Throughout his higher education administrative career, Wayne Watson has demonstrated a talent for self-promotion. He and his various mouthpieces have created a narrative of Watson the competent administrator that simply fails to withstand close scrutiny. Replete with meaningless jargon like “change agent,” “paradigm shift,” “establishing accountability and transparency,” “institutional renaissance,” “enhance our professionalism,” and “change our work culture,” this narrative is long on bluster and short on substance. However, it is possible to determine just how effective the Watson administration has been using data for the past four years that is easily accessible from a number of sources. I will revisit the issue of audit findings and examine them from a slightly different perspective to determine if the conclusions I drew from my earlier posts on the Watson administration’s ineptitude relative to financial and compliance issues hold up when different data are used as evidence.
I will not rehash the miserable audit statistics of the past three years except to reiterate the point that Watson has blamed the horrible financial and compliance performance during his presidency on prior administrations. When the first of the three successive poor audits came to light in 2011, Watson quickly moved to distance himself from the findings and claimed that his administration would identify and correct the problems. How has he done?
One of the pieces of information provided by the Auditor General’s website is the number of repeat findings in each audit. In general, it seems reasonable to conclude that repeat findings represent an administrative failure: the inability to correct a previously identified problem. High numbers of repeat findings signal poor performance by an administration. Similarly, a large percentage of repeat findings reveal an administration that is struggling to correct its internal problems. Of course, the larger institutions should be expected to generate the largest number of audit findings: high numbers of audit findings in schools with comparatively few students are particularly telling.
Unfortunately, that is exactly what exists here at Chicago State. Our repeat audit findings for the past three years number 49. During that same time period, there were 88 audit exceptions identified, resulting in repeat findings constituting 55.6 percent of all audit findings from 2011-13. The only institution with more repeat audit findings is the University of Illinois system, with 80 audit findings out of 127 total exceptions, or 63 percent of their findings. In fact, for the past three years, these two institutions have been responsible for 129 of the 178 total repeat audit findings (72.5 percent) in Illinois public universities.
Chicago State’s audit performance would look better if the school were similar in size to the Illinois system. However, Chicago State’s average enrollment (2010-12) was 6784 compared to Illinois’ 76,655. CSU's average represents 9 percent of the Illinois system’s enrollment. On average, for the past three years, Illinois public universities have averaged one audit exception per 2,500 students. The Illinois system averaged one audit exception per 2100 students. Chicago State’s average? One audit exception for every 197 students. Given this ratio, if Wayne Watson were running the Illinois system, it would have averaged nearly 390 audit findings per year for the past three years, a slight increase over their actual average of 36.7.
Finally, comparing Watson’s performance to Elnora Daniel’s reveals an increase in both repeat findings and percentage of repeat findings. Between 2004 and 2009, the Daniel administration had 31 repeat audit findings out of a possible 66, or 47 percent. It seems reasonable to again conclude that although the Daniel administration was not particularly good, Wayne Watson’s is far worse. I have provided links to this date before so I will not do so again, but those interested can find the audit summaries on the Illinois Auditor General’s website, the quotes attributed to Watson come from various sources, which I will be happy to provide upon request.