Monday, November 28, 2016

Am I Missing Something???

So this story in the Chicago Tribune raises a couple of questions for your humble narrator. Some years ago, Chicago State University was positioned to receive the papers of Illinois Poet Laureate Gwendolyn Brooks. Of course the president at the time was unable to close the deal so those papers ended up at the University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign. Now, another history maker, the first Black Illinois Senate President, is donating his papers to a public university but not the one with his name on one of its buildings, but another university. Hmmmm.

Does Senator Jones know something about the future of CSU that we don't? Or is this a feud between the now departed failed ex-president and the former Senate President? Or is it simply the decimation of CSU's infrastructure makes it impossible to take on major projects like this one? With only three reference librarians and a brand new archivist, and the perpetual state of financial exigency, what public figure in his right mind would make a contribution of this magnitude to CSU? None, not even one who spent his career, protecting the institution from administrative stupidity and incompetence. Whatever the reason, it's another sad day for CSU and bad way to thank a long time friend of the university. If this is how we treat our friends....

Friday, November 18, 2016

Sorry Mr Lucy, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck.


Considering the silence emanating across campus this fall and the feeling among various constituencies that no one knows what is going on, or what the administration is doing,  Mr Cecil Lucy, current occupant of the president's office at CSU, issued a notice for a meeting on Thursday with the faculty and chairs (mandated for them apparently) of the College of Arts and Sciences. After the interminable litany of his pedigree and the trajectory of his life that finally brought him to CSU, Mr Lucy said he wanted to hear our concerns and answer our questions. An agenda page was handed out at the beginning of the meeting with two items: "Introductions" and "Answers and Questions" (curious Orwellian phraseology).  He then employed the words that are part of every CSU administrator's vocabulary in times of difficulty for which they do not want to accept responsibility, or be accountable for something that they did that failed, he said, we needed "to move forward..."

The first question by a long-time faculty member, however, was not in the spirit of "moving forward," but it did reflect the bald reality of the problem CSU has had this past year in trying "to move forward." "I asked this question of Dr. Calhoun last year, so I will ask it of you, how do you improve the university with so many holdovers of the Watson administration? And now, ALL of the upper administration is Watson's?"

In spite of his professed appreciation for academia, Mr Lucy remains a corporate guy and the corporate mentality -vs- the academic was on display yesterday. He said he did not like being "labelled" as a Watson holdover and, I think he said that because most of the faculty in the auditorium were here when Watson was president, we are all Watson holdovers. What? The logic of this eludes me, but if anyone or Mr Lucy himself, cares to explain that please set me right. He cannot be as simplistic as to believe that by being on campus during the Watson years tars you with the same status as a Watson administrator making policy and ALL the decisions with limited or no shared governance. Clearly Mr Lucy does not understand what happened under his first boss here. He might also like to consider two truths one of them coming from his own corporate culture: in order to change the culture of an institution you have to cut off its head (meaning get rid of the past leadership and higher up administration); the other, from Albert Einstein, "insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." Heck, there is even biblical disparagement about putting "old wine into new skins..."

Nevertheless, it is clear that the CSU faculty craves leadership and is just being given old wine.

From the Watson regime that bears responsibility for having made us more vulnerable to the external assault from the state, and continues in power; to the firing of CSU tenured and tenure-track faculty this past July; to the termination of former president Dr Thomas Calhoun in September organized by a cabal of Watsonians and pliable Board members; "moving forward," is a pretty tall request. We were ready to move forward last January. We need new leadership from a new Board, from new upper administration all across the Cook Building. The Watson cabal needs to go.

So, if Mr. Lucy really did want to hear my concerns and give answers before I asked questions, here are a few that I did not have time to voice at the meeting.

1. What was your role in the firing of Dr. Calhoun? Don't stand behind your cv timeline of your date of hire. We know who was in the cabal meeting off campus or in parked cars and how the Management team was voting three to one against Calhoun. You were part of that team Mr Lucy.

2. Will we be rehiring the faculty whom you and Angela Henderson fired in July?

3. How many more times will the administration ask us to "share" our concerns and continue to ignore them? What, is the point of further discussion?
Mr Lucy you have met with the Faculty Senate President and the UPI President. They have discussed very clearly faculty concerns with you. And the faculty have stated their concerns pretty clearly through several votes of no confidence in the former president and his actions, and votes of no confidence in the current provost. Please, before asking us again for our concerns, reread these documents. They are not based on flimsy or capricious reasons. They contain bills of particulars relating to the incompetence that has dragged this university down over the past few years.

The provost whom you defended on Thursday as an advocate for the faculty has not been held accountable for her first job on campus, given to her by her friend and mentor Wayne Watson, for which she was barely qualified. Angela Henderson headed enrollment management and enrollment declined year after year. Yet, her friend and mentor Wayne Watson promoted her to provost. She has the limited respect of perhaps some faculty and I am being generous here. What she submitted as a dissertation would not have passed an undergrad plagiarism standard. That UIC was pressured to "fix" this problem does not negate that fact. Please do not insult us further with defenses of a woman who had no qualms about throwing CSU student critics of Watson into the criminal justice system. Ask her what that means, if you don't already know.

