Chicago State U.’s Embattled President Steps Down

Wayne D. Watson stepped down as president of Chicago State University on Monday, after a rocky tenure in which he struggled to help the institution recover from accusations of financial mismanagement that had plagued his predecessor. Students and faculty members objected to Mr. Watson’s appointment in 2009, raising questions about his previous leadership of the City Colleges of Chicago. Mr. Watson tried to increase enrollment and improve relations with faculty members, but struggled to gain traction in those efforts; enrollment has dropped since he took office, and faculty members voted no confidence in his leadership last fall. Mr. Watson was in the fourth year of a five-year contract; the university said he would take a one-year sabbatical at his $250,000 salary and then retire.

Update (2/26/2013, 10:22 p.m.): Mr. Watson remained in his office Tuesday, causing confusion as employees questioned who was in charge on the campus, according to the Chicago Tribune. The university’s Board of Trustees considers the university’s provost to be the acting president, while Mr. Watson’s lawyer said his client was still the president. The board’s lawyer said “confusion is in place” regarding the university’s leadership, which he said will be put to rest when the board meets on Friday to settle the matter.

“It is time to look for new leadership,” board Chairman Gary Rozier told the Tribune on Monday morning after the announcement. “We are looking at the future of the university, and while we recognize that Wayne has done a lot of good things the school needed … you get to a place where you are looking at new leadership or a change in leadership.”

Sandra Westbrooks, the university’s provost, will be named acting president, and board members will begin discussing the search for the next president at their regularly scheduled meeting next week.

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