Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Anatomy of a Crony Hire: Nikki Zollar Again Demonstrates She Does Not Give a Damn About Chicago State

Remember when Wayne Watson expressed all that faux outrage at Board members allegedly trying to get their friends hired at Chicago State? Here are Watson’s words from around February 2013: “We believe that the real motivation behind the board's actions stem from the my refusal as president and the refusal of key members of my administration to capitulate to the incessant demands from Chairman Rozier and Vice-Chair Z. Scott to either hire, promote and to give salary increases to their friends and associates.”

While Wayne Watson and his retinue supposedly rejected overtures from some Board members to hire their “friends and associates,” a laughable assertion indeed, they failed to apply that exacting standard to other Board members, particularly Watson’s old “friend and associate” Nikki Zollar. What follows is the anatomy of a crony hire. As I have said in previous discussions of crony hires, the blame here rests on the people doing the hiring, since they are willfully subverting the University’s integrity by insuring that “friends and associates” get jobs which are often created out of thin air just for them.

First, as of January 31, 2017, the staff of the Provost’s Offices included eight persons: the Provost, three Associate Provosts, one Executive Secretary, one Associate, one Assistant to the Provost, and one Academic Contract Specialist. All these positions survived the April 2016 blood purge of staff and administrators. Six of the persons occupying those eight positions have worked in the Provost’s office since 2014. In addition, the current Director of Communications reports directly to the Provost.

The position I will focus on is the “Assistant to the Provost” position occupied by Yvonne Davila. This position last appeared as a funded line in the Fiscal 2012 Internal Operating Budget at a salary of $62,496. Now, however, this position is classified as a “Temporary Administrative” position by Human Resources, with a salary of $85,008 per year, or a salary equivalent to the compensation of two staff positions. While the University laid off and terminated scores of staff and administrative employees in April and June 2016, this temporary position survived. Why, exactly? What are the duties of this position? How did it come about?

To get straight to the point, the incumbent in this position survived because of the relationship between she and Nikki Zollar, and because Zollar and the Provost have colluded to keep the University in the hands of the Watson holdovers, and by extension, of Watson himself. In the spring of 2016, Dr. Calhoun mentioned to me that someone named Davila worked in the Provost’s office as a “crisis communicator.” He indicated that he had no idea what that job entailed but that he had been informed that he needed such a person.

How did he get her? According to records received from a FOIA request, the Legal Department contracted with Davila for unspecified legal services. She received $4999.75 on February 25, March 19, April 14, and May 28, 2014; a grand total of $19,999. On June 24, 2014, Davila signed a contract—which the Provost approved—to provide the University “Crisis Communication Consulting Services on behalf of the University, including matters of reputation management, media and message management, internal communication and litigation.” The contract called for $19,998 in compensation, which she received in three payments of $6666 on July 9, August 15, and September 5, 2014. The contract ran from July 1, 2014 through November 13, 2014. On November 3, 2014, the University apparently hired Davila as the “Assistant to the Provost,” at her current salary of $85,008. According to records obtained from Human Resources, since February 2014, she has received $245,000 in compensation.


The duties of this position are unclear. Although the “Crisis Communication” portion of the July 2014 contract suggests that the work product should include things like press releases or other external and internal communications designed to protect the University’s “reputation,” there is no evidence of any such concerted effort. No stories in any of the local media outlets include statements from the Crisis Communicator. In addition, a search of the CSU web site reveals only one entry for Davila, a comment included in the Provost Council meeting of July 6, 2016: “Y. Davila indicated an article about the accomplishments of The College of Pharmacy has been published. She shared that this story is one part of a broader project to share achievements and positive information about CSU. The goal is two stories a month for this year. She invited participation/suggested leads and will establish a calendar.”

Her comment apparently refers to a story in the Chicago Defender by “YD Avila” about the College of Pharmacy. An internet search revealed that to be the only reference to “YD Avila” and the Defender. I found no other articles about Chicago State University written by Davila in the Defender. So, what communications are the province of this position? Perhaps the “news” on the CSU web site might be one of the job duties. In the 28 months since January 1, 2015, a total of 75 “news” articles have appeared on our site, most a paragraph or two. That’s around 2.7 per month. Perhaps that’s the “two stories a month” Davila referenced at the Provost Council.

As I pointed out in a previous post, Davila had no hesitation about expressing her feeling to Trustee Zollar that Phil Beverly should be “fired” for having the audacity to make a video documenting his classroom teaching. Davila’s inclusion in an e-mail thread eventually going from CSU administrators to Zollar demonstrates her close connections to the Trustee. Zollar’s informal “Good gravy,” comment and her subsequent stupid assertion that Dr. Beverly “incites riots” (when, I wonder, was the last “riot” to which Zollar referred?) demonstrates her willingness to discuss these matters with someone with which she has a degree of familiarity. Likewise, Zollar’s admonition to Dr. Calhoun (previously reported on this blog) about “not hurting” various administrators, including, Davila, demonstrates her fealty to the Watson cronies.

Frankly, I am not even sure that Davila’s job at Chicago State is her only full-time job. Nonetheless, her connections with Nikki Zollar insure her continued employment, even as other staff persons see their lives disrupted by losing their jobs at Chicago State. In fact, she may even also work for one of Nikki Zollar’s companies, Safespeed.

A recent article on Safespeed detailed the connections between the officers of the company, and their contributions to various state and local politicians whose support is integral to the Zollar’s lucrative financial dealings with a number of local municipalities. Safespeed’s political activity has given it a “license to print money,” according to one observer. The article documented over $183,000 in contributions since 2007 from Zollar, Safespeed, or Triad Consulting, another Zollar company.

Throughout the article, the reporters refer to Yvonne Davila as a “spokeswoman” for Safespeed. One of the co-authors of the article indicated that Davila had an e-mail address at Safespeed.LLC. In a written response to questions from the reporters, Davila commented on Nikki Zollar, Triad Consulting, and three other persons associated with Safespeed. She said this about Zollar: “Ms. Zollar is an attorney with a wealth of experience in many different fields … She is an entrepreneur whose ideas are not constrained." The authors of the article described Zollar this way: “SafeSpeed LLC was formed in Illinois in June 2007 by a group of individuals who at the time appear to have had zero experience in traffic safety or control . . . One of those partners, SafeSpeed President Nikki M. Zollar, is a former official in the administration of Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar and has longstanding ties to both Chicago Democrats and state GOP officials. . . Zollar brought political connections from both sides of the political aisle to SafeSpeed but it is unclear from a review of state records how she got into the red-light camera business.” The link to the article is: http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/1-17-2017/Easy-money:-Area-red_light-camera-tickets-a-boon-for-clouted-company-/

Nikki Zollar is also an “entrepreneur” who has no objection to using Chicago State as an employment agency for her “friends and associates.” Certainly, someone that politically connected would insure that only someone she knew and trusted would serve as a “spokeswoman” for her company.

To recap, Nikki Zollar and the Provost worked to install one of Zollar’s “friends and associates” in a nicely compensated administrative job in the Provost’s office. Obviously, Zollar’s patronage and the Provost's complicity insured that the position and its incumbent (despite the "temporary" status) survived the April 2016 staff cuts. The job duties are murky and it seems unclear just exactly what Zollar’s person actually does, although there is no evidence of any kind of “crisis communication” or of press releases from the “crisis communicator” pertaining to Chicago State’s various crises. The “crisis communicator” serves as a “spokeswoman” for one of Zollar’s “clouted companies,” a position that suggests she may actually be employed by Safespeed. Based on her votes at the last Board meeting, Zollar’s loyalty to the Watson regime remains unshaken, and Zollar’s role in insuring the continued employment of her crony hire demonstrates her contempt for Chicago State as an educational institution. This is not the place to stash your “friends and associates.” I can only echo my distinguished colleague’s demand to Zollar. Ms. Zollar, your performance as a Trustee has been shameful. For the good of the institution, please resign immediately.

This is precisely the kind of "business as usual" we must eliminate.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Morehouse University Cleans House, Time for CSU To Do the Same

The collusion outlined by my colleague’s last blog post between members of CSU's Board of Trustees and ex-president, the manipulator-in-chief, Wayne Watson, explains how Thomas Calhoun's nine-month presidency did not stand a chance of survival. One year later we can see that it was DOA.

In light of the details of the emails between board members and the supposed ex-president Wayne Watson the events of last year come more clearly into light. Watson, who was not only granted "emeritus" status by the Board, but GIVEN some kind of shady/honorary "tenure" in the College of Education, as well as the unprecedented privilege of an office or two in the Library (an abuse of state-supported property?) was able to run a shadow university administration. He was clearly aided in this by the refusal of the Board, spearheaded at the time by Anthony Young and Nikki Zollar, to allow Calhoun to replace the provost, their sacrosanct Angela Henderson, or any of the other high-placed Watson "team." Before he was a month into his time at CSU, the Board found a way to clip his wings with its claim of “financial exigency.” They effectively took executive power away from the president and pitted him against Watson’s three minions, Provost Angela Henderson, Interim President Cecil Lucy, and H.R. person Renee Mitchell on a Management Action Committee assuring Calhoun’s one vote to their three. 

