Thursday, October 13, 2016

A Pocket Full of Rye—The Tale continues (2)

When last we left off, the queen was musing over the ways she might settle scores with the churls…but…

Once upon a time, Kings and Queens did not always have power over the churls. The oldest churls will tell you of the days when churls alone ruled the country, when churls had been respected and sought after for their knowledge and talent in tending any lambs or sheep sent to them. Kings, queens, dukes, duchesses, counts and countesses who today in so many countries lord it over the churls, like to say, in their haughty way, “if not for the lambs and sheep, the country would not be here.”

But these are the words of parvenus. 

Just sit next to an old churl when the palace dilettantes gather to repeat what their superiors tell them to say about the lambs and sheep. The seasoned churl snorts and mutters to anyone within hearing the other truth, the corollary: “if not for the churls, the lambs would have nowhere to go.”

“People don’t bring their lambs to the country because we have a king or queen in a palace,” one old churl hissed recently after one of these dilettante gatherings. “The lambs and sheep come to the country because of the churls.”

The essential work of the country, as any country man or woman here knows, comes down to the churls and the lambs. Lambs and sheep need tending. Churls know how to tend them.

Once upon a time, churls were at the center of this country. And for a long time they made the country work without need of elaborate palaces and their preening inhabitants. It had been thus in other countries in the empire of the Field of Spring. Together with a few loyal serfs who knew how to obtain the tools or handbooks needed by the churls, who knew when to send out the call for lambs and sheep, to record their progress and development or others who knew when the barns had to be warmed and lit or when the sheep pens needed cleaning, the churls and the serfs ran the country pretty well. Often the serfs, served the country as long and as loyally as the churls. Whole families of serfs had been known to work for the country and some long lines of descent extended beyond the oldest churl’s memory.

Serfs understood the course of a year in the country: the annual influx of lambs and sheep in September, the preparations for the semi-annual sheep shearing in fall and winter, and the springtime release of mature sheep into the mountains. The serfs understood that their job was to make the churls’ work easier. It was not always or in all times the most harmonious relationship, but it usually was.

In these olden times no one had ever heard of a king or queen, duke or duchess, count or countess ruling over a country of lambs and sheep, churls and serfs. Kings and Queens and the rest were from faraway lands, from countries that did not tend lambs and sheep; they were from places that could not care less for them in fact. The countries with kings and queens measured success by how much they gained from making or trading widgety thingamabobs. Many a fortune was made that way and that made you a king.

The absolute best place, however, to become a king or a queen was not in manufacture or trade, it was in the Never Neverland also called, the Field of Spring.

In the Never Neverland of the Field of Spring anyone with a cheap suit of armor could grub for a benefice, an office, a toll bridge and become a doler of contracts, a holder of permits. This was where mere mortals became the retainers for the someones who themselves had already bootlicked their way into an office. No matter how low or degrading or phony the office, the only thing you needed in order to get ahead was an ability to flatter lesser talents than yourself. The bended knee, the honeyed tongue, and a truly perverted sense of loyalty based on betrayal --that’s what got you in.

The Field of Spring was where imperial power resided. The inhabitants waged wars for any and all offices, especially those that put them closer to the chamber of the emperor. The current emperor was once the ultimate maker and trader of widgety thingamabobs. Entrance into the imperial hierarchy was not based on any particular talent, but on the pretense of having talent. The inhabitants of Never Neverland postured for each other. They dressed for success. They spouted buzzwords and jargon, mastered clich├ęs and pontifications and practiced these regularly. They called each other by exalted titles based on pieces of paper they issued to each other or bought from someone else’s someone. Annual parties honored one or another of them for something or other. The most lavish parties and awards were given for those who were on the brink of public scandal. Praise at these events was always fulsome. In these circles it became important to proffer cult-like homage to a great person and grovel for their largesse. And someday others would do that to you.

Although nowadays kings and queens, dukes, duchesses, counts, and countesses have been ruling so long in the country of lambs and sheep, one takes for granted that it was not always so. For most of its history the country had been run by the churls. Even the oldest churls are foggy about when and how royalty usurped power from the churls. Did they enter at the invitation of the churls? Had they been imposed by imperial edict far away in the Field of Spring?  Old churls cannot pinpoint it exactly.

Unlike the standards used for royalty and retainers in Never Neverland, no one was allowed to become a churl without years of training and learning the trade of tending lambs and sheep. Even after formal training ended, a churl still spent seven years as a journeyman working with more experienced churls who knew sheep. After that a churl was called a master-doctor. The serfs knew and respected these churls who had dedicated themselves to learning their trade for so many years and had made the sheep their vocation.