Mr Lucy, whatever inside deal you got to become president of CSU and help in the ouster of Dr. Calhoun, you have a lot of nerve expecting us to line up now like good corporate soldiers and forget everything that has transpired in the past. We are trying our best to do what we can in the spheres in which we work. We are holding our noses and working with the administration that got us an HLC visit because of their failure to understand the implications of financial exigency status. But don't expect confidence from us just because you ask for it.

Simply put, Mr Lucy, you are a holdover from Wayne Watson. Unfortunately, you walk and quack like a lame duck.

Waste, Fraud, and Abuse of Resources. Sounds Like Chicago State

Here's a link to the most recent publicity on CSU. Once again, the administration of this university has done us proud. Notable however, is Cullerton's outrage. As readers of this blog know, we've been trying to get someone to take a look at the management of this place for years. Now, at least one politician is shocked! shocked! at what goes on here. Please.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/elmhurst/community/chi-ugc-article-tom-cullerton-shocked-at-chicago-state-abuses-2016-11-17-story.html

Another Stupid Town Hall Meeting Insulting Our Intelligence

Yesterday's ridiculous meeting with the new "President" revealed how empty the administration's "plans" are for moving the university along and extricating it from its current predicament. Other than the announcement that CSU has sufficient money to get through the entire academic year, nothing new in any of the pablum dished out by the current temporary occupant of the president's office. The same kinds of vague assurances and the incoherent, inarticulate, and rambling rhetoric we became accustomed to during the Watson regime on display yesterday. Truly painful, and for most of us, an hour of our lives we can never get back.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Elections and other matters

Dear friends and colleagues,

It is November 17th and our last post was on October 27th about accreditation. It is natural that we were distracted by that disastrous national election campaign (the campaign was a disaster; I will get to the result). Never before was so much money spent to spew racism and negativity. Never was an optimistic vision so absent, except for Trump's racist vision. Never were so many voters alienated from both candidates.

Still many were perhaps more distressed by the result. I was shocked because I, like many others, was misled by media projections. In retrospect, I should not have been surprised about the results. There were two obvious factors: dissatisfaction with the way the capitalist system has been failing people and racism toward immigrants and black folk.

However, just as people were irrationally euphoric about Obama's victory (particularly in 2008), I believe many of us are irrationally depressed by Trump's. In fact some Obama voters went for Trump, the common factor being promise of change.

Still Trump's victory is encouraging the gutter sexists and racists to engage in assaults on the streets. Just in the last week in Davis, a liberal California town, I have heard of two verbal assaults on women, one involving two men following her to her car and threatening to surround her (she found a group of men that put the assaulters on the run). One thing we can to is react forcibly to any verbal (or worse) assaults on people.

On my campus, I put out the flyer that follows. Many of you will recognize my point of view. I hope you will join me, based on your own convictions, in active resistance to racism and sexism.


I miss seeing so many of you. Let's continue to be in touch.
Paul

Here's our flyer:
Dump Trump?
DUMP CAPITALISM!
The U.S. ruling class offered us a choice between (A) a known racist, imperialist war-monger (Clinton) and (B) a blatant sexist (bragging about sexual assaults, insulting women), open gutter racist against Muslims and immigrants, and maybe the biggest liar U.S. politics has ever seen (Trump). Voters picked what many regard as the greater evil.
It’s hard to imagine much worse than Trump. His victory will encourage other gutter racist and sexist assaults. Even some people who voted for him didn’t like him but felt they needed to protest what was happening to their lives. The capitalists’ drive for maximum profits has devastated U.S. workers, particularly black and latino workers, but many others as well.
Still, we should beware of U.S. nationalism and U.S.-centrism. Workers in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia, and Palestine are under bombing and other assaults from the U.S. and its allies. Forty-three students in Mexico were murdered with the cooperation of the government allied with the U.S. From the point of view of workers and students in these other countries there’s not much difference between Trump and Clinton.
The attack on the jobs of U.S. workers, the growth of mass incarceration, the terror of deportations, the increase of anti-black and anti-latino racism by street cops have occurred under the Republican and Democratic presidencies of Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, and Obama, with Hillary Clinton along with Kerry implementing bombings of workers all over the world. This is the reality of imperialism in the United States, in Africa, in Latin America, in the Middle East, in South Asia, and in the rest of the world where the United States has made war ever since the end of the last World War.
FIGHT FOR COMMUNISM!
There is an alternative; it doesn’t have to be like this. Workers can and will fight racism and sexism, at the same time that they fight to improve their own lives and unite with sisters and brothers around the world. We can unite, overthrow the capitalist bosses, and create a communist world where we cherish each other and create opportunity for all our children.
Workers of the World, Unite!

www.plp.org

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Accreditation and the HLC Visit: Are We Headed for Probation?

As most of you know, the university is currently under sanction for its financial practices, with a site visit by representatives from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) scheduled for January 2017. Our financial issues are not the only accrediting criterion for which our performance is problematic; we’ve had problems in areas like communication and shared governance, and we certainly are having difficulties with our enrollment. While some of these problems are primarily caused by circumstances beyond our control, the absence of a state budget for instance, they are all exacerbated by the university’s failure to plan. Now, the HLC is asking us to provide them with evidence the university will be able to weather the ongoing storm. We are responding with bullshit.

