Monday, March 31, 2014

And more on the Crowley thing....

Jury foreman in Chicago State case may have had conflict 
By Jodi S. Cohen and Stacy St. Clair Tribune reporters

7:34 p.m. CDT, March 31, 2014,0,4564355.story

In my 
best Valley Girl voice:

Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Letter From One of Our Colleagues

I have been waiting for a response from president Watson's camp or the Board of Trustees regarding these new allegations of misconduct....and now it's more than 3 days after it was filed and there's still nothing. Do they think the faculty, staff and students of CSU are unaware? If they ignore it, these allegations will go away?
However, as a new faculty (un-tenured, on track), seeing the behavior that led to these allegations makes me very cautious of speaking up and advocating for better facilities and management for our students.
Now that I've been here for a couple semesters, I have seen the general lack of facilities upkeep and maintenance. There is intermittent wi-fi, electrical outages and surges that have damaged expensive research equipment, floods from burst pipes, potholed and cracked walkways, muddy ruts and pooling water over sidewalks, and don't even get me started about the lack of childcare on campus when half of our students are women with children! I also get the feeling when attending university and departmental meetings that a lot of committee work feels like a waste of time because recommendations and decisions get reversed or altered by the time they are finalized.
When I go back and review that list, it sounds like I'm working in a poor, developing, corrupt country - but I take the Red Line home each day and remember that we live in a vibrant, modern American city that should be providing a quality education and experience for our students who work so hard to attend. We should be an example of progress and upward mobility for the community that we serve, not an embarrassment that continues to fulfill stereotypes and further marginalizes our students.
I can only hope that the board of trustees and /or the governor will take our student's side for once and advocate for what's right by removing incompetent, unqualified persons who behave immorally. Someone needs to reach out to honest, hard-working experienced administrators who could lead our university back in the right direction. By removing Watson and his unqualified insiders, the board of trustees would also be taking the side of the faculty so that we might one day be led by a peer who understands and respects the academic structure and process. Removing those who have sullied our reputation would also be taking the side of our staff and administration and show them they respect the work they do and shouldn't be afraid to report wrongdoing for fear of losing their jobs.
It is unconscionable to me that the ruling bodies would allow taxpayer dollars to be wasted on more legal proceedings and lawyer fees when we could be providing better facilities and programs for our students!
I was very happy to accept this position and was hoping to stay for at least a few years until I was (hopefully) granted tenure, and I have really loved teaching and interacting with our CSU students and the other faculty. However, the upper administration's actions make me very worried for the integrity of CSU, and, therefore my professional reputation. I have been starting to look for other positions already this next academic cycle, and the thought of going through that again churns my stomach....
~An uncomfortable, worried new faculty

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Here We Go Again: Wayne Watson Named in Another Lawsuit. Please, Anthony Young and Other Board Members, Tell Us Again How Much You Support This Colossal Disaster

Wayne Watson and his various inept cronies in the Cook building might consider becoming current with their reading. I suggest a look at some Illinois statutes, particularly those that cover the reporting of misdeeds to appropriate agencies. Collectively known as the "Whistleblower Act," these laws are quite clear as to what employers may and may not do regarding persons in their employ who report possible violations of laws, rules or regulations to relevant authorities. Since Watson obviously learned nothing from the James Crowley lawsuit, I urge him to acquaint himself with at least these passages from the "Whistleblower Act."

"(740 ILCS 174/10)
Sec. 10. Certain policies prohibited. An employer may not make, adopt, or enforce any rule, regulation, or policy preventing an employee from disclosing information to a government or law enforcement agency if the employee has reasonable cause to believe that the information discloses a violation of a State or federal law, rule, or regulation.
(Source: P.A. 93-544, eff. 1-1-04.)"


"(740 ILCS 174/15)
Sec. 15. Retaliation for certain disclosures prohibited.
(a) An employer may not retaliate against an employee who discloses information in a court, an administrative hearing, or before a legislative commission or committee, or in any other proceeding, where the employee has reasonable cause to believe that the information discloses a violation of a State or federal law, rule, or regulation."

Unfortunately, it is already too late in one sense: looks like another bad week upcoming for the image of Chicago State as well as for the reputation of our vindictive and incompetent president. Another lawsuit filed yesterday in Cook County Circuit Court, this time by former Vice President of Administration and Finance Glenn Meeks, charges Watson with yet another “retaliatory discharge,” in violation of state Whistleblower laws.

Of course, the circumstances of this suit differ dramatically from those revealed in the recent Crowley case. Meeks alleges his firing occurred because he brought a number of, unseemly at best and possibly illegal at worst, Watson practices to the attention of former Chicago State Board of Trustees Gary Rozier on October 31, 2012 and told Rozier he (Meeks) would report his concerns to the Illinois Inspector General’s Office if the board did nothing. Ultimately, in February-March 2013, the board attempted to remove Watson from the presidency During this attempt, Meeks had a conversation with Governor Quinn in which he urged the governor to re-appoint the board members whose terms were expiring. The day after this conversation, Watson fired Meeks.

The Meeks lawsuit makes a number of allegations. The first four pages concern Watson’s improper relationship with Cheri Sidney and possible consequences of that relationship for the university. Much of this will be familiar to regular readers of this blog:

The allegations then move to the lack of qualifications of several top-level administrators and the mushrooming Enrollment Management section of the university:

Finally, Meeks details his efforts to inform a number of individuals of the ongoing problems at Chicago State. Meeks made current board members as well as the Governor of Illinois aware of the situation at the school.

Now I realize that these are "allegations", although a number are supported by irrefutable documentary evidence already revealed on this forum. I also realize that this kind of persuasive evidence may not be enough to convince of Watson's unfitness for his position, persons who choose to stand up at the Board of Trustees meetings to proclaim that the "majority" of faculty do not support the opposition to Watson, or to admonish Watson's opponents that adherence to the chain of command is an absolute necessity in any organization, or to offer a "report" filled with unsupported accusations of "bullying" and abuse of students on the part of faculty.

