Sunday, January 14, 2018

Someone Better Do Something Before the Place Falls to Pieces

For several years, I have been calling for a change in leadership at this institution. The recent posts by my colleagues have described the continuing problems with the university’s failing infrastructure and the same old confrontational, ham-handed administrative style we’ve seen for years. My earlier post detailed my concerns over our plunging graduation rate. However, there is a far more compelling reason to renew the call for new personnel at the top of this organization. The utter, catastrophic failure of our administration and its inability to retain students is starkly revealed in the magnitude of our enrollment decline.

Since 2014, I have maintained a spreadsheet on fall enrollments in 211 public universities and 43 colleges and universities belonging to the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund. These 43 schools include 40 schools classified as HBCU’s and 2 other schools classified as PBI’s (Chicago State and CUNY-York). In total, the 254 schools include institutions from 43 states and the District of Columbia. The enrollment data from these institutions tells a clear story.

Nationwide, enrollment at these schools has been remarkably stable. From fall 2010 to fall 2016, the 254 schools gained a grand total of 799 students, maintaining an overall enrollment of just over 2.475 million. The Thurgood Marshall schools have not fared as well. In the same time period, enrollment at these schools declined 11.6 percent, with a total loss of over 27,000 students. HBCU enrollment dropped 11.2 percent.

So how has Chicago State done in comparison? Most of us know about our enrollment declines since 2010, but just how bad are they? In fall 2016, Chicago State’s enrollment was less than one-half of what it had been in 2010, with a decline of 51.4 percent. Our enrollment losses ranked us third in the United States, ahead of only Cheyney University in Pennsylvania and Elizabeth City State in North Carolina.

Of course you say, the state’s budget misadventures are the reason for such a dismal performance. There’s a simple answer to that argument: it’s bullshit. In fall 2013, we had the sixth largest enrollment decline in the U.S., ahead of Cheyney, Elizabeth City, Harris-Stowe in St. Louis, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, and Troy in Alabama. In fall 2014, our enrollment losses were the fourth largest in the country, leading only Troy, Cheyney, and Elizabeth City State. In fall 2015, we again had the fourth largest enrollment loss in the United States, leading only Troy, Cheyney, and Elizabeth City.

Wait, it gets worse. For fall 2017, although data is not available for most of the schools on my list, I have been able to compile the information for the poorest performing schools on the spreadsheet. We now are the proud owners of the largest percentage enrollment decline in the United States. Our fall 2017 total of 3106 students is a 57.8 percent loss. Cheyney has added students the past two years to pass us at 52.4 percent, with Elizabeth City State also increasing its enrollment to edge ahead of us at 57.3 percent. Just think folks, a university in a city of 2.7 million people has barely over 3100 students and has lost more than 4200 students since 2010. Quite a performance.

A number of poor performing schools stopped their bleeding between 2015 and 2017. They did it by bringing in new leadership at the top of the institution. Elizabeth City State, experiencing many of the problems we are familiar with—“right-sizing” staff reductions, financial aid improprieties, and staff training issues—went through three Chancellors in two years and hired a new Provost in July 2015. This fall, Elizabeth City’s enrollment increased 4 percent from the previous year, the first enrollment increase in 7 years.
At Cheyney University, a familiar face, former CSU President Frank Pogue found himself in a school whose enrollment had plunged from 1586 in 2010 to 711 in 2015. Under Pogue’s leadership, Cheyney increased its enrollment by 6.2 percent between fall 2015 and fall 2017.

The most remarkable turnaround story occurred at Kentucky State University. In fall 2010, that school enrolled 2851 students. By fall 2016, enrollment had dropped by 39.1 percent, to 1736. Over the summer of 2017, Kentucky State replaced almost its entire staff of senior administrators. One of the replacements was our former President, Dr. Thomas Calhoun, whose tenure at CSU was cut short by palace intrigues and the most abominable Board in the country. With a new cast of administrators, Kentucky State grew its enrollment by 532 students for fall 2017, a remarkable increase of 31 percent. Could Dr. Calhoun have done that here? We’ll never know.

In the meantime, Chicago State’s enrollment continues to plunge. This spring, we will experience the 15th consecutive semester of enrollment losses since fall 2010. Despite that, neither our Board nor our President demonstrates any sense of urgency, or an inclination to act. We have the same people doing the same things with, predictably, the same results. There are people at this university with ideas to move the school forward, but they’re consistently thwarted. Personal relationships, not competence, continue to be the coin of the realm. Once again, I must say that down that road lies disaster. How much time do we have? Who knows? How long will the state continue to prop up this institution? Perhaps no one can reverse the death spiral of Chicago State University, but allowing things to continue as they are insures our ultimate demise.

Friday, January 12, 2018

A Human Resources Department Coup d'etat?

I realize that there is an absence of leadership at CSU on so many levels, but really, the Human Resources Department usurping the right to fire anyone at CSU? 

START SHAKING IN YOUR BOOTS if you miss doing the work time entry hours online because they don't like having to do it by hand if you happen to miss the deadline. 

