Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Chicago State Board Screws the Students and Drives Another Nail Into Chicago State's Coffin: That Dynamic Fund-Raiser Wayne Watson Gets to Form His Own Foundation

If you had an investment that continued to lose money, would you pour more money into it? If you had an employee who had proven her or his utter incompetence, would you give her/him increasing power and responsibility? Well that is what our feckless Board of Trustees did Friday. They took steps to sever the university’s relationship with the Chicago State Foundation and charged Wayne Watson with forming another organization to raise funds for the university, an endeavor at which he has been a spectacular failure.

Of course, spectacular failure is Wayne Watson’s stock-in-trade, his metier if you will. He is a Ph.D. with no scholarly contributions to any field, no significant teaching experience and no previous university experience before someone handed him this job. As he did at City Colleges, his performance here has been a debacle. City Colleges shed at least 27,000 students during his reign of error, Chicago State has lost over 2100. Of course, his higher education “leadership” history is marked by factious relationships with faculty, multiple scandals, costly lawsuits and excuses for everything. When he was interviewing for his current position in 2009, a number of observers called him a “political hack.” Since he has kept his job by dint of his political connections (certainly not by even competent performance or any scholarly achievements), it seems difficult to argue with that 2009 assessment. Nonetheless, our Board handed him even more responsibility Friday, one of the worst in a long line of terrible decisions made by that group.

What is the real reason for this unfathomable move? In my estimation, it is all about Katey Assem and the independent nature of the Chicago State Foundation. Watson could not fire Assem, he could not control the foundation and he certainly could not control that organization’s Board of Directors. So, he had to convince a complicit Board to dissolve the contract between the university and the foundation. In truth, the problems with Chicago State’s fund-raising potential are mainly attributable to Wayne Watson. Nonetheless, the Board addressed an issue that needed “reform” far less than does the leadership of this school. Again, shame on this Board for doing Watson’s bidding and for failing in their basic responsibilities to the staff and students of Chicago State and to the taxpayers of Illinois.

Here is the transcript of the Board resolution from the most recent Board of Trustees meeting. Most important, the Board voted to sever the university’s relationship with the Chicago State Foundation. Wayne Watson’s recent self-serving and cynical bullshit memorandum claimed the Board decided to take that action “after a thorough review and assessment.” All done in secret, of course. Clearly, this Board decision came at Wayne Watson’s insistence. In fact, the Board’s attorney took great pains to say twice that the resolution was a “referral” from the “legal (or law) department.”

The reading of the resolution begins at 5:46 of segment two of the meeting recording. The transcript:

Attorney: “Upon the referral from the legal department, ah, there is a resolution to be considered by the board, um, which, um, states as follows: be it resolved that the Board of Trustees of Chicago State University, do you want me to read the entire resolution Mr. Chairman?

Anthonyh Young: “Yes, please.

Attorney: “I’ll read the entire resolution.

Resolution to invoke the 90 day notice of termination provision contained in the University’s contract with the Chicago State University Foundation.

Whereas, the current economic climate has forced the university to assume a significantly larger portion of its operating expenses, including student financial aid and, wheras give the reduction in state and federal financial aid, the university needs to provide additional support options to students, and;
Whereas, the economic climate has likewise forced the university to reexamine all of its contractual relationships, and;
Whereas, the examination has forced the university to conclude that it must restructure and realign a portion of its fund-raising system, and;
Whereas, the university is thankful and appreciative of the Foundation’s efforts over the years in support of its mission to provide student scholarship and various other forms of kind.. various other forms of financial support and whereas fiscal realities demand that the university receive an even more robust return in its investment dollar and;
Whereas, the university has begun the process of establishing a new foundation and is exploring the development of a new foundation which will be more closely aligned with the needs of the university.

Now therefore, be it resolved that the Board of Trustees of Chicago State University does hereby direct that a 90 day notice to terminate its contract with the Chicago State University Foundation Board, effective June 30, 2015, be issued immediately. That the University President be directed to take immediate steps to establish a new foundation board with a 501(3) status immediately. That is the motion upon the referral from the law department.

I am sure that Wayne Watson will find some crony to reward with a high-paying job as the head of his “new” foundation. As usual, the losers will be the staff and students of Chicago State, Watson will walk away from this job with a cushy pension, leaving behind a university in shambles (if it exists at all). You really cannot make this stuff up.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Thoughts of Cicero and Cataline

