Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Crowley Case Comes To A Merciful End

So this humble source of information has followed the James Crowley lawsuit for the past several years. I can now report that it appears that this case has come to a merciful end. Today the Illinois Supreme Court denied the defendant's appeal and declined to hear the case. The Supreme Court will issue its mandate to the Illinois Appellate Court on June 29th and the Appellate Court will issue its mandate within about 2-4 weeks after that to the Circuit Court for final disposition of the case. 
It appears that the legal system in the State of Illinois believes that employees who follow ethics laws and rules should not be retaliated against by unethical superiors. Too bad the former administration mouthpiece isn't here to tell the world that the university will win on appeal and that insurance will cover the costs of this avoidable legal action. I don't believe insurance will pay for $2 million in punitive damages. At the end of the day however, it falls to the Board of Trustees to explain why they chose not to remove a failed president from office and minimize the damage to the university and the cost to the taxpayers. 

Thanks Board. Another $5 million wasted because you wouldn't do your job.

And congratulations to my former/returning?? colleague Jim Crowley for persevering through this arduous process and to his distinguished counsel for exposing the true nature of the Watson regime.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

What We've Gone Through: An Indictment of Public Officials in Illinois

The recently published Tribune Editorial, “Saving Chicago State,” missed the mark in several important ways. Let’s take a look over the past six-plus years and detail the various scandals and failures of the Watson administration—scandals which in any legitimately run university would have earned the president a pink slip for horrendous performance. The Tribune’s editorial took some of the state’s politicians, Chicago State’s administrators, and the university’s Board to task in the most ineffective manner, ignoring the behavior of a number of individuals responsible for the woeful state of affairs at the university. Along the way, the Tribune ignored its own culpability for failing to take a stand on the ongoing problems at Chicago State—problems it knew about.

As the editorial makes clear, however, students, faculty, and even most of the university’s staff are blameless in this disgrace. We had no input into decisions that have damaged the university. We have little or no access to the Board of Trustees. Despite our entreaties to various politicians, state agencies, the Board, private watchdog groups, even the Governor, people in a position to do something about the deteriorating conditions at Chicago State chose to do nothing. Now, of course, they’re shocked! shocked! to find problems at Chicago State. Here’s a recap of the key events of the past six-plus years. All of these issues appeared on the CSU Faculty blog, and a number even got into the mainstream media. None of these events were sufficient to spur anyone to action.

2009

• Spring 2009: after a sham search, the Board, led by Leon Finney and Richard Tolliver, appoint Wayne Watson President of Chicago State. Faculty and staff do not want either of the two finalists, and the Faculty Senate implores Governor Quinn to step in, fill vacancies on the Board, and restart the search. In contrast to Quinn’s quick action in the “clout scandal” at the University of Illinois, he does nothing. Watson is appointed at a Board meeting to a chorus of boos.
• Soon after his appointment, Watson’s first scandal surfaces as he is unable to assume his duties as President because of retirement complications. He claims he’s “volunteering” until October 1, but makes decisions and performs a number of Presidential duties. He also moves into the mansion. A FOIA request at that time results in an argument with James Crowley about which records are responsive to the FOIA request. Watson fires Crowley in early 2010. Crowley sues. More on this later.
• In July 2009, Maria Moore sued Watson for “retaliatory discharge” at the City Colleges. Moore’s complaint detailed Watson’s ethical violations and his abusive and bullying behavior. More on this later
• October 2009: Watson officially takes over, brings in several cronies to staff key senior administrative positions. Creates a $90,000 position for his girlfriend Cheri Sidney.

2010

• Watson’s first year results in a modest enrollment increase. Leon Finney praises him, citing his “leadership” as the reason for the enrollment gain.
• Watson begins incursions into university curriculum, something he is spectacularly unqualified to do. Mandates a ridiculous “senior thesis,” and decides that all Master’s programs should have a mandatory thesis, an uncommon practice in a number of disciplines.
• In a highly public dispute, Watson drives literary icon Haki Madhubuti from the university. Madhubuti had the temerity to criticize Watson.
• Watson continues to promote his girlfriend into senior administrative positions created just for her.

