Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Imperial Presidency Strikes Back

Lots of stuff going on the past few weeks on campus and if the faculty and the union don't come together on this then we truly get what we deserve.

Currently a two-day Deans and Chairs DAC workshop is going on yesterday and today which is underscoring our demotion from university to community college to high school.

As we know all DACs were due this spring. President Watson has rejected all the DACs that were submitted this spring - across the university. The workshop is a working meeting to get the DACs in shape to meet Watson's expectations. The Administration feels that faculty merely submitted the first draft (which represents shared governance in their world view) and the administration (in this case Provost, Deans, Chairs) is working on the second draft.

Supposedly there may be a chance for faculty comment but don't expect much to be changed--at other times when faculty have been "consulted" as "advisory" we all know how those comments are brushed aside (demise of the Grad School being a recent case in point).

There are no faculty, no DPC Chairs, no Coordinators, nor the primary authors of the DACs at this meeting. The administration is claiming a management decision to have just Deans and Chairs at the table and they are standing firm on this. So faculty had better hope their deans and chairs are working in their favor.

This is no longer a university this a high school, a Chicago Public High School.  Small surprise considering the influence of educationalists and politicians rather than scholars in the presidential "kitchen cabinet."

Here's what is going to be imposed on the Faculty:
1. Increase standards in Research Productivity
2. Include language in the Teaching/Primary Duties section of the DAC mandating effective communication with students, availability to students, use of available technologies in the classroom, keeping office hours, employing multiple pedagogical tools in the classroom (lectures, discussion, debates, multi-media displays, small groups, worksheets, etc.).
3. Standardize DAC formats across the university.
4. Drop the point system
5. Include graphic tables in DACs for clarity
6. Standardize acceptable Service components.
7. Increase expectations of student involvement in research activities.

How to explain Dr Watson's demand that he be the Decider on all things faculty? Exactly who is he to rule over us in such a way? Isn't a university president supposed to be a fund-raiser first and foremost and the Provost the Chief Academic Officer?

Apparently Dr Watson also now claims the right to interview all candidates from departmental searches. And all in-coming faculty must submit to an in-class writing test because that article they submitted in their application is just not good enough proof as a writing sample. What a high school mentality.

And wait a minute, wasn't Dr Watson the only one of the job candidates for the CSU presidency in 2008 who did not even submit a letter of intention with his "application" (wink, wink, nudge, nudge)? What exactly were his intellectual qualifications? I wonder how many Illinois State university presidents have publication records, we know for sure that ours DOES NOT. So he is now the Decider on all things academic by virtue of Emil Jones putting the mantle of Great and Powerful Wizard on him?

Yes Dr Watson is the Decider. Another decision in the past month was to deny retention to 4th & 5th year faculty by sending them essentially a form letter--how contractural is that?

HLC is going to love all this.

Well, maybe all of this overreach is simply Dr Watson's megalomaniacal swan-song in the midst of rumors of his possible departure from the university.

And where does the Union stand on this?  How is the Union going to stand up for us on this and that other ridiculous imposition of the time card punch policy? Why are we following Eastern Illinois University on this and not U of I?

Does Corday hear the drumbeat of Bastille Day?


  1. What do you propose we do? As you've noted in other posts, the President has created a culture of fear at this University, fear that if we stand up for ourselves, we will promptly be dismissed. As a Unit B faculty member (one who originally interviewed for one of those tenure-track job that Dr. Watson decided to freeze), I feel incredibly vulnerable (hence the pseudonym). Though my colleagues, my Chair, and even my Dean don't want to lose me, I'm afraid that Dr. Watson will fire me without a second's hesitation if I say anything against him or his administration.

    But something must be said. The freeze on tenure-track hires, the insulting in-class writing test, the denial of retention to deserving faculty - all of these acts are destroying the intellectual community of Chicago State University.

    How can we take action while still protecting the weakest among us?

  2. I'm gratified to know that even junior colleagues among us are keeping interested since a lot of senior faculty too often are intimidated by their Deans to be involved. This is a situation that is serious. A colleague of ours sent me this email in response to your question. Keep watchful. There are faculty who will not take the loss of their position in academic matters, including the hiring and retention process lying down.

    To professorfairlynew, first, I say thanks for letting us know that you are out there and are with us. That helps; would that we knew of more such solidarity. Second, we value your silent support and whatever resistance you can safely provide, but recognize your vulnerability and hence the need to protect yourself.

    The responsibility for more visible action lies with those of us who are tenured, and even more so with old professors (such as me). While none of us is secure under this reign of intimidation, we (full professors) have the least to lose.

  3. I would second Corday's thanks for your support. Unfortunately, there are faculty who are either unable or unwilling to see what is going on at this university. Falling back on some kind of misguided loyalty serves no one (other than the administration). The belief that we should not "air our dirty linen" in public or that CSU is a "family" also serves the interests of the administration. This is not a family. Wayne Watson has a long track record of poor management and contentious relations with faculty. His interests are not our interests, we need to be clear on that.

    While tenured faculty must take the lead in the effort to save this institution (I think it's gotten that serious), non-tenured faculty, staff, and especially students can play a major role by supporting our efforts in any way possible.

    Anyone who is vulnerable is correct to believe they may be targeted and must make their own decisions as to what activities they can do without exposing themselves to retaliation. At the least, it is comforting to know that the core of "disgruntled" faculty who are vocal in their disaffection are not alone.

    Finally, professorfailrynew, you are correct, something must be said. With that in mind, you don't have to say it, if you communicate your ideas to one of the faculty involved in this struggle, I assure you, they'll be disseminated. If there are other persons in your situation who are sympathetic to your position, you might tell them that we welcome any ideas or suggestions they might choose to contribute.

  4. professorfairlynew here!

    Thank you Corday and birobi for your wonderful responses and for the support you are showing your Unit B colleagues.

    I suspect that there are many among the junior faculty who, now that we have been here long enough to really understand the issues with the Administration, support a strong response from the union, even if we must remain silent for the time being.

    I also suspect that part of our silence comes from a deliberate cloud of secrecy over our Unit B status. I believe that many of the new hires who have come in under Dr. Watson's Administration are in exactly my position - we applied to/interviewed for/were recommend to be hired in tenure-track positions, but Dr. Watson put the freeze on that and we are all Unit B. Unfortunately, along with the vulnerability of Unit B status also comes a twinge of shame - you begin to think that everyone else in your class is Unit A, so you hush up. And you feel separated by your Unit A colleagues, especially when tenure-specific policy issues come up. Obviously, I'm done keeping quiet about my status (at least with my union brothers and sisters) - but perhaps my new-hire colleagues do not feel comfortable to speak openly about it.

    I bring this up not to bemoan my situation, however, but to suggest that we gather information. As was mentioned in the meeting, the President seems to want abolish tenure outright. Not hiring tenure-track faculty seems like a strategic step in that direction. It not only stems the inflow of Unit A faculty, but it creates an extremely vulnerable workforce.

    It also potentially weakens the union, in that you have a percentage of your faculty not directly affected by policy changes - for example the recent shenanigans with the DACs. Technically, that isn't my fight, even if I do feel it to be mine. And because it technically isn't my fight, I might not have known that I could join in the fight. All of which allows the President, as birobi mentioned, to blame "the core of 'disgruntled' faculty" for his problems, which he can then use as "proof" that tenure creates lazy, angry professors. And this paves the way for him to push these unrealistic DACs - and any other policies that will make tenure retention difficult - down our throats.

    While I understand that, per the contract, the President has the power to set the hiring practices, how many tenure-track positions has he converted to Unit B? What is with the writing test? We should track this information. And again, though he oversees retention, how many 4th and 5th year faculty had their retentions extended but not granted? I think we should collect data to use as evidence to support the collective belief that he, through his policies and actions, in fact seeks to eliminate tenure.