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Orwellian rhetoric at Chicago State

1-30-2010---27th annual creativity galcelebrate African American Achievement @ Museum Science Industry---Maudlyne Q A--Chicago State University President Wayne Watson---Sun-Times phoby Tom

1-30-2010---27th annual creativity gala to celebrate African American Achievement @ Museum of Science and Industry---Maudlyne Q&A--Chicago State University President Wayne Watson---Sun-Times photo by Tom Cruze

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Updated: April 9, 2013 11:41AM

The rhetoric describing the controversy over Wayne Watson’s status as head of Chicago State University is becoming positively Orwellian. Wednesday’s defense of Watson by former state Senate President Emil Jones, in a Sun-Times op-ed, truly portrays up as down and lies as truth.

Jones’ assertion that Chicago State’s students “deserve a university” that is not run like “a patronage machine” is breathtaking given the reality at Chicago State, where a number of people personally connected to either Chicago political figures or to the president enjoy highly compensated administrative and faculty positions.

Watson hardly reduced “an indefensibly large faculty.” Reductions have come through attrition, primarily because of declining enrollment, which Jones sees as evidence of Watson’s leadership. The reverse is true.

In the past two years, Chicago State has experienced the largest drop in enrollment of any Illinois public university. This is attributable to more than simply the “essential culling of enrollment.” More important, the enrollment scandal that resulted in students finally being dismissed for poor scholarship occurred nearly two years into Watson’s presidency. Instead of taking responsibility, he blamed it on the previous administration.

Jones also writes: “This kind of vindictive blood sport has no place in an institution of higher learning.” He is correct, however, Wayne Watson and his supporters have used character assassination by innuendo as one of their primary defenses of his presidency.

Watson came to Chicago State amid controversy. Although neither he nor the other finalist, Carol Adams, were on the short list of the university search committee, then board Chairman Leon Finney anointed Watson president. Virtually the entire committee resigned in protest. The relationship between Watson and the university community began contentiously, with the incoming president making deprecating remarks about the school, its staff and faculty.

The faculty had substantive reasons for the no-confidence vote of Nov. 6, 2012, including declining enrollment and unacceptably high numbers of audit findings. Watson has done virtually no fund-raising. And his administration continues to do foolish things such as its recent attempt to stifle the free speech for all university employees, which contribute to the school’s negative image as a laughingstock.

Robert E. Bionaz,

associate professor of history,

Chicago State University

Inspiring report

Diana Novak’s March 5 article, “When these gangs met Monday, the shots were jump shots and layups” is a very inspiring and encouraging report. There has been an increased push on gun law recently, which has many people only thinking of policy. While I believe gun control is very important, I must praise St. Sabina for treating the human, not the law. Many issues in communities with high crime rates come from division, this basketball tournament effectively and peacefully cultivated conversation between gangs as well as non-gang affiliated individuals. While not all communities can have the same safe experience from an event like this, I believe peace efforts need to shift away from worrying about legislation and work toward increasing interaction between members in the community. A stable long-term resolution cannot be reached from the outside; it must build from within the community. It may be a long road, but when it comes to the lives of our fellow citizens it will be worth it.

Brendan Koll, Evergreen Park

Human services take hit again

Every year since 2008, the governor and the General Assembly have joined together in cutting funding for human services. This year is no exception. On the surface, it looks like an additional $337.6 million is directed to human services. The truth is that these funding levels simply make it possible for the the state to pay back bills and replenish staff. It does not address increased need for service or rising costs for providers as they borrow money to pay staff and rent.

And this is a best-case scenario. The House Appropriations Committee for Human Services is contemplating cuts of over $200 million. When will this stop? When will the state live up to its promise of paying those who do the hard work of caring for the most vulnerable — those with disabilities and mental illness; those challenged by poverty and violence; those who have outlasted their savings as they aged in place?

Maria Socorro Pesqueira, Lower West Side

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