Saturday, January 31, 2015

Another Look at Chicago State's Budget: Guess Where the Money Goes?

I have to apologize in advance for the nerdy figures that will follow, but our university appropriations as detailed in our Operating Budget really underscore why this school is heading toward its death spiral. If you don’t care to read the numbers, here is the summary: Since 2009, Wayne Watson has consolidated his fiscal control over the university by constantly expanding the scope of his reach. As I have noted in several earlier posts, he has dramatically increased the size of the budget units reporting to the President (for the purposes of this discussion, references to the President's office refer to the aggregate of all sub-units under the administrative control of the President). Between 2009 (fiscal 2010) and 2014 (fiscal 2015), the university’s total salary appropriations increased by $5.9 million. In that same time period, the President’s office increased its salary expenditures by nearly $6.9 million. In fact, in fiscal 2015, nearly one-quarter of Chicago State’s salary expenditures were appropriated for the President’s office, an increase from 15.7 percent in 2009. The President’s appropriations totaled $16.6 million in fiscal 2015, up from $9.7 million in fiscal 2010. Given Watson’s proven abilities as a manager, is it any wonder this school is gasping for breath?

If you are still with me, I will make some additional observations on our fiscal affairs. I have broken down the salary expenditures into several sub-categories and figured them for various sub-units. Here are the most important findings: Since 2009, the President’s office has increased its appropriations by $6.9 million or 70.5 percent. In the same period, Academic Support’s appropriations have dropped by $1.5 million or 12 percent; Administration and Finance’s appropriations have declined by $2.2 million or 46.6 percent, the various Academic Departments have experienced an increase of $2.3 million or 9.8 percent; Enrollment Management’s appropriations have diminished by $612,000 or 14.1 percent; and the appropriations for Unappropriated funds (student fees, other revenues, etc.) have increased by $1.06 million or 16.5 percent.

Altogether, Academic Support and the Academic Departments have seen a slight increase in their total appropriations, a 2.3 percent increase from $36.8 million to $37.7 million. Obviously, a spending priority at Chicago State is the expansion of the President’s operations.

A look at the employee categories reveals some interesting facts: The total salary appropriation has risen 9.5 percent since 2009. Appropriations for administrative salaries have increased $1.5 million or 8.1 percent, faculty by $1 million or 3.9 percent, clerical by $2.2 million or 13.1 percent. Most noteworthy, appropriations for Extra Help or Student Worker salaries have increased $1.2 million or 92.9 percent. Also remarkable, in 2009, 30.6 percent of the appropriations for clerical salaries were in the President’s office, in 2014, that figure had risen to 51.1 percent. Obviously, the salary expenditures for clerical, temporary and student employees will decrease after the round of layoffs sure to come, but it seems telling that the university has dramatically increased the salary appropriations for those two categories of employees. In fact, 83 percent of the $5.9 salary increase since 2009 has gone to administrators, clerical, temporary and student employees. Since these persons enjoy few protections, it seems possible that the administration is committed to hiring more people it can intimidate and exploit. I feel confident that the coming layoffs will, sadly, decimate the ranks of the clerical, temporary and student employees while leaving the well-compensated administrators (certainly the ones who qualify as Friends of Wayne or Friends of Friends of Wayne) free to continue the destruction of our school. Perhaps after the administration has crushed these vulnerable employees it will be time to hire another administrative hack to join the legions already employed here.

Friday, January 30, 2015

The War With the Faculty Senate Continues: More Lies, More Demands From Our Failed and Out of Control Administation

Just when you think you have seen every dishonest thing the Watson administration can do, they surprise you. Here is the latest Orwellian administrative foray into the land of chicanery.

Apparently, the administration has directed the College Deans to tell the various Department Chairs that departmental Senate elections must occur before February 15 which is some arbitrary deadline for “submit[ting] names.” Submitting names to whom? I am assuming to the administration since the directive for the election obviously emanates from the Cook building.

This edict represents a noteworthy administration incursion into faculty governance. It also demonstrates that an administration with a long history of bad-faith practices is not hesitant to use outright deceit in an effort to disguise its outrageous actions. Here is the sequence of events relative to the Faculty Senate since December 12, 2014.

On December 12, Watson notified the Senate Executive Committee that he had disapproved virtually all the amendments to the Senate's constitution passed overwhelmingly by faculty in February 2014. His ten-page memorandum rejected 20 amendments (even though the faculty had only voted on 10 actual changes to the Constitution), while accepting the addition of the word “written” to his amendment 14.

In his memorandum, Watson said:

"It is important that Senators are elected according to the 2011 Constitution and Bylaws. Please be advised that any current Senator participating by discipline other than department is in violation of the 2011 Constitution and Bylaws. Unfortunately, until proposed amendments are approved, clinical faculty should not participate as Senators, according to the 2011 Constitution and Bylaws."

On December 18, 2014, I requested from Robin Hawkins, CSU Contract Administrator, the names of unit A faculty, including unit A clinical and research faculty. I also requested a roster of unit B faculty. I made this request with the intention of determining the number of Senators each department could elect. I received nothing from Ms. Hawkins.

On January 13, 2015, at a meeting between two members of the Executive Committee and a number of administrators: Wayne Watson, Angela Henderson, Patrick Cage, Paula Carney and Bernie Rowan, I told Henderson that I had requested this information from Hawkins, had received nothing, and asked Henderson for the same material. To date, I have received nothing.

Ignoring its complete culpability in this fiasco, the administration has now apparently decreed that new Senate elections must occur. Why? I think it is nothing but stupid, petty vindictive retaliation. Let me explain.

In the three years I have served on the Senate, the administration has totally ignored everything we have done. We have sent numerous resolutions and policy suggestions and have not gotten even the courtesy of a reply. In November 2012 and February 2014, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to express its “no-confidence” in Wayne Watson (both years) and Angela Henderson (2014). These no-confidence votes have resulted in no action from anyone. If the administration is able to convince candidates to run for Senate seats and it gains control of the Senate, how will that matter? Will some bootlicking lackey push through Senate resolutions extolling the greatness of Wayne Watson? What difference will that make to anyone?

If there is no practical purpose behind the administration’s efforts to control the Senate what might be some another reason for their great concern? Given this administration’s propensity for getting nothing done, it seems remarkable that they are able to retain their focus on this one issue for such a long time. Perhaps this will serve to distract the university community from the colossal administrative failures around enrollment and personnel practices (see Jim Crowley). While this is a possibility, it still seems unlikely.

Perhaps since virtually the entire university is spinning out of their control, our intrepid administrators want to sink their teeth into something at which they are somewhat adept: rigging elections and trying to control the Senate’s “message” to make it more compatible with the university’s “brand,” which, of course, has taken quite a beating under Wayne Watson’s stewardship.

I humbly suggest this as a possible explanation for what seems like a herculean effort to achieve very little: it is personal, simply retribution. There are at least two members of the Senate this administration probably does not like very well. Perhaps they feel some kind of imperative to effect their removal from that body. I wonder if they think that will staunch the flow of blog posts? Given the prestige and national reputation of Chicago State’s Senate, one of its members losing her/his position would truly be a terrible blow. Gaining control of the Senate and taking revenge on their tormentors by putting those miscreants in their place would be a tremendous victory for Watson and his stooges. What a bone-headed idea.

