Monday, September 10, 2012

The Last Straw? Blatant Cronyism and the Continuing Assault on Academic Integrity and Quality of Education

Wouldn’t it be nice if Chicago State University students received the best education that faculty could provide?  Wouldn’t it be nice if faculty could concentrate on their calling – teaching, scholarship, and service – without time-consuming distractions from someone who revels in picking fights?  Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a president who understood what a university is and recognized the need to work closely in a spirit of mutual respect with faculty, staff, students, the community, and the public to make the university the best that it can be? 

Instead, students, staff, and faculty have to deal with a toxic quagmire of centralized control and censorship, cronyism, bad faith, willful ignorance, cynicism, and cowardice.  The latest outrage was a putative search in one department for tenure-track, assistant professors, a search rife with irregularities and mendacity.  It took place at the last minute, just prior to the start of this Fall Semester.  The president ordered it and the dean’s office and department chair orchestrated it, excluding faculty from the process (including the chair of the previous search committee which the hijacked search now appropriated and eviscerated).  Most of the finalists called for interviews the week before classes began did not meet the qualifications stated in the job announcement.  At least two of the three candidates selected for hiring lacked those essential qualifications.  Appointing these individuals meant passing over three others with outstanding qualifications who would have greatly improved the program and better met the educational needs of our students.  Instead, the administration conspired to conduct a sham, wired search that betrayed the academic integrity and quality of the program and made a mockery of any claim of shared governance.  

We might view this latest outrage as just one more in the long list inflicted by the current regime before it even took office.  They began with unwarranted castigation of the faculty and recently have included fiascoes regarding attempted censorship, on-line evaluations, time sheets, Departmental Application of Criteria, and recurrent violations of the union contract.  Other posts on this blog have tracked these transgressions, with some receiving shocked attention from external publications, including The Chronicle of Higher Education.  

So in a sense, yes, this blatant administrative interference is just one more offense.  But it is especially ominous.  It points toward administrative infiltration of the faculty by way of a Trojan horse strategy.  It threatens that anything goes, that the soul of the university is totally up for grabs.  If faculty have no say in the hiring of new faculty, every program is vulnerable to what happened last month.  

More details may follow as various investigations commence regarding this sad betrayal of one of our academic programs.  In the meantime, we all would do well to focus on the underlying source and to continue to challenge it collectively whenever possible.

Bullies continue with impunity to push others around because they have not been effectively challenged.  Bullies continue to have their way because they have learned that they can get away with it, as others cower from them, egg them on, or stand silent.  Is that what we are dealing with at Chicago State University?  Is that what this reign of intimidation (mixed with gross incompetence) means? 

If so, where is the outrage?  Where is the demand for administrative excellence, for good faith and good will, for a spirit of cooperation, working together to realize the potential of a university that provides its students what they need and its community what it deserves?  What does it say when only silence greets egregious abuse of authority?  Does anyone out there care about CSU?  Does anyone within CSU care? 

The time has come to rise up and condemn this regime.  The time has come to replace it with good leadership that puts the quality of education first and works effectively with all to achieve it. 


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