Sunday, August 28, 2016

A Song of Sixpence

One never knows what one will come across while researching something else. Such a fascinating tale from the not too distant past. It begins:

Once upon a time a king was in his counting house counting all his money.  He had been summering away from the castle and had a lot of money to count. So he left his Queen in charge. There was no time for sitting around the palace eating bread and honey for this queen. She was determined to fix things before the old king came back; determined to please him and do him proud before some hostile king took over the country. That old rascal, her king, had taught her well. She admired him as if he were a giant on whose shoulders she stood. “Loyalty,” he always said, “was personal.”  His baby blues flickering,“forget about ‘king and country.’ Loyalty is to me, country, comes second or third.”

One of the Queen’s first acts when the king was gone, was to make a ruckus with those hopeless bishops over the appointment of the country’s curates. She was all for teaching lessons. The curates had cast sideways glances at her when the king had made her queen. They were all astonishment at this choice and muttered things, though just barely, and gasped, but she heard them and she knew. The bishops, on the other hand, knew palace protocol, knew their place, knew which side their bread was honeyed, knew who was in and who was not and what it meant. They kept stony and bared their heads in her presence. They were practiced at pretense. In private they might roll their eyes and cast knowing looks at each other as if to say “you gotta be kidding me,” but in public they bowed and scraped as they had done for the other queens. Although the curates could be bought off cheaply and had little communion with the queen or her council since their main job was to keep the churls to the grindstone and to make sure that the ever more labyrinthine policies, the complex and contradictory decrees of the palace were carried out, they had nevertheless caused offense and had to be dealt with. The King taught by word and deed that no slight was too small to be left unpunished. For the Queen, the curates and the churls had been, well, churlish to her, now the joke would be on them. The Queen insisted on seeing the appointments lists.

Every year, the curates were named by the bishops and for some reason, the recommendation of the churls. They were then confirmed by the king. This year the Queen had that duty. She consulted her magical mirror. “This one,” the mirror mirror on the wall said was, “ok.” “But that one, you remember, refused to give you lavender blue dilly dilly. ” “And that other one refused you a sixpence for your shoe…” Scores were about to be settled.

“He cannot be a curate, his loyalty is with the churls,” she stammered out to her council. “If the king has taught us one thing, it is that loyalty is to me, er, I mean the crown.” One after another she objected to the names on the list. 'If only it were this easy to get rid of the churls,' she thought.

The churls were a continual burden to the country. But the palace churls were the worst. They were bound to the land by tradition and inheritance. Except for death there was no way to root them out. ‘Well,’ thought the Queen, ‘we may be stuck with them, but we don’t have to make their life easy.’  

Next: The Queen and the Churls

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Saturday, August 20, 2016

A New Direction?

So President Calhoun took a great risk and invited the two most notorious faculty (in the view of the #CSUclowncar) to a half day round table discussion about the future of the CSU. The attendees represented the administration, the student body, the community, local political leadership and the faculty. The discussion was candid and engaging and the process of trust building between some factions might have begun. Only time will tell. 

Two state level politicians of note not just attended but stayed for the entire event. State Representative Elgie Sims and State Senator Donne Trotter were conspicuous for their active participation. Senator Trotter, a CSU alumnus, has been a long time supporter of the university and continued in that tradition yesterday. Representative Sims, whose district houses the university appeared curious and engaged in the discussions being held in small groups. I imagine that their support will continue as the President continues to maneuver through the minefield of financial exigency and the actions taken by the Management Action Committee. 

Three of the four members of the MAC were in attendance. Curiously, the provost chose to disrespect the President by declining to attend an important university event. Apparently the person responsible for room assignments for the university, who has been doing that thankless job for several years, needed the supervision of a $225K/year administrator at the same time the university is discussing its future. Another act of disrespect to a highly qualified and competent subordinate. Maybe, the truth telling would have been too much for the disgraced office holder who has run up as many no-confidence votes as the disgraceful ex-president who appointed her. An example of the truth telling was, when asked how faculty relationships might be improved, the first answer was for the administration to "act like faculty matter." I am sure with the number of academic administrators present who would dutifully report back to their supervisor, that message would be delivered to the chief academic micro-manager. 

