Tuesday, September 27, 2016

More Bleak News

Another miserable story about the school: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-chicago-state-university-enrollment-future-met-20160927-story.html

The worst part of all this is that no one says anything. The President has nothing to say, the Board Chairman refuses comment, no one in the administration says anything. Why? Because they don't have a clue about anything happening on this campus. Resign you cartoonish pack of fools!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

#Fallguy, Next Steps and What's At Risk

So when the indescribably inept #CSUclowncar needs to cover its tracks, it will need someone to take the blame for its failures. Enter #Fallguy. I would imagine that given the attention generated by the #CSUclowncar in the past week, legislators are trying to figure out their next steps which might include hearings on the #CSUclowncar's worst decision, the financial exigency declaration. 

Legislative hearings would be an opportunity to examine in a thoughtful way how public universities should proceed in times of extreme financial distress. As CSU is the only public institution in the United States to declare exigency, it is the only available case study to provide data on what to do and not do in situations of severe financial distress. I would imagine that the Higher Learning Commission, Illinois Board of Higher Education, US Department of Education, a plethora of other lettered agencies and other public universities would want to examine in exquisite detail 1) how the university's board came to the decision to declare exigency, 2) how and when the university administration planned for the exigency declaration, 3) how the exigency plan was implemented, 4) how the university terminated exigency and returned to normal operations. Within these four areas there should be a voluminous amount of data, evidence, correspondence etc. to provide a clear picture of what happened and who was responsible. Given that the university was willing to spend more than $800,000 for nine months service of its former president, the scrutiny of legislative hearings is more than warranted. 

Your humble narrator posits that after these questions are answered, there will be demands from various sectors, not least of which the state legislature, for accountability from the university. That could be interpreted as looking for a #Fallguy. Who, loyal readers, would you imagine is cast perfectly for that role? Might the #Fallguy be the Board of Trustees who have built, equipped, fueled and driven the #CSUclowncar for years? Would it be Baldy, who demonstrably failed to plan starting in February 2015 when it was apparent to anyone with a pulse that a financial storm was coming? Would it be Calhoun, who quickly tired of the #CSUclowncar after being shackled after 30 days on the the job and retreated to friendlier climes? Or might it be the current office holder, Cecil Lucy?  Given the proclivity of senior administrators at this university to undermine the chief executive, I would caution him to be wary of those around him, lest he suffer the same fate as his predecessor. He is in the most vulnerable position because he is an interim, a placeholder and the former chief financial officer. If there are any questions of money mismanagement, he would be the first to answer, right??? And that would make him the first to shoulder blame.

The reality of the situation is that the university board and administration have incompetently overseen this institution for several years, ostensibly carrying on a tradition of mismanagement. The bill is now due and the economic environment is significantly changed. The historic legislative protectors of the university should be prepared to adjust to a new reality of hard questions being asked and a new expectation of accountability being demanded. The continued viability of the university hangs in the balance. Without those hard questions being asked and answered, the university doesn't stand a chance of implementing the change that it needs to pull itself from the morass of ineptitude.

Part of that accountability may include the university being subjected to a forensic audit, a subject which I will explore in some detail in a future post. For now, let's encourage in whatever way we can, to get hearings on the exigency held, questions asked and answered, and a course plotted that doesn't have the #CSUclowncar at the controls.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Mr. Cecil Lucy "would like to rebound quickly from our recent past and get back on track..."

Good luck with that.

A Modest Proposal: How We Move Forward

Please forgive me for indulging myself here, but I would like to offer a close reading of some of the passages in the recent letter sent to the university community by the interim president. These interpretations are solely my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of anyone else in our university community. Since the letter contains mainly boilerplate material that would be present in any letter of exhortation, I focus on five different sentences:

“We understand that you may be experiencing a number of mixed feelings at this time.”

I find this highly condescending and insulting I certainly do not have mixed feelings. I am clear about my feelings of anger and disgust, both with the administrators who are responsible for undermining the former president and for a board that consistently fails to protect this institution. Finally, as one of my colleagues has already asked, just who the hell is the “we” to whom the memorandum refers? Certainly, none of the other potential actors in this farce have ever demonstrated the slightest concern for our emotions. This sentence is patronizing claptrap.