Although there is no way of knowing how this action will play out, let us take a look at the opposing lineups in this case. On one side is Glenn Meeks and a substantial amount of documentary evidence supporting his allegations. On the other, an administration filled with persons who have demonstrated their mendacity and/or ineptitude on a number of occasions. How would you like to be supported by Wayne Watson, a self-proclaimed practitioner of employment discrimination, twice found culpable for retaliatory discharges, someone whose behavior relative to James Crowley a jury found so repugnant that they returned a unanimous verdict for the plaintiff after deliberations lasting less than one hour? Or Angela Henderson, someone who has demonstrably lied on both an employment applications and a resume, someone who cheated to obtain her terminal degree, someone who has become the butt of a number of jokes at Chicago State and who daily exposes the university to ridicule for its failure to demonstrate a commitment to academic integrity? Or perhaps Cheri Sidney or Tyra Austin? Two persons who lied on their applications/resumes and who both occupy positions for which they are unqualified. In Sidney's case benefiting from Watson's creation of a succession of responsible and highly-paid positions simply because of their romantic relationship. And let's not forget Patrick Cage, author of a number disastrous (and laughable) policies and legal papers. Frankly, I would be happy to take my chances against that gang of prevaricators and incompetents.

Of course, the ultimate price for this new edition of Watson's folly will be paid by the taxpayers of the State of Illinois. Thus far, the Crowley defense has cost the university close to $250,000 in legal fees, $3 million in judgements, with possibly another $500,000 plus in attorney costs for Crowley's attorneys yet to come. How much will the university spend to defend this suit? Stay tuned.

From Our Friends At FIRE

So, loyal readers I wanted to share a new development in our continuing saga at Crony State University. The forces of oppression have seemingly been blunted by those who still value small ideas like the First Amendment. Below is a letter from our friends at FIRE. Enjoy reading this only if you value free expression as much as we do here at CSU Faculty Voice. You may click on the images for a larger view and easier reading.

And of course we will discuss the latest Whistleblower  lawsuit in our upcoming posts.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

To Hell With Federal, State and Case Law: Wayne Watson Will Decide Who Gets a Job On The Basis of How Our Potential Colleagues Look.

When persons occupy responsible positions in public service, it seems reasonable to expect from them a rudimentary knowledge of the laws and rules governing the operation of their institutions. This is knowledge that Wayne Watson seems not to possess as yesterday, in front of members of the Illinois General Assembly Higher Education Appropriations Committee, he went on the record as favoring, and practicing, discriminatory hiring policies.

Through the miracle of electronics, these hearings are streamed live to your home computer. Although what follows comes from notes of what Watson said at the hearing, I believe the account is substantively accurate. If anyone wishes to correct the text, please advise as to what I have gotten wrong. Also, since I am not an attorney, my interpretations may be somewhat off-base. If I am drawing inappropriate conclusions from the following material, I again welcome any corrections that might help clarify these matters. So much for the disclaimers.

Yesterday, Watson took the clown show on the road to Springfield as he made an appearance before the Higher Education Appropriations Committee. After some boilerplate stuff about Chicago State’s successes and challenges, one of the committee members, Mr. Welch, I believe, inquired about the faculty. Watson responded that the faculty at Chicago State included 6 percent Latinos, 28 percent African Americans, 20 percent Africans, 36 percent whites and 10 percent Asians. Watson then told the committee that he was “not going to fill positions without a diverse pool. I am trying to fill positions in academic departments that had only men and no people of color in tenure-track positions.” Watson expressed a belief in “unions” but warned that “I’ll take a department down to twenty-percent full-time faculty if they don’t bring diversity,” of course all this would be done “within the context of the contract.”

The members of the committee let Watson’s somewhat remarkable monologue pass without comment. Mr. Welch then told Watson that “the media doesn’t portray you well and part of that has to do with your own branding.” Welch noted that Chicago State apparently had “a lot of interims” in administrative positions and asked Watson, “are they qualified?” Watson responded by saying that because of FERPA and because the question dealt with “personnel” that he could not give specifics. Since Chicago State’s Chief Plagiarizing Officer Angela Henderson accompanied Watson to Springfield, it seems understandable that he might want to avoid a discussion about the qualifications of some administrators. His comments on hiring, however, reflect an ignorance so profound that it is off the abject stupidity chart.

Non-discrimination in hiring has been the law in the United States since the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Section 2000e-2 of Title VII of that act reads: “It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer -

(1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or

(2) to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”

The State of Illinois also has statutes in place that basically mirror the language in the Civil Rights Act by classifying as a Civil Rights violation an employer’s refusal “to hire, to segregate, or to act with respect to recruitment, hiring, promotion, renewal of employment, selection for training or apprenticeship, discharge, discipline, tenure or terms, privileges or conditions of employment on the basis of unlawful discrimination . . .” (Illinois Human Rights Act:

Case law, as controversial as it often becomes, has shaped the response to discrimination. In its hotly-debated 1978 decision in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, the United States Supreme Court upheld the practice of affirmative action while declaring admissions “quotas” based on race to be unconstitutional as a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

Two 2003 cases decided by a very different Supreme Court, Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger, permitted a “tailored use of race” to achieve diversity while affirming the Bakke decision’s prohibition against “quota” systems designed to correct racial inequities. To the best of my knowledge, that is where the existing case law stands today on affirmative action practices.

