Thursday, July 21, 2016

Chicago State's Faculty and Staff Almost Unanimously Support President Calhoun. Does the Board Plan to Listen?

Some of you may remember the "no confidence" vote in Angela Henderson our union took in December. The final tally in that one was 142-4 (with 4 abstentions) expressing no confidence in the Provost. In response, the Chicago State Board did nothing. However, when they Board declared "financial exigency" in February, they saw fit to create a "Management Action Committee" with four persons, including the President, Provost, Interim Vice President of Administration and Finance, and the Associate Vice President of Human Resources. Obviously an attempt to strip the new President of the power to make important personnel (and other) decisions at the University, this ridiculous committee has mucked things up for the past five-plus months. It's hard to imagine one of the Watson cronies on that committee voting for their own termination.

Now in late July, we are still afflicted with "financial exigency" and are still suffering the deleterious effects of management by committee. This Monday at 10am, the Board is meeting downtown, at 150 N. Wacker Dr., Suite 800, to discuss "employment matters." Why the meeting off-campus? What sort of employment matters might they be discussing? I have no evidence to suggest that President Calhoun is one of the "employment matters" the Board plans to discuss. However, as many of you know, I've been doing a survey of our members to gauge the support for President Calhoun among the faculty and staff of UPI 4100. The survey asks two simple questions, do respondents believe President Calhoun has the ability to run this university? do respondents want the Board to give him the authority to do the job of President, in effect, enabling him to do the job they hired him to do? Here are the current results of that survey:

On Question #1, there are 147 "yes" votes, 4 "no" votes, 2 "don't know" votes, and 1 abstention. That's 97.4 percent support for President Calhoun.
On Question #2, there are 148 "yes" votes, 4 "no" votes, 1 "don't know" vote, and 1 abstention. Again, that's a 97.4 vote in support of the President.

Already, 79 percent of Chicago State's tenured faculty have voted. The tally? On question #1, it's 95 "yes," 1 "no," 1 "don't know," and 1 abstention, 99.0 percent in favor of the President. On Question #2, it's 96 "yes," 1 "no," and 1 abstention, again 99.0 percent in favor of the President. So overall, 97.4 percent of Chicago State's unionized faculty and staff have confidence in President Calhoun, while 99 percent of our tenured faculty feel likewise.

Based on the survey results, this morning, I sent this letter to the Board:

July 21, 2016

Mr. Anthony Young, Chairman
Chicago State University Board of Trustees

Dear Mr. Young and Chicago State University Board Members:

Just over one week ago, I again asked that you lift the state of “financial exigency” that has been so damaging to the University. In my letter, I provided several reasons for my request. To date, you have not seen fit to do me the courtesy of responding. I find your silence disappointing, but not surprising. For the past several years, the Board’s view of the Chicago State faculty—
particularly those faculty who have been vocal about their disaffection with the way the University operated—seemed to be that we are 100 percent wrong, 100 percent of the time. It appears that dictum applies to the current situation at the University, a never-ending state of “financial exigency” and ineffective executive governance purportedly by a committee of four.

Dissent and disagreement are common themes in the academy. They can be productive if avenues exist to define and discuss issues of importance to various constituencies. Watching the Board’s operation for the past few years, I have noted that administrative voices have been prominently featured, while staff, student, and faculty voices are either marginalized or ignored. Somehow, any deviation from administrative orthodoxy has been viewed as an existential threat to the University. Here, I could cite personal experience. Instead, I will simply say that arguments that I desire to destroy or “take over” the University are beyond irrational. I have strong objections to the way this University has been governed, and I possess the evidence to support my assertions. However, all I want is for the University to be run like a university, not like a third-rate political ward. The state’s taxpayers, our students and staff deserve nothing less.

At this point, I am the elected representative of faculty and staff organized in UPI Local 4100. In this capacity, I advocate for the interests of better than 170 employees, or nearly one-third of Chicago State’s current workforce. In the spirit of moving this university along, I am advising the Board of the faculty and staff consensus on several current issues affecting the University. My intent here is to be clear and unambiguous.

• “Financial Exigency” must be lifted as soon as possible. I have already requested this, there is no necessity to revisit this topic at this time. The main concern among our members is the university’s use of “Financial Exigency” as a pretext to deny contractual rights that accrue to our laid-off faculty members.
• The “Management Action Committee” must be eliminated immediately. Basic management principles require that authority and responsibility be equal, that proper authority must be delegated to meet managerial responsibilities. In January, the Board hired President Calhoun and almost immediately stripped him of the authority to make decisions by funneling all important matters through the Management Action Committee. The President must at once be given authority commensurate with his responsibilities. The consensus among our members is that the Management Action Committee has been a disaster. Dr. Calhoun has had virtually no opportunity to perform his Presidential duties and our members are concerned that the Board may attempt to judge his performance against a standard he has had no chance to achieve. Without matching authority and responsibility, there can be no accountability.
• The members of UPI Local 4100 overwhelmingly support President Calhoun. You may recall in December, I advised you of a “no confidence” resolution against the current University Provost, Angela Henderson. The Board did not respond to that almost unanimous (142-4 with 4 abstentions) expression of no confidence in the Provost to perform her duties. In dramatic contrast, a recent referendum on President Calhoun resulted in virtually unanimous support (139-3 or 97.9 percent) for his ability to do the job as Chicago State President as well as a similarly strong show of support for the Board giving him the authority to do his job (140-3 or 97.9 percent).
• For tenured faculty, in contrast to the almost unanimous opposition to the Provost, support for the President is near unanimous. In December, 69 percent of the tenured faculty cast ballots, with 96.6 percent (86-3) expressing no confidence in the Provost. The referendum on President Calhoun has drawn votes from 74.2 percent of the tenured faculty. Tenured faculty support President Calhoun by a margin of 89-1, or 98.9 percent; support for elimination of the Management Action Committee and for the Board giving President Calhoun proper authority to do his job stands at 90-1, or 98.9 percent. Clearly, this referendum demonstrates the falsity of the “handful of disgruntled faculty” argument. Tenured faculty across every segment and every demographic of the university fully support the President.

I realize that this situation has exposed all of us to unprecedented challenges. Unfortunately, I do not see either the University or the Board utilizing all its assets in meaningful ways. The faculty and staff at this University are a tremendous untapped resource, and I urge you to include us as substantive participants in discussions about ways to save this school. I can assure you there will be spirited disagreements, but those should not deter us from doing the hard work ahead. The faculty and staff of Chicago State believe wholeheartedly that the Board made exactly the right choice in President Thomas J. Calhoun. He deserves our support. He deserves your support. Most important, for the good of our school and its students, he deserves the opportunity to do the job the Board hired him to do.

Yours truly,

Robert E. Bionaz, Ph.D.
President Chicago State University Chapter
University Professionals of Illinois Local 4100

In the lamentable recent history of this institution, the Board has consistently failed to take seriously faculty concerns, preferring to chalk any dissent up to a "few disgruntled faculty members," The recent survey demonstrates the widespread and nearly unanimous support for the President. The Board had better take this expression of support seriously.

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