Thursday, June 30, 2016

A Crappy Day to End a Miserable Two Months

With the administration’s announcement of unit A faculty layoffs yesterday, the bloodletting in the wake of the state’s budget crisis has apparently concluded, at least for this academic year. Scores of valuable university employees—staff, faculty, and even some unfortunate or poorly connected administrators—have lost their jobs in a predictable denouement to years of cronyism, incompetence, malfeasance, and stunning administrative mismanagement. Although the situation in Illinois is dire, misery on this scale simply did not have to happen. The anguish and uncertainty felt by the victims of this travesty could have, and should have been avoided. More on this in subsequent posts.

For this time, the appropriate response seems to be sadness. Sadness for everyone affected by this disgrace. I cannot imagine how our colleagues and friends must feel. Sadness for the university as it descends further into academic irrelevance, as it vitiates programs in Arts and Sciences and Education, as it dismantles admissions, advising, purchasing, financial aid, teacher certification, and other programs vital to the operation of any purported educational institution.

At a time like this, it is difficult to think of anything remotely appropriate to say. To all our blameless friends and colleagues swept away by this foul tidal wave: your presence enriched us and your dedication inspired our students. What remains is impoverished by your absence. Thank you.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Tenured Faculty fired--administrators' jobs are still safe...

News tonight is that nine tenured faculty members from departments in Music, History, Political Science, Philosophy and elsewhere were fired due to low enrollment in those programs.

Have no fear, however, no one in the upper-level administrative offices has been cut (yeah, yeah, Cheri Sydney got tossed out in April, but she left with a nice severance package, boo-hoo). The logic is that we can't keep large departments because of low enrollment, but we can keep the same number of administrators secure in their offices in the Cook Building. We can't even expect that they will take pay cuts or furloughs, no sacrifice for those ciphers. 

So thank you again Anthony Young and the Wayne Watson supporters on his yes-boss-Board of Trustees. Great job. You failed to hold Watson and his protege Angela Henderson accountable all those years for the catastrophe of enrollment management (Henderson's gig at CSU when Wayne brought her in) and now after cutting the low-hanging fruit among the staff and administration, faculty have to pay the price. Shame on all of you.

After hearing of the faculty who were cut today, I can only hang my head in sadness for the loss of these colleagues who shared the struggle to make CSU a university of academic integrity and scholarly rigor. I will never forget them and I will always wish they had had the chance to pursue their careers at a university that was run like a university, not a politician's ward founded and maintained through political patronage. I'm sorry for them and the students who will never know them.


Monday, June 27, 2016

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way from the Board Meeting

So a funny thing happened on the way to the Board meeting Thursday. In response to my esteemed colleague Corday’s question about the intention of the Board, I can report that two interesting things happened. One I will report here and the other I will convey in a subsequent post.
After about four hours of executive session, the Board reconvened to inform the remaining attendees that they had no action to take in open session. That’s right loyal readers, no termination of the financial exigency, no notification of any large donations, no comment on the termination of academic programs. Nothing but a move to public and employee comment. One commenter, Ray Violetto, spoke very directly about the no-confidence vote that was held by the employees of the University Police Department.
Two local news outlets covered this:

