Thursday, May 5, 2016

When Is A Layoff Not A Layoff???

So those of you loyal readers who have been following the course of events at CSU will know that the university has managed to bungle the layoff notice process, the key collection process and the actual layoff process. It has been painful to watch the most vulnerable employees at the university be subjected to the most cruel and inhumane treatment by those in power. One employee, a secretary in one of the academic departments was laid off late on Friday, recalled on Monday and re-laid off on Wednesday. Which of the passengers in the administration's clown car managed to do that? 
I would imagine it was the HR Director because it would be in her office that seniority lists would be generated. Those lists would ostensibly inform those making such decisions of who could bump whom in the game of musical chairs being played by holdovers from an ethically bankrupt administration. Or maybe because the employee/former employee was in academic affairs it was the provost made used a dart board instead of a seniority list to select whose lives would be cruelly disrupted. Who knows? 
What is known is that transparency is not the order of the day when it comes to bungling the management of this financial exigency. The order of the day is to appear as inept, incompetent, and inhumane as possible while the country looks on to see how this university manages this crisis. A hearty pat on the back is due for thumbing your noses at the legislators who went to bat for the university. I am sure they feel inspired to go beyond the pale the next time the university is in need. Or not. 
Yesterday I congratulated the Board for their epic failure and now it's time to congratulate the failed holdovers from an utterly despicable administration for ruining more lives than I thought they were capable of.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Here's What our People Have to Go Through

Here's what our employees are experiencing as our HR Department under the leadership of "Doctor" Mitchell proceeds to screw over some of our most conscientious and valuable people. These are real people who deserve so much better. There are hardly adequate pejoratives to describe this administration. No one with a shred of human decency would subject people to this kind of treatment.


I received a letter on Friday, April 30 2016 that the University was rescinding my layoff notice and that I would return in my current position. A few hours ago I was summoned to HR to be notified that they made a mistake and as of now I am currently laid-off.

This is frustrating and very unprofessional.

Hi Bob,

Please note that I still do not know my layoff status. I phoned Ms. Shawnice Alivez this morning and she was told by Ms. Laurie Mays (HR) that I needed to speak to Ms. Kim Bandy in benefits (HR).

Ms. Kim Bandy stated that if I was laid off, my insurance would continue and I would have to pay CMS directly. However, I would be taken off payroll. Ms. Kim stated that she would look into my employee status and call me back. Please note that I didn't receive a call back from Ms. Kim.

I'm really frustrated with the Administrators at CSU! I just want to know my employee status in order to plan accordingly (unemployment...).

If you can help me with this matter, I would greatly appreciate it.

From Someone on the Academic Side:

Good morning everyone,
Thank you but the university made a mistake.
I was given a letter to return on Monday and then given another letter on Tuesday saying they made a mistake.
There will be someone working in my place who has more seniority.

Who Is Responsible for This Predicament

So my learned colleague thoughtfully articulated the reasoning behind the “financial exigency” yet did not discuss a key element of this entirely unwieldy structure. In hierarchical structures, the person with the responsibility at the top of the structure has the duty to ensure compliance throughout the organization. That person would decide if say, direct reports, were insubordinate by not performing their duties and if they were insubordinate the chief executive could terminate them for insubordination. The way the Board of Trustees has configured this structure it is impossible for the university to be governed effectively. Any of the members of the Management Action Committee could literally commit crimes and not be fired by the President for cause or otherwise. My learned colleague cited the specific language of the resolution that essentially prevents the University President from protecting the interests of the university (paid in part with tax payer dollars) from all forms of misconduct up to and including criminal activity. No employment actions including terminations can be initiated by the President for any reason because of this exigency declaration.

Why did the Board declare exigency when no other public universities which were in similar conditions did so? Eastern Illinois University and Western Illinois University instituted furloughs, layoffs and other cost cutting without declaring exigency. What exactly was gained by the CSU declaration? What has the Board and the four headed co-presidency done that could not have been done without said declaration? Why does the former president continue to collect a $199K per year salary while the support staff of the university is decimated by a hapless, clueless Board of Trustees who have repeatedly demonstrated total disregard for the best interests of the university?

