Friday, September 28, 2018

What Kanye Could Do At Chicago State University: Suggestions from A Hip Hop Head and Scholar

Lots of excitement this week as there have been daily Kanye West sightings.  Accompanying these sightings is speculation about what he is doing here and a great deal of hope that he is here either to assist the school or scout talent for record contracts.  Other non-fans and cynics ask: What the hell is he doing here?  I imagine that only Kanye knows why he is here.

I've been a fan of Mr. West's since I first heard the song, "Through the Wire" and "Jesus Walks."  In my diversity and class and stratification courses I still play "All Falls Down" from his first album; I use it to describe class, conspicuous consumption and related terms. Even though the corporate media tries to sensationalize his image and words often with his help, I know he has a lot to offer still.  In addition, I believe that Mr. West is sincere in his visits to CSU.  After all, he spent a good amount of time as a youth walking the campus with his mother, the still-esteemed former professor, Donda West.  Colleagues who have been around long enough describe seeing Kanye "running around in short pants" as a retired colleague once told me.  Undoubtedly, his and his mother's experience here shaped him in many ways.  CSU has much still to offer him and he much to offer CSU. 

Since Mr. West has begun to show serious interest in CSU I thought it appropriate to assist him in understanding our needs and strengths and offer some ideas about how he can partner (because, of course, he will benefit, too) with CSU.  Here's just a few.  Feel free to add your own.

--Endow the music program including and especially the new cutting-edge electronic and popular music degree.  He could create an endowment that would earn money to buy equipment, hire 3 to 5 faculty members, and fund full-ride scholarships for 30 talented Chicago youth.  I am certain that the emcee and music producer would love to assist young men and women like him develop their talent.

--If he loves Black people like he says George W. Bush doesn't, then he could endow a Social Justice Institute.  The institute could include an interdisciplinary program in social justice.  Again, existing programs in political science, criminal justice, sociology, African American Studies, and others could be used as a framework for developing a new program.   It could have research components, provide services, provide jobs and be a think tank for solving many of the social ills that we face in Chicago and around the globe. 

--He could endow an urban agriculture problem to help solve the problems of food apartheid including malnutrition, toxic food, diet-related illness and socio economic problems.  The urban agriculture program could have a social justice mission that included education but also could connect with communities already doing this work much like the Neighborhood Assistance Center already does with few resources.  Once again the money would be used to bolster existing programs in Geography, biology, sociology and others as well as provide scholarships, hire faculty and develop infrastructure related to the Aquaponics Center, etc.

--Develop a Chicago Hip Hop Archive that as always includes an education component.  It could include a research library or section of the library, performance spaces, archives, and study rooms.  The Archive would build on our already existing resources including our talented students and faculty who teach courses on or related to hip hop and research and write about it. The library staff would be the foundation of this effort and more faculty, staff and other professionals would be hired including hiring students to staff the archive as they learn.

--Bolster the efforts of the Women's Resource Center and Women's and Gender Studies.  The unit or program would provide services to our community and to our predominantly adult female population that could include daycare, parenting services, counseling, etc.  The new program or center would have a research and academic component tied to the existing efforts of my colleagues in Women's and Gender Studies, African American Studies, and other disciplines throughout the university.

--Develop a much-needed community health center/institute again tied to existing programs in nursing, pharmacy, OT and other health sciences as well as appropriate social sciences.  Such a center would include services, curricula related to community health, new faculty and student scholarships.

Of course, every unit would want something.  Buildings, grounds, student services, enrollment, athletics, etc., etc., all need assistance so that we can become the '21st century university' that we are being asked to become.  My belief is that if we are able to bolster our academic programs, create unique programs and tie them to services and social justice, then we will begin to once again make a positive name for ourselves and be a model for urban universities across the country.

Mr. West has already raised the profile of CSU by just being here.  My wish is that his presence will start a mutually beneficial relationship between him and us.  Not being an academic Mr. West is likely to need help identifying how he can plug in here at CSU.  My advice to him is speak to those of us who have been around for awhile and who know our needs.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Will Angela Attack?

How long do you think it will be before the former Provost starts taking potshots at the school? Despite her years of fraud and failure, I'm sure she thought her association with Wayne Watson would enable her to stay in her position as long as she wished. Does anyone really think she'll not try to strike back. After all, remember that the Watson administration's mode of operation included attempts to destroy his Lilliputianess's real and perceived enemies (ie. Jim Crowley, Glenn Meeks, LaShondra Peebles, and a host of others). Henderson learned those tacticw well. So where will the attack(s) originate? From the political hacks on the state level who have done nothing over the past 9 years as the University plummeted to its current imperiled position? From political hacks in the HLC? (Remember their recent concern about our internal operations) From friends and allies in the media? From allies remaining on the Board? From ridiculous lawsuits? Stay tuned.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Don't Put the Broom Away Just Yet. The Cronies in Wonderland

In the past few days, we’ve seen a handful of Friends of Wayne or Friends of Angela lose their sinecures at Chicago State. Hopefully, this won’t be the end of the much-needed firings at this University. On July 26, the new President moved Angela Henderson, a long-time Watson crony out of the Provost’s position. Last week, another Watson administrative crony who had “protected Watson” according to a senior administrator, lost a key job. Additionally, one of the highly placed “Friends of Angela” who had seen a 221 percent salary increase in the past seven years, found the new President unimpressed with her/his job performance. Altogether, these 3 administrators made $473,868.90 in salary and overrides in fiscal 2018.

After the first wave of Watson crony hires in 2009 (Mitchell, Sidney, Cage, and Ronnie Watson most prominent), another wave of cronies came on board between mid-2011 and early 2014. Included among these lucky “Friends of Wayne” were Henderson, hired June 15, 2011 as the Vice President of Enrollment Management at a salary of $150,000/year; and Damon Arnold, hired as “Director” of a program with 4 students at a salary of $140,004/year on October 3, 2011. Watson soon promoted both these cronies and raised their salaries. Henderson eventually became University Provost at a salary of $231,750 (a bump of $81,750, or 54.5 percent, while Arnold, apparently despite infrequent appearances at work, was anointed an Assistant Dean, with a more modest increase to $144,204 or 3 percent.

Of course, Watson also involved himself in other hirings, reportedly even interviewing candidates for maintenance, police officer, and of course, faculty positions. In the Watson universe, a paranoid concern with subordinate loyalty reigned supreme. Ignoring the obvious inadequate qualifications of most of his crony selections, Watson populated Chicago State’s senior administrative ranks with incompetent friends and friends of political friends, effectively consigning to irrelevance any actual ability to do a particular job. As an example, after Henderson’s terrible performance as VP of Enrollment Management (enrollment declined from 6882 to 5701 on her watch), Watson promoted her to Interim Provost on July 1, 2013.

Of course, 5 years ago, both Watson and Henderson had a problem with a faculty and staff who saw through their charade and recognized them as the frauds and political hacks they actually were. Although most faculty members were unable or unwilling to publicly express their displeasure with the operations of the Watson regime, several no-confidence votes and other polls demonstrated consistent opposition to their “administration.” Having been rejected by the academic community, where could these two clowns turn for support?

By rigging student elections and putting pressure on our most vulnerable population, the Watson/Henderson “juggernaut” co-opted a number of students. They taught a number of lessons to students who desired to participate in the affairs of the University. Loyalty to Watson/Henderson resulted in rewards, while disloyalty or even indifference could engender disastrous consequences. As the legatee of her mentor’s management style, Henderson demonstrated that she learned these lessons well.

The point of contact between students and administrators became the Office of Student Activities. Organizationally, this office bounced around between 2012 and 2018. In January 2012, the office operated under the Enrollment Management VP, Angela Henderson. At that point, two Deans, a Dean of Students and a Dean of Freshman Experience existed under Enrollment Management. The Dean of Freshman Experience was vacant. The organizational status quo obtained on July 31, 2012. By January 24, 2014, Henderson had been promoted to Provost, and Student Activities remained under the new Interim Vice President of Enrollment Management, LaShondra Peebles. By this time, one of the loyal employees working for Henderson had been promoted to an Interim Dean’s position.