Before discussing the problems with the report we are apparently going to submit, I must stress that this is an administrative production. Look at the composition of the University Accrediting Steering Committee (UASC). Its twenty-six (26) members include 3 faculty, 2 students, 1 staff member, and 20 administrative employees; truly a representative group. While two faculty are nominally co-chairs of the committee, the submission will be the product of our administration’s efforts.

To give readers an idea of how much nonsense this document includes, I will look at two criteria: criterion two and criterion five. Criterion two deals with “institutional integrity, ethical and responsible conduct,” and Criterion five addresses “Resources, planning, and institutional effectiveness.”


Criterion 2.A. asks for evidence that the university “operates with integrity,” and “establishes and follows fair and ethical policies and processes for its governing board, administration, faculty and staff.” The university’s evidence includes not a word about the integrity of its “academic and personnel . . . functions;” not a word about the “fair and ethical” policies that govern its “administrators, faculty and staff.” Instead of addressing those concerns, the administrators serve up this garbage: these processes are safeguarded by the Office of Compliance, or by the “professionals” in the Office of Internal Audit. The majority of the response deals with financial issues.


In reality of course, we know how “ethically” this university acts when it comes to its administrators, faculty, and staff. The recent mishandled terminations and layoffs of faculty and staff, the university’s refusal to provide non-recalled faculty their contractually mandated terminal contracts, and the evisceration of the university’s academic enterprise in order to protect the jobs of administrative employees, particularly those employees in the Provost’s Office, Human Resources, and Administration and Finance, demonstrate the university’s multiple ethical failures.

Going beneath the surface of the university’s rhetoric reveals a consistent pattern of saying one thing and doing another. Criterion 2.D. charges the university to be “committed to freedom of expression.” The evidence that the university meets this criterion is utter nonsense: the CSU Code of Excellence and the Faculty Handbook. Over the past several years, the university has made a number of attempts to silence dissenting faculty (for examples see the Computer Usage and Communications Policies, threats to the Faculty Blog, suspension of the Faculty Senate, resultant lawsuits). The Faculty Handbook threatens that “it is improper for faculty members to include materials which has [sic] no relation to their subject, or fail to present the subject matter of their course,” a perversion of the AAUP standards on academic freedom referenced in the Handbook. Those standards include an admonition that faculty not “persistently [intrude] material which has no relation to their subject.” In the hands of the censors at Chicago State, that passage becomes a blanket prohibition against deviating from the course content. Frankly, for most of the employees of Chicago State University, freedom of expression is non-existent.



Here's the note to the AAUP statement on academic freedom:






A look at the university’s reply to Criterion Five again reveals a pattern of non-responses and downright bullshit. The university can meet this criterion by providing evidence that its resources are “sufficient” to meet its educational responsibilities, and that the university “plans for the future.” The “evidence” included in the university’s response seems to be the same old song and dance that worked before. For example, the university offers only vague and meaningless explanations for its compliance with Criterion 5.A. These include: “CSU has been preparing to change its funding model away from its level of support on state appropriations (is that actually a sentence in English?).” Or this: “CSU has organization-wide workforce planning strategies to respond to enrollment declines and state funding unpredictability.” So the university will free itself from dependency on state appropriations? When is this likely to occur? Will that marvelous day come about through the efforts of Wayne Watson’s new foundation? At this point, I believe the university’s endowment stands at $5 million or so. That won’t run the university for one month, even if those funds could be used for operational expenses. Given the precarious position of the school and the steady drumbeat of bad news thanks to our board and administration, who is going to contribute to Chicago State at this juncture? Of course, the language indicates that we are “preparing to change” our funding source. When will we do that exactly? As for the “organization-wide workforce planning strategies,” the faculty and staff on the University Advisory Committee have asked for that information since March 2016. We’ve received nothing from the administration. There is no plan; a fact which some members of the university administration seem to think is a good thing. We’ll see how the Higher Learning Commission feels about that.


The university’s response to Criterion 5.B. is just plain deceitful. This criterion asks the university to demonstrate “effective leadership,” and “support [for] collaborative processes.” For that criterion, the university administration points to faculty and student organizations “require[d]” by the Board of Trustees. These organizations include the “Faculty Senate, Student Government and the University Budget Committee.” In addition, “University departments across divisions come together regularly to address problems and opportunities together. I cannot speak for student government, but the university pays no attention whatsoever to the recommendations of the Faculty Senate. Similarly, colleagues who have served on the Budget Committee indicate that they ultimately have no real input into budget decisions. As for the togetherness mentioned “across divisions,” I assume that refers to those ridiculous dog and pony show “Town Hall” meetings. If anyone can think of an occasion when the administration gave way to the judgement of either faculty or staff, please advise me. There is simply next-to-nothing collaborative about the working relationship between our administration and the school’s faculty and staff.


