Sunday, April 25, 2010

What is our mission again?

So during a recent BOT meeting the university community was assured that the budget cuts, personnel reductions (firings) and other various and sundry activities designed to 'right size' the university, would not impact the university's mission. The statement was made with such conviction that no one asked what that mission is. So I decided to look it up and remind myself what grand mission we are all in support of. From the university web site I found,

"The mission of the university is to: 1) provide access to higher education for residents of the region, the state and beyond, with an emphasis on meeting the educational needs, undergraduate through doctoral levels, of promising graduates from outstanding secondary schools as well as educating students where academic and personal growth may have been inhibited by lack of economic, social, or educational opportunity; and 2) produce graduates who are responsible, discerning, and informed global citizens with a commitment to lifelong-learning and service."

This is a noble mission, one that appears to position the university as being all things to all people. For example, recruiting promising graduates from outstanding secondary schools and educating students from what could be characterized as at risk backgrounds is quite challenging. There is a compelling need to maintain the academic standards needed to retain the promising graduates and those whose preparation for a university education has been inhibited. How well do we do this is subject to debate. We do graduate more than a thousand students per year. We do this having very little in terms of resources, have had significant leadership challenges and we continue to perform this balancing act in terms of the mission.
We also seem to be challenged by defining the parameters of the region, state and beyond. How much recruiting does the university do beyond the borders of the city of Chicago? Is there something about our fixation of recruiting high numbers of CPS graduates and not graduates from Northwest Indiana, Southern Wisconsin, Western Illinois, Eastern Iowa and Eastern Missouri. How many high schools get visited in those areas? What about visits to Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Florida, Texas, California or Arizona schools? As a Minority Serving Institution, what percentage of our recruiting budget goes to recruiting in states with high minority populations? Oh, it seems we would rather use our time and energy to partner with community colleges five miles from our campus than expand our horizons and possibly draw out of state students, paying out of state tuition. Of course that would mean fundamentally altering the character of the university, a task only a visionary educational leader could accomplish. It would mean getting the entire university community invested in and inspired by a new vision, a shared vision of educational excellence, not acting like the local high school.
So how is it that we got here? Is it a strict adherence to this mission or something else that guides the university? It appears that the university is on track to go through yet another strategic planning process, one that will either affirm or change the mission of the university. Given the number of strategic planning processes I have witnessed I have little hope for it substantively guiding the university into the future. Rather I suspect there will be much hoopla about a community effort to re-define ourselves or re-affirm our positioning. Then the administration of the day will continue to operate in crisis management mode much like administrations for the past 2o years have done.
And where will the faculty be in all of this? Who knows. There is talk of shared governance and no real practice of shared governance. There will be nominal faculty involvement and no real dialogue between faculty and the ruling regime. And for those of us who have been here for more than 15 years it appears like the movie Groundhog Day. The university keeps repeating the same mistakes by focusing on the wrong things at the wrong time and consulting the wrong people.
So the question for me is what is the mission that we are supporting and does that mission really matter that much when everything is managed as a crisis because of our lack of planning, execution and leadership.
I realize I will be challenged around the absence of leadership given the number of firings recently and our performance during the HLC visit. What has been absent is something mentioned by supporters of our CEO, namely being a local who has relationships with power brokers in the city and state. The university was told by Chairman Finney last year that the Board could not possibly consider hiring anybody from outside of Chicago. I like many are waiting for the local connections to translate into fund raising. At the last Board meeting about finances, not one board member or the CEO mentioned any plan or commitment to raising money during our fiscal crisis to reduce the necessity for firing or laying off employees, people with families and responsibilities. It seems firing people is easy. Inspiring people to excellence and impeccability in support of a noble mission is a bit more elusive.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


This month our department and a few others on campus are doing CSU's CEO's bidding and creating a dual enrollment program with the Kennedy King Community College (a place formerly under Dr Watson's rule). I think we got wind of this at some point in the past year, but details have only been given out in dribs and drabs in the usual trickle-down passing of information from on high to provost to deans to chairs etc. etc. Well, the business is upon us this month and we are supposed to hurry to get it into place. The dual-enrollment action is being negotiated by deans and department chairs, but not a single faculty member is part of the meetings and negotiations with this community college--nor do there seem to be faculty members present from the community college side either. Has this been vetted through CSU's Faculty Senate at least? The dual-enrollment has important curricular implications and should not be usurped by CEO edict: "make it happen."

