Chicago State University

Chicago State University
Type Public
Established September 2, 1867 (1867-09-02)
Endowment $3,763,212
President Thomas J. Calhoun
Academic staff
Students 3,578 (Fall 2016)[1]
Undergraduates 2,352
Postgraduates 1,226
Location Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
41°43′04″N 87°36′35″W / 41.717646°N 87.609744°W / 41.717646; -87.609744Coordinates: 41°43′04″N 87°36′35″W / 41.717646°N 87.609744°W / 41.717646; -87.609744
Campus Urban
Colors Green, Black and White
Athletics NCAA Division IWAC
Nickname Cougars
Mascot Cougar
Affiliations AASCU

Chicago State University (CSU) is a state university of the U.S. state of Illinois, located in Chicago. The University is a member-school of Thurgood Marshall College Fund. On February 26, 2016, all 900 employees of Chicago State University received layoff notices in anticipation of inadequate funding.[2]


Early history: 19th century

Cook County Normal School was founded in 1867, largely through the initiative of John F. Eberhart, the Commissioner of Schools for Cook County.[3] Eberhart noted that Cook County schools lagged far behind their counterparts in the city of Chicago, especially in terms of the quality and competence of instructors. He convinced the County Commissioners to hold a teacher training institute in April 1860; its success convinced the commissioners of the need for a permanent school to educate teachers. In March 1867 the Cook County Board of Supervisors created a Normal school at Blue Island on a two-year experimental basis. Daniel S. Wentworth was the first principal.

In 1869, the school opened as a permanent institution in Englewood, then a village far beyond the outskirts of Chicago. After Wentworth died in 1883, he was replaced by Colonel Francis Wayland Parker, a towering figure in the history of American education. Parker was an educational innovator who helped construct the philosophy of progressive education, which has decisively shaped American schooling over the past century. Dedicated to the proposition that the nature and interests of the child should determine curricular decisions, not vice versa, progressive reformers from the 1890s forward tried to banish what they saw as oppressive and authoritarian standards of instruction. Parker urged teachers to grant pupils the freedom to learn from their environment, to let curiosity rather than rewards or punishments provide their motivation, and to advance American democracy by democratizing their classrooms. John Dewey wrote in The New Republic in 1930 that Parker, "more nearly than any other one person, was the father of the progressive educational movement."”[4] Parker believed that education was the cornerstone of a democracy, and that to achieve this end rote memorization should be replaced with exploration of the environment. Parker's Talks on Pedagogics preceded Dewey's own School and Society by five years, and it is one of the foundational texts in the progressive movement.

By the 1890s, Cook County was unable to provide the requisite support for its Normal School. Since many graduates found employment in the Chicago Public Schools system, it was natural that the city would take over, though initially it was very resistant to the idea. In 1897 the Chicago Board of Education assumed responsibility for what was now the Chicago Normal School. Shortly thereafter, Francis W. Parker, the school's renowned principal, resigned after the Board failed to implement the recommendations of a school system commission headed by William Rainey Harper of the University of Chicago.[5] Harper suggested raising the standards for admission to the Normal School, increasing the total number of teachers trained, and strengthening oversight of graduates once they were working in the public schools.

Parker was replaced by Arnold Tompkins. Tompkins was an Indiana Hegelian who introduced key reforms that helped mold the institution's philosophy. Tompkins declared his dissatisfaction with the practice school then used as a laboratory for student-teachers. He wanted instructors to gain real world experience in Chicago's public schools, and he encouraged their placement in poor, immigrant communities. From that point forward, the school would be characterized not just by its innovative pedagogical practices, but also by its commitment to expanding opportunity to underserved sectors of society.

Early 20th century

Tompkins was succeeded as president by Ella Flagg Young, a pioneering educator in her own right. Young received a PhD under John Dewey at the University of Chicago, and after leaving Chicago Normal School served as Superintendent of the Chicago Public Schools system. She attempted to expand the curriculum to three years, but was stymied by the Board of Education. After Young left to become Superintendent in 1909, William Bishop Owen became Principal of CNS.

In 1913, the school was renamed Chicago Normal College, with higher admissions standards and several new buildings gradually added to the campus. In 1926, the College moved to a three-year curriculum, with heavier emphasis placed on traditional academic subjects as opposed to pedagogy. The school was an increasingly attractive educational avenue for Chicago's immigrant communities, who could get inexpensive preliminary schooling before transferring to a university. However, when the Great Depression began in 1929, severe budget shortages forced the College to curtail its operations, and almost eventuated in its closing. In 1932, the Board of Education budget shrank by $12 million.[6] To many, an obvious strategy for economizing was to close the Normal College, since there were no positions in the school system for trained teachers anyway.

