* 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.