By February 2015, Peebles had been fired and the Enrollment Management operation significantly reduced. The Student Activities component was now headed by an Interim Dean of Student Affairs, reporting directly to the President. Almost every office dealing with student activities now essentially reported to the President. This organizational arrangement avoided any potential conflicts between the wrong Dean and the Henderson friends and loyalists in the old Enrollment Management empire. The one exception: the Interim Dean who had been promoted in 2014 now worked directly for Angela Henderson. The First Year Experience operation had been detached from other student departments and reorganized under the Provost. The Vice President’s position in Enrollment Management was vacant.

By the date Thomas Calhoun assumed the presidency, the entire Student Affairs operation, including the Dean and the Dean of First Year Experience operated under the Provost’s office. Again, this reorganization protected these Henderson loyalists from the incoming President, who had exhibited a threatening desire to actually develop a positive relationship with the University faculty. This organizational structure existed under Cecil Lucy in February 2017, and continued under Rachel Lindsey in February 2018.

The same kind of administrative bloat seen across the University has afflicted Student Activities in recent months. In Spring 2014, that operation consisted of an Interim Dean, a Director and an Assistant Director of Student Activities. By Spring 2016, the Assistant Director had gotten a new administrative position and a nice raise of $39,000, from $46,000 to $85,000 a year. For the next three years, that office consisted of a Dean and a Director of Student Activities, with an annual salary expense of $175,000 to $200,000. However, in Spring 2018, with enrollment at record lows, undergraduate enrollment below 2000, and Freshman enrollment down to 224 (fall 2017 figures), the administrative staff in Student Activities suddenly doubled. We now have a Dean, an Assistant Dean, a Director of Student Activities, and a Director of First Year Experience, for a total salary expense of $390,311.30.

So we know what the employees get for their loyalty to Henderson. What do the students get? In 2013, the Watson administration interceded in a student government election to insure that two anti-Watson candidates were not elected to the positions of SGA President and Student Rep to the CSU Board (the anti-Watson candidate won 292-80, while the anti-Watson Board candidate won 236-88). The administration made a concerted effort to destroy the anti-Watson Board candidate, as Angela Henderson filed bogus “stalking” charges, got an injunction from a friendly judge, and caused the subsequent arrest of the student for violating the bullshit “anti-stalking” order. Ultimately, both the order and the criminal charges against the student were dismissed in court. All this apparently cooked up by the President, Provost, and General Counsel, abetted by Student Activities personnel, to silence a student for daring to disagree with Watson.

In February 2014, I wrote this: “Under the Watson regime, persons without protection are cynically co-opted, bullied and intimidated into actions that serve the interests of Wayne Watson and his cronies. The administration subjects students who disagree vocally with the Watson regime to the full weight of the university’s enforcement apparatus while it defends administrators who lie, cheat and plagiarize.”

As a student, it was not even necessary to publicly disagree with Watson/Henderson to have yourself discarded and your academic career ruined. Let’s take the hypothetical case of a student who simply may not have been able to handle the pressure of the various demands made by Watson/Henderson and their acolytes:

After admission, the student’s first 3 semesters look like this: 41 credit hours attempted, 41 completed, 41 passed, a 3.63 GPA. The student then gets involved in campus politics, aligns her/himself with the Watson/Henderson administration, serves in important positions, and over the next four years attempts another 146 hours, completes 116, passes 96, with a 1.55 GPA, dropping her/his overall GPA to 2.03. The hypothetical student ultimately leaves school with no diploma. Could this actually have happened?

It seems like the focus of President Scott’s housecleaning targets inefficiently performing administrators, including some obvious crony hires. As I have said repeatedly, they are an impediment to the University’s ability to reconstruct its reputation and again become a viable educational institution. Madame President, while you evaluate the senior administrators, please do not ignore the mid-level crony administrators who have enthusiastically contributed to the school’s demise while happily cashing those nice paychecks. As you are assuredly discovering, for years, a number of these people have done almost nothing except collect a salary. Let's see if we can't replace them with people who, preferably at other universities, have demonstrated the ability to support students and increase enrollment.






Monday, July 30, 2018

The End of the End Or The Beginning of the Beginning

So it took 936 days, two interim presidents, one permanent president and a non-traditional president to bring to an end the darkest period of Chicago State University’s 150 year history. Since 2008, the university has endured an ever deepening spiral into non-existence. To answer who is responsible is to tell a much longer story than your humble narrator has time to tell here. The short version is that everyone affiliated with the University prior to July 1st of this year has some measure of accountability here. Those who would support a regime that was demonstrably failing in real time bear the greatest responsibility. That includes the current and former governors, state legislators, administrators, tenured faculty, and alumni. Accrediting bodies and the Illinois Board of Higher Education are also responsible. By their action or inaction members of all of these groups contributed to a 65% enrollment decline between 2009 and 2018. And no, loyal readers, do not believe the apologists who blame the two year budget crisis for a 9 year enrollment decline.
So the last ten years have been horrific for the University and now the last vestiges of that period are being purged. There are still some remaining who shouldn’t be long for CSU and then the really difficult phase begins, the race against time to restore the university to some semblance of viability.
Just in the matter of Academic Affairs, it would appear that the division should be gutted and rebuilt. Does an Interim Provost have time to do that heavy lifting? Does this Interim Provost have the skill set to take on such an enormous task? Should we lower the expectations to just keeping the lights on or should we expect more?
I believe the first thing to address is the appalling treatment of tenured faculty who were laid off, some of whom were rehired at a reduced grade and salary. All of these faculty should be restored effective August 15th. If the University wishes to fire tenured faculty, then there is an accepted process in the Academy that those who are familiar with such things, would follow. If tenure is to be stripped, then that requires Board action and the Board has been remarkably silent since 2016 when it inexplicably entered the University into a state of financial exigency. Tenured faculty deserve much better treatment than they have received with the previous regime.
The second thing that must be addressed is to rebuild the advising process at the university. The now departed Provost did an exemplary job in destroying the student advising process. It is too late to fix it for the Fall 2018 semester and it needs to be addressed immediately.
The third task is to get permission to offer courses off campus. It has been six years since the university had the ability to offer courses off campus and the now relieved provost seemingly couldn’t figure out that part of her job responsibilities. The Interim Provost now has the duty to correct this and I would hope this is addressed promptly.
Fourth, the curriculum process must be rebuilt from the ground up. This process is an excellent opportunity for the new administration to participate meaningfully in shared governance. The past several administrations have failed miserably in the practice of shared governance and here we are again with another opportunity to function like a university. Stay tuned.
Fifth, the Interim Provost will need to rebuild trust between the faculty and the administration. I believe this would lead to increased faculty morale and possibly increased faculty productivity. It will take a Provost who can lead, not just manage budgets and nickel and dime faculty over tenths of CUEs. Only time will tell if a leader or a manager occupies the seat.
Finally, the President and Interim Provost will need to acknowledge the enormous human cost of the last ten years on those who have been associated with the university. People have been hurt. Reputations have been damaged. The dignity of good people has been assaulted. Not acknowledging the human cost will prevent the university from moving forward. And soon it will be too late. 
There is so much more that needs to be addressed and I don’t know if time favors the institution. I thought I would have been happier at this change and yet I’m only sad because all of this was avoidable. And those who are ultimately responsible should be ashamed of their role in the  damage wrought on the university. Yet, I’m sure there will be no accountability and no acknowledgment that human beings, colleagues and friends, have been deeply hurt. And I’m still just sad.

Hopefully, a Portentous Week

Last week brought extremely positive news to the long-suffering students, staff, and faculty at Chicago State. Although in office less than a month, new CSU President “Z” Scott did what Thomas Calhoun could not do and what Cecil Lucy and Rachel Lindsey would not do. What might this mean as the new school year approaches? For what they’re worth, here are my thoughts.

