulted in abusive and costly administrative misconduct, a consistent reliance on hiring cronies and loyalists into positions for which they have no qualifications, rewarding his friends and cronies with not just jobs, but with lucrative contracts, and a constant need to avoid responsibility. Frankly, his cynicism knew no bounds. His friends and cronies would be rewarded; the academic integrity of the institution be damned.

The current Provost is a well-schooled product of the Watson style of management, abusive and suspicious, not averse to taking care of her friends and cronies, and likewise, devoid of scholarly and administrative accomplishments. While her performance has earned her a pink slip, the symbolism of her departure would be a powerful signal that “business as usual” has come to an end here at Chicago State. She has absolutely no support from any segment of the University community and her hold on a position usually reserved for a respected senior scholar speaks volumes for the enduring toxicity of the Watson regime. She came to the University as a crony hire, then got her promotion to Provost because of her relationship with Watson. She lied on her application/resume about her expected completion of the Ph.D., then had to hurriedly complete a dissertation to get the degree because Watson wanted to promote her to Provost. The dissertation committee failed to meet the UIC College of Nursing minimum requirements for such a committee, since it included only two members of the graduate faculty, instead of the requisite three. However, the committee did include Wayne Watson, and a person who served as her research assistant. Despite the findings of the anonymous “hearing officer” that her dissertation was not plagiarized, its multiple irregularities more than met the UIC Nursing threshold for plagiarism. Indeed, I found more than 80 passages taken entirely or in part, without appropriate attribution, from various articles, all ostensibly violations of Nursing’s published academic integrity standards. More than three years later, the “revised” dissertation remains unavailable. Anyone questioning the academic integrity of this institution need look no further than the Provost’s office to make a case.

As long as the Provost and her friends (and Watson’s friends) remain on this campus, we are stalled. The April 17 memo from Board Chair Marshall Hatch (a willing participant in the Calhoun firing) may signal an attempt to keep the Provost in place. He wrote this: “Provost Angela Henderson has admirably led in the four year benchmark of our accreditation processes with the Higher Learning Commission. We appreciate all the hard work of the leadership team.” No, Reverend Hatch, we do not appreciate their “hard work.” The staff and faculty at Chicago State want this leadership team gone, and your willingness to shill for the failed Watson holdovers demonstrates your unfitness for a position on the Chicago State Board of Trustees. You should follow Trustee Zollar’s example and immediately resign your position. I fervently hope Hatch’s bullshit will not dissuade our new administrative team from making long overdue personnel changes. After all, we cannot be saved if we are unwilling to save ourselves.

Although ridding ourselves of the Watson blight will be expensive, we must bear the cost. We cannot excise all the Watson tumors immediately, but I urge our new administration to expeditiously begin the work of extricating the school from the muck of the Watson administration. It seems apparent that our new Board members have the school’s best interests at heart, and I believe they will support any personnel changes our new President sees fit to make.







Wednesday, May 3, 2017

A New Kind of Town Hall.

Yesterday’s town hall with the new Interim President and Interim Chief Administrative Officer proved remarkably free of the dishonesty and cynicism that has marked appearances by Chicago State’s leadership since 2009. In fact, the forum’s tone featured high hopes and a number of actual ideas (imagine, that!) for extricating ourselves from our current predicament. To be sure, not everything will work out as planned, but I came away with the sense that we’ve at long last started down a new road. Kudos to Dr. Lindsey and Mr. Vallas for their plain speaking.

Kudos, also, to the several CSU staff and faculty who asked sharp questions and made comments that expressed their disaffection with the events of the past seven years. We heard about the devastating results of the mass layoffs of 2016, the advising fiasco that Dr. Lindsey recently ended, the always looming specter of the ridiculous and unnecessary West Side campus, the complete inadequacy, even illiteracy, of the university’s web site and its continual promotion of our failed former president, the failure of high-salaried administrators to create any effective policy for recruiting students, the multiple failures in public relations that have enabled the narrative that CSU is closing to remain viable, the waste of public fund on salaries for people who apparently do nothing, and who, by their failure to do their jobs, have contributed to the university’s failure writ large. I’m sure I missed a couple of things, but that’s my recollection of the topics covered at the meeting.

