Monday, November 20, 2017

"And the World Turned Upside Down." CSU the Only University Where a Provost has More Job Security than Any Tenured Faculty Member

We learned on Wednesday last week that tenure is on its way out at CSU. 

The travesty and tragedy that is Chicago State University careens along like a rudderless ship as we sink into the dark November days that end our semester. No discernible leadership here appears on the horizon, though there had been hope of it earlier. Lots of administration, bombast and bluster from the Board of Trustees, but no one stands out, let alone up, for us the faculty. 

Today our UPI President Bob Bionaz, informed us that the Union had lost its grievance and arbitration against the University. Our nine tenured and tenure-track faculty colleagues who were fired by the phony and vindictive "Management Action Committee" in 2016 will not be getting the paltry severance payout a normal, ethical university would have granted-- a one year contract or a year's pay. During this same so-called “financial exigency,” CSU's administrators who have been walked off campus have gotten heaps of cash --Cheri Sydney (now Mrs Wayne Watson) made out of CSU like a bandit. So did others--see earlier blog posts below for the list of the well-compensated administrators who were allowed to slop at the Illinois trough one last time. 

Shameful. But this is part of a long tradition of shamelessness in the operation of Chicago State. 

Shame on you President Lindsey for not sticking up for the faculty whose lives have now been turned upside down, whose careers have been ruined by the previous administration's vindictiveness. You hired some of these very faculty members when you were our Dean. Shame on you for continuing to tolerate the continued machinations of the Watson remnants on campus especially one of the most vindictive architects of the faculty firings. She sits right across the hall from you. 

Shame on you CSU Trustees: Chair Marshall Hatch, Horace Smith, Kamium Buckner, Nicholas Gowen, and Tiffany Harper for your insincerity and your own partisanship toward the old Watson remnants. The fired administrators can be paid off in large packages during "financial exigency" but you choose to spend more money on lawyers to save "chump change" rather than or do justice by the faculty fired under the fiction of that same financial exigency.  Shame on you for your duplicity. You say you want to "move the university forward," that you want the best for the university, but you choose, like the previous administration and Board, to keep the CSU faculty your adversaries. You do not know how to implement best practices in university governance. You are not of the academy, yet you will not take advice or hear from those of us who are. And we have to tolerate board after board, year after year, whose overlordship is tied to pols and their pet political interests or well-connected insiders from "the community." And these boards have included Christian ministers. Well there is what the letter of thelaw allows, but ethics is often something else. And Christian ethics even moreso. Messrs. Hatch and Smith, you in particular have truly shown yourselves to be little men. You still have chance to advocate for an ethical end to all this. Pay the fired faculty their paltry compensation or reinstate them at the university. Hmmm, “what would Jesus do, I wonder?”

Shame on all of you, Administrators and Trustees, for putting the finishing touches on Wayne Watson and his acolyte Angela Henderson's rendition of the Empire Strikes Back. They could not grind to dust all the faculty irritants who shined a light on their cronyism and corruption, so they attacked their colleagues. Can anyone really think it was a coincidence that most of the faculty who were fired were targeted from among  the big-mouth departments (political science, history, music, philosophy) that dared to criticize the antics of Wayne and Miss Angie during their stay at CSU? 

The CSU union was organized at a time when unions were still respected in the pre-Reagan era. I realize the times have changed. Education is now a commodity. The corporatization of the university gallops along all over the country. Students are "customers." In this climate, faculty or other campus unions must be crushed. Administrators receive corporate salaries and golden parachutes worthy of Wall Street or Madison Avenue executives. In this cosmology tenure is seen as an anachronism, a "perk" granted (not “earned”) from an earlier age. There is a willful ignorance of its purpose --to protect free speech and free inquiry on campus. Instead, in the corporate university, the professional class of administrators aided by board members from business or law, can see no type of governance other than that of a top-down chain- of-command business hierarchy. Faculty are not sharers in this governance model. Hence the assault on tenure. It must be broken. It has no place in the enterprise to completely commodify education. The arbitrator in this grievance process saw fit to defend those who wanted to find a way to break tenure and to protect administrative purview.

Shame on us as a faculty if we fail to realize this is just what happened to us. Shame on us faculty if we try to keep our heads low and hope that the next time it will not be us or colleagues in our own departments who have to try to rebuild their lives. We now know the university’s nuclear option: declare financial exigency in order to fire tenured faculty. It might put accreditation at risk, but is a way to get rid of some very pesky members of the CSU “family.” 