2011

• March 2011: the first audit report of the Watson regime reveals 41 exceptions, up from 13 the previous year. Watson and his stooges blame the previous administration.
• The university experiences the first of what will eventually be 11 consecutive semesters of enrollment declines.
• June 2011: Watson hires longtime crony and protégé Angele Henderson as the Vice President of Enrollment Management. Henderson has no qualifications for such a position and her application includes false information.
• July 2011: the Chicago Tribune reports that Chicago State allowed ineligible students to receive financial aid. The university will eventually pay a fine. Watson responds that the problem is the previous administration’s.
• Watson creates another new position for his girlfriend, Associate Vice President of Enrollment management at a salary of $110,000. This represents a 22 percent raise in two years.
• Fall 2011, enrollment is down 480 students (6.5 percent) from Fall 2010.
• Fall 2011: Maria Moore case settled in favor of the plaintiff. Moore is awarded more than $700,000 in damages, Watson is culpable. The total cost of the Moore award exceeds $1.175 million, which does not include costs associated with defending Watson.

2012

• February: Watson reportedly gets around $800,000 in severance from City Colleges, including hundreds of thousands of dollars for unused sick leave. Obviously, he was worth it.
• Spring: Sabrina Land drafts and disseminates a “Communications Policy” which prohibits anyone on campus from saying anything to the press or on social media that has not been approved by the administration. Policy generates instant ridicule from around the country and is quickly abandoned.
• In Angela Henderson’s first year as Vice President of Enrollment Management, Fall 2012 enrollment drops to 6107, a 11.3 percent decline. Enrollment is down 17 percent since Fall 2010.
• November: the Faculty Senate votes “no confidence” in Wayne Watson. The vote is 28-2 with 2 abstentions, the Board does not respond.

2013

• In March, Wayne Watson nearly loses his job. Emil Jones and persons from Rainbow Push bring a bunch of political hacks and “community activists” to two Board meetings to defend Watson and demand that he stay on as President. No one talks about his “accomplishments,” either as President or scholar. Instead, they paint him as a victim, his attorney describing his travails as similar to those experienced by Jesus and Martin Luther King. Quinn allows the terms of the Board members most opposed to Watson’s presidency to expire, and appoints new members who support the President. One of the new Board’s first orders of business is to extend Watson’s contract through June 2016.
• July: Despite a proven track record of failure as Vice President of Enrollment Management (see below), Watson names Angela Henderson the Interim Provost. At the time of her appointment, Henderson does not even hold a Ph.D.
• Fall 2013: Enrollment drops another 6.6 percent to 5701. Enrollment is now down 22.6 percent since Fall 2010, and 17.2 percent during Henderson’s tenure as Vice President of Enrollment Management.
• October/November 2013. The blog publishes documentary evidence of Sidney’s falsification of her resume to include educational qualifications she did not possess. Despite evidence of Sidney’s lie, the administration does not discharge her.
• November 2013: The administration makes the first of two attempts to shut down the faculty blog.

2014

• January: the Chicago Tribune reports that Angela Henderson’s dissertation contains material that violates the academic integrity standards of the UIC College of Nursing. In February, the Board “accepts” her degree. The administration hires private counsel to again threaten the faculty blog.
• February: a Circuit Court jury renders its verdict in James Crowley’s retaliatory discharge case. The unanimous decision spanks Wayne Watson and Chicago State by awarding Crowley nearly $2.5 million in damages. Throwing good money after bad, the university decides to appeal the decision, first to the judge who presided over the trial.
• February: the Faculty Senate votes “no confidence” in Wayne Watson and Angela Henderson. The vote is 25-2 with 2 abstentions. The Board does not respond.
• August: Circuit Court Judge McCarthy issues a “scathing” opinion on the Crowley verdict against Watson. He makes clear that Watson and General Counsel Patrick Cage attempted to not only fire Crowley but destroy his career. Calling both of them liars, he affirms the jury’s verdict. The university decides to appeal the decision.
• Summer: A search goes on for a permanent Provost. Reportedly the search firm provides a list of desirable candidates that does not include Interim Provost Angela Henderson.
• November: An anonymous “hearing officer” finds no plagiarism, despite reported “revisions” in Henderson’s dissertation. Immediately after the decision is announced, Watson appoints her the permanent Provost. At this point, the “revised” dissertation still does not appear on the UIC Indigo site. It is not available through ProQuest either.
• Fall: Chicago State’s shrinking enrollment drops to 5211, another 8.6 percent decline. Total enrollment has declined 29.2 percent since it peaked at 7362 in Fall 2010. Watson and his acolytes begin talking about “right-sizing” the university and Watson and his sycophants assure the Board that enrollment will stabilize “around 5000,” then “increase incrementally.”

2015

• February: Watson announces that he will “retire” when his contract expires in June 2016.
• February: Rauner unveils a budget calling for a 30 percent cut in university funding. The Watson administration wrings its hands, prepares no contingency plans, hires and upgrades more administrators, lays off lower paid staff.
• Fall: Enrollment sinks to 4767, down another 8.5 percent from Fall 2014. Total enrollment loss since Fall 2010: 35.2 percent. What happened to the promised enrollment stabilization?
• November/December: The Board chooses a new President, Thomas J. Calhoun, and slaps faculty and staff in the face by recognizing Watson’s failure with the title “President Emeritus,” (“President Horribilis” would be more appropriate). Watson get an office in the library to write his “memoirs.”

