Monday, May 22, 2017

The University With No Money Spends over $3 million on Administrators.

With the University finally filing its 2018 report to the Illinois State Legislature, the scope of last year’s layoffs/terminations becomes clear. Notably, talk of staff reductions of “350” or even “300” must be taken with more than a grain of salt. That number is only achievable if non-permanent employees are included in the total. Here are the actual numbers: Administrators terminated without cause: 46; staff laid off: 84; Unit A faculty laid off: 9. Total number: 139. Additionally, 8 employees classified as “Temporary Administrators” (including 4 Undergraduate Advisors), lost their jobs. The University also laid off a total of 159 Unit B Lecturers (72 full-time, 87 part-time). Adding temporary employees and non-tenured tenure track faculty to the total brings the reductions to 306. However, the University in 2016-17 employed 126 Unit B Lecturers (44 full-time, 82 part-time), so the actual number of persons who did not return for the fall semester comes to 180. One final caveat, several of our laid off staff members have returned as temporary employees, so that 180 figure must be further reduced, perhaps to 170 or so. In any event, a far cry from the number the administration has publicly floated.

Our recently departed (and not missed) Board member Nikki Zollar claimed that the Management Action Committee, particularly Cecil Lucy and Angela Henderson, “saved” the University with their staff reductions. As has been noted on this blog, that claim is not supported by the facts. In fact, the 2016 layoffs/terminations did incalculable damage to the school. The University claimed the state’s budget crisis necessitated the carnage of April/May/June 2016, another assertion not supported by evidence. I’ve detailed much of this in previous posts, but as a refresher, I’ll again provide some data. The people who made the layoff decisions saw the University’s “fat” in two places: the academic side (faculty, departments, colleges, student-serving functions, etc.) and the facilities/plant services side (custodial services, purchasing, central stores, parking, etc.). Of the 306 layoffs, 245 (80.1 percent) came from the University’s academic endeavors, including 168 faculty. Facilities and Plant Services contributed 37 victims (12.1 percent). The final 25 layoffs/terminations came from
Computing/Network Services: 7 (2.3 percent), University Administration (Provost, Legal, Marketing, and Auditor): 7 (2.3 percent), University Services (Human Resources, Police, Accounting/Budget): 6 (2 percent), and Athletics: 4 (1.3 percent).

The proportions change if only full-time permanent employees are part of the calculation. Of those 139 employees, 81 are from the academic side (58.3 percent), 37 from Facilities (26.6 percent), with the remaining 15 percent coming from the other categories. The 7 Upper Administrative terminations accounted for 5 percent of the total.

Of course, the University continually told us that our “financial exigency” necessitated those draconian staff reductions. After all, we were out of money, right? Not exactly. First, on June 30, 2015, Chicago State had cash and cash equivalents of $24 million. On June 30, 2016, of $21.7 million. Just prior to the layoffs/terminations in April 2016, the University received an appropriation from the state of $20.7 million. Just after the faculty layoffs in June, the University received an appropriation of around $13 million. On May 31 and June 15, 2016, the University paid out over $2.2 million in cash to terminated/laid off administrators and staff. The breakdown: Severance for administrators, $1,569,992.50; benefits for administrators, 411,287.83; benefits for staff: $252,455.60. When the University laid off 9 faculty members on June 29, it claimed “financial exigency” to avoid giving them their contractually-mandated terminal contracts, which would have cost Chicago State only $590,000 spread over 18 paychecks in fiscal 2016-17. Eventually, the faculty who lost their jobs received nothing.

Altogether, in the period of “financial exigency,” the University spent at least $3.4 million on new hires, primarily administrators, and on severance cash-outs. In addition to the expenditures listed above, between the beginning of "financial exigency" on February 4, and its end on December 9, 2016, the University hired 10 new employees, 9 of them administrators. Cost for all 10: $876,000. For only the administrators: $796,000. Finally, on October 3, 2016, the University paid former President Thomas Calhoun $300,000 in severance, bringing the total expenditures for administrative hires/severance just during the period of “financial exigency,” to over $3.3 million. Clearly, the University had no money.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Once Again, Proof That the Provost Has No Support From Chicago State's Academic Community: A 116-1 Vote of "No Confidence"

Between May 6 and May 9, 2017, members of the CSU-UPI Chapter of Local 4100 participated in a poll that measured support or non-support for Provost Angela Henderson. As you may recall, here at Chicago State, two prior confidence/no confidence votes on Henderson revealed virtually no support among the Chicago State faculty for the Provost. In February 2014, the Chicago State Faculty Senate voted "no confidence" in Henderson by 25-2 with, I believe, 3 abstentions. In late November 2015, UPI members voted "no confidence" in the Provost by 142-4, with 4 abstentions. In that poll, Chicago State's tenured faculty voted "no confidence" by 86-3 with 3 abstentions. These results were reported to the University President and Board of Trustees.