At an earlier event for academic department chairs, the President invited them to be 'advocates' for the faculty. I invite the academic deans to do the same. Where was the outrage from the deans and chairs as my tenured and tenure track colleagues were summarily dismissed under very questionable circumstances this summer? Where was the advocacy? And why would the President of the university need to remind its academic leadership to advocate for the faculty? Because unlike functional universities that are faculty driven, this university is being driven by people with questionable credentials, no experience in the academy and self-serving motives as to their continued employment. ACT LIKE FACULTY MATTER!

And for those deans and chairs who continue to bury their heads in the sand, remain silent or ignore the deterioration of the university, you will bear some responsibility for where the university ends up on May 15th, 2017. For all of the happy-happy, joy-joy talk of yesterday, what action will you take to preserve not just your job but the university?

Friday, August 19, 2016

What's the Worst That Can Happen?

So I was talking to some friends of mine who don't live in the United States and was trying to explain the situation at Chicago State. They were a bit baffled by the financial exigency because no other school declared exigency and most astounded by the president being stripped of his authority in a time of crisis. One of the questions they asked was "what's the worst that can happen now?" I paused before answering because I had not considered anything worse than what has already happened.
Two things came to mind about what the worst thing that could happen as a result of the abysmal management of the university. First, the university could lose its accreditation because it didn't and still doesn't have a plan for getting out of financial exigency. The university has already been sanctioned by the Higher Learning Commission which put its accreditation at risk. If the university loses its accreditation, the university will for all intents and purposes be closed because we won't be able to accept federal financial aid. It is unlikely that the Higher Learning Commission will actually take any action to revoke the university's accreditation, however, it is possible. More likely is negative press around the possibility of revocation which invariably will drive down enrollment. HLC scrutiny is not what CSU needs but it appears that until the Governor acts, scrutiny will hang like a Damoclean sword over the neck of the university.
The second worst thing that could happen is a restock of #CSUclowncar cronies in the hundreds of now vacant positions. Could you imagine a worse situation than more incompetent, overpaid, unproductive cronies being added to the payroll? I can't. 
So here we are about to open the Fall semester with the possibility of less than three thousand students and as many administrators as faculty. No other university has been as poorly run as CSU. Maybe the worst thing that can happen is that in its death throes, more cronies are hired to strip the bones of the institution as it is shut down. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

You Can't Make This Up!

So after working at CSU for 25 years, I have become pretty jaded about the pettiness, vindictiveness, incompetence and stupidity that nothing seems to surprise me about the behavior of public servants. To wit, this article in the Chicago Tribune that reports that a Cook County judge has been removed from the bench for allowing a friend to play judge in her courtroom by wearing the robe and hearing cases.
No loyal readers you can't make this up. I thought that dress up only occurred at CSU, hence the presence of the #CSUclowncar. Clearly, the provost has been playing at being a university administrator since she arrived at the university. No doctoral degree granting institution would hire a chief academic officer who didn't have a terminal degree, experience as a university faculty member, tenure, publications and grantsmanship. And you surely wouldn't appoint someone who plagiarized their doctoral dissertation. Only at CSU has that have been allowed. Yet now I see there are other areas of the public sector where people pretend to be something they aren't.
You just can't make this up.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Our Continued Misery: The Scramble by Watson Loyalists to Escape Blame

On the eve of another round of what are sure to be draconian course cuts, enrollment at CSU has reached 3082 as of yesterday. I anticipate an enrollment for the fall of fewer than 3000 students. The Watson holdovers will be contorting themselves to blame the President for this horrific decline, but here’s a look at what they did in the guise of the Management Action Committee, which has three members loyal to Henderson, against Calhoun's lone vote.

The layoffs in April damaged both financial aid and admissions. In fact, admissions has only one remaining full-time staff member. I am sure this has contributed to the drop in new admissions from 1195 last fall to 397 late last week. This number will probably barely creep about 450 or so. Clearly, if we don’t have new students coming in to the university, we’re in even worse shape than our enrollment figures suggest.