Might I remind you loyal readers, that it was this Board that sat by while the chief academic officer of the university was proven to have plagiarized her doctoral dissertation. It was this Board that took no action when the Office of the Executive Inspector General upheld a damning ethics complaint against the former president in which former Board members were libeled. It was this Board of Trustees that declared financial exigency without a plan for how to get out of exigency and that declaration triggered a visit by the Higher Learning Commission, the outcome of which is still pending. It is this Board that continues a ridiculous quest to overturn the judgment in the Crowley case which is likely to cost the university $5 million. And it won’t be the Board that goes to Springfield to ask the legislature for the money. It will be the President who inherited this situation. It is this Board that has allowed a 30% enrollment decrease to occur with no accountability from the former president or provost/enrollment management vice president who oversaw that decline. It is this Board that has seemingly allowed ex parte communications from senior administrators absent the President. It is this Board that has at least one member who believes the university should be closed and who didn’t even know of the existence of a 150 year old institution located at 95th and King Drive. 

So when the post mortem is completed for the institution formerly known as Chicago State University, there will be plenty of responsibility for its demise to be meted out. The Board of Trustees should top the list of those who have consistently failed the university. They will join the governor’s office, the legislature, the Higher Learning Commission, the Illinois Board of Higher Education, the US Department of Education, the Office of the Executive Inspector General, the Illinois Attorney General’s office and the various and sundry politicians and community “leaders” who failed our students and alumni with their haughty self-importance and maintenance of a truly dysfunctional status quo.

Thanks to the Board of Trustees for their apparent success in destroying a perfectly viable university and shattering the dreams of generations to come.

The Management Action Committee: Chicago State's Four-Headed President

Earlier today, I speculated on the reason for the Board’s declaration of “financial exigency,” and the potential benefits to administrators other than the university President. I will expand on that discussion and offer my interpretation of why the Board did what it did, with a look at the deleterious effects on the university.

The President of the University has the following responsibilities, enumerated in the Board’s General Regulations and further detailed in his contract:

“The President is the chief executive officer of the university. The President is responsible to the Board of Trustees of Chicago State University for the execution of Board policies and for the management and direction of university operations. The President shall have full authority and responsibility within the framework of the policies and regulations determined by the Board for the organization, management, direction, and supervision of the university and shall be held accountable by the Board for the effective administration and management of the institution. In the discharge of these responsibilities, the President shall consult with the Board of Trustees and with such constituencies as are appropriate. The President shall be employed by and serve at the pleasure of the Board unless the contract of employment specifies otherwise”

So, the President is responsible “for the management and direction of university operations,” s/he “shall have full authority and responsibility . . . for the management, direction and supervision of the university” and “shall be held accountable . . . for the effective administration and management of the institution.” Other senior administrators ultimately work for the President and answer to him for their performance. In this structure, the President possesses sufficient authority to adequately discharge his responsibilities.

In contrast, the Resolution creates a four-headed executive structure which effectively renders the President one of four co-Presidents at Chicago State. Here’s the pertinent language: [the] Committee, chaired by President Thomas J. Calhoun, Jr., will review and decide all employment actions, including lay-offs, reductions in compensation, terminations, and significant position modifications. NO ACTION WILL OCCUR WITHOUT A MAJORITY VOTE OF THE COMMITTEE.” In this structure, the President has no authority. Put another way, the Provost, Vice President of Administration and Finance, and the Associate Vice President of Human Resources all have an equal vote, thus all have equal authority. Why in the world would any Board want such an unwieldy and ineffective executive structure?