“This has been a difficult juncture for public higher education in the state of Illinois.”

An amazingly tone-deaf and self-serving sentence that fails to address the core issues here. This renewed animosity and conflict is not about “public higher education in the state of Illinois.” It’s about the board’s irresponsible and destructive recent action to remove a respected and popular president to safeguard the positions of a number of incompetent Watson cronies. This administration’s performance over the past six-plus years has been disgraceful, disastrous. It would not have been possible without the full support of the worst board in the country. Together, they have brought us to the brink of extinction. Given the succession of putrid decisions made by both groups, it’s difficult not to think that the intention is to destroy the school.

“Thus, it is important that we come together as a university community and work to achieve greater stability.”

Come together under what conditions? Since the board meeting, students have been subjected to pressure from both local politicians and appointed board members to basically “get back in their places” (see the recent memorandum from the board). Clearly, our betters in the administration will set the conditions for “coming together.” As is typical, these conditions include concessions from students, staff, and faculty. We are simply expected to forget the kick in the teeth recently delivered by the board and “come together.” As for “stability,” that existed for one month, between January 4, and February 3, 2016. Since February 4, this university has been rocked by volatility, scarred by decisions made by the persons the interim president wants us to fall into line behind, and ultimately betrayed by our corrupt board. Here’s what I believe will provide stability: terminate the services of all the Watson cronies still on our payroll and replace them with legitimate administrative personnel (if anyone is crazy enough to take a job here). Students, staff, and faculty have not seen one shred of evidence to indicate that the administration or the board has any interest in reforming the practices that have created this crisis. Until I see that, I will not consider supporting this group of incompetents.

“If we work together diligently as we focus on these priorities, we can be successful in reaching our goals.”

Here I think we’re being cautioned that if we don’t “work together,” failure will be our responsibility. Bullshit, it’s way too late for this olive branch. Given the abominable performance of our upper administration, I concluded long ago that they were only here to loot the place. However, if I give them the benefit of the doubt and consider their performances in light of a good faith effort, the only reasonable conclusion I can draw is that they failed completely. In either case, for the good of the university, they should immediately be discharged.

“As a collaborative community, I would like to quickly rebound from our recent past and get back on track to position Chicago State University as one of the best universities in the Midwest.”

This, I think, is the kernel of the message the administration is sending. Let’s forget about the past and look forward. This will enable the administration to continue to operate in the business-as-usual mode it favors, and will insure that the chronic failures of our incompetent administrators will continue to damage this university. This is also a nice way to discount the “mixed emotions” referenced in the first sentence. There is nothing “collaborative” about this community, and it is only necessary to look at recent administrative and board actions to determine why we are not “on track.”

Yesterday, at the request of the still extant MAC, what remains of the University Advisory Committee met with the interim president, Provost and HR Vice President. During the brief meeting, the interim president talked at us, informing us of the “capital campaign” that is going to raise money for Chicago State and telling us that he desired to see “100 percent participation” from staff and faculty in such an effort because that’s what donors need to see. The goal, according to the interim president, is to raise $500,000 from the staff and faculty to defray the cost of registration expenses for students who drop out of school because they are unable to afford validation. Again, I want to emphasize that this was not being posed as a question, rather it came across as an expectation. Given recent events, and the demonstrated penuriousness of our administrators and board, I was amazed at the ham-handedness of such a pronouncement. Speaking only for myself, I will not be contributing anything to the school as long as this administration and this board remain in place.

The second announcement from the interim president concerned the university’s new (albeit unwritten) policy of “internal mobility.” It seems like this conception will enable the university to assign multiple tasks to (I believe) primarily administrative personnel. In practical terms this might mean that Angela Henderson will be able to reprise her past failures as well as add to her resume of disasters by reassuming the role of the seemingly always vacant Vice President of Enrollment Management position. Too bad Cheri Sidney is not still on the payroll. While “internal mobility” is still a somewhat nebulous concept, I’m sure it will be the kind of rousing success we are used to seeing from our administration.