The Board of Trustees under Anthony Young and Nikki Zollar was shameless in its partisanship of the old Watson regime and completely unethical in their continued communication with Watson after he was no longer president. In light of the transcript of emails referenced, one can conclude that they really only bowed to public pressure and the Governor's Office to remove Watson after all the high-priced lawsuits began to be added up in 2015/2016. In reality, they had no intention of removing him from power—nice subterfuge. Their dismissal of Thomas Calhoun in the summer and early Fall of 2016, with its big payout and secrecy agreement, is something that still stinks to high heaven. The Governor’s Office and the legislature should demand to see the details of that agreement. I’d be interested in seeing that dodgy legal agreement tested in court. How can a state Governing Board withhold details of an agreement from the people to whom it is allegedly responsible?

The Board of Trustees is entrusted to oversee Chicago State University. The question to ask now is how low and nefarious were these connections by the old board members and do they continue to exist? As much as some Board members and the Watson set and all the past (and current) local politicians may see CSU as their private golden goose to be used to benefit an in-crowd (of their choosing); as much as they may bring in the "community" to shout “Amen” whenever light is shone on this twisted corruption, CSU remains a public institution with state money accountable to ALL the taxpayers of Illinois. It is not a private institution. The past Board of Trustees violated the public trust. All the old members of that board currently sitting should be purged immediately.

The Board of Anthony Young and Nikki Zollar showed no sense of discernment—they did not oversee what they were charged with overseeing, they were unable or unwilling to distinguish the self-interested voices from those calling on them to make changes on campus and demand accountability. They intervened in the direct operations of the university to such an egregious extent that it is surprising they have escaped sanction from the Association of American Governing Boards or even our own Higher Learning Commission on the category of governance on campus and the State Ethics Commission. 

 An article in on April 9th in Diverse Issues in Higher Education outlined a story about Morehouse University that is worth reading for its parallels to us. “Morehouse College Overhauls Leadership”:
https://diverseeducation.com/article/94972

Morehouse College replaced its president and the chairman of its board of trustees late on Friday afternoon, after several months of turmoil at the historically Black institution. William Taggart, the college’s chief operating officer since 2015, is now the interim president.

…In a letter sent out to the Morehouse community on Friday afternoon the board wrote, “With today’s action, the Board acknowledges that it has heard the voices of students, faculty, alumni, and many other key members of the Morehouse family, who have called upon all of those who love this historic institution to put aside out differences and put Morehouse and our mission first.”

The board encountered increasing criticism from faculty, students, and alumni after the board voted to not renew President John S. Wilson Jr.’s contract in January, leading the faculty to take a vote of no confidence in the board chairman in late March. Many said that the board never fully explained its decision and excluded students and faculty from the decision-making process…

Chicago State University may not be Morehouse University, but our own overseers, the Board of Trustees and Governor Rauner, could take a lesson from them and listen for a change to the voices of the students and the faculty when we speak truth to power as we have been trying to do for upwards of nine years. It is time for CSU to clean house.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Scandalous Relationship Between our Old Board and Wayne Watson: Our Administrators are Not Victims Here

Although the Board made two new appointments Friday, the University is still a long way from the wholesale leadership changes that must occur if we are to have a chance at survival. I think it likely that our various Watson cronies will still fight to keep their jobs, even perhaps by attempting to portray themselves as victims. Now, however, we seem to have a Board attentive to the needs of the school and willing to act in Chicago State’s best interests. The question remains, given the monumental and multiple administrative failures of the past six-plus years, why has it been so difficult to get rid of those “leaders” most responsible for that failure? One of the major reasons is the incestuous relationship between certain members of the Board (former and current) and some remnants of the Watson administration. Communication between several of these persons in August and September 2016, suggests that with the active participation of Board and administrative members, Wayne Watson has continued to play a substantive role in the affairs of the school.

On August 5, 2016, I provided an analysis of our enrollment problems, and suggestions for addressing those problems, to the Board of Trustees, Dr. Calhoun, and then Interim Vice President of Enrollment Management Michael Ellison. On August 9, 2016, former Board Chairman Anthony Young forwarded my letter to Wayne Watson. Why?

On September 16, 2016, Young received for his “approval” a draft “resignation” letter from Dr. Calhoun addressed to the University community. Another Board member wrote to Young: “The word and spirit of this letter breaks the confidentiality agreement. If Dr Calhoun can give explanation, so should we. I hope our attorney is up to protecting our interest in this. The effect of the letter blames the board alone for his separation. Counsel should advise if this is breach that halts payout. Btw: the Trib has editorialized that we be ‘fired’ by the gov.” Young forwarded Dr. Calhoun’s letter to Wayne Watson at 5:41 p.m. September 16, 2016. Why? Young forwarded the other Board member’s remarks about the letter to Wayne Watson at 7:54 p.m., that same day. Why?

An e-mail thread beginning on September 21, 2016, and ending on September 23, 2016, discussed Dr. Phillip Beverly in unflattering terms. The thread began at 9:14 p.m., with a reference to a video produced by Dr. Beverly. At 9:17 p.m., Yvonne Davila, a temporary administrator working in the Provost’s Office, responded “He (Beverly) should be fired.” The communication, apparently titled “Last email..look at this clown,” went to Board member Nikki Zollar who wrote Davila: “Good gravy. He just incites the riots (and he knows exactly what he’s doing).” Zollar also copied the thread to Angela Henderson. At 9:32:29 p.m. Zollar forwarded the thread to Young, and Board member Marshall Hatch, with the message, “FYI.” On September 22, 2016, at 8:50 p.m., Young forwarded the message to Watson who responded on September 23, 2016, at 6:31 a.m. Watson wrote: “He is very smart . . . The judge in the ‘Fire case’ has stated that she reads our blogs and I believe this video is for her, the judge. He is sending her the message that he is a calm, reasonable, thought provoking teacher (a little controversial but thought provoking). The allegations against him in the fire case are very strong as it relates to his interactions with students. I content [sic] that the audience intended is not the CSU campus but the judge. He does not make moves like this for what appears to be the obvious reason. He is very good at communication and this is a strategic move.” Once again, why did Wayne Watson receive these communications?

So, with enrollment cratering, scandals galore, and mountains of evidence pointing to the complete failure of the Watson administration, several of our Board members include him in discussions about University operations. This is what Nikki Zollar, Anthony Young, and Marshall Hatch spent their time doing? Crony hires like Yvonne Davila feel free to offer a worthless opinion to a Board member on the employment of a tenured faculty member? Just who the hell are these people? No wonder Nikki Zollar voted for the status quo.

The Watson administration continues to afflict Chicago State—a cancer that must be excised if the school is to survive. The various cronies who continue to damage the school must be rooted out. In 2009, an Illinois Reform Commission report detailed the features of crony hiring: 1) the hiring of politically connected or politically subservient persons, 2) the creation of political positions, 3) hiring and promotion based on considerations other than merit, 4) increasing numbers of contract employees, 5) ignoring or modifying listed job descriptions and minimum qualifications.

Ultimately, the patronage system generously rewards mediocrity and incompetence while contributing to the continuing existence of a variety of operational failures. The Watson administration at Chicago State University offers an excellent example of patronage at work: its cronyism, secrecy, disregard for competence, and ultimately, its deleterious effects on the operation of the school.

The holdovers from the Watson administration will probably struggle mightily to retain their positions. They will avail themselves of any potential strategy, no matter how ludicrous, to paint themselves as victims, a truly laughable position. We all know about the multiple failures of their “leadership.” Let’s see how much they’ve earned while demonstrating their incompetence.

Focusing on only four employees—two of whom were hired as soon as Watson “officially” became president on October 1, 2009, and are still employed at CSU, one crony who came in 2011 and who is still employed at CSU, and one girlfriend Watson hired in November 2009 who lost her job in April 2016—we find that Chicago State has paid at least $4.02 million to these four persons for their various administrative failures. Here’s the breakdown:

Vice President/General Counsel Patrick Cage, hired November 1, 2009. Total salary: $1,154,265.
Provost Angela Henderson, hired June 15, 2011. Total salary: $1,081,969.
Associate Vice President Rene Mitchell, hired October 5, 2009. Total salary: $1,043,712.
Associate Vice President Cheri Sidney, hired November 9, 2009, terminated April 30, 2016. Total salary: $740,586.
Total compensation paid to these four through March 31, 2017: $4,020,532.

According to Board regulations, if the three persons still employed are terminated without cause, they are entitled to the following payouts: Henderson, $225,000; Cage, $155,004; Mitchell, $144,996. That brings the total salary for these Watson cronies (including Sidney) to $4,545,532. If that’s victimization, I’d like some. I can only paraphrase something I said in a long forgotten post: never have so many been paid so much to accomplish so little.







Friday, April 7, 2017

The Dawn of a New Era?

