Friday, September 30, 2016

September in Review

So what have we learned this month?

First, the Board of Trustees lost confidence in President Thomas Calhoun and negotiated a $600,000 separation agreement after he was on the job less than nine months. This termination of Calhoun's employment came despite the fact that he had near universal support from the faculty and students at the university. No reason was given by the trustees for their abrupt change of direction. We learned that the Chicago Tribune called on the Governor to replace the Board for their apparent incompetence.
 
September saw the Board of Trustees "apologize" to the students at the monthly Student Government Association meeting for something related to the Calhoun separation. We learned that CSU nursing students pay $2500 per year extra to cover additional nursing program costs and those entitlements are considered "extras" that might not be able to be afforded by the university during this financial crisis. That according to the interim president. One of those extras was the malpractice insurance for the nursing students to participate in their clinical training that apparently wasn't paid by the university. 

We learned about a Higher Learning Commission policy change, seemingly written exclusively for Chicago State University. It wasn't bad enough that the university was sanctioned for Criterion 5, but now it seems there is more punishment on the way. 

We learned that our students continue to be denigrated by the #CSUclowncar. It actually wasn't a one off with Trustee Smith and a respected student leader who called him out during public comment two weeks ago. Beside insulting the intelligence of our students with inane non-answers and platitudinous drivel, they insult the faculty by somehow insinuating we don't teach our students to think critically or reason analytically. Our students are not our puppets to be manipulated. We are here to give them skills to better use their innate abilities. "Controversial" faculty, in my 25 year experience here, don't use the students as human shields against the bad administration. Rather they support students and encourage them to expand their range and scope.

That is, of course, threatening to those who actually do manipulate and then throw students away. In response the the nursing student, the interim president responded exactly how the #CSUclowncar always responds. Placate the individual student while never correcting the systemic dysfunction. The #CSUclowncar is so predictable!

We learned that both newspapers of record in the city are supporting reform at CSU including a forensic audit of the university and the "firing" of the Board by the Governor. These are strong statements indeed from the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times given the university has been troubled for at least two decades. 

We learned this week that the disgraced former president responsible for much of the destruction of the university was hanging around campus, I suspect seeking to be relevant. It is rather sad that after all of the failures of his tenure he would come on campus for any reason. Our students should really be exposed to successes, not failures.

We learned that the university no longer needed the services of the interim vice president for enrollment management as he was dismissed on September 19th. The #CSUclowncar cover story was that he resigned after Dr. Calhoun resigned. I can state with certainty that cover story is untrue. The university enrolls 86 freshmen and they fire the Enrollment Management VP saying his services are no longer necessary??? At least they didn't blame him since he was only on the job for two months and had no staff left after the #CSUclowncar eviscerated the enrollment management division in April. They did blame the low number on the budget which is strange since Illinois State University faced the same budget impasse but had their highest enrollment in 27 years. As the late Texas governor Ann Richards said "that dog won't hunt." We had 86 freshmen because the #CSUclowncar destroyed the university's ability to recruit and admit students even after being warned by your humble narrator, that preserving that area would be critical to our future. As usual though, faculty are always wrong at CSU.

And finally we learned that even those things within the control of the administration that could paint the university in a better light are not improved. The appallingly embarrassing university website continues to show there is little we seem to be able to do well beyond teach our students and conduct our research and hope for some relief from the legislature and the governor.

It's Falling Down Around Us

So I went to the College of Pharmacy the other day only to find that the two normal entrances to the building had been locked. I ran into one of the college's employees who took me to the "secret" elevator that led to the 3rd Floor. There were no signs and no indicators of how to get to the university's flagship college. I thought to myself what if I were a prospective pharmacy student and I couldn't even get to the pharmacy college offices? After some conversations with colleagues in the college I was informed that the university would be doing asbestos abatement on the second floor of Douglas Hall in preparation for moving all of the College of Health Sciences programs, Nursing and Health Information Administration into Douglas Hall. What a great idea I thought but then I thought asbestos abatement is a very specialized and dangerous process and do you want people in the building while that's being done especially because students, staff and faculty would be both above and below the work area. Could the work be completed during the semester break in December when the building could be closed? When it comes to health and safety, especially with asbestos, I would err on the side of extreme caution but as you, loyal readers have seen the treatment of the university community by the #CSUclowncar, I imagine there wouldn't be any consideration given to what students, staff and faculty might think or want concerning their health and safety.

I was also very disturbed to find that a classroom in Douglas Hall needs mold remediation because of a water leak from the third floor. The mold has become significant enough that a faculty colleague has been made ill by the mold in that classroom. It then occurred to me what would OSHA think about workers being sickened in a work place that has been neglected for years by successive administrations and boards. Maybe a call to OSHA and the IDOL could speed along the process of maintaining a safe and healthy workplace at CSU.

Or we could just hear more whinging and complaining from the #CSUclowncar about airing dirty (moldy) laundry.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

What Is A Forensic Audit Anyway???

So the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board has weighed in on Chicago State, supporting a request by the University Professionals of Illinois Local 4100 to conduct a comprehensive audit of the university’s finances and practices. Your humble narrator has mentioned the idea of a forensic audit both in this venue and to all who would listen. But like many ideas or practices, do we really know what a forensic audit is as compared to a financial statement audit or the compliance audit conducted under the auspices of the Illinois Auditor General. I will share what I have learned and connect the practice to what I believe has happened at the university since 2009.

A forensic audit is “an examination and evaluation of a firm's or individual's financial information for use as evidence in court. A forensic audit can be conducted in order to prosecute a party for fraud, embezzlement or other financial claims. In addition, an audit may be conducted to determine negligence...” (Investopedia.com) “The forensic audit is usually carried out to prosecute the accused party for financial crimes such as embezzlement of funds, fraud and bribery.” (Reference.com) “Forensic audits are part of a specialized branch of accounting that requires training in fraud detection...The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants classifies forensic accounting into two broad categories: Investigative services involve identifying asset-theft fraud and identifying the perpetrator; litigation services involve gathering evidence and giving testimony leading to the conviction of the perpetrator in a court of law.” (smallbusiness.chron.com) Forensic auditing couples accounting with criminology.

