Saturday, July 30, 2016

Why Are They Fleeing?

So I just read this article in Crain's and it occurred to me, why would a university with a majority female population want to lose female faculty in the sciences and then it struck me, because this Watson picked residual administration has no idea what it's doing or if it does should be sent away immediately for its incompetence. How much is a replacement physicist going to cost or is STEM not important anymore? The negative press here is completely self inflicted by this inept administration. When is this Henderson led farce going to be over?

Friday, July 29, 2016

Program Needs? Who Gives a Damn, Dump the Faculty, Screw the Students

Over the past two weeks, six of the nine non-recalled faculty made a case for their recall to the Provost and Contract Administrator. Everyone had a compelling rationale for their recall, including faculty members who pointed out that their programs would be eviscerated by the staff reductions, and other faculty who had skills enabling them to teach in other disciplines. The answer from the administration? A resounding fuck you to both the faculty and the students who will be damaged by these layoffs.

Last evening, the Provost’s Office sent notifications to five of the six faculty members (the letter to the sixth was inexplicably not attached to the e-mail). Three were identical in their denial of the requests for recall, while two others offered the “possibility” of “a bargaining unit as a full-time lecturer.” By the letter’s conclusion, this “possibility” had deteriorated into a “full- or part-time lecturer opportunity.” What a great opportunity! Thank you so much, you magnanimous administrators!

Here are the letters:

Can you say union-busting? Can you say attack on tenure?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

These Are Real People: The Human Cost of Our Administrative Folly

Just a few minutes ago, I received an e-mail from one of the students who graduated from our program this year. He addressed it to me and 10 other persons and he thanked us all for what we did for him, an extremely nice gesture. Then I looked at all the addressees and noticed that of the 11 persons to whom the e-mail went, 5 are no longer here. At least 3 of these 5 have been laid off. Of course, almost all of the high-priced, worthless administrators who put us in this position remain safely ensconced in their jobs and are continuing to damage the university. We keep the excess baggage while we jettison the people who really make a difference in our students' lives. Despicable.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Chicago State's Faculty and Staff Almost Unanimously Support President Calhoun. Does the Board Plan to Listen?

Some of you may remember the "no confidence" vote in Angela Henderson our union took in December. The final tally in that one was 142-4 (with 4 abstentions) expressing no confidence in the Provost. In response, the Chicago State Board did nothing. However, when they Board declared "financial exigency" in February, they saw fit to create a "Management Action Committee" with four persons, including the President, Provost, Interim Vice President of Administration and Finance, and the Associate Vice President of Human Resources. Obviously an attempt to strip the new President of the power to make important personnel (and other) decisions at the University, this ridiculous committee has mucked things up for the past five-plus months. It's hard to imagine one of the Watson cronies on that committee voting for their own termination.

Now in late July, we are still afflicted with "financial exigency" and are still suffering the deleterious effects of management by committee. This Monday at 10am, the Board is meeting downtown, at 150 N. Wacker Dr., Suite 800, to discuss "employment matters." Why the meeting off-campus? What sort of employment matters might they be discussing? I have no evidence to suggest that President Calhoun is one of the "employment matters" the Board plans to discuss. However, as many of you know, I've been doing a survey of our members to gauge the support for President Calhoun among the faculty and staff of UPI 4100. The survey asks two simple questions, do respondents believe President Calhoun has the ability to run this university? do respondents want the Board to give him the authority to do the job of President, in effect, enabling him to do the job they hired him to do? Here are the current results of that survey:

On Question #1, there are 147 "yes" votes, 4 "no" votes, 2 "don't know" votes, and 1 abstention. That's 97.4 percent support for President Calhoun.
On Question #2, there are 148 "yes" votes, 4 "no" votes, 1 "don't know" vote, and 1 abstention. Again, that's a 97.4 vote in support of the President.

Already, 79 percent of Chicago State's tenured faculty have voted. The tally? On question #1, it's 95 "yes," 1 "no," 1 "don't know," and 1 abstention, 99.0 percent in favor of the President. On Question #2, it's 96 "yes," 1 "no," and 1 abstention, again 99.0 percent in favor of the President. So overall, 97.4 percent of Chicago State's unionized faculty and staff have confidence in President Calhoun, while 99 percent of our tenured faculty feel likewise.