So after two lengthy special meetings, the Board of Trustees decided to appoint an interim president worthy of the position. Dr. Rachel Lindsey, former Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, has been appointed interim president. She brings more than 30 years of higher education experience to an institution desperately in need of accountable and integral leadership. The time to rebuild a badly broken university has long passed, yet here we find ourselves. Congratulations to Dr. Lindsey!

The only sad note in Dr. Lindsey's appointment was the NO vote cast by Trustee Nikki Zollar. She has a long relationship with the prior failed president and his current administrative holdovers and by this vote appears to want to maintain the status quo. This humble blog has vigorously documented what that status quo looks like and that picture is less than flattering. 

To Trustee Zollar, I say this: RESIGN! Resign today! I will draft a letter of resignation for your signature and hand deliver it to the Governor, should you wish. Please spare the university any more of your "service." The message should be clear. The university can no longer stand your support and enabling of failure. Your board colleagues have clearly repudiated the 'reward failure' mantra by appointing someone who will remove those who have so badly devastated the university. That you were unwilling to support your fellow board members leaves me with only one message for you. 

RESIGN!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Here we go again. Board of Trustees meet tomorrow. What will happen next?

 Tomorrow the Board of Trustees is supposed to announce a new Interim President and who knows what else. Stop by the fourth floor of the Academic Library. Sign up for public comment before the meeting and the comments will be made before the Board goes in to executive session.

The question we are all waiting to have answered: will it be a brand new day or the same old same old?

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Public Comment from the Last Board Meeting

Remarks made at the Chicago State University Special Board meeting on March 27, 2017.

By Minister Michael Muhammad, founder of a new coalition known as the New Black Leadership Coalition:

I am here at the consent of our steering committee who asked me to come and make a statement concerning these affairs. So I’ll be brief.

Incompetence, evil, negativity leave a residue. They bear fruit. They live in the mind, practices, and policies of narcissistic, sociopathic leadership. Formal degree does not preclude one from being a sociopathic personality; whose mind is so self-centered that guilt, shame, remorse, nor self-correction are even possible despite formal education. Cronyism, intimidation, demoralized staff, faculty, and students, and a demoralized community of interests are the by-product of the current model of leadership. Institutional bullying of staff, faculty, and students, censure of all voices of accountability, the request of staff to make false claims of criminal behavior by those viewed as a threat. Millions of dollars in liability from bullying of staff and faculty. Crony contracts for highly placed individuals requiring minimal work product, extremely low black contract and vendor participation. A high reduction in enrollment over the last six years; extremely high. The unethical suppression of our next two generations of black scholars, (who are) committed to a more equitable model of governance, management, and leadership than the current model. Gross financial irresponsibility in the process and execution of the hiring of Dr. Calhoun and his forced resignation. There must be a forensic audit of the finances of this public institution as well as a full investigation of the connections, relationships, policies, and practices of those in the highest offices of government, governance, administration, to root out all of those who are cronies and lackeys for the current administration. Bruce Rauner nor Paul Vallas are in any way responsible for any of these institutional atrocities. It is black men and black women who are responsible, and must, and will be held accountable by the community for these failures. Change is necessary, the old model must die.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Audit Report Out, ISL Forms Filed: Our Administration Continues its Monumental Failure

To close out March, here is some new information coming from the Auditor General’s Audit of Chicago State, released just two days ago:

• When the University decided not to recall 9 faculty members on June 29, it had close to $20 million in cash and cash equivalents.
• Contributions to Chicago State virtually dried up completely in fiscal 2016, dropping from a paltry $435,878 for the CSU Foundation in 2015, to a total of $52,135 in fiscal 2016, $7335 for the old foundation, and $44,800 for The University Foundation at Chicago State--more appropriately called the Wayne Watson foundation; his hedge against a possibly rambunctious Thomas Calhoun. With all the ballyhoo surrounding the destruction of the old foundation and the creation of the new organization, the Watson foundation raised almost enough money to pay the salary ($44,880) of one support person. Well done Wayne!
• Showing the same magic touch in fund-raising we experienced during his tenure, Wayne Watson and his foundation succeeded in reducing the University’s endowment by over $120,000 (from $5.157 million to $5.036 million.
• The Wayne Watson foundation also reduced that organization’s current assets from $1.89 million to $879,000. That must be Watson’s stock-in-trade “right-sizing,” which he has now brought to a university, an entire community college system, and a charitable organization. To be sure, we are still standing on the shoulders of a giant.
• Chicago State had 15 audit findings, the same number as in the previous year.
• We reportedly violated state law by having the Provost approve at least 5 contracts for more than $250,000, for a total of $2.38 million. State statutes are clear that only the CEO, CFO, and General Counsel may approve those contracts, which must then go to the Board for their approval. Of course, by June 30, 2016, at least three members of that board had died, although they continued to appear at meetings. The Provost and other high-level administrators cut Thomas Calhoun out of this process.
• The Sun Times reported on a couple of other embarrassing audit findings. http://chicago.suntimes.com/politics/csu-audit-finds-the-university-improperly-reported-federal-awards/

The University also finally reported on its condition to the Illinois State Legislature. The 2018 ISL Forms contain some interesting information:

• When the University decided not to recall 9 faculty members on June 29, it had $843,700 in unspent local income money from 2015. The salaries for those 9 faculty members totaled just over $590,000.
• The University still desires to swell its administrative ranks. Its position requests for 2017-18 include: a Director of Financial Aid at $110,004. The previous salary for that position (2014) was $80,004. For fiscal 2018, the University wants a newly created Vice President of Advancement, a bargain at $110,004.
• The University continues to make extensive use of interim appointments, although it also pays hefty overrides to bring them up to typical salary levels for their respective positions. One interim dean receives an additional $35,004 per year, a second an additional $30,000, a third an additional $23,004, a fourth an additional $12,492. The Interim President receives a bump of $120,000 per year, an Acting Vice President gets $25,000 more per year, and an Interim Associate Vice President an additional $11,300. That’s four Interim Deans, an Interim President, an Interim Acting Vice President, and an Interim Associate Vice President. That’s real stability folks.
• The total cost of the West Side campus that simply will not die has ballooned from $40 million to $61 million.

This is all simply more evidence that this University has reached a crisis point. No one in this administration knows what they are doing, or else, they are simply trying to feather their nests and get as much as they can before the place goes under. Time to get some people fitted for jumpsuits?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

We Don't Pay a $22,000 Bill for Turnitin. After 9 Months of Waiting for Their Money, the Vendor Pulls the Switch

What does our administration do well here at CSU?

Last night, a faculty member attempted to access Turnitin. He got this message: "The product for this account has expired. Please contact your sales agent to renew the product." Here's what the faculty member saw and the e-mail exchange that followed:


This vendor should have been paid about 9 months ago. How much money are we talking about? Apparently $22,000 a year. Think about that, the University administration just hired another Interim Associate Vice President at $140,000 annualized, but it doesn't pay a $22,000 bill for a service that benefits students and faculty. Once again, our failed administration demonstrates its utter lack of concern for the well-being of our students. Apparently, after 8 telephone calls and 28 e-mails to the University administration, the account will be reactivated by the end of today. Really, could you make this stuff up?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Observations on the Board meeting

So I am not one who enjoys waiting for six hours while the BOT decides how to proceed in cleaning up the toxic waste site created by a singularly incompetent administration. I do know however, that the Board is constrained by several factors. 
The first is a state statute called the Open Meetings Act. If three or more trustees were to meet to talk about university business, it would be considered a meeting under the act and therefore, notice would need to be posted, an agenda prepared, and that meeting opened to the public etc. This means that the four new trustees cannot meet before the meeting to map out strategies on moving forward. They need to wait until the executive session and discuss whatever needs to be discussed there. They may not reach resolution. They may not have enough information to decide. They may be split in how to proceed. They may wish to get counsel from they legal advisor. Whatever the reason, the discussion in executive or closed session may not lead to a clean outcome at the end of the day. 
The second factor I alluded to above. The board may be divided on how to proceed. The university community has witnessed the board of trustees enable administrators whose gross incompetence has cost the university millions of dollars. What goes on behind closed doors won't be known. What is known is that senior administrators whose abysmal performance has been documented here and in other outlets are still in place. That can only be because the Board has not given the soon to be ex-interim president direction to clean house. They clearly denied the former president the opportunity to clean house in the month that he was allowed to be president. 
The third consideration is that three of the new trustees are attorneys. My experience with attorneys is that the good ones tend to be methodical and deliberate. They ensure i's are dotted and t's are crossed. They don't make up arguments on the fly or pull alternate facts out of the air and expect others to believe them. These trustees are moving with all deliberate speed. They will stumble. They will not be as clear as they could be. And I believe they are endeavoring to do the right thing. 
In creating the new position of Chief Administrative Officer, they are giving themselves another option in using a turnaround specialist. The only problem I see with that configuration is that at a university, executive authority is vested in a president. The monstrosity, the Management Action Committee, created last year by the Board has been well documented by this humble venue. I hope the Board realizes the "unity of command" is critical especially during a crisis. This new crisis manager should report to the President who reports to the Board. Otherwise, why have a President. 
The final consideration for the absence of aggressive action is that there might be accreditation implications for a restructuring and the Board may have needed time to determine if the upheaval that should happen would further damage the university. This is similar to the financial exigency declaration that led to a sanction by the Higher Learning Commission. It was unfortunate that the university was willing to accept this sanction in order to protect senior administrator's jobs at the expense of everyone and everything else.
So when looking at anything at CSU, don't take things at face value. Situations, events and people  are never quite what they seem, which is something the new Board members will discover for themselves quickly.
The university community has been patient since the last time the Board made a significant leadership decision. Patience must be be paired with action in order for confidence to be made high. Let's all be patient until it's time not to be.

