Monday, July 30, 2018

The End of the End Or The Beginning of the Beginning

So it took 936 days, two interim presidents, one permanent president and a non-traditional president to bring to an end the darkest period of Chicago State University’s 150 year history. Since 2008, the university has endured an ever deepening spiral into non-existence. To answer who is responsible is to tell a much longer story than your humble narrator has time to tell here. The short version is that everyone affiliated with the University prior to July 1st of this year has some measure of accountability here. Those who would support a regime that was demonstrably failing in real time bear the greatest responsibility. That includes the current and former governors, state legislators, administrators, tenured faculty, and alumni. Accrediting bodies and the Illinois Board of Higher Education are also responsible. By their action or inaction members of all of these groups contributed to a 65% enrollment decline between 2009 and 2018. And no, loyal readers, do not believe the apologists who blame the two year budget crisis for a 9 year enrollment decline.
So the last ten years have been horrific for the University and now the last vestiges of that period are being purged. There are still some remaining who shouldn’t be long for CSU and then the really difficult phase begins, the race against time to restore the university to some semblance of viability.
Just in the matter of Academic Affairs, it would appear that the division should be gutted and rebuilt. Does an Interim Provost have time to do that heavy lifting? Does this Interim Provost have the skill set to take on such an enormous task? Should we lower the expectations to just keeping the lights on or should we expect more?
I believe the first thing to address is the appalling treatment of tenured faculty who were laid off, some of whom were rehired at a reduced grade and salary. All of these faculty should be restored effective August 15th. If the University wishes to fire tenured faculty, then there is an accepted process in the Academy that those who are familiar with such things, would follow. If tenure is to be stripped, then that requires Board action and the Board has been remarkably silent since 2016 when it inexplicably entered the University into a state of financial exigency. Tenured faculty deserve much better treatment than they have received with the previous regime.
The second thing that must be addressed is to rebuild the advising process at the university. The now departed Provost did an exemplary job in destroying the student advising process. It is too late to fix it for the Fall 2018 semester and it needs to be addressed immediately.
The third task is to get permission to offer courses off campus. It has been six years since the university had the ability to offer courses off campus and the now relieved provost seemingly couldn’t figure out that part of her job responsibilities. The Interim Provost now has the duty to correct this and I would hope this is addressed promptly.
Fourth, the curriculum process must be rebuilt from the ground up. This process is an excellent opportunity for the new administration to participate meaningfully in shared governance. The past several administrations have failed miserably in the practice of shared governance and here we are again with another opportunity to function like a university. Stay tuned.
Fifth, the Interim Provost will need to rebuild trust between the faculty and the administration. I believe this would lead to increased faculty morale and possibly increased faculty productivity. It will take a Provost who can lead, not just manage budgets and nickel and dime faculty over tenths of CUEs. Only time will tell if a leader or a manager occupies the seat.
Finally, the President and Interim Provost will need to acknowledge the enormous human cost of the last ten years on those who have been associated with the university. People have been hurt. Reputations have been damaged. The dignity of good people has been assaulted. Not acknowledging the human cost will prevent the university from moving forward. And soon it will be too late. 
There is so much more that needs to be addressed and I don’t know if time favors the institution. I thought I would have been happier at this change and yet I’m only sad because all of this was avoidable. And those who are ultimately responsible should be ashamed of their role in the  damage wrought on the university. Yet, I’m sure there will be no accountability and no acknowledgment that human beings, colleagues and friends, have been deeply hurt. And I’m still just sad.

Hopefully, a Portentous Week

Last week brought extremely positive news to the long-suffering students, staff, and faculty at Chicago State. Although in office less than a month, new CSU President “Z” Scott did what Thomas Calhoun could not do and what Cecil Lucy and Rachel Lindsey would not do. What might this mean as the new school year approaches? For what they’re worth, here are my thoughts.

The new President actually seems to recognize bullshit when she sees it or hears it. As we all know, Chicago State possesses a number of highly-paid administrators who, as far as I can tell, produce nothing, or worse, do damage. One has just been jettisoned. Hopefully, a number of her friends and cronies still blighting the University are now nervous and will decide to explore alternative career opportunities.

The Board and President seem to realize the seriousness of the school’s situation and the precariousness of its existence. Currently, fall enrollment is down another 7 percent, which would translate into a fall head count of around 2800, potentially the sixteenth consecutive semester of enrollment losses. In this environment, acting in the best interests of the University becomes imperative. This past week, President Scott did just that.

Although the new President is not an academic, she obviously understands management. She is unafraid to take decisive action. She brings her own political influence to this job, effectively neutralizing the toxic residue of the Wayne Watson administration, perpetuated by apparatchiks who are determined to have the University remain in the same corrupt and incompetent hands. While the task of rehabilitating the University is formidable, even daunting, we now seem to have someone with the desire to use her political skills for the benefit of the school rather than for the benefit of her friends and cronies. Based on the early returns, she deserves our support.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Finally, a Change in the Provost's Office

A relief and long overdue. Thanks President Scott for putting the University's best interests first.