Friday, May 27, 2016

Another Ending???

So loyal readers, most you know about the dark cloud that has hung over the university since February 4th, when the Board of Trustees declared a state of financial exigency. That cloud was made worse when the Board abandoned all common sense and in an unprecedented crisis removed executive authority from the university president and ceded it to the Management Action Committee. This step is unprecedented in the area of crisis management. Hierarchical organizations need to have one decision maker, in this case the university president. But the board went in the opposite direction and created a situation that undermines executive authority. I have read several texts on management and leadership and not one of them ever indicated that the chief executive should be undermined in such a way during a crisis. The Management Action Committee therefore, must have been created for some other more nefarious reason. The four headed presidency that it has created has had disastrous results for the institution, primarily because three of the four members of that committee are profoundly incompetent and not working in the best interests of the institution. 

That said, I was asked recently what the faculty position on the exigency was and what the faculty was  prepared to do to right the ship as it were. My response was the following. The Faculty Senate has met and generated a request and draft resolution for the Board of Trustees to terminate the exigency and return the university to normal operations. The Senate took this action following a review of the existing exigency information provided by the Board of Trustees. The Senate is also prepared to communicate that request to the media so that the question will never be asked, where were the faculty. The faculty of the university are there to protect the higher ideals of the institution from assault by those who in the grand scheme are really just transients. The transients include board members and senior administrators, those most likely to wreak havoc upon an institution. The Senate believes that it is in the university's long term interest to end the exigency, do a damage assessment of the exigency, begin repairs on the damage sustained as a result of the incompetence of the previous administration and its holdovers in the current administration. Someone asked me, "when is the new president  going to bring in his team, you know like every other university president does?" My reply was that hopefully it would be as soon as possible. A summer cleaning would be a really good idea for the university. 

So for transparency's sake, I post the memo and the draft resolution sent to the Board. Of course I have received no response from the Board on this request. It's the giving of the finger, that my colleague Dr. Bionaz referred to in a previous post. 

The ball is now in the court of the Board. Maybe some interested journalists will ask the Board why exigency is still necessary. Or maybe some interested legislator will ask why the university was put through this process in the first place, especially since no other public university declared exigency. This situation has generated many more questions for me than it has answered. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

How Much Has Wayne Watson Cost Chicago State? One Hell of a Lot More than $5 Million

With yesterday’s announcement of the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear Chicago State’s ill-fated appeal in the Crowley case, the university’s $5 million debt to its former legal counsel becomes a reality. This judgement resulted from the egregious behavior of two persons: although primary culpability falls on the shoulders of President Wayne Watson (standing on the “shoulders of a giant?”), also responsible was General Counsel Patrick Cage. Testimony in court documents starkley detailed the vengeful, systematic attempt by Watson and his counsel to not only dismiss Crowley from his position, but to ruin his reputation. For that administrative misbehavior, the university will pay dearly, or will its insurance company? In any event, the end of this disgraceful episode in the university’s history started me thinking about what the total cost of the Watson administration might eventually be.

Here are some estimates: I have identified at least 13 persons in key administrative positions who can be categorized as cronies of either Watson or his main protégé Angela Henderson: at least one a current lover, a number directly from the City Colleges, others simply incompetent hacks whose inability to do the job has contributed to driving this university down to the ground. The number of Watson cronies grew steadily from fewer than a dozen in 2010 to a high of 13 in 2015. At least 12 of those 13 are still employed here and the other still gets a paycheck until February 2017, despite being recently laid off. The total salary paid to these 13 mismanagers comes to around $8.8 million since October 2009.

Given the abysmal performance of Watson’s crony-infested administration, it seems the university derived little benefit from persons whose financial remuneration for such lousy performance proved the opposite of value-added. Since Fall 2009, the university’s enrollment has declined from 7235 to its current 4442, with additional significant reductions likely in Fall 2016. According to the Illinois Auditor General, Chicago State’s tuition revenue in 2010 totaled $33 million. In fiscal 2015, that figure had dropped to $27.8 million, a decrease of $5.2 million. Obviously that amount will decrease again in this fiscal year and will undoubtedly be further reduced in fiscal 2017. Although exact figures are not available, it seems reasonable that the tuition revenue decline (since 2010) through the end of fiscal 2016 will be around $6 million.

Thus, Watson and his 12 cronies cost the university $8.8 million in salaries to generate $6 million less in tuition revenue, while racking up over $5 million in legal judgments and fees (just for one case). I don’t think it far-fetched to conclude that the minimum cost of the Watson Presidency to this university will come in at well over $20 million. Over the past several years, a number of persons have expressed their displeasure at the “tone” of many of our posts and the criticisms of a number of our top administrators. I’ve heard people say, “this goes on everywhere.” Like hell it does. This administration is close to the gold standard for corruption and cronyism. If our school survives, Chicago State will continue to suffer from the incompetence and venality of the Watson regime long after all the participants have left the scene.

Of course, ultimately responsible for this catastrophe is our Board of Trustees. They have steadfastly refused to acknowledge the complete failure unfolding before their eyes, preferring to talk about the “accolades” due Watson for his performance as Chicago State’s President, or giving the finger to staff and faculty hungry to rid the school of this pack of miscreants by continuing a number of his key cronies in their administrative positions while allowing the architect of this disaster to retain space in the library.

For too many years, this school has been blighted by its dependence upon politicians and their willingness to saddle the university with pliable and incompetent leadership. The academic and administrative fraud named Wayne Watson simply is the most recent in a parade of awful presidents. However, none of the others inflicted the kind of damage he's done to this school. If Chicago State is to survive, we must begin to run it like a university rather than a corrupt political subdivision. Unfortunately, no one with the power to effect necessary change seems to realize this. Perhaps they simply don't know any other way to run an organization. Drop this sham financial exigency, give our new President the authority to do his job, and butt out of day-to-day management of the university. Let us begin to clean up this mess. To do otherwise simply insures our extinction.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Crowley Case Comes To A Merciful End

So this humble source of information has followed the James Crowley lawsuit for the past several years. I can now report that it appears that this case has come to a merciful end. Today the Illinois Supreme Court denied the defendant's appeal and declined to hear the case. The Supreme Court will issue its mandate to the Illinois Appellate Court on June 29th and the Appellate Court will issue its mandate within about 2-4 weeks after that to the Circuit Court for final disposition of the case. 
It appears that the legal system in the State of Illinois believes that employees who follow ethics laws and rules should not be retaliated against by unethical superiors. Too bad the former administration mouthpiece isn't here to tell the world that the university will win on appeal and that insurance will cover the costs of this avoidable legal action. I don't believe insurance will pay for $2 million in punitive damages. At the end of the day however, it falls to the Board of Trustees to explain why they chose not to remove a failed president from office and minimize the damage to the university and the cost to the taxpayers. 

Thanks Board. Another $5 million wasted because you wouldn't do your job.

And congratulations to my former/returning?? colleague Jim Crowley for persevering through this arduous process and to his distinguished counsel for exposing the true nature of the Watson regime.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

What We've Gone Through: An Indictment of Public Officials in Illinois

The recently published Tribune Editorial, “Saving Chicago State,” missed the mark in several important ways. Let’s take a look over the past six-plus years and detail the various scandals and failures of the Watson administration—scandals which in any legitimately run university would have earned the president a pink slip for horrendous performance. The Tribune’s editorial took some of the state’s politicians, Chicago State’s administrators, and the university’s Board to task in the most ineffective manner, ignoring the behavior of a number of individuals responsible for the woeful state of affairs at the university. Along the way, the Tribune ignored its own culpability for failing to take a stand on the ongoing problems at Chicago State—problems it knew about.

As the editorial makes clear, however, students, faculty, and even most of the university’s staff are blameless in this disgrace. We had no input into decisions that have damaged the university. We have little or no access to the Board of Trustees. Despite our entreaties to various politicians, state agencies, the Board, private watchdog groups, even the Governor, people in a position to do something about the deteriorating conditions at Chicago State chose to do nothing. Now, of course, they’re shocked! shocked! to find problems at Chicago State. Here’s a recap of the key events of the past six-plus years. All of these issues appeared on the CSU Faculty blog, and a number even got into the mainstream media. None of these events were sufficient to spur anyone to action.


