Thursday, August 27, 2015

Twelve Questions To Begin the Semester

So as the Fall 2015 semester begins, I, like my students, am full of questions. If any of you, loyal readers have answers please feel free to share those here or by email at 

My first question involves the photo below. I have decided to call it Rauner's Ravine as the Governor is responsible for the work stoppage that you see here. The question is whether Rauner's Ravine will be filled in before the first snowfall. Fortunately, it hasn't been a wet summer because standing water could breed mosquitoes, which increases the risk of West Nile virus. Additionally, I would imagine water could damage the equipment buried underground. Anyone want to start a pool on how long this will remain???

The second question of the semester is who occupies this office suite? It was previously the office for the Director of Admissions, but I guess we don't need someone who has admissions experience in that job. So now this office suite is occupied by none other than Cheri Sidney. Who knew that a $113,000 job got you an office suite with no other occupants. It only goes to show that the tag line of the university really is "Only at CSU."

And speaking of admissions, there has been a significant drop in graduate admissions, probably due to the firing of Kim Kelly, a long serving employee in the Admissions office. Apparently there is a fairly large stack of graduate applications which are not being processed because the person who would process them is no longer there and has not been replaced. It begs the question whether the administration actually wants a functional university or do they just want to play at it like a child's game.

The question on the minds of many long suffering staff and faculty is the enrollment. Will the university break the 5,000 student barrier or will this be ten consecutive semesters of enrollment decline under this administration? We should know at the ten day count unless of course the data would be too damning and instead of being released it's hidden.

My fifth question is related to the previous question. With great fanfare the administration declared in the spring semester that there wouldn't be a special session in fall to boost their numbers. Now there is rumbling that after administrative incompetence there will be a poorly planned special session so that the enrollment numbers aren't so dismal. 

A question on the minds of many staff is when will the next layoffs take place. Is it possible that the university can begin a semester and possibly get to the mid term without staff having to fear they are going to be laid off?

A colleague asked yesterday whether an article published in the Chicago Crusader, a local newspaper, was actually true. The Crusader reported that the president of the university has actually left the university. That begs the question of whether this is poor journalism or did the president not get the memo that time's up. It is time to go. If it were in fact true, then maybe the university community would have a better idea when this madness is going to be over. 

The eighth question in our countdown of questions is the status of the much bally hooed transparent presidential search. Me thinks that the claims of transparency were a bit overblown. After a simple inquiry on how the search was progressing I was told by a committee member that they couldn't talk about the search process. Everything was a secret. So much for transparency. If any one knows how the search is going feel free to comment. As a courtesy it would be inappropriate to mention names of applicants, interviewees, or finalists before the Board announces them. This assumes the Board will ever announce them. I am curious whether there are any local applicants that have made it to the finalist stage. If so, that would obviate the need for a search firm as that applicant is on the university's doorstep. And if they are that close, it's obvious that political machinations are present, like elected officials interceding on behalf of an applicant. This is Illinois after all and we all know how the university was saddled with the current office holder.

For those who don't know the purpose of a university, allow me this brief primer. Universities exist to offer courses to students and conduct research. If a university offers few and fewer courses over time, it is facing some existential threat. To wit, how did the regime manage to cut 355 courses this semester? What sort of rational process was used? I'm compelled to ask because looking at some of the pre-cut data I have no idea how courses were eliminated. Is there a process or is there a dart board, or are courses drawn out of hat. Might a better process emerge if it were observed by officers of the shared governance bodies on campus, namely the union and the faculty senate?

This next question relates primarily to me but it also impacts you loyal readers. Much of what is reported here is discovered through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. The Illinois FOIA law is clear about reporting requirements, yet the university has not responded in the time prescribed by statute for the past several requests I have submitted. There refusal to comply with a state law impedes my ability to inform you loyal readers of the activities of this administration. Thus the question whether the university will respond to any of my FOIA requests this year. 

