Friday, September 28, 2018

What Kanye Could Do At Chicago State University: Suggestions from A Hip Hop Head and Scholar

Lots of excitement this week as there have been daily Kanye West sightings.  Accompanying these sightings is speculation about what he is doing here and a great deal of hope that he is here either to assist the school or scout talent for record contracts.  Other non-fans and cynics ask: What the hell is he doing here?  I imagine that only Kanye knows why he is here.

I've been a fan of Mr. West's since I first heard the song, "Through the Wire" and "Jesus Walks."  In my diversity and class and stratification courses I still play "All Falls Down" from his first album; I use it to describe class, conspicuous consumption and related terms. Even though the corporate media tries to sensationalize his image and words often with his help, I know he has a lot to offer still.  In addition, I believe that Mr. West is sincere in his visits to CSU.  After all, he spent a good amount of time as a youth walking the campus with his mother, the still-esteemed former professor, Donda West.  Colleagues who have been around long enough describe seeing Kanye "running around in short pants" as a retired colleague once told me.  Undoubtedly, his and his mother's experience here shaped him in many ways.  CSU has much still to offer him and he much to offer CSU. 

Since Mr. West has begun to show serious interest in CSU I thought it appropriate to assist him in understanding our needs and strengths and offer some ideas about how he can partner (because, of course, he will benefit, too) with CSU.  Here's just a few.  Feel free to add your own.

--Endow the music program including and especially the new cutting-edge electronic and popular music degree.  He could create an endowment that would earn money to buy equipment, hire 3 to 5 faculty members, and fund full-ride scholarships for 30 talented Chicago youth.  I am certain that the emcee and music producer would love to assist young men and women like him develop their talent.

--If he loves Black people like he says George W. Bush doesn't, then he could endow a Social Justice Institute.  The institute could include an interdisciplinary program in social justice.  Again, existing programs in political science, criminal justice, sociology, African American Studies, and others could be used as a framework for developing a new program.   It could have research components, provide services, provide jobs and be a think tank for solving many of the social ills that we face in Chicago and around the globe. 

--He could endow an urban agriculture problem to help solve the problems of food apartheid including malnutrition, toxic food, diet-related illness and socio economic problems.  The urban agriculture program could have a social justice mission that included education but also could connect with communities already doing this work much like the Neighborhood Assistance Center already does with few resources.  Once again the money would be used to bolster existing programs in Geography, biology, sociology and others as well as provide scholarships, hire faculty and develop infrastructure related to the Aquaponics Center, etc.

--Develop a Chicago Hip Hop Archive that as always includes an education component.  It could include a research library or section of the library, performance spaces, archives, and study rooms.  The Archive would build on our already existing resources including our talented students and faculty who teach courses on or related to hip hop and research and write about it. The library staff would be the foundation of this effort and more faculty, staff and other professionals would be hired including hiring students to staff the archive as they learn.

--Bolster the efforts of the Women's Resource Center and Women's and Gender Studies.  The unit or program would provide services to our community and to our predominantly adult female population that could include daycare, parenting services, counseling, etc.  The new program or center would have a research and academic component tied to the existing efforts of my colleagues in Women's and Gender Studies, African American Studies, and other disciplines throughout the university.

--Develop a much-needed community health center/institute again tied to existing programs in nursing, pharmacy, OT and other health sciences as well as appropriate social sciences.  Such a center would include services, curricula related to community health, new faculty and student scholarships.

Of course, every unit would want something.  Buildings, grounds, student services, enrollment, athletics, etc., etc., all need assistance so that we can become the '21st century university' that we are being asked to become.  My belief is that if we are able to bolster our academic programs, create unique programs and tie them to services and social justice, then we will begin to once again make a positive name for ourselves and be a model for urban universities across the country.

Mr. West has already raised the profile of CSU by just being here.  My wish is that his presence will start a mutually beneficial relationship between him and us.  Not being an academic Mr. West is likely to need help identifying how he can plug in here at CSU.  My advice to him is speak to those of us who have been around for awhile and who know our needs.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Will Angela Attack?

