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.

1 comment:

  1. If the reports of the BOT meeting are accurate, it is puzzling that only two people spoke out against Watson’s critics. Surely they could not feel intimidated into silence while in the presence of the BOT and Watson himself. Where were his supporters? Was there a long line at the microphone, filled with voices raised to Watson’s sterling leadership qualities? If Watson’s supporters are in the majority, where are they? Why have they not engaged in debate with their “disgruntled” peers? Could it be because they are a figment of Watson’s imagination?