Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Response to My Colleague

This is a response to the most recent post from a colleague.

Having read your post, I must say that I find it a disappointing mix of innuendo, convoluted logic and special pleading. I will respond to each of your points in order.

Your first paragraph seems to suggest that somehow the absence of one candidate's inclusion in the criticism “validates her hiring.” You then assert that “if the criticism is about the process then the publishing record of all the applicants should not matter. The process is the problem and not the candidates, correct?”

I do not see how the material that precedes this statement and subsequent question supports your conclusion. In fact, if the problem is with the process, it seems like an individual’s failure to meet basic qualifications for a position should be particularly relevant to this discussion. Simply put, neither Lew Myers nor Andre Grant met the minimum qualifications as listed in the job announcement. As for the other candidate, she possesses the requisite qualifications. That is why she is not mentioned. Nonetheless, her hiring (through no fault of her own) is associated with a tainted search and its subsequent dubious outcome. As Dr. Thomson noted at yesterday’s board meeting, no one will know what the list of finalists would have looked like had the faculty been involved, since this search proceeded essentially without any faculty participation. No one from the Criminal Justice faculty interviewed the qualified candidate, a disservice to her.

Your next three paragraphs offer a red herring argument in support of the hiring of Lew Myers, with a perfunctory nod toward Andre Grant. You begin by discussing the “recurring criticism” of the two attorneys and its basis in “their publishing record”–which you declared irrelevant in your opening paragraph. You then note that Andre Grant has been criticized for his lack of teaching experience, which your claim in the opening paragraph also renders irrelevant. You then proceed to shower fulsome praise on Lew Myers for his work as an advocate for social justice. Who has questioned his credentials in those areas? To what criticism are you responding?

The special pleading in your final paragraph makes your meaning clearer. You argue that the community and legal activities of these two faculty should substitute for their lack of scholarly accomplishments, seemingly advocating for an “exemption” from the customary professional standards of the social science disciplines for these two faculty. Your stance raises some questions for me: Should we ignore the UPI-CSU contract for these two persons? Should they be retained, promoted, or given tenure in case of their inability to meet minimum requirements for such action? If so, should not other faculty be given special consideration for their work outside the university? Why have standards in research, teaching and service at all, if activities in those areas are interchangeable?

Let me be clear here, this search deserves to be questioned. One administrator involved in the process described it as “dirty.” Unfortunately, it cannot be undone and all the rhetorical contortions in the world cannot make it right. As a result, those three new faculty will always be associated with a search that should not have been. Blaming the faculty for administrative excesses, as a number of administrative apologists did at the yesterday’s board meeting, will not change that fact. Neither will the arguments you make in your post.


  1. If the Criminal Justice search was problematic, then it does not matter who meets the qualifications. The issue is the search. Therefore, singling out one candidate as having met the qualifications is immaterial.

    At no time have I said or written that the Criminal Justice search should not be questioned. However, I take issue when someone I respect is characterized as unqualified (and in some cases incompetent as a teacher).

    My "special pleading" as you label it, is nothing other than an acknowledgement that universities across this country hire with regularlity people who have made special contributions to their field. These contributions do not negate other factors but they are and should be considered when hiring a faculty member.

    As an aside, how is it that so many people are familiar with the three faculty member's credentials? Is it common practice for candidates' vitae to be public? I can not say with any certainty what any of the Criminal Justice hires have or have not published. I have not asked for their respective curricula vitae.

    Finally, I share your applause of Dr. Thompson's comments. I found him to be thoughtful in a manner that many people have not. There are many different ways to make principled critiques without personal attacks. I would not be writing or speaking about these issues if faculty members were simply challenging the validity of the search and advocating for Dr.Crump. The characterization of the new hires is unprofessional and simply low-class and I will continue to write and speak as I see fit, even against your and others willful intransigence.

  2. You should indeed, continue to speak as you see fit, as will I. You may notice that I wrote my response to your ideas. I think you make poor rhetorical choices with your characterizion of those with whom you disagree as "unprofessional, low-class" or engaging in "willfull intransigence." I'm not sure what kind of response you expect to generate with those kinds of insults.

