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Chicago State U decries politics? Really?

Wednesday, Apr 29, 2009 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Having been involved in student politics back in the day, I know firsthand that it’s usually a lot of overheated silliness, which is one reason I’ve kinda ignored a story that came to a head a few minutes ago

After weeks of controversy, Chicago State University’s board picked Wayne Watson this morning to be the school’s next president.

The choice of Watson, who is retiring as chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago, was met by boos from a packed audience.

“The pick of Watson puts politics, contracts and jobs above academic excellence,” said student Michael O‚Connor.

The other finalist for the post was another political figure - Carol Adams, secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services.


“I feel that I’m at a funeral, and we are presiding over the burial of hope and change,” said Van Searcy, president of the Faculty Senate, during the period for public comment after the vote. […]

The announcement came days after the Faculty Senate took the unusual step of asking Gov. Pat Quinn to remove the trustees and stop the board from hiring a president.

Chicago State faculty and students have argued they were excluded from the search process and have criticized the two finalists as local political insiders. Earlier this month, 13 of the 15 members of the campus’ search advisory committee resigned in protest.

Chicago State was the direct benefactor of blatant political pork - the “politics, contracts and jobs” referenced above - for almost two decades. If it wasn’t for Senate President Emil Jones’ back-room machinations on its behalf, the campus would still be run-down and forgotten.

I totally understand why the campus didn’t want either of those two candidates shoved down their throats. But for the university community to ignore why they’ve found themselves in this position is inexcusable. In reality, Chicago State is a child birthed by blatant politics. All they have to do is look around them for proof. But here’s some history

Despite strong opposition, Jones pushed through legislation to provide a percentage of revenues from a new gaming license in Illinois to go to inner-city Chicago State University rather than the more prestigious University of Illinois downstate.

He is also responsible for targeting enviable funding to Chicago State for capital improvements, scholarships and technology programs, including a new library. The school is also building a convocation center, named for Jones and his late wife, Patricia Jones.

“Senator Jones has made it possible for incredible opportunities for students at Chicago State University,” says President Elnora D. Daniel. “He has brought economic resources totaling $200 million to the university that have long been overlooked. Our students are now in position to better compete in technology and other fields the same as students do from other state-supported institutions.”

Politics is a lot like the mafia. You take their money, you follow their rules. CSU took a whole lot of that political money, and it came with a price. It shouldn’t, but it did.

I’m happy to see they want out of this endless cycle, but the university community ought to be honest with itself about how they got where they are and where they really want to go. Because if they now want to be treated like every other university in this state, that means flat funding, limited capital projects and priorities put on the back burner.


  1. - Higher Ed - Wednesday, Apr 29, 09 @ 11:39 am:

    Very good points Rich. Being in higher ed, it has always been frustrating to see the millions of state funds go to CSU over the years. Their graduation rates are awful, the former president was involved in hinky expenditures but the money kept flowing in while the rest of us were fighting for the table scraps.

  2. - Louis Howe - Wednesday, Apr 29, 09 @ 11:46 am:

    Bingo Rich….CSU always made the short list for certain African American legislators in both houses. Of course, that meant jobs and appointments for their friends with little accountability……

  3. - 2ConfusedCrew - Wednesday, Apr 29, 09 @ 11:48 am:

    Besides the grad rates — which are highly over rated — I am not sure the Univesity of Emil was into more hinkiness that UofI, SIU, on a per capita basis

  4. - VanillaMan - Wednesday, Apr 29, 09 @ 11:52 am:

    The Chicago State University Victory March! - M. Shea & J. Shea, enhanced by VanillaMan

    Rally friends of Emil Jones,
    Cash his checks, and spend his pork!
    Raise those taxes high!,
    And cheer with voices true,
    Rah! Rah! For CSU.

    We will fight for every dime
    Jack budgets up, make numbers inflate.
    He’ll ne’er forget her
    And Emil’ll cheer her ever,
    Loyal to Chicago State.

