Monday, November 20, 2017

"And the World Turned Upside Down." CSU the Only University Where a Provost has More Job Security than Any Tenured Faculty Member

We learned on Wednesday last week that tenure is on its way out at CSU. 

The travesty and tragedy that is Chicago State University careens along like a rudderless ship as we sink into the dark November days that end our semester. No discernible leadership here appears on the horizon, though there had been hope of it earlier. Lots of administration, bombast and bluster from the Board of Trustees, but no one stands out, let alone up, for us the faculty. 

Today our UPI President Bob Bionaz, informed us that the Union had lost its grievance and arbitration against the University. Our nine tenured and tenure-track faculty colleagues who were fired by the phony and vindictive "Management Action Committee" in 2016 will not be getting the paltry severance payout a normal, ethical university would have granted-- a one year contract or a year's pay. During this same so-called “financial exigency,” CSU's administrators who have been walked off campus have gotten heaps of cash --Cheri Sydney (now Mrs Wayne Watson) made out of CSU like a bandit. So did others--see earlier blog posts below for the list of the well-compensated administrators who were allowed to slop at the Illinois trough one last time. 

Shameful. But this is part of a long tradition of shamelessness in the operation of Chicago State. 

Shame on you President Lindsey for not sticking up for the faculty whose lives have now been turned upside down, whose careers have been ruined by the previous administration's vindictiveness. You hired some of these very faculty members when you were our Dean. Shame on you for continuing to tolerate the continued machinations of the Watson remnants on campus especially one of the most vindictive architects of the faculty firings. She sits right across the hall from you. 

Shame on you CSU Trustees: Chair Marshall Hatch, Horace Smith, Kamium Buckner, Nicholas Gowen, Tiffany Harper, and Jay Smith for your insincerity and your own partisanship toward the old Watson remnants. The fired administrators can be paid off in large packages during "financial exigency" but you choose to spend more money on lawyers to save "chump change" rather than or do justice by the faculty fired under the fiction of that same financial exigency.  Shame on you for your duplicity. You say you want to "move the university forward," that you want the best for the university, but you choose, like the previous administration and Board, to keep the CSU faculty your adversaries. You do not know how to implement best practices in university governance. You are not of the academy, yet you will not take advice or hear from those of us who are. And we have to tolerate board after board, year after year, whose overlordship is tied to pols and their pet political interests or well-connected insiders from "the community." And these boards have included Christian ministers. Well there is what the letter of thelaw allows, but ethics is often something else. And Christian ethics even moreso. Messrs. Hatch and Smith, you in particular have truly shown yourselves to be little men. You still have chance to advocate for an ethical end to all this. Pay the fired faculty their paltry compensation or reinstate them at the university. Hmmm, “what would Jesus do, I wonder?”

Shame on all of you, Administrators and Trustees, for putting the finishing touches on Wayne Watson and his acolyte Angela Henderson's rendition of the Empire Strikes Back. They could not grind to dust all the faculty irritants who shined a light on their cronyism and corruption, so they attacked their colleagues. Can anyone really think it was a coincidence that most of the faculty who were fired were targeted from among  the big-mouth departments (political science, history, music, philosophy) that dared to criticize the antics of Wayne and Miss Angie during their stay at CSU? 

The CSU union was organized at a time when unions were still respected in the pre-Reagan era. I realize the times have changed. Education is now a commodity. The corporatization of the university gallops along all over the country. Students are "customers." In this climate, faculty or other campus unions must be crushed. Administrators receive corporate salaries and golden parachutes worthy of Wall Street or Madison Avenue executives. In this cosmology tenure is seen as an anachronism, a "perk" granted (not “earned”) from an earlier age. There is a willful ignorance of its purpose --to protect free speech and free inquiry on campus. Instead, in the corporate university, the professional class of administrators aided by board members from business or law, can see no type of governance other than that of a top-down chain- of-command business hierarchy. Faculty are not sharers in this governance model. Hence the assault on tenure. It must be broken. It has no place in the enterprise to completely commodify education. The arbitrator in this grievance process saw fit to defend those who wanted to find a way to break tenure and to protect administrative purview.

Shame on us as a faculty if we fail to realize this is just what happened to us. Shame on us faculty if we try to keep our heads low and hope that the next time it will not be us or colleagues in our own departments who have to try to rebuild their lives. We now know the university’s nuclear option: declare financial exigency in order to fire tenured faculty. It might put accreditation at risk, but is a way to get rid of some very pesky members of the CSU “family.” 

