Friday, June 28, 2013

So on her last day as the Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Sandra Westbrooks has requested space on the blog of the Faculty she has served since taking over the job in 2006. Your humble narrator sincerely wishes her the best as new doors open for her. And to Dr. Westbrooks, keep reading that horoscope!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Hey buddy, can you spare $2 million? or, Glenn Meeks we hardly knew ye...

So, the news from last week as revealed by the powers that be to chairs and deans and all the trickle down that they are to communicate is that CSU will have a $2 million shortfall next year in its budget. Not really sure how we got there--the hefty 18-22% raises to various administrators (already in the 6-figure salary range)? loss of tuition income from non-coming freshmen? If anyone knows or has heard the story please advise.

And as you might imagine the cliches are already being readied to be trotted out before the Board of Trustees meeting this Friday (June 28th)--BTW have those 2 Quinn appointees actually been approved yet? Oh, right, what does it matter any longer now that we are in the post-Rozier era?

At any rate, be prepared to:
  1. do "more with less..."
  2. expect more "right-sizing"-- "even on the Administrative side" (yeah, right)
  3. face more "reorganizations" (read: disorganization) of departments
  4. live with a "hiring freeze" (unless you want to go hat in hand to the 3rd floor of the Cook Bldg and kiss rings and beg and beg and beg for a faculty member to be hired)--more on the nonhiring scam known as "job searches" at CSU at another time...
So, to be useful I thought I might suggest a few ways to recoup the lost $2 million.
  1. Re-hire Glenn Meeks (or start answering finance questions with the phrase "what would Glenn do?")
  2. Demand that all those ministers from all those churches who showed up at the March Board meeting rallying for the Prez to be maintained as Prez conduct second collections in their Sunday baskets for the mission of CSU.  Heck, this is Chicago, we could let them skim 25% off the top or whatever the going rate is...
  3. Phone up the Godfather and let him know his baby needs 2 mill. That measly $200,000 he gave in December was strictly "chump change." We know you've got it EJ--put your money where your mouth is...
  4. Turn the president's office into the fund-raising unit of the university that it is at other universities and stop expecting the ILL state politicians to come to the rescue. This is 2013, not 1971. Get out of the time warp already.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Huzzah! The Patronage Pit is Re-accredited!!

Glory Glory --we won't lose our jobs yet! neither will all those City College refugees who now run the place nor the folks who hope their wife/son/husband/child/mother-in-law/ex/ will latch onto the CSU gravy boat.  Read the press release below: Mission accomplished. Well done. Goody goody.

Now if we can only keep it that way...

No  mention made here of two monitoring reports (why ruin our day/you are so negative all the time/you never report the good things that we do here at Emil Jones U...)

In the meantime, since the HLC visit in November, Dr Watson has been doing his very best to do the opposite of what was promised in the HLC report submitted--eg communication (have you heard an announcement from on high of the new provost yet?); shared governance initiatives--eg. faculty will be involved in rewriting the hiring policy, ooh maybe not; eg. enrollment...'nuff said. And of course there now exists the sham of Trustee oversight of the university made plain by Governor Quinn's interference at the behest of you-know-who in March. What would the HLC say to the fact that there is no independent oversight of the president's office now?

So take it at face value, believe what you want to believe, ignore the subtext in the press release if it makes you feel better.
Oh God, more "Paradigm change" a-coming (read: "you will never recover from the crap I am going to dish out to the faculty")

...And pride in "the many stakeholders who came together to demonstrate the institutional strength of CSU" (Read: "I've got Emil and the "community leaders" to scare Gov. Quinn, nuts to the rest of you, this is a southside school and you outsiders should remember that ...")

...And of course "instill a renewed sense of academic excellence" (Read: "even though student complaints are mostly directed at my administration they should not be so happy with the faculty in all those evaluations and self-studies; there are too many tenured faculty...adjuncts are much easier to deal with, one-year chair appointments and interim deans keep the dysfunction going and give me something to then tell the board I will reform...")

CSU Press Release

CC: Channeling my best Bette Davis:
"Fasten your seatbelts, its going to be a bumpy ride! ..."

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Administration We Deserve?