Faculty in our department have been asked to "review" the proposals in our continuingly tedious slot as merely "advisory" to any major thing that happens on campus. At what point in CSU's history did we become tangential and "advisory?" Is it so that the Adminstration can cover themselves to the politicians they answer to by claiming faculty were aware and marginally part of the process, while not really ceding any control? (Hello, contract negotiations anyone?). We are being assured that the dual-enrollment is not dumbing us down to the level of a community college but will be a win-win situation for both KKCC and CSU in regards to enrollment. From my understanding it's supposed to stream community college students straight into CSU. But it seems to me to be a bit like an enrollment smokescreen to keep the politicians off our back. CSU can claim it has more students even if they spend half their time at Kennedy-King. What the implications are for the dreaded statistics for first-time, full-time freshmen, I don't know. Will we have to be responsible for those KKCC first-time students who drop out? Is this dual-enrollment a way around CSU's "strict" (sic) admissions policies to open us up to a more community college-like admission standard? Trustee Finney weighed in on lowering CSU admission standards last year as a way to gain enrollment numbers (note, get the numbers up, student performance is secondary). Does Senator Maloney's office know about this? I know that CEO Watson likes to believe that the newspapers "always get it wrong" when they are talking about CSU, but he might want to re-read Sen. Maloney's comments last fall. Maloney is a CSU grad and chairman of the Senate's Higher Education Committee. "They (CSU) have to raise standards, be aggressive about recruiting quality kids who are going to graduate," Mr. Maloney said. "Its a state university, not a South Side university." The New York Times, November 29, 2009.

In my "review" of the draft we faculty were given I have lots of questions. Does the Illinois' Higher Learning Commission approve of this action? Will this look good for re-accreditation? Is there a model in Illinois that we are following? What other state universities that grant doctoral degrees are pairing up with community colleges? And explain to me again, why our current articulation agreements with Illinois community colleges (city colleges included) are not effective enough in streaming students to us? You remember that project a few years ago where a number of our courses were coded IAI to ease transferring credit from one college to another in Illinois. Has that panacea now proved such a failure that it is being scrapped?

I suppose I'll be criticized for not "thinking enough outside my box." OK, so here's another suggestion. Why is it that on many, many CSU committees when we are asked to do something new our first inclination is to compare ourselves to schools that are "like us?" Why, can't we model ourselves on schools that are more successful or better in a particular area or ranked higher than ours? If you want to improve your tennis game, you play with someone better than you. Maybe we at CSU should be the ones looking to partner with a school that has more resources than ours. How about a sister school like--UIC? SIU? Northwestern? or even the University of Chicago? If some of the ivy league schools are doing it, let's get in on that action. This idea was inspired by a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education (in spite of their newspaper status we must believe them, their fawning article about CSU has been plastered on the front page of the main web page for months now). The article a few days ago focusses on how "minority-serving institutions are doing great but unheralded work and are worthy of more investment" by research universities. This is what Brown University is doing:

Valerie P. Wilson, associate provost and director of institutional diversity at Brown University, joined other speakers at Thursday's event in emphasizing that even top research universities with much smaller proportions of minority students have much to learn by forming partnerships with minority-serving colleges. Brown, in fact, has a nearly 50-year partnership with Tougaloo College, a private, four-year historically black institution in Jackson, Miss.

The partnership provides faculty and student exchanges and collaborative research projects, and administrators from the institutions meet regularly to plan projects that benefit both. For example, Brown and Tougaloo students from a wide variety of majors have been able to gain valuable insight studying at Tougaloo's archive of civil-rights materials. Another program gives Brown graduate students an opportunity to teach in their field at Tougaloo for one or two semesters, providing them the experience of working in a different cultural and academic setting and making them better prepared for the job market, Ms. Wilson said.

So, that's my advisory opinion on the dual-enrollment question, let's try to partner up for a change.

Chronicle of Higher Education, April 22, 2010 White House Adviser Urges Historically Black Colleges to Change How They Are Seen By Eric Kelderman

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Layoffs and Cutbacks at Chicago State

I regret not having been more active, both on the blogsite and elsewhere, this academic year. But recent posts about Haki Mahdubuti suggest that we should discuss the recent layoffs.

I believe about seventy people were escorted from campus. One of them was the person who has been most helpful to me in maintaining my computer. So in an area of service to faculty and staff--servicing computers--where we are already short-staffed, the bosses lay off another. I am sure many of us know valuable workers who have been laid off.

The cuts that have occurred and future ones to come will have a negative effect on educating our students. They make an insufficient educational experience worse.

Why are they cutting? One answer points the finger at our local administration and its poor choices managing the available funds. Another identifies the State of Illinois and its failure to raise tax revenue. These are certainly loci of the problem. But are they the main ones?

Two facts stand out: first, education cuts are occurring at all levels across the U.S.; second, urban transit and public health care are also being cut, not only in Chicago, but in many places. There is, however, plenty of money for Obama's war in Afghanistan.

