Friday, October 30, 2009

A Chicago State of Illinois Ethics Test

Considering the sham of "ethical" governance that we labor under in Illinois (and forget about shared governance on campus), I find that the mandatory state ethics test for employees to be even more insulting this year than in the past. As I was starting to answer its ridiculous questions I wondered what the test for my superiors (sic) in governance looked like. Maybe it's something like this:

1. As a member of a Board of Trustees at a state university you are allowed to:

a. reward your supporters (or relatives) with university contracts, why else did you become a “trustee”?

b. make university policy such as set admission standards and lower ACT scores

c. play the race card with the media and do the same with local ministers you know when any of your actions are criticized

d. direct the president and provost to fire people who try to stand up to you

e. ignore your major role in donating money to the school

f. all of the above

2. As a member of a state university Board of Trustees, you are conducting a presidential search at your university. You know the candidate you would like to hire, but there are pesky constituencies on campus (like students, faculty, and administrators) who must be given the appearance of consultation. You can dispense with any “equal opportunity employment” laws —the Governor is in your pocket (it’s an election year), he won’t interfere, so you

a. hire a local search firm you know for $78,000 under the guise of conducting a “national” search to give a veneer of legitimacy to the process

b. select a top adminstrator to act as a buffer between you and the tedious faculty who don’t know their place—why should You have any direct conversation with Them?

c. refuse to let those pesky campus constituencies anywhere near the portfolios of all the applicants for the president’s job because they might see the more qualified candidates who have applied from outside of Chicago

d. use your lawyer to issue memos corroborating that same veneer of legitimacy (see “a” above) so that the governor will keep his nose out of your southside business

e. all of the above

3. As a President of a state university you are allowed to

a. blame faculty teaching as the root of the problems at the university

b. use your university’s media equipment to film advertisements for your politician friends

c. fire people who refuse to do things that they worry are illegal—how dare they question you

d. surround yourself with people who know how to say “yes”

e. believe your own publicity about yourself.

f. all of the above

4. As Governor of the State of Illinois you want to be known as someone who will reform your corrupt state government, but you are too weak and tied into the system to be effective, so you:

a. make a great show of power by publicly targetting a really minor infraction of the trustees at a major university

b. ignore the truly major infractions and malfeasance of the trustees of a very minor university under your jurisdiciton

c. back down from your own ultimatum when faced with anything that might offend black ministers whom you think will deliver you a lot of votes from their congregations

d. reveal your own inner racist by deciding simply to let “those people” on the southside of Chicago deal with the problems down there

e. all of the above

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Why Can't Pat Quinn Just Do It?--Laura Washington

And one more article in case you haven't seen this one...

The Washington Report written by the Sun Times' Laura Washington (Oct. 19, 2009)

Just do it.
Gov. Pat Quinn plans to appoint new board trustees at Chicago State University “with all deliberate speed.” Chicago Sun-Times, May 11

“The governor’s senior staff has been working with all deliberate speed to ensure that the vacancies on the board are filled. Staff members have spoken with the faculty senate and alumni to assist in the search for strong candidates for the board.” Chicago Tribune, Sept. 25

“Quinn’s press secretary, Bob Reed, says … the governor is close to filling vacancies.” Chicago Sun-Times, Oct. 18

For months, Gov. Pat Quinn has been ignoring the debacle at Chicago State University. For months, he has failed to fill longtime vacancies on the board of a school in desperate need of quality leadership. Why can’t he “just do it?” My take: Quinn is afraid of some black folks and doesn’t care enough about others.

For the last couple of years, under the the previous administration of President Elnora Daniel—and the Chicago State Board of Trustees—the university has been roiled by highly critical financial audits, charges of gross corruption and mismanagement, a disintegrating physical plant, and plummeting enrollment. The school suffers a miserable 16.2 percent six-year graduation rate. Last month the Chicago Tribune reported that Chicago State “is at risk of losing its accreditation” by the Higher Learning Commission. The agency cited its “remarkably poor” graduation and retention rates, and its chaotic leadership and finances.

On Saturday, Chicago Sun-Times columnist Carol Marin reported a new lawsuit that “pours fresh gasoline on the matter.” The suit against the university and its trustees, comes from two former Chicago State administrators who were fired earlier this year. One alleges her dismissal “coincided with the board’s awarding of no-bid, short-term public relations and marketing consulting contracts” to two politically connected operatives, Marin reported. Another claims he was fired after he reported inappropriate board activities to the state’s executive inspector general and the auditor general.

