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!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Presidential Candidates

We have the three names of the finalists for CSU President:

"Z" Scott, former CSU Board member, one of the Board members who wanted to fire Wayne Watson in 2013. She's an attorney.
Patricia P. Ramsey, Provost at Lincoln University. She has undergrad and advanced degrees in Botany/Biology from Norfolk State, Howard, Harvard, and Ph.D. from Georgetown.
Heidi M. Anderson, Provost at Texas A&M in Kingsville. Former Provost, now Special Assistant to the President. She has undergrad degree in Pharmacy, M.S. in Education, Ph.D. in Pharmacy Administration, all from Purdue.

Below are links to info on Scott and Anderson, and to Ramsey's CV:


Sunday, April 8, 2018

Important Message: Vote for UPI representatives. Faculty Governance Matters. Election closes on April 20th

There are only two significant places at CSU where faculty exercise a share in university governance: the Faculty Union (UPI) and the Faculty Senate. It is important for faculty to take seriously their role and place at CSU not simply as teachers and researchers but as leaders responsible for the decisions that affect university policies.

This month there is an election for officers of CSU’s chapter of the UPI. With the next contract negotiations already underway we need a strong showing among the voting membership to elect leaders who will stand up for the faculty.

Last week UPI members should have received ballots for the election of CSU’s officers (President, VP, Secretary, Treasurer & House of Delegates representatives) to fill out and submit via mail (snail mail).  Because of the awkwardness of the size of the ballot pages you will have to refold the pages to fit into a smaller envelope and then mail in the pre-addressed envelope. You need to sign the back. You will not need extra postage, but you will have to put your own stamp on the letter. Do not mail it via CSU’s office mail pick up. Do not think that mailing it through CSU will save you postage.  The ballots will not be counted on our campus, but at the UPI offices.

Below is a list of the candidates on campus running for various UPI offices. Be sure that the UPI office receives your ballot by April 20th.

 BALLOT FOR OFFICERS AND DELEGATES TO UPI HOUSE OF DELEGATES                                                                                                                                    
OFFICERS - Vote for one for each position                                                                    
Deborah Lynch               
              Louis "Pancho" McFarland                        
              Melany Puglisi-Weening                            

Unit A Vice President                                               
Rosalind Fielder              
Agber Dimah                   
Unit B Vice President                                                
Darrell Darrisaw             
ASP Vice President                                                    
Romona Raymond                       
Hafeez Faridi                   
Mohammad Tauseef                   
Eric Shen                          
UPI Exec. Bd Representative                                                 
Hafeez Faridi                   
Mohd Shahid                  
DELEGATES TO UPI HOUSE OF DELEGATES - Vote for 15                                                           
Araceli Canalini
Jan-Jo Chen
Tiffany Davis
Athanese Gahungu
Gabriel Gomez
Valerie Goss
Ann Kuzdale
Olanipekun Laosebikan
Deborah Lynch
Romona Raymond
Eric Shen           
Virginia Shen

Friday, March 23, 2018

We Still Cannot Offer Classes off Campus: A Story of Administrative Neglect and Incompetence

During Chicago State’s disastrous enrollment losses of the past 7 years, our senior administrators have blamed everyone but themselves for our predicament: previous administrations, faculty and staff, the news media, Republicans, the Governor, and the Illinois legislature. As enrollment tanked, our ‘leadership team” tried frantically to distance themselves from the unfolding catastrophe. As they presented their glowing reports to a credulous Board of Trustees in bed with Wayne Watson, the school’s students continued to leave in droves. Unfortunately for these failed administrators, reconstructing the internal failures contributing to our current critical condition is not that difficult. In multiple posts on this web site, contributors have chronicled the parade of crony hires and administrative incompetents, the scandals, the lawsuits and judgments and/or settlements, the failure of an ethically compromised Board of Trustees to protect the University, and the chaos in leadership that produced 4 presidents (including two interims) in 16 months.