To answer that question, it seems helpful to review the performance of our administration over the past six years. At least two holdovers from that administration now are “co-Presidents.” During their time at Chicago State, we saw our enrollment decline by nearly 40 percent, while our graduation rate, 15 percent in 2009, dropped to 11 percent this year. In any viable institution, performance like that would get you fired. Not here. At Chicago State, for at least one of those administrators, it resulted in promotion and huge salary increases. These two persons contributed materially to the influx of crony hires that has so damaged the school and one made a series of disastrous decisions on the academic side that accelerated the exodus of students from the university.

Lurking in the background is the former Chicago State President Wayne Watson. Fully responsible for the devastation wrought on the school since 2009, Watson populated his administrative ranks with unqualified friends, lovers, political allies, and other assorted hacks. Lying and misrepresenting credentials presented no difficulties for these people as Watson sheltered and protected them as long as they offered their unstinting loyalty. Although well aware that the majority of the campus community wishes Watson gone from the premises, the Board fell all over itself to grant him a gratuitous title and other undeserved perks when he finally “retired.” Watson, it seems, still has a vested interest in the operations of this school and the continued employment of his cronies. Apparently, Watson still has significant political influence with the Board.

In my estimation, the presence of these holdovers, their former patron, and a complicit Board produced this absurd executive structure, which has made any significant personnel changes impossible. After all, if the President decides that one of his senior administrators needs to go, are the other three members going to allow that to happen (provided the senior administration in question was a friend)? Would they vote for their own firing? Would they allow one of their other friends blighting the university with their presence in a high-salaried position to be fired? What do you think?

So the four-headed President further damages the university by insuring that some of the persons who helped put is into this position are able to shape the direction of our response to this financial crisis. I believe that the Board’s declaration of Financial exigency had more to do with protecting the positions of people whose performance has earned them a pink slip, than with protecting the university. Watching the implementation of the university’s response to the budget situation has been painful to say the least. Being one of the victims of this new chapter of administration incompetence and inhumanity is excruciating; unnecessary torture.

A legitimate university executive structure would give senior administrators the ability to make recommendations to the President who would then make the final decisions. That the Board chose to create this ridiculous design demonstrates their reticence to give President Calhoun the authority to do his job properly. You have people making executive decisions who have no business doing so, with predictable results.

Can It Get Worse? More Residual Damage from the Watson Regime

I wrote this on October 1, 2014. It is still pertinent today.

“Then, beginning in 2015, the graduation rates will most likely descend to levels which previously subjected the university to scorn for its failure to graduate students (with the caveat that first-time Freshmen represent only a tiny percentage of the overall student population). I anticipate that the graduation rates from 2015 through 2019 will range from 15 to 17 percent. Except for the 2009 cohort, all these students will have been admitted under the Watson regime.”

Unfortunately, I was incorrect in my prediction. The graduation rate for the 2009 Freshman cohort is in and it is 11 percent. That’s right, 11 percent. This is the first group of students to spend their college careers in a school controlled by Wayne Watson and his cronies. Based on the ominous drop in our graduation rate, I have to revise my earlier estimates. I think it entirely possible that in the next year or two, our graduation rate might well drop below 10 percent, possibly to the levels Watson “achieved” at City Colleges (7 percent). Imagine how the press and our critics will beat us over the head with that 11 percent figure. Imagine how the politicians will respond.

I wonder if this will be a topic of conversation at Friday’s board meeting. I wonder if anyone on the board will ask the question about why this drop occurred. I wonder how the Watson holdovers will spin the news. Will they blame the new Vice President of Enrollment Management, the new President of the university? As we have seen over the years, avoiding responsibility is a skill perfected by a number of our senior administrators—a skill encouraged and nurtured by a board that seems unable or unwilling to realize what actually takes place on this campus, a board uninterested in any points of view that differ from the administration bullshit they’re constantly getting, ultimately unable or unwilling to hold accountable any of the persons responsible for the continuing debacles at Chicago State.