The new President actually seems to recognize bullshit when she sees it or hears it. As we all know, Chicago State possesses a number of highly-paid administrators who, as far as I can tell, produce nothing, or worse, do damage. One has just been jettisoned. Hopefully, a number of her friends and cronies still blighting the University are now nervous and will decide to explore alternative career opportunities.

The Board and President seem to realize the seriousness of the school’s situation and the precariousness of its existence. Currently, fall enrollment is down another 7 percent, which would translate into a fall head count of around 2800, potentially the sixteenth consecutive semester of enrollment losses. In this environment, acting in the best interests of the University becomes imperative. This past week, President Scott did just that.

Although the new President is not an academic, she obviously understands management. She is unafraid to take decisive action. She brings her own political influence to this job, effectively neutralizing the toxic residue of the Wayne Watson administration, perpetuated by apparatchiks who are determined to have the University remain in the same corrupt and incompetent hands. While the task of rehabilitating the University is formidable, even daunting, we now seem to have someone with the desire to use her political skills for the benefit of the school rather than for the benefit of her friends and cronies. Based on the early returns, she deserves our support.




Friday, July 27, 2018

Finally, a Change in the Provost's Office

A relief and long overdue. Thanks President Scott for putting the University's best interests first.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Life After CSU

Our former colleague, Dr. Yan Searcy, has accepted a position as Dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at California State University-Northridge. Congratulations Yan!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Prez Z Scott --CSU's latest

At an emergency Board of Trustees meeting today, a decision was made to name Z. Scott the next president of CSU. 

No time to waste Ms. Scott. Good luck.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Lots of Money for Administrators: Is Wayne Watson Still Here?

The presidential search is hopefully nearing its conclusion. Who will we get? The future of the university almost assuredly depends upon the Board making the best choice at this time. Two of the candidates qualify as academics and are qualified based on work experience. The third has no academic experience, but knows the situation at Chicago State well. Her selection would likely end the employment of several Watson holdovers and may even result in a long-needed comprehensive audit of the financial operation of the university under the Lilliputian Leader’s “team.”

The threat to the Lilliputian Leader’s enduring hold on the university seems real to a number of his apparatchiks. There seems to be a move afoot to pressure local politicians and the Board to hold a new search. These Lilliputian Leader’s loyalists are alarmed over the possible selection of “Z” Scott as CSU’s next president and are working assiduously behind the scenes to insure that does not happen. It’s all about protecting people who have demonstrated their loyalty to the little guy and his corrupt regime. We’ll see how it all comes out.

Of course, there is no need for changes her at Chicago State. After all, we’ve made great strides this past year. One person on campus with actual ideas was run out of here after being undercut by the same folks who sabotaged the Calhoun presidency. Since the most recent interim leadership team began running the university, we’ve operated very much like we did for the past 9 years or so.

First, despite the need for a forensic audit, and despite the Board’s approval of such action in March 2017, the university claims there’s “no money” to do such a thing. Really? We are again poor-mouthing which provides a convenient excuse for inaction when we don’t want to be exposed to the light. Well folks, as always, we have money for some things here at Chicago State.

On January 31, 2017, the university employed 484 full-time, permanent workers. That number included 141 administrators and 343 faculty and staff (144 faculty). The salary expense for these employees came to just over $32.4 million, with $11.25 million for administrators, $11.36 million for faculty, and $9.8 million for staff.

We finally got a state appropriation in mid-2017. During that year, we saw a number of infrastructure problems develop at the university, students in the dorms had to be relocated because their rooms had neither head nor hot water. Meals had to be trucked in at times. Over the winter, we had disastrous water leaks from broken pipes in the Williams Science Building and New Academic Library. The parking lots on the south side of the campus continue to crumble into dust, and one of the elevators in Williams has been out of service since around August 2016.

These problems stem from years of inattention and a failure to commit funds to necessary maintenance. Since we had no money for an audit, perhaps it stands to reason we had no money for preventative maintenance. So, as we watch, the university tumbles down around us.

However, we have been able to find money to continue one of the former president’s favorite pursuits: swelling the administrative ranks here at Chicago State.

On March 9, 2018, our full-time employee complement had grown to 541, an increase of 57 employees. Interesting since our enrollment continues to decline. In spite of disastrous enrollment numbers, we forged ahead with the effort to increase our administrative ranks. The entire increase of 57 employees came from administrators. Now at Chicago State, we have 198 administrators and 343 faculty/staff (139 faculty). Administrative salaries are now over $15 million and constitute 40 percent of our total salary expense for full-time, permanent employees.

We just never learn.

Friday, April 27, 2018

If it's May, it Must Be Tenure Time

Congratulations to the following colleagues who have been recommended for tenure which should be conferred by the Board at its May 4 meeting:

LaShonda Fuller of Psychology
Michael Danquah of Pharmaceutical Sciences
Joanna Kolendo of Library and Instructional Services
Yashika Watkins of Health Studies
Valerie Goss of Chemistry and Physics

A major career milestone. Kudos to you all!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Presidential Candidates

We have the three names of the finalists for CSU President:

"Z" Scott, former CSU Board member, one of the Board members who wanted to fire Wayne Watson in 2013. She's an attorney.
Patricia P. Ramsey, Provost at Lincoln University. She has undergrad and advanced degrees in Botany/Biology from Norfolk State, Howard, Harvard, and Ph.D. from Georgetown.
Heidi M. Anderson, Provost at Texas A&M in Kingsville. Former Provost, now Special Assistant to the President. She has undergrad degree in Pharmacy, M.S. in Education, Ph.D. in Pharmacy Administration, all from Purdue.

Below are links to info on Scott and Anderson, and to Ramsey's CV:

http://www.tamuk.edu/administration/Special%20Assistant%20to%20the%20President.html
http://www.lincoln.edu/sites/default/files/pdf/president/search/cvs/CV%20Patricia%20Ramsey.pdf
https://www.foley.com/zaldwaynaka-scott/

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Important Message: Vote for UPI representatives. Faculty Governance Matters. Election closes on April 20th


There are only two significant places at CSU where faculty exercise a share in university governance: the Faculty Union (UPI) and the Faculty Senate. It is important for faculty to take seriously their role and place at CSU not simply as teachers and researchers but as leaders responsible for the decisions that affect university policies.

This month there is an election for officers of CSU’s chapter of the UPI. With the next contract negotiations already underway we need a strong showing among the voting membership to elect leaders who will stand up for the faculty.

Last week UPI members should have received ballots for the election of CSU’s officers (President, VP, Secretary, Treasurer & House of Delegates representatives) to fill out and submit via mail (snail mail).  Because of the awkwardness of the size of the ballot pages you will have to refold the pages to fit into a smaller envelope and then mail in the pre-addressed envelope. You need to sign the back. You will not need extra postage, but you will have to put your own stamp on the letter. Do not mail it via CSU’s office mail pick up. Do not think that mailing it through CSU will save you postage.  The ballots will not be counted on our campus, but at the UPI offices.

Below is a list of the candidates on campus running for various UPI offices. Be sure that the UPI office receives your ballot by April 20th.