There really seems to be no “win” here for this administration. In any event, if they can rouse themselves to provide the information necessary to hold a legitimate election, the departments will do so. Absent that, their demands are simply unacceptable.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Administrative Bloat Plagues Chicago State: The Colleges

A few days ago, I detailed the growth of Chicago State’s upper administrative ranks despite the school’s continued enrollment declines. Administrators on the university’s academic side have also mushroomed. A look at the various Dean’s offices demonstrates this.

Comparing the student enrollment in the various colleges in Fall 2010 with student enrollments in Spring 2015, and comparing the salary expenditures for the respective Dean’s offices during the same time period reveals a disjuncture similar to the one I noted previously in the non-academic administrative ranks.

In 2010 (Fiscal Year 2011), the Dean’s offices in the Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business, Education, Health Sciences, Pharmacy and the University Library included 10 upper-level administrative employees: 4 Deans, 3 Associate Deans, 1 Assistant Dean and one Assistant to the Dean. Aggregate salaries for these 10 employees: $1,154,652. In the fiscal 2015 budget, the number of positions in the College Dean’s offices had mushroomed to 17, including 6 Deans, 6 Associate Deans, 1 Assistant Dean and 4 Assistants to the Dean. Aggregate salaries for these 17 employees: $1,915,528. Percentage increases work out to a 70 percent increase in the number of employees and a 66 percent increase in salary expenditures.

These increases do not seem warranted given the precipitous declines in enrollment the school has experienced since 2010. Here are the figures: enrollment in the College of Arts and Sciences has dropped from 2549 students in Fall 2010 to 2036 students on January 16, 2015, a decrease of 20.1 percent; enrollment in the College of Business has dropped from 714 to 528, a decline of 26.1 percent; enrollment in the College of Education has plummeted from 1391 to 635, a decline of 54.3 percent; enrollment in the College of Health Sciences has declined from 1023 to 759, a drop of 25.8 percent, while enrollment in the College of Pharmacy has actually increased from 266 to 340, a growth rate of 27.8 percent (with the caveat that the College’s enrollment has declined since Fall 2013 from 358 to 340, a decrease of 5 percent).

Now I certainly do not begrudge any of these persons their jobs and I assuredly have no desire to join their ranks, but I have to ask: how does the president of this university justify such an outlandish expansion of administrative employees while the university sheds student by the thousands? Yesterday’s enrollment stood at 4751 students, a drop of 35.5 percent since Fall 2010. If the number and salaries for administrators had mirrored the university’s enrollment changes, here is what the numbers would look like:

The number of high-level administrators outside of the colleges would have been reduced from 45 to 29 with the salary expenditures decreasing from $4.47 million to $2.93 million. Instead, they have swollen to 57 with aggregate salaries of $5.9 million. By the same token, the college administrative numbers would have been reduced 10 to 7, with salaries decreasing from $1.15 million to $753,000. Instead, those numbers have risen to 17 administrators at an aggregate salary of $1.9 million. Why?

Based on my admittedly unsophisticated mathematical calculations, I estimate that the university is now spending at least $3.8 million more on administrators in support units and the various colleges than it spent in 2010. All this in a school with 2600 fewer students than it had then. Again, why? What, exactly, are all these people administering?

Monday, January 26, 2015

More Disgraceful Financial Shenanigans at Chicago State: Wayne Watson Extends His Middle Finger to Illinois Taxpayers, Students and Staff at Chicago State

At a meeting some time ago with faculty from several other Illinois universities, one of the attendees remarked that the reason no one has intervened to put a stop to the Watson administration at Chicago State is because “no one values the students there.” Given the continuing disaster of the Watson administration it seems difficult to argue with that assessment. What follows will detail what should be another fiscal scandal, further proof that one of Wayne Watson’s “accomplishments” has been doling out high-paying jobs to administrators who have put the university on life support. Of course, because this is happening at Chicago State, no one will even notice as Wayne Watson thumbs his nose at Illinois taxpayers and the staff and students at this school.

As I reported a few days ago, the most recent enrollment data I saw put our student population at 4668, a decrease of 2694 students from the number attending the school at the beginning of Fiscal Year 2011. You might think that a 36 percent reduction in the student population might result in some hard choices for a responsible administration. For the Watson administration, those choices are not that difficult: they are now crying poverty as they reportedly take the ax to the remnants of the Economics program and dismantle the HIV/AIDS Research Center. An indeterminate number of employees have apparently already been laid off and more doubtless will follow.

Against this backdrop of austerity we see a dramatic increase in our administrative ranks. Using the most recently created Chicago State Organizational Chart and comparing it with the 2011 Organizational Chart (the year our enrollment peaked at 7362), we see Wayne Watson spending recklessly to insure that he increases the administrative ranks and rewards his loyalists for their services.

The 2011 Organizational Chart detailed 45 administrative positions with titles like Assistant Director, Director, Dean, and Vice President. These university spent at least $4.47 million in salaries for these 45 employees. By 2015, the number had increased by 26.7 percent, to 57 high-level administrators at a cost to the university of over $5.9 million in salary, an increase of 32 percent from 2011. How does anyone charged with leading a university justify this kind of increase in top-level administrators while the school bleeds out?

Even more notable is the increase in the upper administrative ranks. In 2011, Chicago State’s Organizational Chart showed 3 Vice Presidents and 3 Associate Vice Presidents. In 2015, those numbers had nearly doubled, with 5 Vice Presidents and 6 Associate Vice Presidents on the Organizational Chart. In addition, Watson has created a number of other high-salaried positions: the school now has 2 Assistant Provosts; in 2011 we had none. While the number of Deans dropped from 11 in 2011 to 10 this year, the number of Directors increased from 22 in 2011 to 27 in 2015. In total, in 2011 the school employed 6 Vice Presidents/AVPs, 11 Deans and 22 Directors, a total of 39 upper level administrators. In 2015, we have swollen to 11 Vice Presidents/AVPs, 2 Assistant Provosts, 10 Deans, and 27 Directors, an increase to 50 positions (a gain of 28.2 percent). Again, how can this kind of metastatic growth be justified?

Watson has also generously rewarded his administrators for their failures. Reminiscent of a corporate executive who has looted the company and walked away with a large bonus while the employees get screwed, Watson will head into his comfortable retirement after giving away millions of dollars in public monies to his friends and cronies. Altogether, 18 of our current administrators have been at Chicago State since 2011. These 18 persons made an aggregate of $1.875 million in 2011. They make $2.3 million now, an average increase of 23 percent and an average yearly salary increase of just over $23,000. Since 2011, I have gotten roughly a 9 percent salary increase. How about you?

Finally, given the school’s total payroll of around $65 million, the additional $1.4 million Watson has spent on administrators could have been spent on a 2 percent salary increase for everyone in the place. Alternatively, imagine what $1.4 million might do to enhance the learning experience of our students, or perhaps to make critical repairs to buildings with roofs that leak like sieves or toilets that have been inoperable for months. Of course, that would be a frivolous expenditure of money that is necessary to insure that Watson’s cronies enjoy all the economic benefits this failed administration can provide.