  3. Read what I wrote: "The characterization of the new hires is unprofessional..." And really, the insults have been coming from one direction aimed at two faculty members, which is why I stand by my comments.

  4. Those of us who were here and optimistically spent time on the search process that brought (some would say imposed) Dr Watson on CSU in 2009 learned a lesson from a sociology colleague who spoke quite eloquently to the Board of Trustees at that time. His words are applicable here: "flawed process leads to flawed outcome." 14 of 15 members of that university-wide search committee quit in protest against the then Board's ramming through of their choice of Dr Watson for president.

    Dr Watson and Mr. Myers may be great community leaders with whom many have served on the barricades against racism. This does not exempt them from the scrutiny others are made to go through in order to obtain the privilege of an academic career not to mention a state job and pension. As another colleague is fond of saying, "this is not church." If the objection is to the vociferousness of the outrage over the placement of another friend of the President, not into an administrative appointment, but this time into a tenure-track position (rare in this day and age no matter what the field) and an appointment made at the associate-level of a near-retirement age lawyer who will make almost twice the salary of the original job advertisement ($94,000+)and a salary higher than anyone in the entire department, then I would say sorry, but this is not church. This is a state institution. Does Mr. Myers need the money? Is this padding a pension? This looks awfully fishy to outsiders who are not as sanguine about Mr Myers' personal qualities. And the fact that you are not outraged over the abuse of presidential power, dean's power, and chair's power in this instance is as much of a scandal to me your colleague, your fellow professor and academic, as your outrage over the perceived slights to Mr. Myers by critics of the flawed process.

    Dr. Watson had options. Why did he not offer Mr Myers a post as Honorary Visiting Professor, a very legitimate way of bringing an elder statesmen of the caliber of Mr Myers to campus. Mr Myers could then omit the burdens of teaching, service,and research and tedious committee work and "trying to get tenure" and focus on what I guess is the reason for his obtaining the job and that is Dr Watson's dream of building a law school. Will Mr Myers get tenure? Note to junior faculty--tenure is becoming a rare event on campus (you might pass through your department, college, and UPC process only to be turned back by the President's Office--remember all the 4th & 5th year retention portfolios whom Dr Watwson has rejected and who were offered do-over years and are now in grievance process against the university. One way to break tenure is not to grant it and not to retain those on the tenure-track).

    Frankly, it seems that Dr Watson is doing for Mr Myers the very thing that he criticized Dr Madhabuti for before he harried Madhabuti off this campus a few years ago--that is, creating a specially privileged position for a faculty member. Of course Mr Myers hasn't criticized Dr Watson (yet), Dr. Madhabuti did.

    Flawed process leads to flawed outcome. The whole business stinks. If it happened in the Criminal Justice Department it could happen in your department. All faculty should be up in arms over this display of pure Chicago ward politics on our campus.

  5. Let me being by stating where I agree with you: I actually agree with you that he could have brought Lew Meyers here as an honorary visiting professor. However,I also believe that in this climate such a decision would have had its fair share of critics. I also agree that faculty should fight to protect the tenure process and insure that it is as fair and transparent as possible.

    Your main point, that I should be outraged at the administration, dean, and chair's power in the search process theoretically is sound and logical. Yet,to believe that I should be more outraged at their administrering of the process, more than "perceived slights to Mr. Meyers" misses something very important, which I think cuts to the core of issues at CSU and beyond.

    Race is always a factor in America. Whether it smacks us in the face or lingers just beneath the surface. Your polite admonishment as a fellow professor and academic implies that my professional identity trumps my identity as an African American. It does not and never will. I was a Black man in America, with all its attendant challenges, long before I was a college professor. I come from the same communities that have a deep respect for Lew Meyers and Andre Grant. Thus, while your logic is theoretically sound, the very idea that I can stand side by side my "colleagues" as they attack Lew Meyers (someone who has taught college for 10 years) credentials is, at best illogical. Similar attacks were launched against Angela Henderson.

