Wednesday, May 11, 2016

"Were you just watching, or are you part of this?" Public Comment at the May 6th Board of Trustees Meeting

If you had attended the CSU Board of Trustees meeting last Friday, you would have thought that there was nothing of consequence happening at CSU. You would not have known that the university had just laid off 300 staff and administrators the previous week. From the presentation by the VP of Finance you would not know that we were still in a state of financial exigency. You would not know from any of the VP presentations to the Board that CSU faced a dire and uncertain future in the fall when full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty were due to be laid off, when enrollment was predicted to tumble further, and when the state would possibly carry through on its threat not to hand out any more money --especially to us. 

And as we end this wretched semester, the veil on the Board's quick move to "financial exigency" taken in February begins to lift. No other state university in this ill state has gone as far as CSU and declared itself financially exigent. Why not? 

It is clear that in declaring financial exigency, this Board has found a way to abrogate its own university governance rules (Board of Trustees regulations). It has reconstituted the governing structure of the executive branch of this university to prevent its new president from carrying out any executive authority on his own. The so-called Management Action Committee is a tetrarchy made up of President Calhoun and former President Wayne Watson's Provost Angela Henderson, Wayne Watson's Human Resources director, Renee Mitchell and Wayne Watson's Vice President for Finance, Cecil Lucy. Each member has an equal vote. And decisions coming down from this Management Action Committee are being made in 3 against 1 votes. From where did such a governance model come? Why hire a new president mid-year only to strip him of executive authority within one month? Why bend over backward in the fall to keep Wayne Watson on campus and set him up in an office on campus, continue to pay him and a new president? What is this pathological, creepy loyalty on the part of the Board that reminds me of the leader-principle in fascism where everything must be sacrificed except the leader? Wayne Watson is still running the university and running it into the ground. 

It is worth noting that a good number of faculty, staff, and administrators appeared to witness the Board's proceedings. Most of them were there for only one reason: because President Calhoun needed to see that he was supported by the faculty. Public comment at the end of the meeting provided the strong tonic that the Vice Presidents' cheery reports earlier in the day failed to do. You should listen to what some of your colleagues had to say at the link below (or go to the Board of Trustees page and look for Meetings and Recordings).  In the meantime, I am posting the transcript below of one commentator, retiring professor Janet Halpin.

http://www.csu.edu/boardoftrustee/meetingrecordings/audio/2016/FBMpart3-May06-2016.mp3

Parting comments by retiring faculty member.
Several decades ago I read Atlas Shrugged, the dystopian novel by Ayn Rand where nasty, self-serving incompetents drive industries and infrastructure into the ground while able people are fired, destroyed or who quit. At the time, I thought it was a highly implausible straw-man scenario used to promote her philosophy of objectivism.

In the 1980s an activist friend of mine referred to a fellow in our movement as a ‘revolutionary pimp’ who promoted his own interests on the backs of the activism of others.  At the time, I thought it was a personal judgement on a mildly unsavory character.

In 2012 an accreditation evaluator came to CSU for the pre-visit consultation.  In an informal conversation, the evaluator said that the word outside of Chicago was that Wayne Watson had been set in place specifically to drive CSU into the ground because the land and campus were valuable properties [emphasis added].  At the time, I thought it was pretty stupid, as conspiracy theories go.

At it turns out, they were all prescient. I have SEEN highly skilled, devoted, and competent colleagues fired, demoted, and chased away.  I have SEEN prominent figures coming out of a back room in this very building, where they schemed and plotted to keep Wayne Watson and his cronies in power.  They then stood up in public three years later to exhort our students to defend their right to education.  I have SEEN a series of brutal, thoughtless, and damaging actions that have eroded our viability.  Through incompetence, they might have avoided some catastrophes merely by accident. It seems instead that their intent is, indeed, to close the school and seize the remaining assets.

And this Board sat here.  Were you just watching, or are you part of this?

2 comments:

  1. I seriously felt nauseous after listening to the audio to hear the board immediately motion for adjournment after the last public comment without acknowledging a single word said.

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