The churls then had no elaborate rules for running the country. They took oversight of the country in turns. A churl who had been an accomplished sheep tender was honored by fellow-churls with the title of Rector, served several seasons away from sheep tending to live in the big barn and make sure that the country of lamb and sheep tending ran smoothly. The Rector might be aided by a few other officers—After a few years these churls went back to their sheep and other churls took their place. It was true that some churls were better at barn work than others, but the rotation allowed all the churls an understanding of what it took to keep the country viable and to see the work of the country as a whole.  

At some point, and the older churls debate when this happened, a few churls got tired of taking their turn in the big barn. It was not that running the country was all that complicated but it did require time away from one’s sheep and one’s own personal garden which all churls had.

“All I want to do is tend my sheep and go home to tend my garden,” some churls began to say.

“I don’t care about budgeting for new tools or reorganizing grazing spaces or obtaining the latest books on sheep tending. I just want to tend my sheep,” said others.

At some point, a house-proud virus took hold. Churls began neglecting not just their responsibility for running the country, but tending the sheep came to be seen as less important than garden work.

I must add that some churls arriving into the country were so zealous of their own specialized sheep tending talent that they failed to understand that the main enterprise of sheep tending was to give sheep foundations and skills to live on their own in the mountains. In the mountains a sheep often had to live by its wits, make judgments critical to its survival, be able to adapt to changing circumstances, to think and act creatively. The original foundations of sheep-tending were steeped in this knowledge.

Younger churls now seemed to have been bitten by the bug of “moving forward” and single -minded experimentation: “If only the sheep learned to find clover grass to eat, that is all they need to succeed in the mountains…”  

Others said, “sheep needed only to learn to navigate rocky paths and sense changes in the weather that is how they will succeed...”

Or, “a sheep’s most important skill was to learn the proper way of licking and caring for a new-born lamb...”

It was just about then that kings and queens, dukes and duchesses, counts and countesses of Never Neverland began to appear in the other countries of lambs and sheep. Lo and Behold, a great kingmaker, the son of a serf mind you, surveyed the landscape from his tower in the Field of Spring and his eye fell upon this country of lamb and sheep. “I could do great things in that country,” he thought. "Plus, I need a place to place my retinue…"

Next:  The Age of the Great Kingmaker and his Poseurs

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Sound of Fall Crickets

So the silence on campus that is occasionally punctuated by crickets is generated by the bored trustees who are waiting for the world to forget September 16th, 2016 when they fired a president who was on the job for only nine months (eight of which he was shackled to the Management Action Committee) and gave no reason for his ouster. 

Fortunately, the "enemy" of the university, the Chicago Tribune, has not forgotten and has once again added its voice to the deafening silence of the board. To wit, this editorial was published today. If only the Gov would take heed and do his job, then maybe the university would stand a chance. Or maybe the Gov believes this patient is too far gone to resuscitate and will only go through the motions of being a political leader.

And then there is this article by a long time critic of the university that appears in Forbes magazine of all places. The university does have enemies, but has done too much in the area of self-inflicted wounds to complain about being targeted by such critics. 

That erratic, weaving vehicle you see in front of you is the #CSUclowncar. Until it gets pulled over, the university will never have a chance.

See Inside Higher Ed's grim assessment of CSU's struggle.

The article below published in Inside Higher Ed on Wednesday rehashes old ground about the state of affairs at CSU. Some new voices weigh in: current Senator Donne Trotter and former Senator Edward Maloney, both of whom have turned a blind eye to the problems cronyism and political patronage brought to CSU. Their solution? More politics. It seems that our only hope is the Black Caucus in the General Assembly. Politics. The very thing that has been CSU's undoing. 

Chicago State struggles under questions of enrollment, finance, leadership

Inside Higher Ed 
Submitted by Rick Seltzer on October 5, 2016 - 3:00am

A belligerent crowd greeted Chicago State University’s Board of Trustees last month as it prepared to part ways with President Thomas Calhoun Jr. after just nine months.

Audience members at a Sept. 16 board meeting jeered and hissed as the terms of a separation agreement were read aloud. They chanted “shame” as the board voted to name Vice President of Administration and Finance Cecil Lucy interim president.

The hostility of that meeting was palpable, even in audio recordings [1]. But the crowd also reacted when the board heard a report stating that student head count this fall totaled 3,567.

That’s down 25 percent from 2015, when Chicago State enrolled 4,767 students. It’s almost 52 percent below the 2010 level, when the university enrolled 7,362 students.

More detailed reports emerged [2] the next week, revealing the enrollment numbers had ticked up by nine to 3,578 students. That change was incidental, especially compared to another revelation: the university only enrolled 86 freshmen, including both full-time and part-time students.

In 2014 [3] Chicago state enrolled 253 full-time, first-time freshmen. In 2010 it enrolled 523.

Any university would be challenged by such collapsing enrollment coupled with rapid leadership turnover. For Chicago State, however, the developments raise the question of how long a university beset by turmoil in recent years can continue to operate.