    The dynamic of race is something you and some of my other colleagues don't quite get. Rather than address the elephant in the room we behave as if it is not an issue. Quite frankly, I had no desire to jump into the fray. There are things that this administration has done that I have criticized (specifically the dean and provost). However, when I watch the criticism of the Criminal Justice search move beyond critiques of the process to personal attacks against Meyers and Grant, two members of the black community held in high esteem, it is impossible for me to remain silent and to stand with my colleagues.

    Finally, I do wish race was not always an issue, but as one of my colleagues told an audience years ago: "I'll put my rock down once you put yours down." I should add that many folk seem to be oblivious that they have a rock in their hand.

    1. I would ask you to think about what you are describing as "personal attacks" against these two persons. Here is the language from the investigative report relative to the Criminal Justice Search: “None of the documentary material or interviews provide any evidence that either Lewis Myers or Andre Grant participated in the sham search, other than to apply for the positions. That said, it is appropriate to conclude that neither candidate met the basic job requirements described as the preferred criteria for the positions and thus, can be accurately described as ‘unqualified’ based on those criteria.”(17)

      These remarks come from the investigative report regarding the president’s performance: “Despite the obvious lack of preferred qualifications possessed by Andre Grant, he was subsequently hired by Wayne Watson.” (11)

      “The third applicant to be hired, attorney Lewis B. Myers, had teaching experience at Kennedy-King College but possessed neither a Ph.D., nor a record of publications, thus becoming the second candidate hired by Watson who failed to meet the minimum qualifications desired by the Criminal Justice faculty.”(11)

      The Criminal Justice faculty desired specific qualifications, neither Lewis Myers nor Andre Grant possessed them. That is simply a fact. I find it difficult to understand how pointing this out constitutes a "personal attack." If you take the time to examine anything I've posted on this blog, I believe you'll find that I have limited my criticism to the above fact. I certainly have never said that either Lewis Myers or Andre Grant are incapable of teaching here, or anywhere else, only that they did not meet the desired qualifications for their positions.

      I do not agree with your position, but I believe it is sincerely held and based on principle. I believe that the critics of this hiring are also principled and that their objections are based on what they believe is best for this university.

    2. And there are many people here who have worked at CSU a long time and continue to ask when things at this school in this corrupt state, in this corrupt city will change? You have not been here long enough to know how many African American colleagues you could have had—both faculty and administrators. You don’t have a chance to know these people who came here because they wanted to work here and were happy to be doing something for a community of students that they felt needed them. And yet over the past 17 years you don’t know how many have left--in some cases fled-- when they got the chance. There may be many reasons for this but often it was out of disgust with inept management practices—in some cases they were pushed or harried out—sometimes for choosing not to stand for the way this administration and others before it despoiled academics with politics and political patronage. This is the paradox of CSU. It is a school that touts global aspirations, but operates on a provincial level.

      I’m more aware of the double-bind you describe than you may give me and other critics of CSU’s flawed presidential and Criminal Justice searches credit for. Many of the African American colleagues who have departed from CSU described the same thing and I daresay some of them simply got tired of dealing with it and were happy to leave it behind. Criticism of administrative processes or naming individuals involved in these actions does not constitute a personal attack. As for throwing rocks, Dr Watson has characterized his critics as “disgruntled white faculty.” Is this true? Only the white faculty are disgruntled? Or is it that black faculty are caught in the bind and cannot be openly critical because others will see them as out of solidarity and unsupportive of the black community to which they owe their primary allegiance?

