Tuesday, January 30, 2018

We're Shocked! Shocked! Chicago State is politicized. The Board Swings Into Action to Protect the Interests of?

With the school continuing to hemorrhage students, the Board did something yesterday. Shocked at the idea that anyone would use Chicago State for political benefit (is a stint at CSU a recipe for success?), the Board immediately terminated CAO Paul Vallas, who had recently tendered his resignation amid reports he was mulling a run for Chicago mayor. That wasn’t the only reason apparently. Here’s what the Board Chairman had to say: “‘I, for one, felt that we have got less than effective use out of that office and the person who occupied it,’ said the board’s chairman, Marshall Hatch. ‘I think we’re doing a good thing to eliminate that office and move forward.’” This is, of course, the same Marshall Hatch who for several years did anything and everything Wayne Watson wanted. The same Marshall Hatch who never raised his voice as Watson ran the university into the ground, as he used the place to stash his friends and political cronies, rewarding them for their incompetence with cushy jobs and nice salaries. The same Marshall Hatch who played a prominent role in the ouster of President Calhoun in 2016.

Some four months ago, Hatch sang a slightly different tune. According to an October 13, 2017 story in the Sun Times, “The Rev. Marshall Hatch — president of the Chicago State board, who signed the contract with Vallas in April — said he doesn’t expect Vallas to stay at Chicago State once his contract runs out next year.
‘I don’t see that happening,” Hatch said. “He was brought in to bring some energy. I think it’s worked out decently.’” Things certainly changed suddenly and now the University is back in the hands of many of the same people who have brought it to the brink of extinction.

So Hatch wants to “move forward”? Here’s what that looks like, Chicago State style. Our spring 2018 enrollment is down to around 2800, another double-digit drop from fall and the loss of 450 students from the previous spring. The numbers tell the story: enrollment down 62.5 percent since fall 2010, down 41.2 percent since fall 2015, down 21.7 percent from fall 2016. Even more ominous, our undergraduate FTE has fallen to around 1350 for spring 2018, down from 4263 in fall 2010 (68 percent decline). If we drop below 1000 undergraduate FTE, we lose our PBI (Primarily Black Institution) status. If we don’t stop the bleeding, at our current rate of decline, we’ll have fewer than 2000 total students in fall 2020 and our PBI status will be gone.

Turning to finances, where is the forensic audit authorized by the Board in March 2017? During his time at Chicago State, Vallas tried to address some lingering financial problems. Since our 2011-12 financial aid scandals, we have been unable to offer classes at off-campus sites. My understanding (which may be incorrect) is that we have yet to pay the fine levied by the Department of Education Vallas has attempted to negotiate a settlement and made arrangements with a D.C. law firm to assist us with this issue at minimal cost to the University. As yet, this effort has not borne fruit because it has been blocked by the upper administration.

In August/September, Vallas brought in a consulting firm, apparently at no charge, to examine our financial aid practices. You might remember that Watson’s then-girlfriend was in charge of University financial aid for several years. The report generated by the consulting firm examined several years up to the 2016-17 school year. Here are some of the highlights: 1) the University was not paying invoices to a company with which it had contracted to collect and remit Perkins Loan repayments. As a result, the company used the repayments to satisfy the outstanding invoices rather than putting the money back into the Perkins pool. 2) The University’s default rate on Perkins loan was above 45 percent, “among the highest in the country and is a current audit finding.” As the consultant pointed out, given our default rate, “the Department of Education could force the school to exit the program.” Other notable findings included this: “As of July 2017, the University’s total delinquent tuition surpassed $14,291,495. This total is overwhelming. These dollars, given the size of your institution, are extremely high and do represent a lack of collection activity.” Additionally, the consultant found “(a)nother issue related to the University’s Perkins Student Loan fund involves former students (Perkins borrowers) that are deceased. The University contracts with Heartland / ECSI to handle billing for borrowers in repayment. In a sample of 545borrowers, 103 were found to be deceased and still classified in the Heartland / ECSI system as being in repayment.”