And as improvements go, my eleventh question is whether there will be any improvement in personnel activities by the administration. For example, will probationary faculty receive notice of the decision on their action by the time specified in the union contract? Will faculty portfolios be returned in a timely manner? Will chair elections be conducted and chairs selected after the elections and not before? Will contracts for adjunct faculty be signed by the Provost in time for faculty to be paid before the middle of the semester? Will override paperwork be processed so faculty can be paid within the time specified by state law? I know loyal readers you find yourselves in disbelief that there would be such a gross dereliction of professional responsibility in the affairs of faculty at a university. I too am shocked by the impressive display of incompetence by the Provost and President. Well not really surprised. More surprised that faculty haven't revolted yet.

I believe that the only constant is change and things are changing here at CSU. The last question is where did they all go. The "they" that I am referring to are TRIO program, the HIV-AIDS Policy Institute and the Ghana grant. Each of these programs was funded in part by federal grant money and for some inexplicable reason they are all now defunct. The shuttering of the TRIO program is particularly disturbing given that CSU historically has served a significant number of first generation students over the past four decades. To not have the services that this program provides disadvantages the most vulnerable of the student population. It is my fervent wish that federal officials inquire into these program's demise. 
Those are my twelve questions. If you have more, ask.

It's Much Worse Than You Think: Our Enrollment Tanks Further

This morning, enrollment at Chicago State University stood at 4322 students. That is after yesterday's drop session which, according to the list I received last night, included a total of 759 students. Now this figure of 4322 is not final, there are still a couple of days left to register and obviously, some of the students who were dropped will be reinstated, but it is nevertheless sobering to contemplate where we stand after six years of the Watson disaster. I won't repeat the same data I've already posted on numerous occasions, but I will say that the current total is 889 (17.1%) fewer students than our meager fall 2014 total of 5211. It is also 496 (10.3%) fewer students than the spring 2015 count of 4818 enrolled. The 4322 total is also 597 fewer students (12.1%) than were enrolled on August 27, 2014.

So let's do some arithmetic based on the trend data. If the university manages to salvage 50 percent of the students dropped for non-payment, that will bring our fall enrollment to around 4700. Of course, if we are less efficient, the enrollment projection must be reduced accordingly. As I said a few days ago, I think the enrollment will be somewhere between 4500 and 4700, at least a 10 percent decline (and as much as a 13.6 percent drop if we come in at 4500). Anything at 4817 or below represents Watson's tenth consecutive semester of enrollment declines. Folks, we are in deep water.

The main question in my mind is this: how in the world does this guy keep his job? We will see how the administration spins this before our credulous board. Lets go back to the March 6, 2015, board meeting and revisit the administration throwing around the entire arsenal of meaningless bullshit to keep Anthony Young at bay. Cheri Sidney mouthed the "quality over quantity" canard. She talked about the "strategies, target areas, goals" that will result in a better class of students? Will she do that again? Like March 6, will she blather on about the "wins" achieved by sporadic increases in a small number of programs? Will Anthony Young again say to Sidney, "A win will be when you come and say, enrollment did not decline this semester, and I think Enrollment Management owes the university at least your forecast; when is that day gonna come that enrollment hasn't declined this semester?" Sidney couldn't answer then, although in December 2014, Watson had assured the board that enrollment would "stabilize" in Spring 2015. We know how that prediction turned out.

Like Groundhog Day, we are reliving the same day. Once again, the university's enrollment will drop, once again the Enrollment Management folks will have to explain (my sympathies to Dr. Carol Cortilet-Albrecht, the new VP of Enrollment Management who has inherited this mess) which they will do with platitudes and vague assurances of future success. Once again the board will let Watson and his totally failed regime off the hook. Bill Murray eventually got it right. We can only hope.

Monday, August 24, 2015

University of Illinois Executive Officers and the Salaita Case: Administrators Actually Critizing the University's Leadership

At the University of Illinois, a number of Directors, Chairs and Department Heads have signed a letter calling for the reinstatement of Steven Salaita. In addition, this group of executive officers also issued a press release that quotes Michael Rotherberg, English Department Head as saying “The Salaita case has become an international symbol for the precariousness of academic freedom and shared governance in the contemporary university.” Here is the letter:

Here's the accompanying press release:

This is how academics at one Illinois public university treat their public and institutional responsibilities. Particularly interesting are their comments on public scandal, the university's academic reputation, and pending litigation. Do you think we would see this kind of activity here at Chicago State? For a more complete account of this story with links to several documents see:

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Fall Blood Ritual

So the semi-annual blood letting, known as the course cut session is over and the blood is still being cleaned up. This necessary but mostly counter-productive process yields little to no benefit to the university. I estimated that only 230 courses would meet the administrative axe, but imagine my surprise when the official list of courses was released. I admit that I lack the depth of administrative knowledge possessed by the regime but I could never have imagined 355 courses being eliminated. The only conclusion I can draw from acts like this is that this group is actively working to shut the university down. Their already legendary levels of incompetence, malfeasance, and corruption will likely be the reason the state moves to shutter CSU. The quiddity of the university is offering courses. The fewer courses offered the more degraded the essential nature of the institution becomes. It is likely that this blood ritual is one of the primary factors for students leaving the university. What is most tragic is that this administration is clueless about the composition of the student body. I lost one class that had nine students that was offered at night while another of my classes with 10 students was not cut. The key point is that now a group of night students who take classes at night for a reason don't have the opportunity and may have their graduation delayed as a result. If these less than capable administrators understood this they would use a different approach to scheduling and course cancellations. Maybe they would involve faculty who know substantially more about the academic enterprise than they do to provide some insight. Of course that would only happen if there was any interest in serving the best interests of the university. 
The death spiral that the university is in started nine semesters ago with the first decline in enrollment overseen by this administration. Now that the university is approaching ten consecutive semesters of enrollment decline, I can only conclude that the Board of Trustees wants the enrollment decline to continue or else they would have invited the failed president to pursue other opportunities. They didn’t and now the institution finds itself facing the very real possibility of enrollment in the spring under 4,000 students. The hiring of another political hack by the board won’t fix the plethora of problems created by the incompetence of this administration. Their reluctance to hire an interim president demonstrates the board’s complete lack of understanding of the operations of universities. The toxic waste dump that the university has become should be cleaned up before a new president arrives. The decisions that have to be made in the present (the cleanup) can negatively impact the decisions that need to be made for the future (the vision). If only the Board would inquire of people who know, like faculty, maybe their decision making would be better. I am willing to predict that the next president will not be able to right this sinking ship because they will not be given the opportunity to succeed. 
The ongoing tragedy that is CSU will continue, I would imagine for not much longer given the economic situation of the state. The real victims of the tragedy are the alumni and those who will never get the chance to be alumni. That is the unfortunate legacy of the Watson administration. Unprecedented damage wrought by incompetence and corruption of Watson and his inept cronies will be felt in this community for decades to come. This group of incompetents is the gift that keeps on giving.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Wayne Watson to the Governor and Illinois Taxpayers: Screw You!

Bruce Rauner unveiled his draconian higher education budget in February of this year. Given the scope of the proposed cuts, it might seem politically prudent for universities to throttle back on the effort to increase their administrative ranks while reducing faculty and support staff. Here at Chicago State, we have no such concerns. In fact, in the face of looming budget decreases, Wayne Watson and his crew are continuing to increase the school’s administrative footprint, an increase evident in the explosion of university Vice Presidents, Associate Vice Presidents and Assistant Provosts. Much of this effort has been discussed on this forum but, against the backdrop of summer layoffs and other administrative fiscal nonsense, it seems advisable to again sketch the contours of our administration’s continued disregard for the financial consequences of a mushrooming administrative staff.

The administration Watson inherited in 2009 included 9 senior administrators: 4 Vice Presidents (including the Provost), 2 Associate Vice Presidents, 1 Assistant Vice President, and 2 Assistant Provosts. The Watson administration’s fiscal 2015 Internal Operating Budget includes lines for 11 senior administrators: 4 Vice Presidents (including the Provost), 6 Associate Vice Presidents (including the president’s girlfriend), and 1 Assistant Provost. This represents a 22.2 percent increase in senior staff for a university that lost 28 percent of its enrollment from fall 2009 to fall 2014.

