Friday, May 29, 2009

Who is Bill Sweetland and look what he is saying about Wayne Watson?

See Bill Sweetland's article on the "stunningly average" Wayne Watson in the Huffington Post. A biting counterpoint to Watson's ex-girlfriend's puff piece in the same journal a month ago.

Some highlights:

May 29, 2009
Bill Sweetland
Education in Chicago: Wayne D. Watson is the Wrong Man at the Wrong Time for Chicago State University.

"...What cannot be denied is that Mr. Watson is a skilled self-promoter and a man experienced at political maneuvering. If you don't believe me, just go to his Web site at for a quick lesson..."

"And how do you plan to fight your own Board of Trustees' determination to water down the milk of college instruction even further? These misguided guardians of mediocrity want to admit high school graduates who score as low as 15 on the ACT.
This is folly. The Trustees are bent on swamping student body and faculty with a flood of half-literates who will make themselves, their literate school mates and the faculty miserable while wasting huge sums of the nation's money and patience..."

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Board Meeting Notice

So just when you thought the Board of Trustees had done enough damage, they continue to meet. The next board meeting is Friday May 29th, at 2PM in the Library. The agenda is listed here:

1. Call to Order

2. Roll Call

3. Verification of Meeting Notice

4. Information Items

a. 2008 Audit Findings

b. Budget Update

c. Review of Contracts

1. Bookstore

2. Thompson Hospitality

3. Student Health Insurance

4. Boersma Travel Agency

5. Recess into Executive Session Pursuant to The Illinois Open Meetings Act

a. Employment Matters

b. Legal Matters

6. Reconvene into Open Session

7. Other Matters

a. Public and Employee Comments

8. Adjournment

With some luck video clips should be available by the weekend.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

This isn't over....

So is it all over now that the contract for the Board’s president has been signed? I can say quite confidently, NO! It is not over. This isn’t the venue to discuss what could or will happen next. It is the venue to remind us that faculty are the core of the university and tenured faculty the iron rod running down the center of the core. Now I am sure there will be those who will say, “Shouldn’t we give him a chance?” I say absolutely not! The board didn’t give the university and its students a chance when it selected this applicant. The applicant didn’t give the faculty a chance when he denigrated our teaching ability. When the applicant blamed the low graduation rate on the faculty, it was clear I was not giving him a chance. It is unmistakable the intention the applicant has for the faculty. I say no to giving anyone who attacks me a chance to do anything but retire from the field. It doesn’t make sense to me to turn the other cheek and forget that the process that brought this applicant to the university was not just flawed, but corrupt and possibly illegal. (Stay tuned!) The weaknesses of this candidate are evident and I do not hope that anybody fails. I simply recognize failure when I see it. This university needs a president who has worked at a doctoral degree granting university in a senior administrative capacity. Chicago State University is not the local high school that the ‘community’ gets to have any input on. We are not selecting a principal who will have contact with parents. It is a state university, just like other state universities. If we don’t treat it like a state university no one else will. When UIC was being built the effort was resisted by the ‘community.’ People were displaced and uprooted. We don’t give ourselves an opportunity to progress unless we decide what is best in the largest sense for this institution. We are the professionals after all. Our most important responsibility isn’t teaching our classes or conducting our research. It is being in service to something greater than ourselves. Our first responsibility is to protect the academic integrity of the institution and uphold the ideals and aspirations of the university. One thing we can do is resist any effort to undermine the academic integrity or destroy the ideals of our university. Tenure is not a gift. It is a responsibility. Responsibilities come with burdens and we are faced with carrying a huge burden for the next period of time. I know there are those who will become sycophants to the applicant when he arrives. They believe that by being cordial and deferential they will be rewarded. The truth is they will be rewarded, just not how they think. If we stand together, we will create the university that we envision in those quiet, hopeful moments. If we don’t we will endure a period despair and hopelessness and in the end it is our students who will suffer.

