So my distinguished colleague, Dr. Bionaz reported on the FY 2014 audit report yesterday. I thought it would be instructive to put that report in an historical context as well as a comparative context with other state universities. Based on data collected from FY 1996 through FY 2014 (minus 3 universities which have notbeen reported for FY14 as of this writing) we find some striking discoveries. First, during the period only two public universities averaged annual double digit audit findings, the University of Illinois and Chicago State University. That would be the University of Illinois with three campuses, 70,000 students and a two billion dollar budget and CSU with now less than 5,000 students on one campus and a $150 million budget. Both universities averaged 17 audit findings per year. By way of comparison, the other universities averaged about 5 audit findings per year. During that 19 year period, Illinois State University had only one year of double digit audit findings. During her ten year tenure, Elnora Daniel racked up 107 audit findings, about 10 per year. During the tenure of the current administration, Watson has racked up 140 audit findings in five years, about 28 per year. To put that into perspective, the Watson regime has generated almost three times as many audit findings in half the time. If you examine enrollment during the period you will find that CSU had less than 5% of the enrollment but routinely generated 23% of all audit findings statewide among the public universities. With only 3% of the enrollment during the Watson era, the percentage of audit findings increases to 27%. The most troubling element of this data is that Watson was to be evaluated on his reducing audit findings and increasing enrollment, two areas that contrary to his ridiculous claims, are epic failures. His continued presence will guarantee an enrollment decline for AY 2051-16 and will likely drive enrollment below 4,000 by Spring 2016. Another key to remember about the audit is that it is based on sampling. A forensic audit which would examine every transaction during a time period is time consuming, expensive and in CSU’s case extremely embarrassing. The annual audit is only based on a limited sample size. Since that's the case, you can imagine the scope of the dysfunction present. A small university with the same number of findings as the largest university system in the state is beyond troubling.
The enrollment issue is critical and is tied to a specific finding in this year’s report, namely what can only be characterized as crony hiring in the division of enrollment management. The hiring of an unqualified assistant director by an unquestionably unqualified associate vice president only exacerbated the problems in the division created in large measure by the former vice president, an office holder who had no enrollment management experience at a university before being given the job by Watson in 2011. The connecting of dots should not be necessary in understanding the failure of this administration. The audit report only scratches the surface of a cancerous dysfunction brought by this administration and enabled by the board of trustees. In their defense, it is possible that information was purposely withheld from the board. An examination of the minutes for meetings held after the receipt of the March 2013 Department of Education report reveals no discussion of federal financial aid status changes and the subsequent programmatic implications for the university. This begs the question what else has been withheld from the board during Watson’s tenure. Are the audit reports routinely discussed in board meetings? To his credit Trustee Young has inquired repeatedly about enrollment trends, though I fear his inquiries occur too late to stem the tide of student losses.
I don’t know how much more information the board needs about the epic failure known as the Watson presidency. It is almost like deniers of climate change who are waiting for “more evidence’ before acknowledging what everyone else knows. The next academic year is a write off because the board has indeed waited too long to excise the cancer that is killing the university. When all the evidence, including the FY 15 Audit Report, is finally collected on the damage done by Watson et.al., I hope it is not CSU's post mortem.