When the university undergoes its annual audit, the auditors sample various transactions that they are examining. For example, if there were 100 contracts over $1 million the auditors may examine 3 of those contracts to ensure compliance with generally accepted accounting principles. A forensic audit would look at each of the contracts to ensure proper accounting practices were followed. The purpose of the forensic audit is to detect fraud and at CSU I imagine that wouldn’t be hard given the administration of the last 7 years. Any permanent president coming in to shut down #CSUclowncar would do themselves a great benefit by demanding transparency of the financial operation of the university. Cronyism does not exist quia non causa or for no reason, rather it exists to provide material benefit to those participating. Material benefit can be clearly defined in economic terms. It could be contracts given to friends or jobs given to friends or relatives both of which have occurred at CSU since 2009.

So where might a forensic audit begin? I am most curious about the amount of money spent on the illusory West Side Campus during the last seven years and who, pray tell, did nearly $6 million go to. Was property acquired? Was equipment purchased? Were employees hired to work at the WSC? If not what were millions of taxpayer dollars spent on?

I am also curious about the spending of non-appropriated funds, namely from the myriad of student fees collected by the university. For example, I believe that a portion of the student activity fee goes toward the operation of a student newspaper. That newspaper hasn’t been published in years so where did the money for its operation go? A forensic audit might just answer that question. 

I am curious about hiring and payroll practices. Might a forensic audit uncover ghost payrolling and identify who was responsible for that particular fraud? In other places in Illinois, ghost payrollers often received prison time for they offences. Might some perp walks be in the offing?

So who might conduct a forensic audit and who would pay for this rather expensive undertaking? A five minute search of the Google machine led me to three companies that would be large enough to conduct a forensic audit of a public university. Meaden & Moore, Plante Moran and Navigant all have significant experience in accounting, auditing and forensic auditing. I am sure any of the Big Four Accounting firms would be capable of a thorough forensic examination of the finances of the university as well. Though it would seem the university is flush with cash, (See Calhoun payoff), it would probably require a special appropriation by the legislature. At the point the university is now, I would not be surprised if legislators from both sides of the aisle demanded a forensic audit before  appropriating any more money to ensure that financial management practices were up to snuff. Given the financial exigency declaration, the board of trustees should have the results of an audit before they terminate the exigency as there was some question from the former president as to whether he was receiving accurate financial information during his brief tenure. I would imagine the interim president and former/current CFO, would want a forensic audit, lest its results turn him into #Fallguy. Undertaking a forensic audit should also instill some confidence in donors, investors, partners, contributors to the university and make it easier to fund raise. 

The reality of the budget crisis is that higher education spending has remained flat but is being used differently with a much higher percentage going to pension funding. This is forcing universities to be more financially independent. CSU will find this difficult as long as its financial condition is murky. A forensic audit could restore confidence and might very well contribute to saving the university from the #CSUclowncar.

An "Embarrassment" and "Laughingstock" Indeed: Chicago State University's Web Site

Yesterday, in the Sun Times Mary Mitchell called Chicago State an “embarrassment,” and “the laughingstock of the state university system.” She pointed out that “While students and faculty rallied in Springfield last year to keep the doors open during the budget stalemate, the school’s administrators have been showing the kind of incompetent leadership that causes black institutions to implode.” http://chicago.suntimes.com/politics/mitchell-chicago-state-university-needs-to-clean-up-its-act/.

For heaven’s sake, how long do we have to suffer this? How long before we are either put out of our misery or someone with the authority to take action starts to clean this place up? Will we ever get away from the “politics of personality and cronyism” that Mitchell references in her article?

One of the most noticeable effects of cronyism is a work product that is far below standard. For a sterling example of crappy work here at Chicago State, look no farther than the university’s web site, the school’s first chance to make a good impression. In the past, I have criticized our site for its egregious grammatical errors, pointing out that it’s not a blog or a forum in which persons write off-the-cuff comments or pieces, which often contain such errors. As our window on the world, the material on the university’s web site should be up-to-date, polished and precise, free of errors in spelling and grammar. Taking only a cursory look at the material on our web page immediately reveals how far removed it is from this ideal. Apparently, here at Chicago State, we have neither the pride nor the ability to present accurate and professional material to the outside world. Here are just a few examples from earlier today:

This is the president's portion of the Chicago State web site. This might leave someone looking in from outside scratching her/his head in wonder.


Next, we navigate to the Enrollment Management section of the site. Here, we see that Dr. Carol Cortilet-Albrecht, who left university employment at the end of June, is still the V.P. of Enrollment Management. As we all know, that's simply not true as we are currently in the process of selecting our third Vice President (I assume) of Enrollment Management since June 29, 2016. Readers might also notice that both her name and the name of the Director of admissions are spelled incorrectly. It's Cortilet, not Cotilet. It's Bhatia, not Bhitia.


Staying with the Enrollment Management folks, clicking on one of the menu items brings up this screen. You'll notice that here, both of Dr. Cortilet-Albrecht's surnames are spelled incorrectly:


We move on to the Governmental Affairs portion of our web site. Here we find Farah Muscadin listed as Director of Intergovernmental Affairs. As some of you may remember, she has not been employed at the university since April 30, 2016.


I conclude with information on the web site that simply needs no commentary:




Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Is it 2013 Again? Watson Returns in Disguise

With the re-establishment of the Watson cronies as leaders of doomed Chicago State University, we find ourselves back in Wayne’s wonderland. Plan for nothing and never take responsibility. Hide your ignorance under a cloak of meaningless platitudes and outright bullshit. After all, no one in the state gives a damn.

Here’s Chicago State’s response to yesterday’s Tribune story: "The university continues to focus on improving academic excellence, student experience, increasing enrollment and revenue generation," officials said in the statement. "We plan to rebuild in 2017."