In the past three months, we have ridden an emotional roller coaster as it first appeared we would be rid of Wayne Watson, then the political reality of a “community” uprising spurred by Chicago political players and abetted by a cowardly governor ensured that he would remain. The ensuing carnage included an emboldened and predictably vindictive president and a polarized faculty. In particular, some of our colleagues have objected to the perceived character of specific statements or actions undertaken by the faculty opposed to the president. Since the Watson opposition has been unable to adhere to the standards of perfection demanded by these enablers (some masquerading as critics), they have found it appropriate to remain mute while the administration and its minions continues its attacks on the academic character of this university. For example, there is no need to catalog the various administrative abuses currently occurring in a variety of job searches, if one is interested, that information is easily obtainable simply by speaking with someone on one of the search committees. This administration seems to exist for two primary purposes: 1) to advance its friends by ensuring that they occupy key (and well-paid) management positions at the university; 2) to destroy any opposition through intimidation, firings, manipulation of the hiring and tenure process, and by outright lies and character assassination if necessary.

The contemptible letter sent to the Board of Trustees by Wayne Watson during his recent dispute with the Board illustrates the administration’s preferred method of operation. It is packed with vague accusations, innuendo, personal attacks and bald-faced lies. Given the possibility of the Provost’s impending retirement and the ascendance of one of Watson’s most loyal cronies to her position, it seems useful to review the material that focused on the Provost.

Watson’s two major accusations against Westbrooks included the implication that she played a major part in the policy failures that led to two major audit findings. Watson informed the Board that the “General Counsel [Patrick Cage] was prepared to explain her [Westbrooks] role in facilitating the policy directive that allowed hundreds of students to continue to enroll and receive federal and state aid while not meeting published academic standards.” Also, Watson claimed that Westbrooks had been responsible for the administration of “off-campus class sites that were not approved by our accreditors [or] the federal government.” In addition, Watson accused Westbrooks of giving “false statements to investigators at the University who later uncovered her involvement.” Watson’s letter contained nothing specific about any of the allegations and, most interesting, there was no mention of the office responsible for the administration of both financial aid and academic support: Enrollment Management. Since at least 2010, both those functions have been under the control of the Enrollment Management office yet there is nary a word in Watson’s letter about their culpability in either of the audit findings.

In fact, the university suffered a substantial amount of adverse publicity in 2011 regarding the continuing financial aid paid to students who were ineligible. In 2013, the university had to repay several hundred thousand dollars to the federal government. Since financial aid resides in Enrollment Management and is currently managed by Cheri Sidney, how exactly does the Provost’s Office “facilitate” any policies relative to student loans? Watson’s letter does not explain. The off-campus sites also created federal financial aid issues. In both 2012 and 2013, auditors found the university out of compliance with federal student aid requirements for off-site locations. The 2012 audit found that the university had failed to gain required approval for its off-campus sites from the U.S. Department of Education. Although the university prepared a plan of corrective action, the 2013 audit found that improper disbursements continued between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012, because “staff was still in the midst of implementing the prior year corrective action plan and automating the process which included training on all the steps required for the reporting of a new location.” Thus, despite a year to do so, the team at Enrollment Management failed to correct a major federal financial aid problem.

Given the much ballyhooed “culture of accountability” brought to Chicago State by Wayne Watson, one might expect heads to roll over such major administrative failures. Since his letter blamed the Provost for the audit findings and accused her of being untruthful in her response to investigators, the president would have been justified in summarily dismissing her. What did he do? He covered up the problem and ultimately rewarded Westbrooks with a substantial raise. In his letter to the Board Watson claimed that he “had asked Dr. Westbrooks to resign or retire immediately following our accreditation visit. I handled this matter in a manner to not harm Dr. Westbrooks nor (sic) remove her during a critical re-accreditation process.” The HLC visit occurred in early November 2012. Since it is now mid-June, Dr. Westbrooks obviously neither resigned nor retired following the accreditation visit and Watson rewarded her in March 2013 with an 18.8 percent salary increase. Here’s what I think: any public discussion of these continuing financial aid problems would have exposed the leaders of Enrollment Management as the inept administrators they seem to be, since the real threat to federal funding emanates from Enrollment Management, not the Provost’s Office. Most important, that disclosure might stall the upward progress of two of Watson’s favorite cronies.

For those faculty and staff who have not decided that the opposition to Watson is intemperate and therefore should not be given credibility, I ask you to consider the difference in the evidence supporting our arguments and the evidence marshaled by the administration in support of its position. The contents of this post are supported by actual documents. The organizational positions of Financial Aid and the Office of Academic Support come from university organizational charts. The quotations attributed to Watson are taken from the unsigned and undated letter of late February 2013 titled: “Dear Members of the CSU Board of Trustees.” The material relative to the audits comes from the Compliance Reports of the Illinois Auditor General for the years 2012 and 2013 and is accessible on the web. The Provost’s raise was reported in the Chicago Tribune on March 28, 2013. I would be happy to correct any factual errors if they are brought to my attention.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Just like in 1984 (or that other Orwellian world)

I realize that CSU is "ALL ABOUT THE STUDENTS" (just ask them), but have you noticed how the Administrative Masters of the CSU Universe are erasing faculty out of the picture, figuratively and literally? In the top-down administrative process that concocted a new hiring policy in 2011-2012 essentially ALL hiring is now at the whim of the President, search committees be damned (something unheard of at other universities with a shred of credibility as intellectual institutions as others have pointed out here). And now post-HLC visit we are learning that even faculty retention is carried out by presidential fiat in the form of the "do-over" year for those rejected by their departments or UPC.