So our year end Board of Trustees meeting on Friday was not without incident. No, there were no arrests of students for wearing baseball caps. And no, there were no accusations of rigged searches or plagiarism. I did learn a few things though.
I learned that at most colleges, the nursing program drives enrollment and that the reason that enrollment is down at CSU is the need for improvement in academic program quality. After 23 years in higher education I was shocked to find out that a program that admits only 40 students is the driver for enrollment for a university of 5,000 students. Who knew? And after the successful accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission I found out that we have problems with academic program quality and those problems are leading to the unabated decline in our enrollment. The bump bump sound you heard was the faculty once again being thrown under the bus by this failed regime.  I learned that there was a successful town hall meeting. As a political scientist, I am always fascinated by political events like town hall meetings and in my professional career have never seen an unsuccessful town hall meeting. What would that look like? No one shows up? Fist fights break out? Why report on something that could have been communicated via email. Those who will loose their jobs in the upcoming weeks are probably no more comforted by that reality because of a town hall meeting.
I also learned that the CSU Foundation was responsible for the poor fund raising efforts seen since the failed Watson administration bumbled and stumbled onto campus. Yes, loyal readers, the CSU Foundation which was chartered in 1967 and incorporated in 1968, has apparently failed in raising money for the university and the BOT has decided to serve a 90 day notice that the contract with the Foundation is to end. There is a line in one of the Matrix movies that says, “everything that has a beginning has an end.” Unfortunately the wrong contract was terminated. This community was told in 2009 that hiring the current president would bring largesse to the university because of his many political connections. Obviously that was a lie as evidenced by the paucity of contributions and dollars attributable to this president. His fund raising has been an epic failure, an embarrassment to presidents around the country and most certainly an embarrassment to this university. Now the Board of Trustees has seen fit to place the blame of this epic failure on the CSU Foundation instead of where it belongs, firmly on the shoulders of this failed president. As I stated to the then board members in 2009 when they made the horrible decision to hire a president with no publications, no scholarship and no university experience, the results of that decision would be theirs alone. So joining the president in his abject failure (substantially documented on this blog and in the publications of record) is the Board of Trustees. This decision is likely going to make the 2014 Top Ten Worst Board Decisions list to be published at the end of the month in this venue. Not only will the formation of a new fund raising body take time, what happens in the interim while this new mega fund raising machine gets built? The reality is that our students, who are typically in the bottom quartile in median household income will be put at risk. But fear not loyal readers, for in the words of the intrepid associate vice president for enrollment decline, hope will save the day. Yes, you did read that correctly. When asked by the BOT Chairman will enrollment be below 5,000 in the spring, her response was “we hope not.” Hope was the guiding element for the future of the university. I didn’t see hope as a core principle or goal in the much touted strategic plan, though I did hear meaningless jargon spewed by an obviously incompetent administrator. This of course, sets up those who have demonstrably failed the university to blame those who weren’t hopeful enough for the condition of a university that probably should be shut down before it is burned to the ground by the inept and feckless management. The common thread running through these statements is the absolute absence of accountability so frequently demonstrated. It is always someone else’s fault for the condition of the university. Never once has this president stood up and said he was responsible. He is obviously incapable of such a basic act of leadership which is why the university hasn’t been led in nearly six years. No fund raising, blame the foundation. Enrollment decline, blame the faculty. Triple digit audit findings, blame the previous administrations. A spiraling negative institutional reputation, blame the unfair media.
Have you no shame, no shred of dignity, no scintilla of respect? Haven’t you done enough damage to this university, this student body, this faculty, this staff? Haven’t your incompetent cronies slopped at the public trough long enough? The Crowley case alone will likely cost $4 million dollars. Didn’t you learn anything for the Moore case? Obviously not.
I am reminded of Cicero’s Oration against Cataline that I learned in third year Latin in high school. Its opening translated to English begins “How long, at last Catiline, will you abuse our patience? And for how long will that madness of yours mock us? To what end will your unbridled audacity hurl itself? Do not the nightly fires of the Palatine alarm you? ”Two thousand years later these words could just as easily apply to the conspiracy of incompetence foisted upon the university by board members long gone and continued by board members still in place.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Watson Follies Play Again at the Board of Trustees Meeting: It is Time to Blame the Foundation and Faculty for Wayne Watson's Multiple Failures

I have to admit that my earlier post on the penury of Chicago State’s Board and President contained some arithmetical errors. Spencer Leak’s contributions must be reduced from $525 to $225, bringing the aggregate of individual contributions from all the Board members and the President to $18,395 in six years, with the contributions of Board members totaling $14,995, an average of $2499.17/year.

I understand that at yesterday’s Board meeting, the Board mindlessly approved a measure charging Wayne Watson with forming a 501c(3) organization to handle fund-raising for the university. The “contract” with the existing CSU Foundation will apparently be terminated within 90 days. Why? Because Wayne Watson blames the Foundation for failing to raise money for the university. In addition, I understand that Wayne Watson told the Board that Chicago State’s enrollment decline is because of: a) increased academic rigor, or b) problems with academic programs. He apparently did not elaborate on these seemingly contradictory explanations.

As I noted in my post on the contributions to Chicago State by Board members and the President since 2008, I am pleased to say that I have acquired some earlier CSU President’s Reports that enable me to compare the financial commitment demonstrated by our current group of leaders with the previous president and board members. While exact figures are not given in the President’s Reports, a minimum and maximum range for contributions provides an opportunity to gauge the extent of financial support given the institution by specific individuals. Here is the comparison:

For the available years (1998 through 2003 and 2005-06), Elnora Daniel contributed a minimum of $16,000 to Chicago State with individual Board members contributing at least an additional minimum $36,850. The maximum possible contribution from Daniel comes to $32,493, with the maximum contribution from Board members being $55,982. On a yearly basis, the former President of CSU and former CSU Board members contributed an average ranging from $8808 to $14,745.83 per year.

