Tuesday, March 31, 2009

What I want in a President

So I know that I am not a high priced executive search firm with the ability to find high quality candidates nationwide but I wanted to jot my thoughts down about what our university needs in the new President. Imagine if the university had a real opportunity to have this conversation. What knowledge, talents, skills experience and abilities, might have been articulated to identify a pool of high quality candidates. I came up with ten. You can add whatever other qualities you believe to be important.

First, the new president should have senior administrative experience at a university that awards graduate degrees. CSU has advanced to the level of a doctoral degree granting institution. I believe it is important that a president have significant experience in that academic environment. And in my mind, senior administrative experience is either as a Provost or a President.

Second, the candidate should have extensive fund raising and funding experience with a verifiable record of achievement. This experience should include securing funding for special projects, capital development campaign, increasing the university endowment and increasing public funding.

Third, the candidate should have a record for raising academic standards at the institutions in which he or she served. Higher standards would lead to higher retention which should lead to higher graduation rates which in our case is desperately needed.

Fourth, the candidate should have NCAA Division 1 knowledge and a track record of experience at a university whose athletics program performed at a competitive level during their tenure.

Fifth, the candidate should have a record of publication in peer reviewed journals or university presses. This would give the candidate an understanding of the relationship between research productivity and teaching load. I imagine that would lead to genuine good faith negotiation in collective bargaining with the UPI.

Sixth, this university desperately needs a decisive executive who will unhesitatingly remove employees who are an impediment to the growth and improvement of the university. Employees who repeatedly demonstrate their inability to competently do their jobs must, in accordance with their due process rights, be removed.

Seventh, CSU needs a President who has experience and a commitment to shared governance. Faculty don’t wish to run the university. They do wish to be genuinely collaborated with and considered in decision making. A candidate with experience working in good faith with unions would make negotiating periods more productive for all involved parties. Therefore, the candidate should be free of a history of no-confidence votes or labor strife.

Eighth, the university should be spared consideration of any candidate who would bring even a whiff of scandal to this institution. For a university that has been mired in scandal for the past few years, you remember, the audit findings, revolving door in the Athletics Department, $250,000 copy machines, accepting unfinished buildings like the Convocation Center and the general mismanagement of the university, it is absolutely inappropriate to interview any candidate who has any hint of impropriety.

Ninth, I want a President who can work seamlessly but independently with the BOT, not micro-managed by the BOT or any individual Board member. I would want them to be decisive enough to not be a puppet president of the BOT or any individual BOT member. Obviously the BOT has the fiduciary responsibility for the university. In my limited thinking that does not mean micro-managing the president or any of the employees of the university. Exercising oversight includes asking the right questions and reviewing important documents and decisions, not interfering with the President in hiring and decision making.

Finally, I want a President who has a vision for this diamond in the rough that we call CSU. I want a President who not only has a vision but is willing and able to articulate the vision and invite the university community to pursue it. A servant leader willing to envision something different, beyond the normal confines in which we operate is much more desirable than a convenient political crony. I want a President who would extend to the university the courtesy of articulating a vision for the university during the application process, not just submit a one paragraph pro forma cover letter. [WARNING: Editorial comments follow.] This university will never realize its potential as long as we are unwilling to envision something different. If we believe we are a glorified community college, then that is all we will ever be. If we can visualize this institution as something so much bigger than that, it will take a proven, tested, academic leader to lead the university into the next chapter of its history.

Have I missed something? Let me know what you think.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Presidential Search Part Deux

So one of the breakdowns in institutional communications is around rumors. Most leaders of organizations choose not address rumors and dismiss them as unsubstantiated or idle gossip. Rumors often have a grain of truth in them which makes them so appealing to circulate. Here are the top 10 rumors that I heard recently. And the ‘authorities’ can make use of this blog to go on the record to dispel these statements as rumors.

Rumor 1: The Board of Trustees (BOT) selected a replacement for the former president more than 18 months ago and that Candidate 1 has been actively lobbying for the job for the past five years while at the City Colleges of Chicago.