The Provost arbitrarily and unilaterally raised the class size limit as well as the CUE range for full-time teaching faculty. This positions the administration to make more than the usual number of cuts, certainly causing some students to leave the university and probably resulting in a number of faculty members being reduced to part-time status for 2016-17, and more than likely triggering a new round of faculty/staff layoffs for 2017-18 (assuming that we still exist). Just as an aside, you also may have noticed that our Public Relations person, Sabrina Land—related by marriage to a Chicago alderman, and making nearly $100,000 per year to do next to nothing—has put out nothing to combat the narrative that the school will close. Land, who has expressed her loyalty to Henderson rather than CSU, works directly for the Provost.

I believe we have now arrived at the point this question must be asked: at what point do we cease to be viable as a university? I anticipate enrollment for spring 2017 will be around 2500. If we continue to hemorrhage students at our current rate, we’ll certainly be below 2000 in fall 2017. There is still no plan on the table to stop the bleeding and I have no hope that any of the Watson holdovers will be able to come up with anything useful since they have overseen an enrollment drop from 7300-plus to our current dismal numbers.

I think it fair to say that at this point, the Provost is winning the power struggle to determine who actually runs the university. The MAC is the primary vehicle for this. As Henderson has emerged as the de facto President, the administration’s wild thrashing about has accelerated. One after another, bad decisions come from her. At this point, it is hard to argue that the ultimate goal is anything other than the destruction of our university.

#CSUclowncar Crashes Again

So the #clowncar crashes again, this time causing injury to about 100 of the university's faculty employees. How, you say, did they do that? Well this is how. Employees on nine month contracts have the option to collect their paychecks over 18 or 24 pay periods. The 24 pay period option, especially for tenured faculty, allows a level of certainty during the course of the calendar year for budgeting purposes. It also provides for health insurance costs to be covered year round through payroll deduction. Collecting smaller paychecks also lowers the tax burden as the gross earnings are about 30% lower with a 24 pay period option. Now the blundering provost, has decided to remove this option so that the university doesn't run out of money at the end of the academic year. Well spending 30% more during the academic year pretty much insures that will happen. When more money is spent earlier, it increases the likelihood of running out sooner. So the #clowncar makes a decision that costs the university more money and increases the likelihood of the outcome they say they are trying to avoid and no one steps in to say "No, we aren't doing that"?
This is just another example of the petty, vindictive, and spiteful decisions made by this plagiarizing provost. After being thoroughly exposed for her blatant academic dishonesty, she seems to have made it her mission to get revenge on those who had the audacity to bring to light her transgressions. Why the chief academic officer is involved in a payroll decision is beyond me considering the numerous problems in academic affairs that need to be addressed but can't be because of the profound incompetence of the office holder. 
The faculty battle with the #clowncar will continue unabated. I hope no more members of this failed administration get in the vehicle as it appears to be headed toward a cliff.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

#CSUclowncar and the Semi-annual Bloodbath

So every semester before the first week of class, the administration in its wisdom cuts classes that are "low enrolled." At first blush this might appear to be a sound management practice from an administration dedicated to the success of its students but a deeper look will show that it is far from that. Rather it is an administrative bloodbath carried out by those now dedicated to preserving the reputation that CSU is the place students go to have their classes cancelled.
Many years ago I first asked the Provost why we engage in this process. I was told it saves money. I asked how much money was saved last semester and the Provost didn't know. I then asked what was the calculus for determining how much money is saved and was told the university had no such calculus. Stupidly, I asked the first question again and the answers repeated. 
There might be courses that need to be cut. The courses that the #clowncar cuts though tend to be the wrong ones. Especially as the university in operating in financial exigency, one might expect that the university bites the bullet and offers what it says it schedules. That way students aren't inconvenienced and the enrollment death spiral can be stemmed. 
Two other things happen when the wrong courses are cut. The Registrar's Office receives the courses that have been cut and immediately removes them from the computer system.That means that academic departments now don't have a record of which students were enrolled so they can't call students to let them know that they will have to find other courses. For some students, an Independent Study course might satisfy a requirement but then the provost cuts all of the Independent Study courses because they don't have any enrollment at the time of the course cuts. But why would they? The need for them has not yet been established so clearly critical thinking doesn't appear to be a skill of this overpaid, under-qualified administrator.
Then, there is the problem of day and evening courses. Low enrolled courses offered in the evening are often cut without the understanding that the university serves two populations. Its evening students typically work full time and schedule classes that they can make given other responsibilities. As they progress toward matriculation, they have less and less flexibility in scheduling and the university demonstrates more and more rigidity in helping them complete their courses of study. This total absence of understanding of the student population should be a firing offense for a provost who continues to make mistake after mistake after mistake.
This semester's bloodbath will likely be made worse by the firings of tenured faculty, the obliteration of the adjunct faculty and the concerted effort by #clowncar to drive the enrollment to its lowest level in more than 50 years. How will they manage to figure out if there are actually faculty to teach courses when they already demonstrated they don't know what courses need to be taught. 
So instead of the provost being involved in minutia of management, especially in areas outside of academic affairs, follow the words of the noted New England Patriots head coach, "Do your job!" Unless of course, you have no idea what that job is. In that case, do the honorable thing, RESIGN immediately as the faculty has already told you they have no confidence in you and just be gone.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Reflections of an Ex-Professor