    Cheer, cheer for Chicago State
    Spending other’s money is so great!,
    Send a budget, that’s so high,
    Shake down the taxpayers, until they die,
    What though the odds be great or small
    Old Emil Jones will win over all,
    While his constituents are marching
    Onward to Victory!

  5. - BIG R.PH. - Wednesday, Apr 29, 09 @ 11:57 am:

    Why do you think they got a pharmacy school? HELLLO!!

  6. - Dudeman - Wednesday, Apr 29, 09 @ 12:04 pm:

    CSU is a 3rd class University that gets 1st class money from the state. The quote from the previous CSU prez,”Our students are now in position to better compete in technology and other fields the same as students do from other state-supported institutions.”
    They may be in position, but the administration and the majority of the faculty need to be upgraded. They have been the worst University in Illinois for years in any way you want to assess them, like graduation rates. They have been extremely savy politically to get the state to overlook their repeated failures and still get money. I feel bad for all the south side kids being dupped into attending, because nobody outside of 20 miles attends that school.

  7. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Apr 29, 09 @ 12:17 pm:

    You have to wonder about CSU’s long-term viability with its clout gone.

  8. - zeke - Wednesday, Apr 29, 09 @ 12:37 pm:

    I’d say politics continues to play a role in capitol allocations and CSU still gets a big chunk of cash. In addition, so does NEIU. I’d never heard of NEIU until the past couple of months. Now I wonder, is it a coincidence that the OMB Director Ostro is married to an NEIU finance dept honcho and they’re a top earner in the Gov’s capitol proposal? Take a look at this comparison of Quinn’s capitol proposal and 2007 fall enrollments I got from IBHE website:

    University 07 Enroll Per Capita/Quinn Proposed
    WIU 13,331 $7,352
    CSU 6,810 $7,165
    NEIU 11,644 $7,162
    SIU 34,381 $4,872
    GSU 5,692 $4,415
    U of I 72,928 $3,707
    ISU 20,274 $3,212
    NIU 25,254 $1,472
    EIU 12,179 $1,065

    Analysis is quick back of the envelope, but the figures are still revealing. What this says to me is Quinn believes the most important institutions and those most in need are by far and away WIU, CSU and NEIU. NIU and EIU? Not so much. And how did he reach that conclusion? It would appear the fingerprints of Blago’s people are all over that capitol proposal and Quinn hasn’t changed a thing. Someone really needs to question how staff arrived at these recommended amounts. My guess is he’s never questioned his (Blago’s) staff on capitol.

  9. - disgusted - Wednesday, Apr 29, 09 @ 12:45 pm:

    Well put Rich…what are they thinking? The faculty protesting should have talked to emil first…maybe they could have gotten more done inside the system. For sure they dont want to get those purse strings cut, unless self destruction is the real underlying goal….leaving more money for uofi and siu to spent on no bid contracts and trustees with large contribution and state contracts. siu is so desperate they are now educating kids from TN, KY, and others at the same tuition costs as IL kids….so now taxpayers get to pay for their tuition as well.

  10. - zeke - Wednesday, Apr 29, 09 @ 12:47 pm:

    Sorry - data in previous post got crunched together. It’s University, followed by Fall 07 IBHE listed enrollment, and then per capita capital funds proposed by Quinn for each univ.

  11. - Vote Quimby! - Wednesday, Apr 29, 09 @ 1:02 pm:

    Good dig, Zeke, and great points Rich. Those project carry a price tag and the bill is not paid yet. SIU also throws a lot of money into an urban campus no one goes to…

  12. - Captain America - Wednesday, Apr 29, 09 @ 1:41 pm:

    Watson at least a professional education administrator - so if my choises was between Watson and Adams, it appears to me that Watson was the obvious pick. However, I think the faculty is probably right to want some credible outsider with sterling academic adminstration credentials to deal with the problems at CSU.

