Now that the palace coup against the new President has succeeded, I’m sure a number of our colleagues will urge us not to make waves about the latest outrage perpetrated by the board against the staff and students at Chicago State. In my estimation, that is the worst possible advice. If we will not stand up to the kind of destructive actions committed by this board, we don’t deserve to have a university. Here is a brief chronology of the past 3-plus years that demonstrates how the board has protected the interests of particular individuals with disastrous results for the university.
March 8, 2013, Board fails to discharge President, three members, Rozier, Scott, Butler, not reappointed by Quinn, replaced by Leak and Smith, Nikki Zollar later in 2013
May 17, 2013, in its first meeting after the March 8 meeting, the Board declared its “unanimous support” of Wayne Watson.
CSU fall enrollment in 2013 drops to 5701 from previous year’s 6107.
February 19, 2014. James Crowley wins his lawsuit against Chicago State University—Wayne Watson and Patrick Cage for retaliatory discharge. At this point, the price tag for that suit is well over $5 million.
March 7, 2014. The Board extends Watson’s contract through June 2016.
March 25, 2014. Glenn Meeks files suit against Watson and CSU for retaliatory discharge.
May 9, 2014. Student choked by CSU police for wearing a hat. Board responded by saying a dress code would be forthcoming.
CSU fall enrollment in 2014 drops to 5211.
September 19, 2014. Board adopts restrictive policy on public comment, limiting comments to 10 per meeting, at 2 minutes each.
December 12, 2014. Board begins process of eliminating existing CSU Foundation. During his term as President, Watson raised virtually no money for the university. Board members contribute little. Watson predicts that enrollment will “stabilize” around 5,000 then begin to “grow incrementally,” beginning in Spring 2015. Spring enrollment drops to 4818.
February 6, 2015. Wayne Watson announces his retirement at the end of his contract (June 30, 2016).
February 2016. Rauner appoints Marshall Hatch to the Chicago State Board.
March 6, 2015. Board contracts with Greenwood and Asher for Presidential Search. The university will spend $150,000 on the search.
May 8, 2015. New CSU Foundation created.
June 25, 2015. Board gives the university virtually a “blank check” to spend money on legal services to defend Wayne Watson against a growing number of lawsuit. At this point, the university has spent well over $1.5 million on legal fees to private law firms.
September 2015. Board provided with the OEIG report on Watson’s ethical violations in February-March 2013. The report says that a letter Watson wrote to the Board in February 2013: "contained numerous false accusations ... for which President Watson had no evidentiary support." In two interviews with investigators in late 2013, Watson backed away from the allegations he had made.
The report also came to the conclusion that "This, paired with the fact that President Watson made such serious allegations that he now admits were untrue, is troubling and suggests President Watson made these claims only in an effort to discredit Mr. Rozier and Ms. Scott, and keep his job."
The Board did nothing and Board Chair Anthony Young claimed the report was “flawed” and asked "How can we issue disciplinary action on an investigation that never notified him of the charges or gave him an opportunity to respond?" In fact, the university spent $11,000 on the law firm of Chico & Nunes who represented Watson in the matter.
October 8, 2015. Thomas J. Calhoun selected as Chicago State President.
CSU fall enrollment in 2015 drops to 4767.
December 2015. The Board rewards Watson for his damage to the university by giving him an office, a title, and tenure in the College of Education. Nikki Zollar calls him “a voice for unity [who] has given us a solid foundation, a great name.”
CSU spring enrollment in 2016 drops to 4412.
January 1, 2016. Thomas Calhoun begins his tenure, Wayne Watson begins his honorary presence on campus. In the first six months of 2016, the university spends $150,000 in salary for the new President, $100,000 for the old one.
February 4, 2016. After only one month, the Board ties President Calhoun’s hands by creating a “Management Action Committee” composed of the President and three Watson supporters. This committee will make all personnel decisions for the university. The same date, the university declares “financial exigency.”
February 26, 2016. University sends layoff notices to all employees.
February 2016. Thanks to the “financial exigency” declaration, the university runs afoul of the Higher Learning Commission which questions its financial viability.
April 22, 2016. Chicago State receives a cash infusion of more than $20 million. Despite this emergency appropriation, on April 30 the university lays off/terminates scores of employees.
Late June 2016. The university is given the opportunity to tell the legislature how much cash it needs to operate through the calendar year. It receives an emergency appropriation of more than $13 million. Despite this appropriation, the university informs 9 tenured/tenure-track faculty members they will not be recalled.
July 12, 2016. Announcement that Chicago State has been sanctioned by the Higher Learning Commission.
Throughout the President’s tenure, senior members of the administration work to undermine Dr. Calhoun, going to the board with various complaints, meeting in secret in cars in the university parking lot, making decisions that adversely affect student services and setting the stage for another disastrous enrollment decline. In June/July, rumors begin to swirl around that the board is thinking of terminating the President’s contract.
Although faculty leadership makes several requests of the board to end “financial exigency” and give the President the authority to run the university, the board steadfastly refuses to do either. Given the power to make arbitrary decisions, the Provost makes a number of really bad ones, some of the results: the advising staff reduced to four persons (not counting the Dean or other administrators doing advising) for the entire undergraduate population; eliminating the option for faculty to take their paychecks over 12 months, despite strong faculty opposition; and retaliating against members of one academic department for having the temerity to resist an arbitrary and pointless edict to relocate their offices.
All through the summer, no statement of support for the President emanates from the Chicago State Board.
September 2016. University enrollment sinks to around 3550, with fewer than 300 new students admitted. That’s 1200 fewer students than the anemic fall 2015 totals, with new admits down nearly 500. These horrible numbers reflect the decimation of operations like admissions, financial aid, and advising. Staff cuts reduce university library hours to 9-5 Monday-Friday. All these problems are directly related to the disgraceful performance of the Management Action Committee.
September 14, 2016. The rumors come true, the board, abetted by senior administrators succeeds in terminating the President (whatever they are going to call it, it is anything but voluntary). At the September 16, 2016 meeting, the board will announce a new “interim” president and reveal the terms of the “separation agreement” with Dr. Calhoun. Once again, the university will be paying two salaries for one position (or perhaps will provide a lump-sum settlement, the terms are unknown at this time). Once again, the university will throw more money down the drain in a search for another new president, likely one acceptable to Wayne Watson, someone who will protect the positions of the various Watson cronies still blighting the university.
This board gave this President no chance to do his job. We’ll see on Friday if any members of the board will vote against this travesty. Not that it matters. For us, the question now is what, if anything, do we intend to do about this? We’ll have the answer to that question soon.