As faculty members (one retired) at Chicago State University (CSU) we wish to respond to the Op-Ed piece that appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times by Wayne Watson, president of CSU (hereafter referred to as “Watson’s piece”). This is a fundamentally dishonest piece of writing. We maintain that Dr. Watson's cyber-bullying policy is yet another example of his continual and well-publicized efforts to suppress dissent.
Beginning with his appointment to the CSU presidency in 2009 by southside Chicago politicians, the Watson presidency has met criticism from a group of tenured faculty who contribute to a blog—CSU Faculty Voice—that has detailed the many failings of the Watson administration. On several occasions, that administration has clumsily and ineffectively tried to silence criticism, most recently in November of 2013 by sending a “cease-and-desist” order to the blog’s founder.
Readers should be aware that Watson's op ed conflates anti-bullying and cyber-bullying. There is no formal “anti-bullying policy” at CSU. Its Board of Trustees rammed through a cyber-bullying policy in May 2014, not bullying in general. The cyber-bullying policy as written is Watson's attempt to silence criticism of his regime, not faculty cyber-bullying of students; hence FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) filed suit against CSU in response to this cyber-bullying policy. Watson’s piece gives his readers no context for the need for a cyber-bullying policy, nor does he provide his readers with an explanation for the FIRE lawsuit. The FIRE lawsuit and faculty opposition are responses to the cyber-bullying policy that clearly limits free speech on campus.
Watson’s piece also conflates legitimate criticism of his administration and its personnel with genuine cases of bullying the weak and vulnerable. Are tenured professors at CSU who point out that interim provost Angela Henderson’s dissertation is extensively plagiarized really engaging in bullying? Is the exposure of lies on the official records of high-ranking members of the administration bullying? Is evidence posted on the faculty blog of the Watson administration’s manipulation of Chicago State’s budget and personnel procedures in order to hire his cronies bullying? To be sure, these revelations are unpleasant for those exposed, but do they constitute bullying? Hardly.
Watson misrepresents the bullying situation on campus. He relies on the dubious claims of a student concerning faculty bullying of students. In the op-ed Watson refers to a ”student trustee [who] gave a passionate recounting of his own experience of bullying/harassment on campus.” At a March 2014 CSU Board of Trustees meeting the student trustee says “I just never expected that faculty members began to attack students, either through cyber-bullying or through other methods, or showing up to SGA meetings and causing conflict within, you know, SGA.” You can listen to entire ‘report’ from student at http://www.csu.edu/boardoftrustee/meetingrecordings/audio/FBMpartthree03072014.mp3. No evidence to support these allegations has ever been presented by the student trustee, Wayne Watson or his apologists. A simple examination of the content of the Faculty Voice blog would put this lie to rest.
It is disingenuous of Watson to omit his own culpability and his own many verifiable acts of bullying of administrators, staff, students, and faculty. Physical intimidation, violence and the courts have been used to silence student critics of the Watson administration. One need only look at the video of Watson’s attack on long-time vocal critic, Jokari Miller, for evidence of the lengths he will go to silence criticism. See the video here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=317785215048069
Wayne Watson has repeatedly demonstrated an obsession with loyalty and a desire to silence his critics. Since 2009, the Watson administration has made at least four attempts to stifle dissent on the Chicago State Campus. Watson has also shown a penchant for vindictiveness, one that has cost his employers dearly. In 2011, Maria Moore won a substantial settlement against Watson and City Colleges for a retaliatory firing. In 2013, the Watson administration intervened in a student election to prevent the winners, both vocal Watson critics, from taking the offices they had won handily. In February 2014, James Crowley won a $3 million jury award against Watson and Chicago State for a retaliatory firing. In March 2014, Glenn Meeks, former Vice President of Administration and Finance at Chicago State, filed a Cook County lawsuit against Watson and Chicago State for a retaliatory firing. In May 2014, the two students who were denied SGA office filed a federal lawsuit against Watson and Chicago State for violating the first and fourteenth amendments. In July 2014, two Chicago State faculty members also filed a federal lawsuit against Watson alleging violations of the first and fourteenth amendments. The last three actions are still in litigation.
As documented repeatedly on the Faculty Voice blog, the Watson administration has tolerated falsifications and dishonesty within its own ranks. Now, in a rhetorically dishonest piece, Watson displays the kind of mendacity that is a staple of his administration.
Paul Gomberg, PhD (retired)
Ann Kuzdale, PhD
Pancho McFarland, PhD