Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Real Story at CSU

The endless stream of embarassment brought to CSU by administrative incompetence and feeble attempts at bullying faculty, students and staff has made our campus a laughingstock around the country and places beyond.  For this reason alone (not to mention their numerous failures) Wayne, Patrick, Angela and the many others who have received their cushy admin jobs without proper qualifications, with falsified resumes or as a result of personal relationships with someone in power should resign as soon as possible.  They should do the decent thing and quit before the damage they do is irreversible.

But, that is not the point of this post.  The point of this post is to remind us of the work that gets done on this campus on a daily basis in spite of the roadblocks erected by our administration.  Recently, I have had the pleasure to see my colleagues and our students in action and it reminded me why I am an academic and a scholar and renewed my faith in our profession and our students. I have been witness to or made aware of a number of events resulting from the great professor-student interactions and collaborations that go on regulary at CSU.  They include:

Blues for an Alabama Sky, Pearl Cleage’s esteemed play set during the Harlem Renaissance, was performed well by students under the direction of Professor Kamesha Khan.  We have a great deal of artistic talent at Chi State.  Recent performance and media industry excellence coming from our campus includes the CSU Jazz concert held on November 26 and the continuous work on the popular radio station, WBEZ, of CSU students and faculty including Herb Kent and Troi Tyler.  CSU boasts a number of very well respected and award-winning authors who produce poetry, short stories and essays.  In addition, these authors are training an enthusiastic and talented group of younger writers.

Community work that involves students, faculty and other members of the CSU campus is ongoing here.  The Neighborhood Assistance Center (NAC) and the Institute for Youth and Community Empowerment (IYCE) have made their presence felt in our community in recent weeks, months and years.  The NAC has had a long presence in Chicago assisting neighborhood organizations access the resources they need to do their work.  In recent years, the NAC has focused a great deal of energy on questions regarding food and hunger in the Chicagoland area.  The NAC supports an urban agriculture network in the Roseland-Pullman area, works with the Chicago Food Policy Advisory Council and has helped establish the new Urban Agriculture concentration in the biology and geography departments.  IYCE has recently begun to make itself known on campus through important dialogues and other programming relating to their mission of empowerment of the communities surrounding CSU.  Their Truth-N-Trauma project has begun to develop younger students and help many on the road to positively dealing with trauma in their lives and in our larger world.  A number of departments, programs and centers have developed important scholarly events open to the entire campus and reaching out to the larger Chicago community.  Students, faculty and staff held a successful Coming Out Day this Fall that included activist and recording artist Tim’m West in an effort to help LBGTQ members of our community cope with homophobia and to enlarge our sense of community.  African American Studies seems to always be putting on important educational events such as the most recent discussion of Kari Lydersen’s timely book, Mayor 1%.  The geographers do a lot with a small program including the just completed, Geography Week, with educational programming including discussions of powerful movies such as The Rise of the Drones and The Agronomist.

Our faculty and students conduct a great deal of scientific research.  The biology, chemistry and physics labs are overflowing with professors leading students in exciting new areas of research including health breakthroughs, energy development, and environmental sustainability.  The centrality of the professor-student relationship is illustrated well by the work being conducted in our labs.  Related to the scientific research being conducted in the sciences building is the work of many in public health and occupational therapy.  Public health students and faculty regularly sponsor or participate in health fairs and screenings, workshops and discussions regarding public health problems and the development of solutions.  Faculty, students and staff at the HIV/AIDS Research and Policy Institute continue to conduct groundbreaking research into understanding HIV/AIDS, its spread and how to prevent it.  Particularly important is the culturally-relevant materials and programs being developed through the institute.

While I have had the good fortune to witness the incredible intellectual work being conducted at CSU by many colleagues, I have only scratched the surface as I know that many in the College of Ed and College of Business, for example, are also contributing positively to knowledge and to our communities.  I only hope to learn more about this work.  In addition to local events and research like those previously mentioned, our colleagues publish books, articles and music scores, contribute to professional organizations, work as public intellectuals, and assist myriad non-profits and community groups.  And we do this all while teaching 4 or 5 classes per semester and doing the nuts and bolts work of maintaining the intellectual integrity of the university through our committee work.

The previously mentioned work illustrates the importance that we place on the professor-student relationship in higher education.  It is not just a job.  It is a vocation.  It is a calling.  We do it because we know that it is important.  At CSU, like other institutions of higher education in the US and around the world, the primary work is to educate.  Thus, the student-professor bond is the key to our success.  At CSU we take the student-professor relationship very seriously and as a result the bond is strong.  So, while negative press and scandal have plagued CSU, all of it has been as a result of administrative incompetence, retaliation and a lack of professional ethics and integrity.  The teaching and learning at Chi State rival most institutions of higher education.  And this under the most difficult of conditions including the remarkably busy lives of our students and the continuous failures and misdeeds of the upper administration.  It is the sacred bond between faculty and students and the work that this produces that is the real story at CSU.


  1. Hear hear! And actually, the administration does not want to stop these good things from happening. They do care about the students (though they have an odd way of showing it).

    1. In a patronage pit such as ours, the first consideration of those in control--the Governor and local politicians who pull the strings of the board of trustees who hire the president (though now the tail wags the dog)--is jobs and contracts and the power to distribute largesse to supporters. Whatever benefits trickle down to the students is nice. Until CSU is liberated from political involvement on the local and state level it will never be all it can be in spite of the good things that Prof Pancho has so cogently argued.