Based on the survey results, this morning, I sent this letter to the Board:

July 21, 2016

Mr. Anthony Young, Chairman
Chicago State University Board of Trustees

Dear Mr. Young and Chicago State University Board Members:

Just over one week ago, I again asked that you lift the state of “financial exigency” that has been so damaging to the University. In my letter, I provided several reasons for my request. To date, you have not seen fit to do me the courtesy of responding. I find your silence disappointing, but not surprising. For the past several years, the Board’s view of the Chicago State faculty—
particularly those faculty who have been vocal about their disaffection with the way the University operated—seemed to be that we are 100 percent wrong, 100 percent of the time. It appears that dictum applies to the current situation at the University, a never-ending state of “financial exigency” and ineffective executive governance purportedly by a committee of four.

Dissent and disagreement are common themes in the academy. They can be productive if avenues exist to define and discuss issues of importance to various constituencies. Watching the Board’s operation for the past few years, I have noted that administrative voices have been prominently featured, while staff, student, and faculty voices are either marginalized or ignored. Somehow, any deviation from administrative orthodoxy has been viewed as an existential threat to the University. Here, I could cite personal experience. Instead, I will simply say that arguments that I desire to destroy or “take over” the University are beyond irrational. I have strong objections to the way this University has been governed, and I possess the evidence to support my assertions. However, all I want is for the University to be run like a university, not like a third-rate political ward. The state’s taxpayers, our students and staff deserve nothing less.

At this point, I am the elected representative of faculty and staff organized in UPI Local 4100. In this capacity, I advocate for the interests of better than 170 employees, or nearly one-third of Chicago State’s current workforce. In the spirit of moving this university along, I am advising the Board of the faculty and staff consensus on several current issues affecting the University. My intent here is to be clear and unambiguous.

• “Financial Exigency” must be lifted as soon as possible. I have already requested this, there is no necessity to revisit this topic at this time. The main concern among our members is the university’s use of “Financial Exigency” as a pretext to deny contractual rights that accrue to our laid-off faculty members.
• The “Management Action Committee” must be eliminated immediately. Basic management principles require that authority and responsibility be equal, that proper authority must be delegated to meet managerial responsibilities. In January, the Board hired President Calhoun and almost immediately stripped him of the authority to make decisions by funneling all important matters through the Management Action Committee. The President must at once be given authority commensurate with his responsibilities. The consensus among our members is that the Management Action Committee has been a disaster. Dr. Calhoun has had virtually no opportunity to perform his Presidential duties and our members are concerned that the Board may attempt to judge his performance against a standard he has had no chance to achieve. Without matching authority and responsibility, there can be no accountability.
• The members of UPI Local 4100 overwhelmingly support President Calhoun. You may recall in December, I advised you of a “no confidence” resolution against the current University Provost, Angela Henderson. The Board did not respond to that almost unanimous (142-4 with 4 abstentions) expression of no confidence in the Provost to perform her duties. In dramatic contrast, a recent referendum on President Calhoun resulted in virtually unanimous support (139-3 or 97.9 percent) for his ability to do the job as Chicago State President as well as a similarly strong show of support for the Board giving him the authority to do his job (140-3 or 97.9 percent).
• For tenured faculty, in contrast to the almost unanimous opposition to the Provost, support for the President is near unanimous. In December, 69 percent of the tenured faculty cast ballots, with 96.6 percent (86-3) expressing no confidence in the Provost. The referendum on President Calhoun has drawn votes from 74.2 percent of the tenured faculty. Tenured faculty support President Calhoun by a margin of 89-1, or 98.9 percent; support for elimination of the Management Action Committee and for the Board giving President Calhoun proper authority to do his job stands at 90-1, or 98.9 percent. Clearly, this referendum demonstrates the falsity of the “handful of disgruntled faculty” argument. Tenured faculty across every segment and every demographic of the university fully support the President.

I realize that this situation has exposed all of us to unprecedented challenges. Unfortunately, I do not see either the University or the Board utilizing all its assets in meaningful ways. The faculty and staff at this University are a tremendous untapped resource, and I urge you to include us as substantive participants in discussions about ways to save this school. I can assure you there will be spirited disagreements, but those should not deter us from doing the hard work ahead. The faculty and staff of Chicago State believe wholeheartedly that the Board made exactly the right choice in President Thomas J. Calhoun. He deserves our support. He deserves your support. Most important, for the good of our school and its students, he deserves the opportunity to do the job the Board hired him to do.