Finally, the report acknowledged “customer service” problems and terrible morale created by staff shortages and murky processes. “Staff are reactive, not proactive. This is probably due to the shortage of departmental staff. Many tasks are not completed in a timely manner. Replies to emails are several days late or emails are ignored. Telephone calls not answered, returned calls resulting from vendor voice messages are many times ignored. Sometimes fingers point in several directions. Inter-departmental communications are sporadic at best. To make matters worse, delegation of duties is not apparent.”

Senior administrators were reportedly aware of these issues, which have been going on for years. However, because of Vallas’s efforts, they are now apparently being corrected. Vallas also made a number of proposals to increase enrollment and revenues and to streamline operations. To date, most of these proposals are stalled, many by inaction in Academic Affairs. In later 2017, Vallas sent a detailed memorandum to the Board outlining the various proposals and attendant problems. I suppose his termination is the Board’s response.

Once again, I think the Board has done the University a disservice. Paul Vallas was an asset, someone with useful contacts who brought energy and fresh ideas to a campus devoid of both. I saw someone working hard for the school and its students. Obviously, many of our administrators, knowing they could not ever get another job in higher education, were resistant to his somewhat frenetic style and the threat he represented to their sinecures. As they did with Thomas Calhoun, they worked—encouraged and abetted by sympathetic Board members —assiduously to undermine Vallas and eventually contributed to his termination.

It’s been two years since the University should have begun to progress without the blight of the fraud Wayne Watson and his various sycophants and cronies. We’ve wasted that time in a repetitive cycle of failure, while Watson’s acolytes at the school and on the Board have torpedoed two strong leaders with the potential to take the University in a positive direction. The same criticism leveled at Calhoun, that he wasn’t a “team player” surfaced as an indictment of Paul Vallas. The question for me is this: what competent person of goodwill would want to play on this utterly discredited and execrable “team”?

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Someone Better Do Something Before the Place Falls to Pieces

For several years, I have been calling for a change in leadership at this institution. The recent posts by my colleagues have described the continuing problems with the university’s failing infrastructure and the same old confrontational, ham-handed administrative style we’ve seen for years. My earlier post detailed my concerns over our plunging graduation rate. However, there is a far more compelling reason to renew the call for new personnel at the top of this organization. The utter, catastrophic failure of our administration and its inability to retain students is starkly revealed in the magnitude of our enrollment decline.

Since 2014, I have maintained a spreadsheet on fall enrollments in 211 public universities and 43 colleges and universities belonging to the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund. These 43 schools include 40 schools classified as HBCU’s and 2 other schools classified as PBI’s (Chicago State and CUNY-York). In total, the 254 schools include institutions from 43 states and the District of Columbia. The enrollment data from these institutions tells a clear story.

Nationwide, enrollment at these schools has been remarkably stable. From fall 2010 to fall 2016, the 254 schools gained a grand total of 799 students, maintaining an overall enrollment of just over 2.475 million. The Thurgood Marshall schools have not fared as well. In the same time period, enrollment at these schools declined 11.6 percent, with a total loss of over 27,000 students. HBCU enrollment dropped 11.2 percent.

So how has Chicago State done in comparison? Most of us know about our enrollment declines since 2010, but just how bad are they? In fall 2016, Chicago State’s enrollment was less than one-half of what it had been in 2010, with a decline of 51.4 percent. Our enrollment losses ranked us third in the United States, ahead of only Cheyney University in Pennsylvania and Elizabeth City State in North Carolina.

Of course you say, the state’s budget misadventures are the reason for such a dismal performance. There’s a simple answer to that argument: it’s bullshit. In fall 2013, we had the sixth largest enrollment decline in the U.S., ahead of Cheyney, Elizabeth City, Harris-Stowe in St. Louis, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, and Troy in Alabama. In fall 2014, our enrollment losses were the fourth largest in the country, leading only Troy, Cheyney, and Elizabeth City State. In fall 2015, we again had the fourth largest enrollment loss in the United States, leading only Troy, Cheyney, and Elizabeth City.