All of these problems aside, what did the people charged with the university’s administrative responsibilities actually do? Or to put it another way, did they even expend the minimum effort expected of people charged with addressing Chicago State’s plunging student population? A brief examination of our administrative performance in the area of financial aid will help answer those questions.

As a basic premise, it seems reasonable to assume that a university losing students at the rate we are losing them would try anything and everything to appeal to the largest potential student population. In my estimation, this means insuring the smooth operation of the various functions associated with enrollment and student support. This effort also requires creative and innovative thinking to come up with programs appealing to a broad range of potential students. I have already discussed the administration’s failure to move on some of the programs proposed by former CAO Paul Vallas. To the best of my knowledge his ideas are currently moribund, due primarily to inaction in Academic Affairs. Part of the reason for this inaction is simple: these proposals require that Chicago State offer courses at off-campus locations, something we are currently unable to do since we are not approved for financial aid disbursements to students taking off-campus courses. This is basic administrative failure 101.

As many of you remember, the University suffered a major financial aid scandal in early 2011. We were awarding financial aid to students who were not eligible and we were disbursing financial aid to students at off-campus locations not approved by IBHE and the Department of Education. These Title IV violations resulted in a hefty fine for the University. The financial aid scandal also enabled the Watson administration to blame the previous administration and then Provost Sandra Westbrooks for the scandal. Watson positioned himself as protecting the school’s academic integrity and his administration subsequently expelled a number of students for poor scholarship. As recently as 2017, administrative mouthpieces still blamed the continuing enrollment decline on those expulsions, or more accurately, blamed the losses on the previous administration.

One of the lessons the University ostensibly learned from this scandal was the importance of having someone in place as the Vice President of Enrollment Management. In January 2011, the position stood vacant, as did the position of Dean of Student Success, the position then responsible for supervising Chicago State’s Financial Aid Department. In June 2011, Watson filled the Vice President’s position with his old crony, Angela Henderson. Additionally, Watson reorganized the Financial Aid operation and placed it under the supervision of his girlfriend, Cheri Sidney. Mirroring the chaos at the top of the organization, from mid-2013 until early 2018, five separate persons have served as the Vice President of Enrollment Management: Henderson from 2011-13, LaShondra Peebles for part of 2014, Carol Cortilet-Albrecht in 2015-16, Latrice Williams in 2016-17, and in 2018 Michael Ellison Interim). From mid-2011 until mid-2016, Cheri Sidney supervised Financial Aid. After her termination, her position disappeared.

Although under fire for its financial aid practices, our administration did nothing to address the issue of financial aid disbursements to students at unapproved locations in 2011. Although both Henderson and Sidney should have been working to correct the obvious financial aid problems, they did nothing. Additionally, in late 2013, the University’s report to the Illinois State Legislature indicated that Provost Westbrooks had been assigned to correct the unapproved off-campus disbursement problem. Westbrooks retired in mid-2013, replaced by Angela Henderson.

As Vice President of Enrollment Management, Henderson had already been involved in discussions about this and other financial aid issues. In April 2012, LaShondra Peebles, responsible for Chicago State’s financial aid compliance, noticed that the school’s application to the DOE for financial aid participation contained lies. Specifically, the application claimed that “there were no classes offered outside of the university campus, or off-site locations.” In fact, that semester, Chicago State offered 9 off-campus courses, with 110 students enrolled. Peebles told Henderson that “CSU failed to notify DOE that Title IV funds were issued to students attending classes at off-site locations.” This conversation occurred a year after Chicago State had been fined for its financial aid violations, and the Illinois Auditor General’s report for fiscal 2012 had noted the financial aid disbursements at unapproved off-campus locations. Business as usual at Chicago State.

