Wednesday, March 30, 2016

FRIDAY RALLY to Save CSU 12 pm on campus and at 4 pm at the Thompson Center in Chicago

A message from our UPI Chapter:

It is now or never to support UPI, CSU students/community, CTU, Fight for 15, and the many others coming to CSU this Friday to rally with us at 12 noon. So first:

1. Commit to coming to the rally. Take the plunge, commit, and be there.

2. Come leaflet in HWH from 11-2 tomorrow (THURS). Help spread the word. Please "comment" if you can help for an hour.

3. No excuses--we need members to help us make posters/signs on Thursday (yes tomorrow) from 3-5 in SCI 114. There will also be sign/poster making on Friday April 1st at 10:30 in the cafeteria. Get creative with your slogans. Again please "comment" that you are coming.

4. Day of the rally. We still need volunteers to hold clip boards and help collect contact info from CTU guests who may be CSU alums. We also need 2-3 people to take photographs, and 2 people to help keep track of time for the speakers. Please comment at the Save CSU facebook page to indicate your willingness to help us.

10:30: sign making in Dining Hall (Cordell Reed SUB).

11:30: music & gathering outside Rotunda of Cordell Reed SUB (rain location is gym in JDC).

12:00: rally outside Rotunda of Cordell Reed SUB (rain location is gym in JDC).

1:00: March from CSU campus to 95th Street Red Line Station; stops at Harlan Community Academy High School & McDonald’s West of Red Line.

1:45: Board Red Line trains to downtown Chicago.

4:00: Rally outside Thompson Center in downtown Chicago.

The Farce in the Provost's Office Continues: Let's Undermine Efforts to Save the School

Despite our efforts to work with the administration, specifically the Provost, it has become apparent that her vision for the university differs sharply from ours. Rather than the “we’re all in this together” stance that the administration has occasionally spouted publicly, she behaves in a way that demonstrates her antipathy to CSU faculty and staff. Frankly, Angela Henderson seems determined to make the faculty and staff bear the brunt of the damage done to the university by the current fiscal crisis. As the number of bad decisions coming out of her office increases, consider the following and the implications for our school:

The preparation for the large (hopefully) on-campus rally to save Chicago State that will happen this Friday has run up against some administrative obstructions. About two weeks ago, I made requests for space. I followed those requests on March 25 by requesting the following from the President’s office: 1) a waiver of parking fees for that day; 2) a commitment that CSU employees would be able to attend the rally without having to use accrued time; 3) dissemination using university resources of a flier or message about the rally. The President responded as follows: “I am sure we can grant most if not all the requests. Best wishes, and thanks for your efforts on behalf of CSU.” Apparently acting on the President’s wishes, Renee Barnes, a member of the President’s staff wrote: “Please send the information to me that you would want the President’s office to disseminate to the campus community; flyer or memo form.” I did so. Then this Monday I received a late afternoon telephone call from Ms. Barnes (just the messenger to be sure) indicating that some of my requests were problematic. What happened between Friday, when the administration was poised to offer its support for the rally to save our school and Monday, when the administration began putting up roadblocks and making objections to a number of my requests? Simply, the Provost got involved.

First, there were problems with the space requests. Ms. Barnes told me I should have spoken to the Provost about them, something I have never done before when making space requests for various events. However, I complied with Ms. Barnes's request and left a message for the Provost asking her to call me about the rally and requested spaces. At this point, I have had no response. However, someone in the administration decided to move the space requests forward and we now actually have “approval” to hold this event on campus. Second, there was a problem with the parking waiver. Although I have noticed the entry gates raised on a number of occasions, apparently people attending the rally to save Chicago State should pay the $5 parking fee. Ms. Barnes confirmed the Provost’s stance on this issue yesterday, informing me that the parking fee would not be waived. Third, the flier for the event became a real problem. Ms. Barnes began by misstating the flier’s contents, writing that it referred to “JCC (Jones Convocation Center)” as the approved indoor site rather than “JDC (Dickens Center).” She told me on the telephone that since the flier contained inaccuracies about the event’s location, “it would not go out.” I checked the flier and confirmed that there was no reference whatsoever to anything other than the Rotunda, at which point I contacted Ms. Barnes. She advised me that in order to have the university disseminate the flier, I would have to contact either “Mr. Wogan or Ms. Land” for approval. Despite the Provost’s obstructionism, the rally is going with or without the support of our administration.