As Dr. Lindsey pointed out, we all have a responsibility to our students. They are entitled to the best educational experience we can provide. After the doom and gloom of the past seven years, the staff and faculty have much hard work ahead to repair the damage and make this school what it should be. I agree with Dr. Lindsey that we all must work together to make the school’s possibilities, realities. However, I must point out that our administration also has responsibilities to its faculty and staff. Most important, the personnel changes everyone acknowledges are necessary must occur, and soon.




Wednesday, April 26, 2017

End of Semester Updates

So as the end of the academic year draws close, many long suffering CSU community members are cautiously optimistic about the direction the University is headed in the next 12-15 months. I join them in guarded optimism and am mindful that the institution has been on the brink of removing failed administrators before and couldn't execute. To bring you, loyal readers, up to date, several things of note have occurred in the past three weeks.

First the Board of Trustees appointed a highly qualified and experienced academic to the position of Interim President. Dr. Rachel Lindsey has been retired for nearly six years and has been spared bearing witness to the epic incompetence the University has been subjected to. Her more than 20 years as an administrator has born fruit immediately. She has returned advising responsibility to the academic departments and restored department chair terms to three years. Those are two concerns faculty have voiced for several years. I am sure there will be more to follow.

Second, two vacancies have opened on the Board of Trustees with the resignations of Paul Vallas and Nikki Zollar. Governor Rauner now has two more appointments and it is my fervent wish that he be as perceptive in his appointments of the next two as he was of the remaining three new trustees. They have been of remarkable service to the University in a very short time. 

Third, like the Beatles, the Gang of Four (#CSUclowncar) is being dismantled. One has resigned from the University; one is rumored to have resigned; one has been reassigned and the last????? Everything that has a beginning has an end according to the Oracle from the movie The Matrix. Mercifully, the end of this period of institutional madness is coming to an end. Onward to the forensic audit and all of the fruit that it will bear. And by the way, having shredding parties doesn't always destroy all of the evidence of misconduct.

Fourth, there are rumors that the 24 pay period option is to be restored for faculty beginning August 2017. For some unknown reason, the provost thought it would be a good idea to inconvenience the 90% of faculty who used the 12 month option to spread their salary over. The administration doubled down on this ridiculous decision with the now relieved interim president telling your humble narrator, that she was looking out for faculty, even though faculty leadership was vehemently opposed to the decision. This is another example of rewarding failure.

One of the consequences of this change is that faculty will now have to pay out of pocket the Central Management Services, for the cost of their health care during the summer. Just another way to inconvenience faculty and demonstrate the provost's contempt us. The one upside is an opportunity to review and change benefits during the Benefits Choice change period which runs from May 1st through May 31st. Faculty can go online www.Mybenefits.illlinois.gov and make changes. If you don't have a PIN for your account, please call toll free 1-844-251-1777 Monday - Friday 8AM-6PM CT. Additionally, the Office of Human Resources will be hosting a Benefits Fair May 4th from 9AM - 4PM. Direct questions to Ms. Kim Bandy at kbandy20@csu.edu. 

Finally, in our campaign (#MakeCSUGreatAgain), it is the responsibility of employees to assist in the compliance function of the University. To that end, all employees are Mandated Reporters and as such must complete the online DCFS training and submit the completion certificate to the Compliance Office by April 28th. Like the annual Ethics Training, there are possible consequences for employees not completing the training. And no, the University cannot download the database file from DCFS of its employees who have completed the training. Remember, we are in Illinois after all.

And finally, (really), thanks to my loyal colleagues who have persevered through circumstances that are truly incredible. Our students have the benefit of some of the best teachers in the academy. It humbles me to think what we could do with some real academic leadership.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Anatomy of a Crony Hire: Nikki Zollar Again Demonstrates She Does Not Give a Damn About Chicago State

Remember when Wayne Watson expressed all that faux outrage at Board members allegedly trying to get their friends hired at Chicago State? Here are Watson’s words from around February 2013: “We believe that the real motivation behind the board's actions stem from the my refusal as president and the refusal of key members of my administration to capitulate to the incessant demands from Chairman Rozier and Vice-Chair Z. Scott to either hire, promote and to give salary increases to their friends and associates.”