 BALLOT FOR OFFICERS AND DELEGATES TO UPI HOUSE OF DELEGATES                                                                                                                                    
OFFICERS - Vote for one for each position                                                                    
President                                                      
Deborah Lynch               
              Louis "Pancho" McFarland                        
              Melany Puglisi-Weening                            

Unit A Vice President                                               
Rosalind Fielder              
Agber Dimah                   
                                                                       
Unit B Vice President                                                
Darrell Darrisaw             
                                                                       
ASP Vice President                                                    
Romona Raymond                       
                                                                       
Secretary                                                      
Hafeez Faridi                   
                                                                       
Treasurer                                                     
Mohammad Tauseef                   
Eric Shen                          
                                                                       
UPI Exec. Bd Representative                                                 
Hafeez Faridi                   
Mohd Shahid                  
                                                                       
DELEGATES TO UPI HOUSE OF DELEGATES - Vote for 15                                                           
Araceli Canalini
Jan-Jo Chen
Tiffany Davis
Athanese Gahungu
Gabriel Gomez
Valerie Goss
Ann Kuzdale
Olanipekun Laosebikan
Deborah Lynch
Romona Raymond
Eric Shen           
Virginia Shen



Friday, March 23, 2018

We Still Cannot Offer Classes off Campus: A Story of Administrative Neglect and Incompetence

During Chicago State’s disastrous enrollment losses of the past 7 years, our senior administrators have blamed everyone but themselves for our predicament: previous administrations, faculty and staff, the news media, Republicans, the Governor, and the Illinois legislature. As enrollment tanked, our ‘leadership team” tried frantically to distance themselves from the unfolding catastrophe. As they presented their glowing reports to a credulous Board of Trustees in bed with Wayne Watson, the school’s students continued to leave in droves. Unfortunately for these failed administrators, reconstructing the internal failures contributing to our current critical condition is not that difficult. In multiple posts on this web site, contributors have chronicled the parade of crony hires and administrative incompetents, the scandals, the lawsuits and judgments and/or settlements, the failure of an ethically compromised Board of Trustees to protect the University, and the chaos in leadership that produced 4 presidents (including two interims) in 16 months.

All of these problems aside, what did the people charged with the university’s administrative responsibilities actually do? Or to put it another way, did they even expend the minimum effort expected of people charged with addressing Chicago State’s plunging student population? A brief examination of our administrative performance in the area of financial aid will help answer those questions.

As a basic premise, it seems reasonable to assume that a university losing students at the rate we are losing them would try anything and everything to appeal to the largest potential student population. In my estimation, this means insuring the smooth operation of the various functions associated with enrollment and student support. This effort also requires creative and innovative thinking to come up with programs appealing to a broad range of potential students. I have already discussed the administration’s failure to move on some of the programs proposed by former CAO Paul Vallas. To the best of my knowledge his ideas are currently moribund, due primarily to inaction in Academic Affairs. Part of the reason for this inaction is simple: these proposals require that Chicago State offer courses at off-campus locations, something we are currently unable to do since we are not approved for financial aid disbursements to students taking off-campus courses. This is basic administrative failure 101.

As many of you remember, the University suffered a major financial aid scandal in early 2011. We were awarding financial aid to students who were not eligible and we were disbursing financial aid to students at off-campus locations not approved by IBHE and the Department of Education. These Title IV violations resulted in a hefty fine for the University. The financial aid scandal also enabled the Watson administration to blame the previous administration and then Provost Sandra Westbrooks for the scandal. Watson positioned himself as protecting the school’s academic integrity and his administration subsequently expelled a number of students for poor scholarship. As recently as 2017, administrative mouthpieces still blamed the continuing enrollment decline on those expulsions, or more accurately, blamed the losses on the previous administration.

One of the lessons the University ostensibly learned from this scandal was the importance of having someone in place as the Vice President of Enrollment Management. In January 2011, the position stood vacant, as did the position of Dean of Student Success, the position then responsible for supervising Chicago State’s Financial Aid Department. In June 2011, Watson filled the Vice President’s position with his old crony, Angela Henderson. Additionally, Watson reorganized the Financial Aid operation and placed it under the supervision of his girlfriend, Cheri Sidney. Mirroring the chaos at the top of the organization, from mid-2013 until early 2018, five separate persons have served as the Vice President of Enrollment Management: Henderson from 2011-13, LaShondra Peebles for part of 2014, Carol Cortilet-Albrecht in 2015-16, Latrice Williams in 2016-17, and in 2018 Michael Ellison Interim). From mid-2011 until mid-2016, Cheri Sidney supervised Financial Aid. After her termination, her position disappeared.

Although under fire for its financial aid practices, our administration did nothing to address the issue of financial aid disbursements to students at unapproved locations in 2011. Although both Henderson and Sidney should have been working to correct the obvious financial aid problems, they did nothing. Additionally, in late 2013, the University’s report to the Illinois State Legislature indicated that Provost Westbrooks had been assigned to correct the unapproved off-campus disbursement problem. Westbrooks retired in mid-2013, replaced by Angela Henderson.

As Vice President of Enrollment Management, Henderson had already been involved in discussions about this and other financial aid issues. In April 2012, LaShondra Peebles, responsible for Chicago State’s financial aid compliance, noticed that the school’s application to the DOE for financial aid participation contained lies. Specifically, the application claimed that “there were no classes offered outside of the university campus, or off-site locations.” In fact, that semester, Chicago State offered 9 off-campus courses, with 110 students enrolled. Peebles told Henderson that “CSU failed to notify DOE that Title IV funds were issued to students attending classes at off-site locations.” This conversation occurred a year after Chicago State had been fined for its financial aid violations, and the Illinois Auditor General’s report for fiscal 2012 had noted the financial aid disbursements at unapproved off-campus locations. Business as usual at Chicago State.

Henderson directed Peebles to correct the problem. The DOE notified Peebles that Chicago State was not in “good standing,” and ineligible for an automatic renewal of the financial aid participation agreement. She reported DOE’s position to Watson, Henderson, University Counsel Patrick Cage, and Ethics Officer Bernetta Bush. In the summer of 2012, Watson declared that no off-campus courses would be offered in fall 2012. Despite Watson’s pronouncement, the University offered 8 off-campus courses that semester, enrolling 121 students. Chicago State has not offered any off-campus courses since Fall 2012.

Ultimately, Chicago State received “provisional” approval to disburse financial aid, although the issue of off-campus courses remained unresolved. When Peebles attempted to report our “provisional” financial aid status to the Board in late 2013, Watson and Henderson refused to allow her to submit the report. In a May 2013 conversation, Watson had told her that “it was not a good idea to share the information with the Board at that time and the Board was not going to be advised of CSU’s provisional status.” In December, Watson “advised Peebles that he was upset with her report and that she could not submit the report to the Board as it would cause unnecessary alarm. Watson “advised her to revise the report and make sure Henderson saw it before he viewed again and to work with her to edit.”

Peebles continued to work on the report and attempted again to submit it for the Board’s March 2014 meeting. She claimed that “Watson and Henderson advised Peebles that she could not present any of the report at the board meeting because the information in the report about Title IV funds would expose CSU to public scrutiny.” Peebles never submitted her report to the Board.

Although we have now apparently come off “provisional” financial aid status, we are still unable to disburse financial aid to students at off-campus sites. Until this issue is resolved, the University’s ability to increase enrollment will be hampered. At this point, we have not even officially negotiated the amount of our fine from the DOE. Who is responsible for this state of affairs? I'll leave that to the reader to work out, but I will say that there is only one administrator at the top of this organization who remains from the 10 persons who reported directly to the President in January 2012.




Friday, March 2, 2018

So a few years ago, I suggested several scholars that the university could consider for the office of university president. One of those suggestions was Dr. Ruth Simmons, the former president of Brown University. She retired and returned to Texas and after a short retirement she was recruited by Prairie View A&M, an HBCU that appears to be in the midst of a renaissance. The moral of this story is to have high aspirations, dare to be more and don't reward failure. Maybe the BOT will take this to heart.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

ASSessment and its Discontents

For anyone who has beaten their head against the inanity of university assessment see Molly Worthen's op ed in the New York Times "The Misguided Drive to Measure 'Learning Outcomes'"  (Feb. 23, 2018) posted below. Included in the article are such observations:


...the ballooning assessment industry — including the tech companies and consulting firms that profit from assessment — is a symptom of higher education’s crisis, not a solution to it. It preys especially on less prestigious schools and contributes to the system’s deepening divide into a narrow tier of elite institutions primarily serving the rich and a vast landscape of glorified trade schools for everyone else.