• Spring 2009: after a sham search, the Board, led by Leon Finney and Richard Tolliver, appoint Wayne Watson President of Chicago State. Faculty and staff do not want either of the two finalists, and the Faculty Senate implores Governor Quinn to step in, fill vacancies on the Board, and restart the search. In contrast to Quinn’s quick action in the “clout scandal” at the University of Illinois, he does nothing. Watson is appointed at a Board meeting to a chorus of boos.
• Soon after his appointment, Watson’s first scandal surfaces as he is unable to assume his duties as President because of retirement complications. He claims he’s “volunteering” until October 1, but makes decisions and performs a number of Presidential duties. He also moves into the mansion. A FOIA request at that time results in an argument with James Crowley about which records are responsive to the FOIA request. Watson fires Crowley in early 2010. Crowley sues. More on this later.
• In July 2009, Maria Moore sued Watson for “retaliatory discharge” at the City Colleges. Moore’s complaint detailed Watson’s ethical violations and his abusive and bullying behavior. More on this later
• October 2009: Watson officially takes over, brings in several cronies to staff key senior administrative positions. Creates a $90,000 position for his girlfriend Cheri Sidney.


• Watson’s first year results in a modest enrollment increase. Leon Finney praises him, citing his “leadership” as the reason for the enrollment gain.
• Watson begins incursions into university curriculum, something he is spectacularly unqualified to do. Mandates a ridiculous “senior thesis,” and decides that all Master’s programs should have a mandatory thesis, an uncommon practice in a number of disciplines.
• In a highly public dispute, Watson drives literary icon Haki Madhubuti from the university. Madhubuti had the temerity to criticize Watson.
• Watson continues to promote his girlfriend into senior administrative positions created just for her.


• March 2011: the first audit report of the Watson regime reveals 41 exceptions, up from 13 the previous year. Watson and his stooges blame the previous administration.
• The university experiences the first of what will eventually be 11 consecutive semesters of enrollment declines.
• June 2011: Watson hires longtime crony and protégé Angele Henderson as the Vice President of Enrollment Management. Henderson has no qualifications for such a position and her application includes false information.
• July 2011: the Chicago Tribune reports that Chicago State allowed ineligible students to receive financial aid. The university will eventually pay a fine. Watson responds that the problem is the previous administration’s.
• Watson creates another new position for his girlfriend, Associate Vice President of Enrollment management at a salary of $110,000. This represents a 22 percent raise in two years.
• Fall 2011, enrollment is down 480 students (6.5 percent) from Fall 2010.
• Fall 2011: Maria Moore case settled in favor of the plaintiff. Moore is awarded more than $700,000 in damages, Watson is culpable. The total cost of the Moore award exceeds $1.175 million, which does not include costs associated with defending Watson.


• February: Watson reportedly gets around $800,000 in severance from City Colleges, including hundreds of thousands of dollars for unused sick leave. Obviously, he was worth it.
• Spring: Sabrina Land drafts and disseminates a “Communications Policy” which prohibits anyone on campus from saying anything to the press or on social media that has not been approved by the administration. Policy generates instant ridicule from around the country and is quickly abandoned.
• In Angela Henderson’s first year as Vice President of Enrollment Management, Fall 2012 enrollment drops to 6107, a 11.3 percent decline. Enrollment is down 17 percent since Fall 2010.
• November: the Faculty Senate votes “no confidence” in Wayne Watson. The vote is 28-2 with 2 abstentions, the Board does not respond.


• In March, Wayne Watson nearly loses his job. Emil Jones and persons from Rainbow Push bring a bunch of political hacks and “community activists” to two Board meetings to defend Watson and demand that he stay on as President. No one talks about his “accomplishments,” either as President or scholar. Instead, they paint him as a victim, his attorney describing his travails as similar to those experienced by Jesus and Martin Luther King. Quinn allows the terms of the Board members most opposed to Watson’s presidency to expire, and appoints new members who support the President. One of the new Board’s first orders of business is to extend Watson’s contract through June 2016.
• July: Despite a proven track record of failure as Vice President of Enrollment Management (see below), Watson names Angela Henderson the Interim Provost. At the time of her appointment, Henderson does not even hold a Ph.D.
• Fall 2013: Enrollment drops another 6.6 percent to 5701. Enrollment is now down 22.6 percent since Fall 2010, and 17.2 percent during Henderson’s tenure as Vice President of Enrollment Management.
• October/November 2013. The blog publishes documentary evidence of Sidney’s falsification of her resume to include educational qualifications she did not possess. Despite evidence of Sidney’s lie, the administration does not discharge her.
• November 2013: The administration makes the first of two attempts to shut down the faculty blog.


• January: the Chicago Tribune reports that Angela Henderson’s dissertation contains material that violates the academic integrity standards of the UIC College of Nursing. In February, the Board “accepts” her degree. The administration hires private counsel to again threaten the faculty blog.
• February: a Circuit Court jury renders its verdict in James Crowley’s retaliatory discharge case. The unanimous decision spanks Wayne Watson and Chicago State by awarding Crowley nearly $2.5 million in damages. Throwing good money after bad, the university decides to appeal the decision, first to the judge who presided over the trial.
• February: the Faculty Senate votes “no confidence” in Wayne Watson and Angela Henderson. The vote is 25-2 with 2 abstentions. The Board does not respond.
• August: Circuit Court Judge McCarthy issues a “scathing” opinion on the Crowley verdict against Watson. He makes clear that Watson and General Counsel Patrick Cage attempted to not only fire Crowley but destroy his career. Calling both of them liars, he affirms the jury’s verdict. The university decides to appeal the decision.
• Summer: A search goes on for a permanent Provost. Reportedly the search firm provides a list of desirable candidates that does not include Interim Provost Angela Henderson.
• November: An anonymous “hearing officer” finds no plagiarism, despite reported “revisions” in Henderson’s dissertation. Immediately after the decision is announced, Watson appoints her the permanent Provost. At this point, the “revised” dissertation still does not appear on the UIC Indigo site. It is not available through ProQuest either.
• Fall: Chicago State’s shrinking enrollment drops to 5211, another 8.6 percent decline. Total enrollment has declined 29.2 percent since it peaked at 7362 in Fall 2010. Watson and his acolytes begin talking about “right-sizing” the university and Watson and his sycophants assure the Board that enrollment will stabilize “around 5000,” then “increase incrementally.”


• February: Watson announces that he will “retire” when his contract expires in June 2016.
• February: Rauner unveils a budget calling for a 30 percent cut in university funding. The Watson administration wrings its hands, prepares no contingency plans, hires and upgrades more administrators, lays off lower paid staff.
• Fall: Enrollment sinks to 4767, down another 8.5 percent from Fall 2014. Total enrollment loss since Fall 2010: 35.2 percent. What happened to the promised enrollment stabilization?
• November/December: The Board chooses a new President, Thomas J. Calhoun, and slaps faculty and staff in the face by recognizing Watson’s failure with the title “President Emeritus,” (“President Horribilis” would be more appropriate). Watson get an office in the library to write his “memoirs.”


• February: Board declares “financial exigency,” although no other at-risk universities in the system do likewise. They tie the new President’s hands with a ridiculous four person “Management Committee.”
• Late February: in the first of a series of blunders, the university lays everyone off on February 26.
• January through present: senior members of the administration reportedly going to individual Board members in an effort to undermine President Calhoun. Board members allow this inappropriate access.
• February-April: majority of administrators do not lift a finger to save the university. Instead, students lead the way.
• Late March: idiotic memorandum tells all employees they must turn in their keys by the end of the first week in April. Surprisingly, press coverage focuses on what this means for the severity of the situation instead of the stupidity of the policy.
• April 22: Legislature funds the university at just over 50 percent of the 2014-15 appropriation. At least two “Chicago State administrators” reportedly lobby legislators for reduced funding from one bill’s original appropriation of $33.5 million.
• April 29: In a ham-handed and brutal process, the university follows the infusion of emergency cash by laying off a reported 300 employees. Most are from the lower salary ranks. Several operations decimated: admissions, teacher certification, financial aid. Almost all high-salaried senior administrators keep their jobs. A number of the layoffs are reportedly due to personal animus on the part of decision makers.
• At the May 6 board meeting, faculty in attendance expressed their displeasure with the unworkable executive management structure and voiced support for President Calhoun. The agenda of a number of administrators is neatly encapsulated by these comments from one of our upper administrators: “Supporters of Wayne and the Board are peddling the narrative that Calhoun is incompetent and only good at giving speeches. They were caught off-guard by the show of support for Calhoun and are trying to figure out how to turn public perception to their side.” So, at this late date, we still have Watson and his minions manipulating events for their own personal gain; actively working against the interests of the university community.

The preceding list is far from exhaustive, containing only the “highlights” of the past few years. Certainly, no media outlet will report on the numerous legitimate issues and scandals that plague this school. Nevertheless, we have created a significant paper trail that will make it difficult, if not impossible, for public figures to claim they did not know what was going on her at Chicago State. Shame on all of them.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Administrative Nonsense Debunked: Graduation Rates and the "Quality over Quantity" Argument

After the administration on May 6 neglected to reveal Chicago State’s horrendous graduation rate, university spokespersons surfaced to spin the story. The most prominent explanation came from Sabrina Land, who makes nearly $100,000 per year to spout bullshit. She had a familiar excuse, the Spring 2011 drop of students for poor scholarship. Actually this action serves as a constant refrain by administrators defending everything from graduation rate declines (Land) and enrollment drops (Henderson).