By way of context, let’s recap how the police department got to its current condition. In late 2014 the former chief announced his retirement. He was then allowed to sit on the search committee for the new chief. In my humble estimation that is at best unprofessional and at worst unethical. That he had a previous professional relationship with the successful candidate is even more disturbing. Watson, in fact, is said to have announced the selection of Ms Walsh prior to the search committee being formed. That is an indicator that the search was flawed and the appointment fixed. It is Chicago after all so I am not surprised.
Some officers I spoke to were hopeful that Watson’s replacement would do something to repair the damage done by Watson & Watson (dba Dewey, Cheatem & Howe), namely the shooting by the police chief of a university guest and her dog, the theft of a police car assigned to the chief that was later used in a drive by shooting, and his reportedly frequent absence due to golfing commitments.
That hope was quickly dashed as it became apparent that the new chief was but a subordinate to the former chief who continued to give direction to the department after his departure. The inept reorganization of the police department which has led to complaints filed with the Civil Service Merit Board, was effected on her watch. This reorganization was apparently done with no objection by the chief. The groundless demotion of civil service employees by the Management Action Committee, none of whom have law enforcement experience or expertise, has damaged more than just the morale of the entire department, it has endangered the safety of the university community. And for the status quo apologists, the laughable excuse of “financial exigency” is no longer viable. The requirements of policing do not diminish because a third of the university’s work force was let go or because three buildings were shuttered for the summer. The university community, which for an urban university includes the surrounding community, must be patrolled. Any absence of executive leadership will have a damaging effect on the day to day operations.
The most troubling aspect of revealing police department business is the revealing of police department business. Law enforcement agencies are prohibited by law from striking, even though they tend to be unionized and any overt political activity is also prohibited. Police departments work diligently not to be involved in the politics of the communities that they police. The CSU Police Department is no different. So for the long serving members of this department to take an action like this and get 100% participation should be the indicator of how dysfunctional the university is and how needed a purge of the Watson residue, including his Board cronies,  is. This action, probably more than a “few disgruntled faculty”, indicates what a failure Watson and his cronies have been.
At institutions that function effectively, the Chief would tender her resignation for the good of the department and thus the good of the university. Even if her reported failures were untrue, the perception of 100% of her subordinates is that she has failed and should now do the right thing, which clearly isn’t the CSU or Chicago thing.
I can attest to the frustration of working in a situation where executive leadership is absent. It is disheartening to come to work knowing that no leadership will be shown and the organization will continue to spiral into chaos and further dysfunction.
Cadaverous may have been a charitable characterization by Corday in the previous post. However, the community is waiting for action from the board. I, for one, am not holding my breath.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Why Small Colleges Fail--you won't be surprised by the answer, oh yeah, CSU board meets tomorrow...

Is it worth mentioning that there is a Board of Trustees meeting tomorrow? Does anyone really care anymore what the shills of Rauner, that cadaverous lot that pompously "oversees" the university, does tomorrow? This is the board that was politically constituted by ex-Governor Quinn to keep CSU in the hands of Wayne Watson and his lackeys. They dodged every attempt at shared governance, they got the accrediting bodies to look the other way on the quasi-legal actions of the administration, they were in cahoots with the local and state pols, they breached the ethical standards for boards of trustees issued by the association of governing boards. They never sat as impartial overseers of the university. Do we care any more what they do to finish us off?

Really, besides firing us all (already done that) and declaring more buildings closed and a truncated fall semester, what's the point? Do we need to endure the disgusting demeanor of them yukking it up on the dais with Nikki Zollar's bff Angela Henderson and her minions patting themselves on the back with their everything-is-rosey-pollyanna "reports?" What else are they going to do --declare financial exigency? Already done that. The most extreme step a university could take they took in February. And what do they do at their appalling Trustees meetings in March and May? They do not address it publicly. They express little sympathy or concern for those poorly paid workers who got the boot in April or the adjuncts who were told to clear out their offices in May. They sit stoically through the 10 or so public comments they allow while the real life people whose lives have been upended tell their stories and admonish them, to no avail. What will they do at the board meeting tomorrow? Let the highly paid Watson administrators remain with their full salaries not even demanding of them to take furlough days? Already doing that. And by the way, if it is true that administrators have been told to give up vacation days, that is not the same thing as a furlough and it is hardly a sacrifice.

"A thousand gnat bites is worse than a blow to the head," so wrote Victor Klemperer in his chronicle of the politics in Germany in the 1930s as the fascist vise closed around the population, especially the Jewish population. Liberties eclipsed one by one, not all at once, until the state was made into the image of fascist dictatorship. CSU is dying a death by strangulation, a thousand gnat bites, not the blow to the head. Rauner worked this out quite cleverly, our Board is playing it out as planned. Believe if you want that this difficult time will work out for the best for CSU, that the deadwood will be cut and we will go on to greatness eventually, "the diamond in the rough," "the gem of the southside" will prevail for another 150 years. Before you subscribe to this view, however take a look at what has happened to Chicago City Colleges:

I think that as the City Colleges go, so go the old board of governors' schools: consolidation of programs, closing of programs, universities realigned or sold off, fewer full-time faculty.

