Saturday, February 15, 2014

Daily Life Here in Pyongyang (Chicago State): Fighting ThoughtCrime in the Twenty-First Century

The Watson administration has been unsuccessful in silencing faculty dissent since many faculty are protected by that pesky thing called tenure. However, this cowardly administration has the ability to bully the majority of the CSU population. Recently, three students at Chicago State critical of Watson and his administration have reportedly become the targets of administrative moves against them. They are apparently subjects of judicial investigations (more details on that as they become available). This is part of what seems to be a concerted strategy by the administration to involve the students in an effort to marshal support for Wayne Watson and his regime.

We have seen ample evidence of Wayne Watson’s inability to defend himself against substantive charges of misconduct and failed administrative leadership. He hardly ventures out of the Cook building anymore without an accompanying phalanx of administrators. When he is forced to defend himself, he hides behind (or blames) subordinates, or mouthpieces like lawyers, ministers, politicians and “community activists.” He obfuscates and dissembles. Now, however, the administration is plumbing new depths as it is apparently willing to use students as surrogates in the ongoing dispute with CSU faculty; in the process turning the campus into a perverted version of Airstrip One and through the Ministry of Truth (located in the Cook building) vigorously prosecuting (or attempting to prosecute) for "thought crimes" anyone who dares to think independently.

A few days ago, the CSU Student Government Association (SGA) launched a program called “See Something, Say Something & SGA will do Something Campaign.” The memorandum announcing this endeavor is remarkable in that it specifically targets CSU faculty as the reason for students’ “subpar” educational experience and makes the unverified claim that “A vast percentage of the student body has complained,” about the quality of education at CSU. While the document goes on to claim that the purpose of this “campaign” is to allow students to bring misconduct by a variety of CSU officials to light, only the faculty’s alleged depredations are catalogued. Although the memorandum claims that CSU is “an institution that sponsors critical thinking, curiosity, and questioning,” that sponsorship apparently does not extend to the university’s faculty who should, without exception “stay within their syllabus and not spend classroom time lecturing about their views against the CSU administration.”

The intent of this document is reflected in its penultimate paragraph which advises students that “There will be an email account set up for retrieving student’s complaints about an instructor/faculty . . .” In addition, “legal” will participate in one of two workshops planned to illuminate for students the rights they possess, including “the process of filing a complaint . . .”

Once again, we see the administration’s cynical concern for process and rights on display. Now that the CSU student government is supporting Watson “100 percent,” let’s see how they follow procedures and ensure fair and equitable treatment of members. Actually, not too well.

Within the past few weeks, the CSU Student Government Association promulgated a new constitution. Its most striking feature is its incoherence. Its basic tone is punitive, featuring a sort of “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” perspective that dovetails nicely with Jonathan Edwards eighteenth-century belief that “There is no want of power in God to cast wicked men into hell at any moment . . . [that] They deserve to be cast into hell.” (Jonathan Edwards, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” sermon delivered at Enfield, Connecticut, July 8, 1741. Available here: The SGA constitution includes an entire article devoted to the discipline of its members as well as numerous other references to impeachment, dismissal, or other punitive measures. Not knowing anything about the history of this organization or its members, I do not know if this kind of disapproving paternalism is necessary. In any event, it is noteworthy.

The SGA document also dovetails nicely with the Watson administration’s world view that all important matters pertaining to the university should be decided in a top-down manner that eliminates important constituencies from the decision-making process. Of course, this results in a series of remarkably bad decisions emanating from the Cook building. In the case of the student government, the SGA president serves as the ultimate arbiter of most important things, particularly the discipline of SGA members. Already this year, the SGA has cast two of its Senators into hell and both are now apparently facing judicial affairs actions.

The punitive authority of the Student Government Association resides in Article IX. There are two ways for a member of the student government to lose her/his position: Impeachment and presidential dismissal. In impeachment proceedings, any student can bring charges against any member of SGA with virtually no substantive subsequent investigation as the process moves directly from the complaint to setting a hearing date. A simple majority vote by the student Senate is required for conviction.