Anyone interested in a copy of the latest Organizational Chart, send me an e-mail and I will send one along.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

A Follow Up To Yesterday's Game

So I don't really accept things as coincidental so this revelation makes yesterday's post on the HIV-AIDS Research and Policy Institute all the more troubling. An article from indicates that CSU is near the bottom of the list in providing students with "sexual health resources." If this is, in fact the case, it makes the shuttering of the Institute all the more troubling. Not only is the decision a failure for the community this administration purportedly serves, it is a double failure because the student community is also under served. All of this comes at a time when the university has a provost who reportedly has some passing familiarity with the health care arena. Yet the same provost has made no stand or public statement on either of these situations. Things must be taken in total and in context. The university's enrollment is plummeting. Apparently students aren't welcomed or nurtured here and are voting with their feet. This is simply another example of failure associated with this administration. The question must be asked again. 
When will this ridiculous farce end?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Let's Play A Game

So loyal readers, let’s play a game of this can’t be true. I will give you five statements and you decide if it’s true or not.
First, the university support of professional development namely the Faculty Resource Network, has been eliminated because the unquantifiable wasn’t quantified. Yes, that’s true. The “geniuses” in the administration could not figure out the value added to the university for having faculty participate in this extremely worthwhile program. Chalk one up for the incompetents on the third floor for doing away with a program that in the grand scheme costs nothing.
Second, the university has had nine consecutive semesters of declining enrollment. Ok, you already know the answer to that question. As reported here, CSU is near the bottom of the list nationally in enrollment since 2010. Thanks to incompetent administrators and the bored trustees the university faces the very real prospect of diving beneath 4,000 students for the Fall 2015 semester. Contrary to the popular administration narrative of national trends, the data doesn’t quite support the narrative.
Third, the HIV/AIDS Research and Policy Institute is being closed. Though no official word has gone out as of this publication, unofficially the university is moving in a different direction vis-a-vis HIV-AIDS. This is particularly peculiar given that the African-American community is disproportionately impacted thirty plus years into this epidemic. Score another public relations hit for the regime with this one.
Fourth, library resources are being reduced. I know, how serious is a university that hires a Library Dean with no Library Science degree and then doesn’t name the building save for NAL (New Academic Library)? After being operational for ten years the bored trustees can't name it? Now resources that academics would assume would be available at an institution of higher learning are suddenly on the chopping block. And which six figure administrator is going to bat for academic interests. As of this writing, none!
Finally, in the category of “You Can’t Make This Up”, the university that has entrepreneurship as part of its mission eliminated the Economics degree, the Economics department and has now served termination notices to the remaining faculty, telling them that adjuncts can teach whatever needs to be taught. The attack on tenure continues and every tenured faculty member should be aware of the threat to their jobs. Don’t for one minute think that you are the subject matter experts in your discipline. This administration views faculty as interchangeable parts. It should not surprise any of my faculty colleagues as this administration has no university faculty experience. Deans and chairs who have never been faculty and are then expected to participate in personnel actions is disgraceful.
This administration is like Santa Claus, the gift that keeps on giving.   Or is that necrotizing fasciitis, the flesh eating bacteria that keeps on giving???

Thursday, January 22, 2015

An Update on Enrollment: Not Too Good

Here is the most current enrollment data from the administration: Total headcount: 4668, FTE count: 3578. In Fall 2010, when the enrollment decline began, the headcount stood at 7362 with an FTE total of 5464. Thus, Chicago State now enrolls 63.4 percent of the 2010 population with 65.5 percent of the Full-Time Equivalents. Of course, that means that our enrollment has dropped more than one-third since Fall 2010. As I mentioned in my earlier post, please note the discrepancies in the headcount and FTE numbers actually reported on January 21, 2014 and the 2014 numbers reported on January 21, 2015. The numbers reported in 2015 make the difference between 2015 and 2014 levels significantly smaller. As you can see, the actual 2014 headcount was 5284. In this year's report, that number has been reduced to 5052. Using the number actually reported in 2014 changes the previous year's drop to 616 from 384 and the percentage decline to 11.7 percent instead of 8 percent. Similarly, for the FTE number, the actual number reported in 2014 was 3969 instead of 3873. Using the 2014 figure increases the FTE drop to 369 from 296, and increases the percentage drop to 9 percent from 8 percent:

How bad is this? If Chicago State were a business, we would be awash in red ink. Although I expect our Spring enrollment to increase between now and the February 12 census date, we are looking at another semester, our ninth consecutive, of enrollment losses. I estimate our Spring 2015 decline will be between 6 and 8 percent. This simply underscores the fact that all of our enrollment numbers (or “metrics” if you prefer) for the past 4 and one-half years are dismal. Here’s a catalog:

Between Fall 2010 and Fall 2013, Chicago State suffered the sixth highest enrollment decline among 257 universities and colleges; public non-reasearch institutions and Thurgood Marshall Scholarship members. In Fall 2013, our enrollment decline since 2010 stood at 22.6 percent. In the past three semesters, the decline has increased to 36.6 percent.

Across the United States between the same years, enrollment in these 257 schools dropped a total of 3217 students out of a total of 2.5 million. Compared to Chicago State’s 22.6 percent drop, the national average was a 0.1 percent decline.

Compared to the four other former Board of Governor’s universities in Illinois, our enrollment decline is more than twice that of the average of those four other schools: 9.1 percent. Needless to say, we are the worst of that lot.

An examination of our enrollment history reveals that enrollment at Chicago State has dropped to a level not seen since the mid-1960s. The last year the school’s administration reported an enrollment below 5,000 was 1966-67. However, the figures reported in 1966 and also in 1965 were totals for resident students. There were an additional number of non-resident students who were not reported on the documents I examined. Between 1970 and 1973, the number of non-resident students ranged from 391 to 694, with the yearly average being 533. In the aggregate, 8.7 percent of Chicago State’s students in those four years were non-residents, with the smallest percentage being 6.9 percent non-resident students in 1972-73.

Increasing the 1965 (4541) and 1966 (4557) enrollments by 6.9 percent results in a total enrollment closer to 4850 in 1965 and 4875 in 1966. Using the four-year average of 8.7 percent results in enrollment totals above 4900 for both years. In 1967, Chicago State’s enrollment increased to 5062 and never dropped below that level until this semester.

In 1965, Chicago State became one of five Board of Governors Schools in Illinois. Prior to 1965, Chicago State had been governed by the City of Chicago, which reported enrollment for the “Chicago Teacher’s College.” Unfortunately, the City of Chicago’s reports do not differentiate between Chicago Teacher’s College-North (now NEIU) and Chicago Teacher’s College-South (now CSU), so I have been unable to determine Chicago State’s enrollment prior to 1965. Suffice it to say, if our Spring enrollment fails to reach 4900, it will be the lowest enrollment at Chicago State since records began to treat the school as a discrete entity. Metaphorically speaking, Wayne Watson and his administration have taken us back to the Stone Age. Here’s Watson contemplating the lavish lifestyle he will enjoy after destroying Chicago State:

The administration has resorted to a number of tactics to spin the enrollment disaster and to blame it on anyone but themselves. Let us take a look at some of these rationales and evaluate them based on the existing data.

