Wednesday, May 4, 2016

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.


  1. Their cronies, such as Hermenne Hartmann and Rev. Janette Wilson, have always blamed the faculty. We can count on them to continue this tradition.

  2. Haven't they been bought off by Rauner? Hermene's not said a word about CSU since she got money to do "publicity" work to do for the guv.