The State of Illinois Human Rights Act charges all state agencies with “Establish[ing], maintain[ing], and carry[ing] out a continuing affirmative action plan consistent with this Act and the regulations of the Department designed to promote equal opportunity for all State residents in every aspect of agency personnel policy and practice.” The plan must include a “detailed status report . . . specifying the goals and methods for increasing the percentage by race, national origin, sex and disability, and any other category that the Department may require by rule, in State positions” (Illinois Human Rights Act:

Perhaps not surprisingly, Chicago State’s Affirmative Action plan, drafted in 2000, is somewhat vague. Boilerplate language like the university’s commitment to “diversification of all its internal divisions by race and gender,” combines with such platitudes as “The University seeks to ensure that no person will encounter discrimination in employment . . . on the basis of age, color, disability, sex, national origin, race, religion, national origin, or veteran’s status” to create a policy that hardly specifies “the goals and methods for increasing” the percentages of under-represented persons.

The Watson administration has done nothing to modify that plan and in its yearly reports to the Illinois State Legislature, consistently indicates that questions about Chicago State’s Affirmative Action Plan are “not applicable.” Of course, given the statistics cited by Watson to the Appropriations Committee, an Affirmative Action Plan for Chicago State may not be necessary. The Affirmative Action figures reported by the university to the Illinois State Legislature hew closely to those quoted by Watson. For the Fiscal Year 2014 report, Chicago State’s faculty included 33.9 percent White, 48.6 percent African American, 3.8 percent Hispanic, and 13.8 percent “Other” (these are the categories reported by the university). Overall, the ethnic composition of the total staff at Chicago State University is as follows: 17.4 percent White, 70 percent Black, 5.9 percent Hispanic and 6.7 percent “Other” (again, these are the categories reported by the university). In addition, the faculty at Chicago State is 55.5 percent female while the total staff at the university is 58.6 percent female. In my estimation, these figures reflect a diverse faculty and a strong African American representation in total employees. Why does Watson think he needs to strive to increase “diversity” even to the point of threatening departments that do not meet his purported standards?

As usual, he provides no rationale for his behavior. His belief that the Chicago State faculty is not “diverse” may be based on anecdotal evidence from one of his “listening tour” visits to specific departments. He has certainly articulated this view for some time. For example, he said to me on October 31, 2012, that he had noted one department that contained nothing but men and how problematic he thought that was. I am sure that a number of mid-level administrators could attest to Watson’s belief that he needs to save Chicago State from itself by employing some kind of secret calculus to ensure that a “diverse pool” of candidates is available for every position. If not, by his own admission, he simply will not hire anyone.

We have seen ample evidence of Watson’s respect for policies and procedures, at the university and in the law. For examples, refer to his intrusion into the DAC process and the Criminal Justice search faculty search committee that contained only administrators in 2012, his continuing flaunting of the Human Resources policy prohibiting personal relationships with subordinate university employees, his refusal to follow Human Resources policy in the disposition of personnel matters involving falsification of university records, and his recent costly misadventures with employment and whistle-blower laws. Now, he’s announced to the world that he that he will continue to apply his unerring judgement to employment matters at Chicago State–albeit, in his typical arbitrary and capricious manner.

What will we do in terms of our employment applicants? Will Watson have a survey done in departments that want to hire faculty to determine just what kind of race or ethnicity for a particular candidate is appropriate? Will statements like “no Irish need apply” begin appearing on Chicago State job announcements? In departments with acceptable levels of “diversity” will those application strictures be extended to “no Latinos need apply?” or “no Asians need apply?” or even “no African Americans need apply?” After all, Watson should function as an equal opportunity discriminater, no?

Given the fact that Watson recently suffered a disastrous defeat in an employment discrimination case, one might think he would learn something from that experience. Apparently not, as he continues to behave in a way that exposes the university to potential, and completely unnecessary, legal consequences. How long must we suffer this fool?

Monday, March 17, 2014

How to Lose $3 Million: Here's How Watson and Patrick Cage Feel About Due Process, A Good Thing for Cronies, Not Applicable to Enemies

The recent $3.02 million judgement against Chicago State speaks volumes about how a Cook County Circuit jury felt Wayne Watson had behaved in terminating Crowley in February 2010. Even though Chicago State plans to appeal the verdict/award, the jury trial demonstrated Watson’s propensity for retaliation, vindictiveness and unfairness. The trial transcript also exposed Watson’s unwillingness to take responsibility for his own actions and the important role played in the entire sordid affair by Watson’s top hired gun, Patrick B. Cage.

In her opening statement to the jury on February 5, 2014, Tiffany M. Ferguson of Pugh, Jones and Johnson, P.C., the university’s attorneys, described Cage as “an experienced lawyer, experienced in how public colleges and universities work . . .” Of course, in the Crowley case, Wayne Watson had no involvement in the termination. Ferguson told the jury, “what you have to keep in mind is that the person that ultimately made the decision to fire Mr. Crowley is Patrick Cage, not Dr. Watson.” Although “Dr. Watson did sign off on the [termination] . . . letter . . . , but the decision-maker, . . . that was Patrick Cage.” Needless to say, according to Chicago State’s attorneys, the university had adequate cause to terminate Crowley, the reason: “[Cage] terminated [Crowley] for misappropriating university funds for purposes of preferential treatment.” After all, “everyone can understand that preferential treatment is just not fair.”

Of course, here at Watson’s Chicago State, we have a somewhat different interpretation of fairness and special treatment. Since November 2009, the university has doled out at least $962,817.91 in salaries to Watson favorites: $448,443 to Watson’s romantic interest, Cheri Sidney, at least $429,583.30 to long-time Watson crony Angela Henderson, and a relatively paltry $84,791.61 to the spectacularly unqualified Tyra Austin. (Information from FOIA requests, IBHE salary database)

Thus, on the first day of the trial, Chicago State’s attorneys made the case that the university behaved ethically in firing someone who was endeavoring to obtain unfair “preferential treatment.” They also explicitly placed the blame for the firing on the shoulders of Patrick Cage, absolving Watson of any responsibility. While Watson declined to take any responsibility for the Crowley termination, his attorneys gave him full marks for taking the university in an unspecified “new direction,” as well as” mak[ing] tough decisions.” Unfortunately for the university and Watson, the Cook County jury found these arguments unpersuasive and, judging by the size of the award, found plenty of culpability in the actions of Watson and Cage.

