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March 14, 2013

Governor Quinn Must Step In Chicago State University Affairs.

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Havoc, confusion, chaos, power plays, conflict are words to describe the state of affairs at Chicago State University.  The drama played out Friday, March 1, in a special board meeting, when the board was scheduled to terminate Dr. Wayne Watson.   The public meeting opened to a crowd of students, community activists, professors, politicians and the like. They went into a five-hour behind closed doors meeting.  They came out to state they took no action, and the regular meeting took place on Friday, March 8.

In question is Dr. Wayne Watson’s contract, which ends in 2014.  The board wants him out.  Why? The truth of the matter, the 14th President of Chicago State, Dr. Wayne Watson, found the South Side institution in shambles.  He rose to the occasion and stepped up and his 30 something years of educational executive leadership came forth.  Watson was the Chancellor of City Colleges of Chicago for a decade.

I worked with him at City Colleges of Chicago.  He can be tough, intense and extremely focused. In a brief three years he dug in his heels working around the clock, clearly on a mission and took the University out of its academic hole.  He might have stepped on some toes along the way.  But that happens when you are straightening up a mess.

Watson came to Chicago State in 2009, in turmoil and with plenty of heat including press pressure.  He found 41 audit findings that required immediate addressing from padded enrollment figures to budget shortfalls.   The school has a budget of $141 million.

Chicago State is important to Chicago’s African American community. One of every five African Americans who receive a college degree in the State of Illinois earned it from CSU.

Chicago State University was on the verge of losing its accreditation when Watson assumed the presidency.   The High Learning Commission evaluated Chicago State in November and in a soon to be released report, they wrote:

He has established a strong new leadership team that has engaged the University in mission redefinition and strategic planning.  Although it is still early in that process, with implementation just beginning, the University has entered a new era, with a strong emphasis on fiscal responsibility, enrollment management and compliance in all its dimensions.  Overriding it all is its continued commitment to teaching and learning for its distinctive student body.”

The report states that the students “could not be more supportive.” And the report states that the board is “beyond routine Board governance activities.”

Some members of the board have reached into day-to-day operations with recommendations for staffing and contracting. This is interference and over reach and Governor Quinn needs to step up with voice to his appointees. Perhaps it is not the President who requires replacing; perhaps it is the entire board itself as former Senator Emile Jones recommends.

Watson has engaged the community taking it to world-class status. He has invited the community on campus with events, activities, and conferences and even opened it as a safe haven for high school athletic competition.

Some of his first steps were to actually clean the campus grounds, to upgrade facilities, to restore the bus stop to the doorstep of the schools, being sensitive to the student travel.   Chicago State University is a computer school.  The students work, have families and attend school. The success stories are many.

Chicago Public Education is at risk for African Americans   

Chicago public education community is under destruction.  African American schools on the south and west sides are threatened with closure and await the identification of the schools this month.  Years ago rumor had it that Chicago State was being considered as a branch of University of Illinois. The reason being is the consistent mismanagement of the university.  Many of Chicago State Presidents have left the premises in scandal. The land is valuable. The school is beautiful.  The school is a valuable asset. Former President of the Illinois Senate, Emil Jones made sure the school was funded equally to other state universities, like Southern and U of I.

Why is Watson being challenged, now?   This is mid-semester and three of the board members terms have expired and terminate in March? Should such a board be making such critical decisions?  The educational reports, further a new era at CSU.

The professional educators state in the evaluation:

“More broadly, this University has undergone considerable, relatively recent, leadership change, and is moving in new directions, as seen in new mission/vision/values statements and related processes.  In many ways a new era has begun.  This creates challenge to the leadership team’s ability to provide consistent and clear communication that ensures institution integrity.”  This is a strong and powerful statement directly addressing the Watson leadership.  It admits he turned the school around and has placed it on a successful path”

What more could a president do?  A small group of faculty members gave Watson a vote of no confidence.  He has invaded their workspace with responsibility and accountability with the establishment of post tenure evaluation.  Watson has clearly put students first.

At this time, Governor George Quinn needs to step in to support Watson’s administration.  Senator Emil Jones along with others declared and testified his support for Watson.  He said, the entire board needs to be excused, not Watson.  The Convocation Building has The Jones name. He also said, he gave $200,000 to the Chicago State University Foundation for the purpose of scholarships for students.  And if Watson leaves, he might request a return of his dollars, because they might not be put to good use.

Governor Quinn needs to weigh in on the Chicago State matter.