Wait, it gets worse. For fall 2017, although data is not available for most of the schools on my list, I have been able to compile the information for the poorest performing schools on the spreadsheet. We now are the proud owners of the largest percentage enrollment decline in the United States. Our fall 2017 total of 3106 students is a 57.8 percent loss. Cheyney has added students the past two years to pass us at 52.4 percent, with Elizabeth City State also increasing its enrollment to edge ahead of us at 57.3 percent. Just think folks, a university in a city of 2.7 million people has barely over 3100 students and has lost more than 4200 students since 2010. Quite a performance.

A number of poor performing schools stopped their bleeding between 2015 and 2017. They did it by bringing in new leadership at the top of the institution. Elizabeth City State, experiencing many of the problems we are familiar with—“right-sizing” staff reductions, financial aid improprieties, and staff training issues—went through three Chancellors in two years and hired a new Provost in July 2015. This fall, Elizabeth City’s enrollment increased 4 percent from the previous year, the first enrollment increase in 7 years.
At Cheyney University, a familiar face, former CSU President Frank Pogue found himself in a school whose enrollment had plunged from 1586 in 2010 to 711 in 2015. Under Pogue’s leadership, Cheyney increased its enrollment by 6.2 percent between fall 2015 and fall 2017.

The most remarkable turnaround story occurred at Kentucky State University. In fall 2010, that school enrolled 2851 students. By fall 2016, enrollment had dropped by 39.1 percent, to 1736. Over the summer of 2017, Kentucky State replaced almost its entire staff of senior administrators. One of the replacements was our former President, Dr. Thomas Calhoun, whose tenure at CSU was cut short by palace intrigues and the most abominable Board in the country. With a new cast of administrators, Kentucky State grew its enrollment by 532 students for fall 2017, a remarkable increase of 31 percent. Could Dr. Calhoun have done that here? We’ll never know.

In the meantime, Chicago State’s enrollment continues to plunge. This spring, we will experience the 15th consecutive semester of enrollment losses since fall 2010. Despite that, neither our Board nor our President demonstrates any sense of urgency, or an inclination to act. We have the same people doing the same things with, predictably, the same results. There are people at this university with ideas to move the school forward, but they’re consistently thwarted. Personal relationships, not competence, continue to be the coin of the realm. Once again, I must say that down that road lies disaster. How much time do we have? Who knows? How long will the state continue to prop up this institution? Perhaps no one can reverse the death spiral of Chicago State University, but allowing things to continue as they are insures our ultimate demise.

Friday, January 12, 2018

A Human Resources Department Coup d'etat?

I realize that there is an absence of leadership at CSU on so many levels, but really, the Human Resources Department usurping the right to fire anyone at CSU? 

START SHAKING IN YOUR BOOTS if you miss doing the work time entry hours online because they don't like having to do it by hand if you happen to miss the deadline. 

Last I looked the new contract we signed did not mention failure to do online reporting 5 times as cause for termination. 

I know Angela Henderson is still watsoning all over campus, but when did Renee Mitchell get back in charge?

Forwarded message ----------
From: Human Resources <hr@csu.edu>
Date: Fri, Jan 12, 2018 at 2:29 PM
Subject: CSU-STAFF: IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT-Web Time Entry Disciplinary Process
To: csu-students@csu.edu, csu-faculty@csu.edu, csu-staff@csu.edu

Effective Immediately! Failure to Submit or Approve Web Time Entry WILL result in disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.

There are specific timekeeping requirements that must be adhered to by all employees and their supervisors.  The goal of adhering to timekeeping requirements is to ensure that Chicago State University is in compliance with Federal and State laws and regulations.

·         All employees are responsible for recording actual time worked and taken in Web Time Entry.
·         Managers and proxies are responsible for reviewing the accuracy and completeness of employee time reports, making any corrections as necessary and approving time. 