...Mr. Gilbert became an outspoken assessment skeptic after years of watching the process fail to capture what happens in his classes — and seeing it miss the real reasons students struggle. “Maybe all your students have full-time jobs, but that’s something you can’t fix, even though that’s really the core problem,” he said. “Instead, you’re expected to find some small problem, like students don’t understand historical chronology, so you might add a reading to address that. You’re supposed to make something up every semester, then write up a narrative” explaining your solution to administrators.

Here is the second irony: Learning assessment has not spurred discussion of the deep structural problems that send so many students to college unprepared to succeed. Instead, it lets politicians and accreditors ignore these problems as long as bureaucratic mechanisms appear to be holding someone — usually a professor — accountable for student performance...

...Without thoughtful reconsideration, learning assessment will continue to devour a lot of money for meager results. The movement’s focus on quantifying classroom experience makes it easy to shift blame for student failure wholly onto universities, ignoring deeper socio-economic reasons that cause many students to struggle with college-level work. Worse, when the effort to reduce learning to a list of job-ready skills goes too far, it misses the point of a university education. (emphasis mine)

Worthen goes on to express what many of us talk about in the hallways of CSU or on the way to our commanded attendance at the semester assessment meetings --though rarely do the cowed CSU faculty voice these in public meetings. Did I hear about a CSU administrator who was sent somewhere in Asia to attend an international assessment conference a few years ago? Give me a break. New ways to waste more time and money.


But wait. CSU made its way indirectly into Worthen's discussion. Oh do not fear ye who blame the media for reporting "only the bad stuff" about poor benighted Chicago State. The university is unnamed. But  mirabile dictu! One of our very own, Dr. Eric Lief Peters, who retired from CSU last year was one of three letters to the Editor of the NY Times chosen to appear in their daily letters column. I'm posting his letter here.

Laugh (and cry) as required. Molly Worthen's article follows.

To the Editor:

I spent the last several years at my university on this nonsense as an “assessment coordinator.” It was a total waste of more than 40 percent of my time and left me with no time to do research. It was bureaucracy at its worst. It was impossible to implement in any tangible way that would yield meaningful data, and nobody would or could provide guidance. It was a very large reason I retired early.

Here is a general summary:

Me: “Well, here is what we are thinking about for an assessment plan.”

Them: “You should really come up with a plan that assesses student performance.”

Me (gritting teeth): “Yes, we have that in all our classes. They are called graded assignments and exams.”

Them: “Those are great! But they should be aligned with the goals of the courses.”

Me (grinding teeth): “Yes, these are assignments that are based on evaluating the students’ grasp of the course content.”

Them: “But they should instead reflect other things that the students gain in the course.”

Me: “Like what?”

Them: “We can’t tell you, but you will know it when you see it.”

Me: “Can you give us a hint?”

Them: “No, these should be your assessments of what is important.”

Me: “Why don’t you just shoot me and get it over with?”

Them: “Your assessment reports will be due on LiveText by …”

ERIC L. PETERS, GLENWOOD, ILL.


Molly Worthen, "The Misguided Drive to Measure 'Learning Outcomes'" The New York Times, Feb. 23, 2018.

I teach at a big state university, and I often receive emails from software companies offering to help me do a basic part of my job: figuring out what my students have learned.

If you thought this task required only low-tech materials like a pile of final exams and a red pen, you’re stuck in the 20th century. In 2018, more and more university administrators want campuswide, quantifiable data that reveal what skills students are learning. Their desire has fed a bureaucratic behemoth known as learning outcomes assessment. This elaborate, expensive, supposedly data-driven analysis seeks to translate the subtleties of the classroom into PowerPoint slides packed with statistics — in the hope of deflecting the charge that students pay too much for degrees that mean too little.

It’s true that old-fashioned course grades, skewed by grade inflation and inconsistency among schools and disciplines, can’t tell us everything about what students have learned. But the ballooning assessment industry — including the tech companies and consulting firms that profit from assessment — is a symptom of higher education’s crisis, not a solution to it. It preys especially on less prestigious schools and contributes to the system’s deepening divide into a narrow tier of elite institutions primarily serving the rich and a vast landscape of glorified trade schools for everyone else.

Without thoughtful reconsideration, learning assessment will continue to devour a lot of money for meager results. The movement’s focus on quantifying classroom experience makes it easy to shift blame for student failure wholly onto universities, ignoring deeper socio-economic reasons that cause many students to struggle with college-level work. Worse, when the effort to reduce learning to a list of job-ready skills goes too far, it misses the point of a university education.

The regional accrediting agencies that certify the quality of education an institution provides — and its fitness to receive federal student financial aid — now require some form of student learning assessment. That means most American colleges and universities have to do it. According to a recent survey, schools deploy an average of four methods for evaluating learning, which include testing software and rubrics to standardize examinations, e-portfolio platforms to display student projects, surveys and other tools.

No intellectual characteristic is too ineffable for assessment. Some schools use lengthy surveys like the California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory, which claims to test for qualities like “truthseeking” and “analyticity.” The Global Perspective Inventory, administered and sold by Iowa State University, asks students to rate their agreement with statements like “I do not feel threatened emotionally when presented with multiple perspectives” and scores them on metrics like the “intrapersonal affect scale.”

Surveys can’t tell you everything. So universities assemble committees of faculty members, arm them with rubrics and assign them piles of student essays culled from across the school (often called “student products,” as if they are tubes of undergraduate Soylent Green). Assessment has invaded the classroom, too: On many campuses, professors must include a list of skills-based “learning outcomes” on every syllabus and assess them throughout the semester.

All this assessing requires a lot of labor, time and cash. Yet even its proponents have struggled to produce much evidence — beyond occasional anecdotes — that it improves student learning. “I think assessment practices are ripe for re-examining,” said David Eubanks, assistant vice president for assessment and institutional effectiveness at Furman University in Greenville, S.C., who has worked in assessment for years and now speaks out about its problems. “It has forced academic departments to use data that’s not very good,” he added. “And the process of getting this data that’s not very good can be very painful.”

The push to quantify undergraduate learning is about a century old, but the movement really took off in the 1980s. The assessment boom coincided — not, I think, by accident — with the decision of state legislatures all over the country to reduce spending on public universities and other social services. That divestment continued, moving more of the cost of higher education onto students. (These students are often graduates of underfunded high schools that can’t prepare them for college in the first place.) It was politically convenient to hold universities accountable for all this, rather than to scrutinize neoliberal austerity measures.

In 2006, the Commission on the Future of Higher Education, convened by Margaret Spellings, the secretary of education at the time, issued a scathing critique of universities. “Employers report repeatedly that many new graduates they hire are not prepared to work, lacking the critical thinking, writing and problem-solving skills needed in today’s workplaces,” the commission’s report complained.

Educators scrambled to ensure that students graduate with these skills — and to prove it with data. The obsession with testing that dominates primary education invaded universities, bringing with it a large support staff. Here is the first irony of learning assessment: Faced with outrage over the high cost of higher education, universities responded by encouraging expensive administrative bloat.

Many of the professionals who work in learning assessment are former faculty members who care deeply about access to quality education. Pat Hutchings, a senior scholar at the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (and former English professor), told me: “Good assessment begins with real, genuine questions that educators have about their students, and right now for many educators those are questions about equity. We’re doing pretty well with 18- to 22-year-olds from upper-middle-class families, but what about — well, fill in the blank.”

It seems that the pressure to assess student learning outcomes has grown most quickly at poorly funded regional universities that have absorbed a large proportion of financially disadvantaged students, where profound deficits in preparation and resources hamper achievement. Research indicates that the more selective a university, the less likely it is to embrace assessment. Learning outcomes assessment has become one way to answer the question, “If you get unprepared students in your class and they don’t do well, how does that get explained?” Mr. Eubanks at Furman University told me.

When Erik Gilbert, a professor of history at Arkansas State University, reached the end of his World Civilization course last fall, he dutifully imposed the required assessment: an extra question on the final exam that asked students to read a document about Samurai culture and answer questions using knowledge of Japanese history. Yet his course focused on “cross-cultural connections, trade, travel, empire, migration and bigger-scale questions, rather than area studies,” Mr. Gilbert told me. His students had not studied Japanese domestic history. “We do it this way because it satisfies what the assessment office wants, not because it addresses concerns that we as a department have.”

