Nepotism: "bestowal of official favors on one’s relatives" (Black’s Law Dictionary, 8th Edition).
Nepotism is normally frowned upon within a public body and most public officials who truly care about protecting the taxpayers have anti-nepotism policies. NIU's policy is as follows:
"Faculty and administrative employees are selected for employment and promotion without regard to relationship by blood or marriage or civil union in accordance with appropriate qualifications for the performance of specified duties. However, no individual shall participate in personnel decisions involving employment, retention, promotion, salary, leave of absence or other direct benefit to an individual employee who is a member of the same immediate family or immediate household. Immediate family includes an employee's spouse, party to a civil union, parents, brothers, sisters, children, and children of an employee’s party to a civil union."
It should be noted that there is no reference to avoidance of nepotism upon initial hiring. In fact, it appears the policy went through a revamp in 2011 and had that wording removed as can be viewed in this PDF. By all indications, the board went in the wrong direction as now there is no prohibition of nepotism upon initial hiring.
An interesting e-mail has surfaced from our old friend, NIU’s ex-VP Bill Nicklas, to the ex-CFO Nancy Suttenfield. He was forwarding an email he had received on 11/14/13 from an employee in the Finance division. At the time, Nicklas was VP for public safety and community relations—not human resources, nor in the employee’s chain of command. But the employee approached Nicklas with her work complaints, rather than following the more appropriate channels of either taking her problems up the chain of command in her own department, or requesting support from human resources. Why? She seems to know Nicklas, and had apparently intended for him to act on her behalf to solve her issue. If so, her request would be inappropriate or questionable, but it is not nepotism.
So why do we bring up nepotism? This employee’s husband is a Trustee of the University. Subsequent to the employee’s email to Nicklas, the Trustee also contacted Nicklas and asked for Nicklas’ help in the situation. Nicklas agreed to intercede at Suttenfield’s or Steve’s (VP for Human Resources) level, many levels of management above the employee’s level.
The Trustee appears to have used his office--outside his normal role in his position of power over the University--to intercede in the daily operations of the University on behalf of his wife. Does that not qualify as nepotism?
Shouldn’t the Trustee, who happens to be a lawyer, be aware of how questionable his actions appear?
Is this Trustee’s apparent meddling into administrative matters on behalf of his wife indicative of the Board’s view as a whole? Could that be a contributing reason why the Board of Trustees is not taking action against the numerous violations of state rules by President Doug Baker and his ethically challenged leadership?
Again, I digress, this is Illinois!
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