Last I looked the new contract we signed did not mention failure to do online reporting 5 times as cause for termination. 

I know Angela Henderson is still watsoning all over campus, but when did Renee Mitchell get back in charge?


Forwarded message ----------
From: Human Resources <hr@csu.edu>
Date: Fri, Jan 12, 2018 at 2:29 PM
Subject: CSU-STAFF: IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT-Web Time Entry Disciplinary Process
To: csu-students@csu.edu, csu-faculty@csu.edu, csu-staff@csu.edu

Effective Immediately! Failure to Submit or Approve Web Time Entry WILL result in disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.

There are specific timekeeping requirements that must be adhered to by all employees and their supervisors.  The goal of adhering to timekeeping requirements is to ensure that Chicago State University is in compliance with Federal and State laws and regulations.

·         All employees are responsible for recording actual time worked and taken in Web Time Entry.
·         Managers and proxies are responsible for reviewing the accuracy and completeness of employee time reports, making any corrections as necessary and approving time. 


The Progressive Disciplinary process for non compliance with Web Time Entry is as follows:

Violation*
Disciplinary Action Step
1st Occurrence
Verbal Warning
2nd Occurrence
Written Warning
3rd Occurrence
Final Written Warning
4th Occurrence
1 Day Suspension Without Pay
5th Occurrence
Termination

*Violations consist of either not submitting time on the appropriate date and/or not approving time on the appropriate date.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Only At CSU

So the cliches are lining up to be written about how CSU has started 2018. Today was the first day of class. I was not overly enthusiastic about the beginning of the semester. One reason was the sad realization that enrollment would be well below 3,000 students. Only nine years ago, CSU had an enrollment over 7,000. As enrollment has plummeted, those responsible have been rewarded by keeping their jobs, while those most vulnerable have been fired. Pampered administrators have been rewarded for repeated and ever increasing failure. This failure will fall squarely at the feet of the Board of Trustees and the President who has chosen not to clean house even though that house cleaning is the most obvious task to move the university away from what now seems like its inevitable demise.

To wit, the Williams Science Building, which houses six academic departments and other academic units, was closed today and is likely to be closed for the rest of the week. This closing could likely have been anticipated if two known factors had been considered. First, there was little heat in the building since Thanksgiving. Faculty and staff routinely worked in their coats because they could see their breath in their offices. The second known factor is that extremely low temperatures can cause water pipes to burst. The ancillary to that is that Chicago was in the grips of a polar vortex for the past two weeks with wind chill factors of 20 degrees below zero. A reasonable person could conclude that a building with insufficient heat that experiences an extended polar vortex might be susceptible to damage. Lo and behold, that is exactly what happened in the Williams Science Center. This incident potentially put lab animals, experiments and storage of certain chemicals at risk. Now the building is closed, yet there were no signs on the doors that the building would be closed until whatever date the cleanup would be complete. A closed building means faculty can't access their offices or materials that might be in their offices. This is especially challenging at the beginning of the semester.

For several years, I have spoken, written, shouted about there only being two problems at CSU; 1) no culture of accountability and 2) no culture of open and transparent communication. The less than optimal start of the semester is just one in a long list of incidents over the last decade that exemplify the two problems that plague the university. There is no consequence for not doing your job and when that job isn't done, there isn't communication to let the university community know they will need to make adjustments to their activities. This incident reinforces why strong leadership is necessary. Strong leadership would not tolerate for one more second administrators that have grossly and profoundly failed the university. They would be fired without cause and sent on their way. Any complaints from them should result in a public airing of their failures for all to see. Any administrator who has been part of the failure of this university who actually believes they are doing a good job is obviously delusional and should be removed because delusions like that are dangerous for the functioning of an institution. An absence of self awareness and deficit of emotional intelligence in a leader is devastating to the organization. 

Here we are at the beginning of the year and new semester with the same problems that have plagued the institution for years, namely a lack of leadership willing to make hard choices and senior administrators in so far over their heads in terms of competence that the university can't even muddle through.

The institution is also repeating its ethical mistakes. To wit, why is the law firm of the board counsel slopping away at the public trough? Namely, representing the university in the recent faculty arbitration and in negotiations with the union representing the Building Service Workers? Did the university learn nothing from the now departed general counsel who improperly advised the board while supposedly representing the interests of the university. For those who think that isn't a problem consider this. The BOT hires the president. The general counsel reports to the president but provides legal advice, potentially about the president, to the board. I'm no legal expert but after years of ethics training, I can spot a conflict of interest because conflicts can be actual or perceived in order to be problematic. And here we go again. The board hires a general counsel who then directs work to her firm. If she were a partner in that firm, for example, she would likely be paid for her billable hours and receive an annual bonus or profit sharing thus being paid twice by the tax payers. It is also irregular that negotiations with collective bargaining units would be conducted through the board attorney or her firm and not the Office of Labor and Legal Affairs. Not including the general counsel's office in this process is highly suspect. 

