CHICAGO (CBS) — The faculty at Chicago State University has asked Gov. Bruce Rauner to remove all the trustees at the beleaguered South Side school as it faces declining enrollment, major funding shortfalls, and the unexpected ouster of its popular new president.
Faculty union president Robert Bionaz sent a letter to the governor two weeks ago, after trustees let go President Thomas Calhoun Jr. without explanation, less than nine months into his tenure.
“We should get them out of there before they have a chance to do any more damage. I mean, the school is literally on life support,” he said.
The board of trustees agreed to pay Calhoun $600,000 in severance, under a clause in his contract that allowed him to be removed without cause, with him being paid two years’ salary to leave immediately.
“This is just the last of a series of decisions that we consider bad decisions that again favored the interests of just a handful of people, at the expense of the university’s interests as a whole,” Bionaz said.
Enrollment at Chicago State has dropped dramatically. Only 86 freshmen are attending the university this fall, and overall enrollment is down 25 percent.
The governor has said he is looking at some replacements for the current board.
“Our team is looking right now, trying to do a very thorough search for new board members. I believe our administration has the opportunity to appoint four new board members in January,” Rauner said Thursday. “We’re still trying to get our hands around what’s happened, what is happening at Chicago State, because there’s a lot of movement, and a lot of things being done without informing our administration or outside folks. It’s very troubling, the level of transparency.”
Overall, the governor has the authority to appoint seven of the school’s eight trustees.
Bionaz, president of the CSU chapter of the University Professionals of Illinois, said he sees the irony in asking for help from the governor, after Rauner and state lawmakers sent the university into a financial tailspin by cutting off state funding when they could not agree on a state budget last year.
“What are our options?” he said.