So the administration is not supporting our efforts to save the school (and their jobs). Unfortunately, given the dysfunction of our upper administration and the fact that some of our senior administrators are engaged in an effort to undermine the president, I am not surprised by any of this. Today, the University Advisory Committee is meeting jointly with the Management Action Committee and I plan to bring these items up at that meeting. I’ll report the results.

The level of administrative incompetence displayed by Angela Henderson is breathtaking. Faced with the monumental task of responding to this crisis, the university’s senior administrator focuses on key confiscation, micro-managing faculty teaching loads, and collecting parking fees. The utter lack of crisis planning by our administration, a lack of planning that goes back at least a year, makes it obvious that if the school is to be saved, it will be in spite of, not because of, the efforts of administrators who are paid so much and accomplish so little.

Monday, March 28, 2016

What Does This Memo Mean?

I got this from a faculty colleague this evening. Does this mean that we won't have keys after April 4? Does this mean that we won't have access to our offices? What the hell does all this mean?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Town Hall Meeting: What is Going On?

Writing on this blog over the years, I have mainly tried to confine myself to talking about things I could prove. After experiencing yesterday’s town hall meeting, I am going to deviate from that practice to journey into the realm of the speculative, all the while reining in my conjecture by maintaining contact with material reality.

It seemed clear that a number of attendees at yesterday’s meeting found themselves frustrated by the lack of substantive information disseminated by the three senior administrators. In Vice President Cecil Lucy’s case, given the utter lack of form to the current existential threat to the university, that seemed a prudent course. As the university’s financial chief, Lucy has done a fine job of nursing the university through this admittedly truncated semester. As he pointed out, to say definitively that the university will have no money on a particular date may turn out to be untrue. While everyone wants some kind of certainty (Lucy probably more than anyone), given the unprecedented nature of the governor’s war on the public universities, it is difficult to know how to attack the problem. Will there be an adequate appropriation? a partial appropriation? no appropriation? At this point, it is impossible to know. Thus, Lucy equivocated and made qualified statements. However, he made clear that the university as presently constituted cannot continue under the worst case scenario. In that case, fundamental change must occur. Otherwise, we must remember that he is not part of the previous administration, and frankly, has done well to get us this far.

The two persons ostensibly most responsible for reshaping the university, Provost Angela Henderson, and Associate Vice President Renee Mitchell, seemed ill prepared for the town hall and provided little substantive information. In response to a question about administrative planning during this crisis, Henderson alluded to nebulous “contingency plans” (that the University Advisory Committee has requested but not yet received) dealing with a variety of funding scenarios. Responding to another question about what the university planned to do about administrative bloat, Henderson claimed the administration would take a hard look at that matter and that some administrators would be laid off.

Mitchell offered no assistance on a question about unemployment benefits other than to remind everyone if they filed for unemployment and were subsequently paid for the time, any benefits would have to be repaid. In another unhelpful response, she referred everyone to the state to collect pay to which they were entitled but for which the university had no money. Finally, she made clear that Human Resources was now trying to obtain clarification about employee health insurance from CMS. According to Mitchell, whether or not an employee could continue to be covered by paying her/his share of the premium depended upon that employee’s job classification.

Listening to these questions and responses hardly filled me with optimism. My first concern is simple: why are these basic questions not answered some six weeks after the declaration of “financial exigency.” Better yet, why weren’t contingency plans developed and distributed to university employees as early as February or March 2015, when it became clear that Rauner intended to make drastic cuts to public university appropriations? What the hell have these people been doing for the past year? At this point, we should know the layoff plans for a number of funding scenarios, and the process for receiving already earned salary, maintaining our health coverage, and filing and/or eligibility for unemployment. If Human Resources cannot answer those questions, they should have already brought in someone who could.

I would describe my basic response to this meeting as dread. Are the people responsible for formulating plans doing so? Do they even know where to begin? Based on what information came out of yesterday’s meeting, I have my doubts. Now I will offer my analysis of what all this might mean. My interpretation emanates from some objective and some subjective material. Here it is for what it’s worth.