While Wayne Watson and his retinue supposedly rejected overtures from some Board members to hire their “friends and associates,” a laughable assertion indeed, they failed to apply that exacting standard to other Board members, particularly Watson’s old “friend and associate” Nikki Zollar. What follows is the anatomy of a crony hire. As I have said in previous discussions of crony hires, the blame here rests on the people doing the hiring, since they are willfully subverting the University’s integrity by insuring that “friends and associates” get jobs which are often created out of thin air just for them.

First, as of January 31, 2017, the staff of the Provost’s Offices included eight persons: the Provost, three Associate Provosts, one Executive Secretary, one Associate, one Assistant to the Provost, and one Academic Contract Specialist. All these positions survived the April 2016 blood purge of staff and administrators. Six of the persons occupying those eight positions have worked in the Provost’s office since 2014. In addition, the current Director of Communications reports directly to the Provost.

The position I will focus on is the “Assistant to the Provost” position occupied by Yvonne Davila. This position last appeared as a funded line in the Fiscal 2012 Internal Operating Budget at a salary of $62,496. Now, however, this position is classified as a “Temporary Administrative” position by Human Resources, with a salary of $85,008 per year, or a salary equivalent to the compensation of two staff positions. While the University laid off and terminated scores of staff and administrative employees in April and June 2016, this temporary position survived. Why, exactly? What are the duties of this position? How did it come about?

To get straight to the point, the incumbent in this position survived because of the relationship between she and Nikki Zollar, and because Zollar and the Provost have colluded to keep the University in the hands of the Watson holdovers, and by extension, of Watson himself. In the spring of 2016, Dr. Calhoun mentioned to me that someone named Davila worked in the Provost’s office as a “crisis communicator.” He indicated that he had no idea what that job entailed but that he had been informed that he needed such a person.

How did he get her? According to records received from a FOIA request, the Legal Department contracted with Davila for unspecified legal services. She received $4999.75 on February 25, March 19, April 14, and May 28, 2014; a grand total of $19,999. On June 24, 2014, Davila signed a contract—which the Provost approved—to provide the University “Crisis Communication Consulting Services on behalf of the University, including matters of reputation management, media and message management, internal communication and litigation.” The contract called for $19,998 in compensation, which she received in three payments of $6666 on July 9, August 15, and September 5, 2014. The contract ran from July 1, 2014 through November 13, 2014. On November 3, 2014, the University apparently hired Davila as the “Assistant to the Provost,” at her current salary of $85,008. According to records obtained from Human Resources, since February 2014, she has received $245,000 in compensation.


The duties of this position are unclear. Although the “Crisis Communication” portion of the July 2014 contract suggests that the work product should include things like press releases or other external and internal communications designed to protect the University’s “reputation,” there is no evidence of any such concerted effort. No stories in any of the local media outlets include statements from the Crisis Communicator. In addition, a search of the CSU web site reveals only one entry for Davila, a comment included in the Provost Council meeting of July 6, 2016: “Y. Davila indicated an article about the accomplishments of The College of Pharmacy has been published. She shared that this story is one part of a broader project to share achievements and positive information about CSU. The goal is two stories a month for this year. She invited participation/suggested leads and will establish a calendar.”

Her comment apparently refers to a story in the Chicago Defender by “YD Avila” about the College of Pharmacy. An internet search revealed that to be the only reference to “YD Avila” and the Defender. I found no other articles about Chicago State University written by Davila in the Defender. So, what communications are the province of this position? Perhaps the “news” on the CSU web site might be one of the job duties. In the 28 months since January 1, 2015, a total of 75 “news” articles have appeared on our site, most a paragraph or two. That’s around 2.7 per month. Perhaps that’s the “two stories a month” Davila referenced at the Provost Council.

