Campus Free Speech

Lawsuit Details Stunning Climate of Censorship, Retaliation Against CSU Admins Who Opposed President

Chicago State University president tried to force an employee to file false sexual harassment charges.


Daniel Schwen

Chicago State University President Wayne Watson tried to force an administrator to file sexual harassment charges against a professor who had criticized him. When the administrator refused, he fired her, according to a wrongful termination lawsuit brought against the university yesterday.

The lawsuit details a breathtakingly complex conspiracy to punish employees who dissented from Watson's vision, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education:

According to the declaration of former Chicago State Vice President for Enrollment Management LaShondra Peebles, Watson was determined to silence [Professor Philip] Beverly by shutting down the blog, CSU Faculty Voice, which Beverly had founded. Contributors routinely posted documents that supported their allegations of mismanagement by the administration.

After pretextual accusations of trademark infringement failed to intimidate the professors into shutting down their blog, Chicago State hastily adopted a far-reaching cyberbullying policy on May 9, 2014. Ms. Peebles's declaration alleges that the policy was expressly designed to silence CSU Faculty Voice. In fact, shortly after the Board of Trustees passed the new policy, administrators used it to investigate Professor Robert Bionaz, another blog contributor, for harassment. The investigation was based, inexplicably, on a face-to-face conversation he had with Chicago State's spokesman.

Watson's series of actions eventually prompted Beverly and Bionaz to file a First Amendment lawsuit against Watson and others in July 2014. The suit was filed with support from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) as part of its Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project.

Now Peebles is also suing. Her lawsuit alleges that she was fired for failing to file a sexual harassment charge against Beverly. The story she tells does not reflect well on Watson:

Watson responded by stating "that's three," claiming that Beverly had threatened and sexually harassed Angela Henderson, Moss, and myself. Watson stated that he needed the three of us to charge Beverly with sexual harassment. Watson said that he and the CSU administration were in a fight against Beverly and that he wanted to get rid of Beverly. Watson told me that he needed my help in the fight and advised me to file a lawsuit for sexual harassment against Beverly based on Beverly's visit to my office. I told Watson that I did not feel threatened or harassed by Beverly's conversation. Nevertheless, Watson asserted that I had been harassed and that I "did not realize it."

Watson has already decided to retire. But if these accusations are true, he shouldn't be allowed to merely leave the university quietly.

The case is a good reminder that while threats to free speech on campuses often come from administrators—whose ranks have soared in the last decade and a half—a climate of censorship and oppression is not merely a problem for students and professors. Administrators trying to do the right thing can themselves become targets as well.

NEXT: Rand Wants Hillary to Return Saudi Contributions, FBI Probes Schock, No Progress in Iran Talks: P.M. Links

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  1. Chicago State University

    You can’t fool *me*, Robby. That’s from The Onion.

    1. That’s from The Onion.

      Has to be. No one would EVER weaponize a sexual harassment charge.

      1. I think the Chicago State U part was what was silly. Yknow, cuz Chicago is a city, not a state?

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  2. So, in these cases, does a university president retain his job up to the point he costs the school more money than he brings in?

    1. Like cops? I’d say yes. To there and beyond.

  3. What is cyberbulling? 0x10A4!

  4. OT from The Intercept:

    German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel (above) said this week in Homburg that the U.S. government threatened to cease sharing intelligence with Germany if Berlin offered asylum to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden or otherwise arranged for him to travel to that country. “They told us they would stop notifying us of plots and other intelligence matters,” Gabriel said.

    Nice country you got there, be a shame…

    1. The same Germany we were caught spying on?

      1. You know who else spied on the Germans?

        1. The intelligence community under the administration of one Barack Obama?

          1. Say, that’s right!

            In any case, the Germans could just get the intelligence from the French, who get it from the Russians.

            1. There’s a Franco-Russian alliance now?

              Worst game of Risk ever.

              1. Only when the French aren’t allied with the Turks.

                1. So what you are saying is that the French have removed kebab?

      2. The same Germany we were caught spying on?

        Why do you think the Germans take this threat seriously? They’d lose a supply of domestic intelligence that they can’t legally gather or use.

        As far as the German government is concerned, Islamic terrorism is no where near as great a threat to the power of the German government as its own citizens.

    2. Play that another way:

      “You mean, if we take Snowden, you will stop feeding us your paranoid fantasies?”

      1. The first thing that came to my mind was the prevalence of the phrase “Hamburg Terror Cell” in recent memory. And the usefulness of knowing about any new ones that might pop up. Do we have Germany so under wraps now that we have exactly no need for any info they may have on future attacks directed towards us?

        Better hope so.

      2. Hmmm. Europeans have an actual reason to be concerned about terrorism.

  5. Choosing between believing one education bureaucrat and another is rather difficult.

    Can we demand Trial by Combat? Mounted and in full armor, of course.

    1. No, no, no, Aresen. Affairs of honor require, you know, honor. Just exile them both.

      1. Well, I don’t think there was really much honor among the Titled Mafia that made up European Aristocracy from the Fall of Rome to the middle of the last century, so they were really no better than University Aristocracy Administrators and Faculty.

        Why preclude the latter from the same rites of expiation?

        1. Besides, think of the amusement in watching a University President trying similtaneously to control a warhorse, a lance and a shield.

        2. They had some sense of personal honor, albeit a total mess. I’m not sure that exists here.

          That said, perhaps we can make an exception if the combat is ensured to be painful. Perhaps clubs would be best.

    2. Trial by combat is a fabulous idea. Let the Gods decide.

  6. Time for some Rasputin booze and Bubba burgers, bitches. Chicago can fucking go to hell!

  7. Good God, does Chicago State even exist anymore? The college that graduated students unable to read their own diplomas? That is generally referred to as a *teachers’ college*? That has for decades been a simply unimaginable cesspool? Run pretty much entirely by the power structure of the city of Chicago? That Chicago State University? Motto: A Microcosm of Corruption and Cronyism”

    My apologies to hard working cesspools everywhere.

  8. “Watson has already decided to retire. But if these accusations are true, he shouldn’t be allowed to merely leave the university quietly.”

    A College Administrator, from Chicago. Frankly, he sounds like he has about the ethical standards I would EXPECT from such a person. Sharpen his heels and drive him into the ground like a tent peg.

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