Given my somewhat extensive perusal of the university’s salary structure, it seems obvious that during the Watson regime, Chicago State’s administrators sacrificed a number of the university’s lowest paid employees in order to increase the ranks of the university’s most well remunerated staff. Thus, it seems reasonable to assume that trend will continue through this crisis. Although the members of the University Advisory Committee have offered our help to the Management Action Committee, they have not responded affirmatively, and we have had a difficult time obtaining information we feel is necessary for us to do our job. Additionally, six weeks after financial exigency, we have had only one joint meeting with the MAC. The results of that meeting were as unsatisfactory as the town hall. Afterwards, one of our members commented that the management committee had “stonewalled” us by not answering any of our questions. Whether the members of that committee feel we can be trusted is an open question. It is no secret that there is almost no faculty support for the Provost and I am sure our antipathy to her is reciprocated. After our recent meeting with the MAC, all of our members who attended agreed that the administration either had no plan or that they were keeping it a secret. Not a very good idea under the circumstances. Despite the obstacles, our committee will continue to reach out to the management committee because at this point, cooperation is imperative.

Considering what has happened since February 1, I began to think about another possibility. Are some members of our administration actively working against the new president? While that seems far-fetched, there are some things to consider. First, Wayne Watson is still on campus, which the Board surely knows is an entirely unpalatable circumstance to the majority of the university staff and faculty. Second, he likely still has considerable influence with a number of persons on the Board. Third, I believe that Watson desired to finish his contract in June of this year then turn the reins of the university over to his ward, Angela Henderson. When that reality did not materialize, it seems reasonable to assume that Watson would attempt to meddle in university affairs in an effort to protect his numerous cronies. Is it impossible to think he might have a desire to return to the presidency? Is it impossible to think that high ranking administrators might also have access to Board members supportive of Watson? that they would use that access to undermine Thomas Calhoun? Perhaps I am delusional here, but based on the labyrinthian politics we have seen over the past six years, I would not be surprised.

Can we salvage the university? That remains to be seen. Perhaps if we commit to working toward a common goal, our school can escape without mortal wounds. However, if persons charged with the responsibility for developing strategies to save Chicago State continue to guard information as if it were priceless, fail to do the necessary planning, and privilege their personal agendas over the common welfare, we are doomed. Again, the staff and faculty at this school are resources, use us.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

What Did Yesterday's Primaries Tell Us? Voters in Illinois Don't Really Like Bruce Rauner Very Much

After being ground up by the voters of Illinois, Bruce Rauner's chosen candidates can now wonder how much it really costs to buy a legislative seat in the state. Yesterday's primary results represent a clear punch in the face to an increasingly unpopular governor and the Democrats and Republicans who depended upon his generosity to fund their campaigns. Remember that Rauner came into office with only 50.27 percent of the vote, anything but a mandate. However, in the past year, he has governed as if the state of Illinois were Wisconsin or Mississippi. What these results portend for the future of Chicago State and other Illinois public universities is still unclear, but it seems reasonable to think the statewide Republican party will be in considerable trouble come November. It's time for the legislature to get busy and fund Illinois social services, public higher education and MAP. No more excuses, no more bullshit, no more defections. Here is a look at the major races in which Rauner and his allies got hammered:

In Illinois Senate district 50, Rauner's PAC spent $1.35 million on the candidacy of Bryce Benton. Benton ran against another Republican, Sam McCann, basically another crappy Republican, who had broken with Rauner on a labor vote. Despite the huge amount of cash invested in Benton, McCann won 52 to 48 percent.

In Illinois Assembly district 5, Rauner's PAC spent $500,000 to support Ken Dunkin. Now the tally stands 68 percent for Juliana Stratton, 32 percent for Dunkin. A humiliating loss for Dunkin and Rauner.

In Illinois Assembly district 22, Mike Madigan has 65 percent of the vote and an overwhelming victory. Another repudiation of Rauner.

In Illinois Assembly district 110, Republican Reggie Phillips, an EIU grad who recently broke ranks to vote with the Democrats on House Bill 2990 to fund Higher Ed and MAP, has won his election with 60 percent of the vote. Phillips reportedly received a $53,000 contribution from Rauner's PAC then before his vote in early march donated the contribution to charity. As is the case with McCann, standing up to Rauner did nothing to damage Phillips' candidacy. Another repudiation of Rauner.

Finally, in Illinois Senate district 2, Omar Aquino defeated "Rauner Democrat" and Charter School enthusiast Angelica Alfaro 53 percent to 47 percent. Again, the Rauner Agenda again looks like a loser.