You might remember that, in Summer 2011, auditors (I believe) caught the university giving financial aid awards to students who were not making satisfactory progress toward degrees. Originally fined over $700,000 for the practice, the university negotiated the figure down to about $350,000. Although this scandal happened nearly two years into the Watson regime, he and his cronies blamed the policies of the previous administration. After all, no one knows better than Watson about administrative success and ethical behavior in higher education. Watson cronies have used this single event over and over to defend themselves against a variety of terrible performances on the academic side of the school. Does it hold any water?

I have examined three different Freshmen cohorts, 2006, 2009, and 2014 in order to determine what percentage of students the university expelled for poor scholarship. I’ve limited the examination to students expelled during their first year in school, except for the 2009 cohort as I will explain. I also believe the data I have discovered can be used to test Watson’s claim that the disastrous enrollment declines were part of a “right-sizing” strategy which emphasized “quality over quantity.”

First, the drops.

For the 2006 cohort, the university expelled 7.5 percent of new students for “poor scholarship” in their first year at the university.
For the 2009 cohort, the university expelled no new students, although the university dropped 6.9 percent of that cohort in Spring 2011 (the administration’s watershed year).
For the 2014 cohort, the university expelled 14 percent of new students in their first year.
For the Freshmen cohort, the 2009 expulsion percentage is actually about what you would expect based on 2006 data.

Looking at the data, it appears to me that the practice for which we got fined was actually a Watson practice. They got caught, had to pay a fine and blamed it on the previous administration. Obviously the university was lax in the years before Watson, but his administration not only had this financial aid scandal, it also got us put on provisional status for our financial aid shenanigans. My money here is on Watson and his troupe as the reason the university kept so many non-performing students on the rolls. After all, he crowed in 2010 about the school’s increased enrollment. Leon Finney attributed the increase to Watson's “leadership.”

Now the quality over quantity argument.

Several numbers come into play here. First, first-year retention rates are similar, 54 percent in 2006, 60 percent in 2009, 58 percent in 2014. The percentage of students leaving school immediately after the first year are also similar: 37 percent in 2006, 34 percent in 2009, 41 percent in 2014. However, expulsion of students for poor scholarship has increased dramatically, from 7.5 percent in 2006 to 14 percent in 2014. In addition to the 35 students expelled prior to Fall 2015, the university has expelled 26 more students in the two subsequent semesters. This brings the total expulsions to 61, or 24.7 percent. Adding to the total the 27 students who left school on probation between Fall 2014 and Spring 2016, 35.5 percent of the incoming first-year students left school within two years after either flunking out or performing so poorly as to be on probation. I don’t think anyone can argue with a straight face that an incoming class in which more than 1/3 of the students are failing represents “quality.” Of course, I was not part of the Watson administration.

As a final observation, we have been hammered for years over our graduation rate, as unfair as that might be to our school. Why do we continue to admit as full-time first-year students, people who are highly likely to fail? Why don’t we insist that only students who demonstrate promise for success in college are admitted as first-year students and ask the others to attend Community Colleges in order to become transfer students? Given our recent enrollment performance, arguments like “we’re unique” or the “numbers don’t reflect what we do,” are not particularly compelling. What is Einstein’s definition of insanity? Maybe it’s time to take a new path.

Now the Administration Must Decide Which Programs to Eliminate: Without Cover from the Faculty

Last night, the Academic Program Elimination Review Committee (APERC) submitted its unanimous recommendations for program elimination to the administration, specifically the Provost and her minions. About a month after the bogus declaration of "financial exigency" by the Board, the administration convened APERC to examine several "low performing" programs identified in an October 20, 2015, IBHE report to Rauner. Degrees granted formed the basis for a rating of "low performing." Baccalaureate programs had a suggested threshold of 6 degrees per year, Master's programs 5, and Doctoral programs 1. This IBHE report made no recommendations about programs, it simply reported the results of each state university's performance between 2009-13 and included responses by each university to the specific programs in question. Most of the universities provided detailed and lengthy responses that defended many of their "low performing" programs. They included charts and data analysis. The lone exception: Chicago State University's two-page, perfunctory and frankly embarrassing response that lumped each "low performing" program into the category of "Redesign," which suggests "redesign and program changes . . . to remediate low performance." Our response included the same recommendation for each program and demonstrated no thought or research into the specific programs. We provided no quantitative data. That report and our response would likely languish on a shelf somewhere until the next round of IBHE program analyses.

Of course, Chicago State has an annual program review process. Programs are evaluated on a regular basis, with several programs examined during any given year. The Program Review Committee (PRC) identifies programs at risk of elimination or "sunsetting" and those programs are then reviewed by APERC. However, with "financial exigency," the university administration saw an opportunity to lay off tenured and tenure-track faculty by using the arbitrary standards for "low performance" set by IBHE, rather than the university's established program review process. As one senior administrator told me on February 4: "we've got to get to the tenured faculty." Thus, the Provost reconstituted APERC and charged it in March with reviewing some 18 "low performing" programs as identified by IBHE.

The strategy employed by the Provost runs along the lines of what we've seen here for the past six years with the Watson administration and its cronies. Use any pretext to include faculty committees as props to legitimize simply horrible academic decisions. In this case, APERC is reactivated to offer legitimacy to a round of staff reductions that otherwise would not occur. The administration will be able to refer to APERC any faculty disgruntled over a layoff. The administrative line will go something like this: after all, the faculty committee recommended these programs for elimination, we just followed the recommendations of that committee (like we do the recommendations of every faculty committee).

Unfortunately for the administration, the APERC report is a thoughtful, well-researched and well-argued document that recommends no programs for sunset status. This means, of course, that any decisions on program elimination will come from the Provost, based on whatever calculation she applies to make those determinations. Since so many of the earlier layoffs seemed personally motivated, I have no doubt that layoff decisions for faculty will be similar. As a member of the Management Action Committee, the Provost has already been prominent in several of the disasters that have occurred since February: the layoff notice fiasco, the layoff debacles, the idiotic key return policy, the 11 percent graduation rate spectacle, the layoffs of our Lecturers. Now she gets to try her hand at staff reductions for tenured/tenure-track faculty. Undoubtedly the results will be as catastrophic as everything else we have seen to date. Thanks to the members of APERC for their hard work on this thankless task.

Some Questions For the Watson Administrative Holdovers Whose Decisions Still Damage the School

From one of our colleagues:

I am writing to express my dismay at what is happening on our campus. For the past 10 months, we have been operating without finances from the state. There is little hope that we will have a budget come July 1, 2016, either. However, I have become increasingly concerned that we are not only fighting an enemy from outside our campus, but more importantly, from within it. These observations are directed at the Board of Trustees and leftover upper administration, excluding President Calhoun, who, like Frank Pogue before him, could have done something positive for our university if given the opportunity. Even the latest Chicago Tribune editorial suggests this is a time of potential renewal; a make it or break it. If CSU wants to survive, then what is the purpose of the following: reducing the summer course load? Having centralized advising that goes against advice, causing long lines, significant frustration, and students being misadvised? Asking for keys prior to the end of one's term? Cutting faculty? Cutting programs? Not admitting when mistakes have been made and adjusting for them? Reducing the amount of classes faculty can teach, despite firing instructors who bore significant load themselves? Students need those courses to graduate. Given our graduation rate, why are we making it harder for students to graduate? Why are we sending students to other colleges to pick up courses they should be able to take here? Why fire people, then recall them, only to fire them again?

I saw on the homepage the College of Education had a fundraiser, raising $12000. Not bad, but sort of paltry. My question is, where was the media push for that? I do not remember receiving emails about it. There should have been an email a day leading up to the event. Why does it seem like people in charge have never been in charge before? Don't these people want to save their own jobs?

Is it true that some were sent to our campus to destroy it? I ask those individuals to consider the humanistic aspect of what they are doing. I really enjoy what I do, and I'm good at it. I have made mistakes and learned from them so I can better serve our students. I like living in Chicago. I like my home. And, yet, I am in danger of losing all of this for nothing that I did myself, other than choose to work at Chicago State University so many years ago.

Please stop doing what you are doing. We need to be a united front against Springfield. We need to raise our own money. We need to do things better. And, that starts with you. You are literally ruining people's lives with the choices that you are making, and really, for no good reason.