From the memorandum by Cecil Lucy on September 23, 2016: “I am committed to improving our student experience, revenue generation, and bridging the gap among our campus community. . . in the months ahead, we will continue to focus on:

• Student success

• Increasing Enrollment

• Expanding our financial resources”

From the beginning of the Watson administration, the administration bombarded the university community and the public with a succession of vacuous slogans and insipid sound bites in response to concrete problems. For example:

• Audit problems.
• Watson’s response: "incorrect processes (that are) embedded in the culture here — have lasted for years.”
• Financial Aid problems.
• Watson’s response: “the practice of allowing failing students to stay on the rolls began in 2007 as an intentional effort to boost enrollment figures and then continued without the knowledge of current campus leaders.”
• Plummeting enrollment.
• Pick one. “Right-sizing,” or “academic rigor,” or “raising standards.” Here’s Cheri Sidney: "Some of the internal factors that affect our enrollment are our own policies and procedures. These are policies and procedures that we continue to review and address as we align our strategic goals of enrollment with serving the students and adhering to the university standards.” Or, how about this: "Chicago State University is still in the mold (mode?) of right-sizing our enrollment from a decade-plus of enrollment data integrity challenges, policy and procedure standards that were not conducted or executed properly and new federal aid changes to financial aid.”
• Cratering graduation rate for first-time students. This is for the first cohort of students to matriculate and spend their entire college career under the great Wayne Watson and his spectacularly incompetent administration. I can assure you that subsequent graduation rates will be almost as bad and I expect that eventually, our first-time graduation rate will dip below 10 percent.
• Here’s Sabrina Land’s unadulterated nonsense: "The 11 percent graduation rate is a result of the students dropped in spring 2011 for poor academic performance as previously reported by the Chicago Tribune," "This decision was made to preserve the academic integrity of the university."

Readers might notice the absence of substantive solutions to very real problems. We solve everything by doing a rhetorical shuffle that hopefully distracts people from seeing the complete lack of a plan or an idea of how to address these issues that have plagued the school for years. Needless to say, none of the leadership is to blame.

So let’s analyze the most recent gruel spooned out by Mr. Lucy in response to the abysmal numbers recently reported by IER.

We are improving “student success” and the “student experience” by eviscerating the parts of the university that serve our students: advising, admissions, the library, financial aid, information services. In the meantime, we continue to support our bloated administration and pay high salaries to persons who do what exactly?

We plan to “increase enrollment” by getting rid of our fourth V.P. for Enrollment Management since 2013. His replacement will be? We also plan to add students by decimating admissions. When they get here, the will surely be impressed with a library that has so few staff it has been operating on regular business hours, by advising that features interminable waits to see harried advisors who are trying to achieve the impossible task of advising across multiple disciplines and programs.

We plan to “expand our financial resources,” or increase “revenue generation” by making outlandish demands on staff, faculty, and the community. All these groups are supposed to shrug off a kick in the groin and contribute to this corrupt enterprise. All these people are supposed to validate the actions of this execrable board and administration by contributing money. Speaking for myself, to hell with that idea.

Based on what I’ve seen in the past few days, we’re right back in the middle of the Wayne Watson era. A 1984-style worldview that lies are truth and ignorance is strength continues to be the mantra of this administration, enthusiastically supported by the worst board in the country. We truly are nearing the end and only a full-blown purge of the administration and board will save this university.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

More Bleak News

Another miserable story about the school: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-chicago-state-university-enrollment-future-met-20160927-story.html

The worst part of all this is that no one says anything. The President has nothing to say, the Board Chairman refuses comment, no one in the administration says anything. Why? Because they don't have a clue about anything happening on this campus. Resign you cartoonish pack of fools!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

#Fallguy, Next Steps and What's At Risk

So when the indescribably inept #CSUclowncar needs to cover its tracks, it will need someone to take the blame for its failures. Enter #Fallguy. I would imagine that given the attention generated by the #CSUclowncar in the past week, legislators are trying to figure out their next steps which might include hearings on the #CSUclowncar's worst decision, the financial exigency declaration. 

Legislative hearings would be an opportunity to examine in a thoughtful way how public universities should proceed in times of extreme financial distress. As CSU is the only public institution in the United States to declare exigency, it is the only available case study to provide data on what to do and not do in situations of severe financial distress. I would imagine that the Higher Learning Commission, Illinois Board of Higher Education, US Department of Education, a plethora of other lettered agencies and other public universities would want to examine in exquisite detail 1) how the university's board came to the decision to declare exigency, 2) how and when the university administration planned for the exigency declaration, 3) how the exigency plan was implemented, 4) how the university terminated exigency and returned to normal operations. Within these four areas there should be a voluminous amount of data, evidence, correspondence etc. to provide a clear picture of what happened and who was responsible. Given that the university was willing to spend more than $800,000 for nine months service of its former president, the scrutiny of legislative hearings is more than warranted. 

Your humble narrator posits that after these questions are answered, there will be demands from various sectors, not least of which the state legislature, for accountability from the university. That could be interpreted as looking for a #Fallguy. Who, loyal readers, would you imagine is cast perfectly for that role? Might the #Fallguy be the Board of Trustees who have built, equipped, fueled and driven the #CSUclowncar for years? Would it be Baldy, who demonstrably failed to plan starting in February 2015 when it was apparent to anyone with a pulse that a financial storm was coming? Would it be Calhoun, who quickly tired of the #CSUclowncar after being shackled after 30 days on the the job and retreated to friendlier climes? Or might it be the current office holder, Cecil Lucy?  Given the proclivity of senior administrators at this university to undermine the chief executive, I would caution him to be wary of those around him, lest he suffer the same fate as his predecessor. He is in the most vulnerable position because he is an interim, a placeholder and the former chief financial officer. If there are any questions of money mismanagement, he would be the first to answer, right??? And that would make him the first to shoulder blame.

The reality of the situation is that the university board and administration have incompetently overseen this institution for several years, ostensibly carrying on a tradition of mismanagement. The bill is now due and the economic environment is significantly changed. The historic legislative protectors of the university should be prepared to adjust to a new reality of hard questions being asked and a new expectation of accountability being demanded. The continued viability of the university hangs in the balance. Without those hard questions being asked and answered, the university doesn't stand a chance of implementing the change that it needs to pull itself from the morass of ineptitude.

Part of that accountability may include the university being subjected to a forensic audit, a subject which I will explore in some detail in a future post. For now, let's encourage in whatever way we can, to get hearings on the exigency held, questions asked and answered, and a course plotted that doesn't have the #CSUclowncar at the controls.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Mr. Cecil Lucy "would like to rebound quickly from our recent past and get back on track..."