I can only echo the words of my esteemed colleague: “Suffice it to say, I have ignored the platitudinous drivel that I have heard in the last week. We are beyond the kumbaya phase in the faculty/administration relationship.” If the people who run Chicago State (whoever they may be now) are serious about this university’s existence, if they want to actually have some semblance of a “collaborative” relationship with the school’s students, staff, and faculty, here is what has to occur first: Purge this school of all vestiges of the Watson presidency. Terminate the services of all Watson cronies currently in place, beginning at the top with Angela Henderson, and proceeding down the food chain to the lowest paid employee. Get this university out of the hands of the people who are destroying it!

Then we can talk.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Mayday, Mayday, Mayday

So it looks like the car is spinning out of control and the pavement is dry and free of debris so it must be the driver. Yes, you are in the #CSUclowncar. The recent missive from the new interim president, (I don't know what's considered interim anymore) seems be an exhortation to forget the past and move forward. 


#CSUclowncar is careening out of control and we are supposed to forget the most inept administration in the country is still behind the wheel making decisions that continue to negatively impact the university. I am not often at a loss for words but this left me speechless. Need I recap for you, loyal readers of this humble blog, the disaster of the the last seven years which has led us to this point? I think not.

Suffice it to say, I have ignored the platitudinous drivel that I have heard in the last week. We are beyond the kumbaya phase in the faculty/administration relationship. At this point, it is clear to me that in order for faculty to move on, the provost needs to move on. The plagiarism, the three no-confidence votes, the union busting, the failure of the exigency process, the HLC sanction, the general disregard for faculty, the absence of shared governance, the petty retaliation against dissenters have become too much for faculty to countenance considering any sort of reconciliation. If the board, the president and the provost don't understand this, then they are intentionally obtuse or openly contemptuous of the experience of faculty and staff at this university. 

For someone who is so widely disdained, why the university won't move on from her failed attempts at administration is beyond me. To expect the survivors of the Watson inspired blood bath to now flock to its key henchmen in some ridiculous show of unity demonstrates how out of touch this administration is. 

I believe many if not most people are planning for the worst, a de facto closing in May 2017 because the #CSUclowncar has managed to gut the vital infrastructure of the institution. Enrollment Management exists in name only. Academic Affairs is barely functional. Administration and Finance is playing a massive shell game, robbing Peter to pay Paul (and Thomas). Morale is non-existent. Staff and faculty ranks (the institutional memory) have been decimated while the administrative ranks remain intact. The handwriting seems pretty clear. We aren't destined for a rebuild, reset, or retool.

We are destined to continue as a political football however as the Legislative Black Caucus tries to protect its interests in the university, and the governor tries to score political points with his base in an election cycle against his opposition, and a hand full of thoughtful legislators try to keep the university viable. All of this happening against the backdrop of a board that has done nothing but fuel the #CSUclowncar and taken turns at the wheel.

To my faculty colleagues, I ask this. Is the time approaching that we demand the institution be shuttered so that this nonsense can be brought to an end?

More Disastrous Collateral Damage Caused by our Corrupt Board

One of the arguments made by persons concerned about this blog’s exposure of unethical actions is an argument about “collateral damage” or “unintended consequences,” as if the writings on this forum are the cause of our problems rather than the actions that spur our writings. Well here’s some “collateral damage” or “unintended consequences” of the board’s politically motivated February declaration of “financial exigency.”

First, the Wayne Watson clones on the board made that declaration to insure the high-profile holdovers from the Watson administration would not lose their jobs. The university had no plan upon entering “financial exigency,” and it had no plan for exiting that status Of course, we know that the Higher Learning Commission ultimately responded with a sanction for the university based on its fiscal instability. That sanction came with monitoring. Our administration is currently in the process of responding to those concerns. That should inspire confidence.

Now, however, the board’s duplicity is likely to result in another type of negative attention from HLC: the public designation that Chicago State is an institution in “financial distress.” Here’s what that means: “The purpose . . . shall be to inform the public that the institution is dealing with a significant financial condition(s) . . . [that] have the potential to affect the institution’s operations, and the public should be aware of this information in making a decision to attend or continue to attend the institution under the designation. Any designation issued by the Commission President shall be public.”

