Wayne Watson must be removed as president of Chicago State as soon as possible. The students at our school have a right to a properly administered university that serves their educational needs and enables them to achieve their academic goals. They have a right to obtain a degree from an institution that engenders respect for its academic quality. Excellent university leadership is imperative in order to provide our students with what they deserve. The appointment of Wayne Watson in 2009 ensured that the university would struggle during his tenure since his track record at City Colleges featured significant enrollment declines, deterioration in student achievement, a contentious relationship with his faculty, and finally scandal surrounding his use of public monies for political purposes and the massive and untraceable cost overruns incurred during the construction of the new Kennedy-King College. Based on Watson's recent tenure (and sadly, the terms of at least two of his predecessors) we certainly know what terrible leadership looks like. Perhaps the time is propitious to begin thinking about what we want in a new president.
Fortunately, in 2009, Haki Madhubuti provided a description of the experience and qualifications he wanted in a president. This description is as applicable in 2014 as it was then. I argue that Madhubuti's ideal candidate be what we as a university community insist the board provide Chicago State in a new president. Our students, staff, faculty, administrators and alumni deserve no less than a distinguished occupant of the Cook building. The taxpayers of the state of Illinois deserve a university that operates like a meritocracy instead of a local political ward.
Here are Haki Madhubuti's recommendations, taken verbatim from a letter dated June 22, 2009, printed in its entirety on the CSU Faculty Voice on April 1, 2010:
"June 22, 2009
An Open Letter To:
Chicago State University’s
Board of Trustees, President Dr. Wayne Watson,
Students, Faculty, Staff, Administrators and
All people of concern and good will
Haki R. Madhubuti,
University Distinguished Professor
Chicago State University
My position as University Distinguished Professor does not grant me any more privileges than any other CSU faculty member, however, it does increase my personal obligation to voice my concerns for the growth and future of this university. During my twenty-five years at CSU, I have taught many of the courses in the English Department excluding British Literature and Linguistics. I have served on over twelve search committees for new faculty openings in the Department. Additionally, I have observed Chicago State University and other universities’ selection process of new presidents and leadership. These experiences have provided me with insight on the criteria to evaluate the overall process and make recommendations on the requirements for leadership for a university president and other high administrative positions. These are some of those recommendations:
1. He/she must be a scholar of national note, with significant peer review publications and books in his or her field. There must be no doubt as to his/her standing in the community of scholars. This would also include a history of the candidate’s participation in the appropriate professional organizations.
2. He/she must have served with distinction as the administrative head of a major unit within an institution of higher learning or at the important position of Provost and/or Dean. Of course, prior service at the presidential level is preferred.
3. He/she must have a documented history of raising significant monies from the private and public sectors. At most major and research one universities it is not unusual to expect the president to come with a plan to raise in excess of half a billion dollars or more in the first few years.
4. The prospective president must have a consensus buy-in from the faculty, students, administration and staff, therefore, arriving with a unity mandate to lead by joining a University community that has bought into his or her vision for the future."
I suggest the language in point two be revised slightly to read "served with distinction as the administrative head of a major unit at a university . . ." Otherwise, this series of recommendations seems to succinctly capture what we deserve in the leader of our institution. I suggest it serve as a manifesto for our demand for change. Personally, I want to see this school realize its potential and am prepared to labor incessantly toward that end. How about you?