Good luck with that.




A Modest Proposal: How We Move Forward

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.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Mayday, Mayday, Mayday

So it looks like the car is spinning out of control and the pavement is dry and free of debris so it must be the driver. Yes, you are in the #CSUclowncar. The recent missive from the new interim president, (I don't know what's considered interim anymore) seems be an exhortation to forget the past and move forward. 

Seriously???

#CSUclowncar is careening out of control and we are supposed to forget the most inept administration in the country is still behind the wheel making decisions that continue to negatively impact the university. I am not often at a loss for words but this left me speechless. Need I recap for you, loyal readers of this humble blog, the disaster of the the last seven years which has led us to this point? I think not.

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. At this point, it is clear to me that in order for faculty to move on, the provost needs to move on. The plagiarism, the three no-confidence votes, the union busting, the failure of the exigency process, the HLC sanction, the general disregard for faculty, the absence of shared governance, the petty retaliation against dissenters have become too much for faculty to countenance considering any sort of reconciliation. If the board, the president and the provost don't understand this, then they are intentionally obtuse or openly contemptuous of the experience of faculty and staff at this university. 

For someone who is so widely disdained, why the university won't move on from her failed attempts at administration is beyond me. To expect the survivors of the Watson inspired blood bath to now flock to its key henchmen in some ridiculous show of unity demonstrates how out of touch this administration is. 

I believe many if not most people are planning for the worst, a de facto closing in May 2017 because the #CSUclowncar has managed to gut the vital infrastructure of the institution. Enrollment Management exists in name only. Academic Affairs is barely functional. Administration and Finance is playing a massive shell game, robbing Peter to pay Paul (and Thomas). Morale is non-existent. Staff and faculty ranks (the institutional memory) have been decimated while the administrative ranks remain intact. The handwriting seems pretty clear. We aren't destined for a rebuild, reset, or retool.

We are destined to continue as a political football however as the Legislative Black Caucus tries to protect its interests in the university, and the governor tries to score political points with his base in an election cycle against his opposition, and a hand full of thoughtful legislators try to keep the university viable. All of this happening against the backdrop of a board that has done nothing but fuel the #CSUclowncar and taken turns at the wheel.

To my faculty colleagues, I ask this. Is the time approaching that we demand the institution be shuttered so that this nonsense can be brought to an end?

More Disastrous Collateral Damage Caused by our Corrupt Board

One of the arguments made by persons concerned about this blog’s exposure of unethical actions is an argument about “collateral damage” or “unintended consequences,” as if the writings on this forum are the cause of our problems rather than the actions that spur our writings. Well here’s some “collateral damage” or “unintended consequences” of the board’s politically motivated February declaration of “financial exigency.”

First, the Wayne Watson clones on the board made that declaration to insure the high-profile holdovers from the Watson administration would not lose their jobs. The university had no plan upon entering “financial exigency,” and it had no plan for exiting that status Of course, we know that the Higher Learning Commission ultimately responded with a sanction for the university based on its fiscal instability. That sanction came with monitoring. Our administration is currently in the process of responding to those concerns. That should inspire confidence.

Now, however, the board’s duplicity is likely to result in another type of negative attention from HLC: the public designation that Chicago State is an institution in “financial distress.” Here’s what that means: “The purpose . . . shall be to inform the public that the institution is dealing with a significant financial condition(s) . . . [that] have the potential to affect the institution’s operations, and the public should be aware of this information in making a decision to attend or continue to attend the institution under the designation. Any designation issued by the Commission President shall be public.”

The affected institution has only two weeks to respond to the possibility of a designation and will be saddled with the designation for up to two years, during which time it “must submit regular reports about its financial situation or undergo other regular or special monitoring, including Advisory Visits, as determined by the Commission President.”

Here are the conditions which may trigger special monitoring. Let’s see how many apply to Chicago State University:

1. institutional declaration of bankruptcy, financial exigency, or intent to close;
2. highly publicized and divisive controversies among the governing board, the administration, and/or the faculty or the student body;
3. significant unanticipated reduction in program offering, faculty, and/or enrollment;
4. public sanctions applied by governmental agencies or by other accrediting or licensing bodies;
5. serious legal, financial, or ethical investigations, including those involving adjudication in courts;
6. financial audit reports that raise serious concerns about financial viability or financial management practices;
7. serious misrepresentation to students and the public.

I make us to be at least six out of seven, and when you consider the number of administrators with falsified resumes, perhaps seven out of seven. The dissident faculty must be responsible for all those conditions, yes?

Here’s a message for our new interim president. As soon as possible, purge our university of all Watson holdovers, they’re responsible for our predicament. If you’re a Watson crony yourself, resign. You’re not going to win over the staff and faculty with the kind of bullshit you put out today. Speaking for myself, I’m tired of all the platitudes and clich├ęs coming out of the Cook building, I’m waiting for some kind of positive action to begin healing this school and to put us on the right path. Are you capable of providing that?


Apologists for CSU’s Shameful Board of Trustees: Tactic #1 Start a Whisper Campaign. Michael Sneed at the Sun Times thinks she has solved the mystery of Calhoun’s departure…So who is passing on information?

Michael Sneed is a columnist for Chicago’s Sun Times, a paper which had supported the Watson regime. Two days ago in her gossipy-styled opinion section called “Sneedlings” she posted the following short bit, “Ending the Mystery” (see article & link, scroll past the blather about the new name of the White Sox stadium). 

To paraphrase her unnamed source, the CSU Board of Trustees was apparently, shocked, shocked that Thomas Calhoun had asked for an outrageous sum of money to stage an inauguration for himself. And, besides that, he painted over the 1920s mural ceiling in the bedroom of the prez mansion and this is a historic house. Can you believe he did that? That was the last straw. The board had had enough!! 

Well, who knows about the ceiling and its great loss to the art world, but let me get this straight. Sneed thinks that Calhoun’s request for money to which the Trustees could say yes or no ticked them off so much that he needed to be fired, terminated, separated? This Board that has ponied up how much money in maintaining their favorite president Wayne Watson in the style to which he had become accustomed is now affronted? This Board that has footed the bill for lawsuits and appeals for their favorite president Wayne Watson that have only netted CSU and the taxpayers of Illinois further legal losses, lawyer’s fees, and larger payouts to victims of Wayne’s hubris is now aghast?

To recap. A painted over ceiling of dubious historical and artistic value and a request for money that the Trustees themselves had the power to veto if they deemed it so outrageous is what got Calhoun fired. Well, Sneed, if you believe this, I’ll tell you there’s a bridge in Brooklyn that is for sale and I could let you have it for a good price.

Since the Board tied itself and Calhoun into silence by terms of its contract of separation with him (neither party is supposed to disparage the other publicly) the only way for them to make Calhoun out to be a bad guy is to begin a whisper campaign.  

But whispering works two ways. So let the whispering begin. 

Who do you think whispered to Michael Sneed?

I think it was N………..

OPINION Michael Sneed
CHICAGO 09/21/2016  Facebook: MichaelSneed@Sneedlings
msneed@suntimes.com

Ending the mystery . . .

Sneed hears rumbles former Chicago State University President Thomas J. Calhoun Jr., who mysteriously exited CSU recently with a $600,000 golden parachute after serving only nine months in office — is being credited with one major change before he left.

It involved a paint brush.

Sneed is told Calhoun’s brief residence at the CSU mansion, a 1921 mansion occupied by the university presidents, resulted in a change in the master bedroom — which sports a huge mural ceiling of hand-painted cherubs.

“Not anymore,” a CSU source said. “It was completely painted over while he was there. How insensitive is that,” added the source. “The house is historic!”

“Calhoun also managed to infuriate the CSU board members, who were not happy when they found out he [Calhoun] had put together a massively expensive inaugural budget,” added the source.

“The university was in urgent need of a funding infusion and Calhoun asked them for an inaugural budget which cost a veritable fortune. And the state would have had to foot the bill!  They’d had it.”


How to Hire a President for $812,500: The Chicago State Board Breaks Out the Checkbook

If you haven’t seen the recent article in the Tribune, take a look at it. Thanks to FOIA, the paper got hold of the severance agreement between the board and Dr. Calhoun. Part of the agreement includes a “letter of reference” for Calhoun written by Anthony Young, Here’s an excerpt:

"He was a voice of calm in the midst of tumult," Young wrote. "He endeared himself to the broader university community, inspiring the faculty and students. With great poise, he was able to bring a message of hope, while all indicators were predicting disaster. His understanding of university culture, his enthusiasm for the possibilities of the academy, and his commitment to faculty and student success are hallmarks of his character."

So, this board terminated an apparently stellar university president. Why? The story fails to tell us as do the members of this buffoonish board. Now we come to the bad news; the payout arrangement for the severance. The university will pay $300,000 to Dr. Calhoun by October 1, 2016, another $300,000 on January 3, 2017. Since Dr. Calhoun began his short-lived term as Chicago State President on January 4, 2016, the total compensation/severance paid by to the university to our now non-president comes to $812,500 ($212,500 already paid in salary through September 15, plus the $600,000 buyout to be paid within the next three and one-half months.

Think about that. The school that effectively declared bankruptcy on February 4, 2016, has $600,000 to throw away on a gift to a terminated chief executive. We have no money for students, staff, faculty, infrastructure, or academic support. We have money for this, though. We have cut to the bone admissions, financial aid, building services, academic advising, library operations, and maintenance services. We have money for this, though. We claim poverty and terminate/layoff/demote hundreds of our employees because we have no money to pay them. We have money for this, though. Maybe those ridiculous trustees should have taken the time to walk through the campus buildings (other than the Cook building and New Library). Maybe those trustees should have talked to students, staff, and faculty instead of listening to a small cadre of administrators determined to undermine Dr. Calhoun and seize complete control of this institution. Of course that supposes the fools who sit on the board are interested in the welfare of the school. They have proven time and again they are not, that their primary goal is to protect the positions of persons who have continually made decisions that furthered their interests at the expense of the best interests of the institution.

Now we enter the post-$812,000 president era. Nothing has changed. We continue to operate just as we have for the past six-plus years. The board continues to be tone deaf, patronizing, and downright insulting. The “new” administration (another one) continues its odious practices. It’s business as usual here at Chicago State. While the administrative queue at the public trough continues, the university community suffers. Time for a forensic audit folks.

Here’s the article: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-chicago-state-university-severance-20160921-story.html

Thursday, September 22, 2016

They Don't Know When to Shut Up: The Worst University Board of Trustees in the Country Digs a Deeper Hole

Look at this ridiculous, insulting, mewling memorandum from our clueless Board. Remember back to Friday when they kicked the students, staff, faculty, alumni, community, and Illinois taxpayers in the teeth? Now the Board wants us to forget all that and pay attention to what they now say. Here are some of the excerpts: "we are all prepared to move forward to reimagine a future with Chicago State University as a flagship institution of higher education in an urban setting." Or "We have a steady hand at the helm. We shall overcome!" Or, how about this bullshit. "we know we could not have opened the doors of CSU this semester without the help of our proud and dedicated students." Read the memo for yourself and decide on your favorite hypocritical passage. At the board meeting Friday, Kelly Harris reminded the board that they were "insulting our intelligence." This memorandum is simply disgraceful, an insult to the intelligence of everyone in our university community. Seriously, after you've done something this destructive and stupid, you should just shut up about it. Who writes this stuff?


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Advantage of the Digital Age

So at the risk of shameless self promotion I offer these YouTube videos to give you a different perspective of recent events.

Board Meeting 9/16/16:

An Explanation:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cCKJW0N-BuQ

A Step Back

So loyal readers, after much contemplation over the past few days I have decided to return to the era of Crony State University being a reality in terms of our blog graphic. It saddens me that with the departure of President Calhoun,  the university has returned to  business as usual. The appointed board members are clearly riding and/or driving #CSUclowncar at this point. The tragedy is that Springfield is remarkably silent about the continuing implosion of a taxpayer supported university. We will see which elected officials take action first, those with oversight and budget power or those with executive authority. Or maybe this is a competition to see who can do the least to save the institution from what many believe is its impending demise.

And when you, loyal readers, believe we have actually turned a corner toward a different future I will replace the graphic. Until then I think we all need reminding of how we got here in the first place.