It was ironic to me was that on the day we learned of the arbitrator’s decision, the College of Arts and Sciences was holding a “Faculty Appreciation Luncheon.” Would that the Dean of Arts and Sciences at the time of the faculty firings in 2016, Dr Jones, stood up to the administration in a true show of leadership and denounce the firings of so many from his college and the vindictive reasons for it. Would that his leadership inspired his chairs in the Arts and Sciences to do the same and call out the harm this action would do to individual programs and hence the students on campus as well as the loss of talented faculty. When I asked of Dr Calhoun at a townhall meeting of the faculty in fall of 2016 to please tell me that at least the Deans and chairs spoke up against the action of firing tenured faculty, Dr. Calhoun shook his head and said, no, no, he could not say that they did.

I suppose that with campus climate the way it is, where leadership is vacant and faculty impotence and demoralization is reflected in those empty hallways and classrooms that I pass every day, it is too much to expect faculty to show solidarity for our lost colleagues at the next CSU Board meeting on December 15th. I will still encourage it. I expect that there will be a lot of back-slapping and high-fiving among the Board members and upper administration over the legal victories that “they” achieved this fall (“winning the grievance and HLC lifting our sanctions). They will make every effort to erase the past actions of both Board and Provost (kiss, kiss, all is better) and tell each other and us that we now (i.e. again) can “move forward.” The administrative reports will be upbeat and no one on the Board will challenge them or ask meaningful questions because the Board has not shown itself to care to know what those questions are that they should ask. It might be interesting to go just to watch the performances—you know the way you expect your favorite actors in the movies to play their roles. Watch for it here. Our lead actors in the CSU administration have played their roles so well over the years.

In spite of what we know will happen at the next Board meeting, the Board and the President and her Provost and any other administrators need to be reminded that they broke faith with us faculty. Students and faculty, not the Board or the Administration, are at the heart of this institution. Students do not come here because of its administration (ask them, they are here in spite of it). The world is turning upside down in academia and it is here too. Our faculty colleagues were fired without the courtesy of a year’s contract or monetary compensation. Amid the weariness of the past few years and the desire to get along and “move forward,” we cannot let ourselves or the Board or the President and Provost forget that they chose to support the vindictive and unjust firing of nine of our faculty colleagues.



[Originally posted on Nov. 17, 2017]

Friday, November 17, 2017

Step 1 in Breaking Tenure. Faculty Beware. Do you really think this could not happen to you?

Yesterday, Bob Bionaz, UPI President sent this message to the faculty. Read and think about this very carefully. 