So that most recent rumor is that all vice presidents and deans are going to be replaced. What would happen if all the deans, chairs and the provost resigned on the first day. Oh, and it would be done in front of television cameras. If this applicant thinks he can manage this university without us then he would be surprised by how difficult running a university is. Of course, not all chairs would support this. There are some who believe they will be looked after by the new regime. Even if 90% of the chairs resigned that would be an enormous statement about who runs this university.

Finally, I have had a couple of days to think about this. I still don’t know what the end game is in this presidential search process. Why choose someone who is so obviously unqualified to be at a doctoral degree granting institution? Who benefits and how? If you have any ideas about what this is about, please let us know on the blog.

I will keep you posted with what is happening in this struggle.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Wanna see what the Board is up to???

So when does ignoring the people you are appointed to serve become more than insulting? I have posted to our YouTube account some of the comments made at the last BOT meeting. Until we have some competent leadership on the BOT I commit to posting highlights from the board meetings just to keep us informed and to keep the light shined on the functioning of the board. Here are some clips you might find entertaining and informative.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A mystery solved???

So I am surprised that I am still naive sometimes when it comes to the functioning of the academy. I always thought that the Provost would be the signing and deciding authority when the President is away. At most universities that I am familiar with the Provost is always the next in line of succession. Given the public release of the contract of the board’s applicant it appears that we have a mystery because the dates don’t add up. The great mystery of the day might now be solved. [Drum roll please] Our next interim president will be the Board liaison, Erma Williams. I asked the current Provost directly if she had been contacted verbally or in writing about assuming the responsibilities of interim President as she did last year before Dr. Pogue’s arrival. She replied that she had received no notification about the interim president.

No, Erma has never been a Provost or Vice President or Fiscal Officer but those qualifications are obviously irrelevant to this board. We can never rule out loyalty to those determined to undermine the university as the key component of her ascension to the interim presidency. It is likely that all those employees that the board chairman doesn’t want around will receive their invitation to employment elsewhere sometime during July. I would imagine that would start with the Public Affairs area since there is no one over there who can write and issue a press release, thus the need to hire a PR firm probably on the State’s dime. Next would likely be the Provost, because we know that Dr. Westbrooks’ disloyalty in reading the resignation statement of the presidential search advisory committee sealed her fate as far the board chairman is concerned. Next is probably the entire Chemistry Department since having a PhD doesn’t mean they can teach. [Not my words] Finally, the Committee for Public Safety will be formally abolished. Those who have dared to resist the calculated destruction of the university will be first to be led away. Until that is they realize tenure does afford some protections and my due process rights being violated just increases the payout the university will make to me for retaliatory discharge. I am sure my colleagues on the Committee for Public Safety will receive similar damage awards. I am, of course, willing to be wrong about this and time will tell.

The plots thicken.

Stay tuned.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Reaching out on the South Side

This morning I was at Bally's at 87th and State when one of guys (who knows I teach at CSU) says to me in the locker room, "Well, I see someone at CSU has got the students doing things they would not otherwise be doing. Someone must have put them up to it." We discussed his idea, and I certainly defended the students.

But that is not the purpose of this post. The purpose is to point out the effect of the media blitz and of the political connections of the trustees and their allies. They have a base on the streets of the South Side that is a threat to our struggle to change the university in a positive way. They are getting out their message that the faculty are having a bad effect on the students and are otherwise not doing their jobs. We ignore the street opinion at our own risk, and I believe the risk is great.

In a comment to an earlier post, I suggested leafletting some of the churches on the South Side, particularly ones where the trustees have a base. I don't know if that is the best proposal or if there is another approach, but I feel we cannot win this struggle unless we reach out off campus to make our case. We don't control the media that folks on the South Side are tuned into (at least this seems to be true). We have to get our message out in some way. What do you think?