Additionally, asking that Building Service Workers be subjected to scrutiny by a consultant who would tell them how to do their job is ridiculous. Injecting wasteful corporate thinking in the academy is enough evidence that another board counsel should be retained because the current one must have no idea how the university or any university works. And if any of this is untrue, the board and/or its counsel should feel free to refute it with evidence. I have always said that if I get something factually incorrect, then I will correct it. Some readers may not like the tone but the message is the message.

I'm sure, loyal readers, you can see the cliches waiting to burst forth in print. I won't bore you with them. You know what they are. I will say this though, the more things change, the more they don't. After today it feels like a race to see whether the university will close because of a lack of students or because the long neglected physical infrastructure finally collapses.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

New Year, Same Old Story

As we begin a new year, it seems a good time to reflect on where the university stands at the beginning of 2018. Simply put, it’s business as usual at Chicago State. The latest iteration of our administration is either unable or unwilling to make the changes necessary to take the school in a direction not headed for disaster. Whatever optimism that existed last April is gone and the staff and faculty have frankly given up on the current president to do much of anything. The most current enrollment figure for spring stands at just over 2500, with the drop session for non-validation still to come. It looks increasingly like our enrollment will be somewhere between 2500 and 2700, which is another drop of over 20 percent from the previous spring. Still, many of the senior administrators who have been in their positions throughout most of our enrollment decline retain their positions and continue to draw their nice salaries.

There is a new presidential search coming this year. The Board has selected another search firm to conduct this search, at the bargain basement price of $75,000. What will the search yield? At this point, no one knows, but whatever hope remains for the university to stem the exodus of students may depend on the Board’s choice of a new leader and the ability of that new president to operate independently to bring in people who are credible and who know what they are doing. Given our recent track record, this may be impossible to achieve.

Since December 2015, we have had 4 presidents of this university. In December 2015, we still had the fraud and political hack Wayne Watson. Then in January came Thomas Calhoun, who threatened the security of the Watson holdovers and whose administration was derailed even before it began by our senior administrators and Board members Nikki Zollar, Anthony Young, and Marshall Hatch, abetted by the vacuous, spineless Horace Smith, James Joyce, Spencer Leak, and Michael Curtin. After the disgraceful ouster of Calhoun, the board appointed Cecil Lucy, someone utterly unqualified to be president. With the appointment of four new Board members in January, the Board decided to replace Lucy with another interim president, Rachel Lindsey.

Whether the current Board is up to the challenge of finding an adequate president for this school may be determined by the applicant pool. Given the myriad problems facing this university, who would want to apply for this job? Obviously, the location is a plus, but will this be nothing more than another series of bad choices? You can be sure that Wayne Watson will be lobbying for his chosen candidate(s), none of whom will be qualified.

We just experienced six-plus years of crony hires and failed leadership. The academic side of the university is in tatters. The enrollment is bad enough, better than a 60 percent decline since 2010. The other results of the patronage hires can be seen in the numerous lawsuits, some resolved, some still in progress, that continue to cost the university hundreds of thousands of dollars.

As I have said previously, the full effect of the catastrophic Watson administration will be felt for years. Based on data I’ve been collecting for several years, there is another set of problems on the horizon. We now have a full set of first-time cohorts from the Watson years to analyze. As you would expect, the findings are alarming.

You may recall that about two years ago, the university quietly revealed that the graduation rate for its 2009 freshman cohort (graduating in Summer 2015 or earlier) was 11 percent. This represented a drop from 19.2 percent for the 2008 cohort, and 20.7 percent for the 2007 cohort. Between 2010 and 2015, the Watson minions set policy for admissions decisions.

Before embarking on this discussion, I admit that the figures I keep are not “official.” The university adjusts these cohorts from time to time, resulting in possible discrepancies in the figures. They are pretty close, however. I also know the way graduation rates are determined is unfair to transfer schools like Chicago State. Nonetheless, we’ve been getting beaten up over this issue for years and it seems like something to which someone might want to pay attention. When the 2015 graduation figure became public, a university spokesperson claimed the drop resulted from the university trying in 2011 to “preserve the academic integrity of the institution.” This assertion is nothing more than a bald-faced lie. Here’s what is coming in terms of our graduation rate.

First, for the 2009 cohort, only 64 of the 590 students (10.8 percent) were actually dismissed in 2011 for poor scholarship. This much ballyhooed protection of “academic integrity” affected mainly students matriculating under the Watson administration. Altogether, only 5 of 359 students in the 2006 cohort were dropped for poor scholarship in 2011. Only 2 of the 371 students in the 2007 cohort, and 8 of the 402 students in the 2008 cohort were dropped for poor scholarship in 2011.

So, here’s the Watson administration performance from 2009 through 2015:


* the university reported 16%, based on IPEDS figures, the actual percentage is 15.3.
** not yet complete, based on my data, 7 additional students may graduate before fall 2018. If all graduate, the percentage rises to 17.9%
*** not yet complete, based on my data, 23 additional students are registered for classes in spring 2018

Overall, for the three years final statistics are available , the Watson graduation rate is 12.0% (my figures) or 12.7% (university reports). Compare that with the 22.2 percent of students between 2009 and 2011 who were dismissed for poor scholarship.