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Slaughter Continues: The Lecturers Have Their Turn

As this contrived "financial exigency" continues, the next group of CSU employees to walk the plank are our Lecturers, as qualified, dedicated, and professional as any faculty anywhere. Despite their service to the university, despite the need of a number of university programs for their continued employment, this week they got short shrift from this unconscionable administrative committee. Without so much as a "go to hell," they were told to clean out their offices, turn in their keys, and basically get off the campus. On Monday, a scheduled meeting between the faux Provost and our Deans will reportedly decide the fate of the tenured and tenure-track faculty. Although those decisions should be made later in the summer, an early and uninformed cutting session for faculty will apparently satisfy the blood lust of these persons who the Board, in their infinite wisdom, entrusted with the university's future.

What is this really all about? In my estimation, the decision to declare financial exigency stemmed from a desire to insure the continued employment of several high-salaried administrators whose presence has likely mortally wounded the university. These people are still in decision-making positions, still making hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary, while less fortunate and unconnected people suffer the loss of their jobs. In conversations with a number of people the past two weeks, one theme stands out: for a number of victims, the first round of layoffs were personal retribution meted out by our top administrators. The ultimate strategy still seems unclear, however. Is it the intention of these people to take all they might then have the university close? Given the number of simply idiotic administrative decisions in the past several weeks, no other possibility seems rational.

The administrators doing this damage are almost universally disliked by the faculty, staff, and even other administrators here at Chicago State, a situation that obtained long before the current crisis. If all the persons who supported these senior administrators came together, they would fit comfortably in a ten-seat van. This will not change as these layoffs unfold.

In conclusion, I would like to thank for their dedicated service all my colleagues who have been affected by these outrageous administrative excesses.

Summer Fun

So now that the semester has mercifully drawn to a close, there is still work to be done. The struggle for viable public higher education in Illinois continues. I am posting this as a reminder to my union colleagues that UPI Local 4100 is going to be active in Macomb, Charleston, and Springfield next week. Contact Sarah Tarlow at for details about this important activity. To protect public higher education in Illinois requires our sacrifice of time and effort. And what else would you want to do on Monday???

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

"Were you just watching, or are you part of this?" Public Comment at the May 6th Board of Trustees Meeting

If you had attended the CSU Board of Trustees meeting last Friday, you would have thought that there was nothing of consequence happening at CSU. You would not have known that the university had just laid off 300 staff and administrators the previous week. From the presentation by the VP of Finance you would not know that we were still in a state of financial exigency. You would not know from any of the VP presentations to the Board that CSU faced a dire and uncertain future in the fall when full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty were due to be laid off, when enrollment was predicted to tumble further, and when the state would possibly carry through on its threat not to hand out any more money --especially to us. 

And as we end this wretched semester, the veil on the Board's quick move to "financial exigency" taken in February begins to lift. No other state university in this ill state has gone as far as CSU and declared itself financially exigent. Why not? 

It is clear that in declaring financial exigency, this Board has found a way to abrogate its own university governance rules (Board of Trustees regulations). It has reconstituted the governing structure of the executive branch of this university to prevent its new president from carrying out any executive authority on his own. The so-called Management Action Committee is a tetrarchy made up of President Calhoun and former President Wayne Watson's Provost Angela Henderson, Wayne Watson's Human Resources director, Renee Mitchell and Wayne Watson's Vice President for Finance, Cecil Lucy. Each member has an equal vote. And decisions coming down from this Management Action Committee are being made in 3 against 1 votes. From where did such a governance model come? Why hire a new president mid-year only to strip him of executive authority within one month? Why bend over backward in the fall to keep Wayne Watson on campus and set him up in an office on campus, continue to pay him and a new president? What is this pathological, creepy loyalty on the part of the Board that reminds me of the leader-principle in fascism where everything must be sacrificed except the leader? Wayne Watson is still running the university and running it into the ground. 

It is worth noting that a good number of faculty, staff, and administrators appeared to witness the Board's proceedings. Most of them were there for only one reason: because President Calhoun needed to see that he was supported by the faculty. Public comment at the end of the meeting provided the strong tonic that the Vice Presidents' cheery reports earlier in the day failed to do. You should listen to what some of your colleagues had to say at the link below (or go to the Board of Trustees page and look for Meetings and Recordings).  In the meantime, I am posting the transcript below of one commentator, retiring professor Janet Halpin.

Parting comments by retiring faculty member.
Several decades ago I read Atlas Shrugged, the dystopian novel by Ayn Rand where nasty, self-serving incompetents drive industries and infrastructure into the ground while able people are fired, destroyed or who quit. At the time, I thought it was a highly implausible straw-man scenario used to promote her philosophy of objectivism.

In the 1980s an activist friend of mine referred to a fellow in our movement as a ‘revolutionary pimp’ who promoted his own interests on the backs of the activism of others.  At the time, I thought it was a personal judgement on a mildly unsavory character.

In 2012 an accreditation evaluator came to CSU for the pre-visit consultation.  In an informal conversation, the evaluator said that the word outside of Chicago was that Wayne Watson had been set in place specifically to drive CSU into the ground because the land and campus were valuable properties [emphasis added].  At the time, I thought it was pretty stupid, as conspiracy theories go.

At it turns out, they were all prescient. I have SEEN highly skilled, devoted, and competent colleagues fired, demoted, and chased away.  I have SEEN prominent figures coming out of a back room in this very building, where they schemed and plotted to keep Wayne Watson and his cronies in power.  They then stood up in public three years later to exhort our students to defend their right to education.  I have SEEN a series of brutal, thoughtless, and damaging actions that have eroded our viability.  Through incompetence, they might have avoided some catastrophes merely by accident. It seems instead that their intent is, indeed, to close the school and seize the remaining assets.

And this Board sat here.  Were you just watching, or are you part of this?

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

On the Backs of the Working Class: APERC and the Latest Chapter in the Devastation of CSU

From a colleague who wishes to remain anonymous:

In the eleventh month of the Illinois State budget crisis and seventh year of the Wayne Watson administration at Chicago State University (yes, Watson’s Board and administration still run this place) the situation for working people including staff and faculty at CSU worsens daily. Not a week goes by that we don’t hear of a new service agency having to cut services and lay-off workers due to Governor Rauner’s intransigence. He is determined to gut the state and weaken workers. The first victims of Rauner’s advocacy for the wealthiest were and continue to be the poorest in our state. Our fellow Illinoisians who rely on state safety nets have been devastated. In state offices and non-profit organizations that have contracts with the state employees have received pink slips as the agencies are unable to pay their bills. Here at Chicago State University Watson’s cronies hold the same mindset; elite wealth should be maintained on the backs of the working class. It is no secret that CSU has been run into the ground by Watson’s crimes and incompetence. This blog has chronicled the weekly attacks on the working class of the city and state, including and especially working class Blacks, by Watson and his high-salaried enforcers. In this post I wanted to add to this chronicle by informing readers about a recent and on-going attack perpetrated by the Provost and the Board of Trustees; the elimination of academic programs and the service to students and faculty positions that go with them.

According to a member of the Academic Program Elimination Review Committee (APERC) “Dr.” Henderson, Provost, chief academic officer, long-time Watson loyalist and wife of Watson’s personal lawyer charged the committee to review eighteen programs that appeared on the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) list of underperforming programs. Henderson explained in a memo to the committee that due to financial exigency she asked the committee to determine which of the eighteen programs on the list should be eliminated. As it turns out only seventeen programs are reviewed as one, economics, has already been hastily eliminated by the regime.

The IBHE bases its list on the average number of degrees conferred by a program over a five year period. The thresholds do not consider the size of the school nor other factors. The thresholds are six bachelors, five Masters and one doctoral degree. While the IBHE report does not seek elimination of programs, Henderson uses the list to justify firing faculty members. According to two sources, Henderson announced that the suggestions of APERC will guide the decisions about which faculty members to fire beginning sometime this month. While most thinking people can see numerous flaws in this approach to university decision-making I will highlight a few.

First, it should be obvious that the primary reason for low enrollment and low graduation rates in the so-called low-producing programs is the abysmal job done by the enrollment management division of the university. Again, this blog has painstakingly analyzed the data over the years and found that the university has lost more than a third of its enrollment during the Watson/Henderson years. Remember that Henderson came on board at CSU with a fraudulent resume as V.P. of Enrollment Management. The downward trend in degree conferral in the programs under scrutiny mirror the devastating drop in enrollment at the university as a whole. So, Henderson/Watson create an enrollment emergency then blame faculty for it. Now that drastic measures are needed to save the university Henderson plans on firing faculty for her under-performance.