Monday, March 27, 2017

We really are SOL aren't we? Board of Trustees fail CSU again. Well played Nikki Zollar.

In case you made the mistake of hoping for "change we can believe in" at a CSU Board of Trustees meeting, you were once again disappointed. When this meeting moved into its 6th hour I knew we were reliving Charlie Brown's hope that this would be the time Lucy would not yank the football. No such luck.

Bruce Rauner was roundly dissed--his boy, Paul Vallas, will not be our "turnaround" specialist.

No, the narrative that the Great White Hope has to rescue the benighted Black School will not be. We are going to be back to another year (or more) of interim this and that. As far as I can make out from the convoluted reports from the meeting and the newspapers and tv reports on April 7th yet ANOTHER interim president will be named--huh? who? who knows? There will also be a new job created-- that of Chief Administrative Officer (what will they do? will someone be named or will we go through a search? was Paul Vallas told he was "welcomed to apply?")

By all accounts it seems the old Board members played the new ones. The old guard remains in place, Angela et al, hence, Wayne, remain. Looks like action, but nothing changes.

Well played Nikki Zollar. You kept repeating the Watson lie that it is the faculty who are trying to destroy the university and apparently you were believed.

But if I were Governor Rauner, I'd be making plans to curtail your term on this Board of Trustees.

Here's what the Chicago Tribune reported:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-chicago-state-university-vallas-leadership-20170327-story.html

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Now the City's Political Class Enters the Fray: We Needn't Worry, They'll Tell Us How to Think and Behave

Those of you who pay attention to such things have undoubtedly noticed that a spirited debate about who should lead Chicago State is now taking place in our local media outlets. This argument is remarkably like one occurring among a group of parents. Once they decide on the best course of action, they will instruct the children what that action will be and how to behave. We have people debating the future, indeed the very existence of this University without talking to the students, staff, or faculty. I suppose we should take comfort in that kind of parental control.

The “no white person should be president of Chicago State” faction is particularly guilty of this kind of paternalism. First of all, this group makes the straw man argument that there will be a white person as president. To the best of my knowledge, no one who actually knows what they are talking about has said that. Here are the proponents of that viewpoint who have commented on the Chicago State leadership situation:

The two articles by Mary Mitchell (textbook examples of propaganda masquerading as journalism) used the Chicago Crusader’s previous story as well as comments from “community activist” Kamm Howard. Secretary of Education Beth Purvis and Paul Vallas provided the opposing viewpoint, although Mitchell gave Vallas no opportunity to comment on Howard’s critical remarks. The Chicago Crusader’s sources included “some officials” at Chicago State, and various anonymous “sources.” The only named source was Board member Nikki Zollar.

Then yesterday, we had a gaggle of “Black Officials” or “Black City Leaders” hold a press conference on campus. This group included Roderick Sawyer, Stanley Moore, Chuy Garcia, Alderman David Moore, Alderman Howard Brookins, and a number of other people whose faces are not familiar to me. Their main argument was that they did not want Paul Vallas at Chicago State.

Since none of these reporters or public officials sought the children’s views, I will provide them.

1) We want Thomas Calhoun reinstated as Chicago State President.
2) We want this institution to function as a state university, not a corrupt political ward. We want an end to the rank cronyism that has created our current crisis situation.
3) In order to achieve point #2, we want Wayne Watson and all his cronies off this campus. That specifically includes Angela Henderson, Patrick Cage, and Renee Mitchell, along with any other lower level persons currently afflicting the university.
4) We have no confidence in Interim President Cecil Lucy. We want him removed from his position.
5) We insist that the University’s finances be subjected to a forensic audit.
6) We will support any effort by the Chicago State University Board of Trustees to bring in a university leader who will make sweeping personnel changes at the top of our administration.
7) In line with our views in point #6, we will support a Board decision to grant temporary executive and personnel authority to Paul Vallas.

Yesterday’s press conference exposed the hypocrisy of some of those “leaders” who were so willing to pontificate about what the Board should do. I don’t remember seeing any of them protesting the outrageous firing of Thomas Calhoun; I don’t remember hearing any of them denounce the various scandals and corrupt practices of the Watson administration. Roderick Sawyer found time on his busy calendar to support Wayne Watson when the Board wanted to fire him in 2013. Now he finds time to again meddle in the affairs of a STATE University when Watson’s interests are newly threatened. Most shameful, those “leaders” tried to stifle dissenting ideas at yesterday’s press conference.

When Dr. Kelly Harris, who has actually worked here for a number of years, had the audacity to ask pointed questions, he was told that (paraphrase) “if you’re not running for office, you should shut up and leave.” When Dr. Harris and Professor Kim Dulaney pointed out that we had the person we wanted in Thomas Calhoun, the response was (paraphrase again) "He's welcome to apply." Really? Are any of you people going to be part of the selection process? Do any of you make operational decisions for this university? Who the hell do you think you are?

Here’s some news for the people who want this University to maintain the status quo, including the people who participated in yesterday's clown show. We don’t need your pedantry. We don’t need your advice or instructions about how we should think or behave. In fact, we’d appreciate it if you kept your ignorance to yourselves. You have not supported this school. Rather, you’ve done material damage to it. You knew or should have known what was going on during the Watson administration and you did nothing. We especially don’t need your condescending bullshit. Take your puffed-up selves somewhere else to hold your “press conferences.”

It’s become clear that if this school is to be saved, the staff and faculty will do the saving. We have a competent, hard-working, and dedicated staff and faculty at Chicago State. All we require is leadership. Here’s the formula: Clear out the administrative garbage. Give us a quality leader. Get the hell out of our way.


Friday, March 24, 2017

The Past Week: Watson Works the Room? Students in the Dorms Have No Heat

Watson has reportedly made several appearances in the Cook building this week. Reportedly those include meetings with Cecil Lucy. Also, the Watson stooges are certainly busy lobbying the Board members to keep this foul administration in place. Will it work? Also, this past Monday, students in the dormitory had no heat or hot water all day (until Tuesday morning). Is there any better way for the University to show its commitment to their welfare? After all, they got an opportunity to "rough it" with chilly accommodations and cold showers!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Mary Mitchell Again Comes Out in Favor of the Status Quo

On September 28, 2016, Mary Mitchell called Chicago State an “embarrassment,” and “the laughingstock of the state university system, giving critics ample ammunition to call for its shutdown.” Now, as part of a desperate attempt by the Watson cronies to retain control over the university, she’s changed her tune. Now, we cannot have any change at this school, even though its situation has further deteriorated since Mitchell’s late September article. Her latest effort advances the argument that “A call for former CPS Chief Paul Vallas to take over the president’s job at Chicago State University plays into a lingering stereotype about black institutions: When things go wrong, a white person has to step in to fix it — as if black people can’t run anything successfully.” Here's the article: http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/mitchell-call-for-vallas-to-lead-csu-is-divisive/

Reliance on that stereotype’s explanatory power ignores the most important component of the Chicago State story: The failure of our leadership to adequately manage this university and the existential crisis that has resulted from that failure. For the past six-plus years, our upper level management has provided arguably the worst university leadership at any U.S. university. As a Tribune editorial in February described, no one with the authority to respond to the crisis at Chicago State had done anything to address “the cronyism and corruption that thrived on campus. . . (the) sharply declining enrollment . . . that abysmal graduation rate. Worst of all: No one in Springfield held them accountable for promising big yet delivering meager results for low-income students who depended on CSU to help them succeed.” That scathing indictment is the crux of the issue here. Our school’s leaders did not fail because they are black, they failed because they are at best incompetent and at worst malevolent. Now we have reached a fork in the road. Are we going to change or remain the same? Will we allow the persons who have nearly destroyed the university to continue in their sinecures to complete Chicago State’s destruction? The answers to those questions will determine the fate of our school.

If you’re going to make an argument, you should be able to make a persuasive case for your position. Let’s see how she does that. Mitchell uses two sources in her article, one is Kamm Howard, a “community activist” and the “legislative commission chair for National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations (N’COBRA),” who called the effort to make Vallas president a “smack in the face.” Howard went on to criticize Vallas with this: “Every institution this guy has been to, black and Hispanic graduation rates fell. Children have not benefitted from his sledgehammer type of administration, and he has no university experience at all.”