Of particular note in the trial transcript is the difference between personnel policies established by the Board of Trustees and the behavior of Cage and Watson regarding Crowley’s alleged offenses. Apparently Patrick Cage’s “experience” in colleges and universities did not translate into proper procedural steps in the case of James Crowley’s termination. Board policies regarding disciplinary actions that include termination are quite specific. The first step is a “meeting to discuss possible remedial actions by the employee or to discuss settlement of the matter.” Before meeting with the employee, the president or her/his designee “shall provide the employee with a written statement of the purpose of the meeting, including an identification of the topic(s) to be discussed.” In the second step, within six months of this original meeting, the president “shall provide the employee in writing with one of the following: . . . (v) a notice of intent to seek termination.”

The final steps involve the requirements for notice and specify the employee’s rights. If the president decides to terminate an employee, he/she will “provide . . . a statement of reasons for termination to the employee. . .” The employee then has the right within fifteen days to “request a formal hearing before a committee of five members selected from the administration.” The hearing will be recorded “verbatim” and ultimately that recording and all documentary evidence will “be submitted in writing to the Board for final action.” Most important, the “burden of proof that adequate cause [for termination] exists rests with the university and shall be satisfied only by clear and convincing evidence of the record considered as a whole.” In sum, this procedure constitutes due process for non-unionized university employees facing possible termination.

How did the university handle Crowley’s termination? By his own testimony, he met with Patrick Cage sometime in late December 2009 or early January 2010 to advise Cage of financial improprieties which may have resulted in audit findings. Crowley testified that he told Cage that the improper financial processes had to stop or he (Crowley) “was going to go to the attorney general’s office about it.” According to Crowley, Cage said that “he would look into it.” Crowley heard nothing further until February 1, 2010, when he “was told to come to Patrick Cage’s office, and he was waiting with a police officer, and they told me I had to leave.” Crowley went home and heard nothing from the university until he received an e-mail summoning him to a meeting with Cage on February 19, 2010. During this meeting, which Crowley testified lasted about five minutes, Cage told Crowley that “they were looking into my transactions, and that it would be better for me to just admit things I had done wrong rather than [have the university] uncover them on their own.” According to Crowley’s testimony, Cage provided no specific allegations, but a “couple of days later,” Crowley received a “termination letter” in the mail. This particular termination does not seem to conform to the due process requirements of the Board regulations.

As we already know, when Crowley decided to release FOIA material to which Watson objected, he became, Watson’s “enemy.” This is how Chicago State’s administration treats Watson’s enemies. In particular, Patrick Cage was diligent in ferreting out Crowley’s various misbehaviors. In this instance, Cage’s doggedness mirrors his continual attempts to destroy free expression on this campus. Cage has demonstrated a propensity to attack anyone with the temerity to question the administration of Wayne Watson. In the process, he has made ridiculous arguments and engaged in behavior that has brought the university nothing but public ridicule. Some examples include his argument that FOIA information sought by the Chicago Tribune in 2012 was exempt because the Tribune had written mean things about Chicago State. Here, the attorney who, by my calculations has collected nearly $600,000 in salary from Chicago State since 2009, and who apparently does not know the difference between "tenets" (as in main principles) and "tenants" (as in persons who rent) makes the following brilliant legal argument:

Cage's argument failed to impress the Public Access Counselor who ordered the university to comply with the FOIA request and opined:

Other examples of Cage's apparent commitment to censorship and opposition to public scrutiny of the administration's activities include: the Computer Usage and Communications policies of 2012, that although ostensibly not emanating from the Legal Department, must have at least been vetted by someone there; the on-going attack on the Faculty Senate’s legitimacy in 2013, and the FOIA request Cage submitted in an obvious attempt to have the Senate’s amendment election overturned; the absurd trademark infringement argument which is designed to stifle dissent by destroying the CSU Faculty Voice; the participation of the Legal Department in the “See Something, Say Something,” campaign of the SGA, which is actually the brain-child of Wayne Watson, and finally, the “Cyber-Bullying Policy” now wending its way through the Board of Trustees procedural path. Several of Cage’s efforts at establishing censorship on this campus have resulted in scathing negative press coverage and open ridicule of the Chicago State administration.

In contrast to the energy expended on efforts to destroy faculty dissent and stifle criticism of the administration, neither the administration nor Cage has any interest in addressing significant challenges to the institution’s academic integrity: administrators who have demonstrably lied on their applications/resumes continue in their positions, even receive promotions, an interim Provost who obviously plagiarized her dissertation continues in her position, doing daily damage to the school’s academic reputation, while Watson clucks about “due process” and worries about her rights being violated.

All this contributes to the face of cronyism on this campus. Disparate treatment is the order of the day at Chicago State. If you are “in” with Watson and his cronies, you can do basically anything. If you are “out” you had better watch your step. Jim Crowley found that out in 2010. Fortunately for him, Watson and his acolytes did not have the last word. Unfortunately for us, the same crowd that has cost the university more than $3 million continues in power, supported by an ethically compromised Board of Trustees and do-nothing governor. How many more wounds can the university endure? I suspect we will find out.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Few Bits and Bobs

