Saturday, October 3, 2015

Lie Back and Think of England. The failure is more than statistics

 One would think that the dispassionate statistics piling up semester after semester would have convinced our legislators and even the local pols, Trustees, and our faculty colleagues on campus that something should have been done about the Watson administration long before the Fall of 2015. Oh wait, I guess Gary Rozier’s board of Trustees thought to do so and had Watson part way out the door in 2013, but Gov Quinn overrode them and kept Watson in via changing the CSU board appointees. The current Board of Trustees has unswervingly supported Watson in spite of the statistics, in spite of the votes of no confidence, in spite of the Cassandras bitching at them at board meeting after board meeting.

But Watson has not only been propped up by his buddy Anthony Young and a complicit Board of Trustees. They have been aided by the complacency of administrators and faculty who buried their heads in the sand as Watson meted out affront after affront to faculty roles in hiring, curriculum, and the accepted practices of university administration. Where was the concern when it became clear after Watson’s year I that administrative positions would be permanent interims, that good people would be replaced in a revolving door of jobs for FOW [friends of Wayne] with 6-figure salaries—all across campus? Watson and his crony team were given a wide berth by many on campus who privately criticized but would not stick their necks out publicly. You heard the murmuring across campus from maintenance workers, to secretaries to administrative assistants who feared to speak out, feared retaliation. Why did “we” who have the privilege of tenure fail to come forward?

Failure is more than statistical. 

Now EVERYONE on campus is jumping up and down in department meetings and college meetings about what "we" can do to solve the enrollment crisis. Where have you been for the past 3, 4, 5 years? How did “we” let it get to this point in the first place?

I think I had my answer at my college’s most recent “all college” meeting. 

Since everyone knows (rather, hopes) Watson is out of power perhaps as early as January, there was from my hearing a rather smug tone to the view expressed and applauded that administrations at CSU come and go but we faculty have only to endure them for 5-7 years. They will be gone, we will remain, so just keep doing all the good things we do... 

There it was: complacency and disengagement from university governance. 

The words at that meeting reminded me of the line Edwardian mothers supposedly gave to fearful virginal daughters on the eve of their wedding night: just “lie back and think of England.”  

Pretty much sums it up at CSU.

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Anatomy of an Enrollment Disaster: Watson Through the Years at Chicago State

As a review, here are the Chicago State enrollment numbers since fall 2010:

Fall 2010: 7362
Spring 2011: 7165
Fall 2011: 6882
Spring 2012: 6262
Fall 2012: 6107
Spring 2013: 5821
Fall 2013: 5701
Spring 2014: 5297
Fall 2014: 5211
Spring 2015: 4818
Fall 2015: 4767

That my friends, is what failure looks like.

"You Know You're At CSU When..." continued

So loyal readers, another missive sent forth from the administration has reached the hands of several employees and created confusion, consternation and continued mistrust. To wit, the following.
The Parking Department is now in the business of meting out discipline to employees who have failed to purchase a parking decal for the current academic year. Public bodies sometimes face what economists call a "free rider" problem when not everyone contributes to a good that everyone has access to. For example, public radio is available to anyone who has a radio, yet not everyone who listens contributes to cover the cost of that good. That is a "free rider" problem. At the university, parking is available to anyone with a car, truck or motorcycle. There is an expectation that those using that good will pay for it through the purchase of a parking decal. I, for one, am supportive of this policy to reduce the "free rider" problem associated with provision of a good. Parking decal fees should cover the cost of maintaining that good. There is a bit of a problem here though. This letter went to every employee who did not purchase a vehicle sticker. Yes, loyal readers, you guessed it. Not every employee either has a vehicle or uses that vehicle to come to work. Surprisingly some employees even use public transportation. (Perish the thought of being socially responsible.) Some employees don't own vehicles thus they wouldn't have purchased a parking decal. 
The second glaring problem is that the parking department is not empowered to mete out discipline to employees. I would imagine the next step for the Parking Department would be conducting performance evaluations for university employees and reprimanding them if they aren't up to snuff. The University Professionals of Illinois Local 4100, the faculty and academic staff union, has provisions in its collective bargaining agreement that would be violated by this "policy." It also violates the principles of innocent until proven guilty and the protections afforded by due process. Because this communication involves personnel processes, I assume it would have been vetted by the Chief of Police, and the Office of Labor & Legal Affairs after being reviewed by the Human Resources department. Maybe it was. Regardless, the letter went out, reviewed or not and it is another example of CSU ineptness under the Watson regime.
The third problem with this letter is that it is not predicated on any data. Apparently the Parking Department used a list of university employees and cross-referenced it against decal purchasers to conclude that if the employee had not purchased a decal there was obviously misconduct in need of discipline necessary. I suspect that the creator of this policy is not aware of the process of eliminating alternative explanations. I know, that's something us academics do.
Fortunately the UPI Chapter President, responded quickly to this correspondence.

