Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Is academic nepotism a good thing? | Inside Higher Ed

Is academic nepotism a good thing? | Inside Higher Ed

Since we are in the season of hiring (or at least going through the motions of it for God-knows-what reason considering ours is becoming a university of permanent interim positions) this article seemed a propos.
NOTE: second year in a row the Dean of Arts and Sciences Search Committee process has been cancelled--the Master of the CSU Universe Prez will not hire any of the candidates brought forth; no word on the Associate Provost of Graduate Studies decision although that search process ended weeks ago; will there be a new Dean of the College of Education or will that one revert to an interim appointment as well? There will be an interim appointment to Dean of Health Sciences since their dean got the ax recently; and while some candidate was on campus for the Dean of the Honor's College search today, the mood seems to be, "why bother investing any time or effort in hearing these poor candidates give it their all in the interview talks when the Master of the Universe treats these searches like a charade and anyway, he has his own plans for these jobs"?  (Please tell me it is not true that the Master of the Universe is conducting his own interviews while the search committees are doing their work--please tell me this can't be true...)

This article reminds us of how detrimental it is to hire friends and family. Have a look at the entire article. Below I've excerpted some of my favorite passages here --

...But hiring based on kinship is the form of favoritism known as nepotism (and we generally call hiring based on friendship cronyism). It is not illegal (although its effects might be and, where public money and institutions are involved, could potentially be viewed as a form of political corruption). But from an organizational or institutional integrity standpoint, it may be blatantly inequitable and, from a performance standpoint, deeply inefficient.

If, for example, people are given positions for which they do not have the relevant skills, training, or experience, they are unlikely to perform as well as someone recruited on merit, intentionally. They will be difficult, if not impossible, to fire; indeed, such hiring puts supervisors in tough positions. Nepotism undermines all sense of fairness in the human resources process, dampens motivation, and in general breeds distrust. Those from outside may perceive it impossible to get a position if they see that someone has obtained a position that was never posted, or was posted as a formality or legal requirement for a fait-accompli hire. Good people already there may leave, a “cost” that is rarely accounted for, in large part because it is rarely recognized; little connect-the-dot attention is paid to the impact of nepotism on the larger organization.

In institutions where a faculty or administrative hire is, for financial reasons, a rare and hoped-for occasion, lack of an open and competitive search could be a particularly dispiriting, and cynicism-breeding, practice. Productivity drops for everyone when there is a sense that rewards are not based on performance, or real resource needs must be foregone.

A potential risk, of course, is true discrimination, particularly in advancement. From a legal standpoint, it could be argued that this risk is low: the best people, what I call the free agents, will simply leave as noted (and I have seen this consistently in my many years as an organizational consultant, and also seen the accompanying loss of quality and productivity), while those more constrained will be unwilling to challenge for fear of retaliation. It makes for mutual, as well as institutional, distrust.

Certainly, nepotism goes against the fundamental Weberian principle that technical competence (merit), not kinship, social status, or heredity, be the criterion for role assignment. Universities are one of the only institutions that take the dual-career issue as somehow special to them. But of course it is not, and people deal with these choices -- to relocate or not, change jobs or not -- in all their complexity and on their own responsibility every day. So this raises another question, one that is, at heart, an ethical question: is there such a thing as an entitlement to a job? And is the expectation of a job for one’s spouse -- a request for something unrelated to one’s own qualifications or compensation, in addition to one’s own job or compensation, or a contingency for one’s agreement -- proper?

Of course a lot of CSU people live in hope that they will benefit from the nepotism and cronyism that is so rife around here.
...maybe we should put up some signs from the olden days. Back then they spelled out pretty clearly who "need not apply..."

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