Colleagues:
Yesterday, the arbitrator handed down his opinion on the 2016 faculty layoffs and the University’s decision to not give separated faculty the one year’s terminal employment required by the contract. His decision seems inexplicable and represents an almost complete victory for the administration. The one section of the contract the arbitrator found the University had violated resulted in a perfunctory and meaningless “award” for the grievants.
The arbitrator decided that since the University’s fiscal position met the criteria for “extreme and immediate financial exigency” in February 2016, that no cash infusion occurring subsequent to that date mattered.  Here’s his exact language from the opinion:
Its [the union’s] argument is based on the layoffs not being effective until August 15, 2016, that the layoff decisions were not truly made until the end of June, and that there was no ‘extreme and immediate financial exigency’ at that time. The Arbitrator concludes otherwise. The decision to lay off employees was made in February 2016. Therefore, the Arbitrator concludes that is the time frame to determine whether there was an ‘extreme and immediate financial exigency’ based on the contract language.”
He wrote further:
“The Arbitrator concluded that the financial issues the University faced in February 2016 met the ‘extreme and immediate financial exigency’ condition and Section 24.5 was not violated.”
So, as far as the arbitrator was concerned, time stopped in February 2016. Based on this logic, had the University received after February 2016 a full state appropriation for fiscal 2016 and 2017, it still would have been in “extreme and immediate financial exigency” for the purposes of faculty and staff layoffs, and for the notice language in article 24.5. In order to reach this conclusion, he had to ignore voluminous evidence which demonstrated that the University’s fiscal position had improved dramatically in April and June 2016. He also ignored the University’s outlay of nearly $4 million in severance for fired administrators along with payroll expenses for newly hired employees, almost all of them administrative employees. Finally, he ignored the fact that the Board, with nothing at all changed since June 2016, ended the University’s “financial exigency” in December 2016.
In a remarkable passage, the arbitrator noted the school’s “ghost town” appearance. I’m not sure what part that may have played in his ultimate decision, but it certainly has no place in an analysis of contract language. He commented that:
“It should be noted that the hearings in this matter were scheduled in May and August 2107, that is, during the Summer semester and the Arbitrator noticed few students around campus.”
The arbitrator’s decision on retroactive compensation for laid off faculty members includes logical inconsistencies and gratuitous editorial comment. Once he decided that the University had violated article 24.5, no further commentary on article 24.5 seems necessary. After all, if the University did not violate article 24.5, it could rightly deny laid off faculty members a terminal year of employment. However, the arbitrator wrote this, along the way finding that the University had violated a fairly insignificant section of the contract:
“The Employer did not violate Article 24 when it laid off the Grievantsin February
2016. However, the Employer violated Section 24.4 by not making an effort to locate
other equivalent employment in that it did not consider the possibility of assignments
with duties in more than one unit, transfer to another unit or position pursuant to Article
25, or retraining pursuant to Article 27.”
He then editorializes that:
“Given the overall situation the Employer faced in2016, it is difficult to determine the likelihood that other equivalent employment would have been found for the Grievants. On this record, the Arbitrator concludes it was unlikely.”
The arbitrator then finds that the lack of equivalent employment justifies his denial of any compensation for the grievants.
“As such, the Arbitrator will not order retroactive relief for the Grievants. Rather, he will order prospective relief.”
He concludes the massacre by intoning:
“Prior to the beginning of the Spring 2018 semester, the Employer is ordered to make a reasonable effort to locate other equivalent employment pursuant to Section 24.4.”
So, the grievants are not entitled to any compensation because the University had no equivalent employment? If the University had equivalent employment and had made an effort to locate it, they would have not been laid off, making the entire discussion moot. There is no contractual connection whatsoever between “equivalent employment” and the denial of a terminal contract, the arbitrator simply inserted it into his opinion.
Finally, his “award” looks cynical to me. Really, ordering the University to make a “reasonable effort” to find other employment for the grievants? I wonder what the arbitrator thinks a “reasonable effort” looks like? This is a meaningless order.
The University spent around $200,000 to prevail in its effort to deny laid off faculty members any compensation for the loss of their jobs and the destruction of their careers. While it did that, Chicago State continued to lavish money on administrative employees and legal firms. The University’s actions make clear where the school’s faculty stand in the grand scheme of things.
Of course, I find this decision infuriating and completely unfair. However, the important persons in this fiasco are our laid off colleagues, some of them still working as non-tenured Lecturers. To them, I can only apologize for the ordeal they continue to endure.
I think the implications of this decision are profound. As far as this arbitrator is concerned, the University’s discretionary power is almost absolute. It puts everyone on this campus at risk. That is, everyone except the highly placed cronies still blighting the University.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Throw Another $350,000 on the Barbie: The University Continues to Pay for Wayne Watson

In my previous post, I noted that there were some legal expenses for which I had no contracts. I now have them. At least two of the contracts have to be added to the expenses incurred by the university to defend its former president, Wayne Watson. Specifically, in December 2016, the university contracted with Jackson Lewis to “Represent Dr. Wayne Watson” in the Peebles case. The amount? $250,000. That same month, the university contracted with Neal, Gerber and Eisenberg to “Represent Chicago State University in connection with analyzing coverage for the Crowley verdict.” The amount of this contract is $99,000.

As a I reported earlier, Jackson Lewis has received nearly $93,000 for its work on behalf of Wayne Watson, while Neal, Gerber and Eisenberg have been paid more than $70,000 for its “analysis.” Of course, the Peebles case is ongoing, with the price tag for Watson’s defense now exceeding $300,000. You may recall that the insurer in the Crowley case balked at paying for damages caused by the purposeful behavior of Watson and Cage; insurers don’t usually pay for liability created by the illegal actions of a defendant. Ultimately, the insurer agreed to pay $1.5 million of the $4.3 million damage award to James Crowley, leaving the university on the hook for $2.8 million. Adding the $70,000 paid to Neal, Gerber and Eisenberg brings the cost of defending Wayne Watson’s unconscionable behavior to just under $400,000.

Below are the two contracts:

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The New Looks Just Like the Old: Chicago State Continues to Throw Money Away on Legal Fees

We have a new Board (sort of ) and a new President, however, much remains the same here at Chicago State University. Specifically, our school continues to pour money into the pockets of contract legal firms for purposes that make sense to hardly anyone. Let me explain.