Altogether, Illinois voters in contested races totally rejected Rauner's ideas, his endorsements, and his PAC money. Will this have any effect on Rauner? Doubtful. Will it have any effect on the Illinois Republican party? A good question. Rauner never had a mandate to bring his toxic agenda to Illinois, and in the first test of his political influence, he got his ass kicked. We'll see how that resonates with Republican legislators, especially those in districts with universities. One thing seems certain--there are a lot of angry voters in this state and there is little doubt who they blame for the current crisis.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Everyone in the General Assembly Stand Up: Not you, Ken Dunkin

With better than 2/3 of the precincts reporting, Juliana Stratton is clobbering Ken Dunkin by better than a 2-1 margin. The Tribune has already called the race for Stratton. Can you hear $500,000 being flushed down the toilet?

Get Out and Vote!

Today is election day in Illinois, and if you have not already voted in early voting please go out and vote today. Hopefully by now all of us who work or study at Chicago State recognize the importance of our elected officials. Over the past year, we have witnessed the damage that one particular official has done to Chicago State and all of higher education in Illinois, and while we can't vote Gov. Rauner (Ruiner) out of office now we can try to mitigate some of the damage he can do in the future. So, please vote. No candidate is perfect, but certainly some do more harm than others.

If you live in a district where a member of the General Assembly has voted with Gov. Ruiner aka Gov. 1%, please consider voting that member out. Of course, there are other things at stake in this election, including the position of Cook County state's attorney where the incumbent (Anita Alvarez) has been called out for her actions complicit in systematic racist police brutality in Chicago. And, I could go on. The point is, though, please vote to give us some small hope for the future of Chicago State, the future of higher education in Illinois, and for our collective future together.

Friday, March 11, 2016

It can’t happen here? You think so, do you?

 All his life my Dad was a good 1950s New Deal democrat, a WWII vet who detested anything that smacked of fascism. He was horrified, absolutely horrified, some years ago when then president Geo Bush II appeared in military garb on an aircraft carrier. And he was fond of quoting Sinclair Lewis’ 1935 satire, It Can’t Happen Here. The story concerns the ease with which a fascist government could be established in the U.S. as it had been in Germany, Italy, Spain, and Japan.

I’ve been thinking of this book in light of all that has transpired at CSU with its political-ward style governance, our nadir under Wayne Watson and his “team,” the bovine board of trustees under Anthony Young and Nikki Zollar that exacerbated the crisis we are in with the state. Will we be here in September? Maybe.
What about 2017?  
For the past two decades at various low points in our CSU history I have been told to trust in the idea (maintained as a fact by the believers) that “they would never close down CSU because the Black Caucus/Black politicians/Chicago Black voters/Governor/Democratic Legislature/Emil Jones would never let that happen…” In other words, CSU could do whatever outrageous anti-academic thing, shady hiring or ethics thing it wanted; it was always going to be protected by the pols.

Well, here we are with a Governor who is out for blood. Rauner does not want to close CSU because of its corruption and mismanagement--we are simply his soft target. Rauner wants to undo the university system in Illinois, mostly he wants to break the unions in the State of Illinois system. His model is Scott Walker’s Wisconsin. And have you heard what’s happening up there? A new tenure policy that will essentially make tenure meaningless. See the article posted below.

Today our CSU UPI President Bob Bionaz wrote on the Save CSU facebook account:
Get downtown at 4:30 this afternoon for the rally at Federal Plaza. Yeah, eat dinner late tonight, pass up your favorite TV shows, do your grading tomorrow, record the Blackhawks game and watch it later; for once, don't have anything better to do. We have 7 weeks left before our school runs out of money. Do this for Chicago State, our great students, the people of Chicago, and the people of Illinois.

"Nonsense! Nonsense!" snorted Tasbrough a CSU PROFESSOR, "That couldn't happen here in America ILLINOIS, not possibly! We're a country UNIVERSITY of freemen SCHOLARS EDU-CA-TORS." 

 As my Dad, like Sinclair Lewis, would say, “the hell it can't!”

Regents approve new policies for UW tenure over professors' objections

The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents approved new policies for faculty tenure and performance reviews on Thursday over the objections of professors who said the new rules will make it easier for administrators to deal with budget cuts by laying them off.
The nearly unanimous vote to adopt the policies brought to a close a major piece of the lengthy and controversial process of rewriting tenure rules that started last summer, when lawmakers stripped the protections from state law and widely expanded administrators’ power to fire faculty in the 2015-17 budget.