In addition to individual contributions from current Board members, corporations and organizations they head have contributed $36,700 since 2008. In contrast, corporations and organizations associated with former Board members contributed a minimum of $160,000 from 1998-2003 and 2006. These contributions bring the aggregate of current Board members and the President’s contrbutions to $55,095 compared with a mimimum of $215,982 contributed by Watson and the gang’s predecessors. Even though exact figures are not available, it seems reasonable to conclude that in the six years with extant records, that the Board and University President contributed at least $250,000 to the school.

Of course, Wayne Watson needs the money, after all, he’s only made (between salary and double-dipping pension) somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.5 million since coming to Chicago State. Who could expect him to contribute any more than the $3400 he has so generously donated to the school he leads. In contrast, he’s contributed $3095 to politicians during the time he’s been at CSU. Obviously, those contributions have had some effect.

Wayne Watson specializes in blaming other persons for his failures. Plunging enrollment? It’s the faculty’s fault. No fund-raising? Blame the Foundation. The reality is that Watson has so sullied Chicago State’s reputation that it may not be salvageable (see the City Colleges “reinvention” initiative to get an idea what an educational system must do after Watson’s “reforms” have damaged it). The reality of fund-raising is that Watson simply cannot raise money. Can you imagine any reputable donor contributing to the school after listening to Watson’s sales pitch? Can you imagine any reputable donor even speaking with Watson after checking out the school’s reputation and his performance?

Thanks again to our Board of Trustees. They do not support the school financially, they enable this waste of taxpayer money to continue as President. They enable this President to destroy the school and they will do anything Watson wants them to do. Anthony Young, Michael Curtin, Nikki Zollar, Spencer Leak, Horace Smith and James Joyce are about as far from an independent Board of Trustees as it is possible to be. Shame on them for abrogating their responsibility to the taxpayers of the state and to the staff and students of Chicago State University.

Finally, I also understand that Watson's girl friend, when asked specific questions about Chicago State's enrollment responded that the administration "hoped" enrollment would not drop below 5,000 in the Spring and "hoped" that the enrollment decline would be halted soon. That is quite a strategy for dealing with this university's most pressing problem.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The University Without Students: Will Chicago State Drop Below 5,000?

By now, it seems apparent that for Chicago State, the political considerations of keeping this administration in power trump all other factors. No scandal is sufficient to move anyone in the state to action, save to ensure that the Watson disaster continues. As the Fall semester comes to a conclusion, we are again looking ahead to the Spring. What will our enrollment be? Here are the administration’s goals for Chicago State’s spring enrollment. I think they reflect several things: no one can tell the truth to the president; these goals are not rooted in any historical reality or trend data and reflect a tenuous grip on reality; our upper-level administrators simply do not know what they are doing.

You might recall that for Fall 2014, the administration created “metrics” that set the goal of a 3 percent increase in enrollment from Fall 2013 (5701 to 5872). The administration based this “metric” on nothing, since there is no record of any administration headed by Wayne Watson ever achieving such an enrollment increase and since there was apparently no actual data suggesting that such an increase was possible. Of course, we know how that all worked out—enrollment declined 8.6 percent to 5211.

Undaunted by past failures, the administration has outdone itself in its goals for Spring 2015. It has decided that we should be able to reach 5597 students, an increase of 7.4 percent over Fall 2014 and of 5.7 percent increase over Spring 2014. Imagine working for a group of people who insist on setting goals that are capricious and ultimately grounded in nothing. Our administrators can simply decide that in spite of data demonstrating that spring enrollments decline, we can increase our enrollment by a figure unparallelled in the history of Wayne Watson’s “leadership.” My sympathy goes out to the poor persons who have to develop the ridiculous scenarios to meet those stupid goals.

Here is the trend data for the past three years (all figures for spring are unofficial, they come from Provost Council minutes):

Fall 2011 enrollment: 6882. Spring 2012 enrollment: 6262, a decrease of 9 percent.
Fall 2012 enrollment: 6107. Spring 2013 enrollment: 5769, a decrease of 5.5 percent.
Fall 2013 enrollment 5701. Spring 2014 enrollment: 5297, a decrease of 7.1 percent.

Therefore, with our Fall 2014 enrollment standing at 5211, a more reasonable projection would be a Spring enrollment around 4850 (a 7 percent decline).

The administration’s figures demonstrate how fanciful these “goals” are. First, of the 5211 students enrolled for Fall 2014, 365 have apparently applied for graduation and another 164 have withdrawn from the university, decreasing the total to 4682. In addition, nearly 500 current students have bursar holds, a percentage will not be returning for Spring. Finally, there is no way at this point to determine the number of students who will be dropped for poor scholarship at the conclusion of the Fall semester. Thus, we only have 4682 students available to return in the Spring of 100 percent of our current students return. What do you think the likelihood of that is?