Secondly, APERC is a contractually constituted committee on campus. It consists of nine faculty members who are charged with reviewing programs that have been previously flagged for suspension by the Program Review Committee. Henderson has asked the committee to suggest for elimination programs that have not been so flagged by the PRC. Each of the programs considered for elimination by APERC have undergone regular review during the past five years. Each has a plan for strengthening their programs. On pages 27 and 28 of the IBHE report found on their website the pitiful page-long report provided by someone at the university (no one knows who it is because unlike other universities it is not signed) an administrator points out that each program is in good standing. The ‘report’ which provides two to four lines of incomplete sentences mentions the redesign plans and lists the dates of the next program review for each program. By contrast, other university reports detail the plans in a professional manner becoming of important institutions of higher education.

Third, eliminating programs equates to eliminating students and potential students and defies the mission of higher education to provide students with a broad base of knowledge from which to contribute economically and politically to our nation. For example, students interested in economics are not able to major in the subject at Chicago State and find only lower level economics courses here. In the Watson/Henderson era of enrollment crisis we should do all we can to make the university more attractive not less. According to APERC sources programs under consideration for elimination by Henderson have dynamic plans in process to attract more students from a wider array of the student population in Chicago, Illinois, the nation and internationally.

Fourth, even if the financial crisis or ‘financial exigency’ in administrative-speak is the reason for convening APERC to consider program elimination, suspending, sunsetting or eliminating programs will not save the university money. Some have both undergraduate and graduate programs. Eliminating the graduate program, for example, will not save money in salary as no one will be fired since each of the graduate faculty teaches in the undergraduate program and vice versa. Moreover, firing faculty will save at most a few hundred thousand dollars per year. This is the highest estimate. However, this high number is doubtful given that many faculty will be retained in order to continue to serve our students. We have committed to our students and will not simply eliminate the possibility that they will graduate with the degree that they have chosen. In addition, many programs serve the university through general education. In fact, some programs dedicate 75% to 90% of their efforts to serving non-majors.

Fifth, a small amount of institutional support for these programs would go a long way to solving some of the problems of enrollment and graduation. While the drop in enrollment under the Watson/Henderson regime is the primary reason for low enrollment and graduation and seemingly high cost of some programs, lack of commitment to higher education by the regime contributes enormously to the problem. While CSU ranks among the highest in administrator to student ratios in the country and lawsuits based on Watson misbehavior cost the university millions of dollars requiring even more highly-paid lawyers, very little of our budget goes to supporting the needs of our students within their academic disciplines. Enhancing tutoring and other academic assistance for students will help them graduate. For example, tutoring for the TAP examination which has changed recently causing a steep decrease in pass rates throughout the state will solve much of the problem of graduation rates in the College of Education. In other programs scholarships and assistantships would serve the same purpose.

Sixth, our financial troubles do not begin and end with Rauner’s attacks on higher education, workers and the poor. The inability of Wayne Watson to raise money for the university and his squandering of it on highly paid crony administrators and elsewhere put us in a vulnerable position. Had Watson been a different person who had not continuously over his career poorly managed and stole through contracts, etc., and been able to raise money for us we would have been able to weather the Rauner storm. Who, in their right mind, would donate to Chicago State as long as the Watson foxes are guarding the CSU hen house? Chicago State can be a viable university that will spend its money prudently and effectively but the Watson/Henderson/Anthony Young Board regime will not allow it. I, along with many other colleagues, believe that President Calhoun can do such a job once the Watson era ends. The amazing job that the academic programs and faculty have done with a dearth of resources is evidence of our collective ability to raise and spend money well.

Finally, the value of these programs goes beyond number of graduates and majors or the cost of running the program. While each of these aspects of a program are important to consider, any number of other factors must be considered when thinking about the financial health of the university and our mission. The poor image of CSU due primarily to the Watson/Henderson regime and the bad press they garnered due to lawsuits and laughable, though sad, policies obscures what we do. Given our admissions policies, lack of financial and other support and the complicated lives of our students, we should be applauded for the graduation rates that we have. However, our faculty not only graduates students. We also publish, engage in community work, and contribute to our fields in numerous ways.

Watson/Henderson/Young have been successful at driving our already bad image (one that is undeserved and often driven by racism) into the ground as Watson is the poster boy for how not to run a university and Henderson shames us with her plagiarism and lack of credentials for the job. Instead of Watson,, as the image of the university, our faculty and students should be our voice and image. The story about CSU in the general public is as a failed institution with a low graduation rate; a waste of public money. We need to change this image if we are to survive. The story that should be told is the accurate one of an underfunded institution that serves a population that other universities choose to disregard with a faculty and staff that produces monumentally under extremely difficult circumstances. CSU has a unique mission that no other institution of higher education will touch. And we do a helluva job fulfilling that mission. Many of the departments under consideration for elimination contribute to this story. We teach the teachers who will serve the underserved populations of our city and state. We train the social workers who literally save lives. Nurses and pharmacists save the state and taxpayers money by returning to the southside and, again, saving lives. We teach citizens to go out and fight for their rights and participate in non-profit and community organizations that mitigate the harm done by Rauner, Watson and their elite friends. We provide credentials to working class Black people who earn them. They are prepared to get decent paying jobs that will move them and their children out of poverty. WE do this and more. No other faculty in the state can make this claim.

Henderson/Watson/Young blame the faculty for the problems at CSU. The convening of APERC to eliminate programs is the latest example of their disdain for education and for the primarily Black population we serve. They shamefully receive their six figure salaries and pompously strut in their fine clothes and vehicles while the working class students, staff and faculty suffer. Like little Rauners they and their friends gain off of the backs of the working class and pass the blame on to their victims.

Another Awful Decision from the Provost.

At this point early in the registration process, students registered for fall 2016 stand 13 percent below our total from this time last year. I don't imagine that last week's layoff debacle combined with the sharp decline in our graduation rates has inspired confidence in the holdover administrator's ability to function effectively during this crisis. Of course, our public problems are not solely responsible for our enrollment issues and graduation rate decline. One of the major issues confronting our students is the horrendous decision last year to have all advising done in an "advising center." At a recent joint meeting with the MAC, the Provost made the comment that "we now have professional advisors." Really? I do not believe many faculty or students consider the advising center anything more than a total disaster. We've cataloged some of its problems in past posts.

Of course, after the layoffs, the number of "professional" advisors available to do academic advising has diminished to either 6 or 7 I believe. These unfortunate souls are responsible for advising all our undergraduate students. Based on last year's student population (optimistic, I know) the current ratio of students to advisors exceeds 500 to 1. I'm sure that anyone handling close to 500 students per semester can dedicate the time needed to do advising well. Given the need for flexibility during these difficult times, I find it disturbing, although not surprising, that our Provost again digs her heels in and insists that all undergraduate advising be done in the advising center. Following on the heels of numerous other bad decisions on her part, this failure to acknowledge the failure of this procedure leads me to draw only two possible conclusions. First, the Provost is ignorant of the damage caused by this continual adherence to terrible policy; second, that she knows full well the scope of the catastrophe but simply does not care. Here is the text of an e-mail that went out yesterday, provided courtesy of one of our colleagues.

"I have confirmed with the Provost that she has not authorized undergraduate advising by faculty during Summer 2016.

You should make sure that your chairs are adhering to the memo of several months ago and directing undergraduate students to the Advising Center location, about which there was a separate email earlier this morning."

I will end this with a question. Why is Wayne Watson on the distribution list for the daily enrollment reports?

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Let's Analyze the Watson Crony Bilgewater About Graduation Rates

I’m really tired of hearing the same old crap about 2011 whenever the previous administration’s enrollment failures are discussed. The people making that claim obviously are unaware that a number of the Chicago State faculty were trained in excellent graduate programs and are quite capable of data analysis. In that light, let’s take a look at yesterday’s claim and subject it to some critical inquiry.

The Tribune story of July 25, 2011, on the financial aid scandal reported that the university administration claimed it had “recently dismissed 47 students from that group as part of its new enforcement of the policy.” In making the claim that our drop in graduation rate stems solely from this group of expelled students, the administration is obviously assuming a 100 percent graduation rate in that cohort, clearly a contrived and idiotic assumption. Even with a 100 percent graduation rate for those 47 students, the overall 2009 cohort graduation rate only reaches 19 percent (112 out of 589 students).

If we remove the 47 students from the graduation rate calculation, the result is 65 graduates out of a cohort of 542, or 12 percent. Just for argument, let’s calculate the rate based on the best graduation rate achieved here in the last several years: 21 percent. That results in a yield of 10 graduates out of that population of 47 student. That raises the 2009 cohort’s graduation rate to 12.7 percent (75 out of 589).

Since we know the statistical performance of previous cohorts, we can apply this statistical model to any number we like. Let’s say the university expelled 20 percent of the 589 students in their purported attempt to increase “rigor.” That’s 118 students. A 21 percent yield for 118 students would add 25 students to the graduation totals, bringing that number fo 90 graduates out of a population of 589, or 15.3 percent.

