Sunday, September 6, 2009

What else could go wrong???

So loyal readers you may have noticed I have not posted much this summer. Let me assure you that it isn’t because there has been nothing happening at our fair university. It is because too much has been happening. For the next few days I will attempt to bring you up to date with the interesting goings on and hopefully inspire some exciting dialogue. So let’s begin our inquiry into the local happenings with the following.

This past Wednesday all available members of the Faculty Senate were invited to the President’s Conference Room by the Provost. No, we don’t actually have a President but we do have a President Elect or Unpaid Consultant occupying the President’s office but don’t let me digress. The purpose of the meeting was the viewing of a PowerPoint presentation and the answering of questions related to the subject raised by the Provost. This meeting was also a prelude to the Campus Assembly held this past Thursday.

Here is the situation as I understand it. In 2003 we were joined by North Central Association (NCA) evaluators for our continued accreditation visit. The good news from that visit was the university received a ten year stamp of approval. The bad news was that the NCA determined that the university did not have a comprehensive enrollment management and retention system. The university was given three years to begin correcting that problem and then report back to the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the NCA about the systems that had been implemented, the progress of those systems with accompanying data and analysis to ensure that the university was making progress on improving its retention and graduation rates. In 2006 when the report was due the then serving Provost was given three weeks notice the report was due to HLC. Of course, no policies had been implemented and no data collected. A report was generated containing three weeks worth of policy implementation and no data. The university was then given three more years to show progress on the 2006 report. A report was prepared earlier this year and submitted to the HLC. The response of the Commission was to schedule a “Focused Visit-Mandated: 2010 - 2011; on all of the enrollment management issues at the University, including leadership, funding, infrastructure, retention and recruitment.” The possible consequences of this Mandated Visit are significant. The university could receive probation, lose its accreditation, or have its regularly scheduled accreditation rescheduled to an earlier time frame. A loss of accreditation would result in a loss of the ability to receive federal financial aid which would in effect force the closing of the university. This “death penalty” sanction is possible and unlikely. What I believe is more likely is that the university will create some response for the evaluators and promise to do better and would agree to an accelerated visitation schedule.

The troubling elements of this situation are numerous. First, who is going to be held accountable for this Mandated Focused Visit in the first place. When asked the unpaid consultant responded the university wasn’t going to look back. This is very curious given those who don’t learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them. Second, I am concerned that this situation is symptomatic of a larger and deeper dysfunction in the university that only a visionary leader would be able to address. A visionary leader is needed to change the culture of the university. Otherwise, when the university is visited again for its Continued Accreditation visit, it will most certainly demonstrate the underlying cracks in the foundation. Third, I inquired about where the resources for this herculean effort will come from. Will the Academic Affairs side of the house be pillaged again for what is clearly an administrative failure? With more financial resources this situation would be much easier to address but with so many self inflicted wounds around the university’s financial management, those with resources are understandably reluctant to help. Finally, it occurred to me that the faculty’s hands are clean in this situation. This is an administrative failure compounded by an obvious absence of oversight by the Board of Trustees which has focused its attentions in other areas. It is likely the HLC team will find that the Board has failed the university, its faculty, students and ultimately the taxpayers of the State of Illinois.

So what happens next? The faculty has essentially three options here. First, we can help maintain the status quo of token representation in the committee/task force hand picked to rescue the university from withdrawal of accreditation. Second, faculty could sit this one out and prove to the HLC that there are indeed deep dysfunctions that are likely to be exacerbated by the next occupant of the President’s office. Or the faculty could demand to oversee this process. The faculty could become the dominant force in this effort and demand the authority to design and implement whatever policy is needed to ensure the university doesn’t receive the death penalty or any sanction that would significantly impede its progress. Of course I realize that the university administration will never relinquish control even in the face of these dire circumstances. The university will continue doing the same things, expecting different results and with no accountability faculty will watch as the professional administrators roll the dice with our professional futures and the lives of our students.

There are still unanswered questions that I am trying to get answers to and when I do, you will be the first to know.

Maybe I am just jaded given the twelve years of continued mismanagement I have witnessed. Maybe what will really happen is that the university will be rescued and we will all live happily ever after.

1 comment:

  1. The happily ever after thought is indeed a fairy tale I only witnessed in all the Walt Disney films (except Paying It Forward). The nightmare being played out at Chicago State University and keeping its accrediation seems to be an on-going challenge that our shortsighted cronie isn't up for. "Not to look back" is like telling Lot's wife in the Bible not to miss her old way of life. We all know that this "Unpaid Consultant" appointed by the BOT has a history of looking back (hence, his retaliation against a former colleague when he was Chancellor). This person expect our campus community to be totally blind to the fact that is appointment was a rememberance of the Bush Administration appointing themselves to the White House before Al Gore conseded his campaign for the presidency. Now, am I accusing this upcoming administration of the same tactics the old Bush Administration used? Yes, I am. Do I believe this upcoming administration will carry Chicago State to success and keep our accrediation? Hell no. Do I need to remind our campus community of the disaster he left over the Colleges of Chicago? The debt, the continued poor education of students not prepared to enter four-year institutions and the federal investigation brought against him by a former colleague; so, how could this be encouraging for our students and faculty under this type of leadership? Call Oprah Winfrey get Lisa Ling and ask her to investigate this tragedy because the Bush Adminsitration don't have anything on this mess.