Mr. Gilbert became an outspoken assessment skeptic after years of watching the process fail to capture what happens in his classes — and seeing it miss the real reasons students struggle. “Maybe all your students have full-time jobs, but that’s something you can’t fix, even though that’s really the core problem,” he said. “Instead, you’re expected to find some small problem, like students don’t understand historical chronology, so you might add a reading to address that. You’re supposed to make something up every semester, then write up a narrative” explaining your solution to administrators.

Here is the second irony: Learning assessment has not spurred discussion of the deep structural problems that send so many students to college unprepared to succeed. Instead, it lets politicians and accreditors ignore these problems as long as bureaucratic mechanisms appear to be holding someone — usually a professor — accountable for student performance.

All professors could benefit from serious conversations about what is and is not working in their classes. But instead they end up preoccupied with feeding the bureaucratic beast. “It’s a bit like the old Soviet Union. You speak two languages,” said Frank Furedi, an emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Kent in Britain, which has a booming assessment culture. “You do a performance for the sake of the auditors, but in reality, you carry on.”

Yet bureaucratic jargon subtly shapes the expectations of students and teachers alike. On the first day of class, my colleagues and I — especially in the humanities, where professors are perpetually anxious about falling enrollment — find ourselves rattling off the skills our courses offer (“Critical thinking! Clear writing!”), hyping our products like Apple Store clerks.

I teach intellectual history. Of course that includes skills: learning to read a historical source, interpret evidence and build an argument. But cultivating historical consciousness is more than that: It means helping students immerse themselves in a body of knowledge, question assumptions about memory and orient themselves toward current events in a new way.

If we describe college courses as mainly delivery mechanisms for skills to please a future employer, if we imply that history, literature and linguistics are more or less interchangeable “content” that convey the same mental tools, we oversimplify the intellectual complexity that makes a university education worthwhile in the first place. We end up using the language of the capitalist marketplace and speak to our students as customers rather than fellow thinkers. They deserve better.

“When kids come from backgrounds where they’re the first in their families to go to college, we have to take them seriously, and not flatter them and give them third-rate ideas,” Mr. Furedi told me. “They need to be challenged and inspired by the idea of our disciplines.” Assessment culture is dumbing down universities, he said: “One of the horrible things is that many universities think that giving access to nontraditional students means turning a university into a high school. That’s not giving them access to higher education.”

Here is the third irony: The value of universities to a capitalist society depends on their ability to resist capitalism, to carve out space for intellectual endeavors that don’t have obvious metrics or market value.

Consider that holy grail of learning outcomes, critical thinking — what the philosopher John Dewey called the ability “to maintain the state of doubt and to carry on systematic and protracted inquiry.” Teaching it is not a cheap or efficient process. It does not come from trying to educate the most students at the lowest possible cost or from emphasizing short, quantifiable, standardized assignments at the expense of meandering, creative and difficult investigation.

Producing thoughtful, talented graduates is not a matter of focusing on market-ready skills. It’s about giving students an opportunity that most of them will never have again in their lives: the chance for serious exploration of complicated intellectual problems, the gift of time in an institution where curiosity and discovery are the source of meaning.

That’s how we produce the critical thinkers American employers want to hire. And there’s just no app for that.

Molly Worthen (@MollyWorthen) is the author, most recently, of “Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism,” an assistant professor of history at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and a contributing opinion writer.



Thursday, February 22, 2018

What We Don't Want in a President

Once again our Board is engaged in a search for a new President. Once again, students, staff, and faculty wonder what kind of leader will come out of this search. Each group of University constituents has its own idea about what qualifications and experience are important. We all have a clearer idea of what we do not want.

We have wasted two years since the campus felt optimism with the selection of Thomas Calhoun, making this search perhaps the school’s last opportunity to avoid the dustbin of history. To the Board, here is what you must not do this time.

1) Don’t give us some political hack unqualified on any level to run a comprehensive university. The Board did that in 2009 with Wayne Watson, more on the scope of that catastrophe below.
2) Don’t give us someone with any ties to Watson or local politicians.
3) Don’t give us anyone associated with the current university administration.
4) Don’t give us someone with questionable academic credentials.

In 2009, the Board decided to award the presidency to a total academic fraud. The devastation wrought by that decision has put the university at risk for its existence. Continuing to immerse the school in local politics, continuing to use it as a patronage dumping ground, continuing to hire friends, relatives of friends, friends of friends, relatives of employees, and anyone else hired for political reasons will simply replicate the disaster of the Watson years. Here are some visuals from the Chicago State Fact Book that underscore that point.

In fall 2009, the University enrolled 7235 students. That number grew to 7362 the following fall. This past fall, the University enrolled 3101 students. That number has dropped to 2850 in spring 2018.



The enrollment loss from its peak in fall 2010 to fall 2017 amounts to 4261 students, or a 57.8 percent decline. Because the majority of our students are African-American, it seems appropriate to look at their enrollment changes. In fall 2009, CSU enrolled 5670 black students, a number that grew to 5832 in fall 2010. By fall 2017, only 2073 black students attended CSU, a 64.5 percent drop. Black student departures account for 88 percent of our enrollment losses.


Another useful indicator of the complete failure of political hacks as university administrators (along with disastrous media relations, toxic relations with faculty, and a total inability to raise money)is our plunging Freshman graduation rate which will surely expose the University to negative media attention. The figures are in for the first three Watson cohorts: 11 percent for the 2009 group, 13 percent in 2010, and 12 percent in 2011.

Anyone selected must be given free reign to make whatever changes s/he deems necessary to save the school. Of course, in Thomas Calhoun we had the person almost everyone on campus supported. However, he never had a chance with that iteration of the Board. Can that mistake be rectified?

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The "Nationwide" Presidential Search "Profile": Is Everyone in the U.S. Qualified to Apply?

The much ballyhooed “national search” for CSU’s next president has finally commenced. Take a gander at the “profile” currently displayed on the Board’s portion of the University’s web site. Although I found the profile disquieting, please make your own determination about what is happening with this search. Most important, the “profile” is almost devoid of qualifications. Here’s what we’re apparently looking for. A “mission-centered, courageous, accountable, experienced, student-centered, skilled academician; a “truswworthy” “financial strategist” who is “a principled strategic thinker” and “agent of change,” “creative and inspirational, charismatic and thought-provoking.” Not a single actual qualification in all that verbiage or am I missing something? The only actual qualification has to do with fundraising. According to the “profile,” the new president must be a “high energy and tenacious fundraiser with major gift experience.”

No minimum academic qualifications or relevant administrative experience required?
Other than being a “proven scholar” whatever that means, no requirement that the new president be eligible for appointment as a full professor? In fact, the new president need not even be qualified for appointment as an Assistant Professor. Is a GED sufficient, or must the successful applicant have actually completed high school?

Nearly a century ago, William McAdoo purportedly described Warren Harding’s speeches as “an army of pompous phrases moving across the landscape in search of an idea.” With an apology to Mr. McAdoo, this “profile” strikes me as an army of pompous clich├ęs moving across the landscape in search of a qualification. I understand that most job announcements are pieces of fluff, but for comparison, here’s part of a recent search announcement from Northeastern Illinois. You’ll note that a “terminal degree” is a requirement, and that an appointment as full professor is a preferred qualification.