Yours truly,

Robert E. Bionaz, Ph.D.
President Chicago State University Chapter
University Professionals of Illinois Local 4100

In the lamentable recent history of this institution, the Board has consistently failed to take seriously faculty concerns, preferring to chalk any dissent up to a "few disgruntled faculty members," The recent survey demonstrates the widespread and nearly unanimous support for the President. The Board had better take this expression of support seriously.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Screw the School, Save Your Cronies!: Our Administration Does Layoffs

The recent personnel massacres that occurred at Chicago State reveal the poorly-guarded secret of the university’s existence. Rather than operating as an educational institution serving the needs of students, the school functions instead as a haven for a high-priced and inept administrative cohort that has driven the university to its knees while continuing to be well compensated for breathtaking failure. A close look at the recent layoff results should demonstrate.

This information comes from Human Resources and is not 100 percent reliable. Nonetheless, it is the best data I have to analyze the recent pattern of staff reductions. Between February 29, 2016, and July 1-6, 2016, the university reduced its total positions from 909 to 550 (39.5 percent) and its payroll from $50.66 million to 36.65 million, a 27.7 percent reduction. Of course, the disparity between the number of employees who lost their jobs and the payroll reduction results from a large number of poorly-paid employees getting the boot, while their well-paid colleagues held on to their positions.

On February 29, 2016, faculty constituted 37 percent of Chicago State’s employee complement, followed by staff at 33 percent, and administrators at 30 percent. In July, the numbers look quite different: administrators accounted for 37 percent of all CSU employees, faculty 34 percent, and staff 29 percent. The staff reductions between February and July were: Faculty lost 180 positions, staff 93, administrators 86. The university reduced faculty positions by 53.4 percent, administrative positions by 34.8 percent, and staff positions by 31.4 percent. The bulk of the faculty reduction came from the 159 lecturers laid off by the university.

Given the above statistics, it seems like everyone took a hit. However, details of what university operations the layoffs damaged paint a very different picture of how the university meted out the punishment. For this analysis, I divided the university’s positions into several component parts: positions strictly or overwhelmingly administrative; positions providing services to students; positions providing services to the university; the academic library; positions in the offices of the College Deans; finally, positions in the academic departments.

The staff and faculty layoffs eviscerated the academic departments. Excluding Department Chairs, the university reduced academic department positions from 396 in February to 180 in July, a 54.5 percent drop. Positions in the Deans’ offices fell from 26 to 17, a 34.6 percent drop. Positions in departments providing services to the university declined from 138 to 95, a 31.2 percent reduction. Positions in the academic library plummeted from 24 to 10, a decrease of 58.3 percent. Positions in departments providing services to students dwindled from 43 to 33, a 23.3 percent decline.

In stark contrast to these staff reductions, the university reduced administrative positions only from 68 to 59, or 13.2 percent. The Provost’s Office and Human Resources provide excellent examples of how our administrators, through the ridiculous MAC set up by the Board, safeguarded the administrative positions of their colleagues, while sacrificing hundreds of employees who actually performed the day-to-day work of keeping the university operational.

In February 2016, the Provost’s Office included nine (9) employees: the Provost, two Associate Provosts, an Interim Assistant Provost, an Assistant to the Provost, an Executive Secretary, an Associate, an Academic Contract Specialist and a Program Life Skills Specialist. Salaries totaled just over $828,000 and ranged from $225,000 for the Provost to $33,000 for the Program Life Skills Specialist.

In July 2016, the same office included eight (8) employees: the sacrificial victim? Of course, the poor employee making $33,000. Remaining were the Provost, two Associate Provosts, one Interim Assistant Provost, an Assistant to the Provost, an Executive Secretary, an Associate, and an Academic Contract Specialist. Because of personnel changes in addition to the layoff of one employee, the aggregate salary for all employees in the office actually increased to $868,000. The poor Provost.

Human Resources actually retained all sixteen (16) of its employees, at a total cost of $775,000. Given the performance of Human Resources for the past several months, one might wonder why they need a full complement of employees.