Good news, bad news

So the FY 08 Audit Reports are out. The findings are damning. We have more findings and more repeat findings than we did in FY 07. The results are embarrassing to the university. What borders on criminal is that the BOT Chairman prevented the Interim President from hiring a VP for Financial Affairs six months ago. That means that we will have more findings next year for this fiscal year and probably as bad a report for FY10. These reports of financial mismanagement are a public relations disaster. More importantly, it makes it difficult for funders to support grant applications and donors to contribute to the university. For a BOT that has a record of minimal giving, their malfeasance impacts the financial life of the university much more broadly. In these times of economic contraction, times when institutions of higher learning are vulnerable to collapse, it is unconscionable for the BOT to deliberately impede and destroy the financial viability of the university. The only thing that I am left to imagine is that this is part of a plan to create a condition of financial exigency. This is the academic equivalent of declaring martial law. Faculty and staff could be summarily dismissed and guess who would be the first to receive pink slips. You bet, those who opposed the unethical presidential search. Those belligerent employees who dared challenge the incompetence and ineptness of the Board of Trustees.

The Chitown Daily news has a story on the audit and a story on the BOT approving a contract extension for the student health insurance program. Both stories highlight how incompetence permeates the institution starting with the Board of Trustees. Continue to contact the Governor’s office and keep the pressure on to fill the five vacancies on the Board with trustees that we can trust to make the hard choices without considering themselves and their friend’s interests ahead of the university’s interests.

In the short term, I am also concerned about who will serve as interim Interim president from June 28th until July 31st. Does anyone else smell something fishy here? The board has known that it wanted this applicant for a year and a half so what was the emphasis on July 1st if the applicant isn’t able to start on July 1st? Some thing doesn’t add up here.

I spoke yesterday with a staffer from Speaker Madigan’s office. It is possible that HB 4450 will be called on Tuesday in committee. Citizens may provide testimony at the hearing or submit a written statement to the committee via email. If you are interested in submitting a statement, email me at and I will get back to you.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Breaking news....

So here we go. The board's applicant doesn't start until August 1st, and he is already making disparaging remarks about the faculty. BTW, if Dr. Pogue is leaving June 27th and the applicant doesn't start until August 1st, who will be President for the month of July???? Today's Tribune outlines what's wrong with the CSU faculty. The Finney-Watson duo is doing more to damage the university's reputation than I would have imagined was possible. That the university has the money to hire a public relations firm because our people can't do the job is beyond contemptible.

Now what we do professionally is being likened to selling 99 cent hamburgers. Faculty are responsible for students leaving the university and faculty will need to be taught how to teach. Ok faculty, are you ready to do whatever is necessary now? Have you been insulted enough yet?

Later today I will post video clips from yesterday's board meeting on this blog. The behavior of the Trustees is very telling. This board must go. They have failed the university repeatedly and now insult our professional committment, competence and integrity. I wanted to send a shout out to Len Etlinger, retired CSU employee who visited us from the City Colleges,at the Tuesday Faculty Meeting. I hadn't seen Len in several years so I was curious until I realized it was just old home week, right???

Continue to contact Governor Quinn and your state representative about the board if you believe they should go. Speaker of the House Michael Madigan introduced HB 4450 last week. This bill, if passed, would fire all members of boards and commissions in the State of Illinois and would the give the Governor the choice to re-appoint them. Tell your Representative to vote yes on HB 4450!

Stay tuned.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Watson doesn't talk (or think?) accurately

Publicist Patricia Arnold sent around a "clarification" by Wayne Watson of what he said to the Tribune. In his remarks is the following: "The article quotes me as referring to 'belligerent' students, professors and staff. I would not and did not use the word 'belligerent.' The word I used to describe a small minority of students was 'rude' and I contextualized my statement by referring to the example of the CSU professor who admitted to encouraging students to be rude."

What CSU prof "admitted to encouraging students to be rude." Me? Here is what I wrote about rudeness after the Watson interview: "I was very encouraged today by the participation of students and faculty in the Watson interview. I was particularly happy to see the students take such sharp leadership. One of the most encouraging things was their rudeness to Watson, which, for reasons unknown to me, was much greater than their rudeness to Adams. I am not being facetious; I am completely serious. People in authority tend to make us fearful of asserting ourselves. Part of their control is a deeply ingrained fear of challenging authority. The rudeness is helpful because it takes a step toward overcoming that fear. Of course, it was only for a couple of days, but it give hope for the future." (blog for April 14 "Hooray for students and faculty, particularly students")

I wrote that rudeness is helpful because it is part of a process of overcoming fear of challenging authority; this observation and conviction arise from years of political experience. I believe it is a serious political observation, though many may disagree. What it is not, however, is an admission that I encouraged students to be rude.