The crisis at CSU and other public universities extends beyond the state of ILL. There is a  national crisis that is seeing the demise of the commitment to the public good through public education and the opportunities it once offered. Wisconsin, Florida, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Kansas and other states are disinvesting in public education. And yet, have a look at another article from the Chronicle of Higher Ed, "The Real Reason Small Colleges Fail." The focus is on private schools, but the patterns reported fit our little school in ways that you cannot ignore.

Spoiler alert:  the real reason small schools fail? Their Board of Trustees.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

To Advise or Not To Advise

So as not to leave the impression that faculty are not diligently attempting to preserve the integrity of the university, your humble narrator offers the following for your consideration.
The university provost had an idea last year to prevent faculty from doing student advising. The thought behind that idea was never clearly articulated to the faculty in any coherent fashion so I am left to conclude it was because faculty advising was too expensive for the university. That is odd given the number of faculty who came perilously close to not making load for the year. I also imagine the underlying reason is a fit of pique on the part of the provost for being challenged by the intrepid UPI Chapter President who dutifully reminded her that there is a formula for compensation and contractual language around advising and the university's students would be best served by having faculty do advising and administration adhere to the contract. For the nearly 25 years I have been at the university, faculty have done student advising. Faculty know their programs, they know the nuances of the curriculum and most importantly they know their students. Lo and behold the most unqualified provost in university memory decides that she knows better. Suffice it to say, advising for our students has been worse than disastrous. One of the now terminated professional advisors told me that he was advising in disciplines he knew nothing about. He knew he was mis-advising students and yet no one could do anything about it because the provost had decided that she knew better and would brook no dissent much less any substantive discussion on the matter.
The Faculty Senate, on behalf of the faculty, closely monitored the advising situation and finally responded after informal communications went unheeded. Below is the text of the request put forth officially by the university’s faculty. Beneath it is the response from the provost’s office. You might notice the prompt response of 32 minutes but there has been no response since then. 

Given the centrality of advising to student success, I would imagine this would be an issue of critical importance. Sadly, it is not.
The professional advisors have all been dismissed, the advising center has been moved once again and the responsibility has fallen on an office that has never done advising beyond it’s freshman student advising responsibilities. Another fine mess you’ve gotten us into. How can a university that refuses to correct the narrative of its own demise be expected to recruit, enroll, retain, advise and graduate students if simple processes like advising can’t be managed appropriately? I would posit that some significant portion of students not returning would list as the reason the quality and nature of academic advising. The university has lost students as a direct result of the ill conceived decision made by the provost. And the Board rewards that incompetence with.......
It begs the question of why the chief academic officer, the person responsible for protecting the academic integrity of the university finds it so difficult to heed the reasonable requests of faculty, all of whom are more knowledgeable about the academy than she is. Is it the appreciable gap in knowledge that so frightens her and inevitably leads to requests for off line meetings and sharing? Yet for all of her well documented failings, enrollment declines, plagiarism, record number of employee grievances, absence of planning for the financial exigency, multiple missteps in the execution of the financial exigency process, the advising debacle, the ill fated attempt to shut down the Faculty Senate just to name a few, I cannot lay responsibility for her failure solely at her feet. Granted, she is responsible for her actions AND the former failed president and the current Board of Trustees must bear the bulk of the responsibility for putting a totally unprepared and inadequate administrator into a position of responsibility that anyone with five minutes in the academy would know was a recipe for failure. So with failure upon failure what possible justification exists for her continuing to damage the university? 
I can only conclude there is some relationship between the provost and one or more trustees that precludes them from terminating her employment. The nature of that relationship should probably be explored by agencies with subpoena powers who can determine the full nature and scope of a relationship that has been so damaging to the university. It’s almost as if the Board has a mission to make the university so ineffective, the only alternative is to shut it down.
The advising debacle is but one in a long string of Board supported failures. Should the university survive the next six months, it is my fervent wish that the replacement Board members do more than those currently in place. Maybe they’ll even have the university run like a university not some 1950s Chicago Ward organization. You know a place where the university president actually is the university president and doesn't need the permission of his incompetent subordinates to do his job. A place where the active undermining of the president by subordinates would lead to termination. A place where the little things get done, like admissions and student advising. 
Oh but these are only summer musings of your humble narrator. What might the Board do next week at a totally unnecessary meeting? Terminate the exigency per chance???
I think not. It will be business as usual or should I say failure as usual.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Protesting the Disgrace of Illinois

This comes from one of our colleagues at EIU. I encourage all faculty at CSU to sign this letter by e-mailing Cathy Prendergast at the link below.