Based on the pattern of layoffs, it seems apparent that the university made a concerted effort to target areas that served students and staff in order to retain as many high-salaried administrators as possible. As the people in Academic Affairs continue to make one bad decision after another, as the financial component of the university ceases to function, as the holdover administrators continue to do what is likely mortal damage to the school, the Board goes merrily on pretending that everything is working well and that the university will somehow be extricated from its predicament. As we careen down the road to our destruction, it seem increasingly obvious that only an act of God will save this school. Perhaps that was the plan all along.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

This Fiasco is all about the Board: Thank you Anthony Young, Nikki Zollar, and Marshall Hatch

Yesterday’s post by my distinguished colleague opens the door for a discussion about the how and why of “financial exigency.” What follows is my interpretation based on both tangible evidence and information and belief. Before getting into the particulars, I must emphasize that this fiasco rests squarely on the shoulders of the Board of Trustees, particularly Anthony Young, Nikki Zollar, and Marshall Hatch. I will endeavor to make this clear.

Dr. Beverly’s post provides a useful chronology of events that led up to yesterday’s announcement of Notification by the Higher Learning Commission. As has been the case for the past six-plus years, whenever the University’s internal actions are seriously scrutinized by outside agencies (courts, oversight and regulatory bodies, even sometimes politicians) the results are disastrous, even catastrophic (see Jim Crowley) for the university, its public image, and frequently its coffers. Frankly, our administration has been a clown show at best for a long time. At worst, it has operated as a corrupt political entity with a ludicrous Godfather-style patriarch leading a pack of inept Capos and other assorted wanna-bes. Sleazy it was, competent it was not. Yesterday’s somewhat predictable HLC action demonstrates that body’s lack of amusement with Chicago State’s shenanigans. Frankly, it’s long overdue.

So why was the University willing to risk the consequences of what was essentially a sham declaration of “financial exigency”? A brief history helps answer that question. Based on his post-president behavior, Wayne Watson was not ready to leave Chicago State when his contract expired, or when he was supplanted as President by Thomas J. Calhoun. If you recall, the Board, ignoring Watson’s monumental failures in virtually every category of leadership at CSU, awarded him unwarranted perquisites like an office on campus, his own parking spot (a nod to his narcissism), the title of “President Emeritus” (rather than the more appropriate “President Horribilis”), and unearned and inappropriate tenure in Doctoral Studies (in the College of Education).

So Watson was able to remain on campus. Because of the likelihood that various administrative and financial improprieties might still be discovered if anyone took a careful look at his administration, keeping his cronies in place became an important consideration. Along with the fact that virtually no one in his upper administration would be able to get a similar job without Watson’s patronage, his cronies needed to remain in place to protect Watson, insure continued tenure in their august positions, and safeguard their lavish salaries.

Beginning with Thomas Calhoun’s arrival on January 4, 2016, a number of Watson holdovers reportedly began beating a path to the doors of several Board members to complain about the new President. The Board members most prominently mentioned were Young and Zollar, who apparently began to express their doubts about Thomas Calhoun’s job performance. Mind here, these meetings and expressions of disaffection took place scant days after the new President took office. Reportedly, Marshall Hatch soon joined the anti-Calhoun forces. So early on in the new President’s tenure, palace intrigues apparently split the Board as the anti-Calhoun forces engaged in a smear campaign against the new CSU leader.

When February rolled around and with the state appropriation for CSU not yet forthcoming, President Calhoun asked the Board to declare financial exigency with the caveat that “If the university receives, or is notified that we should anticipate receipt of additional funds from the State of Illinois prior to your special meeting, I will withdraw this recommendation.” The next day the Board declared “financial exigency” and created the ridiculous “Management Action Committee” along with an equally ridiculous “Board Financial Exigency Committee.” This unwieldy structure included the President of the University, the Provost, the Interim Vice President of Administration and Finance, and the Vice President of Human Resources, all except Calhoun holdovers from the Watson administration. The Board’s ad hoc Committee included the three anti-Calhoun voices on the Board: Young, Zollar and Hatch.

So, exactly one month into his presidency, Calhoun found his hands tied by a Board resolution creating an executive committee. Instead of having final authority at the University, the new President found himself one vote in four on a committee constituted of individuals not qualified to wield executive authority at the university level. The results have been predictable: botched layoffs and recalls in April and May, the elimination of key persons in important University units, a seemingly perpetual state of financial exigency that has placed the university’s future in jeopardy, and an end run around existing contract language in order to deprive employees of contractually-mandated notification and post-layoff terminal employment.

