Friday, May 22, 2015

Chicago State's Administrative Colossus: A University Drowned by the Sheer Weight of its "Management Team"

Over the past several years, the contributors to this blog have made a number of serious allegations of misconduct and malfeasance on the part of Chicago State’s administration. These allegations have been supported by evidence, much of it received from the university. We have discovered proof that top-level administrators lied about their degrees and work experience on official university records; we have discussed Watson’s demonstrated record of retaliatory terminations and their financial consequences for the university; we have published court documents that detail the atmosphere of fear that pervades the university and highlights the vindictive management style upper-level administrators employ; we have chronicled the disastrous enrollment declines since 2010 and have pointed out that the administrators most responsible for those declines have never been held accountable—instead they have been rewarded for their unsatisfactory performances by promotion to positions with bigger salaries and fancier titles. Finally, we have continually exposed the crony hiring practices that make a mockery of university policy and that have put the fate of the university into the hands of a number of persons whose sole qualification for university employment seems to be their loyalty to Wayne Watson.

In the face of these allegations, the university’s response has been silence. No one from the administration or the greater university community has ever emerged to challenge the accuracy of the material published on the blog. Aside from comments about our “tone” by persons with a vested interest in ignoring these extremely serious accusations, no one from the university administration has risen to provide an explanation or justification for the numerous well documented instances of administrative wrongdoing. This administrative silence provides an acknowledgement of the truth of the allegations and demonstrates that our administrators and their mouthpieces know their actions are indefensible.

I have posted a number of pieces about the fiscal practices at Chicago State. Previous posts have all featured an analysis of our internal budget, which offers no indication of what we actually spend on salaries. The budget freezes our fiscal situation at a single moment in time and fails to account for the constant flow of personnel in and out of the university. Although there is no perfect way to collect and analyze salary data, the Illinois Board of Higher Eduction (IBHE) web site offers information that allows a more accurate assessment of salary expenditures across an entire fiscal year and illustrates personnel movements throughout the year. Therefore, this analysis will be based entirely on the data displayed on that web site.

The IBHE data includes for each Illinois public university: the number of administrators and faculty along with their position classifications, and salary and override amounts paid to each person during the fiscal year. This information enables a comparison between schools. For the purposes of this piece, I compared Chicago State with four other similar state schools: Eastern, Northeastern and Western Illinois Universities and the University of Illinois-Springfield. I compared fiscal 2011 with 2014 because the salary data for fiscal 2010 is total compensation (including benefits). The 2011 and 2014 data reflect actual annual salaries plus additional compensation. Here is a crude spreadsheet with the most pertinent data:

For the years 2011-14, the comparison group experienced a 10.8 percent decrease in enrollment, reduced the number of administrative positions by 33.6 percent and reduced the aggregate salary expenditures for administrators 14.9 percent. During this same time period, Chicago State’s enrollment declined 24.3 percent as the school increased the number of administrators by 11.1 percent and increased administrative salaries 12.5 percent. In both 2011 and 2014, Chicago State featured the highest number of administrators of any of the five schools (333 and 370) and spent the most money on administrative salaries ($21.8 million and $24.5 million). In fiscal 2014, Chicago State enrolled only 12.6 percent of all students attending these five universities but could boast 47.6 percent of all administrative employees and 38.6 percent of aggregate salaries.

The administrative position titles used by IBHE include President/Chancellor, Vice President/Vice Chancellor, Senior Officer, Unit Director and Other Administrator. The data is sortable. For 2011 and 2014, total administrative positions looked like this for the comparison schools:

For Chicago State in 2011 and 2014, here were the total administrative positions (note: rather than the 416 positions reported to IBHE, CSU had only 370 full-time administrators. The database includes "Temporary Administrators" which I have eliminated in order to count only full-time employees):

There are some additional statistics on the IBHE web site that seem notable. Chicago State's 2014 total of 370 administrators is nearly triple the number at one university (Northeastern has 126) and more than triples the number of administrators at the other three. Our total administrative salary expenditure of $24.5 million nearly doubles Northeastern's $13.0 million, more than doubles Eastern and Western Illinois's expense and is 4 times the salary expenditures of UI-Springfield. All these schools enroll more students than we do.

This monumental waste of taxpayer money on administrative salaries for persons at Chicago State who have consistently failed would be scandalous under any circumstances. A recent Tribune report detailed the vast difference between the ratio of administrators to students at Chicago State compared with the other Illinois public universities. Here's the link to that report:

I understand that some of our Board members read this forum. As a taxpayer in Illinois and one of the "stakeholders" at Chicago State, I want to know: how (and why) did you allow this to happen? If you read this blog, you must know that we've often reported on the financial shenanigans of this administration. Why did you do nothing? Perhaps you should have listened to the faculty and staff who told you about the excesses and abuses of this administration. Instead, you allowed Watson and his cronies to spoon-feed you pablum, pat your heads and tell you soothing lies. I think the time is near when investigators will begin to look at how much these high-salaried administrators cost the taxpaying public. How will you defend your actions (or inaction)?

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