Sunday, April 8, 2012

Time To Go

As a follow-up to the previous post, I have copies of two e-mails sent by the union chapter president to the administration regarding the communications policy. The first, dated March 28 (or nine days prior to the Tribune story), reminded Renee Mitchell (with a copy to Patrick Cage) that "we (UPI) look forward to seeing a notice to the campus community about the Communications Policy." The second, dated April 3 (or three days prior to the story) and sent to the same people reads: "Thank you, Renee . . . That resolves #2 on the list I sent last week. . . Communications Policy, . . . still outstanding."

Thus, the chapter president sent not one, but two reminders to the administration that the “campus community” awaited the university’s announcement on the communications policy. As for the university’s contention that recision of the policy should have been announced by the chapter president, that argument is so sophomoric it deserves no response.

The broader issue here is the question of what did the president know and when did he know it? Wayne Watson’s management style has featured an aversion to dissent and retaliation against persons who dared disagree with him. At both the City Colleges and here, members of his administrative “team” filed civil actions against Watson for his vindictive and retaliatory behavior. Since he has become president at Chicago State, the university’s administration has made several attempts to stifle free expression.

The first, in November 2009, came in the form of a draft titled “CSU Policy Manual,” that articulated the purported need for a uniform message to the news media and that “supports the University’s one face to our students [and the] community.” This problematic policy apparently generated enough opposition to be put on the shelf. Undeterred however, the administration then overstepped with January’s “Computer Use Policy,” a vague and poorly written document that could have been construed to subject to disciplinary action the writer of any comments critical of the administration or any administrative persons. Again, considerable opposition to this policy forced the administration to bargain with the union over its wording. The final version has still not been released by the administration. In addition, between November 2009 and January 2012, the university president has also made numerous comments in a variety of venues that indicate that members of the university community should be careful about talking to the media, with the implication that comments by some faculty loose cannon could damage the university’s image.

Finally, the most recent brouhaha over the “communications policy,” represents the failure of the most audacious attempt yet by our administration to silence dissenting voices. This policy, written in a style that should embarrass an average fifth-grader, sounded like a “gag” order issued by some power-drunk magistrate. The fact that someone in the administration saw fit to draft a document like this demonstrates a non-existent understanding of either basic free speech rights or the function of a university.

What has Wayne Watson’s role in these various fiascoes been? There seems to be no paper trail leading directly to the president’s office, but is it not reasonable to assume that, given his demonstrated propensity to micro-manage and his obvious desire to control the message emanating from the school, communications this significant (especially the computer use and communications policies) would require his approval? In any event, the president looks ridiculous here. Either he approved of these imbecilic policies, or a person or persons in his administration is running wild, issuing blustering fiats and writing unenforceable policies that clearly violate the first amendment.

I maintain that it is time for Wayne Watson to step down as president of Chicago State University. If he chooses not to resign, he should be fired by the Board of Trustees. Let us have no more nonsense about what a “good” job he’s doing, it is time for the Board to act in the best interests of the students, staff and faculty at this school. There are several reasons for my belief, most rooted in his contract and its provisions:

1) Wayne Watson is charged with raising money for the university. How has he done in that regard?

2) Wayne Watson is charged with increasing the university’s enrollment. His performance here? Enrollment is down nearly one thousand, to below 6,000 students. Recently, the scandal over the administration’s failure to identify students who were scholastically ineligible for financial aid caused embarrassment for the university. The administration’s response? These were systemic problems and not our fault.

3) Wayne Watson is charged with maintaining good relations with the faculty. His performance has fallen short here. In addition, his management style has apparently been so problematic that the Board recently hired a “Chief of Staff” to help the president manage the university and its personnel.

4) Wayne Watson is charged with reducing the number of audit findings. The most recent audit reveals 34 exceptions (down from 41 in the previous audit), with 22 repeat exceptions. The worst year Elnora Daniel ever had resulted in 20 exceptions. Again the administration’s response is that these problems emanate from systemic deficiencies. Wayne Watson has now had three academic years to identify and fix these problems. The audit results speak for themselves.

Finally, even a cursory glance at the negative press coverage of the university makes clear where the problems are. I am unaware of any major scandal involving the faculty at this university. Indeed, the things that have caused embarrassment for the university are all ultimately the responsibility of the president: missing computer equipment, poor fiscal management, allowing students who should have been dismissed for poor scholarship to continue to enroll and receive financial aid, an antagonistic and disastrous relationship with the news media (except for those fawning acolytes who write puff pieces about the president), and the buffoonish attempts to crush dissent and stifle free speech.

In summary, we have had three years to observe and evaluate Wayne Watson’s leadership at Chicago State. I believe that he has demonstrably failed to live up to the provisions of his contract and should resign or be removed from this position.

1 comment:

  1. One could also add the bad timing in this economy of the old Board of Trustees in 2009 turning over the presidency of our modest university to a millionaire state employee who last month was so publicly exposed for acquiring the most golden of parachutes from his years at Chicago’s City Colleges. Great publicity for CSU—no way to put a gag order on that—and no faculty were quoted in that Better Government Association exposé. Our reputation as a long-standing patronage pit has only been underlined by this double-dipping university president and the patronage hires he continues to make. In 2009 certain parties on campus believed that the criticism of cronyism in the Illinois university system was too idealistic and that Dr Watson’s political connections would bring us many resources. So, what have Dr Watson’s political credentials brought us?