The administration’s hypocrisy reached its apex with the recent non-recall of several faculty members coupled with the University’s insistence that notification did not apply because of the school’s “extreme and immediate university-wide financial exigency.” While treating the separation notification of terminated administrators (per Board Regulations) as sacrosanct (to the tune of $2 million), the Board and University administrators worked assiduously to negate the contractual rights of faculty members. I think chickenshit only begins to describe this disgraceful and ham-handed skirting of the contract.

Both Dr. Beverly and I have been rebuffed in our initial attempts to convince the Board to end financial exigency. Earlier this week, we made a second attempt. At this point, there has been no response. We will see how far this Board will go in an attempt to continue this untenable condition. Will we bluff our way into losing our accreditation? Given yesterday’s comments by Dr. Calhoun, will anyone continue to argue that the university is in financial crisis? We will see. This farce has played long enough, it must end immediately.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Another Sanction

So the Tribune is reporting that the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) has sanctioned the university about its compliance with Criterion 5 of the HLC accreditation criteria. Your humble narrator is not always the sharpest knife in the drawer so it is easy to understand my confusion about this entire situation. As I understand this situation to this point 1) Governor Rauner announced his plan for major cuts of more than 30% for higher education in February 2015, 2) the university did not create a plan of any sort after that announcement to address significant reductions of state appropriated resources, 3) the legislature passed a budget in 2015 which the Governor vetoed thus setting off the budget impasse, 4) public universities went without an appropriation for 10 months, 5) the CSU Board of Trustees declared financial exigency in February 2016, stripping executive authority from the newly hired president, 6) the Board created Management Action Committee stumbled through the execution of the exigency in the worst possible way with public failures around employee layoff notifications, key return, property control etc., 7) the Higher Learning Commission made an onsite visit as a result of the exigency declaration and 8) the HLC responded with the sanction discussed in the aforementioned article. 

If I have articulated this correctly several questions emerge. First, why are the people who didn't create a plan in the first place allowed to continue in their six figure positions? Second, why given the statement by the President noted in the article, has the Board not acted to terminate the exigency, a condition which continues to hurt the university? Third, why has the legislature not exercised oversight and demanded answers to questions from the university about why CSU was the only public university to declare exigency? Fourth, why hasn't the Governor demonstrated leadership and demanded accountability from the university for its continued absence of planning? 

I believe, loyal readers, that many of you have the same questions and more about this situation. I will offer further information in a future post about the exigency?

For now, it is, indeed, unfortunate that the university's accreditation is actually at risk because its administration was incapable or uninterested in planning for a foreseeable situation. As this is Illinois and accountability is only a buzz word, it isn't surprising that those responsible for the mess the university is in are still in place thanks to the Board and this asinine financial exigency continues.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Financial Exigency? Bullshit! $2 Million Payout to Terminated Administrators

In early June, Anthony Young steadfastly refused to take the university out of the state of "financial exigency" declared by the Board on February 4, 2016. It has been my position that the declaration, and the ridiculous Management Action Committee making personnel decisions, is more about saving the jobs of former Watson cronies than the university's financial condition.

As you know, nine faculty lost their jobs recently. These faculty join hundreds of other former Chicago State employees who were ushered out the door without any compensation. The total salaries of these faculty come to $590,000. The university contends that financial exigency enables it to avoid adhering to the CSU/UPI Contract, that those faculty are not entitled to compensation that accompanies contractual notification requirements. However, while the university refuses to pay anything to faculty it laid off "with a sense of profound regret," it made no attempt to avoid Board regulations requiring administrators terminated without cause to receive what is essentially severance pay based on years of service. Altogether, 49 administrators received payouts that included leave accruals, Board-mandated compensation, or both. The total cost of these payouts: $1,981,280.33, or an average payout of just over $40,000 per person. The total included $1,569,992.50 in post-employment compensation, and the university paid the total amount in the May 30 and June 15 payroll cycles. Not surprisingly, Cheri Sidney, Wayne Watson's girlfriend, received the highest payout, $114,425.14. I guess it pays to lie on your resume/application.

I am certainly not suggesting that a severance payout is preferable to a full-time job, but at least the university provided most of these persons with some kind of safety net for their transition into unemployment. Of course, for staff and lecturers laid off earlier, nothing in their contracts entitled them to anything after their employment ended. As we have seen, based on the recent experience of our laid off faculty, the university administration obviously believes that "financial exigency" entitles it to do anything it pleases. Frankly, I have a somewhat different view.