How long do you think it will be before the former Provost starts taking potshots at the school? Despite her years of fraud and failure, I'm sure she thought her association with Wayne Watson would enable her to stay in her position as long as she wished. Does anyone really think she'll not try to strike back. After all, remember that the Watson administration's mode of operation included attempts to destroy his Lilliputianess's real and perceived enemies (ie. Jim Crowley, Glenn Meeks, LaShondra Peebles, and a host of others). Henderson learned those tacticw well. So where will the attack(s) originate? From the political hacks on the state level who have done nothing over the past 9 years as the University plummeted to its current imperiled position? From political hacks in the HLC? (Remember their recent concern about our internal operations) From friends and allies in the media? From allies remaining on the Board? From ridiculous lawsuits? Stay tuned.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Don't Put the Broom Away Just Yet. The Cronies in Wonderland

In the past few days, we’ve seen a handful of Friends of Wayne or Friends of Angela lose their sinecures at Chicago State. Hopefully, this won’t be the end of the much-needed firings at this University. On July 26, the new President moved Angela Henderson, a long-time Watson crony out of the Provost’s position. Last week, another Watson administrative crony who had “protected Watson” according to a senior administrator, lost a key job. Additionally, one of the highly placed “Friends of Angela” who had seen a 221 percent salary increase in the past seven years, found the new President unimpressed with her/his job performance. Altogether, these 3 administrators made $473,868.90 in salary and overrides in fiscal 2018.

After the first wave of Watson crony hires in 2009 (Mitchell, Sidney, Cage, and Ronnie Watson most prominent), another wave of cronies came on board between mid-2011 and early 2014. Included among these lucky “Friends of Wayne” were Henderson, hired June 15, 2011 as the Vice President of Enrollment Management at a salary of $150,000/year; and Damon Arnold, hired as “Director” of a program with 4 students at a salary of $140,004/year on October 3, 2011. Watson soon promoted both these cronies and raised their salaries. Henderson eventually became University Provost at a salary of $231,750 (a bump of $81,750, or 54.5 percent, while Arnold, apparently despite infrequent appearances at work, was anointed an Assistant Dean, with a more modest increase to $144,204 or 3 percent.

Of course, Watson also involved himself in other hirings, reportedly even interviewing candidates for maintenance, police officer, and of course, faculty positions. In the Watson universe, a paranoid concern with subordinate loyalty reigned supreme. Ignoring the obvious inadequate qualifications of most of his crony selections, Watson populated Chicago State’s senior administrative ranks with incompetent friends and friends of political friends, effectively consigning to irrelevance any actual ability to do a particular job. As an example, after Henderson’s terrible performance as VP of Enrollment Management (enrollment declined from 6882 to 5701 on her watch), Watson promoted her to Interim Provost on July 1, 2013.

Of course, 5 years ago, both Watson and Henderson had a problem with a faculty and staff who saw through their charade and recognized them as the frauds and political hacks they actually were. Although most faculty members were unable or unwilling to publicly express their displeasure with the operations of the Watson regime, several no-confidence votes and other polls demonstrated consistent opposition to their “administration.” Having been rejected by the academic community, where could these two clowns turn for support?

By rigging student elections and putting pressure on our most vulnerable population, the Watson/Henderson “juggernaut” co-opted a number of students. They taught a number of lessons to students who desired to participate in the affairs of the University. Loyalty to Watson/Henderson resulted in rewards, while disloyalty or even indifference could engender disastrous consequences. As the legatee of her mentor’s management style, Henderson demonstrated that she learned these lessons well.

The point of contact between students and administrators became the Office of Student Activities. Organizationally, this office bounced around between 2012 and 2018. In January 2012, the office operated under the Enrollment Management VP, Angela Henderson. At that point, two Deans, a Dean of Students and a Dean of Freshman Experience existed under Enrollment Management. The Dean of Freshman Experience was vacant. The organizational status quo obtained on July 31, 2012. By January 24, 2014, Henderson had been promoted to Provost, and Student Activities remained under the new Interim Vice President of Enrollment Management, LaShondra Peebles. By this time, one of the loyal employees working for Henderson had been promoted to an Interim Dean’s position.