“The president must hold a terminal degree from an accredited institution and demonstrate progressive administrative leadership experience. It is preferred that the president have credentials to be appointed as a professor with tenure.” Here’s the link:
https://www.google.com/search?ei=G36FWoKELue0jwSTmJrYBg&q=university+presidential+searches&oq=university+presidential+searches&gs_l=psy-ab.3..0j0i22i30k1l9.27064.32060.0.32304.32.18.0.14.14.0.130.1789.10j8.18.0....0...1c.1.64.psy-ab..0.32.1963...0i46i67k1j46i67k1j0i131k1j0i67k1.0.JLmgBe60RQU&ibp=htl;jobs#fpstate=tldetail&htidocid=TPlRZtHEprH0_H7mAAAAAA%3D%3D&htivrt=jobs

Now, here’s an edited version of our “profile”:

DESIRED LEADERSHIP ATTRIBUTES
The successful candidate for this position will possess the following attributes:
1) A MISSION-CENTERED LEADER
CSU desires a leader with a sense of urgency who will hit the ground running in establishing relationships needed for building CSU; be prepared to roll up their sleeves and dive in to expanding their role in the community.
2) A COURAGEOUS AND ACCOUNTABLE LEADER
3) AN EXPERIENCED STUDENT-CENTERED LEADER
4) A SKILLED ACADEMICIAN
They must be a proven scholar.
5) A TRUSTWORTHY LEADER
6) A FINANCIAL STRATEGIST
7) A PRINCIPLED LEADER
8) A HIGH ENERGY AND TENACIOUS FUNDRAISER WITH MAJOR GIFT EXPERIENCE
9) A STRATEGIC THINKER AND AGENT OF CHANGE
10) A CREATIVE and INSPIRATIONAL LEADER
The next president must also be a charismatic and thought-provoking leader.

Here’s the link:

https://www.agbsearch.com/sites/default/files/position-profiles/csupresident-profile.pdf

One final thought. Again, the literary quality of our search material is substandard. This information should not look like a hastily written blog post. It should be polished and free of errors. Why can’t we do this? We have a number of distinguished authors on the faculty who are actually capable of writing in English. Why don’t we use them to proof read material designed for the public that reflects on the entire university community? Why do we continually have to look like we simply don’t care? Or worse, that we simply don’t know? I have to admit that I will watch this search unfold with some trepidation.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Ice Station Chicago: The Westside of the Science Building

Today, my classroom had heat, but the west side of the Science Building apparently had little or none. The hallways were (estimate) around 50 degrees. This is what the staff and students are expected to endure? What is being done to address this issue?

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

An apology to my students


I sent the following letter to my students today for not taking it on myself to cancel class since CSU's administration refused to close the campus for the snowstorm yesterday afternoon. As someone who does not fear or hate winter I will never again let my students risk coming to campus when all accounts predict heavy snowfall and treacherous roads. I wish the university had shown some leadership and made the decision to close evening classes. As far as I am concerned, this will never happen again.


February 6, 2018

TO Students in HIST 1200

Thank you to students who did make it to our 6 pm class last night during a terrible snowfall. To those who did not come, I am not holding you responsible for missing this class and remaining at home. The University kept the campus open in spite of the fact that they know many of you come some distance on the north and west sides to attend classes and that the weather reports all afternoon were predicting heavy snowfall and difficult driving during rush hour. O'Hare Airport cancelled 400 flights in anticipation of the storm earlier in the day. I was on campus all afternoon and was surprised when the university did not close early enough for people to get home safely before the snow build up. Governor's State University, our neighbor to the south, closed their campus. The drive home last night that I took to Hyde Park after class took me an hour on slippery snowy roads. I am sure some of the rest of you had similar experiences. I will never allow you to be in that position again. I know some of my colleagues wisely told their students not to come for the evening classes. I will never again trust the university to make that determination

Technically, I am not allowed to cancel classes when the university is open. Since the university has no policy that I can discern that determines when campus will close for bad weather or where it is posted, I suggest that in the future you continue to use your own judgement in determining how safe it is for you to come to campus especially if you drive this winter. If you are in doubt, email or call me by 5 pm. If the campus is not officially closed we will consult together as to whether or not class should be held.

Many apologies for keeping you in class and for your having to drive to and from CSU on such a terrible night.
Dr. Ann Kuzdale

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Paul Vallas's Work for Chicago State

Given Paul Vallas’s recent firing, it seems appropriate to examine the problems he identified and the initiatives he pushed in an attempt to put this university on the right track. In my estimation, he had to be terminated because many of these issues pointed directly at individual failures in the upper administration; failures that have created or exacerbated university dysfunction. He communicated his concerns to the president and to the Board at its December meeting. Of course, this is only my interpretation draw your own conclusions from the following information, which is not exhaustive.

Vallas presented this information as a series of challenges for the University. He then detailed what progress had been made toward overcoming these challenges and offered long-term solutions. Some of the most important include:

Budget Issues and Personnel Decisions.

Challenge: “The State two-year budget impasse combined with CSU budget priorities which essentially gutted the student enrollment and retention office, emptied student financial management services, eliminated the procurement office and decimated University maintenance.”

Current status: University finances have been stabilized and the University should end the year with a healthy cash balance and solid liquidity. . . We reprioritized the FY18 budget to begin restoring investments that were decimated in student recruitment and retention, student financial services, procurement and facilities maintenance.”

Long-term solution: “A long-term budget plan needs to be developed that prioritizes specific investments in specific program areas and initiatives, existing and new, that will increase student enrollment and retention. . . Also, a financial settlement with USDoE must be reached in order to secure their approval to open Satellite Campuses described in many initiatives in this document.”

Off Campus Instructional Sites

Vallas thought the recreation of satellite campuses one of the keys to Chicago State’s potential rebound: “CSU does not currently have US Department of Education (USDoE) authority to establish Satellite Campuses because of past transgressions in improperly opening and operating such entities. Unfortunately, this problem has been largely ignored for a number of years, and if the University is to have satellite locations like most major universities in America, we will need to address this immediately. Working with the USDoE, CSU will need to secure a settlement on an estimated $1.7 million in loans taken out by students enrolled in classes offered at unapproved sites.”

He went on to write: “CSU can increase its enrollment and enhance its prestige by the establishment of Satellite Campuses. We have received invitations to establish centers at no charge at a number of sites and to offer specific programs that would be in great demand.” However, when he was terminated, no substantive action toward resolving the DoE issue had occurred.

Classroom Resources and Infrastructure

He addressed the problem of non-functional or non-existent instructional resources.

Challenge: “There has been little investment technology infrastructure and online systems to enable the University to enhance instruction and to expand University course and program offerings.”

Current status/long-term solution: “The University's plan is to lease its technology infrastructure to quickly transform the University into a technologically modern educational institution. . . . Finalize the contracts and embrace a long-term strategy of maintaining modern technology infrastructure through leasing. Complete the campus modernization plan as it pertains to the deployment of the new [classroom] technology (computers and smart boards) and equipment (printers).”

Student Financial Services

As far as student financial services, Vallas advised the Board that “Student Financial Management Services have been totally dysfunctional due to devastating cuts, the lack of procedures and training and the failure to invest in modern systems. This has resulted in a 47% default rate for Perkins (State university average in Illinois is 6%) and $15 million in in receivables not including Perkins. The large default rate will also result in an audit finding for the past fiscal year.”

Current status: “After much resistance consultants were brought on, all but one pro bono, to assess the CSU system and to develop a comprehensive plan for quickly building a modern Student Financial Management System and implementing a collection strategy to recover unpaid bills. We estimate 20-30% is recoverable.”

Long-term solution: “While delays in approving the selection of a new Director has cost us one top candidate, a new candidate has emerged with exemplary credentials with extensive experience and Banner mastery. Her leadership equipped with the strategic plan that has been developed and the tools secured will ensue the building of a modern Student Financial Management System which will serve our students much better than the disastrous system we currently have.”

Procurement

Many of the University’s financial problems stem from a non-existent procurement operation. Vallas said this: “Previous financial decision(s) eliminated the Procurement Office and decimated Payables. There has been much resistance to adding restoring resources needed to restore a functioning procurement Office and to build a modern accounts payable system.”

Status: “We have been forced to operate with a part time Procurement Director and one contracts specialist. Our recommended candidate for the Procurement Director's job withdrew following a two-month delay in securing final hiring approval and there have been delays in filling other vacancies. A selection of the new director has now been made, three months late, and there is finally approval to add two additional staff including a second contracts person. The selection of a Chief Legal Counsel for the President will also improve and expedite the process.”