Ninth Ward Alderman Anthony Beale is the second source quoted in the Mitchell article. Here are some of the things he had to say. “CSU has been plagued with financial mismanagement, administrative scandal, and poor academic performance for far too long. We need a president who can reverse those trends and make CSU the institution it once was. This is the only criteria that matters, not whether the new president is male or female, brown, yellow, white, or black, Democrat or Republican.”

After the first round of quotes from Beale, Mitchell talks about criticism directed at Vallas “being floated throughout the community.” The source of the criticism?
“(U)nflattering headlines from his tenure in Philadelphia.” Mitchell then turns to innuendo, wondering if Beale’s support for Vallas “is politically motivated or indicates his personal support for the embattled governor.” Beale responds by saying: “Anybody who knows me knows better than that. Chicago State is in dire need. The people who are opposing Paul are the same people that have chosen the last three presidents and you see where that has gotten us,”

Beale continues by saying, “Right now, Chicago State needs someone with proven leadership. This is a person who has a history of turning this around and moving in the right direction.”

The article offers starkly different views of what needs to happen at Chicago State. Beale directly confronts the university’s major problem, the damage caused by incompetent leadership. He has a solution. In contrast, both Mitchell and Howard ignore the university’s leadership issues. They offer no way out of our continuing debacle. What should we do, Mary Mitchell and Kamm Howard? Simply because they are black leave the same people in place, even though they have continually demonstrated their unfitness for university administration?

In my fifteen years at this university I have frequently been amazed at the underlying idea that incompetence or downright malfeasance is all right at Chicago State. Nearly 70 percent of our students are black; apparently that means they deserve nothing better than a university led by incompetent hacks. Just take a look around the campus and you’ll see the deep respect our black administrators have for our black students. Crumbling buildings, filthy bathrooms, no supplies, classrooms with broken technology and broken chairs, mold and water damage in a number of buildings. The destruction of undergraduate advising, the continual problems with course scheduling, the decimation of the library, financial aid, and admissions staffs all demonstrate the priorities of our administrators. They take care of themselves and their friends and everyone else on this campus can just go to hell.

I agree that the stereotype to which Mitchell refers exists. I also believe that it would be best for Chicago State to be led by a black president. I do not agree that we should settle for unethical, incompetent political hacks. Our students are frankly marvelous; they make such sacrifices for their studies and over the years this school has provided them with life-changing opportunities. They deserve the best this university can give them and that begins with a president worthy of the title and an administration attentive to their needs. As faculty, we demand excellence from our students. They have a right to demand the same from the stewards of this university.







Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Go Away Already!

So why is an utterly failed former president with no link to the university meeting with a weak interim president while the Board of Trustees mulls how to proceed in cleaning up the mess created by said former president? Probably to protect the utterly inept cronies put in place since 2009. There is only one thing to say about this. 
GO AWAY!!! You have no business here. You have failed the university, the community, the State. You have betrayed tens of thousands of alumni, thousands of students and untold potential students by your inept management of this university. 
So to end the betrayal, GO AWAY and don't come back. We won't miss you. And if, as expected, the forensic audit turns up wrongdoing on your part, expect a visit from law enforcement officials.
Just BE GONE!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Here's What Must Actually Occur for Bruce Rauner and His Surrogate(s) to "Take Over" Chicago State

I believe that most of the staff employed here at Chicago State are astute enough to see through that nonsensical effort to insure that Watson's cronies retain their positions by creating this idiotic diversion about Rauner and Vallas "taking over" Chicago State. It's time for a lesson on University governance for anyone who would like to have ammunition to counter this moronic and utterly dishonest attempt to keep the University in the hands of the people who have nearly destroyed it.

First, no single individual, not even the Governor, in the State of Illinois is able to effect a change at the top of this educational institution. 110 ILCS 660 is the Chicago State Law. Section 5-10 reads: "There is hereby created a body politic and corporate which shall be styled the Board of Trustees of Chicago State University (hereinafter called the Board), and which shall operate, manage, control, and maintain Chicago State University in accordance with the rights, powers and duties now or hereafter vested by law in that Board." Section 5-15 of the Chicago State Law also specifies the size of the Board: "The Board shall consist of 7 voting members appointed by the Governor, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, and one voting member who is a student at Chicago State University."

For the author(s) of that ridiculous broadside or for anyone else who might actually believe this conspiracy is afoot, here's the reality. No matter who the Governor might want to be President of Chicago State, s/he has no authority to place anyone in that position. The only way anyone becomes President of this University is by garnering a majority of the votes from the Chicago State Board of Trustees. Since there are eight Trustees, that means five votes. In essence, the Watson acolytes making this spurious accusation of a conspiracy to install Vallas as CSU President are actually accusing the other Board members of being in cahoots with Rauner's scheme. If the three holdover Board members are continuing to do Watson's bidding, as they have for the past several years, that means that all five of the remaining Board members would have to be on board with this nefarious attempt to take over the school. I wonder which of these cowardly pro-Watson minions wants to tell Kam Buckner, Nicholas Gowen, Tiffany Harper, and Paris Griffin that they are part of a conspiracy to turn the University over to Bruce Rauner.

Because of the University's legislatively-mandated governance structure, if Paul Vallas ends up heading Chicago State's turnaround effort, it will be because the new CSU Board feels he is the person most likely to get the job done.

We've Seen All This Before. The CSU Clowns Weigh In On the University's Leadership

Here is the latest shot in the developing war between the Watson forces and Paul Vallas, who they have obviously identified as the most serious threat to their sinecures. This was distributed to Civil Service employees yesterday.


This is a classic case of creating a narrative out of lies then repeating the same lies over and over again. You might notice that almost the entire broadside is fact-free. I will focus on some of the more absurd pronouncements. Let’s start with the title. Indeed, why would Rauner want CSU? The answer? Because it’s part of a grand conspiracy to take over the University. As with all conspiracies, the absence of evidence simply proves the existence of the conspiracy.

Here’s the evidence: “Word is, Rauner is using Vallas to take over CSU.” “Word is, (Vallas’s) main goal has always been to be the next president of CSU.” Really? Is that a desire he’s had since childhood? And who exactly is responsible for the “word” being cited here? As usual with the Watson cronies, all this nonsense is anonymous.

The next gem is this: “Truth is, Vallas has no credentials to be a President of any University. He has a Master’s Degree in Political Science and the only education experience he has is in K-12.” Vallas is perfectly capable of defending himself here, I will only say that our current interim President is the poster child for someone with no qualifications serving as a University President. At least Vallas has degrees in academic disciplines (History, Political Science). Lucy is simply a bean-counter, his education consists of a bachelor’s in accounting, an MBA, and a J.D. In terms of experience, Vallas has managed huge school districts in major U.S. cities (I seem to remember that the experience managing a large educational enterprise was one of the items used to defend the selection and continued tenure, despite multiple scandals and disasters, of the execrable Wayne Watson). Lucy has served as a financial officer for a variety of employers, including stints as the CFO of two Universities with enrollments under 4,000.

Moving along, we next encounter the unsubstantiated accusation that Rauner will withhold funding if Vallas is not put into the President’s position. This has been vehemently denied by the Governor’s office and until there’s some independent verification of that assertion, it’s worthless. Next we come to the part about “secret plans.” What the hell are those? Then this question: “Does that sound like Rauner is trying to steal CSU from right under our noses?” Whose noses? The broadside’s author fails to make that clear.

The broadside’s final gurgles seem more like irony than anything else. Is the author trying to be humorous? First, there’s the assertion that “CSU is not to be compromised!!!” If there’s a more compromised educational institution in the United States, I’d like to know where it is. Finally, I did not realize that “we are on the road to recovery.” I imagine that anyone attending the last Board meeting or paying the slightest attention to the ongoing ineptitude of our administrators would find that assertion somewhat less than credible. We are in freefall.

Readers are free to draw their own conclusions about what all this means, but I have some observations. As always, any interpretive errors are solely mine. First, I’ve seen this act many times in the past. Anonymous accusations supported by nothing more than empty assertions. Second, using surrogates to get your message out is nothing less than intellectual cowardice. I’m sure that the person who distributed this nonsense would claim authorship. That’s bullshit. This garbage came straight from someone highly placed in this University, or perhaps a gaggle of someones who simply don’t have the courage to expose their self-serving selves to public criticism. Third, I find it interesting that persons who cannot raise their voices to oppose the elevation of unqualified hacks to the presidency of this University can be so vocal about their objections to Vallas. Where were you while the Watson administration tore this institution apart? When the Board destroyed Thomas Calhoun’s (someone with actual qualifications for the job) presidency ? When they rewarded administrators who worked assiduously to undermine Calhoun’s administration? Silent, huh? Why so loud now? How is Vallas different from Wayne Watson, Angela Henderson, or Cecil Lucy?

Finally, I want to be clear about how I, and a number of my colleagues, feel about the direction in which this University is headed. We are dismayed that the same persons who have taken us to the brink of destruction remain in place. We are angry that the Interim President is obviously willing to let the University sink rather than make the hard personnel choices that must be made. We are disappointed that no one has been held accountable for their multiple administrative failures. We are concerned that each day that passes makes a viable solution to our crisis more difficult to achieve.