So, why is it no surprise that something that should be as innocuous as our CSU website photos of Commencement in fact erase faculty presence from what is supposed to be our main purpose at CSU? Look at the link to the campus webpage below. Major administrators, graduation speakers, students and some parents appear, but where are the faculty? Ignored, erased out of the picture. I know some faculty were there and braved the 3+ hours in attendance.

The administrative masters of the universe and their politician friends need to be reminded that the core relationship in this enterprise we call education is between the students and the faculty.  Take all the buildings away, the sports teams, take away the administrators and their 6-figure salaries, take away all the community leaders and their bombast, students and faculty would find each other and set up shop somewhere. That's how the university system started and that's still its core. Administrators used to see their function as aiding faculty and students, the old "servants of the servants of the students" sort of thing. I could name more than a few that I have known over the years at CSU who really believed this to be their role, but many of them have been fired or retired or have simply left or fled in disgust.

So here in the CSU dystopia Administrators get to take center stage on the dais and faculty are nowhere to be seen. Maybe it's not so much 1984, maybe it's more like Animal Farm.

CSU Commencement

The subtext to the CSU "brand."

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Is academic nepotism a good thing? | Inside Higher Ed

Is academic nepotism a good thing? | Inside Higher Ed

Since we are in the season of hiring (or at least going through the motions of it for God-knows-what reason considering ours is becoming a university of permanent interim positions) this article seemed a propos.
NOTE: second year in a row the Dean of Arts and Sciences Search Committee process has been cancelled--the Master of the CSU Universe Prez will not hire any of the candidates brought forth; no word on the Associate Provost of Graduate Studies decision although that search process ended weeks ago; will there be a new Dean of the College of Education or will that one revert to an interim appointment as well? There will be an interim appointment to Dean of Health Sciences since their dean got the ax recently; and while some candidate was on campus for the Dean of the Honor's College search today, the mood seems to be, "why bother investing any time or effort in hearing these poor candidates give it their all in the interview talks when the Master of the Universe treats these searches like a charade and anyway, he has his own plans for these jobs"?  (Please tell me it is not true that the Master of the Universe is conducting his own interviews while the search committees are doing their work--please tell me this can't be true...)

This article reminds us of how detrimental it is to hire friends and family. Have a look at the entire article. Below I've excerpted some of my favorite passages here --

...But hiring based on kinship is the form of favoritism known as nepotism (and we generally call hiring based on friendship cronyism). It is not illegal (although its effects might be and, where public money and institutions are involved, could potentially be viewed as a form of political corruption). But from an organizational or institutional integrity standpoint, it may be blatantly inequitable and, from a performance standpoint, deeply inefficient.

If, for example, people are given positions for which they do not have the relevant skills, training, or experience, they are unlikely to perform as well as someone recruited on merit, intentionally. They will be difficult, if not impossible, to fire; indeed, such hiring puts supervisors in tough positions. Nepotism undermines all sense of fairness in the human resources process, dampens motivation, and in general breeds distrust. Those from outside may perceive it impossible to get a position if they see that someone has obtained a position that was never posted, or was posted as a formality or legal requirement for a fait-accompli hire. Good people already there may leave, a “cost” that is rarely accounted for, in large part because it is rarely recognized; little connect-the-dot attention is paid to the impact of nepotism on the larger organization.

In institutions where a faculty or administrative hire is, for financial reasons, a rare and hoped-for occasion, lack of an open and competitive search could be a particularly dispiriting, and cynicism-breeding, practice. Productivity drops for everyone when there is a sense that rewards are not based on performance, or real resource needs must be foregone.

A potential risk, of course, is true discrimination, particularly in advancement. From a legal standpoint, it could be argued that this risk is low: the best people, what I call the free agents, will simply leave as noted (and I have seen this consistently in my many years as an organizational consultant, and also seen the accompanying loss of quality and productivity), while those more constrained will be unwilling to challenge for fear of retaliation. It makes for mutual, as well as institutional, distrust.

