Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The No Confidence Vote, Make Your Own Decision

On Tuesday, November 6, 2012, the Chicago State University Faculty Senate, acting, in part, on the information contained in a report on President Watson’s performance, overwhelmingly passed a motion of “no confidence” in the president’s ability to lead the university. The Senate withheld publication of this action in order to avoid creating a distraction, and to give the president an opportunity to respond. The accrediting team and Chicago State’s Board of Trustees were both notified immediately–the Trustees, as is their policy, by communicating the motion through the Provost’s office and the Chicago State administration. The full report by the Senate’s Shared Governance Committee is available here: https://sites.google.com/a/csu.edu/csu-faculty-senate/documents

While the Higher Learning Commission accreditation team indicated during their visit that they were aware of the “no confidence” vote, they told the Faculty Senate’s Executive Committee that they had heard nothing about the motion from the Board of Trustees, and that the Board had made no comment about existing tensions between faculty and the administration.

On November 13, 2012, the president sent a response to a number of faculty and students, although the list was not inclusive. Frankly, the caliber of the response validates many of the concerns raised in the Senate’s report. The response ignored the substantive issues raised in the report as well as the evidence used to demonstrate the document’s claims. Predictably, the response bemoaned the criticism of individuals and attempted to deflect the discussion from the president’s performance to the behavior of his critics. Some notable highlights include:

The president writes: “I want to thank those senators who voted not to support the Senate’s action.”

The Faculty Senate voted 28-2 with 2 abstentions in favor of a no confidence motion.

In the next paragraph, the president writes: “Both the “evaluation” and “summary of findings” contain overreaching statements of opinion, but fall woefully short of presenting substantiated facts and context in support thereof.”

Please refer to the linked document and judge for yourself whether it contains “overreaching statements of opinion” and is bereft of “substantiated facts and context.”

Finally, later in his reponse the president writes:

"On a personal level, I am disappointed that the Shared Governance Committee of the Faculty Senate would engage in public discourse about any of our colleagues. Those individuals mentioned in your document are professionals who command respect in the higher education marketplace because of their experience and documented capabilities. As higher education leaders and managers, their qualifications are unimpeachable.

Unfortunately, these types of opinionated, personal attacks, which lack facts and context, have been made too easily accessible to persons outside of the University—families, friends, neighbors, professional associates, and future employer—and can be damaging on both a personal and professional level. We are one institution with a shared goal of educating students."

Again, please refer to the linked document and judge for yourself whether its comments regarding various administrators are defamatory.

Unfortunately, the president and his supporters are not able to have the conversation they wish. The Orwellian response of this administration changes nothing. Wayne Watson’s tenure has been a failure. In concordance with the Faculty Senate’s motion, he should be removed from his position as president of Chicago State University.

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