First: Chicago State’s enrollment drop simply reflects what is going on today in higher education, lots of schools have lost students. Analysis: LIE. Our enrollment decline is one of epic proportions, close to the worst in the nation. Of the 257 schools I analyzed, more than 110 have actually increased their enrollments during the 2010-13 period. Chicago State’s enrollment decline is virtually unparalleled and is certainly unprecendented given the school’s long history.

Second: being down over 600 students at this point is actually OK, since the average drop between Fall and Spring is 800. Analysis: LIE. As I said in a previous post, since 2004, our average enrollment loss between Fall and Spring is 355 students. Just an average drop this Spring will take our enrollment down th 4856. Again, this enrollment level is unprecedented.

Third: We are “right-sizing” the university. Analysis: WHOPPER OF A LIE. This bullshit has been spread around by a number of administrative hacks, including our reputed president. This narrative just recently became popular, obviously a response to the continued bloodletting caused by our students leaving in droves. Recently, Watson claimed that the desirable level was 5200-5000. What will it be next? 4000? 3000? It all depends on how low the enrollment sinks and whether or not the state will allow the university to continue to exist.

Fourth: Enrollment will stabilize this Spring. Analysis: LIE. Watson spouted this nonsense at the most recent Board meeting. Even by early December, the data suggested we were poised for another enrollment decline. Nonetheless, Watson expressed “hope” that the policies and practices developed by his crack “team” would stem the bleeding. Does not look likely.

Wayne Watson has never taken responsibility for anything adverse in more than 20 years as an “administrator” of institutions of higher education. The recent course-cutting fiasco can be laid at the feet of the administrators responsible for cutting courses. Their decisions were so awful that they negatively affected dozens of students. In response, the administration has stupidly decided that what is necessary is a two-year teaching schedule for Chicago State’s faculty. This “urgent request” for two-year schedules was first communicated to faculty two days ago with a deadline of today for submission. Now, we have been given until the end of the month to comply with this ridiculous request. Here’s the charge from one of our administrators: “I just want to inform you that we must take this two-year plan very seriously: Review enrollment/trend data for a number of past semesters, including the semesters for which I sent you data, consult with faculty in your program, and try two develop a plan that would minimize or eliminate the need for course cancellations.”

So, we are supposed to do all those things and create a schedule for the next two years (including Summer session) between now and January 31. All that in order to insure that necessary courses are not cut by our administrative drones. After all, the most recent course cancellations were the faculty’s fault. Of course, the latest imperial edict ignores the most important variable in the entire process: our enrollment.

This is a university in dire straits with an administration incapable of addressing any of our major problems. Compounding that are middle managers who do nothing but pass along the administration’s latest idiocy and expect the faculty to hop to it. Does anyone’s Chair ever say no to these foolish and unnecessary administrative requests? Do the Deans?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Small Comfort to Know That We're Not Alone: NEIU Screws Its Students With Nonsensical Course Cuts

Given my distinguished colleague’s recent post, I thought it might be instructive to take a look at what one of our sister universities has done to combat draconian course cuts. At Northeastern Illinois University, a number of adjunct faculty are taking—at great risk to themselves—a leading role in both organizing efforts and mobilizing students to protest arbitrary and capricious course cancellations by their administration. Much of what follows will be familiar to Chicago State students and faculty.

Last November, Northeastern Illinois students, faculty and staff sent the following letter to their administration and Board of Trustees:

"Board of Trustees,
Office of the Ombudsman, Bradley R. Ginn, J.D.
Northeastern Illinois University
5500 North Saint Louis Ave.
Chicago, IL 60625

Dear Board of Trustees Office and the Ombudsman of Northeastern Illinois University:

The Provost of NEIU, Richard Helldobler, attempts to justify his policy of cancelling selected course enrollments early in the registration process by claiming that “only” about 45% of our students work. As a consequence, he says that NEIU need not offer a wide range of courses at a wide array of times. This “enrollment strategy” strikes at the very heart of the university, forcing our core constituency of mature, working, non-traditional students to go elsewhere. The Provost’s policy has led to an enrollment decrease of 5%, thus far.

Moreover, this cancellation policy has disrupted teaching assignments already agreed to by scores of full- and part-time Instructors, and placed undue financial hardship on their families. Because of the Affordable Care Act, the university is threatening faculty, staff, and work study students with termination if they work over 28 hours per week, since that would require NEIU to cover healthcare costs that the administration claims it cannot afford. Meanwhile, NEIU President Hahs earns about $330,000; top administrator salaries average $185,000, and NEIU has added 16 new administrators since 2002.

The Board of Trustees has stamped their approval on this campaign, fundamentally changing the mission of our university: a commuter state school originally created to educate students from area neighborhoods and suburbs, empowering and encouraging those students to return to their communities upon graduation.

Many instructors are graduates of NEIU who have returned to give back to our students what we ourselves received from our teachers before us. Just because we may not have tenure does not mean we are not valuable members of the university, or that we are not part of that same university which has provided so much for our graduates. Why do you think Northeastern ranks with Harvard, Princeton, MIT and Stanford in Newsweek’s Top Ten best investments? Instructors have made important working connections in area schools, businesses, law offices, and state and local governmental agencies.

We are asking you, the Board of Trustees, to end enrollment strategies that hurt teachers and students, and to keep courses open as long as possible and, more importantly, reinvest in the instruction of our students by creating better and more secure working conditions for the instructors at Northeastern Illinois University. We look to you as the stewards of this great university to remain true to our vision and mission."

The persons spearheading this effort to get another unresponsive university board to listen to their concerns delivered at least 95 signed letters to their Board of Trustees. According to one of NEIU’s faculty members, “the word is they were disposed of and they were never read,” although the Ombudsman apparently responded to those tenured and tenure-track faculty who provided e-mail addresses along with their signatures.

In addition to these efforts, NEIU faculty surveyed students about their views on the Fall course cancellations. More than 200 students responded and their comments paint a portrait of a university administration operating with scant regard for the needs of students, a practice that mirrors what happens here at Chicago State.

It is up to us, working collectively, to save our institution. In that spirit, I invite students, staff and faculty to express their thoughts on this year’s course cancellations here at Chicago State. If you wish to respond, e-mail me at or at As always, the identity of respondents will be held in strictest confidence.

