Sunday, March 1, 2015

WHAT'S A GIRL TO DO? When CSU's administration asked her to withhold information from the Board of Trustees, backdate contracts, perjure herself and make false accusations against the President's faculty enemy, one Administrator said "no" and was fired. CSU and the Board have another lawsuit for retaliatory termination.

Last week, LaShondra Peebles, formerly of CSU's Enrollment Management (2012-2014) filed suit against the University for retailiatory discharge (violation of Illinois State Officials and Employees Act 5ILCS 430/15-5). Many already know about the lawsuit and have read the document outlining the case. I confess that I was absolutely sickened by its allegations. This is what our upper administration does--cover-up, coerce, skirt the edges of criminal activity. 

Dr. Watson and the Board of Trustees are named in this lawsuit as defendants, but CSU Officers: Bernetta Bush (the university Ethics Officer) and Angela Henderson (Int. VP and Int. Provost), as well as CSU Management: lawyer Patrick Cage and Renee Mitchell Director of Human Resources are cited in the document as "at all times relevant to this Complaint."  The allegations about the role of Bernetta Bush, a lawyer and an ex-judge in Watson's administration, are particularly troubling. 

In the suit, Ms. Peebles alleges: 
1. Coercion to withhold information and mislead the Board of Trustees about CSU's provisional status and restrictions on renewal of our Dept. of Ed. participation agreement to receive federal financial aid for students in summer and Fall of 2013. Dr Watson is alleged to have advised "that it was not a good idea to share the information with the Board at that time and the Board was not going to be advised of CSU's provisional status" (art. 26 below). In case your memory is hazy, this was going on at the time of Dr Watson's great victory over the Rozier Board of Trustees who dared to try to exercise their right as overseers of the university and evict him from the presidency. This is in the Fall of 2013,  the period when Quinn's new board members--headed by Anthony Young-- were granting him an extension on his contract and fawning praise over his "vision."

2. Coercion to backdate a contract for the Sodexo Corporation who did approximately $1 million of work for the university without a contract. [Note to self: wasn't there a question about this sort of thing on the last ILL State Ethics Exam?]

3.  Coercion on at least five different occasions for LaShondra Peebles (and at least once for an employee under Peebles) to file false allegations of sexual harassment against Dr. Phillip Beverly. We learn from this document that President Watson wanted to be informed of any conversation any of his administrators had with Phillip Beverly; we learn of strategy sessions about how to shut down the faculty blog. How much time and energy have they actually spent on this and on what to do with Phillip Beverly?  By this account Dr Beverly appears to be  Dr Watson's white whale--(apologies to Herman Melville). 

So read through the details here for yourselves. For a dispassionate legal document it is positively lurid reading. Who exactly are these people? Have you ever met them in the academy that you know? Who do they think they are to get away with this stuff? What kind of institution is this?  Is this the Chicago State we want?

Friday, February 27, 2015

Another Case of Retaliation at Chicago State: The Watson Administration Closes the HIV-AIDS Research Institute to Punish its Director for Standing Up to Them

What follows is my reconstruction of the events that resulted in the Watson administration’s elimination of Chicago State’s HIV-AIDS Research and Policy Institute and the removal of its Director, Tom Lyons. This vindictive and retaliatory action, apparently driven by Watson and Angela Henderson, exposes the university to the potential loss of a $2 million grant and demonstrates the administration’s appetite for vengeance, even at the cost of our students’ and the community's welfare. To regular readers of this blog, this is a familiar story.

As are all of Watson’s administrators, Lyons occupied a precarious position. Save for a small cadre of insiders who can apparently do nothing bad enough to incur Watson’s enmity, other CSU administrators are only one poorly chosen comment away from receiving their walking papers. The failure to express sufficient enthusiasm for the asinine and inept ideas of Watson and his insider cronies, or the high crime of “disloyalty” for even speaking in opposition to the great leader immediately exposes the perpetrator to increased scrutiny. Ultimately, if the miscreant is unable to rehabilitate her or himself, the Watson slime machine kicks into gear. Here is what happened to Tom Lyons.