Astoundingly however, since the beginning of the just completed fiscal year, in complete disregard of the budget problems the university administration uses so selectively, here is what has happened. Watson has upgraded three positions: the Athletic Director has become an Associate Vice President as has the Dean of Students; the Director of Assesment is now an Assistant Provost position. In addition, we’ve hired a new Vice President of Enrollment Management, filling a position that has been vacant since July 1, 2013. Finally, the Watson administration has resurrected the position of Contract Administrator (which I believe will carry an Associate Vice President’s title). All four of these reclassifications/new hires have occurred since Rauner's budget announcement in February 2015.

As we flip the bird to the taxpayers of Illinois and to the state’s governor, it seems notable that the number of senior administrators at Chicago State has increased now to 15: 4 Vice Presidents (including the Provost), 9 Associate Vice Presidents and 2 Assistant Provosts. In addition, the position of Vice President of Development (unfilled as of this date) appears on the university’s most recent organizational chart. This would bring our senior administrative total to 16 with 5 Vice Presidents, 9 Associate Vice Presidents and 2 Assistant Provosts.

The expansion of our senior administrative ranks represents a 66.7 percent increase since 2009. All this for a school that has seen its enrollment decrease 33.5 percent since that fondly remembered year. I would be interested to know how our administration justifies this irresponsible fiscal behavior (not to mention the demonstrable damage many of the incumbents in these positions have done to Chicago State). Of course, here at Chicago State, nothing has to be justified because no one ever asks. Will there be any cost for this provocative conduct?

Monday, August 17, 2015

DId you know we are interviewing prez candidates?

I know that the real issue this week is how low will CSU enrollment go. The night of the long knives will take place on Thursday—I think we can anticipate our classes being decimated by course cuts. Everyone is keeping watch on the numbers. How low can we go? Kudos to Prez Watson and his "team." Huzzah CSU Trustees for championing them so faithfully.  

In the meantime, did you know about this? Seems the great presidential search at CSU is moving along in spite of the constipated bits of information available on the big-deal CSU presidential search website. On Friday, the Board conducted “airport interviews” (very corporate) of some candidates for prez of CSU. You were not invited. This is a corporate thing. “Privacy” (read: “secrecy”) is paramount. Members of the committee have also been sworn to secrecy—no talking to the constituents they supposedly represent about what the committee does. But of course, the committee represents so few faculty.

Well, so much for all that blather Anthony Young and Nikki Zollar puffed and preened about that this search would be “transparent.” Next thing you know they’ll claim that they believe in “shared governance,” LOL. When was the last time we discussed that seriously here? Rule by fiat from the CSU big house has been the norm since the HLC left campus.

This morning a friend pointed me in the direction of this article and a propos of the secret presidential search it is worth sharing if you haven’t seen it already. Something to think about as we add another president (oh please, please let it be someone with an academic credential of note) to the illustrious line of CSU leadership.

New Analysis Shows Problematic Boom In Higher Ed Administrators” by Jon Marcus in the Huffington Post.
At the very least, they say, the continued hiring of nonacademic employees belies university presidents’ insistence that they are doing everything they can to improve efficiency and hold down costs.

“It’s a lie. It’s a lie. It’s a lie,” said Richard Vedder, an economist and director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.

“I wouldn’t buy a used car from a university president,” said Vedder. “They’ll say, ‘We’re making moves to cut costs,’ and mention something about energy-efficient lightbulbs, and ignore the new assistant to the assistant to the associate vice provost they just hired.”

Among the comments to the article:
What do all these administrators do all day? They go to meetings with other administrators at which they try to coordinate the crazy quilt of services they represent. They design and implement new technologies that invariably fail because the people who create them have no understanding of the environments in which they will be used. They draft new policies and procedures that no one in the academic departments has the time to learn or follow. If we were starting from scratch who in their right mind would create a system like this?

Bart Grossman · Albany, California

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

How Bad Will the Fall Be?: It Looks Like Another Enrollment Drop

How bad is the outlook for our fall 2015 enrollment? Is it possible to cut through the lies and bullshit the folks at Enrollment Management continually feed the Board of Trustees? Bullshit that the board continues to swallow with no questions. Right now, the answers to these questions are: awful, and yes. Given its history there is no reason to believe that the board will start acting like a responsible body.

