06/14/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Mary Mitchell Strikes Back, and Misfires

Really, must we fight to sell newspapers now?

One way to sell newspapers is to get two columnists fighting.

I don't pick fights. But I don't run from one either.

Last week, I responded to Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell's previous columns regarding her position that Haki Madhubuti was "forced out" of Chicago State University.

Mitchell called and told me that "I lacked professional courtesy by not telling her that I was going to respond to her article."


Did I break a code by not giving her the heads-up that I would address her skewed opinion that Haki Madhubuti should earn a full year's salary for only teaching just one course?

And so it's Round 2 for the catfight between Mitchell and myself.

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary has chosen to write yet another column (April 13, 2010), about Chicago State University, this time she labeled me as a "hired gun" for CSU President Dr. Wayne Watson.

"Hired gun" implies that I currently hold a contract, and I do not. I am transparent.

Mitchell is critical that I did not disclose the contract in my article or blog. I did not discuss the expired contract because it was not pertinent to the issue at hand--that Professor Madhubuti, no matter his iconic status, should teach a full course load--as his colleagues do--if he expects to draw a full year's salary.

Dr. Wayne Watson became the official President of Chicago State University on October 1, 2009. I had a short-term marketing contract with CSU in the amount of $19,000, for July 15 to August 30, 2009. Watson was not yet president when I worked with the CSU team.

Preliminary strategy discussions began in mid-May and the work extended beyond the date in order to successfully complete our marketing initiatives. The end result was an 8 percent increase in student enrollment, so we were effective. The previous semester enrollment was up by 1 percent.

Recruitment advertising was placed in N'Digo as Mitchell points out, but she forgot to say the same ads were also placed in the Chicago Sun-Times. (Sometimes columnists forget, I suppose). And in the spirit of full disclosure, I should note that up until 2009, N'Digo had a contract with the Chicago Sun-Times to print our paper.

Mitchell has referred to my expired contract as "patronage." It was not. I am an expert in public relations and marketing. I have a specialty in student recruitment. When Watson and I worked at City Colleges my marketing efforts resulted in what I labeled "educational media." Enrollment at City Colleges of Chicago increased by 25 percent and I am proud of the award winning campaigns that we put together in that regard.

Mitchell did not report that Marilyn Katz had a public relations contract in for the near amount at the same time. And this month Chicago State University awarded Jasculca/Terman Associates a contract in the amount of $250,000 for public relations, marketing and advertising--so much for Mitchell's patronage concept.

Another fact that escapes Mitchell is that I brokered a book publishing deal that landed me a meager contract with Third World Press, owned by Haki Madhubuti.

I coined a new term accusing Mitchell of "friendship journalism." She actually engaged in "sloppy journalism." Her article on April 1st was not objective and she made it appear as though Watson went after Haki Madhubuti when all he actually did was ask the "icon" to do his job, which was to teach a full course load of 12 hours.

What Mitchell did not report, on April 1st, is that on that same day, Watson right-sized the organization. As a result, he dismissed 126 people from the payroll to include administrators, civil service employees and extra help. This streamlining tactic saves the institution $5 million over the next two years. This is the business context of the Haki Madhubuti work situation.

Unanswered Questions

To date, Madhubuti has not officially retired, or resigned other than in Mitchell's column.

The point in Mitchell's article that compelled me to write was the unfair statement that Watson was going to do to Chicago State University what he did at City Colleges. Again, in a "sloppy journalism" mode, Mitchell forgot to explain what she meant by that. And she still hasn't done so.

There is a much larger issue here than Black folks fighting in the newspapers and on the blogs, point by point on whether they are friends or not, small public contracts, open letters and the like. The real deal was editorialized in the Chicago Sun-Times on April 9th, "Keep Universities Afloat for Sake of State's Future." The editorial speaks to the lack of state funding, "The nine universities already have responded by freezing hiring, ordering furloughs, deferring maintenance, draining cash reserves and taking other short-term measures."

The editorial addresses the deficit of the State's funding and the toll it is taking on higher education. Watson's actions were actually in accord with other state chancellors and presidents. The editorial was a result of University of Illinois President Stanley Ikenberry's editorial board meeting that addressed the financial hardship the schools are facing.

The article suggests, before the political campaigns "beef up," that there is a funding crisis in public higher education and the public should be aware. The threat is that should we continue at our current pace, one or two of the public universities are threatened with closure.

Mary Mitchell, can you guess which school is probably the most vulnerable?

That's right, Chicago State University. And then it would be time for a call to action. It would be totally unacceptable to close CSU.

Having stated the obvious, in the near future, the two of us might really have something to write about.

And we will probably agree.

Peace out.