Under the new rules, UW officials will have the authority to discontinue academic programs and lay off tenured faculty for educational or financial reasons — such as if administrators decide other “higher priority” programs need funding. Professors could also face discipline, including firing, if they are found to be falling short of expectations under a new policy for post-tenure review.

With new statewide rules in place, the Regents’ next step is to approve more specific tenure policies for each UW System campus. The board is expected to act in April on a policy from UW-Madison that would give professors stronger protections; System president Ray Cross indicated the Regents could make changes to the proposal.

UW officials insist the new policies will preserve academic freedom and free speech, striking the right balance between protecting tenured faculty and giving chancellors the “flexibility they need to get through tough times,” according to Regent John Behling.

Previously, faculty could only be fired for just cause, or in the event of a campus-wide financial emergency.

Regent President Regina Millner said the policies “will be a critical new tool for our chancellors, to help them better align their resources with the needs of the state without jeopardizing academic freedom or putting us at a competitive disadvantage.”

Professors were far from satisfied with the new rules, however. The Regents voted down several policy amendments, supported by faculty, that would have given professors stronger protections from losing their jobs and more power in determining when layoffs could occur.

UW-Madison professor Dorothy Farrar-Edwards said she was “bitterly disappointed” by the new policy. Julie Schmid, executive director of the Association of American University Professors, said it could set a precedent for weakening tenure protections across the country.

“The Board of Regents today voted to diminish tenure and academic freedom in the UW System, and with it to diminish the reputation of the system, and to undermine the Wisconsin Idea,” Schmid said.
Regent Jose Vasquez, who opposed the policies, questioned why changes to tenure — which have drawn national attention to Wisconsin, and according to UW-Madison officials made it harder for the campus to recruit and retain top faculty — were necessary in the first place.

“I’ve never been convinced that we had a broken system,” Vasquez said.

The financial challenges on UW campuses are the result of large state budget cuts to higher education funding, Vasquez said, and weakening tenure rules and laying off faculty will not solve the system’s problems.

“It wasn’t tenure that caused the fiscal crisis,” Vasquez said. “The fiscal crisis that we have has been imposed on us.”

Different philosophies on display
Discussion of the new policies at times laid bare major differences in how the Regents — many of whom are appointees of Republican Gov. Scott Walker — believe the UW System should be managed.

Some saw decisions to close programs and dismiss faculty as analogous to companies in the private sector deciding to shift investment from one less-profitable product to another that is selling well.

 “The needs of Wisconsin change,” Regent Jose Delgado said. “We need resources in order to be able to invest in the needs.”

After state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, who is also a Regent, proposed creating a faculty committee that would weigh in on program closures, other Regents said no business would go through such a lengthy process.

“Welcome to the 21st century,” said Regent Margaret Farrow.

Vasquez and others pushed back against the idea of managing the UW System like a business, saying the job of a university “is different from making widgets.”

Many of the professors at the meeting agreed, saying UW institutions do more than simply grant degrees and produce graduates.

“We are not running cash registers and (students) are not buying Pop Tarts,” UW-Eau Claire professor Geoffrey Peterson said. “What we do is far more complicated than that.”

Campus policies next step
Cross said the new policies were written broadly, to allow for each of the system’s campuses to write rules that are tailored to their institution’s needs.

“What works precisely at Madison will be different than what works precisely at Superior,” Cross said.

But campus policies will still have to be in line with the statewide rules passed Thursday, Cross said. The policy approved by faculty at UW-Madison, which offers stronger protections to professors, will likely face some “critical” changes to keep it compatible with the statewide rules, he said, such as noting more clearly that the campus’ chancellor has the final authority to decide on layoffs.

Noel Radomski, executive director of the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education, said UW-Madison’s policy could serve as a framework for rules at other campuses.

But, he noted, having each campus write tenure policies could lead to a future in which the rules vary by campus, and professors at UW-Madison enjoy greater protection than those at other schools.

Layoffs could come at struggling campuses
It remains to be seen whether and how UW System chancellors will use the authority the new policies gave them.

Radomski said it’s likely that chancellors at cash-strapped UW campuses — particularly those at regional campuses where declining enrollment has compounded the effect of state budget cuts — could look to close departments and dismiss faculty members.

“The new uncertainty, and the new concern, is going to be: Are the enrollment and the fiscal problems going to trigger program discontinuation, and therefore trigger faculty layoffs?” Radomski said.

