As we reach the end of another school year replete with scandals, more enrollment declines, and bad financial news, it seems increasingly important for our new leadership to identify the persons most responsible for our predicament and to remove them from University employment. This process will likely take some time, but it must include rooting out every crony hire made during the Watson/Henderson regime, from the Provost at $225,000 to the Administrative Assistant at $45,000. This process will also be costly, as some persons will be entitled to generous Board-mandated severance payouts. Nonetheless, these personnel changes must occur, despite the expense. Unfortunately, the University is simply going to have to continue to pay for the cynicism, incompetence, and epic failure of our previous administration.
Once again, all evidence points to the inescapable conclusion that the previous Board/Administration abrogated their specific responsibilities to the students who placed their faith in Chicago State University, and their general duty to oversee the Watson administration’s academic stewardship. Rather than protecting the interests of the University and its students, the Board/Administration comprising Wayne Watson, Michael Curtin, Marshall Hatch, James Joyce, Spencer Leak, Horace Smith, Anthony Young, and Nikki Zollar embraced the cynical and destructive management style of Wayne Watson, and abetted his administration’s endorsement of academic and employment dishonesty, managerial misconduct, financial mismanagement, crony hiring, and a continuing enrollment disaster. The Board ignored its own presidential performance standards and ultimately rewarded the failed president with numerous perks. After Watson’s ”retirement,” the Board orchestrated Thomas Calhoun’s untimely departure by allowing his senior administrators to undermine the new President, then selected a cipher to fill that critical leadership position, effectively returning control of the University to Watson and the Provost. Not surprisingly, the University continued the enrollment decline that began in 2010, cratering at 3250 this spring.
The previous Board’s failure to act on the declining enrollment, the questionable hiring practices, the demonstrated dishonesty of senior administrators, and the continual financial shenanigans of the Watson administration, coupled with its railroading of a respected and popular new President represented a complete betrayal of our students.
Since the Board consisted of Watson loyalists, this betrayal hardly seems surprising. After all, Wayne Watson had been betraying students at City Colleges and Chicago State for years. His self-styled “distinguished” career as an “educator” is notably devoid of scholarly and/or administrative accomplishments. Instead, his performance has featured consistent enrollment declines, multiple scandals, a vindictive and paranoid management style that resulted in abusive and costly administrative misconduct, a consistent reliance on hiring cronies and loyalists into positions for which they have no qualifications, rewarding his friends and cronies with not just jobs, but with lucrative contracts, and a constant need to avoid responsibility. Frankly, his cynicism knew no bounds. His friends and cronies would be rewarded; the academic integrity of the institution be damned.
The current Provost is a well-schooled product of the Watson style of management, abusive and suspicious, not averse to taking care of her friends and cronies, and likewise, devoid of scholarly and administrative accomplishments. While her performance has earned her a pink slip, the symbolism of her departure would be a powerful signal that “business as usual” has come to an end here at Chicago State. She has absolutely no support from any segment of the University community and her hold on a position usually reserved for a respected senior scholar speaks volumes for the enduring toxicity of the Watson regime. She came to the University as a crony hire, then got her promotion to Provost because of her relationship with Watson. She lied on her application/resume about her expected completion of the Ph.D., then had to hurriedly complete a dissertation to get the degree because Watson wanted to promote her to Provost. The dissertation committee failed to meet the UIC College of Nursing minimum requirements for such a committee, since it included only two members of the graduate faculty, instead of the requisite three. However, the committee did include Wayne Watson, and a person who served as her research assistant. Despite the findings of the anonymous “hearing officer” that her dissertation was not plagiarized, its multiple irregularities more than met the UIC Nursing threshold for plagiarism. Indeed, I found more than 80 passages taken entirely or in part, without appropriate attribution, from various articles, all ostensibly violations of Nursing’s published academic integrity standards. More than three years later, the “revised” dissertation remains unavailable. Anyone questioning the academic integrity of this institution need look no further than the Provost’s office to make a case.
As long as the Provost and her friends (and Watson’s friends) remain on this campus, we are stalled. The April 17 memo from Board Chair Marshall Hatch (a willing participant in the Calhoun firing) may signal an attempt to keep the Provost in place. He wrote this: “Provost Angela Henderson has admirably led in the four year benchmark of our accreditation processes with the Higher Learning Commission. We appreciate all the hard work of the leadership team.” No, Reverend Hatch, we do not appreciate their “hard work.” The staff and faculty at Chicago State want this leadership team gone, and your willingness to shill for the failed Watson holdovers demonstrates your unfitness for a position on the Chicago State Board of Trustees. You should follow Trustee Zollar’s example and immediately resign your position. I fervently hope Hatch’s bullshit will not dissuade our new administrative team from making long overdue personnel changes. After all, we cannot be saved if we are unwilling to save ourselves.
Although ridding ourselves of the Watson blight will be expensive, we must bear the cost. We cannot excise all the Watson tumors immediately, but I urge our new administration to expeditiously begin the work of extricating the school from the muck of the Watson administration. It seems apparent that our new Board members have the school’s best interests at heart, and I believe they will support any personnel changes our new President sees fit to make.