Let’s review some of the “accomplishments” of the Watson administration during the past year and let’s talk a little about money in 2015.
In the first week of January, the administration’s thuggish threats of legal action for bullshit claims of “trademark infringement” against the CSU faculty blog result in Chicago State again becoming a national laughingstock.
In mid-January, the school again makes headlines in a negative way as the University of Illinois at Chicago examines the dissertation of Chicago State’s Interim Provost for plagiarism. An anonymous hearing officer apparently clears the Interim Provost of those charges in July (although that fact was not made public until November). Despite the anonymous hearing officer’s decision, the dissertation’s repeated failure to provide proper references for obviously borrowed language clearly meets the standard for plagiarism as articulated in the UIC College of Nursing’s Academic Integrity Policy. Reportedly, the Interim Provost revises the dissertation to bring it into compliance with the College of Nursing’s standards. To date, the revised dissertation is available neither on the UIC Indigo web site nor through Pro Quest.
In late January, Wayne Watson decides that the Faculty Senate must conform to the requirements of its 2011 constitution. Although the Senate has been operating under new rules since September 2011, the Watson administration orders the Senate to hold an election to amend the constitution in compliance with its requirements.
On February 6, the CSU Faculty Senate votes no-confidence in Wayne Watson for the second time in fourteen months. In addition, the Faculty Senate votes no-confidence in Interim Provost Angela Henderson. Obviously, no one on the CSU Board or in the state cares.
In late February, the Senate election to amend the constitution results in nine amendments passing with virtually no negative votes, the closest being 94-3. This information is transmitted to Watson who immediately demands the Senate prove that its election was legitimate. This began a farce that is still ongoing.
In perhaps the year’s top accomplishment, also in late February, the Watson administration loses a landmark retaliatory discharge-unlawful termination-whistleblower case in Cook County Circuit Court. During the trial, both Watson and Patrick Cage apparently give “impeachable” (false) testimony and the Circuit Court jury finds their actions so egregious that after less than 30 minutes the fourteen-member group awards former CSU legal counsel James Crowley nearly $3 million dollars, including $2.5 million in “punitive” damages.
At the Board of Trustees meeting on March 7, 2014, the administration has former student Willie Preston arrested for violating an unlawfully issued order of protection against the Interim Provost.
In late March, former Chicago State Vice President of Finance and Administration files a retaliatory discharge-unlawful termination-whistleblower lawsuit against Watson in Cook County Circuit Court. More excellent press for Chicago State results.
May was a big month for Watson and his cronies. First, on May 9, Chicago State Police, in full view of Watson, members of the Board and other CSU administrators, choke and arrest a student, Jokari Miller, for refusing to take off a baseball cap at a Board meeting.
In mid-May, Willie Preston and Brittany Bailey name Watson in a Federal lawsuit alleging that Watson and CSU violated their first and fourteenth amendment rights. More excellent publicity for the school.
Also in May, the university throws at least $100,000 away on a sham search for Provost. Lining the coffers of the Hollins Group, the same organization that brought us a president that no other university would likely employ, the search produces a rigged set of finalists that includes the Interim Provost, a person no viable university would likely employ in such a position. After bringing three “candidates” to campus, Watson hires no one, setting the stage for the November appointment of his long-time crony to the position.
As part of an initiative to further free speech on college campuses, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education files a federal lawsuit against Watson and CSU alleging violations of the first and fourteenth amendments. As one of the plaintiffs, I am unable to discuss the case, except to say that it is still ongoing. Anyone desiring more information can read the compliant, which is public information.
In late August, the Cook County Circuit Court again spanks Watson and the administration by issuing a “scathing” opinion upholding the Crowley verdict. Throwing good money after bad, the Watson administration decides to appeal the jury’s original decision. This case is still ongoing. Again, lots more horrible publicity for the school.
The administration’s attack on the Faculty Senate ratchets up as the Board withdraws recognition of the Senate on September 5. This prompts protests from a number of organizations and persons, including AAUP, FIRE, other Illinois Faculty Senates, and our UPI local.
On October 1, the blog announces that CSU’s enrollment has dropped to 5211, a 29.2 percent decline in just four years. This decline represents the fifth largest drop among a total of 257 public and PBI institutions surveyed.
On November 14, the CSU Board again recognizes the CSU Faculty Senate. This does not end the contention, however.
In late November, completing the rigged search process that began with the Provost’s job announcement, Wayne Watson elevates his old crony to the position of Provost.
On December 12, Watson informs the Faculty Senate and University Faculty that he rejects every one of the nine amendments passed overwhelmingly by the faculty in February 2014. The administration makes its desires clear: the Senate should exist as a representative body with equal representation for all colleges. Another example of the high regard in which Watson holds the CSU faculty.
Also on December 12, Watson persuades the Board of Trustees to remove fund-raising from the existing Chicago State Foundation and place it into the hands of Wayne Watson, who, in his five years here has spectacularly demonstrated his inability to raise money.
On December 19, a Cook County Circuit Court Judge vacates the order of protection against Willie Preston. During the proceeding, the Assistant Attorney General representing Angela Henderson admits that no order should have ever been issued, since no lawful grounds existed for such an action.
The above list is obviously subjective and omits a number of important occurrences.
Finally, a brief foray into the school’s finances. As the administration has made clear, the school is being asked to prepare a budget for fiscal 2016 with a 20 percent reduction in state appropriations. Although there is no final decision pending, it appears that the university will see its state appropriation reduced in 2015-16.
Looking at the audited financial statements of the university from 2010 through 2013 reveals some interesting facts. Here are the highlights:
Enrollment declined 22.6 percent during that period.
State appropriations (general fund) decreased by 13.4 percent
State fringe benefits increased 67 percent.
Aggregate state appropriations increased 16 percent.
Tuition revenue increased 17.3 percent.
In sum, during a time when our enrollment dropped 22.6 percent, our revenues from the state and tuition increased 16.4 percent.
Where did that money go?
Here are some selected expenses:
Instruction decreased 2.0 percent and as a proportion of total expenses decreased 12.6 percent.
Scholarships decreased 6 percent.
Plant operations increased 37 percent.
Academic, Student, Institutional Support increased 21.4 percent.
Total expenditures in these four categories increased 8.8 percent from 2010 to 2013, all at a time our enrollment dropped by 22.6 percent.
What does all this mean? I am not going to suggest that we can absorb a 20 percent decrease in state funding. However, the administration’s spending the past several years does not reflect a university with the kind of steep enrollment declines we have suffered. As a taxpayer, I am inclined to wonder where all that apparently excess money went.
Finally, there is the looming specter of the James Crowley judgment. My estimate of the cost to the university at the end of 2014 is around $4.1 million (and growing). Not included in that total are legal fees for either Crowley’s attorney’s or the private counsel retained by the university. There seems little doubt that the final price tag will exceed $5 million. Despite Tom Wogan’s cavalier dismissal of the judgment as being covered by the university’s “insurance,” I have my doubts. I know of no liability policies that cover intentional acts that create liability for the insurer. In addition, the university has successfully resisted efforts to examine the extant insurance coverage. I will just say that I doubt the university has sufficient insurance to cover this kind of a loss. In that case, I wonder whether the possible budget crisis is being used by this administration to schedule staff reductions that will enable it to save enough money to pay Crowley’s bill. That possibility coupled with the likelihood that when payment comes due Watson will be gone, having walked away with his second lavish pension, makes me suspect that this will be another of those Watsonian exercises in subterfuge.