Chicago State declared financial exigency in February [4] amid an ongoing Illinois budget stalemate that choked off funding to state colleges and universities. The loss of state money was felt at public institutions throughout Illinois, but it was particularly important at Chicago State. The university draws about $36 million annually in state appropriations, roughly 30 percent of its operating budget. It also receives $5 million in state Monetary Award Program grant funds and $1.6 million in state-funded merit scholarships.

Located on the south side of Chicago, the university serves mostly minority and nontraditional students. Its student body is 75 percent black, according to National Center for Education Statistics data [5]. A quarter of its students are graduate students. About 70 percent are women. Many attend part time.

In the past, some have wondered [6] whether Chicago State's identity as a minority-serving institution in the city of Chicago caused political leaders to avoid dedicating the time and resources necessary to truly fix its problems. Those race and class issues could very well have contributed to the path the university took to its current financial situation. But there is widespread agreement that the cause of the immediate crisis is the state budget situation.

Soon after Chicago State declared exigency, worries rose [7] that it would be unable to meet payroll in the coming months. Chicago State wrote in documents for the state Legislature [8] that the budget impasse caused “an unprecedented financial crisis” and that the university’s “cash flow is nearly depleted and at risk of closing the school.”

The university carried out cost-cutting measures including canceling spring break and ending the semester early. It moved to lay off a third of its 900 employees at the end of April [9], cuts estimated to save 40 percent of its payroll costs, or $2 million per month. The cuts contributed to the university's accrediting agency placing it on notice [10] over its financial resources and planning.

Illinois did pass emergency appropriations that sent state money to universities. One round in April allotted $20.1 million to Chicago State. A six-month stopgap budget at the end of June included $12.6 million for the university. Together, the appropriations totaled $32.7 million, but they’re slated to cover an 18-month span dating to last year -- so the funding level is significantly below the $36 million Chicago State typically receives for a full year.

Facing that kind of crunch, universities can typically make their budgets work by cutting expenses, building enrollment, raising tuition or drawing on reserves. But the prospects for any of those strategies are questionable for Chicago State after it has talked so recently about closing its doors. The university may very well have lost the public and student support necessary for it to be salvaged.

“It’s sort of like we’ve been shot and we’re lying on the sidewalk and nobody’s calling an ambulance,” said Robert Bionaz, an associate professor of history and president of the Chicago State chapter of the University Professionals of Illinois Local 4100. “It’s sort of astounding to me that this is OK. What’s the rationale here? There’s nothing rational about this.”

There is major concern on campus about the institution’s future, said Bionaz, who frequently writes for a blog highly critical of Chicago State’s administration [11] that was the subject of a lawsuit [12] after it drew the university’s attention. Enrollment has consistently been declining for years, Bionaz said. Traditionally it would drop in the spring and bounce back up in the fall -- but that has stopped happening.

Chicago State faced headwinds even before the Illinois budget situation came to a head. A series of scandals eroded faith in the institution, Bionaz said.

He pointed to controversial hires under the university’s former president, Wayne Watson. Chicago State also lost a lawsuit in 2014 [13] brought by James Crowley, its general counsel, who turned into a whistle-blower. A jury awarded Crowley $2.5 million after he alleged Watson threatened him over the disclosure of public records. Additionally, a state ethics investigation found early this year [14] that Watson violated university policy by making false allegations against two board members who were trying to push him out of office in 2013.

“I don’t see a lot of prospects for the enrollment to increase,” Bionaz said. “The whole enrollment-management section is in shambles, and we’re already the smallest state institution. I just wonder how long we can go.”

Purchasing, library and advising operations have been decimated by the cuts imposed under financial exigency, Bionaz said. The cafeteria was closed. A dormitory didn’t have hot water for weeks. Students were showering at the gym.

Student trustee Paris Griffin brought up the state of campus at the Sept. 16 meeting where Calhoun was released.

“We are disheartened by the state of our campus,” she said. “The cafeteria has been closed for more than two weeks.”

In addition, the library was operating from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday for a time, Bionaz said. The hours were troubling for a campus that has a high number of students who work.

“The place is literally falling apart,” Bionaz said. “This is going to require immediate intervention, or it’s going to be beyond your capacity to fix. Because at what point do we become nonviable? Is it when we get to 2,000 [students]? When we get to 2,500? That’s a year away. Maybe a year and a half.”

Bionaz isn’t as pessimistic on short-term survival, though. He pointed out that the institution found money to pay employees laid off this spring -- $2.2 million [15]. It paid Calhoun [16] $600,000 when it parted ways with him as president. Even though Chicago State said it was close to missing payroll earlier this year, Bionaz said he’s inclined to question the numbers.

It’s difficult to evaluate the current fiscal situation because the university has not produced an up-to-date budget book since 2015. But that budget showed money in reserves, Bionaz said.