Federal funding for education, health, and urban transit peaked in the sixties and early seventies and has been in decline since under both Democratic and Republican presidents. The U.S. is a declining imperial power, and its economic and political crises are felt by workers in education, health care, and transit as well as by the students, patients and riders who depend on these workers. This combines with a conservative (and implicitly racist) anti-tax climate and movement to damage conditions for those with the least resources, especially urban black and latin people.

We should be clear in our oppositions to these cuts; we should educate ourselves and students about the nature of the struggle for a better life, and what it tells us about how contemporary U.S. capitalism values our lives. I hope you will join me in celebrating May Day and protesting cutbacks at Chicago State.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Structures and outcome

"If you understand the power structure, you understand the outcome."

This was something I learned last year from a sociologist in the midst of the contentiousness that was our search for a university president. This sham process made many of us heartsick as academics, ignored as we were by that rump of four Trustees, and then angry as we saw how political machinations were allowed to kick in and manipulate a situation that only the politicians of the state could stop. They, as we know, took a pass on that and focussed on the University of Illinois.

From the time I arrived here fourteen years ago, I have been told two things: that >"Chicago State has lots of potential" and then paradoxically, "what can you expect, it's just Chicago State, it will always be this way... Not being from Chicago, or Illinois for that matter, I had no real clue what that latter statement meant, let alone why people acquiesced to it so easily.

I was thinking about the power structure at CSU in light of a very good discussion about shared governance on campus this week sponsored by the Faculty Senate. This was probably one of the most informative meetings we've had. Kudos to Devi Potluri for bringing to campus Professor K. Anderson from the American Association of University Presidents and Dr. E. Lowe, Special Advisor to the President of Northwestern University. Dr. Watson, and others, from the faculty, civil service, and students, also made comments.

I think it is time to recognize the pink elephant in the room that we pussyfoot around all the time: political patronage. Any chance for there to be some kind of change in culture on campus (not, as Dr Watson thinks it is by making the likes of Haki Madhubutu teach four courses), or any chance of achieving real university governance (shared or not) has to confront that thing that many of us know about CSU, but few speak out loud. At a university, in a university system that is dominated by politicians, how do we negotiate and govern and keep in place all our constituencies? Who really governs CSU?

James Warren, in the New York Times, this year said it in black and white: "Chicago State is a patronage dumping ground..." ("Making Touch Choices for Higher Education", New York Times, March 7, 2010).

Mary Mitchell said it out loud this week in her Sun Times article, 'Chicago way' at play in turmoil at CSU
Publisher backing president got $19,000 contract from him,CST-NWS-mitch13.article

She writes of Hermene Hartman's "contract" with Chicago State as hypocritical in light of her defense of Watson's actions toward Madhubuti.

"Having hit Watson up for a $19,000 no-bid contract, Hartman still had the nerve to tell readers that "it's hard to protest Watson's demand for a full-time workload at Chicago State."

The price of dissent
..."Will Chicago State University become a battleground between the black empowerment movement and Chicago-style patronage politics?" Lucas asked.

Today, conscience has been trumped by connections. Today, it is all about what's in it for me, not what's in it for us.

In this kind of showdown, Chicago-style patronage politics wins every time.

The poor economy certainly gives Watson a cover.

But as long as contracts are being doled out like patronage -- and no one says a word about it -- I suspect more people of Madhubuti's ilk will be quietly ousted.

Contrary to Hartman's dismissal, this is not a "pity party."
This is a call to action.

Unless the power structure at CSU changes, unless we at least acknowledge the political patronage, how can we really think any of our outcomes, any of our initiatives, any of that great potential that we all see every day, will do anything but lead us back to extreme mediocrity characterized by that statement, "what do you expect, it's just Chicago State"?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Shared Governance Conversation

So seven months into the new regime, we are having our first conversation about shared governance at the university. It is a concept and philosophy that some glibly spout and barely understand and clearly don't practice in the way it is intended. Thus we are having a community wide conversation on Wednesday April 14th, from 12-3PM in the SUB Fine Dining area. UPI Local 4100 is graciously providing lunch for this event. All faculty are welcome for all or part of this event.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

And now, the Madhubuti Wars?

Mary Mitchell, the columnist at the Sun Times, is darned mad at Hermene Hartman of N'Digo Magazine . Hartman took Mitchell to task for using her friendship with Madhubuti to support him in print and going against the prevailing populist view that because the man teaches only one class it must mean he does nothing else. Mitchell defends the legitimacy of her position on l'affaire Madhubuti on her blog, but in the midst of this a very interesting fact emerges concerning Hermene Hartman's relationship to the CEO Watson and the Board of Trustees who sign university contracts. Check out Mary Mitchell's blog comments:

Chicago State University unleashes hired gun
I can't understand why N'Digo publisher Hermene Hartman is trying to link me to Haki Madhubuti.