The most recent poll demonstrated that Henderson's support had declined even further. The final result was 116-1-0 (99.1 percent) "no confidence" in Henderson, including tenured faculty members, who voted "no confidence" by 74-1 (98.7 percent). Thus, in three separate votes (2014, 2015, and 2017), Henderson garnered 7 votes out of 297 cast, a microscopic 2.4 percent of the total. Chicago State's tenured faculty have voted 161-4 with 3 abstentions, (2.4 percent support for Henderson) in the two polls conducted by the union (2015 and 2017). Based on these results, I think it accurate to conclude that Chicago State's Chief Academic Officer has virtually no support from the academic community she purportedly leads.

Frankly, Henderson's well-documented performance failures, insufficient credentials, demonstrated dishonesty, and a management style that has featured a commitment to cronyism have earned her the contempt expressed in these multiple repudiations of her "leadership." The enrollment declines alone should have gotten her dismissed, yet here she sits, continuing to draw her hefty salary, continuing to damage the university. In a viable organization, people at the top are held responsible, are accountable for their performance, and for the organization's success or failure. Chicago State is certainly not a success story, but despite years of failure, Henderson has been protected by a University President and members of a Board whose outrageous and frequently unethical behavior contributed materially to the current crisis. Given the latest demonstration of the faculty's and the academic staff's nearly unanimous opposition to this Provost, we must again ask: is anyone listening? will Angela Henderson be held accountable for her woeful performance and for the damage she has done to the University? We shall see.


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Congratulations to Our Newly Tenured Colleagues

Congratulations to our faculty colleagues who earned tenure this academic year; granted by the Board on May 5, 2017:

Dr. Bryon Martin, HPERS.
Dr. Garrard McClendon, GPED.
Dr. Tatjana Petrova, Pharmacy Practice

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Why We Need New Leadership Now.

As we reach the end of another school year replete with scandals, more enrollment declines, and bad financial news, it seems increasingly important for our new leadership to identify the persons most responsible for our predicament and to remove them from University employment. This process will likely take some time, but it must include rooting out every crony hire made during the Watson/Henderson regime, from the Provost at $225,000 to the Administrative Assistant at $45,000. This process will also be costly, as some persons will be entitled to generous Board-mandated severance payouts. Nonetheless, these personnel changes must occur, despite the expense. Unfortunately, the University is simply going to have to continue to pay for the cynicism, incompetence, and epic failure of our previous administration.

Once again, all evidence points to the inescapable conclusion that the previous Board/Administration abrogated their specific responsibilities to the students who placed their faith in Chicago State University, and their general duty to oversee the Watson administration’s academic stewardship. Rather than protecting the interests of the University and its students, the Board/Administration comprising Wayne Watson, Michael Curtin, Marshall Hatch, James Joyce, Spencer Leak, Horace Smith, Anthony Young, and Nikki Zollar embraced the cynical and destructive management style of Wayne Watson, and abetted his administration’s endorsement of academic and employment dishonesty, managerial misconduct, financial mismanagement, crony hiring, and a continuing enrollment disaster. The Board ignored its own presidential performance standards and ultimately rewarded the failed president with numerous perks. After Watson’s ”retirement,” the Board orchestrated Thomas Calhoun’s untimely departure by allowing his senior administrators to undermine the new President, then selected a cipher to fill that critical leadership position, effectively returning control of the University to Watson and the Provost. Not surprisingly, the University continued the enrollment decline that began in 2010, cratering at 3250 this spring.

The previous Board’s failure to act on the declining enrollment, the questionable hiring practices, the demonstrated dishonesty of senior administrators, and the continual financial shenanigans of the Watson administration, coupled with its railroading of a respected and popular new President represented a complete betrayal of our students.

Since the Board consisted of Watson loyalists, this betrayal hardly seems surprising. After all, Wayne Watson had been betraying students at City Colleges and Chicago State for years. His self-styled “distinguished” career as an “educator” is notably devoid of scholarly and/or administrative accomplishments. Instead, his performance has featured consistent enrollment declines, multiple scandals, a vindictive and paranoid management style that resulted in abusive and costly administrative misconduct, a consistent reliance on hiring cronies and loyalists into positions for which they have no qualifications, rewarding his friends and cronies with not just jobs, but with lucrative contracts, and a constant need to avoid responsibility. Frankly, his cynicism knew no bounds. His friends and cronies would be rewarded; the academic integrity of the institution be damned.