Bionaz does not want the current Board of Trustees to conduct a search for a new president. There is much anger on campus about how the last president was ousted, and four trustees have terms that end in January, he said.

Frustration regarding Calhoun’s departure extends beyond campus. The change prompted Chicago’s two major newspapers to pen editorials calling for shake-ups to Chicago State’s Board of Trustees. The Sun-Times wrote [17] that Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner should fire any board members who do not cooperate in providing an explanation for Calhoun’s ouster. The Tribune [18]said [18] it is time to clean house among trustees. The Tribune specifically called out the size of Calhoun's buyout in light of the tight financial situation at Chicago State.

“That $600,000 is money that won't be used to improve classroom instruction at Chicago State, already in deep academic trouble,” the editorial said. “It won't be used to shore up the school's wobbly finances after spending an unfortunate $2.2 million, most of it in severance for nearly 400 employees laid off since the beginning of the year. This is a school hemorrhaging cash, failing its students and now drained of its last ounce of credibility.”

The governor’s office wants to do a thorough search for new board members, Rauner said during a Sept. 29 press conference. He said he wants to turn around the institution.

But he also said it’s difficult to get a handle on the situation.

“We’re still trying to get our hands around what is happening at Chicago State, because there is a lot of movement and a lot of things being done without informing our administration or outside folks,” Rauner said. “It’s very troubling. The level of transparency at Chicago State is atrocious.”

Board of Trustees Chairman Anthony Young declined comment when reached by phone. Chicago State’s communications department did not return several requests for interviews and information. Lucy, Chicago State’s interim president, did not return an email seeking comment. The Illinois Board of Higher Education referred requests for comment to the governor’s office, which pointed to Rauner’s Sept. 29 press conference.

The lawyer representing Calhoun, Raymond Cotton, declined to discuss the terms of his departure other than to say Chicago State honored its contract.

“The board honored its commitment that it made in writing to the president,” Cotton said. “When they asked him to depart and he agreed to do it, they honored the contract, the binding contract that they had with him.”

The information void has been filled by speculation.

Sun-Times gossip columnist Michael Sneed quoted an unnamed source [19] asserting that Calhoun painted over a mural on the ceiling of the master bedroom of the university’s president’s home. The unnamed source also said Calhoun had assembled an expensive inaugural budget.

Several sources dismissed that account in interviews with Inside Higher Ed. Instead, they pointed to a four-person management action committee neutralizing the president’s power.

Some observers simply said the relationship between Calhoun and the university appeared to not be functioning. Donne Trotter is a Democratic state senator whose district includes Chicago State.

“How long do you have to stay in a bad relationship before you say it’s not working?” Trotter said. “I’ve used the analogy before that they didn’t see him as the right general in this war for survival.”

On the broader question of Chicago State’s future as a going concern, Trotter said the state budget situation is putting all Illinois universities at risk.

Some of the state’s other universities have felt enrollment declines. Eastern Illinois University reported total head count [20] enrollment of 7,415 this fall, down almost 13 percent from 8,520 a year ago.

Chicago State is in a more vulnerable situation than others, according to Trotter. It did not have as much tuition funding to fall back upon or as large a reserve of funds, he said.

“They’re hanging on edge,” Trotter said. “They’re next to fall off that cliff.”

Still, Trotter didn’t talk about a state budget fix being possible until January. He acknowledged that the much-publicized talk about financial troubles is likely dissuading students from attending Chicago State.

“They knew it would have a large impact on getting people to come there,” Trotter said.

Other state political observers think it could be longer before the budget situation changes significantly. Even after the fall election, the state will have a Republican governor with two years left in his term and who has shown no interest in changing his budget positions. It will still have Democratic legislative leaders opposing him.

It’s not even clear at this point that the political will exists to save a university beset by trouble.

“I don’t think people care,” said Edward Maloney, a Democratic former member of the State Senate who chaired its Higher Education Committee and now lobbies on higher education issues. “I think the people who are immediately impacted by it care, but beyond the immediate area, you talk to any other member of the General Assembly, they don’t care if it closes. They really don’t.”

Chicago State hasn’t shown the ability to recruit students who can graduate successfully. Its six-year undergraduate graduation rate recently fell to 11 percent [21].

“This could be the nail in the coffin,” said Maloney, who earned his master’s degree at Chicago State. “The only thing that may save them is being a traditionally black institution. The black caucus is pretty powerful in the Illinois General Assembly.”

Many continue to hold Chicago State up as a four-year university serving a local population that can’t travel to attend another institution. Its closure would take away jobs and the realistic chance to attend a university from a large chunk of Chicago’s population.

Some have suggested Chicago State could be merged with another Chicago-area university, like Northeastern Illinois University on the city’s northwest side or the City Colleges of Chicago. Those are just whispers, though. The prospects and pitfalls of such a move remain unclear.