In her column supporting Chicago State University President Wayne Watson's handling of Haki Madhubuti, Hartman accused me of deploying what she dubbed as "friendship journalism."

That's pure bull.

Madhubuti is not a personal friend.

But for whatever reason, Hartman is intentionally trying to mislead people about why I believe it was wrong for Watson to force Madhubuti out at Chicago State University.

If anyone is showing bias, it is Hartman. In fact, she is Watson's hired gun.

She admits to being Watson's friend. And as recently as July, Hartman had a $19,000 no-bid short-term public relations and marketing consulting contract with Chicago State University. Yet nowhere in her April 7th column did she disclose she had been on the University's payroll...

Hermene Hartman (is she a journalist or CSU's quasi-official publicist?), defended Watson on her Publisher's Page: Mitchell's Manufactured Madhouse: The Watson Controversy at Chicago State University.

See: Or, you can find this "free" paper all over CSU, no wonder it has been appearing so regularly on campus this year.

Amazing what $19,000 will buy you.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

And yet more on Madhubuti...

The Madhubuti Affair at CSU is becoming its own cause celebre.

This morning I find Scott Jaschik has written about us, "Disrespecting Whom?" in Inside Higher Education (April 6, 2010) and seems to be wondering whether it's about retaliation or something more? The comments to the article are also interesting, unlike a lot of the racist rants one finds attached to Chicago newspaper articles.

"One thing that isn't in dispute is that Madhubuti was among the many professors who criticized the selection of Watson, who had a series of clashes with faculty members at the City Colleges of Chicago, which he led previously, and whose selection as president last year was greeted with boos on the campus. At the time, Madhubuti released an open letter to the university, questioning Watson's suitability for the job. Madhubuti was hardly alone in offering such criticisms, but his letter was much discussed on campus."

Dr Watson defends his position by saying, "The university is going through a "cultural shift," Watson said, and that is difficult for many. But it's the only way to build the "right foundation" for student learning."

Could someone remind me what this "cultural shift" is that Dr Watson is trying to do? Does anyone else in the university know what this is, let alone who decided it? "Cultural shift," from what to what?

On Sunday, Mary Mitchell in the <em>Sun Times wrote again about CSU: "Where's the support for Madhubuti? Where is the outrage over blatant disregard for poet?",CST-NWS-mitch04.article

Mitchell writes,
Obviously, Watson is facing a tough challenge.

The former City Colleges chancellor will have to increase the deplorable graduation rate while raising standards -- not to mention change the university's negative image as being the university of last resort.

Watson has already shown he can clear some impressive hurdles.

In 2005, he received a "no confidence" vote from the faculty at City Colleges. Four years later, he was given a five-year contract at Chicago State University amid complaints that the process was rigged.

And while the public is outraged that state employees can collect hefty pensions after moving into new state jobs, Watson has managed to do so without anyone raising an eyebrow.

Icon is disappointed, not bitter
Unfortunately, Madhubuti is not a politician.

He is the poet who turned his words into institutions.

Yet the fact that so many of us have no clue about what this man's stature has meant to Chicago State plays into Watson's hands.

I wouldn't call Madhubuti bitter, but he certainly is disappointed.

It sounds like she is saying, it's not what you do, but who you know.

And what a difference a year can make in university presidential politics here in Illinois. Have a look at the Chicago Tribune article about the presidential search process going on this spring at the University of Illinois:

"University of Illinois interviews finalists for president; List includes 5 university presidents" by Jodi Cohen,0,4533564.story

The 19-member search committee, including university trustees, students, faculty, staff and alumni, interviewed 10 candidates over three days last month, Strobel said. She said the university received about 200 "applications," mostly nominations for the job.

Wow, the entire search committee at the University of Illinois participated in the interviews of the 10 candidates. Imagine that. Why, it was only last year that here at CSU the Trustees kept our own presidential search committee as much in the dark as possible about who the applicants were and in no way let the committee near the interviews with any finalists. I wonder why the University of Illinois Trustees treat their faculty, staff, administrators, and students so differently?

Politics. Who you know, not what you do.

I may be wrong, but I kind of doubt that there will be a "cultural shift" by the Administration from running Chicago State like a church any time soon.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

To Professor Madhubuti

Dr. Kathleen McInerney commented on the previous post in such an eloquent way on Professor Haki Madhubuti's departure that I want to highlight it here for more people to read. Thanks Kathleen for your words.

Dear Professor Madhubuti,

Ten years ago, I came to CSU to be interviewed for a position in the English Department. I was thrilled at the prospect of possibly working at the university internationally known by the presence of Ms. Gwendolyn Brooks and of you.