During the Watson era, legal expenses increased dramatically between January 1, 2010 through June 30, 2015, Chicago State paid nearly $1.5 million in legal fees to outside law firms. Included among these expenses: $230,000 to defend Wayne Watson in the Crowley suit, plus another $100,000 for the appeal; $62,000 for a firm to handle trademark applications; $27,000 for a firm to do research for the “West Side Campus”; $49,000 to a firm to assist with the dissolution of the old and the formation of the new “foundation”; $26,000 to a firm to investigate the behavior of a dissident faculty member; $92,000 to a firm for threatening the faculty blog with a lawsuit for “trademark infringement” or some such nonsense; and close to $200,000 to defend Watson in the Glenn Meeks suit. Let’s look at the scorecard for these legal efforts. The University lost both the Crowley and Meeks suits, the “West Side” Campus is dead, the University now has the tree substituting for the “A” in Chicago State University protected by trademark, the investigation on the dissident faculty member revealed nothing, the faculty blog continues to operate, and the new foundation is frankly a laughingstock. Not much of a return on a substantial investment.

So things have change, right? Not so much. In Watson’s years, the amounts spent for contract legal services went from $45,000 in 2010 to $110,000 in 2011, $244,000 in 2012, $134,000 in 2013, $569,000 in 2014, $397,000 in 2015, and ended at $125,000 in 2016. Since January 1, 2016, Chicago State has actually kept pace with the Watson administration in its zealous efforts to make the university look petty, vindictive, and penurious (at least when it comes to some employees). Here’s what we’re doing now.

The University has paid $196,624.92 to Akerman LLP; whose partner LaKeisha Marsh serves as CSU Board attorney. Their charge? Fuck over the faculty and staff who were laid off in 2016. They settled with 3 of our people for a low ball total of $34,000 and their jobs back. Their actual lost salaries came to around $123,000, a saving to the University of $89,000. There are still 6 former tenured faculty members who have not been rehired as tenured faculty, two of whom are currently teaching as lecturers. The salaries owed these people under the contract come to $289,000. So, the University has spent $196,642.92 to potentially save $378,000, along the way generating nothing but goodwill from non-affected and affected faculty members.

Next we have Fisher Phillips, the firm defending the University (Wayne Watson) in both the Meeks and LaShondra Peebles suits. Since January 1, 2016, the University has paid $214,467.60 to lose the Meeks case and to continue railroading Peebles by pursuing the University’s bogus criminal charges. This brings the total for these two defenses to over $423,000.

Also lined up to get a ladle full from the CSU gravy train is Husch Blackwell, vigorously defending the University’s right to violate the first amendment. Although this matter could have been settled early at minimal cost, Wayne Watson decided to fight to the death to insure that CSU could silence anyone who dared disagree with the little dictator. The price tag to this point stands at $265,000, with $91,338.14 spent since January 1, 2016.

Schiff Hardin, the firm handling the “foundation” business remains a favorite of the administration. They’ve received $80,083.59 since January 1, 2016, bringing their total since April 2015 to over $125,000.

Finally, we have two interesting firms, doing some kind of unspecified contract(?) work. The first, Jackson Lewis, advertising itself as some kind of labor and employment litigators, has received $92,981.22 since March 2017. The second, Neal Gerber and Eisenberg has received $70,233 for who knows what? I will file a new FOIA requesting those contracts and will report on the results.

Since January 1, 2016, Chicago State has spent over $780,000 on fees to outside legal firms, with $486,722.90 coming since January 1, 2017. I think it likely that by the end of the year Chicago State will have spent nearly as much as Wayne Watson threw away in his most profligate year. This looks like business as usual to me folks.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Frank, Thomas, and Paul

Anybody here
seen my old friend Frank?
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He inspired a lotta people,
But it seems good leaders, they don’t stay…
I just looked around CSU
and he’s gone.

Anybody here,
seen my old friend Thomas?
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He inspired a lotta people,
But it seems good leaders, they’re made to leave…
I just looked around CSU
and he’s gone…

In 21 years at CSU there have been three times when I have thought we finally netted someone in the upper administration with the potential to undertake the leadership that CSU has needed to move it from its oft-lamented status as the “diamond in the rough.” These three happen to be men and I would add, men of substance, who exuded intelligence, vision, and capability. I am talking about Frank Pogue, Thomas Calhoun and the third one I met last week, Paul Vallas.

CSU is not lacking in a faculty committed to moving CSU towards all it could be. But it has been badly lacking in leadership from the top for many years. Leadership, true leadership, does not issue mandates from the 3rd floor of the Cook Building such as we endured with the presidency of Wayne Watson. A contentious, venal political hire from the start, he inspired no wide support among the faculty.  Our so-called overseers, the state governor, Board of Trustees, and the Higher Learning Commission permitted him to run CSU like a political ward and become the poster-child of an Illinois patronage pit. We remain saddled with the remnants of Watson’s pillaging and plundering, an execrable and disgraced provost and others whose shelf-life on this campus is well past their “sell by” date.

