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.