Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Academic Lies and Misrepresentations Part 2: The Administration's Culpability

Various arms of the Watson administration have either abetted and endorsed these falsehoods or actively participated in creating their own serial misrepresentations, which seem to be designed to provide some kind of imprimatur of legitimacy for their mendacious colleagues.

Since the start of Watson’s presidency, his administration has often operated in secret, mysterious ways. Beginning in 2010, the educational qualifications of Chicago State administrators disappeared from the University Catalog. A look at the 2012-14 catalog reveals that there is only one reference to Angela Henderson and none to Cheri Sidney. Neither have their educational credentials described in the catalog. In the context of questionable behaviors by the members of the Watson administration, these omissions seem purposeful. The lack of transparency in the catalog certainly creates the impression that the administration has something to hide in terms of the academic qualifications of at least some of its members.

Frankly, the stench of this scandal emanates from the top administrative offices of the university. For example, how in the world does someone get away with misrepresenting their educational credentials? Should not Human Resources have identified the lies told by Cheri Sidney and Tyra Austin? Wayne Watson signed the hiring form for Cheri Sidney that contained an outright lie. Did he know this? If he did, why did he hire her? If he did not know it, why not? Why was Tyra Austin hired into a position she was unqualified to hold? Who signed off on her hiring, contravening the job announcement’s minimum qualifications in the process? Why was Angela Henderson hired for a Vice President’s position for which she did not have the requisite enrollment management experience? Given Watson’s demonstrated propensity for micro management, he is clearly responsible for these hirings and for failing to exercise due diligence in not validating the academic credentials of Sidney and Austin.

In fact, rather than safeguarding the academic integrity of the institution, the Watson administration actively participated in these scams. They did this in a variety of ways including: 1) posting position openings for a short period of time, generating a small list of applicants; 2) ignoring minimum stated qualifications in making hiring decisions; 3) creating a false sense of urgency and a short period for conducting candidate searches; 4) failing to validate credentials. First, in the case of the Vice President for Enrollment Management, the job posting apparently appeared in early February. The posting closed fairly quickly, generating a small list of applicants that at least two members of the search committee believed were completely unqualified. Ultimately, Henderson emerged as the best of a poor group of candidates and was hired by Watson. Henderson actually applied for the position on March 18, 2011, and was hired around May 11, 2011, the date of her resignation from City Colleges. Henderson began at Chicago State on June 15, 2011.

For Cheri Sidney’s original job at Chicago State, the job announcement indicated that the review of applications would begin on August 17, 2009 and would continue until the position was filled. I am unable to determine when Sidney applied for the position, but she had been hired and the budget line had been created by October 13, 2009. Sidney started as Associate Director of Human Resources on November 9, 2009. For her subsequent promotions, there is no indication that any other applicants were considered, that any kind of search took place.

As for Tyra Austin, the job posting appeared on June 18, 2012, with a tentative starting date of July 1. She applied on June 25 and was subsequently hired shortly thereafter with a starting date of August 16, 2012. In each one of these cases, the elapsed time from application to hiring was quite short, less than two months for Henderson and Austin. When I spoke to one administrative employee about Tyra Austin’s hiring, the individual described it as “a typical CSU hire, it had to be done right away.”

Following the hiring of these persons, rather than looking into their backgrounds, the Watson administration has ignored questions raised on this forum about the academic qualifications of Sidney and Austin. As far as Henderson is concerned, the Watson administration has engaged in a systematic pattern of deception to create the impression that she, in fact, held a Ph.D. On the university’s website, a number of misrepresentations of Henderson’s academic credentials have appeared. Examples include: 1) a November 27, 2012 Enrollment Management Organizational Chart that shows “Dr. Angela Henderson” as the Vice President; 2) A news release in early 2013 that refers to “Dr. Angela Henderson”; 3) the description of “Angela Henderson, Ph.D.” on Wayne Watson’s “Operations Team,” on the Chicago State website. This has been replaced with a new version but the copy I have I downloaded from the website on July 8, 2013, more than a month before “Dr. Henderson” actually received her Ph.D.; 4) multiple references to “Dr. Angela Henderson” in the Chicago State Board of Trustees meeting minutes and agendas in December 2012, March and May 2013. For an administration that so frequently invokes “transparency, accountability and responsibility” as administrative articles of faith, these serial lies about Henderson’s academic credentials represent none of those qualities. Given the Watson administration’s demonstrated indifference to the academic qualifications of these administrators, perhaps these multiple falsehoods are entirely in character.

This fraudulent nonsense is continuing on the current much-ballyhooed Watson “listening tour” of various departments. In an Edgar Bergen-Charlie McCarthy type of vignette, Watson has apparently brought Henderson with him to ensure that everyone knows that she, in fact, has a Ph.D. Practical considerations and the consequences of misstating a person’s academic credentials are simply ignored in a ridiculous cascade of verbiage designed to validate the end justifies the means behavior Watson often demonstrates.

The three administrators I have discussed occupy key positions in the university and at least two of them are responsible for the enrollment dilemma currently facing Chicago State. Based on the documented falsehoods surrounding these three persons, what should the university’s response be? There are procedures in place to cover this situation. Section II.6.3 of Chicago State’s university policy reads (April 1, 2001): “Applications for University employment must be fully, accurately and honestly completed. Any misrepresentation or omission of facts in the application or other University records may be cause for rejection of the application, or may be sufficient grounds for termination of employment at any time thereafter.” The employment application is quite explicit on this point. It includes a “Certification of Truthfulness” that advises prospective employees that “the statements made herein may be investigated and, if found to be false, will be sufficient reason for not being employed, or if employed, will be cause for dismissal, when discovered.”

Human Resources is responsible for conducting background checks on prospective employees. The Human Resources policy manual (2010) asserts that “All job offers are contingent upon satisfactory completion of the University’s background check process, including employment history, education . . .and any other data that may be necessary to analyze a candidate’s qualifications for a position at Chicago State University.” In addition, the manual claims that “Background checks are required for all employees in full-time, part-time, and temporary positions. Background checks must be run on all candidates prior to beginning employment.” Obviously, this policy needs to be tightened up. Finally, the Human Resources manual specifically discusses the importance of workplace integrity and lists “falsification of employment application, official academic transcripts, degrees or other records,” as the first example of behavior that demonstrates a lack of integrity.

The cases of Sidney and Austin are clear-cut. They both falsified their résumés when they originally applied for employment. In Austin’s case, she still has not even the bare minimum qualifications for her position. Henderson’s situation is considerably more opaque. She certainly did not falsify her degree information, although the assertion on her application that her Ph.D. was imminent can be read as misleading. Surely, Henderson must have known about the inaccuracies on the university website. Thus, the numerous false and uncorrected references to her as “Dr. Henderson” when she in fact held no degree that justified anyone applying the title to her are certainly examples of a “lack of integrity” as defined by the university’s Human Resources manual.

For those of you who were unsure, this is what crony hiring looks like. What will Wayne Watson do about this situation? Do we deserve an honest, dare I say it? a transparent, accountable and responsible administration? Or is this tapestry of lies the best we can expect from our upper administration? I know what I would do if I were president. We will soon see how our president really feels about honesty and academic integrity. This school deserves so much more than this.

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