Friday, September 25, 2009

Students Voice Concerns to Provost, President-to-be

For those who were not aware of all that transpired at the teach-in on Wednesday, I would like to describe what was for me the highlight.

At our lunch break we were having an open mike in the cafeteria. One speaker proposed that, if we wanted to ask questions directly of the trustees, they had an office at ADM 300, and we could go there to talk with their representative. At this point, some students started to leave, and I decided I wanted to be with them.

When I arrived at the third floor of the Cook administration building, I encountered 10-15 students walking toward the President’s area. Some of them spoke to the person who seemed to be responsible there, telling her that they were told to go to the President’s Conference Room. That door was opened. By the time I sat down (about 12:45?) there were about twenty students in the room. A few minutes later, there were 30-35. After a short time, the Provost, Sandra Westbrooks, came in to speak with the students.

They were concerned about a number of issues: Would the university lose its accreditation and the degrees be worthless? Why didn’t the plumbing in the dormitory work properly? Why were whiteboards in the classes so dirty? Could anything be done to insure better treatment by people who worked in the financial aid office? Why wasn’t UPass in place by now? These and many other questions were raised in the two hours I was there. Over a half-hour period the deans of the Honors College, Arts and Sciences, Health Sciences, and Graduate School arrived, as did Wayne Watson, the president-to-be.

Westbrooks responded to nearly all of these questions herself. I thought she explained the accreditation situation well and clearly, but I am not knowledgeable; it was suggested to me later that the lack of shared governance could be an issue for accreditation. Still, Westbrooks was clear in asserting that the university was satisfying two concerns raised by NCA (a plan to address retention and enrollment and evidence the plan was working).

For me, the most important thing was the initiative taken by the students to demand that their questions be answered. I was very proud of these students for asserting themselves. Balogun (dean of Health Sciences) took charge of calling on people, criticizing their shouting out of their concerns. When, after two hours, I was called on to speak, I said I thought the main point was that the students were to be praised for their concern and activism. I pointed out how remarkable it was that the provost, four deans, and the president-to-be had shown up. Although Watson had criticized the students for leaving in the middle of the meeting, he had missed the first half hour (I pointed this out). The students, in leaving to go to class or care for their children, were fulfilling their responsibilities. I was proud to be a faculty member teaching such students. Congratulations to them!

Please comment on this action. If you were there, add your observations--please.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Senate Sponsors Teach-in Sept. 23

What follows below are a letter from Yan Searcy, President of the Faculty Senate and a letter from Pancho McFarland, chair of the teach-in committee.

First, the letter from Yan:

Greetings Senators,

after much reflection and consultation with the chair of the TEACH-IN committee it has been decided that the Faculty Senate will sponsor and promote the TEACH-IN on September 23rd. The work of the committee is valuable and the momentum that they continue to build has been encouraging.

Share with your colleagues that the problems that plague the university affect all of us. Certainly everyone is aware of the upcoming focused visit. The future of the university rests with the results of that focused visit. Documented faculty input and perspective is imperative.

Below, please find the update from the chair of the committee.

This is an important endeavor. This is a faculty directed event that attempts to maintain the institutional integrity of CSU.Please understand that the Faculty Senate's concern has consistently been about process, shared governance, transparency, integrity and accountability.

Your support is imperative. In the coming days, information will be forwarded to you. Please inform your colleagues via departmental meetings, phone calls, and emails. Flyers will be posted around campus. Some may be emailed to you.Please distribute these.

In service,

Yan Searcy
CSU Faculty Senate President

Here is the letter from Pancho McFarland, sent Friday Sept. 11:


Today several members of the teach-in committee meet to discuss details concerning the teach-in scheduled for September 23. This message is to brief you all on what was discussed and decided upon.

First, we have many more faculty members who have volunteered to facilitate the sessions. A list of topics and facilitators follows. We can still use more facilitators and notetakers. The more facilitators we have the more small discussions we can have which allows for greater participation.

Second, we discussed publicizing the event. We need everyone to talk with their colleagues about participating in whatever manner possible. Faculty, staff and students can be facilitators or notetakers, audience participants, pr people, etc.

Third, we discussed the role of the facilitators and notetakers. Facilitators are expected to do the following: briefly present relevant information, facts, or questions to the other participants in the session and to moderate the discussion that will ensue. We want the facilitators' presentation to be short so that a true dialogue can take place. The teach-in is designed as an all-campus dialogue and not experts speaking to the masses. In addition, facilitators can decide on other aspects of the session which might include bringing "experts" or concerned citizens to briefly address the audience. Notetakers are asked to record comments and proposals on large boards. This facilitates participation and dialogue. We will gather all of the notes and discuss how to put together a strategic vision at the 2 to 4 session.