If chancellors make layoffs under the policy, Schmid said, the AAUP could investigate and censure their campus.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Nine Republicans Screwing Their Old Schools

Meet the nine Illinois Republican Representatives who have helped Bruce Rauner assault the state’s system of public higher education. All of these Republicans serve on the Assembly’s Higher Education Appropriations Committee, five have state universities in their districts, and all nine were educated in Illinois public universities. I wonder how they sleep at night.

1. Mark Batinick from Plainfield, educated at UIUC.
2. Thomas Bennett from Watseka, educated at Eastern Illinois, SIU Carbondale
3. Dan Brady from Normal (Illinois State), educated at SIU Carbondale
4. Norine Hammond from Macomb (WIU), educated at WIU
5. Sara Jimenez from Springfield (SIU), educated at SIU Edwardsville, UIS
6. Reggie Phillips from Charleston (EIU), educated at EIU
7. Robert Pritchard from Sycamore (NIU), educated at UIUC
8. Joe Sosnowski from Rockford, educated at NIU
9. Grant Wehrli from Naperville, educated at SIU Carbondale

Seven of the nine have served on the Higher Ed Appropriations Committee since before the recent budget crisis, while two—Jimenez and Phillips—began serving this legislative term. Since May 2015, there have been 3 committee and 5 floor votes on 4 separate bills funding Illinois public higher education and 1 bill specific to MAP grant funding. HB 4146, 4147 and 4148 in May 2015, proposed a 6.5 percent in higher education funding, as part of an overall state budget. SB 2043 proposed to fund MAP grants. All four of those bill failed to gain passage. Altogether, the 3 committee votes and 4 floor votes on those three bills garnered not a single vote from these nine legislators. Most recently, HB 2990, a proposal to fund all Illinois public universities, passed the House 70-43, with Reggie Phillips breaking ranks to vote for the bill. That bill’s future is still uncertain.

Voting on portions of the May 2015 Democratic budget proposal, 5 of these 9 (Jimenez was not in the Assembly at that time), failed to even cast a vote. Batinick, Phillips and Pritchard cast no vote, while Bennett and Wehrli were absent. The other three, Brady, Hammond, and Sosnowski, all voted “present.” A bunch of stand-up legislators, no?

While the budget vote in May 2015 demonstrated the cowardice of all the House Republicans (most either did not vote or voted “present” on significant portions of the proposed budget), the votes of only two of these nine legislators would have enabled the legislature to override Rauner’s MAP grant veto. Just think of it, if two of these persons had voted in the best interests of current students in the schools they all attended, there would be an appropriation for MAP grants. I guess once you’ve gotten yours, everyone else can go to hell.

The legislature will not return until April 4 (no urgency for anything in this state). It remains to be seeen whether Phillips’ break with his party signifies anything, but I expect these nine persons will have further opportunities to choose between voting for their own alma maters, or voting for a Governor determined to destroy the state’s system of public higher education.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Here Are the Real Consequences of Bad Leadership

As those of us who write on this web site have said repeatedly, the deleterious effects of the six-year Watson regime will not be fully known for several years. Recently, the university lost its appeal in the James Crowley case—a suit in which the damages have reached over $5 million. Rather than cut its losses, the university announced that it intends to appeal the decision to the Illinois Supreme Court. In my estimation, the final price tag for that legal action will approach $10 million in awards and legal fees.

Following on the heels of that bad news comes the visit of representatives from the Higher Learning Commission. In early February, the Higher Learning Commission communicated to all Illinois public universities their concern with the ongoing budget fiasco and asked the schools to provide evidence that students would have options in the event of a worst case scenario. However, Chicago State’s declaration of “financial exigency” resulted in a visit to determine the university’s ability to meet Criterion 5 of the HLC accrediting standards. The components of that criterion include these: “5.A. The institution’s resource base supports its current educational programs and its plans for maintaining and strengthening their quality in the future.” And, “5.C. The institution engages in systematic and integrated planning.” Even more specific is this: 5.C.4. “The institution plans on the basis of a sound understanding of its current capacity. Institutional plans anticipate the possible impact of fluctuations in the institution’s sources of revenue, such as enrollment, the economy, and state support.” See:

Rauner announced his budget cuts to higher education on February 18, 2015. Rauner’s proposal reduced the appropriation to Chicago State by 31.5 percent. At this point, the university should have begun to develop contingency plans to address the almost certain reduction in state appropriations that would occur in fiscal 2016. If the university administration developed contingency plans, they kept them secret. Based on the current scramble to figure out where cost savings and new revenues can be found, along with the absence of an existing plan, it seems reasonable to assume that no actual planning took place. Thus, when Thomas Calhoun assumed the presidency of Chicago State on January 1, 2016, he stepped into a budget crisis for which the university had done little or no contingency planning.

