Meetings of the Chicago State Board of Trustees are always excruciating. Watching a bunch of adults competing to see who can plant the most kisses on some “powerful” figure’s rear end offers an unforgettable model of sycophancy. Yesterday’s meeting followed a familiar script: presentations by persons tasked with putting lipstick on a pig, waxing enthusiastically about all the great things happening here at our Potemkin University. The members of the Board nodding sagely, asking one or two questions, always satisfied with the answers. Everything is going to be fine if we just adhere to our great president’s “vision.”
Yesterday, I was struck by the contradiction between the ways the Board treats different constituent groups at this school. On the dais were Wayne Watson and Patrick Cage, two administrators whose dishonesty and vindictiveness have cost the university nearly $4 million to date. Presenters included administrators Angela Henderson, the faux Provost and plagiarist-par-excellence; and making a rare public appearance, Cheri Sidney, girlfriend of the president and falsifier of applications. The members of the Board obviously felt no discomfort in the presence of these symbols of failure, fraud and deceit.
In contrast, the Board’s position on the Faculty Senate election and its withdrawal of recognition of that body’s “university organization” status demonstrates its belief in the necessity of reigning in and ultimately destroying the powerful Chicago State representative body. Interesting that during the entire time I have been in the Senate, not one of our resolutions or proposals ever received even the courtesy of a reply from either the naked Emperor in the Cook Building or the Board. Nevertheless, the Senate had to be muzzled because it has created a "hostile" environment for Wayne and his acolytes. Since Watson has spent much of his time at Chicago State vainly trying to muzzle dissent, it seems instructive that the Board is now doing his bidding. Perhaps they will have more success.
Taking their responsibilities as censors seriously, the Board also introduced a new “policy” that enables them to stifle public comment at Board meetings. The new policy will require anyone wishing to make a comment to sign-up to do so. Comments will be limited to 20 minutes total (the University of Illinois allows 30), and the Board has come up with a laundry list of topics that are impermissible: no discussion about litigation, personnel matters, “disputes”, personal attacks, obscene or profane speech among them. Sounds like a “civility policy” I think. Of course, the decision as to what prohibited categories a particular comment may fall into rests solely with the Board.
As we shall soon see, the Board’s action yesterday has solved all the problems at Chicago State, which after all have been caused by uppity faculty members. The Board’s dissolution of the Faculty Senate and their pending civility policy should take care of everything. Now at Board meetings they can hear only good news from people they like. Perhaps they should hire an orchestra to play at the end of Board meetings, I suggest “Autumn” as an appropriate piece.
The contrast between the Board’s views of due process is also interesting. In the case of our favorite plagiarizer, it is vital to allow the process to play out in order to avoid violating Henderson’s due process rights. In the case of the Faculty Senate, due process is not necessary. It is not necessary to provide any specificity for accusations of misconduct against the Senate, insisting only that “several” faculty members complained about not being able to vote in the February election (first appearing in the March 4 memorandum from Wayne Watson), and finishing with the amorphous “voting irregularities” mentioned by Young on September 5. Although this matter is still in the hands of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office (Public Access Counselor), there is no need for the Board to wait for their determination. In true Star Chamber style, they have found the Senate guilty and sentenced it to death. This is likely to be another of those “wins” for Wayne Watson that turns to ashes in his mouth. I suspect that when the news of this action escapes the walled confines of Chicago State Penitentiary, the outcry will be substantial.
As earlier posts from my colleagues make clear, the recent Board actions against the Faculty Senate are of a piece with Chicago State’s previous attempts to silence disagreement. We shall see how this all plays out.