As I pointed out in a previous post, Davila had no hesitation about expressing her feeling to Trustee Zollar that Phil Beverly should be “fired” for having the audacity to make a video documenting his classroom teaching. Davila’s inclusion in an e-mail thread eventually going from CSU administrators to Zollar demonstrates her close connections to the Trustee. Zollar’s informal “Good gravy,” comment and her subsequent stupid assertion that Dr. Beverly “incites riots” (when, I wonder, was the last “riot” to which Zollar referred?) demonstrates her willingness to discuss these matters with someone with which she has a degree of familiarity. Likewise, Zollar’s admonition to Dr. Calhoun (previously reported on this blog) about “not hurting” various administrators, including, Davila, demonstrates her fealty to the Watson cronies.

Frankly, I am not even sure that Davila’s job at Chicago State is her only full-time job. Nonetheless, her connections with Nikki Zollar insure her continued employment, even as other staff persons see their lives disrupted by losing their jobs at Chicago State. In fact, she may even also work for one of Nikki Zollar’s companies, Safespeed.

A recent article on Safespeed detailed the connections between the officers of the company, and their contributions to various state and local politicians whose support is integral to the Zollar’s lucrative financial dealings with a number of local municipalities. Safespeed’s political activity has given it a “license to print money,” according to one observer. The article documented over $183,000 in contributions since 2007 from Zollar, Safespeed, or Triad Consulting, another Zollar company.

Throughout the article, the reporters refer to Yvonne Davila as a “spokeswoman” for Safespeed. One of the co-authors of the article indicated that Davila had an e-mail address at Safespeed.LLC. In a written response to questions from the reporters, Davila commented on Nikki Zollar, Triad Consulting, and three other persons associated with Safespeed. She said this about Zollar: “Ms. Zollar is an attorney with a wealth of experience in many different fields … She is an entrepreneur whose ideas are not constrained." The authors of the article described Zollar this way: “SafeSpeed LLC was formed in Illinois in June 2007 by a group of individuals who at the time appear to have had zero experience in traffic safety or control . . . One of those partners, SafeSpeed President Nikki M. Zollar, is a former official in the administration of Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar and has longstanding ties to both Chicago Democrats and state GOP officials. . . Zollar brought political connections from both sides of the political aisle to SafeSpeed but it is unclear from a review of state records how she got into the red-light camera business.” The link to the article is: http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/1-17-2017/Easy-money:-Area-red_light-camera-tickets-a-boon-for-clouted-company-/

Nikki Zollar is also an “entrepreneur” who has no objection to using Chicago State as an employment agency for her “friends and associates.” Certainly, someone that politically connected would insure that only someone she knew and trusted would serve as a “spokeswoman” for her company.

To recap, Nikki Zollar and the Provost worked to install one of Zollar’s “friends and associates” in a nicely compensated administrative job in the Provost’s office. Obviously, Zollar’s patronage and the Provost's complicity insured that the position and its incumbent (despite the "temporary" status) survived the April 2016 staff cuts. The job duties are murky and it seems unclear just exactly what Zollar’s person actually does, although there is no evidence of any kind of “crisis communication” or of press releases from the “crisis communicator” pertaining to Chicago State’s various crises. The “crisis communicator” serves as a “spokeswoman” for one of Zollar’s “clouted companies,” a position that suggests she may actually be employed by Safespeed. Based on her votes at the last Board meeting, Zollar’s loyalty to the Watson regime remains unshaken, and Zollar’s role in insuring the continued employment of her crony hire demonstrates her contempt for Chicago State as an educational institution. This is not the place to stash your “friends and associates.” I can only echo my distinguished colleague’s demand to Zollar. Ms. Zollar, your performance as a Trustee has been shameful. For the good of the institution, please resign immediately.

This is precisely the kind of "business as usual" we must eliminate.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Morehouse University Cleans House, Time for CSU To Do the Same

The collusion outlined by my colleague’s last blog post between members of CSU's Board of Trustees and ex-president, the manipulator-in-chief, Wayne Watson, explains how Thomas Calhoun's nine-month presidency did not stand a chance of survival. One year later we can see that it was DOA.