Of course, given our recent missteps, it seems entirely possible that the school will not exist to experience those disastrous graduation rate declines. Let’s review the events of the past few days. First, on April 22, the university got emergency funding totaling around $22 million from Illinois. Originally, the university’s portion of the emergency funds was going to be around $33.5 million. However, according to the author of the legislation, Rita Mayfield, two Chicago State “administrators,” or “managers” (I’m not sure of the exact term she used) lobbied legislators to reduce the funding for our school, apparently arguing that we really did not need that much money. Now, there may be a perfectly reasonable explanation for this behavior, and I’m sure we would all like to hear it. At this point, Mayfield has not identified the persons doing the lobbying.

This lobbying took place around the same time one of our senior administrators appeared before the House Higher Education Appropriations Committee, an appearance described as “embarrassing.” Apparently, this administrator demonstrated an appalling lack of knowledge and frequently responded to questions with contradictory information and statements. So our legislative efforts included undermining the current university president and embarrassing ourselves in front of the committee responsible for funding our school.

Next, we followed the political clown show with a fine public relations demonstration: the well-publicized laying off of scores of employees. Imagine how the politicians in Springfield must feel about that. Imagine how our most ardent legislative and community supporters must feel about that. We receive an emergency infusion of cash, then we follow that by laying off reportedly one-third of our staff. Brilliant political move! Of course, the layoffs generate even more fine press coverage. To say they were handled disgracefully does not even begin to describe the abominable process. Our employees were treated despicably by persons who demonstrated a callous disregard for the dignity and humanity of people who served this institution for years.

All these administrative fiascos take place against a backdrop of intrigue and deceit, as several of our senior administrators apparently engage in regular conversations with certain members of the Board in an effort to undermine President Calhoun. It seems that they will do anything to maintain their positions of influence, even if that means destroying the university. It is disgraceful and unethical that the board members permit this kind of exchange. Clearly when the Board turned the university over to Wayne Watson, he and his retinue took it as an invitation to make Chicago State their personal fiefdom.

Finally, the university continues in a seemingly never-ending state of “financial exigency.” When the Board made their exigency declaration in February, I wondered why. Was it a way to reduce staff and eliminate troublemakers? Was it an end run around various collective bargaining agreements? Did the declaration have the added benefit of making senior administrators more secure? More difficult to replace? Given the various political connections at play, I wonder.

In the same October 1, 2014 blog post, I wrote this:

“If any of our readers are familiar with the City Colleges, they undertook a ‘reinvention’ campaign in the wake of the Watson Chancellorship, primarily in an attempt to repair the significant damage his regime did to those institutions. . . Clearly, it will take a prodigious effort to recover from the havoc wreaked by Wayne Watson. The question remains, will we even have the opportunity to clean up after this man? Another two years of this and the university may well cease to exist. Is that the goal of our politicians and other so-called leaders? Sometimes it seems like the only rational explanation for their inaction.”

I think it fair to say that if we continue down the path we are currently traveling, the university’s future is grim. We desperately need change at the top levels of our administration. It’s past time to back up the truck.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Key Turn In Redux

So the embarrassment from the key fiasco continues. As I was walking out of one of the buildings yesterday, I saw a former employee leaving the building. He asked another administrator to take his keys and return them to his former supervisor as the supervisor wasn't in the office. That struck me as odd that there wasn't a process for key turn in given the previous attention paid to the issue of key turn in. How many of the 200 plus laid off employees turned in keys in accordance with the university policies for such things? Would an auditor be interested in whether the university was in compliance with its own policies? Will the university be subject to multiple audit findings around something that was known in advance? If so, this is clearly unacceptable. Yet the holdovers from the former regime continue to make the same mistakes they made before. Whether it is collecting keys from everyone in the middle of the semester or not collecting them from laid off employees, someone has to put a stop to this Board created madness soon or the university's death warrant will be signed sealed and executed.
In case you haven't been paying attention, the atmospheric conditions for the perfect storm are present.

