Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Time to Stop the Nonsense

After the fiasco surrounding the hectoring e-mail sent by Cheri Sidney on December 9, it is really time to end this nonsense at Chicago State. This person has no qualifications for the position she currently holds, (either Assistant or Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management) and her persistence in that position suggests that our current administration is not serious about giving this university the kind of leadership it needs and deserves. Interestingly, on September 9, 2011, the City Colleges of Chicago posted a job announcement for the position of Vice Chancellor of Enrollment Management. Here is the announcement:

Posted September 9, 2011, City Colleges Vice Chancellor of Enrollment Management

Master’s degree from an accredited college or university in Business Administration or related field with five years of progressively responsible experience in academic management, or an equivalent combination of training and experience.

Excellent organizational, management and decision-making skills. In-depth understanding of business and operational processes across many industries, with an emphasis on educational processes. Excellent written and verbal communication skills. Demonstrated commitment to diversity and multiculturalism in one’s work experience; and ability to develop a technologically integrated environment that fosters innovation within a learning organization. Experience in higher education articulation processes and program review preferred. Flexible, honest, tactful, independent worker. Ability to work cooperatively and strategically in a team environment with all levels of professional, technical and administrative staff in order to integrate resources on a timely and organized basis.

As the reader can clearly see, the minimum requirements for a position similar to Ms. Sidney’s at the City Colleges stipulate qualifications she does not possess. So why is she in a Vice President’s position at a graduate degree granting institution? How in the world did she obtain this position? or her entry level position in Human Resources, a position seemingly created just for her?

One of my colleagues returned from the recent Graduate Council meeting disturbed by the creeping influence of the office of Enrollment Management, headed by Angela Henderson. Apparently, Enrollment Management will assume some of the administrative functions formerly entrusted to the Graduate School. Again, why? What qualifications does this office have to assume any authority over the Chicago State graduate programs? In addition, this office will likely operate independently since the proposed configuration separates the functions that are Enrollment Management’s from the academic oversight of the Provost’s Office. Given the evidence that our president believes that he is qualified to dictate academic policy across the disciplines, how long will it be until the superbly qualified duo at Enrollment Management start to make academic decisions?

Let me be clear here. While Angela Henderson’s continued tenure in her position is troubling and may create accreditation problems, having someone working as a university vice president with the nonexistent credentials possessed by Cheri Sidney is a disgrace and an embarrassment. If she could not even apply for a similar position at the City Colleges, what is she doing at this school? Her hiring at this level of responsibility could be perceived as being motivated by something other than academic qualifications or experiential factors. Allowing her to continue in this position makes a mockery of our stated commitment to “academic excellence,” or “academic integrity.” I wonder how our “stakeholders” would respond if they knew that this university employed an individual with such qualifications in an important academically-related position.

The continued presence of these two administrative employees puts Chicago State in the unique position of being the only one of five similar schools, Chicago State, Eastern Illinois, Illinois State, Northeastern Illinois, and Western Illinois, to employ administrators in these positions without doctoral degrees. (No need to wonder about the University of Illinois, Northern or Southern Illinois universities, they have no one with similar credentials in comparable positions) I will not discuss university experience here since I have addressed that issue in previous posts, but suffice to say that Ms. Henderson and Ms. Sidney are woefully inexperienced when it comes to university management. In the other four schools, the Provost is entrusted with the operation of enrollment management. In order to emphasize my point, I present the following:

At CSU, the VP of Enrollment Management holds a M.S.N., the AVP holds a B.A.
At Eastern, the VP holds a Ph.D., the two AVP’s, also hold the Ph.D.
At Illinois State the VP holds a Ph.D., the AVP also holds a Ph.D.
At Northeastern, the VP holds a Ph.D., the two AVP’s also hold the Ph.D.
At Western, the VP holds a Ph.D., the AVP holds a Ed.D.

I suggest that the foregoing illuminates one reason why many faculty and students are expressing concerns about our current administration. Everyone in comparable positions at similar institutions possesses a doctorate. It also suggests that some of our administrators treat Chicago State like it is a second-rate institution. While they complain about negative press coverage, they bring in administrators with laughable qualifications. I am sure that this comparison of academic qualifications would seem puzzling even to persons with no knowledge about university operations. For people who do know how universities are supposed to be run, this could suggest that this school is being operated for the benefit of a handful of well-connected people, regardless of the potential consequences.

It is time for our administration to stop this nonsense. I believe that Chicago can offer a far more attractive lifestyle than Charleston, Macomb, or Normal. Why then, can we not attract stronger candidates for these key positions? Most important, this university is fortunate to have hundreds of dedicated staff and faculty and thousands of motivated and willing students. Is this all we deserve? In 2003, an HLC survey found faculty, staff and students dissatisfied with the school’s administration. In 2010, staff, faculty, and administrators expressed the majority belief that the university (read administration) respected neither the staff nor the faculty. Currently we are under attack from a variety of sources and the problems identified in 2003 and 2010 continue to fester. While the administration prefers to think that the disaffection on this campus stems from a few “disgruntled” faculty, this is a dangerous and delusional way to view the recent complaints. In fact, many of the administrative actions over the past two years seem to demonstrate a profound lack of respect for the people who do the job of educating and assisting our students.

I believe that Cheri Sidney should be removed from her position immediately, before she has the opportunity to do real damage to our academic endeavors. Perhaps some of our administrators believe she is performing adequately, but continuing to defend her tenancy in this position is simply to endorse and validate the notion that her mediocre academic credentials should be sufficient for a school “like Chicago State.” As her tone-deaf e-mail of December 9 demonstrates, she lacks any fundamental knowledge of what faculty do between the end of classes and the calculation and posting of final grades. I regret having to say this, but I think it is shameful that some of our administrators apparently think so poorly of this school’s staff, faculty and students that they seem unwilling to mirror the commitment to academic excellence exhibited by the vast majority of the university’s employees and students.

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