As of this posting, Chicago State officials have not commented on the specifics of the lawsuit.

It’s not Quinn’s fault that the school is a disaster area, but he has the power to help it heal. Last spring, the school was rocked with controversy when students, faculty and staff launched a campus revolt against the board’s flawed search for a new chancellor, which culminated in the April 29 appointment of Wayne Watson as Chicago State’s new president. Critics said the was infected by “insider politics” and urged Quinn to intervene, halt the selection process and replace the board, which included several lame-duck trustees and vacancies.

Illinois law provides that the Quinn can remove gubernatorial appointees “for incompetence, neglect of duty, or malfeasance.” Quinn refused to step in.

If you have had a heartbeat over the last few months, you’ll know that the governor didn’t hesitate to leap into the case of the University of Illinois’ “clout-list” scandal. Last summer, egged on by screaming headlines in the Tribune, Quinn pushed out and replaced the university’s board of trustees.

With all due respect to the U of I, there are other schools with more urgent needs. Chicago State, an underesourced stepchild of the Illinois educational system, serves a predominantly African American, working class population. Many of its 7,000 students are the products of the Chicago Public Schools, and we know where that leaves them on the opportunity quotient.
Why the double standard? Why can’t Mr. Reform, the self-proclaimed champion of the disenfranchised, “just do it?”

Marin has a few other good questions about our accidental governor: “With the February primary fast approaching, is Quinn reluctant to jeopardize African-American support?” Marin wrote. “Is that why he backed down and kept the only two African-American trustees on the U. of I. board. And hasn’t jumped in to challenge the CSU board?”

Yes. Absolutely. Without a doubt.

It seems that Quinn cares more about Tribune’s editorial page and the heavyweight interests at the University of Illinois than he does about a crucial but beleaguered black institution on Chicago’s far South Side. He is loathe to offend the politically connected black big shots like Watson and the Rev. Leon Finney, the chair of Chicago State’s Board of Trustees. Quinn’s press secretary, Bob Reed, told Marin that is not the case, and assures his boss is “close” to filling the slots.

Why can’t he just do it? As reader James Reyes opined at “They don’t call him ‘Quivering Quinn’ for nothing.”

Saturday, October 17, 2009

"Fresh gasoline..."

In case you haven't read the latest about the leadership at CSU see Carol Marin's article in today's Sun Times.

To read the full story:,CST-EDT-carol18.article

Why isn't Quinn fixing Chicago State U.?
October 17, 2009
BY CAROL MARIN Sun-Times Columnist

How come Gov. Pat Quinn, in the wake of a clout scandal at the state's premier university, can sweep out the University of Illinois' board of trustees (with two notable exceptions) but can't do the same for our most beleaguered university?
I'm talking about Chicago State University, the mostly African-American school on the Far South Side with a horrifically low 16.2 percent graduation rate.

Many, including my Chicago Sun-Times colleague Laura Washington, have asked that same question. Now a lawsuit, which was filed Friday, pours fresh gasoline on the matter.
The suit, targeting the university and its trustees, was filed by Patricia Arnold, hired in 2008 as the executive director of university relations and marketing, and Stephen Seth Hosick, hired the same year as director of human resources.
They arrived on campus in the wake of a yet another damning audit by Illinois' auditor general, who cited egregious fiscal mismanagement at the school, such as former President Elnora Daniel's absurd, state-funded "leadership seminars" aboard cruise ships with her family in tow.

Daniel resigned, and an interim president, Frank Pogue, was brought in to right the ship as trustees looked for a new president.

Pogue hired Arnold and Hosick. Then all three allegedly ran afoul of Leon Finney, the chairman of the board of trustees.
Arnold's firing, according to the suit, "coincided with the board's awarding of no-bid, short-term public relations and marketing consulting contracts" to two people. One was Hermene Hartman, publisher of N'Digo magazine, a friend of Finney and supporter of Wayne Watson for the presidency. The other was Marilyn Katz, owner of MK Communications, a firm that does a lot of business with the city of Chicago.
Hosick's firing, the suit contends, came when he blew the whistle to "the Executive Inspector General and the Auditor General [about] the Trustees' intricate involvement into the Univer- sity's personnel matters and files, and its demands to approve the hiring of all full-time employees . . ."
Finney, according to Pogue, openly interfered. "Definitely, yes," said Pogue, whose one-year contract ended in August.
Finney declined to comment.

