Chicago State's Political Science

How to get $40 million without ever asking

By Steve Rhodes
|  Tuesday, Sep 1, 2009  |  Updated 10:05 AM CDT
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Money for Nothing, Campus for Free

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CSU may be bigger soon.

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Nobody teaches political science the way Chicago State University does: The school is so popular among key state legislators that it's now trying to figure out what to do with $40 million it didn't ask for to build a new campus it didn't know it needed.

The $40 million appropriation is a clever play by State Sen. Rickey Hendon (D-Chicago) and some of his colleagues, who want the school to branch out to the West Side and help give their neighborhoods a boost.

Now all school officials have to do is reverse engineer the surprise building project.

"Quite frankly, I was not informed," interim president Frank Pogue told the Tribune. "I don't recall seeing a plan for the project in the year that I was president."

Instead, he read about it in the newspaper.

While the school has engaged in loose talk about expanding in the past, it never formally drew up a plan and never pushed it through usual channels, such as the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

But then, Hendon doesn't need no stinkin' plan. He's never been one for the niceties of playing by the rules.

The funding was tucked into the governor's public works bill, signed over the summer, despite the lack of a plan.

"I appropriate the money, I don't tell the campus what they're going to do," Hendon told the Trib.

Chicago State has long been a patronage haven, particularly for and by former state Senate President Emil Jones, who has an arena on campus named after him.

The school also only has a 16 pecent graduate rate and ongoing controversy in its presidential suite with the controversial choice of Wayne Watson to succeed Elnora Daniel, who left under a cloud of questions about her spending practices and the school's accounting.

"This is about contracts," CSU professor Phillip Beverly told the Tribune. "This is about cronyism. I'm a little tired of the university being used as a pass-through for this kind of cronyism."

In other words, the troubled school is the perfect laboratory to study Chicago politics in action.

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.

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