Fourth, our needs list. We need more volunteers. We need markers, easels and large blank notepads. We need to get the word out about the teach-in and encourage all of our colleagues to participate at whatever level they can.

Fifth, we are working a set of questions that we will circulate prior to the teach-in so that the entire campus will be focused on the same issues. Please add your questions. Some initial questions include:

What can I do to change/impace media perceptions of CSU?
What is the CSU mission?
How can I help achieve the goals set out in the mission?
What should the university's relationship to Chicago communities look like?
How can we develop a curriculum that emphasizes social justice and community building?
What role should studetns faculty and staff have in the governance of CSU?
How are decisions made currently?
What should be the proper roles for presidents, upper administration and Board of Trustees in the decision making at CSU?
What expectations should we have of each other?
How do we nurture and maintain good relationships between the various CSU constituencies?

Finally, we will meet again next Friday at noon in the first floor library cafe. Please join us. In addition, we will be discussing the final details of the teach-in via email so please respond to this and other communications that are forthcoming.

One unreported item. We have received confirmation to use Conference Rooms a, b and c for this event. We currently do not have a venue for the evening session from 6 till 7. We will also use the open space outside of the cafeteria if needed.

In addition, we need to develop a strategy for notifying and involving Chicago media. Any ideas?

Proposed Schedule (please let me know if you are able to facilitate during the assigned times; if not we can move things around)
10-11: Shared Governance (Phil Beverly, Ann Kuzdale); CSU in Broader Context (Marc Bouman, Paul Gomberg)
11-12: CSU Mission (L. Baker-Kimmons); Community-University Links (Pancho McFarland; Danny Block)
12-1: Lunch Session
1-2: Media (G. Toth, Kathy Rosas)Students' Education (student leaders, B. Mohaimani, Floyd Banks)
2-4: Rap Up (will require a number of facilitators)

Friday, September 11, 2009

...In The State of Denmark

I have been thinking about the past two weeks worth of Administrative song and dance first to the Deans and Chairs, then to the Faculty Senate, and finally at the All-campus Assembly last Thursday. To paraphrase the oft-quoted Claude Rains as Captain Renault in Casablanca, "I'm shocked, shocked to find administrative failure going on here."

And I was puzzled by the apparently contradictory perspectives of Provost Westbrooks and the Not-Yet-President of CSU Wayne Watson. In her presentation, Dr. Westbrooks emphasized that there would be "transparency" throughout the process of responding to the NCA's scathing critique of administrative neglect at CSU. The Not-Yet-President of CSU Watson, however, who was allowed to speak at the end of Dr Westbrooks' presentation, I guess in his capacity as CSU's only "unpaid (sic) consultant," began by admonishing those assembled not to talk to the media about this.

Huh? I thought she just said the whole process would be "transparent."

The week before, in the meeting with the deans and chairs, Dr Watson had admonished them not to tell the faculty about this report.

In his address to the all-campus assembly Dr Watson did what he does best, parrot the Finney party-line. Remember Leon Finney's comments last April after one of the incendiary Trustee meetings where protests over the presidential search reached epic proportions? He accused "the white-controlled media" of playing the race card in the corrupt and trumped-up search he and Dr Tolliver headed. Dissatisfaction at CSU he attributed to a few disgruntled "white faculty."

So, Not-Yet President Watson told us last week that we shouldn't talk to the Sun Times or the Tribune (read "white media") which doesn't understand CSU and "always gets it wrong." Well, I guess Watson thinks he knows his audience.

It is gratifying for me to include a couple of links here for our own students' Cougar Chronicle and the ChiTown Daily News that have stories on just these very topics that need to be kept transparent. I would applaud the students in particular for publishing their story before either of the so-called "white-controlled media" Sun Times or the Tribune have done so.

And while I heard the term "transparency" bandied about last Thursday, I did not hear much about how real "shared governance" among the administration, faculty, and students would be incorporated at the university to make some lasting reform at CSU. Alas, it might not be possible with the Trustee by-law changes that Leon Finney instituted last year that accrue nearly all university power to that body. But then, the NCA may be interested in that document too.

Something is rotten in the administration of CSU. And as a biologist might say, the best way to cure an infection is to expose it to sunlight.,32303,32304

Monday, September 7, 2009

What has the BOT done on summer vacation?