Chicago State Trustee Spencer Leak did not want to comment on the possibility of the university closing. He said it would be appalling.

Leak also declined to comment on the presidential change. But he did say the lower enrollment numbers hurt the university.

“The enrollment problem exacerbates the budgetary problems,” he said. “You can’t justify the need for finances for the university without students.”

Leak closed a telephone interview by making a point of saying that he is praying for Chicago State. He seeks a higher authority when faced with challenges, and the university is faced with challenges now, he said.

“I’m praying for our university,” Leak said. “That may not mean a lot to a lot of people. It may be simplistic. But I’m certainly praying for the university and the faculty and the students.”

Admissions [22]
Source URL:


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A Student Asks a Question--will anyone answer? Mr Lucy? Mme Provost? Ms Zollar?

At the Student Government Association meeting last week, interim president Mr Lucy and CSU Board member Nikki Zollar sat in sackcloth and ashes and beat their breasts in a great show of penitence about how much they valued the CSU students and how sorry they were that the students were upset at the Trustees' dismissal of the recent CSU president Thomas Calhoun. Ms Zollar made a great display of sharing the students' pain. Mr Lucy just wants everyone to trust him in this difficult time for CSU. [In case you missed it, for comic relief, Sabrina Land was on hand chasing away videographers and photographers who were at the meeting...]

Well Ms Zollar and Mr Lucy, here's your chance to show some accountability to a student.

A few days ago a CSU Nursing student posted the following comment on the blogpost below, "September Review." The student had some sharp observations and significant questions about the nursing program so I'm re-posting the comment here in the hope that it garners some attention. I hope MissChem will continue to press the president, the provost and the board of trustees for the answers to her questions.

After reading this nursing student's cri de coeur one gets the feeling that it may not be the faculty alone who think it is time for a forensic audit.

From MissChem, Oct 3, 2016:
I'm a senior nursing student and we are being charged $175/credit hour for nursing fees. It's not $2500 per year. This is what I've been charged so far:
Fall 2015: $2,100
Spring 2016: $2,450
Fall 2016: $2,625
There were approximately 25-43 students per nursing class. (Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors...) Do the math.

We were told this money would go to improving the nursing resource lab. Lies!!!!! We have clinical simulators that we've never used because no one in the department knows how to use them, and they won't let us touch them. Last Friday, some students and a few faculty started "cleaning out" our nursing lab. Some of the stuff in there was so old, one of our instructors said to throw it away because it was against Joint Commission standards and banned in healthcare.

We have a nursing computer lab that we rarely have access to because there's nobody to "watch us" while we're in there. We're expected to help save people's lives but we can't be trusted to use a computer lab designated for us.

The nursing website...not being maintained at all! Scholarships from 2009 still there. This is a research institution yet no research is being done in this department, nor are there any active grants.

We just started clinical in the sixth week of an eight week course due to the lack of malpractice insurance. The department chairperson told us it was paid in June but the university didn't have the "certificate in hand." The clinical site surely won't want to hire us after graduation because they already associate CSU with unprofessionalism.

Our class was never provided a nursing handbook but they enforce policies from a handbook we don't have, and when we ask for it...crickets. They change grading criteria AFTER the class has ended and retroactively fail people, which is just a way to generate more money because then people register for a mandatory remedial course.

They refused to grant credits as laid out in the course catalog for CNAs, LPNs, and RNs that enter the program, so they essentially made people take classes they would have received credit for. And why is the university offering an unaccredited MSN program?

Our department chairperson is also running the Wellness Center, one of only 2 employees that have been with CSU for at least 2 years. All the faculty have left the university. We have 3 nursing faculty that instruct for the entire department.

And these are just a FEW of the shenanigans going on in that department. Unfortunately, we don't have anyone to turn to because everyone is either crooked or too scared to advocate for us. Hurry up May 11, 2017!!!!!

Friday, September 30, 2016

September in Review

So what have we learned this month?

First, the Board of Trustees lost confidence in President Thomas Calhoun and negotiated a $600,000 separation agreement after he was on the job less than nine months. This termination of Calhoun's employment came despite the fact that he had near universal support from the faculty and students at the university. No reason was given by the trustees for their abrupt change of direction. We learned that the Chicago Tribune called on the Governor to replace the Board for their apparent incompetence.
September saw the Board of Trustees "apologize" to the students at the monthly Student Government Association meeting for something related to the Calhoun separation. We learned that CSU nursing students pay $2500 per year extra to cover additional nursing program costs and those entitlements are considered "extras" that might not be able to be afforded by the university during this financial crisis. That according to the interim president. One of those extras was the malpractice insurance for the nursing students to participate in their clinical training that apparently wasn't paid by the university. 