I was asked to present a short teaching demonstration during the interview, and I chose to do a lesson that included a ‘get into small groups’ session. It ended up that you and I were a small group. And I was terrified. “Oh no,” I thought. “This is Don L. Lee! This is Haki Madhubuti! I am sitting by myself with the man whose poetry I studied and wrote papers about and revered.” You began to talk about the politics of publishing, and I was struck by your kindness and your low-key, brilliant intellect. I calmed down enough to be able to participate in the dialogue and realized how much I wanted to be at CSU, to be a part of that powerhouse of an English Department, with scholars who had committed their professional and personal lives to social change and to the arts.

On the way to CSU for the interview, I was appalled to see that I had nail polish on one hand but not on the other. I tried desperately, during the three-hour drive from Iowa, to scratch it all off but failed miserably. At the end of the interview in the Brooks Center, I said, “Well, you all will remember me as the candidate with the weirdo nail polish.” You said, so softly that I might have been the only one to hear, “That works in your favor.” I smiled broadly, loving your gesture of acceptance.

Later that day, when Donda West, the chair of the department, and I met in her office, she and I became friends almost immediately. I left campus feeling so lucky to have spent time with both you and Donda. I was elated when she called a few days later to offer me the position at CSU.

Last year, though, I began a job search. The failure of the Board of Trustees to act ethically, professionally or responsively weighed heavily on all of us at CSU. On my dining room table was an offer from another university. But I struggled with leaving our amazing students—some of the smartest and most courageous humans I have ever had the honor to teach. And, too, my wonderful, talented colleagues who are profoundly dedicated and caring professors. It was not an easy decision. I believe deeply in the project that is CSU. I know it has the potential be one of the most transformative universities in the country. However, on the day the Board of Trustees announced that Dr. Wayne Watson would be our new president, I signed the contract. My hope in change was gone. My hope that students, staff and faculty would be treated with respect and care was gone. My hope that the leadership at CSU would be thoughtful, visionary and professional was gone.

Ms. Brooks is, of course, gone too, and so is Dr. West. Yet I never imagined you would be forced out of the University. I never imagined that you and your commitment and your accomplishments and your international fame as a poet and an educator would be so disrespected by the ‘steward’ of the University. I never imagined that you—known as the crown jewel of CSU—would be not only unrecognized but disappeared by the ‘leadership’ of the University, in whose hands the beauty, spirit and legacy of CSU have now been profoundly diminished.

Thank you for your inspiration, kindness, brilliance, and courage. Thank you for your ethical leadership and teaching at CSU. Thank you for putting CSU on the global map. Your words engage us, and will continue to engage us, powerfully in thought, action and ‘beloved community.’


Kathleen McInerney, Ph.D.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

What a week...and it's not over yet.

Well, for Christians it is Passion Week.

And so it is here at CSU. It began with the two-day visit by the Higher Learning Commission, as if that wasn't anxiety enough, the next day came the firing of approximately 80 staff complete with police escort off campus, and today news is out that CSU's Distinguished Professor Haki Madhubuti is being forced to resign by the CEO of CSU. As Alice said in Wonderland, "things just get curiouser and curiouser..."

For a while now we've been anticipating the HLC visit and the firings to happen, not to diminish their significance, but Madhubuti's resignation signals something more.

Read Mary Mitchell's article today in the Sun Times for a view on the Madhubuti-Watson tussle: "Infighting, injustice at Chicago State: Clash between cultural icon, controversial president is tragic",CST-NWS-mitch01.article

If you agree with Dr Watson and think that Dr. Madhubuti is dead weight at CSU, have a look at the 1997 article about him and his accomplishments in the Chicago Reader.

If you have forgotten what Dr Madhubuti had said in his open letter to CSU last June, I'm posting it here. Dr Madhubuti's departure signals the knicking away of the intellectual's voice and leadership at our university in favor of the professional and political "educationalist." It underscores the need for a broad and open discussion that the Board of Trustees stifled last year: Whither CSU? What is it that we want to be-- community college or university? And all of us should ask ourselves, am I part of that determination?

Subject: An Open Letter To Chicago State University’s Board of Trustees, President Dr. Wayne Watson, Students, Faculty, Staff, Administrators and, All people of concern and good will

June 22, 2009
An Open Letter To:
Chicago State University’s
Board of Trustees, President Dr. Wayne Watson,
Students, Faculty, Staff, Administrators and
All people of concern and good will

Haki R. Madhubuti,
University Distinguished Professor
Chicago State University

I am a poet and write as such. I am also a concerned member of the Chicago State University family. In September of 2009, I will start my 25th year as a professor at Chicago State University (CSU). I arrived in September of 1984 from the University of Iowa with an unstated purpose to support CSU students by spearheading the critical in-depth study of African and African American contributions to American/World literature and culture. The idea was to develop the Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing, bring Gwendolyn Brooks to the University as a distinguished professor, convene an annual Writers Conference in her name that would attract world class writers, develop the International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent, start a journal for the dissemination of Black culture and ideas, and help in developing the first Master of Fine Arts Program in Creative Writing in the world that is centered around the canon of African/African Amer ican Writing, i.e., Black literature. All of this has been done, but is incomplete.