Also, if you are interested in the goings-on at NEIU, I will be happy to put you in touch with someone on that campus. Here's a photo taken of three of the persons who delivered the letters to the NEIU Board. Anyone look familiar?:

Sunday, January 18, 2015

More Incompetence on the Academic Side

So does anyone know why adjunct faculty would be told not to meet their classes and conduct instruction at the beginning of the semester? Would it be because the provost’s office hadn’t completed the employment contracts for nearly three dozen adjunct faculty?  Incredibly, this university has actually employed adjunct faculty before the current regime was installed but for some reason this administration is incapable of basic administrative functions. The victims of their continued incompetence are the students. What explanation could possibly be provided to students about the number of courses cancelled and now the absence of faculty to teach the remaining classes? What inane jargon is to be spewed by the provost about another failure that negatively impacts students? What possible accountability will be had for another avoidable failure? Will the provost be forced to work on Saturdays, as she did yesterday, as punishment? Which subordinates will be thrown under the bus to deflect blame from where it belongs; the chairs, the deans??? Because this administration is blameless in its own eyes for any of its well documented failures, we should expect some other entity to bear the responsibility for low enrollment, high course cancellation numbers and now, incomplete adjunct contracts. Might some legislators inquire about the goings on at CSU during upcoming budget hearings or will they employ the see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil strategy to deal with an imploding CSU?

Travelling Through Time With Wayne Watson and His Clown Show

Since I started blogging about the incredible enrollment declines for which Wayne Watson has been responsible—both at City Colleges and here at Chicago State—a number of people have asked me when Chicago State’s enrollment had last been so low. The records are pretty meager, but I can answer that question, although not definitively. In the next few days, I will attempt to gain a fuller picture of our enrollments prior to 2001.

In any event, let us join Mr. Peabody and Sherman in the WABAC (Way Back) Machine and go in search of the last time Chicago State’s enrollment dropped below 5,000 students. Of course, if you don’t know who Mr. Peabody and Sherman are, I suggest checking out “Rocky and Bullwinkle” on the web.

We stop on October 18, 1965, when the President of the Illinois Teachers College Chicago-South reported his school’s enrollment at 4541 students. Here’s a look at the typescript report from that bygone era. Just for some historical context, Lyndon Johnson was president of the United States and the U.S. involvement in Vietnam had only recently begun to escalate. In 1965, the Illinois Teachers College Chicago-South occupied a site near 69th and Wentworth. Not until the early 1970s did the school move to its current location, changing its name to Chicago State College, then to Chicago State University.

So, thanks are in order to Watson and his cronies for taking us back to 1965. And a special thanks to the Chicago State Board of Trustees, the group most reponsible for the disaster that is unfolding before our eyes. By all means, tell us again how enamored you are with Watson’s “vision” for the school.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

To My Faculty Colleagues: I Think You Had Better Prepare Yourselves for Another Enrollment Hemorrhage

I am writing this in the hope that I am proven wrong because the consequences for our school—particularly our students—are so potentially dire. We will see.

As a reminder, at the December 11, 2014, meeting of the Chicago State Board of Trustees, Board Chairman Anthony Young asked: “Do you expect the spring enrollment for this year to be equal to the spring enrollment from last year?” Wayne Watson responded with: “Our enrollment is going to stabilize . . . [t]hat stabilization should be taking place this coming semester, meaning this spring semester.”

We are getting close to the time when Watson’s cocksure assertion can be evaluated. How do things look for our empty suit president? Well folks, it looks like another steep enrollment drop is in the offing. Your might remember that our Fall enrollment dropped from 5701 in 2013 to 5211 in 2014. The extant data suggest that enrollment for Spring 2015 will come in at or just above 4800. Here are my calculations:

Enrollment as of Friday, January 16, 2015: 4811.

Last year at basically the same period of time (Saturday, January 18, 2014), the school’s enrollment stood at 5283. At the ten-day count on February 13, 2014, the enrollment had grown by only 14 students, to the final total of 5297. Thus, with the same increase of 14 students between now and February 12, Chicago State’s Spring enrollment would be 4825. However, I have to point out at least one caveat: last year at this time, students had been dropped for failing to validate their enrollments. This year, the validation date has been pushed back to February 12. Of course, that means our current enrollment number includes students who will ultimately be dropped for failing to pay for their classes.

How long will the people in positions with the power to change our leadership allow this to continue? Beginning earlier this week, highly-placed administrators like the Provost began advancing a narrative apparently designed to prepare us for another enrollment disaster. For some of Watson’s well-paid cronies, much of their energy seems geared toward putting lipstick (or a tuxedo if you prefer) on the administrative pig.

The depths to which the school has descended seem perfectly understandable given the caliber of our senior leadership. As I have noted a number of times on this forum, Wayne Watson has done nothing scholarly since writing his dissertation in 1972. He has no academic reputation and outside of a circle of sycophants and political allies, his “reputation” as an administrator is horrific. Frankly, this kind of disaster is what you get when you hire your spectacularly unqualified girlfriend as a key Enrollment Management administrator, along the way ignoring the lies on her application, or when you hire your longtime friend and crony as the head of Enrollment Management then, after an abysmal performance in that capacity, inexplicably promote her to the position of Provost. While you are thumbing your nose at the staff, students and faculty with these appointments, you bring along a number of your former City College loyalists, rewarding them with hefty raises and promotions despite breathtakingly inept performances.

Wayne Watson will walk away from the carnage he has created with a second hefty pension. Here is his current legacy at Chicago State: Enrollment in Fall 2010: 7362. Enrollment in Spring 2015: 4800? If our enrollment drops that low, the percentage decrease since Fall 2010 has reached nearly 35 percent. How in the world does anyone in charge of anything retain a position with such a performance? It is long past time for someone to back up a truck to the Cook building and fill it with the people who have put us in this position. Get these people out of here while there is still a school left (as horribly wounded as it is) to salvage.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The FIRE Lawsuit against CSU's violation of free speech in civility and cyberbullying policies will continue--Judge rules

In case you missed this I'm posting an article someone sent me from The College Fix. It summarizes this week's judgment against CSU in the FIRE lawsuit on free speech on campus. Check it out. There is also a post on the FIRE website which I've also linked below. There you can find a link to the Judge's ruling. Techdirt is another site interested in CSU's actions: "IP-Bullying University Fails To Have First Amendment Lawsuit Against It Tossed from the our-threats-weren't-actual-threats,-you-gotta-believe-us! dept." Techdirt's link is below.

So many lawsuits to track... so much time and so much money wasted.



Before Marquette University punished the outspoken conservative professor John McAdams for blogging, Chicago State University was embroiled in a similar fight with two of its blogging faculty.

A federal judge ruled this week that those professors can continue their First Amendment lawsuit against the administration for allegedly chilling their speech, using an expansive reading of the school’s trademark rights among other policies.

The case is part of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s Stand Up for Speech project, and the second this month to get a judge’s blessing to move forward. The ruling last week at Iowa State University also involved disputed trademarks.

Professors Phillip Beverly and Robert Bionaz contribute to a blog that’s frequently critical of the CSU administration, CSU Faculty Voice. Though the blog isn’t hosted on university servers, the professors claim that the school has tried to shut it down.

CSU’s policies on cyberbullying and computer usage are broad enough to chill the professors’ expression, they said, and the school said the blog’s use of CSU’s name and trademarks “caused confusion” and “implied CSU’s endorsement” of its commentary.

‘Civility’ as a threat to take legal action

Judge Joan Gottschall focused on a cease-and-desist letter the administration sent to Beverly, specifically its reference to “civility” – a watchword that has gripped faculty around the country since the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign revoked a job offer to anti-Israel academic Steven Salaita.