So not understanding the pressing demands of being a volunteer board member,I am just wondering out loud what they might spend their time doing. It has been almost five months since the Faculty Senate asked the Governor to replace the Board of Trustees for “misconduct, incompetence and malfeasance.” In the intervening months a more important scandal emerged. Yes, political influence peddling of admissions at the University of Illinois superseded the questionable selection of a president at CSU. A retired federal judge and a commission were needed to sort through the U of I scandal. Meanwhile, on the South Side the BOT has not even made any official notification of who is running the university. Instead the Board appears to be focused on faculty work load and program elimination, and firing and hiring of university personnel. The Board does not appear to be focused on issues I imagine a board of trustees of a troubled university would be focused on. Maybe some attention to the issue of restoration of MAP funding for the Spring semester would be of some help to the 3,000 students who won’t be here without that funding. Maybe some attention to getting a university budget approved earlier than a month prior to the end of the fiscal year. Since that has been identified as a problem by the HLC, I would think that our volunteer trustees would want to address real problems. Maybe some attention to the risk of losing accreditation would inspire the volunteers to speak up.

In its May meeting the Faculty Senate took the unprecedented step of creating a Summer Committee in order to have an official presence at the university to ensure neither the administration nor the BOT got up to unobserved mischief. One of the issues that emerged was how the university was spending money. One of the things the university was spending money on was lobbyists. I believe faculty would agree that effective intergovernmental relations is critical to the institution. Lobbying is just one element of those activities. Since FY 2000, the university has spent roughly $850,000 on lobbyists. The question is not about how much was spent. The question is about the oversight and return on investment. I have seen no documents, memos, letters, reports, or any other written statements about the work products of these lobbyists. What did the BOT and the Presidents they supervised get in return for the $850,000 spent? I would think the Board would be more interested in stewarding scarce university resources and ensuring the university and its students and faculty benefit from its efforts.

And then there was the recent newspaper story and editorial about the university’s $40 million surprise. The BOT chair stated that he didn’t know anything about the capital development windfall. One might think that maintaining communication links with legislators would be a job for the volunteer trustees.

I spoke to Governor Quinn’s staffer who manages higher ed issues and she told me that it was “very likely” new trustees would be appointed by the end of September. If I were to guess I would imagine there would be new appointees after the September BOT meeting on the 23rd. Given Illinois politics, there are no guarantees.

Could it get any worse? Probably. And it is bad enough having a board of trustees that continues to be malfeasant and incompetent. Will the end of September come soon enough?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

What else could go wrong???

So loyal readers you may have noticed I have not posted much this summer. Let me assure you that it isn’t because there has been nothing happening at our fair university. It is because too much has been happening. For the next few days I will attempt to bring you up to date with the interesting goings on and hopefully inspire some exciting dialogue. So let’s begin our inquiry into the local happenings with the following.

This past Wednesday all available members of the Faculty Senate were invited to the President’s Conference Room by the Provost. No, we don’t actually have a President but we do have a President Elect or Unpaid Consultant occupying the President’s office but don’t let me digress. The purpose of the meeting was the viewing of a PowerPoint presentation and the answering of questions related to the subject raised by the Provost. This meeting was also a prelude to the Campus Assembly held this past Thursday.

Here is the situation as I understand it. In 2003 we were joined by North Central Association (NCA) evaluators for our continued accreditation visit. The good news from that visit was the university received a ten year stamp of approval. The bad news was that the NCA determined that the university did not have a comprehensive enrollment management and retention system. The university was given three years to begin correcting that problem and then report back to the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the NCA about the systems that had been implemented, the progress of those systems with accompanying data and analysis to ensure that the university was making progress on improving its retention and graduation rates. In 2006 when the report was due the then serving Provost was given three weeks notice the report was due to HLC. Of course, no policies had been implemented and no data collected. A report was generated containing three weeks worth of policy implementation and no data. The university was then given three more years to show progress on the 2006 report. A report was prepared earlier this year and submitted to the HLC. The response of the Commission was to schedule a “Focused Visit-Mandated: 2010 - 2011; on all of the enrollment management issues at the University, including leadership, funding, infrastructure, retention and recruitment.” The possible consequences of this Mandated Visit are significant. The university could receive probation, lose its accreditation, or have its regularly scheduled accreditation rescheduled to an earlier time frame. A loss of accreditation would result in a loss of the ability to receive federal financial aid which would in effect force the closing of the university. This “death penalty” sanction is possible and unlikely. What I believe is more likely is that the university will create some response for the evaluators and promise to do better and would agree to an accelerated visitation schedule.

The troubling elements of this situation are numerous. First, who is going to be held accountable for this Mandated Focused Visit in the first place. When asked the unpaid consultant responded the university wasn’t going to look back. This is very curious given those who don’t learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them. Second, I am concerned that this situation is symptomatic of a larger and deeper dysfunction in the university that only a visionary leader would be able to address. A visionary leader is needed to change the culture of the university. Otherwise, when the university is visited again for its Continued Accreditation visit, it will most certainly demonstrate the underlying cracks in the foundation. Third, I inquired about where the resources for this herculean effort will come from. Will the Academic Affairs side of the house be pillaged again for what is clearly an administrative failure? With more financial resources this situation would be much easier to address but with so many self inflicted wounds around the university’s financial management, those with resources are understandably reluctant to help. Finally, it occurred to me that the faculty’s hands are clean in this situation. This is an administrative failure compounded by an obvious absence of oversight by the Board of Trustees which has focused its attentions in other areas. It is likely the HLC team will find that the Board has failed the university, its faculty, students and ultimately the taxpayers of the State of Illinois.

So what happens next? The faculty has essentially three options here. First, we can help maintain the status quo of token representation in the committee/task force hand picked to rescue the university from withdrawal of accreditation. Second, faculty could sit this one out and prove to the HLC that there are indeed deep dysfunctions that are likely to be exacerbated by the next occupant of the President’s office. Or the faculty could demand to oversee this process. The faculty could become the dominant force in this effort and demand the authority to design and implement whatever policy is needed to ensure the university doesn’t receive the death penalty or any sanction that would significantly impede its progress. Of course I realize that the university administration will never relinquish control even in the face of these dire circumstances. The university will continue doing the same things, expecting different results and with no accountability faculty will watch as the professional administrators roll the dice with our professional futures and the lives of our students.

There are still unanswered questions that I am trying to get answers to and when I do, you will be the first to know.

Maybe I am just jaded given the twelve years of continued mismanagement I have witnessed. Maybe what will really happen is that the university will be rescued and we will all live happily ever after.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Please attend teach-in committee meeting Friday Sept. 11

The teach-in committee will be meeting again Friday, Sept. 11, 12:00 noon at the Library 1st floor cafe. Faculty should inform students and encourage them to attend as well as attending themselves.

The post below, about the teach-in, was posted by me on behalf of a colleague.

Voice Your Support for September 23 Teach-In & All-Campus Dialogue

At the Faculty Senate meeting on Tuesday, the Senate approved a proposal submitted by the Ad-Hoc Teach-in Committee to conduct a campus-wide teach-in on September 23. At the Senate meeting, it was determined that all faculty should participate (Unit A, Unit B, adjunct, and emeritus). Over the next week, Senators will be polling all university faculty to determine their support and participation. Full participation is essential to ensure the success of this event, so please let your senator(s) know of your support and willingness to participate. Senators will report faculty support and participation by Wednesday, September 9 at noon � so communicate with your senator(s) today! This event is extremely important in light of the ongoing challenges being faced by the university, particularly in response to the news to be revealed on Wednesday in the all campus assembly headed by the Provost.

The intent of the teach-in is to educate ourselves relative to recent changes and challenges faced by Chicago State University and strategies for developing a CSU environment of shared governance. The teach-in will bring faculty, staff and students together to develop an agenda that benefits the entire CSU community.

Here are the details of the event:

The event begins with attendance at the September Board of Trustees meeting held at 7:30am and continues until 7:00pm with a two-hour break between 4:00 and 6:00pm. There will be four hour-long dialogues, an informal lunch meeting, and a two-hour session between 2:00 and 4:00pm. Dialogues will be led by facilitators who present information, ideas, and questions for all to discuss. A note taker will record all of the ideas and resolutions presented at each dialogue. A proposed schedule with session topics is at the end of this blog post.

Faculty members can contribute to the dialogues in a number of ways:

First, the teach-in committee still needs members to help finalize the event. Any interested parties can contact Dr. Pancho McFarland ( to be added to the committee email list.

Second, faculty members can volunteer as facilitators and note takers at the events. Please contact Dr. McFarland for information regarding the roles of facilitator and note taker or to volunteer.

Third, please bring your classes to participate in the dialogues on September 23.

Finally, we hope that faculty will continue these discussions in their classrooms, informally with colleagues, and in groups that will continue to work on these issues throughout the school year. In the spirit of I am CSU, we hope this event will help us begin to create a shared vision, take shared responsibility, and achieve shared excellence at CSU.

