Friday, October 30, 2015

I'm Just Curious About.....

So I’m curious when did the Chief of Police turn into the chief hall monitor? To wit, at the recent Town Hall meeting on Tuesday, the Chief directed workers in her supervisory chain to leave the town hall meeting before it was over or possibly before they began to ask unpleasant questions of the administration. The high school like environment created by the failed regime is clearly exemplified by this act. The paternalistic approach in the treatment of adults is to be expected.  However, it seems a bit inconsistent for the administration to invite staff to an ostensibly important town hall meeting only to abruptly uninvite them.In the more than two decades of being here, I have never seen such a capricious use of managerial authority and such a failure in personal leadership as exhibited by the new chief of police. Having no experience in a university environment, the chief has demonstrated a total lack of situational and environmental awareness.
It is also troubling that someone with only a background in law enforcement has responsibility for an enterprise as complex and important as the physical facilities of a university. Typically that role is held by an engineer, architect or planner. They have the knowledge and experience to manage complex facilities issues. It would be like putting me in charge of the police department. I have never been a certified officer so it would be inappropriate to hold such a position. Why does this administration believe that someone with no experience in an area should be put in charge o that area. It is all very curious indeed.
I am also curious about yet another interim vice president being appointed in the quickening twilight of this regime. Did the administration bring him in to cover up financial shenanigans prior to Dr. Calhoun arriving on campus? Or should we refer to the new interim as “The Miner” Is he here digging up things previously buried so that the new president has a clear accounting of both dollars and processes? Is The Miner here asking hard questions of other senior administrators?
I would hope that Dr. Calhoun is extended the courtesy of a full accounting of the past six years especially in the areas identified in audit reports and is given the opportunity to both change the culture and fix the problems of a dysfunctional culture at the same time.
Finally, I am curious why the president and the provost continue their ridiculous “listening tour.” The only thing I would need to hear from either of them is within how many days of January 1st, 2016 are they going to be permanently gone from this campus. There is nothing else I need to hear or say. So here’s an idea; stop the charade! No one here wants to hear anything else you have to say. You have failed, utterly and now it is time for you to leave and let the process of progress and advancement begin.
As of this writing it is only 62 days until January 1st, 2016. Only 62 days until the university can begin its long night’s journey into day.

Monday, October 26, 2015

A Fine Mess for the New President to Clean Up

As the new president of Chicago State prepares to assume his duties on January 1, 2016, what does he inherit? Looking back at the last several years, it is possible to assess the legacy of the outgoing administration. Obviously, our enrollment is down to levels not seen at the school since before the mid-1960s. The Chicago State web site is touting the new foundation, which has apparently received its 501(c)(3) tax status. Its efficacy is yet to be determined. While faculty ranks have been reduced, the administration is fairly bursting with high-salaried administrators who have produced a consistent track record of failure. Recently, the administration filled several positions at the Vice President and Director levels.

The school’s reputation has deteriorated since the embarrassing Elnora Daniel vacated the premises in 2008 (actually 2007, since she had a sabbatical year courtesy of our Board of Trustees). One of the contributing factors to that decline in our public image has been the number of lawsuits currently wending their ways through the courts. In particular, the suits by James Crowley, Glenn Meeks, and LaShondra Peebles have already cost the university dearly. Anyone who reads this forum regularly is familiar with the now better than $4 million award to James Crowley. Although the Meeks and Peebles matters remain in litigation, the cost to the university has already been substantial. The legal services required to defend various administrators have grown to nearly $600,000, with no end currently in sight.

In the past two fiscal years, the total contract legal expenses at Chicago State have exceeded $1.16 million. Altogether since January 1, 2010, the Chicago State administration has spent a total of $1.83 million for contract legal services, with $1.7 million going to 15 separate law firms and one contract employee with previous service as Chicago State’s General Counsel, Sonja Clayton-Pederson (now Sonja Armstrong). The yearly legal expenses for these firms/person look like this:

Fiscal 2010—$48,551.20; Fiscal 2011—130,552.50; Fiscal 2012—$179,479.80; Fiscal 2013—$182,978.60; Fiscal 2014—$758,500.40; Fiscal 2015—$405,667.87.