The faculty and students campaigned vigorously to keep the College open. Pep rallies, publications, and the efforts of immigrant communities were all part of the mobilization in favor of continued operations. As the economy stabilized, the threat to dissolve the College receded, though it did not disappear. Meanwhile, interest in the school rose, as financial destitution forced many Chicago-area students to forgo residential institutions elsewhere for a commuter campus closer to home.

In 1938, the school again changed its name, this time to Chicago Teachers College to reflect the recent adoption of a four-year curriculum. President John A. Bartky had ambitious plans for invigorating instruction through a new commitment to the liberal arts and a doubling of the time devoted to practice teaching. In addition, a Master of Education degree was offered for the first time. However, Bartky's reforms were interrupted by the outbreak of World War II, which depleted the faculty and student body alike. Bartky himself enlisted in the Navy in 1942, and never returned to the college. In his absence, the Chicago Board of Education reversed most of his curricular innovations.[7]

After the war ended, Raymond Mack Cook was hired as Dean. Cook's primary achievement was to convince the state of Illinois to take over funding of the College. The city was no longer able to fund the institution adequately, and in 1951 Governor Adlai Stevenson signed legislation that reimbursed the Board of Education for its operating expenses on a permanent basis. In 1965, Cook succeeded in convincing the state take responsibility for the College entirely.

1950–1979: Name changes, new location

As the demographic composition of the south side of Chicago changed, increasing numbers of African-American students began to attend the College. By the 1950s, nearly 30% of the student body was black. At the same time, three branches of Chicago Teachers College opened elsewhere in the city; these eventually became Northeastern Illinois University. During these years Chicago Teachers College and its branches educated a preponderance of the students who became Chicago Public School system teachers.

Once the state of Illinois took over control of the institution, the student body and programs offered rapidly expanded. The college experienced two more name changes, becoming Chicago State College in 1967 and Chicago State University in 1971, a year before moving to a new campus. By the mid-1960s the college's infrastructure was deteriorating and tensions between the majority white student body and the mostly black surrounding neighborhood were on the rise. Like many campuses, Chicago State College experienced a burst of student activism in 1968 and 1969 as black students and faculty demanded greater attention to their needs and interests and closer relations with the neighborhood. The administration responded by creating an African-American Studies program and cultural center.

In 1972, the university moved to its new location at 9501 S. King Dr., between Burnside and Roseland. The state purchased the land from the Illinois Central Railroad and suspended classes for 2 weeks in November to complete the move.

In January 1975, 5,000 students signed a petition on a 45-foot-long (14 m) scroll requesting that President Gerald Ford give the commencement address at graduation that summer. On July 12, 1975, President Ford gave the commencement address at the ceremony held in the Arie Crown Theatre at McCormick Place and received an honorary doctor of laws degree.[8]

Late 20th century

Shortly thereafter, President Milton Byrd announced his resignation. His replacement, Benjamin Alexander, was the institution's first African-American leader. Under Alexander's command the school received full 10-year accreditation for the first time in its history. Alexander pushed hard to foster multiculturalism, as the African-American portion of the student body swelled from 60% at the outset of the 1970s to over 80% by 1980. These shifting demographics encouraged a debate over whether CSU should be considered a predominantly African-American institution, akin to the HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) or whether it should retain a multicultural and multiracial identity. That debate has continued in some form ever since.

President Benjamin Alexander hired Dr. Dorothy L. Richey, a Tuskegee University graduate to become the first woman appointed head of athletics at a Co-educational College or University in the United States. Her Teams excelled during her first year as Athletic Director in 1975.[9]

The school struggled in the 1980s with flat enrollments, declining state budgets, and falling graduation rates. However, in the early 1990s President Dolores Cross helped introduce a sharp increase in enrollment and retention. She urged faculty to personally call advisees and students who might be having problems. Enrollment rose 40%, nearing 10,000. The Chicago Tribune dubbed Chicago State “Success U.”[10]

In 1990, Gwendolyn Brooks, the well-known poet, was hired as a Distinguished Professor; she taught classes at CSU up until her death. Brooks protégé and English professor Haki R. Madhubuti established a writing center, now called the Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing, which hosts a yearly conference and offers the only MFA degree in the country to focus on African American literature. Today it is directed by the poet Quraysh Ali Lansana.[11]

21st century: 2000–present

Elnora Daniel became President in 1998 and she worked to increase federal and state funding and to create new programs. An Honor's College was established in 2003 and a College of Pharmacy in 2007. Daniel also oversaw the first doctoral program at CSU in Educational Leadership. The program produced its first graduates in 2009. Special funds were procured to finance a textbook buying program for African schools and two new buildings: the University Library and the Emil and Patricia Jones Convocation Center.