Certainly, nepotism goes against the fundamental Weberian principle that technical competence (merit), not kinship, social status, or heredity, be the criterion for role assignment. Universities are one of the only institutions that take the dual-career issue as somehow special to them. But of course it is not, and people deal with these choices -- to relocate or not, change jobs or not -- in all their complexity and on their own responsibility every day. So this raises another question, one that is, at heart, an ethical question: is there such a thing as an entitlement to a job? And is the expectation of a job for one’s spouse -- a request for something unrelated to one’s own qualifications or compensation, in addition to one’s own job or compensation, or a contingency for one’s agreement -- proper?

Of course a lot of CSU people live in hope that they will benefit from the nepotism and cronyism that is so rife around here.
...maybe we should put up some signs from the olden days. Back then they spelled out pretty clearly who "need not apply..."

Sunday, June 2, 2013

On the Bridge of the Titanic

Another unique feature of Chicago State as an “educational” institution is the president’s ability to interject himself into hiring and retention decisions for which he has demonstrated no qualifications to assess. For those of you unfamiliar with our search policy, the university president has the ability to interview any candidates for a faculty position from the entire list of applicants. Although faculty search committees ostensibly evaluate applications (except, of course, in Criminal Justice) and decide on the finalists for these positions, the president can summarily reject all the candidates supported by the faculty and substitute his own judgment by hiring anyone he sees fit. This power is extraordinary and not replicated at any other similar institution in the state. For example, although the president has the ultimate authority to make hiring decisions at Governor’s State, Illinois State, Eastern and Northeastern Illinois Universities, s/he takes no active role in the search process and functions primarily in a ceremonial role after hiring decisions are made by deans, vice presidents, or the provost. At none of those schools is the president involved in interviewing candidates or evaluating applicant files. This, of course, makes Chicago State unique.

What are the potential consequences of such practices? Hypothetically, Wayne Watson could decide to hire some personal acquaintance(s) who already have full-time jobs and pay them excessive salaries. In order to accomplish this, established university search policies (as weak as they are) must be circumvented. Therefore, it might be necessary to convene a search committee of persons willing to do the president’s bidding. After the pre-chosen candidate(s) are selected, the president can then claim he was only following the “recommendations” of the committee. Unfortunately, these sinecures can soon be threatened by those pesky DAC requirements that actually require faculty at CSU to do something. In the event that these favored faculty members are demonstrably unqualified for retention, it will be necessary for the president to step in (if faculty are unwilling to cooperate) to ensure that his pals are retained. This necessary action renders invalid any disclaimers that the hiring of the candidates was anything other than cronyism. After all, what is the use of being a university president if you cannot reward your friends and political allies with cushy positions?

As easily as the DAC requirements can be ignored, so can those annoying contractual provisions be sidestepped. The president’s establishment of a new category of employee, the “do-over” faculty member, demonstrates that quite explicitly. This tenure-track purgatory is not part of the CSU-UPI contract. The form used for retention, promotion, etc., does not even have a spot for a “do-over,” decision. This is the sole creation of our president and enables him to perpetually continue faculty on probation, often based on criteria known only to him.

The stigma attached to persons having to endure “do-over” years is not a problem for the president’s closest supporters. Here at Chicago State, if you are in the president’s inner circle of friends, failure is no impediment to advancement. Speculation is rife that when the current provost retires she will be replaced by a long-time Watson crony Angela Henderson. Her performance as head of Enrollment Management has been nothing short of abysmal. The declines in enrollment are well documented and the potential damage to our programs is real. As the person accountable for the performance of her unit, she should be fired, not promoted. As an aside, persons concerned about the “tone” of the anti-Watson rhetoric might note that here I am not criticizing Angela Henderson as a person, rather I am saying that her performance in a Vice President’s position seems to indicate she is more suitable for dismissal than advancement. Finally, if anyone would like to debate her close relationship with the president, I would gladly have that conversation.

Of course, Henderson’s promotion will enable Watson to advance Cheri Sidney to a Vice President’s position. Her qualifications are well-established and, as an Associate Vice President, she must take a major share of the responsibility for the disaster that is Enrollment Management. To be sure, in a well-functioning administration, those responsible for such significant failures would be held accountable. In this one, however, responsibility extends only to taking credit only for the good things. Anything embarrassing or remotely problematic: that is the fault of previous administrations.

Finally, since we have seen two fruitless searches for a new dean of the College of Arts and Sciences is there any reason for a third? How are the searches going in other departments? Have you been able to find candidates acceptable to Wayne Watson?