The firms making the most money from Chicago State include: Pugh, Jones & Johnson (defended the administration in the Crowley case)—$279,969.10; Fisher-Phillips (defense attorneys of record against both Meeks and Peebles)—$210,175.90; Franczek-Radalet (a firm the university has not used since 2013—$208,634.80; and $165,430 for former employee Sonja Armstrong. In addition, the administration has an open contract for $100,000 with Smith Amundsen, according to Circuit Court records, the firm that will represent the university in the Crowley appeal, and another open contract for $200,000 for the Stephen Stern law firm. According to the university, no record of either that contract or any invoice exists.

These legal fees are going to increase dramatically since neither the Meeks suit nor the Peebles suit has gone to trial. How much will these cases ultimately cost Chicago State? Right now, the price tag for these various matters exceeds $4.5 million. If either Meeks or Peebles wins a judgement against the university, the damages are likely to be extensive. Finally, the attorney fees for plaintiffs’ attorneys are usually part of any award. How much will those be? Obviously, there are no guarantees in court, but given the university’s track record in litigation, there seems little reason to think the monetary bleeding will stop soon. Altogether, just these three cases could cost Chicago State somewhere around $10 million. Quite a gift from the current administration to our new president.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Congratulations to Another CSU Alumnus

So I was paging through my emails and got the Official Use Only version of the document below. It is the press release from the Cook County Department of Homeland Security. Their long serving director has stepped down and County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has appointed a new director, Ernest Brown, to head the agency. With a long career in public safety I was especially gratified to discover that Mr. Brown is a graduate of CSU from my department. I am hopeful under the incoming administration there will be a heightened focus on emergency management both as an academic endeavor and a practical application. The outgoing regime has been remarkably inept in this area highlighting its status as a kakistocracy (I love of the first order. 
Congratulations to Mr. Ernest Brown, CSU alum and new director of the Cook County Department of Homeland Security. 


Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Big Difference Between 2009 and 2015: Chicago State's Board Selects a New President

“It is with heavy heart that we will say goodbye to [our departing president].. . Our new president will have to utilize all those talents as he comes in to a situation that is not ideal.” Nikki Zollar, Anthony Young, October 8, 2015.

Some random thoughts on last Thursday’s selection: First, I found striking the difference between the university community’s response to Thomas Calhoun’s selection as president in 2015 and the 2009 fiasco. Enthusiasm and optimism seemed to reign last Thursday, a sharp contrast with the feelings of anger and betrayal that marked the 2009 search process.

Second, the university community clearly favored Thomas Calhoun over the two other finalists. Whether or not one finds the process itself satisfactory, clearly this time the Board listened to the various constituencies at Chicago State and chose accordingly. In my estimation, the almost uniformly positive response to Calhoun’s selection reflects the belief of students, staff and faculty that the Board, rather than ramming an unpopular candidate down our throats, took seriously our concerns.

Third, we have a tremendous amount of work ahead of us to undo the damage done the past six years. Most important, several persons most responsible for our school’s decline remain in key administrative positions. The toxic administrative culture these persons have created must be eradicated in order for the university to realize what all of us hope will be a new beginning here at Chicago State. For the past several months, the administration has basically ground to a halt, failing to meet even their most basic responsibilities (like paying people their earnings for instance). The propensity for micro-management and concentration of power into one central location we have watched unfold since 2009 has not served us well. The alternative seems simple: empower various constituencies in a decentralized and mutually supportive structure in which the expertise of different persons or groups is utilized for the well-being of the entire university. This school must use its resources to the fullest.

We must never again witness the kind of behavior that brought us this:

(Page 81 of our 2015 Ethics Training).

Can we do this? I believe so. January 1 cannot come soon enough.

