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.”