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]

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