Today is the day. We knew about this day back in late February, when all employees at Chicago State received layoff notices. Some had different dates – April 30, May 15 – but for tenured and tenure-track faculty, the date on our letters was today: “…you are hereby provided notice of layoff effective August 15, 2016.” Back in February, the administration glossed this letter as a notice of “potential” layoff, a public-relations ploy if there ever was one. With the layoff letters, the administration set up a process where employees had to be “recalled” prior to the effective date of layoff in order for them to continue to be employed at the university. For workers across the university, the “potential” became reality on Friday, April 29, as the administration scrambled to send out “recall” notices to approximately half of the non-faculty workers throughout the day while many waited to find out if they would get such a “recall” notice or not – a poorly-managed and inhumane process that has been previously documented on this blog. For a few of us tenured/tenure-track faculty, that potential became a reality just two months later when we received letters stating “you will not be recalled for the Academic Year 2016-2017.” As much as we might have expected such a letter since the end of February or the end of April, it still came as a shock. A gut punch.

Now, the reality of that gut punch is complete. Today, August 15. The date I became an ex-professor. It’s hard to put into words what that means. Sure, it’s a loss of much-needed income, but it’s more than that. 9 years of graduate school, 5 years of part-time but temporary employment at two other universities all added up to one goal, landing a tenure-track faculty position. Getting that tenure-track job meant that I was a professor (sure, I was one before in my temporary jobs, but it seemed more real and certainly more permanent as a tenure-track professor). It’s an identity that became more important as each of the 9 years went by that I was employed at Chicago State. After getting tenure, I remember one administrator saying that this accomplishment meant I had “a job for life.” I thought this was naive at the time, but really I basically believed it. I was a professor, and I could continue to be a professor as long as I wanted. Being a professor became an important part of my identity. For me, that identity that meant working hard to help students learn, continually learning new things, doing research in other languages (for me, especially French), traveling to different countries to conduct research or to give papers on that research, and serving in leadership roles at the university.

Today, that identity is torn away from me. No tenured/tenure-track faculty positions are available for the upcoming academic year. No here, not anywhere. Some universities have started to advertise positions for an entire year from now, just at the beginning of the hiring process. But what now? I will look for other jobs and think about whether that means a permanent career change. This is ultimately the larger impact of the layoffs of faculty, particularly with no final year contract. It could mean the end of a career, the end of being a professor. It’s more than losing a job in the end. And that’s what makes it so difficult to take – it’s a kind of personal and emotional hit.