Chicago State Students Speak Truth to Power

Below are excerpts from the public comment portion of last Friday's debacle. Public Comments begin around 10:45 on recording 2. These are the voices of Chicago State students from the September 16 Board meeting:

Mary Bunch

"We believed in Dr. Calhoun, he made us feel that we were worth something. I put my feet on the pavement down at the state of Illinois building .. .to keep these doors open. Dr. Calhoun gave us this inspiration and for Dr. Calhoun to be dismissed, the students were not, I wasn’t, even informed,it’s as if we do not make a difference at this university. This is our school."

Karen Smith

"I’m here because I care and my question to you is do you care? Do you care . . . about the future of this university and if you do care what’s the plan? If President Calhoun wasn’t a part of, what is the plan? What actionable solutions do you have in place to turn CSU around? If you cannot truthfully and honestly answer the question, do you care? Then the next item on your personal agenda needs to be to respectfully submit your resignation."

Michael Wiegand

"I’ve thought about what I would say in front of you, I thought about how I would say it, and standing in the back listening to the last couple comments, it doesn’t matter, right now we have no proof that you guys are going to listen. You need to understand why this is happening . . . I’m here talking to you guys about somebody who was unequivocally respected, well respected, who is, sorry 'resigning.' When you go home, ..look yourselves in the mirror and [ask] are you doing what's best for the school? I don’t think any of us believe that, and . . . perceptions become reality . . . and the perception is that right now the school is not being run by you folks in the way that is best for the university, and I think you need to change that."

Andre Fredricks

"What I’ve been seeing this entire time of this board meeting has been rather shocking and a little bit disgusting, I’m looking at the student representative giving you the voice of the students and it’s continuously being drowned out by those who are supposedly for the students. . . there are a bunch of different things on campus that need attention, you have a ravine in front of Douglas hall, you have . . .leaking pipes, but yet there was money to buy out President Calhoun's contract. It’s gotten to a point where the Board of Trustees has lost the trust of the faculty, the staff, some of the administrators, and most importantly, what makes up a university, the students. And honestly, the only way I can see this being fixed is I challenge you to reinstate President Thomas Calhoun."

Adrian Mercado

"As a leader, I’m having a hard time seeing the future of Chicago State because of this. As a resident assistant in the dorms, how do I talk to my residents and people that come to me for help? . . . about the future of Chicago State University? . . . they want to know, are we going to be here next semester? We found comfort in president Calhoun, we found that was the light we needed . . . I commend you guys for hiring him in the first place, but for you guys to take [him] away, just know that in the future . . . the press, the media, it’s going to be ten times worse."

Charles Preston

"I’m a senior in African American studies, a discipline that’s being gutted. African American Studies is suffering, the social sciences at this university [are] suffering, and it’s a shame that is never raised in these meetings. As this trustee board exited to executive session, I approached Trustee Smith, Bishop Trustee Smith, he’s a Bishop, and I said 'don’t laugh at our concerns. It’s disrespectful.' He told me in response, and this can be confirmed by multiple sources, 'don’t let the white man control you.' Now I don’t know if he believes that a black student at this university can't conceive their own thoughts and concerns, and state their position, I don’t know . . . the inspiration for these racially charged remarks, but I know it’s a level of disrespect. When someone that has so much power talks down to a university student, in a disrespectful manner . . . the fact that he’s laughing and on his phone and being disrespectful and not taking us seriously speaks volumes, volumes about the condition of that board, what’s on that board. We should get behind Paris Griffin . . . she does so much for this university and for them to disregard her thoughts, she put in the work and they disregard it, so that speaks volumes about this board; and they should be ashamed of themselves. So, I don’t want to speak to them, we deserve an apology, an open public apology, I want to read it in the Tribune . . . that they’re sorry for not respecting the wishes of students, faculty, staff, and administration of this university. That is what we deserve and what we shall be demanding."

Christopher Glenn

"I was always told to look the devil in the eye. I’m going to try to paint a picture for you. We go back to January, the heralding of a new era for Chicago State University, A new leader arises, a breath of fresh air, a warrior, who is ready to lead us into the next era . . . a proud man, a strong man, Dr. Thomas J. Calhoun. So let’s fast forward nine months, 'til Wednesday, Chicago Tribune reports 'Chicago State's new president will now be resigning due to issues with the Board of Trustees.' So we go from shining new era in January to the end of an era in September. In 9 months we go from fighting a war as a collective to the war being on the inside, so the question is for all the trustee members, were you ever really interested in the war outside of the school? or was it your intention to just have your own needs met? So, let me paint the next headline for you that I see in the . . .coming months, 'Inept board members are the cause of the closure of Chicago State University.'"

This is why we fight. Our students are who we fight for.

Monday, September 19, 2016

WTTW's Chicago Tonight follows up with some hard questions about the Board's decision to oust CSU's president

A roundtable discussion moderated by Carol Marin on WTTW tonight included the following: "Robert Bionaz, the outspoken president of the faculty union who opposes the ouster of Calhoun; state Rep. Jeanne Ives, who wants to expand the Community College Employment Contract Act to include Chicago State so that future severance payouts at public universities only equal a year of pay; state Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Chicago) who is a Chicago State University alum; and Maudlyne Ihejirika, the Chicago Sun-Times urban affairs reporter and assistant city editor."

Marin pressed points, followed up on questions, and showed limited toleration for obfuscation. See the broadcast link:

http://chicagotonight.wttw.com/2016/09/19/ouster-csu-president-steep-severance-raise-questions

No board members or members of the CSU administration cared (or dared) to participate. CSU's de facto president, Angela Henderson, is undoubtedly too busy calling the shots just as Big Daddy Wayne hoped she would. Is it true she just fired the recently hired Enrollment Management VP Michael Ellison?  Is it true Wayne never vacated his pied a terre in the library? Now with Calhoun gone he can discontinue his midnight prowlings.

NOTE to the disingenuous prevaricators on the CSU Board of Trustees: it is not only the students and faculty who are disgusted by your actions.  From CBSLocal news:  "Better Government Association executive director Andy Shaw said the situation [at CSU] demands an investigation. 'It’s hard to understand why he [Calhoun] would get any kind of severance or golden parachute. There are a lot of unanswered questions here, and I think before we reach a final conclusion, we need to know what went down,' he said."

http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2016/09/16/chicago-state-university-president-resigns-gets-600000-severance/

Did anyone say forensic audit?

