Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Short Look Back at the Past Six Years of Cronyism, Patronage, and Failure

In early 2009, the Illinois Reform Commission (an oxymoron?) published a report on political corruption in the state. The report emphasized the deleterious effects of public corruption on ethical behavior and good government in Illinois. Citing the state’s “culture of patronage and cronyism,” and the resulting “cloud of corruption that has hung over the state for long,” as a primary reason for the erosion of “effective government”; the report cited multiple abuses of the patronage hiring system, including: “rewarding well-connected or politically subservient persons with employment”; the expansion of “political” positions and the resultant “expectation of hiring and promotion based upon considerations other than merit.”

We have now arrived at the end of six-plus years of patronage and crony hiring here at Chicago State. How has the school fared? Has the outgoing administration’s propensity for cronyism damaged the university? Here are some numbers to ponder.

First, in fall 2009, Chicago State University employed 227 persons in administrative positions. The salary expenditures for these people totaled nearly $15.7 million, an average of $69,120 per person. By early 2014, the number of administrative employees at Chicago State had risen nearly 28 percent, to 290, while the total salary expenditure stood at nearly $20.1 million, and at a 28 percent increase, mirrored the rise in total positions. Average salary held steady at $69,185. The recent budget woes in the state obviously moved the regime to eliminate some inconsequential lower paying administrative positions, as the most recent data from the university reveals that there are currently 253 administrative positions, with a total salary expenditure of $18.7 million, an average of $73,963. Thus, the average salary increase for our total administrative staff amounts to nearly 7 percent in the past 18 months.

Senior Administrative Positions (Assistant Vice President and above) also rose between April 2014 and October 2015. In Fall 2009, Chicago State employed 11 senior administrators, by April 2014, that number had grown to 12, and to 15 by October 2015, a 36.4 percent increase from 2009. Total salary expenditures grew from $1.6 million in 2014 to over $2.1 million in 2015. All that against the backdrop of the university administration claiming “financial exigency” at every opportunity, trying to eliminate long-established Faculty CUEs for various endeavors, destroying academic advising, and otherwise micro-managing every CUE allocated to Chicago State faculty. The salary increase for senior administrators of around $470,000, much of it in late 2014 and early 2015, represents the equivalent of 587.5 CUEs for faculty. It seems there is money for some things.

Needless to say, these increased salary expenses for administrators come while the university is bleeding students, down 34.1 percent since fall 2009. The enrollment decline is the most graphic evidence of the failure of crony hiring here at Chicago State. Those “well-connected” or “politically subservient” persons were simply not up to the job. In what has admittedly been a challenging environment for Illinois public higher education, the Chicago State administration failed almost completely.

Responsible for this fiasco is a Board of Trustees that has consistently demonstrated its allegiance to the administration, particularly the president, while failing to address the problems caused by that selfsame administration. The Board’s recent actions seem to indicate it is again willing to reward the undeserving, even at the cost of undermining the incoming administration. As the year closes, we look forward with cautious optimism, hoping that—despite our precarious position and virtually non-existent leadership from a complicit and compromised Board—the school can survive, even flourish again.

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