I am obviously sympathetic to the issue of the "free rider" problem faced by the Parking Department and this is another example of how problems go unsolved or exacerbated by the absence of shared governance at the institution. The Faculty Senate has a Buildings & Grounds committee that has parking as part of its portfolio. I am sure brief discussion with that committee would have yielded some viable alternatives. I am sure my faculty colleagues would have required that the Parking Department provide some data to contextualize the challenge though. I am sure that an email sent to me as the Faculty Senate President would have been a more helpful in resolving this issue. I am sure a phone call to the UPI Chapter President would have been a productive use of time to address the problem. This communication is further evidence of the collapse of this university. This administration has resolutely refused to constructively engage faculty since its arrival. Watson have considered their inane 'listening tours' faculty engagement and that behavior has led to this. And this quite frankly makes the university look like a yellow Volkswagen Beetle with 15 red nosed, big shoed, squirty flower wearing clowns piling out of it. 
So where is the accountability from the Police Chief, the Parking Director, the Human Resources Director, and the General Counsel. When are these six figure administrators going to step up and say they dropped the ball on this. More importantly, when is Wayne Watson going to act like a president and accept his culpability for the continuing disaster that is Chicago State University.
Mercifully this failure is coming to an end with the exit of Watson Though that exit can't come soon enough.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

A Significant Upgrade

So I have had some time to reflect on the three presidential candidates and their suitability for that job in this place. I have been asked by several people, inside and outside of the university, who I would hire and I had to spend some time explaining the why behind the who. I see the university almost as a professional sports team. It has several pressing needs but only one draft pick this season. If we are drafting (hiring) for need let’s look at the needs filled by the respective candidates.
The first candidate, Dennis Shields, is a serving executive with five years of experience. He is the kind of hire who can hit the ground running because he knows the questions to ask and the data to look for. He seems to know what needs to happen and would bring an experienced hand to the job. He would be a serviceable player who could step in and contribute consistently to the team for a few seasons. It has yet to be determined if he would improve over time and take the franchise to its ultimate goal. The downside is that he is not a traditional academic. As the academic side of the house has been neglected, nee attacked, for the past six years, it would be refreshing for faculty to have an advocate in the president’s office, instead of someone who has no idea of the faculty’s role in the academic enterprise. The second downside is that Mr. Shields isn’t from Illinois and doesn’t appear to have the connections necessary to get things done the “Illinois Way.” I have no doubt he could build those political and social networks over time but the question becomes will he have the time to do that.
The second candidate, Jerry Blakemore, is a bit of a dark horse. He has many of the nice to have qualifications for a university president. In a football draft analogy, he would be an All-Pro left tackle. The job of the left tackle is to protect the quarterback. He is not a play maker, doesn’t make the most money but has one of the most important jobs. In the case of the university he protects the academic enterprise of faculty and students, from onrushing opponents. Blakemore seems very adept at navigating the rough and tumble of Illinois politics and as this administration has made the university more of a soft target, that protection is critical to the long term viability of the institution. His downside is that he is not an academician. As the General Counsel at NIU he has provided counsel to the board and to the administration on a number of issues yet has no really connection to faculty or the faculty experience. The upside of that downside is that he appears to realize what he doesn’t know and would hire a provost that is acceptable to the faculty and expect that person to provide the sorely needed leadership that is currently absent.
The third candidate, Thomas Calhoun, could provide the warm fuzzy feeling of wanting to come to work at a place that is not being systematically destroyed by incompetence. His background as a clergyman was on full display as he appealed to emotional decision making during his visit to campus. He is the wide receiver with blinding speed who makes spectacular catches that make the fans cheer. Yet he is only targeted five times per game, unlike that left tackle who plays every offensive snap.  Having some roots and connections in the city gives him an advantage over Mr. Shields, but is far behind the type of political experience that Mr. Blakemore has. Like the other candidates his is not a traditional academician and has spent time in secondary education as well. I can imagine that he would fulfill a need for healing at the university that has been unnecessarily damaged over the past six years. That leadership is largely symbolic and may not lead to increases in enrollment, grant funding, or development. Charismatic leaders serve particular purposes but in the case of this university at this time, is a charismatic leader who makes one feel good the solution to the plethora of ills plaguing the university?
That leads me to conclude that Blakemore is my first choice, followed by Shields and Calhoun. They are all capable and seemingly would be a significant upgrade over the failure that we have now. Yet in filling different needs, it seems protecting the university from the storm that is Illinois politics is more important than a charismatic president. The recent closure of buildings due to the plumbing emergency is just one area where a more locally experienced president might prevail in getting some relief from the state for emergencies like that one.
I would hope that the Board would look to need and commit to their fiduciary obligations in selecting the next president and not abdicate citing other factors outside of their own judgment. I suspect in a week or so we will see what the Board values both in the next president and in the future of the university. I say next week only by wild guess as their communication about the presidential search process has been appallingly bad.
As one of my colleagues whispered to me recently, “when is this going to end?” I assured them it has to be soon. Stay tuned loyal readers and keep your fingers crossed.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Chicago State Hits a New Enrollment Low: Another "Accomplishment" for the Watson Administration

