Friday, March 2, 2018

So a few years ago, I suggested several scholars that the university could consider for the office of university president. One of those suggestions was Dr. Ruth Simmons, the former president of Brown University. She retired and returned to Texas and after a short retirement she was recruited by Prairie View A&M, an HBCU that appears to be in the midst of a renaissance. The moral of this story is to have high aspirations, dare to be more and don't reward failure. Maybe the BOT will take this to heart.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

ASSessment and its Discontents

For anyone who has beaten their head against the inanity of university assessment see Molly Worthen's op ed in the New York Times "The Misguided Drive to Measure 'Learning Outcomes'"  (Feb. 23, 2018) posted below. Included in the article are such observations:

...the ballooning assessment industry — including the tech companies and consulting firms that profit from assessment — is a symptom of higher education’s crisis, not a solution to it. It preys especially on less prestigious schools and contributes to the system’s deepening divide into a narrow tier of elite institutions primarily serving the rich and a vast landscape of glorified trade schools for everyone else.

...Mr. Gilbert became an outspoken assessment skeptic after years of watching the process fail to capture what happens in his classes — and seeing it miss the real reasons students struggle. “Maybe all your students have full-time jobs, but that’s something you can’t fix, even though that’s really the core problem,” he said. “Instead, you’re expected to find some small problem, like students don’t understand historical chronology, so you might add a reading to address that. You’re supposed to make something up every semester, then write up a narrative” explaining your solution to administrators.

Here is the second irony: Learning assessment has not spurred discussion of the deep structural problems that send so many students to college unprepared to succeed. Instead, it lets politicians and accreditors ignore these problems as long as bureaucratic mechanisms appear to be holding someone — usually a professor — accountable for student performance...

...Without thoughtful reconsideration, learning assessment will continue to devour a lot of money for meager results. The movement’s focus on quantifying classroom experience makes it easy to shift blame for student failure wholly onto universities, ignoring deeper socio-economic reasons that cause many students to struggle with college-level work. Worse, when the effort to reduce learning to a list of job-ready skills goes too far, it misses the point of a university education. (emphasis mine)

Worthen goes on to express what many of us talk about in the hallways of CSU or on the way to our commanded attendance at the semester assessment meetings --though rarely do the cowed CSU faculty voice these in public meetings. Did I hear about a CSU administrator who was sent somewhere in Asia to attend an international assessment conference a few years ago? Give me a break. New ways to waste more time and money.

But wait. CSU made its way indirectly into Worthen's discussion. Oh do not fear ye who blame the media for reporting "only the bad stuff" about poor benighted Chicago State. The university is unnamed. But  mirabile dictu! One of our very own, Dr. Eric Lief Peters, who retired from CSU last year was one of three letters to the Editor of the NY Times chosen to appear in their daily letters column. I'm posting his letter here.

Laugh (and cry) as required. Molly Worthen's article follows.

To the Editor:

I spent the last several years at my university on this nonsense as an “assessment coordinator.” It was a total waste of more than 40 percent of my time and left me with no time to do research. It was bureaucracy at its worst. It was impossible to implement in any tangible way that would yield meaningful data, and nobody would or could provide guidance. It was a very large reason I retired early.

Here is a general summary:

Me: “Well, here is what we are thinking about for an assessment plan.”

Them: “You should really come up with a plan that assesses student performance.”

Me (gritting teeth): “Yes, we have that in all our classes. They are called graded assignments and exams.”

Them: “Those are great! But they should be aligned with the goals of the courses.”

Me (grinding teeth): “Yes, these are assignments that are based on evaluating the students’ grasp of the course content.”

Them: “But they should instead reflect other things that the students gain in the course.”

Me: “Like what?”

Them: “We can’t tell you, but you will know it when you see it.”

Me: “Can you give us a hint?”

Them: “No, these should be your assessments of what is important.”

Me: “Why don’t you just shoot me and get it over with?”

Them: “Your assessment reports will be due on LiveText by …”


Molly Worthen, "The Misguided Drive to Measure 'Learning Outcomes'" The New York Times, Feb. 23, 2018.

I teach at a big state university, and I often receive emails from software companies offering to help me do a basic part of my job: figuring out what my students have learned.

