Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The University's Evidence Against the Faculty Senate: What a Surprise, It Doesn't Exist

A short while ago, I received a response from Patrick Cage to the FOIA request I filed on October 20. As a reminder, I filed that FOIA request in an effort to determine what, if any, actual evidence the administration possessed that supported the allegations of election irregularities they made against the Faculty Senate and its February 2014 amendment election. As you may recall, these allegations formed the basis for the Board’s decision to withdraw recognition from the Senate in September so they must be substantive, right?

Well, here is what the administration’s response makes obvious. There is no evidence, the election irregularities they are so concerned about exist simply because the administration says they do. To describe the administration’s case as completely lacking credibility seems an understatement. In fact, their actual response is nothing more than a complete fabrication. Like a liar who has been caught and who attempts to invent even more fantastic and unbelievable lies to escape responsibility for the original lie, the university administration asks us to believe a scenario that could not have existed.

Of course, it is always possible that my interpretation of the response is somehow inaccurate or even implausible. Therefore, I will present the evidence supporting my assertions and let you, the reader, draw your own conclusions. First, a brief chronology of the events surrounding the February election. The election announcement and supporting documents went out to Unit A faculty at 10:09 pm on Monday, February 10, 2014. Voting in the election occurred between that time and 11:59 pm on Tuesday, February 18, 2014. The Faculty Senate President sent the election results to the president on February 24, 2014, and on February 25, 2014 at 4:31 pm, the president’s office demanded documents relating to the conduct of the election. Between February 10 and February 25, 2014, I received no complaints from anyone about the conduct of the election. Despite the straightforward nature of the election and our timely notification to the President of the final results, his February 25 memorandum demanded information with no rationale or explanation.

The FOIA response from Cage gives us the purported reasons for Watson’s February 25 memorandum. First, the administration received “Various complaints” which “were made both at faculty town hall meetings, as well as departmental meetings attended [by] the Provost and President.” Love those passive constructions. Second, “Several complaints were made. The specific number of complaints were not tracked.” Third, “All complaints were oral.” Fourth, “The complaints were not specifically investigated, the matter was addressed with a request for information addressed to [the] faculty Senate.” Here are the pertinent portions of the response:

Based on Cage’s FOIA response, this is the administration’s chronology of events: between February 10 and February 25, 2014, the President held at least two “faculty town hall meetings” (note the plural). In addition, the President attended at least two “departmental meetings” (again note the plural). Watson was quite busy during this two-week period, hosting faculty town hall meetings and rushing around attending departmental meetings. At both these venues, he apparently listened to a torrent of complaints from disaffected faculty upset about being disfranchised by the Faculty Senate. After being inundated with complaints about the election, the President “requested” information from the Faculty Senate on February 25, 2014.

A partial reconstruction of events between February 10 and 25 reveals the ridiculous nature of the administration’s claims. First, between those two dates, there are four days available for the President to either host a faculty town hall meeting or attend one of the departmental meetings. These dates are Tuesday, February 11; Thursday, February 13; Thursday, February 18 and Thursday February 20. I am excluding Tuesday, February 25 because I think it unlikely that the President attended a meeting, heard the complaints, then rushed back to his office to write the memorandum demanding information from the Faculty Senate.

On February 11, 2014, Watson attended a special meeting of the Chicago State Board of Trustees. That leaves three other dates for Watson to attend various meetings. There was simply no “town hall meeting” during this time period, so the claim that Watson received faculty complaints in that setting is obviously untrue. As for the departmental meetings to which Cage’s response refers, it seems unlikely that Watson attended one on each available date between February 10 and 25. I have requested from Watson’s office information about any departmental meetings he attended between February 10 and February 25. At this point, I have received no response, if necessary, I will FOIA that information. Nevertheless, I feel comfortable in saying that none of these supposed meetings attended by Watson actually took place.

Instead, I offer this alternative to the administration’s narrative: Watson never expected the Faculty Senate to hold an election within the specified time frame (remember his January 28 memorandum ordered the Senate to comply with its Constitution by February 26). When we did so, the administration had to devise a new plan. Falling back on the election-rigging skills they demonstrated during the 2013 SGA elections, the deep thinkers in the Cook Building devised their current Senate elimination strategy. It is possible that someone actually did complain about not being eligible to vote, which would have been a simple matter to verify. However, the administration’s goal had nothing to do with election fairness and everything to do with the destruction of that pesky Faculty Senate. Despite the absence of any evidence of misconduct, the administration convinced Chicago State’s abominable Board of Trustees to withdraw its recognition of the Senate, creating the current state of limbo.

This situation currently remains unresolved. In October, the Faculty Senate provided the Board of Trustees with information they requested in September. We have not even received the courtesy of a reply from any member of the Board. Given the administration’s propensity to manufacture falsehoods as a justification for their actions (remember James Crowley?) I am not particularly sanguine about the prospects for an acceptable settlement of this dispute. In the meantime, faculty governance at Chicago State remains dormant. We really are the laughingstock of the entire Illinois academic community.

1 comment:

  1. Holy absence of evidence Batman! Are you questioning the credibility of the university's general counsel and president, much like the judge in Crowley case did??? If so, how can their tenuous relationship with the truth be highlighted more clearly? Or is it that no one in this state really cares that a university teeters on the brink of extinction?