So I thought I would fill you, my loyal readers, in on a few bits and bobs in the theme of bleeding. No, not actual blood, though there are probably some who would very much enjoy seeing mine flow. But the bleeding that the university is experiencing.
First, yesterday Judge James McCarthy signed an order in the case Crowley v. Chicago State University that finalized the compensatory and punitive damages awarded by a jury three weeks ago in a 14-0 decision. The punitive damages stand at $2 million and the compensatory damages were doubled with 5% interest to $1,020,000. The court will decide the attorney’s fees and costs at a May 6th hearing. (Read the Chicago Tribune coverage here) It is likely that total, including the costs of the university’s attorneys will exceed $4 million. Finally, the court will also decide at the same hearing whether, when and/or how Mr. Crowley will return to his place of employment. Sources close to the victorious plaintiff tell your humble narrator, that he is prepared to return to the university having been vindicated in a court of law. Of course, it has already been reported that the Board of Trustees has rewarded the president with a two year extension after he managed to lose $4 million dollars. Might another extension be in the offing should another suit be lost???
The cavalcade of occupants of the Dean of Students office continues. I believe that I will need a score card to keep up with who is occupying the office this week. At some point I believed that the required search process would yield a few or maybe ten, qualified applicants. As it appears this search has failed as have the past three, I suppose that search processes have proved to be too cumbersome as the university has only interims serving as Vice Presidents and in several other key positions. Maybe it was the job posting that was the problem, so maybe the job positing for the Dean of Students will be changed to fit the experience of the newest interim. That way, another sham search for an unqualified applicant can be foisted on the university. The surprising thing about the most recent interim is they are already employed full time at the university and will continue in that six figure job as well as the new position. I didn’t think that state employees could hold two full time jobs whose hours are the same. The opposite of ghost payrolling (more about that later), double dipping shouldn’t be allowed especially when there are experienced employees here who have been prevented from teaching courses after their work hours. Very curious indeed.
Finally, following the theme of bleeding, the university continues to bleed students. At its current rate, enrollment in Spring 2016, the expiry of the president’s contract, will stand at around 3,600 students. That means that in seven years, this president will have reduced the enrollment of the university by more than half. That would be an astounding feat but not one worth bragging about or professing complete confidence in. Does not the vaunted enrollment management division have a plan. Or is it execution of the plan in vest in the wrong people or persons. I feel a FOIA request coming.
And the downward spiral of a public university continues. I don't lay the total blame for this ineptness at the feet of the Board of Trustees. They were all appointed by the Governor. Pat Quinn bears the most responsibility for this failure and waste of taxpayer dollars. And this in an election year.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Leadership Qualities

A former colleague, now retired from CSU, asked me to post the following letter:

Dear Dr. Arnold,
I write in response to your comments regarding leadership at the recent CSU Board of Trustees meeting.  It was reported that you asserted that faculty members at CSU who are critical of the current administration and its activities should demonstrate the same obedience to Watson and other administrators that soldiers give to their commanding officers.

There are some very good reasons for unquestioned obedience in a military setting where lives are at stake.  But the model does not work in a university setting.  University faculty members are neither soldiers nor are they Walmart employees.  In a university, the most important stakeholders are the students and the faculty who teach them.  All other personnel on a campus are there solely to support faculty and students, including the president.

It is not clear to me how someone with as distinguished a career as yours can support the lack of integrity exhibited by the current leadership.  Would the military tolerate an officer who entered into a romantic relationship with a soldier and then treated that soldier more favorably than others under the same command?  CSU’s current president has done that by creating positions for his girlfriend and paying her handsomely, despite her not having the credentials for the position she holds.   There are more egregious acts outlined in the CSU Faculty Blog, as well as documents evidencing Watson’s breaches of policy, ethics, and integrity.

Since his arrival—even before his arrival—Wayne Watson has demonstrated his utter lack of integrity and respect for the university and its students.  While there have been good initiatives (for example block scheduling of freshman classes) far too many of his efforts have been spent in defending himself from critics rather than supporting the central purpose for which the university exists, teaching and learning.   He has a fundamental lack of understanding of common university practices and procedures.  He has a dismal lack of understanding of scholarship or teaching.  In my thirty-year career in Academia I have never seen such irresponsible “leadership.”

United States military personnel deserve respect for the vital jobs they do to protect American principles.  University faculty members deserve respect for the vital jobs they do to prepare their students for leadership positions in the future.  Wayne Watson deserves no respect for robbing CSU students to pay more administrators and lawyers, for hiring a Provost who is woefully underprepared for her job (she wouldn’t even meet the criteria for tenure at CSU), and for using the limited resources available to retaliate against employees and students who refuse to be bullied.  That behavior is costing the University and taxpayers money—money that should be spend supporting teaching and learning.  Did you fight to protect the rights of individuals to steal from the taxpayers?  I don’t think so. 

Robin A. Benny
Retired from Chicago State University, 2011
Assistant to the Provost, Curriculum Management, CSU, 2004-2011
Director of Freshman Composition, CSU, 1986-2004

How Patrick Cage and the CSU Legal Team Make Their Cases or Why Does the University So Frequently Lose?

Chicago State’s crack legal department led by the intrepid Patrick Cage, consistently cranks out legal arguments that boggle the mind with their Orwellian implications. Currently on campus are two controversies swirling around the Faculty Senate and Student Government Association (SGA). Both of these organizations seem to be “advisory bodies” as defined by the Illinois Attorney General. Nonetheless, the university is treating these two entities in decidedly different ways: differences that are contradictory and even ridiculous.

At the outset of this post, I must confess to not being a lawyer. Given the inconsistencies in the legal arguments that come out of the Cook building, I can only be grateful for that fact. Nevertheless, I will attempt to provide a layman’s interpretation of the following gibberish from our legal “team” and what it seems to mean. The challenge for the reader is to follow the bouncing ball here (sorry for the outdated cultural reference to Mitch Miller).

Let us begin by defining our terms. Both the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Illinois Open Meetings Act (OMA) define “public bodies” as: “all legislative, administrative, executive, or advisory bodies of the State . . . and any subsidiary bodies of the foregoing.” The Illinois FOIA legislation also specifically includes “state universities and colleges” as “public bodies” subject to FOIA legislation. In a January 8, 2013, informational letter, the Attorney General’s Office reiterated that for purposes of OMA, “public bodies include . . . all [state] legislative, executive, administrative or advisory bodies . . . [and] all committees, subcommittees, and subsidiary bodies of public bodies.”

