Sunday, July 19, 2015

Let's Talk About the Closing of the HIV/AIDS Research and Policy Institute: A Tale of Retaliation and Lies

As most of our readers already know, in early 2015, Wayne Watson and Angela Henderson closed the HIV/AIDS Institute, resulting in the Director of the institute, Tom Lyons moving from the administrative ranks to faculty status. They gave Lyons no reason for the institute’s elimination. So far, Lyons has chosen to remain basically silent on the matter, but the deposition transcripts of both Watson and Henderson offer a look at their ham-handed and completely dishonest attempt to cover up an action that was nothing more than naked retaliation.

In 2014, Tom Lyons ran afoul of our two avengers by supporting Willie Preston in his battle to win exoneration for the trumped-up criminal charges (Preston was acquitted because the court found the elements of the alleged crime absent) the university filed against him, mainly due to the bogus order of protection obtained against Preston by Henderson (since vacated because the judge determined it should not have been issued originally). Convinced of the injustice being done to Preston, Lyons began publicly speaking up on his behalf and attending court appearance, where Henderson saw him. Shortly thereafter, Lyons found his relationship with Henderson deteriorating, ultimately culminating in the closure of the research and policy institute he directed.

Angela Henderson’s Ph.D. dissertation topic apparently emerged out of her concern for the alarming number of HIV/AIDS cases in the African American community, a phenomenon recognized by Chicago State University in May 2004. That year, the university established the HIV/AIDS Research and Policy Institute in order to “address the disproportionate incidence and complex burdens of HIV/AIDS in minority populations through research and policy.”

When doing her dissertation research and writing in 2012-13, Henderson seemed to be in total agreement with Chicago State’s position on the HIV/AIDS scourge. Her dissertation's opening sentences read:

The HIV/AIDS epidemic has negatively impacted African-American (AA) men in the United States. AA males have higher rates of HIV/AIDS diagnoses than any other ethnic or racial group and at some point in their lifetime; an estimated one in 16 AA men will be diagnosed with HIV [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, [CDC], 2011). In 2009, the estimated rate of new HIV infection for AA men was more than six and a half times higher than that of white men and two and a half times higher than that of Latino men and AA women (CDC, 2011). In addition, in 2009, AA men accounted for 70% of all new infections in the African-American population (CDC, 2011). The AIDS case rate per 100,000 for AA males was 82.9, the highest of any group in 2006. (Source: Angela M. Henderson, Predicting Consistent Condom Use in African-American, Emerging Adult Males Enrolled in Community College, Ph.D. diss., University of Illinois at Chicago 2013, 21).

However, here at Chicago State the thirst for retaliation trumps everything. When Lyons revealed himself to be a "disloyal" employee, all other considerations took second place to the desire to punish him. That Watson and Henderson did.

Unfortunately for our vengeful duo, their actions became part of the ongoing federal court action filed by Willie Preston and Brittany Bailey. Both Watson and Henderson were forced to give depositions in that matter. Those depositions reveal the sordid machinations these two engaged in to rid themselves of that pesky Tom Lyons.

In his deposition, Watson acknowledges that the administration closed the HIV/AIDS Institute in early 2015, but claims that he neither participated in the decision nor knew who actually decided to eliminate the program. In her deposition, Angela Henderson directly contradicts Watson’s testimony, saying that the entire “operations team” participated in the decision-making process. She claims that several persons were involved in the decision, including the Vice President of Finance (Lawrence Pinkleton), the Budget Director (Arrileen Patawaran), the Director of Human Resources (Renee Mitchell), the General Counsel (Patrick Cage), the Chief of Police (Ronnie Watson), the Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management (Cheri Sidney) and the President (Wayne Watson). Watson's and Henderson’s statements are here:

Henderson then contorts herself in an attempt to explain that the HIV/AIDS Institute was not actually closed, that the administration just got rid of the director. However, later in the deposition, she contradicts herself again by admitting that there was no longer an institute. Here is the testimony:

Henderson is completely untruthful about the funding for the institute claiming its budget—according to Chicago State’s “budget book”—to be $500,000. Here is her testimony followed by the actual budget information from Chicago State’s Internal Operating Budget from fiscal 2008 through fiscal 2016:

This is from the fiscal 2008 budget book, the HIV/AIDS Institute is budget unit 0439:

The budget for the Institute for fiscal 2009-12:

The budget for the Institute from fiscal 2013 to the present:

Further distortions in Henderson's testimony revolve around the "other institutes" whose "administrators" also went back to faculty status. This entire discussion is dishonest. Lewis Myers never stopped teaching, so, as Henderson said, he got nothing more than "release" time (for our non-academic readers, that's a decrease in your teaching load with no subsequent pay increase), Mikal Rasheed is already an administrator (reappointed to a Chair's position for 2015-16) so he could hardly go back to being a faculty member as Henderson suggests. He got override CUES for whatever "institution" he participated in. Dr. McKeever is actually Dr. Smith-McKeever in Social Work. She also got release time from teaching. Both Myers and Smith-McKeever taught in both semesters in 2014-15. Thus, Tom Lyons is the only person Watson and Henderson removed from an administrative position and returned to teaching. Here's the testimony:

Two things seem notable here. First, the level of university financial support for the institute decreased dramatically under Wayne Watson; second, the actual budget has never been even close to $500,000. Henderson apparently pulled that figure out of the air. The absurd and evasive testimony of Watson and Henderson coupled with the outright lies told by those two seems to foreshadow more embarrassment for Chicago State when they appear in court for the Preston case. It seems fair to say that the pathological desire for loyalty exhibited by our administration trumps the welfare of our students and the community. This institute's closure is simply a betrayal of this university's societal responsibilities.

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