No Confidence in Chicago State Trustees

This is the "no confidence" declaration currently circulating among CSU staff and faculty. If anyone associated with the University wishes to sign this, e-mail me at rbionaz@att.net. I plan to drop this off today at the governor's office in the Thompson Center.

September 17, 2016

Dear Governor Rauner:

Yesterday, Nikki Zollar, Anthony Young, James Joyce, Spencer Leak, Marshall Hatch, and Horace Smith of the Chicago State Board of Trustees terminated the services of President Thomas J. Calhoun after he had spent only 8 and one-half months on the job. As a condition of the “separation” agreement between the Board and the President, the departing President will receive $600,000 in severance over the next two years. The Board members gave no reason for their termination decision.

These Board members took this feckless and fiscally irresponsible action despite overwhelming support for Dr. Calhoun from all parts of the University. They betrayed the students, staff, faculty, and alumni of Chicago State. They betrayed community members who support this University. They betrayed each and every constituent group desiring to see fundamental change in the way this University does business. Finally, against the backdrop of purported “financial exigency,” their profligate commitment of hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for two presidents for the next two years betrayed the taxpayers of Illinois.

Given the appalling disregard for both the public good and the well-being of Chicago State University exhibited by these six Board members, the staff and faculty of this school declare that we have “no confidence” in them. We demand that they resign. If they will not, we ask that you immediately remove Nikki Zollar, Anthony Young, James Joyce, Spencer Leak, Marshall Hatch, and Horace Smith from the Chicago State University Board of Trustees before they are able to further damage our University.


Yours truly,

Sunday, September 18, 2016

How it Happened: It Must be Fiction

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.







Saturday, September 17, 2016

Despite its Cries of "Financial Exigency," Chicago State University Spends Like a Drunken Sailor

As a result of all the cuts to staff, administrators, and faculty, the University has reduced its payroll expenditures to around $35 million. Of course, we continue in the perpetual state of "financial exigency," as the corrupt and destructive Board of Trustees continues to throw money away. Here's my estimate of what the university has spent on administrative excesses in 2015-16, and will spend in 2017. Don't worry about advising, a library, admissions office, financial aid, or computer support for our students, here are our spending priorities:

Sometime in late 2015 or early 2016 (who knows when the university actually paid the bill?) we committed $150,000 to a presidential search firm.
In May/June 2016, the university doled out $1.56 in severance to terminated administrators, with an additional $600,000 plus in leave payouts. Total, around $2.2 million.
In June 2016, the university failed to recall nine tenured/tenure-track faculty. Because of "financial exigency," the University refused to provide the contractually required terminal contract and one year's salary. This payout would have cost around $590,000. We could not afford that.

In January 2016, the university began paying salaries for two presidents. Through June 30, $150,000 to Dr. Calhoun and $100,000 to Wayne Watson, "President Emeritus."
Between July 1 and September 15, the university paid in salary an additional $62,500 to Dr. Calhoun.
On September 16, 2016, the Board of Trustees committed to the following: $600,000 to Dr. Calhoun as severance after they fired him for no reason. This amount to be paid in two installments of $300,000 each. Of course, we must still have a president, so I estimate the "interim" will likely receive the same salary, which would come to $87,500 for the remainder of the year. This brings the total through the end of 2016 to $2,862,500 in service contracts and salaries for administrators and staff who are no longer employed at Chicago State. Added to this total is the estimated $87,500 in salary that we will pay to the interim President, for a total salary/benefit/contract expense through 2016 of $2,950,000.

Through 2017, we will pay $300,000 in severance for an employee who is no longer working at CSU, plus an estimated $300,000 for a second President. We will also likely throw more money away on a search firm (perhaps the Hollins Group to bring us another hack), at least $150,000. By my calculations, this brings the total expenditures for persons no longer working at CSU to $3,162,500,through 2017, with an additional $535,500 for putting a new president in place and paying her/his salary. That folks, comes to $3,698,000. It seems obvious that we've really tightened our belts here and that given our purportedly dire fiscal condition, we are really economizing. I can assure you, we will lay off more staff and faculty to pay for this folly.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Chicago State Board to Chicago State Students: Screw You!

In the sorriest chapter in the annals of the worst university board of trustees in the United States, Horace Smith, Nikki Zollar, Anthony Young, James Joyce, Spencer Leak, and Marshall Hatch put a bullet into the head of Chicago State University this morning. This abominable group ousted the President we all wanted in favor of Cecil Lucy, who likely does not want the job (with this board who would?). Clearly the ex-Watson cronies won the day against our President.

For those searching for a reason why the board would do something this monumentally stupid, here's Donne Trotter to explain: "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."

So that's Dr. Calhoun's fatal transgression. He actually had the audacity to listen to faculty and others who have the temerity to want legitimate people running the school instead of the collection of hacks with which we have been plagued the past six years. Dr. Calhoun did not work with members of the board? Maybe because the board was too busy listening to a cavalcade of petty complaints about the President from Watson cronies. And a plan? Given that the Watson administration did no planning whatsoever, despite the lies they tell about that, Dr. Calhoun is suddenly responsible for the university's lack of a coherent response to our current predicament. What a pile of bullshit.

Of course, the real losers in this wretched scenario are our students, who acquitted themselves magnificently at today's board meeting. The student trustee voted against the monstrous injustice. She was the only member of that group to show integrity. Students speaking during public comment called upon the board to resign. They reminded the board that dismissing Dr. Calhoun was in direct opposition to the wishes of the students, dozens of whom expressed their full-throated support of the President. Of course, as always, this board did not care. As Charles Preston eloquently stated, at least one board member, eminent physician Horace Smith, warned him not to let the "white man" use him, which means, of course, that Mr. Preston is some kind of weak-minded fool, a proposition soundly rejected by our brilliant student. Commenting on the articulate and reasoned remarks by our students, one prominent and well-respected member of the African American community told me after the meeting that "this is the best protest I've ever seen." High praise indeed.