Rumor 2: Various current and former local politicians are calling in favors to support one of the two candidates with the former Senate President lining up behind Candidate 2 and the current Senate Appropriations Chairman backing Candidate 1.

Rumor 3: The faculty is going to leave the stage at commencement in protest of the BOT presidential selection.

Rumor 4: The Interim President was pressured not to hire a permanent Vice President for Administrative and Financial Affairs months ago to create more audit findings so that the BOT could expand its micro-management of the university.

Rumor 5: The new president will make CSU an open enrollment university.

Rumor 6: The new president will eliminate the Athletics Department to save money.

Rumor 7: The graduates at the Spring Commencement plan on walking out to protest the BOT’s hiring of Candidate 1.

Rumor 8: The BOT is accelerating the hiring process so that the Interim President will be relieved of his duties prior to June 30 thus allowing the BOT Chairman to lead the Commencement procession.

Rumor 9: Some faculty are going to wear gags at the candidate interviews to symbolize not having a voice in the presidential selection process.

Rumor 10: Both candidates have reputations for retaliation against those that challenge them.

If any of the aforementioned persons wish to categorically dispel these statements as rumors they are welcome to post a response. Otherwise I guess time will tell.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The fix is in...

There was a cautious optimism last year at this time across campus when CSU began the search for a new president. The belief at that time was that the selection process would involve constituencies across campus from whom the Board of Trustees truly wanted to hear. Sources close to the search, however, have related stories that describe the deflation of that initial hope over the summer and fall as the meetings on the presidential search progressed. From the very start, apparently, the search committee of the Board of Trustees made it clear that they would do the hiring and that the advisory committee (made up of faculty, staff, and administrators, including a student representative) was not going to be anything but, well, “advisory,” in the narrowest sense of the word. The advisory committee would not vote, would not have a say in who was chosen for a short list and would not be present for interviews of the final five candidates. This proscription of the advisory committee was repeated periodically in the course of this search.

So, anyone who read the statement issued on Tuesday, “the search committee, with input from the 16-member presidential search advisory committee, reviewed more than 30 applications for the position” should disabuse themselves that this process was shared. The Board of Trustees alone has made the decision to bring in Drs. Wayne Watson and Carol Adams not with, but in spite of, the advisory committee.

The advisory search committee was not permitted to review the portfolios of those 30+ candidates, but did review the chosen twelve candidates. The advisory committee had less than a week to make extensive comments on paper evaluating the candidates. The plan was to discuss those candidates at the next search committee meeting. Most of the advisory members did fill out the forms which were detailed and took a long time to complete. Yet no discussion between the Board of Trustees and the advisory search committee about the twelve candidates ever took place. On the day of that meeting, in what could only be called a parliamentary technicality, Trustee Tolliver moved the meeting into executive session before any discussion could take place. The Senate-appointed advisory search committee was never part of a meaningful discussion as to who Chicago State University’s next president would be.

After a year-long national search, conducted by a local search firm, the two finalists are two very prominent and problematic individuals from Chicago. What began as an optimistic opportunity for the university to come together to improve the “culture of Chicago State,” has ended in farce. Cynicism about the choice, but more importantly, about the process, is what one is hearing now. The faculty in particular should watch very carefully over the next few weeks as the Trustee’s choices for President of CSU interview on campus. Maybe some meaningful participation of the entire university can still happen in this process, unfortunately, I’m afraid the die is cast, the fix is in.

Are you kidding me???

So this is what it has come to. I will use four words to make my point. “No confidence” and “silk pajamas.” That’s right. After spending who knows how much money on an executive search firm to conduct a nationwide search the CSU Board of Trustees has selected two candidates whose names surfaced more than 18 months ago for the final interview for President of the university. To say that I was stunned would be an understatement.

