Chicago State president under fire again

March 1, 2013 2:57:57 PM PST
For the second time in four years, the Chicago State University board is trying to fire the college's president.

The South Side campus with a history of declining enrollment and low graduation rates is once again the scene of administrative chaos.

The CSU president with a bull's-eye on his back is Wayne Watson who can't believe the university's trustees would try to fire him at mid-semester.

"This is disruptive," Watson said. "We are one week before spring vacation. Students are right about ready to take their midterm."

"We think it's important to continue to think about ways to move the university forward," said Gary Rozier, Board of Trustees Chairman. "I don't know that you can put a time on those discussions."

Last fall, the faculty gave Watson a vote of no confidence questioning his leadership and fiscal management. Sources say board members would use the president's romantic relationship with a co-worker to void his contract which runs until next year.

"Hiring someone that you're in a relationship with and paying them a six-figure salary in a position that they don't have the demonstrable qualifications for is problematic," said Phillip Beverly, faculty senate president.

"There's no cause to terminate me based on any kind of personal relationship that was improper," said Watson.

Watson replaced Elnora Daniels, who was fired in 2009 for abusing her expense account.

Among those who testified the university's accreditation status had improved under Watson was former Illinois Senate President Emil jones who donated $200,000 to CSU for scholarships.

"You make me want to say, 'hey, i want that money back. I'm going to give it someplace else,'" Jones said.

Some students called the debate over Watson a distraction.

"I mean you try to stay informed but at the same time stay focused on what you have to do," David Flynn said.

"Everybody's talking about it," said Darrick Jason. "Nobody's really as focused on school as they should be."

In a letter to the trustees, Watson called the attempt to fire him "retaliatory" because he refused to hire the friends of the board chairman and vice chairman:

"This is a very political environment and so he has to fight in that context and that's just where we are," said Victor Henderson, Watson's attorney.

The board announced on Monday that Watson had agreed to a one-year, paid sabbatical at his $250,000 a year salary. Friday, Watson said there had been agreement and by contract, he remains CSU's president.

The board has scheduled a meeting for next Friday to resume deliberation on Watson's fate.