That’s what it means to be an ex-professor, at least for me right now, and I think it speaks to the personal connection faculty members have to their work. We experience that connection when we see students struggle and then succeed at learning something new. We experience it when we engage in intense discussions and debates with our colleagues about our scholarship or creative work. We experienced it this past year when we spoke and acted out to preserve the existence of Chicago State in response to the attacks of a malicious governor and the meager actions of many indifferent public officials. This work is personal and emotional, not just a job for a paycheck. So, I suppose it should be no surprise that having that work taken away is also personal and emotional. It’s a loss of income, a loss of an identity, the possible loss of a career, a feeling of loss that hits me unexpectedly at any time, just a loss. Since the layoff letters in February, I thought it was likely I would be laid off, and I thought I was prepared for that to occur. Since it has actually happened, I now realize I had no clue what this would actually mean, becoming an ex-professor. 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Our Lavish Spending on Watson-Era Administrators Again Gets Good Press. Why Doesn't the Tribune Mention They Have Known About This Crap For Years? How do We Know? Because We've Told Them and Asked Them to Take a Look at What Went on at the School.

Here's a recent editorial in the Tribune about the financial payouts to terminated administrators. Take the Tribune's outrage with a grain of salt, we've been telling them this stuff for years. Just like everyone else in this state, they didn't give a damn. Lots more damage to the school forthcoming from the Watson era. Right now, the Crowley judgement is around $5 million, plus the University's never-ending legal fees for private counsel to defend the indefensible. Thanks again to Wayne and all his cronies, many of whom are still around doing material damage.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Another Self Inflicted Wound (#CSUclowncar)

So in light of the most recent inane decision by the clown car, we have this gem published this morning by the Chicago Tribune. It is another in a long line of self inflicted wounds the administration is determined to administer. What are the risks of an employee working who is going to be laid off? Are they the same risks a retiree who is due to leave in a year or four would face? Quite frankly the argument given by Mitchell was ridiculous on its face and further diminishes the reputation of the institution. Enough!
If this were an MMA match, one of the opponents could tap out and end this. Unfortunately, we have no such option and are forced to endure a level of incompetence and malevolence that is really unprecedented in Illinois higher education. Given the extreme financial duress the university is under, this is what is done with taxpayer dollars? This is how time is spent? 
I believe that something is "rotten in Denmark" as far as the university's finances are concerned. It is now time to conduct a forensic audit before the place is completely looted and torched. I realize that would cost money and time but the clown car has demonstrated it has both to spare given its spending and decision making. Maybe a forensic audit (#CSUforensicaudit) would disrupt the secret meetings of administrators working diligently to undermine the President and mislead the Board of Trustees. And maybe it would uncover unseemly practices that could lead to a visit from blue wind breakered federal employees. Maybe that's what it will take to end this madness. Or maybe it's all over except the shouting and we will be closed by the end of the year anyway.

Sorry, No Cover Here for Your Administrative Bullshit

To underscore my esteemed colleague's recent post, I offer this e-mail exchange:

"Due consideration"? "Communications"? "Feedback"? In dealings with this administration, utterly meaningless. Why not pay us all in one lump sum? Of course, the Provost's Office does not know how to spell my name. Not surprising given the literary quality of the memorandum. Is there no one in the administration capable of writing a coherent sentence in English?

Monday, August 1, 2016

#The Faculty Is Always Wrong

So now the administration is worried about the 9 month employees costing them money during the summer. To wit the below missive from the incompetent provost.

If the worry is running out of money, then put all employees on 18 pay periods. If the worry is that in running out of money UPI Local 4100 would sue the university, that argument is specious and quite frankly stupid. If the university runs out of money why would the union sue the institution that has no money? The union would sue the State of Illinois directly. No loyal readers, this is just another attempt by inept administrators to screw the faculty. The allusion to consultation in the memo is telling as well. Neither I, as the Faculty Senate President, nor my esteemed colleague, Dr. Bionaz, as the Union President agreed with this suggestion but as usual at Chicago State, the faculty is always wrong. That might become our new tag line; CSU: Where the Faculty Is Always Wrong. For reasonable people who budget for twelve months a year, this is quite a disruption and now there will have to be separate payments for health insurance. Since we work in a state that dysfunction is the motto, how many faculty will inadvertently lose their health insurance during the summer because of this single decision of these inept and quite frankly, spiteful and pernicious, administrators?

I would love to know when there is to be some accountability for the clown car administration (#CSUclowncar) that finds the time to do this nonsense but can't increase enrollment or decrease audit findings, or collect keys or property from fired employees, or pretty much anything that has to do with administration of a university. It's long since time for this farce to end.