Henderson directed Peebles to correct the problem. The DOE notified Peebles that Chicago State was not in “good standing,” and ineligible for an automatic renewal of the financial aid participation agreement. She reported DOE’s position to Watson, Henderson, University Counsel Patrick Cage, and Ethics Officer Bernetta Bush. In the summer of 2012, Watson declared that no off-campus courses would be offered in fall 2012. Despite Watson’s pronouncement, the University offered 8 off-campus courses that semester, enrolling 121 students. Chicago State has not offered any off-campus courses since Fall 2012.

Ultimately, Chicago State received “provisional” approval to disburse financial aid, although the issue of off-campus courses remained unresolved. When Peebles attempted to report our “provisional” financial aid status to the Board in late 2013, Watson and Henderson refused to allow her to submit the report. In a May 2013 conversation, Watson had told her that “it was not a good idea to share the information with the Board at that time and the Board was not going to be advised of CSU’s provisional status.” In December, Watson “advised Peebles that he was upset with her report and that she could not submit the report to the Board as it would cause unnecessary alarm. Watson “advised her to revise the report and make sure Henderson saw it before he viewed again and to work with her to edit.”

Peebles continued to work on the report and attempted again to submit it for the Board’s March 2014 meeting. She claimed that “Watson and Henderson advised Peebles that she could not present any of the report at the board meeting because the information in the report about Title IV funds would expose CSU to public scrutiny.” Peebles never submitted her report to the Board.

Although we have now apparently come off “provisional” financial aid status, we are still unable to disburse financial aid to students at off-campus sites. Until this issue is resolved, the University’s ability to increase enrollment will be hampered. At this point, we have not even officially negotiated the amount of our fine from the DOE. Who is responsible for this state of affairs? I'll leave that to the reader to work out, but I will say that there is only one administrator at the top of this organization who remains from the 10 persons who reported directly to the President in January 2012.

Friday, March 2, 2018

So a few years ago, I suggested several scholars that the university could consider for the office of university president. One of those suggestions was Dr. Ruth Simmons, the former president of Brown University. She retired and returned to Texas and after a short retirement she was recruited by Prairie View A&M, an HBCU that appears to be in the midst of a renaissance. The moral of this story is to have high aspirations, dare to be more and don't reward failure. Maybe the BOT will take this to heart.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

ASSessment and its Discontents

For anyone who has beaten their head against the inanity of university assessment see Molly Worthen's op ed in the New York Times "The Misguided Drive to Measure 'Learning Outcomes'"  (Feb. 23, 2018) posted below. Included in the article are such observations:

...the ballooning assessment industry — including the tech companies and consulting firms that profit from assessment — is a symptom of higher education’s crisis, not a solution to it. It preys especially on less prestigious schools and contributes to the system’s deepening divide into a narrow tier of elite institutions primarily serving the rich and a vast landscape of glorified trade schools for everyone else.

...Mr. Gilbert became an outspoken assessment skeptic after years of watching the process fail to capture what happens in his classes — and seeing it miss the real reasons students struggle. “Maybe all your students have full-time jobs, but that’s something you can’t fix, even though that’s really the core problem,” he said. “Instead, you’re expected to find some small problem, like students don’t understand historical chronology, so you might add a reading to address that. You’re supposed to make something up every semester, then write up a narrative” explaining your solution to administrators.

Here is the second irony: Learning assessment has not spurred discussion of the deep structural problems that send so many students to college unprepared to succeed. Instead, it lets politicians and accreditors ignore these problems as long as bureaucratic mechanisms appear to be holding someone — usually a professor — accountable for student performance...

...Without thoughtful reconsideration, learning assessment will continue to devour a lot of money for meager results. The movement’s focus on quantifying classroom experience makes it easy to shift blame for student failure wholly onto universities, ignoring deeper socio-economic reasons that cause many students to struggle with college-level work. Worse, when the effort to reduce learning to a list of job-ready skills goes too far, it misses the point of a university education. (emphasis mine)

Worthen goes on to express what many of us talk about in the hallways of CSU or on the way to our commanded attendance at the semester assessment meetings --though rarely do the cowed CSU faculty voice these in public meetings. Did I hear about a CSU administrator who was sent somewhere in Asia to attend an international assessment conference a few years ago? Give me a break. New ways to waste more time and money.