Criterion 5.C. talks about “systematic and integrated planning,” as a key component of institutional effectiveness. Again the university’s response features nothing definitive, no actual plan, just promises of “gearing up to enter into a new enterprise strategic planning period.” What the hell does that mean? Finally, we discover that “Innovation is encouraged and ideas are explored throughout all operations.” Brutal passive construction and again, what the hell does it mean?



In the past, we’ve been able to scam the Higher Learning Commission into accepting the garbage the administration dishes out. To respond to the most recent inquiry by that organization with the same empty rhetoric we’ve used in the past is extremely risky. If they do not buy our explanations, if they actually look beneath the surface, we may very well end up on probation. Imagine the great press that will generate. Will we skate through again, or will the pack of fools in the Cook building bring us one step closer to extinction?

A final note to our administrators. Before you submit this semi-literate document, please have someone who can write English do copy editing. Let's not embarrass us any more than you already have with your appalling communication skills.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

A Pocket Full of Rye—The Tale continues (2)

When last we left off, the queen was musing over the ways she might settle scores with the churls…but…

Once upon a time, Kings and Queens did not always have power over the churls. The oldest churls will tell you of the days when churls alone ruled the country, when churls had been respected and sought after for their knowledge and talent in tending any lambs or sheep sent to them. Kings, queens, dukes, duchesses, counts and countesses who today in so many countries lord it over the churls, like to say, in their haughty way, “if not for the lambs and sheep, the country would not be here.”

But these are the words of parvenus. 

Just sit next to an old churl when the palace dilettantes gather to repeat what their superiors tell them to say about the lambs and sheep. The seasoned churl snorts and mutters to anyone within hearing the other truth, the corollary: “if not for the churls, the lambs would have nowhere to go.”

“People don’t bring their lambs to the country because we have a king or queen in a palace,” one old churl hissed recently after one of these dilettante gatherings. “The lambs and sheep come to the country because of the churls.”

The essential work of the country, as any country man or woman here knows, comes down to the churls and the lambs. Lambs and sheep need tending. Churls know how to tend them.

Once upon a time, churls were at the center of this country. And for a long time they made the country work without need of elaborate palaces and their preening inhabitants. It had been thus in other countries in the empire of the Field of Spring. Together with a few loyal serfs who knew how to obtain the tools or handbooks needed by the churls, who knew when to send out the call for lambs and sheep, to record their progress and development or others who knew when the barns had to be warmed and lit or when the sheep pens needed cleaning, the churls and the serfs ran the country pretty well. Often the serfs, served the country as long and as loyally as the churls. Whole families of serfs had been known to work for the country and some long lines of descent extended beyond the oldest churl’s memory.

Serfs understood the course of a year in the country: the annual influx of lambs and sheep in September, the preparations for the semi-annual sheep shearing in fall and winter, and the springtime release of mature sheep into the mountains. The serfs understood that their job was to make the churls’ work easier. It was not always or in all times the most harmonious relationship, but it usually was.

In these olden times no one had ever heard of a king or queen, duke or duchess, count or countess ruling over a country of lambs and sheep, churls and serfs. Kings and Queens and the rest were from faraway lands, from countries that did not tend lambs and sheep; they were from places that could not care less for them in fact. The countries with kings and queens measured success by how much they gained from making or trading widgety thingamabobs. Many a fortune was made that way and that made you a king.

The absolute best place, however, to become a king or a queen was not in manufacture or trade, it was in the Never Neverland also called, the Field of Spring.

In the Never Neverland of the Field of Spring anyone with a cheap suit of armor could grub for a benefice, an office, a toll bridge and become a doler of contracts, a holder of permits. This was where mere mortals became the retainers for the someones who themselves had already bootlicked their way into an office. No matter how low or degrading or phony the office, the only thing you needed in order to get ahead was an ability to flatter lesser talents than yourself. The bended knee, the honeyed tongue, and a truly perverted sense of loyalty based on betrayal --that’s what got you in.

The Field of Spring was where imperial power resided. The inhabitants waged wars for any and all offices, especially those that put them closer to the chamber of the emperor. The current emperor was once the ultimate maker and trader of widgety thingamabobs. Entrance into the imperial hierarchy was not based on any particular talent, but on the pretense of having talent. The inhabitants of Never Neverland postured for each other. They dressed for success. They spouted buzzwords and jargon, mastered clich├ęs and pontifications and practiced these regularly. They called each other by exalted titles based on pieces of paper they issued to each other or bought from someone else’s someone. Annual parties honored one or another of them for something or other. The most lavish parties and awards were given for those who were on the brink of public scandal. Praise at these events was always fulsome. In these circles it became important to proffer cult-like homage to a great person and grovel for their largesse. And someday others would do that to you.

Although nowadays kings and queens, dukes, duchesses, counts, and countesses have been ruling so long in the country of lambs and sheep, one takes for granted that it was not always so. For most of its history the country had been run by the churls. Even the oldest churls are foggy about when and how royalty usurped power from the churls. Did they enter at the invitation of the churls? Had they been imposed by imperial edict far away in the Field of Spring?  Old churls cannot pinpoint it exactly.