2016

• February: Board declares “financial exigency,” although no other at-risk universities in the system do likewise. They tie the new President’s hands with a ridiculous four person “Management Committee.”
• Late February: in the first of a series of blunders, the university lays everyone off on February 26.
• January through present: senior members of the administration reportedly going to individual Board members in an effort to undermine President Calhoun. Board members allow this inappropriate access.
• February-April: majority of administrators do not lift a finger to save the university. Instead, students lead the way.
• Late March: idiotic memorandum tells all employees they must turn in their keys by the end of the first week in April. Surprisingly, press coverage focuses on what this means for the severity of the situation instead of the stupidity of the policy.
• April 22: Legislature funds the university at just over 50 percent of the 2014-15 appropriation. At least two “Chicago State administrators” reportedly lobby legislators for reduced funding from one bill’s original appropriation of $33.5 million.
• April 29: In a ham-handed and brutal process, the university follows the infusion of emergency cash by laying off a reported 300 employees. Most are from the lower salary ranks. Several operations decimated: admissions, teacher certification, financial aid. Almost all high-salaried senior administrators keep their jobs. A number of the layoffs are reportedly due to personal animus on the part of decision makers.
• At the May 6 board meeting, faculty in attendance expressed their displeasure with the unworkable executive management structure and voiced support for President Calhoun. The agenda of a number of administrators is neatly encapsulated by these comments from one of our upper administrators: “Supporters of Wayne and the Board are peddling the narrative that Calhoun is incompetent and only good at giving speeches. They were caught off-guard by the show of support for Calhoun and are trying to figure out how to turn public perception to their side.” So, at this late date, we still have Watson and his minions manipulating events for their own personal gain; actively working against the interests of the university community.

The preceding list is far from exhaustive, containing only the “highlights” of the past few years. Certainly, no media outlet will report on the numerous legitimate issues and scandals that plague this school. Nevertheless, we have created a significant paper trail that will make it difficult, if not impossible, for public figures to claim they did not know what was going on her at Chicago State. Shame on all of them.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Administrative Nonsense Debunked: Graduation Rates and the "Quality over Quantity" Argument

After the administration on May 6 neglected to reveal Chicago State’s horrendous graduation rate, university spokespersons surfaced to spin the story. The most prominent explanation came from Sabrina Land, who makes nearly $100,000 per year to spout bullshit. She had a familiar excuse, the Spring 2011 drop of students for poor scholarship. Actually this action serves as a constant refrain by administrators defending everything from graduation rate declines (Land) and enrollment drops (Henderson).

You might remember that, in Summer 2011, auditors (I believe) caught the university giving financial aid awards to students who were not making satisfactory progress toward degrees. Originally fined over $700,000 for the practice, the university negotiated the figure down to about $350,000. Although this scandal happened nearly two years into the Watson regime, he and his cronies blamed the policies of the previous administration. After all, no one knows better than Watson about administrative success and ethical behavior in higher education. Watson cronies have used this single event over and over to defend themselves against a variety of terrible performances on the academic side of the school. Does it hold any water?

I have examined three different Freshmen cohorts, 2006, 2009, and 2014 in order to determine what percentage of students the university expelled for poor scholarship. I’ve limited the examination to students expelled during their first year in school, except for the 2009 cohort as I will explain. I also believe the data I have discovered can be used to test Watson’s claim that the disastrous enrollment declines were part of a “right-sizing” strategy which emphasized “quality over quantity.”

First, the drops.

For the 2006 cohort, the university expelled 7.5 percent of new students for “poor scholarship” in their first year at the university.
For the 2009 cohort, the university expelled no new students, although the university dropped 6.9 percent of that cohort in Spring 2011 (the administration’s watershed year).
For the 2014 cohort, the university expelled 14 percent of new students in their first year.
For the Freshmen cohort, the 2009 expulsion percentage is actually about what you would expect based on 2006 data.

Looking at the data, it appears to me that the practice for which we got fined was actually a Watson practice. They got caught, had to pay a fine and blamed it on the previous administration. Obviously the university was lax in the years before Watson, but his administration not only had this financial aid scandal, it also got us put on provisional status for our financial aid shenanigans. My money here is on Watson and his troupe as the reason the university kept so many non-performing students on the rolls. After all, he crowed in 2010 about the school’s increased enrollment. Leon Finney attributed the increase to Watson's “leadership.”