So, if all our current students return for the next semester, we only have to attract 915 new students to Chicago State to reach the administration’s 5597 figure. In reality, we will probably need closer to 1200 (assuming that at least 300 students will leave school for various reasons). As of December 8, we had admitted 86 new students and our total enrollment stood at 212 fewer than the same date a year ago, a decrease of 9 percent. Although I am no math whiz, it seems likely that we will experience a decline in student enrollment rather than the heady increase sought by our administrators.

So what is our administration’s strategy for addressing this problem? I understand that at the recent propaganda rally held by the administration that our naked emperor said that if everyone at Chicago State brought in one student, our enrollment would be fine. Really, that is the administration’s best solution? There are several persons responsible for dealing with enrollment issues making hefty salaries and they come up with that?

Recently, Cheri Sidney told Chicago State’s hopeless Board of Trustees that the administration was still “right-sizing” the university. The administration’s inept and hapless efforts to devise strategies to combat our enrollment decline belie that assertion. No one will tell Wayne Watson that he is the problem, that his administration has taken the school to the precipice. No one in the state will step in and save the school from this group. Frankly, this seems to be the result desired by a range of persons with the ability to correct the situation. Thus, we go through this bizarre dance every semester so that Watson can be placated and continue to play president and reward his friends and cronies with lucre.

Recent events have demonstrated the power of the political forces supporting this president and his administration. No one outside the judicial system seems willing to hold Wayne Watson and his cronies accountable for their behavior. However, the most important resource Chicago State possesses—our students—are obviously weighing in on the issue. They are leaving this school in droves. I think our enrollment will decline to below 5000 next semester. Ultimately, of course, no one really cares. What do you think?

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Just One More of a Thousand Cuts

A decision from UIC and the "hearing officer" that inexplicably goes against the established standards for academic integrity at the UIC College of Nursing--I guess s/he (whoever it was) found more compelling arguments in favor of putting the stamp of approval on the dissertation. The pusillanimous and inept handling of this matter by UIC demonstrates academics at their worst. In my estimation, the facts of the case remain the same. Most important, the UIC capitulation puts Chicago State at increased risk for ultimate failure. After all, one of the things Watson could have discussed in his cynical memorandum is the precipitous drop in enrollment under the watchful eye of our new provost (from 6882 to 5211 in three years, a decline of 24.3 percent). Of course, the real victims here are the students and staff at Chicago State who continue to suffer under this regime. As this administration continues, there seems to be no reason to expect anything other than the school's decline to continue apace. We will continue to shine the light on this administration and its myriad failures--lots more to come. Finally, a happy Thanksgiving to all.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Shameless Cronyism at Chicago State University continues: "Abandon Hope all Ye Who Enter Here..."

Suggestion for new t-shirts to be worn at CSU:

2008: "CSU paid the Hollins Group $80,000 for a national Presidential Search and all we Got Was Wayne Watson"

2014: "CSU paid the Hollins Group $100,000 for a national Provost Search and all we Got Was Angela Henderson"

So, the giant on whose shoulders she stands officially raised her up to the office of provost of our university--see the letter below received yesterday.  I knew it was coming, but I thought it would be announced by the mealy-mouthed board of trustees at their December meeting. Whoever UIC hired as their "hearing officer"  (no name, no rank, no affiliation or academic connection listed in the Sun Times article last week) seems to have exonerated our new plagiarist provost in the god-knows-why-it-took-so-long plagiarism-dispute over Angela Henderson's doctoral dissertation. 

I keep thinking of Henry VIII's elevation of Anne Boleyn as his Queen of England after publicly humiliating and divorcing the popular Queen Katherine of Aragon, his wife of 20+ years. During her ride through London at her coronation, in spite of the expense and richness of her clothing and retinue, Anne was met in turns by stony silence from the population or mocking laughter along the way. 

The corrupt foundation on which the ediface of CSU has been built has reached a new low in propping up yet one more crony to a highly paid office and status. There were some comments by the hopeful earlier this month that perhaps Bruce Rauner might "reform" this stinking pit that Pat Quinn left to the wolves. Doubtful. More likely Rauner  will be pulled in by the patronage culture of ILL rather than break it. And who in the state legislature really cares about how badly run our little CSU is anyway?

For those of my colleagues who have kept silent all these months and years and have hoped that by keeping their heads low they will just wait out one more year of the Watson regime, try saying this: "President of Chicago State University Angela Henderson." You don't think provost is her last stop do you?

November 24, 2014
Dear Campus Community,

I am very pleased to announce that after an extensive search which considered multiple qualified candidates, Dr. Angela Henderson has been appointed to the position of Provost and Senior Vice President for Chicago State University.

Dr. Henderson brings to the position 25 years of experience in higher education both as an educator and an administrator. She is an accomplished academic who has served in multiple positions including tenured professor, department chair, dean, vice chancellor and provost at one of the largest community college systems in the country. Dr. Henderson holds numerous degrees including:
  • Ph.D. in Nursing from the University of Illinois-Chicago
  • Master of Science in Nursing from University of Illinois-Chicago
  • Master of Business Administration from the University of Illinois-Chicago
  • Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from Loyola University
Since joining the CSU family in 2011, she has devoted herself to our mission of providing a transformative academic experience to our students as both Vice President of Enrollment Management and Interim Provost. She played an integral role in helping CSU achieve a 10-year reaccreditation from the Higher Learning Commission and continues to devote herself daily to making CSU the best public university in Illinois.

