Monday, April 5, 2010

Where's the support for Madhubuti? CSU President Wayne Watson Sends Distinguished Poet Packing

Are you telling me that a black man can rise from pushing pamphlets on the corner to selling books across the globe, and still have to fight for respect?
That that man can marry, raise his children, look out for his mother-in-law, build up a business on the South Side, and still have to fight for respect?

RELATED STORIESCivil rights icon, lauded professor 'forced' out at CSU

And that man can educate his children, and try to educate other people's children and still have to beg for respect from the very people who should be holding him in high esteem?
Something's wrong with that.
On Thursday, I wrote about the disagreement between Haki Madhubuti and Chicago State University President Wayne Watson that has resulted in Madhubuti resigning his post at CSU after 26 years.
You could have heard a pin drop in the activist community.
Madhubuti rose from being a street-corner poet in the 1960s to becoming one of the most prolific writers of the black protest era.
He is also a successful publisher, professor, educator and institution-builder.
To those of us who once dressed in Dashikis and read poetry out loud for inspiration, Madhubuti is a cultural icon.
Yet after spending his entire career building up African Americans in the city and elsewhere, Madhubuti is receiving too little support in his fight with Watson.
CSU president faces challenge
Some of the responses I've gotten took a surprisingly narrow view.
"If he is a giant in the literary world, then the best people he can be influencing is students and the best place to influence them is to teach them in the classroom," said Melanie in an e-mail.
Marc Ganis wrote: "If we are going to educate, we must have those teachers we can afford to pay actually teach. Regardless of skin color, university affiliation and other such issues," he said. "Sounds like Watson is imposing greater accountability at CSU. How could this do anything but better educate the students who attend?"
Obviously, Watson is facing a tough challenge.
The former City Colleges chancellor will have to increase the deplorable graduation rate while raising standards -- not to mention change the university's negative image as being the university of last resort.
Watson has already shown he can clear some impressive hurdles.
In 2005, he received a "no confidence" vote from the faculty at City Colleges. Four years later, he was given a five-year contract at Chicago State University amid complaints that the process was rigged.
And while the public is outraged that state employees can collect hefty pensions after moving into new state jobs, Watson has managed to do so without anyone raising an eyebrow.

Complete story at,CST-NWS-mitch04.article


  1. Dr. Wayne Watson the President since October 09, has requested Madhubti to teach a full load and Watson is being slamed for doing so.
    Haki Madhubuti is an estemeed and prolific writer. He has given a public resignation because Watson required accountability and a full teaching load of 12 hours. Previously Madhubuti has been teaching 3 hours a year for a full salary. Quite the job, wouldn't you say. Enters new boss asking for accountability and responsibility and you claim that you are being mistreated. What kind of thinking is this?

    Most people would be pleased to have a full salary for 3 hours of work per year. Wow, in these economic times, do the math. Madhubuti has had generous support from Chicago State University with an annual conference and the formation of The Gwendolyn Brooks Center.These are major achievements. In these hard economic times, state funding budget cuts, it would not be realistic to keep things the same. A touch of reality enters. No one on the planet, not even the President of the United States, can work only three hours a year and justify a full salary. No one is that distinguished.

    Watson became President of Chicago State after much controversy but I wonder why didn't Haki Madhubuti apply for the position? He seems to be saying if you break up my playground and make me work like the other Distinguished Professors, I will take my books and go home. Chicago State Unviersity is a teaching university and the most important thing a professor can do is teach, hands on. This is what great professors do.

    Watson is providing leadership and asking his faculty to be accountable and responsible. What's wrong with that? Wouldn't you like to work for full salary and work only three hours a week. Wow. What a job.

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  3. I've been reading this story for a couple of days waiting for it to make sense. It still doesn't.

    I don't understand why Mitchell called it a public fight, when it wasn't public until she wrote about it? (And it is notable that no other media outlet picked the story up).

    I don't understand why
    Mitchell wrote 2 stories in three days, the first about a non-existent feud and the second to foment public response about the non-existent feud, unless the something about the relationship between these two that we don't know. Where is a good ethical editor when you need one?

    So these are my questions.

    First, when would an English Professor work for the President? He wouldn't. He would work for the Chair of the English Department. But the Chair of the English Department is three levels below the President. So why does this professor call the president "his boss?". It doesn't pass the sniff test that this is a real feud.

    Second, Emeritus status is always an unpaid status. I don't understand why this Professor thinks that he should be paid when there is a Director of the Center Quraysh Ali Lansana, Director, Gwendolyn Brooks Center, Associate Professor of English/Creative Writing. Is Chicago State supposed to pay two Directors for this center? Is the media being used in an effort to get the CSU to back down?

    Third - retiring is the way to get what he wants, to be paid (he will get a pension), and he won't have to teach. So why not just take that option instead of creating this noise?

    Fourth - why does Madhubuti think that an obscure letter he wrote a year ago is even relevant? Everyone but him had forgotten about it a year ago.

    Fifth - If Haki would rather retire than teach, why does he think that there was a move against him? Why isn't it just that he exercised an option to retire which was available to him?

    Sixth - Why is a 68 year old man retiring considered to be "an early retirement?"

    Seventh - I don't believe CSU has a job called cultural icon, but if does, why doesn't Madhubuti apply for it and be done? If his job is an English Professor, why does he think he can be paid to be a cultural icon instead?

    Eighth - If Madhubuti can teach somewhere else, why doesn't he just go there and teach? Why put CSU through the hoops? He has given up his slave name, and he should give up his slave mentality about work. Nobody forces him to take a check from CSU.

    Nineth - If he doesn't teach, why would he be missed? How many students even know who he is or that he has an office at CSU?

    Last, why pick now? Why pick this way, (in the papers) rather than civilized and behind closed doors. Why not show the students the courtesy of not bringing dishonor to CSU with public name calling and mudslinging - if you have any students you care about?


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