Enrollment Management does basically the same song and dance at each board meeting. Echoing the words of Wayne Watson, Cheri Sidney or someone else representing that failed operation assures the board that Chicago State’s enrollment is “stabilizing” and will soon begin to “grow incrementally.” Of course, this is a blatant lie, there is no evidence at all that our enrollment will do anything but continue to plummet. Based on that reality, it becomes necessary for Watson and his minions to do what they seem to do best: refuse to take responsibility for their own failures by blaming everyone else for the problems they have caused with their malfeasance and utterly inept management. There are two parts to the narrative created by the administration to evade responsibility for this disaster: 1) the university is being “right-sized” with better students; 2) the university sets “goals” or “metrics” for the various colleges and departments, if enrollment figures do not equal these numbers, the departments and colleges are to blame.

The problem with the first part of the narrative is that it strains credibility far beyond the breaking point. Watson provides no actual target number for his ridiculous “right-sizing.” Is it 5000? 4000? How about 500? We do not know because the claim is meaningless and has only recently been trotted out as a justification for the plunging enrollment—nothing to worry about, the enrollment losses are really part of a grand plan by the administration.

The second part of the narrative is actually laughable. Watson was Chancellor of City Colleges from 1998 to 2009. He became Chicago State’s President in 2009, a total of 17 years of “leadership.” Enrollment data exists for 15 of those years, from 2000 to 2009 at City Colleges and from 2010 to 2014 at Chicago State. During those 15 years, Watson “led” City Colleges to an enrollment decrease of nearly 23 percent, from 122,000 students in 2000 to 95,000 in 2009. During his tenure as Chicago State’s president Watson has overseen a nearly 30 percent decline in enrollment, from 7235 in 2009 to 5211 in 2014. From 2000 to 2009, City Colleges experienced 8 years of enrollment decreases, with the only increase (83 students in a population better than 95,000) coming in Watson’s final year, 2008-09. At Chicago State, enrollment increased from 7235 in fall 2009 to 7362 in fall 2010, a 1.8 percent increase. Every other year of Watson’s presidency, enrollment has dropped at CSU. In fall 2011, it declined 6.5 percent, in fall 2012, it dropped another 11.3 percent, in fall 2013, CSU lost another 6.6 percent of its enrollment, and in fall 2014, enrollment fell 8.6 percent from the previous fall. Since Chicago State’s last enrollment increase in fall 2010, the school under Watson has seen 9 consecutive semesters of enrollment losses. All these numbers should cause any reasonable observer to conclude that a direct correlation exists between Wayne Watson’s leadership and students fleeing the colleges he “manages.” One might even call his chancellorship and presidency colossal failures.

Not so the people at Enrollment Management. For the past two years, they have come up with a “goal” for enrollment. The goal is a 3 percent increase in enrollment in every department and college at Chicago State. Such a goal runs counter to reality, which is the idea. Last fall, when the university experienced a drop of 490 students to 5211, the “goal” set by Enrollment Management had been 5882, a 3 percent increase over fall 2013’s anemic total of 5701 students. The failure of the colleges and departments to do the administration’s job allowed Angela Henderson to go in front of the Board of Trustees and blame the faculty and mid-level administrators for our enrollment losses. No responsibility there for the Watson “team.” This year, Enrollment Management has again arbitrarily decided that the school’s enrollment “goal” should be an increase of 3 percent from last year's total of 5211. That has resulted in this year’s absurd target enrollment of 5366. So, two weeks before the semester, how are we doing?

Yesterday, total enrollment stood at 3660, a drop of 496 students from last year’s figure of 4156 (a 9.5 percent decline). Thus, in order to reach last year’s total of 5211, enrollment must increase by 1551 students between now and August 24. That’s an average of nearly 111 students a day folks. In order to reach the enrollment “goal” of 5366, we are going to need another 1706 students to enroll, or nearly 122 students per day. On July 20, the school’s enrollment apparently stood at 2905, which means that an additional 755 students registered in the next 21 days (just under 36 students a day). Does anyone believe that we are going to be able to triple the number of students enrolling daily between now and the beginning of the fall semester?