Unlike the standards used for royalty and retainers in Never Neverland, no one was allowed to become a churl without years of training and learning the trade of tending lambs and sheep. Even after formal training ended, a churl still spent seven years as a journeyman working with more experienced churls who knew sheep. After that a churl was called a master-doctor. The serfs knew and respected these churls who had dedicated themselves to learning their trade for so many years and had made the sheep their vocation.

The churls then had no elaborate rules for running the country. They took oversight of the country in turns. A churl who had been an accomplished sheep tender was honored by fellow-churls with the title of Rector, served several seasons away from sheep tending to live in the big barn and make sure that the country of lamb and sheep tending ran smoothly. The Rector might be aided by a few other officers—After a few years these churls went back to their sheep and other churls took their place. It was true that some churls were better at barn work than others, but the rotation allowed all the churls an understanding of what it took to keep the country viable and to see the work of the country as a whole.  

At some point, and the older churls debate when this happened, a few churls got tired of taking their turn in the big barn. It was not that running the country was all that complicated but it did require time away from one’s sheep and one’s own personal garden which all churls had.

“All I want to do is tend my sheep and go home to tend my garden,” some churls began to say.

“I don’t care about budgeting for new tools or reorganizing grazing spaces or obtaining the latest books on sheep tending. I just want to tend my sheep,” said others.

At some point, a house-proud virus took hold. Churls began neglecting not just their responsibility for running the country, but tending the sheep came to be seen as less important than garden work.

I must add that some churls arriving into the country were so zealous of their own specialized sheep tending talent that they failed to understand that the main enterprise of sheep tending was to give sheep foundations and skills to live on their own in the mountains. In the mountains a sheep often had to live by its wits, make judgments critical to its survival, be able to adapt to changing circumstances, to think and act creatively. The original foundations of sheep-tending were steeped in this knowledge.

Younger churls now seemed to have been bitten by the bug of “moving forward” and single -minded experimentation: “If only the sheep learned to find clover grass to eat, that is all they need to succeed in the mountains…”  

Others said, “sheep needed only to learn to navigate rocky paths and sense changes in the weather that is how they will succeed...”

Or, “a sheep’s most important skill was to learn the proper way of licking and caring for a new-born lamb...”

It was just about then that kings and queens, dukes and duchesses, counts and countesses of Never Neverland began to appear in the other countries of lambs and sheep. Lo and Behold, a great kingmaker, the son of a serf mind you, surveyed the landscape from his tower in the Field of Spring and his eye fell upon this country of lamb and sheep. “I could do great things in that country,” he thought. "Plus, I need a place to place my retinue…"

Next:  The Age of the Great Kingmaker and his Poseurs


Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Sound of Fall Crickets

So the silence on campus that is occasionally punctuated by crickets is generated by the bored trustees who are waiting for the world to forget September 16th, 2016 when they fired a president who was on the job for only nine months (eight of which he was shackled to the Management Action Committee) and gave no reason for his ouster. 

Fortunately, the "enemy" of the university, the Chicago Tribune, has not forgotten and has once again added its voice to the deafening silence of the board. To wit, this editorial was published today. If only the Gov would take heed and do his job, then maybe the university would stand a chance. Or maybe the Gov believes this patient is too far gone to resuscitate and will only go through the motions of being a political leader.

And then there is this article by a long time critic of the university that appears in Forbes magazine of all places. The university does have enemies, but has done too much in the area of self-inflicted wounds to complain about being targeted by such critics. 

That erratic, weaving vehicle you see in front of you is the #CSUclowncar. Until it gets pulled over, the university will never have a chance.

See Inside Higher Ed's grim assessment of CSU's struggle.

The article below published in Inside Higher Ed on Wednesday rehashes old ground about the state of affairs at CSU. Some new voices weigh in: current Senator Donne Trotter and former Senator Edward Maloney, both of whom have turned a blind eye to the problems cronyism and political patronage brought to CSU. Their solution? More politics. It seems that our only hope is the Black Caucus in the General Assembly. Politics. The very thing that has been CSU's undoing. 


Chicago State struggles under questions of enrollment, finance, leadership

Inside Higher Ed 
Submitted by Rick Seltzer on October 5, 2016 - 3:00am

A belligerent crowd greeted Chicago State University’s Board of Trustees last month as it prepared to part ways with President Thomas Calhoun Jr. after just nine months.

Audience members at a Sept. 16 board meeting jeered and hissed as the terms of a separation agreement were read aloud. They chanted “shame” as the board voted to name Vice President of Administration and Finance Cecil Lucy interim president.

The hostility of that meeting was palpable, even in audio recordings [1]. But the crowd also reacted when the board heard a report stating that student head count this fall totaled 3,567.

That’s down 25 percent from 2015, when Chicago State enrolled 4,767 students. It’s almost 52 percent below the 2010 level, when the university enrolled 7,362 students.

More detailed reports emerged [2] the next week, revealing the enrollment numbers had ticked up by nine to 3,578 students. That change was incidental, especially compared to another revelation: the university only enrolled 86 freshmen, including both full-time and part-time students.

In 2014 [3] Chicago state enrolled 253 full-time, first-time freshmen. In 2010 it enrolled 523.

Any university would be challenged by such collapsing enrollment coupled with rapid leadership turnover. For Chicago State, however, the developments raise the question of how long a university beset by turmoil in recent years can continue to operate.