Now the quality over quantity argument.

Several numbers come into play here. First, first-year retention rates are similar, 54 percent in 2006, 60 percent in 2009, 58 percent in 2014. The percentage of students leaving school immediately after the first year are also similar: 37 percent in 2006, 34 percent in 2009, 41 percent in 2014. However, expulsion of students for poor scholarship has increased dramatically, from 7.5 percent in 2006 to 14 percent in 2014. In addition to the 35 students expelled prior to Fall 2015, the university has expelled 26 more students in the two subsequent semesters. This brings the total expulsions to 61, or 24.7 percent. Adding to the total the 27 students who left school on probation between Fall 2014 and Spring 2016, 35.5 percent of the incoming first-year students left school within two years after either flunking out or performing so poorly as to be on probation. I don’t think anyone can argue with a straight face that an incoming class in which more than 1/3 of the students are failing represents “quality.” Of course, I was not part of the Watson administration.

As a final observation, we have been hammered for years over our graduation rate, as unfair as that might be to our school. Why do we continue to admit as full-time first-year students, people who are highly likely to fail? Why don’t we insist that only students who demonstrate promise for success in college are admitted as first-year students and ask the others to attend Community Colleges in order to become transfer students? Given our recent enrollment performance, arguments like “we’re unique” or the “numbers don’t reflect what we do,” are not particularly compelling. What is Einstein’s definition of insanity? Maybe it’s time to take a new path.

Now the Administration Must Decide Which Programs to Eliminate: Without Cover from the Faculty

Last night, the Academic Program Elimination Review Committee (APERC) submitted its unanimous recommendations for program elimination to the administration, specifically the Provost and her minions. About a month after the bogus declaration of "financial exigency" by the Board, the administration convened APERC to examine several "low performing" programs identified in an October 20, 2015, IBHE report to Rauner. Degrees granted formed the basis for a rating of "low performing." Baccalaureate programs had a suggested threshold of 6 degrees per year, Master's programs 5, and Doctoral programs 1. This IBHE report made no recommendations about programs, it simply reported the results of each state university's performance between 2009-13 and included responses by each university to the specific programs in question. Most of the universities provided detailed and lengthy responses that defended many of their "low performing" programs. They included charts and data analysis. The lone exception: Chicago State University's two-page, perfunctory and frankly embarrassing response that lumped each "low performing" program into the category of "Redesign," which suggests "redesign and program changes . . . to remediate low performance." Our response included the same recommendation for each program and demonstrated no thought or research into the specific programs. We provided no quantitative data. That report and our response would likely languish on a shelf somewhere until the next round of IBHE program analyses.

Of course, Chicago State has an annual program review process. Programs are evaluated on a regular basis, with several programs examined during any given year. The Program Review Committee (PRC) identifies programs at risk of elimination or "sunsetting" and those programs are then reviewed by APERC. However, with "financial exigency," the university administration saw an opportunity to lay off tenured and tenure-track faculty by using the arbitrary standards for "low performance" set by IBHE, rather than the university's established program review process. As one senior administrator told me on February 4: "we've got to get to the tenured faculty." Thus, the Provost reconstituted APERC and charged it in March with reviewing some 18 "low performing" programs as identified by IBHE.

The strategy employed by the Provost runs along the lines of what we've seen here for the past six years with the Watson administration and its cronies. Use any pretext to include faculty committees as props to legitimize simply horrible academic decisions. In this case, APERC is reactivated to offer legitimacy to a round of staff reductions that otherwise would not occur. The administration will be able to refer to APERC any faculty disgruntled over a layoff. The administrative line will go something like this: after all, the faculty committee recommended these programs for elimination, we just followed the recommendations of that committee (like we do the recommendations of every faculty committee).

Unfortunately for the administration, the APERC report is a thoughtful, well-researched and well-argued document that recommends no programs for sunset status. This means, of course, that any decisions on program elimination will come from the Provost, based on whatever calculation she applies to make those determinations. Since so many of the earlier layoffs seemed personally motivated, I have no doubt that layoff decisions for faculty will be similar. As a member of the Management Action Committee, the Provost has already been prominent in several of the disasters that have occurred since February: the layoff notice fiasco, the layoff debacles, the idiotic key return policy, the 11 percent graduation rate spectacle, the layoffs of our Lecturers. Now she gets to try her hand at staff reductions for tenured/tenure-track faculty. Undoubtedly the results will be as catastrophic as everything else we have seen to date. Thanks to the members of APERC for their hard work on this thankless task.