Last year, between August 11 and September 8, we added 973 students (an average of 34.75/day). The special session in mid-September apparently brought in another 82 students. Given our past performance, I think the upcoming semester will look like this:

In what I consider the best-case scenario, we add the same number of students as last year—1055 to bring the enrollment total to 4715, a drop of 103 from spring 2015 and 496 from the previous fall. Other possibilities are much worse. If we continue to enroll 36 students per day from now through August 30, 2015 (the end of the first week of the semester), we will add another 720, bringing our enrollment to 4380. Splitting the difference between the high and low figures, I estimate that our enrollment this fall will be somewhere around 4550. I fervently hope I am wrong. Here are the grim figures from the administration:

I think these figures speak for themselves. Our increasingly dire circumstances cause me to ask the following questions: Will anyone step in to stop this bleeding? I understand that the board does not like the "tone" of this blog. Is that enough reason to ignore the situation here? To continue to prop up this utterly failed administration? To continue to accept the administration's mendacious claims at face value? Is it even possible anymore to save this school?

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Like a Tick, The Administration Ever Swells: Chicago State's 2016 Budget Request

Given the administration’s dire warnings about the financial crisis which it believes will afflict Chicago State, it seems worthwhile again to look at where the Watson regime’s spending priorities lie. In the 2016 ISL Forms, Chicago State includes its 2015-16 budget request by category. The various segments include: Instruction, Organized Research, Public Services, Academic Support, Student Services, Institutional Support and the Operation and Maintenance of the Physical Plant. Using the categories as determined by our intrepid administrators, the amount of the 2016 budget request totals nearly $83.8 million, broken down as follows: Instruction, nearly $43.2 million, or 51.6 percent of the budget; Organized Research, $405,053, or .0045 percent of the budget; Public Service, $729,913, or .009 percent of the budget; Academic Support, $7.9 million or 9.4 percent of the budget; Student Services, $6.7 million, or 8 percent of the budget; Institutional Support, nearly $11.8 million, or 14.1 percent of the budget; and Physical Plant, nearly $13.6 million, or 16.2 percent of the budget. While these figures may comply with the categories as reported to the Illinois State Legislature, they obscure the real budget shenanigans of Watson and his cronies. I have broken down the categories into two basic segments: direct instructional and administrative expenses. Using those criteria, the budget looks completely different. I have also compared the 2016 budget request with the 2010 fiscal year revised budget, the first year of the Watson administration. Here’s how we actually look:

First, in Fall 2010, our enrollment peaked at 7362. Although the enrollment for Fall 2015 will not be finalized until mid-September, I am arbitrarily using a figure of 5200 (giving our execrable administration the benefit of the doubt). Using this figure results in a nearly 30 percent decline in the university’s enrollment since 2010. The University’s revised budget for fiscal 2010 totaled $73.8 million, its 2016 request totaled $83.8 million, a 13.6 percent increase over 2010. In 2010, the university spent $34.8 million (or 47.2 percent of the budget) on Instruction, which included remediation and instructional support. Administrative expense totaled $26.1 million or 35.4 percent of the budget. In 2016, the university’s budget request underscores the Watson’s commitment to hiring friends and cronies in order to insure loyalty from his administrators. Instructional expense decreases by $1.8 million to just under $33 million (a 5.2 percent decline from 2010), while administrative expense explodes by nearly $8.8 million, to $34.9 million (a 33.5 percent increase from 2010). In the 2016 budget request, the cost for Chicago State’s administration exceeds the cost for instruction by nearly $2 million and the various components of the university’s administration constitute 41.6 percent of the total budget.

Here are some of the budget request’s big increases since 2010: the university police 33.6 percent, from nearly $2.27 million to $3.03 million; Academic Administration nearly 25 percent, from $3.25 million to $4.06 million; Student Services, which includes athletics and a number of administrative functions, 251 percent, from nearly $2.7 million to over $6.7 million; Executive Management (the President’s private reserve) 20 percent from $3.97 million to $4.77 million.

Obviously, the state’s financial situation and our new anti-intellectual, anti-education governor will affect the appropriation for Chicago State. Nonetheless, the university’s budget request highlights the enormous amount of public money wasted by Watson as he continues to build his bloated, incompetent administrative colossus.