In this instance Watson did not speak accurately. Can he think accurately?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Cronyism Cavalcade

So let the cavalcade of cronies begin. Let’s start a pool on how many cronies the next guy is going to bring in. And like him, how many won’t have any experience at a doctoral degree granting institution? Since this hiring was all about cronyism and who you know and clearly not about the best interests of the university, we can surmise that those that will slop away at the public trough will have no interest other than mouthing the words and catch phrases of student centered, change management, business process engineering. They will feign interest in shared governance and will use the university as it has been used for decades, as a dumping ground for the politically connected irrespective of competence. Are we going to keep our eyes open and continue to expose the sham that is the Board of Trustees?

Don’t forget the Faculty Meeting on Tuesday at 1230 in the Library Auditorium and the board meeting on Wednesday at 730 AM at the same location. We need a strong faculty show of support.

Friday, May 8, 2009


Yan has announced an all-faculty meeting for Tuesday May 12 at 12:30 in the 4th Floor Auditorium of the New Academic Library. It is important for us to publicize this widely on the campus and make sure that many faculty who may not usually be easily reached know about it. One possibility is a simple poster/flier that could be put up in all buildings. Other ideas?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

From sprint to headlong dash....

So I have been reading press reports about the Board's selection of our next chief administrator. I say administrator because there is nothing in his bio that tells me he knows anything about educational leadership in doctoral degree granting institutions. One piece from yesterday's Chicago Tribune is particularly troubling. "...He also said he'd focus on helping CSU professors improve their teaching skills..." This is a person who taught for three years in the 1970s, at a small private college, never did academic research beyond a short dissertation, never published, never earned tenure and now he's going to help us improve our teaching skills??? In another story in the Chitown Daily News the applicant opines "...You've go to change people's behavior or you've got to fire them, 'Watson says. While that goes especially for administrators and staff, Watson says, it doesn't mean the faculty is immune. If for any reason they refuse to do their job and to do research, then those faculty have defined their future status,' he says." What behavior are we talking about? Is it the belligerent behavior of a small minority or behavior that says faculty are the core of the university and if you don't understand that your time here will be short and unpleasant? In 17 years I have not ever seen faculty refuse to do their job. And an unpublished political insider given the job by a group of incompetent and malfeasant board members, talking about academic research is just a bit disingenuous. I guess he hopes that if he talks tough maybe we will overlook his lack of experience at this level, temperament and predilection for retaliation. I would hope that our union is paying attention to these comments as they seem to me to be meant as intimidation. Already coming in under a cloud, fighting words won't help his landing here.

And this from Peter Sachs, education reporter from the Chitown Daily News:

"I just wanted to let you know that the Daily News will be hosting a live, online chat at 12 p.m. Friday with George Providence, the editor of the student paper. We'll be talking about the controversy surrounding the shutdown of Tempo, the presidential search process and what the future holds for CSU. The chat is open to everyone to ask questions and submit comments. You'll just need to go to our homepage,, when the chat starts. The chat box will appear at noon-- there's nothing else you need to do to join."

Finally, the Faculty Senate is scheduling an educational forum for Tuesday May 12th, time and place to be announced for all faculty, tenured, tenure track, and adjuncts. We realize this is during finals and there is critical information that faculty need to know. There will be discussion of the presidential search process, the applicant selection process, shared governance and the implications for the faculty at the university.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

And this just in...