It was ironic to me was that on the day we learned of the arbitrator’s decision, the College of Arts and Sciences was holding a “Faculty Appreciation Luncheon.” Would that the Dean of Arts and Sciences at the time of the faculty firings in 2016, Dr Jones, stood up to the administration in a true show of leadership and denounce the firings of so many from his college and the vindictive reasons for it. Would that his leadership inspired his chairs in the Arts and Sciences to do the same and call out the harm this action would do to individual programs and hence the students on campus as well as the loss of talented faculty. When I asked of Dr Calhoun at a townhall meeting of the faculty in fall of 2016 to please tell me that at least the Deans and chairs spoke up against the action of firing tenured faculty, Dr. Calhoun shook his head and said, no, no, he could not say that they did.

I suppose that with campus climate the way it is, where leadership is vacant and faculty impotence and demoralization is reflected in those empty hallways and classrooms that I pass every day, it is too much to expect faculty to show solidarity for our lost colleagues at the next CSU Board meeting on December 15th. I will still encourage it. I expect that there will be a lot of back-slapping and high-fiving among the Board members and upper administration over the legal victories that “they” achieved this fall (“winning the grievance and HLC lifting our sanctions). They will make every effort to erase the past actions of both Board and Provost (kiss, kiss, all is better) and tell each other and us that we now (i.e. again) can “move forward.” The administrative reports will be upbeat and no one on the Board will challenge them or ask meaningful questions because the Board has not shown itself to care to know what those questions are that they should ask. It might be interesting to go just to watch the performances—you know the way you expect your favorite actors in the movies to play their roles. Watch for it here. Our lead actors in the CSU administration have played their roles so well over the years.

In spite of what we know will happen at the next Board meeting, the Board and the President and her Provost and any other administrators need to be reminded that they broke faith with us faculty. Students and faculty, not the Board or the Administration, are at the heart of this institution. Students do not come here because of its administration (ask them, they are here in spite of it). The world is turning upside down in academia and it is here too. Our faculty colleagues were fired without the courtesy of a year’s contract or monetary compensation. Amid the weariness of the past few years and the desire to get along and “move forward,” we cannot let ourselves or the Board or the President and Provost forget that they chose to support the vindictive and unjust firing of nine of our faculty colleagues.

[Originally posted on Nov. 17, 2017]

Friday, November 17, 2017

Step 1 in Breaking Tenure. Faculty Beware. Do you really think this could not happen to you?

Yesterday, Bob Bionaz, UPI President sent this message to the faculty. Read and think about this very carefully. 