We learned about a Higher Learning Commission policy change, seemingly written exclusively for Chicago State University. It wasn't bad enough that the university was sanctioned for Criterion 5, but now it seems there is more punishment on the way. 

We learned that our students continue to be denigrated by the #CSUclowncar. It actually wasn't a one off with Trustee Smith and a respected student leader who called him out during public comment two weeks ago. Beside insulting the intelligence of our students with inane non-answers and platitudinous drivel, they insult the faculty by somehow insinuating we don't teach our students to think critically or reason analytically. Our students are not our puppets to be manipulated. We are here to give them skills to better use their innate abilities. "Controversial" faculty, in my 25 year experience here, don't use the students as human shields against the bad administration. Rather they support students and encourage them to expand their range and scope.

That is, of course, threatening to those who actually do manipulate and then throw students away. In response the the nursing student, the interim president responded exactly how the #CSUclowncar always responds. Placate the individual student while never correcting the systemic dysfunction. The #CSUclowncar is so predictable!

We learned that both newspapers of record in the city are supporting reform at CSU including a forensic audit of the university and the "firing" of the Board by the Governor. These are strong statements indeed from the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times given the university has been troubled for at least two decades. 

We learned this week that the disgraced former president responsible for much of the destruction of the university was hanging around campus, I suspect seeking to be relevant. It is rather sad that after all of the failures of his tenure he would come on campus for any reason. Our students should really be exposed to successes, not failures.

We learned that the university no longer needed the services of the interim vice president for enrollment management as he was dismissed on September 19th. The #CSUclowncar cover story was that he resigned after Dr. Calhoun resigned. I can state with certainty that cover story is untrue. The university enrolls 86 freshmen and they fire the Enrollment Management VP saying his services are no longer necessary??? At least they didn't blame him since he was only on the job for two months and had no staff left after the #CSUclowncar eviscerated the enrollment management division in April. They did blame the low number on the budget which is strange since Illinois State University faced the same budget impasse but had their highest enrollment in 27 years. As the late Texas governor Ann Richards said "that dog won't hunt." We had 86 freshmen because the #CSUclowncar destroyed the university's ability to recruit and admit students even after being warned by your humble narrator, that preserving that area would be critical to our future. As usual though, faculty are always wrong at CSU.

And finally we learned that even those things within the control of the administration that could paint the university in a better light are not improved. The appallingly embarrassing university website continues to show there is little we seem to be able to do well beyond teach our students and conduct our research and hope for some relief from the legislature and the governor.

It's Falling Down Around Us

So I went to the College of Pharmacy the other day only to find that the two normal entrances to the building had been locked. I ran into one of the college's employees who took me to the "secret" elevator that led to the 3rd Floor. There were no signs and no indicators of how to get to the university's flagship college. I thought to myself what if I were a prospective pharmacy student and I couldn't even get to the pharmacy college offices? After some conversations with colleagues in the college I was informed that the university would be doing asbestos abatement on the second floor of Douglas Hall in preparation for moving all of the College of Health Sciences programs, Nursing and Health Information Administration into Douglas Hall. What a great idea I thought but then I thought asbestos abatement is a very specialized and dangerous process and do you want people in the building while that's being done especially because students, staff and faculty would be both above and below the work area. Could the work be completed during the semester break in December when the building could be closed? When it comes to health and safety, especially with asbestos, I would err on the side of extreme caution but as you, loyal readers have seen the treatment of the university community by the #CSUclowncar, I imagine there wouldn't be any consideration given to what students, staff and faculty might think or want concerning their health and safety.

I was also very disturbed to find that a classroom in Douglas Hall needs mold remediation because of a water leak from the third floor. The mold has become significant enough that a faculty colleague has been made ill by the mold in that classroom. It then occurred to me what would OSHA think about workers being sickened in a work place that has been neglected for years by successive administrations and boards. Maybe a call to OSHA and the IDOL could speed along the process of maintaining a safe and healthy workplace at CSU.

Or we could just hear more whinging and complaining from the #CSUclowncar about airing dirty (moldy) laundry.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

What Is A Forensic Audit Anyway???

So the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board has weighed in on Chicago State, supporting a request by the University Professionals of Illinois Local 4100 to conduct a comprehensive audit of the university’s finances and practices. Your humble narrator has mentioned the idea of a forensic audit both in this venue and to all who would listen. But like many ideas or practices, do we really know what a forensic audit is as compared to a financial statement audit or the compliance audit conducted under the auspices of the Illinois Auditor General. I will share what I have learned and connect the practice to what I believe has happened at the university since 2009.