The Progressive Disciplinary process for non compliance with Web Time Entry is as follows:

Disciplinary Action Step
1st Occurrence
Verbal Warning
2nd Occurrence
Written Warning
3rd Occurrence
Final Written Warning
4th Occurrence
1 Day Suspension Without Pay
5th Occurrence

*Violations consist of either not submitting time on the appropriate date and/or not approving time on the appropriate date.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Only At CSU

So the cliches are lining up to be written about how CSU has started 2018. Today was the first day of class. I was not overly enthusiastic about the beginning of the semester. One reason was the sad realization that enrollment would be well below 3,000 students. Only nine years ago, CSU had an enrollment over 7,000. As enrollment has plummeted, those responsible have been rewarded by keeping their jobs, while those most vulnerable have been fired. Pampered administrators have been rewarded for repeated and ever increasing failure. This failure will fall squarely at the feet of the Board of Trustees and the President who has chosen not to clean house even though that house cleaning is the most obvious task to move the university away from what now seems like its inevitable demise.

To wit, the Williams Science Building, which houses six academic departments and other academic units, was closed today and is likely to be closed for the rest of the week. This closing could likely have been anticipated if two known factors had been considered. First, there was little heat in the building since Thanksgiving. Faculty and staff routinely worked in their coats because they could see their breath in their offices. The second known factor is that extremely low temperatures can cause water pipes to burst. The ancillary to that is that Chicago was in the grips of a polar vortex for the past two weeks with wind chill factors of 20 degrees below zero. A reasonable person could conclude that a building with insufficient heat that experiences an extended polar vortex might be susceptible to damage. Lo and behold, that is exactly what happened in the Williams Science Center. This incident potentially put lab animals, experiments and storage of certain chemicals at risk. Now the building is closed, yet there were no signs on the doors that the building would be closed until whatever date the cleanup would be complete. A closed building means faculty can't access their offices or materials that might be in their offices. This is especially challenging at the beginning of the semester.

For several years, I have spoken, written, shouted about there only being two problems at CSU; 1) no culture of accountability and 2) no culture of open and transparent communication. The less than optimal start of the semester is just one in a long list of incidents over the last decade that exemplify the two problems that plague the university. There is no consequence for not doing your job and when that job isn't done, there isn't communication to let the university community know they will need to make adjustments to their activities. This incident reinforces why strong leadership is necessary. Strong leadership would not tolerate for one more second administrators that have grossly and profoundly failed the university. They would be fired without cause and sent on their way. Any complaints from them should result in a public airing of their failures for all to see. Any administrator who has been part of the failure of this university who actually believes they are doing a good job is obviously delusional and should be removed because delusions like that are dangerous for the functioning of an institution. An absence of self awareness and deficit of emotional intelligence in a leader is devastating to the organization. 

Here we are at the beginning of the year and new semester with the same problems that have plagued the institution for years, namely a lack of leadership willing to make hard choices and senior administrators in so far over their heads in terms of competence that the university can't even muddle through.

The institution is also repeating its ethical mistakes. To wit, why is the law firm of the board counsel slopping away at the public trough? Namely, representing the university in the recent faculty arbitration and in negotiations with the union representing the Building Service Workers? Did the university learn nothing from the now departed general counsel who improperly advised the board while supposedly representing the interests of the university. For those who think that isn't a problem consider this. The BOT hires the president. The general counsel reports to the president but provides legal advice, potentially about the president, to the board. I'm no legal expert but after years of ethics training, I can spot a conflict of interest because conflicts can be actual or perceived in order to be problematic. And here we go again. The board hires a general counsel who then directs work to her firm. If she were a partner in that firm, for example, she would likely be paid for her billable hours and receive an annual bonus or profit sharing thus being paid twice by the tax payers. It is also irregular that negotiations with collective bargaining units would be conducted through the board attorney or her firm and not the Office of Labor and Legal Affairs. Not including the general counsel's office in this process is highly suspect. 

