Monday, September 16, 2013

Patronage or just a reward for services rendered?

In the past two years, university employees with close ties to Wayne Watson have benefitted materially from those ties. The four administrative employees Watson brought on board in late 2009, Police Chief Ronnie Watson, Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management Cheri Sidney, General Counsel Patrick Cage and Human Resources Director Renee Mitchell have received raises averaging 19.9 percent over the past two years. During that time, the salaries of these four have risen from an average of $114,928 to $137,804.

These four persons are part of an eight person group who either worked with Watson at City Colleges of Chicago, have a close personal relationship with him or have demonstrated unwavering loyalty to Watson for the past few years. The others in this group: Associate Vice President of Finance Maricela Aranda, Vice President of Sponsored Programs Yvonne Harris, Executive Director of Project Counseling (TRIO) Jasmika Cook and of course, newly-minted PhD (according to Human Resources--that information is yet to be verified independently) and Provost Angela Henderson. The average raise for these eight persons in the past two years: 17.65 percent.

The overall salary increase for all full-time employees at Chicago State for the past two years has been 8.4 percent or an average of 4.2 percent per year. In comparison with the eight persons above, the three Deans who have retained their positions for the past two years have seen their salaries increase 6.7 percent (3.35 percent per year), while the nine chairs have enjoyed a 4.7 percent (2.35 percent/year) raise. In addition, in 2011, the salary difference between the 8 Watson-connected administrators and the 12 deans and chairs stood at 10 percent. Following the raises Watson awarded to his most valued administrators, the difference now stands at 23 percent.

As far as individuals are concerned, the biggest raises have gone to persons who are part of the Watson group of eight. Leading the way is the new Provost Angela Henderson with a promotion and a likely salary increase of 38.7 percent, (this is an estimate based on the most recent raise that put the Provost at a higher salary than the Dean of the College of Pharmacy). Given Henderson’s abysmal performance as Vice President of Enrollment Management (university enrollment down better than 21 percent for the past three years, including 15.8 percent since she came to Chicago State, retention rate down), it is amazing that she still has a job, particularly in light of the president’s much ballyhooed (cynical?) focus on “responsibility and accountability.” Of course, Henderson possesses other qualifications: she is a long-time Watson crony, having worked for him and been the recipient of his benevolence at City Colleges. And let us not forget the sterling performance of her husband, Victor Henderson, defending Watson valiantly against the "scurrilous" accusations hurled against him in March.

Not surprisingly, second place on the list of individual raises goes to Human Resources Director Renee Mitchell (25.0 percent). Mitchell produced that amazingly contradictory whitewash of the Criminal Justice hirings in 2012. Third place belongs to Watson’s girlfriend, Cheri Sidney, who has enjoyed at least one promotion and a salary increase of 19.3 percent. Sidney’s lack of qualifications are well-documented, an on-line Bachelor’s degree from DePaul when she was hired with no significant upper administrative experience and no administrative experience whatsoever in institutions of higher education. Sidney, who has seen her salary increase 25.9 percent since her hiring in 2009, now has a Master’s Degree in Applied Professional Studies from the DePaul School for New Learning (awarded June 14, 2013). Anyone wishing to explore the rigor of that particular degree program can simply log on to the School for New Learning website. Since coming to Chicago State, Sidney has been an integral part of the failures of the Enrollment Management colossus.

Fourth place belongs to Police Chief Ronnie Watson with an 18.9 percent increase. Watson, who has additional duties related to buildings and grounds, physical facilities and parking, now makes $137,916 and has the responsibility for a staff of 109, including 26 badge personnel (according to the Chicago State directory). Watson’s salary is comparable to the lower salary range of a Chicago Police Commander who is responsible for one of the city’s twenty-plus police districts and hundreds of employees.

Rounding out the top five is Patrick Cage at a 17.4 percent raise since 2011. We all know Mr. Cage from his several forays into censorship and his nonsensical 2012 comments about Chicago State’s loss of a first amendment case that eventually cost the university over $200,000 in court costs and legal fees, as actually a “win” for the university. Although it should be noted that the first amendment violation did not occur on Wayne Watson’s watch, Cage’s statements exposed the university to additional ridicule.

When Watson awarded huge raises to three administrators at the beginning of the year, university spokesperson Thomas Wogan claimed that the raises were based on “merit and performance” and that “competitive salaries are needed to retain talented employees.” For at least two of Watson’s favorites, their “merit and performance” should have earned them termination. For the others, when compared to some of their fellow administrators, their connections to Wayne Watson appear to be an important factor in determining their worth. Compared to these generous pay increases, how have you fared?


