A vocal and divided crowd at Chicago State University‘s board meeting Monday lashed out at trustees, administrators and Gov. Bruce Rauner in anticipation of a leadership change orchestrated by the Republican governor.
The board is expected to decide at the emergency meeting whether to temporarily put ex-Chicago Public Schools chief Paul Vallas, appointed to the board by Rauner in January, in charge of operations at the Far South Side public school.
While Vallas’ potential role has not yet been defined, Rauner has pushed for his one-time political opponent to have a more direct role in the university’s administration after determining current leaders have not done enough to address the school’s long history of poor academic achievement, financial mismanagement and leadership missteps.
Whatever his title, the maneuvering to give Vallas more authority calls into question how interim President Cecil B. Lucy, who has led the university since September, fits into the picture. Lucy, the university’s former finance chief, attended Monday’s meeting but has not commented publicly.
The potential leadership change has proved divisive. Vallas’ supporters, including faculty members, argue the university needs a change, while opponents have criticized Rauner for his involvement and for moving to place a white leader at the helm of a predominantly black institution. Vallas is white; Lucy is black.
During public comments to the board, community organizer Michael Muhammad criticized Chicago State’s current leaders and listed the university’s many struggles and controversies in recent years.
“Incompetence, evil and negativity leave a residue,” Muhammad said. “Change is necessary. The old model must die.”
Local activist Eddie Reed was among those who urged the board to consider the racial dynamics at play.
“Race does matter,” Reed said. “This institution is noted across the country as a black university….