Based on this information, I feel able to make some predictions for future graduation rates. These are based on the data I have collected and are not “official.”

For 2012, the graduation rate will be between 15 and 18 percent.

For 2013, a total of 23 students have registered for classes in spring 2018, with an additional 8 students attending in fall 2017 but not yet registered for spring 2018. If all these students register, that’s 13.8 percent of the cohort finishing their fifth year. Added to the 6.7 percent who have already graduated, the maximum graduation rate would be 20.5 percent. However, there is usually attrition of at least 50 percent between fifth and sixth year. Thus, if 6.9 percent of the current students actually finish within six years, the graduation rate for 2013 will be around 13.5 percent.

For 2014, 45 students have registered for classes in spring 2018, with 15 attending in fall 2017 but not yet registered for spring 2018. Using the same attrition factor, the 2014 cohort’s graduation rate would project to around 12.5 percent.

For 2015, there are also 45 students registered for classes in spring 2018, with 11 attending in fall 2017 but not yet registered. If one-half of these students graduate on time, the 2015 cohort’s graduation rate will be around 17 percent.

Based on nothing more than my belief that the completion rate is too generous, I will adjust the figures downward. Here is what I think Watson’s performance will look like when we end 2021:

2009 cohort 11%
2010 cohort 15% (university figure)
2011 cohort 12%
2012 cohort 17%
2013 cohort 12%
2014 cohort 11%
2015 cohort 14%

Students admitted during the Watson administration have roughly twice the statistical probability of being dismissed for poor scholarship as they have to graduate. Quite a performance by Watson, his host of cronies, and lots of City College retreads. This is why the Board cannot settle for another fraudulent political creature at the head of what will be left of this academic enterprise. Can they do it?

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

How Long Can Chicago State Survive?

I'm afraid this is another grim update on the status of our university. As of yesterday, the enrollment for spring 2018 stands at 2111, with 5 days until the start of the semester and another "cut" session looming. Why the administration would cut courses with enrollment this low is unfathomable. It looks like we'll be lucky to hit 2500 for the spring semester, unless we get a sudden rush of students registering. What does this all mean? At 2500, our enrollment will be down 4862 students from Fall 2010, a decrease of 66 percent. This will be our 15th consecutive semester of enrollment losses.
What are our administrators doing about this? As they did with President Calhoun, the Watson holdovers are working assiduously to undermine Paul Vallas in an effort to get him out of CSU. Of course, at this point, he is the only administrator with any ideas about how to increase enrollment and revenue. He has reportedly attempted to get the people in Academic Affairs interested in some of these ideas, but at this point little progress has been made. How long can we continue if we continue to hemorrhage students? How long will our administrators--who obviously do not and never had any ideas to move the school forward--be able to collect their lavish salaries? Will they be around long enough to finish destroying this school? Seeing all this is truly sad.

Monday, November 20, 2017

"And the World Turned Upside Down." CSU the Only University Where a Provost has More Job Security than Any Tenured Faculty Member

We learned on Wednesday last week that tenure is on its way out at CSU. 

The travesty and tragedy that is Chicago State University careens along like a rudderless ship as we sink into the dark November days that end our semester. No discernible leadership here appears on the horizon, though there had been hope of it earlier. Lots of administration, bombast and bluster from the Board of Trustees, but no one stands out, let alone up, for us the faculty. 

Today our UPI President Bob Bionaz, informed us that the Union had lost its grievance and arbitration against the University. Our nine tenured and tenure-track faculty colleagues who were fired by the phony and vindictive "Management Action Committee" in 2016 will not be getting the paltry severance payout a normal, ethical university would have granted-- a one year contract or a year's pay. During this same so-called “financial exigency,” CSU's administrators who have been walked off campus have gotten heaps of cash --Cheri Sydney (now Mrs Wayne Watson) made out of CSU like a bandit. So did others--see earlier blog posts below for the list of the well-compensated administrators who were allowed to slop at the Illinois trough one last time. 

Shameful. But this is part of a long tradition of shamelessness in the operation of Chicago State. 

Shame on you President Lindsey for not sticking up for the faculty whose lives have now been turned upside down, whose careers have been ruined by the previous administration's vindictiveness. You hired some of these very faculty members when you were our Dean. Shame on you for continuing to tolerate the continued machinations of the Watson remnants on campus especially one of the most vindictive architects of the faculty firings. She sits right across the hall from you. 

Shame on you CSU Trustees: Chair Marshall Hatch, Horace Smith, Kamium Buckner, Nicholas Gowen, and Tiffany Harper for your insincerity and your own partisanship toward the old Watson remnants. The fired administrators can be paid off in large packages during "financial exigency" but you choose to spend more money on lawyers to save "chump change" rather than or do justice by the faculty fired under the fiction of that same financial exigency.  Shame on you for your duplicity. You say you want to "move the university forward," that you want the best for the university, but you choose, like the previous administration and Board, to keep the CSU faculty your adversaries. You do not know how to implement best practices in university governance. You are not of the academy, yet you will not take advice or hear from those of us who are. And we have to tolerate board after board, year after year, whose overlordship is tied to pols and their pet political interests or well-connected insiders from "the community." And these boards have included Christian ministers. Well there is what the letter of thelaw allows, but ethics is often something else. And Christian ethics even moreso. Messrs. Hatch and Smith, you in particular have truly shown yourselves to be little men. You still have chance to advocate for an ethical end to all this. Pay the fired faculty their paltry compensation or reinstate them at the university. Hmmm, “what would Jesus do, I wonder?”