Some Questions For the Watson Administrative Holdovers Whose Decisions Still Damage the School

From one of our colleagues:

I am writing to express my dismay at what is happening on our campus. For the past 10 months, we have been operating without finances from the state. There is little hope that we will have a budget come July 1, 2016, either. However, I have become increasingly concerned that we are not only fighting an enemy from outside our campus, but more importantly, from within it. These observations are directed at the Board of Trustees and leftover upper administration, excluding President Calhoun, who, like Frank Pogue before him, could have done something positive for our university if given the opportunity. Even the latest Chicago Tribune editorial suggests this is a time of potential renewal; a make it or break it. If CSU wants to survive, then what is the purpose of the following: reducing the summer course load? Having centralized advising that goes against advice, causing long lines, significant frustration, and students being misadvised? Asking for keys prior to the end of one's term? Cutting faculty? Cutting programs? Not admitting when mistakes have been made and adjusting for them? Reducing the amount of classes faculty can teach, despite firing instructors who bore significant load themselves? Students need those courses to graduate. Given our graduation rate, why are we making it harder for students to graduate? Why are we sending students to other colleges to pick up courses they should be able to take here? Why fire people, then recall them, only to fire them again?

I saw on the homepage the College of Education had a fundraiser, raising $12000. Not bad, but sort of paltry. My question is, where was the media push for that? I do not remember receiving emails about it. There should have been an email a day leading up to the event. Why does it seem like people in charge have never been in charge before? Don't these people want to save their own jobs?

Is it true that some were sent to our campus to destroy it? I ask those individuals to consider the humanistic aspect of what they are doing. I really enjoy what I do, and I'm good at it. I have made mistakes and learned from them so I can better serve our students. I like living in Chicago. I like my home. And, yet, I am in danger of losing all of this for nothing that I did myself, other than choose to work at Chicago State University so many years ago.

Please stop doing what you are doing. We need to be a united front against Springfield. We need to raise our own money. We need to do things better. And, that starts with you. You are literally ruining people's lives with the choices that you are making, and really, for no good reason.

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Slaughter Continues: The Lecturers Have Their Turn

As this contrived "financial exigency" continues, the next group of CSU employees to walk the plank are our Lecturers, as qualified, dedicated, and professional as any faculty anywhere. Despite their service to the university, despite the need of a number of university programs for their continued employment, this week they got short shrift from this unconscionable administrative committee. Without so much as a "go to hell," they were told to clean out their offices, turn in their keys, and basically get off the campus. On Monday, a scheduled meeting between the faux Provost and our Deans will reportedly decide the fate of the tenured and tenure-track faculty. Although those decisions should be made later in the summer, an early and uninformed cutting session for faculty will apparently satisfy the blood lust of these persons who the Board, in their infinite wisdom, entrusted with the university's future.

What is this really all about? In my estimation, the decision to declare financial exigency stemmed from a desire to insure the continued employment of several high-salaried administrators whose presence has likely mortally wounded the university. These people are still in decision-making positions, still making hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary, while less fortunate and unconnected people suffer the loss of their jobs. In conversations with a number of people the past two weeks, one theme stands out: for a number of victims, the first round of layoffs were personal retribution meted out by our top administrators. The ultimate strategy still seems unclear, however. Is it the intention of these people to take all they might then have the university close? Given the number of simply idiotic administrative decisions in the past several weeks, no other possibility seems rational.

The administrators doing this damage are almost universally disliked by the faculty, staff, and even other administrators here at Chicago State, a situation that obtained long before the current crisis. If all the persons who supported these senior administrators came together, they would fit comfortably in a ten-seat van. This will not change as these layoffs unfold.

In conclusion, I would like to thank for their dedicated service all my colleagues who have been affected by these outrageous administrative excesses.

Summer Fun

So now that the semester has mercifully drawn to a close, there is still work to be done. The struggle for viable public higher education in Illinois continues. I am posting this as a reminder to my union colleagues that UPI Local 4100 is going to be active in Macomb, Charleston, and Springfield next week. Contact Sarah Tarlow at starlow@ift-aft.org for details about this important activity. To protect public higher education in Illinois requires our sacrifice of time and effort. And what else would you want to do on Monday???

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

"Were you just watching, or are you part of this?" Public Comment at the May 6th Board of Trustees Meeting

If you had attended the CSU Board of Trustees meeting last Friday, you would have thought that there was nothing of consequence happening at CSU. You would not have known that the university had just laid off 300 staff and administrators the previous week. From the presentation by the VP of Finance you would not know that we were still in a state of financial exigency. You would not know from any of the VP presentations to the Board that CSU faced a dire and uncertain future in the fall when full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty were due to be laid off, when enrollment was predicted to tumble further, and when the state would possibly carry through on its threat not to hand out any more money --especially to us. 