So let me share the updates with you. The Deputy General Counsel for Governor Quinn called me yesterday. He informed me the Governor was very interested in filling the empty seats on the BOT though not certain when that would happen and he reminded me that several boards and commissions in the state had empty seats, essentially telling me to wait in line. I also got a call from the Better Government Association which is very interested in what has been going on at our fair university. I spoke with the Public Information Officer at the US Attorney’s office today. I was following up on the rumor that this presidential selection process was part of a quid pro quo brokered by the former State Senate President. The PIO declined to comment on the question of whether the US Attorney had the retired politician on a Blago wiretap as this is an ongoing investigation. I’m not making this up. The students are still energized and plan on attending the next BOT meeting, on Wednesday May 13th at 7:30 AM. The Faculty Senate formed a Summer Committee of senators that will keep an eye on the goings on this summer and let the faculty know immediately if something goes amiss. Faculty are choosing to be proactive and that is what shared governance is all about. Those in this city who wish to keep their secrets hidden from public scrutiny will not be happy for us to keep this selection process and the absence of shared governance brightly illuminated. That is exactly what is going to happen. In a future post I will play “I Predict” with what we can expect with the next person to occupy the third floor. Please plan on attending the BOT meeting next Wednesday. Continue to contact Governor Quinn’s office and ask him to fill the seats that need filling on the Board of Trustees.

More Racism at CSU

I was discussing with one of my classes the recent protests surrounding the presidential search process. I asked them what problems they saw at CSU that most needed to be corrected. One student complained that when she forgot to bring her student ID with her, she was not allowed in the library to do work she needed to do (she is perceived as young and black). I pointed out that, in the time since the new library opened, I have never once been asked for an ID when entering the library (people think I am old and white).

Friday, May 1, 2009

May Day Greetings

Steve's May Day post (and I agree with his proposal for a teach-in) has inspired me to use this important day to say a word about my participation in the recent struggles as a communist. For me the most important victory in these struggles is our own transformation. That is, the struggle changes us who participate in it. We come to think more in terms of "we" than in term of "I". We think beyond the immediate issue to ask both why things are bad and need to be changed and to ask what, ideally, we would like to achieve. This struggle has strengthened me. It has helped me to overcome passivity and individualism. I have learned so much from all of you, students and fellow teachers both. I thank you. Happy May Day!

The Creation of an Activist University

In honor of May Day, I join my colleagues and allies in celebrating the activism of students, faculty, staff, and alumni that was so clearly present at the Board of Trustees meeting on Wednesday. As I listened to our exhortations (boos, shouts, chants) and thoughtful comments, I felt proud to be a part of this struggle for our university. As a relatively new faculty member, this was a great feeling. As many others have said, this was a victory for us for the way it has joined us together in this struggle. I join others who say that our work must continue, and we must encourage students to continue their work as well.

In one of my classes yesterday, we were discussing student activism in the 1960s, which, by the way, had been on the syllabus for this day of class since the beginning of the semester – a bit of luck, I guess. We examined a document created by German students at the Free University of Berlin when they conducted the first sit-in at a German university in 1966. Some students viewed our discussion of this document as an academic exercise and did a fine job, but for the ones who have been particularly active in the student protest of the Board of Trustees, our discussion made a connection that went beyond normal study.

Here’s the main statement that resonated with students: “We are fighting not only for the right to study for a longer period of time and to have a greater voice in expressing our opinions. That is only half of it. We are more concerned that decisions affecting students be made democratically and with student participation.”

But the next statement in the document also made a connection to our current struggle: “What is going on right now in Berlin is a conflict, like that in society at large, the main point of which is neither longer periods of study nor increased vacation time. Instead, it is about dismantling oligarchic rule and implementing democratic freedom in all areas of society.” Among other things, we certainly saw oligarchic rule embodied in the actions of the Board of Trustees.

Our discussion of this document was a great teaching moment, and it reminded me of an earlier idea I had when the two “finalists” for the presidential search were announced without participation of the search advisory committee. The idea was to hold a “teach-in” that focused on discussing the way we want to see the university work – we could make it open to the entire university community as well as the general public. There are so many different directions we could take this kind of event, including making it an ongoing series of events. One of the points would be that this kind of event would create an open space for discussion and decision making about where we want to go from here. It’s not a well-formed idea right now, but I’ll toss it out there for further discussion.