Thursday, December 12, 2013

Board of Trustees Meeting on Friday the 13th: "Are we better off than we were in 2008?"

It's perfect isn't it? The Board of Trustees will meet on Friday the 13th to vote formally on retaining Dr Watson's "services" for another 2 years. Another day for an unlucky university. The Chicago Tribune and other newspapers often refer to the "beleaguered president" of Chicago State but it's really the other way around, the beleaguered university that has to endure decade after decade as the political football of the state of ILL's university system.

Disconnects at and about CSU exist on so many levels. On Thursday morning, Nov. 21st, the week before Thanksgiving, I received a news link from a colleague that the story on Chicago State’s ‘cease and desist’ letter that had gone viral had made it across the Atlantic. A British publication,The Times Higher Education, made it the center of Chris Parr’s The Scholarly Web - 21 November 2013, “Weekly transmissions from the blogosphere.”

Many university employees like to blog. They do it to gather their thoughts in one place, pass comment on current affairs, or vent their frustration at the annoyances of everyday life…However, when their posts get too close to the bone for their employer, it can lead to conflict, as has happened at Chicago State University in Illinois. The institution’s lawyers have sent a “cease and desist” letter to staff running an online publication

Yet by the time I was heading home in the early evening a copy of the Nov. 21, 2013 Chicago Defender appeared in our department (compliments of Interim Provost Angela Henderson who made sure every department on campus received a copy) with its front page dominated by a picture of Wayne Watson with the caption: “Chicago State’s Dr. Wayne Watson: Having a Golden November…” The article describes the awards he has garnered this fall. In case you want to know what they are see the CSU website’s main pages that act as a living c.v. for him—or see birobi’s previous blog post. Since N’Digo Magazine seems to be on its last legs, I guess Hermene Hartmann’s torch as shill for the southside politicians and their friends has been passed to The Defender—although its editors too have been long-time bffs with Dr. W.

In reporting on the “Educational Leadership Award” Dr Watson received from the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, Ronald E. Childs, Interim (they have them there too) Publisher/Executive Editor writes very oddly that “November 2013 has proven a prophetic month thus far for Chicago State University (CSU) president Dr. Wayne D. Watson.”


And further on:

“…Though HBCUs stand strong, more viable and more necessary than ever, it’s a vulnerable time. He [Watson] shared that vision personally and passionately with the editorial board of The Chicago Defender earlier this year, when his tenure at CSU appeared threatened by anonymous forces within. As the time-honored saying goes, you just can’t keep a good man down.”

It is an Orwellian universe, isn’t it? The Defender’s obfuscations notwithstanding we know there were no “anonymous forces within” CSU trying to threaten Dr Watson’s tenure. The Board of Trustees had a full-on investigation of him at least from November and December and from what we now know that Board was going to terminate him until Governor Quinn and the political machine stepped in to gut the board instead. The Faculty had already voted no confidence in Dr. Watson; the “forces” at CSU were far from anonymous.

And so the two narratives of Dr Watson and his deeds exist side by side: criticized and lionized. Care to guess which narrative the Board of Trustees will buy?

“I Am CSU”
On Friday the 13th the Board of Trustees is supposed to vote in open session to grant Dr Watson a two-year extension to continue doing what he's doing. It’s a board with people connected to Dr Watson—not at all the independent board HLC our accrediting agency claims universities should have oversee them. Tom Wogan, formerly of the Chicago Democratic political machine, has been working very hard this year to get Dr Watson his extension from the Board of Trustees and it’s been like watching a cult of personality develop—all the p.r. that is sent out is about the president. Is Dr Watson the face of CSU?

So, in light of the politically-appointed Trustees’ imminent plan to maintain their politically-connected friend in power, I was thinking of that old chestnut politicians like to ask: "are you better off than you were...?" which made  me think of Peter Laslett's book, The World We Have Lost, that deals with how industrialization changed England and I’m thinking of the world we have lost here at CSU.  So, I ask the question, "Are you better off than you were in 2008?" I'm sure others could add to the list I've been keeping in no particular order; I offer: 

 “The World We Have Lost At CSU”

 1.     Departments in the College of Arts and Sciences and College of Education were smaller, not something verging on community college divisions (btw where did the money go that the forced reorganization was supposed to save?—see #11below maybe?)

2.     Department Chairs were 3-year appointments with a learning curve for their occupants, not 1-year (virtually interim appointments)

3.     No one had ever heard of a 3-year "interim" dean

4.     Presidents understood that faculty hiring was to be in the hands of the faculty; deans and the provost had their roles, but the president’s role was pro forma. Now the President’s role is not just central it is the only one that will count—his decision. This is not an academic institution it is a political ward.

5.     Presidents did not interview faculty candidates (see #4)

6.     Presidents did not conduct their own searches for candidates outside the established bodies.

7.     We actually had provosts who had once been university deans and tenured faculty.

8.     We never had to be vigilant against a president trying to change department DACs.

9.     We never had to be so vigilant against a president trying to micromanage the faculty’s purview over curriculum.

10.  Administrators actually had Ph.D. degrees in research disciplines, not "doctorates" of leadership management.

11.  No one ever heard of 23% raises for administrators when others on campus got 1-3% on average.

12.  We had a real College of Graduate Studies

13.  We had a Dean of Graduate Studies

14.  Enrollment management was focused on enrollment, not a catch-all division or training ground for a provost-to-be.

15.  Lawyers remained in the General Counsel's Office; they did not populate the upper administrative bureaucracy, acting as VPs, let alone as the faculty's contract administrator.

16.  Faculty chose the faculty members to serve on the Presidential and Provost’s searches

17.  Faculty made up @1/3 of the membership of those committees.

18.  At least one president saw herself as the "lead donor" in university fundraising efforts and put her money where her mouth was.

19.  Low morale on campus, especially in the faculty ranks, would not be blamed on “a few disgruntled faculty.”

20.  Faculty actually believed that at least “some” of their service on campus committees was important, not simply “advisory only” [“advisory only”= “we’ll let you spin your wheels for many hours in tedious committee meetings at inconvenient times but in the end we’re going to do what we planned to do without you anyway…”]

21.  Students had a newspaper—(granted it wasn’t as good as it could be, but its last issue was in 2009 and no attempt has been made to revive it). I wonder when the students will be reimbursed for being charged for a non-existent newspaper?

22.  We never had so many politicians populating the pages of our website

 Please feel free to share your additions to the world we have lost at CSU.



1 comment:

  1. 23. Knowing effective people in the administrative ranks to contact when problems arise- they are gone