If you thought this task required only low-tech materials like a pile of final exams and a red pen, you’re stuck in the 20th century. In 2018, more and more university administrators want campuswide, quantifiable data that reveal what skills students are learning. Their desire has fed a bureaucratic behemoth known as learning outcomes assessment. This elaborate, expensive, supposedly data-driven analysis seeks to translate the subtleties of the classroom into PowerPoint slides packed with statistics — in the hope of deflecting the charge that students pay too much for degrees that mean too little.

It’s true that old-fashioned course grades, skewed by grade inflation and inconsistency among schools and disciplines, can’t tell us everything about what students have learned. But the ballooning assessment industry — including the tech companies and consulting firms that profit from assessment — is a symptom of higher education’s crisis, not a solution to it. It preys especially on less prestigious schools and contributes to the system’s deepening divide into a narrow tier of elite institutions primarily serving the rich and a vast landscape of glorified trade schools for everyone else.

Without thoughtful reconsideration, learning assessment will continue to devour a lot of money for meager results. The movement’s focus on quantifying classroom experience makes it easy to shift blame for student failure wholly onto universities, ignoring deeper socio-economic reasons that cause many students to struggle with college-level work. Worse, when the effort to reduce learning to a list of job-ready skills goes too far, it misses the point of a university education.

The regional accrediting agencies that certify the quality of education an institution provides — and its fitness to receive federal student financial aid — now require some form of student learning assessment. That means most American colleges and universities have to do it. According to a recent survey, schools deploy an average of four methods for evaluating learning, which include testing software and rubrics to standardize examinations, e-portfolio platforms to display student projects, surveys and other tools.

No intellectual characteristic is too ineffable for assessment. Some schools use lengthy surveys like the California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory, which claims to test for qualities like “truthseeking” and “analyticity.” The Global Perspective Inventory, administered and sold by Iowa State University, asks students to rate their agreement with statements like “I do not feel threatened emotionally when presented with multiple perspectives” and scores them on metrics like the “intrapersonal affect scale.”

Surveys can’t tell you everything. So universities assemble committees of faculty members, arm them with rubrics and assign them piles of student essays culled from across the school (often called “student products,” as if they are tubes of undergraduate Soylent Green). Assessment has invaded the classroom, too: On many campuses, professors must include a list of skills-based “learning outcomes” on every syllabus and assess them throughout the semester.

All this assessing requires a lot of labor, time and cash. Yet even its proponents have struggled to produce much evidence — beyond occasional anecdotes — that it improves student learning. “I think assessment practices are ripe for re-examining,” said David Eubanks, assistant vice president for assessment and institutional effectiveness at Furman University in Greenville, S.C., who has worked in assessment for years and now speaks out about its problems. “It has forced academic departments to use data that’s not very good,” he added. “And the process of getting this data that’s not very good can be very painful.”

The push to quantify undergraduate learning is about a century old, but the movement really took off in the 1980s. The assessment boom coincided — not, I think, by accident — with the decision of state legislatures all over the country to reduce spending on public universities and other social services. That divestment continued, moving more of the cost of higher education onto students. (These students are often graduates of underfunded high schools that can’t prepare them for college in the first place.) It was politically convenient to hold universities accountable for all this, rather than to scrutinize neoliberal austerity measures.

In 2006, the Commission on the Future of Higher Education, convened by Margaret Spellings, the secretary of education at the time, issued a scathing critique of universities. “Employers report repeatedly that many new graduates they hire are not prepared to work, lacking the critical thinking, writing and problem-solving skills needed in today’s workplaces,” the commission’s report complained.

Educators scrambled to ensure that students graduate with these skills — and to prove it with data. The obsession with testing that dominates primary education invaded universities, bringing with it a large support staff. Here is the first irony of learning assessment: Faced with outrage over the high cost of higher education, universities responded by encouraging expensive administrative bloat.

Many of the professionals who work in learning assessment are former faculty members who care deeply about access to quality education. Pat Hutchings, a senior scholar at the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (and former English professor), told me: “Good assessment begins with real, genuine questions that educators have about their students, and right now for many educators those are questions about equity. We’re doing pretty well with 18- to 22-year-olds from upper-middle-class families, but what about — well, fill in the blank.”

It seems that the pressure to assess student learning outcomes has grown most quickly at poorly funded regional universities that have absorbed a large proportion of financially disadvantaged students, where profound deficits in preparation and resources hamper achievement. Research indicates that the more selective a university, the less likely it is to embrace assessment. Learning outcomes assessment has become one way to answer the question, “If you get unprepared students in your class and they don’t do well, how does that get explained?” Mr. Eubanks at Furman University told me.

When Erik Gilbert, a professor of history at Arkansas State University, reached the end of his World Civilization course last fall, he dutifully imposed the required assessment: an extra question on the final exam that asked students to read a document about Samurai culture and answer questions using knowledge of Japanese history. Yet his course focused on “cross-cultural connections, trade, travel, empire, migration and bigger-scale questions, rather than area studies,” Mr. Gilbert told me. His students had not studied Japanese domestic history. “We do it this way because it satisfies what the assessment office wants, not because it addresses concerns that we as a department have.”

Mr. Gilbert became an outspoken assessment skeptic after years of watching the process fail to capture what happens in his classes — and seeing it miss the real reasons students struggle. “Maybe all your students have full-time jobs, but that’s something you can’t fix, even though that’s really the core problem,” he said. “Instead, you’re expected to find some small problem, like students don’t understand historical chronology, so you might add a reading to address that. You’re supposed to make something up every semester, then write up a narrative” explaining your solution to administrators.

Here is the second irony: Learning assessment has not spurred discussion of the deep structural problems that send so many students to college unprepared to succeed. Instead, it lets politicians and accreditors ignore these problems as long as bureaucratic mechanisms appear to be holding someone — usually a professor — accountable for student performance.

All professors could benefit from serious conversations about what is and is not working in their classes. But instead they end up preoccupied with feeding the bureaucratic beast. “It’s a bit like the old Soviet Union. You speak two languages,” said Frank Furedi, an emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Kent in Britain, which has a booming assessment culture. “You do a performance for the sake of the auditors, but in reality, you carry on.”

Yet bureaucratic jargon subtly shapes the expectations of students and teachers alike. On the first day of class, my colleagues and I — especially in the humanities, where professors are perpetually anxious about falling enrollment — find ourselves rattling off the skills our courses offer (“Critical thinking! Clear writing!”), hyping our products like Apple Store clerks.

I teach intellectual history. Of course that includes skills: learning to read a historical source, interpret evidence and build an argument. But cultivating historical consciousness is more than that: It means helping students immerse themselves in a body of knowledge, question assumptions about memory and orient themselves toward current events in a new way.

If we describe college courses as mainly delivery mechanisms for skills to please a future employer, if we imply that history, literature and linguistics are more or less interchangeable “content” that convey the same mental tools, we oversimplify the intellectual complexity that makes a university education worthwhile in the first place. We end up using the language of the capitalist marketplace and speak to our students as customers rather than fellow thinkers. They deserve better.

“When kids come from backgrounds where they’re the first in their families to go to college, we have to take them seriously, and not flatter them and give them third-rate ideas,” Mr. Furedi told me. “They need to be challenged and inspired by the idea of our disciplines.” Assessment culture is dumbing down universities, he said: “One of the horrible things is that many universities think that giving access to nontraditional students means turning a university into a high school. That’s not giving them access to higher education.”

Here is the third irony: The value of universities to a capitalist society depends on their ability to resist capitalism, to carve out space for intellectual endeavors that don’t have obvious metrics or market value.

Consider that holy grail of learning outcomes, critical thinking — what the philosopher John Dewey called the ability “to maintain the state of doubt and to carry on systematic and protracted inquiry.” Teaching it is not a cheap or efficient process. It does not come from trying to educate the most students at the lowest possible cost or from emphasizing short, quantifiable, standardized assignments at the expense of meandering, creative and difficult investigation.

Producing thoughtful, talented graduates is not a matter of focusing on market-ready skills. It’s about giving students an opportunity that most of them will never have again in their lives: the chance for serious exploration of complicated intellectual problems, the gift of time in an institution where curiosity and discovery are the source of meaning.

That’s how we produce the critical thinkers American employers want to hire. And there’s just no app for that.

Molly Worthen (@MollyWorthen) is the author, most recently, of “Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism,” an assistant professor of history at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and a contributing opinion writer.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

What We Don't Want in a President

Once again our Board is engaged in a search for a new President. Once again, students, staff, and faculty wonder what kind of leader will come out of this search. Each group of University constituents has its own idea about what qualifications and experience are important. We all have a clearer idea of what we do not want.

We have wasted two years since the campus felt optimism with the selection of Thomas Calhoun, making this search perhaps the school’s last opportunity to avoid the dustbin of history. To the Board, here is what you must not do this time.

1) Don’t give us some political hack unqualified on any level to run a comprehensive university. The Board did that in 2009 with Wayne Watson, more on the scope of that catastrophe below.
2) Don’t give us someone with any ties to Watson or local politicians.
3) Don’t give us anyone associated with the current university administration.
4) Don’t give us someone with questionable academic credentials.

In 2009, the Board decided to award the presidency to a total academic fraud. The devastation wrought by that decision has put the university at risk for its existence. Continuing to immerse the school in local politics, continuing to use it as a patronage dumping ground, continuing to hire friends, relatives of friends, friends of friends, relatives of employees, and anyone else hired for political reasons will simply replicate the disaster of the Watson years. Here are some visuals from the Chicago State Fact Book that underscore that point.

In fall 2009, the University enrolled 7235 students. That number grew to 7362 the following fall. This past fall, the University enrolled 3101 students. That number has dropped to 2850 in spring 2018.

The enrollment loss from its peak in fall 2010 to fall 2017 amounts to 4261 students, or a 57.8 percent decline. Because the majority of our students are African-American, it seems appropriate to look at their enrollment changes. In fall 2009, CSU enrolled 5670 black students, a number that grew to 5832 in fall 2010. By fall 2017, only 2073 black students attended CSU, a 64.5 percent drop. Black student departures account for 88 percent of our enrollment losses.

Another useful indicator of the complete failure of political hacks as university administrators (along with disastrous media relations, toxic relations with faculty, and a total inability to raise money)is our plunging Freshman graduation rate which will surely expose the University to negative media attention. The figures are in for the first three Watson cohorts: 11 percent for the 2009 group, 13 percent in 2010, and 12 percent in 2011.

Anyone selected must be given free reign to make whatever changes s/he deems necessary to save the school. Of course, in Thomas Calhoun we had the person almost everyone on campus supported. However, he never had a chance with that iteration of the Board. Can that mistake be rectified?

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The "Nationwide" Presidential Search "Profile": Is Everyone in the U.S. Qualified to Apply?

The much ballyhooed “national search” for CSU’s next president has finally commenced. Take a gander at the “profile” currently displayed on the Board’s portion of the University’s web site. Although I found the profile disquieting, please make your own determination about what is happening with this search. Most important, the “profile” is almost devoid of qualifications. Here’s what we’re apparently looking for. A “mission-centered, courageous, accountable, experienced, student-centered, skilled academician; a “truswworthy” “financial strategist” who is “a principled strategic thinker” and “agent of change,” “creative and inspirational, charismatic and thought-provoking.” Not a single actual qualification in all that verbiage or am I missing something? The only actual qualification has to do with fundraising. According to the “profile,” the new president must be a “high energy and tenacious fundraiser with major gift experience.”

No minimum academic qualifications or relevant administrative experience required?
Other than being a “proven scholar” whatever that means, no requirement that the new president be eligible for appointment as a full professor? In fact, the new president need not even be qualified for appointment as an Assistant Professor. Is a GED sufficient, or must the successful applicant have actually completed high school?

Nearly a century ago, William McAdoo purportedly described Warren Harding’s speeches as “an army of pompous phrases moving across the landscape in search of an idea.” With an apology to Mr. McAdoo, this “profile” strikes me as an army of pompous clich├ęs moving across the landscape in search of a qualification. I understand that most job announcements are pieces of fluff, but for comparison, here’s part of a recent search announcement from Northeastern Illinois. You’ll note that a “terminal degree” is a requirement, and that an appointment as full professor is a preferred qualification.

“The president must hold a terminal degree from an accredited institution and demonstrate progressive administrative leadership experience. It is preferred that the president have credentials to be appointed as a professor with tenure.” Here’s the link:;jobs#fpstate=tldetail&htidocid=TPlRZtHEprH0_H7mAAAAAA%3D%3D&htivrt=jobs

Now, here’s an edited version of our “profile”:

The successful candidate for this position will possess the following attributes:
CSU desires a leader with a sense of urgency who will hit the ground running in establishing relationships needed for building CSU; be prepared to roll up their sleeves and dive in to expanding their role in the community.
They must be a proven scholar.
The next president must also be a charismatic and thought-provoking leader.

Here’s the link:

One final thought. Again, the literary quality of our search material is substandard. This information should not look like a hastily written blog post. It should be polished and free of errors. Why can’t we do this? We have a number of distinguished authors on the faculty who are actually capable of writing in English. Why don’t we use them to proof read material designed for the public that reflects on the entire university community? Why do we continually have to look like we simply don’t care? Or worse, that we simply don’t know? I have to admit that I will watch this search unfold with some trepidation.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Ice Station Chicago: The Westside of the Science Building

Today, my classroom had heat, but the west side of the Science Building apparently had little or none. The hallways were (estimate) around 50 degrees. This is what the staff and students are expected to endure? What is being done to address this issue?

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

An apology to my students

I sent the following letter to my students today for not taking it on myself to cancel class since CSU's administration refused to close the campus for the snowstorm yesterday afternoon. As someone who does not fear or hate winter I will never again let my students risk coming to campus when all accounts predict heavy snowfall and treacherous roads. I wish the university had shown some leadership and made the decision to close evening classes. As far as I am concerned, this will never happen again.

February 6, 2018

TO Students in HIST 1200

Thank you to students who did make it to our 6 pm class last night during a terrible snowfall. To those who did not come, I am not holding you responsible for missing this class and remaining at home. The University kept the campus open in spite of the fact that they know many of you come some distance on the north and west sides to attend classes and that the weather reports all afternoon were predicting heavy snowfall and difficult driving during rush hour. O'Hare Airport cancelled 400 flights in anticipation of the storm earlier in the day. I was on campus all afternoon and was surprised when the university did not close early enough for people to get home safely before the snow build up. Governor's State University, our neighbor to the south, closed their campus. The drive home last night that I took to Hyde Park after class took me an hour on slippery snowy roads. I am sure some of the rest of you had similar experiences. I will never allow you to be in that position again. I know some of my colleagues wisely told their students not to come for the evening classes. I will never again trust the university to make that determination

Technically, I am not allowed to cancel classes when the university is open. Since the university has no policy that I can discern that determines when campus will close for bad weather or where it is posted, I suggest that in the future you continue to use your own judgement in determining how safe it is for you to come to campus especially if you drive this winter. If you are in doubt, email or call me by 5 pm. If the campus is not officially closed we will consult together as to whether or not class should be held.

Many apologies for keeping you in class and for your having to drive to and from CSU on such a terrible night.
Dr. Ann Kuzdale

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Paul Vallas's Work for Chicago State

Given Paul Vallas’s recent firing, it seems appropriate to examine the problems he identified and the initiatives he pushed in an attempt to put this university on the right track. In my estimation, he had to be terminated because many of these issues pointed directly at individual failures in the upper administration; failures that have created or exacerbated university dysfunction. He communicated his concerns to the president and to the Board at its December meeting. Of course, this is only my interpretation draw your own conclusions from the following information, which is not exhaustive.

Vallas presented this information as a series of challenges for the University. He then detailed what progress had been made toward overcoming these challenges and offered long-term solutions. Some of the most important include:

Budget Issues and Personnel Decisions.

Challenge: “The State two-year budget impasse combined with CSU budget priorities which essentially gutted the student enrollment and retention office, emptied student financial management services, eliminated the procurement office and decimated University maintenance.”

Current status: University finances have been stabilized and the University should end the year with a healthy cash balance and solid liquidity. . . We reprioritized the FY18 budget to begin restoring investments that were decimated in student recruitment and retention, student financial services, procurement and facilities maintenance.”

Long-term solution: “A long-term budget plan needs to be developed that prioritizes specific investments in specific program areas and initiatives, existing and new, that will increase student enrollment and retention. . . Also, a financial settlement with USDoE must be reached in order to secure their approval to open Satellite Campuses described in many initiatives in this document.”

Off Campus Instructional Sites

Vallas thought the recreation of satellite campuses one of the keys to Chicago State’s potential rebound: “CSU does not currently have US Department of Education (USDoE) authority to establish Satellite Campuses because of past transgressions in improperly opening and operating such entities. Unfortunately, this problem has been largely ignored for a number of years, and if the University is to have satellite locations like most major universities in America, we will need to address this immediately. Working with the USDoE, CSU will need to secure a settlement on an estimated $1.7 million in loans taken out by students enrolled in classes offered at unapproved sites.”

He went on to write: “CSU can increase its enrollment and enhance its prestige by the establishment of Satellite Campuses. We have received invitations to establish centers at no charge at a number of sites and to offer specific programs that would be in great demand.” However, when he was terminated, no substantive action toward resolving the DoE issue had occurred.

Classroom Resources and Infrastructure

He addressed the problem of non-functional or non-existent instructional resources.

Challenge: “There has been little investment technology infrastructure and online systems to enable the University to enhance instruction and to expand University course and program offerings.”

Current status/long-term solution: “The University's plan is to lease its technology infrastructure to quickly transform the University into a technologically modern educational institution. . . . Finalize the contracts and embrace a long-term strategy of maintaining modern technology infrastructure through leasing. Complete the campus modernization plan as it pertains to the deployment of the new [classroom] technology (computers and smart boards) and equipment (printers).”

Student Financial Services

As far as student financial services, Vallas advised the Board that “Student Financial Management Services have been totally dysfunctional due to devastating cuts, the lack of procedures and training and the failure to invest in modern systems. This has resulted in a 47% default rate for Perkins (State university average in Illinois is 6%) and $15 million in in receivables not including Perkins. The large default rate will also result in an audit finding for the past fiscal year.”

Current status: “After much resistance consultants were brought on, all but one pro bono, to assess the CSU system and to develop a comprehensive plan for quickly building a modern Student Financial Management System and implementing a collection strategy to recover unpaid bills. We estimate 20-30% is recoverable.”

Long-term solution: “While delays in approving the selection of a new Director has cost us one top candidate, a new candidate has emerged with exemplary credentials with extensive experience and Banner mastery. Her leadership equipped with the strategic plan that has been developed and the tools secured will ensue the building of a modern Student Financial Management System which will serve our students much better than the disastrous system we currently have.”


Many of the University’s financial problems stem from a non-existent procurement operation. Vallas said this: “Previous financial decision(s) eliminated the Procurement Office and decimated Payables. There has been much resistance to adding restoring resources needed to restore a functioning procurement Office and to build a modern accounts payable system.”

Status: “We have been forced to operate with a part time Procurement Director and one contracts specialist. Our recommended candidate for the Procurement Director's job withdrew following a two-month delay in securing final hiring approval and there have been delays in filling other vacancies. A selection of the new director has now been made, three months late, and there is finally approval to add two additional staff including a second contracts person. The selection of a Chief Legal Counsel for the President will also improve and expedite the process.”

Long-term: “The selection of a highly qualified procurement director and the additional staffing as well as taking full advantage of the new higher State contract threshold and taking full advantage of existing emergency contracting powers will help expedite the contracting process.”


“There is no functioning payables system and basic processes and procedures have been abandoned. Understaffed, with little training and even less accountability, this area is fraught with controversy. There are over 10,000 unreconciled open invoices and vouchers totaling $38 Million dollars recorded on the Banner financial system, of which $27 million dollars show cancel codes indicating the check or invoices were cancel but not closed on the system. In many cases invoices are re-created in duplicate or triplicate and they all are open. This process and the lack of training has created more than $10 million dollars in void and stale dated checks, evidence of duplicative payments and duplicate invoices. These issues constitute a failure to maintain a financial system (Banner) that provides assurance that expenditures are properly recorded and accounted for to prevent inaccurate financial statements.”

Current Status: “There has been resistance to investigating this area with the consultant team selected to help Mary Long improve the system and to thoroughly investigate past practices consistently thwarted. The team has developed a comprehensive strategy to catch up on more recent payables and to have the proper system in place going forward to avoid repeating past practices. The Consultant is researching and reconciling open invoices with large amounts due to Vendors that are clearly duplicate, paid, and incorrect.”

Long-term: “A detailed plan to revamp the Comptroller's Office has been developed and is absolutely essential to creating a modern and effective payables management and accountability system. It must include at the very least the hiring of at least a deputy comptroller with extensive accounting experience. The selection of a new CFO will hopefully provide critical long-term leadership in this area.”

After extensive discussions with institutions and consultation with individual faculty and staff members at CSU, Vallas created a list of 13 “strategic partnerships” that would increase the University’s educational and community presence, and which would potentially increase enrollment and revenue. To the best of my knowledge, none of these partnerships have actually been created, at least 7 have either been blocked or face substantial resistance from various University administrative offices and administrators.

So this is part of Paul Vallas’s body of work over the 9 months he served Chicago State University. This is only an overview, if anyone wants a copy of the document, e-mail me.

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 <>
Date: Fri, Jan 12, 2018 at 2:29 PM
Subject: CSU-STAFF: IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT-Web Time Entry Disciplinary Process

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.