The affected institution has only two weeks to respond to the possibility of a designation and will be saddled with the designation for up to two years, during which time it “must submit regular reports about its financial situation or undergo other regular or special monitoring, including Advisory Visits, as determined by the Commission President.”

Here are the conditions which may trigger special monitoring. Let’s see how many apply to Chicago State University:

1. institutional declaration of bankruptcy, financial exigency, or intent to close;
2. highly publicized and divisive controversies among the governing board, the administration, and/or the faculty or the student body;
3. significant unanticipated reduction in program offering, faculty, and/or enrollment;
4. public sanctions applied by governmental agencies or by other accrediting or licensing bodies;
5. serious legal, financial, or ethical investigations, including those involving adjudication in courts;
6. financial audit reports that raise serious concerns about financial viability or financial management practices;
7. serious misrepresentation to students and the public.

I make us to be at least six out of seven, and when you consider the number of administrators with falsified resumes, perhaps seven out of seven. The dissident faculty must be responsible for all those conditions, yes?

Here’s a message for our new interim president. As soon as possible, purge our university of all Watson holdovers, they’re responsible for our predicament. If you’re a Watson crony yourself, resign. You’re not going to win over the staff and faculty with the kind of bullshit you put out today. Speaking for myself, I’m tired of all the platitudes and clich├ęs coming out of the Cook building, I’m waiting for some kind of positive action to begin healing this school and to put us on the right path. Are you capable of providing that?

Apologists for CSU’s Shameful Board of Trustees: Tactic #1 Start a Whisper Campaign. Michael Sneed at the Sun Times thinks she has solved the mystery of Calhoun’s departure…So who is passing on information?

Michael Sneed is a columnist for Chicago’s Sun Times, a paper which had supported the Watson regime. Two days ago in her gossipy-styled opinion section called “Sneedlings” she posted the following short bit, “Ending the Mystery” (see article & link, scroll past the blather about the new name of the White Sox stadium). 

To paraphrase her unnamed source, the CSU Board of Trustees was apparently, shocked, shocked that Thomas Calhoun had asked for an outrageous sum of money to stage an inauguration for himself. And, besides that, he painted over the 1920s mural ceiling in the bedroom of the prez mansion and this is a historic house. Can you believe he did that? That was the last straw. The board had had enough!! 

Well, who knows about the ceiling and its great loss to the art world, but let me get this straight. Sneed thinks that Calhoun’s request for money to which the Trustees could say yes or no ticked them off so much that he needed to be fired, terminated, separated? This Board that has ponied up how much money in maintaining their favorite president Wayne Watson in the style to which he had become accustomed is now affronted? This Board that has footed the bill for lawsuits and appeals for their favorite president Wayne Watson that have only netted CSU and the taxpayers of Illinois further legal losses, lawyer’s fees, and larger payouts to victims of Wayne’s hubris is now aghast?

To recap. A painted over ceiling of dubious historical and artistic value and a request for money that the Trustees themselves had the power to veto if they deemed it so outrageous is what got Calhoun fired. Well, Sneed, if you believe this, I’ll tell you there’s a bridge in Brooklyn that is for sale and I could let you have it for a good price.

Since the Board tied itself and Calhoun into silence by terms of its contract of separation with him (neither party is supposed to disparage the other publicly) the only way for them to make Calhoun out to be a bad guy is to begin a whisper campaign.  

But whispering works two ways. So let the whispering begin. 

Who do you think whispered to Michael Sneed?

I think it was N………..

OPINION Michael Sneed
CHICAGO 09/21/2016  Facebook: MichaelSneed@Sneedlings

Ending the mystery . . .

Sneed hears rumbles former Chicago State University President Thomas J. Calhoun Jr., who mysteriously exited CSU recently with a $600,000 golden parachute after serving only nine months in office — is being credited with one major change before he left.

It involved a paint brush.

Sneed is told Calhoun’s brief residence at the CSU mansion, a 1921 mansion occupied by the university presidents, resulted in a change in the master bedroom — which sports a huge mural ceiling of hand-painted cherubs.