By February 2015, Peebles had been fired and the Enrollment Management operation significantly reduced. The Student Activities component was now headed by an Interim Dean of Student Affairs, reporting directly to the President. Almost every office dealing with student activities now essentially reported to the President. This organizational arrangement avoided any potential conflicts between the wrong Dean and the Henderson friends and loyalists in the old Enrollment Management empire. The one exception: the Interim Dean who had been promoted in 2014 now worked directly for Angela Henderson. The First Year Experience operation had been detached from other student departments and reorganized under the Provost. The Vice President’s position in Enrollment Management was vacant.

By the date Thomas Calhoun assumed the presidency, the entire Student Affairs operation, including the Dean and the Dean of First Year Experience operated under the Provost’s office. Again, this reorganization protected these Henderson loyalists from the incoming President, who had exhibited a threatening desire to actually develop a positive relationship with the University faculty. This organizational structure existed under Cecil Lucy in February 2017, and continued under Rachel Lindsey in February 2018.

The same kind of administrative bloat seen across the University has afflicted Student Activities in recent months. In Spring 2014, that operation consisted of an Interim Dean, a Director and an Assistant Director of Student Activities. By Spring 2016, the Assistant Director had gotten a new administrative position and a nice raise of $39,000, from $46,000 to $85,000 a year. For the next three years, that office consisted of a Dean and a Director of Student Activities, with an annual salary expense of $175,000 to $200,000. However, in Spring 2018, with enrollment at record lows, undergraduate enrollment below 2000, and Freshman enrollment down to 224 (fall 2017 figures), the administrative staff in Student Activities suddenly doubled. We now have a Dean, an Assistant Dean, a Director of Student Activities, and a Director of First Year Experience, for a total salary expense of $390,311.30.

So we know what the employees get for their loyalty to Henderson. What do the students get? In 2013, the Watson administration interceded in a student government election to insure that two anti-Watson candidates were not elected to the positions of SGA President and Student Rep to the CSU Board (the anti-Watson candidate won 292-80, while the anti-Watson Board candidate won 236-88). The administration made a concerted effort to destroy the anti-Watson Board candidate, as Angela Henderson filed bogus “stalking” charges, got an injunction from a friendly judge, and caused the subsequent arrest of the student for violating the bullshit “anti-stalking” order. Ultimately, both the order and the criminal charges against the student were dismissed in court. All this apparently cooked up by the President, Provost, and General Counsel, abetted by Student Activities personnel, to silence a student for daring to disagree with Watson.

In February 2014, I wrote this: “Under the Watson regime, persons without protection are cynically co-opted, bullied and intimidated into actions that serve the interests of Wayne Watson and his cronies. The administration subjects students who disagree vocally with the Watson regime to the full weight of the university’s enforcement apparatus while it defends administrators who lie, cheat and plagiarize.”

As a student, it was not even necessary to publicly disagree with Watson/Henderson to have yourself discarded and your academic career ruined. Let’s take the hypothetical case of a student who simply may not have been able to handle the pressure of the various demands made by Watson/Henderson and their acolytes:

After admission, the student’s first 3 semesters look like this: 41 credit hours attempted, 41 completed, 41 passed, a 3.63 GPA. The student then gets involved in campus politics, aligns her/himself with the Watson/Henderson administration, serves in important positions, and over the next four years attempts another 146 hours, completes 116, passes 96, with a 1.55 GPA, dropping her/his overall GPA to 2.03. The hypothetical student ultimately leaves school with no diploma. Could this actually have happened?

It seems like the focus of President Scott’s housecleaning targets inefficiently performing administrators, including some obvious crony hires. As I have said repeatedly, they are an impediment to the University’s ability to reconstruct its reputation and again become a viable educational institution. Madame President, while you evaluate the senior administrators, please do not ignore the mid-level crony administrators who have enthusiastically contributed to the school’s demise while happily cashing those nice paychecks. As you are assuredly discovering, for years, a number of these people have done almost nothing except collect a salary. Let's see if we can't replace them with people who, preferably at other universities, have demonstrated the ability to support students and increase enrollment.