Lyons began questioning the administration’s treatment of Willie Preston in February 2014. What he knew spurred him to learn more and in March 2014, he began to conclude that something was amiss in the official story of Willie Preston’s behavior. On March 21, 2014, he wrote this in an e-mail:

I spoke with Marie Donovan, a faculty member at DePaul University who was present at the IBHE meeting last fall which was the grounds for Willie Preston's expulsion. She confirmed that he made no threats. In fact, she stated that at the time, she believed what he was saying, although she thought it was the wrong forum to raise the charges.

About a week after this meeting, Angela Henderson filed an order of protection against Willie at the Markham County Courthouse. He was expelled after this

In mid-April, the obvious injustice of the Preston case spurred Lyons to write one of the members of the Board of Trustees in an attempt to advocate for Willie Preston. On May 6, 2014, Lyons attended Preston’s hearing on the trespassing charges the university filed against Preston in March 2014. At the Cook County Circuit Court in Markham, he encountered Angela Henderson, her husband, the CSU Director of Judicial Affairs and two uniformed campus police. Lyons also saw the cozy relationship that existed between Preston’s attorney (who was trying to convince him to plead guilty) and at least one university administrator. He describes the scene this way:

Although my understanding is that she was not required to be there, Mrs. Henderson attended with her husband Victor (Watson's personal attorney), along with Dierdre Cato the director of judicial affairs and two uniformed campus police. I assume that Mrs. Henderson planned to testify and weep emotionally in front of the judge as Willie tells me she did at his expulsion hearing.

Willie's attorney, Bernard Sheldon, showed up almost two hours late. Deirdre Cato actually called him on his cell phone in the hallway after the hearing and he went over to talk to her. He was overheard telling her ‘there was nothing he could do’ (to prevent the continuance?). The judge issued the continuance only because Henderson's side filed some paperwork late.

So Willie was nearly tried and sentenced in a courtroom where he was represented by a lawyer who was apparently in cahoots with Watson and Henderson.

Although she did not speak to Lyons at the hearing, Henderson seemed quite displeased to see him. According to Lyons, she had “daggers” in her eyes. Lyons then compounded his treason against the Watson crony by reading a letter from Willie Preston to the Board of Trustees on May 9, 2014 (following the choking and arrest of Jokari Miller at the same meeting). Here are some excerpts from Preston’s letter:

I was suspended and ultimately expelled from CSU because I openly ran on a platform to utilize the office of the student trustee to express what I grew to understand to be the will of the student body, which is the removal of President Wayne Watson as President of CSU. To be clear, my removal from the university was purely politically motivated. In addition, since that time, I’ve been further attacked by university officials for continuing my endeavor to articulate the reasons why CSU needs new leadership. Specifically, I’ve been falsely accused of a number of ugly things by Interim Provost Angela Henderson.”

After his May activities, Lyons realized that Angela Henderson had started asking questions of his Dean about the HIV-AIDS Center’s function and apparently began suggesting that “institutes” on campus should be abolished. Despite Henderson’s ham-handed threats, Lyons continued his effort to see justice done for Willie Preston, which undoubtedly estranged him even further from the Watson regime.

On December 19, 2014, Willie Preston won a complete victory over Angela Henderson and Chicago State when a Circuit Court Judge vacated the specious order of protection illegally granted to Angela Henderson. Ultimately, on February 5, 2015, another Circuit Court Judge dismissed the ridiculous criminal trespassing charge against Preston (which had been based on the bogus order of protection). Note to Watson’s stooges: this is what “exoneration” looks like, in contrast to having some well-connected “fixer” take care of a troublesome problem.

Frustrated with its inability to railroad Willie Preston into jail, the administration had to find someone to punish. Given his consistent support of Preston, Tom Lyons seemed a likely candidate. On January 23, 2015, our execrable administration notified Lyons that his research institute would be closed and that he would be returned to faculty status. As an added slap in the face, the administration told him he would receive the minimum salary possible for the rank of Associate Professor.