One of my members told me about the letter below that a couple of UIUC faculty members drafted to send to the Chicago Tribune, Rauner, and select legislators. There are currently 40 or so co-signatures to this letter from UIUC, they are looking for more faculty members across the state to add their names. I will add mine by contacting one of the authors, Cathy Prendergast, by email providing my name, and stating that I am from EIU. Please consider doing the same. They are planning to submit the letter on June 20.

Cathy Prendergast

Thank you,


A recent op-ed in the New York Times has brought national attention to the shameful budget stalemate in Illinois, and its resulting devastation of our public universities. By failing to secure a budget, Governor Rauner has created a climate in which faculty and students alike have begun to flee, taking their talents and tuition dollars out of state. Springfield may think that our universities can sustain massive cuts to their operating budgets without lasting impact. As faculty at Illinois’ public universities, we come together here to say that they are wrong. Education is the engine of economic growth in our state. The rapid decline in revenues that Illinois continues to experience will only worsen with disinvestment in the knowledge and skills of its citizens. All public servants, whether employed at the university or in state government, have a responsibility to fulfill. We cannot fulfill ours unless you fulfill yours. However we arrived at the current economic crisis, it cannot be bettered when compromise is only viewed as failure, and when precious state resources are used to further a political agenda. Inaction is not benign. The Illinois government is making a conscious decision that its public universities, the culmination of 150 years of state, federal, community, and private effort and investment, are expendable. This is unacceptable. Article X of our state constitution sets “the educational development of all persons” as a goal, promises “to provide for an efficient system of high quality educational institutions and services,” and assigns the state “the primary responsibility for financing the system of public education.” An engaged citizenry is the bedrock of democracy, and access to excellent and affordable public education is a civil right. Time is running out to ensure it.

Monday, June 13, 2016

What Can We Afford Here at Chicago State? We Can Keep Henderson's Friends Employed and Throw More Money Away on Wayne Watson

As all of us who follow events at Chicago State know, the university does not have money to pay for a great number of things. We do not have money to retain our hard-working staff or lecturers; we do not have money to pay for faculty to take sabbaticals; we cannot afford to let any faculty go, even on unpaid leave; we do not have money to pay CUE overloads for faculty; we do not have money to sustain necessary operations in admissions, advising, teacher certification, the library, or even Information Technology. We do not have money to sustain any kind of normal five-day operation on the university level. Take a walk around the campus this summer, it’s a ghost town.

So what do we have money for? We have money to keep reported friends of Angela Henderson employed. Take the case of Jasmika Cook, the Executive Director for Project Counseling (whatever that means). Ms. Cook, as are so many of our senior administrators, came to Chicago State from the City Colleges, where she served under Interim Provost Angela Starks (Henderson) after her October 5, 2009, promotion to Interim Associate Vice Chancellor for Workforce Development. The promotion carried a hefty raise, since Cook was apparently making $65,117 as the Assistant Dean of Student Service at Olive-Harvey prior to October 2009. On January 24, 2011, City Colleges apparently terminated Ms. Cook’s employment (possibly as part of the “Reinvention” initiative). However, soon after Henderson landed the job as Vice President of Enrollment Management at Chicago State in June 2011, Cook appeared as the newly minted Executive Director of Project Counseling.

Now I am not saying that the only reason Cook has a job here is her purported friendship with the Provost, but consider this. As Wayne Watson did for Cheri Sidney, creating management positions out of thin air for her to fill, so he did for Cook. Some quick reshuffling in Enrollment Management changed Organization number 0259 in fiscal 2012 from the Executive Director for Enrollment to the new 0259 in 2013—Enrollment Related Services. This new budget subdivision included only one employee, Jasmika Cook in a newly created employee classification (still the only such classification in the entire university budget)

