Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Change is Long Overdue

As we begin another school year, administrative excesses have once again created an atmosphere of uncertainty and turmoil on our campus. In the fourth year of Wayne Watson’s “leadership,” our administration is operating even more brazenly to turn this campus into nothing more than a source of political favors and lucre. Faculty efforts to bring quality persons to campus are consistently ignored and in academic matters, the judgment of persons with no academic credentials is substituted for the judgement of people who are best qualified to know which candidates are best qualified to teach, administer, and become colleagues. In addition, the administration fails to provide basic services or to make changes to policies modified in negotiation with the faculty union.

Some of these issues may seem trivial, but in their totality, they demonstrate the contempt our administration has for this school’s faculty and students. Frankly, if it did not have serious consequences, the ineptitude of this administration would be laughable. First, the administration apparently has no idea which disciplines are in which departments. Just yesterday, I received an e-mail from someone in the administration requesting that I confirm the office addresses and telephone numbers of the faculty in the department. The names reflected the configuration of the department prior to 2011, when the pointless College reorganization took place. The list had the old department’s office in a room in which it had never resided. Obviously, the administration does not remember the new configurations created by the presidentially-mandated reorganization.

Along the same lines, the printed course schedule reflects our discipline as still being a part of the old department. The department’s old office number appears in the course schedule as does the old telephone number. Again, this reflects the lack of knowledge, or lack of concern, by persons in our administration. The potential annoyance and confusion created by these failures pales in comparison with the administration’s most important omission, the lack of a current university catalog. When will the 2012-14 catalog be completed? Neither incoming students nor advisors are able to effectively plan when we do not have the basic tools to do so.

The administration also continues to thumb its nose at the concept of consultation and shared governance. A check of the human resources page on our website reveals the original version of the computer usage policy as university policy. Although representatives of the union and administration met in February to negotiate the language, and although a number of substantive changes emerged from the negotiations, the same egregious and vague iteration still appears on the official university website. I suppose those of us who did not sign the policy can expect our computer access to be disconnected soon. Whether by design or due to simple incompetence, for students, faculty and staff, the performance of our administration continues to compromise the university’s educational mission.

Most recently, the administration apparently ordered the Criminal Justice program to hire three tenure-track appointments immediately or lose the positions. How the selection process unfolded for the eleven candidates for the three positions seems opaque, although the Dean’s office and department chair were apparently leading the interview process. Of the eleven candidates, only three held the Ph.D, while one was ABD. The irregular nature of this process and its outcome suggests that something like political loyalty may be becoming the most important qualification for a job at Chicago State.

Of course, all this is occurring against the backdrop of the DAC fiasco, orchestrated by our president and his minions. The entire process represents a gross violation of our contract and again demonstrates the disdain with which our president views university faculty. In the past several months, I have heard Watson apologists decry the faculty’s use of the blog to “air our dirty linen in public,” and urge faculty to get involved in various committees on campus because the administration so “values” our participation and input. To people holding those beliefs, I say that there is scant (or no) evidence that the administration values our input, given that faculty recommendations are consistently ignored. As for “airing our dirty linen in public,” silence only serves to strengthen the position of an administration that has consistently demonstrated its unwillingness to act in good faith toward CSU faculty and staff.

I cannot understand why Wayne Watson still has a job here. Article III of the contract between Watson and the CSU Board of Trustees includes seven criteria by which the board will ostensibly judge the president’s performance. They are: 1) improve the university’s fiscal performance (audits, etc.); 2) improve the “time-to-graduation” of our students; 3) increase our enrollment; 4) implement educational programs that currently are not fully integrated into the University (these are unspecified); 5) improve relationships with faculty; 6) enhance the University’s fund-raising capacities; 7) improve the University’s media relations and public image. My examination of his performance leads me to conclude that he has demonstrably failed on criteria 1, 3, 5, 6 and 7, and had some success with criteria 2. Since I am not sure what criteria 4 entails, I cannot judge his performance there. I wonder in how many jobs an incumbent would retain her/his position while failing at least five of its seven performance criteria? Since I am not affiliated with the administration, it is entirely possible that I am unaware of the successes the president has achieved in these seven criteria. I would be especially pleased to hear of his accomplishments relative to criteria 1, 3, 5, 6 and 7.

Our administration and its apparatchiks (and others) are fond of deriding the opposition to Watson’s leadership as coming from a small group of dissatisfied faculty. Apparently, the recent satisfaction survey conducted prior to the HLC visit revealed that faculty and staff disaffection is considerably wider than only a few “disgruntled” employees. Given the recent spate of activities by our administration, I believe this disaffection will increase. After four years, it seems fair to say that Wayne Watson’s leadership style features the creation of fear and division among the staff, complete contempt for the faculty, and threats toward many of his administrative personnel. His (abetted by some of his administrators) attempts to impose his will on our school by intimidation and bullying stand in counterpoint to what an educational institution should represent.

Based on his performance, I have been convinced for some time that Wayne Watson should be fired. I can only say that recent events have strengthened that conviction. I now wonder what is wrong with Chicago State’s Board of Trustees? How can they continue to ignore the substantive failures of this administration? Why can they not see the effects of failed leadership on the university’s reputation, the morale of its employees, and its frequent public relations disasters? Why do they not notice how our enrollment continues to decline? how our financial situation continues to deteriorate? how the school’s administrative ranks are increasingly populated by people who appear to be politically connected or former employees of the City Colleges?

I would be pleased to hear from others on this subject. Of course, if I have made factual errors, if they are brought to my attention, I will immediately correct them.

As an aside, I would like to express my appreciation to Mary Butler, former head of evaluations, for her tireless efforts on behalf of our students and the university. I cannot fathom why someone as knowledgeable, diligent and competent as Ms. Butler would find herself without a job. Best of luck to you Mary!

1 comment:

  1. CSU is run more like a Chicago Precinct Ward lately with its cronyism and especially with leaders whose tactics are threats and intimidation. As we are saying goodbye to certain colleagues like Mary Butler--We should send best wishes to Dr Juanita Sharpe of Biology who left CSU this summer to take a position in Virginia. CSU, as a minority-serving institution, was a place she had wanted to be and she mentored many young women interested in science. I count her as a great loss to our students.