Along with this deepening crisis, the new president had to contend with an inept and dysfunctional administration. This dysfunction created immediate problems that included the continued presence of the former president, given an undeserved title, ensconced in a library office by Board decree, and drawing his $16,625 monthly salary until June 30, 2016. The former president, reportedly still meeting on an ex parte basis with individual Board members, continued to exert some influence on university affairs. In addition, many of his cronies reportedly also had access to Board members, using that access to undermine the new president by blaming him for the university’s current condition, attempting to hide their own incompetence, and by trying to cover up their own culpability for the university’s dire situation; all in an attempt to retain their jobs.

The confluence of the streams of fiscal stress, administrative incompetence and inattention, and political maneuvering form the river of accreditation crisis. The Watson administration was apparently too busy promoting administrators, hiring new ones, lying to the Board of Trustees, and defending itself against one major lawsuit (and others in the pipeline) to put together anything resembling a contingency plan for continued financial deprivation. The Board, either totally complicit or blissfully ignorant of the situation, obviously did not take things seriously until the meltdown became critical. Many of the holdover Watson administrators, busy with their backstabbing and political chicanery, simply had no time to deal with the problem. Anyone doubting the surreal nature of the current level of administrative denial is encouraged to attend the President’s Executive Council meetings where a stream of good news is almost never interrupted by forays into material reality. Why should we discuss the substantive problems facing the university when we can talk about our upcoming poster presentations?

In the absence of any existing plan, on February 4, 2016, the Board declared “financial exigency.” Although a number of administrators apparently believe that declaration will pave the way for a purge of dissidents and troublemakers (I’ll leave it to you to decide who those people might be), the immediate consequence is the current visit by the HLC representatives. They are asking pointed questions about the university’s planning, communication, and financial viability. They seem to have very real concerns about all those topics and it is uncertain what their report will ultimately recommend. Obviously, if the university’s accreditation is in jeopardy, so is its existence.

I must note here that the HLC has also been complicit in the decline of Chicago State University. In 2012 and 2014, faculty and staff made clear to representatives of that body the continuing problems created by Watson and his management style. The Faculty Senate’s Executive Committee had a frank discussion about the 2012 no confidence vote in Watson and his failure to perform the duties enumerated in his contract. In 2014, faculty and staff reiterated their concerns about communication and planning, again urging HLC representatives to take seriously our deepening disaffection. All to no avail. After spending most of their time meeting with administrators, the HLC representatives responsible for preparing the 2013 HLC Assurance Report said this about our former President and his administration: “He has established a strong new leadership team.” Subsequent events have certainly proven the inaccuracy of that observation.

So the real result of poor leadership boils down to this: 1) almost certainly, the university has no existing plan to deal with the worsening state financial crisis because neither the former President nor the Board insisted that one be created. 2) the “ripple effect” on our accreditation of the Board’s financial exigency declaration was apparently unanticipated, again reflecting an absence or a gross insufficiency in knowledge and planning. 3) The lack of state appropriations and the threat to our accreditation are twin blades pointing at the university. Either could ultimately be fatal. 4) As the crisis continues to unfold, many of the persons shaping the university’s response are holdovers from the previous administration, a situation that hardly inspires confidence.

If we are to survive this crisis and if the university is to continue as an educational institution, we must begin immediately to travel down a different road. First, the Board must provide a forum for faculty concerns. At this point, other than the worthless public comments, there is no opportunity for faculty to report directly to the Board of Trustees. The desire of the Board to listen only to our administration and to shut out faculty voices, particularly dissenting voices, has contributed mightily to this mishandled crisis. Second, our administration must utilize all the resources at its disposal, particularly the intellectual capacity of the university’s staff, students and faculty. Important administrative decisions cannot be left to a tiny group of self-interested persons who guard knowledge as if it were proprietary information. The more input into the process, the better the final outcome, and there should be few secrets as this process unfolds. Third, staff reduction decisions must be transparent and must affect all employee categories on a proportional basis. This crisis will not be an excuse to pare down staff and faculty positions while leaving dozens of high salaried administrators in place. If our administration does that, there will be nothing but contention on the horizon, even if we get through the current crisis.

