Northern Illinois University has spent almost $1 million in the past five years to hire search firms to help fill a handful of executive-level positions, records show, at a time when other workers complain of not receiving raises and student tuition and fees increased.The principal beneficiary of the money appears to be Atlanta-based Parker Executive Search, whose efforts at placing college presidents and athletics directors sometimes identify clunkers. This passage is salient.
The newspaper's report also highlighted the National Collegiate Athletic Association's relationship with Parker, which one sports economist called "the old boys' club." The NCAA used Parker to hire Mark Emmert as its president in 2010. Emmert, who also used Parker when he was president of the University of Washington, then used the firm to fill several other administrative vacancies in the NCAA.Put another way, there used to be inter-institutional cooperation in identifying rising stars. The executive search firm might be a way of introducing phony objectivity into the searches, but it's still business as usual, complete with compliant faculty committees rubber-stamping the candidates.
It appears as if Northern Illinois University switched consultants as a way of inoculating itself against serial administrators.
NIU previously hired two admissions directors who were found by The Spelman and Johnson Group (SJG), based in Easthampton, Massachusetts. But Brandon Laguna, hired November 2009 at a $98,000 base salary, left the post in September 2011. Then Kimberley Williams got the job, and was paid $106,000, according to NIU records, but left two weeks shy of being in the position for a year.I don't pay a lot of attention to every deanlet and deanling that was brought in, but why couldn't someone already in Admissions be promoted?
Ted Dabrowski, of the Illinois Policy Institute, a nonpartisan conservative research group, said that using search firms often is a way to go for many organizations such as NIU looking to fill high-level positions.Somewhere in the records of prior searches are lists of the sites and publications on which the announcements ran, as well as copy (a lot of which ought to be in a standard form that will satisfy scrutiny from the legal department.) Come off it.
“The bigger issue is that the university may be spending money that it should actually be using to help bring tuitions down,” Dabrowski said. “If universities are really struggling with their expenses, they need to look at every single expense. And one of those, of course, is if they’re spending lots of money on recruitment alone.”
Despite the money NIU has spent on searches for some staff, other positions that it would retain a firm to help fill are being staffed now by interim leaders. Baker cites the school’s current fiscal challenges – because of the state budget impasse and expectations of losing state aid when the state does adopt a spending plan – as reasons for not pursing permanent replacements.
At the NIU Board of Trustees’ December 2015 meeting, Trustee Cherilyn Murer cautioned that NIU should slow down on its reliance on search firms. She noted that the university’s proximity to Chicago should be helpful in the recruitment process.
“I really encourage us, to the best of our ability, to lessen our dependency on outside search firms,” Murer said. “We’re a large university. We have a lot of skills, a lot of capabilities.”
Phillips told the Daily Chronicle that it isn’t cheaper for the university to search for candidates on its own. The search firms’ expenses include creating ads and announcements for the positions, placing the ads in various job boards and listings, and prescreening applicants, among other efforts. Phillips said NIU doesn’t have resources to do all that.
Likewise, perhaps the interim leaders are capable of elevation to permanent positions.