So now the foul deed is done and we're back to where we started. Wayne Watson's sycophants with proven track records of failure are running the university and I suspect we will soon realize the fruits of their labors. We have lost the one person capable of leading us out of the wilderness and we are left with dashed hopes and broken dreams. All this is the responsibility of our execrable board. As one of the student comments predicted, the headlines about Chicago State will soon read: "school closed because of inept board." I'm sure all the administrators who undermined the President, the board members who now look like a fiscally irresponsible pack of fools for firing someone they just hired--never having given him the opportunity to do the job he was hired to do--and everyone who looked the other way while this travesty unfolded must be proud of themselves today. By the way, even though it was on the agenda, the board never voted to discontinue the MAC. Are we still afflicted with that?

Board Meeting This Morning: See the Nation's Worst Board of Trustees do its Sleazy Business Right Before Your Eyes

This morning just after 8:30, the CSU board will apparently vote on Thomas Calhoun's "separation package." Why is he being separated? We have no answer to that question, other than the silly and self-serving suggestion by Senator Donne Trotter (who likely nominated several of the current board members) that CSU needs a "war-time" president. That's Cecil Lucy? Why not just bring back our old friend Wayne Watson? In effect, that's what the board will do today.

So what has Dr. Calhoun done? Has he hired his girlfriend into a $90,000 year administrative job? Has he looked the other way as multiple lies were discovered on her resume? Has he continued to promote her despite demonstrable incompetence? Wait, that was Wayne Watson.

Has Dr. Calhoun hired a long-time crony as a University Vice President, then after two dismal years failing in that position, promoted her to Provost? Has he looked the other way when lies were discovered on her resume/application? No, that was Wayne Watson again.

Has Dr. Calhoun decreased the university's enrollment by 40 percent during his six-year tenure? Oh, Wayne Watson again.

Has Dr. Calhoun's vindictive management style cost the university millions of dollars in damage awards and legal fees? You guessed it, Wayne Watson again.

Has Dr. Calhoun been exposed in open court as a liar? Sorry, that was Wayne Watson.

Has Dr. Calhoun failed completely to raise money for the university? Sorry, Wayne Watson once again. In fact Watson's fund-raising was so inept that his sycophants decided the answer was to have the college deans become fund-raisers, about "one-third" of the time. Ridiculous and idiotic.

Has Dr. Calhoun been found by the OEIG to be both unethical and dishonest? What, that was Wayne Watson?

Has Dr. Calhoun, despite a year of lead time, failed to provide the university with a plan to deal with the totally predictable financial crisis that occurred in 2015-16? Really, we all know that was Wayne Watson again.

Confronted with all those scandals and many more during the Watson administration, our board did nothing save lavish more money on the former president, and spend more of the university's purportedly scarce resources on propping up his miserable regime. No scandal was bad enough to get them to move on Wayne Watson or any of his senior administrators, and the contortions they went through (see the OEIG finding) to defend Watson were truly laughable.

Now we are told only that Dr. Calhoun is not a "war-time" president. That is apparently sufficient for this board to decide to continue destroying this university. Now the board springs into action to take away the only chance this university has to come out of this predicament. Cecil Lucy is wholly unqualified to be president of this university. In fact, none of the members of the MAC or Chicago State's senior administrators would be acceptable in that role. We have the president we want already in place.

Make no mistake that the members of this board are responsible for failing this university, its students and staff. Anthony Young, Michael Curtin, and James Joyce are responsible for Watson keeping his job in 2013. Along with Spencer Leak and Horace Smith, they are responsible for the vote of "confidence" they gave Watson in May 2013. Nikki Zollar, Young, Curtin, Joyce, Smith, and Leak are responsible for the contract extension Watson received in mid-2014, and along with the most recent board member, Marshall Hatch, they positioned Watson on campus after his retirement to continue to do his underhanded business. Despite the knowledge that the staff and faculty almost unanimously support Thomas Calhoun and almost unanimously oppose Angela Henderson, they have apparently decided to continue her destructive tenure at Chicago State while they terminate his.

This is arguably the worst board of trustees at any U.S. university. The only thing they should do today is convene the meeting then all resign. If they won't resign, the Governor should remove them immediately.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

CSU Board Scrutinized on Chicago Tonight--Even Rauner grits his teeth and weighs in

The hardest hitting coverage of the Board's scandalous politically-motivated ouster of the 9-month long presidency of Thomas Calhoun came tonight from reporter Paris Schutz on Chicago Tonight. See the video link of the coverage below. Has the Board finally overplayed their Watsonian hand? There does not seem to be a lot of popular support on campus.or dare I say, IN THE COMMUNITY, for removing a president who never had a chance to be a president.

And, maybe, finally, it seems that the press or others will look at the money that this board has sent down the drain caving into the whims of Wayne Watson and his vendettas. Do you board members think you won't have to answer to the state about all those law firms you let the university hire to defend to the death your buddy who has proved to be so feckless, not to mention reckless?  You've proved your loyalty to your old friend, albeit in a warped way, so it's time you let Wayne and the Waynettes stop playing school. Wayne's got all the money out of the system that he can possibly need, he's goldened parachuted, he's not in prison in spite of skating on thin ice, he remains the teflon man. You did your due diligence as his good cronies. Time to think about your own legacy here.

If you Board members are not already abed, there still may be time for you to turn this Calhoun thing around. Besides, Wayne and the Waynettes, who is backing you up on this? Are you really unable to see the damage that your previous inaction and now this last despicable action has caused to CSU?

Please, there are people praying for you to make this right.

http://chicagotonight.wttw.com/2016/09/15/chicago-state-university-parting-president-after-only-9-months


Prayer Rally Tomorrow

I have been asked by interested parties to notify the CSU faculty, staff, and students, that there will be a Prayer Rally tomorrow before the Board of Trustees meeting.

Please join the prayer rally to lift up President Calhoun and the needs of the CSU community. Friday morning, September 16, 2016, we are meeting outside of the New Academic Library (NAL) at 7 a.m.  We invite all family and friends of CSU (who are willing), from all faiths and backgrounds, to participate.  Thank you.

The Disgraceful Perfomance History of the Chicago State Board of Trustees

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.