Last spring, the search for a new president was ugly. Members of the search committee -- including faculty -- walked out after Finney and the board narrowed the choice to the two finalists the committee found least attractive: Wayne Watson, the longtime chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago, where low graduation rates are also an issue, and Carol Adams, onetime head of the Illinois Department of Human Services, who battled a controversy over using a well-paid state employee as her chauffeur.

Watson got the job. And Adams got a consolation prize: Illinois trade representative to Africa, with a salary of $110,000.
"Does Illinois need Carol Adams or any other person as a trade representative in this economy? No," said Comptroller Dan Hynes, Quinn's main Democratic primary opponent. "I've called for the closing down of the trade offices to save millions of dollars for the state."

And Hynes adds his voice to the call for Quinn to fill three vacancies out of seven trustee positions on the CSU board immediately.

"You've got to bring in new leadership to address the problems of accreditation, graduation rates, retention rates," he said.
With the February primary fast approaching, is Quinn reluctant to jeopardize African-American support? Is that why he backed down and kept the only two African-American trustees on the U. of I. board. And hasn't jumped in to challenge the CSU board? And gave Adams a job Illinois may no longer be able to afford?

Quinn's press secretary, Bob Reed, says absolutely not. Moreover, the governor is close to filling vacancies.
Let's hope so, because 7,000 or more African-American students are in need of his urgent advocacy

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A different tact

So, at its October meeting the Faculty Senate discussed what its agenda should be for the upcoming year, one that promises to bring more attention to the university. One idea that received a good deal of support was for the faculty to talk more about our students/alumni and ourselves in terms of what it is that we do. We need to take the lead on restoring the reputation of the university since the administration and BOT seem to be incapable of doing so.
It was very fortuitous that at my departmental meeting, my colleagues shared the accomplishments of three of our students and former students. Alonzo Ward, has completed his comprehensive exams at the University of Illinois and is now ABD in the History Department. Justice Kali, a Political Science graduate, has completed her PhD at the University of Alabama. And finally, one of current students, Alexander Amponsah, was the recipient of a private scholarship from a Tennessee businesswoman who was a fare in Mr. Amponsah's cab. She was so impressed with him that she has forwarded a scholarship to him to continue his studies here.
It appears that on the academic side, we continue to do the good things we do and our students continue to excel in their intellectual lives. Faculty has the opportunity to share with the world via this blog the accomplishments of our students and our colleagues so that when journalists read this blog they will see the great things the university does for its students.
Please share with me stories of achievement of students, alumni and faculty at so that I may post them here.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Say, what?

With such terrible acoustics in the Convocation Center it was very difficult to hear the entirety Dr Watson's very long speech outlining his "vision." Can anyone confirm that I heard (in no particular order):
  1. we should build a 1,000-room dorm?
  2. administrators should put in 12-hour a days? (as if they didn't do that already)
  3. that he slipped up and referred to us as "City Colleges"?
  4. that his outline of plans to counter the accreditation issue came across as the usual adminstrative "top down" decision-making that we have always had?
  5. that "faculty must be part of the university?" what exactly does this mean? what does this imply?
  6. that there was a strong paternalistic attitude toward the students --as if we were teaching high school or (gasp!) community college students?
  7. that the whole thing did not end until around 3 p.m.?
  8. that there was anything substantially different from what he said in his "interview," such as it was, in April?

I really want to know--it is clear the Convocation Ctr. is a terrible venue for this sort of thing. Please do feel free to post and offer your clarifications and perspectives.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Just more of the same stuff that doesn't work

So, much has been reported about the university’s upcoming visit from our accrediting agency. If you spend any appreciable time on campus you will see much activity in preparation for that visit. I long ago learned not to mistake activity for accomplishment, so when my class was interrupted yesterday by one of my colleagues attempting to locate a student who received an academic warning I had enough. Something has to be said. Here are the facts as I understand them.

On June 1st, the university submitted a monitoring report to the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association to address the progress the university had made since 2006 when the last monitoring report was submitted. This 2009 report, as yet unreleased, highlighted several deficiencies in the enrollment management and retention areas as well as in university governance and leadership.