I was stunned because one of the candidates received a vote of no confidence from the faculty of the five colleges in the City Colleges of Chicago system and forced a contentious strike in the City Colleges during his tenure. Clearly this is an administrator diametrically opposed to the interests of faculty. The other candidate, appointed by the now impeached governor, supported the firing of a state worker who alleged sexual harassment by her Chief of Staff. The actions of that official begs the question of how far did the corruption go in that administration. Did it go so far as a subordinate filing a complaint results in that employee being fired three weeks later? Hmmm. Isn’t that retaliation?

This is a university that has been mired in scandal from insufficient (non-existent) oversight by the Board of Trustees, to a lack of accountability by the former President in supervision of subordinates, to a revolving door of athletic directors and unqualified coaches, to two consecutive years of increased numbers of audit findings and it is now left to be ‘led’ by one of these candidates. I am disappointed that the process used by the Board was not transparent, that the Advisory Committee was advisory in name only with no substantive contribution to the process which is demeaning and insulting. I am disappointed that money was wasted in a time where money is likely to be rescinded this fiscal year on a process where the outcome was known more than a year in advance. I am disappointed that the people who have the least amount of experience in higher education chose to dismiss the experience of the people who know the most about higher education. I was disappointed when the numbers of candidates to be reviewed and interviewed kept changing. The initial cut was to be 10 and mysteriously 12 appeared. Then there were to be three receiving on campus interviews and only two names appeared, one of whom did not even extend the courtesy to the university to outline a vision for the university in the initial application process.

I had high hopes when the Interim President was named. It appeared that CSU had come through its dark night of the soul and was ready to actualize its potential. Now it appears that I should prepare myself for another period in exile. I was told pointedly that one of these candidates remembers the people who ask the hard questions and retaliates against them later. Someone has to ask the hard questions not just of the applicants but of the Board of Trustees and the person responsible for their appointment.

So let the questioning begin.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Creating a culture of accountability

So it occurred to me recently that at CSU we struggle to implement effective change. Why would that be and then it struck me. We have two major institutional impediments. First, we do not have a culture of accountability and second, we do not have a culture of transparency.

Let’s talk about the first one. When our last president arrived in 1998, I advised her that if she wanted a lasting legacy at CSU, it would not be built on new buildings; it would be built on changing the culture of the university, specifically engendering a culture of accountability. Accountability in my world is not punitive, it is relational. I hold people accountable because I want to have good relationships with them and that means that we both take responsibility for who we are in the relationship that we have whether that be personal, social or professional.

Accountability is about the agreement, the choices that I make, the consequences of those choices and the cost that is paid. Simply put, I agree to do or not do something. Accountability is taking responsibility for the choice that I made, the intentional or unintentional consequences of my choice and the cost that is paid, by me or others. Some agreements are implicit, like by accepting a position at the university, I agree to do my job. So with that agreement in place, I look at the choices related to job performance.

For example, who was responsible for the relocation of the university Child Care Center? And why has that relocation resulted in a significant decrease in enrollment of children? Who was responsible for a contract that has the university paying for heat in the temporary location? And who is responsible for the office being in one location and the child care facility being in another location which creates hardship for the working moms who are trying to complete degrees? How many of those moms left the university as a result of inadequate child care? All of those choices have had consequences, intended or unintended. In an institution that has a culture of accountability, those responsible would step up and take responsibility. In an institution lacking such a culture, no one is responsible and no consequences are meted out to employees who don’t do their jobs. In the private sector, an employee who costs the company a significant amount of money would be terminated for cause. They didn’t do their job in away that supported the organization. At CSU, employees are allowed to perform below standard and experience no consequences for their inadequate performance.

Accountability starts at the head of the organization. If the Board of Trustees does not expect the President of the university to embody and engender accountability, then the President will not create or maintain a culture of accountability. And if the President doesn’t hold others accountable, then what can every member of the community expect? Exactly what we have received over the past ten years. I do not believe that an interim president can change a dysfunctional culture. They might be able to begin a process, but it is up to the President to build and maintain that culture. Without accountability, I argue there will be no change, because no one will be responsible and those who don’t perform will be allowed to stay in their jobs.