 



About the Author

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Hermene Hartman
Hermene Hartman serves as President and CEO of the Chicago-based, Hartman Publishing Group, INC. NDIGO, was founded in 1989 and is a significant voice in Chicago. Hartman provides social commentary on WVAZ's 102.7 radio Monday - Friday at 9:15 a.m. She is an author and appears as a guest on TV with commentary. Ms. Hartman is the founder of The NDIGO Foundation, a 501c3 not-for-profit organization, which began in 1995, for the sole purpose of raising funds for educational pursuits.




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4 Comments


  1. avatar
    Support_for_CSU

    I am VERY concerned that ALL of Dr. Watson’s friends seem to have copies of a draft of Chicago State University’s accreditation report. This report was not intended for release until the Higher Learning Commission takes formal action in April. When the report is released, it will be interesting to examine the selected quotes that Dr. Watson’s friends are using when we can see them the context of the complete report.


  2. avatar
    Robert Bionaz

    There are a number of problematic comments in this article, which is essentially a pro-Watson propaganda piece. First, audit findings in Fiscal 2011 more than tripled from the previous administration, to 41 from 13. Notably, the University of Illinois system, with three campuses and better than 76,000 students had 43. In fiscal 2012, audit findings dropped slightly, to 34. In the same period of time, the University of Illinois system had 37. These figures are not positives for the Watson administration.

    Second, your claim that “One of every five African Americans who receive a college degree in the State of Illinois earned it from CSU,” is simply incorrect, as a look at the Illinois Board of Higher Education Website reveals. Unfortunately, the most recent graduation figures on their website come from 2010. At that point, Chicago State granted 3.4 percent of all degrees conferred upon black students in the state of Illinois. What is true is that Chicago State confers upon black students just over 18 percent of all degrees granted by public universities in Illinois. However, these numbers have been steadily declining, with the percentage of black graduates from Chicago State dropping each year from 5.9 percent of the state total in 2001 to 3.4 percent in 2010. All this information is easily obtainable, if one takes the time to look for it.

    Third, Chicago State University’s accreditation was never at risk. The assertion that the university “was on the verge of losing its accreditation” until Wayne Watson saved it is nonsense. What is true is that the university received a “focused visit” in 2010 that addressed some specific issues, primarily administrative. The faculty are obviously pleased with the Higher Learning Commission’s report, but there are continuing problems cited in the report: notably communication and enrollment management issues. In any event, it seems likely that the people who work at the school have a better feel for its internal workings than a group of people who spend two days (mainly with administrators) at the school every few years.

    Fourth, in the article’s eighth paragraph, you use a quote taken out of context to support your implication that the Board of Trustees are a problem, specifically with their overreach. You claim that the CSU Board goes: “beyond routine Board governance activities.” Here’s the entire quote directly from the HLC report: “The Team believes that the current level of Board involvement is beyond routine Board governance activities, and the ongoing turnaround situation of the University may justify it.”

    Fifth, your assertion that a “small group of faculty members gave Watson a vote of no confidence because “He has invaded their workspace with responsibility and accountability with the establishment of post tenure evaluation,” is a complete distortion of reality. In truth, the contract containing the post-tenure evaluation passed with better than 80 percent faculty support. Few faculty disagree with some form of evaluation for persons who have tenure and we do not think everyone at the school discharges their responsibilities competently. The Academic Senate is a representative body elected by all tenured and tenure-track faculty on campus. Prior to the no-confidence vote, senators polled their departmental faculty and received an overwhelming endorsement of the no-confidence motion. In addition, university staff were able to cast their votes for or against a no-confidence motion through a website. The web voting resulted in 86 percent in favor of a no-confidence motion. Your generalizations about “responsibility and accountability,” are meaningless. To what, specifically, are you referring? These kind of sound bite lines may fool uninformed readers but they are no substitute for substantive evidence.

    To summarize, I hardly expect everyone to agree with our position that Wayne Watson should not continue as president of Chicago State. That said, the argument that Governor Quinn should suddenly replace certain Trustees would be far more compelling if any of Wayne Watson’s supporters had made the same argument in 2009, when a Board with numerous vacancies hired him as president of the school. Nonetheless, if I were a friend of Wayne Watson, I would certainly be vocal in my support for his presidency. However, if I were using evidence to support my position, I would present it fairly. I do not believe your article does that.