In response to the administration’s obvious retaliation, Lyons wrote the following letter:

I think the letter speaks for itself and underscores the ethical bankruptcy of the Watson administration.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

And This Just In...

So Governor Rauner has followed in the footsteps of his predecessors, Blago and the Jellyfish and appointed yet another pastor to the CSU Board of Trustees. That makes four pastors in the past six years. No other state university has even had one. The pandering to African-Americans knows no party boundaries. And there were no other qualified candidates to serve this university? Maybe someone with experience is higher education? What kind of crony nonsense is this???
SMH (Shaking My Head) as my daughter would text.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


So I was reading about tenure recently, which is strange because I have been tenured for 16 years so it never really crossed my mind to re-examine it until recently. I have been asked why do I post the things I do on this blog and why do I give voice to the dissatisfaction felt by many of my colleagues. I actually do this because it is the right thing to do and I feel the burden that tenure imposes. Tenure is not a job for life. It is a responsibility to protect the higher ideals of the institution. It is actually an arrangement between the faculty member and the university that due process will be used to dismiss a tenured professor and the grounds for that will be evaluated by faculty. Its original purpose was to protect academic freedom, the introduction and spread of controversial ideas and the criticism of those in power. Without tenure the academy is meaningless. So as my colleagues and I expose the utterly contemptible mismanagement of this university, I am heartened by that fact that I am using my tenure status to serve the greater good of the university. I have advised junior colleagues for some years to avoid conflict as petty tyrants will deny tenure to vulnerable employees. The current president has abrogated the contract so often that it is now virtually a suggestion in his eyes. Therefore, I have come to believe that un-tenured faculty should stay out of the line of fire because their academic freedom is not as protected as mine is. Additionally, un-tenured faculty tend not to have longevity at the institution thus don’t have the corporate memory of the place. Consequently, their perspectives aren’t necessarily as broad or deep as those of us who have been here more than ten years. There has been discussion in the Faculty Senate about having tenured faculty only serve in that body so that vulnerable employees are not subjected to retaliation for voting no confidence in a plagiarizing provost or condemning the actions of a failed president (pick an action). The Senate President must be tenured so that pressure cannot be applied when misconduct is detected and brought to the public's attention. This principle applies to certain search committees as well. The current regime cherry picks faculty amenable to their ambitions and that is  detrimental to the university. A faculty member with less than three years of service at CSU should never be on the search committee for a vice president. Though not a member of the UPI Executive Committee, I would imagine that tenured faculty would best serve the university in protecting the contractual rights of the members. Otherwise untoward pressure could be brought to bear upon un-tenured faculty serving in critical union roles. My invitation to my tenured faculty colleagues is to embrace the responsibility of tenure and join in protecting the university from further harm.

In a previous post I attempted to provide a balanced critique of the role of the former Illinois State Senate President Emil Jones. After some reflection, I discovered there were some other important things that he did for the university that I did not mention. First, he got the university a percentage of the gambling money from the last gambling license awarded by the State. That battle yielded several million dollars in funds used to directly support our students. The lack of financial resources is the number one impediment for our students. Other state universities expressed their displeasure over CSU getting the funds thus it is imperative that those funds be used and distributed appropriately. Putting someone with no financial aid experience in charge of those funds was sheer folly. As the softest target in the state for budget cuts, I hope the university isn't at risk of losing those monies. Senator Jones also provided start up money for the university to open a Policy Institute, which in subsequent years failed because of university administrative mismanagement. Like his support in other areas it was done without fanfare or publicity. Senator Jones was also instrumental in getting money for the university to get several of its academic programs and the College of Business accredited. Those activities cost money and the past president leaned on Senator Jones to get resources. It was usually the administration that found a way to mismanage those resources. Loyal readers, if you know of other instances of Senator Jones providing help to the university, let me know.

And finally watch this space for the next chapter of As The University Gets Sued.