But wait. CSU made its way indirectly into Worthen's discussion. Oh do not fear ye who blame the media for reporting "only the bad stuff" about poor benighted Chicago State. The university is unnamed. But  mirabile dictu! One of our very own, Dr. Eric Lief Peters, who retired from CSU last year was one of three letters to the Editor of the NY Times chosen to appear in their daily letters column. I'm posting his letter here.

Laugh (and cry) as required. Molly Worthen's article follows.

To the Editor:

I spent the last several years at my university on this nonsense as an “assessment coordinator.” It was a total waste of more than 40 percent of my time and left me with no time to do research. It was bureaucracy at its worst. It was impossible to implement in any tangible way that would yield meaningful data, and nobody would or could provide guidance. It was a very large reason I retired early.

Here is a general summary:

Me: “Well, here is what we are thinking about for an assessment plan.”

Them: “You should really come up with a plan that assesses student performance.”

Me (gritting teeth): “Yes, we have that in all our classes. They are called graded assignments and exams.”

Them: “Those are great! But they should be aligned with the goals of the courses.”

Me (grinding teeth): “Yes, these are assignments that are based on evaluating the students’ grasp of the course content.”

Them: “But they should instead reflect other things that the students gain in the course.”

Me: “Like what?”

Them: “We can’t tell you, but you will know it when you see it.”

Me: “Can you give us a hint?”

Them: “No, these should be your assessments of what is important.”

Me: “Why don’t you just shoot me and get it over with?”

Them: “Your assessment reports will be due on LiveText by …”


Molly Worthen, "The Misguided Drive to Measure 'Learning Outcomes'" The New York Times, Feb. 23, 2018.

I teach at a big state university, and I often receive emails from software companies offering to help me do a basic part of my job: figuring out what my students have learned.

If you thought this task required only low-tech materials like a pile of final exams and a red pen, you’re stuck in the 20th century. In 2018, more and more university administrators want campuswide, quantifiable data that reveal what skills students are learning. Their desire has fed a bureaucratic behemoth known as learning outcomes assessment. This elaborate, expensive, supposedly data-driven analysis seeks to translate the subtleties of the classroom into PowerPoint slides packed with statistics — in the hope of deflecting the charge that students pay too much for degrees that mean too little.

It’s true that old-fashioned course grades, skewed by grade inflation and inconsistency among schools and disciplines, can’t tell us everything about what students have learned. But the ballooning assessment industry — including the tech companies and consulting firms that profit from assessment — is a symptom of higher education’s crisis, not a solution to it. It preys especially on less prestigious schools and contributes to the system’s deepening divide into a narrow tier of elite institutions primarily serving the rich and a vast landscape of glorified trade schools for everyone else.

Without thoughtful reconsideration, learning assessment will continue to devour a lot of money for meager results. The movement’s focus on quantifying classroom experience makes it easy to shift blame for student failure wholly onto universities, ignoring deeper socio-economic reasons that cause many students to struggle with college-level work. Worse, when the effort to reduce learning to a list of job-ready skills goes too far, it misses the point of a university education.

The regional accrediting agencies that certify the quality of education an institution provides — and its fitness to receive federal student financial aid — now require some form of student learning assessment. That means most American colleges and universities have to do it. According to a recent survey, schools deploy an average of four methods for evaluating learning, which include testing software and rubrics to standardize examinations, e-portfolio platforms to display student projects, surveys and other tools.

No intellectual characteristic is too ineffable for assessment. Some schools use lengthy surveys like the California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory, which claims to test for qualities like “truthseeking” and “analyticity.” The Global Perspective Inventory, administered and sold by Iowa State University, asks students to rate their agreement with statements like “I do not feel threatened emotionally when presented with multiple perspectives” and scores them on metrics like the “intrapersonal affect scale.”

