Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Threading Troubling Thoughts Together

So, loyal readers, several items have come to my attention. I know I am considered a rambling, disgruntled employee by the regime so I will attempt to tie together the following thoughts in cogent and coherent theme.
First, I have been very disturbed by the treatment of faculty who received tenure this year. For those of you unfamiliar with the tenure process, it is the culmination of an apprenticeship period lasting up to six years where a probationary faculty member demonstrates to his/her colleagues their competence, skill, and ability to serve the institution as a tenured faculty member. The annual evaluations in that period can be stressful as the standards and expectations increase. Probationary faculty find their time consumed with the demands of service and research competing with their primary duties. Balancing work life and personal life can be challenging as well so when the tenure portfolio is submitted, the stress is often at its highest point. Typically at some point in April of the 6th year, the university president sends a letter to each faculty member informing them of the university’s intention to recommend to the Board of Trustees that they be awarded tenure. This letter serves a couple of purposes. First, it is a pressure relief valve for the faculty member. The pressure is relieved and for the first time in six years, the faculty member’s summer break may not be consumed with the pursuit of tenure. Second, it is an acknowledgment of the institution of the work put forth by the faculty member; a sort of “atta boy.’ Finally, it's just good form to act like a professional administrator, not someone playing at being a president. This year I surveyed several of my colleagues who applied for tenure and none of them received notification from the university about the intention to put them forward or not. Another concerned faculty colleague sent me an email voicing the same concern so I realized it wasn’t just me.
This comes on the heels of the university granting only two sabbaticals to faculty in clear violation of the faculty contract. Again, it appears as if the president is thumbing his nose at faculty.There are standard practices in the academy that should be adhered to. Some may be viewed as arcane, yet nearly everything in life is contextual and in the context of the academy not notifying faculty members in advance has the potential to send unintended messages not just to the untenured but to all faculty. The message I received was one of disrespect and contempt by this administration for faculty. So let me extend my congratulations to our newest, unnamed tenured colleagues. That no congratulatory messages appeared on the university’s homepage is continuing evidence in my mind that faculty accomplishment or performance is of little concern to an administration riddled with incompetence and plagued by scandal.
To wit, what happened to the Director of Financial Aid? Is it true she was expected by Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management to work on Mother’s Day and she declined that offer? Or might her departure have something to do with not being allowed to fulfill the responsibilities of her position, namely supervising an Assistant Director who lacked the minimum qualifications for the job? How does the Assistant Director, Ms. Austin, not report to the Director but reports to the Associate Vice President? Very curious indeed!
Which brings us to the question of reporting. Now that the Interim Vice President for Enrollment Management has been requested to pursue other career opportunities outside of the university, does that mean that the $113,000 per year Associate Vice President will assume those duties and consequently report to the President? If so, Ms. Sidney would be reporting to someone she has been romantically linked to which is highly inappropriate and could constitute an ethics violation if my ten years of annual ethics training is to be believed. I am sure that any University Ethics officer would provide an opinion, in writing, stating that it is inappropriate 1) to hire someone you are romantically involved with, 2) promote someone you are romantically involved with, and/or 3) have someone you are romantically involved with report directly to you. I am sure that any university general counsel would point out that it creates legal liability for the institution to engage in such conduct and thus must be avoided. I am sure that any Chief Financial Officer of a university would, in their capacity of protecting the financial assets of the institution, advise against such behavior, much like the now terminated Glenn Meeks did. So maybe an updated organization chart and score card with reporting lines and lists of interim positions could be issued to clear up any confusion.
And speaking of confusion, your humble narrator has heard nothing on the status of the search for a non-interim, terminal degree holding provost. After spending more than $100,000 on this search, I am dubious that the outcome will be any different than the search that yielded the incumbent president in 2009. My loyal readers may recall that it was the Hollins Group that was paid $75,000 to conduct a national search that found two candidates who were within a few miles of the university. So much for national searches.
As a side note, I attempted to see a list of the applicants for the last presidential search through a routine Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. I was told by the university that they had no records responsive to my request. Hmmm, having no records of who applied for the position of university president sounds like a failure in records management. If the university can’t keep records like a list of 33 applicants, what would lead the regime to believe they could be substantively involved in the Obama Presidential Library?
Back to Provost search, maybe a look to decentralization would be good for the regime. What if the president did away with the position of Provost and made each college responsible for its own academic activities? That way he wouldn’t have to worry about hiring someone with unimpeachable academic credentials, a verifiable terminal degree or any experience managing a university’s academic enterprise. He could create a new unfunded position, shift money from other budget lines, create minimal qualifications for the position, have a search that is open for one day and hire someone that he knows well. And maybe it could be someone who has a relationship to his own personal legal counsel. That way, untoward things could be kept out of public view so as not to embarrass the institution or parties involved. That way, the Board of Trustees can continue to have the highest confidence in the president and his vision for the university.
And finally, back to FOIA requests. I submitted a FOIA request on April 2nd, 2014. 

Under FOIA, 5 ILCS 140/3 Sec 3d “ Each public body shall, promptly, either comply with or deny a request for public records within 5 business days after its receipt of the request, unless the time for response is properly extended under subsection (e) of this Section. Denial shall be in writing as provided in Section 9 of this Act.” Imagine my surprise when I hadn’t received a response to this request by May 30th, 2014. I was left with no recourse but to contact the Office of the Attorney General and submit a request for review for which I received a prompt response. It stated in part, “...we request that CSU provide a written explanation of its receipt and handling of Mr. Beverly’s  April 2, 2014 FOIA request.” Further, “...please provide this information to our office within seven (7) business days after receipt of this letter. As we review this matter, we will advise you if we require additional information.” I would hope that my experience of the university is singular and that what was reported to the HLC as far as communications improvement was accurate. Based on my experiences, I would suggest that a focus visit is in order to more comprehensively examine our much reported compliance and communications deficiencies.

What, might you think, is the thread that ties together each of these thoughts? Is it that each indicates some level of failure on the part of the administration? Failure to respect faculty, failure to respect staff, and failure to respect governing policies and state laws are but one thread tying all of these together. Another is the inaction of the Board of Trustees, state legislators and the governor to protect the investment of the taxpayers of the State of Illinois. These practices are unacceptable in the academy and they are what inevitably dooms the university.
So as we grind inexorably toward utter disintegration as a university, I implore you loyal readers to keep faith that our university will weather the storm of this failed regime, though the institution may end up burned to the ground, it has the ability to recover, like a phoenix, to continue to serve those we have served for decades.

1 comment:

  1. Department of Education found university's "refusal to respond" to reasonable Requests is unacceptable. If school responds to one group of individual requests in timely and. Considerate manner, but inconsiderately denies and stonewalls second individual's requests, YES it could be considered evidence of hostility and discrimination. Need to show evidence of different treatment and file claim for discrimination. Just have to compare requests and show different (hostile) atmosphere.