Long-term: “The selection of a highly qualified procurement director and the additional staffing as well as taking full advantage of the new higher State contract threshold and taking full advantage of existing emergency contracting powers will help expedite the contracting process.”

Payables

“There is no functioning payables system and basic processes and procedures have been abandoned. Understaffed, with little training and even less accountability, this area is fraught with controversy. There are over 10,000 unreconciled open invoices and vouchers totaling $38 Million dollars recorded on the Banner financial system, of which $27 million dollars show cancel codes indicating the check or invoices were cancel but not closed on the system. In many cases invoices are re-created in duplicate or triplicate and they all are open. This process and the lack of training has created more than $10 million dollars in void and stale dated checks, evidence of duplicative payments and duplicate invoices. These issues constitute a failure to maintain a financial system (Banner) that provides assurance that expenditures are properly recorded and accounted for to prevent inaccurate financial statements.”

Current Status: “There has been resistance to investigating this area with the consultant team selected to help Mary Long improve the system and to thoroughly investigate past practices consistently thwarted. The team has developed a comprehensive strategy to catch up on more recent payables and to have the proper system in place going forward to avoid repeating past practices. The Consultant is researching and reconciling open invoices with large amounts due to Vendors that are clearly duplicate, paid, and incorrect.”

Long-term: “A detailed plan to revamp the Comptroller's Office has been developed and is absolutely essential to creating a modern and effective payables management and accountability system. It must include at the very least the hiring of at least a deputy comptroller with extensive accounting experience. The selection of a new CFO will hopefully provide critical long-term leadership in this area.”

After extensive discussions with institutions and consultation with individual faculty and staff members at CSU, Vallas created a list of 13 “strategic partnerships” that would increase the University’s educational and community presence, and which would potentially increase enrollment and revenue. To the best of my knowledge, none of these partnerships have actually been created, at least 7 have either been blocked or face substantial resistance from various University administrative offices and administrators.

So this is part of Paul Vallas’s body of work over the 9 months he served Chicago State University. This is only an overview, if anyone wants a copy of the document, e-mail me.
















Tuesday, January 30, 2018

We're Shocked! Shocked! Chicago State is politicized. The Board Swings Into Action to Protect the Interests of?

With the school continuing to hemorrhage students, the Board did something yesterday. Shocked at the idea that anyone would use Chicago State for political benefit (is a stint at CSU a recipe for success?), the Board immediately terminated CAO Paul Vallas, who had recently tendered his resignation amid reports he was mulling a run for Chicago mayor. That wasn’t the only reason apparently. Here’s what the Board Chairman had to say: “‘I, for one, felt that we have got less than effective use out of that office and the person who occupied it,’ said the board’s chairman, Marshall Hatch. ‘I think we’re doing a good thing to eliminate that office and move forward.’” This is, of course, the same Marshall Hatch who for several years did anything and everything Wayne Watson wanted. The same Marshall Hatch who never raised his voice as Watson ran the university into the ground, as he used the place to stash his friends and political cronies, rewarding them for their incompetence with cushy jobs and nice salaries. The same Marshall Hatch who played a prominent role in the ouster of President Calhoun in 2016.

Some four months ago, Hatch sang a slightly different tune. According to an October 13, 2017 story in the Sun Times, “The Rev. Marshall Hatch — president of the Chicago State board, who signed the contract with Vallas in April — said he doesn’t expect Vallas to stay at Chicago State once his contract runs out next year.
‘I don’t see that happening,” Hatch said. “He was brought in to bring some energy. I think it’s worked out decently.’” Things certainly changed suddenly and now the University is back in the hands of many of the same people who have brought it to the brink of extinction.

So Hatch wants to “move forward”? Here’s what that looks like, Chicago State style. Our spring 2018 enrollment is down to around 2800, another double-digit drop from fall and the loss of 450 students from the previous spring. The numbers tell the story: enrollment down 62.5 percent since fall 2010, down 41.2 percent since fall 2015, down 21.7 percent from fall 2016. Even more ominous, our undergraduate FTE has fallen to around 1350 for spring 2018, down from 4263 in fall 2010 (68 percent decline). If we drop below 1000 undergraduate FTE, we lose our PBI (Primarily Black Institution) status. If we don’t stop the bleeding, at our current rate of decline, we’ll have fewer than 2000 total students in fall 2020 and our PBI status will be gone.

Turning to finances, where is the forensic audit authorized by the Board in March 2017? During his time at Chicago State, Vallas tried to address some lingering financial problems. Since our 2011-12 financial aid scandals, we have been unable to offer classes at off-campus sites. My understanding (which may be incorrect) is that we have yet to pay the fine levied by the Department of Education Vallas has attempted to negotiate a settlement and made arrangements with a D.C. law firm to assist us with this issue at minimal cost to the University. As yet, this effort has not borne fruit because it has been blocked by the upper administration.

In August/September, Vallas brought in a consulting firm, apparently at no charge, to examine our financial aid practices. You might remember that Watson’s then-girlfriend was in charge of University financial aid for several years. The report generated by the consulting firm examined several years up to the 2016-17 school year. Here are some of the highlights: 1) the University was not paying invoices to a company with which it had contracted to collect and remit Perkins Loan repayments. As a result, the company used the repayments to satisfy the outstanding invoices rather than putting the money back into the Perkins pool. 2) The University’s default rate on Perkins loan was above 45 percent, “among the highest in the country and is a current audit finding.” As the consultant pointed out, given our default rate, “the Department of Education could force the school to exit the program.” Other notable findings included this: “As of July 2017, the University’s total delinquent tuition surpassed $14,291,495. This total is overwhelming. These dollars, given the size of your institution, are extremely high and do represent a lack of collection activity.” Additionally, the consultant found “(a)nother issue related to the University’s Perkins Student Loan fund involves former students (Perkins borrowers) that are deceased. The University contracts with Heartland / ECSI to handle billing for borrowers in repayment. In a sample of 545borrowers, 103 were found to be deceased and still classified in the Heartland / ECSI system as being in repayment.”

Finally, the report acknowledged “customer service” problems and terrible morale created by staff shortages and murky processes. “Staff are reactive, not proactive. This is probably due to the shortage of departmental staff. Many tasks are not completed in a timely manner. Replies to emails are several days late or emails are ignored. Telephone calls not answered, returned calls resulting from vendor voice messages are many times ignored. Sometimes fingers point in several directions. Inter-departmental communications are sporadic at best. To make matters worse, delegation of duties is not apparent.”

Senior administrators were reportedly aware of these issues, which have been going on for years. However, because of Vallas’s efforts, they are now apparently being corrected. Vallas also made a number of proposals to increase enrollment and revenues and to streamline operations. To date, most of these proposals are stalled, many by inaction in Academic Affairs. In later 2017, Vallas sent a detailed memorandum to the Board outlining the various proposals and attendant problems. I suppose his termination is the Board’s response.

Once again, I think the Board has done the University a disservice. Paul Vallas was an asset, someone with useful contacts who brought energy and fresh ideas to a campus devoid of both. I saw someone working hard for the school and its students. Obviously, many of our administrators, knowing they could not ever get another job in higher education, were resistant to his somewhat frenetic style and the threat he represented to their sinecures. As they did with Thomas Calhoun, they worked—encouraged and abetted by sympathetic Board members —assiduously to undermine Vallas and eventually contributed to his termination.

It’s been two years since the University should have begun to progress without the blight of the fraud Wayne Watson and his various sycophants and cronies. We’ve wasted that time in a repetitive cycle of failure, while Watson’s acolytes at the school and on the Board have torpedoed two strong leaders with the potential to take the University in a positive direction. The same criticism leveled at Calhoun, that he wasn’t a “team player” surfaced as an indictment of Paul Vallas. The question for me is this: what competent person of goodwill would want to play on this utterly discredited and execrable “team”?