CSU General Counsel Patrick Cage told Beverly the blog’s “lack of civility and professionalism” violates university policies. The professors “stress that this letter is dated one business day after” a blog post accused the school’s interim provost of having “partially falsified her resume,” Gottschall said.

Though the administration says the “civility” reference wasn’t a legal threat to use the cyberbullying or computer-usage policies against the professors, “[i]t is eminently reasonable to read the letter as a demand to shut down” the blog for its “alleged failure to meet CSU on-line civility standards,” Gottschall said.

Both policies have civility overtones, the judge said: One prohibits “any communication which tends to embarrass or humiliate any member of the community” and the other “could be read as prohibiting a series of negative blog posts.” Gottschall noted neither policy explicitly limits itself to material hosted on the university’s servers.

The professors have clearly stated “their First Amendment rights were chilled” because of CSU’s language against their blog, Gottschall said, denying the school’s claim that their fears were “speculative.” She said the professors raised the school’s trademark theories only for “context” about their First Amendment claims.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education said the professors’ next goal is to get a preliminary injunction against the school, so it can’t enforce the cyberbullying or computer-usage policies or send any more cease-and-desist letters about the blog.

Gottschall has referred the case to a magistrate judge to consider that injunction “while the litigation is ongoing and to explore settlement options,” according to the foundation.

Greg Piper is an assistant editor at The College Fix. (@GregPiper)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

More Enrollment Shenanigans: More Untruthfulness from Our Administration

During the five-plus years he and his cronies have blighted this university, Wayne Watson and his administration have advanced a number of false narratives in support of his failed presidency. Given the looming enrollment debacle for Spring 2015, Angela Henderson recently articulated the latest iteration of bullshit that steadily emanates from the Cook building. Here it is:

On Tuesday, in two separate meetings I attended, she made the assertion that our average enrollment decline from Fall to Spring numbers around 800 students. In front of the Faculty Senate, she took this assertion in a ridiculous direction, claiming that even though that morning’s enrollment figure—632 fewer students than ultimately registered for the previous Spring semester—was “pretty good” compared to our average loss of 800 students between Fall and Spring.

Of course, our intrepid administrators often forget that a documentary record frequently exists to expose their falsehoods. In this case, it is the audit reports on the Illinois Auditor General’s web site. These reports reveal enrollment data for Chicago State University for each semester since Fall 2004. Thus, ten years of information exists against which we can test Henderson’s claims. That data reveals their falsity and also demonstrates a previously unexplored dimension of Wayne Watson’s epic enrollment failure.

First, the average enrollment decline from Fall to Spring semester for the past 10 years (20 semesters from Fall 2004 through Spring 2014) is 355.3 students per year. Enrollment from Fall to Spring has declined in all of those school years (2004-05 through 2013-14) with the range being a low of 182 students in 2009-10 to a high of 620 students in 2011-12. So any claim that we lose an average of 800 students per school year between Fall and Spring semesters is either pathetically uninformed or intentionally deceptive. Is it really possible for the Provost of a university to be that ill-informed about her school's enrollment trends?

The enrollment data also exposes a troubling trend in our enrollment travails. In the pre-Watson days, enrollment always declined from Fall to Spring. However, enrollment in the subsequent Fall semester always exceeded the same year’s Spring enrollment. If this is confusing, here are the figures: Spring 2005 enrollment: 6643, Fall 2005: 7131, a gain of 488; Spring 2006: 6654, Fall 2006: 7035, a gain of 381; Spring 2007: 6548, Fall 2007: 6810, a gain of 262; Spring 2008: 6544; Fall: 6820, a gain of 276; Spring 2009: 6388, Fall 2009: 7235, a gain of 847. This makes the average Spring to Fall change in enrollment (pre-Watson) an increase of 450.8 students per year.

Under Wayne Watson, that pattern has changed. After his first year, when enrollment rose by 309 students between Spring 2010 and Fall 2010, his tenure has been marred by steady enrollment declines from Spring to Fall. Here are Wayne Watson’s numbers: Spring 2010: 7053, Fall 2010: 7362, a gain of 309; Spring 2011: 7165, Fall 2011: 6882, a decrease of 283; Spring 2012: 6262, Fall 2012: 6107, a decrease of 155; Spring 2013: 5821, Fall 2013: 5701, a decrease of 120; Spring 2014: 5297, Fall 2014: 5211, a decrease of 86. The average Spring-Fall change in enrollment under Watson’s regime: a decrease of 66.6 students each year. As a result of this new pattern, Chicago State University under Wayne Watson’s leadership has experienced eight (8) consecutive semesters of enrollment declines. Not just from Fall to Fall, but from Fall to Spring and from Spring to Fall. Just let that sink in for a minute. Chicago State has not had an enrollment increase of any kind in any semester since Fall 2010! What do we expect for Spring 2015? At this point, we can only hope that our enrollment will inch its way up to the anemic total of 5,000. Here is a table detailing the enrollments since 2004-05:

Of course, in early December, our administrators were talking about an enrollment goal of 5597 students, which would have been an unprecedented increase of 300 from the Fall semester. Maybe someone should have consulted the historical trend data before coming up with that ludicrous figure. Right now, it looks like we will struggle to hold the next decline to under 5 percent.

In addition, I wonder if the comparative figures we are getting are accurate. The January 13, 2014 enrollment report I received on January 13, 2014 shows the enrollment at 4968. The January 13, 2015 enrollment report, which compares the total on that date with the previous year’s total enrollment, shows a January 13, 2014 enrollment of 4772. Why does that matter? The January 13, 2015 daily report shows our enrollment down by 107 students or 2 percent from the previous year. However, substituting the numbers distributed in 2014 for the 2014 numbers included in this year’s report changes our position significantly. Instead of being down 107 students, we are down 303 students. Instead of a percentage drop of 2 percent from the previous year, substituting the numbers released in 2014 increases the decline to 6.1 percent. To illustrate, here are the two different enrollment reports:

During the presidential campaign of 2000, the moronic George W. Bush used the term “funny math” to disparage some of Al Gore’s claims. It looks like here at Chicago State we have developed our own version of “funny math.” We use it to fool the rubes.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Public Admission

