The recent personnel massacres that occurred at Chicago State reveal the poorly-guarded secret of the university’s existence. Rather than operating as an educational institution serving the needs of students, the school functions instead as a haven for a high-priced and inept administrative cohort that has driven the university to its knees while continuing to be well compensated for breathtaking failure. A close look at the recent layoff results should demonstrate.
This information comes from Human Resources and is not 100 percent reliable. Nonetheless, it is the best data I have to analyze the recent pattern of staff reductions. Between February 29, 2016, and July 1-6, 2016, the university reduced its total positions from 909 to 550 (39.5 percent) and its payroll from $50.66 million to 36.65 million, a 27.7 percent reduction. Of course, the disparity between the number of employees who lost their jobs and the payroll reduction results from a large number of poorly-paid employees getting the boot, while their well-paid colleagues held on to their positions.
On February 29, 2016, faculty constituted 37 percent of Chicago State’s employee complement, followed by staff at 33 percent, and administrators at 30 percent. In July, the numbers look quite different: administrators accounted for 37 percent of all CSU employees, faculty 34 percent, and staff 29 percent. The staff reductions between February and July were: Faculty lost 180 positions, staff 93, administrators 86. The university reduced faculty positions by 53.4 percent, administrative positions by 34.8 percent, and staff positions by 31.4 percent. The bulk of the faculty reduction came from the 159 lecturers laid off by the university.
Given the above statistics, it seems like everyone took a hit. However, details of what university operations the layoffs damaged paint a very different picture of how the university meted out the punishment. For this analysis, I divided the university’s positions into several component parts: positions strictly or overwhelmingly administrative; positions providing services to students; positions providing services to the university; the academic library; positions in the offices of the College Deans; finally, positions in the academic departments.
The staff and faculty layoffs eviscerated the academic departments. Excluding Department Chairs, the university reduced academic department positions from 396 in February to 180 in July, a 54.5 percent drop. Positions in the Deans’ offices fell from 26 to 17, a 34.6 percent drop. Positions in departments providing services to the university declined from 138 to 95, a 31.2 percent reduction. Positions in the academic library plummeted from 24 to 10, a decrease of 58.3 percent. Positions in departments providing services to students dwindled from 43 to 33, a 23.3 percent decline.
In stark contrast to these staff reductions, the university reduced administrative positions only from 68 to 59, or 13.2 percent. The Provost’s Office and Human Resources provide excellent examples of how our administrators, through the ridiculous MAC set up by the Board, safeguarded the administrative positions of their colleagues, while sacrificing hundreds of employees who actually performed the day-to-day work of keeping the university operational.
In February 2016, the Provost’s Office included nine (9) employees: the Provost, two Associate Provosts, an Interim Assistant Provost, an Assistant to the Provost, an Executive Secretary, an Associate, an Academic Contract Specialist and a Program Life Skills Specialist. Salaries totaled just over $828,000 and ranged from $225,000 for the Provost to $33,000 for the Program Life Skills Specialist.
In July 2016, the same office included eight (8) employees: the sacrificial victim? Of course, the poor employee making $33,000. Remaining were the Provost, two Associate Provosts, one Interim Assistant Provost, an Assistant to the Provost, an Executive Secretary, an Associate, and an Academic Contract Specialist. Because of personnel changes in addition to the layoff of one employee, the aggregate salary for all employees in the office actually increased to $868,000. The poor Provost.
Human Resources actually retained all sixteen (16) of its employees, at a total cost of $775,000. Given the performance of Human Resources for the past several months, one might wonder why they need a full complement of employees.
Based on the pattern of layoffs, it seems apparent that the university made a concerted effort to target areas that served students and staff in order to retain as many high-salaried administrators as possible. As the people in Academic Affairs continue to make one bad decision after another, as the financial component of the university ceases to function, as the holdover administrators continue to do what is likely mortal damage to the school, the Board goes merrily on pretending that everything is working well and that the university will somehow be extricated from its predicament. As we careen down the road to our destruction, it seem increasingly obvious that only an act of God will save this school. Perhaps that was the plan all along.