Gov. Pat Quinn announced Wednesday that he won't fire the two University of Illinois trustees who refused to resign amid an admissions scandal, and he started to rebuild the board with new appointees.
Quinn said trying to remove the holdout trustees would drag the school into a protracted legal battle and he didn't want a "cloud of litigation" hanging over the university. One trustee had vowed to fight Quinn in court
Here's something that isn't likely to be mentioned. The two remaining Trustees that refuse to be pushed out, James Montgomery and Frances Carroll, are both African American. In fact, they're the only two African American trustees left. Governor Quinn is of course white. All of this may in fact be mere coincidence and may mean absolutely nothing.
At the same time, the scandal at Chicago State continues to unfold. That scandal continues to receive little scrutiny from most of the media. At Chicago State, only four of the seven trustee posts are even filled. Some of the three unfilled have been vacant for more than a year. Three of the four are African American. Staff at CSU have repeatedly asked the Governor when he would appoint replacements to the vacant posts and his office has said that he is in the process of making a decision without yet giving a firm timeline.
At the root of both situations is corruption. In the case of the University of Illinois, powerful politicians like Dick Durbin, Michael Madigan and Chris Lauzen made personal appeals to higher ups including members of the board of trustees to reverse admission decisions and often times those that wouldn't have gotten in on their merits got in on their connections.
At Chicago State, the board of trustees appears to be engaged in a power play. Several administrators, including the Director of Human Resources, were fired without cause and their positions remain unfilled. Meanwhile, after a search that cost the school $75000, the school chose as its president Wayne Watson. Watson's appointment wasn't viewed favorably by most of the campus, but he was voted for unanimously by the four trustees. On top of it, Watson was forced to start his presidency two months late because he would violate his pension terms otherwise. His contract with CSU has not yet been augmented, and no emergency meeting has been scheduled to augment it yet. This chain of events appears to be largely orchestrated by the president of the board of trustees, Reverend Leon Finney. Because only four of the seven trustee positions have been filled, the Finance committee is a committee of one at CSU, Leon Finney.
There's an irony here. A cynic would believe that Quinn has allowed for CSU to spin out of control because taking on the board of trustees would expose him to the issue of race. Yet, I've been told that a large part of the staff at CSU that's concerned by what's been happening at the school over the last several months feels that Quinn is ignoring the corruption there because it's mostly African American. At the core both of these scandals are about corruption plain and simple. We'd all like to believe that our public servants would confront corruption regardless of race. There's of course no proof that Quinn is making any decision with an eye on race. What we can't dismiss is that the mixed school with mostly white administrators is getting the bulk of his attention while the school with mostly African American administrators receives very little attention. The audience can draw whatever, if any, conclusions from that.