We have succeeded in transforming our school’s public face. We are now seen as leaders in the struggle for adequate higher education financing and other schools are looking at us for strategies and tactics to fight this monstrous assault on the public welfare. We owe it to them, but most of all to ourselves, to get it as right as possible.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Here's What the Appellate Court Thinks of Our Former President and His Behavior: What Will Our Board Say About This? Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars Wasted

As Corday’s most recent post indicates, the Illinois Appellate Court has weighed in on the Crowley case. You remember the first verdict, a $2.5 million damage award against the University—specifically against the former President—plus back pay, front pay, and interest, which now has reportedly reached over $5 million.

You may also remember that the university appealed that original verdict after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on the unsuccessful defense of the former president. Undoubtedly, the university has now spent more thousands of dollars on the appeal. The result: Two unanimous decisions utterly repudiating all defense claims, with the Appellate Court affirming in its entirety the award.

What follows are excerpts from the Appellate decision. If anyone wishes a copy of the entire opinion, it’s here: Appellate Court shredded all of the defense arguments, many of which should have been brought up at trial and were not. As previously noted on this forum, appeals do not deal with issues of fact, those have been established during the trial. Thus, raising additional issues of fact during the appeals process is a waste of the court’s (and everyone else’s) time.

After batting away a number of specious claims raised by defense counsel, the Appellate Court takes up the issue of the amount of the award, assuredly the most important component of the appeal. Beginning on page 15 of the opinion, the opinion discusses whether punitive damages are permissible and whether the award was excessive. In the next ten pages, the court’s opinion eviscerates defense arguments, and affirms both the propriety and amount of the punitive damages. Along the way, the judges have a number of harsh things to say about the behavior of our former President and his “Lieutenants.”

On page 19, the court finds that Crowley’s actions “protected the public’s right to know of inappropriate activities in the expenditure of state funds at a state university.” The judges argue that punitive damages in the Crowley matter are no more inappropriate than using state resources to “improperly retaliate against a state employee” and to use even more state resources “in defense of such impropriety.” The judges then make clear that damage awards are “for the jury to decide,” based on its assessment of whether the “defendant’s conduct was willful and wanton.”

The court then deals with defense claims that the award violated their “due process” rights, a familiar all-purpose defense used by both the former President and members of his administration still employed at Chicago State. Here the standard includes “the reprehensibility of the defendant’s conduct,” the “most important factor,” which considers the “harm caused (physical or economic), whether the conduct shows reckless disregard for the health or safety of others . . . whether the harm resulted from malice, trickery or deceit.”

The opinion notes that defense lawyers “make virtually no argument that Watson’s actions did not rise to the level of willful and wanton conduct that could warrant the imposition of punitive damages.” The opinion goes on to say “This is congruent with our view of the evidence, which shows that Watson and his lieutenants were nothing short of reprehensible and that they acted with malice and deceit.” After detailing several ways Watson and his administrators tried to harm Crowley, personally and professionally, the judges write “In analyzing the due process violation, the evidence thus supports a conclusion that defendant’s conduct was thoroughly reprehensible.”

Moving to the amount of the damages, the judges write “a jury’s verdict for punitive damages should be found to be excessive only if it is evident that it resulted from passion, partiality or corruption.” In this case, the court finds “The only passion revealed in this trial was the ardor with which defendants sought to humiliate their improperly terminated employee.” Completely rejecting all defense arguments, the Appellate judges concur with the trial court judge’s belief that the size of the judgment should encourage taxpayers “to entrust the appropriate individuals with state resources and decision-making authority.” The judges obviously believe our former President is not one of those “appropriate individuals.”

I am sure the Board of Trustees will ignore the consequences of this decision and decide to throw more money away on the fruitless defense of the indefensible behavior exhibited by the former President. Perhaps the Board will decide that despite decisions by a trial jury and the Appellate Court, that our former President really did not receive due process. Perhaps they can confer upon him another “honor.” This needs to stop and the university should stop expending its meager resources on defending this behavior. This lawsuit is simply another millstone around the neck of our new President, another incident in the sorry narrative of our former administration, and another example of the fecklessness of those persons entrusted with the well-being of the institution. Below are excerpts from the opinion:

Wednesday, March 2, 2016