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, et.al., 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.


  1. The irony in CSU eliminating the Economics major...

  2. I am tired of hearing all the "BS" about how CSU is being persecuted. All the problems CSU have, are not the Governor Rauner's fault. Let's be honest, CSU's problems can be tied to corruption, cronyism, mismanagement, BOT and let us not forget WATSON. I would urge Governor Rauner to completely reappoint a new BOT. Also, find out why WATSON is still at CSU and what is he doing to collect a salary from CSU when money is short. The salary WATSON receives can be put to better use. Watson is a sham and rip off of Illinois taxpayers. I am starting to think "Shuffling Along Calhoun" is a "do nothing president" at the beck and call of the BOT and WATSON who appears to still be active in the management of CSU. Governor Rauner should close CSU and spend Illinois limited tax dollars on other projects in greater need and more deserving. The BOT and WATSON should be prosecuted for fraud and misuse of taxpayers' money.

  3. I think we must remain focused - have Rauner's policies hastened our precipitous position? Yes. Is it Enrollment Management's responsibility to recruit, retain and graduate our students? Yes (though I question how they could possibly be expected to do so between the bad press, Watson/Henderson policies/practices, and resultant student dissatisfaction).
    The only thing we should be focused on is removing the Watson team. This group's performance at CCC was equally as dismal; once gone, the organization was able to hire experienced leadership and has, somewhat, recovered. We can trip over the minutia or focus on the cancer.
    Has our chance passed? I look around today and there's nobody left to stand up and do what we must (sick-out or strike). The staff are all gone and soon many faculty will be cut, as well.

    "Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me."

  4. Black legislators and Madigan have all allowed this to happen. Why hasn't any of them called for Watson and the BOT to be removed from CSU. Rauner nor Calhoun caused the
    demise of CSU; it was all Watson with the help and support of the black legislators and the preachers who have family employed on that campus. I can't wait to vote against as many of them as I can. They have played a huge role in perpetuating many of the problems in the black communities. Example, what happened to the million dollars given to Bobby Rush for a tech learning center in Englewood? We've got to find people to run against the old guard! Sorry for the rant!