Monday, February 23, 2015

An Update on the Unfolding Presidential Search Process

On February 18, 2015, Nikki Zollar, Chicago State University Trustee and Chair of the incipient Presidential Search Committee sent a memorandum to Faculty Senate President Beverly detailing the procedure for selection of faculty for the upcoming presidential search. Zollar "invites" the Faculty Senate to provide her a list of "nominees" (at least 5 [five]), from which someone--ostensibly Zollar or Zollar in concert with other Search Committee members--will choose 2 (two). In addition, three other faculty committee members will be chosen by someone unspecified. Zollar's memorandum insists that the Faculty Senate provide these names by Wednesday, February 25, 2015. In a search that simply must be transparent and above-board, Zollar's various conditions represent a somewhat inauspicious beginning.

In the 2008-09 presidential search, faculty committee members emerged from a democratic election held in each college. The six faculty chosen by their peers to serve on the committee came from each one of the university's four colleges, the library and I believe, the Counseling Center. In sum, faculty from all the university's academic units had at least a voice in the process. This selection procedure stands in stark contrast to the recent top-down directions from the current Search Committee Chair.

The members of the Chicago State Faculty Senate discussed this issue over the weekend and came to the consensus that we should draft an open letter to Zollar detailing our objections to a process in which the majority of the "faculty" representatives will be chosen by someone other than the faculty itself. Even the Faculty Senate's "nominees" would be screened for suitability based on some secret criteria. Remarkably, Zollar's memorandum specifically excludes the incumbent Faculty Senate President from service on this vital committee.

Speaking for myself, Zollar's memorandum does nothing to allay my fears that this search already has a pre-selected candidate. Recent "nationwide" searches conducted by the Chicago State Board of Trustees do not offer much reason for optimism--we have spent lots of money only to wind up with candidates whose qualifications are simply inadequate. Frankly, this search appears to begin by following a familiar script. Given the problems we have experienced over the past several years, I find it unimaginable that anyone wants to see a reprise of the kind of contention that this campus experienced in 2008-09.

Ultimately, I believe that Zollar's response to our letter will clarify the intention of Chicago State's Board. I think that if the Board addresses our concerns with a heavy-handed "my way or the highway" pronouncement that our university can expect another divisive and unproductive search. The Faculty Senate is willing to work with other members of the university community to insure the viability of the search process. We believe more than sufficient time exists to create a process that will meet with the approval of all the interested constituencies. How the Board feels about the search we will soon discover. Here are the two pieces of correspondence:

Saturday, February 21, 2015

What Wayne Watson May Ask of His Administrators: A Study in Pathological Leadership

Job announcements for administrative positions at Chicago State include typical boilerplate statements about specific qualifications and requirements. Ostensibly, these qualifications and requirements represent the sum total of what an applicant must possess to be able to land an administrative job here. However, Wayne Watson has his own set of qualifications and requirements. Documentary evidence uncovered over the past several years enables me to offer this assessment of these Watsonian criteria for administrative employment. While not all administrators can expect to be called upon to perform the duties enumerated below, a number have demonstrated their loyalty to Watson by participating in one or more of these activities. Altogether, these distinct and unspoken requirements paint a portrait of a purported university administration that can best be described as pathological.

The most important criterion Watson considers is political reliability. This overshadows all other considerations, especially competence. A cursory glance at the top-level administrators at Chicago State reveals the large number of well-positioned personal friends and cronies in the Watson regime. Watson expects constant acquiescence to his demands and pronouncements, no matter how unethical or how much they might contravene established policy or even law. Watson describes the willingness of his flunkies to unquestionably do his bidding as “integrity,” which means that anyone who opposes his edicts acts without integrity. There are a number of actions Watson may call upon his subordinates to undertake on his behalf:

First, when called upon to do so, he expects his administrators to lie and cover-up administrative incompetence or malfeasance, regardless of the potential damage to their reputations or the risk to their positions. For a specific example of this kind of Watsonian behavior refer to the James Crowley case or the earlier case of Maria Moore.

