With yesterday’s announcement of the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear Chicago State’s ill-fated appeal in the Crowley case, the university’s $5 million debt to its former legal counsel becomes a reality. This judgement resulted from the egregious behavior of two persons: although primary culpability falls on the shoulders of President Wayne Watson (standing on the “shoulders of a giant?”), also responsible was General Counsel Patrick Cage. Testimony in court documents starkley detailed the vengeful, systematic attempt by Watson and his counsel to not only dismiss Crowley from his position, but to ruin his reputation. For that administrative misbehavior, the university will pay dearly, or will its insurance company? In any event, the end of this disgraceful episode in the university’s history started me thinking about what the total cost of the Watson administration might eventually be.
Here are some estimates: I have identified at least 13 persons in key administrative positions who can be categorized as cronies of either Watson or his main protégé Angela Henderson: at least one a current lover, a number directly from the City Colleges, others simply incompetent hacks whose inability to do the job has contributed to driving this university down to the ground. The number of Watson cronies grew steadily from fewer than a dozen in 2010 to a high of 13 in 2015. At least 12 of those 13 are still employed here and the other still gets a paycheck until February 2017, despite being recently laid off. The total salary paid to these 13 mismanagers comes to around $8.8 million since October 2009.
Given the abysmal performance of Watson’s crony-infested administration, it seems the university derived little benefit from persons whose financial remuneration for such lousy performance proved the opposite of value-added. Since Fall 2009, the university’s enrollment has declined from 7235 to its current 4442, with additional significant reductions likely in Fall 2016. According to the Illinois Auditor General, Chicago State’s tuition revenue in 2010 totaled $33 million. In fiscal 2015, that figure had dropped to $27.8 million, a decrease of $5.2 million. Obviously that amount will decrease again in this fiscal year and will undoubtedly be further reduced in fiscal 2017. Although exact figures are not available, it seems reasonable that the tuition revenue decline (since 2010) through the end of fiscal 2016 will be around $6 million.
Thus, Watson and his 12 cronies cost the university $8.8 million in salaries to generate $6 million less in tuition revenue, while racking up over $5 million in legal judgments and fees (just for one case). I don’t think it far-fetched to conclude that the minimum cost of the Watson Presidency to this university will come in at well over $20 million. Over the past several years, a number of persons have expressed their displeasure at the “tone” of many of our posts and the criticisms of a number of our top administrators. I’ve heard people say, “this goes on everywhere.” Like hell it does. This administration is close to the gold standard for corruption and cronyism. If our school survives, Chicago State will continue to suffer from the incompetence and venality of the Watson regime long after all the participants have left the scene.
Of course, ultimately responsible for this catastrophe is our Board of Trustees. They have steadfastly refused to acknowledge the complete failure unfolding before their eyes, preferring to talk about the “accolades” due Watson for his performance as Chicago State’s President, or giving the finger to staff and faculty hungry to rid the school of this pack of miscreants by continuing a number of his key cronies in their administrative positions while allowing the architect of this disaster to retain space in the library.
For too many years, this school has been blighted by its dependence upon politicians and their willingness to saddle the university with pliable and incompetent leadership. The academic and administrative fraud named Wayne Watson simply is the most recent in a parade of awful presidents. However, none of the others inflicted the kind of damage he's done to this school. If Chicago State is to survive, we must begin to run it like a university rather than a corrupt political subdivision. Unfortunately, no one with the power to effect necessary change seems to realize this. Perhaps they simply don't know any other way to run an organization. Drop this sham financial exigency, give our new President the authority to do his job, and butt out of day-to-day management of the university. Let us begin to clean up this mess. To do otherwise simply insures our extinction.