Additionally, asking that Building Service Workers be subjected to scrutiny by a consultant who would tell them how to do their job is ridiculous. Injecting wasteful corporate thinking in the academy is enough evidence that another board counsel should be retained because the current one must have no idea how the university or any university works. And if any of this is untrue, the board and/or its counsel should feel free to refute it with evidence. I have always said that if I get something factually incorrect, then I will correct it. Some readers may not like the tone but the message is the message.

I'm sure, loyal readers, you can see the cliches waiting to burst forth in print. I won't bore you with them. You know what they are. I will say this though, the more things change, the more they don't. After today it feels like a race to see whether the university will close because of a lack of students or because the long neglected physical infrastructure finally collapses.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

New Year, Same Old Story

As we begin a new year, it seems a good time to reflect on where the university stands at the beginning of 2018. Simply put, it’s business as usual at Chicago State. The latest iteration of our administration is either unable or unwilling to make the changes necessary to take the school in a direction not headed for disaster. Whatever optimism that existed last April is gone and the staff and faculty have frankly given up on the current president to do much of anything. The most current enrollment figure for spring stands at just over 2500, with the drop session for non-validation still to come. It looks increasingly like our enrollment will be somewhere between 2500 and 2700, which is another drop of over 20 percent from the previous spring. Still, many of the senior administrators who have been in their positions throughout most of our enrollment decline retain their positions and continue to draw their nice salaries.

There is a new presidential search coming this year. The Board has selected another search firm to conduct this search, at the bargain basement price of $75,000. What will the search yield? At this point, no one knows, but whatever hope remains for the university to stem the exodus of students may depend on the Board’s choice of a new leader and the ability of that new president to operate independently to bring in people who are credible and who know what they are doing. Given our recent track record, this may be impossible to achieve.

Since December 2015, we have had 4 presidents of this university. In December 2015, we still had the fraud and political hack Wayne Watson. Then in January came Thomas Calhoun, who threatened the security of the Watson holdovers and whose administration was derailed even before it began by our senior administrators and Board members Nikki Zollar, Anthony Young, and Marshall Hatch, abetted by the vacuous, spineless Horace Smith, James Joyce, Spencer Leak, and Michael Curtin. After the disgraceful ouster of Calhoun, the board appointed Cecil Lucy, someone utterly unqualified to be president. With the appointment of four new Board members in January, the Board decided to replace Lucy with another interim president, Rachel Lindsey.

Whether the current Board is up to the challenge of finding an adequate president for this school may be determined by the applicant pool. Given the myriad problems facing this university, who would want to apply for this job? Obviously, the location is a plus, but will this be nothing more than another series of bad choices? You can be sure that Wayne Watson will be lobbying for his chosen candidate(s), none of whom will be qualified.

We just experienced six-plus years of crony hires and failed leadership. The academic side of the university is in tatters. The enrollment is bad enough, better than a 60 percent decline since 2010. The other results of the patronage hires can be seen in the numerous lawsuits, some resolved, some still in progress, that continue to cost the university hundreds of thousands of dollars.

As I have said previously, the full effect of the catastrophic Watson administration will be felt for years. Based on data I’ve been collecting for several years, there is another set of problems on the horizon. We now have a full set of first-time cohorts from the Watson years to analyze. As you would expect, the findings are alarming.

You may recall that about two years ago, the university quietly revealed that the graduation rate for its 2009 freshman cohort (graduating in Summer 2015 or earlier) was 11 percent. This represented a drop from 19.2 percent for the 2008 cohort, and 20.7 percent for the 2007 cohort. Between 2010 and 2015, the Watson minions set policy for admissions decisions.

Before embarking on this discussion, I admit that the figures I keep are not “official.” The university adjusts these cohorts from time to time, resulting in possible discrepancies in the figures. They are pretty close, however. I also know the way graduation rates are determined is unfair to transfer schools like Chicago State. Nonetheless, we’ve been getting beaten up over this issue for years and it seems like something to which someone might want to pay attention. When the 2015 graduation figure became public, a university spokesperson claimed the drop resulted from the university trying in 2011 to “preserve the academic integrity of the institution.” This assertion is nothing more than a bald-faced lie. Here’s what is coming in terms of our graduation rate.