  13. - Captain America - Wednesday, Apr 29, 09 @ 1:42 pm:

    Make that “my choice” was

  14. - Skoien4Gov - Wednesday, Apr 29, 09 @ 3:30 pm:

    “University 07 Enroll Per Capita/Quinn Proposed
    WIU 13,331 $7,352
    CSU 6,810 $7,165
    NEIU 11,644 $7,162
    SIU 34,381 $4,872
    GSU 5,692 $4,415
    U of I 72,928 $3,707
    ISU 20,274 $3,212
    NIU 25,254 $1,472
    EIU 12,179 $1,065″

    Numbers like this are disgusting.

    It’s at the point where U of I is getting so little revenue from the state that you wish the school could just go private.

  15. Pingback ArchPundit | Daily Dolt: Chicago State - Wednesday, Apr 29, 09 @ 4:09 pm:

    […] Rich has the details and a great post. Chicago State decrying political interference is like Daley decrying patronage. […]

  16. - Arthur Andersen - Wednesday, Apr 29, 09 @ 5:42 pm:

    Rich, I completely agree with your post. AA has sat through approp and Audit Commission hearings for many years and was stunned by the combination of bumbling and arrogance displayed by the top brass from CSU whenever they were called to testify.

    On the other hand, I don’t think zeke’s post really proves anything. When one considers the 3 UI and 2 (3?) SIU campuses, those figures aren’t out of line. The higher numbers for the top three (WIU, CSU, and NEIU) could easily be accounted for by one new building or major do-over on each campus. A multi-year average may be more useful in applying this metric.

  17. - DuPage Dave - Wednesday, Apr 29, 09 @ 5:50 pm:

    Perhaps the new president can use his experience in making City Colleges the shining star of the community college system and raise the graduation rate at Chicago State from 16 percent to 17 percent.

  18. - southside_info - Wednesday, Apr 29, 09 @ 10:00 pm:

    I must take issue with the vitriol shown towards CSU. After the campus was built in 1972, there was no major capital investment made again until 1996 or 1997. And that was in the form of new buildings - union building and dormitory. The construction of which the IBHE completely messed up.

    So when Sen. Jones said he was making up for lost time by funneling money to CSU, guess what African Americans think? About time. Was Daniel a good president? No. Is the six-year graduation rate her fault? No.

    Guess what? NEIU has a similar graduation rate and a similar type of adult learner/commuter student body.

    Rich, I enjoy this blog very much, but you did yourself a disservice with this post.

  19. - southside_info - Wednesday, Apr 29, 09 @ 10:03 pm:

    Oh, I forgot to add.

    CSU currently has over $60 million in deferred maintenance. Not due to mismanagement or corruption, but due to a lack of state appropriations, a desperate desire to not fire faculty and staff and a burning desire not to raise tuition.

    Unfortunately, they were forced to raise tuition, because there was no other way to make up the budget shortfalls coming out of Springfield.

  20. - Arthur Andersen - Wednesday, Apr 29, 09 @ 10:48 pm:

    southside, my heart aches for you and CSU with all that “deferred maintenance.”

    My alma mater, UIUC, has $60 million in “deferred maintenance” in one freakin’ building. It’s called Lincoln Hall. The campus total is well into nine figures-the campus has started to fund the backlog with a (yet another) student fee.

  21. - Loyal Alumn-Uof I 65 - Thursday, Apr 30, 09 @ 12:37 am:

    I wonder if anyone has checked into the federal funds earmarks that CSU has received from the Dept. of Defense for some highly technical mechanicals and guidance systems. Since when does CSU do this kind of weapon based engineering?

  22. - southside_info - Thursday, Apr 30, 09 @ 1:52 pm:

    @ Arthur Andersen - Oh, I’m sorry. How much did UIUC, UIC and UI-Springfield rake in from their last capital campaign? Oh, that’s right, $1.53 BILLION. How much do they plan to take in during their current campaign? $2.25 BILLION. Now, I see why the feds nailed you guys on fuzzy math. CSU’s total budget doesn’t exceed $125 million.

    Oh, and Loyal alum? What? Predominantly minority schools can’t do high-tech, government-funded research? The DoD grants are for Fuel Cells and alternative energy research. Check it out -

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