Sunday, March 3, 2013

Our Take on the "Culture of Change"

This a copy of a proposed op-ed piece sent to the Chicago Tribune this morning. There is certainly a possibility it will not be published, so we're reprinting it here. We believe that to praise Watson for such tripe as "forward" movement and "cultural change," is simply a smokescreen. We have substantive problems here, detailed by the faculty senate. The reason Watson's supporters do not want to discuss the university's most pressing day-to-day problems is because this president and his administrative "team" have failed to solve them.

Here's the submission:

At Friday’s Chicago State University Board of Trustees meeting, a narrative emerged that positioned university president Wayne Watson as a victim fighting for his position against a raft of spurious charges. Rather than talk about how he had successfully addressed the concrete problems facing the school, his defenders praised him effusively for amorphous achievements like: moving the university “forward,” or for “trying to create a culture of change.” Emil Jones said, "I don't want to see a president that is doing the job discharged for frivolous reasons that seem stupid and ridiculous." We are not fooled by this empty rhetoric and we can offer substantive reasons for his removal that are not “frivolous,” “stupid” or “ridiculous.”

Wayne Watson is hardly moving the university “forward.” He has failed in five of the seven categories the Board of Trustees created to measure his effectiveness: enrollment, audit findings, the university’s endowment, relations with the faculty, and the university’s public image. The university’s enrollment has decreased 18 percent in the past two years, audit findings far exceed the troubling levels achieved by the previous administration, the university’s endowment is down by more than $500,000, relations between Watson and faculty have deteriorated dramatically, and the school’s public image is unquestionably negative. These are our major day-to-day problems. Their continued existence demonstrates his failure.

Watson’s so-called “culture of change,” actually looks very much like Chicago political “business as usual.” He governs by edict. He interferes in areas in which he has no expertise. His administration has made at least two attempts to stifle free expression on campus. He has populated the university’s upper administrative ranks with former associates from the City Colleges we believe are unqualified for their jobs, all earning hefty salaries. He is romantically involved with one of his Associate Vice Presidents. Instead of an advanced degree, the standard for senior university management positions, this person holds only an online bachelor’s degree. Prior to coming to Chicago State, she possessed no university management experience. Nonetheless, in 2009, Watson hired her. He subsequently promoted her to her current position, at a salary of $110,004. Although we do not care about Wayne Watson’s personal relationships, we care deeply about the qualifications, performance and ethics of the members of our university community.

We want our university divorced from the dysfunctional world of Chicago and Illinois state politics. This school should not be a haven for crony hires and a place where unqualified people can go to collect a large paycheck. Our school should serve our students. The installation of a competent new administration, not indebted to local kingmakers for their positions, will allow us to accomplish what should be our primary goal: providing a quality education for our students.

Yesterday, Watson’s attorney Victor Henderson, who is apparently the husband of the head of Chicago State’s Enrollment Management department, compared Watson’s travails with those of Jesus and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Watson received compensation worth nearly $800,000 upon his departure from the City Colleges. He currently earns $250,000 per year from CSU. Is a well-compensated university president’s struggle to retain his job equivalent to the experience of martyrs whose social advocacy resulted in their murders? This seems an insult to anyone who ever suffered for a legitimate cause. Wayne Watson is not the victim here. The real victims are the taxpayers of Illinois and the students, staff, and faculty of Chicago State. Only competent leadership will provide CSU the opportunity to move “forward.”

Robert E. Bionaz, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of History

Chicago State University

Ann E. Kuzdale, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of History

Chicago State University

1 comment:

  1. Bravo! If the Tribune doesn't publish it, I would encourage you to send it to other news outlets as well. Thanks for publishing it here -- I stand with you and for the students!