Friday, May 2, 2014

A Modest Proposal to My Colleagues

At the end of the semester, Watson and his administration have apparently increased the pressure on various administrators (chairs and deans) to keep their faculty in line. At least one dean reportedly admonished a faculty member not to attend a recent farewell party and not to be so vocal in opposition to Wayne Watson. Department Chairs have reportedly warned their faculty about opposing Watson for fear that he would retaliate by refusing to hire needed personnel. This attempted intimidation caps a school year in which the administration has engaged in other forms of retaliation: an sloppily conducted investigation into ridiculous charges ultimately designed to result in disciplinary action for at least one of most visible members of the anti-Watson faculty; well-documented attacks on the Chicago State Faculty Senate and free expression—including ludicrous threats of legal action against the faculty blog—ostensibly to protect non-existent trademarks. In summary, Watson’s achievements this year have been impressive. They include (but are not limited to): continued ridicule for the school and his administration in the local and national media; revelations of lying, cheating and even plagiarizing by upper-level administrators—all of whom are still employed, some who continue to receive promotions— revelations about the administration’s continued use of “crony” hiring practices and various degrees of mismanagement which have had such a negative effect on the operation of the school. No wonder Watson and his stooges want to shut people up.

I have given the administration-faculty relationship here a great deal of thought and I have the following suggestion: why not stop playing their game? Other than conducting the university’s necessary business, and always with the intention of honoring the contract, why not refuse to participate? Let me use hiring as an example.

As we all know (or should know by now) Wayne Watson has taken over the hiring process for new faculty. This self-described “educator” who knows nothing about the academic enterprise and who has accomplished nothing in the academic field in more than forty years, has arrogated to himself the power to divine which candidates are best suited to specific disciplines. He uses this power in arbitrary ways, deciding to hire or not to hire candidates based on some internal criterion which has been created by personal and anecdotal experience. I realize that a number of departments have a need for new faculty, but might not the price have become too high to participate in the process? Do we want new colleagues who have been hand-picked by someone who simply does not belong in any kind of academic setting?

I realize that there may be budgetary implications, but the way Watson handles the personal services portion of the university budget again demonstrates his arbitrary and capricious management style. For faculty, Watson is concerned about departments “bringing diversity.” In fact, he is so concerned about “diversity” that he has threatened to reduce existing departments by 80 percent if they do not provide a pool of candidates who conform to his mystical conception of how an appropriate candidate should look. This Godfather-like hiring process seems designed to provide more loyal soldiers for the Watson army than to create any benefit to the university at large.

If we decide to discontinue being victims in the abusive hiring game played by Watson and his enablers, what exactly would we give up? First, we would not have to inflict that ridiculous and insulting “writing” requirement on our candidates. The breathtaking cynicism of this mandate—from an administration that consistently produces stupid and inarticulate written communications—seems almost Kafkaesque. Second, not investing a great deal of time and energy in what are likely to be fruitless searches frees us to give that time and energy to our students, to our service, or to our research. In short, to an endeavor that will actually benefit the university. Third, we could materially reduce the ways in which Watson and many of his deans and chairs practice their ham-handed intimidation. Fourth, we would not have to endure the pain of seeing that insufferable presidential poseur insert himself into a process in which he has no place.

I ask you to consider if the university would succeed without faculty participation in a number of joint faculty-administrative endeavors. Would we have received accreditation without faculty participation? Without faculty participation, would our students progress through programs? would they earn their degrees? would they go on to other pursuits? I am not suggesting that we withhold our participation in those kinds of efforts, they clearly benefit the university and our students. Could our administrators run Chicago State all by themselves?

Some time ago, I made the decision not to participate in any committees on this campus that were strictly “advisory.” As we know, “advisory” actually means superfluous, since recommendations from those kinds of committees are almost never considered by the administration. This top-down administrative structure that Watson has attempted to impose on this campus brooks no dissent, tolerates no disagreement and operates in a way that is simply antithetical to the academic effort. Let us stop participating. Let us go to no more pointless dog-and-pony shows (like the laughable “town-halls” the empty suit is so fond of holding); let us participate in no more meaningless committee work; let us attend no more “listening tours” at departmental meetings; let us stop allowing our chairs and deans to do the administration’s dirty work of intimidation and subterfuge; let us simply stop wasting our time on nonsense.

I believe that Watson’s behavior has consistently demonstrated his contempt for academics. His toxic management style has resulted in many mid-level administrators robotically advancing Watson’s interests, often to the detriment of the university, its students, academic departments and faculty. While my suggestions in this post are hardly exhaustive (and for many might not even be acceptable) I believe that the current crisis demands that Chicago State’s faculty assert themselves. Something could be done and certainly should be done to extricate ourselves and our school from this quagmire.


  1. And let us demand to be compensated as well as the friends, lawyers, and the inner ring of administrators Watson has hired. Apparently the SURS retirement meeting on campus was a sobering event. If you aren't already making a six-figure salary you are going to be SOL.
    Hmmm let's see, how many CUES do I need to get my salary up to $100,000?
    What chumps.

  2. I propose a forum for the fall semester: Repression at CSU. In fact the forum could be a regular event to kick off each semester with a review of what the administration has done recently. Seriously, someone (not me; I am retired almost) should reserve the room now under that title. Students, campus workers, and faculty should be recruited now to participate. I would return if you would like that.