A forensic audit is “an examination and evaluation of a firm's or individual's financial information for use as evidence in court. A forensic audit can be conducted in order to prosecute a party for fraud, embezzlement or other financial claims. In addition, an audit may be conducted to determine negligence...” ( “The forensic audit is usually carried out to prosecute the accused party for financial crimes such as embezzlement of funds, fraud and bribery.” ( “Forensic audits are part of a specialized branch of accounting that requires training in fraud detection...The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants classifies forensic accounting into two broad categories: Investigative services involve identifying asset-theft fraud and identifying the perpetrator; litigation services involve gathering evidence and giving testimony leading to the conviction of the perpetrator in a court of law.” ( Forensic auditing couples accounting with criminology.

When the university undergoes its annual audit, the auditors sample various transactions that they are examining. For example, if there were 100 contracts over $1 million the auditors may examine 3 of those contracts to ensure compliance with generally accepted accounting principles. A forensic audit would look at each of the contracts to ensure proper accounting practices were followed. The purpose of the forensic audit is to detect fraud and at CSU I imagine that wouldn’t be hard given the administration of the last 7 years. Any permanent president coming in to shut down #CSUclowncar would do themselves a great benefit by demanding transparency of the financial operation of the university. Cronyism does not exist quia non causa or for no reason, rather it exists to provide material benefit to those participating. Material benefit can be clearly defined in economic terms. It could be contracts given to friends or jobs given to friends or relatives both of which have occurred at CSU since 2009.

So where might a forensic audit begin? I am most curious about the amount of money spent on the illusory West Side Campus during the last seven years and who, pray tell, did nearly $6 million go to. Was property acquired? Was equipment purchased? Were employees hired to work at the WSC? If not what were millions of taxpayer dollars spent on?

I am also curious about the spending of non-appropriated funds, namely from the myriad of student fees collected by the university. For example, I believe that a portion of the student activity fee goes toward the operation of a student newspaper. That newspaper hasn’t been published in years so where did the money for its operation go? A forensic audit might just answer that question. 

I am curious about hiring and payroll practices. Might a forensic audit uncover ghost payrolling and identify who was responsible for that particular fraud? In other places in Illinois, ghost payrollers often received prison time for they offences. Might some perp walks be in the offing?

So who might conduct a forensic audit and who would pay for this rather expensive undertaking? A five minute search of the Google machine led me to three companies that would be large enough to conduct a forensic audit of a public university. Meaden & Moore, Plante Moran and Navigant all have significant experience in accounting, auditing and forensic auditing. I am sure any of the Big Four Accounting firms would be capable of a thorough forensic examination of the finances of the university as well. Though it would seem the university is flush with cash, (See Calhoun payoff), it would probably require a special appropriation by the legislature. At the point the university is now, I would not be surprised if legislators from both sides of the aisle demanded a forensic audit before  appropriating any more money to ensure that financial management practices were up to snuff. Given the financial exigency declaration, the board of trustees should have the results of an audit before they terminate the exigency as there was some question from the former president as to whether he was receiving accurate financial information during his brief tenure. I would imagine the interim president and former/current CFO, would want a forensic audit, lest its results turn him into #Fallguy. Undertaking a forensic audit should also instill some confidence in donors, investors, partners, contributors to the university and make it easier to fund raise. 

The reality of the budget crisis is that higher education spending has remained flat but is being used differently with a much higher percentage going to pension funding. This is forcing universities to be more financially independent. CSU will find this difficult as long as its financial condition is murky. A forensic audit could restore confidence and might very well contribute to saving the university from the #CSUclowncar.

An "Embarrassment" and "Laughingstock" Indeed: Chicago State University's Web Site

Yesterday, in the Sun Times Mary Mitchell called Chicago State an “embarrassment,” and “the laughingstock of the state university system.” She pointed out that “While students and faculty rallied in Springfield last year to keep the doors open during the budget stalemate, the school’s administrators have been showing the kind of incompetent leadership that causes black institutions to implode.”

For heaven’s sake, how long do we have to suffer this? How long before we are either put out of our misery or someone with the authority to take action starts to clean this place up? Will we ever get away from the “politics of personality and cronyism” that Mitchell references in her article?

One of the most noticeable effects of cronyism is a work product that is far below standard. For a sterling example of crappy work here at Chicago State, look no farther than the university’s web site, the school’s first chance to make a good impression. In the past, I have criticized our site for its egregious grammatical errors, pointing out that it’s not a blog or a forum in which persons write off-the-cuff comments or pieces, which often contain such errors. As our window on the world, the material on the university’s web site should be up-to-date, polished and precise, free of errors in spelling and grammar. Taking only a cursory look at the material on our web page immediately reveals how far removed it is from this ideal. Apparently, here at Chicago State, we have neither the pride nor the ability to present accurate and professional material to the outside world. Here are just a few examples from earlier today:

This is the president's portion of the Chicago State web site. This might leave someone looking in from outside scratching her/his head in wonder.