I have, along with my colleagues, paid close attention to the process that has now provided the CSU community with its new president. Until now my voice in the current debate on the occasion of selecting a new leadership for CSU has been silent for several reasons:

1. I know all of the participants from the University’s Board of Trustees to the two finalists for the position, some of them for over thirty-five years.

2. I wrote a letter of recommendation for one of the five finalists who did not make the cut and did not want to seem duplicitous, dishonest or self-serving.

3. One of the defining lessons I learned from Gwendolyn Brooks, other than to each day try to be a fine poet and person, is that integrity, good work, good name and quality production will, in the final analysis, define you and travels faster than the speed of light throughout one’s community. These are more effective than fine words and images from the best public relation firms. She always reminded me, and others, to speak on your own terms if you wish to change and influence the conversation. She writes, “truth-tellers are not always palatable. There is a preference for candy bars.”

I have served under the leadership of three presidents and two interim-presidents. Each of these presidents arrived with goodwill and I believe good intentions. However, within two to three years of their presidencies, they ceased being collaborative and open and each became the President: secretive, selective and ineffective. All three of the presidents left the university under what has been described as a cloud. Actually, each of them was forced out and left under a storm raining buckets of negative press, each exiting while leaving CSU in worse condition than they found it. However, this is not to leave the impression that excellent work was not done during each of their terms. Yet, it can be successfully argued and I am certain history will show that each achieved a mixed record. I can easily elaborate, but this is not the place.

I have remained at Chicago State University because I care deeply about the institution, its mission and its students. I am sure that an overwhelming number of faculty members feel the same way. We also share a commitment to ensure that students succeed. Over 56 percent of our students are Black women, many with young children. Most of our students are first generation university attendees; most of them work part-time or full-time jobs while completing undergraduate or graduate degrees. The often stated six-year graduation time period is in light of these students trying desperately to study, attend class and maintain a healthy and disciplined environment and home for their families. I, like many of the faculty members, am aware of and accommodating to the unique situations that may arise to challenge a student’s academic schedule. I did not consider it unusual or inappropriate for a student, who could not find a sitter, to on occasion bring a child to class. I am from this community and I understand firsthand such hardship. I am also encouraged by the university’s efforts to increase the enrollment and retention of black male students. Currently, Black men are 33 percent of the student body (the additional 11 percent of the student body are Latino, International or non-Black).

Chicago State University is a fine university. Its recent academic expansion includes adding advanced degree programs in the Colleges of Education, Pharmacy and Arts and Science’s Department of English. Even though the university is under serious financial restraints, it recognizes that this type of expansion is imperative if we are to be a competitive, inviting and progressive institution. CSU can also claim that its faculty is first rate and can easily rival other regional and national institution in preparedness and academic excellence. I am particularly pleased with the College of Arts and Sciences and our own Department of English. I can categorically state that the Department of English is one of the most effective and creative in the nation. I comment on this only because recently the quality and dedication of CSU’s faculty have been questioned.

I am particularly troubled that this questioning or attack of several our faculty members coincides with their questioning or audacity to challenge the selection process for the new president. Nevertheless, it is evident that the process was flawed since thirteen of the fifteen members of the Campus Advisory Committee charged with the selection process oversight resigned from the committee acknowledging in a joint statement that, “we feel it would be inappropriate to legitimize a less than transparent or participatory process by recommending either of the two finalists for the position of Chicago State University President.” This process was further damaged by the CSU faculty senate’s unanimous vote of “no-confidence” in the Board of Trustees and its call on Governor Quinn to halt the selection process and to remove the current Board and appoint a new Board of Trustees.

My position as University Distinguished Professor does not grant me any more privileges than any other CSU faculty member, however, it does increase my personal obligation to voice my concerns for the growth and future of this university. During my twenty-five years at CSU, I have taught many of the courses in the English Department excluding British Literature and Linguistics. I have served on over twelve search committees for new faculty openings in the Department. Additionally, I have observed Chicago State University and other universities’ selection process of new presidents and leadership. These experiences have provided me with insight on the criteria to evaluate the overall process and make recommendations on the requirements for leadership for a university president and other high administrative positions. These are some of those recommendations:

1. He/she must be a scholar of national note, with significant peer review publications and books in his or her field. There must be no doubt as to his/her standing in the community of scholars. This would also include a history of the candidate’s participation in the appropriate professional organizations.

2. He/she must have served with distinction as the administrative head of a major unit within an institution of higher learning or at the important position of Provost and/or Dean. Of course, prior service at the presidential level is preferred.