      So I understand your desire to stand with your brothers, but why do I not see the rock in your hand for what happened to Tracy Crump and her travails in the original Criminal Justice search that preceded the one that brought Messrs. Myers, Grant, and Dr Bernard to campus? Of all of them, she is the one who has truly endured insult and unfair treatment in this unfortunate process.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. I would like to pick up on Corday's last point. One cannot assert one's blackness to explain why one stands with Wayne Watson against Tracy Crump (and I don't think you can stand with both, although that may be a longer discussion). Tracy was slighted so that Watson could hire other people. Last I looked Tracy was classified in our racist culture as "black" as are most of the students she teaches. She is being asked to teach six courses because, she is told, the new hires are not qualified to teach them. Now everyone here is black. So which black folk do you stand with? Do you stand with the black elite establishment in this racist society or do you stand with the educational needs of working class black students? Affirming black identity will not help here. I have chosen to stand with the educational needs of our students; it is a racist attack on those students to refuse to hire the instructor qualified to teach them in a tenure-track position. We need to fight racism, and the administration at Chicago State has a long history of anti-black racist actions.
    I would like to clarify one point: the original add called not only for a Ph.D. (or ABD) and a record of research and publication but also competence in on-line instruction and in teaching research methods. It is because only Tracy has these last two particular qualifications that she was originally selected and is being asked to teach six classes.

  8. Again, please go back and read what I wrote: "At no time have I said or written that the Criminal Justice search should not be questioned [or challenged]." I think Dr. Crump deserves a fair and impartial hearing on the particulars of her case. If you recall Paul, when I spoke at the board meeting, I prefaced my comments by stating I am not arguing against anything Dr. Crump stated. So to suggest I stand against Tracy Crump is simply false.

    To ask if I stand with the educational needs of our working class students borders on the absurd. How my statements about Lew Meyers equates to being with the establishment and against the students eludes me. However, let me be clear that I am not a Marxist and do not privilege class analysis over other factors. This is why your delineation of being with the "establishment" or the "working class" seems dogmatic. In my view, class issues are connected to culture, religion, race, etc. Life is much more nuanced than you are either for or against the working class.

    My argument was and has been that the challenge of the Criminal Justice hires could have been made without personalizing the issue. Intentional or not (and this goes beyond what people have written on this blog), the three new CJ faculty were framed as the problem.

    Your statement that "affirming my black identity will not help here" are a little off-base. I am not trying to change anyone's opinion. My statements are a defense of Lew Meyers and an explanation of why I have chosen to defend Lew Meyers and Andre Grant.

    Finally, "blackness" and "whitness" are more complicated than phenotype and genotype. I am not so obtuse that I think every Black person is a "brother" or "sister." My worldview is much more complicated...

    1. The challenge to the results of the second Criminal Justice hiring process has been made without personalizing the issue. That Dr Watson, Dean Kanis, and the CJ Dept Chair Perkins chose to dump Tracy Crump and scrap that search was their judgement. That they then chose to hire Mr Myers, Mr Grant, and Dr Bernard without genuine faculty participation was also their judgement. In what way exactly does questioning the judgement of Watson, Kanis, and Perkins over their decisions and in comparing the qualifications of their three hires with Dr Crump's qaulifications constitute "personalizing the issues?" Who has framed the administrative hires as the problem?

      The crux of the problem has always been the failure of the administration to follow proper search procedures. If, however, the full-time and highly paid, tenure-track Mr Myers, Mr Grant, and Dr Bernard are now found to be unable to do what the Criminal Justice Department needs done to cover classes such as distance learning classes etc as Paul notes, that most definitely is a problem.