Surveys can’t tell you everything. So universities assemble committees of faculty members, arm them with rubrics and assign them piles of student essays culled from across the school (often called “student products,” as if they are tubes of undergraduate Soylent Green). Assessment has invaded the classroom, too: On many campuses, professors must include a list of skills-based “learning outcomes” on every syllabus and assess them throughout the semester.

All this assessing requires a lot of labor, time and cash. Yet even its proponents have struggled to produce much evidence — beyond occasional anecdotes — that it improves student learning. “I think assessment practices are ripe for re-examining,” said David Eubanks, assistant vice president for assessment and institutional effectiveness at Furman University in Greenville, S.C., who has worked in assessment for years and now speaks out about its problems. “It has forced academic departments to use data that’s not very good,” he added. “And the process of getting this data that’s not very good can be very painful.”

The push to quantify undergraduate learning is about a century old, but the movement really took off in the 1980s. The assessment boom coincided — not, I think, by accident — with the decision of state legislatures all over the country to reduce spending on public universities and other social services. That divestment continued, moving more of the cost of higher education onto students. (These students are often graduates of underfunded high schools that can’t prepare them for college in the first place.) It was politically convenient to hold universities accountable for all this, rather than to scrutinize neoliberal austerity measures.

In 2006, the Commission on the Future of Higher Education, convened by Margaret Spellings, the secretary of education at the time, issued a scathing critique of universities. “Employers report repeatedly that many new graduates they hire are not prepared to work, lacking the critical thinking, writing and problem-solving skills needed in today’s workplaces,” the commission’s report complained.

Educators scrambled to ensure that students graduate with these skills — and to prove it with data. The obsession with testing that dominates primary education invaded universities, bringing with it a large support staff. Here is the first irony of learning assessment: Faced with outrage over the high cost of higher education, universities responded by encouraging expensive administrative bloat.

Many of the professionals who work in learning assessment are former faculty members who care deeply about access to quality education. Pat Hutchings, a senior scholar at the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (and former English professor), told me: “Good assessment begins with real, genuine questions that educators have about their students, and right now for many educators those are questions about equity. We’re doing pretty well with 18- to 22-year-olds from upper-middle-class families, but what about — well, fill in the blank.”

It seems that the pressure to assess student learning outcomes has grown most quickly at poorly funded regional universities that have absorbed a large proportion of financially disadvantaged students, where profound deficits in preparation and resources hamper achievement. Research indicates that the more selective a university, the less likely it is to embrace assessment. Learning outcomes assessment has become one way to answer the question, “If you get unprepared students in your class and they don’t do well, how does that get explained?” Mr. Eubanks at Furman University told me.

When Erik Gilbert, a professor of history at Arkansas State University, reached the end of his World Civilization course last fall, he dutifully imposed the required assessment: an extra question on the final exam that asked students to read a document about Samurai culture and answer questions using knowledge of Japanese history. Yet his course focused on “cross-cultural connections, trade, travel, empire, migration and bigger-scale questions, rather than area studies,” Mr. Gilbert told me. His students had not studied Japanese domestic history. “We do it this way because it satisfies what the assessment office wants, not because it addresses concerns that we as a department have.”

Mr. Gilbert became an outspoken assessment skeptic after years of watching the process fail to capture what happens in his classes — and seeing it miss the real reasons students struggle. “Maybe all your students have full-time jobs, but that’s something you can’t fix, even though that’s really the core problem,” he said. “Instead, you’re expected to find some small problem, like students don’t understand historical chronology, so you might add a reading to address that. You’re supposed to make something up every semester, then write up a narrative” explaining your solution to administrators.

