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.