Saturday, October 6, 2012

Fear the HLC?

The administration wants the faculty at Chicago State to get on board with the language in the HLC self study and not jeopardize the school’s accreditation since there are a some forces in the state who want to close the school. Let’s take a look at what they’re asking and try to determine who might be responsible for any consequences that might come out of the impending process.

On the troubling issue of shared governance, Wayne Watson and his administration have demonstrated no commitment to this ideal. They sometimes spout the rhetoric, but in the most insincere and cynical way possible. Witness the recent DAC process and the search for Criminal Justice faculty as examples; many more could be cited. The University’s Strategic Plan, or ACCESS, succinctly demonstrates the problem. Its definition of shared governance reads: “Shared Governance - The relationship between the administration, faculty, staff and students in which all constituents participate in giving direction and advice to the university on important policy decisions. “

Compare this to the 1966 AAUP definition: “The faculty has primary responsibility for such fundamental areas as curriculum, subject matter and methods of instruction, research, faculty status, and those aspects of student life which relate to the educational process. On these matters the power of review or final decision lodged in the governing board or delegated by it to the president should be exercised adversely only in exceptional circumstances, and for reasons communicated to the faculty.”

The AAUP definition continues: “Faculty status and related matters are primarily a faculty responsibility; this area includes appointments, reappointments, decisions not to reappoint, promotions, the granting of tenure, and dismissal. The primary responsibility of the faculty for such matters is based upon the fact that its judgment is central to general educational policy. Furthermore, scholars in a particular field or activity have the chief competence for judging the work of their colleagues; in such competence it is implicit that responsibility exists for both adverse and favorable judgments.”

Throughout the tenure of Wayne Watson and his minions, our administration has consistently ignored or minimized the role of faculty in areas in which we should have primacy. Chicago State’s faculty are not simply advisory. We are trained professionals with expertise in higher education generally and our disciplines in particular. Simply put, in curricular and academic matters, the administration’s lack of knowledge should give way to faculty expertise.

This, of course, does not happen here. Faculty are constantly admonished that they are simply acting in an “advisory role.” Our input is not sought, except in the most perfunctory and insincere ways. In hiring, we are not permitted to rank candidates, but Department Chairs and Deans who may have no knowledge about our disciplines are. In the most recent search policy written by Labor and Legal Affairs, even the Department Chairs and Deans are now cut out of the process. Simply put, this administration has largely done what it pleased and has often run roughshod over faculty for three years now. We’ve achieved some victories by resisting the most egregious attempts at administrative control, but recent events demonstrate that the administration is apparently redoubling its efforts to destroy what little power faculty retain at this institution.

Perhaps I am being hyperbolic here, or even hysterical, but I contend that whatever your position on the effectiveness of Wayne Watson’s administration, you must concede that there are unresolved problems relative to the notion of shared governance.

The University’s recent Self-Study somewhat obliquely acknowledges these problems. This passage appears on page 59: “In some situations, faculty have expressed a concern about the level of faculty input in academic matters at CSU. Some of these concerns (such as the revision of general education outcomes) have been resolved through consultation and collaboration with the Faculty Senate, while others remain contentious. Both faculty and administrators recognize that some tension within the process of shared governance can be productive as it creates an environment of creative engagement.” This watered-down nod to the significant problems created by administrative overreach hardly does justice to the contention some administrative actions have created. This is in no way a criticism of the authors of the original document, who labored diligently to produce a quality product. Rather it recognizes the hand of the administration in spinning the issue to the point they actually turn it into a positive. In any event, it is an improvement on the Orwellian contention in earlier iterations of this document that included this outright lie: “Faculty has responsibility for such fundamental areas as curriculum, subject matter and methods of instruction, research, faculty status, and those aspects of student life which relate to the educational process. The faculty exercised this role in the development of a capstone/thesis requirement for undergraduates and the general education assessment outcomes. Emergent issues are resolved through collaborations that strengthen CSU’s curriculum, communications and shared governance (Response to HLC Criterion 1, downloaded from CSU website, September 22, 2012).”

Now, the administration needs our help. Our president fears that during the HLC visit that some faculty will “go rogue,” apparently defined as “airing our dirty linen in public.” To prevent this, the administration urges us to close ranks and protect the garrison (university), with no indication that they accept any responsibility for or are even aware of faculty discontent. We are warned that there are powerful persons in the state who bear Chicago State ill will and want it closed down. I wonder why the president did not think of this when he–almost gratuitously it seems–created the furor over the recent DAC submissions? When he acted in a manner that clearly violated the CSU-UPI contract? I wonder why the president did not think of this when he injected himself into the recent Criminal Justice search that resulted in crony hires making outlandish salaries for entry-level faculty?

On several occasions, I have called for the firing of this president. I still believe that he should be dismissed; I continue to contend that he has failed in at least five of the seven criteria established by the Board to assess his performance. Will saying this to an outside agency result in Chicago State not being accredited? I highly doubt that. However, the upcoming HLC process enables us, as representatives of our university, to make clear to an accrediting body that a goodly number of students, faculty and staff at Chicago State do not endorse the behavior of our administrators. The lack of good faith shown by this administration on many issues for the past three years has resulted in the need for its representatives to spin falsehoods and fantasies to cover their tracks. We do not have to play this game. We can approach this process with integrity and make clear to the accrediting body that we are only concerned with protecting institutional integrity and the best interests of the University’s faculty, staff, students, and yes, even its administrators. If that is “going rogue,” so be it.


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    1. Reposted to correct a typo:

      I am one of the co-chairs of the CSU HLC Criterion One committee, and a faculty member in the Dept. of Occupational Therapy. I also wrote the passage of shared governance that you are quoting. The passage is based on input from my committee, and it was developed in consultation with other faculty and administrators on campus, but I am responsible for selecting the final wording which was then approved by the Steering Committee. If you would like to discuss this with me directly, my ext is 2453, and my email is
      -Sarah Austin

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  3. To the administrator of this site: How can a follower of this Blog start a new thread??