  1. In Rebuttal to the Blog entitled: “Patronage or Just a Reward for Services Rendered” posted Monday, September 16, 2013

    “Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
    Is the immediate jewel of their souls:
    Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing;
    ’twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
    But he that filches from me my good name
    Robs me of that which not enriches him,
    And makes me poor indeed.”
    ― William Shakespeare, Othello

    My father once told me that the most precious thing that I will ever own is my name. “Guard it,” he said, “even if it cost every cent you have; because without a good name you are beyond poor, you are destitute.” This is from a man who didn’t earn a title, large salary, raised on a farm and worked two jobs to make sure that his family had everything they needed in life; including, a sense of integrity, honesty and hard work. I usually don’t comment on blogs; however, after reading yours, I heard my father speak.

    You have made some assumptions about who I am and my history. I never worked directly with Dr. Watson at City Colleges of Chicago nor do I presume to have a close personal relationship. I was never at the downtown district office. I was a full-time faculty member at Truman College who was asked by President Helm (President Emeritus of Truman College) to become Chair of the Biology Department. She gave me a directive to grow that department and over the course of 8 years I did exactly that. I brought in over $4.0 million dollars in grants and increased enrollment significantly. Please feel free to call some of my colleagues, who are still in the department, and who I believe would be happy to speak of my tenure as Chair.

    Because of my work at Truman and other state initiatives, I was recruited by Harper College’s chemistry department to apply for the Dean’s position of the Division of Mathematics and Sciences. The VPAA at the time charged me with bringing the Division’s spending under budget, help revitalize the pre-engineering and increase diversity of the faculty. I accomplished the goal that was set. Again, feel free to call my colleagues there as well.

    When I was recruited to CSU, it was with the directive to rebuild Sponsored Programs. I was interviewed by Dean Rachel Lindsey and Provost Westbrooks and offered the position of Interim Associate Vice President and told that the full position was contingent upon a search. I left a nice position as Dean to come to CSU because I saw an institution with a great deal of promise and the potential to make a difference to people who needed it. The search committee recommended me for the full position. Having accepted the position, I also accepted Dr. Watson as the Executive Officer of the Chicago State University, in other words, he is my boss. As with all of those to whom I’ve reported, whether at Truman, Harper, or CSU, I give my best because that is how I was raised. That is part of my work ethic. Since I’ve held the position of AVP (not VP) of Sponsored Programs, I have rebuilt Sponsored Program with a working infrastructure that decreased the audit findings for grants by 85% over two years.

    As a person trained in the sciences I do have a healthy respect for facts. As Mark Twain stated, “Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.” But then he also stated, “Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.” With respect to your statement “The average raise for these eight persons in the past two years: 17.65 percent” is very misleading. I cannot speak for the others that are named but I can speak for myself. When I began in 2010, I made less than my predecessor. I received a cost of living raise of 3% in 2011 and 2012 … a very far cry from 17.65%. These are the facts. They can be substantiated since my salary is public record. Now you may go forth and distort as much as you please.

    1. Here's what the "distortion" amounts to. According to the Fiscal Year 2012 report from the university provided to the Illinois State Legislature, you were hired in August 2010 at a salary of $103,247. According to the IBHE website, you currently make $127,308.00. By my arithmetic, that's a 23.3 percent increase. Are you saying that the figures supplied by the university are incorrect? I made no assertions about your personal connections to Watson. I also made no assertions about you working closely with him at the district office. I appreciate your work ethic and by all accounts you are quite good at what you do. Nonetheless, three-plus years working under this president is unlikely to be possible unless a person is willing to put up with a certain level of abuse and follow the party line even to the point of defending the indefensible.

    2. Thank you for replying to my rebuttal. I checked the data and you are correct; however, you should be aware that I was not hired at an annual salary of $103,247. I was hired at an annual salary of $118,000 which was prorated to $103,247 because I started at CSU on August 16, 2010 and not July 1, 2010. A difference of 1.5 months of salary. Now if we redo those calculations I believe it comes to approximately 7% increase. I do believe this also is public information.

  2. I appreciate your response and I re-checked the data. You are correct, your twelve-month salary was actually $117,996, a 7.9 percent increase. I will make the correction.