In light of the details of the emails between board members and the supposed ex-president Wayne Watson the events of last year come more clearly into light. Watson, who was not only granted "emeritus" status by the Board, but GIVEN some kind of shady/honorary "tenure" in the College of Education, as well as the unprecedented privilege of an office or two in the Library (an abuse of state-supported property?) was able to run a shadow university administration. He was clearly aided in this by the refusal of the Board, spearheaded at the time by Anthony Young and Nikki Zollar, to allow Calhoun to replace the provost, their sacrosanct Angela Henderson, or any of the other high-placed Watson "team." Before he was a month into his time at CSU, the Board found a way to clip his wings with its claim of “financial exigency.” They effectively took executive power away from the president and pitted him against Watson’s three minions, Provost Angela Henderson, Interim President Cecil Lucy, and H.R. person Renee Mitchell on a Management Action Committee assuring Calhoun’s one vote to their three. 

The Board of Trustees under Anthony Young and Nikki Zollar was shameless in its partisanship of the old Watson regime and completely unethical in their continued communication with Watson after he was no longer president. In light of the transcript of emails referenced, one can conclude that they really only bowed to public pressure and the Governor's Office to remove Watson after all the high-priced lawsuits began to be added up in 2015/2016. In reality, they had no intention of removing him from power—nice subterfuge. Their dismissal of Thomas Calhoun in the summer and early Fall of 2016, with its big payout and secrecy agreement, is something that still stinks to high heaven. The Governor’s Office and the legislature should demand to see the details of that agreement. I’d be interested in seeing that dodgy legal agreement tested in court. How can a state Governing Board withhold details of an agreement from the people to whom it is allegedly responsible?

The Board of Trustees is entrusted to oversee Chicago State University. The question to ask now is how low and nefarious were these connections by the old board members and do they continue to exist? As much as some Board members and the Watson set and all the past (and current) local politicians may see CSU as their private golden goose to be used to benefit an in-crowd (of their choosing); as much as they may bring in the "community" to shout “Amen” whenever light is shone on this twisted corruption, CSU remains a public institution with state money accountable to ALL the taxpayers of Illinois. It is not a private institution. The past Board of Trustees violated the public trust. All the old members of that board currently sitting should be purged immediately.

The Board of Anthony Young and Nikki Zollar showed no sense of discernment—they did not oversee what they were charged with overseeing, they were unable or unwilling to distinguish the self-interested voices from those calling on them to make changes on campus and demand accountability. They intervened in the direct operations of the university to such an egregious extent that it is surprising they have escaped sanction from the Association of American Governing Boards or even our own Higher Learning Commission on the category of governance on campus and the State Ethics Commission. 

 An article in on April 9th in Diverse Issues in Higher Education outlined a story about Morehouse University that is worth reading for its parallels to us. “Morehouse College Overhauls Leadership”:
https://diverseeducation.com/article/94972

Morehouse College replaced its president and the chairman of its board of trustees late on Friday afternoon, after several months of turmoil at the historically Black institution. William Taggart, the college’s chief operating officer since 2015, is now the interim president.

…In a letter sent out to the Morehouse community on Friday afternoon the board wrote, “With today’s action, the Board acknowledges that it has heard the voices of students, faculty, alumni, and many other key members of the Morehouse family, who have called upon all of those who love this historic institution to put aside out differences and put Morehouse and our mission first.”

The board encountered increasing criticism from faculty, students, and alumni after the board voted to not renew President John S. Wilson Jr.’s contract in January, leading the faculty to take a vote of no confidence in the board chairman in late March. Many said that the board never fully explained its decision and excluded students and faculty from the decision-making process…

Chicago State University may not be Morehouse University, but our own overseers, the Board of Trustees and Governor Rauner, could take a lesson from them and listen for a change to the voices of the students and the faculty when we speak truth to power as we have been trying to do for upwards of nine years. It is time for CSU to clean house.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Scandalous Relationship Between our Old Board and Wayne Watson: Our Administrators are Not Victims Here