Shame on all of you, Administrators and Trustees, for putting the finishing touches on Wayne Watson and his acolyte Angela Henderson's rendition of the Empire Strikes Back. They could not grind to dust all the faculty irritants who shined a light on their cronyism and corruption, so they attacked their colleagues. Can anyone really think it was a coincidence that most of the faculty who were fired were targeted from among  the big-mouth departments (political science, history, music, philosophy) that dared to criticize the antics of Wayne and Miss Angie during their stay at CSU? 

The CSU union was organized at a time when unions were still respected in the pre-Reagan era. I realize the times have changed. Education is now a commodity. The corporatization of the university gallops along all over the country. Students are "customers." In this climate, faculty or other campus unions must be crushed. Administrators receive corporate salaries and golden parachutes worthy of Wall Street or Madison Avenue executives. In this cosmology tenure is seen as an anachronism, a "perk" granted (not “earned”) from an earlier age. There is a willful ignorance of its purpose --to protect free speech and free inquiry on campus. Instead, in the corporate university, the professional class of administrators aided by board members from business or law, can see no type of governance other than that of a top-down chain- of-command business hierarchy. Faculty are not sharers in this governance model. Hence the assault on tenure. It must be broken. It has no place in the enterprise to completely commodify education. The arbitrator in this grievance process saw fit to defend those who wanted to find a way to break tenure and to protect administrative purview.

Shame on us as a faculty if we fail to realize this is just what happened to us. Shame on us faculty if we try to keep our heads low and hope that the next time it will not be us or colleagues in our own departments who have to try to rebuild their lives. We now know the university’s nuclear option: declare financial exigency in order to fire tenured faculty. It might put accreditation at risk, but is a way to get rid of some very pesky members of the CSU “family.” 

It was ironic to me was that on the day we learned of the arbitrator’s decision, the College of Arts and Sciences was holding a “Faculty Appreciation Luncheon.” Would that the Dean of Arts and Sciences at the time of the faculty firings in 2016, Dr Jones, stood up to the administration in a true show of leadership and denounce the firings of so many from his college and the vindictive reasons for it. Would that his leadership inspired his chairs in the Arts and Sciences to do the same and call out the harm this action would do to individual programs and hence the students on campus as well as the loss of talented faculty. When I asked of Dr Calhoun at a townhall meeting of the faculty in fall of 2016 to please tell me that at least the Deans and chairs spoke up against the action of firing tenured faculty, Dr. Calhoun shook his head and said, no, no, he could not say that they did.

I suppose that with campus climate the way it is, where leadership is vacant and faculty impotence and demoralization is reflected in those empty hallways and classrooms that I pass every day, it is too much to expect faculty to show solidarity for our lost colleagues at the next CSU Board meeting on December 15th. I will still encourage it. I expect that there will be a lot of back-slapping and high-fiving among the Board members and upper administration over the legal victories that “they” achieved this fall (“winning the grievance and HLC lifting our sanctions). They will make every effort to erase the past actions of both Board and Provost (kiss, kiss, all is better) and tell each other and us that we now (i.e. again) can “move forward.” The administrative reports will be upbeat and no one on the Board will challenge them or ask meaningful questions because the Board has not shown itself to care to know what those questions are that they should ask. It might be interesting to go just to watch the performances—you know the way you expect your favorite actors in the movies to play their roles. Watch for it here. Our lead actors in the CSU administration have played their roles so well over the years.

In spite of what we know will happen at the next Board meeting, the Board and the President and her Provost and any other administrators need to be reminded that they broke faith with us faculty. Students and faculty, not the Board or the Administration, are at the heart of this institution. Students do not come here because of its administration (ask them, they are here in spite of it). The world is turning upside down in academia and it is here too. Our faculty colleagues were fired without the courtesy of a year’s contract or monetary compensation. Amid the weariness of the past few years and the desire to get along and “move forward,” we cannot let ourselves or the Board or the President and Provost forget that they chose to support the vindictive and unjust firing of nine of our faculty colleagues.



[Originally posted on Nov. 17, 2017]

Friday, November 17, 2017

Step 1 in Breaking Tenure. Faculty Beware. Do you really think this could not happen to you?

Yesterday, Bob Bionaz, UPI President sent this message to the faculty. Read and think about this very carefully. 