There it is folks, the new benchmark for failure here at Chicago State. The dismal numbers: since 2010, the university under the "leadership" of Watson has lost 2595 students (35.2 percent). The most recent enrollment drop from last spring to this fall is the tenth consecutive semester of enrollment losses at CSU. Spring will undoubtedly be the eleventh straight under Watson. The Board has already decided that the reason for this decline is the absence of a state budget. Obviously, Watson bears no responsibility for this continuing disaster, although for several months, the Board has asked Cheri Sidney and other representatives of Enrollment Management when the enrollment decline will stop. Neither she nor anyone else from that section has an answer other than vague assurances that enrollment will "stabilize" then "increase incrementally," assertions rendered false by our continued free fall. Here's my partial solution to the problem: fire Wayne Watson and root out the incompetent cronies who have orchestrated this failure over the past 5 years. If the Board is unwilling to take decisive action in the best interests of the university, what is the community to think? what are prospective students to think? what are prospective donors to think? In a city of nearly 3 million people--at a school with so many Vice Presidents that they fall all over each other, where six-figure administrators abound--we can't find even 5,000 students who want to come to school here. Pitiful.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

More Job Shuffling?

So one of the things that has gone unabated in the waning days of the failed Watson regime is the rumor mill. One of the latest rumors have the former Executive Director of TRIO (and FOA) moving to an Assistant Dean of Students position. With fewer students than ever, why the need for so many administrators in that area? Is it to keep people employed as long a possible even when the grant that serviced thousands of students suddenly disappeared? It appears to be a case of lose a grant, get another position. The new AVP of Student Affairs must be flexing some muscle here to get another overpaid administrator in her area. And all of this in the midst of a state budget catastrophe.
In another area, loyal readers wish to know if the ever popular Cheri Sidney is on her way out of Enrollment Management after a disastrous tenure there? Is the directorship of the compliance office awaiting her? Given her stellar service to Watson, it only makes sense she would move from an empty office suite on the second floor of the Cook Building to the tight spaces of compliance on the third floor, an area she knows little about, even after attending conferences in Canada and DC on the taxpayers dime. The employee who lied on her job application and was not fired, in contravention of HR policy will soon be overseeing the compliance enterprise??? You can't make this stuff up.
Stay tuned.

Monday, September 28, 2015

CHI Tribune Commentary --CSU contributes to the list of schools restricting free speech on campus

Check out the commentary section of the Chicago Tribune today to see the august name of CSU on the list of "honor" for abuse of freedom of speech. The article mentions attempts to shut down the CSU blog, but it does not mention the grievous and outrageous silencing of student dissent on campus that has gone on during the reign of Wayne Watson and Anthony Young. I'm not just referring to the chokehold of Jokari Miller at one of the Board of  Trustees meetings. Ask around and students will tell you how they have been told to shut up and conform.