3. He/she must have a documented history of raising significant monies from the private and public sectors. At most major and research one universities it is not unusual to expect the president to come with a plan to raise in excess of half a billion dollars or more in the first few years.

4. The prospective president must have a consensus buy-in from the faculty, students, administration and staff, therefore, arriving with a unity mandate to lead by joining a University community that has bought into his or her vision for the future.

Did our Board of Trustee’s apply such criteria? And, what state unit watches, directs and evaluates the Board? Whatever the answer, we have a new president, legally selected by the Board of Trustees of CSU; and if we are to continue to remake our university into a better place, we must give him a chance to prove that he can do the job and have at the top of his agenda the healing of the university. This is no small matter. Whatever his agenda for change is, it must be shared with the Chicago State University community and not with a few “movers and shakers.” To that end, in consultation with my colleagues, I offer ten suggestions that need immediate attention.

1. The university’s tarnished image and the tarnished image of the incoming president is fixable; the lack of integrity that already pervades the entire institution affects all of us, as well as fundraising. No one is going to give money to an institution with little financial integrity. This must be given immediate attention and the highest priority.

2. Appointment of a Vice President for Finance, one of the most important positions at any university: in light of the serious audit findings and lack of formal processes and procedures in financial affairs, this position should have been filled during the tenure of the interim president.

3. Strong academic leadership is needed to provide confidence for faculty and direction for the development of academic programs and policies. The Board of Trustees needs to understand that the Faculty Senate and the union are not enemies of the university. They play a pivotal and legal role in protecting the rights and advocating on behalf of the faculty, staff and students.

4.. Enrollment growth: a knowledgeable Enrollment Management Specialist is needed as well as staff members who know recruitment strategies and how to implement them. Direct funding to provide academic support to the large freshman student population with poor skills is also needed.

5. Staff training as well as training for supervisors on developing workable processes and implementation: staff needs to understand how to do follow-up and assess where problems exist and what to do to solve them.

6. We need key, knowledgeable people in these areas: provost; financial operations; technology; and facilities grounds and plant operations. There is a great need for a knowledgeable Director of the Physical Plant who understands how to address the needs of the academic areas within the context of a neglected infrastructure. A major problem for the university is the number of incompetent employees who were hired because of political connections, friendships and family relationships.. Therefore, little if any recourse for bad practices exists and we are stuck with nonfunctioning individuals and entities.

7.. The next president should have an understanding of four-year comprehensive universities based on experience and how to improve efficiency and effectiveness. The individual also should be a “futurist” who reviews the current situation (in a variety of arenas) and plans for next steps. Chicago State University is not a community college. Do not make it one. Keep the hiring of community college personnel to fill administrative or faculty positions at a minimum. The university graduated its first two doctoral students two weeks ago. We need faculty with the Ph.D. and research experience.

8. Compared to other universities, there is inadequate support for grantsmanship for both governmental and private (corporate and foundation) agencies and entities, and a lack of effective leadership for fundraising. As one of the oldest universities in the state system, it is shameful and embarrassing that CSU virtually has no endowment.

9. The Board of Trustees does not seem to understand the board’s role and has inserted itself in day-to-day operations because concerns about the previous President’s leadership were apparent. The trustees also do not seem to understand their role as major contributors to the university.

10. Faculty and student support. There needs to be funds available to boost academic programs and departments. Funds are needed for conferences, research, student assistantships, graduate assistantships, work-study, etc. There is a need for an understanding that the university should encourage freedom of speech and open discourse, which have traditionally been the hallmark of the academy. I believe it was George Orwell who wrote “in a time of universal defeat, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” We need to stop spinning the truth.

Finally, and this is very personal, I suggest to the “powers that be” to consider naming the new academic library after one of the greatest poets in any language at any time, our former distinguished faculty member at Chicago State University, Gwendolyn Brooks, and, on this important occasion initiate The Brooks Lectures in Poetry. This, along with the acquisition of the Brooks Papers will finally, I think, make Chicago State University a destination for students, scholars, and researchers rather than an afterthought.

All of our actions or non-actions will surely be revisited by history. Our quest should always be for human intellectual emancipation. I am a son of the sixties and seventies; that is, I cut my teeth on the streets of Detroit and Chicago. W.E.B. Dubois, Paul Roberson, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr., Margaret Burroughs, Gwendolyn Brooks, Hoyt W. Fuller, Frantz Fanon, Ella Baker, Dudley Randall, Rosa Parks, Lerone Bennett Jr. and Patrice Lumumba were all contemporaries and heroes of mine. The one ingredient that they all possessed is that they unconditionally loved Black people; people of African ancestry and by extension all people of goodwill and good actions. And, they all acted, not purely for themselves, but for the betterment of the majority rather than the elite few.