The Attorney General notes that “FOIA applies when a member of the public is seeking access to public records. OMA is intended to ensure that the actions of public bodies are conducted in the open . . .” Therefore, it seems that the Illinois Attorney General makes no distinction between what constitutes a public body for the purposes of FOIA and OMA. The OMA also describes “governing bodies” in its text. In the context of that law, “governing bodies” are those entities that operate as “governing bodies of the public body.” Thus, for Chicago State University, the hierarchy of “bodies” described in FOIA and OMA features the university’s Board of Trustees as the “governing body,” the university itself as the “public body,” with “advisory bodies” that include both the Faculty Senate and Student Government Association.

There are at least two other notable features of the Freedom of Information Act. Each public body “shall designate one or more officials or employees to act as its Freedom of Information Officer.” Each public body must also “prominently display at each of its administrative offices . . . a brief description of itself.” This description must include: “the identification and membership of any board, commission, committee, or council which operates in an advisory capacity relative to the operation of the public body.” For Chicago State, Patrick Cage formerly served as FOIA Officer, a title now held by Maria Mazza. Although FOIA requires that “A public body that maintains a website shall also post this information on its website.” I found no description on Chicago State’s website and I cannot recall ever seeing anything like the description required in the FOIA law posted in the Cook building. I have sent Ms. Mazza an e-mail requesting that required material.

The FOIA and OMA laws, along with the advisory material from the Attorney General’s Office provide clarity in defining what constitutes a “public body,” creating a definition that both the Faculty Senate and Student Government Association seem to fall within. Thus, one might expect legal arguments made on behalf of both bodies to possess a certain degree of internal consistency. Of course, that is not the case here at Chicago State.

First, there seems little doubt that the Illinois Public Access Counselor considers the Student Government Association to be subject to FOIA. In a Review of a FOIA request dated October 24, 2013, Assistant Attorney General Shari West ordered Chicago State to provide the requestor the results of the student government election of May 1-3, 2013. Chicago State had refused to provide the results. The university’s legal team did not base its refusal on the fact that FOIA did not apply to the student government, but instead relied upon an assertion that revealing the results would expose the identify of a student who suffered disciplinary consequences as a result of the election. Unimpressed with Chicago State’s argument, the Public Access Counselor ordered the university to release the information, which it did.

Moving forward to just a few days ago, the university provided a completely different argument in response to a student claim that the SGA had violated the Illinois Open Meetings Act. Perhaps most important, the university’s response seems to have made the student’s case even though it purportedly supported Chicago State’s contention that SGA was not, in fact, bound by the Open Meetings Act. Please pay close attention as this is likely to be like taking a trip into Wonderland.

Chicago State’s response to the Public Access Counselor begins with a description of the SGA’s function and describes the organization this way: “a student organization of the university.” The response goes on to say that “The foregoing demonstrates that the SGA is an independent student organization which operates as an ADVISORY BOARD . . . (capital letters mine) rather than a governing board of the university.” Please forgive me here, but does not that passage conform nicely to the Attorney General’s definition of what constitutes a public body? Not to mention the laughability of any claim that the SGA is “independent,” of Chicago State’s administration. Finally, we know that “governing board” applies to the university’s Board of Trustees.

The response gets even more convoluted as it continues. After quoting the OMA language, the university’s legal counsel goes on to explain how since the SGA is actually “an independent student organization whose role is ADVISORY (again, capital letters mine) . . . the Open Meetings Act does not apply to the SGA.” Wait, I thought advisory bodies were public bodies as defined by the Attorney General. I guess Chicago State knows better. The final two sentences capture perfectly the resplendent doublespeak of this response: “Although the University constitutes a 'public body' under the Act, the SGA does not qualify as a 'public body' as defined under the Act nor would the SGA constitute a subsidiary body of the University. Accordingly, the Act does not apply to the SGA.” Wow! I wonder how the Public Access Counselor will feel about that argument?

So, by the university’s logic, the SGA is not a “public body” under the provisions of the OMA which would preclude its existence as a “public body” for purposes of the Freedom of Information Act. Why did the university not make that argument in the case of the student election results?

In contrast, Chicago State University clearly considers the Faculty Senate subject to the provisions of FOIA. The recent FOIA request from Patrick Cage demands that the Senate provide a number of records so that the university can decide whether it feels like accepting the results of recent Senate balloting on constitutional amendments. This raises the question for me of how one subsidiary body of the university can be a “public body” when the other is not. Would not the same arguments the university makes to reject a “public body” claim for the SGA apply equally to the Faculty Senate? Here I must defer to my learned legal friends because it has gotten far too complicated for my untrained mind.

However, there is one other problem with Cage’s FOIA request to the Senate. As Chicago State’s lead counsel, Patrick Cage has, in effect, submitted a FOIA request to another member of his legal team. This seems to me to mean that the university is submitting a FOIA request against itself. The questions raised in Cage’s FOIA have already been answered by the Senate, apparently not to the administration’s satisfaction. Since the Faculty Senate president has no intention of responding to the university’s FOIA (given the fact that he has already responded to the questions contained in the request), will Patrick Cage then report to the Illinois Public Access Counselor Chicago State’s failure to respond to Chicago State’s FOIA request against itself? What will he argue? Will the Public Access Counselor direct Chicago State to respond to itself? What will be Chicago State’s response? Stay tuned.

Once upon a time, Patrick Cage told the Senate’s Executive Committee that he “represented everyone at Chicago State,” or something to that effect. Given the consistent participation of Chicago State’s Labor and Legal Affairs Team in attacks against various faculty endeavors and institutions, I wonder if that is true. In any event, given the caliber of argument that comes from our legal staff, we just might be lucky to win any cases. What do you think?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

An Invitation to Watson's Supporters: Why Does He Have Your Allegiance?

