13.4.09

BIG FISH IN A RETENTION POND. The Chicago Tribune editorial board is not happy with Chicago State University, where the president indulges herself like a Third World dictator and her subjects learn nothing.

Chicago State University paid a local executive-recruiting firm $75,000 to help with its search for a new president. The South Side school supposedly was looking for a fresh start after the resignation last year of President Elnora Daniel.

You remember Daniel. She let the school pay for her fancy cruises, swanky dinners and high-priced home furnishings, while four out of five students who enrolled at her school were leaving without a degree.

She reimbursed the money and retired.

You'd think the school's trustees would be red-faced and determined to find a new leader who would be a dynamic turnaround specialist.

That's a lame introduction, particularly the "you'd think". Would anybody really be interested in changing that attrition rate to three in four?

This is Illinois. Living like a Third World dictator and running an access-assessment-remediation-retention scam is nice work, if you can get it. (It might be more accurate to say, if you can buy your way into it).

Instead, the trustees have named two finalists for president: Wayne Watson, 63, chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago, and Carol Adams, 64, secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services.

Students at Chicago State are steamed about a selection process that seems destined to perpetuate the status quo at their school.

Watson is capable, but he announced last year that he would retire this summer from his City Colleges job. What makes the Chicago State trustees think he's ready to lead the profound revolution they desperately need?

There is a market test. Governors State is a few stops further south on the Illinois Central, er, Metra Electric.

Adams was former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's pick to run Human Services. In 2007, she drew heat because her agency had hired "special assistants" who were little more than chauffeurs for some agency bosses. When Adams was asked about her own "special assistant" she said: "Does he drive? Yes. He's much better at it than I."

Oh my, Chicago State, doesn't that sound familiar?

At the Tribune, however, the editorial board has this charming faith that Chicago State's trustees are interested in providing higher education.

The Chicago State trustees—Chairman Betsy Hill, Rev. Richard Tolliver, Jim Reynolds, Rev. Leon Finney, Peggy Montes—need to restart their search.

They should be deeply embarrassed by the 16.2 percent graduation rate at their school in 2007.

They should be deeply embarrassed by Daniel's tenure.

To admit that embarrassment, however, is to admit that there is excess capacity in access-assessment-remediation-retention. That way leads to the abolition of the capacity, the expense-preference-indulging presidents, and the board of trustees.

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