Throughout her career, Dr. Henderson has demonstrated that she has a vision for academic excellence including an emphasis on increasing diversity, embracing innovation and technology, expanding CSU’s footprint both nationally and internationally, and placing a strong focus on individual student success. 

In her time at CSU, Dr. Henderson has proven herself to be a tireless advocate and valuable asset for the university.  As Provost and Senior Vice President, she will have the opportunity to lead our university in a positive direction. I strongly feel that in Dr. Angela Henderson, we have found the right person at the right time.

I hope you will join me in congratulating Dr. Henderson on her new position, and I ask that each member of the CSU family look for ways to work with her and her office to help achieve our shared goals of strengthening CSU.

Wayne D. Watson, President

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sorry UIC, but If it walks like a duck, and talks like a duck...

Not sure if this is the final word from UIC on Angela Henderson's plagiarized dissertation but the Sun Times seems to report it as such. See article below.

The litigious Dr Henderson claimed FERPA violations by UIC administrators --no doubt that lawsuit will now be dropped. I'd still like to see it go to court. In the academic circles that I knew, a dissertation that had been defended and posted as defended, was then up for scrutiny by the rest of the academic community and stood as your completed "masterpiece." In other words, if you want to be "Dr." Henderson then you don't claim the privileges of a lowly grad student.

And if anyone wants to be reminded of what Dr Henderson's plagiarism looks like see the articles linked below. No CSU student in any of my classes would get away with this. Apparently UIC is willing to violate its own definitions of what it once called plagiarism.

State education in ILLinois, what a joke. Or, as one of my colleagues quipped, "Politics wins out again."

Jan 14, 2014,0,4761404.story

Jan 24, 2014 The Dissertation of Chicago State University's Vice President and Chief Plagiarizing Officer

Jan 25, 2014 The Plagiarized Dissertation--Part 2

Jan 25, 2014 Dissertation Plagiarism Part 3: Don't Forget Wikipedia

Jan 25, 2014 Installment 4 of the Plagiarism Chronicles: Let's Steal an Entire Paragraph

Jan 25, 2014 More on our Plagiarizing Provost

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What Would Chicago State Look Like Without Any Students? Based on the Administration's Financial Aid Compliance Efforts, We May Soon Find Out

I am sorry to disturb the slumber of those of you who are trying to awake from the nightmare that has been the Watson administration, but I have some alarming informarion to share with you. For people who have paying attention to the never-ending saga of our administration’s venality and incompetence what follows will be no surprise. If this situation is not corrected, the consequences for the school will be dire. Perhaps that is the goal—given the behavior of the Watson administration, it is hard to come to any other rational conclusion.

The most recent threat to Chicago State’s well-being comes in the form of continuing financial aid misadventures. You might remember the school became the target of a series of negative newspaper articles in the summer of 2011 for its failure to purge students who were ineligible based on their academic performance, from the financial aid rolls. Discovered by auditors, these problems represented part of a financial aid scandal, the other part was the university’s disbursement of financial aid to students at unapproved locations. All this came to light before the beginning of the 2012-13 school year.

Because of Chicago State’s various financial aid problems, on March 15, 2013, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) placed the university on “provisional” status for the disbursement of financial aid, including Pell Grants, Perkins Loans and Work Study Programs. The provisional status extends through December 31, 2015 and the DOE communication warned Watson and Cheri Sidney (copied in the letter) that “During the period of provisional certification, the participation of the Institution will be subject to revocation for cause.”

On March 26, 2014, the DOE advised Watson of its analysis of the school’s audit findings. Included among problems cited by the DOE was the school’s failure to ensure that outside locations at which students took classes were approved by IBHE and DOE for both educational and financial purposes. The Department of Education’s audit findings warned Watson that “repeat findings in future audits or failure to satisfactorily resolve the findings ofthis audit may lead to an adverse administrative action. An adverse administrative action may include the imposition of a fine, or the limitation, suspension, or termination of the eligibility ofthe institution to participate in the Title IV, HEA programs.” The audit findings addressed in the DOE letter all came from the fiscal 2012 audit, published by the Illinois Auditor General in March 2013.

The Department of Education’s letter and the state’s audit included some disquieting passages. In June 2012, when the school requested approval for its existing 12 off-site locations, the DOE requested “the accreditation and state approval” information for all 12 sites, unidentified Chicago State officials indicated “they were not aware that accreditation approval and state authorization were required.” The state auditors discovered that the previous year’s audit findings had not been corrected because “staff was still in the midst of implementing the prior year corrective action plan and automating the process which included training on all the steps required for reporting a new location.” This level of ignorance and inaction seems astounding, given the stakes. In any event, the school apparently avoided a repeat audit finding on off-site locations in fiscal 2013. So is it safe to assume the administration (read Financial Aid which resides in Enrollment Management and is managed by Cheri Sidney) has learned how to correctly apply for approval to offer classes and provide financial aid at off-site locations? Not exactly.

