Well Tom, it wasn't us. It may be that there are other more silent factions on campus going to the multiple media outlets, but it was not your usual suspects here at the faculty blog. This story on Fox (and your email) caught all of us completely by surprise. It seems other organizations, to wit, the long-standing Better Government Association has CSU on its radar.
It also appears that you overplayed the extent of the story. The BGA doesn't care about CSU hosting a faculty reception or an administrative retreat at the Presidential Mansion. It does care about the use of taxpayer money throwing a block party in Beverly whether you call it public relations or not. I love the way Alderman O'Shea was quick to say that no city money was used for this event even though he was listed as a co-host.
Frankly, I thought the story would focus on the fact that CSU police blocked protesters at the event. Students and faculty had showed up to protest the treatment of CSU students Willie Preston and Jokari Miller. That would have been a nice addition, but no one talked to us about it... And maybe the BGA's interest in $6,000 spent on the event will encourage it to look at some of the more scandalous wastes of money under Dr Watson's presidency.
Jazz in the grass stuff is of course popular with the public and the "community stakeholders." Of course CSU gets positive press from these events--bread and circuses always are popular. Ask the Roman emperors. Mayor Daley, long-standing emperor of Chicago, was a master at giving out summer freebies to the people of Chicago-concerts, fireworks, nice flowers on the street etc. The point is that someone ultimately has to pay. The BGA doesn't think you should be using taxpayer money to do it.
And, oh yeah, if you want to stop the bad publicity, stop doing stuff that will generate the bad publicity--very simple.
Here's the Fox Story and its link from yesterday.
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News & Better Government Assoc.)
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News & Better Government Assoc.)
It's always good to meet the neighbors.
So, when Chicago State University President Wayne Watson wanted to say hi to his neighbors in the South Side Beverly neighborhood, he threw a party using public.
FOX 32 and the Better Government Association have obtained the bills for the summer social, which the is defending as a "marketing event."
A historic mansion on Longwood Drive is the property of Chicago State University, about a four mile drive west of campus. For decades it's been used as the residence of the university's president. Chicago State security was patrolling it the day FOX 32 was there.
So, when Watson decided it would be a good idea to meet his neighbors, the university threw a party. The invitation mailed to over 1200 Beverly homes in July for "Jazz On The Hill" promised live music and light refreshments on the front lawn of the president's home.
"It's not a party just to have a party," said CSU spokesman Tom Wogan.
Wogan said the event was also designed to market the university, reach out to alums and recruit Beverly .
Invoices obtained by FOX 32 and the BGA show the university spent close to $6000 on the neighborhood party, including nearly $2800 on food and refreshments from a local catering company.
Among the six selections of hors d' oeuvres served by tuxedo-clad waiters was oven roasted turkey focaccia panini and beef tenderloin bruschetta with horseradish sauce dollop.
"If you want to hold a good event, a successful event, then you want to make sure people enjoy themselves. So I think it's appropriate that you have some light refreshments," Wogan said.
Then there's entertainment. In addition to Chicago State's jazz band, the university also hired a local singer for $1800.
Those invitations cost over $800 to mail and print, and then there was a total of 24 hours overtime for six university security officers.
"You can split hairs all day long about any dime that any , any public organization spends that way. I think the more responsible and practical way to look at it is was the event successful and did it achieve the goals that you set out to achieve. And to that end it did," Wogan said.
"It needs to be known that this is a public university that's funded by tax dollars," Patrick Rehkamp of the BGA said.
Rehkamp noted that Chicago State has a long history of issues, including declining enrollment and one of the worst rates in the country.
"Outreach is certainly necessary, especially when a lot of universities around the country, including here in the Chicago area, are hurting for enrollment. But throwing a house party for up to the cost of $5400 is what we know, seems a little excessive," Rehkamp said.
The university said about 300 neighbors attended the event, which was cosponsored by 19th Ward Alderman Matt O'Shea who said no city funds were used.
By the way, that massive home that president Watson is living in was given to the university in the 70's and is occasionally used for university receptions.