And as we end this wretched semester, the veil on the Board's quick move to "financial exigency" taken in February begins to lift. No other state university in this ill state has gone as far as CSU and declared itself financially exigent. Why not? 

It is clear that in declaring financial exigency, this Board has found a way to abrogate its own university governance rules (Board of Trustees regulations). It has reconstituted the governing structure of the executive branch of this university to prevent its new president from carrying out any executive authority on his own. The so-called Management Action Committee is a tetrarchy made up of President Calhoun and former President Wayne Watson's Provost Angela Henderson, Wayne Watson's Human Resources director, Renee Mitchell and Wayne Watson's Vice President for Finance, Cecil Lucy. Each member has an equal vote. And decisions coming down from this Management Action Committee are being made in 3 against 1 votes. From where did such a governance model come? Why hire a new president mid-year only to strip him of executive authority within one month? Why bend over backward in the fall to keep Wayne Watson on campus and set him up in an office on campus, continue to pay him and a new president? What is this pathological, creepy loyalty on the part of the Board that reminds me of the leader-principle in fascism where everything must be sacrificed except the leader? Wayne Watson is still running the university and running it into the ground. 

It is worth noting that a good number of faculty, staff, and administrators appeared to witness the Board's proceedings. Most of them were there for only one reason: because President Calhoun needed to see that he was supported by the faculty. Public comment at the end of the meeting provided the strong tonic that the Vice Presidents' cheery reports earlier in the day failed to do. You should listen to what some of your colleagues had to say at the link below (or go to the Board of Trustees page and look for Meetings and Recordings).  In the meantime, I am posting the transcript below of one commentator, retiring professor Janet Halpin.

http://www.csu.edu/boardoftrustee/meetingrecordings/audio/2016/FBMpart3-May06-2016.mp3

Parting comments by retiring faculty member.
Several decades ago I read Atlas Shrugged, the dystopian novel by Ayn Rand where nasty, self-serving incompetents drive industries and infrastructure into the ground while able people are fired, destroyed or who quit. At the time, I thought it was a highly implausible straw-man scenario used to promote her philosophy of objectivism.

In the 1980s an activist friend of mine referred to a fellow in our movement as a ‘revolutionary pimp’ who promoted his own interests on the backs of the activism of others.  At the time, I thought it was a personal judgement on a mildly unsavory character.

In 2012 an accreditation evaluator came to CSU for the pre-visit consultation.  In an informal conversation, the evaluator said that the word outside of Chicago was that Wayne Watson had been set in place specifically to drive CSU into the ground because the land and campus were valuable properties [emphasis added].  At the time, I thought it was pretty stupid, as conspiracy theories go.

At it turns out, they were all prescient. I have SEEN highly skilled, devoted, and competent colleagues fired, demoted, and chased away.  I have SEEN prominent figures coming out of a back room in this very building, where they schemed and plotted to keep Wayne Watson and his cronies in power.  They then stood up in public three years later to exhort our students to defend their right to education.  I have SEEN a series of brutal, thoughtless, and damaging actions that have eroded our viability.  Through incompetence, they might have avoided some catastrophes merely by accident. It seems instead that their intent is, indeed, to close the school and seize the remaining assets.

And this Board sat here.  Were you just watching, or are you part of this?

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

On the Backs of the Working Class: APERC and the Latest Chapter in the Devastation of CSU

From a colleague who wishes to remain anonymous:

In the eleventh month of the Illinois State budget crisis and seventh year of the Wayne Watson administration at Chicago State University (yes, Watson’s Board and administration still run this place) the situation for working people including staff and faculty at CSU worsens daily. Not a week goes by that we don’t hear of a new service agency having to cut services and lay-off workers due to Governor Rauner’s intransigence. He is determined to gut the state and weaken workers. The first victims of Rauner’s advocacy for the wealthiest were and continue to be the poorest in our state. Our fellow Illinoisians who rely on state safety nets have been devastated. In state offices and non-profit organizations that have contracts with the state employees have received pink slips as the agencies are unable to pay their bills. Here at Chicago State University Watson’s cronies hold the same mindset; elite wealth should be maintained on the backs of the working class. It is no secret that CSU has been run into the ground by Watson’s crimes and incompetence. This blog has chronicled the weekly attacks on the working class of the city and state, including and especially working class Blacks, by Watson and his high-salaried enforcers. In this post I wanted to add to this chronicle by informing readers about a recent and on-going attack perpetrated by the Provost and the Board of Trustees; the elimination of academic programs and the service to students and faculty positions that go with them.