So loyal readers, I feel compelled to admit to being wrong about a recent prediction I made about the number of courses that would be cut this semester. I predicted 250 courses would be cut. I was wrong. It was actually 278. Of the roughly 1,500 courses we started with that is only an 18% cancellation rate. I wonder what would happen to an airline that cancelled 18% of its flights. How long would that airline stay in business? So what happens to a university that develops a reputation as an institution where students can't get the classes that they need to graduate in a timely manner? Does enrollment decline? No faculty member would argue that no classes should be cancelled but the process used by this administration is so dysfunctional as to be counter-productive to sound management practices. In the past five or so years there was much hoopla about the implementation of Ad Astra. It was to be the tool that would manage space utilization, course planning, and scheduling. The university would be saved from the semi-annual blooding ritual known as the cut session. At yesterday's Faculty Senate meeting, the body was informed that the university, did not purchase the module of Ad Astra that manages course planning. There was talk, according to the Provost, but as usual no action taken. The administration is much more focused on the minutia of faculty governance apparently as many hours have been dedicated by this administration to ensuring the most disrespectful intrusion into faculty affairs possible by administrators with no university experience, much less university faculty experience. As an aside, I find it deeply troubling that a provost would be appointed who is not tenurable in an academic department. That slap in the face of all faculty demonstrates the utter contempt this failure of an administration holds for its professional betters. But I digress.The administration's inept response to this fiasco is to try to fix individual students' situations instead of some rational, data driven decision making about a process that has devolved into a horror for the less than 5, 000 remaining students. As long as band aids are applied to sucking chest wounds, the patients will die. In our case enrollment, now in the hands of the least competent administrator on campus, will continue to plummet. 
One of my distinguished colleagues has often commented on the nature of the patronage pit that is CSU. The irony is that there will be no patronage without students enrolling for classes. There won't be students if the word on the street is that CSU has no classes to offer. This university is circling the drain and if the "reformers" in the state want to eliminate the patronage pit, all they need do is let this Board and administration stay in place just a couple of semesters longer.
Another cruel joke played by the universe was the small flicker of hope that the Board of Trustees might be righted with the appointment by Pat Quinn of former State Representative Kim du Buclet. The late term appointment was promptly rescinded by Governor Rauner. And the disintegration of the university now continues unabated. For those of us who actually care about the university and don't just mouth the words, we should send Thank You cards to Pat Quinn in his much needed retirement for his part in this avoidable disaster.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Further Reflections on Course Cancellations: Analyzing the Cuts in Students’ Education

I stand by the argument I made a few days ago: the “cut session” in which administrators cancel courses only serves to destroy the very foundation of the university: students pursuing their education. In order to provide further evidence for this argument, I will examine several of the courses that were cancelled in the Spring 2015 semester. To be clear, I am only looking at courses cancelled in the College of Arts & Sciences (CAS), since I received a detailed spreadsheet of all courses in the CAS for the semester, detailing which courses were kept and which were cancelled. In addition, I’m sure faculty in the programs affected could provide much more detail than I do here about each course and its relevance to their programs. I just try to focus on the most apparent problems of cancelling these courses.

The first group of courses that I will highlight are freshmen seminar courses, which presumably are best for students to take while they are freshmen. Two of these courses were cancelled in the Spring 2015 semester:
--BIOL 1000-61, Freshman Seminar in Biology (6 students registered when it was cut)
--C J 1099-01, Freshman Seminar in Criminal Justice (6 students registered when it was cut)
In both cases, these were the only sections of these courses offered. So, will students in these majors be exempt from such courses or will they have to take them after the courses are no longer useful?

A larger group of courses cancelled in the Spring 2015 semester are general education courses, typically also most useful to take early in one’s undergraduate education. These include courses for which there were no other sections, such as:
--ANTH 1010-01, Intro. to Cultural Anthropology (8 students registered when it was cut)
--PH S 1150-01, Basic Astronomy (5 students registered out of 20 max when it was cut).
Also, the only evening sections of many general education courses were cancelled, including:
--ENG 1240-61, Writer’s Workshop II (9 students registered out of 20 max when it was cut)
--ENG 1270-61, Composition I (6 students registered when it was cut) 
--FREN 1020-61, Elementary French II (7 students registered when it was cut)
--MUS 1134-61, History & Appreciation of Music (6 students registered when it was cut)
--PH S 1100-61, Practical Physics I (5 students registered out of 20 max when it was cut)
Cancelling the only evening sections of general education courses puts students in these courses in difficult situations, since they are likely unable to take the daytime sections of these courses due to work, family responsibilities, or even other courses they are taking. Finally, there are cases like SOC 1010-01 & 1010-03, Intro to Sociology (8 & 9 students registered respectively when the sections were cut), which are both gen ed course and required for the major & minor in Sociology. Does the administration really think these two sections wouldn’t add another 3-4 students prior to the start of the semester? Even if they didn’t, what are these 17 students supposed to do?

The last major group of courses cancelled that I want to note are courses which are important for major programs and graduate programs. Often these are upper-level (3000 or 4000-level) courses, which presumably would not require as many students for the course to run successfully as one would need in an introductory level course. This group also includes core courses for major programs, which may be at the 1000 or 2000-level. Most of the time, these are the only sections of these courses offered.  Here are just some of these kinds of courses which were cancelled for the Spring 2015 semester:
--AFAM 3020-61, The Great Debate (7 students registered when it was cut)
--BIOL 3055-61, Evolutionary Biology (5 students registered when it was cut):  required course for Biology majors (at least those with Environmental Biology or Secondary Teaching options)
--CHEM 3240-01, Inorganic Chemistry (3 students registered out of 15 max when it was cut): required course for some Chemistry majors (Biochemistry option) 
--C J 1200-61, Intro to Law (7 students registered when it was cut): only evening section of course, 2 daytime sections of course, 1 online section (but this was full), required course for all CJ majors
--C J 5870-51, Seminar: Social Inequality/CJ (7 students registered when it was cut): graduate seminar
--CPTR 3700-01, Communications & Computer Networks I (9 students registered when it was cut)
--GEOG 2230-51, Geography of the World Economy (5 students registered when it was cut): required course for majors & minors and for some Education programs
--HIST 2200-01, Key Problems in World History (4 students registered when it was cut): required for majors & also a gen ed (diversity) course
--HIST 2220-01, Intro to Historical Thought & Methods (6 students registered when it was cut):  required for majors, also cut in Fall 2014 semester, included 2 graduating seniors in course
--HIST 4150/5150, History of Islam in West Africa (5 undergrad & 1 grad student registered when it was cut):  one of few African history courses (and all other African history courses were also cancelled), grad student in course specializing in history of West Africa
--POL 2210-21, Public Administration Principles (7 students registered when it was cut): core course for one of key area of discipline/major
--POL 3300-61, Public Management (6 students registered when it was cut)
--POL 3380-61, Women and the Law (6 students registered when it was cut)
--SOC 3350-61, Complex Organization (5 students registered when it was cut)
--SOC 4560-01, Social Welfare Policy (8 students registered when it was cut)
What’s particularly striking about this long list of courses cancelled in major programs is the importance of these courses for students with these majors, which means students enrolled in most (if not all) of these courses have likely been set back in their plans to complete their majors.

In closing, let’s look again at the lack of consideration paid to students’ schedules, which we already saw in the cancellations of evening sections of general education course such as C J 1200-61, ENG 1240-61, ENG 1270-61, FREN 1020-61, MUS 1134-61, and PH S 1100-61. Outside of these general education courses, we can also find courses useful to students in particular majors which had evening, such as:
--BOT 2050-61, Algae/Plants/Fungus (5 students registered when it was cut)
--MATH 1420-61, Calculus II (5 students registered when it was cut)
And, just so students who can only take courses primarily in the day weren’t left out of the process, the administration also cancelled CMAT 1130-01, Communications for Professionals (6 students registered when it was cut), which was the only daytime section of the course offered for the semester.