To betray a trust is to cut yourself off from being trusted. Who really represents the students of CSU? Who speaks for them? They come to us with open minds and bright eyes only to be blinded by the deals made in the night. Chicago is clout city and anybody with half a brain knows that backroom stuff happened, and to not acknowledge it is to place one in the room with cowards and small people afraid of their own shadows. How does the university spend $75,000 in this down economy to find two candidates who live less than seventy blocks from the university? Were there other candidates who were exceptional but overlooked because they were not from Chicago or the state of Illinois? The culture of corruption that blankets this state is an embarrassment. The “clout lists” that have been exposed at the University of Illinois-Champaign is only symptomatic and a microcosm of our problems—from Wall Street to Main Street.

What I have learned in my short time on this earth is ultimately that which is greater than family, friendship, children, status, fame, wealth and strawberries is truth. Remember, if a person can be bought for $50.00, he/she can be bought twice for $100.00. To dance with liars in this culture, partners are always available. However, to go subsurface for greater meaning and substance, especially in the service of the disadvantaged poor (the majority), is to experience an aloneness that few, other than artists understand. It is the confined distances that separate those who read a great piece of literature rather than cliff notes.

The beauty and intricacies of an author’s insight can make us whole and better people (that’s what art does). We become more critical, insightful, well rounded, opened for discussion and objection, democratic, human, intellectually independent allowing us to sleep full nights, positioning us to rise early each morning expecting in this world to run toward fear. Gwendolyn Brooks positions us to do best with this conscientious directive:

Warning, in music – words
devout and large,
that we are each other’s
we are each other’s
we are each other’s
magnitude and bond.

Let the healing begin. I remain in the service of the university.


Haki R. Madhubuti
University Distinguished Professor,
Professor of English,
Founder and Director Emeritus of the Gwendolyn Brooks Center,
Founder of the Annual Gwendolyn Brooks Writers Conference,
Founder of Warpland: A Journal of Culture and Ideas,
Co-Founder of the International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent,
Co-Founder and Director of the MFA in Creative Writing at
Chicago State University

Founder and Publisher of Third World Press
and Third World Press Foundation

Haki R. Madhubuti
Founder and President
Third World Press
University Distinguished Professor
Chicago State University

As poet, publisher, editor and educator, Haki R. Madhubuti has been a pivotal figure in the development of a strong Black literary tradition, emerging from the Civil Rights and Black Arts era of the 60s and continuing to the present. Over the years, he has published more than 28 books (some under his former name, Don L. Lee) and is one of the world’s best-selling authors of poetry and non-fiction, with books in print in excess of 3 million. His Black Men: Obsolete, Single, Dangerous?: The African American Family in Transition (1990) has sold more than 1 million copies. Selected titles include Don’t Cry, Scream! (1969), GroundWork: New and Selected Poems 1966-1996 (1996), HeartLove: Wedding and Love Poems (1998), Tough Notes: A Healing Call For Creating Exceptional Black Men (2002), and Run Toward Fear (2004). His poetry and essays were published in more than 65 anthologies from 1997 to 2007. His latest release is YellowBlack: The First Twenty One Years of a Poet’s Life(2006), a memoir of the people and pla ces that were a part of his early life.

Professor Madhubuti is a proponent of independent Black institutions. He founded Third World Press in 1967 with a $400 honorarium he received from a poetry reading, a used mimeograph machine, and other individuals committed to the local and national Black Arts and empowerment movements. He is also a founder of the Institute of Positive Education/New Concept School (1969), co-founder of Betty Shabazz International Charter School (1998), Barbara A. Sizemore Middle School (2005), and DuSable Leadership Academy (2005), all of which are in Chicago.
An award-winning poet and recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships, American Book Award, the Studs Terkel Humanities Service Award and others. Professor Madhubuti is also a founder and chairman of the board of the International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent. In 2006, he was awarded the Literary Legacy Award from the National Black Writers Conference for creating and supporting Black literature and for building Black literary institutions. He received his third ho norary Doctor of Letters from Spelman College in May of 2006. In 2007, he was named Chicagoan of the Year by Chicago Magazine. In May of 2008, Professor Madhubuti was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from Art Sanctuary of Philadelphia. In 2009, named one of the “Ebony Power 150: Most Influential Blacks in America” for education.
Professor Madhubuti earned his MFA from the University of Iowa. His distinguished teaching career includes faculty positions at Columbia College of Chicago, Cornell University, University of Illinois at Chicago, Howard University, Morgan State University, and the University of Iowa. Currently he is the University Distinguished Professor and professor of English, founder and director-emeritus of the Gwendolyn Brooks Center and director of the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program at Chicago State University.
Poet, Publisher, Editor, Educator, Activist.

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