According to a member of the Academic Program Elimination Review Committee (APERC) “Dr.” Henderson, Provost, chief academic officer, long-time Watson loyalist and wife of Watson’s personal lawyer charged the committee to review eighteen programs that appeared on the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) list of underperforming programs. Henderson explained in a memo to the committee that due to financial exigency she asked the committee to determine which of the eighteen programs on the list should be eliminated. As it turns out only seventeen programs are reviewed as one, economics, has already been hastily eliminated by the regime.

The IBHE bases its list on the average number of degrees conferred by a program over a five year period. The thresholds do not consider the size of the school nor other factors. The thresholds are six bachelors, five Masters and one doctoral degree. While the IBHE report does not seek elimination of programs, Henderson uses the list to justify firing faculty members. According to two sources, Henderson announced that the suggestions of APERC will guide the decisions about which faculty members to fire beginning sometime this month. While most thinking people can see numerous flaws in this approach to university decision-making I will highlight a few.

First, it should be obvious that the primary reason for low enrollment and low graduation rates in the so-called low-producing programs is the abysmal job done by the enrollment management division of the university. Again, this blog has painstakingly analyzed the data over the years and found that the university has lost more than a third of its enrollment during the Watson/Henderson years. Remember that Henderson came on board at CSU with a fraudulent resume as V.P. of Enrollment Management. The downward trend in degree conferral in the programs under scrutiny mirror the devastating drop in enrollment at the university as a whole. So, Henderson/Watson create an enrollment emergency then blame faculty for it. Now that drastic measures are needed to save the university Henderson plans on firing faculty for her under-performance.

Secondly, APERC is a contractually constituted committee on campus. It consists of nine faculty members who are charged with reviewing programs that have been previously flagged for suspension by the Program Review Committee. Henderson has asked the committee to suggest for elimination programs that have not been so flagged by the PRC. Each of the programs considered for elimination by APERC have undergone regular review during the past five years. Each has a plan for strengthening their programs. On pages 27 and 28 of the IBHE report found on their website the pitiful page-long report provided by someone at the university (no one knows who it is because unlike other universities it is not signed) an administrator points out that each program is in good standing. The ‘report’ which provides two to four lines of incomplete sentences mentions the redesign plans and lists the dates of the next program review for each program. By contrast, other university reports detail the plans in a professional manner becoming of important institutions of higher education.

Third, eliminating programs equates to eliminating students and potential students and defies the mission of higher education to provide students with a broad base of knowledge from which to contribute economically and politically to our nation. For example, students interested in economics are not able to major in the subject at Chicago State and find only lower level economics courses here. In the Watson/Henderson era of enrollment crisis we should do all we can to make the university more attractive not less. According to APERC sources programs under consideration for elimination by Henderson have dynamic plans in process to attract more students from a wider array of the student population in Chicago, Illinois, the nation and internationally.

Fourth, even if the financial crisis or ‘financial exigency’ in administrative-speak is the reason for convening APERC to consider program elimination, suspending, sunsetting or eliminating programs will not save the university money. Some have both undergraduate and graduate programs. Eliminating the graduate program, for example, will not save money in salary as no one will be fired since each of the graduate faculty teaches in the undergraduate program and vice versa. Moreover, firing faculty will save at most a few hundred thousand dollars per year. This is the highest estimate. However, this high number is doubtful given that many faculty will be retained in order to continue to serve our students. We have committed to our students and will not simply eliminate the possibility that they will graduate with the degree that they have chosen. In addition, many programs serve the university through general education. In fact, some programs dedicate 75% to 90% of their efforts to serving non-majors.

Fifth, a small amount of institutional support for these programs would go a long way to solving some of the problems of enrollment and graduation. While the drop in enrollment under the Watson/Henderson regime is the primary reason for low enrollment and graduation and seemingly high cost of some programs, lack of commitment to higher education by the regime contributes enormously to the problem. While CSU ranks among the highest in administrator to student ratios in the country and lawsuits based on Watson misbehavior cost the university millions of dollars requiring even more highly-paid lawyers, very little of our budget goes to supporting the needs of our students within their academic disciplines. Enhancing tutoring and other academic assistance for students will help them graduate. For example, tutoring for the TAP examination which has changed recently causing a steep decrease in pass rates throughout the state will solve much of the problem of graduation rates in the College of Education. In other programs scholarships and assistantships would serve the same purpose.

