PULLMAN — Following a widely publicized scrum in which Chicago State University's board of trustees announced the school's president, Wayne Watson, would take a year-long sabbatical and sought his replacement, then rescinded his sabbatical and launched an investigation into possible policy violations by Watson, the university announced this week it has extended his contract.
Watson agreed to a one-year contract extension that runs until 2015.
“I am humbled and proud to serve the Chicago State University family and I look forward to continuing the work we have begun,” Watson said, in a statement. "And while our work is far from complete, I am excited to move to the next phase in affirming CSU’s role as a leader in education.”
Spencer Leak Sr., a CSU board member, said the seven-member Board of Trustees voted unanimously at its Sept. 20 meeting to extend Watson's five-year contract set to end next year.
"I felt Dr. Watson deserved an extension and that is why I voted for him," said Leak, president of Leak and Sons Funeral Homes in Grand Crossing. "I am satisfied with his performance up to this point."
Since taking the helm at CSU in 2009, Watson, 67, said the city's only four-year, public university on the South Side, has made great strides.
“CSU has come a long way in a short amount of time in terms of enhancing a culture that values accountability, stresses academic excellence and produces the next generation of leaders in a diverse array of fields," added Watson.
An assessment Board of Trustees Chairman Anthony Young echoed.
“The Board of Trustees has carefully reviewed the progress made at Chicago State University from the time Dr. Watson has arrived until now and has decided unanimously that the students of CSU are best served by extending Dr. Watson’s tenure,” Young said.
The extension is a vote of confidence in Watson following a misunderstanding he and the board had earlier this year about his future.
In February, the board appointed an interim president after Watson requested and received a one-year sabbatical. But before he could take his leave, the board launched a search for a new president in anticipation that Watson would retire at the end of his term.
Watson declared he was still the university's president, and the board announced it would investigate whether he violated an undisclosed university policy. In May, the board of trustees said it had full confidence in Watson.
While the board lent Watson support, faculty leaders questioned large salary hikes he approved - as much as 21 percent - for some administrators last spring, and another administrator alleged he was unfairly fired after questioning the raises.
The Rev. Leon Finney, pastor of Metropolitan Apostolic Community Church, and former board member, said he voted for Watson's hiring in 2009 and does not regret it.
"Watson is doing his very best given the school's condition when he first became president in 2009," Finney said. "It was I, along with other board members, who chose Watson over other candidates and we have to stand by that."
But Watson insisted he has moved passed previous mishaps and so has the faculty and staff.
“The faculty, staff, students, board members, alumni and all the members of the CSU family have come together over the past few years to help execute a course correction and put the University on a pathway to future success," said Watson.