Chicago State declared financial exigency in February [4] amid an ongoing Illinois budget stalemate that choked off funding to state colleges and universities. The loss of state money was felt at public institutions throughout Illinois, but it was particularly important at Chicago State. The university draws about $36 million annually in state appropriations, roughly 30 percent of its operating budget. It also receives $5 million in state Monetary Award Program grant funds and $1.6 million in state-funded merit scholarships.

Located on the south side of Chicago, the university serves mostly minority and nontraditional students. Its student body is 75 percent black, according to National Center for Education Statistics data [5]. A quarter of its students are graduate students. About 70 percent are women. Many attend part time.

In the past, some have wondered [6] whether Chicago State's identity as a minority-serving institution in the city of Chicago caused political leaders to avoid dedicating the time and resources necessary to truly fix its problems. Those race and class issues could very well have contributed to the path the university took to its current financial situation. But there is widespread agreement that the cause of the immediate crisis is the state budget situation.

Soon after Chicago State declared exigency, worries rose [7] that it would be unable to meet payroll in the coming months. Chicago State wrote in documents for the state Legislature [8] that the budget impasse caused “an unprecedented financial crisis” and that the university’s “cash flow is nearly depleted and at risk of closing the school.”

The university carried out cost-cutting measures including canceling spring break and ending the semester early. It moved to lay off a third of its 900 employees at the end of April [9], cuts estimated to save 40 percent of its payroll costs, or $2 million per month. The cuts contributed to the university's accrediting agency placing it on notice [10] over its financial resources and planning.

Illinois did pass emergency appropriations that sent state money to universities. One round in April allotted $20.1 million to Chicago State. A six-month stopgap budget at the end of June included $12.6 million for the university. Together, the appropriations totaled $32.7 million, but they’re slated to cover an 18-month span dating to last year -- so the funding level is significantly below the $36 million Chicago State typically receives for a full year.

Facing that kind of crunch, universities can typically make their budgets work by cutting expenses, building enrollment, raising tuition or drawing on reserves. But the prospects for any of those strategies are questionable for Chicago State after it has talked so recently about closing its doors. The university may very well have lost the public and student support necessary for it to be salvaged.

“It’s sort of like we’ve been shot and we’re lying on the sidewalk and nobody’s calling an ambulance,” said Robert Bionaz, an associate professor of history and president of the Chicago State chapter of the University Professionals of Illinois Local 4100. “It’s sort of astounding to me that this is OK. What’s the rationale here? There’s nothing rational about this.”

There is major concern on campus about the institution’s future, said Bionaz, who frequently writes for a blog highly critical of Chicago State’s administration [11] that was the subject of a lawsuit [12] after it drew the university’s attention. Enrollment has consistently been declining for years, Bionaz said. Traditionally it would drop in the spring and bounce back up in the fall -- but that has stopped happening.

Chicago State faced headwinds even before the Illinois budget situation came to a head. A series of scandals eroded faith in the institution, Bionaz said.

He pointed to controversial hires under the university’s former president, Wayne Watson. Chicago State also lost a lawsuit in 2014 [13] brought by James Crowley, its general counsel, who turned into a whistle-blower. A jury awarded Crowley $2.5 million after he alleged Watson threatened him over the disclosure of public records. Additionally, a state ethics investigation found early this year [14] that Watson violated university policy by making false allegations against two board members who were trying to push him out of office in 2013.

“I don’t see a lot of prospects for the enrollment to increase,” Bionaz said. “The whole enrollment-management section is in shambles, and we’re already the smallest state institution. I just wonder how long we can go.”

Purchasing, library and advising operations have been decimated by the cuts imposed under financial exigency, Bionaz said. The cafeteria was closed. A dormitory didn’t have hot water for weeks. Students were showering at the gym.

Student trustee Paris Griffin brought up the state of campus at the Sept. 16 meeting where Calhoun was released.

“We are disheartened by the state of our campus,” she said. “The cafeteria has been closed for more than two weeks.”

In addition, the library was operating from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday for a time, Bionaz said. The hours were troubling for a campus that has a high number of students who work.

“The place is literally falling apart,” Bionaz said. “This is going to require immediate intervention, or it’s going to be beyond your capacity to fix. Because at what point do we become nonviable? Is it when we get to 2,000 [students]? When we get to 2,500? That’s a year away. Maybe a year and a half.”

Bionaz isn’t as pessimistic on short-term survival, though. He pointed out that the institution found money to pay employees laid off this spring -- $2.2 million [15]. It paid Calhoun [16] $600,000 when it parted ways with him as president. Even though Chicago State said it was close to missing payroll earlier this year, Bionaz said he’s inclined to question the numbers.

It’s difficult to evaluate the current fiscal situation because the university has not produced an up-to-date budget book since 2015. But that budget showed money in reserves, Bionaz said.

Bionaz does not want the current Board of Trustees to conduct a search for a new president. There is much anger on campus about how the last president was ousted, and four trustees have terms that end in January, he said.