Next, we navigate to the Enrollment Management section of the site. Here, we see that Dr. Carol Cortilet-Albrecht, who left university employment at the end of June, is still the V.P. of Enrollment Management. As we all know, that's simply not true as we are currently in the process of selecting our third Vice President (I assume) of Enrollment Management since June 29, 2016. Readers might also notice that both her name and the name of the Director of admissions are spelled incorrectly. It's Cortilet, not Cotilet. It's Bhatia, not Bhitia.

Staying with the Enrollment Management folks, clicking on one of the menu items brings up this screen. You'll notice that here, both of Dr. Cortilet-Albrecht's surnames are spelled incorrectly:

We move on to the Governmental Affairs portion of our web site. Here we find Farah Muscadin listed as Director of Intergovernmental Affairs. As some of you may remember, she has not been employed at the university since April 30, 2016.

I conclude with information on the web site that simply needs no commentary:

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Is it 2013 Again? Watson Returns in Disguise

With the re-establishment of the Watson cronies as leaders of doomed Chicago State University, we find ourselves back in Wayne’s wonderland. Plan for nothing and never take responsibility. Hide your ignorance under a cloak of meaningless platitudes and outright bullshit. After all, no one in the state gives a damn.

Here’s Chicago State’s response to yesterday’s Tribune story: "The university continues to focus on improving academic excellence, student experience, increasing enrollment and revenue generation," officials said in the statement. "We plan to rebuild in 2017."

From the memorandum by Cecil Lucy on September 23, 2016: “I am committed to improving our student experience, revenue generation, and bridging the gap among our campus community. . . in the months ahead, we will continue to focus on:

• Student success

• Increasing Enrollment

• Expanding our financial resources”

From the beginning of the Watson administration, the administration bombarded the university community and the public with a succession of vacuous slogans and insipid sound bites in response to concrete problems. For example:

• Audit problems.
• Watson’s response: "incorrect processes (that are) embedded in the culture here — have lasted for years.”
• Financial Aid problems.
• Watson’s response: “the practice of allowing failing students to stay on the rolls began in 2007 as an intentional effort to boost enrollment figures and then continued without the knowledge of current campus leaders.”
• Plummeting enrollment.
• Pick one. “Right-sizing,” or “academic rigor,” or “raising standards.” Here’s Cheri Sidney: "Some of the internal factors that affect our enrollment are our own policies and procedures. These are policies and procedures that we continue to review and address as we align our strategic goals of enrollment with serving the students and adhering to the university standards.” Or, how about this: "Chicago State University is still in the mold (mode?) of right-sizing our enrollment from a decade-plus of enrollment data integrity challenges, policy and procedure standards that were not conducted or executed properly and new federal aid changes to financial aid.”
• Cratering graduation rate for first-time students. This is for the first cohort of students to matriculate and spend their entire college career under the great Wayne Watson and his spectacularly incompetent administration. I can assure you that subsequent graduation rates will be almost as bad and I expect that eventually, our first-time graduation rate will dip below 10 percent.
• Here’s Sabrina Land’s unadulterated nonsense: "The 11 percent graduation rate is a result of the students dropped in spring 2011 for poor academic performance as previously reported by the Chicago Tribune," "This decision was made to preserve the academic integrity of the university."

Readers might notice the absence of substantive solutions to very real problems. We solve everything by doing a rhetorical shuffle that hopefully distracts people from seeing the complete lack of a plan or an idea of how to address these issues that have plagued the school for years. Needless to say, none of the leadership is to blame.

So let’s analyze the most recent gruel spooned out by Mr. Lucy in response to the abysmal numbers recently reported by IER.

We are improving “student success” and the “student experience” by eviscerating the parts of the university that serve our students: advising, admissions, the library, financial aid, information services. In the meantime, we continue to support our bloated administration and pay high salaries to persons who do what exactly?

We plan to “increase enrollment” by getting rid of our fourth V.P. for Enrollment Management since 2013. His replacement will be? We also plan to add students by decimating admissions. When they get here, the will surely be impressed with a library that has so few staff it has been operating on regular business hours, by advising that features interminable waits to see harried advisors who are trying to achieve the impossible task of advising across multiple disciplines and programs.

We plan to “expand our financial resources,” or increase “revenue generation” by making outlandish demands on staff, faculty, and the community. All these groups are supposed to shrug off a kick in the groin and contribute to this corrupt enterprise. All these people are supposed to validate the actions of this execrable board and administration by contributing money. Speaking for myself, to hell with that idea.

Based on what I’ve seen in the past few days, we’re right back in the middle of the Wayne Watson era. A 1984-style worldview that lies are truth and ignorance is strength continues to be the mantra of this administration, enthusiastically supported by the worst board in the country. We truly are nearing the end and only a full-blown purge of the administration and board will save this university.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

More Bleak News

Another miserable story about the school:

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