"Patronage is so rooted in Chicago..." That's what I caught on an NPR report last week about how Mayor Daley has done a lot for the city, but the one thing he cannot surmount is political patronage. The other half of the sentence concluded, "...but we can't afford it any more."
I've been thinking about this as I was reading the Provost Council minutes of August 11th which were sent to the faculty. I appreciate that we are included in this aspect of shared information. Apparently Illinois politicians are interested in our graduation rates and at an IBHE meeting presidents were told that appropriations to universities will not be sent out until January 2011 at the earliest, so we may face a budget cut of 50%. Reference was made to the possibility of the state closing two universities, possibly selling one to a for-profit university and/or consolidating one. So CSU is on guard to raise graduation rates by May.
Should we be demoralized by all this? Are we just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic as we scurry about keeping tabs on first time full-time freshmen, gather statistics, watch as our colleagues' programs or our own go up before the "program elimination board?" Or, should we just sit back and let the "race card" save us this time as people think it has in the past? It seems a point of view on campus is that "they" will never close us down because we are the only African American university in the state.
Can Illinois afford the patronage pits anymore?
Certainly nothing much will happen at the state level until after the November election. I'm cynical enough to recognize that, chastened as I am after seeing how little the political authorities cared to listen to faculty voices at their doors during that farce we played out called the CSU presidential search process in 2009. Governor Quinn and Senator Malony bear a lot of responsibility for the current failures at CSU, other politicians and many of our politically-appointed trustees current and past, who have no business running an educational institution, bear responsibility as well. Will Senator Malony, whose face is now broadcast on our website like some latterday Emil Jones patron saint, step in and save us? He was in bed with the trustees two years ago and probably longer than that when he ignored faculty pleas for intervention. The machine kicked into high gear once a few internal voices began questioning authority on campus.
And how true is that old canard that the victors write the history. Read the whitewash the CSU Trustees have made of our microhistory on the Presidential Search. The minutes to the Trustees' meetings for 2009 have been posted to their webpage on our website. You will not find one single mention of the Search Advisory Committee, made up of faculty, staff, and students who were excluded from the selection process, resigning from the committee. Not a single mention of the petition and resignation of that committee from that flawed and tainted search process.
The provost's minutes say that "we need to get CSU where we are not dependent upon state dollars." Like the NPR report on Mayor Daly's situation, how will we surmount the political patronage that our leadership has relied on so much in the past? Are Phuong Ly and Ben Miller in their Washington Monthly article that castigated CSU last week correct when they describe CSU's leadership as a "familiar pattern: temporary reform followed by familiar fecklessness. No improvements ever seemed to stick."
As I was reading the comments to that Washington Monthly article, I was getting angrier and angrier at the politicians and university trustees, not just here, but all over the state.
Steve White, whoever he is, commented on the article, but he is not the first to have said all this. Many of us faculty did two years ago. I'll quote him as yet another voice out there with us in the Illinois wilderness.
Steve White on Wed 25 Aug 2010 09:26 PM
As a Chicago area resident and a professor at a big university on the south
side (not Chicago State), what Mr. Miller and Ms. Ly allude to but don't
quite state is that, as usual, a failed institution (be it a university or
any other endeavor) many times is attached to or is a consequence of failed
CSU has been a dumping ground for decades for Chicago politics. It's run, by
and large, by political hacks and fools. It's no wonder that relatively few
students, faculty and staff with any choice at all would be there. Chicago
machine politics dictates that CSU, the County Hospital, the Chicago Housing
Authority, and so on, are cesspools of corruption. That the president of the
institution was pillaging the budget isn't surprising in the least once you
understand that Chicago State is a machine school. Failure for the 'little
people' like Nestor in such institutions doesn't register with either the
pols or the public.
Another school on the dropout list, Northeastern Illinois University, has a
similar history to Chicago State and similar problems with the Machine. It
too has a horrific drop-out rate, and Mr. Miller and Ms. Ly could have
easily found a Nestor there for their story.
In contrast, University of Illinois at Chicago is run not by the city but by
the state, and the Board of Trustees traditionally have been able to keep
the city at arms' length. It has greater visibility with the public, and
those two facts keep UIC from failing.
If Mr. Miller and Ms. Ly were to examine the failed colleges on their list
with the local politics, they very likely would discover (I hypothesize) a
Whether one is progressive or conservative, correcting the problem of
dropout colleges requires one to understand the connection between failed
public institutions and corrupt politics. Be those politicians Democrats or
Republicans, the problem won't be fixed until the public demands and attains
Accountability? Chicago? Be serious.