I’ve made no secret that my preference is for Thomas Calhoun’s reinstatement. I believe he deserves to be given a chance to lead this university out of its morass. However, if that course of action is not possible, I want to be clear that if the choice comes down to Cecil Lucy and the Watson cronies or Paul Vallas and a new set of administrators as the interim leaders of this institution, I’ll take the fresh faces over the wretched old gang.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Watson Strikes Back: Let the Innuendo and Lies Begin

The Chicago Sun Times, which has shilled for Wayne Watson on a number of occasions, recently published an article by Mary Mitchell which reveals the strategy Watson and his cronies are using to remain in control of Chicago State University. As you would expect, their sleazy campaign features racial innuendo, anonymous “sources,” and outright dishonesty. In a nutshell, it boils down to simply keeping the current administration in place by allowing Cecil Lucy to continue as president until a search can be conducted. I will respond to each of the article’s claims point-by-point, but here’s the link: http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/mitchell-is-rauner-pushing-paul-vallas-to-be-president-of-csu/

Claim #1: Let’s start with the title: “Is Rauner pushing Paul Vallas to be president of CSU?

Mitchell uses several quotes from Vallas to ostensibly demonstrate Rauner’s meddling and his desire to hand Chicago State to the Governor’s surrogate: First, Vallas tells Mitchell that “Rauner wanted him to ‘take a leadership role.’” Vallas’s next comments indicate his unfamiliarity with university administration: “‘It might be as chief executive officer or chief administrative officer,’ Vallas told me. ‘Clearly, it is their (the Governor and his staff’s) desire for me to take a leadership role and to give me the authority to work in the university full time.’”

Mitchell goes on to write, “In a follow-up email, Vallas said he is ‘seeking the authority to make the changes needed to stabilize the university’s finances and develop and implement an effective strategy for immediately improving student enrollment and retention.’”

Response: Much of this is nothing more than a distraction, an unsourced nod to Watson’s oft-stated claim that “white people” want to take over Chicago State. Why? to destroy the school? Watson and his cronies have already accomplished most of that task. According to the Sun Times story, the Chicago Crusader originally reported Rauner’s scheme. Here’s what that publication wrote: “Some CSU officials are not happy with a white officials serving as president of a predominately Black school.” Which “CSU officials” are those? See: https://chicagocrusader.com/rauners-csu-plan-stirring-pot/ For the full Crusader article, including some of the quotations used in Mitchell’s piece, see: https://chicagocrusader.com/whitewashing-cleaning-house/

As to Vallas’s comments, is anyone going to argue that someone needs to take a “leadership role” at this institution? that someone needs to figure out how to “stabilize the university’s finances and develop and implement an effective strategy for immediately improving student enrollment and retention.”? Although I do not want Paul Vallas as the permanent president of Chicago State, at this point, I do not care much about who rights the ship. I do know that what has been done in the past at Chicago State has resulted in nothing but failure. We’re in uncharted waters here and desperately need creative solutions to our school’s continual problems. The holdovers on either the Board or in the administration are in no position to provide those solutions.

Facts: The damage done to this university and its overwhelmingly Black student population has been done by Watson and his cronies. In fall 2010, the university enrolled 7362 students, with 5832 Black students (79.2 percent). By spring 2016, the university’s enrollment had dropped to 4442, with 3050 Black students (68.7 percent). Put another way, of the 2920 students lost between fall 2010 and spring 2016, 2782 or them (95.3 percent) were Black students. Secretary of Education Beth Purvis acknowledged the meeting with Hatch and Anderson, saying according to Mitchell: “There was a conversation about how do we bring the urgency so we can bring more resources to the university[.] There was absolutely no threat.” As for Vallas, Purvis told Mitchell: “I have had conversations with members of the board that I actually believe Paul is the person to get CSU on track, but that doesn’t mean he is the right person to be president.”

“[At a] university like CSU, we need someone with a long history and academic background[.] That is different from someone who will come in and manage through a crisis.”

I certainly do not claim to know what is in Bruce Rauner’s mind regarding Chicago State, but my position is that Paul Vallas does not have the academic qualifications to be the president of this university. However, neither did Wayne Watson, nor does Cecil Lucy. None of these persons would be qualified for tenure in any academic department at Chicago State.

Claim #2: And the Chicago Crusader reported last week that the governor’s education secretary, Beth Purvis, called a meeting with CSU board chairman the Rev. Marshall Hatch and board member, Tony Anderson, and told them if “Rauner’s request isn’t met, he will not secure additional funding to help solve the school’s financial woes and withdraw his support.”

Response: Until this threat claim is actually verified, it has no validity. Obviously none of the Crusader’s sources is willing to go on the record, and Mitchell did nothing more than reprint the accusation. The Crusader’s sources seem to be “some officials,” “some are concerned,” “some at CSU,” “some say,” and “opposition by some.”

Facts: At this point, this claim that the Governor’s office threatened to retaliate if Vallas is not named president has not been verified by anyone mentioned in either the Crusader’s or Mitchell’s article. Hatch did not return telephone calls from either the Crusader or from Mitchell. Additionally, Anderson did not return Mitchell’s telephone call. In Mitchell’s article, Purvis flatly denied making any threats to “withhold support” from the university. At the conclusion of the Crusader article, they included this quote from Eleni Demertzis, a spokesperson for Rauner: “First, any notion of threatening future state funding is entirely false. Second, the Governor’s Office has been in regular communications with CSU leaders about potential university leadership candidates, including Paul Vallas, to work towards a turnaround of this university in crisis.”

Claim #3: In countering Purvis’s comments, Mitchell provides this evidence: “But sources said Vallas, who serves in an unpaid role, is making a full-court press for the president’s position, even parking his car in the space reserved for ‘President’ of the university.”

She followed with this from another anonymous source “‘It would be highly unethical for Vallas, who has been on campus acting like he is the president already, to be considered,’ said a community organizer who asked not to be identified.”

Response: I hardly know how to respond to this silliness. Of course, it’s completely ethical for Wayne Watson to be on campus acting like he’s still president.

Facts: I have heard nothing about where Vallas parks his car when he’s on campus. Certainly, I have seen no cars but the interim president’s parked in the president’s unmarked spot next to the Cook building. I’m not sure that where you park your car represents “acting like” a president.

Next, Mitchell provides a series of ridiculous and even stunning comments by Nikki Zollar, the MIA Trustee who was the architect of Calhoun’s ouster, and one of the major causes of the current turmoil.

Claim #4: Zollar claims that Vallas is “wreaking havoc” on Chicago State.

Response: It is impossible to respond to a claim as vague as that one.

Facts: the most recent “havoc” or uproars at Chicago State have resulted from the final settlement of two costly lawsuits; the university’s efforts to delay settlement of one of the suits, causing more expense for CSU, reports about questionable spending on the “Westside” campus; the university’s refusal to respond to legitimate FOIA requests about that endeavor from the Chicago Tribune; and the failure of campus boilers which should have been replaced some twenty years ago, which reportedly cost the school $1.2 million. Paul Vallas bears no responsibility for any of those circumstances.

Claim #5: In the next two paragraphs, Zollar sets the stage for the punchline which will come in claim #6. First, Zollar says: “I don’t understand his (Vallas’s) purpose.” She next says that “Paul himself have (sic) said in many meetings ‘I want to be the president of the university.’ I do think he has all good intentions, but I wouldn’t be able to support the idea of Mr. Vallas being the president of CSU because he doesn’t have the requisite background in higher education.”

Response: Again, I agree with Zollar that Vallas does not have the academic qualifications to serve as a university president. Of course, Cecil Lucy does not have the requisite qualifications either, however, that did not discourage Nikki Zollar and the old Board from naming him the interim president of Chicago State.

Facts: Zollar’s claim about Vallas’s expressed desire in “many meetings” to be president of Chicago State fails to stand up to close scrutiny. To the best of my knowledge, the communication between the new and old members of the Board has been minimal. Since Rauner appointed the four new members in mid-January, the Board has held only one meeting, which Zollar failed to attend (in fact, she last attended a Board meeting in September 2016).

Claim #6: Finally, here’s the Watson strategy, articulated by Nikki Zollar: “I think, at this point, to continue the stability of the university and the trajectory of the university, we need to keep our interim president until there can be another search.” Zollar’s final comment demonstrates her complete unwillingness to face the real problems at Chicago State. “This university has been starved for money, not leadership.”

Response: There is no “stability” at Chicago State and the university’s “trajectory” is a steep dive. However, retaining the interim president insures that Zollar’s good friend Angela Henderson and the other Watson cronies who have done so much damage to the school will remain in their high-paying jobs until a new president is installed, certainly no sooner than the beginning of the next school year. Maintaining the status quo also insures that Wayne Watson will continue to influence affairs at the school. Where did these people get the idea that this state university was some kind of property over which they could exercise sole control? Nikki Zollar’s comments demonstrate her continuing willingness to protect Watson and his cronies at the expense of the students, staff, and faculty of this school.

