Daily Egyptian

Letter to the editor: Unethical clan hires

By William Babcock

I am writing to commend you for running Anna Spoerre’s Jan. 31 story, “University hires chancellor’s daughter, son-in- law.”

College student/campus newspapers have the most diverse audiences of any publications.

Readers include students, faculty, staff, administrators, alumni, parents and local townspeople. One can only imagine how members of these constituencies have reacted to the news SIUC President Randy Dunn and the University Board of Trustees secured the already questionable hiring of Chancellor Carlo Montemagno by agreeing to hire his un-or at best, semi-qualified daughter and son-in- law.


No doubt students are shocked, faculty outraged, staff flummoxed, administrators embarrassed, alumni saddened, parents mystified and townspeople left scratching their heads at the Montemagno clan hires.

This news comes at a time when the university’s enrollment is down by nearly half as the chancellor promotes an academic reorganization plan akin to heaving into the air (not just rearranging) chairs on the Titanic.

I am extremely proud of not only Ms. Spoerre, but also of Daily Egyptian Editor Athena Chrysanthou and her entire staff for their fair and accurate reporting since the beginning of fall semester last August.

And judging from articles in the Chronicle of Higher Education and the Chicago Tribune, I’m not the only one applauding our campus newspaper – and outraged by the flagrant nepotism the DE has uncovered at SIUC.

Dr. Babcock, an SIUC alumnus and a media ethics professor in SIU’s School of Journalism, resides in Carbondale.



7 Responses to “Letter to the editor: Unethical clan hires”

  1. Richmond B Adams, Ph.D. English 2011 on February 2nd, 2018 10:23 am

    I’m not sure why this move should be all that surprising, given the example shown by our national Chief Executive’s hiring of unqualified family members to serve in sensitive positions. The Chancellor’s actions at SIUC, both by hiring family members while simultaneously tossing our university’s version of the “_Titanic_’s deck chairs overboard,” are also a reflection of long-standing trends that have roots in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Those still active dynamics, coupled with yet again larger cultural viruses of external meddling in higher education, the growth of administrative bureaucracy at the expense of full-time faculty and library acquisitions, and the general “bean counting” that forces given departments, or as the Chancellor might call them, “divisions” to justify their existence by churning our graduates rather than scholars have become so entrenched that no matter how many chairs are tossed overboard, most of the people on board will find their way into the freezing water. One might call this process educational hypothermia, and makes me grateful for the era in which I became a Saluki.

  2. Sue Elliott on February 2nd, 2018 10:44 am

    Thank you so much for reporting on much needed under the table dealing going on at SIUC…I asked Channel 3 why they did not report on this news and was told they looked into it…I then watched their “blub” last nite on the 6:30 edition and it is clearly biased in favor of Montemegro..trying to put all the blame on Dunn…Keep up the good work!!! We deserve to know !

  3. Virginia Tilley (Professor of Political Science, SIUC) on February 2nd, 2018 11:07 am

    Regarding the letter by Dr. Babcock: I appreciate and endorse Dr. Babcock’s feelings about this startling story. He’s certainly right about its wide-ranging impact on students, faculty, staff and the Illinois reading public. This impact calls for the most serious response at SIU and I was glad to see this underway with within 24 hours, as SIU’s credibility for our students and the public rides on how this is handled.

    At the same time, I urge that blame of individuals be reserved until more information is known. It appears, for example, that President Dunn was under heavy pressure by the BOT to facilitate this hire by any means legal and available. Doubtless the BOT meant well, but that kind of pressure is generally a bad idea and this may be a learning process for the BOT. Perhaps President Dunn and/or the BOT should have anticipated that these oral agreements to facilitate family appointments could spin into appointments done via end-runs around proper procedures. But even seasoned professionals have to proceed on the optimistic assumption that good faith agreements won’t be abused (it would be a grim world if they didn’t). It’s the cost of doing things this way that, a certain percentage of the time, assumptions of good faith and proper processes are misplaced. In this same vein, doubtless other officials, such as those in the Provost’s office, thought they were doing the right thing in facilitating these appointments, whatever their private views or qualms. Facilitating the work of their superiors is in their job description, not least. That doesn’t mean that anyone should have allowed unethical practices to go forward, of course, but it does explain why, if they found themselves under heavy pressure from above to comply or at least be silent, they may have let things slip.

    My point is that, until we’re clear just what happened and how, we shouldn’t throw good people under the bus for getting entangled in this mess. The real concern here isn’t about specific improper procedures, anyway, but whether abuses of power and influence led to them.

    I realize all this may sound woolly and exculpatory. Not what I mean to convey. What I do want to urge is that collective passion for investigating this issue be channeled toward the investigatory process rather than toward premature blame of specific individuals on patchy evidence. That’s the kind of trial-by-media that has wrecked our national public political debate and it would be unworthy of SIU to replicate it on this matter so important to us. What we look for now is real leadership from above: a clear reaffirmation of SIU’s standards and principles, expressed not just in rhetoric but in demonstrated willingness to identify and confront any mistakes and a transparent investigation that both honors the concerned public and reflects and respects the true and honorable Saluki tradition.

  4. Victor E. Roy on February 2nd, 2018 1:33 pm

    This story has been reported by the Chronicle of Higher Education (CHE) using information reported to the DE. If the hires were inappropriate to put in the contract as a benefit, that suggests to me that may have been inappropriate or questionable in the first place.
    I like this quote: “We’ve had a campus that’s come through the worst two years fiscally speaking that it’s ever seen since its founding days,” Dunn said. “In some cases, departments were barely hanging on, so to think that the irony that we’re going to bring in two new people for jobs that may or may not exist at that point was a tough one for me.”
    I think complaints should be completed
    I think complaints forms should be filled out asking the office Dunn mentioned in one of the DE articles as having oversight over universities to review these hires. It seems too late for an internal investigation.
    Dunn seems to be distancing himself in away, but in another way he is almost stating he sanctioned the family hires in the negotiation process.

  5. Lizzie on February 2nd, 2018 6:07 pm

    Glad to hear an ethics committee investigation has been put on this. Check out the athletic department while you’re at it. Rampant nepotism, positions for spouses, etc. My donations to SIUC dried up a long time ago….

  6. Jennifer Rose on February 3rd, 2018 2:56 am

    The Daily Egyptian might be interested in doing some investigating at John A. Logan College. It is a well known secret that JALC has been a treasure trove of nepotism and cronyism hires for decades. Is it finally time for the JALC clans to face true public scrutiny? There is a Public Relations Director and Executive Director of Human Resources sweating and having sleepless nights hoping the public doesn’t find out what is going on, bet on that.

  7. John lang on February 6th, 2018 9:37 am

    Kudos to the Daily Egyptian Staff, Ms Spoerre and her managers to bring this story to light.
    Have you hugged your investigative reporter today.
    John Lang, Alumni ‘81 Photojournalist NBC News Miami

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