A former colleague alerted me to this article and suggested that whoever the new guy is coming in to take over the presidency here, he might want to heed the message. It's not worth bothering the current lame duck incumbent at this point. A leopard can't change his spots, as they say. 
Chicago Tribune, Monday Sept. 28, 2015
COMMENTARY Restoring Free Speech on Campus

Restrictions on free speech on campus are incompatible with the fundamental values of higher education.
Censorship in the academic community is commonplace. Students and faculty are increasingly being investigated and punished for controversial, dissenting or simply discomforting speech. It is time for colleges and universities to take a deep breath, remember who they are and reaffirm their fundamental commitment to freedom of expression.
The past academic year offers a depressing number of examples of institutions of higher education failing to live up to their core mission. At Northwestern University, for example, Professor Laura Kipnis endured a months-long Title IX investigation for publishing an essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education in which she discussed a high-profile sexual assault case. Just a few months later, her fellow professor, Alice Dreger, courageously resigned in protest over Northwestern's censorship of a faculty-edited medical journal.
In a similar vein, Louisiana State University fired Professor Teresa Buchanan after nearly two decades of service for her occasional use of profanity, which the university suddenly deemed "sexual harassment," and Chicago State University enacted a new cyberbullying policy to silence a blog that was critical of university leadership.
At Iowa State University, administrators censored T-shirts created by the university's student chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. The Regents of the University of California are considering adopting a "Statement of Principles Against Intolerance" that would ban "derogatory language reflecting stereotypes or prejudice." Other institutions are considering banning so-called "microaggressions" or requiring "trigger warnings" to protect students from having to confront potentially upsetting ideas and subjects. Still others have withdrawn invitations to speakers who have taken positions that some members of the community find unpleasant, offensive or wrong-headed — a practice President Barack Obama criticized this month, saying that leaving students "coddled and protected from different points of view" is "not the way we learn."

Restrictions on free expression on college campuses are incompatible with the fundamental values of higher education. At public institutions, they violate the First Amendment; at most private institutions, they break faith with stated commitments to academic freedom. And these restrictions are widespread: The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education's most recent survey of college and university policies found that more than 55 percent of institutions maintain illiberal speech codes that prohibit what should be protected speech. For students and faculty, the message is clear: Speaking your mind means putting your education or your career at risk.
Enough is enough. Our colleges and universities should redeem the promise of the new academic year by reaffirming their commitments to freedom of expression.
Last year, the University of Chicago convened a Committee on Freedom of Expression to do exactly that. The committee issued a statement identifying the principles that must guide institutions committed to attaining knowledge through free and open discourse. Guaranteeing members of the academic community "the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn," the statement guarantees students and faculty the right "to discuss any problem that presents itself."
How should students and scholars respond when challenged by speech with which they disagree, or that they even loathe? The Chicago statement sets forth the answer: "by openly and vigorously contesting the ideas that they oppose." Anticipating the push and pull of passionate debate, the statement sets forth important ground rules: "Debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the University community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed."
Perhaps most important, the Chicago statement makes clear that "it is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive." Laura Kipnis, Alice Dreger and Teresa Buchanan would have benefited from this frank and necessary recognition.
Encouragingly, Princeton University, American University and Purdue University have already adopted the core of the Chicago statement as their own. If colleges and universities nationwide were to follow their example — either by adopting the Chicago statement or forging one of their own — academic censorship would face a powerful new challenge.
Backed by a strong commitment to freedom of expression and academic freedom, faculty could challenge one another, their students and the public to consider new possibilities, without fear of reprisal. Students would no longer face punishment for exercising their right to speak out freely about the issues most important to them. Instead of learning that voicing one's opinions invites silencing, students would be taught that spirited debate is a vital necessity for the advancement of knowledge. And they would be taught that the proper response to ideas they oppose is not censorship, but argument on the merits. That, after all, is what a university is for.
Free speech and academic freedom will not protect themselves. With public reaffirmation of the necessity of free speech on campus, the current wave of censorship that threatens the continuing excellence of U.S. higher education can be repudiated, as it should be, as a transitory moment of weakness that disrespects what our institutions of higher learning must represent.
Washington Post
Geoffrey R. Stone is a professor at the University of Chicago and served as chair of the school's Committee on Freedom of Expression. Will Creeley is vice president for legal and public advocacy for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
Copyright © 2015, Chicago Tribune

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Scorched Earth Slashed and Burned