Facts: Every problem that has plagued this school since Watson came in fall 2009 can be attributed to poor leadership. We have lost 4107 students since fall 2010. Watson did virtually no fund-raising during the six years of his presidency. The university has been saddled with millions of dollars in legal fees and damage awards because of Watson’s and Cage’s unethical and illegal actions. During Watson’s tenure, a number of other scandals caused by incompetent leadership damaged the university’s reputation. Crony hiring ran rampant during the Watson years, and on the academic side, the crony Provost destroyed the university’s academic advising system and micro-managed course offerings, all to the detriment of our dwindling student population. No Ms. Zollar, Chicago State’s problems are all about bad leadership, exacerbated by the state’s budget impasse. We are in freefall and the fact that you don’t acknowledge this demonstrates your unfitness to serve on this university’s Board of Trustees. A new search indeed. When Ms. Zollar, 2018? If this administration remains in place through fall 2017, this university will simply not be salvageable.

Claim #7: Mitchell concludes with this: “If Rauner is trying to ram Vallas down board members’ throats, he is playing the same cutthroat politics he claims drove the university to ruin in the first place.”

Response: Mitchell has advanced neither a credible theory nor supplied any credible evidence that such a plot is occurring. I will finish with a comment on Chicago State’s “leadership” by one of my esteemed colleagues:

“This CSU administration is exhausting. Their current positions all seem to have the same tasks - save their salaries, at all cost. I cannot adequately articulate how very disappointing it all is. I teach Black Studies and this has to be the worst discovery that all of my studies and research has ever revealed in Black on Black violation. . . Black face and lack of morals is all they need to totally subdue then annihilate an institution that has been so much for so many, so long.”





Saturday, March 11, 2017

We Need a New Provost--Here are the Reasons

Here are the reasons Angela Henderson should be replaced immediately:

Industry Standard Qualifications for Provost

• Requirements that a Provost be a senior scholar with extensive teaching experience are typical. Currently, there are 25 Provost jobs at various universities listed on https://www.higheredjobs.com. Of these 25, 19 specifically mention a record of “scholarship” as a requirement. For example, Eastern Illinois’ job announcement requires “a record of outstanding scholarship,” for Provost applicants. Additionally, 9 other universities require a teaching/scholarly/service record that warrants tenure at full Professor. Again, Eastern Illinois requires “a record of outstanding scholarship and superior university teaching, meriting an appointment of full professor with tenure.” An additional 3 universities require that applicants be qualified to receive tenure in an academic department. Altogether, 21 of the 25 job announcements (84 percent) specify that applicants possess a scholarly track record and/or are eligible for tenure, most at the level of full professor.

Qualifications of Provost Henderson

• Angela Henderson has absolutely no record of scholarly achievement. At the time of her appointment to Interim Provost on July 1, 2013, she had not yet received a Ph.D., which the University of Illinois Chicago conferred on August 13, 2013. Given her scant academic credentials, Angela Henderson is not qualified for tenure, at best she might be able to qualify for an entry-level position as an Assistant Professor.

Material Misrepresentations on Angela Henderson’s Application Materials

• On March 18, 2011, Angela Henderson submitted an application and résumé for the position of Vice President of Enrollment Management. Both her application and résumé contained one obvious falsehood and one other material misrepresentation. In her on-line application, she claimed that she would receive a Ph.D. in “Nursing Research” on June 30, 2011. In her résumé she falsely claimed an “anticipated completion” date for the Ph.D. of “June 2011.” In March 2011, she had not even begun the major research on her dissertation project. The University of Illinois Chicago Institutional Review Board did not grant her permission to begin her project until February 13, 2012. Additionally, her résumé failed to reveal a change in job duties (a return to teaching from an administrative position with a nearly 33 percent cut in salary) that occurred in August 2001 and lasted until January 2002.

Angela Henderson’s Unsuccessful Job Performance

• Angela Henderson spent two years as the Vice President of Enrollment Management (2011-13). During her tenure, the University’s enrollment dropped from 6882 (fall 2011) to 5701 (fall 2013). Since becoming Provost, she oversaw more enrollment declines as the University’s enrollment has dropped to 3255 this semester. Particularly as Provost, she has made a number of bad decisions that have contributed to student disaffection and enrollment declines, notably the slashing of academic advisors from 35 to 4 or 5; micro-managing departmental course offerings; course cutting sessions that eviscerate schedules and often contribute to students having difficulty getting courses they need to graduate or make satisfactory progress in their programs. Her performance as Provost resulted in a “no-confidence” resolution from the faculty and Academic Support Professionals in November 2015 that passed 142-4 with 4 abstentions. Simply put, Angela Henderson has neither the confidence nor the support of the faculty and staff at Chicago State.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Fall Looks Bleak Folks

It seems possible that the new Board members quickly realized that virtually no useful information came from people in key administrative positions at CSU. Particularly problematic was the report from Enrollment Management, which was obviously a production of the Provost’s office, since it was virtually content free, except for items that could charitably be described as ludicrous.

Remember that these people have been making unfulfilled promises for the past six years or so. The beginning of the report is truly breathtaking in its fantasizing. The “goal” for the fall is to increase the number of incoming freshmen and transfer students by 100 percent over the anemic 2016 figure, with a 20 percent increase in graduate/professional students. This translates to 592 new undergraduates and 245 new graduate students, a total incoming student population of 837. I’ll talk about the numbers I think we’ll be able to realize in a moment, but first there are a number of reasons this “goal” is ridiculous: first, Admissions is down to one actual admissions person, since the Director of Admissions recently left the university. There are currently no job announcements for any additional staff to do the work in that area. Second, as the report indicates, our fall applications are currently at 2600. For fall 2014 and 2015, the university received better than 7000 undergraduate applications, which yielded in those two years 803 and 697 new undergraduates. I don’t know how many applications we received for fall 2016, but our new undergraduates totaled 296. The consistent failure of the administrators responsible for attracting new students to Chicago State coupled with the absence of personnel to actually do the work of admitting students does not auger well for the success of this endeavor.

Of course, the university also loses students during the year. For the years complete data is available (2009-10 to 2013-14), just over 20.3 percent of our undergraduate students left the university; either by graduating or for other reasons. Additionally, 18.9 percent of our graduates finished their programs. Taking this fall’s enrollment figure of 3578 (1226 graduate students) as the point of departure, we should expect to lose at least 477 undergraduates and an additional 232 graduate students, for a total of 709. Based on the projected graduation numbers and given the “goal” of increasing graduate enrollment by 20 percent, it becomes necessary to attract 477 new graduate students. Thus, doubling our incoming undergraduate student population and increasing our graduate population by 20 percent would increase our actual enrollment by 373 to 3951. Absolutely ridiculous.

Unfortunately, the projected figures on student losses are likely quite low. Enrollment Management reported 245 applications for fall graduation. Given that spring graduation is typically much larger, I think it likely we will approach 650 undergrad graduates. Adding to that total the expected 232 graduate students finishing their programs, we will lose 882 students this year to graduation alone (we graduated a total of 949 last year). Adding to that total the 5.7 percent of undergraduates (134 students at our current enrollment level) who leave school for other reasons, our projected student losses before fall 2017 come to 1016 students. So the enrollment “goals,” if attained, will leave us with a net gain of 66 students for a total enrollment of 3644.

It just gets worse from here. If we only attract a similar number of students as the 296 who enrolled last year, our enrollment would be 3103. Last year the graduate student population dropped by around 6 percent (by 79 students). If we do that again this fall, our graduate population will be at 1152, rather than the 1471 the enrollment “goal” seeks to produce, the enrollment drops to 3029. Frankly, I think we’ll struggle to reach 3,000 students in fall 2017. I fervently hope I am wrong.

The Crowley Debacle Finally Ends

The Crowley case is finally over. Even though the university apparently wanted yet another fruitless hearing, which would have been scheduled for May 1, we suddenly decided to end this fiasco. Our most recent delays cost us an additional $21,000 in interest. No worries, after all, it's not Patrick Cage's money. Here's a Tribune report: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-chicago-state-whistleblower-payment-20170309-story.html

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Governors State cuts 22 programs; Northeastern Ill Univ employees to take 5 furlough days--and CSU?


Seems the bad news about public education in the state of ILL is getting worse. Our sisters schools, Governors State and Northeastern ILL, are taking some drastic actions this month--see article below. What does Gov Rauner and the legislature, IBHE, HLC have up their sleeves I wonder?

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-governors-state-university-budget-cuts-20170306-story.html

A New Day Indeed, But How Much Time Do We Have?