Listen to the tide slowly turning
Wash all our heartaches away
We're part of the fire that is burning
And from the ashes we can build another day

Moody Blues “The Story in Your Eyes” 1971

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Please Sign the Petition to Save Illinois' Public Universities

To any of our readers outside the university who reside in Illinois. Please take a moment to sign the petition to save public education in Illinois. The petition is available here: Also, please share the petition with your friends on facebook or other social media sites. Several state universities are facing the very real prospect of an impending shutdown if the posturing and preening Illinois politicians--who will be paid whether the state has a budget or not--continue to hold hundreds of thousands of students, state and university employees hostage. Since there has been little or no press coverage of the damage being done to the Illinois public higher education system, it is imperative that we make our voices heard.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

On January 1, 2016, Chicago State's New President Takes Office

Most important from the perspective of the staff, faculty and students at Chicago State, Thomas Calhoun's contract begins on January 1, 2016 (as reported in the Chicago Tribune).

Thomas J. Calhoun is Selected as Chicago State's New President

Blogging live from the Board meeting: After three hours in executive session the Board is finally back. Nikki Zollar thanks the search participants. It's Thomas J. Calhoun. The Board votes unanimously to hire Thomas J. Calhoun. Chicago State has a new president.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Here We Go: Tomorrow New Prez Announcement by the BOT

Tomorrow the Board will hold a special meeting to, among other things, announce the new CSU president. See the agenda. 

Special Board of Trustees Meeting
Full Board Meeting
Academic Library, Auditorium Room 415
Thursday, October 8, 2015
8:30 a.m.

1. Call to Order…….......…………..…………..Trustee Anthony L. Young

2. Roll Call……………………………………… Ms. Bonnie Phillips
3. Verification of Meeting Notice…………… …Ms. Bonnie Phillips

4. Acknowledgement of President Search Committee…Trustee Anthony L. Young

5. Reports
  a. Academic and Student Affairs…………….Trustee James Joyce
     1. Action Items
          a. Partnerships to STEP-UP in Health Care Resolution.…Dr. Angela Henderson
          b. The Center for STEM Education & Research at Chicago State University Resolution...Dr. Angela Henderson

6. Recess into Executive Session Pursuant to The Illinois Open Meetings Act
         a. Employment Matters
         b. Legal Matters

7. Reconvene into Open Session
    1. Action Item
        a. Presidential Contract …………………Mr. Patrick Cage, Esq.

8. Introduction of New President………………Trustee Anthony L. Young

9. Other Matters
       a. Public and Employee Comments

10. Adjournment

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Prepare for the Unthinkable

So I was catching up on news and one item caught my eye. I read this past Sunday that the FBI’s Philadelphia field office was warning colleges and universities in the city to be vigilant in light of the attack at the Oregon college last week. Apparently, monitoring of social media revealed a possible threat to higher education institutions in the city. Today Community College of Philadelphia was put on lock down as police searched for a possible gunman on campus. No suspects were found and no injuries were reported. This is especially troubling as urban environments provide much more cover for armed attackers to escape. The campus lock down in Philadelphia appears by all reports to have gone well.
That had me thinking, what would happen at CSU if there were a need to lock down the campus while an investigation or sweep were conducted? I am sure that law enforcement would manage well enough but what about the few thousand students, staff and faculty on campus who have never received any training or participated in any exercises to test the readiness for such an event. 
I have taught both graduate and undergraduate courses in Homeland Security and Emergency Management. I have quite a bit of training in this area and I am concerned at the lack of readiness on the part of the campus given the number of active shooter incidents in the past ten years at colleges and universities across the country. And it isn’t as if this campus is in the midst of a joyous renaissance. Morale is virtually non-existent and discontent is probably the highest I have witnessed in 24 years. These factors coupled with an administration that is clearly out of its depth provide the conditions for the perfect storm of mishandling a crisis of the kind witnessed in Oregon last week. I personally have spoken for years to the Board of Trustees meetings about the university’s lack of preparedness and have been ignored even though I possess the knowledge, skills and experience to speak authoritatively on the matter.  University administrators may imitate ostriches as much as they want but burying their heads in the sand does not prevent incidents or prepare institutions for these all too common occurrences.
As a vested member of this university, I am thankful for every day that passes without incident as we move closer to the end of the current regime. It is my fervent hope that a calamitous misfortune is not delivered to this campus. The university doesn’t deserve it and is clearly not prepared for it.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Remember the Maria Moore Lawsuit at City Colleges?: Here's How Much Watson's Behavior Cost the Taxpayers of Chicago