Frustration regarding Calhoun’s departure extends beyond campus. The change prompted Chicago’s two major newspapers to pen editorials calling for shake-ups to Chicago State’s Board of Trustees. The Sun-Times wrote [17] that Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner should fire any board members who do not cooperate in providing an explanation for Calhoun’s ouster. The Tribune [18]said [18] it is time to clean house among trustees. The Tribune specifically called out the size of Calhoun's buyout in light of the tight financial situation at Chicago State.

“That $600,000 is money that won't be used to improve classroom instruction at Chicago State, already in deep academic trouble,” the editorial said. “It won't be used to shore up the school's wobbly finances after spending an unfortunate $2.2 million, most of it in severance for nearly 400 employees laid off since the beginning of the year. This is a school hemorrhaging cash, failing its students and now drained of its last ounce of credibility.”

The governor’s office wants to do a thorough search for new board members, Rauner said during a Sept. 29 press conference. He said he wants to turn around the institution.

But he also said it’s difficult to get a handle on the situation.

“We’re still trying to get our hands around what is happening at Chicago State, because there is a lot of movement and a lot of things being done without informing our administration or outside folks,” Rauner said. “It’s very troubling. The level of transparency at Chicago State is atrocious.”

Board of Trustees Chairman Anthony Young declined comment when reached by phone. Chicago State’s communications department did not return several requests for interviews and information. Lucy, Chicago State’s interim president, did not return an email seeking comment. The Illinois Board of Higher Education referred requests for comment to the governor’s office, which pointed to Rauner’s Sept. 29 press conference.

The lawyer representing Calhoun, Raymond Cotton, declined to discuss the terms of his departure other than to say Chicago State honored its contract.

“The board honored its commitment that it made in writing to the president,” Cotton said. “When they asked him to depart and he agreed to do it, they honored the contract, the binding contract that they had with him.”

The information void has been filled by speculation.

Sun-Times gossip columnist Michael Sneed quoted an unnamed source [19] asserting that Calhoun painted over a mural on the ceiling of the master bedroom of the university’s president’s home. The unnamed source also said Calhoun had assembled an expensive inaugural budget.

Several sources dismissed that account in interviews with Inside Higher Ed. Instead, they pointed to a four-person management action committee neutralizing the president’s power.

Some observers simply said the relationship between Calhoun and the university appeared to not be functioning. Donne Trotter is a Democratic state senator whose district includes Chicago State.

“How long do you have to stay in a bad relationship before you say it’s not working?” Trotter said. “I’ve used the analogy before that they didn’t see him as the right general in this war for survival.”

On the broader question of Chicago State’s future as a going concern, Trotter said the state budget situation is putting all Illinois universities at risk.

Some of the state’s other universities have felt enrollment declines. Eastern Illinois University reported total head count [20] enrollment of 7,415 this fall, down almost 13 percent from 8,520 a year ago.

Chicago State is in a more vulnerable situation than others, according to Trotter. It did not have as much tuition funding to fall back upon or as large a reserve of funds, he said.

“They’re hanging on edge,” Trotter said. “They’re next to fall off that cliff.”

Still, Trotter didn’t talk about a state budget fix being possible until January. He acknowledged that the much-publicized talk about financial troubles is likely dissuading students from attending Chicago State.

“They knew it would have a large impact on getting people to come there,” Trotter said.

Other state political observers think it could be longer before the budget situation changes significantly. Even after the fall election, the state will have a Republican governor with two years left in his term and who has shown no interest in changing his budget positions. It will still have Democratic legislative leaders opposing him.

It’s not even clear at this point that the political will exists to save a university beset by trouble.

“I don’t think people care,” said Edward Maloney, a Democratic former member of the State Senate who chaired its Higher Education Committee and now lobbies on higher education issues. “I think the people who are immediately impacted by it care, but beyond the immediate area, you talk to any other member of the General Assembly, they don’t care if it closes. They really don’t.”

Chicago State hasn’t shown the ability to recruit students who can graduate successfully. Its six-year undergraduate graduation rate recently fell to 11 percent [21].

“This could be the nail in the coffin,” said Maloney, who earned his master’s degree at Chicago State. “The only thing that may save them is being a traditionally black institution. The black caucus is pretty powerful in the Illinois General Assembly.”

Many continue to hold Chicago State up as a four-year university serving a local population that can’t travel to attend another institution. Its closure would take away jobs and the realistic chance to attend a university from a large chunk of Chicago’s population.

Some have suggested Chicago State could be merged with another Chicago-area university, like Northeastern Illinois University on the city’s northwest side or the City Colleges of Chicago. Those are just whispers, though. The prospects and pitfalls of such a move remain unclear.

Chicago State Trustee Spencer Leak did not want to comment on the possibility of the university closing. He said it would be appalling.

Leak also declined to comment on the presidential change. But he did say the lower enrollment numbers hurt the university.

“The enrollment problem exacerbates the budgetary problems,” he said. “You can’t justify the need for finances for the university without students.”

Leak closed a telephone interview by making a point of saying that he is praying for Chicago State. He seeks a higher authority when faced with challenges, and the university is faced with challenges now, he said.

