Thursday, March 11, 2010

Some goings on at the Board of Trustees meeting

So there are clearly changes underway at CSU as reported during the recent Board of Trustees meetings. Not all of the changes make sense unless you understand the political culture of Chicago. For example, the university is prepared to spend between $25,000 and $50,000 on a feasibility study for the construction of a new 1,000 bed dormitory. The current dormitory is 325 beds. The feasibility study would be the first step in a longer process of moving the project to completion. I am not quite sure why the university would want to incur the debt of the construction of such a building given its poor construction history with the Student Union and existing dormitory. State law prohibits the use of appropriated funds to build dormitories or student unions. The university would have to borrow the money, most likely through a bond issue. And then I read a report from a consultant hired by the university to spearhead this effort. The crux of the issue was not in the construction. Rather it was that the dormitory would possibly (read likely) be privatized. This means the university would contract with a private vendor to manage some portion of residence life. Hmmmmm. In Chicago, this means that cronyism and shady deals are just around the corner. What company do tell would get that contract? Would it be a company that has a connection to a current and ostensibly future ex Board member who is currently involved in the real estate industry? Would the construction of the facility also be subject to the same cronyistic influences? If so, the university would be setting itself up for further scrutiny by the press and possibly by other bodies.

On another note, one of the benefits that progressive companies and organizations provide is on-site child care for its employees. CSU has had a very robust Child Care Center for many years. Once the Robinson University Center closed the child care function began a nomadic existence, even moving off campus which was clearly detrimental to the parents in need of child care. Now it seems that the Child Care Center is to be re-located and housed in the Education Building. Being co-located with the College of Education may in fact be a good idea. The location on the other hand may not be such a good idea. The Vocational Education workshops are to be dismantled and relocated. That space is to be transformed into the new Child Care Center. There may be asbestos in the building and in the area that needs to be removed before occupancy can occur. This is a straightforward construction project. Remove the existing machinery, conduct the asbestos abatement, rebuild the area into a child care center and open for business. Unfortunately, logic doesn’t always win the day. The worst case I can envision is a front page story on how the university chose to use a former industrial workspace that contained asbestos and other chemicals to house its child care center. It won’t matter that the abatement followed all of the federal and state guidelines and all of the machinery was removed appropriately and any necessary environmental cleanup was done impeccably. The only thing that will matter is the headline with the words, CSU, Child, and Asbestos in it. The university is potentially setting itself up for a public relations disaster. Hopefully the university administration will rethink this plan and avoid its potential pitfalls.


  1. If you're hoping the BOT re-think their plans, my money is going to the horse that runs the fastest.

  2. I heard a rumor that Prof. Madhubuti's forced resignation was in response to his refusal to teach more than one class per year. Can anyone verify this?