The current Provost is a well-schooled product of the Watson style of management, abusive and suspicious, not averse to taking care of her friends and cronies, and likewise, devoid of scholarly and administrative accomplishments. While her performance has earned her a pink slip, the symbolism of her departure would be a powerful signal that “business as usual” has come to an end here at Chicago State. She has absolutely no support from any segment of the University community and her hold on a position usually reserved for a respected senior scholar speaks volumes for the enduring toxicity of the Watson regime. She came to the University as a crony hire, then got her promotion to Provost because of her relationship with Watson. She lied on her application/resume about her expected completion of the Ph.D., then had to hurriedly complete a dissertation to get the degree because Watson wanted to promote her to Provost. The dissertation committee failed to meet the UIC College of Nursing minimum requirements for such a committee, since it included only two members of the graduate faculty, instead of the requisite three. However, the committee did include Wayne Watson, and a person who served as her research assistant. Despite the findings of the anonymous “hearing officer” that her dissertation was not plagiarized, its multiple irregularities more than met the UIC Nursing threshold for plagiarism. Indeed, I found more than 80 passages taken entirely or in part, without appropriate attribution, from various articles, all ostensibly violations of Nursing’s published academic integrity standards. More than three years later, the “revised” dissertation remains unavailable. Anyone questioning the academic integrity of this institution need look no further than the Provost’s office to make a case.

As long as the Provost and her friends (and Watson’s friends) remain on this campus, we are stalled. The April 17 memo from Board Chair Marshall Hatch (a willing participant in the Calhoun firing) may signal an attempt to keep the Provost in place. He wrote this: “Provost Angela Henderson has admirably led in the four year benchmark of our accreditation processes with the Higher Learning Commission. We appreciate all the hard work of the leadership team.” No, Reverend Hatch, we do not appreciate their “hard work.” The staff and faculty at Chicago State want this leadership team gone, and your willingness to shill for the failed Watson holdovers demonstrates your unfitness for a position on the Chicago State Board of Trustees. You should follow Trustee Zollar’s example and immediately resign your position. I fervently hope Hatch’s bullshit will not dissuade our new administrative team from making long overdue personnel changes. After all, we cannot be saved if we are unwilling to save ourselves.

Although ridding ourselves of the Watson blight will be expensive, we must bear the cost. We cannot excise all the Watson tumors immediately, but I urge our new administration to expeditiously begin the work of extricating the school from the muck of the Watson administration. It seems apparent that our new Board members have the school’s best interests at heart, and I believe they will support any personnel changes our new President sees fit to make.







Wednesday, May 3, 2017

A New Kind of Town Hall.

Yesterday’s town hall with the new Interim President and Interim Chief Administrative Officer proved remarkably free of the dishonesty and cynicism that has marked appearances by Chicago State’s leadership since 2009. In fact, the forum’s tone featured high hopes and a number of actual ideas (imagine, that!) for extricating ourselves from our current predicament. To be sure, not everything will work out as planned, but I came away with the sense that we’ve at long last started down a new road. Kudos to Dr. Lindsey and Mr. Vallas for their plain speaking.

Kudos, also, to the several CSU staff and faculty who asked sharp questions and made comments that expressed their disaffection with the events of the past seven years. We heard about the devastating results of the mass layoffs of 2016, the advising fiasco that Dr. Lindsey recently ended, the always looming specter of the ridiculous and unnecessary West Side campus, the complete inadequacy, even illiteracy, of the university’s web site and its continual promotion of our failed former president, the failure of high-salaried administrators to create any effective policy for recruiting students, the multiple failures in public relations that have enabled the narrative that CSU is closing to remain viable, the waste of public fund on salaries for people who apparently do nothing, and who, by their failure to do their jobs, have contributed to the university’s failure writ large. I’m sure I missed a couple of things, but that’s my recollection of the topics covered at the meeting.

As Dr. Lindsey pointed out, we all have a responsibility to our students. They are entitled to the best educational experience we can provide. After the doom and gloom of the past seven years, the staff and faculty have much hard work ahead to repair the damage and make this school what it should be. I agree with Dr. Lindsey that we all must work together to make the school’s possibilities, realities. However, I must point out that our administration also has responsibilities to its faculty and staff. Most important, the personnel changes everyone acknowledges are necessary must occur, and soon.