We know that 212 students returned for their third year in 2011-12. Hell, let’s say all 377 of the students no longer enrolled were expelled because the university was so diligent in policing their scholarship. At a 21 percent yield, 79 students would be added to the 2015 graduates, bringing the total to 144 out of 589, or 24.4 percent. That’s absolutely the best we could achieve.

So the range could possibly be between the existing 11 percent and the fantasy world of 24.4 percent. Fortunately, there’s a way to come up with some kind of viable projection: looking at the actual data. A sample of 44 University College students matriculating in 2009 gives us a snapshot. Here’s the description of the University College from our Undergraduate Catalog:

The University College
The University College (UC) program provides access to Chicago State University for entering freshmen who do not meet the regular admissions criteria. Students participate in a specialized
curriculum designed to assist them in acquiring the knowledge and skills essential to their academic success.

I think it safe to assume that the highest risk students in the university come in as part of this cohort. In 2009, all 44 in this sample matriculated as first-time full-time students. Here’s how they did. 3 students, or 6.8 percent graduated within six years. Only 4, or 9.1 percent were “dropped for poor scholarship” in Spring 2011, the sacred semester in the administration narrative. An additional 4 students, or 9.1 percent were “dropped for poor scholarship” in subsequent semesters. 6 students, or 13.6 percent left school after only 1 semester, another 10 or 22.7 percent left school after only one year. Thus, 16 of the 44 students, or 36.4 percent, lasted only one year.

Based on this sample of our most at-risk students, it seems highly unlikely that the actual number of first-time students expelled in Spring 2011 would exceed 54. Based on the previous statistical calculations, that population yields 11 possible additional graduates at 21 percent. Bringing the fantasy total to 76 out of 589, or 12.9 percent.

So there it is. We have a number of figures from which to choose. We can stay with the reality of the reported 11 percent graduation rate. Or we can escape to various fanciful permutations. We have 12 percent, 12.7 percent, 12.9 percent, 15.3 percent, or the fantastic 24.4 percent. Even the trip through Wonderland becomes unsatisfying when we consider that almost all of the possibilities are still a dreadful performance by our high-salaried Watson cronies in Enrollment Management.

We Shoot Ourselves in the Foot Again: Yesterday's Ridiculous Board Meeting Lovefest, We Just Won't Tell the Truth

At yesterday’s Board meeting, two pressing matters could have been discussed: the recent layoffs of scores of employees; the disastrous graduation statistics of the 2009 cohort. Instead of a sober report to the Board on these substantive matters, a parade of administrators proceeded to tell the Board how wonderful everything was in their respective areas, and how “awesome” were their efforts to bring glory to Chicago State.

Occasionally interrupting this happy joy-joy fiesta, the university’s Civil Service Representative commented on the layoffs; President Calhoun expressed his sorrow for their necessity, and his regrets to affected employees. No discussion of the graduation rate. I was left wondering what planet these people were on.

Putting the layoffs aside for a moment, I think it useful to discuss the university’s most recent graduation rate and the administrative response to the bad news. I am sure that a more thorough reporting of the events at the meeting will appear on this blog, but for now, I will limit this discussion to the graduation rate.

As we all know, our graduation rate has been a source of bad publicity for a number of years. We got great criticism when it dropped to 14 percent. Even though it is not particularly applicable to a school like ours, previous administrations have not been aggressive in challenging that particular measure of academic achievement. Since the graduation rate had dropped to 11 percent for the 2009-15 cohort of first-time full-time students, and since that information had been included in the Enrollment Management report submitted to the Board, I naturally expected some questions about just what the hell happened. Instead, deafening silence. The Vice President of Enrollment Management skipped right over the bad news, although the Associate Vice President of Athletics mentioned other statistics just two lines below the awful figures in the Enrollment Management report. No questions came from the Board.

While all this non-discussion took place, a reporter was busy at the meeting, filing one story and obviously gathering information for the scathing article that appeared later in the day. It’s here: Here are pertinent excerpts from the article:

“Chicago State's graduation rate is lower than that of its peer institutions.

It is quite clear that they serve students who are on average poor and have more challenges than at the average college in America," Haycock said. "But when you look at institutions that serve similar students ... most of them get better results."

Chicago State trustees and administrators did not publicly discuss the graduation figures at the Friday board meeting.”

Listening to the report from the Vice President of Enrollment Management, I thought it unwise for her to commit a lie of omission, especially given the public scrutiny of our situation. Nevertheless, she gave her report, failed to mention the graduation rate, and got no questions from the Board members about what would surely get us more bad press. Before everyone starts jumping up and down about how unfair the Tribune is to Chicago State, the article also mentioned our transfer graduation rate and explained that the IPEDS graduation rate is based on a small number of students. So no, the report was not deliberately slanted to make us look bad, we took care of that ourselves. As an aside, I happen to know that the university’s graduation rate for its 2010-16 first-year cohort also currently stands at 11 percent. That figure might change with recent graduations, so it is not final. Nevertheless, it looks like more bad news to come. One more piece of bad information: for the 2009 cohort, when athletes are taken out of the calculation, our graduation rate comes in at 9.3 percent.

I can understand why a number of holdovers from the Watson administration might not want that information made public. After all, this is the first cohort to matriculate the year Watson became President then spend their entire college careers in an institution under the “leadership” of Watson and his cronies. The only reason for our enrollment problems cited by the administrative mouthpiece quoted in the paper was that old standby, that one-size-fits- all bullshit explanation for everything bad enrollment-wise: the university’s commitment to academic rigor and its expulsion of all those bad students in 2011.

This is one of the final shoes to drop on the utterly failed Watson administration, and we will probably see further declines in our graduation rates as the incompetence Wayne brought to this school takes full effect. We already know about the enrollment declines, the audit findings, the failure to raise money for the school. Now we know for sure about the complete nonsense spouted by Watson and his acolytes about “academic rigor.” If we continue to allow Watson holdovers to damage this university, the only rigor we’ll see will be in Chicago State’s corpse.

Friday, May 6, 2016


So the Board of Trustees has just voted on this year's tenure resolution. Congratulations to the newest tenured faculty; Dr. Crystal Laura, Dr. April Bernard, and Dr. Tiffany Davis. These three scholars have successfully navigated the six year process of evaluation by their peers to be awarded tenure. Their excellent work in teaching, research and service more than merit their award of tenure. 

Congratulations to my newest tenured colleagues.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

When Is A Layoff Not A Layoff???

So those of you loyal readers who have been following the course of events at CSU will know that the university has managed to bungle the layoff notice process, the key collection process and the actual layoff process. It has been painful to watch the most vulnerable employees at the university be subjected to the most cruel and inhumane treatment by those in power. One employee, a secretary in one of the academic departments was laid off late on Friday, recalled on Monday and re-laid off on Wednesday. Which of the passengers in the administration's clown car managed to do that? 
I would imagine it was the HR Director because it would be in her office that seniority lists would be generated. Those lists would ostensibly inform those making such decisions of who could bump whom in the game of musical chairs being played by holdovers from an ethically bankrupt administration. Or maybe because the employee/former employee was in academic affairs it was the provost made used a dart board instead of a seniority list to select whose lives would be cruelly disrupted. Who knows? 
What is known is that transparency is not the order of the day when it comes to bungling the management of this financial exigency. The order of the day is to appear as inept, incompetent, and inhumane as possible while the country looks on to see how this university manages this crisis. A hearty pat on the back is due for thumbing your noses at the legislators who went to bat for the university. I am sure they feel inspired to go beyond the pale the next time the university is in need. Or not. 
Yesterday I congratulated the Board for their epic failure and now it's time to congratulate the failed holdovers from an utterly despicable administration for ruining more lives than I thought they were capable of.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Here's What our People Have to Go Through

Here's what our employees are experiencing as our HR Department under the leadership of "Doctor" Mitchell proceeds to screw over some of our most conscientious and valuable people. These are real people who deserve so much better. There are hardly adequate pejoratives to describe this administration. No one with a shred of human decency would subject people to this kind of treatment.


I received a letter on Friday, April 30 2016 that the University was rescinding my layoff notice and that I would return in my current position. A few hours ago I was summoned to HR to be notified that they made a mistake and as of now I am currently laid-off.

This is frustrating and very unprofessional.

Hi Bob,

Please note that I still do not know my layoff status. I phoned Ms. Shawnice Alivez this morning and she was told by Ms. Laurie Mays (HR) that I needed to speak to Ms. Kim Bandy in benefits (HR).

Ms. Kim Bandy stated that if I was laid off, my insurance would continue and I would have to pay CMS directly. However, I would be taken off payroll. Ms. Kim stated that she would look into my employee status and call me back. Please note that I didn't receive a call back from Ms. Kim.