Monday, July 30, 2018

The End of the End Or The Beginning of the Beginning

So it took 936 days, two interim presidents, one permanent president and a non-traditional president to bring to an end the darkest period of Chicago State University’s 150 year history. Since 2008, the university has endured an ever deepening spiral into non-existence. To answer who is responsible is to tell a much longer story than your humble narrator has time to tell here. The short version is that everyone affiliated with the University prior to July 1st of this year has some measure of accountability here. Those who would support a regime that was demonstrably failing in real time bear the greatest responsibility. That includes the current and former governors, state legislators, administrators, tenured faculty, and alumni. Accrediting bodies and the Illinois Board of Higher Education are also responsible. By their action or inaction members of all of these groups contributed to a 65% enrollment decline between 2009 and 2018. And no, loyal readers, do not believe the apologists who blame the two year budget crisis for a 9 year enrollment decline.
So the last ten years have been horrific for the University and now the last vestiges of that period are being purged. There are still some remaining who shouldn’t be long for CSU and then the really difficult phase begins, the race against time to restore the university to some semblance of viability.
Just in the matter of Academic Affairs, it would appear that the division should be gutted and rebuilt. Does an Interim Provost have time to do that heavy lifting? Does this Interim Provost have the skill set to take on such an enormous task? Should we lower the expectations to just keeping the lights on or should we expect more?
I believe the first thing to address is the appalling treatment of tenured faculty who were laid off, some of whom were rehired at a reduced grade and salary. All of these faculty should be restored effective August 15th. If the University wishes to fire tenured faculty, then there is an accepted process in the Academy that those who are familiar with such things, would follow. If tenure is to be stripped, then that requires Board action and the Board has been remarkably silent since 2016 when it inexplicably entered the University into a state of financial exigency. Tenured faculty deserve much better treatment than they have received with the previous regime.
The second thing that must be addressed is to rebuild the advising process at the university. The now departed Provost did an exemplary job in destroying the student advising process. It is too late to fix it for the Fall 2018 semester and it needs to be addressed immediately.
The third task is to get permission to offer courses off campus. It has been six years since the university had the ability to offer courses off campus and the now relieved provost seemingly couldn’t figure out that part of her job responsibilities. The Interim Provost now has the duty to correct this and I would hope this is addressed promptly.
Fourth, the curriculum process must be rebuilt from the ground up. This process is an excellent opportunity for the new administration to participate meaningfully in shared governance. The past several administrations have failed miserably in the practice of shared governance and here we are again with another opportunity to function like a university. Stay tuned.
Fifth, the Interim Provost will need to rebuild trust between the faculty and the administration. I believe this would lead to increased faculty morale and possibly increased faculty productivity. It will take a Provost who can lead, not just manage budgets and nickel and dime faculty over tenths of CUEs. Only time will tell if a leader or a manager occupies the seat.
Finally, the President and Interim Provost will need to acknowledge the enormous human cost of the last ten years on those who have been associated with the university. People have been hurt. Reputations have been damaged. The dignity of good people has been assaulted. Not acknowledging the human cost will prevent the university from moving forward. And soon it will be too late. 
There is so much more that needs to be addressed and I don’t know if time favors the institution. I thought I would have been happier at this change and yet I’m only sad because all of this was avoidable. And those who are ultimately responsible should be ashamed of their role in the  damage wrought on the university. Yet, I’m sure there will be no accountability and no acknowledgment that human beings, colleagues and friends, have been deeply hurt. And I’m still just sad.

Hopefully, a Portentous Week

Last week brought extremely positive news to the long-suffering students, staff, and faculty at Chicago State. Although in office less than a month, new CSU President “Z” Scott did what Thomas Calhoun could not do and what Cecil Lucy and Rachel Lindsey would not do. What might this mean as the new school year approaches? For what they’re worth, here are my thoughts.

The new President actually seems to recognize bullshit when she sees it or hears it. As we all know, Chicago State possesses a number of highly-paid administrators who, as far as I can tell, produce nothing, or worse, do damage. One has just been jettisoned. Hopefully, a number of her friends and cronies still blighting the University are now nervous and will decide to explore alternative career opportunities.

The Board and President seem to realize the seriousness of the school’s situation and the precariousness of its existence. Currently, fall enrollment is down another 7 percent, which would translate into a fall head count of around 2800, potentially the sixteenth consecutive semester of enrollment losses. In this environment, acting in the best interests of the University becomes imperative. This past week, President Scott did just that.

