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: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-chicago-state-board-meeting-20160506-story.html. 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.