I'm really frustrated with the Administrators at CSU! I just want to know my employee status in order to plan accordingly (unemployment...).

If you can help me with this matter, I would greatly appreciate it.

From Someone on the Academic Side:

Good morning everyone,
Thank you but the university made a mistake.
I was given a letter to return on Monday and then given another letter on Tuesday saying they made a mistake.
There will be someone working in my place who has more seniority.

Who Is Responsible for This Predicament

So my learned colleague thoughtfully articulated the reasoning behind the “financial exigency” yet did not discuss a key element of this entirely unwieldy structure. In hierarchical structures, the person with the responsibility at the top of the structure has the duty to ensure compliance throughout the organization. That person would decide if say, direct reports, were insubordinate by not performing their duties and if they were insubordinate the chief executive could terminate them for insubordination. The way the Board of Trustees has configured this structure it is impossible for the university to be governed effectively. Any of the members of the Management Action Committee could literally commit crimes and not be fired by the President for cause or otherwise. My learned colleague cited the specific language of the resolution that essentially prevents the University President from protecting the interests of the university (paid in part with tax payer dollars) from all forms of misconduct up to and including criminal activity. No employment actions including terminations can be initiated by the President for any reason because of this exigency declaration.

Why did the Board declare exigency when no other public universities which were in similar conditions did so? Eastern Illinois University and Western Illinois University instituted furloughs, layoffs and other cost cutting without declaring exigency. What exactly was gained by the CSU declaration? What has the Board and the four headed co-presidency done that could not have been done without said declaration? Why does the former president continue to collect a $199K per year salary while the support staff of the university is decimated by a hapless, clueless Board of Trustees who have repeatedly demonstrated total disregard for the best interests of the university?

Might I remind you loyal readers, that it was this Board that sat by while the chief academic officer of the university was proven to have plagiarized her doctoral dissertation. It was this Board that took no action when the Office of the Executive Inspector General upheld a damning ethics complaint against the former president in which former Board members were libeled. It was this Board of Trustees that declared financial exigency without a plan for how to get out of exigency and that declaration triggered a visit by the Higher Learning Commission, the outcome of which is still pending. It is this Board that continues a ridiculous quest to overturn the judgment in the Crowley case which is likely to cost the university $5 million. And it won’t be the Board that goes to Springfield to ask the legislature for the money. It will be the President who inherited this situation. It is this Board that has allowed a 30% enrollment decrease to occur with no accountability from the former president or provost/enrollment management vice president who oversaw that decline. It is this Board that has seemingly allowed ex parte communications from senior administrators absent the President. It is this Board that has at least one member who believes the university should be closed and who didn’t even know of the existence of a 150 year old institution located at 95th and King Drive. 

So when the post mortem is completed for the institution formerly known as Chicago State University, there will be plenty of responsibility for its demise to be meted out. The Board of Trustees should top the list of those who have consistently failed the university. They will join the governor’s office, the legislature, the Higher Learning Commission, the Illinois Board of Higher Education, the US Department of Education, the Office of the Executive Inspector General, the Illinois Attorney General’s office and the various and sundry politicians and community “leaders” who failed our students and alumni with their haughty self-importance and maintenance of a truly dysfunctional status quo.

Thanks to the Board of Trustees for their apparent success in destroying a perfectly viable university and shattering the dreams of generations to come.

The Management Action Committee: Chicago State's Four-Headed President

Earlier today, I speculated on the reason for the Board’s declaration of “financial exigency,” and the potential benefits to administrators other than the university President. I will expand on that discussion and offer my interpretation of why the Board did what it did, with a look at the deleterious effects on the university.

The President of the University has the following responsibilities, enumerated in the Board’s General Regulations and further detailed in his contract:

“The President is the chief executive officer of the university. The President is responsible to the Board of Trustees of Chicago State University for the execution of Board policies and for the management and direction of university operations. The President shall have full authority and responsibility within the framework of the policies and regulations determined by the Board for the organization, management, direction, and supervision of the university and shall be held accountable by the Board for the effective administration and management of the institution. In the discharge of these responsibilities, the President shall consult with the Board of Trustees and with such constituencies as are appropriate. The President shall be employed by and serve at the pleasure of the Board unless the contract of employment specifies otherwise”

So, the President is responsible “for the management and direction of university operations,” s/he “shall have full authority and responsibility . . . for the management, direction and supervision of the university” and “shall be held accountable . . . for the effective administration and management of the institution.” Other senior administrators ultimately work for the President and answer to him for their performance. In this structure, the President possesses sufficient authority to adequately discharge his responsibilities.

In contrast, the Resolution creates a four-headed executive structure which effectively renders the President one of four co-Presidents at Chicago State. Here’s the pertinent language: [the] Committee, chaired by President Thomas J. Calhoun, Jr., will review and decide all employment actions, including lay-offs, reductions in compensation, terminations, and significant position modifications. NO ACTION WILL OCCUR WITHOUT A MAJORITY VOTE OF THE COMMITTEE.” In this structure, the President has no authority. Put another way, the Provost, Vice President of Administration and Finance, and the Associate Vice President of Human Resources all have an equal vote, thus all have equal authority. Why in the world would any Board want such an unwieldy and ineffective executive structure?

To answer that question, it seems helpful to review the performance of our administration over the past six years. At least two holdovers from that administration now are “co-Presidents.” During their time at Chicago State, we saw our enrollment decline by nearly 40 percent, while our graduation rate, 15 percent in 2009, dropped to 11 percent this year. In any viable institution, performance like that would get you fired. Not here. At Chicago State, for at least one of those administrators, it resulted in promotion and huge salary increases. These two persons contributed materially to the influx of crony hires that has so damaged the school and one made a series of disastrous decisions on the academic side that accelerated the exodus of students from the university.

Lurking in the background is the former Chicago State President Wayne Watson. Fully responsible for the devastation wrought on the school since 2009, Watson populated his administrative ranks with unqualified friends, lovers, political allies, and other assorted hacks. Lying and misrepresenting credentials presented no difficulties for these people as Watson sheltered and protected them as long as they offered their unstinting loyalty. Although well aware that the majority of the campus community wishes Watson gone from the premises, the Board fell all over itself to grant him a gratuitous title and other undeserved perks when he finally “retired.” Watson, it seems, still has a vested interest in the operations of this school and the continued employment of his cronies. Apparently, Watson still has significant political influence with the Board.

In my estimation, the presence of these holdovers, their former patron, and a complicit Board produced this absurd executive structure, which has made any significant personnel changes impossible. After all, if the President decides that one of his senior administrators needs to go, are the other three members going to allow that to happen (provided the senior administration in question was a friend)? Would they vote for their own firing? Would they allow one of their other friends blighting the university with their presence in a high-salaried position to be fired? What do you think?

So the four-headed President further damages the university by insuring that some of the persons who helped put is into this position are able to shape the direction of our response to this financial crisis. I believe that the Board’s declaration of Financial exigency had more to do with protecting the positions of people whose performance has earned them a pink slip, than with protecting the university. Watching the implementation of the university’s response to the budget situation has been painful to say the least. Being one of the victims of this new chapter of administration incompetence and inhumanity is excruciating; unnecessary torture.

A legitimate university executive structure would give senior administrators the ability to make recommendations to the President who would then make the final decisions. That the Board chose to create this ridiculous design demonstrates their reticence to give President Calhoun the authority to do his job properly. You have people making executive decisions who have no business doing so, with predictable results.

Can It Get Worse? More Residual Damage from the Watson Regime

I wrote this on October 1, 2014. It is still pertinent today.

“Then, beginning in 2015, the graduation rates will most likely descend to levels which previously subjected the university to scorn for its failure to graduate students (with the caveat that first-time Freshmen represent only a tiny percentage of the overall student population). I anticipate that the graduation rates from 2015 through 2019 will range from 15 to 17 percent. Except for the 2009 cohort, all these students will have been admitted under the Watson regime.”

Unfortunately, I was incorrect in my prediction. The graduation rate for the 2009 Freshman cohort is in and it is 11 percent. That’s right, 11 percent. This is the first group of students to spend their college careers in a school controlled by Wayne Watson and his cronies. Based on the ominous drop in our graduation rate, I have to revise my earlier estimates. I think it entirely possible that in the next year or two, our graduation rate might well drop below 10 percent, possibly to the levels Watson “achieved” at City Colleges (7 percent). Imagine how the press and our critics will beat us over the head with that 11 percent figure. Imagine how the politicians will respond.