Although the new President is not an academic, she obviously understands management. She is unafraid to take decisive action. She brings her own political influence to this job, effectively neutralizing the toxic residue of the Wayne Watson administration, perpetuated by apparatchiks who are determined to have the University remain in the same corrupt and incompetent hands. While the task of rehabilitating the University is formidable, even daunting, we now seem to have someone with the desire to use her political skills for the benefit of the school rather than for the benefit of her friends and cronies. Based on the early returns, she deserves our support.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Finally, a Change in the Provost's Office

A relief and long overdue. Thanks President Scott for putting the University's best interests first.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Life After CSU

Our former colleague, Dr. Yan Searcy, has accepted a position as Dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at California State University-Northridge. Congratulations Yan!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Prez Z Scott --CSU's latest

At an emergency Board of Trustees meeting today, a decision was made to name Z. Scott the next president of CSU. 

No time to waste Ms. Scott. Good luck.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Lots of Money for Administrators: Is Wayne Watson Still Here?

The presidential search is hopefully nearing its conclusion. Who will we get? The future of the university almost assuredly depends upon the Board making the best choice at this time. Two of the candidates qualify as academics and are qualified based on work experience. The third has no academic experience, but knows the situation at Chicago State well. Her selection would likely end the employment of several Watson holdovers and may even result in a long-needed comprehensive audit of the financial operation of the university under the Lilliputian Leader’s “team.”

The threat to the Lilliputian Leader’s enduring hold on the university seems real to a number of his apparatchiks. There seems to be a move afoot to pressure local politicians and the Board to hold a new search. These Lilliputian Leader’s loyalists are alarmed over the possible selection of “Z” Scott as CSU’s next president and are working assiduously behind the scenes to insure that does not happen. It’s all about protecting people who have demonstrated their loyalty to the little guy and his corrupt regime. We’ll see how it all comes out.

Of course, there is no need for changes her at Chicago State. After all, we’ve made great strides this past year. One person on campus with actual ideas was run out of here after being undercut by the same folks who sabotaged the Calhoun presidency. Since the most recent interim leadership team began running the university, we’ve operated very much like we did for the past 9 years or so.

First, despite the need for a forensic audit, and despite the Board’s approval of such action in March 2017, the university claims there’s “no money” to do such a thing. Really? We are again poor-mouthing which provides a convenient excuse for inaction when we don’t want to be exposed to the light. Well folks, as always, we have money for some things here at Chicago State.

On January 31, 2017, the university employed 484 full-time, permanent workers. That number included 141 administrators and 343 faculty and staff (144 faculty). The salary expense for these employees came to just over $32.4 million, with $11.25 million for administrators, $11.36 million for faculty, and $9.8 million for staff.

We finally got a state appropriation in mid-2017. During that year, we saw a number of infrastructure problems develop at the university, students in the dorms had to be relocated because their rooms had neither head nor hot water. Meals had to be trucked in at times. Over the winter, we had disastrous water leaks from broken pipes in the Williams Science Building and New Academic Library. The parking lots on the south side of the campus continue to crumble into dust, and one of the elevators in Williams has been out of service since around August 2016.

These problems stem from years of inattention and a failure to commit funds to necessary maintenance. Since we had no money for an audit, perhaps it stands to reason we had no money for preventative maintenance. So, as we watch, the university tumbles down around us.

However, we have been able to find money to continue one of the former president’s favorite pursuits: swelling the administrative ranks here at Chicago State.

On March 9, 2018, our full-time employee complement had grown to 541, an increase of 57 employees. Interesting since our enrollment continues to decline. In spite of disastrous enrollment numbers, we forged ahead with the effort to increase our administrative ranks. The entire increase of 57 employees came from administrators. Now at Chicago State, we have 198 administrators and 343 faculty/staff (139 faculty). Administrative salaries are now over $15 million and constitute 40 percent of our total salary expense for full-time, permanent employees.

We just never learn.

Friday, April 27, 2018

If it's May, it Must Be Tenure Time

Congratulations to the following colleagues who have been recommended for tenure which should be conferred by the Board at its May 4 meeting:

LaShonda Fuller of Psychology
Michael Danquah of Pharmaceutical Sciences
Joanna Kolendo of Library and Instructional Services
Yashika Watkins of Health Studies
Valerie Goss of Chemistry and Physics

A major career milestone. Kudos to you all!