Wednesday, April 26, 2017

End of Semester Updates

So as the end of the academic year draws close, many long suffering CSU community members are cautiously optimistic about the direction the University is headed in the next 12-15 months. I join them in guarded optimism and am mindful that the institution has been on the brink of removing failed administrators before and couldn't execute. To bring you, loyal readers, up to date, several things of note have occurred in the past three weeks.

First the Board of Trustees appointed a highly qualified and experienced academic to the position of Interim President. Dr. Rachel Lindsey has been retired for nearly six years and has been spared bearing witness to the epic incompetence the University has been subjected to. Her more than 20 years as an administrator has born fruit immediately. She has returned advising responsibility to the academic departments and restored department chair terms to three years. Those are two concerns faculty have voiced for several years. I am sure there will be more to follow.

Second, two vacancies have opened on the Board of Trustees with the resignations of Paul Vallas and Nikki Zollar. Governor Rauner now has two more appointments and it is my fervent wish that he be as perceptive in his appointments of the next two as he was of the remaining three new trustees. They have been of remarkable service to the University in a very short time. 

Third, like the Beatles, the Gang of Four (#CSUclowncar) is being dismantled. One has resigned from the University; one is rumored to have resigned; one has been reassigned and the last????? Everything that has a beginning has an end according to the Oracle from the movie The Matrix. Mercifully, the end of this period of institutional madness is coming to an end. Onward to the forensic audit and all of the fruit that it will bear. And by the way, having shredding parties doesn't always destroy all of the evidence of misconduct.

Fourth, there are rumors that the 24 pay period option is to be restored for faculty beginning August 2017. For some unknown reason, the provost thought it would be a good idea to inconvenience the 90% of faculty who used the 12 month option to spread their salary over. The administration doubled down on this ridiculous decision with the now relieved interim president telling your humble narrator, that she was looking out for faculty, even though faculty leadership was vehemently opposed to the decision. This is another example of rewarding failure.

One of the consequences of this change is that faculty will now have to pay out of pocket the Central Management Services, for the cost of their health care during the summer. Just another way to inconvenience faculty and demonstrate the provost's contempt us. The one upside is an opportunity to review and change benefits during the Benefits Choice change period which runs from May 1st through May 31st. Faculty can go online www.Mybenefits.illlinois.gov and make changes. If you don't have a PIN for your account, please call toll free 1-844-251-1777 Monday - Friday 8AM-6PM CT. Additionally, the Office of Human Resources will be hosting a Benefits Fair May 4th from 9AM - 4PM. Direct questions to Ms. Kim Bandy at kbandy20@csu.edu. 

Finally, in our campaign (#MakeCSUGreatAgain), it is the responsibility of employees to assist in the compliance function of the University. To that end, all employees are Mandated Reporters and as such must complete the online DCFS training and submit the completion certificate to the Compliance Office by April 28th. Like the annual Ethics Training, there are possible consequences for employees not completing the training. And no, the University cannot download the database file from DCFS of its employees who have completed the training. Remember, we are in Illinois after all.

And finally, (really), thanks to my loyal colleagues who have persevered through circumstances that are truly incredible. Our students have the benefit of some of the best teachers in the academy. It humbles me to think what we could do with some real academic leadership.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Anatomy of a Crony Hire: Nikki Zollar Again Demonstrates She Does Not Give a Damn About Chicago State

Remember when Wayne Watson expressed all that faux outrage at Board members allegedly trying to get their friends hired at Chicago State? Here are Watson’s words from around February 2013: “We believe that the real motivation behind the board's actions stem from the my refusal as president and the refusal of key members of my administration to capitulate to the incessant demands from Chairman Rozier and Vice-Chair Z. Scott to either hire, promote and to give salary increases to their friends and associates.”

While Wayne Watson and his retinue supposedly rejected overtures from some Board members to hire their “friends and associates,” a laughable assertion indeed, they failed to apply that exacting standard to other Board members, particularly Watson’s old “friend and associate” Nikki Zollar. What follows is the anatomy of a crony hire. As I have said in previous discussions of crony hires, the blame here rests on the people doing the hiring, since they are willfully subverting the University’s integrity by insuring that “friends and associates” get jobs which are often created out of thin air just for them.

First, as of January 31, 2017, the staff of the Provost’s Offices included eight persons: the Provost, three Associate Provosts, one Executive Secretary, one Associate, one Assistant to the Provost, and one Academic Contract Specialist. All these positions survived the April 2016 blood purge of staff and administrators. Six of the persons occupying those eight positions have worked in the Provost’s office since 2014. In addition, the current Director of Communications reports directly to the Provost.