I wonder if this will be a topic of conversation at Friday’s board meeting. I wonder if anyone on the board will ask the question about why this drop occurred. I wonder how the Watson holdovers will spin the news. Will they blame the new Vice President of Enrollment Management, the new President of the university? As we have seen over the years, avoiding responsibility is a skill perfected by a number of our senior administrators—a skill encouraged and nurtured by a board that seems unable or unwilling to realize what actually takes place on this campus, a board uninterested in any points of view that differ from the administration bullshit they’re constantly getting, ultimately unable or unwilling to hold accountable any of the persons responsible for the continuing debacles at Chicago State.

Of course, given our recent missteps, it seems entirely possible that the school will not exist to experience those disastrous graduation rate declines. Let’s review the events of the past few days. First, on April 22, the university got emergency funding totaling around $22 million from Illinois. Originally, the university’s portion of the emergency funds was going to be around $33.5 million. However, according to the author of the legislation, Rita Mayfield, two Chicago State “administrators,” or “managers” (I’m not sure of the exact term she used) lobbied legislators to reduce the funding for our school, apparently arguing that we really did not need that much money. Now, there may be a perfectly reasonable explanation for this behavior, and I’m sure we would all like to hear it. At this point, Mayfield has not identified the persons doing the lobbying.

This lobbying took place around the same time one of our senior administrators appeared before the House Higher Education Appropriations Committee, an appearance described as “embarrassing.” Apparently, this administrator demonstrated an appalling lack of knowledge and frequently responded to questions with contradictory information and statements. So our legislative efforts included undermining the current university president and embarrassing ourselves in front of the committee responsible for funding our school.

Next, we followed the political clown show with a fine public relations demonstration: the well-publicized laying off of scores of employees. Imagine how the politicians in Springfield must feel about that. Imagine how our most ardent legislative and community supporters must feel about that. We receive an emergency infusion of cash, then we follow that by laying off reportedly one-third of our staff. Brilliant political move! Of course, the layoffs generate even more fine press coverage. To say they were handled disgracefully does not even begin to describe the abominable process. Our employees were treated despicably by persons who demonstrated a callous disregard for the dignity and humanity of people who served this institution for years.

All these administrative fiascos take place against a backdrop of intrigue and deceit, as several of our senior administrators apparently engage in regular conversations with certain members of the Board in an effort to undermine President Calhoun. It seems that they will do anything to maintain their positions of influence, even if that means destroying the university. It is disgraceful and unethical that the board members permit this kind of exchange. Clearly when the Board turned the university over to Wayne Watson, he and his retinue took it as an invitation to make Chicago State their personal fiefdom.

Finally, the university continues in a seemingly never-ending state of “financial exigency.” When the Board made their exigency declaration in February, I wondered why. Was it a way to reduce staff and eliminate troublemakers? Was it an end run around various collective bargaining agreements? Did the declaration have the added benefit of making senior administrators more secure? More difficult to replace? Given the various political connections at play, I wonder.

In the same October 1, 2014 blog post, I wrote this:

“If any of our readers are familiar with the City Colleges, they undertook a ‘reinvention’ campaign in the wake of the Watson Chancellorship, primarily in an attempt to repair the significant damage his regime did to those institutions. . . Clearly, it will take a prodigious effort to recover from the havoc wreaked by Wayne Watson. The question remains, will we even have the opportunity to clean up after this man? Another two years of this and the university may well cease to exist. Is that the goal of our politicians and other so-called leaders? Sometimes it seems like the only rational explanation for their inaction.”

I think it fair to say that if we continue down the path we are currently traveling, the university’s future is grim. We desperately need change at the top levels of our administration. It’s past time to back up the truck.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Key Turn In Redux

So the embarrassment from the key fiasco continues. As I was walking out of one of the buildings yesterday, I saw a former employee leaving the building. He asked another administrator to take his keys and return them to his former supervisor as the supervisor wasn't in the office. That struck me as odd that there wasn't a process for key turn in given the previous attention paid to the issue of key turn in. How many of the 200 plus laid off employees turned in keys in accordance with the university policies for such things? Would an auditor be interested in whether the university was in compliance with its own policies? Will the university be subject to multiple audit findings around something that was known in advance? If so, this is clearly unacceptable. Yet the holdovers from the former regime continue to make the same mistakes they made before. Whether it is collecting keys from everyone in the middle of the semester or not collecting them from laid off employees, someone has to put a stop to this Board created madness soon or the university's death warrant will be signed sealed and executed.
In case you haven't been paying attention, the atmospheric conditions for the perfect storm are present.

The Chicago State University Layoff Scorecard

Although the game is still in progress, here's my scorecard through the third inning:

I’m putting together data from the carnage of last Friday, attempting to create a snapshot of what the university looked like Monday morning. At this point, I have determined the fate of 157 employees, 90 administrators and 67 staff. That’s a little more than about one quarter of the total but should provide a representative sample.

Here are some of the numbers. Of the 90 administrators, only 27 were terminated. Of the 67 staff, 54 were laid off. Obviously, you had a better chance of survival if you had an administrative position. Some general patterns: Virtually all the senior administrators kept their positions. Of the 17 persons with President, Provost, or Vice President in their job titles, 15 remain. All the 25 Deans and Chairs were retained. So the total salary savings for those 42 positions amount to $240,000 a year, or $20,000 per month. That will certainly fix the budget problem.

Altogether, the salaries for the administrators retained come to $6.67 million, or an average of just under $106,000 per employee. The salary savings for the administrators terminated amount to $2 million per year, or an average of $74,316 per employee. Even more notable, 7 of those 27 administrators earned better than $100,000 per year. Remove them from the total, and the average administrative salary for those 20 others terminated drops to $51,882. The pattern seems pretty clear: save the high-salaried administrators, shed those making salaries as low as the neighborhood of $30,000.

For the staff, the total salaries of those laid off are $1.75 million, or an average salary of $38,049.65. At least 33 of those staff persons made salaries in the $30,000s, with 3 others earning less than $30,000. The average salary of the 13 survivors weighs in at $40,800, on a total of nearly $531,000. At this point in my data collection, the yearly salary savings for CSU amount to $3.75 million, or slightly over $300,000 per month.

As the situation remains fluid, these numbers will change dramatically. Yesterday, several people were “recalled” after spending what must have been a pleasant jobless weekend. Some other anecdotal information seems relevant: in the library, only 2 of the 14 staff members remain; all of the remaining Academic Advisors were apparently eliminated, meaning that all undergraduate advising at CSU will be done by the six persons in the First-Year Experience Office. Only one staff person (plus the Director) remains in Admissions. IT reportedly lost 8 persons. With the exception of one in Pharmacy and one in the College of Arts and Sciences, all the Associate or Assistant Dean positions were eliminated. Somewhere between 16 and 26 custodial workers lost their jobs.

I will continue to gather information and when I have something else to report, I will do so.

Monday, May 2, 2016

More of the Human Costs of Administrative Ineptitude

So as I was touring the campus earlier today conducting my own damage assessment, I ran into a newly recalled former employee who was returning to work after a weekend of unemployment. Yes, loyal readers, she had the privilege of spending the weekend in an indescribable state of distress over loosing her job on Friday. She filed for unemployment, looked at dipping into retirement savings and began sorting through the damage of the firing tsunami that swept through the campus Friday afternoon.
If you have ever been let go from a job, I am sure you are aware of the psychological cost you paid in loosing that job. To let employees know late on Friday not to return on Monday was cruel and utterly unnecessary. It violated HR 101. Those employees did not have the opportunity to begin the rebuilding process. They simply had to wait and worry over the weekend with no one to call and limited support available as most offices, like the insurance company and unemployment offices, are closed on weekends. 
What left me utterly speechless was to be told by the aforementioned employee that she was contacted 30 minutes prior talking to me, to come pick up her recall notice from HR. Huh??? The university fired someone on Friday and recalled them on Monday? 
Why? What university interest was served by doing that? That utterly unnecessary cruelty should result in the immediate termination of whoever was responsible for that decision. I realize that the new president of the university would likely step forward as an ethical chief executive and accept responsibility, which I would wholly reject. He is responsible and he is not in charge. If he were in charge he would not need the highly paid bureaucrats from the previous failed administration who surround him. He could micro-manage the university by himself. Since that isn't the case, whoever developed the "plan" that has been identified numerous times by senior administrators to manage this process, should be given a box for their belongings and promptly escorted off campus as they have proven that they have no ability or capacity to manage human beings. 
I thought the roll-out of the layoff notices in February was bad and it was. It was subsequently followed by the key turn in debacle. Now this. These holdovers are holding the university hostage to bad management, likely with the acquiescence of the Board of Trustees. 
It is time for the president of the university to make the decision to transform the university. Anyone who has been around for five minutes knows what that will take. And if the Board who are primarily responsible for the state of the university object, then they should tender their resignations and be gone. The lives of human beings are being broken by people with no concern for the impact of their decisions.