So as my distinguished colleague noted in the previous post, it does, in fact, appear to be a new day. The new trustees were remarkable in their first meeting. They grilled administrators and contractors and were not overawed by the standard, well worn, meaningless responses of our intrepid administrators. I would hope the impending forensic audit would demonstrate the seriousness in which the new trustees are approaching the job of holding the fiduciary responsibility of the university. Of course, there will be the tired refrain of not having any money to pay for the forensic audit. But I am sure with the number of senior administrators currently occupying space in the Cook Building, money could be found with some administrative right sizing. Maybe the BOT will revisit other issues like the Office of the Executive Inspector General finding against a previous president which the Board chose not to act upon. As the Board will be reviewing policies and practices at the university and seem willing to at least listen to the institutional memory (faculty & staff), this very well might be the time to make substantive suggestions on how to address the countless challenges facing the university. During the financial exigency the University Advisory Committee made 30 suggestions on revenue generation and cost savings, with not a single suggestion being acted upon by the Gang of Four. 
I am guardedly optimistic that the new Board of Trustees will actually act in the best interests of the institution and not function as enablers to a failed, petty, incompetent administration. 
And speaking of enablers, where has Trustee Zollar been? As one who voted to remove President Calhoun in September 2016, she has not attended a board meeting since. If the business of the university is so unimportant, why not tender your resignation and allow the Governor fill out the Board with members who are actually engaged and desirous of improving the situation at the university? 
You, loyal readers, already know how much work needs to be done and how little time there is to do it. Let's think of creative solutions that we can communicate to the board on how to keep the ship from going under.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Is it Business as Usual or a "New Day" at Chicago State?

Those of you who attended Friday’s Board meeting might have noticed a slight change in tone on the part of the new Trustees. They seemed unwilling to accept the happy, happy, joy, joy picture various administrators attempted to paint. They seemed willing to ask pointed questions and follow them up with more pointed questions. A few administrators found themselves floundering for answers to questions they should have known were coming. In particular, the new Trustees seemed interested in our never-ending enrollment decline, and our financial practices. Although I’ve posted information relative to both topics before, I humbly offer the following material as a refresher for regular readers and as information I believe the Board should know.

As far as enrollment, the administration has been scamming the Board of Trustees, the state, and the taxpayers of Illinois for years. Beginning in Spring 2011, the university experienced 13 consecutive (and counting) semesters of enrollment declines, taking our student population from 7362 to 3255. In yearly reports to the Illinois State Legislature, the university administrators have continuously asserted the importance of its efforts to “[refocus] its admission recruitment practices at both the undergraduate and graduate level to increase the quality and quantity of its incoming student population.” Included in those efforts is an acknowledgement of the importance of adequate academic advising: “Advisors are needed to increase advising services to students across colleges. This . . . supports our strategic goal to improve enrollment, retention and graduation rate across colleges.” As one of the keys to this goal, “, the Institutional Research department must be enhanced to ensure data integrity and timely submission of institutional data.”

Of course, internally, the Watson clique sang a different tune. This from the 2015 University “Fact Book”: “Over the past five years, Chicago State University (CSU) has been provided new opportunities in right-sizing its institutional enrollment by adhering to institutional policies through improved practices, increasing academic standards and expectations of students and strengthening the enrollment management structure.” Or this: “The University has continuously rightsized it’s [sic] enrollment as witnessed in [sic]the slow decline of enrollment from 2010 – 2014.” Or these gems from a 2016 Enrollment Management Report. Under the category of “How do you know if you’re effective?”: “This plan includes increasing enrollment (bold mine) through outreach and marketing efforts and increasing retention and graduation through coordinated efforts of support programs and services. CSU’s measurements of success indicators include the following:

• Overall improvement in University graduation rate from 14% (2010) to an average of 20% over the previous past 3 academic years: 21% (2012), 21% (2013), 19% (2014). However,the current rate had a sharp decline in 2015 and fell to 11% (bold mine).”

In direct contradiction to the above nonsense, the report included the actual enrollment figures from 2011 through 2015. The enrollment decreased by over 2100 students, from 6882 to 4767. The report’s author(s)concluded the decline indicated that “CSU’s enrollment is stabilizing (sort of like the Titanic "stabilized").”

We followed through on these “goals” by eviscerating Enrollment Management, particularly, Institutional Research, advising and admissions. We devastated the library and sharply reduced the IT and financial aid staffs. In the meantime all the friends of Angela Henderson retained their jobs and high salaries. Through the years, the State Legislature and our lifeless Board have swallowed this arrant nonsense without a peep. Breathtakingly Orwellian!

Now let’s talk about our financial stewardship of taxpayer money. An early announcement at the meeting informed everyone that we had just added yet another Vice President to our constellation of high-level administrators. This in the form of a new Interim (of course) Vice President for Development. This position appears nowhere in the university’s Internal Operating Budget (through fiscal 2015), or on our Illinois State Legislature Forms as a requested new position. It appears only on our organizational chart of February 4, 2015, as a “vacant” position. Obviously, we are still creating out of thin air positions for Vice Presidents.

Here are the Board Regulations relative to the creation of new positions at the level of Vice President:

GOVERNING POLICIES

SECTION 6.
PARTICIPATION IN UNIVERSITY GOVERNANCE

A. SHARED PARTICIPATION.
In order to promote shared participation in responsible and wise decision-making and to ensure channels of communication, the university shall provide for elected campus organizations, the structures of which shall be determined by the constituencies they represent and approved by the President. Except as limited by the scope of collective bargaining negotiations between the Board and the academic employees and the requirements of good faith collective bargaining, the appropriate and duly constituted committees of faculty government shall participate in the decision-making process of the university in the following areas:

1. University curriculum.
2. Basic policies with regard to campus planning and facilities construction and utilization.
3. Creation of administrative positions at the level of Dean and Vice President and selection of administrative officers for such positions as well as of the President of the university.

I am eager to hear from any and all faculty who participated in the creation of this new Vice Presidency.

This new Vice President brings the total number of CSU Associate Vice Presidents, Vice Presidents, Associate Provosts, Provosts, and Presidents to 14. Here’s a look at the metastatic growth of those positions since 2009.

In 2009, our enrollment was 7235. We had a President, a Provost, three (3) Vice Presidents, an Associate Vice President, and an Assistant Vice President. Seven (7) positions total for a salary expenditure of $833,000.

In 2010, our enrollment was 7362; in 2011, 6882; in 2012, 6107; in 2013, 5701; in 2014, 5211; in 2015, 4767, in 2016, 3578. It’s 3255 this Spring.

In 2010 we again had 7 Associate Vice Presidents and above at $1.07 million; in 2011, Watson increased that number to 12, at $1.7 million; in 2012, we had 14 at $1.98 million; in 2013, we actually dropped to 13, at $1.73 million; in 2014, we remained at 13, at $1.9 million; in 2015, we again grew our ranks, to 16, at $2 million. As I said above, we now have fourteen (14) of these persons working at CSU. We are paying for two presidents, a Provost, three (3) Associate Provosts; three (3) Vice Presidents, and five (5) Associate Vice Presidents. The cost? $2.2 million.

Based on the behavior of our administration to this point, it seems apparent they believe that the same bullshit will continue to work. They’ve learned nothing from the various debacles of the past several years and they continue to create jobs for Watson/Henderson pals. The plan seems to be continued plunder of the university while they keep the Board at a distance. While we cry poverty, there always seems to be money for some things. Will the new Board members play along? Based on the first meeting it seems doubtful, however, we will still have to wait and see.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

A Warm Welcome

So on January 17th, the Governor made official his appointment of four trustees to the CSU Board. One name was particularly noteworthy, that being Paul Vallas, former head of the Chicago Public Schools and recognized turnaround specialist in K-12 systems. The other three trustees, Mr. Kambium Buckner, Mr. Nicholas A. Gowen, and Ms. Tiffany R. Harper,  all attorneys in Chicago, bring the benefit of legal education and incisive interrogation of critical issues to the position of trustee. Unfortunately the newly appointed trustees cannot meet because of prohibitions imposed by the Illinois Open Meetings Act. Therefore, their first gathering will be tomorrow at the next scheduled board of trustees meeting.

As an interested observer, I am eager to see how the board handles the Governor's wish that Paul Vallas be the board chairman. Apparently, Trustee Hatch was caught off guard by the Governor in comments made at the announcement of the new trustees. The window is narrow for the Board to keep the ship from sinking.

The new trustees will have a steep learning curve, and at least temporarily, be plied with misinformation from a group of failed administrators and their enabling supporters. I sincerely hope they aren't given any narrative about the university's problems stemming from the current budget impasse. The enrollment fiasco started in 2010 when Pat Quinn was in his first term as governor. The university has experienced 13 consecutive semesters of enrollment decline. This clearly predates, the Rauner administration. The new trustees must be disabused of the fabrications they are likely to hear about the nature and causes of the dysfunction at CSU. I would invite them to look at the body of evidence of misconduct and incompetence and ask who was individually and collectively responsible and once that is clear, DO NOT REWARD FAILURE!

Courageous members of this board attempted to course correct in March 2013 and unfortunately failed. The university finds itself in its current situation as a result of that failed attempt to protect the interests of the university. As there is likely not much time left for the university in a practical sense, I hope they move boldly away from a culture of failure that became firmly ensconced in 2009. 

I extend a heartfelt welcome to the professionals willing to undertake what is clearly a formidable challenge, rooting out a culture of administrative failure and protecting a 150 year old higher education institution from totally imploding. 

I am sure I speak for all faculty when I say we stand ready to assist in your learning about how universities should work and supporting your leadership to protect the institution.