Second, when called upon to do so, he expects his administrators to participate in the efforts of the Watson slime machine to not only discredit, but destroy his critics and perceived “enemies.” See again, Watson’s dealings with James Crowley and Maria Moore along with the administration’s treatment of Willie Preston.

Third, when called upon to do so, he expects his administrators to take the full blame for Watson’s failures, despite the consequences for their own careers. A number of people have been victimized by this pathology, including to name just a few: Lois Davis, Carnice Hill and Mary Butler. The layoffs and staff reductions coming soon will likely produce a new crop of victims of this pathology.

Fourth, as a companion piece to Watson’s long demonstrated propensity to blame others for his failures, when called upon to do so, Watson expects his administrators to remain silent while Watson takes the credit for accomplishments he essentially has little to do with. The resplendent examples of this pathology abound. This deadly leadership quality is neatly summarized by Mike Myatt in Forbes Magazine: “Real leaders are accountable. They don’t blame others, don’t claim credit for the success of their team, but always accept responsibility for failures that occur on their watch.”

Fifth, before and after Watson’s scandals come to light, he expects his administrators to maintain strict silence in order to protect him from scrutiny. Ths pathology falls under the rubric of “not airing our dirty linen in public,” as if this place were some kind of fiefdom. Most important, Watson’s constant huffing and puffing about “transparency” is dishonest and designed to cover for an administrative culture that is anything but transparent. This pathology includes the university administration’s consistent refusal to respond to requests for information filed under FOIA.

Obviously, there are a number of honest, hard-working administrators at Chicago State. However, enough administrators have been willing to enable or even actively assist Watson as he sets about the task of destroying this institution. As I have said previously, Chicago State is not managed like an educational institution. We are plagued with a crony-riven administration that has demonstrated both its vindictiveness and its incompetence. Watson and his cronies have driven the school to the brink of extinction and unless we experience some kind of deus ex machina, it seems likely this situation will become more and more intolerable.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Just a Bit of Balance