“I’m praying for our university,” Leak said. “That may not mean a lot to a lot of people. It may be simplistic. But I’m certainly praying for the university and the faculty and the students.”

Admissions [22]
Source URL: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/10/05/chicago-state-struggles-under-questions-enrollment-finance-leadership?width=775&height=500&iframe=true
Links:
[1] http://www.csu.edu/boardoftrustee/meetingrecordings/year2016.htm
[2] https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2016/09/28/only-86-freshmen-enroll-chicago-state
[3] http://www.csu.edu/IER/documents/GradRateforTransfer.pdf
[4] https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2016/02/05/chicago-state-u-declares-financial-exigency
[5] http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?id=144005
[6] https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/10/01/chicago
[7] http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-chicago-state-keys-budget-crisis-20160329-story.html
[8] https://www.csu.edu/budget/documents/FY2017_ISL_Entire_Book.pdf
[9] https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2016/05/02/300-layoffs-chicago-state-u
[10] http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/chicago-state-university-shaky-finances-accreditation-risk/
[11] http://csufacultyvoice.blogspot.com/
[12] https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2015/07/31/court-orders-chicago-state-not-mess-faculty-blog
[13] https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2014/02/27/jury-chicago-state-owes-whistle-blower-25m
[14] http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-chicago-state-wayne-watson-ethics-20160126-story.html
[15] https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2016/08/03/cost-layoffs-chicago-state-u
[16] https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2016/09/19/chicago-state-pays-600000-dismiss-president
[17] http://chicago.suntimes.com/opinion/editorial-end-the-600000-mystery-at-chicago-state-university/
[18] http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/editorials/ct-chicago-state-university-calhoun-rauner-resign-edit-0917-jm-20160916-story.html
[19] http://chicago.suntimes.com/politics/sneed-guaranteed-rate-logo-may-need-arrow-adjustment/
[20] https://www.eiu.edu/ir/fa2016.pdf
[21] https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2016/05/09/chicago-state-graduation-rate-falls-11

[22] https://www.insidehighered.com/news/focus/admissions

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A Student Asks a Question--will anyone answer? Mr Lucy? Mme Provost? Ms Zollar?

At the Student Government Association meeting last week, interim president Mr Lucy and CSU Board member Nikki Zollar sat in sackcloth and ashes and beat their breasts in a great show of penitence about how much they valued the CSU students and how sorry they were that the students were upset at the Trustees' dismissal of the recent CSU president Thomas Calhoun. Ms Zollar made a great display of sharing the students' pain. Mr Lucy just wants everyone to trust him in this difficult time for CSU. [In case you missed it, for comic relief, Sabrina Land was on hand chasing away videographers and photographers who were at the meeting...]

Well Ms Zollar and Mr Lucy, here's your chance to show some accountability to a student.

A few days ago a CSU Nursing student posted the following comment on the blogpost below, "September Review." The student had some sharp observations and significant questions about the nursing program so I'm re-posting the comment here in the hope that it garners some attention. I hope MissChem will continue to press the president, the provost and the board of trustees for the answers to her questions.

After reading this nursing student's cri de coeur one gets the feeling that it may not be the faculty alone who think it is time for a forensic audit.

From MissChem, Oct 3, 2016:
I'm a senior nursing student and we are being charged $175/credit hour for nursing fees. It's not $2500 per year. This is what I've been charged so far:
Fall 2015: $2,100
Spring 2016: $2,450
Fall 2016: $2,625
There were approximately 25-43 students per nursing class. (Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors...) Do the math.

We were told this money would go to improving the nursing resource lab. Lies!!!!! We have clinical simulators that we've never used because no one in the department knows how to use them, and they won't let us touch them. Last Friday, some students and a few faculty started "cleaning out" our nursing lab. Some of the stuff in there was so old, one of our instructors said to throw it away because it was against Joint Commission standards and banned in healthcare.

We have a nursing computer lab that we rarely have access to because there's nobody to "watch us" while we're in there. We're expected to help save people's lives but we can't be trusted to use a computer lab designated for us.

The nursing website...not being maintained at all! Scholarships from 2009 still there. This is a research institution yet no research is being done in this department, nor are there any active grants.

We just started clinical in the sixth week of an eight week course due to the lack of malpractice insurance. The department chairperson told us it was paid in June but the university didn't have the "certificate in hand." The clinical site surely won't want to hire us after graduation because they already associate CSU with unprofessionalism.

Our class was never provided a nursing handbook but they enforce policies from a handbook we don't have, and when we ask for it...crickets. They change grading criteria AFTER the class has ended and retroactively fail people, which is just a way to generate more money because then people register for a mandatory remedial course.

They refused to grant credits as laid out in the course catalog for CNAs, LPNs, and RNs that enter the program, so they essentially made people take classes they would have received credit for. And why is the university offering an unaccredited MSN program?

Our department chairperson is also running the Wellness Center, one of only 2 employees that have been with CSU for at least 2 years. All the faculty have left the university. We have 3 nursing faculty that instruct for the entire department.

And these are just a FEW of the shenanigans going on in that department. Unfortunately, we don't have anyone to turn to because everyone is either crooked or too scared to advocate for us. Hurry up May 11, 2017!!!!!