Colleagues:
Yesterday, the arbitrator handed down his opinion on the 2016 faculty layoffs and the University’s decision to not give separated faculty the one year’s terminal employment required by the contract. His decision seems inexplicable and represents an almost complete victory for the administration. The one section of the contract the arbitrator found the University had violated resulted in a perfunctory and meaningless “award” for the grievants.
The arbitrator decided that since the University’s fiscal position met the criteria for “extreme and immediate financial exigency” in February 2016, that no cash infusion occurring subsequent to that date mattered.  Here’s his exact language from the opinion:
Its [the union’s] argument is based on the layoffs not being effective until August 15, 2016, that the layoff decisions were not truly made until the end of June, and that there was no ‘extreme and immediate financial exigency’ at that time. The Arbitrator concludes otherwise. The decision to lay off employees was made in February 2016. Therefore, the Arbitrator concludes that is the time frame to determine whether there was an ‘extreme and immediate financial exigency’ based on the contract language.”
He wrote further:
“The Arbitrator concluded that the financial issues the University faced in February 2016 met the ‘extreme and immediate financial exigency’ condition and Section 24.5 was not violated.”
So, as far as the arbitrator was concerned, time stopped in February 2016. Based on this logic, had the University received after February 2016 a full state appropriation for fiscal 2016 and 2017, it still would have been in “extreme and immediate financial exigency” for the purposes of faculty and staff layoffs, and for the notice language in article 24.5. In order to reach this conclusion, he had to ignore voluminous evidence which demonstrated that the University’s fiscal position had improved dramatically in April and June 2016. He also ignored the University’s outlay of nearly $4 million in severance for fired administrators along with payroll expenses for newly hired employees, almost all of them administrative employees. Finally, he ignored the fact that the Board, with nothing at all changed since June 2016, ended the University’s “financial exigency” in December 2016.
In a remarkable passage, the arbitrator noted the school’s “ghost town” appearance. I’m not sure what part that may have played in his ultimate decision, but it certainly has no place in an analysis of contract language. He commented that:
“It should be noted that the hearings in this matter were scheduled in May and August 2107, that is, during the Summer semester and the Arbitrator noticed few students around campus.”
The arbitrator’s decision on retroactive compensation for laid off faculty members includes logical inconsistencies and gratuitous editorial comment. Once he decided that the University had violated article 24.5, no further commentary on article 24.5 seems necessary. After all, if the University did not violate article 24.5, it could rightly deny laid off faculty members a terminal year of employment. However, the arbitrator wrote this, along the way finding that the University had violated a fairly insignificant section of the contract:
“The Employer did not violate Article 24 when it laid off the Grievantsin February
2016. However, the Employer violated Section 24.4 by not making an effort to locate
other equivalent employment in that it did not consider the possibility of assignments
with duties in more than one unit, transfer to another unit or position pursuant to Article
25, or retraining pursuant to Article 27.”
He then editorializes that:
“Given the overall situation the Employer faced in2016, it is difficult to determine the likelihood that other equivalent employment would have been found for the Grievants. On this record, the Arbitrator concludes it was unlikely.”
The arbitrator then finds that the lack of equivalent employment justifies his denial of any compensation for the grievants.
“As such, the Arbitrator will not order retroactive relief for the Grievants. Rather, he will order prospective relief.”
He concludes the massacre by intoning:
“Prior to the beginning of the Spring 2018 semester, the Employer is ordered to make a reasonable effort to locate other equivalent employment pursuant to Section 24.4.”
So, the grievants are not entitled to any compensation because the University had no equivalent employment? If the University had equivalent employment and had made an effort to locate it, they would have not been laid off, making the entire discussion moot. There is no contractual connection whatsoever between “equivalent employment” and the denial of a terminal contract, the arbitrator simply inserted it into his opinion.
Finally, his “award” looks cynical to me. Really, ordering the University to make a “reasonable effort” to find other employment for the grievants? I wonder what the arbitrator thinks a “reasonable effort” looks like? This is a meaningless order.
The University spent around $200,000 to prevail in its effort to deny laid off faculty members any compensation for the loss of their jobs and the destruction of their careers. While it did that, Chicago State continued to lavish money on administrative employees and legal firms. The University’s actions make clear where the school’s faculty stand in the grand scheme of things.
Of course, I find this decision infuriating and completely unfair. However, the important persons in this fiasco are our laid off colleagues, some of them still working as non-tenured Lecturers. To them, I can only apologize for the ordeal they continue to endure.
I think the implications of this decision are profound. As far as this arbitrator is concerned, the University’s discretionary power is almost absolute. It puts everyone on this campus at risk. That is, everyone except the highly placed cronies still blighting the University.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Throw Another $350,000 on the Barbie: The University Continues to Pay for Wayne Watson

In my previous post, I noted that there were some legal expenses for which I had no contracts. I now have them. At least two of the contracts have to be added to the expenses incurred by the university to defend its former president, Wayne Watson. Specifically, in December 2016, the university contracted with Jackson Lewis to “Represent Dr. Wayne Watson” in the Peebles case. The amount? $250,000. That same month, the university contracted with Neal, Gerber and Eisenberg to “Represent Chicago State University in connection with analyzing coverage for the Crowley verdict.” The amount of this contract is $99,000.