So, what’s the take away from this analysis of courses cancelled in the Spring 2015 semester? First, while some specific programs might have been harmed more than others, the cancellations were far reaching and affected students at various stages of their education – from freshmen, to general education students, to students completing their majors – and students enrolled in a wide array of courses. Second, given the breadth and depth of the course cancellations, it seems unlikely that students enrolled in these courses will find it easy to replace their cancelled courses with other courses equally useful or relevant to their education. With the large number of evening sections cancelled, I wonder if students in these courses can even find any courses at all to take at this point. Finally, it seems clear that courses cancelled this semester have done significant damage to students’ education. As one student who emailed me recently asked, “words cannot describe how frustrated I am … How do they [the administration] expect [me] to complete [my] degree? It is outrageous, and this is one of the reasons why enrollment is steadily dropping.”

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Kaleidoscope: More Detail on The Administration's Rationale (or non-rationale) For Their Execrable Course Cancellations

I have had a number of e-mail exchanges about the cut session, including several with Chicago State administrators in the past two days. In sum, these e-mails offer a compelling portrait of a process that simply does not work. As near as I can figure out, this is the way these cut sessions now unfold:

The administration has established an arbitrary standard of 50 percent enrollment to keep a course, apparently any course. Of course, Professor Steve’s recent post demonstrates the chaotic results of that process. I suppose we should feel fortunate that even more courses were not cut. For "under enrolled" classes, advisors are required to submit justifications which may or may not be considered. Then, our administrators take their axes to the course schedule and create panic and confusion among faculty and especially among the student victims of this farce. In their effort to assure me that their intentions were benign, a number of the e-mails adopt a defensive posture. Unfortunately, they do nothing to clarify the reasons behind the multiple difficulties created by the cuts.

There are a number of problems with the statements being made by administrators. I will explain.

A few days before the cut session, at least one administrative person claimed that course cancellations were not about the cost of running classes. This position seems undermined by an e-mail sent by Angela Henderson to the Deans on January 5. The pertinent portion is here:

“I am reviewing the class size report for today. We need classes very close to 20 and 25. We are dealing with budget issues that will not allow us to run very small classes.”

So what is it? Are these cuts because of financial issues? According to at least one official, no. If they are not cut because of fiscal constraints, then why are they cut? As usual, we are not getting anything resembling a viable explanation.

In other e-mails, administrators make claims that are simply not accurate. Here’s one example:

“it is counter-productive to cancel courses in which graduating seniors are enrolled or classes that are required for majors or student teaching. . . Courses identified as being a methods course or needed so that a student could complete fieldwork or student teaching were not cut.”

Comparing that rhetoric with the facts, here’s what we find: In our discipline, a course which certainly qualifies as a “methods” class, which is required for all majors and which contained two graduating seniors, was cut for the second time this school year. In addition, not one, but two classes required for students doing Secondary Education were cancelled: CAS 2630 and ED 4500/5500. For one student, this creates the possibility that unless the course is resurrected in the Special Session, his program completion will be delayed until Fall 2015. How does cutting that class serve our student’s educational needs?

Another inaccurate statement is this one: “Where justifications, as mentioned above were provided, those classes were not cut.”

In fact, the advisors in our discipline did submit a justification for the methods class I discussed above. The justification clearly indicated the presence of two graduating seniors in a class required for all majors. Contrary to the assertion in the e-mail, this class was indeed cut. I received an e-mail from one of the unfortunate graduating seniors asking what can be done to finish the program’s graduation requirements. The only option at this point seems to be an independent study. I’ll try to arrange one before they get cut, as they were last semester.

At this point, I do not care whether the people responsible for this fiasco had good intentions or not. I only care about fixing the myriad problems this ridiculous exercise has generated so our students can finish their programs and realize their educational goals. The patent idiocy of this reliance on “metrics” or simple mathematical formulas should be obvious by now. How the hell do we insure that this does not happen again?

Friday, January 9, 2015

Fallout From the Cut Session: Destroying the Essence of a University

As an academic advisor, one of the tasks I have to complete prior to the start of each semester is to provide “justifications” to administrators – chairs, deans, whomever in Academic Affairs – as to why classes offered in my discipline should not be canceled. These classes are “in jeopardy” due to “low enrollment,” which seems to mean whatever arbitrary number someone has determined is the correct number of students all classes should have, regardless of program or the nature of the class (also important to note, this number seems to change every semester). Since becoming an advisor several years ago, I have found this the most perplexing part of dealing with the power structure of the University. After all, isn’t the main mission of the University to educate students, and don’t we do that by providing classes every semester that are essential for their general education or education in their majors or professional programs? Why should we have to justify continuing to offer the classes that have been planned by faculty and departments to meet students’ needs? Shouldn’t it be the opposite situation, i.e. the administration justifying why they want to cut a particular course?

Over the past two academic years, as the numbers of courses cut by the administration have grown at an ever increasing rate, I no longer simply ask those questions. Instead, it seems clear to me that the result of these cut sessions is the destruction of the very essence of the University – to educate our students. After all, it’s the faculty and students who bear the brunt of the outcome of each cut session. And the worst of that outcome is reserved for students:  preventing them from learning about subjects/areas that they chose to study, setting them back in their progress towards degree, and in some cases even preventing them from graduating altogether.

The cut session for the Spring 2015 semester provides plenty of evidence for that conclusion. One of the courses cut by the administration in my discipline is the methods course required for all undergraduate majors – a course that was also cut in the Fall 2014 semester, which is typically only offered in the Fall semesters but because of it being cut we decided to offer it again in the Spring semester. Let that sink in for a minute. A course required for all students in a major was cut, not once but twice in consecutive semesters. Now, for further information. There were seven students enrolled in the course in the Fall and six in the Spring. There were students who are scheduled to graduate in May 2015 enrolled in the class in both semesters. Will they graduate this May? What course can be substituted for a required methods class in the discipline in which they major? What about other students who attempt to sign up for this course in the future, only to have it cut again? The administration has either de facto removed this requirement from the major or has prevented students from graduating with this major.

Similarly, a teaching certification student was enrolled in a required Education class in the Fall 2014 semester, and it was cut. He enrolled in the same class in the Spring 2015 semester, while he is student teaching, and again that class was cut. Will he complete his teaching certification this semester, or will he have to continue to try to take this course even after he has completed all other requirements including student teaching? Who knows.

I’m guessing that my experience is not unique, and I welcome comments from others who know of similar examples of students being harmed by the results of the cut sessions. Please take time to note some of those examples in the comment section.

I have tried repeatedly to figure out a logic for the cut session and its results. As time has gone on, the only logic I can see is that it’s become part of the process of destroying the very mission of the University to educate its students. As a faculty member and an advisor, what can I tell students who search for an explanation and a strategy to deal with this situation? I can think of only one reasonable response: transfer to another University. Surely, students are already thinking about this option and many have done so in the past. So, here we have an intersection of the problem of the massive enrollment declines on the University that have been so thoroughly documented on this blog and the very heart of the academic mission of the University. Can we add these things together? I think so.