Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Administration Takes a Giant Step Toward Total Control of Chicago State's Faculty: What Will We Do About It?

Today, you should have received in your e-mail something from the administration titled "Questionnaire About Faculty Senate." This is ostensibly a survey designed partly to assess the faculty's feelings about the current controversy between the Faculty Senate and the administration. Of course, that controversy has not yet been resolved as we are awaiting the Board's response to our recent communication and the Attorney General's Office has not yet made a determination as to the validity of the administration's FOIA request.

That does not prevent our administration from moving preemptively to establish a new faculty governance structure at Chicago State, one likely to be more amenable to Watson's failed administration. There are a number of problems with this survey, not the least of which is the Chicago State Board of Trustees own Governing Policy. This policy states that the structures of campus organizations "shall be determined by the constituencies they represent." Thus, any discussion of the structure of a faculty governance body must be faculty driven. In this case, the administration is asking the faculty to give their opinion on ten different items, submit that document to their respective Department Chairs who will submit it to the College Deans who will then tally the results and submit them to the administration "for their consideration." Is there any doubt about the outcome?

Look at the first bullet point. This is "part of an ongoing conversation"? Between who and who? The administration has certainly not spoken to the Faculty Senate, except to issue ultimatums. Have they talked with anyone else? Are these people even capable of telling the truth? Then take a look at the ten questions. Most revealing, I think are numbers 2, 6 and 8. Question 1 asks whether mediation is a viable option then question 2 makes clear that the Faculty Senate will be “suspended.” Question 6 asks faculty members to weigh in on whether non-unit A faculty should be included in the Senate and whether their right to vote should be subject to yet-to-be determined “prescribed limitations.” Finally, question 8 asks faculty to decide whether each college should have equally represented, which would result in colleges with 6 percent of the faculty possessing 20 percent of the Senate seats or a college with 53 percent of the faculty also possessing 20 percent of the Senate seats. What about the Library and Counseling? Will they also be part of the equal representation scheme?

All of these possibilities raise the specter of administrative interference (again) in legitimate faculty functions. Obviously, a Senate configured with a large number of non-tenured faculty would be in a highly vulnerable position. Similarly, equal representation would allow the administration to potentially exercise a great deal of influence over that “representative” body. This reminds me of the “company unions” of the 1920s, where the company’s administrators selected the leaders and shaped the agenda of what they cynically refered to as unions.

Neither the administration nor the Board has ever responded to any of the numerous policy recommendations and resolutions passed by the Faculty Senate. Now, however, the administration is interested in the structure and activities of that body. This is nothing more than a naked attempt to take even more power (what little remains) from an apathetic and often supine faculty. While the “survey” raises a number of questions for me, I will save them for later. The most important question I have now is this: what should we as a faculty do about this? I await your response.


  1. What is even more notable about this survey is that there is no indication of its origin, or who would be served by or receiving this information.

