Monday, March 11, 2013

No Patronage Here

During his appearance on WTTW last Thursday, Wayne Watson claimed that he had eliminated patronage hiring at Chicago State. Of course, since he said it, it must be true. Part of the problem is that a patronage hire can be difficult to identify. What does one look like? It might be useful to offer a theoretical look at how a “crony” hiring might unfold, as none of us have ever seen one since that kind of thing does not occur at this school. Let us use the fictional position of Vice President of Enrollment Management for this exercise in hypothesizing.

Say you’re the president of Patronage State University and you want to put one of your long-time loyalists into this very important position and pay her/him a nice salary. You could begin by having Human Resources, managed by one of your hand-picked and loyal administrators, write an opaque job description that fair leaves one breathless as it meanders through a number of jargon-filled, nonsensical desired qualities. Stuff the announcement with meaningless fluff like the ideal candidate will demonstrate “forward thinking,” be a “team player,” and exhibit a “thick skin; self-confidence and a positive attitude; consistent effective prospecting skills (looking for the Old Sourdough?)–knowing how to reach the decision maker; effective listening and questioning; sincerity, trust, believability and warmth.” Whew! Although the description must include minimum job requirements, they can be ignored if a suitable applicant pool can be created, one filled with candidates even more unqualified than the person you have already chosen for the position.

Do not leave the application period open for too long. After all, thanks to the job description, any qualified candidates may take several weeks to understand what the job really entails. A few days should be sufficient. After this job description generates a small pool of a dozen or so candidates, most who could not qualify for a position at WalMart, your chosen candidate looks pretty good. Although s/he does not possess the minimum qualifications for the position, things are proceeding according to plan.

The final piece is extremely important. Convene a search committee that includes at least two other loyal supporters. Perhaps the Director of Human Resources, and your current girlfriend if she happens to occupy an important position at Patronage State. Remember, the important thing is to get your candidate’s file through the committee and to your desk, where you can do anything you damn well please. After all, you are the president aren’t you?

Finally you see it, the file you’ve been waiting for. You grab it with a rapidly beating heart and make arrangements with the Human Resources folks to do all the paper work. Soon it is done, your crony is in place and you can sit back and relax, knowing you have done a service to the entire university community, which is truly your only consideration. After all, you are a “true leader.” Your political masters will be pleased and marvel at your cleverness. Finally, you make a mental note to reward your Human Resources Director with a nice raise and buy your girlfriend some flowers.

Thank goodness this kind of thing does not happen here at Chicago State.

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