So is it possible for an utterly failed administration to exit gracefully? In the case of CSU, apparently not. With a rumored departure of January 1st, the Watson regime cannot end soon enough. What the university will be faced with unfortunately is a scorched earth departure. Observers have seen evidence of this in recent months as micro layoffs and other superfluous reorganizations have occurred.  The elimination of security positions in the police department, the firing of the Directors of Admissions and Financial Aid, the reassignment of the Director of TRIO, the elimination of the Associate Director of International Programs all speak to an intentional policy of continuing to destroy the university. And all of this comes as the Provost continues to fail at her position and Cheri Sidney occupies an empty office suite doing who knows what besides collecting a six figure salary. The destruction of corporate memory by this administration has been inconceivable. Any person who would defend the actions of this regime is obviously someone who knows nothing about higher education, is a lackey or just plain stupid. Knowing that the run is mercifully coming to an end you might expect that there wouldn’t be a new Vice President for Administration and Finance joining this failed regime. I have it on good authority that the incumbent interim VP was told not to announce his departure or that a successor was being brought in. Given this administration’s history of incompetent hires, one can only imagine what skill set this phantom VP brings and the damage s/he wreak might in the next three months. 
I asked a colleague in a non-academic department how evaluations were conducted and the most insightful observation was that evaluation is impossible if you don’t have the tools to do the job. Watson and his minions have done everything in their power to deprive the faculty and staff of the tools necessary to do their jobs. It’s clear who the losers in this are and also clear who bears responsibility. It is the secretive body currently attempting to hire a successor to Watson. Maybe in another couple of months the Board might have a meeting and vote on the hire and then by January let the university know who will be taking over the reins. And then again maybe not. This Board has demonstrated the same propensities as the president in terms of not effectively communicating with the university.
So none of this Kafkaesque theater surprises me. It just saddens me.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Disgrace of Illinois: Fat-Cat Politicians Grandstand While State Employees Suffer

At a recent departmental meeting, one of my colleagues asked how long other universities would be able to operate without a state budget since our administration has told the state legislators that our school would not be able to continue past January. I came up with an extremely primitive calculus that enabled me to project each school's ability to endure the state-imposed budget impasse. Here's my estimate:

Chicago State through mid-January
Eastern and Western Illinois through mid-March
Northeastern Illinois and Governors State through mid-May, possibly through the end of the school year.

I think it's important to emphasize that the fools in Springfield who have created this crisis are making a choice to do so. A look at Illinois' revenue projections for the 2016 fiscal year indicates a $32 billion income for the state. To be clear, the state's income stream continues unabated: there are billions of dollars in revenue flowing into state coffers. A look at the various categories of revenue reveals that closure of the state universities would result, at a maximum, in the loss of around $1 billion in revenue. While persons employed by the state or its various universities face the possibility of no pay, Illinois legislators have their pay and expenses guaranteed even if the state has no budget. These politicians are putting our livelihoods in jeopardy with their posturing and their sclerotic ideologies. I for one will pay close attention to who does what in this legislature.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Our Administrative Ranks Grow Again

For several months, Chicago State administrators have bemoaned the fiscal woes of our school. However, as previous posts have noted, our fiscal exigency seems to disappear where administrative hires/promotions are concerned. So it should come as no surprise that just last month, we added a new administrative position to our pantheon of managers: the Assistant Dean of the College of Health Sciences.

With a sincere apology to the blameless incumbent in this position, I again wonder how the university finds the funds to continually increase its administrative ranks. The Assistant Dean’s position appears nowhere in the 2015 Internal Operating Budget, in fact a 2014 appropriation of $50,000 for an Associate Dean in Health Sciences disappeared in the 2015 budget. Thus, the university apparently had no money allocated for such a hire. Of course, we know from previous administrative budget shenanigans that this is no impediment to hiring more and more administrators. After all, recall that funding for Napoleon Moses’s position came out of the “Internal Improvements” appropriation.

Once again, we are confronted with the contradiction between the administration’s rhetoric and its behavior. I have no doubt that the fiscal crisis in Illinois is real. However, is it not reasonable to expect some kind of restraint from a public institution ostensibly suffering the pangs of financial hunger? To be sure, here at Chicago State, restraint is for the “little people,” the “rubes.” The Watson administration continues to increase its own ranks, heedless of either the public relations consequences (sorry, I know that no one cares) or the financial implications of what seem like an increasingly brazen disregard for fiscal responsibility and the public welfare. Finally, there has been no administrative announcement of this hire that I know of.

How many other administrative hirings are in the offing?