The Madhubuti Affair at CSU is becoming its own cause celebre.
This morning I find Scott Jaschik has written about us, "Disrespecting Whom?" in Inside Higher Education (April 6, 2010) and seems to be wondering whether it's about retaliation or something more? The comments to the article are also interesting, unlike a lot of the racist rants one finds attached to Chicago newspaper articles.
"One thing that isn't in dispute is that Madhubuti was among the many professors who criticized the selection of Watson, who had a series of clashes with faculty members at the City Colleges of Chicago, which he led previously, and whose selection as president last year was greeted with boos on the campus. At the time, Madhubuti released an open letter to the university, questioning Watson's suitability for the job. Madhubuti was hardly alone in offering such criticisms, but his letter was much discussed on campus."
Dr Watson defends his position by saying, "The university is going through a "cultural shift," Watson said, and that is difficult for many. But it's the only way to build the "right foundation" for student learning."
Could someone remind me what this "cultural shift" is that Dr Watson is trying to do? Does anyone else in the university know what this is, let alone who decided it? "Cultural shift," from what to what?
On Sunday, Mary Mitchell in the <em>Sun Times wrote again about CSU: "Where's the support for Madhubuti? Where is the outrage over blatant disregard for poet?"
Obviously, Watson is facing a tough challenge.
The former City Colleges chancellor will have to increase the deplorable graduation rate while raising standards -- not to mention change the university's negative image as being the university of last resort.
Watson has already shown he can clear some impressive hurdles.
In 2005, he received a "no confidence" vote from the faculty at City Colleges. Four years later, he was given a five-year contract at Chicago State University amid complaints that the process was rigged.
And while the public is outraged that state employees can collect hefty pensions after moving into new state jobs, Watson has managed to do so without anyone raising an eyebrow.
Icon is disappointed, not bitter
Unfortunately, Madhubuti is not a politician.
He is the poet who turned his words into institutions.
Yet the fact that so many of us have no clue about what this man's stature has meant to Chicago State plays into Watson's hands.
I wouldn't call Madhubuti bitter, but he certainly is disappointed.
It sounds like she is saying, it's not what you do, but who you know.
And what a difference a year can make in university presidential politics here in Illinois. Have a look at the Chicago Tribune article about the presidential search process going on this spring at the University of Illinois:
"University of Illinois interviews finalists for president; List includes 5 university presidents" by Jodi Cohen
The 19-member search committee, including university trustees, students, faculty, staff and alumni, interviewed 10 candidates over three days last month, Strobel said. She said the university received about 200 "applications," mostly nominations for the job.
Wow, the entire search committee at the University of Illinois participated in the interviews of the 10 candidates. Imagine that. Why, it was only last year that here at CSU the Trustees kept our own presidential search committee as much in the dark as possible about who the applicants were and in no way let the committee near the interviews with any finalists. I wonder why the University of Illinois Trustees treat their faculty, staff, administrators, and students so differently?
Politics. Who you know, not what you do.
I may be wrong, but I kind of doubt that there will be a "cultural shift" by the Administration from running Chicago State like a church any time soon.