Wednesday, February 27, 2013
No Pity Party for Wayne Watson, the Poor Victim
Can we ever look like anything except a bunch of fools? The fiasco over Wayne Watson–he’s gone, then he’s not, again makes Chicago State a laughing stock. Nonetheless, there seems to be some truth among the detritus: 1) the faculty and staff at Chicago State do not want Wayne Watson as president. 2) the current Board of Trustees do not want Wayne Watson as president.
For the past three years, we have seen Wayne Watson and his acolytes launch a concerted attack against freedom of expression, faculty responsibility for academic matters, academic integrity, and both our contract and established university policy. This administration has governed by edict, using fear, intimidation and bullying in an attempt to impose its will on the university. This president has packed his administration with persons holding insufficient educational or experiential credentials for their positions and rewarded them for their lack of qualifications with hefty salaries.
Faculty calling for Watson’s removal have been called an “extremist gang,” “unprofessional,” “low-class” and “willfully intransigent.” Perhaps some of those epithets might be more appropriately applied to Wayne Watson. For an insight into his professional leadership style, I would urge readers to consult the material available on the lawsuit against Watson filed by Maria Moore of the City Colleges in 2009. To briefly summarize Moore’s complaint, on several occasions, Watson ordered her to produce videos for political cronies, an endeavor that Moore believed violated Illinois ethics laws. She expressed her concern to Watson who told her: ““I’ve heard your concerns. You’re wrong, I’m not asking you to do anything unethical. Do what I tell you to do or I’ll have you fired for insubordination.”
Moore then went to the Ethics Officer, Yolande Bourgeois and expressed her concerns. In 2006, Bourgeois met with Watson and he “refused to consider her concerns and ended the meeting.” Bourgeois then investigated Moore’s complaint, found it valid, identified Moore as the whistleblower and presented her findings to the City College Board of Trustees who also failed to act. She then reported what she believed to be the ethical violation to the Illinois State Office of the Executive Inspector General (OEIG.)
After this meeting, Wayne Watson engaged in systematic harassment of Moore. Included were threats of termination, the assignment of tasks that were not possible to complete in the allotted time frame, and verbal attacks against Moore for her temerity in reporting Watson’s ethical violations. In November 2006, Watson threatened Moore with termination if she ever spoke to Bourgeois again. Eventually, Moore lost her job, although Watson called it a resignation, she maintained it was an unlawful termination–hence the suit.
Ultimately, attorneys for the City Colleges defended Watson by asserting that conversations between Moore and Bourgeois (articulated by Bourgeois in a June 4, 2010 deposition) were protected by either attorney-client privilege or employee work product and therefore, privileged. On November 8, 2010, Judge Martin Ashman’s opinion that the bulk of Bourgeois’ deposition testimony was not privileged rendered that defense ineffective. In Bourgeois’ deposition, she described herself as being on “thin ice,” with Watson and asserted that “her own job was not secure at City Colleges.” Bourgeois also confirmed that she was aware of Watson’s directive that prohibited Moore from speaking with her and that Moore “could have been terminated if she violated it.” Shortly after Ashman’s ruling, the City Colleges settled the suit. On January 12, 2011, the City College Board of Trustees passed a resolution authorizing “the General Counsel to negotiate a settlement agreement with Maria Moore in full and complete settlement of her lawsuit, inclusive of all claims and costs, including attorney’s fees as provided by the privileged and confidential recommendation of the General Counsel.” Wayne Watson’s ethical violations and his harassment of one of his administrative employees had cost the City Colleges a substantial sum, probably close to one million dollars.
(The complaint is available in PDF form, simply Google Moore v. District 508–complaint. Ashman’s opinion is available here: http://docs.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/illinois/ilndce/1:2009cv04479/233656/128/
The City College Board Resolution is here: http://apps.ccc.edu/brpublic/2011/jan/30835.pdf
Ideally, this ridiculous situation will soon be resolved without doing too much additional damage to the reputation of our long-suffering school. It is long past time for Wayne Watson to move on and for Chicago State to begin the process of healing. I think some of the words spoken by attorney Joseph N. Welch to Joseph McCarthy on June 9, 1954, are apropos here: "Until this moment . . . I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. . . You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"