Although I was not present at Friday’s board meeting, I understand from the second-hand accounts I received that Michael Sukowski and Damon Arnold offered pointed critiques of the faculty opposed to Wayne Watson. Sukowski apparently claimed that he had knowledge that only a few faculty were actually opposed to Watson. Arnold apparently extolled the virtues of hierarchical organization and unquestioning obedience toward one’s “leaders.” After Ann Kuzdale spoke to both critiques, Sukowski offered a rebuttal that claimed that a number of members of the Faculty Senate disagreed with that body’s adversarial stance relative to the administration but that they were afraid to vote against the more extreme members. Arnold accused Kuzdale of criticizing his military service, instructed her that he had served to protect her right to speak and mentioned the fact that he had seen death and destruction on the battlefield. If this recounting of events is somehow flawed, please correct any errors I have committed.

Those two lines of criticism fall into line with much of the rhetoric coming from the pro-Watson camp. First, the continued incumbency of both of these persons in their positions is in no small part dependent upon their allegiance to Watson. Second, they are simple attacks on the opposition’s messengers since neither person offers any substantive evidence of the efficacy of their statements. Sukowski’s claims are unsupported by any data and Arnold offers an opinion based upon his personal authority. These comments follow the party line that only a few disgruntled faculty are opposed to Watson and that those faculty should just shut their mouths and avoid bringing the university into disrepute. I have seen no data that support Sukowski’s claims, in fact, Senate votes are conducted anonymously and Senators are free to vote any way they like without danger of exposure. I too, have seen lots of dead people and worked many years in a para-military organization. My experiences have led me to believe that unquestioning loyalty to one’s superiors is actually a bad thing. My experiences have also convinced me that Watson is possibly the worst “leader” I have ever seen and that he and his administration deserve to be banished from this institution.

Since I do not believe that my personal authority counts for much, for the past several months, I have endeavored to provide irrefutable evidence of the various misdeeds of Watson and his cronies. In my estimation, this kind of material trumps unsupported and unverifiable personal assertions. The evidence I have presented supports a conclusion that Watson has used the university as his own personal fiefdom and along the way has trampled university policy in ways that seem unprecedented. I could even make the argument that his actions, rather than those of his opposition, have demonstrated contempt for the organization.

For much of the past three years I have asked Watson’s supporters to provide a substantive case for his continuation as Chicago State’s president. They have been silent. I ask again. Why do you support this man and his administration? If anyone would like to respond, please offer something other than “he got us accredited,” which as we all know is absolute nonsense. I am willing to concede that the Watson administration has marginally increased graduation rates and that he has "opened up the campus to the community" (according to some of his most prominent shills). Is there anything else? In particular, it would be helpful to avoid commentary from persons who may be fabricating claims to fit a particular narrative–or descending into name-calling and anonymous vitriol–or whose own Deans have questioned the circumstances of their hiring, their attendance on the job and their propensity to disseminate misleading or even false information in a public forum.

In case someone wishes to respond substantively, here are some of the most salient points in support of Watson’s removal:

1. He demonstrated his contempt for faculty prior to even taking the job. His subsequent actions have simply underscored that contempt.

2. Watson re-organized both the College of Education and the College of Arts and Sciences, with little or no faculty input and little regard for the operation of either sub-unit.

3. Watson has been responsible for a disastrous drop in enrollment, from 7362 in 2010 to 5209 this spring. That is 2153 students, or a 29.2 percent decline in three-plus years. Although Watson claims to be unconcerned, calling it “right-sizing” the university, his enrollment management people are desperately trying to increase enrollment.

4. Watson’s administration, primarily through Patrick Cage, has made a number of attempts to destroy free expression on this campus: the computer usage policy, communications policy, two attacks on the Faculty Voice, the current assault on the legitimacy of the Faculty Senate, and the incipient Cyber-Bullying policy now wending its way through the board approval process.

5. Watson’s administration has been responsible for record numbers of financial and compliance problems. This year’s celebrated drop in audit exceptions brings the total during his administration to 120 in four years. This is nearly double the number of audit exceptions (66) from 2004-09 and is hardly cause for congratulations.

6. Watson has been a media disaster. Other than fawning accolades from his publishing friends, the vast majority of stories on Watson and Chicago State for the past four years have been negative. Recent reports provide examples.

7. Watson has raised virtually no money for Chicago State in four years.

8. Relationships with the faculty. No need to comment there.

9. Watson has failed to protect the academic integrity of Chicago State. There are at least three persons in the administration who provided false and/or misleading information on their application materials that are now official university records. Watson has terminated none of these three persons: Angela Henderson, Cheri Sidney or Tyra Austin. In addition, Angela Henderson plagiarized her dissertation, something that we do not need UIC to decide since faculty at Chicago State are more than capable of determining when plagiarism appears in written material. Nonetheless, Henderson is still working here and still providing a living example of the contempt with which Watson apparently views the entire academic enterprise.

10. Watson has also failed to protect the academic integrity of Chicago State by hiring persons unqualified by experience or education for their positions: again, Angela Henderson, Cheri Sidney and Tyra Austin come immediately to mind. A simple glance at the Chicago State web site reveals multiple inaccuracies that speak not just to sloppiness but to a fundamental dishonesty and lack of understanding of the importance of accurate credentials in an educational setting. Beginning with Watson’s biography, he is apparently no longer a member of the Chicago Botanic Garden Board of Directors, a position he last held in 2009; Napoleon Moses, who has seemingly dropped off the face of the earth, is still listed as “Chief of Staff,” Angela Henderson’s biography indicates that she “served as Provost, Dean, Department Chair and tenured Professor at various institutions of higher education.” In fact, extant records demonstrate that Henderson only worked at Olive-Harvey and at the City Colleges District Offices, hardly “various institutions of higher education”; Human Resources Director Renee Mitchell is credited with a Ph.D. when she actually has a Doctor of Management, a professional degree. I realize that many of these things are insignificant in the constellation of falsehoods, but they are fundamentally dishonest. Of course, the Chicago State web site also listed Henderson has having a Ph.D. months before she actually received the degree.