As has been chronicled on this blog, the James Crowley case is hardly the first instance of costly managerial misconduct by Wayne Watson. Some time ago, I speculated on the damages awarded to Maria Moore in her lawsuit against Watson for unlawful firing, harrassment and sundry other allegations. Now thanks to the miracle of FOIA (and the responsiveness of an institution other than Chicago State), it is possible to determine exactly how much Watson’s malfeasance cost the City Colleges.

First, Moore actually filed her lawsuit after Watson had become president of Chicago State. Second, while there is a confidentiality agreement in the settlement, it is not binding on parties not involved in the suit. Third, settlement agreements involving public agencies are public information. I’ve included a copy of the memorandum I received from City Colleges to insure that the vituperative occupant of Admin 313 knows that this information came through a request under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.

Here’s the damage: total amount of the settlement cost the City Colleges (not Watson, of course), $1,175,000, broken down as follows:

To Maria Moore for lost wages: $252,014.
To Maria Moore for damages: $468,026.
To Robin Potter and Associates (attorneys for Maria Moore) for legal fees: $329,163.56
To John P. DeRose and Associates (attorneys for Maria Moore) for legal fees: $125, 796.44.

Just to emphasize, the City Colleges settled this lawsuit. If it had gone to trial, the City Colleges would most likely have lost with the resulting damages close to James Crowley territory. However, the City Colleges Board of Trustees recognized a loser when they saw one and did the responsible thing. Compare that to our own Board throwing more money down the rathole in order to appeal the Crowley verdict.

If you are counting, Wayne Watson has cost the taxpayers of Cook County at least $1,175,000 and has the taxpayers of Illinois on the hook for an additional $4,000,000 in the Crowley case. When will the Board put an end to this madness?

Here are the relevant documents:

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Lie Back and Think of England. The failure is more than statistics

 One would think that the dispassionate statistics piling up semester after semester would have convinced our legislators and even the local pols, Trustees, and our faculty colleagues on campus that something should have been done about the Watson administration long before the Fall of 2015. Oh wait, I guess Gary Rozier’s board of Trustees thought to do so and had Watson part way out the door in 2013, but Gov Quinn overrode them and kept Watson in via changing the CSU board appointees. The current Board of Trustees has unswervingly supported Watson in spite of the statistics, in spite of the votes of no confidence, in spite of the Cassandras bitching at them at board meeting after board meeting.

But Watson has not only been propped up by his buddy Anthony Young and a complicit Board of Trustees. They have been aided by the complacency of administrators and faculty who buried their heads in the sand as Watson meted out affront after affront to faculty roles in hiring, curriculum, and the accepted practices of university administration. Where was the concern when it became clear after Watson’s year I that administrative positions would be permanent interims, that good people would be replaced in a revolving door of jobs for FOW [friends of Wayne] with 6-figure salaries—all across campus? Watson and his crony team were given a wide berth by many on campus who privately criticized but would not stick their necks out publicly. You heard the murmuring across campus from maintenance workers, to secretaries to administrative assistants who feared to speak out, feared retaliation. Why did “we” who have the privilege of tenure fail to come forward?

Failure is more than statistical. 

Now EVERYONE on campus is jumping up and down in department meetings and college meetings about what "we" can do to solve the enrollment crisis. Where have you been for the past 3, 4, 5 years? How did “we” let it get to this point in the first place?

I think I had my answer at my college’s most recent “all college” meeting. 

Since everyone knows (rather, hopes) Watson is out of power perhaps as early as January, there was from my hearing a rather smug tone to the view expressed and applauded that administrations at CSU come and go but we faculty have only to endure them for 5-7 years. They will be gone, we will remain, so just keep doing all the good things we do... 