The position I will focus on is the “Assistant to the Provost” position occupied by Yvonne Davila. This position last appeared as a funded line in the Fiscal 2012 Internal Operating Budget at a salary of $62,496. Now, however, this position is classified as a “Temporary Administrative” position by Human Resources, with a salary of $85,008 per year, or a salary equivalent to the compensation of two staff positions. While the University laid off and terminated scores of staff and administrative employees in April and June 2016, this temporary position survived. Why, exactly? What are the duties of this position? How did it come about?

To get straight to the point, the incumbent in this position survived because of the relationship between she and Nikki Zollar, and because Zollar and the Provost have colluded to keep the University in the hands of the Watson holdovers, and by extension, of Watson himself. In the spring of 2016, Dr. Calhoun mentioned to me that someone named Davila worked in the Provost’s office as a “crisis communicator.” He indicated that he had no idea what that job entailed but that he had been informed that he needed such a person.

How did he get her? According to records received from a FOIA request, the Legal Department contracted with Davila for unspecified legal services. She received $4999.75 on February 25, March 19, April 14, and May 28, 2014; a grand total of $19,999. On June 24, 2014, Davila signed a contract—which the Provost approved—to provide the University “Crisis Communication Consulting Services on behalf of the University, including matters of reputation management, media and message management, internal communication and litigation.” The contract called for $19,998 in compensation, which she received in three payments of $6666 on July 9, August 15, and September 5, 2014. The contract ran from July 1, 2014 through November 13, 2014. On November 3, 2014, the University apparently hired Davila as the “Assistant to the Provost,” at her current salary of $85,008. According to records obtained from Human Resources, since February 2014, she has received $245,000 in compensation.


The duties of this position are unclear. Although the “Crisis Communication” portion of the July 2014 contract suggests that the work product should include things like press releases or other external and internal communications designed to protect the University’s “reputation,” there is no evidence of any such concerted effort. No stories in any of the local media outlets include statements from the Crisis Communicator. In addition, a search of the CSU web site reveals only one entry for Davila, a comment included in the Provost Council meeting of July 6, 2016: “Y. Davila indicated an article about the accomplishments of The College of Pharmacy has been published. She shared that this story is one part of a broader project to share achievements and positive information about CSU. The goal is two stories a month for this year. She invited participation/suggested leads and will establish a calendar.”

Her comment apparently refers to a story in the Chicago Defender by “YD Avila” about the College of Pharmacy. An internet search revealed that to be the only reference to “YD Avila” and the Defender. I found no other articles about Chicago State University written by Davila in the Defender. So, what communications are the province of this position? Perhaps the “news” on the CSU web site might be one of the job duties. In the 28 months since January 1, 2015, a total of 75 “news” articles have appeared on our site, most a paragraph or two. That’s around 2.7 per month. Perhaps that’s the “two stories a month” Davila referenced at the Provost Council.

As I pointed out in a previous post, Davila had no hesitation about expressing her feeling to Trustee Zollar that Phil Beverly should be “fired” for having the audacity to make a video documenting his classroom teaching. Davila’s inclusion in an e-mail thread eventually going from CSU administrators to Zollar demonstrates her close connections to the Trustee. Zollar’s informal “Good gravy,” comment and her subsequent stupid assertion that Dr. Beverly “incites riots” (when, I wonder, was the last “riot” to which Zollar referred?) demonstrates her willingness to discuss these matters with someone with which she has a degree of familiarity. Likewise, Zollar’s admonition to Dr. Calhoun (previously reported on this blog) about “not hurting” various administrators, including, Davila, demonstrates her fealty to the Watson cronies.

Frankly, I am not even sure that Davila’s job at Chicago State is her only full-time job. Nonetheless, her connections with Nikki Zollar insure her continued employment, even as other staff persons see their lives disrupted by losing their jobs at Chicago State. In fact, she may even also work for one of Nikki Zollar’s companies, Safespeed.

A recent article on Safespeed detailed the connections between the officers of the company, and their contributions to various state and local politicians whose support is integral to the Zollar’s lucrative financial dealings with a number of local municipalities. Safespeed’s political activity has given it a “license to print money,” according to one observer. The article documented over $183,000 in contributions since 2007 from Zollar, Safespeed, or Triad Consulting, another Zollar company.