Although the Board made two new appointments Friday, the University is still a long way from the wholesale leadership changes that must occur if we are to have a chance at survival. I think it likely that our various Watson cronies will still fight to keep their jobs, even perhaps by attempting to portray themselves as victims. Now, however, we seem to have a Board attentive to the needs of the school and willing to act in Chicago State’s best interests. The question remains, given the monumental and multiple administrative failures of the past six-plus years, why has it been so difficult to get rid of those “leaders” most responsible for that failure? One of the major reasons is the incestuous relationship between certain members of the Board (former and current) and some remnants of the Watson administration. Communication between several of these persons in August and September 2016, suggests that with the active participation of Board and administrative members, Wayne Watson has continued to play a substantive role in the affairs of the school.

On August 5, 2016, I provided an analysis of our enrollment problems, and suggestions for addressing those problems, to the Board of Trustees, Dr. Calhoun, and then Interim Vice President of Enrollment Management Michael Ellison. On August 9, 2016, former Board Chairman Anthony Young forwarded my letter to Wayne Watson. Why?

On September 16, 2016, Young received for his “approval” a draft “resignation” letter from Dr. Calhoun addressed to the University community. Another Board member wrote to Young: “The word and spirit of this letter breaks the confidentiality agreement. If Dr Calhoun can give explanation, so should we. I hope our attorney is up to protecting our interest in this. The effect of the letter blames the board alone for his separation. Counsel should advise if this is breach that halts payout. Btw: the Trib has editorialized that we be ‘fired’ by the gov.” Young forwarded Dr. Calhoun’s letter to Wayne Watson at 5:41 p.m. September 16, 2016. Why? Young forwarded the other Board member’s remarks about the letter to Wayne Watson at 7:54 p.m., that same day. Why?

An e-mail thread beginning on September 21, 2016, and ending on September 23, 2016, discussed Dr. Phillip Beverly in unflattering terms. The thread began at 9:14 p.m., with a reference to a video produced by Dr. Beverly. At 9:17 p.m., Yvonne Davila, a temporary administrator working in the Provost’s Office, responded “He (Beverly) should be fired.” The communication, apparently titled “Last email..look at this clown,” went to Board member Nikki Zollar who wrote Davila: “Good gravy. He just incites the riots (and he knows exactly what he’s doing).” Zollar also copied the thread to Angela Henderson. At 9:32:29 p.m. Zollar forwarded the thread to Young, and Board member Marshall Hatch, with the message, “FYI.” On September 22, 2016, at 8:50 p.m., Young forwarded the message to Watson who responded on September 23, 2016, at 6:31 a.m. Watson wrote: “He is very smart . . . The judge in the ‘Fire case’ has stated that she reads our blogs and I believe this video is for her, the judge. He is sending her the message that he is a calm, reasonable, thought provoking teacher (a little controversial but thought provoking). The allegations against him in the fire case are very strong as it relates to his interactions with students. I content [sic] that the audience intended is not the CSU campus but the judge. He does not make moves like this for what appears to be the obvious reason. He is very good at communication and this is a strategic move.” Once again, why did Wayne Watson receive these communications?

So, with enrollment cratering, scandals galore, and mountains of evidence pointing to the complete failure of the Watson administration, several of our Board members include him in discussions about University operations. This is what Nikki Zollar, Anthony Young, and Marshall Hatch spent their time doing? Crony hires like Yvonne Davila feel free to offer a worthless opinion to a Board member on the employment of a tenured faculty member? Just who the hell are these people? No wonder Nikki Zollar voted for the status quo.

The Watson administration continues to afflict Chicago State—a cancer that must be excised if the school is to survive. The various cronies who continue to damage the school must be rooted out. In 2009, an Illinois Reform Commission report detailed the features of crony hiring: 1) the hiring of politically connected or politically subservient persons, 2) the creation of political positions, 3) hiring and promotion based on considerations other than merit, 4) increasing numbers of contract employees, 5) ignoring or modifying listed job descriptions and minimum qualifications.

Ultimately, the patronage system generously rewards mediocrity and incompetence while contributing to the continuing existence of a variety of operational failures. The Watson administration at Chicago State University offers an excellent example of patronage at work: its cronyism, secrecy, disregard for competence, and ultimately, its deleterious effects on the operation of the school.