Here is the second irony: Learning assessment has not spurred discussion of the deep structural problems that send so many students to college unprepared to succeed. Instead, it lets politicians and accreditors ignore these problems as long as bureaucratic mechanisms appear to be holding someone — usually a professor — accountable for student performance.

All professors could benefit from serious conversations about what is and is not working in their classes. But instead they end up preoccupied with feeding the bureaucratic beast. “It’s a bit like the old Soviet Union. You speak two languages,” said Frank Furedi, an emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Kent in Britain, which has a booming assessment culture. “You do a performance for the sake of the auditors, but in reality, you carry on.”

Yet bureaucratic jargon subtly shapes the expectations of students and teachers alike. On the first day of class, my colleagues and I — especially in the humanities, where professors are perpetually anxious about falling enrollment — find ourselves rattling off the skills our courses offer (“Critical thinking! Clear writing!”), hyping our products like Apple Store clerks.

I teach intellectual history. Of course that includes skills: learning to read a historical source, interpret evidence and build an argument. But cultivating historical consciousness is more than that: It means helping students immerse themselves in a body of knowledge, question assumptions about memory and orient themselves toward current events in a new way.

If we describe college courses as mainly delivery mechanisms for skills to please a future employer, if we imply that history, literature and linguistics are more or less interchangeable “content” that convey the same mental tools, we oversimplify the intellectual complexity that makes a university education worthwhile in the first place. We end up using the language of the capitalist marketplace and speak to our students as customers rather than fellow thinkers. They deserve better.

“When kids come from backgrounds where they’re the first in their families to go to college, we have to take them seriously, and not flatter them and give them third-rate ideas,” Mr. Furedi told me. “They need to be challenged and inspired by the idea of our disciplines.” Assessment culture is dumbing down universities, he said: “One of the horrible things is that many universities think that giving access to nontraditional students means turning a university into a high school. That’s not giving them access to higher education.”

Here is the third irony: The value of universities to a capitalist society depends on their ability to resist capitalism, to carve out space for intellectual endeavors that don’t have obvious metrics or market value.

Consider that holy grail of learning outcomes, critical thinking — what the philosopher John Dewey called the ability “to maintain the state of doubt and to carry on systematic and protracted inquiry.” Teaching it is not a cheap or efficient process. It does not come from trying to educate the most students at the lowest possible cost or from emphasizing short, quantifiable, standardized assignments at the expense of meandering, creative and difficult investigation.

Producing thoughtful, talented graduates is not a matter of focusing on market-ready skills. It’s about giving students an opportunity that most of them will never have again in their lives: the chance for serious exploration of complicated intellectual problems, the gift of time in an institution where curiosity and discovery are the source of meaning.

That’s how we produce the critical thinkers American employers want to hire. And there’s just no app for that.

Molly Worthen (@MollyWorthen) is the author, most recently, of “Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism,” an assistant professor of history at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and a contributing opinion writer.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

What We Don't Want in a President

Once again our Board is engaged in a search for a new President. Once again, students, staff, and faculty wonder what kind of leader will come out of this search. Each group of University constituents has its own idea about what qualifications and experience are important. We all have a clearer idea of what we do not want.

We have wasted two years since the campus felt optimism with the selection of Thomas Calhoun, making this search perhaps the school’s last opportunity to avoid the dustbin of history. To the Board, here is what you must not do this time.

1) Don’t give us some political hack unqualified on any level to run a comprehensive university. The Board did that in 2009 with Wayne Watson, more on the scope of that catastrophe below.
2) Don’t give us someone with any ties to Watson or local politicians.
3) Don’t give us anyone associated with the current university administration.
4) Don’t give us someone with questionable academic credentials.

In 2009, the Board decided to award the presidency to a total academic fraud. The devastation wrought by that decision has put the university at risk for its existence. Continuing to immerse the school in local politics, continuing to use it as a patronage dumping ground, continuing to hire friends, relatives of friends, friends of friends, relatives of employees, and anyone else hired for political reasons will simply replicate the disaster of the Watson years. Here are some visuals from the Chicago State Fact Book that underscore that point.

