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.






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