Throughout the article, the reporters refer to Yvonne Davila as a “spokeswoman” for Safespeed. One of the co-authors of the article indicated that Davila had an e-mail address at Safespeed.LLC. In a written response to questions from the reporters, Davila commented on Nikki Zollar, Triad Consulting, and three other persons associated with Safespeed. She said this about Zollar: “Ms. Zollar is an attorney with a wealth of experience in many different fields … She is an entrepreneur whose ideas are not constrained." The authors of the article described Zollar this way: “SafeSpeed LLC was formed in Illinois in June 2007 by a group of individuals who at the time appear to have had zero experience in traffic safety or control . . . One of those partners, SafeSpeed President Nikki M. Zollar, is a former official in the administration of Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar and has longstanding ties to both Chicago Democrats and state GOP officials. . . Zollar brought political connections from both sides of the political aisle to SafeSpeed but it is unclear from a review of state records how she got into the red-light camera business.” The link to the article is: http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/1-17-2017/Easy-money:-Area-red_light-camera-tickets-a-boon-for-clouted-company-/

Nikki Zollar is also an “entrepreneur” who has no objection to using Chicago State as an employment agency for her “friends and associates.” Certainly, someone that politically connected would insure that only someone she knew and trusted would serve as a “spokeswoman” for her company.

To recap, Nikki Zollar and the Provost worked to install one of Zollar’s “friends and associates” in a nicely compensated administrative job in the Provost’s office. Obviously, Zollar’s patronage and the Provost's complicity insured that the position and its incumbent (despite the "temporary" status) survived the April 2016 staff cuts. The job duties are murky and it seems unclear just exactly what Zollar’s person actually does, although there is no evidence of any kind of “crisis communication” or of press releases from the “crisis communicator” pertaining to Chicago State’s various crises. The “crisis communicator” serves as a “spokeswoman” for one of Zollar’s “clouted companies,” a position that suggests she may actually be employed by Safespeed. Based on her votes at the last Board meeting, Zollar’s loyalty to the Watson regime remains unshaken, and Zollar’s role in insuring the continued employment of her crony hire demonstrates her contempt for Chicago State as an educational institution. This is not the place to stash your “friends and associates.” I can only echo my distinguished colleague’s demand to Zollar. Ms. Zollar, your performance as a Trustee has been shameful. For the good of the institution, please resign immediately.

This is precisely the kind of "business as usual" we must eliminate.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Morehouse University Cleans House, Time for CSU To Do the Same

The collusion outlined by my colleague’s last blog post between members of CSU's Board of Trustees and ex-president, the manipulator-in-chief, Wayne Watson, explains how Thomas Calhoun's nine-month presidency did not stand a chance of survival. One year later we can see that it was DOA.

In light of the details of the emails between board members and the supposed ex-president Wayne Watson the events of last year come more clearly into light. Watson, who was not only granted "emeritus" status by the Board, but GIVEN some kind of shady/honorary "tenure" in the College of Education, as well as the unprecedented privilege of an office or two in the Library (an abuse of state-supported property?) was able to run a shadow university administration. He was clearly aided in this by the refusal of the Board, spearheaded at the time by Anthony Young and Nikki Zollar, to allow Calhoun to replace the provost, their sacrosanct Angela Henderson, or any of the other high-placed Watson "team." Before he was a month into his time at CSU, the Board found a way to clip his wings with its claim of “financial exigency.” They effectively took executive power away from the president and pitted him against Watson’s three minions, Provost Angela Henderson, Interim President Cecil Lucy, and H.R. person Renee Mitchell on a Management Action Committee assuring Calhoun’s one vote to their three. 

The Board of Trustees under Anthony Young and Nikki Zollar was shameless in its partisanship of the old Watson regime and completely unethical in their continued communication with Watson after he was no longer president. In light of the transcript of emails referenced, one can conclude that they really only bowed to public pressure and the Governor's Office to remove Watson after all the high-priced lawsuits began to be added up in 2015/2016. In reality, they had no intention of removing him from power—nice subterfuge. Their dismissal of Thomas Calhoun in the summer and early Fall of 2016, with its big payout and secrecy agreement, is something that still stinks to high heaven. The Governor’s Office and the legislature should demand to see the details of that agreement. I’d be interested in seeing that dodgy legal agreement tested in court. How can a state Governing Board withhold details of an agreement from the people to whom it is allegedly responsible?