We also have money to throw away on the defense of Wayne Watson’s inappropriate administrative behavior. According to records received from the university, through mid-2015, Chicago State had spent at least $1.8 million for contract legal services since fiscal 2010, with $1.6 million of that amount coming between July 1, 2011, and June 30, 2015. At least $1.1 million has gone toward either defending Watson or for legal actions investigating or threatening faculty. A number of firms and individuals have received large sums of money from the university: Pugh, Jones and Johnson got $286,000 for its unsuccessful defense of Watson in the Crowley case; Smith Amundsen got $200,000 for its unsuccessful appeal of the judgment in the Crowley case; Fisher Phillips has received $200,000 for representing Watson in two on-going suits, and Husch Blackwell has received $82,000 for its defense of Watson in another action. Important, however, is the price for the last two firms is going to increase dramatically since many of the invoices predated things like discovery, with costly potential trials still a distinct possibility. Given the cost of legal services, it seems likely that the total price for Watson’s defense will be far in excess of $2 million. Certainly money we should be spending.

Recently, a new law firm entered the picture. Apparently an attorney named Patrick Rocks of Jackson Lewis, P.C., has been retained (with the Board’s approval I assume) to defend Watson against at least two of the ongoing suits. Thus, Watson’s defense will be handled by a separate law firm. How much money do we have to spend on this guy? While we remain stuck in “financial exigency,” our Board refuses to cut the university’s losses, while it lavishes money on a proven liar and administrative miscreant. Seriously, only here in Illinois would this theater of the absurd continue to play. It’s obviously time for another FOIA request to discover how much money the university has actually thrown away defending the indefensible behavior of its former President.

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Big Con Continues to Play at Chicago State: The Administrative Colussus

Here in the first month of the summer, we await the decision on additional faculty layoffs that may come at some point from the incompetents in the Cook building. No sense attempting to discern what the administration’s “plan” might be, since they have not had a viable plan from the beginning of this budget crisis in February 2015. Of course, there is some kind of discernible attempt to insure that the friends and cronies from the past administration remain in a position to administer the coup de grĂ¢ce to Chicago State as an educational institution.

Over the past six weeks, I have been able to cobble together an unofficial census of the layoffs which took place between April 30 and May 15. Not surprisingly, both the numbers and the pattern of the layoffs point to a “business as usual” attitude from our administration. Here is some of the most revealing data:

At the end of February, the university employed 883 full-time staff and full- and part-time faculty. Data received from Human Resources listed 247 full-time administrators, 296 staff, and 340 full- and part-time faculty. In addition, a category of “Temporary Administrator” included 29 persons, including the Interim Vice President of Administration and Finance. Thus, the university totaled 912 employees categorized as administrators, staff, or faculty.

After the blood-letting of April and May, the number of staff had been reduced to 581 (this is somewhat volatile as it is likely that a number of “temporary administrators” have been laid off). Included in this number were 185 full-time administrators, 197 staff, and 173 full-time faculty, a total of 555 persons. An additional 26 “temporary administrators” bring the total to 581, although an unknown number of these persons have likely been terminated. This staff complement comes to 63.7 percent of the staff present in February.

The university reduced salaries from $50 million per year to just under $38 million, a 24 percent reduction. Administrative salaries declined 21.6 percent, staff salaries, 28 percent, and faculty salaries 23.7 percent. However, the proportion of total salaries remained virtually the same, indicating the administration did nothing to address the acknowledged administrative bloat that has plagued the university for years. From 36.2 percent of the total salary expenditure, the percentage of administrative salaries post-layoffs, actually rose to 37.4 percent all salary expense. As I said, “business as usual.”

Another manifestation of the “business as usual” approach of the Watson holdovers is evident in the number of senior administrators continuing to blight the university. Their salaries have remained constant and they have retained their positions while other employees have lost their jobs. Here’s a list of our senior administrators pre- and post-layoffs/terminations with their salaries:

President Pre-Layoff/ Post-Layoff
Thomas Calhoun, President $300,000/ $300,000
Wayne Watson, President Emeritus $199,500/ $199,500

Provost’s Office
Pre-Layoff/ Post-Layoff
Angela Henderson, Provost $225,000/ $225,000
Bernard Rowan, Associate Provost $135,000/ $135,000
Paula Carney, Associate Provost $135,000/ $135,000
Yvonne Davila, Assistant to Provost $85,008/ $85,008