There it was: complacency and disengagement from university governance. 

The words at that meeting reminded me of the line Edwardian mothers supposedly gave to fearful virginal daughters on the eve of their wedding night: just “lie back and think of England.”  

Pretty much sums it up at CSU.

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Anatomy of an Enrollment Disaster: Watson Through the Years at Chicago State

As a review, here are the Chicago State enrollment numbers since fall 2010:

Fall 2010: 7362
Spring 2011: 7165
Fall 2011: 6882
Spring 2012: 6262
Fall 2012: 6107
Spring 2013: 5821
Fall 2013: 5701
Spring 2014: 5297
Fall 2014: 5211
Spring 2015: 4818
Fall 2015: 4767

That my friends, is what failure looks like.

"You Know You're At CSU When..." continued

So loyal readers, another missive sent forth from the administration has reached the hands of several employees and created confusion, consternation and continued mistrust. To wit, the following.
The Parking Department is now in the business of meting out discipline to employees who have failed to purchase a parking decal for the current academic year. Public bodies sometimes face what economists call a "free rider" problem when not everyone contributes to a good that everyone has access to. For example, public radio is available to anyone who has a radio, yet not everyone who listens contributes to cover the cost of that good. That is a "free rider" problem. At the university, parking is available to anyone with a car, truck or motorcycle. There is an expectation that those using that good will pay for it through the purchase of a parking decal. I, for one, am supportive of this policy to reduce the "free rider" problem associated with provision of a good. Parking decal fees should cover the cost of maintaining that good. There is a bit of a problem here though. This letter went to every employee who did not purchase a vehicle sticker. Yes, loyal readers, you guessed it. Not every employee either has a vehicle or uses that vehicle to come to work. Surprisingly some employees even use public transportation. (Perish the thought of being socially responsible.) Some employees don't own vehicles thus they wouldn't have purchased a parking decal. 
The second glaring problem is that the parking department is not empowered to mete out discipline to employees. I would imagine the next step for the Parking Department would be conducting performance evaluations for university employees and reprimanding them if they aren't up to snuff. The University Professionals of Illinois Local 4100, the faculty and academic staff union, has provisions in its collective bargaining agreement that would be violated by this "policy." It also violates the principles of innocent until proven guilty and the protections afforded by due process. Because this communication involves personnel processes, I assume it would have been vetted by the Chief of Police, and the Office of Labor & Legal Affairs after being reviewed by the Human Resources department. Maybe it was. Regardless, the letter went out, reviewed or not and it is another example of CSU ineptness under the Watson regime.
The third problem with this letter is that it is not predicated on any data. Apparently the Parking Department used a list of university employees and cross-referenced it against decal purchasers to conclude that if the employee had not purchased a decal there was obviously misconduct in need of discipline necessary. I suspect that the creator of this policy is not aware of the process of eliminating alternative explanations. I know, that's something us academics do.
Fortunately the UPI Chapter President, responded quickly to this correspondence.

I am obviously sympathetic to the issue of the "free rider" problem faced by the Parking Department and this is another example of how problems go unsolved or exacerbated by the absence of shared governance at the institution. The Faculty Senate has a Buildings & Grounds committee that has parking as part of its portfolio. I am sure brief discussion with that committee would have yielded some viable alternatives. I am sure my faculty colleagues would have required that the Parking Department provide some data to contextualize the challenge though. I am sure that an email sent to me as the Faculty Senate President would have been a more helpful in resolving this issue. I am sure a phone call to the UPI Chapter President would have been a productive use of time to address the problem. This communication is further evidence of the collapse of this university. This administration has resolutely refused to constructively engage faculty since its arrival. Watson have considered their inane 'listening tours' faculty engagement and that behavior has led to this. And this quite frankly makes the university look like a yellow Volkswagen Beetle with 15 red nosed, big shoed, squirty flower wearing clowns piling out of it. 
So where is the accountability from the Police Chief, the Parking Director, the Human Resources Director, and the General Counsel. When are these six figure administrators going to step up and say they dropped the ball on this. More importantly, when is Wayne Watson going to act like a president and accept his culpability for the continuing disaster that is Chicago State University.
Mercifully this failure is coming to an end with the exit of Watson Though that exit can't come soon enough.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

