Sunday, March 3, 2013

Other Voices

I received the following in my private e-mail. The author requests anonymity, but claims that the letter speaks for a number of others. Since this is an uncensored opinion forum, I will post the letter, unedited and in its entirety.

Wayne “Bush” Watson
We come forward from within Chicago State University to try and separate the circus from its unwilling participants. The staff and students of CSU have unfortunately been caught in the crossfire of a power struggle. In the midst of this power struggle, the tide has shifted. This has gone from being an institution of learning with its students as its foremost concern to the ball in a game of monkey in the middle. Those of us who attend and are employed by CSU are hardest hit by these recent events. It is time for the games and political maneuvers to end. This is an institution of learning, not a battlefield.
We have been in turmoil since Dr. Wayne Watson’s appointment 4 years ago. President Watson, whose presidency heavily resembles that of President Bush, has brought all eyes to CSU for all of the wrong reasons. The scandals that have taken place over the course of his presidency have greatly harmed the university and have taken the spotlight away from what is truly important, education. Instead we have been marred by blow after blow to this institution, heavily damaging its reputation. From the outside looking in this must all appear to be a joke, but to those of us involved this is no laughing matter.
This would all perhaps be for not were Dr. Watson a great leader of this institution. However, CSU continues to struggle. Enrollment has been down the past 2 years and graduation rates are not good. Over the course of the last year there have been many questionable policy changes and investigations into the practices of his administration. Overall, his leadership has led to a decline in student and faculty morale and major divisions within the university. His purported achievements are, “streamlining operations, addressing fiscal concerns and establishing a culture of accountability”. These are little more than sweet nothings which read like the vague and ambiguous ramblings of a hyperbolized resume. He is a political player the likes of President Bush, bringing about war, discord, and humiliation.
There have been suspicions of cronyism and nepotism in recent hires although Dr. Watson fervently denies this. The investigation and its results were questionable at best. Meanwhile, many good respected members of this school have become casualties. Mary Butler, Director of Evaluations and Advising, Dr. Cheryl Green, Dean, and Felicia Horton, Assistant Director of the Marketing and Communications department have all been wrongfully terminated. The TRIO center, which is pivotal for those who are underprivileged and perhaps first generation college attendees, is crumbling without Dr. Patricia George, who unexpectedly retired, speculatively against her will. Meanwhile, Dr. Watson continues to bring in hires without proper protocol and with salary spikes.
In the tumultuous events of the last few years, many employees fear for their jobs while students fear the loss of their favorite and most trusted allies on staff. Many pillars of the institution are being pushed out, leaving students in despair. In one case a student returned from out of state to visit her mentor, Brenda Hooker, only to find she had been terminated. Mrs. Hooker, the former Financial Aid Director, had worked at CSU for 25 years. This particular student had felt touched by Mrs. Hooker, who gave her a job and was a major support after her brother was killed and her mother was shot. Mrs. Hooker is a mentor to many. This kind of contribution to the CSU experience cannot be readily replaced. Whoever will be replacing Mrs. Hooker, under Dr. Watson’s appointment, may be receiving a 6 figure salary, as has been the case with his other recent hires.
The institution is falling down around our ears and, according to Dr. Watson, it’s everyone’s fault except his. He continues to claim conspiracies against him and refuses to accept his yearlong sabbatical and subsequent retirement. Although our provost Sandra Westbrooks has been declared his replacement, Dr. Watson insists he is still acting president. His actions are disruptive to the operation of CSU. In the last year alone, CSU has been put under Patriot Act style policies, demonizing anyone who dare challenge the administration. This continues with Dr. Watson’s insistence that all of those opposed to him are simply doing so because of personal vendettas. Yet, he had to bring in politicians and other outsiders for support. Admittedly, Dr. Watson is a good politician; however, a good politician does not a good president make.
This is not about Dr. Wayne Watson. This is about the students, for which this university exists. Nothing is more important than our environment, which should be an environment that enables learning and expanding. How can anyone be expected to do this in such a toxic state, filled with spectacle, fear, and instability? What is best is that Dr. Watson step aside so that CSU can move forward without further speculation and trauma. The top priority in this situation should always be the students. Not gossip, scandal, pride, or political warfare. This is about what is best for the students. The answer is certainly not waiting in limbo while shots are fired between the school’s top officials. In order to restore pride to those who work and learn at CSU we need to move forward with a new leader, who can build us up, not bring us down.

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