  9. Finally, a debate on the faculty blog!!
    I believe that attention to race and racism should be part of any social analysis so I am grateful to Paul who first brought up the question of racism regarding the CJ search and now also Kelly.
    As a social scientist I am trained to examine the facts of a given situation or phenomenon; the ‘data’. From this examination I develop an analysis. As a human being, my analysis is informed by my subject positions and my various identities. Therefore, I reserve the right to invoke my Mexicanidad (Mexican-ness , for the uninitiated) when and where I please. Moreover, my experience as a member of the Mexican diaspora is a valid and valued part of my analysis. I thank Dr. Harris for entering this idea into the debate. It is my experience as a racialized subject in the US that allows me to ask important questions about the nature of race and racism in any situation. My guess is that it is Kelly’s experience as a Black man that provides a central source of insight into the machinations of the world. I also know as a trained scholar of race that there are numerous insidious ways that race and racism factor into many aspects of life.
    So, I argue that questions of race should be part of our analysis of the CJ search. In the highly charged racial climate of the United States of America racial motivations must be investigated. I also argue here that we use data, the documentary evidence, to answer some of the charges of racism that are being leveled by Dr. Harris toward the Shared Governance Committee and individual faculty and by Dr. Gomberg toward Wayne and those who conducted the CJ Search.
    I suggest curious readers develop their own analyses of the search and their own answers to these questions by reading the report developed by the Shared Governance Committee. I would also suggest that we examine the history of race and colonialism for insight into the many ways that racism can operate. The facts that colonial masters have always used an elite group from amongst the colonized to suppress them are well documented. This elite group becomes a managerial class or a comprador class. They implement the racist dictates of the colonizers. In this way it is not only the (generally) White settlers and colonizers who act in racist ways but also a select few from the colonized. The following statement by Dr. Harris illustrates the point in a different manner: “I am not so obtuse that I think every Black person is a ‘brother’ or ‘sister’.” We know many of ‘our people’ (however, you define that) who have acted in heinous, racist ways to further their own aspirations and we know that capital uses them for such purposes.
    Finally, the investigative report into the CJ search puts forward an argument that Myers and Grant are unqualified based on how they compare to the minimum job requirements in the job announcement. I stand by this statement and fail to see how it is racist while denying other Black candidates who were qualified is not a racist act. Why is my statement of the evidence racist while the administration’s denial of more qualified Black candidates a job not? As someone accused of racism I would sincerely like to see the evidence and hear the argument.

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. I didn't think that Kelly Harris charged the Shared Governance Committee with racism, as Pancho seems to say he did. I think what he did was explain why he was defending Myers and Grant by saying that his experiences as a black person in this racist society led him to do so. Now, I believe that Kelly's explanation of his defense of Myers and Grant can be challenged, as I did. But I don't see where he charged the Shared Governance Committee with racism.

    I also think that how we are identified in racist society (whether as black, Mexican, or white) does not determine where we will stand on issues of racism--although I acknowledge that statistically people who are identified as members of a demeaned group are more likely to fight racism.

    I agree with Pancho that it is good to have a debate on the blog.

    1. Yes, it is good to have a debate. However, there have been some unfortunate forays into suggestion and innuendo. If we're going to stick to the arguments, we should also try to marshal evidence in support of our contentions. As one of the persons clearly characterized as willfully intransigent, I would like to address the earlier comment complaining about "similar attacks" against Angela Henderson. There is actually evidence that exists regarding the comments made about her. Here's a sample from December 3, 2011. Readers might particularly note the second and final sentences: "Since our new president has taken over leadership of the university, the personnel in the Office of Enrollment management have come to their jobs with quite different credentials. Prior to beginning this discussion, I want to categorically state that there is nothing personal in any of the following comments. I know that administrators often like to deflect the conversation from the subject at hand to the behavior of individuals participating in the discussion. Unfortunately, I do not know how to nicely say that someone is unqualified. I do not personally know any of the individuals I am about to discuss, so I do not want anything I say to be construed as an attack on their character or worth as human beings. Because they lack what I believe should be the minimum qualifications for their jobs, I simply do not think they deserve to hold the positions they occupy. . . As always, if there are factual inaccuracies, they are mine alone and I will be happy to correct them if someone has the consideration to point them out."

      Here's another comment, from September 5, 2012: "In past posts, I have criticized the qualifications of the two persons who are ostensibly responsible for the operation of Enrollment Management: Angela Henderson and Cheri Sidney. Neither has a terminal academic degree and Sidney does not even have an advanced degree; neither had any apparent experience at the university level when they were inexplicably hired for vital jobs at Chicago State. Indeed, their only qualifications seemed to be their previous connections to Wayne Watson and the City Colleges of Chicago."

      So, this criticism of Angela Henderson can be construed as personal? Speaking for myself, I would be happy to have any instances where my "attacks" on Angela Henderson have strayed away from a criticism of her qualifications and entered the realm of criticism of her personal qualities.