Yesterday, the arbitrator handed down his opinion on the 2016 faculty layoffs and the University’s decision to not give separated faculty the one year’s terminal employment required by the contract. His decision seems inexplicable and represents an almost complete victory for the administration. The one section of the contract the arbitrator found the University had violated resulted in a perfunctory and meaningless “award” for the grievants.
The arbitrator decided that since the University’s fiscal position met the criteria for “extreme and immediate financial exigency” in February 2016, that no cash infusion occurring subsequent to that date mattered.  Here’s his exact language from the opinion:
Its [the union’s] argument is based on the layoffs not being effective until August 15, 2016, that the layoff decisions were not truly made until the end of June, and that there was no ‘extreme and immediate financial exigency’ at that time. The Arbitrator concludes otherwise. The decision to lay off employees was made in February 2016. Therefore, the Arbitrator concludes that is the time frame to determine whether there was an ‘extreme and immediate financial exigency’ based on the contract language.”
He wrote further:
“The Arbitrator concluded that the financial issues the University faced in February 2016 met the ‘extreme and immediate financial exigency’ condition and Section 24.5 was not violated.”
So, as far as the arbitrator was concerned, time stopped in February 2016. Based on this logic, had the University received after February 2016 a full state appropriation for fiscal 2016 and 2017, it still would have been in “extreme and immediate financial exigency” for the purposes of faculty and staff layoffs, and for the notice language in article 24.5. In order to reach this conclusion, he had to ignore voluminous evidence which demonstrated that the University’s fiscal position had improved dramatically in April and June 2016. He also ignored the University’s outlay of nearly $4 million in severance for fired administrators along with payroll expenses for newly hired employees, almost all of them administrative employees. Finally, he ignored the fact that the Board, with nothing at all changed since June 2016, ended the University’s “financial exigency” in December 2016.
In a remarkable passage, the arbitrator noted the school’s “ghost town” appearance. I’m not sure what part that may have played in his ultimate decision, but it certainly has no place in an analysis of contract language. He commented that:
“It should be noted that the hearings in this matter were scheduled in May and August 2107, that is, during the Summer semester and the Arbitrator noticed few students around campus.”
The arbitrator’s decision on retroactive compensation for laid off faculty members includes logical inconsistencies and gratuitous editorial comment. Once he decided that the University had violated article 24.5, no further commentary on article 24.5 seems necessary. After all, if the University did not violate article 24.5, it could rightly deny laid off faculty members a terminal year of employment. However, the arbitrator wrote this, along the way finding that the University had violated a fairly insignificant section of the contract:
“The Employer did not violate Article 24 when it laid off the Grievantsin February
2016. However, the Employer violated Section 24.4 by not making an effort to locate
other equivalent employment in that it did not consider the possibility of assignments
with duties in more than one unit, transfer to another unit or position pursuant to Article
25, or retraining pursuant to Article 27.”
He then editorializes that:
“Given the overall situation the Employer faced in2016, it is difficult to determine the likelihood that other equivalent employment would have been found for the Grievants. On this record, the Arbitrator concludes it was unlikely.”
The arbitrator then finds that the lack of equivalent employment justifies his denial of any compensation for the grievants.
“As such, the Arbitrator will not order retroactive relief for the Grievants. Rather, he will order prospective relief.”
He concludes the massacre by intoning:
“Prior to the beginning of the Spring 2018 semester, the Employer is ordered to make a reasonable effort to locate other equivalent employment pursuant to Section 24.4.”
So, the grievants are not entitled to any compensation because the University had no equivalent employment? If the University had equivalent employment and had made an effort to locate it, they would have not been laid off, making the entire discussion moot. There is no contractual connection whatsoever between “equivalent employment” and the denial of a terminal contract, the arbitrator simply inserted it into his opinion.
Finally, his “award” looks cynical to me. Really, ordering the University to make a “reasonable effort” to find other employment for the grievants? I wonder what the arbitrator thinks a “reasonable effort” looks like? This is a meaningless order.
The University spent around $200,000 to prevail in its effort to deny laid off faculty members any compensation for the loss of their jobs and the destruction of their careers. While it did that, Chicago State continued to lavish money on administrative employees and legal firms. The University’s actions make clear where the school’s faculty stand in the grand scheme of things.
Of course, I find this decision infuriating and completely unfair. However, the important persons in this fiasco are our laid off colleagues, some of them still working as non-tenured Lecturers. To them, I can only apologize for the ordeal they continue to endure.
I think the implications of this decision are profound. As far as this arbitrator is concerned, the University’s discretionary power is almost absolute. It puts everyone on this campus at risk. That is, everyone except the highly placed cronies still blighting the University.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Throw Another $350,000 on the Barbie: The University Continues to Pay for Wayne Watson

In my previous post, I noted that there were some legal expenses for which I had no contracts. I now have them. At least two of the contracts have to be added to the expenses incurred by the university to defend its former president, Wayne Watson. Specifically, in December 2016, the university contracted with Jackson Lewis to “Represent Dr. Wayne Watson” in the Peebles case. The amount? $250,000. That same month, the university contracted with Neal, Gerber and Eisenberg to “Represent Chicago State University in connection with analyzing coverage for the Crowley verdict.” The amount of this contract is $99,000.

As a I reported earlier, Jackson Lewis has received nearly $93,000 for its work on behalf of Wayne Watson, while Neal, Gerber and Eisenberg have been paid more than $70,000 for its “analysis.” Of course, the Peebles case is ongoing, with the price tag for Watson’s defense now exceeding $300,000. You may recall that the insurer in the Crowley case balked at paying for damages caused by the purposeful behavior of Watson and Cage; insurers don’t usually pay for liability created by the illegal actions of a defendant. Ultimately, the insurer agreed to pay $1.5 million of the $4.3 million damage award to James Crowley, leaving the university on the hook for $2.8 million. Adding the $70,000 paid to Neal, Gerber and Eisenberg brings the cost of defending Wayne Watson’s unconscionable behavior to just under $400,000.

Below are the two contracts: