Friday, March 30, 2012

Food Service Workers at CSU Need Your Support

In a previous blog post I mentioned the latest social justice efforts at CSU. Food service workers at CSU who work for Thompson Hospitality want union representation to bargain for wages, working conditions, etc. A community committee has been developed so that the CSU community can learn about this organizing effort and how to lend support to the people who feed us. Concerned community members will meet with workers and others on Monday, April 2 at 4 pm in HWH 100. Please come and show your support for this important cause.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The CSU "brand": it's called patronage--hail to the king!

The University needs to stop trying to censor what the hapless faculty may or may not say to reporters or HLC accreditors that would show our "brand" in a negative light. We could never generate the kind of publicity that our "leadership" has been bringing us. In case you missed the news this evening on CBS Chicago check out the article below. How much longer do we keep saying, "well, it's Chicago State, what do you expect?" Our brand alright.

CHICAGO (CBS) – He could be the king of double-dipping in Chicago.
The Better Government Association says what’s happening with Chicago State University President Wayne Watson proves the public pension system is broken. After drawing a retirement package worth nearly $800,000 when he left the City Colleges, plus a $140,000 annual pension, he’s also drawing a $250,000 salary at Chicago State University — all of it on the taxpayers’ dime.

The BGA discovered Watson walked away from his post as chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago with a huge taxpayer funded compensation package.

“It’s an insult to the taxpayers of Chicago to be stuck with a bill like this, for someone who left a system in ruin,” BGA Executive Director Andy Shaw said.

During the ten years of Watson’s tenure, the graduation rate at City Colleges slid from 13 percent to 7 percent. And, yet, a BGA investigation showed Watson left those hallowed halls with a golden parachute worth nearly $800,000.

The breakdown includes:

-about $500,000 in unused sick days and vacation time;
-a bonus of $124,615;
-and a $112,602 dollar life insurance policy.

It is not clear if Watson has cashed in that life insurance policy.

Plus, Watson is pulling in a taxpayer-funded $140,000 annual pension.

“This would be like giving a performance bonus to the captain of the Titanic for running into the iceberg,” Shaw said.

Ty Fahner, President of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, studies issues such as these. He said pension double-dipping on the public rolls happens too often.

“The fundamental problem is it’s too much of a sweetheart deal,” he said. “If it sounds wrong, it feels wrong, it is wrong. … but not illegal.”

It’s not illegal, and after leaving City Colleges with all that money, Watson parachuted into another publicly-funded job – running Chicago State University.

He’s earning a $250,000 salary there as well, and living in a house on the hill in Beverly, rent-free, paid for by the university.

“It’s like no one in these education institutions has any respect for taxpayers,” Shaw said

A representative for Watson said, “He’s not going to talk to you. He’s not done anything illegal. Dr. Watson is not going on TV to defend his morality,” his representative said.”

The BGA also said Watson is getting a sweet lifetime health plan from the City Colleges.

A spokesperson there said that won’t happen again. It has ended lifetime retiree healthcare for current and future City Colleges leaders.

The City Colleges are also reviewing the sick day policy; and future bonuses will be performance based.

The City Colleges have a new board of trustees than when Watson left in 2009.

A Social Justice Agenda at CSU

This week marks two important Chicago State University events in the labor and food justice movements. On March 26, a food service workers delegation at Chicago State approached Thompson Hospitality management to inform them that more than 90% of food service employees had signed union cards with UNITE HERE. They have asked Thompson management to allow for a vote to become formally affiliated with UNITE HERE and later to negotiate a contract with management. The rest of the campus is invited to assist food service workers in their attempt to secure a decent living wage and a dignified and safe working environment. On Monday, April 2 at 4:00pm students and faculty interested in knowing more about the development of this union and/or who want to support this effort will meet. The location is still to be determined. So stay tuned for details.

At the end of this week on Saturday, March 31, from noon until 4 pm Chicago State faculty, students, staff and administrators are invited to join their neighbors in the first collective workday at the Roseland Community Peace Garden. Bring your garden tools and your garden clothes to the Northwest corner of 104th Street and Wabash. Over the previous three seasons of the RCPG dozens of students have helped make the garden a success. Hundreds of pounds of organically grown vegetables from the RCPG have fed dozens of families who have participated.

These are but two examples of social justice initiatives developed by students, staff and faculty at Chicago State. I invite all my colleagues and your students to get involved in these and other important social justice initiatives. In particular I urge the Faculty Senate and the Chicago State University Chapter of UPI Local 4100 to serve a social justice agenda. Please let us know about other social justice initiatives so we can continue to build the social justice mission at our university.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Quote of the Day

In light of the last few months where directives keep appearing from that one-size- fits-all department known as "Enrollment Management," I can't help but share a quote sent by a friend who thinks our administrators might take a page from Jim Yong Kim, the nominee for president of the World Bank:

"In January, a student went public with graphic accusations of alcohol-soaked hazing in a popular fraternity at Dartmouth. Professors were so horrified by the allegations that within weeks a fourth of the faculty had called on Kim to dissolve single-sex fraternities altogether -- a proposal that constitutes the third rail of academic politics at Dartmouth.
Kim rejected the idea, telling the Globe earlier this month that “the minute you think as an administrator that by fiat you can institute culture change, the only thing you’ll get is mocking and ridicule” -- a result he added would be “well-deserved.”

(, March 2, 2012)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

What in the World Does This Mean?

Take a gander at the latest grand communique from the kingdom of Enrollment Management. Since it makes no sense to me, perhaps someone can explain what all this means.

Office of Marketing & Communication

Office: 773.821.2215 Cook Administration Building Room 129 Fax: 773.821.2730

TO: University Campus

FROM: Mrs. Sabrina Land, Director of Marketing & Communications

DATE: March 22, 2012

RE: Communications and Media Relations Policy

Chicago State University Communications Policy

Chicago State University recognizes the value of consistent, accurate and professional communication to its students, faculty, staff, stakeholders and the media. As such, a communications review and approval process is being implemented to ensure all levels of outreach, both internal and external, underscore CSU’s mission, goals, policies and standards. It is imperative all communications be strategically deployed in a manner that safeguards the reputation, work product and ultimately, the students, of CSU.

This policy applies to the following types of communications events, though they are not limited to these specified instances: media interviews, crisis communications, acquisitions, external newsletters, social media, conference/seminar/roundtable/speaking opportunities/white papers/opinion pieces. In addition, the integrity of the Chicago State University brand must be protected; therefore, all branded content in the form of collateral like brochures, palm cards or the aforementioned newsletters (digital and print) must conform to this policy.

The policy

Communications meeting ALL of the following criteria must have approval from the Office of Enrollment Management, Division of Public Relations and Communications. To ensure this, it is the policy of Chicago State University:

1.1 CSU, staff, faculty and representatives will comply with all laws and regulations regarding public disclosure of material events, financial results and operations;

1.2 CSU will voluntarily disclose any nonmaterial information that is not the subject of a confidentiality agreement and determined by senior management to be in the interest of students, stakeholders and the public;

1.3 All disclosures to the media will be communicated by an authorized CSU media relations officer or designate;

1.4 All CSU media releases, information prepared for stakeholders and the community at large, and all other CSU-related information for public disclosure, must follow the procedures for review and approval outlined herein;

1.5 With regard to external communications, this policy applies to all the CSU employees and, with respect to their reference to CSU, all schools and programs;

1.6 Management will be responsible for ensuring this policy and related procedures are communicated and followed consistently in their operations;

1.7 Noncompliance with this policy may damage CSU’s reputation and/or cause CSU and/or its stakeholders to be prejudiced and to suffer damages and/or losses;

1.8 As with all CSU policies, any noncompliance will be treated as serious and will result in disciplinary action, possible termination and could give rise to civil and/or criminal liability on the part of the employee. It is the responsibility of all employees to familiarize themselves with this policy.

The Directors of Public Relations and Marketing & Communications may be contacted should an employee wish to seek clarity or assistance with this policy.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Feedback and Evaluation

So if you haven’t read the new collective bargaining agreement, also known as the Faculty Contract, you may not have noticed a little change in the student evaluations requirement. Under previous contracts, faculty were required to offer course evaluations to 50% of their students during a semester. Under the new contract 100% of students now must be offered an opportunity to complete a course evaluation. The university administration has directed the Center for Teaching and Research Excellence to implement an automated online system of student course evaluations. It seemed at first blush like two problems are solved by this new reality. First, an automated online system would standardize the course evaluation process across the university, eliminating the hodge podge of evaluations and relieving department administrative staff or the Institutional Research staff of responsibility of compiling data for faculty. Secondly, an automated system will provide a more comprehensive statistical analysis of the data. And of course with any new innovation there is a cost. The cost is embedded in the second problem that was “solved.” Any reliance of statistics to measure the ability or performance of a faculty member is misguided and intellectually lazy. Using a scoring system can open the door to all sorts of administrative mischief. For example, it I get a score of X and my departmental colleagues get a score of X+1 does that disqualify me from teaching that class or from serving on a departmental committee? Will it preclude me from being awarded a PAI or Faculty Excellence award? Will I be required to only teach certain courses because of my score? What I believe underscores the angst expressed by some faculty isn’t in the instrument or the process. I believe it is a fundamental lack of trust on the part of the faculty with the current regime. The incredibly inept College of Arts & Sciences reorganization is but one example of decisions made by administrators with no concept of how universities should be organized. The outcome of bad decisions like this is the erosion of trust. So when an ostensibly good idea, like this course evaluation scheme, is raised it can be attacked because the administration by its actions has laid a substantial groundwork for mistrust.
I believe there is an opportunity here to create some clarity for faculty as well. I believe that precision in language is important because language constructs ideas. Faculty should be evaluated as to their competence, performance etc. The only people who can evaluate faculty are people who are faculty and this should include Chairs and Deans because they should have been faculty and be prepared to return to faculty. All others may have opinions and those opinions should hold no weight. Evaluations connote a consequence. Performance evaluations connote some consequence for the person being evaluated. Students should never evaluate faculty. They should provide feedback to faculty about their experience. Feedback does not connote a consequence. Evaluation should be viewed differently from feedback. People with expertise evaluate and all others provide feedback. Maybe it is time to differentiate between the two and have the Departmental Application of Criteria reflect that. Students giving feedback should be done for the benefit of the faculty member improving his or her course. Peer and chair evaluations should also be done for the benefit of the faculty member and to create a consequence in the normal personnel process. It is up to faculty to eliminate the intellectual laziness that has pervaded our personnel process for years. Bring the substantial collective intellect to bear and address this important issue. Don’t get sidetracked by “killing the messenger” who brought the instrument. Focus on the underlying issue of what is important to faculty and don’t allow yourselves to get buffaloed by an administration that has routinely dismissed our centrality.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Reminders & Stuff & who is that sad little boy on the billboard?

All quiet on the CSU front?
Not necessarily. You know there's always something afoot--meetings or meetings cancelled in favor of other meetings... The Crisis Clinic on fire, floating down the river and over a cliff (remember Boynton's cartoon image of this?)

First things first. The CSU Board of Trustees is meeting on Friday, March 9th. It is not a bad thing to attend to see the CSU operation in action. It certainly won't be as exciting as it must have been today at the emergency meeting of the Trustees of our big sister school U of I Champagne-Urbana. Could those Trustees have met so quickly because of their faculty's vote of no confidence in its president? I've heard it said that boards don't take those things seriously (pesky faculty). At any rate, U of I is a much bigger fish to fry in the state's eyes than other places--remember how Gov Quinn didn't dare to interfere in a certain south side school's issues? So who knows. Will we ever see the end of this ILL state's universities as patronage pits in our lifetime? Senior colleagues and now retired faculty laugh at the question. The Don Quixote in me hopes.

On Friday our trustees will certainly hear about our many audit findings--apparently the last Pres-Faculty/Staff Town hall last week brought up this issue and those present were not subjected to yet another powerpoint lecture/hectoring on the mission and vision and HLC stuff. What does a second year of many audit findings mean for us? Did anyone answer that question? Will the Trustees? This Trustees meeting will be a historic occasion as well since a few faculty will be meeting with the Board somewhat less formally at lunch rather than in front of microphones during public comment--an excellent step thanks to the efforts of the current board and faculty senate presidents. There are many interested students and I expect they will be showing up as well as they have been the last few meetings.

On other fronts--while standing on the corner of Roosevelt Rd and Wabash I glanced up to see a ginormous billboard on the side of a building with the face of a very young black child staring at me with penetratingly scared, sad eyes. I thought it was an ad for "Save the Children" or possibly Uniceff. I was surprised to find it was for Chicago State--in particular masters programs in nursing and public health. The image is also flashing on our website. Cute kid, but the message confuses me--does anyone else understand what it is supposed to mean?

And with all this I think the time is right for us to have that conversation we never got to have in 2009 when another Board of Trustees refused to converse with its faculty over what it is a university, our university, should be. A few of my colleagues have been weighing in on this lately and the time may be right for a campus-wide discussion --especially in light of certain statements made on the GOP campaign trail. It would be nice to tell the HLC (assuming they are not just part of the patronage pit process) that the constituencies on campus have genuinely shared ideas and communicate regularly. We'll see...