The Department of Education’s letters notified Chicago State that in order to offer financial aid at off-site locations, that the school’s provisional status obligated it to seek approval from the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) for course offerings and from the DOE for financial aid disbursements before the start of any classes: “CSU [must obtain] approval from the Illinois Board of Higher Education to offer classes at . . . ineligible locations.” After approval, the university then must apply for approval to disburse financial aid at off-site locations because provisionally certified institutions are prohibited “from disbursing . . . funds to students . . . until the institution receives the Secretary’s notification” that the alternative locations are approved. So, to recap, because of Chicago State’s provisional certification, the school is required to seek approval from IBHE to offer classes at a new location, then after obtaining IBHE approval, Chicago State must apply and receive approval from the Department of Education to disburse financial aid. Failure to follow these mandated steps may result in the Department of Education terminating the school’s ability to disburse financial aid to its students.

From the DOE's letter of March 2013:

From the DOE's audit letter of March 2014:

Why am I going on about this? Well, we have an incipient West Side Campus being advertised on our web site. Based on the information on our web, it seems like the university is planning to offer courses beginning in Fall 2015. However, our department recently received a communication from our Chair to get proposals in for programs/courses for the West Side Campus. Additionally, several administrators have indicated that some highly-placed administrators have indicated that courses would commence on that site (wherever it is, I’m still not sure) in January or February of 2015.

When I heard that information, I wondered whether the university had even obtained approval from IBHE and DOE to offer courses/disburse financial aid at the new site. Guess what? As of this date, we have received no approval, in fact, as of November 14, 2014, we had not even applied. So, based on our provisional status, we will need to put an application together for operating a new location and send it to IBHE for their approval. Since the programs for the new campus have not even been formalized, I cannot imagine how we can do this. Then, of course, after we secure approval from IBHE to teach courses, we then must apply and obtain approval from the DOE for financial aid disbursements. I am sure that all this can be done between now and January or February of next year, how about you?

The recent behavior of the school relative to its financial aid operations are instructive. In 2011, Watson and his administration took no responsibility for the scandal that occurred nearly two years into his presidency. They blamed the previous administration for all the difficulties. After that fiasco, you might think that the administration would conduct a thorough investigation of its financial aid practices, if only to avoid subsequent embarrassment. However, a look at the figure for unauthorized distributioin of financial aid reveal that of the $499,705 in non-approved disbursements, $312,919 (62.6 percent) took place under Watson. Not the kind of performance to inspire confidence.

How long must we suffer this incompetence? The administrative failure to take the necessary steps to ensure compliance with the provisional requirements imposed on the university by the DOE will subject the school to possible termination of its ability to grant financial aid. How many students will we have then? How many students are going to register for courses on the west side if the school cannot provide them with financial assistance? Is this ridiculous new campus sideshow worth the damage it might inflict upon Chicago State? How many of you feel confident that our financial aid wizards will do correctly what is required to ensure the smooth operation of the new campus? Who in our administration even knows what they are doing or even what they are talking about?

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Chicago State Faculty Senate is Recognized Again

I just received this a few minutes ago. It speaks for itself. I note, however, that unlike the earlier communications about this issue, this one was not sent to the entire faculty.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Wayne Watson Takes All the Credit in 2010 but He'll Take None of the Blame in 2014: The Orwellian World of the Chicago State Administration and the School's Board of Trustees

One of the things I find most troubling about Wayne Watson’s administration is the Orwellian nature of the rhetoric that frequently emanates from denizens of the Cook Building. Rather than address the substantive problems plaguing the school, the administration disseminates propaganda. Administrative communications create no conditions for a frank examination of our difficulties. Instead, the administration feeds us a false narrative of competence and control and dishes up empty jargon instead of real discussion.

The newly realized need to place blame for our enrollment declines everywhere but where it belongs illustrates this nicely. From 2010 on, the administration created a monstrosity called Enrollment Management, staffed it with well-paid cronies as upper-level administrators, and invested the people in charge of the unit with increasing responsibility for the affairs of the university. The result of this investment of taxpayer funds can be seen in the 29 percent drop in enrollment Chicago State has experienced since 2010.

Now, however, the enrollment disaster can no longer be ignored. Empirical data demonstrates the totality of the administration’s failure on that score. This year, the administration has stripped units from Enrollment Management and transferred them to either the President’s office or Academic Affairs. Is not the dilution of Enrollment Management’s responsibilities further evidence of its abysmal failure?

As I have noted previously, under this administration, notions of “accountability, transparency and responsibility” are nothing more than empty words. In fact, Watson assiduously avoids taking any responsibility for his numerous failures at Chicago State. Enrollment plunging? The faculty’s fault. Non-existent fund-raising? Blame the Foundation. Poor press relations? It is the media’s fault. Problems with idiotic mandated degree requirements? The faculty has no respect for the students. You get the idea. Apparently, the latest propaganda coming down from the administration will substitute for “accountability, transparency and responsibility,” the nonsensical claim that an uptick in enrollment is imminent. An increase, which, by definition, will occur in spite of the school’s faculty.