    • avatar

      Thanks for writing. I will respond to your issues. This was not a propaganda piece. It was written from my understanding. It is factual. You have corrected some of what I thought were facts. You contradict yourself in the first paragraph saying figures I reported were not positives for the Watson administration.

      IN your second point you challenge the number of African Americans who receive from CSU, but you make th point with other numbers that the school largely serves African Americans significantly so.

      It was reported in the Chicago Tribune that CSU accrediation was at risk. Watson addressed the issues pointed out by third party educators.

      I did not take a quote out of context. The quote makes the point that the board overreached. That was the point.

      He did issue post-tenure evaluation and if it passed with 80 percent of faculty support this is good and reflects favorably for you all. I did not report on the factulty response.

      You have not made your case of why Watson should not continue on as President of the school.

      It is still my belief that the Governor should have stepped in, because the board was out of order, acting in good governance trying to ouster a seating President. Since the report is so crucial to the university, why not wait until its release to make a judgement.

      I did present my position in a forthright position, as you responding.

      Thanks again for writing.


  3. avatar
    Robert Bionaz

    There are a number of problematic comments in this article, which is essentially a pro-Watson propaganda piece. First, audit findings in Fiscal 2011 more than tripled from the previous administration, to 41 from 13. Notably, the University of Illinois system, with three campuses and better than 76,000 students had 43. In fiscal 2012, audit findings dropped slightly, to 34. In the same period of time, the University of Illinois system had 37. These figures are not positives for the Watson administration.

    Second, your claim that “One of every five African Americans who receive a college degree in the State of Illinois earned it from CSU,” is simply incorrect, as a look at the Illinois Board of Higher Education Website reveals. Unfortunately, the most recent graduation figures on their website come from 2010. At that point, Chicago State granted 3.4 percent of all degrees conferred upon black students in the state of Illinois. What is true is that Chicago State confers upon black students just over 18 percent of all degrees granted by public universities in Illinois. However, these numbers have been steadily declining, with the percentage of black graduates from Chicago State dropping each year from 5.9 percent of the state total in 2001 to 3.4 percent in 2010. All this information is easily obtainable, if one takes the time to look for it.

    Third, Chicago State University’s accreditation was never at risk. The assertion that the university “was on the verge of losing its accreditation” until Wayne Watson saved it is nonsense. What is true is that the university received a “focused visit” in 2010 that addressed some specific issues, primarily administrative. The faculty are obviously pleased with the Higher Learning Commission’s report, but there are continuing problems cited in the report: notably communication and enrollment management issues. In any event, it seems likely that the people who work at the school have a better feel for its internal workings than a group of people who spend two days (mainly with administrators) at the school every few years.

    Fourth, in the article’s eighth paragraph, you use a quote taken out of context to support your implication that the Board of Trustees are a problem, specifically with their overreach. You claim that the CSU Board goes: “beyond routine Board governance activities.” Here’s the entire quote directly from the HLC report: “The Team believes that the current level of Board involvement is beyond routine Board governance activities, and the ongoing turnaround situation of the University may justify it.”

    Fifth, your assertion that a “small group of faculty members gave Watson a vote of no confidence because “He has invaded their workspace with responsibility and accountability with the establishment of post tenure evaluation,” is a complete distortion of reality. In truth, the contract containing the post-tenure evaluation passed with better than 80 percent faculty support. Few faculty disagree with some form of evaluation for persons who have tenure and we do not think everyone at the school discharges their responsibilities competently. The Academic Senate is a representative body elected by all tenured and tenure-track faculty on campus. Prior to the no-confidence vote, senators polled their departmental faculty and received an overwhelming endorsement of the no-confidence motion. In addition, university staff were able to cast their votes for or against a no-confidence motion through a website. The web voting resulted in 86 percent in favor of a no-confidence motion. Your generalizations about “responsibility and accountability,” are meaningless. To what, specifically, are you referring? These kind of sound bite lines may fool uninformed readers but they are no substitute for substantive evidence.

    To summarize, I hardly expect everyone to agree with our position that Wayne Watson should not continue as president of Chicago State. That said, the argument that Governor Quinn should suddenly replace certain Trustees would be far more compelling if any of Wayne Watson’s supporters had made the same argument in 2009, when a Board with numerous vacancies hired him as president of the school. Nonetheless, if I were a friend of Wayne Watson, I would certainly be vocal in my support for his presidency. However, if you are going to use evidence to support your position, it should at least be presented in a forthright manner. At least try to get some of your facts correct.



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