First, for the 2009 cohort, only 64 of the 590 students (10.8 percent) were actually dismissed in 2011 for poor scholarship. This much ballyhooed protection of “academic integrity” affected mainly students matriculating under the Watson administration. Altogether, only 5 of 359 students in the 2006 cohort were dropped for poor scholarship in 2011. Only 2 of the 371 students in the 2007 cohort, and 8 of the 402 students in the 2008 cohort were dropped for poor scholarship in 2011.

So, here’s the Watson administration performance from 2009 through 2015:

* the university reported 16%, based on IPEDS figures, the actual percentage is 15.3.
** not yet complete, based on my data, 7 additional students may graduate before fall 2018. If all graduate, the percentage rises to 17.9%
*** not yet complete, based on my data, 23 additional students are registered for classes in spring 2018

Overall, for the three years final statistics are available , the Watson graduation rate is 12.0% (my figures) or 12.7% (university reports). Compare that with the 22.2 percent of students between 2009 and 2011 who were dismissed for poor scholarship.

Based on this information, I feel able to make some predictions for future graduation rates. These are based on the data I have collected and are not “official.”

For 2012, the graduation rate will be between 15 and 18 percent.

For 2013, a total of 23 students have registered for classes in spring 2018, with an additional 8 students attending in fall 2017 but not yet registered for spring 2018. If all these students register, that’s 13.8 percent of the cohort finishing their fifth year. Added to the 6.7 percent who have already graduated, the maximum graduation rate would be 20.5 percent. However, there is usually attrition of at least 50 percent between fifth and sixth year. Thus, if 6.9 percent of the current students actually finish within six years, the graduation rate for 2013 will be around 13.5 percent.

For 2014, 45 students have registered for classes in spring 2018, with 15 attending in fall 2017 but not yet registered for spring 2018. Using the same attrition factor, the 2014 cohort’s graduation rate would project to around 12.5 percent.

For 2015, there are also 45 students registered for classes in spring 2018, with 11 attending in fall 2017 but not yet registered. If one-half of these students graduate on time, the 2015 cohort’s graduation rate will be around 17 percent.

Based on nothing more than my belief that the completion rate is too generous, I will adjust the figures downward. Here is what I think Watson’s performance will look like when we end 2021:

2009 cohort 11%
2010 cohort 15% (university figure)
2011 cohort 12%
2012 cohort 17%
2013 cohort 12%
2014 cohort 11%
2015 cohort 14%

Students admitted during the Watson administration have roughly twice the statistical probability of being dismissed for poor scholarship as they have to graduate. Quite a performance by Watson, his host of cronies, and lots of City College retreads. This is why the Board cannot settle for another fraudulent political creature at the head of what will be left of this academic enterprise. Can they do it?

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

How Long Can Chicago State Survive?

I'm afraid this is another grim update on the status of our university. As of yesterday, the enrollment for spring 2018 stands at 2111, with 5 days until the start of the semester and another "cut" session looming. Why the administration would cut courses with enrollment this low is unfathomable. It looks like we'll be lucky to hit 2500 for the spring semester, unless we get a sudden rush of students registering. What does this all mean? At 2500, our enrollment will be down 4862 students from Fall 2010, a decrease of 66 percent. This will be our 15th consecutive semester of enrollment losses.
What are our administrators doing about this? As they did with President Calhoun, the Watson holdovers are working assiduously to undermine Paul Vallas in an effort to get him out of CSU. Of course, at this point, he is the only administrator with any ideas about how to increase enrollment and revenue. He has reportedly attempted to get the people in Academic Affairs interested in some of these ideas, but at this point little progress has been made. How long can we continue if we continue to hemorrhage students? How long will our administrators--who obviously do not and never had any ideas to move the school forward--be able to collect their lavish salaries? Will they be around long enough to finish destroying this school? Seeing all this is truly sad.