The presidential dismissal process is truly dictatorial. The president “may dismiss any elected or appointed SGA member . . . at his discretion at any time.” There is no due process (something our administration is terribly concerned about in the case of Angela Henderson), as “The SGA President shall present a letter of dismissal for the named individual to the Senate and at the President’s discretion (bold mine) the Senate will take a vote.” Although there is also a provision for removal based on a simple majority vote, the preceding sentence seems to render that unnecessary.

The SGA’s new constitution is problematic in at least one other way. It was obviously changed, apparently by the president, after its ratification. On January 30, an e-mail from the Speaker of the Senate claimed that the president had “caught some grammatical errors . . . [that] none of the content has changed.” A comparison of that version of the constitution with the one apparently distributed earlier that day reveals six substantive alterations to the document and four additional changes in language. Hardly reflective of unchanging content.

Given the administration’s obsession with the Faculty Senate’s constitutional amendment process and its adherence to established procedure, it will be interesting to see what stance it takes on the deeply flawed SGA constitutional process. Given the arbitrary and capricious nature of university governance at CSU, I expect that substantive unilateral changes to a previously amended and approved document will, in this case, be alright with Wayne Watson and his minions.

The Student Government Association’s recent actions reflect daily life at Wayne Watson’s Chicago State for the relatively powerless. Under the Watson regime, persons without protection are cynically co-opted, bullied and intimidated into actions that serve the interests of Wayne Watson and his cronies. The administration subjects students who disagree vocally with the Watson regime to the full weight of the university’s enforcement apparatus while it defends administrators who lie, cheat and plagiarize. I wonder how many students will want to enroll at this school knowing that this is the way our administration deals with their free speech rights. Is this descent into madness “leadership” or is it desperation?


  1. It is hypocritical and cynical of the administration to countenance and encourage this kind of action on the part of the SGA to violate students' and faculty's civil rights. Three days ago the Sun-Times reported that Wayne Watson spoke so enthusiastically about the work of civil rights lawyer Thomas Todd whose papers the university recently acquired. See "Chicago State University Honors Civil Rights Trailblazer Thomas Todd." According to the article, Todd himself spoke:

    "Speaking to a full house of CSU staff, students and dignitaries who gathered to celebrate the acquisition, Todd said the fight for racial equality is not yet won. 'I don’t care what technology you use, what app you have. You still can’t download freedom,' he said to applause, his voice rising and falling, like a preacher."

    No Mr. Todd, the work of civil rights is not over and it is most directly under assault by the folks who lauded you last week.

    Perhaps the students who are the target of the SGA witch hunts should ask Mr. Todd to take on their case.

  2. I spent two months arguing against the paternalism, top down structure, and obsession with maximizing the number of reasons for dismissing members of SGA that permeated the several drafts of the new SGA Constitution. I ripped several drafts apart, exposing contradictions and the basic philosophy that the Speaker of the Senate should be the CEO of the SGA legislative branch that were at the heart of the documents. I railed against the secretive manner in which the document was put together. I objected to the casual disregard of established legislative procedures.

    Not only would they not listen, they voted me out in an unconstitutional vote and then ratified the document two days after getting rid of me.

    Funny thing is, they didn't listen when I said they needed to change wording in the constitution dealing with qualifications for office. The number of hours enrolled in necessary to be eligible for SGA office, hours that must consist of undergrad AND grad hours, are beyond what the President, Vice President, Treasurer, Executive Secretary and every member of the Senate can possibly be enrolled in.

    In their zeal to pass their totalitarian document they made themselves ineligible for the offices they themselves hold. Therefore, SGA is currently illegitimate, and given the steps listed in the Constitution to amend the document and the steps necessary to hold SGA elections, there is no way to reconstitute the institution.

    They killed SGA at Chicago State through their pigheaded incompetence.

  3. I recommend to faculty that they explain plagiarism to students by referring them to this blog and to the evidence of plagiarism contained therein.