Yesterday, I mentioned the minutes of the March 8, 2010 Board of Trustees meeting. During the meeting, Watson received praise for his great leadership from his patron, Leon Finney. Of course the minutes only offer an expurgated account of a conversation that took place over a fifteen minute period during that meeting. I think this conversation is revealing in a number of ways and I will publish the transcript for your consideration. I will interject editorial comment where I feel it is appropriate. If anyone wishes to listen to the actual recording, it is available here: The exchange runs from 5:40 to 22:00.

The players in this drama include Wayne Watson, former University Provost Sandra Westbrooks, and Trustees Leon Finney and Levon James (Student Trustee). The conversation occurred during the Academic and Student Affairs Committee portion of the regular board meeting.

To begin, Sandra Westbrooks reports on the good enrollment news:

Westbrooks: “What I can tell you is enrollment is up overall by 19 percent.”

Next, Watson crows about what an unprecedented success this enrollment increase represents. The hyperbole of his comments aside, he gives all the credit to himself and his administrative leaders. When he “give[s] a lot of credit to our faculty,” he is really telling the board and the audience that the faculty functioned as facilitators of policies devised by his administration and executed by various deans:

Watson: “and that is why we’re so hesitant because the numbers are so high that made us"

Westbrooks: “pause.”

Watson: “pause and question ourselves. So we are scrubbing the numbers. We know we are significantly up, as you, ah, Fall Semester we led the state in terms of percentage increase.”

Westbrooks: “by 6.1 percent”.

Watson: “When we saw the numbers most recent, you know, we said take these back, rescrub them, ah, but we are significantly up.”

“We have never had that type of an increase, or retention of our students and yeah, I have to give a lot of credit to our faculty, our faculty stepped up, you know, ah, they stepped on a voluneer basis, to work with a concept called the early alert system. The concept was put in place in the fall, and, ah, the faculty made it happen. Dr. Green with her efforts and I have to give credit to the five deans, the five deans put in, just innumerable hours you know, just them personally, their staff, making phone calls, reaching out to students, all of that resulted in the highest retention of first-time full-time Freshmen from fall to spring that we’ve ever seen. Which also then led to this unusual enrollment increase that we have. Let me say that there are, there are some things we are looking at that we are concerned about, some of the students that we have retained, Dr. Green and her staff are working on those students, we have some students who have some academic challenges. We must address that, that is our responsibility, but the thing is that ah, we’re looking pretty strong, looking pretty strong in terms of enrollment right now.”

After a brief continuation of the enrollment report by Westbrooks, Leon Finney, the man most responsible for bringing Watson to Chicago State inserts himself into the conversation. For the next several minutes, he attempts to brow beat Westbrooks into conceding that the good news is because of the leadership of Wayne Watson (as reported in the minutes):

: “Thank you very much for this report. It seems to me that when we look at the way the school is operating now, in prior years, and compare it to prior years, something has changed. For some undocumented reason maybe, our, in comparison to other universities, in comparison to other universities and colleges, our enrollment is up, and we’re leading in the state. For some undocumented reason, our retention is up, and we’re leading the state there. I’ve been on this board now for five years, and I have yet to witness the kind of turnaround and performance that we’ve experienced this last twelve months, and I’m just curious as to where you as the provost would sort of summarize what’s happened here. We were viewed as a loser school and now we’re not. What happened?”

A nonplussed Westbrooks stumbles over her response, which Finney finds unacceptable. When the student trustee attempts to come to a grateful Westbrook’s assistance, Finney shuts him off.

Westbrooks: “Well Dr. Finney I think that number one it’s been a collective effort. I think that there are so many individuals on this campus, I mean we love this institution, and”

Finney: “but you loved the institution before, what happened?”

Westbrooks: "Well, um, I think that more of a concerted effort has been made, um, that’s been more focused. It’s not that we didn’t know what to do, it’s being able to do it, follow through, have some safety nets in place, but also I think it’s about accountability, um, because with that accountability a lot of people who used to be here are no longer here, so I think that all of those have been contributing factors as the university moves forward, and, but it’s not without hard work, because it’s not something that you put in place, you then have to do your follow-up meetings, or your debriefings. You always talk about what went well, but at the end of the day you want to know, but how can we improve upon whatever we’ve just accomplished. . . ."

Finney: “Let me ask you another question, it seems as though I’m not getting an answer, I’m getting an explanation, but, why wasn’t this present before?”

James: “I think I can help you.”

Westbrooks: “O.K., thank you.”

Finney: “But no, no, I’d like for her to answer the question, cause I’m not asking you Trustee, I’m asking this provost.”

James: “It’s not fair.”

Westbrooks: “Um Well a lot has to do with the leadership Dr. Finney, and I know that that it depends on, a lot of it has to do with the focus, at a point in time, what’s priority for the institution? And I think that the priority must drive everything we do as an institution. We can’t just say that enrollment, retention and graduation is a priority if you don’t have the strategy behind it and the accountability behind it. And I think that that the major difference.”