  2. 1. Absolutely. I have no confidence in the Board of Trustees, the President, or the Acting Provost to do so.
    2. The Faculty Senate (FS) should not have been suspended in the first place. This is a blatantly hostile act directed at the faculty by a vindictive President and a Board of Trustees that is patently incapable of exercising their oversight responsibilities.
    3-4. The FS of any university is generally recognized as a governing body made up of faculty members from various scholastic units within the university. Other administrative or support units are normally not represented. The FS normally creates academic policies that apply to the university. Policies that are created by the FS are subject to, and must be in accordance with, policies of the university system to which the institution belongs, as well as other entities.
    5. The concept of shared governance is obvious. Presidents who attempt to hold all the reins in any but the smallest institutions burn themselves out. One of ours went on to destroy the next institution that hired her, and was under house arrest, complete with ankle bracelet, for a year. Presidents who are respected by their faculty and work with them to improve the institution do not. President Watson has not been that kind of a President. Instead, he has taken credit for things that he had little to do with (and in some cases, actually impeded: our reaccreditation being a prime example). He has bullied the faculty (and lost a $3.8 million lawsuit based on his personal behavior), blames the faculty for his more than obvious failures, has overindulged himself in the perquisites of his position, has waged personal vendettas (like this one), and continues to whine three years on that our enrollment remains in decline is because he is “raising standards”. He has ignored TWO votes of no confidence and is now attempting to dissolve the Faculty Senate. All of this could have been easily avoided if the former Board had actually listened to the faculty (who are, amazingly, not represented ON the Board, even though there is a student representative) and not accepted the two incredibly poor candidates for the position in the first place. The previous Board that was attempting to govern President Watson’s failures as President (to the point of firing him) was reconstituted and the present board awarded him a two-year extension of his contract.
    6. It is a fact that FT/PT lecturers make up an increasing proportion of most university faculties. The result of that has been a decrease in tenured and tenure-track faculty (who are increasingly required to take up the slack for the needed administrative work). In our university, we have had a huge increase in the number of administrators, but they do not know what they are supposed to be doing and pivot to the faculty to help them do their jobs. They then ignore their input.
    7. No. Institutional knowledge is an important component in the efficiency and efficacy of this body. My direct observation is that there is a healthy rate of turnover in our Faculty Senate.
    8. Colleges should generally be represented according to their enrollment and their need for academic resources.
    9. I consider this to be a loaded question, cynically designed to weaken the Senate by retitling it. President Watson and the acting Provost rightly fear the Faculty Senate, because even its greenest member has better academic credentials than they have.
    10. Who are “we”, i.e., from where does this survey originate? “We”, meaning the faculty? “We”, meaning the President? “We”, meaning the Trustees? Speaking as a faculty member, “we” would like for the President to stop trying to censor the faculty, to stop inserting himself into the hiring process for new faculty, stop looting the University to support his friends, and start doing his job (e.g., fundraising). “We” faculty would also like the Board to do its job, and stop being an enabler of this President’s colossal failures.

  3. This survey is so wrong in so many ways. To begin with the picky; what’s with the bulleted sentences in the opening paragraph? As it starts with “Dear faculty,” the document appears to be a letter, but the bulleting indicates a list of some sort. Weird.

    Then the questions. Oh my, these range all over the map, from whining for some mediator (Mooooommmmmyy! They’re looking at me!”), to philosophic musings about the role of a faculty senate in university governance.

    Let’s look closely at questions 3 and 4. What is the role and purpose of the Faculty Senate: gee, a cursory look through various college websites and encyclopedias demonstrates that this question has been answered for centuries ( ). The purpose and role of a faculty senate is to provide governance to the academic enterprises of a university. Faculty senates develop and oversee curriculum development and academic policies, for example, university policies on academic fraud. like plagiarism.

    At some universities, the provost or president is a member, though most often not voting members. Recall that Dr. Westbrooks attended many CSU Faculty Senate meetings for the purpose of providing information or asking for faculty feedback on various policy recommendations. Some universities have representatives from the ranks of adjuncts, many have student representatives. None of this is a mystery.

    Question five asks for a “perception” of shared governance.” That’s like asking people what their perception of gravity is. The principles of shared governance are widely known and acknowledged. The AAUP has even written them down. Interested readers can go take a look:

    Whoever wrote this sorry little survey clearly hasn’t realized that the faculty understands very well what faculty senates do, the principles of shared governance, and the role of administrators. It is the current gang of poseurs in the Cook building that doesn’t understand these terms and concepts; therein lies the problem.

    It isn’t clear why Wayne and Angie are so unfamiliar with the role that faculty play in the governance of a university. Here is the link to the University of Illinois, Chicago Faculty Senate Bylaws, with which Angie, once a PhD student, should be familiar: As for Li’l Wayne, Northwestern’s Faculty Senate publishes their bylaws here: Why didn’t they look to all of the other universities in the state – or the nation—for information on the topics raised in the survey?

    Questions 9 and 10 are the most outrageous of the lot. Change the name of the CSU Faculty Senate? Why? To what end? The name and role of faculty senates is well understood and commonly used at universities everywhere in the USA. The CSU Faculty Senate is in no need of reconstituting or renaming. Their work continues to be valuable and representative of university faculty, the same university faculty who elected the current members of the CSU Faculty Senate.

    This survey is really not a serious effort at dialogue. It is a childish act of tit for tat: The Faculty Senate puts out a survey asking how many faculty support the current president and provost, so Wayne puts one out asking about support for the Faculty Senate. The maddening, gut crunching, teeth gnashing thing about this administration is it’s absolutely naked, juvenile stupidity on display for all the word to see. And these people are just too stupid to see it. Gahhhhhhhh!