As a I reported earlier, Jackson Lewis has received nearly $93,000 for its work on behalf of Wayne Watson, while Neal, Gerber and Eisenberg have been paid more than $70,000 for its “analysis.” Of course, the Peebles case is ongoing, with the price tag for Watson’s defense now exceeding $300,000. You may recall that the insurer in the Crowley case balked at paying for damages caused by the purposeful behavior of Watson and Cage; insurers don’t usually pay for liability created by the illegal actions of a defendant. Ultimately, the insurer agreed to pay $1.5 million of the $4.3 million damage award to James Crowley, leaving the university on the hook for $2.8 million. Adding the $70,000 paid to Neal, Gerber and Eisenberg brings the cost of defending Wayne Watson’s unconscionable behavior to just under $400,000.

Below are the two contracts:

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The New Looks Just Like the Old: Chicago State Continues to Throw Money Away on Legal Fees

We have a new Board (sort of ) and a new President, however, much remains the same here at Chicago State University. Specifically, our school continues to pour money into the pockets of contract legal firms for purposes that make sense to hardly anyone. Let me explain.

During the Watson era, legal expenses increased dramatically between January 1, 2010 through June 30, 2015, Chicago State paid nearly $1.5 million in legal fees to outside law firms. Included among these expenses: $230,000 to defend Wayne Watson in the Crowley suit, plus another $100,000 for the appeal; $62,000 for a firm to handle trademark applications; $27,000 for a firm to do research for the “West Side Campus”; $49,000 to a firm to assist with the dissolution of the old and the formation of the new “foundation”; $26,000 to a firm to investigate the behavior of a dissident faculty member; $92,000 to a firm for threatening the faculty blog with a lawsuit for “trademark infringement” or some such nonsense; and close to $200,000 to defend Watson in the Glenn Meeks suit. Let’s look at the scorecard for these legal efforts. The University lost both the Crowley and Meeks suits, the “West Side” Campus is dead, the University now has the tree substituting for the “A” in Chicago State University protected by trademark, the investigation on the dissident faculty member revealed nothing, the faculty blog continues to operate, and the new foundation is frankly a laughingstock. Not much of a return on a substantial investment.

So things have change, right? Not so much. In Watson’s years, the amounts spent for contract legal services went from $45,000 in 2010 to $110,000 in 2011, $244,000 in 2012, $134,000 in 2013, $569,000 in 2014, $397,000 in 2015, and ended at $125,000 in 2016. Since January 1, 2016, Chicago State has actually kept pace with the Watson administration in its zealous efforts to make the university look petty, vindictive, and penurious (at least when it comes to some employees). Here’s what we’re doing now.

The University has paid $196,624.92 to Akerman LLP; whose partner LaKeisha Marsh serves as CSU Board attorney. Their charge? Fuck over the faculty and staff who were laid off in 2016. They settled with 3 of our people for a low ball total of $34,000 and their jobs back. Their actual lost salaries came to around $123,000, a saving to the University of $89,000. There are still 6 former tenured faculty members who have not been rehired as tenured faculty, two of whom are currently teaching as lecturers. The salaries owed these people under the contract come to $289,000. So, the University has spent $196,642.92 to potentially save $378,000, along the way generating nothing but goodwill from non-affected and affected faculty members.

Next we have Fisher Phillips, the firm defending the University (Wayne Watson) in both the Meeks and LaShondra Peebles suits. Since January 1, 2016, the University has paid $214,467.60 to lose the Meeks case and to continue railroading Peebles by pursuing the University’s bogus criminal charges. This brings the total for these two defenses to over $423,000.

Also lined up to get a ladle full from the CSU gravy train is Husch Blackwell, vigorously defending the University’s right to violate the first amendment. Although this matter could have been settled early at minimal cost, Wayne Watson decided to fight to the death to insure that CSU could silence anyone who dared disagree with the little dictator. The price tag to this point stands at $265,000, with $91,338.14 spent since January 1, 2016.

Schiff Hardin, the firm handling the “foundation” business remains a favorite of the administration. They’ve received $80,083.59 since January 1, 2016, bringing their total since April 2015 to over $125,000.

Finally, we have two interesting firms, doing some kind of unspecified contract(?) work. The first, Jackson Lewis, advertising itself as some kind of labor and employment litigators, has received $92,981.22 since March 2017. The second, Neal Gerber and Eisenberg has received $70,233 for who knows what? I will file a new FOIA requesting those contracts and will report on the results.

Since January 1, 2016, Chicago State has spent over $780,000 on fees to outside legal firms, with $486,722.90 coming since January 1, 2017. I think it likely that by the end of the year Chicago State will have spent nearly as much as Wayne Watson threw away in his most profligate year. This looks like business as usual to me folks.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Frank, Thomas, and Paul

Anybody here
seen my old friend Frank?
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He inspired a lotta people,
But it seems good leaders, they don’t stay…
I just looked around CSU
and he’s gone.

Anybody here,
seen my old friend Thomas?
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He inspired a lotta people,
But it seems good leaders, they’re made to leave…
I just looked around CSU
and he’s gone…

In 21 years at CSU there have been three times when I have thought we finally netted someone in the upper administration with the potential to undertake the leadership that CSU has needed to move it from its oft-lamented status as the “diamond in the rough.” These three happen to be men and I would add, men of substance, who exuded intelligence, vision, and capability. I am talking about Frank Pogue, Thomas Calhoun and the third one I met last week, Paul Vallas.