So my distinguished colleague Corday has consistently highlighted the iniquity of the patronage pit that is Chicago State University. Corday has pointed out that one of the key figures in the ascension of CSU to legendary patronage pit status has been former Illinois State Senate President Emil Jones. What has been written is true AND there is always more to the story. 
In the spirit of full disclosure, you loyal readers must know that I was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago and I view local politics a bit differently than my colleagues who aren’t from Chicago. I expect cronyism, and graft and corruption. I don’t expect high ethical standards from elected officials or their hangers on like CSU’s disgraced president. My colleagues from out of state are amazed at the level of corruption and I experience it as normal for Illinois.
Second, politics in Chicago is never as cut and dried as one would imagine. There are elements of race, ethnicity and class that can never be disaggregated from the larger political context of Chicago and Illinois. The participation of African-Americans in the political process has rarely been one of full and equal actor. Black votes have been taken for granted by the political machine for decades. Black elected officials have often made sacrifices that taken out of context appear suspect but I believe require a deeper inquiry. With that in mind, let’s paint a richer picture of the man portrayed as the Godfather of CSU.
The university’s past president, Elnora Daniel, relied extensively, almost exclusively, on Senator Jones to cover shortfalls because of administrative mismanagement. When the university would come up short it was his leadership behind the scenes, without fanfare that kept CSU afloat.
When Walgreens approached the university about a College of Pharmacy there were many battles
fought in Springfield to keep CSU from getting what would be a jewel for the university. It was Senator Jones who, again, behind the scenes and without fanfare, ensured that CSU’s College of Pharmacy would open. He didn’t concern himself with the academic or programmatic details. He focused on the big picture of how the College of Pharmacy would benefit the university, the community, the city and the state. It is safe to say, that without his efforts, there would be no College of Pharmacy at Chicago State University.
This university had needed a new library for many years. It was Senator Jones who worked tirelessly to ensure that the university got a library. If you check some of the press coverage at the time you will see there were some who thought CSU was getting undeserved largesse as a result of Senator Jones’ efforts. As a member of the community I can assure you we needed a new library. In the digital era, it is unlikely we will ever get another library so this one was critical to our future.
At the same time, the university was trying to get the library built, it was also trying to get a Convocation Center. Previously, CSU relied upon the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Pavilion to conduct its semi-annual commencement exercises. Beyond cost, it was extremely inconvenient for staff, faculty and students to attend. So Senator Jones pulled double duty and ensured that money was available for both projects simultaneously. I can only imagine the political capital that was spent to have both projects brought online. 
Before that the ILSAMP program, which has produced several hundred minority undergraduate and graduate degree awardees in STEM areas since 1993, experienced a funding shortfall in 1999 and it was Senator Jones who provided $500K as a one year bridge until federal funding could be restored.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the Emil Jones Foundation made a $200K contribution to the university after he left the Illinois State Senate. His support for this university has usually been done quietly and without fanfare. That had me look at his political persona and I concluded, he is not the kind of politician who is self aggrandizing. He doesn’t call a press conference for every minor performance of his duties. He doesn’t publicly remind beneficiaries of his efforts. In short, he has done what he could, fought the political battles to protect the university and help advance it. He never got caught up in the details, just the big picture of how might he make the university better.
So it was very disturbing to hear that the current president actually considered an offer by a large corporation to rename the Convocation Center that bears his name. I would hope that small token of appreciation wouldn’t be swept away by this failed administration given how much Emil Jones has done for this university for decades, both as an elected official and a private citizen. It smacks of a petulance unbecoming any president but not surprising from this one.
At the end of the day Wayne Watson is still president of this university because Emil Jones did what he has done for decades, namely do what he thought was right for the institution. It turned out to be the wrong choice and I don’t fault him for it. Leaders make decisions. Sometimes they are the wrong ones. It doesn't stop them from making other decisions. All I want from him now is to do the next right thing and help this university rebuild from the damage of an utterly failed president. I would imagine if he were interested, he would do it as he always has, behind the scenes and without fanfare.
Senator Jones, once again, will you step into the breach and help rescue an institution that you have invested so much in?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Here Comes Another Lawsuit

Another "disgruntled" former employee filed a lawsuit against Wayne Watson and Chicago State yesterday. As soon as details are available, we'll let you know.

The New Financial Audit: Our Inept Administration Spins

Hey everyone, it’s time to get excited: the first audit report is out! This is the financial audit, it’s full of numbers and things like that, but there’s some interesting text too. That is what I will focus on in this post, but I promise that I’ll have another soon with lots and lots of figures. In this piece, I will examines the Management Discussion and Analysis and offer my own translations of the meanings of various segments of this multi-page monument to dissembling. This is where the school’s administration gets to spin like crazy to give the impression they have some kind of an idea what they are doing. Of course, we know differently. Along the way, I will test the veracity of Watson’s “right-sizing” bullshit. Anyway, if you want to see the report for yourself, it’s on the Illinois Auditor General’s web site.

After several years of claiming that the university is in a “strong” financial position, this year’s iteration of the MD&A, is somewhat more cautious. This year’s “highlights” are also a classic example of the rhetorical gyrations upon which this administration depends to hide its incompetence. However, their ineptitude inevitably seeps through. In the 2014 “highlights,” the administration talked only about financial matters, somewhat appropriate in a financial audit. However, there were not very many financial “highlights” handy in 2015. Thus, the administration had to change the subject. Rather than talking about finances, it talked about graduation and retention. Of particular note are these passages, which should induce gales of laughter from anyone acquainted with Chicago State’s dire enrollment situation. First, “[t]he University continues to remain competitive in the Chicagoland higher education market by . . . building on-demand niches . . .” (what are those?) Then, “the University continues to allocate resources for student recruiting . . . with proven results.” Certainly, the university can point to proven results, a drop of only 2544 students in four years. Here is the excerpt:

In translation, I think what our administrators are really saying is something along the lines of “we are utterly clueless as to how to address our worsening enrollment crisis, nothing we try seems to work and we hope you won’t notice.”

