Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Dog bites man, or, bored by the Trustees

Well we certainly were not expecting a man bites dog exposé were we? I wonder, what exactly was the point of today’s Trustees’ meeting avowing pure confidence in Dr Watson and his heiress apparent?  Maybe it’s all a Rod Serling-esque “confusion” and UIC posted the wrong dissertation in Dr Henderson’s name, maybe her boss was wrongly named as a member of her committee... Anyway, there was certainly no urgency by this bored boring board to weigh in on l’affaire plagiat in January. Their regular board meeting is in a couple of weeks, why bother stating the obvious now?  Expecting the politicians (and their ed-u-cators) and Dr Watson’s board cronies to put academic integrity ahead of political loyalty is really asking the leopard to change its spots.

If we have not learned from last year’s take down of that board of Trustees (who thought it could act independently of politicians and the university’s politically-connected president himself by attempting an investigation and removal of the president it is in charge of) then we have learned nothing. Since last May, we know for certain that CSU’s role in the constellation of universities in Illinois is to provide patronage to Emil Jones’ machine, a machine that just keeps cranking along. A reminder, however, to the “CSU family” and its constituencies who pay the taxes that keep us in the money:  we are not here to provide Jazz in the Grazz to the community. We are also not here to provide a place for local high schools to play basketball or host politicians on their speaking tours and post their pictures on our webpages. Our mission is an academic one and if we lose sight of what that means, we might as well be folded up with the next round of state budget cuts. If the university has no academic integrity, how can we expect it of our students?

CSU has played an important role in the hearts and more importantly the minds of many generations of students from the southside and beyond. I am always amazed at the affection with which many students remember us when they come back to visit or when they check in by email or phone a year, two or three after they have left or when you meet them by chance in the city and tell you that the experience here meant something to them. I look around and I see broken down chairs in the classrooms, cracked sidewalks, physical disrepair in building after building and a bloated bureaucracy that too often confounds in its incompetence. They seem to forget all that and see beyond it. It’s not the buildings that they recall it’s the academic discourse they experience in classrooms or laboratories or in close work with scholars whom they can get to know in a way students at larger schools cannot. It is so crystal clear. If we as an institution, an institution that wants for so much, lose our academic integrity, we will lose the heart of CSU.

And if Emil Jones, Wayne Watson or the Board of Trustees as well as the local alderman, representatives, and ministers feel more comfortable ruling over a local community center than an academic institution then let’s just cut the charade and pretense now and dismantle the apparatus. I’m sure the longed-for Obama Library wants to be associated with a community center masquerading as a university.  

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