As many of our readers know, this administration has provided a number of textbook examples of horrible management. One of the more interesting and one that has thus far escaped discussion on this forum is the tactic I call management by temper tantrum. From available anecdotal evidence, this particular management practice has accelerated somewhat as the end of the year approaches. A few examples should suffice.
One practice favored by a small segment of our administrators is the storm out of the meeting response to any comments viewed as critical. It is sometimes accompanied by unwarranted accusations that you’ve “raised your voice,” a serious faux pas when dealing with some of our thin-skinned upper administrators. After setting the stage by making this ridiculous accusation, the administrator stands up and announces, “we’re done here,” or words to that effect. Sometimes that takes her/his subalterns by surprise and they sit dumbfounded while our offended administrator huffs and puffs until it becomes obvious that her/his inferiors are not going anywhere. S/he then orders the rest of the group to storm out of the meeting in unison. I personally have witnessed this version of management by tantrum on at least two separate occasions.
A second practice is somewhat similar. Again, accompanied by squeaks of indignation and often specious accusations, the administrator announces that “we’re done here” in a meeting over which s/he is not presiding. Apparently in the belief that her/his pronouncement carries considerable authority and should move the other meeting participants to either end the meeting or cease saying things the administrator finds objectionable, this type of tantrum is not usually accompanied by rising from her/his seat to leave the room.
In my estimation, the most interesting mode of management by tantrum is one recently employed by the University Provost, apparently against a group of Department Chairs. My information here is somewhat sketchy and I welcome any additions or corrections to this account, but I present it because I think it speaks volumes about the current state of affairs at our school.
The issue that aroused the Provost’s ire reportedly concerned the expressed belief by several Chairs that the new centralized advising system with faculty being excluded from advising was not working too well. According to the anecdotal accounts reported to me, possibly confusing Chicago State with North Korea, the Provost threatened to replace any Chairs who were not willing to follow her orders. What a splendid example of shared governance and respect for your colleagues!
The Provost’s response seems perfectly consistent with her stance on academic advising. An ad hoc committee on advising convened by Sandra Westbrooks recommended that the existing system of mixed advising (faculty and professional advisors) be continued. As with many recommendations from practitioners, the administration (the Provost) chose to ignore the expertise of the members of the committee and impose this nightmarish procedure on the university, in the process ordering the faculty to cease advising and to force students with whom they had long-standing relationships to endure the long lines at the advising center. Given the Provost’s obvious sensitivity about this issue and her demonstrated lack of management skills, a resort to management by tantrum when questioned about the efficacy of this process seems logical.
All of these anecdotal accounts reflect, I think, the problems that have beset the university since the inception of the current regime. As I have pointed out on numerous occasions, our upper administrative ranks have mushroomed, particularly since 2011-12 when our enrollment began to decline precipitously. In 2011-12, Chicago State spent $1.148 million on the president and 8 senior administrators: 1 Provost, 1 Vice President, 5 Associate Vice Presidents, and 1 Athletic Director. By the beginning of 2015-16, the number of senior administrators had grown to 14 (with a new VP of Development vacant), at an estimated cost of over $1.8 million. We now have a president, 1 Provost and 13 Associate/Assistant Provosts, Vice Presidents, and Associate Vice Presidents. At least two new Associate/Assistant Provost positions have been created since 2011-12, along with new positions for 1 Vice President, and 3 Associate Vice Presidents.
That metastatic growth is bad enough, but the real problem lies in the incapacity of many of these persons to do the jobs in which they reside. One of the major reasons for that incapacity: a woeful lack of qualifications and experience in a university setting. Of the 15 senior administrators at Chicago State at the end of fiscal 2015, 6 were either personally connected with the current president or from the City Colleges of Chicago. This group includes the president, the Provost, the General Counsel, and 3 Associate Vice Presidents. If the Ethics Officer, Chief Information Officer and Chief of Police are included in that calculation, by the end of fiscal 2015, 8 of the 18 fall into the personal acquaintance/City Colleges category, with several being cronies.
Based on the results of 6 years of mismanagement by City College retreads, I think it fair to say that the experiment has been a failure. Perhaps several of these persons can delude themselves into believing they have been successful but the objective evidence says otherwise. I think they know that and are now resorting to the kind of childish, boorish, and ill-tempered management style they know best. Not surprising, after all, look at their role model.