The holdovers from the Watson administration will probably struggle mightily to retain their positions. They will avail themselves of any potential strategy, no matter how ludicrous, to paint themselves as victims, a truly laughable position. We all know about the multiple failures of their “leadership.” Let’s see how much they’ve earned while demonstrating their incompetence.

Focusing on only four employees—two of whom were hired as soon as Watson “officially” became president on October 1, 2009, and are still employed at CSU, one crony who came in 2011 and who is still employed at CSU, and one girlfriend Watson hired in November 2009 who lost her job in April 2016—we find that Chicago State has paid at least $4.02 million to these four persons for their various administrative failures. Here’s the breakdown:

Vice President/General Counsel Patrick Cage, hired November 1, 2009. Total salary: $1,154,265.
Provost Angela Henderson, hired June 15, 2011. Total salary: $1,081,969.
Associate Vice President Rene Mitchell, hired October 5, 2009. Total salary: $1,043,712.
Associate Vice President Cheri Sidney, hired November 9, 2009, terminated April 30, 2016. Total salary: $740,586.
Total compensation paid to these four through March 31, 2017: $4,020,532.

According to Board regulations, if the three persons still employed are terminated without cause, they are entitled to the following payouts: Henderson, $225,000; Cage, $155,004; Mitchell, $144,996. That brings the total salary for these Watson cronies (including Sidney) to $4,545,532. If that’s victimization, I’d like some. I can only paraphrase something I said in a long forgotten post: never have so many been paid so much to accomplish so little.







Friday, April 7, 2017

The Dawn of a New Era?

So after two lengthy special meetings, the Board of Trustees decided to appoint an interim president worthy of the position. Dr. Rachel Lindsey, former Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, has been appointed interim president. She brings more than 30 years of higher education experience to an institution desperately in need of accountable and integral leadership. The time to rebuild a badly broken university has long passed, yet here we find ourselves. Congratulations to Dr. Lindsey!

The only sad note in Dr. Lindsey's appointment was the NO vote cast by Trustee Nikki Zollar. She has a long relationship with the prior failed president and his current administrative holdovers and by this vote appears to want to maintain the status quo. This humble blog has vigorously documented what that status quo looks like and that picture is less than flattering. 

To Trustee Zollar, I say this: RESIGN! Resign today! I will draft a letter of resignation for your signature and hand deliver it to the Governor, should you wish. Please spare the university any more of your "service." The message should be clear. The university can no longer stand your support and enabling of failure. Your board colleagues have clearly repudiated the 'reward failure' mantra by appointing someone who will remove those who have so badly devastated the university. That you were unwilling to support your fellow board members leaves me with only one message for you. 

RESIGN!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Here we go again. Board of Trustees meet tomorrow. What will happen next?

 Tomorrow the Board of Trustees is supposed to announce a new Interim President and who knows what else. Stop by the fourth floor of the Academic Library. Sign up for public comment before the meeting and the comments will be made before the Board goes in to executive session.

The question we are all waiting to have answered: will it be a brand new day or the same old same old?

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Public Comment from the Last Board Meeting

Remarks made at the Chicago State University Special Board meeting on March 27, 2017.

By Minister Michael Muhammad, founder of a new coalition known as the New Black Leadership Coalition:

I am here at the consent of our steering committee who asked me to come and make a statement concerning these affairs. So I’ll be brief.

