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.


  1. Dr. McInerney's profound letter proves her to be an individual of integrity who may have left CSU in body but whose heart and spirit are still committed to the best interests of CSU as an institution, its students, and its legacy. Thank you.

  2. Dr. Wayne Watson the President since October 09, has requested Madhubti to teach a full load and Watson is being slamed for doing so.
    Haki Madhubuti is an estemeed and prolific writer. He has given a public resignation because Watson required accountability and a full teaching load of 12 hours. Previously Madhubuti has been teaching 3 hours a year for a full salary. Quite the job, wouldn't you say. Enters new boss asking for accountability and responsibility and you claim that you are being mistreated. What kind of thinking is this?

    Most people would be pleased to have a full salary for 3 hours of work per year. Wow, in these economic times, do the math. Madhubuti has had generous support from Chicago State University with an annual conference and the formation of The Gwendolyn Brooks Center.These are major achievements. In these hard economic times, state funding budget cuts, it would not be realistic to keep things the same. A touch of reality enters. No one on the planet, not even the President of the United States, can work only three hours a year and justify a full salary. No one is that distinguished.

    Watson became President of Chicago State after much controversy but I wonder why didn't Haki Madhubuti apply for the position? He seems to be saying if you break up my playground and make me work like the other Distinguished Professors, I will take my books and go home. Chicago State Unviersity is a teaching university and the most important thing a professor can do is teach, hands on. This is what great professors do.

    Watson is providing leadership and asking his faculty to be accountable and responsible. What's wrong with that? Wouldn't you like to work for full salary and work only three hours a week. Wow. What a job.