Of course, the administration of a school in the process of “right-sizing” its student population need not concern itself with enrollment declines. After all, are not those losses part of the master plan? Wayne Watson has, at least for the past few months, asserted that these enrollment declines are all part of building a stronger institution. Unfortunately, the behavior of our administration belies his ridiculous claims. There are a number of references in the financial audit to the deleterious effects on our financial condition caused by our enrollment decline. Embedded in these references is additional information that speaks to the epic failures of our enrollment strategies and the people who create and implement them. Two excerpts from the report address the enrollment decline:

In excerpt one, we see that the administration adopted “deeper tuition discounts” in a vain attempt to check the exodus of students from the univesity. In excerpt two, the administration described its enrollment strategies as “increased scholarship allowances . . . to level tuition enrollment.” The excerpts:

I think that what the administration is truly saying here is that “we are terrified that this runaway enrollment drop will continue and we are willing to give money to anyone who will take it, as long as it keeps them in school and, most important, keeps us employed in our highly-compensated positions.” Unfortunately for that ever-growing army of administrators looting the school, neither strategy appears particularly successful.

No discussion of Chicago State’s administration would be complete without the revelation of another lie coming from personnel in the Cook building. On January 13, 2015, at a Faculty Senate meeting, Angela Henderson told the Senate that the idea for ending the contract between the university and the CSU foundation came from the Board. Here is a summary of her comments:

Here is the material from the audit report. It oozes dishonesty:

Lo and behold, in the most recent audit, the administration told the Auditors about its plans to create a “new” fund-raising entity for Chicago State. As the administration’s statement indicates, the idea for this move came from “the University,” which, of course, means Wayne Watson. Is there any wonder the people in our administration have lost their credibility? Personally, I think it is time to stop acting like the people who “run” this university have the faintest idea what they are doing. They are simply a bunch of incompetents who have taken us to the brink.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Wayne Watson, Failure: Why is He Such a Terrible President?

As Wayne Watson desperately hangs on to his position at Chicago State, it seems like the “end game” is becoming clearer. He intends to saddle the university with one of his cronies as successor, an effort the Board of Trustees is likely to endorse. This will insure the ultimate destruction of Chicago State since the most likely crony candidate has done much to contribute to the multiple failures of the Watson regime.

As we begin 2015, Chicago State University is fighting for its existence. No need to go into the disastrous numbers again, although they are a concrete symbol of administrative failure. The potential consequences of that failure should be apparent to anyone who cares about this school. Looking back over the past five-plus years, the kind of problems we are experiencing are understandable. After all, in 2009, the Board of Trustees forced arguably the worst university president in the United States down the throats of Chicago State’s students, staff and faculty.

In 2009, Wayne Watson had worn out his welcome at City Colleges and with Mayor Richard Daley. Although a loyal political hack, Watson’s tenure as City Colleges’ Chancellor had produced alarming enrollment declines and an embarrassing drop in the system’s academic performance. Of course, as a party acolyte, he could not be unceremoniously discarded so Daley cronies like Leon Finney and Richard Tolliver decided to install him at Chicago State as sort of a reward for his years of sycophancy. After all, there are jobs and contracts to dole out at Chicago State.

Not surprisingly, Watson got off to a rocky start at Chicago State, as he became embroiled in a contract controversy which delayed his “official” start date until October 1, 2009. Of course, by that time, he was double-dipping, drawing a pension of around $140,000 while earning another $250,000 from Chicago State. As part of his going-away gifts from the taxpayers of Chicago, Watson also got a nice payout worth around $800,000. Not a bad deal. He increased his yearly earnings by about one third and got a mansion to live in and a car and a driver to boot. I guess failure has its own set of rewards, at least in Illinois.

For the past five years, this failure has blighted the school. Why is he such a bad president? In 2013, K. Johnson Bowles analyzed the role of the university president for the Inside Higher Ed. Here are some excerpts from that article, see how many remind you of our president:

“The institutional leader must exude passion, urgency and confidence (not to be confused with arrogance).” (how would you describe Wayne Watson?)