In addition to the Honors College and School of Graduate and Professional Studies, Chicago State has the following five, degree-granting colleges:


Emil and Patricia A. Jones Convocation Center

The Emil and Patricia Jones Convocation Center is a 7,000-seat multi-purpose on-campus arena started on October 4, 2004 and completed in 2007. The arena hosts the Chicago State University Cougars basketball teams and replaces the Jacoby D. Dickens Athletic Center, which only had capacity to seat 2,500 persons. Among sporting events, the convocation center houses concerts, conferences, and special city-wide events. The convocation center is unique among Illinois university athletic projects, because Chicago State University did not have to raise any money for the project.

Jacoby Dickens Center

The Jacoby D. Dickens Center (JDC) is home of the Chicago State University Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. The building was built in 1971 and was formerly known as the CSU Athletics Building until 1995, when it was dedicated to renowned Chicago businessman Jacoby D. Dickens. It contains a 2,500-seat gymnasium, three swimming pools, a fitness center, eight locker rooms, three classrooms, a dance studio, an auxiliary and a multipurpose gymnasium. In addition, the building is home to CSU's athletic department and the university's Health and Physical Education and Recreation (HPER) department.


The University's library, dedicated in October 2006, features a state of the art automated storage and retrieval system called ROVER (Retrieval Online Via Electronic Robot), which currently holds most of the library's material that was produced before 1991. It can retrieve five books in 2.5 minutes, on average; the average time for a student to retrieve five books is 2 hours. The system has a capacity of 800,000 volumes and its database is backed up in at least two offsite locations.[12]

Student life



Main article: Chicago State Cougars

Chicago State University sponsors seven men's and seven women's teams in NCAA sanctioned sports with men's and women's soccer to be added by 2014:[13]

Women's soccer is scheduled to be added for 2014. Men's soccer was originally scheduled to also begin in 2014, but is now "pending" with an estimated start date of 2015.

The school's sports teams are called the Cougars, and the team colors are green and white. CSU participates in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) of the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division I. From 1994 until June 2006, CSU was a member of the Mid-Continent Conference, but withdrew and took independent status before joining the Great West Conference, in which it played from 2009–10 through 2012–13.[14] Prior to gaining NCAA Division I status, the university enjoyed memberships in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and NCAA Division 2.

Fraternities and sororities

All nine of the National Pan-Hellenic Council organizations currently have chapters at Chicago State University. These organizations are:

Organization Symbol Chapter Chapter Symbol
Alpha Kappa Alpha ΑΚΑ Xi Kappa ΞΚ
Alpha Phi Alpha ΑΦΑ Nu Delta
Delta Sigma Theta ΔΣΘ Lambda Λ
Iota Phi Theta ΙΦΘ Beta Omicron BO
Kappa Alpha Psi ΚΑΨ Theta Zeta ΘΖ
Omega Psi Phi ΩΨΦ Epsilon Eta EH
Phi Beta Sigma ΦΒΣ Alpha Alpha Beta AAB
Sigma Gamma Rho ΣΓΡ Omicron Chi OX
Zeta Phi Beta ΖΦΒ Alpha Alpha AA

Notable alumni

Name Class year Notability Reference(s)
James A. Banks founding director, Center for Multicultural Education, University of Washington
Juba Kalamka 1993 Black LGBT activist, emcee, curator and record producer
Al Riley member of Illinois House of Representatives
Karen Yarbrough 1973 member of Illinois House of Representatives
Bob Janecyk 1978 National Hockey League goalie, Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings (1983–89)
Dennis DeYoung, John Panozzo, Chuck Panozzo and John Curulewski founding members of rock band Styx
James "Chico" Hernandez featured on a box of Wheaties Energy Crunch and is a FIAS World Cup Vice-Champion in Sombo Wrestling.
Rosalyn Bryant competed in the 1976 Summer Olympic Games
Willye White competed in five Olympic Games
Steven Whitehurst 1990 award-winning author. [15]
Marlow H. Colvin Illinois State Representative (2001–present)
Donne E. Trotter 1988–93 (House); 1993–present (Senate)
Kanye West Attended, but did not graduate.