Finney: “So then, I guess, you’d say that maybe there’s been a change in management.”

Westbrooks: “Oh, definitely.”

Now that Finney has gotten the response he desired, he launches into a rambling narrative that ultimately vindicates him and the board for hiring Watson. Early in the narrative, Finney is unwittingly prescient, recounting complaints during the 2009 hiring process that the board “was taking this school backwards,” and that “the institution was going to go down the drain.”

Finney: “Ah, the reason I’m raising this is because this board, ah, went through a very very difficult process, ah, and the, during that process, the board was roundly criticized that it was taking this school backwards. Students got on the floor and represented that the baccalaureate, the master’s level and the doctoral degrees were going to be not of value, that the institution was going to go down the drain, ah, faculty members charged that, ah, the process was not one that was helpful, although we were able to document that the process had complied with the full extent of the law. And we’ve had now a period of time when you essentially served as the chief executive officer of this school and now we have a period where Dr. Watson has served as the chief executive officer of this school to oversee the day-to-day operation. I would submit to you that perhaps, it was the freedom, ah, that this board allowed, invested in you to do your job during the period of time from June, July 1 through October, ah, ah, to September and then, ah, having used, I think its best judgment in selecting Dr. Watson to be its president, ah, and now having him fully empowered and capable of doing his job, or doing the job of leading this institution, I suspect that, in my judgement as I now bring to a close of my fifth year on this board, I suspect that that’s been a major reason for why we have, we’re experiencing a turnaround, and in terms of the performance of this school. And I mention it at this particular point because I want the students that are here this morning to appreciate the fact that in a place like this, it is possible to have a moment of disagreement as to the direction of the school, ah, and yet, I think, achieve a positive purpose. We are all in a democratic society and this board is vested with the authority and responsibility of making sure that it has top quality management and then let the management be, take place. I’ve not been on this campus now for almost three months. It’s wonderful not to have to be on this campus and worry about the day-to-day operations of the school, because we have a team here that Dr. Watson is the head of, and you are, ah, the chief operating officer that’s able to work and get the work, the job done. And so for me, ah, my narrow little point of view, I think that it represents, um, wisdom on the part of this board, ah, investing in you the authority to carry forth the job as provost, and wisdom as it . . . engaged in a process of selecting a new president. And so, I don’t want to take any credit, all I think we have to as policy makers is to be careful to select those people that we believe are able to do the job, ah, and let ‘em do the job, and, um, now I feel somewhat vindicated that the decision that I participated in was the right decision moving forward.”

The student trustee then chimes in with a corrective view that actually includes references to the efforts made by students and staff to improve things at Chicago State:

James: “Might I add to that, simply put, you cannot flatly attributed the successes that have happened over this period purely to the hirings that have gone on. There would have been no president who could have come into this university after what transpired last year without a commitment to understanding the needs of the student population and hearing and addressing their concerns. It is directly because of that commitment to hear and address the concerns of the students on this campus that we are seeing a turnaround. And if we want to attributed congratulations and accolades to individuals, let’s contribute it to the students from Student Government Association, the students from SWAT, the students from . . . the ah, everyday student who took a personal interest in their education and the individuals administering that area and came in and sat through meeting after meeting after meeting trying to work through these issues to make sure that those things that prohibited the university from being able to retain and enroll students didn’t continue. And along with that, the members of the staff here definitely were there and helped with, um, giving us the expertise and the knowledge that they possess to coordinate that effort. If it wasn’t for the staffing as well as the students, we would not have the successes that we have today.”

In his final gurgle, Finney praises Westbrooks, astounding given the overall reproving tone of his previous observations. Remember that Westbrooks resigned in 2009 along with most of the other members of the presidential search committee. It seems clear from the discernible discomfort Westbrooks felt earlier as Finney directed his badgering questions toward her that she did not anticipate any compliments coming from Watson’s benefactor. Nonetheless, after giving her his best stern and fatherly guidance, Finney threw her a bone in his praise for Westbrook’s ability to hear all the great ideas disseminated by Wayne Watson.

Finney: “Well, I don’t disagree with you in terms of the involvement of the students. What the key thing was, and I want to represent here, was that we had a change in leadership that in my judgement, was, is a good thing and I wanted to point out that Dr. Westbrook, ah, was material in that. And she had an open ear, which simply says that perhaps the previous administration didn't have an open ear and didn’t permit the students to ah, exercise, um, exercise their engagement, involvement, and so we have what we have and I want to now just close this, ah, moment now to say that you ought to be commended, Dr. Westbrook, and Dr. Watson, ah, is too and I call for the orders of the day.”

As current events demonstrate, our contemporary board has not changed much. They are still offering up hearty portions of Orwellian rhetoric to elide a hard look at actual events at this university. As the waves crash over the deck the board plays their one note over and over again. “We believe in Wayne Watson’s vision.” Shame on Leon Finney for bringing us this disaster and shame on Anthony Young, James Joyce, Michael Curtin, Spencer Leak, Horace Smith and Nikki Zollar for not possessing the insight to identify the real source of Chicago State’s problems and end this travesty.