The Board of Trustees will make a significant statement about accountability based on the three applicants they select for on campus interviews. If any of the three have issues in their professional lives that signify they don’t understand accountability it will be clear to me where the Board stands on accountability and what we can expect for the next ten years.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Here''s novel idea...

So I may be vanquishing a deceased equine here, but I read recently that another CSU, Colorado State University is currently searching for a chief executive. They, though, have foregone retaining an executive search firm and decided to find their next president on their own, a decision that will likely save them $100,000 or more. I had no idea that those executive search firms were so expensive and given the possibility we might lose $6 million in FY 2010, every penny we can save counts. It gave me pause to ask whether as a university community we have what it takes to select a president on our own. When I say as a community, that means that faculty, staff, students and administration make recommendations on three candidates to our Board of Trustees who have the ultimate responsibility for hiring the president. Could we overcome our natural tensions and work for the collective good of the university?

Well fair readers, sadly I don’t believe we could. There are several reasons for this. First, the faculty has never demonstrated any interest in shared governance. The Board of Trustees meets quarterly as a full board and you could count on one hand the number of faculty that regularly attend the Wednesday Board meetings, much less make comments during the Public and Employee Comment period. Without the faculty flexing its muscle or even making its presence known, the faculty will not be taken seriously or genuinely invited to participate in any substantive governance process.

Second, because of their well documented lack of oversight of our last president, the BOT has swung 180 degrees in the other direction and now micro-manage the operations of the university. Of course it is left to them to define fiduciary responsibility and their definition has them approving contracts of $25,000 or more instead of the $250,000 previously outlined in the BOT by-laws. Ignoring the input of the Presidential Search Advisory committee and directing that our admissions standards be modified for financial expediency instead of using resources to recruit and retain high quality students are indicators to me that the BOT is trying to rebuild their institutional reputation often by cutting out the members of this community many of whom will be here long after their terms on the Board expire.

Finally, elements of the administration of this university have repeatedly proven unable to manage the institution competently, hence the embarrassing audit findings that garnered press attention. It is probably impolitic of me to say this but how many administrators have been invited to other career opportunities or resigned under fire during the past administration? How many current administrators should currently be considering other employment opportunities and polishing their vitae?

Without a trustworthy administration and a fully engaged faculty, no Board of Trustees could entrust the selection process to the university community, no matter how much better a pool of candidates could be forwarded and no matter how much money would be saved. Is the Board micro-managing some matters better left to the people responsible for their completion? Yes! Has the faculty abdicated its responsibility to be fully engaged in shared governance? Yes! Has the administration repeatedly failed the university in carrying out its responsibilities? Yes!

So I don’t think any of us, faculty or administrators can be surprised when we are shut out of the critical governance processes of the university. We have no one to hold responsible but ourselves.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

March Madness...

So I was watching college basketball this weekend in advance of March Madness and thought back to the past season here at CSU. Both of our teams had winning records in the same season for the first time in school history. Great accomplishment given that we have had an uneven administration of athletics during my time here at CSU. It is probably more difficult at a historically commuter campus to generate interest in athletics on the part of faculty than at more traditional universities. And our basketball teams have done their part by winning. Now what are we going to do to support our student-athletes?

I believe there is a disconnect between the Athletics Department and the academic side of the university. A well run athletics program at a Division I school has the opportunity to put a school on the map and increase and diversify its enrollment. Not every university can have a viable football program. However, many small schools can and do have successful basketball programs. What is it going to take to get our programs into the NCAA tournaments and have Chicago State University seen by millions of prospective students all over the country. Since we don’t spend money on marketing this institution, we have to rely on ‘free media.’ The NCAA tournament is ‘free media’ that could attract more traditional students, many from out of state and enhance our revenue stream while improving our retention and graduation rates. Academics and athletics should work hand in hand to promote the university. And the truth be told I was never very supportive of the athletics program because I didn’t take the time to get involved.

