One of the interesting parts of the “separation agreement” between the trustees and Dr. Calhoun involves a promise not to make “disparaging” remarks about each other. For example, the board gave no reason for Dr. Calhoun’s termination. Members of the board have refused to explain their actions, both at the meeting and since. However, because the Board’s contemptible action has once again exposed the university to searing press and public scrutiny, a need exists to sully the reputation of the departed president. Based on recent comments in the media, the person chosen to do that is State Senator Donne Trotter.
Because Dr. Calhoun cannot respond to the ridiculous claims made by Senator Trotter, and because the record needs to be clear about what actually happened at Chicago State, I offer the following. Trotter has been quoted as saying that CSU "is still at war" and Calhoun is "not a wartime leader." Then, "With all the pressure they've been under, they need a plan," Trotter said. "Without a plan, I've been told he hooked up with those fighting the administration and didn't work with the members of the board." To the best of my knowledge, Senator Trotter has not spoken with any faculty or students. I will now tell you a story about how this palace revolt might have proceeded, based on my information and belief. Although this is presented as fictional, you are free to make your own judgments about its relationship to actual events as they unfolded.
Given the long-standing contentious relationship between dissenting faculty and some members of the administration, any new president would be wise to begin her or his administration by attempting to heal that rift and perhaps even build a relationship with the school’s faculty based upon trust and mutual respect. In his first week, the new president met with faculty leaders to discuss his ideas for the school. Ultimately, the president would subsequently have a number of such meetings.
The faculty returned the new president’s courtesy by inviting him to dinner and a meet and greet with several members of the Corruption State faculty. Of course, the Provost was not invited to such a meeting. Given the tension between the Provost and the Corruption State faculty, why would she expect such an invitation? She responded by pouting and being offended that she was not included.
In these meetings with faculty, the new president outlined his plans for several major changes in the way the university conducted its business: revisions of the university’s organizational chart, plans for the replacement of several administrators who simply “don’t have the chops” to do their jobs, and a possible request for a forensic audit to obtain a clear picture of how the university handled its finances.
Even before his arrival, the Corruption State board undermined the new president by showering all kinds of unwarranted perquisites on Studly Fieldmouse, the departing president. Studly, a sociopathic mouse trying to grow up to be a rat, also had no support among the university’s staff and faculty. Flipping the bird to the Corruption State students, staff, and faculty, the board gave Studly a nice office in the library and a parking space for his little car. Not surprising, given his unlimited ego and limited social skills, Studly had the audacity to expect the new president to drop what he was doing and make time for him with no prior notice. In response, the new president told Studly that if he wanted to see him, he should make an appointment. Imagine how that offended Studly. Imagine Studly beginning to worry that this new person might really be serious about taking a look at his administrative practices. Imagine Studly also worrying about the replacement of a number of his unqualified and dishonest cronies.
So Studly cooked up a scheme with his old friends on the board that would stop all this nonsense and protect the positions of his old allies. The best way to achieve those ends? Tie the new president’s hands by creating an unwieldy management-by-committee chief executive that could not function without the approval of the old president’s cronies. Imagine the Provost’s relief when she realized that not only she, but another of Studly’s crony favorites, the Associate Vice President of Human Resources would serve on this new committee. Imagine her delight when the former president’s chief legal beagle, Hamilton (Ham) Burger, became basically an ex-officio member of that committee.
Possibly, however, that would not be sufficient to checkmate the new president. Imagine the Provost going to Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced "bouquet"), her old friend on the Corruption State board with complaints about the new president. Imagine her friend on the board allying with one of Studly’s old friends and frequent breakfast partner, Hyacinth’s brother-in-law Onslow. Suddenly, members of the board who had been so enthusiastic about hiring the new president were beginning to think they had “made a mistake.”
In February, under Onslow’s leadership, the Corruption State board passed a “declaration of financial exigency,” and created Studly’s “Management Action Committee,” effectively tying the new president’s hands. Over the next several months, that committee, led by Natasha Fatale, abetted by dubious legal advice from Ham Burger, decimated the ranks of the Corruption State staff and faculty with a series of poorly planned and deplorably executed staff reductions. The new president took virtually no part in these activities, being advised by Ham Burger that they were based on the university’s compliance with various collective bargaining agreements, and as such, were legal matters the new president did not need to know about. They would be dealt with by Corruption State’s crack legal team.
While all this went on, Natasha, Ham Burger, and the HR Director met secretly in the HR Director’s car in the CSU parking lot. Natasha filed an official complaint against the new president and other members of Natasha’s administrative clique began saying things like the only thing the new president did was “make speeches.” The attempt to undermine the new president was in full swing by the conclusion of the spring semester.
At its June meeting, Onslow and the other board members (Hyacinth, Doctor Evil, Reverend Ike, Sweeney Todd, Archie Bunker, and Erwin J. Corey) gave the new president an “unsatisfactory” evaluation based largely on his failure to be nice to Natasha Fatale. One of the complaints by Fatale was that she could never meet with the new president because he was always meeting with faculty. The board also advised the new president of the steps he would have to take to improve his performance. After that meeting, the new president realized he had diminishing support on the Corruption State board.
Throughout the summer, rumors flew about the new president’s impending demise. At a townhall meeting, he expressed displeasure about the Management Action Committee and conceded that a number of its decisions had been “bad.” In reponse, one administrator complained to the board that the new president had created “a hostile work environment” by criticizing the committee. Apparently none of Studly’s cronies have heard of the first amendment. About ten days prior to the meeting, two rumors dominated: the new president would be removed at the next board meeting, and his replacement had already been selected. Although Erwin J. Corey did not attend the meeting, the remaining six board members all voted to terminate the president while giving him a nice monetary sendoff. Our story concludes with the students, community members, staff, and faculty at Corruption State infuriated at the board’s reckless action, while the city’s media has a field day at the expense of the long-suffering institution.
While this part of the story is over, the end has yet to be written. Corruption State dissidents are determined to redouble their efforts to rid their institution of the foul stench of political and financial corruption. Their new “interim” president should be particularly attentive to the anger and frustration roiling the campus. Stay tuned for further episodes of this drama.