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Chicago State Faculty Wish List for New President Includes Public Apology

In the second part of the series chronicling the controversial Chicago State University presidential search, the faculty are calling for the state’s governor to remove the school’s board of trustees.

Days after the resignation of PSAC [Presidential Search Advisory Committee] members, Chicago State University’s Faculty Senate, in an unprecedented move, unanimously called on Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn to remove the university’s trustees, (which were appointed by former governors), before they could appoint a new president.

“The faculty of Chicago State University has lost confidence in the ability and motives of the Board of Trustees, and no longer trust their ability to fulfill their responsibilities,” stated the April 21st letter.

Nevertheless, the board of trustees announced the appointment of Dr. Wayne Watson on April 29th. He was signed to a five-year contract, and will reportedly make $229,166 a year, less than his current $300,000 salary as chancellor of City Colleges, where he oversees the system of seven community colleges that serves 115,000 students.

News of the appointment was greeted with shouts and boos from members of the university community at the board meeting. According to the Chicago Tribune, following the meeting trustee Rev. Richard Tolliver said Watson “most nearly approximates what we are looking for.”

When talking to colleagues from other institutions who have participated in presidential searches, says Dr. Ann Kuzdale, associate professor of history who served on PSAC, “They throw their hands up in the air and say, ‘You weren’t part of it (the search). You didn’t get to see all the applications. End of story.’ That’s the general academic perspective.


“The other thing that stinks about this is that the decision to appoint the president of Chicago State is coming from essentially four people (trustees). Two of whose terms have expired,” Kuzdale adds.


Two trustees’ terms have indeed expired but bylaws allow them to continue to serve until they are replaced or reappointed. In addition, there are two vacancies on the board as well.


Julie Smith, deputy chief of staff for Gov. Quinn, tells Diverse that the governor is concerned about the vacancies and is working diligently to fill the board seats as quickly as possible. Smith says they are currently seeking input from various constituencies, including CSU alumni, to identify the best candidates.


A Wait-and-See Approach

PSAC members say they understood that the board of trustees had the final say in who would be appointed CSU’s new president but hoped that their input would be more valued. The way the state laws read and the way the bylaws read for Chicago State University the role of such presidential search advisory committees is at the discretion of the board, says Dr. Yan Searcy, president of the university’s Faculty Senate.

Searcy, who was also a candidate for CSU president, attended the Council of Illinois University Senates in 2008 and spoke to many people about presidential searches.

“The overwhelming majority of senate representatives stated that the most successful searches were the ones where the advisory councils that were assembled by the board of trustees actually acted as the decision-making body. The board actually deferred to them. So the successful model happened to be the shared governance model,” he says.

Before summer break, Searcy says the morale of the faculty was poor but they expressed interest in staying abreast of the administrative situation.

“People were coming up to me and saying, ‘Should we protest? Let’s continue to communicate. Keep us aware of any campus developments.’”

Searcy says a summer committee has been formed, which will monitor any administrative changes and keep faculty informed.

There may be little the faculty can do now to block Watson’s appointment, but once he arrives on campus, Searcy would like to see a few things happen.

“I would like him to make a public apology for statements he made regarding faculty,” says Searcy, who is referring to comments Watson made in a May Chicago Tribune article in which he stated, “We are going to have to take our existing (CSU) faculty, and in some instances, not all, we are going to have to teach them how to teach.”

In addition, says Searcy, “I would like for him to convene a public forum specifically to address faculty issues. I would like him to produce a document, which outlines his views of shared governance.”

And it appears Watson is aware he may encounter some resistance from faculty and students once his tenure begins. “I know it’s going to be a challenge,” said Watson in the same Chicago Tribune article last month.

But Dr. Phillip Beverly, the associate professor of political science who is outspoken about the presidential search, says he anticipates that faculty will assert themselves in a number of ways.

“If he (Watson) thinks he’s going to be able to do anything without the support of the faculty, then he’s sadly mistaken and it only highlights how ill-equipped he is to manage a university,” says Beverly.

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