This editorial appeared in the Feb. 5, 2018, edition of the Chicago Sun-Times:
Here's a pro tip for you chancellors at hard-up public universities who are thinking about hiring your own daughters:
Don't do it.
Don't hire your sons-in-law, either.
It looks bad, and nobody afterward will feel quite so confident that you are serious about getting your university's finances in order and protecting important academic programs.
They might look at you, fairly or not, like you're an old-time Chicago ward boss.
Carlo Montemagno was hired last year as chancellor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He makes $340,000 a year.
That's a lot of money, but top university talent doesn't come cheap, not even at a state university that has been forced to cut millions of dollars from its budget in recent years and has considered cutting seven degree programs.
Then, on Sept. 1, 2017, three months after Montemagno came on board, his daughter, Melissa Germain, was hired as assistant director of university communications, with an annual salary of $52,000. One month later, his son-in-law, Jeffrey Germain, was hired as "extra help" in the office of the vice chancellor for research, at $45 an hour.
Allow us to pause here to wonder why Montemagno, no stranger to the back-biting culture of university campuses, failed to foresee that this would become a minor flap. The Daily Egyptian, the student news operation, got word of it quickly.
Last week, SIU President Randy Dunn opened an ethics investigation into the two hires, as well as a separate investigation into Montemagno's reported recommendation of former colleagues for various campus jobs.
We'll admit to a level of sympathy for Montemagno. SIU is by far the biggest employer in Carbondale, as often is the case in college towns. When relatives of administrators are excluded from employment by the local university, their professional prospects can be limited. And Montemagno reportedly was upfront about his desire, back in June, that his daughter and son-in-law also be hired.
But appearances matter, especially at a public university struggling to find stability after several years of budgeting uncertainty. Other folks down in Carbondale might have liked those jobs, too. And, according to the original Daily Egyptian stories, the positions for Montemagno's daughter and son-in-law were created for them and never advertised to the public.
We look forward to reading the findings of the ethics review.