Although the Board made two new appointments Friday, the University is still a long way from the wholesale leadership changes that must occur if we are to have a chance at survival. I think it likely that our various Watson cronies will still fight to keep their jobs, even perhaps by attempting to portray themselves as victims. Now, however, we seem to have a Board attentive to the needs of the school and willing to act in Chicago State’s best interests. The question remains, given the monumental and multiple administrative failures of the past six-plus years, why has it been so difficult to get rid of those “leaders” most responsible for that failure? One of the major reasons is the incestuous relationship between certain members of the Board (former and current) and some remnants of the Watson administration. Communication between several of these persons in August and September 2016, suggests that with the active participation of Board and administrative members, Wayne Watson has continued to play a substantive role in the affairs of the school.
On August 5, 2016, I provided an analysis of our enrollment problems, and suggestions for addressing those problems, to the Board of Trustees, Dr. Calhoun, and then Interim Vice President of Enrollment Management Michael Ellison. On August 9, 2016, former Board Chairman Anthony Young forwarded my letter to Wayne Watson. Why?
On September 16, 2016, Young received for his “approval” a draft “resignation” letter from Dr. Calhoun addressed to the University community. Another Board member wrote to Young: “The word and spirit of this letter breaks the confidentiality agreement. If Dr Calhoun can give explanation, so should we. I hope our attorney is up to protecting our interest in this. The effect of the letter blames the board alone for his separation. Counsel should advise if this is breach that halts payout. Btw: the Trib has editorialized that we be ‘fired’ by the gov.” Young forwarded Dr. Calhoun’s letter to Wayne Watson at 5:41 p.m. September 16, 2016. Why? Young forwarded the other Board member’s remarks about the letter to Wayne Watson at 7:54 p.m., that same day. Why?
An e-mail thread beginning on September 21, 2016, and ending on September 23, 2016, discussed Dr. Phillip Beverly in unflattering terms. The thread began at 9:14 p.m., with a reference to a video produced by Dr. Beverly. At 9:17 p.m., Yvonne Davila, a temporary administrator working in the Provost’s Office, responded “He (Beverly) should be fired.” The communication, apparently titled “Last email..look at this clown,” went to Board member Nikki Zollar who wrote Davila: “Good gravy. He just incites the riots (and he knows exactly what he’s doing).” Zollar also copied the thread to Angela Henderson. At 9:32:29 p.m. Zollar forwarded the thread to Young, and Board member Marshall Hatch, with the message, “FYI.” On September 22, 2016, at 8:50 p.m., Young forwarded the message to Watson who responded on September 23, 2016, at 6:31 a.m. Watson wrote: “He is very smart . . . The judge in the ‘Fire case’ has stated that she reads our blogs and I believe this video is for her, the judge. He is sending her the message that he is a calm, reasonable, thought provoking teacher (a little controversial but thought provoking). The allegations against him in the fire case are very strong as it relates to his interactions with students. I content [sic] that the audience intended is not the CSU campus but the judge. He does not make moves like this for what appears to be the obvious reason. He is very good at communication and this is a strategic move.” Once again, why did Wayne Watson receive these communications?
So, with enrollment cratering, scandals galore, and mountains of evidence pointing to the complete failure of the Watson administration, several of our Board members include him in discussions about University operations. This is what Nikki Zollar, Anthony Young, and Marshall Hatch spent their time doing? Crony hires like Yvonne Davila feel free to offer a worthless opinion to a Board member on the employment of a tenured faculty member? Just who the hell are these people? No wonder Nikki Zollar voted for the status quo.
The Watson administration continues to afflict Chicago State—a cancer that must be excised if the school is to survive. The various cronies who continue to damage the school must be rooted out. In 2009, an Illinois Reform Commission report detailed the features of crony hiring: 1) the hiring of politically connected or politically subservient persons, 2) the creation of political positions, 3) hiring and promotion based on considerations other than merit, 4) increasing numbers of contract employees, 5) ignoring or modifying listed job descriptions and minimum qualifications.
Ultimately, the patronage system generously rewards mediocrity and incompetence while contributing to the continuing existence of a variety of operational failures. The Watson administration at Chicago State University offers an excellent example of patronage at work: its cronyism, secrecy, disregard for competence, and ultimately, its deleterious effects on the operation of the school.
The holdovers from the Watson administration will probably struggle mightily to retain their positions. They will avail themselves of any potential strategy, no matter how ludicrous, to paint themselves as victims, a truly laughable position. We all know about the multiple failures of their “leadership.” Let’s see how much they’ve earned while demonstrating their incompetence.
Focusing on only four employees—two of whom were hired as soon as Watson “officially” became president on October 1, 2009, and are still employed at CSU, one crony who came in 2011 and who is still employed at CSU, and one girlfriend Watson hired in November 2009 who lost her job in April 2016—we find that Chicago State has paid at least $4.02 million to these four persons for their various administrative failures. Here’s the breakdown:
Vice President/General Counsel Patrick Cage, hired November 1, 2009. Total salary: $1,154,265.
Provost Angela Henderson, hired June 15, 2011. Total salary: $1,081,969.
Associate Vice President Rene Mitchell, hired October 5, 2009. Total salary: $1,043,712.
Associate Vice President Cheri Sidney, hired November 9, 2009, terminated April 30, 2016. Total salary: $740,586.
Total compensation paid to these four through March 31, 2017: $4,020,532.
According to Board regulations, if the three persons still employed are terminated without cause, they are entitled to the following payouts: Henderson, $225,000; Cage, $155,004; Mitchell, $144,996. That brings the total salary for these Watson cronies (including Sidney) to $4,545,532. If that’s victimization, I’d like some. I can only paraphrase something I said in a long forgotten post: never have so many been paid so much to accomplish so little.