Please forgive me for indulging myself here, but I would like to offer a close reading of some of the passages in the recent letter sent to the university community by the interim president. These interpretations are solely my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of anyone else in our university community. Since the letter contains mainly boilerplate material that would be present in any letter of exhortation, I focus on five different sentences:
“We understand that you may be experiencing a number of mixed feelings at this time.”
I find this highly condescending and insulting I certainly do not have mixed feelings. I am clear about my feelings of anger and disgust, both with the administrators who are responsible for undermining the former president and for a board that consistently fails to protect this institution. Finally, as one of my colleagues has already asked, just who the hell is the “we” to whom the memorandum refers? Certainly, none of the other potential actors in this farce have ever demonstrated the slightest concern for our emotions. This sentence is patronizing claptrap.
“This has been a difficult juncture for public higher education in the state of Illinois.”
An amazingly tone-deaf and self-serving sentence that fails to address the core issues here. This renewed animosity and conflict is not about “public higher education in the state of Illinois.” It’s about the board’s irresponsible and destructive recent action to remove a respected and popular president to safeguard the positions of a number of incompetent Watson cronies. This administration’s performance over the past six-plus years has been disgraceful, disastrous. It would not have been possible without the full support of the worst board in the country. Together, they have brought us to the brink of extinction. Given the succession of putrid decisions made by both groups, it’s difficult not to think that the intention is to destroy the school.
“Thus, it is important that we come together as a university community and work to achieve greater stability.”
Come together under what conditions? Since the board meeting, students have been subjected to pressure from both local politicians and appointed board members to basically “get back in their places” (see the recent memorandum from the board). Clearly, our betters in the administration will set the conditions for “coming together.” As is typical, these conditions include concessions from students, staff, and faculty. We are simply expected to forget the kick in the teeth recently delivered by the board and “come together.” As for “stability,” that existed for one month, between January 4, and February 3, 2016. Since February 4, this university has been rocked by volatility, scarred by decisions made by the persons the interim president wants us to fall into line behind, and ultimately betrayed by our corrupt board. Here’s what I believe will provide stability: terminate the services of all the Watson cronies still on our payroll and replace them with legitimate administrative personnel (if anyone is crazy enough to take a job here). Students, staff, and faculty have not seen one shred of evidence to indicate that the administration or the board has any interest in reforming the practices that have created this crisis. Until I see that, I will not consider supporting this group of incompetents.
“If we work together diligently as we focus on these priorities, we can be successful in reaching our goals.”
Here I think we’re being cautioned that if we don’t “work together,” failure will be our responsibility. Bullshit, it’s way too late for this olive branch. Given the abominable performance of our upper administration, I concluded long ago that they were only here to loot the place. However, if I give them the benefit of the doubt and consider their performances in light of a good faith effort, the only reasonable conclusion I can draw is that they failed completely. In either case, for the good of the university, they should immediately be discharged.
“As a collaborative community, I would like to quickly rebound from our recent past and get back on track to position Chicago State University as one of the best universities in the Midwest.”
This, I think, is the kernel of the message the administration is sending. Let’s forget about the past and look forward. This will enable the administration to continue to operate in the business-as-usual mode it favors, and will insure that the chronic failures of our incompetent administrators will continue to damage this university. This is also a nice way to discount the “mixed emotions” referenced in the first sentence. There is nothing “collaborative” about this community, and it is only necessary to look at recent administrative and board actions to determine why we are not “on track.”
Yesterday, at the request of the still extant MAC, what remains of the University Advisory Committee met with the interim president, Provost and HR Vice President. During the brief meeting, the interim president talked at us, informing us of the “capital campaign” that is going to raise money for Chicago State and telling us that he desired to see “100 percent participation” from staff and faculty in such an effort because that’s what donors need to see. The goal, according to the interim president, is to raise $500,000 from the staff and faculty to defray the cost of registration expenses for students who drop out of school because they are unable to afford validation. Again, I want to emphasize that this was not being posed as a question, rather it came across as an expectation. Given recent events, and the demonstrated penuriousness of our administrators and board, I was amazed at the ham-handedness of such a pronouncement. Speaking only for myself, I will not be contributing anything to the school as long as this administration and this board remain in place.
The second announcement from the interim president concerned the university’s new (albeit unwritten) policy of “internal mobility.” It seems like this conception will enable the university to assign multiple tasks to (I believe) primarily administrative personnel. In practical terms this might mean that Angela Henderson will be able to reprise her past failures as well as add to her resume of disasters by reassuming the role of the seemingly always vacant Vice President of Enrollment Management position. Too bad Cheri Sidney is not still on the payroll. While “internal mobility” is still a somewhat nebulous concept, I’m sure it will be the kind of rousing success we are used to seeing from our administration.
I can only echo the words of my esteemed colleague: “Suffice it to say, I have ignored the platitudinous drivel that I have heard in the last week. We are beyond the kumbaya phase in the faculty/administration relationship.” If the people who run Chicago State (whoever they may be now) are serious about this university’s existence, if they want to actually have some semblance of a “collaborative” relationship with the school’s students, staff, and faculty, here is what has to occur first: Purge this school of all vestiges of the Watson presidency. Terminate the services of all Watson cronies currently in place, beginning at the top with Angela Henderson, and proceeding down the food chain to the lowest paid employee. Get this university out of the hands of the people who are destroying it!
Then we can talk.