Sixth, our financial troubles do not begin and end with Rauner’s attacks on higher education, workers and the poor. The inability of Wayne Watson to raise money for the university and his squandering of it on highly paid crony administrators and elsewhere put us in a vulnerable position. Had Watson been a different person who had not continuously over his career poorly managed and stole through contracts, etc., and been able to raise money for us we would have been able to weather the Rauner storm. Who, in their right mind, would donate to Chicago State as long as the Watson foxes are guarding the CSU hen house? Chicago State can be a viable university that will spend its money prudently and effectively but the Watson/Henderson/Anthony Young Board regime will not allow it. I, along with many other colleagues, believe that President Calhoun can do such a job once the Watson era ends. The amazing job that the academic programs and faculty have done with a dearth of resources is evidence of our collective ability to raise and spend money well.

Finally, the value of these programs goes beyond number of graduates and majors or the cost of running the program. While each of these aspects of a program are important to consider, any number of other factors must be considered when thinking about the financial health of the university and our mission. The poor image of CSU due primarily to the Watson/Henderson regime and the bad press they garnered due to lawsuits and laughable, though sad, policies obscures what we do. Given our admissions policies, lack of financial and other support and the complicated lives of our students, we should be applauded for the graduation rates that we have. However, our faculty not only graduates students. We also publish, engage in community work, and contribute to our fields in numerous ways.

Watson/Henderson/Young have been successful at driving our already bad image (one that is undeserved and often driven by racism) into the ground as Watson is the poster boy for how not to run a university and Henderson shames us with her plagiarism and lack of credentials for the job. Instead of Watson, et.al., as the image of the university, our faculty and students should be our voice and image. The story about CSU in the general public is as a failed institution with a low graduation rate; a waste of public money. We need to change this image if we are to survive. The story that should be told is the accurate one of an underfunded institution that serves a population that other universities choose to disregard with a faculty and staff that produces monumentally under extremely difficult circumstances. CSU has a unique mission that no other institution of higher education will touch. And we do a helluva job fulfilling that mission. Many of the departments under consideration for elimination contribute to this story. We teach the teachers who will serve the underserved populations of our city and state. We train the social workers who literally save lives. Nurses and pharmacists save the state and taxpayers money by returning to the southside and, again, saving lives. We teach citizens to go out and fight for their rights and participate in non-profit and community organizations that mitigate the harm done by Rauner, Watson and their elite friends. We provide credentials to working class Black people who earn them. They are prepared to get decent paying jobs that will move them and their children out of poverty. WE do this and more. No other faculty in the state can make this claim.

Henderson/Watson/Young blame the faculty for the problems at CSU. The convening of APERC to eliminate programs is the latest example of their disdain for education and for the primarily Black population we serve. They shamefully receive their six figure salaries and pompously strut in their fine clothes and vehicles while the working class students, staff and faculty suffer. Like little Rauners they and their friends gain off of the backs of the working class and pass the blame on to their victims.

Another Awful Decision from the Provost.

At this point early in the registration process, students registered for fall 2016 stand 13 percent below our total from this time last year. I don't imagine that last week's layoff debacle combined with the sharp decline in our graduation rates has inspired confidence in the holdover administrator's ability to function effectively during this crisis. Of course, our public problems are not solely responsible for our enrollment issues and graduation rate decline. One of the major issues confronting our students is the horrendous decision last year to have all advising done in an "advising center." At a recent joint meeting with the MAC, the Provost made the comment that "we now have professional advisors." Really? I do not believe many faculty or students consider the advising center anything more than a total disaster. We've cataloged some of its problems in past posts.

Of course, after the layoffs, the number of "professional" advisors available to do academic advising has diminished to either 6 or 7 I believe. These unfortunate souls are responsible for advising all our undergraduate students. Based on last year's student population (optimistic, I know) the current ratio of students to advisors exceeds 500 to 1. I'm sure that anyone handling close to 500 students per semester can dedicate the time needed to do advising well. Given the need for flexibility during these difficult times, I find it disturbing, although not surprising, that our Provost again digs her heels in and insists that all undergraduate advising be done in the advising center. Following on the heels of numerous other bad decisions on her part, this failure to acknowledge the failure of this procedure leads me to draw only two possible conclusions. First, the Provost is ignorant of the damage caused by this continual adherence to terrible policy; second, that she knows full well the scope of the catastrophe but simply does not care. Here is the text of an e-mail that went out yesterday, provided courtesy of one of our colleagues.

"I have confirmed with the Provost that she has not authorized undergraduate advising by faculty during Summer 2016.

You should make sure that your chairs are adhering to the memo of several months ago and directing undergraduate students to the Advising Center location, about which there was a separate email earlier this morning."

I will end this with a question. Why is Wayne Watson on the distribution list for the daily enrollment reports?