CSU is not lacking in a faculty committed to moving CSU towards all it could be. But it has been badly lacking in leadership from the top for many years. Leadership, true leadership, does not issue mandates from the 3rd floor of the Cook Building such as we endured with the presidency of Wayne Watson. A contentious, venal political hire from the start, he inspired no wide support among the faculty.  Our so-called overseers, the state governor, Board of Trustees, and the Higher Learning Commission permitted him to run CSU like a political ward and become the poster-child of an Illinois patronage pit. We remain saddled with the remnants of Watson’s pillaging and plundering, an execrable and disgraced provost and others whose shelf-life on this campus is well past their “sell by” date.

After Governor Quinn’s interference to save Watson and then the Calhoun debacle last year, I became convinced that the state’s ultimate intention for CSU was that it not be anything more than a southside politically-dominated community college that masquerades as a university. We would continue to be that "diamond in the rough" and any achievement a department or individual faculty made would be in spite of, not because of, its leadership. It is hard to keep one’s spirits up in the situation that persists at CSU. And there has been no Truth and Reconciliation moment over the dirty job the provost and the bogus Management Action Committee did in firing our faculty colleagues. Who has the will to do anything for which a no-confidence president or provost might take credit?

Oh, right. Do it for the students. Yes,  “Students First” all the way at CSU. The words ring hollow when it comes out of the cynical mouths of administrators who have proven that their own interests and egos precede anything done for students. What would you say to the student in my class this semester who was so badly advised at the “advising center” that she is taking four classes here that she had already taken and passed at a community college? When she meekly protested to the adviser she was told that since the A.A. degree had not posted to the transcript, she had to take a freshman course load. They had the transcripts that clearly showed she had taken and passed the classes. By the time she spoke to her department chair, it was past the deadline to add/drop. Her chair told her the courses would count as electives.  If it were me, or my child, I would have raised holy hell with the department and the Academic Affairs Office and possibly dropped out of the university rather than pay for four classes I did not need. But our students do not all have the kind of confidence needed to stand up to posturing authoritative administrators.

Is this what we call “students first?” Students powerless? What could any one of us as faculty do for this student? I was incensed on her behalf yet powerless myself to offer her anything beyond my sympathy and encouragement to be vigilant with the courses she needs. Faculty have protested the failures of the provost’s advising center. We have discussed this formally in the Faculty Senate and made our concerns known. Our concerns continue to be ignored or grudgingly addressed even though our concerns are not disconnected from those of our students. Have we gotten too used to people not knowing how to run a university?

At the monthly Faculty Senate meeting last week I heard CSU’s CAO, Paul Vallas, speak for the first time. He presented a tour de force of ideas, possibilities, connections and a way forward such as I have not heard in a long time here. I left the meeting thinking:

1.     this is leadership I could follow, like Pogue, like Calhoun—it may not be completely possible to do it all as Vallas outlines, but sign me up—I will work hard for this kind of university. Vallas is the type of person with whom I want to work with whom I would work hard. I think he would listen and engage my ideas and let me share in the effort.

2.     is this CSU’s last chance? No one person will “save” CSU. But we blew it with the loss of Calhoun last year. How many chances do we have left?

To my knowledge there is no presidential search under way beyond the Trustees talking about it.  CSU needs leadership that is able to inspire faculty to participate in an agenda that is positive for the university. It needs leadership that is respected, trustworthy, and genuine. We had that in Frank Pogue. We had that in Thomas Calhoun. Paul Vallas spoke of utilizing CSU’s "faculty talent" and the faculty talent that was lost in the firings during the Calhoun coup d’état last year.

There is a bad habit here at CSU of undermining or getting rid of  or ruining leaders who truly show some mettle. Governor Quinn at the urging of Watson pals dismissed the Board of Trustees led by Gary Rozier who finally stood up to Wayne Watson’s fiscal debaucheries. The left-over cronies of Watson, his protégé, Angela Henderson, and other members of that cabal undermined the presidency of Thomas Calhoun before it was a month old and forced him out of office before nine months had passed. At the Senate meeting Paul Vallas alluded to actions already in play to undermine his efforts. HLC spent way too much time focused on Vallas and his appointment and not enough on the rotten core that still holds power. Why was that I wonder?

We have a person of substance and ideas willing to work with us to renew CSU. Paul Vallas has a one-year contract. He will not be a miracle-worker. Are we going to see him undermined or cut off at the knees like Calhoun? This is not the time to opt for complacency. If we blithely think that because the state passed a budget that will keep us afloat for maybe two years (after the mid-term elections), we are mistaken. CSU cannot limp along forever as the diamond in the rough and our quasi-HBCU status will carry us only so far. I for one do not want to see Paul Vallas tread the path off this campus that we saw Frank Pogue and Thomas Calhoun take.


Apologies to Richard Holler and Dion for the clumsy adaptation of their lyrics.