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?


  1. And let's not forget the hypocrisy of the "do-over" year for Dr Watson's special faculty hires. Last year at this time he was telling us that our department DACs weren't strong enough and needed massive reforming and he and the deans and chairs were going to improve their rigor: too many people were getting retained too easily, too many people were getting tenured. Now, apparently, the DACs are too difficult... CSU job-gift U. Cynical. Hypocritical. Political. Provincial.

  2. Siddown and shut your pie holes. This is CHICAGO! Don't like it? LEAVE!

    If you continue to complain, the IRS will come after you.

    You have been duly warned.