The Board of Trustees is entrusted to oversee Chicago State University. The question to ask now is how low and nefarious were these connections by the old board members and do they continue to exist? As much as some Board members and the Watson set and all the past (and current) local politicians may see CSU as their private golden goose to be used to benefit an in-crowd (of their choosing); as much as they may bring in the "community" to shout “Amen” whenever light is shone on this twisted corruption, CSU remains a public institution with state money accountable to ALL the taxpayers of Illinois. It is not a private institution. The past Board of Trustees violated the public trust. All the old members of that board currently sitting should be purged immediately.

The Board of Anthony Young and Nikki Zollar showed no sense of discernment—they did not oversee what they were charged with overseeing, they were unable or unwilling to distinguish the self-interested voices from those calling on them to make changes on campus and demand accountability. They intervened in the direct operations of the university to such an egregious extent that it is surprising they have escaped sanction from the Association of American Governing Boards or even our own Higher Learning Commission on the category of governance on campus and the State Ethics Commission. 

 An article in on April 9th in Diverse Issues in Higher Education outlined a story about Morehouse University that is worth reading for its parallels to us. “Morehouse College Overhauls Leadership”:
https://diverseeducation.com/article/94972

Morehouse College replaced its president and the chairman of its board of trustees late on Friday afternoon, after several months of turmoil at the historically Black institution. William Taggart, the college’s chief operating officer since 2015, is now the interim president.

…In a letter sent out to the Morehouse community on Friday afternoon the board wrote, “With today’s action, the Board acknowledges that it has heard the voices of students, faculty, alumni, and many other key members of the Morehouse family, who have called upon all of those who love this historic institution to put aside out differences and put Morehouse and our mission first.”

The board encountered increasing criticism from faculty, students, and alumni after the board voted to not renew President John S. Wilson Jr.’s contract in January, leading the faculty to take a vote of no confidence in the board chairman in late March. Many said that the board never fully explained its decision and excluded students and faculty from the decision-making process…

Chicago State University may not be Morehouse University, but our own overseers, the Board of Trustees and Governor Rauner, could take a lesson from them and listen for a change to the voices of the students and the faculty when we speak truth to power as we have been trying to do for upwards of nine years. It is time for CSU to clean house.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Scandalous Relationship Between our Old Board and Wayne Watson: Our Administrators are Not Victims Here

Although the Board made two new appointments Friday, the University is still a long way from the wholesale leadership changes that must occur if we are to have a chance at survival. I think it likely that our various Watson cronies will still fight to keep their jobs, even perhaps by attempting to portray themselves as victims. Now, however, we seem to have a Board attentive to the needs of the school and willing to act in Chicago State’s best interests. The question remains, given the monumental and multiple administrative failures of the past six-plus years, why has it been so difficult to get rid of those “leaders” most responsible for that failure? One of the major reasons is the incestuous relationship between certain members of the Board (former and current) and some remnants of the Watson administration. Communication between several of these persons in August and September 2016, suggests that with the active participation of Board and administrative members, Wayne Watson has continued to play a substantive role in the affairs of the school.

On August 5, 2016, I provided an analysis of our enrollment problems, and suggestions for addressing those problems, to the Board of Trustees, Dr. Calhoun, and then Interim Vice President of Enrollment Management Michael Ellison. On August 9, 2016, former Board Chairman Anthony Young forwarded my letter to Wayne Watson. Why?

On September 16, 2016, Young received for his “approval” a draft “resignation” letter from Dr. Calhoun addressed to the University community. Another Board member wrote to Young: “The word and spirit of this letter breaks the confidentiality agreement. If Dr Calhoun can give explanation, so should we. I hope our attorney is up to protecting our interest in this. The effect of the letter blames the board alone for his separation. Counsel should advise if this is breach that halts payout. Btw: the Trib has editorialized that we be ‘fired’ by the gov.” Young forwarded Dr. Calhoun’s letter to Wayne Watson at 5:41 p.m. September 16, 2016. Why? Young forwarded the other Board member’s remarks about the letter to Wayne Watson at 7:54 p.m., that same day. Why?