The university received a response to the monitoring report dated in the first week of July that recognized the university’s lack of progress in the areas that were noted in the 2003 accreditation report.

By the second week of the semester, the Deans, Chairs and Directors were sworn to secrecy about the report in a meeting with the Provost. The next week, members of the Faculty Senate were given information about the situation a day prior to an all campus assembly that informed the university community for the first time about the seriousness of the situation the university found itself in. Several members of the Senate asked pointed questions about accountability and communication of this information. They were informed by the then ‘unpaid consultant’ that there would be no accountability for decisions made that led to this situation. The faculty was assured by the Provost that the process for preparing for the mandated focus visit was going to be transparent. The ‘unpaid consultant’ communicated through his comments that the process would be less than transparent. I inquired at that meeting whether the Governor’s office, the Illinois Board of Higher Education, the IL Senate Higher Education committee chairman, or the IL House Higher Education committee chair. I was told then that none of the people or agencies had been contacted since the letter was received in July. I encouraged the Provost and the ‘unpaid consultant’ to thoughtfully approach how we would boost our retention and graduation rates. Given our history of lack of accountability and open communication, I suggested that the university not rush into policy shifts, personnel changes and reckless activities that would impact the confidence of the campus community.

An ad hoc committee was formed to address the situation, which by my reckoning was completely the responsibility of the administration and the Board of Trustees. The participation of faculty in this process smacked of tokenism. At the all campus assembly I made remarks to the effect that the faculty’s hands were clean in this. It was an administrative and leadership / governance failure. The university was informed that it would be hiring a Vice President for Enrollment Services. This is curious decision for two reasons. First, no other state university has a vice president for enrollment services. Only Northern Illinois which has a VP for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management has enrollment management directed at the vice presidential level. Is this creation of yet another administrative position necessary? Is that the interpretation of the problems with leadership noted in the monitoring report? Is the Student Affairs area going to be short changed by not having a VP like every other state university? For a regime purporting to be student friendly, that is a clear lack of leadership depriving the student affairs area while attempting to shore up the retention/graduation problems on the administrative side. Second, according to the Board of Trustees governing policies, “...the appropriate and duly constituted committees of faculty government shall participate in the decision-making process of the university in the following areas: ... 3. Creation of administrative positions at the level of Dean and Vice President and selection of administrative officers for such positions as well as of the President of the university.” It is clear that the faculty was not consulted in the creation of the Vice President for Enrollment Services. So yet again the administration fails in their duties and there is no accountability for the failure from the BOT. That leads me to believe that the BOT is the core problem. They historically have hired presidents who prove to be incapable of providing the necessary leadership to prevent situations like this instead of ineptly responding to them.

This leads me to yesterday. While in the middle of my lecture a department chairperson from my college inquired as to the whereabouts of one of my students who had received an academic warning. The student was not in class, nor was the telephone number he tried contacting her on a good one. Sadly, we have gotten to the point of department chairs being truant officers. If any of you good readers have any academic references for the efficacy of department chairs as truant officers raising retention rates please provide that citation here so that my intuition can be proven faulty. Otherwise, my story is that using chairs to chase down students will likely not be successful in any appreciable way in addressing the underlying dysfunction at the university, namely a lack of accountability and no clear or transparent communication process. I asked when the duties of the chairs had changed. What I discovered was there is no connection between the university’s academic warning system and the oft criticized mid term grade process. It appears that the absence of a thoughtful approach to the retention/graduation problem has in large measure shown the academic warning system in its current configuration to be useless and I imagine the mid term grade system will prove to be equally useless.

So why not try something new? Let’s hold those responsible for the problem accountable. How about publishing the monitoring report and response from the HLC on the university website in the spirit of transparency. It is one thing to say there will be transparency and another to actually have transparency. The Provost has promised transparency while the now board selected president has been notably silent on the issue of transparency and communication. At least the BOT is consistent in its selection of presidents, professional administrators with no connection to students or faculty and no experience or inclination in communicating or being accountable.

And the saga known as CSU continues.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Oh Governor, Where Art Thou?

Jack Stripling's latest article in Inside Higher Ed is worth reading for getting to some of the heart of why CSU is the way it is. One can only hope that if the state authorities won't exercise oversight, maybe the federal authorities will. Wayne Watson may be in the Cook Bldg., but the story is not over.

Oh Governor, Where Art Thou?
October 1, 2009