In fall 2009, the University enrolled 7235 students. That number grew to 7362 the following fall. This past fall, the University enrolled 3101 students. That number has dropped to 2850 in spring 2018.

The enrollment loss from its peak in fall 2010 to fall 2017 amounts to 4261 students, or a 57.8 percent decline. Because the majority of our students are African-American, it seems appropriate to look at their enrollment changes. In fall 2009, CSU enrolled 5670 black students, a number that grew to 5832 in fall 2010. By fall 2017, only 2073 black students attended CSU, a 64.5 percent drop. Black student departures account for 88 percent of our enrollment losses.

Another useful indicator of the complete failure of political hacks as university administrators (along with disastrous media relations, toxic relations with faculty, and a total inability to raise money)is our plunging Freshman graduation rate which will surely expose the University to negative media attention. The figures are in for the first three Watson cohorts: 11 percent for the 2009 group, 13 percent in 2010, and 12 percent in 2011.

Anyone selected must be given free reign to make whatever changes s/he deems necessary to save the school. Of course, in Thomas Calhoun we had the person almost everyone on campus supported. However, he never had a chance with that iteration of the Board. Can that mistake be rectified?

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The "Nationwide" Presidential Search "Profile": Is Everyone in the U.S. Qualified to Apply?

The much ballyhooed “national search” for CSU’s next president has finally commenced. Take a gander at the “profile” currently displayed on the Board’s portion of the University’s web site. Although I found the profile disquieting, please make your own determination about what is happening with this search. Most important, the “profile” is almost devoid of qualifications. Here’s what we’re apparently looking for. A “mission-centered, courageous, accountable, experienced, student-centered, skilled academician; a “truswworthy” “financial strategist” who is “a principled strategic thinker” and “agent of change,” “creative and inspirational, charismatic and thought-provoking.” Not a single actual qualification in all that verbiage or am I missing something? The only actual qualification has to do with fundraising. According to the “profile,” the new president must be a “high energy and tenacious fundraiser with major gift experience.”

No minimum academic qualifications or relevant administrative experience required?
Other than being a “proven scholar” whatever that means, no requirement that the new president be eligible for appointment as a full professor? In fact, the new president need not even be qualified for appointment as an Assistant Professor. Is a GED sufficient, or must the successful applicant have actually completed high school?

Nearly a century ago, William McAdoo purportedly described Warren Harding’s speeches as “an army of pompous phrases moving across the landscape in search of an idea.” With an apology to Mr. McAdoo, this “profile” strikes me as an army of pompous clich├ęs moving across the landscape in search of a qualification. I understand that most job announcements are pieces of fluff, but for comparison, here’s part of a recent search announcement from Northeastern Illinois. You’ll note that a “terminal degree” is a requirement, and that an appointment as full professor is a preferred qualification.

“The president must hold a terminal degree from an accredited institution and demonstrate progressive administrative leadership experience. It is preferred that the president have credentials to be appointed as a professor with tenure.” Here’s the link:

Now, here’s an edited version of our “profile”:

The successful candidate for this position will possess the following attributes:
CSU desires a leader with a sense of urgency who will hit the ground running in establishing relationships needed for building CSU; be prepared to roll up their sleeves and dive in to expanding their role in the community.
They must be a proven scholar.
The next president must also be a charismatic and thought-provoking leader.

Here’s the link:


One final thought. Again, the literary quality of our search material is substandard. This information should not look like a hastily written blog post. It should be polished and free of errors. Why can’t we do this? We have a number of distinguished authors on the faculty who are actually capable of writing in English. Why don’t we use them to proof read material designed for the public that reflects on the entire university community? Why do we continually have to look like we simply don’t care? Or worse, that we simply don’t know? I have to admit that I will watch this search unfold with some trepidation.