After Governor Quinn’s interference to save Watson and then the Calhoun debacle last year, I became convinced that the state’s ultimate intention for CSU was that it not be anything more than a southside politically-dominated community college that masquerades as a university. We would continue to be that "diamond in the rough" and any achievement a department or individual faculty made would be in spite of, not because of, its leadership. It is hard to keep one’s spirits up in the situation that persists at CSU. And there has been no Truth and Reconciliation moment over the dirty job the provost and the bogus Management Action Committee did in firing our faculty colleagues. Who has the will to do anything for which a no-confidence president or provost might take credit?

Oh, right. Do it for the students. Yes,  “Students First” all the way at CSU. The words ring hollow when it comes out of the cynical mouths of administrators who have proven that their own interests and egos precede anything done for students. What would you say to the student in my class this semester who was so badly advised at the “advising center” that she is taking four classes here that she had already taken and passed at a community college? When she meekly protested to the adviser she was told that since the A.A. degree had not posted to the transcript, she had to take a freshman course load. They had the transcripts that clearly showed she had taken and passed the classes. By the time she spoke to her department chair, it was past the deadline to add/drop. Her chair told her the courses would count as electives.  If it were me, or my child, I would have raised holy hell with the department and the Academic Affairs Office and possibly dropped out of the university rather than pay for four classes I did not need. But our students do not all have the kind of confidence needed to stand up to posturing authoritative administrators.

Is this what we call “students first?” Students powerless? What could any one of us as faculty do for this student? I was incensed on her behalf yet powerless myself to offer her anything beyond my sympathy and encouragement to be vigilant with the courses she needs. Faculty have protested the failures of the provost’s advising center. We have discussed this formally in the Faculty Senate and made our concerns known. Our concerns continue to be ignored or grudgingly addressed even though our concerns are not disconnected from those of our students. Have we gotten too used to people not knowing how to run a university?

At the monthly Faculty Senate meeting last week I heard CSU’s CAO, Paul Vallas, speak for the first time. He presented a tour de force of ideas, possibilities, connections and a way forward such as I have not heard in a long time here. I left the meeting thinking:

1.     this is leadership I could follow, like Pogue, like Calhoun—it may not be completely possible to do it all as Vallas outlines, but sign me up—I will work hard for this kind of university. Vallas is the type of person with whom I want to work with whom I would work hard. I think he would listen and engage my ideas and let me share in the effort.

2.     is this CSU’s last chance? No one person will “save” CSU. But we blew it with the loss of Calhoun last year. How many chances do we have left?

To my knowledge there is no presidential search under way beyond the Trustees talking about it.  CSU needs leadership that is able to inspire faculty to participate in an agenda that is positive for the university. It needs leadership that is respected, trustworthy, and genuine. We had that in Frank Pogue. We had that in Thomas Calhoun. Paul Vallas spoke of utilizing CSU’s "faculty talent" and the faculty talent that was lost in the firings during the Calhoun coup d’état last year.

There is a bad habit here at CSU of undermining or getting rid of  or ruining leaders who truly show some mettle. Governor Quinn at the urging of Watson pals dismissed the Board of Trustees led by Gary Rozier who finally stood up to Wayne Watson’s fiscal debaucheries. The left-over cronies of Watson, his protégé, Angela Henderson, and other members of that cabal undermined the presidency of Thomas Calhoun before it was a month old and forced him out of office before nine months had passed. At the Senate meeting Paul Vallas alluded to actions already in play to undermine his efforts. HLC spent way too much time focused on Vallas and his appointment and not enough on the rotten core that still holds power. Why was that I wonder?

We have a person of substance and ideas willing to work with us to renew CSU. Paul Vallas has a one-year contract. He will not be a miracle-worker. Are we going to see him undermined or cut off at the knees like Calhoun? This is not the time to opt for complacency. If we blithely think that because the state passed a budget that will keep us afloat for maybe two years (after the mid-term elections), we are mistaken. CSU cannot limp along forever as the diamond in the rough and our quasi-HBCU status will carry us only so far. I for one do not want to see Paul Vallas tread the path off this campus that we saw Frank Pogue and Thomas Calhoun take.


Apologies to Richard Holler and Dion for the clumsy adaptation of their lyrics.

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.