Incompetence, evil, negativity leave a residue. They bear fruit. They live in the mind, practices, and policies of narcissistic, sociopathic leadership. Formal degree does not preclude one from being a sociopathic personality; whose mind is so self-centered that guilt, shame, remorse, nor self-correction are even possible despite formal education. Cronyism, intimidation, demoralized staff, faculty, and students, and a demoralized community of interests are the by-product of the current model of leadership. Institutional bullying of staff, faculty, and students, censure of all voices of accountability, the request of staff to make false claims of criminal behavior by those viewed as a threat. Millions of dollars in liability from bullying of staff and faculty. Crony contracts for highly placed individuals requiring minimal work product, extremely low black contract and vendor participation. A high reduction in enrollment over the last six years; extremely high. The unethical suppression of our next two generations of black scholars, (who are) committed to a more equitable model of governance, management, and leadership than the current model. Gross financial irresponsibility in the process and execution of the hiring of Dr. Calhoun and his forced resignation. There must be a forensic audit of the finances of this public institution as well as a full investigation of the connections, relationships, policies, and practices of those in the highest offices of government, governance, administration, to root out all of those who are cronies and lackeys for the current administration. Bruce Rauner nor Paul Vallas are in any way responsible for any of these institutional atrocities. It is black men and black women who are responsible, and must, and will be held accountable by the community for these failures. Change is necessary, the old model must die.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Audit Report Out, ISL Forms Filed: Our Administration Continues its Monumental Failure

To close out March, here is some new information coming from the Auditor General’s Audit of Chicago State, released just two days ago:

• When the University decided not to recall 9 faculty members on June 29, it had close to $20 million in cash and cash equivalents.
• Contributions to Chicago State virtually dried up completely in fiscal 2016, dropping from a paltry $435,878 for the CSU Foundation in 2015, to a total of $52,135 in fiscal 2016, $7335 for the old foundation, and $44,800 for The University Foundation at Chicago State--more appropriately called the Wayne Watson foundation; his hedge against a possibly rambunctious Thomas Calhoun. With all the ballyhoo surrounding the destruction of the old foundation and the creation of the new organization, the Watson foundation raised almost enough money to pay the salary ($44,880) of one support person. Well done Wayne!
• Showing the same magic touch in fund-raising we experienced during his tenure, Wayne Watson and his foundation succeeded in reducing the University’s endowment by over $120,000 (from $5.157 million to $5.036 million.
• The Wayne Watson foundation also reduced that organization’s current assets from $1.89 million to $879,000. That must be Watson’s stock-in-trade “right-sizing,” which he has now brought to a university, an entire community college system, and a charitable organization. To be sure, we are still standing on the shoulders of a giant.
• Chicago State had 15 audit findings, the same number as in the previous year.
• We reportedly violated state law by having the Provost approve at least 5 contracts for more than $250,000, for a total of $2.38 million. State statutes are clear that only the CEO, CFO, and General Counsel may approve those contracts, which must then go to the Board for their approval. Of course, by June 30, 2016, at least three members of that board had died, although they continued to appear at meetings. The Provost and other high-level administrators cut Thomas Calhoun out of this process.
• The Sun Times reported on a couple of other embarrassing audit findings. http://chicago.suntimes.com/politics/csu-audit-finds-the-university-improperly-reported-federal-awards/

The University also finally reported on its condition to the Illinois State Legislature. The 2018 ISL Forms contain some interesting information:

• When the University decided not to recall 9 faculty members on June 29, it had $843,700 in unspent local income money from 2015. The salaries for those 9 faculty members totaled just over $590,000.
• The University still desires to swell its administrative ranks. Its position requests for 2017-18 include: a Director of Financial Aid at $110,004. The previous salary for that position (2014) was $80,004. For fiscal 2018, the University wants a newly created Vice President of Advancement, a bargain at $110,004.
• The University continues to make extensive use of interim appointments, although it also pays hefty overrides to bring them up to typical salary levels for their respective positions. One interim dean receives an additional $35,004 per year, a second an additional $30,000, a third an additional $23,004, a fourth an additional $12,492. The Interim President receives a bump of $120,000 per year, an Acting Vice President gets $25,000 more per year, and an Interim Associate Vice President an additional $11,300. That’s four Interim Deans, an Interim President, an Interim Acting Vice President, and an Interim Associate Vice President. That’s real stability folks.
• The total cost of the West Side campus that simply will not die has ballooned from $40 million to $61 million.

This is all simply more evidence that this University has reached a crisis point. No one in this administration knows what they are doing, or else, they are simply trying to feather their nests and get as much as they can before the place goes under. Time to get some people fitted for jumpsuits?