Tuesday, July 5, 2011


So if the conventional wisdom in the academy is that a university reflects its faculty, what has become of CSU faculty? A bit more than two years ago, some faculty expressed concern that the applicant selected by the Board of Trustees to manage the university was not qualified to become president of this institution. He was (is) limited in his understanding of the function, operation and culture of doctoral degree granting institutions. There was concern voiced that CSU was to be turned into a junior college, possibly the new flag ship of the Chicago junior college system, unfortunately the same system that had a 7% graduation rate while being managed by the Board’s candidate. “No,” others protested. Your humble narrator was berated for being a naysayer, a Chicken Little if you will. I was accused of being an “obstacle to progress.” And now two years on, (at least according to a 50 page report from the State University Retirement System) many of us have pretty clear evidence of the inexorable descent from doctoral degree granting institution to junior college serving unprepared, sorry under-prepared, students. The recent top down reorganization of the College of Arts & Sciences and subsequent firing of the long serving dean of the university’s largest college attest to the fact that this regime has only one goal in mind, devolution to a junior college. The recent rejiggering of the CAS was only phase one with phase two coming next year in time for the much anticipated Higher Learning Commission re-accreditation visit. Reducing the number of chairs from 15 to 4 and moving from departments to divisions is clearly a 1980s junior college model. It is not surprising therefore, since the only experience the incumbent has is in a junior college system. It appears as if the CEO is betting that most people will mistake activity for accomplishment. Change for the sake of change, change for the sake of managing by fear and intimidation, change for the purpose of obfuscation are never good reasons for change.
I was struck by the recent memo announcing the former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences was leaving the university after 35 years. It is possible to infer from the wording of the memo that her departure was expected and voluntary. It was curious to me therefore, when the CEO and Provost were noticeably absent at the going away luncheon hosted in the college on Thursday June 30th. Had her departure been amicable and expected, I am sure the two most senior administrators along with lesser administrators would have wished her well in her post-dean and post university life. I was very struck by this decision being announced during the summer when administrations are notorious for making decisions without any input from faculty who largely are absent from campus. This behavior was the motivation for the Faculty Senate to form the Summer Committee so that shared governance would not be forgotten by administrators during the summer months.
Also curious was the recent elimination of the Economics department and its major and minor programs. One could conclude that junior colleges don’t need Economics so its elimination is understandable as the university's devolution continues. What isn’t understandable is continuing to operate an Ed.D. program or a College of Pharmacy. Those are expensive programs and definitely unneeded in a community college like this university is becoming. I would invite the regime to consider eliminating those two programs which would save at least ten times what is saved by eliminating Economics. And then as CSU focuses on its entrepreneurship mission and selling fish (without Economics?) other programs can benefit from the elimination of those money eating doctoral programs.
Maybe a name change will be in the offing as well. Moving from Chicago State University to Chicago Junior College & Fish Emporium could well be nigh.