An e-mail thread beginning on September 21, 2016, and ending on September 23, 2016, discussed Dr. Phillip Beverly in unflattering terms. The thread began at 9:14 p.m., with a reference to a video produced by Dr. Beverly. At 9:17 p.m., Yvonne Davila, a temporary administrator working in the Provost’s Office, responded “He (Beverly) should be fired.” The communication, apparently titled “Last email..look at this clown,” went to Board member Nikki Zollar who wrote Davila: “Good gravy. He just incites the riots (and he knows exactly what he’s doing).” Zollar also copied the thread to Angela Henderson. At 9:32:29 p.m. Zollar forwarded the thread to Young, and Board member Marshall Hatch, with the message, “FYI.” On September 22, 2016, at 8:50 p.m., Young forwarded the message to Watson who responded on September 23, 2016, at 6:31 a.m. Watson wrote: “He is very smart . . . The judge in the ‘Fire case’ has stated that she reads our blogs and I believe this video is for her, the judge. He is sending her the message that he is a calm, reasonable, thought provoking teacher (a little controversial but thought provoking). The allegations against him in the fire case are very strong as it relates to his interactions with students. I content [sic] that the audience intended is not the CSU campus but the judge. He does not make moves like this for what appears to be the obvious reason. He is very good at communication and this is a strategic move.” Once again, why did Wayne Watson receive these communications?

So, with enrollment cratering, scandals galore, and mountains of evidence pointing to the complete failure of the Watson administration, several of our Board members include him in discussions about University operations. This is what Nikki Zollar, Anthony Young, and Marshall Hatch spent their time doing? Crony hires like Yvonne Davila feel free to offer a worthless opinion to a Board member on the employment of a tenured faculty member? Just who the hell are these people? No wonder Nikki Zollar voted for the status quo.

The Watson administration continues to afflict Chicago State—a cancer that must be excised if the school is to survive. The various cronies who continue to damage the school must be rooted out. In 2009, an Illinois Reform Commission report detailed the features of crony hiring: 1) the hiring of politically connected or politically subservient persons, 2) the creation of political positions, 3) hiring and promotion based on considerations other than merit, 4) increasing numbers of contract employees, 5) ignoring or modifying listed job descriptions and minimum qualifications.

Ultimately, the patronage system generously rewards mediocrity and incompetence while contributing to the continuing existence of a variety of operational failures. The Watson administration at Chicago State University offers an excellent example of patronage at work: its cronyism, secrecy, disregard for competence, and ultimately, its deleterious effects on the operation of the school.

The holdovers from the Watson administration will probably struggle mightily to retain their positions. They will avail themselves of any potential strategy, no matter how ludicrous, to paint themselves as victims, a truly laughable position. We all know about the multiple failures of their “leadership.” Let’s see how much they’ve earned while demonstrating their incompetence.

Focusing on only four employees—two of whom were hired as soon as Watson “officially” became president on October 1, 2009, and are still employed at CSU, one crony who came in 2011 and who is still employed at CSU, and one girlfriend Watson hired in November 2009 who lost her job in April 2016—we find that Chicago State has paid at least $4.02 million to these four persons for their various administrative failures. Here’s the breakdown:

Vice President/General Counsel Patrick Cage, hired November 1, 2009. Total salary: $1,154,265.
Provost Angela Henderson, hired June 15, 2011. Total salary: $1,081,969.
Associate Vice President Rene Mitchell, hired October 5, 2009. Total salary: $1,043,712.
Associate Vice President Cheri Sidney, hired November 9, 2009, terminated April 30, 2016. Total salary: $740,586.
Total compensation paid to these four through March 31, 2017: $4,020,532.

According to Board regulations, if the three persons still employed are terminated without cause, they are entitled to the following payouts: Henderson, $225,000; Cage, $155,004; Mitchell, $144,996. That brings the total salary for these Watson cronies (including Sidney) to $4,545,532. If that’s victimization, I’d like some. I can only paraphrase something I said in a long forgotten post: never have so many been paid so much to accomplish so little.







Friday, April 7, 2017

The Dawn of a New Era?

So after two lengthy special meetings, the Board of Trustees decided to appoint an interim president worthy of the position. Dr. Rachel Lindsey, former Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, has been appointed interim president. She brings more than 30 years of higher education experience to an institution desperately in need of accountable and integral leadership. The time to rebuild a badly broken university has long passed, yet here we find ourselves. Congratulations to Dr. Lindsey!

The only sad note in Dr. Lindsey's appointment was the NO vote cast by Trustee Nikki Zollar. She has a long relationship with the prior failed president and his current administrative holdovers and by this vote appears to want to maintain the status quo. This humble blog has vigorously documented what that status quo looks like and that picture is less than flattering. 

To Trustee Zollar, I say this: RESIGN! Resign today! I will draft a letter of resignation for your signature and hand deliver it to the Governor, should you wish. Please spare the university any more of your "service." The message should be clear. The university can no longer stand your support and enabling of failure. Your board colleagues have clearly repudiated the 'reward failure' mantra by appointing someone who will remove those who have so badly devastated the university. That you were unwilling to support your fellow board members leaves me with only one message for you. 

RESIGN!