(who is this person and what in the world does she do?)
Assistant Provost Position (Vacant) $100,000?/ $100,000?
(a new incumbent is being sought for this interim position, there are apparently a number of applicants)

Vice Presidents/Associate VPs Pre-Layoff/ Post-Layoff
Patrick Cage, General Counsel $155,004/ $155,004
Carol Cortilet Albrecht, VP, EM $150,000/ $150,000
Renee Mitchell, Assoc VP, HR $144,996/ $144,996
Cecil Lucy, VP, Admin and Finance $140,000/ $140,000
(he is listed as a “Temporary Administrator”)
David Kanis, Sponsored Programs $129,240/ $129,240
Denisha Hendricks, AVP, Athletics $125,004/ $125,004
Maricela Aranda, Assoc VP, A&F $118,440/ $118,440
Robin Hawkins, Assoc VP, L& Legal $110,004/ $110,004

As you can see, we are still a great place for Vice Presidents and above to ply their trades. In the layoff frenzy, only two senior persons lost their jobs, Chicago State still fairly bursts with Vice Presidents, Provosts, and even Presidents.

Needless to say, the number of employees at this university should be driven by the number of students enrolled. While I realize this calculus does not apply to our administrators, particularly our upper administrators, our enrollment looks dismal for Fall 2016. As of Wednesday, we had enrolled 1642 students, a 17 percent drop from the previous year’s dreary figure. I expect a loss of at least 25 percent from Fall 2015, which would make the university’s student count around 3500. How many faculty will be needed to teach that many students? Stand by for an answer, coming some day. How many administrators will be needed? Probably lots more than we have now.

The main thing the university has done to address administrative overpopulation has been to re- submit its salary data to IBHE. The new, streamlined CSU administration can be viewed on the IBHE salary database, along with this note: * “CSU FY10-FY14 information reflects updated managerial classifications as of April 28, 2016.” So the answer to managerial bloat is simply to re-classify persons out of administrative positions. Amazingly, this drops the administrative employee total for fiscal 2015 from 252 (according to Human Resources), to just 82. No one is fooled administrative folks. You are still scamming the Illinois taxpayer and you are still killing the university.

Most notable, the persons who owe their current positions to their personal/professional relationships with Wayne Watson have certainly demonstrated that they have learned their patron's "management style." They have mastered the art of the big con.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Western Illinois University set to cut Philosophy, African American Studies among others. Our turn is coming.

Western Illinois' Board of Trustees will be voting on closing programs at its next board meeting soon. See the article from the Chicago Tribune of a few days ago.

And what of us? Since the firing of CSU's lecturers in early May, the silence from our administration about our programs and tenured and tenure-track faculty has been deafening. No doubt meetings are taking place and deans and chairs are wringing their hands --would that they had wrung some administrative necks a few years ago when we might have had a fighting chance at survival. Past practice assures us that the deans and chairs will be left in the dark until the very last minute about the details of the program closures and the faculty firings spearheaded by the three-headed monster working in tandem against President Calhoun. They will then be issued their orders to carry out the beheadings.

The legacy of the imperial presidency of Wayne Watson and his toadying Board of Trustees led by Anthony Young and Nikki Zollar has brought CSU to a fitting end. How does it feel on the eve of the massacre? How many of us will be "lucky" enough to be standing before a half-empty classroom in September? The silence of too many for too long and the many, many who collaborated on and off campus with the machine politics that Watson wreaked on this campus put us on the path that has led us to where we are now. In true machine fashion the personal trumped the common good. And yet, it was not the politicians who allowed Watson to seize and centralize power over hiring, firing, the doling out of money (once the purview of deans) or who permitted Watson's presidential overreach into curriculum. They take the blame for permitting the shenanigans with ethics and the interference with agencies that were supposed to oversee this educational enterprise. Seeing past the smoke now, too many blind eyes were cast, too many of us hoped to protect our turf, and too many simply hoped to wait it out without having to be involved.

The knives are out on the 3rd floor of the Cook building as the least competent have been left in charge through the last shenanigan of "financial exigency" to carve up the university and determine what shreds to leave for Bruce Rauner to finish. Rauner and his ilk are feasting away on Watson's legacy and our failure to battle it.