Chicago State University‘s former president will receive half of a $600,000 severance deal within days and the other half in January, payouts that will put more pressure on the already strained finances of the South Side institution.
The deal also calls for Thomas Calhoun Jr. to move out of the president’s house by Oct. 1 and provides him up to $5,000 in moving expenses, according to the agreement obtained by the Tribune late Wednesday under the Freedom of Information Act.
The university’s board of trustees approved the deal Friday at a public meeting, but the university repeatedly refused to provide a copy of it. The agreement was signed Friday by Calhoun and board chairman Anthony Young.
According to the deal, Calhoun is to get the first $300,000 payment 15 days after the agreement was signed, which would be Oct. 1. The second $300,000 is to be paid Jan. 3. He also is to be paid for any unused vacation time.
Calhoun took over in January with a five-year contract scheduled to run through 2020. The contract allowed for various ways the board could remove Calhoun without cause, including with him accepting two years of salary, or $600,000, to leave immediately.
The payment, however, will be a significant expense for the university.
With heavy reliance on state funding, the Far South Side school has struggled to stay afloat as lawmakers failed to pass a budget for most of the year and then provided only partial funding.
The school declared a financial emergency in February and was notified that its accreditation status was at risk because of shaky finances. The school has laid off 40 percent of its employees since the beginning of the year and slashed its budget about 30 percent to help make ends meet.
It remains unclear why Calhoun resigned, and the exit agreement shows that university officials want to keep it that way.
Neither Calhoun nor university trustees are to discuss the circumstances of his resignation, and doing so would constitute a breach of contract — a provision spelled out in capital letters in the document.
And neither side is to make disparaging remarks about the other, according to the agreement.
Trustees and Calhoun have declined to comment to the Tribune. At Friday’s board meeting, Young made only a brief statement that Calhoun and trustees "decided that it was in the best interest of both the university and Dr. Calhoun for us to separate."
As part of the agreement, Young wrote a letter of recommendation for Calhoun, praising him for his work during a tough time for the school.
"He was a voice of calm in the midst of tumult," Young wrote. "He endeared himself to the broader university community, inspiring the faculty and students. With great poise, he was able to bring a message of hope, while all indicators were predicting disaster. His understanding of university culture, his enthusiasm for the possibilities of the academy, and his commitment to faculty and student success are hallmarks of his character."
For his part, Calhoun resigned with a short letter:
"I sincerely wish each of you and the University well in all of your future endeavors," he wrote.
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September 21, 2016 at 04:26PM