“Not anymore,” a CSU source said. “It was completely painted over while he was there. How insensitive is that,” added the source. “The house is historic!”

“Calhoun also managed to infuriate the CSU board members, who were not happy when they found out he [Calhoun] had put together a massively expensive inaugural budget,” added the source.

“The university was in urgent need of a funding infusion and Calhoun asked them for an inaugural budget which cost a veritable fortune. And the state would have had to foot the bill!  They’d had it.”

How to Hire a President for $812,500: The Chicago State Board Breaks Out the Checkbook

If you haven’t seen the recent article in the Tribune, take a look at it. Thanks to FOIA, the paper got hold of the severance agreement between the board and Dr. Calhoun. Part of the agreement includes a “letter of reference” for Calhoun written by Anthony Young, Here’s an excerpt:

"He was a voice of calm in the midst of tumult," Young wrote. "He endeared himself to the broader university community, inspiring the faculty and students. With great poise, he was able to bring a message of hope, while all indicators were predicting disaster. His understanding of university culture, his enthusiasm for the possibilities of the academy, and his commitment to faculty and student success are hallmarks of his character."

So, this board terminated an apparently stellar university president. Why? The story fails to tell us as do the members of this buffoonish board. Now we come to the bad news; the payout arrangement for the severance. The university will pay $300,000 to Dr. Calhoun by October 1, 2016, another $300,000 on January 3, 2017. Since Dr. Calhoun began his short-lived term as Chicago State President on January 4, 2016, the total compensation/severance paid by to the university to our now non-president comes to $812,500 ($212,500 already paid in salary through September 15, plus the $600,000 buyout to be paid within the next three and one-half months.

Think about that. The school that effectively declared bankruptcy on February 4, 2016, has $600,000 to throw away on a gift to a terminated chief executive. We have no money for students, staff, faculty, infrastructure, or academic support. We have money for this, though. We have cut to the bone admissions, financial aid, building services, academic advising, library operations, and maintenance services. We have money for this, though. We claim poverty and terminate/layoff/demote hundreds of our employees because we have no money to pay them. We have money for this, though. Maybe those ridiculous trustees should have taken the time to walk through the campus buildings (other than the Cook building and New Library). Maybe those trustees should have talked to students, staff, and faculty instead of listening to a small cadre of administrators determined to undermine Dr. Calhoun and seize complete control of this institution. Of course that supposes the fools who sit on the board are interested in the welfare of the school. They have proven time and again they are not, that their primary goal is to protect the positions of persons who have continually made decisions that furthered their interests at the expense of the best interests of the institution.

Now we enter the post-$812,000 president era. Nothing has changed. We continue to operate just as we have for the past six-plus years. The board continues to be tone deaf, patronizing, and downright insulting. The “new” administration (another one) continues its odious practices. It’s business as usual here at Chicago State. While the administrative queue at the public trough continues, the university community suffers. Time for a forensic audit folks.

Here’s the article: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-chicago-state-university-severance-20160921-story.html

Thursday, September 22, 2016

They Don't Know When to Shut Up: The Worst University Board of Trustees in the Country Digs a Deeper Hole

Look at this ridiculous, insulting, mewling memorandum from our clueless Board. Remember back to Friday when they kicked the students, staff, faculty, alumni, community, and Illinois taxpayers in the teeth? Now the Board wants us to forget all that and pay attention to what they now say. Here are some of the excerpts: "we are all prepared to move forward to reimagine a future with Chicago State University as a flagship institution of higher education in an urban setting." Or "We have a steady hand at the helm. We shall overcome!" Or, how about this bullshit. "we know we could not have opened the doors of CSU this semester without the help of our proud and dedicated students." Read the memo for yourself and decide on your favorite hypocritical passage. At the board meeting Friday, Kelly Harris reminded the board that they were "insulting our intelligence." This memorandum is simply disgraceful, an insult to the intelligence of everyone in our university community. Seriously, after you've done something this destructive and stupid, you should just shut up about it. Who writes this stuff?