Proposed Schedule: Coyuntura/Linkages: CSU All-Campus Dialogue, September 23, 2009

Session #1: 7:30-9:30--Board of Trustees Meeting
Welcome: 9:35-9:55
Session #2: 10-10:50
Session #3: 11-11:50
Session #4: 12-12:50 All-Campus Coyuntura
Session #5: 1-1:50
Session #6: 2-4 Rap Up: Toward a Student, Staff and Faculty Strategy
Session #7: 6:15-7:15 Evening Session

Session Topics
Community-University Links
Shared Governance: Understanding and Impacting Decision-Making
CSUs History: How does CSU Fit Into Our World Today?
CSU Students' Education
CSU and the Media: On the PR Offensive
CSU's Mission and Our Role in It

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Cautionary Tale

"What happens when a university’s corporate management betrays the institution’s core educational mission; when it abandons its key constituencies; when it hides its intentions and plans; and when it manipulates or withholds essential financial information?"...

No, I'm not talking about CSU.
But I encourage everyone to read below what happened at Antioch College when that institution's Board of Trustees usurped functions that belong to faculty and systematically excluded faculty from governance. See also the AAUP Report Association's "recommended standards for faculty participation in program development, curricular control, budgetary allocation, declaration of financial exigency, and treatment of faculty..." at the following link:

Gary Rhoades, General Secretary of the AAUP, has a parable for us in this article.

The Near-Death Experience of Antioch College: A Cautionary Tale

What happens when a university’s corporate management betrays the institution’s core educational mission; when it abandons its key constituencies; when it hides its intentions and plans; and when it manipulates or withholds essential financial information? The AAUP’s investigative report on Antioch University provides disturbing and disheartening answers to these questions.

Antioch College, founded in 1852 in Yellow Springs, Ohio, has had a long history as a pioneer in liberal arts education. Significant innovations, subsequently adopted by many other institutions, have included cooperative education, experiential learning, community governance, recruitment of African American students before and after Brown vs. Board of Education, and the country’s first study abroad program. Through good times and bad, Antioch has produced distinguished graduates such as Coretta Scott King, Stephen Jay Gould, and Eleanor Holmes Norton. It has received top rankings among colleges whose graduates go on to complete the PhD as well as continuing recognition in the areas of academic challenge, enriching educational experience, active and collaborative learning, and student-faculty interaction.

The Antioch University administration and board of trustees, in suspending the operations of Antioch College and then closing the institution on June 30, 2008, appears to have decided that the college’s rich history of progressive education and its residential liberal arts setting were luxuries that its 21st-century management philosophy could not afford and did not need. Antioch’s closure is thus of concern to everyone interested in high quality liberal arts higher education. The report of the AAUP’s investigative committee analyzes the protracted dissolution of Antioch College in the light of the Association's recommended standards for faculty participation in program development, curricular control, budgetary allocation, declaration of financial exigency, and treatment of faculty under such exigency. The report details the gradual deterioration of faculty governance at Antioch through a series of administrative actions over several decades that led ultimately to the closure of the college. Key managerial decisions made by the administration repeatedly disregarded longstanding principles of faculty consultation and shared governance.

Specifically the report reveals that the Antioch University administration:
  • usurped the faculty’s responsibilities by mandating a new curriculum that the faculty neither initiated nor approved;
  • failed to consult with the faculty regarding the college’s financial condition prior to the declaration of financial exigency and the process by which university administrators and board members had reached that decision;
  • failed to provide faculty members the right to examine or challenge the decisions both to declare financial exigency and to close the college;
  • systematically reduced the flow of budgetary information to the Antioch College faculty and its governance bodies;
  • failed to protect the autonomy of Antioch College and, in fact, significantly undermined it by approving a shift of administrative functions from Antioch College to the university administration without ensuring means for communication or sharing of governance;

During its 156-year history, the college had struggled through many hard times but had been sustained by the strong tradition of its faculty's engagement with enlightened boards, distinguished administrators, eminent alumni, and talented students working together to serve the common good.

Fortunately, those devoted to the Antioch tradition have once again taken critical steps toward reopening Antioch College. As announced on June 30, 2009, the governing boards of Antioch University and the college’s alumni have reached agreement on opening a new Antioch College, independent of the university. Reopening is anticipated for fall 2011. Antioch College, it seems, will rise again phoenix-like and survive to continue its tradition of progressive education. But its near demise provides clear and eloquent testimony to the havoc wrought by a board and administration that abandoned their commitment to liberal arts education and to the fundamental principles of shared governance.

Gary Rhoades, General Secretary
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