“A president must know the law and have excellent counsel, must ensure that the institution acts with integrity and honesty . . .” (does any of this apply to Watson’s administration at Chicago State?)

“And by the time a problem is great enough to land in front of a president, the problem is often quite large . . .” (our president doesn’t deal well with “large” problems, enrollment for instance. Instead, he micro-manages the minute details of the university’s day-to-day operations, particularly in faculty areas of influence)

“Yes, it is important for the leader to be emblematic of higher education by being an expert in her field and having a terminal degree.” (Have you stopped laughing about this one yet? Watson an “expert” in his field?)

“A president must be able to relate to, understand, and appreciate all disciplines within the institution.” (Not much to say about this one is there?)

The role of university president “requires a superior type of intelligence. . . the type of intelligence that synthesizes and applies knowledge in a visionary way to create strategies for success and distinction. It is an innovative, deep, steadfast intelligence seen in the likes of a Nobel laureate.” (Another thigh-slapper. Wayne Watson, Nobel laureate? Maybe he can get one of his friends or cronies to bestow that title upon him before his departure)

K. Erskine Bowles, “The President’s Many Roles.” Insider Higher Ed July 1, 2013.

Here’s the link to the article:

Keeping in mind the outline sketched by Bowles, here is an example of Wayne Watson’s “leadership.” It is difficult to imagine any university president dealing with such mundane matters as hiring. Here at Chicago State, however, Watson inserts himself into hiring decisions in remarkable ways. This is one example from 2010-11, sent recently by one of our faculty colleagues. I could cite more but this seems to capture the essence of Watson’s interference: “this person [applied for a faculty position] in our department . . . in 2010-2011 . . . the president wanted to screen every applicant's name and requested her CV. Before the end of the day, the president sent the CV back with a BIG NO written on it. We did not proceed with the hiring process.”

While Watson busies himself with trivial matters, the house burns around him. Despite a mountain of evidence proving the abject failure of his presidency, the Board does nothing. In his most recent contract, the Board’s “performance criteria” remains what it had been in 2009. Here is the relevant portion of the contract:

Of the seven criteria, Watson clearly has failed in four: enrollment, fund-raising, the university’s public image and faculty relations (despite assertions to the contrary from Watson stooges). While audit findings have dropped, they reached stratospheric levels early in the Watson presidency, so the jury is still out on that criterion.

Speaking of juries and thinking about the president’s need to “know the law,” receive “excellent counsel,” and insure that the “institution acts with honesty and integrity,” Maria Moore at City Colleges and James Crowley, Willie Preston and Jokari Miller come to mind. Of course, honesty and integrity are not specific criteria for evaluation. In Wayne Watson’s case, perhaps they should be.

So what will Wayne Watson’s legacy be? According to university public relations people, Watson’s achievements include “renewed accreditation, a reduction in the number of audit findings, an increase in academic standards and better relations with the South Side community.” Heady accomplishments in five years, and only one connected to the purported evaluation criteria. Interesting that the university fails to mention Watson’s singular achievement: his dramatic expansion of both the number of administrators and the salary expenditures for those persons. An article about another university president seems quite applicable to Chicago State: “a whole lot of it (money) goes directly into the pockets of a metastasizing cadre of university administrators, whose jobs, as nearly as I’ve been able to determine . . . consist of inventing justifications for their own existence while harassing faculty . . .”

Kate Thayer and Jodi Cohen, “Chicago State president to retire,” Chicago Tribune, February 6, 2015.

Paul Campos, “The Lessons of the Megalomaniac University President,” Time June 6, 2013.

Frankly, Wayne Watson has never been up to this job. If he is not removed immediately, if he is allowed to anoint his successor, the university will surely fail. In a major Civil War film, one of the characters remarks that “there’s men dying down that road.” In the case of Chicago State University, if we follow the course that Watson has mapped out, there will be a university dying down that road.