I had the opportunity this past season to work with the Women’s basketball team on sharpening some of the mental aspects of their preparation. It was a tremendous learning experience for me. One of the more important lessons I learned was how important our support is to our athletes. They want to be seen and recognized not just in the classroom but on the court or the field. I asked myself why I don’t see more faculty at sporting events and then it occurred to me, that maybe they haven’t been asked. If you have worked here more than a week, you probably know that institutionally, communications is a significant weakness. So in my official capacity as the institution’s Faculty Athletics Representative, I invite all faculty to our sporting events. Come out and support our student athletes. Take a different interest in their experience. For some of our student athletes, their participation in sports is what gives them an opportunity to earn a degree. It’s important to them. Can we make it important to us?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What's missing??? Collegiality?

So I recently went to the President’s meeting with faculty this week and was prepared to promote the opening of this Blog as a forum for faculty to begin to weave the fabric of the CSU faculty experience. I listened to the administrators. I listened to the President. And I listened to faculty talk about what they are doing. I was especially happy to hear from Dr. Patterson about the program she is managing to help students improve their study skills and academic performance. Other faculty spoke and yet I sensed something else in the room. It felt like a malaise. Maybe as a group we are tired, or waiting for the next phase of the transition or disbelieving that change is possible. Maybe we are a commuter faculty with little investment beyond teaching our classes or conducting our research. What struck me most was that after 17 years at CSU there were faces I didn’t recognize. That told me that I haven’t done enough to improve the collegiality that is vital for an academic institution. So what can I do and what can I encourage my colleagues to do? Maybe just speaking about it is enough. Maybe recognizing that I am often holed up in my department or my college. Maybe it will require doing something as provocative as walking to another building or college and introducing myself to my colleagues and ask what they do. Maybe it would require faculty having a central space that we could go and meet up, have coffee, talk professionally, exchange ideas, argue with each other, teach each other or learn from each other. I certainly don’t have the answer and maybe collegiality is not an issue. Maybe staying in silos separate from each other is more desirable than creating a faculty that is the core of the university, not in theory, but in fact.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Presidential Search Advisory Committee

So I was cleaning out my email inbox and found some emails from the Faculty Senate President Yan Searcy about the Presidential Search Advisory committee. The emails took me back to late 2007 when I first suspected that the now former President would not be rejoining us for the 2008-09 school year. I heard two names pop up repeatedly as replacements which was surprising because if true it eliminated the need for any type of search process. If the Board of Trustees had settled on a replacement, then why form an advisory committee and waste the time of faculty and staff who are already working hard. Why hire a executive search firm at a cost that could be spent elsewhere in the university, perhaps recruiting students more likely to stay and graduate within the 4-6 year window we are evaluated on? Why perpetrate the illusion of transparency when it is clear that the Board of Trustees has its collective eye on two candidates whose names have kept re-emerging since 2007? Thus, I was intrigued when the Advisory Committee was formed as to what advice they might give to the Board. I was dismayed upon hearing from Advisory Committee members that there was no discussion about candidates once the original 33 applicants was whittled down to 12. And again no advice was given when the five candidates who would receive “airport interviews” were selected. So I am left to ask what was the purpose of the Presidential Search Advisory committee except to give the illusion that what faculty of this university think is important. If that is true then what can we expect from the next ten years at Chicago State? Maybe broken up and sold to the City Colleges or private educational concerns???


Welcome to the 21st Century way for faculty to communicate and express our thoughts to the world. Let's get a couple rules out to start. First, this is not my blog. This is our blog. This space is for us to communicate with each other, hear each other, learn from each other and have our voices heard. Second, I have enabled this blog with AdSense, so that if people click on the ads I will get money that I plan to donate to the Faculty Senate. This is a great way for the Faculty Senate to raise some money as we have no budget. It probably won't be much money but every little bit counts. Third, we have to spread the news that this Blog exists. So let your colleagues here and at other universities know.

So I will get us underway with a posting about the Presidential Search process. Stay tuned!