The Chicago State University Layoff Scorecard

Although the game is still in progress, here's my scorecard through the third inning:

I’m putting together data from the carnage of last Friday, attempting to create a snapshot of what the university looked like Monday morning. At this point, I have determined the fate of 157 employees, 90 administrators and 67 staff. That’s a little more than about one quarter of the total but should provide a representative sample.

Here are some of the numbers. Of the 90 administrators, only 27 were terminated. Of the 67 staff, 54 were laid off. Obviously, you had a better chance of survival if you had an administrative position. Some general patterns: Virtually all the senior administrators kept their positions. Of the 17 persons with President, Provost, or Vice President in their job titles, 15 remain. All the 25 Deans and Chairs were retained. So the total salary savings for those 42 positions amount to $240,000 a year, or $20,000 per month. That will certainly fix the budget problem.

Altogether, the salaries for the administrators retained come to $6.67 million, or an average of just under $106,000 per employee. The salary savings for the administrators terminated amount to $2 million per year, or an average of $74,316 per employee. Even more notable, 7 of those 27 administrators earned better than $100,000 per year. Remove them from the total, and the average administrative salary for those 20 others terminated drops to $51,882. The pattern seems pretty clear: save the high-salaried administrators, shed those making salaries as low as the neighborhood of $30,000.

For the staff, the total salaries of those laid off are $1.75 million, or an average salary of $38,049.65. At least 33 of those staff persons made salaries in the $30,000s, with 3 others earning less than $30,000. The average salary of the 13 survivors weighs in at $40,800, on a total of nearly $531,000. At this point in my data collection, the yearly salary savings for CSU amount to $3.75 million, or slightly over $300,000 per month.

As the situation remains fluid, these numbers will change dramatically. Yesterday, several people were “recalled” after spending what must have been a pleasant jobless weekend. Some other anecdotal information seems relevant: in the library, only 2 of the 14 staff members remain; all of the remaining Academic Advisors were apparently eliminated, meaning that all undergraduate advising at CSU will be done by the six persons in the First-Year Experience Office. Only one staff person (plus the Director) remains in Admissions. IT reportedly lost 8 persons. With the exception of one in Pharmacy and one in the College of Arts and Sciences, all the Associate or Assistant Dean positions were eliminated. Somewhere between 16 and 26 custodial workers lost their jobs.

I will continue to gather information and when I have something else to report, I will do so.

Monday, May 2, 2016

More of the Human Costs of Administrative Ineptitude

So as I was touring the campus earlier today conducting my own damage assessment, I ran into a newly recalled former employee who was returning to work after a weekend of unemployment. Yes, loyal readers, she had the privilege of spending the weekend in an indescribable state of distress over loosing her job on Friday. She filed for unemployment, looked at dipping into retirement savings and began sorting through the damage of the firing tsunami that swept through the campus Friday afternoon.
If you have ever been let go from a job, I am sure you are aware of the psychological cost you paid in loosing that job. To let employees know late on Friday not to return on Monday was cruel and utterly unnecessary. It violated HR 101. Those employees did not have the opportunity to begin the rebuilding process. They simply had to wait and worry over the weekend with no one to call and limited support available as most offices, like the insurance company and unemployment offices, are closed on weekends. 
What left me utterly speechless was to be told by the aforementioned employee that she was contacted 30 minutes prior talking to me, to come pick up her recall notice from HR. Huh??? The university fired someone on Friday and recalled them on Monday? 
Why? What university interest was served by doing that? That utterly unnecessary cruelty should result in the immediate termination of whoever was responsible for that decision. I realize that the new president of the university would likely step forward as an ethical chief executive and accept responsibility, which I would wholly reject. He is responsible and he is not in charge. If he were in charge he would not need the highly paid bureaucrats from the previous failed administration who surround him. He could micro-manage the university by himself. Since that isn't the case, whoever developed the "plan" that has been identified numerous times by senior administrators to manage this process, should be given a box for their belongings and promptly escorted off campus as they have proven that they have no ability or capacity to manage human beings. 
I thought the roll-out of the layoff notices in February was bad and it was. It was subsequently followed by the key turn in debacle. Now this. These holdovers are holding the university hostage to bad management, likely with the acquiescence of the Board of Trustees. 
It is time for the president of the university to make the decision to transform the university. Anyone who has been around for five minutes knows what that will take. And if the Board who are primarily responsible for the state of the university object, then they should tender their resignations and be gone. The lives of human beings are being broken by people with no concern for the impact of their decisions. 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Thoughts on graduation day, Or, old wine into new skins, the real implications of financial exigency