A Significant Upgrade

So I have had some time to reflect on the three presidential candidates and their suitability for that job in this place. I have been asked by several people, inside and outside of the university, who I would hire and I had to spend some time explaining the why behind the who. I see the university almost as a professional sports team. It has several pressing needs but only one draft pick this season. If we are drafting (hiring) for need let’s look at the needs filled by the respective candidates.
The first candidate, Dennis Shields, is a serving executive with five years of experience. He is the kind of hire who can hit the ground running because he knows the questions to ask and the data to look for. He seems to know what needs to happen and would bring an experienced hand to the job. He would be a serviceable player who could step in and contribute consistently to the team for a few seasons. It has yet to be determined if he would improve over time and take the franchise to its ultimate goal. The downside is that he is not a traditional academic. As the academic side of the house has been neglected, nee attacked, for the past six years, it would be refreshing for faculty to have an advocate in the president’s office, instead of someone who has no idea of the faculty’s role in the academic enterprise. The second downside is that Mr. Shields isn’t from Illinois and doesn’t appear to have the connections necessary to get things done the “Illinois Way.” I have no doubt he could build those political and social networks over time but the question becomes will he have the time to do that.
The second candidate, Jerry Blakemore, is a bit of a dark horse. He has many of the nice to have qualifications for a university president. In a football draft analogy, he would be an All-Pro left tackle. The job of the left tackle is to protect the quarterback. He is not a play maker, doesn’t make the most money but has one of the most important jobs. In the case of the university he protects the academic enterprise of faculty and students, from onrushing opponents. Blakemore seems very adept at navigating the rough and tumble of Illinois politics and as this administration has made the university more of a soft target, that protection is critical to the long term viability of the institution. His downside is that he is not an academician. As the General Counsel at NIU he has provided counsel to the board and to the administration on a number of issues yet has no really connection to faculty or the faculty experience. The upside of that downside is that he appears to realize what he doesn’t know and would hire a provost that is acceptable to the faculty and expect that person to provide the sorely needed leadership that is currently absent.
The third candidate, Thomas Calhoun, could provide the warm fuzzy feeling of wanting to come to work at a place that is not being systematically destroyed by incompetence. His background as a clergyman was on full display as he appealed to emotional decision making during his visit to campus. He is the wide receiver with blinding speed who makes spectacular catches that make the fans cheer. Yet he is only targeted five times per game, unlike that left tackle who plays every offensive snap.  Having some roots and connections in the city gives him an advantage over Mr. Shields, but is far behind the type of political experience that Mr. Blakemore has. Like the other candidates his is not a traditional academician and has spent time in secondary education as well. I can imagine that he would fulfill a need for healing at the university that has been unnecessarily damaged over the past six years. That leadership is largely symbolic and may not lead to increases in enrollment, grant funding, or development. Charismatic leaders serve particular purposes but in the case of this university at this time, is a charismatic leader who makes one feel good the solution to the plethora of ills plaguing the university?
That leads me to conclude that Blakemore is my first choice, followed by Shields and Calhoun. They are all capable and seemingly would be a significant upgrade over the failure that we have now. Yet in filling different needs, it seems protecting the university from the storm that is Illinois politics is more important than a charismatic president. The recent closure of buildings due to the plumbing emergency is just one area where a more locally experienced president might prevail in getting some relief from the state for emergencies like that one.
I would hope that the Board would look to need and commit to their fiduciary obligations in selecting the next president and not abdicate citing other factors outside of their own judgment. I suspect in a week or so we will see what the Board values both in the next president and in the future of the university. I say next week only by wild guess as their communication about the presidential search process has been appallingly bad.
As one of my colleagues whispered to me recently, “when is this going to end?” I assured them it has to be soon. Stay tuned loyal readers and keep your fingers crossed.