Chicago State University has recently gained notoriety in Nigeria, largely due to the controversy surrounding Bola Tinubu’s alleged graduation from this American institution with flying colors. As questions mount over the authenticity of the certificate Mr. Tinubu submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in preparation for the 2023 general elections, Nigerians and opposition figures are left pondering why Chicago State University remains reticent about releasing his academic records. This article delves into the backdrop of fraudulent activities, stifling of free speech, and embezzlement that have marred Chicago State University in recent years.
In March 2014, Chicago University’s former Chief Financial Officer, Glenn Meeks, filed a lawsuit against the university, alleging that he was unlawfully dismissed for revealing the financial misconduct of the then President of the University, Mr. Wayne Watson.
Meeks’ March 2014 lawsuit claimed that he was fired for raising concerns about, among other things, excessive administrative salaries, personnel, and spending, as well as Watson’s close friendship with a university worker who was hired and promoted using phony credentials.
“We believed that the conduct of the university in firing Mr. Meeks was reprehensible since he was trying to help identify financial problems at Chicago State and get the university back on track,” said Meeks’ lawyer, David Heilmann.
“Because he disagreed with those who were in charge, he was retaliated against. The settlement amount is a clear indication that there was a problem with what they had done,” he added.
Chicago State University later settled with Mr. Meeks and agreed to pay him and his legal team $1.3 million as a settlement, $850,000 in back pay, and some $450,000 in lawyer’s fees.
Chicago State University is a safe haven for corrupt and sharp practices. In 2017, a former Chicago State University professor and interim dean, Carmita Coleman, was charged in the Northern District of Illinois court with four counts of wire fraud, in which she allegedly took $651,272 from a national student organization that works to improve minority representation in the pharmacy industry.
According to that suit, Coleman served as executive director of the association from 2006 to 2016, at which time she was replaced. But Coleman refused to exit or assist in the transition.
This led to a lawsuit, and Coleman was ordered to turn over control of all SNPhA accounts and records back to the organization and the new executive director. When she did, it was discovered that Coleman had allegedly “withdrawn over $541,032.58 in cash from SNPhA bank accounts without a legitimate basis and used the debit card for SNPhA to make $110,240.05 in unauthorized purchases.”
That suit claims Coleman used the money on, among other things, “clothing, food, and trips.”
Aside from the corruption scandals, the management of Chicago State University has also allegedly engaged in suppressing freedom of speech and expression in the university, according to a law suit filed by a group of professors in the university in 2014.
Chicago State University President Wayne Watson attempted to pressure a former administrator, LaShondra Peebles, to file false sexual harassment claims against an outspoken professor to help the college try to silence him, according to a court-filed statement from Peebles.
Similarly, two CSU professors brought a federal lawsuit alleging that Watson and the university administration violated their free-speech rights by taking a series of actions aimed at shutting down a blog that criticized Watson and the administration, “CSU Faculty Voice,” to which the professors contributed. According to Peebles, Watson was determined to shut down the blog and silence the professors’ criticism of him and his administration.
The questionable practices that have beset Chicago State University raise serious concerns about the institution’s integrity and credibility. From financial misconduct to allegations of suppressing freedom of speech, these issues cast a shadow over its reputation. The university’s reluctance to address these scandals and its continued silence regarding Bola Tinubu’s academic records only add to the skepticism surrounding them.