It did not take long after the graduation ceremony ended to find out that CSU had begun the process of shutting down. Yes, I know, we are supposed to be telling our remaining students that we will be back in the fall and will be around for another 150 years, but when 300 staff and mid-level administrators are let go, a third of the university’s employees with no promise of return, it feels like ashes in your mouth to say otherwise.

I met one of the victims of the firing slaughter on the way off campus on Thursday after graduation. He was carrying a sack of things he had just cleared out of his office. His perspective: the firings were political, those in charge were all business, any pretense of friendship (as in "the CSU family") was gone; the upper administration and board of trustees were all connected—they have deep-seated connections to each other, they socialize together and have been protecting themselves. Wayne Watson is still making demands and still influencing policies, administrators, and board members…

This conversation underscored what I had been thinking earlier in the afternoon after witnessing the appalling sight of old pols and their flagrant political posturing at the graduation ceremony. I had pointedly stopped attending these events during the presidency of the insufferable Wayne Watson. This year I came; I knew a lot of students graduating, CSU had a new president, and with the way things were going in this state and at this school I thought this might be the last graduation I would ever have the chance to attend. But what a tedious roster of old shameless politically-connected Watson hats trotted out one after the other on that graduation stage:  Angela Henderson, Trustees James Joyce and Nikki Zollar, Jesse Jackson, the Emil Joneses II & III, even ex-Governor Quinn, all of them jawing away... At any second I expected Watson, the grand master puppeteer himself, to come bounding up the stage. The Watsonian grip remains firmly around the neck of CSU even if that particular old pol is officially “retired.” 

Before the undergraduates received their diplomas, Jesse Jackson had left (he got his photo op with the Ed.D. and Masters students), the trustees Zollar and Joyce too abandoned the proceedings well before it was over. By the end, in the front row, on the left side of the dais, sat President Calhoun alone, a row of empty seats next to him. On the opposite side, however, sat Angela Henderson with her staff of associate or assistant or vice provosts (whatever she calls the entourage who dutifully accompany her wherever she goes) and the university deans. A perfect metaphor for this time and place at CSU I thought: President Calhoun, out there by himself.

The day that began with the optimism of commencement exercises for over 700 students, ended for 300 others across campus with bitterness. What a farce we are playing out in these last days of chez nous. And what a diabolical strategy Anthony Young and Nikki Zollar and the rest of the trustees have perpetrated to preserve CSU as a haven of patronage politics. Have you not wondered why CSU is the only university in the state of ILL to have made the extreme declaration of financial exigency? Northeastern University, Eastern, Western, Governors State are all in the same boat, but only CSU took this step. Watching the preening of so many Watsonites at graduation the answer hit me: the trustees and upper administration still want to fulfill Watson’s goal to make Angela Henderson president. Financial exigency means Calhoun can’t bring in anyone new, the board won’t let him, so, the likes of Henderson, Cage, Mitchell, Land, all the rest of the old wine from Watson’s cask are protected.  How long will Calhoun, alone on the dais, continue in this position?

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Human Cost of Our Administrative Cruelty

This is an excerpt from an e-mail I received recently. It speaks for itself.

I was told not to show up to work on Monday that they will let me know by Wednesday. When I asked what's next. I was told “I don't know.” No one seems to know anything. It seems like no one cares. I waited yesterday for an answer past my working hours.