11. Watson has failed to protect the academic integrity of Chicago State in that his personal relationship with Cheri Sidney violates university policy. His creation of new, highly-paid administrative positions specifically for her may violate the Illinois Ethics Act.

12. Watson has failed to protect the academic integrity of Chicago State by involving himself in hiring decisions for which he has no expertise. The Criminal Justice search of 2012 offers an example and Watson’s intervention in subsequent personnel actions attests to the continuing problems with those hirings.

13. Watson has failed to protect the institutional integrity of Chicago State by his proven propensity to practice petty vindictiveness, bullying and retaliation as component parts of his management “style.” The recent $2.5 million judgment in favor of James Crowley is likely to be the first of many judgments against Chicago State. This follows a similar disastrous law suit from the City Colleges that resulted in a costly settlement in favor of the plaintiff, Maria Moore. Both these cases involve retaliation against someone who reported Watson’s ethical violations to the Illinois Inspector General’s Office.

14. Watson has squandered university resources on essentially personal crusades to stamp out dissent. The contract for the firm representing Watson in the Crowley suit comes to nearly $250,000. He has also spent an unknown amount (as yet) on outside counsel to pursue the university’s ridiculous trademark claim, hired (for $30,000) a “Workplace Intelligence Firm,” for some unknown reason, and likely undertaken additional “investigations” designed to target his enemies.

This is hardly an exhaustive list, but to summarize, Watson’s achievements since 2009 include: 1) declining enrollment; 2) excessive audit findings; 3) antagonistic or non-existent relationships with media and faculty; 4) failure to raise money for the university; 5) multiple attempts to silence his critics; 6) shredding the university’s academic integrity by condoning lying and cheating from highly-placed administrators; 7) engaging in a supervisory pattern of retaliation and vindictiveness that has cost the university dearly; 8) creating an environment of fear and hostility that permeates the administration building and has targeted the most vulnerable among Chicago State’s employees.

To those of you who support Wayne Watson, I assume you are not willing to accept a miserable administrative performance, do not condone academic fraud and basic dishonesty, do not favor attacks on free expression, do not stand for cronyism, do not support cowardly retaliation as a management tool and do not wish to see the university destroyed. Do you really think the faculty is to blame? If there are achievements by this administration that offset the multiple failures listed above, I have missed them. I would be delighted to know what they are.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

It's official! No relief in sight until 2016

In case you missed the rollicking good time at the Board of Trustees meeting yesterday--citizens getting hauled out of a public meeting at a public institution--and our Board putting its trust in the feckless, here is the Tribune's report. Oh right, right, right,  it's not "our" board, it's his. Maybe the salary cut will help pay off the Crowley bills.,0,5898254.story

Chicago State president's salary reduced
University trustees cite new state pension law while extending Watson's contract

By Jodi S. Cohen, Tribune reporter
8:40 p.m. CST, March 7, 2014

Chicago State University trustees extended President Wayne Watson's contract Friday and also reduced his salary to comply with a new state law that lowers the amount public university employees can earn if they are drawing a pension from a prior state university job.
It is likely one of the first examples — and certainly the most high-profile one — of a change to a university employee's benefits as a result of the state's pension overhaul that, among other changes, aimed to close loopholes in the underfunded retirement system.

Watson, hired in 2009 after retiring as chancellor at the City Colleges of Chicago, had been drawing a $250,000 annual salary from Chicago State in addition to an annual pension of about $140,000 from his job at City Colleges.

But under a law enacted last year as part of the state pension overhaul, university employees who are receiving a retirement annuity cannot earn more than 40 percent of their highest annual earnings prior to retirement. If they do, the employer is required to pay a penalty to the State Universities Retirement System equal to the annual retirement benefit the employee is receiving.
The change in Watson's salary reflects how lawmakers aimed to close a loophole that allowed state university and community college employees to retire and draw a pension while still earning close to the same amount in a new university job. Watson's new salary is $146,363 a year. Combined with his pension, he will draw more than $285,000 a year.

"He is still doing well, but it's much more reasonable," said state Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Skokie, who sponsored the legislation that changed the allowable compensation for university retirees who take a new state university job. "In my view, the law is doing what it is intended to do."
According to City Colleges, Watson's highest salary there was $300,000. Chicago State officials said SURS, the retirement system, told them how much Watson could earn without violating the new law.

"The phenomenon of collecting a generous pension while collecting a full-time salary — that was not what the system was designed for," Biss said. "I am glad the law had some impact on curtailing that behavior. He is taking a pay cut because he has to."

The law took effect in November, and Chicago State attorneys determined that Watson's contract extension was subject to the new law. Watson's original five-year contract, which had been set to expire in June, now goes until 2016. The contract was approved unanimously at the board of trustees meeting Friday.

"It is being very cautious and taking a very conservative reading of the legislation," said Chicago State board attorney Langdon Neal.

"Dr. Watson is already participating in the (pension system). As a current state employee, there is a cap on the salary those persons can achieve."

Watson declined to answer questions from the Tribune.

Chicago State board Chairman Anthony Young asked Watson to discuss why he "is signing a contract that greatly reduces his salary."

Watson said he had accomplished about 75 to 80 percent of his mission when he took over four years ago and wanted to reach the remainder of his goals. He cited the university's renewed accreditation last year, a reduction in the number of audit findings by the state auditor general, an increase in academic standards and better relations with the surrounding South Side community.
"We have a mission, and the students are at the core of the mission," Watson said. "We are not finished, and there is a poem called 'See it Through,'" Watson said, referring to a work by Edgar Guest. "We are going to see this one through. I am proud and humbled, and I am appreciative for this board of trustees for giving its support to me to go forth."

This time last year, Watson was on the verge of losing his job. Trustees had been in the midst of deciding Watson's future when Gov. Pat Quinn did not renew the terms of some board members who had questioned Watson's employment.

The new board has said it supports Watson.
Tribune reporter Jason Grotto contributed.
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