Follow @csteditorialsTen days have passed since the board of Chicago State University mysteriously gave the boot to its brand new president, Thomas Calhoun Jr., sending him off with a $600,000 golden parachute and not a word of public explanation.
Members of the faculty are alarmed, understandably. Students are perplexed. And we’re concerned that this shabby matter will fade from the public conscience fast if pressure is not kept on the board to explain itself or resign. We support a renewed call from a faculty union, the University Professionals of Illinois, for an independent financial review of CSU’s finances and an independent audit.
If CSU’s board feels so free to hand $600,000 to a parting president who had been on the job less 10 months, with no explanation given for this sudden leaving, we can’t help but wonder how else money has been spent. Calhoun had a five-year contract.
Support for CSU in the state Legislature has grown shaky in recent years, which is not surprising but unfortunate. CSU remains an important institution for thousands of lower-income Chicago area residents, especially minorities and especially on the city’s South Side. The best way to rebuild confidence in the mission of CSU is full transparency and a serious upgrade of the university’s board of trustees.
In January, half the seats on the eight-member board will be up, and Gov. Bruce Rauner already has let it be known his office will engage in a “thoughtful process to find highly qualified individuals” to fill those spots. Current board members should resist the temptation to appoint a permanent replacement for Calhoun before new board members can be seated and help make a wise choice.
These are fumbling times for Chicago State. It has had to pay more than $2 million in severance for employees laid off this year and other expenses. It continues to suffer from a low rate of student graduation. Adding to the aura of low functionality, some dorm rooms were without hot water for a couple of weeks earlier this month.
At a time when public higher education is struggling all around Illinois because of state budget cuts, Chicago State University must demonstrate that it can become an institution of higher value to both taxpayers and students.