Honorary degrees

Name Class year Notability Reference(s)
Congressman Danny K. Davis received an honorary doctorate from the university
President Gerald Ford 1975 38th President of the United States; received an honorary Doctor of Law degree from the university


The school has in the past been the target of controversies. After university president Elnora Daniel resigned under allegations of unjustified spending, the board of trustees began a search for her replacement. All but two of the faculty members who served on the search committee resigned in protest feeling their concerns were not addressed. Part of their concerns include a graduation rate of only 16.2% (as of 2007) and inadequate infrastructure.[16] On April 29, 2009, the board of trustees appointed retiring City Colleges of Chicago chancellor Wayne Watson as Chicago State's new president. The decision was protested by several students and faculty, who openly booed the announcement, claiming that Watson's appointment was motivated by political considerations rather than the good of the students and faculty.[17] These issues prompted the Higher Learning Commission, the school's accrediting agency, to express "grave" concerns regarding Chicago State's future and indicate that its accreditation might be in jeopardy.[18] However, under Watson's leadership, the school retained and extended its accreditation after the Commission's review.[19]

In January 2014 the Chicago Tribune reported that the school's interim provost, Angela Henderson, was under investigation by the University of Illinois at Chicago for possible plagiarism of her dissertation.[20]

During Watson's tenure, Chicago State University was named as a defendant in several high-profile lawsuits in which whistleblower employees have alleged that they were subjected to retaliatory firings for exposing ethical misconduct on the part of the Watson administration. In one case, a jury awarded a substantial verdict, which totaled over $3 million.[21] A similar 2014 suit charged that Watson improperly hired and promoted administrators and engaged in an inappropriate romantic relationship with an employee.[22]

On February 26, 2016, all 900 employees of Chicago State University received layoff notices in anticipation of inadequate funding.[23]

In May 2016, CSU's graduation rate had dropped to only 11%. The university has historically been the subject of criticism from legislators and accreditors for low graduation rates hovering between 13 and 21 percent.[24]

The low graduation rate amounts to more than $2.5 million spent per year per graduate. Most of that money is paid for by Illinois taxpayers. According to an audit of the University by the Illinois Auditor General. Chicago State University also owes $356.5 million in debt, the majority of which is owed to the state university retirement system pension plan.[25]


  1. "Only 86 freshmen at Chicago State University, as total enrollment drops 25 percent". Chicago Tribune. 27 September 2016. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  2. Chicago State University Sends Layoff Notices To All Employees
  3. Edmund W. Kearney and E. Maynard Moore, A History: Chicago State University, 1867–1979 (Chicago: Chicago State University Foundation, 1979), p. 7
  4. John Dewey, "How Much Freedom in the New Schools?" The New Republic, July 9, 1930: 204–207, p. 204.
  5. Kearney and Moore, p. 28
  6. Kearney and Moore, p. 44
  7. Kearney, p.51
  8. "Gerald R. Ford: Commencement Address at Chicago State University.". Retrieved August 15, 2015.
  9. Company, Johnson Publishing (June 1975). "Ebony".
  10. Christine Hawes, “Chicago State Now Success U” Chicago Tribune May 7, 1992
  11. Chicago State University. "Home - Gwendolyn Brooks Center - Chicago State University". Retrieved August 15, 2015.
  12. Erin Biba. "Biblio Tech". Wired (January 2007): 33.
  13. "The Official Site of Chicago State Athletics". Retrieved August 15, 2015.
  14. "Chicago St. to WAC". Retrieved August 15, 2015.
  15. "Official Website Of Author Steven Whitehurst". Retrieved August 15, 2015.
  16. "Topic Galleries". Chicago Tribune.
  17. Cohen, Jodi S (April 30, 2009). "Chicago State University president: Next President Wayne Watson booed by students, faculty". Chicago Tribune.
  18. "Commission cites concerns with Chicago State accreditation". Chicago Tribune. September 25, 2009. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
  19. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on June 30, 2013. Retrieved 2013-06-27.
  20. "UIC reviews dissertation by Chicago State University official amid allegations of plagiarism". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 29 August 2014.
  21. "Judge upholds verdict in Chicago State University whistleblower case". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 29 August 2014. External link in |website= (help)
  22. "CSU Employee Says He Was Fired For Exposing Ethics Issues". NBC Chicago. Retrieved 29 August 2014.
  23. Chicago State University Sends Layoff Notices To All Employees
  25. "Chicago State earns an 'F' for its 11 percent graduation rate at $2.5 million spent per grad". Chicago City Wire. 2016-08-11. Retrieved 2016-08-26.

External links

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