Networking or cronyism?

Ethical issue presented at RCCD after controversial hiring

Favoritism, cronyism and nepotism. These concepts are all too well known in today’s workforce.

People need networking to expand their careers and opportunities but networking should be limited in any institution, organization or corporation.

And networking should never turn into cronyism; which is when a person with enough authority openly displays favor to a friend or family member.

While networking can be the foundation to a successful career, a person should not rely solely on friendship to establish their career, they should have the skills that are required to fulfill a desired position.

“When someone is granted a position because of connections rather than because he or she has the best credentials and experience, the service that person renders to the public may be inferior,” according to Judy Nadler and Miriam Schulman, co-authors of the scholarly article “Favoritism, Cronyism, and Nepotism” for Santa Clara University.

Clearly, cronyism and other types of favoritism are an ethical issue, but why are these practices kept alive?

Cronyism provides benefit to those involved in the circle of colleagues. It’s a safety net, people watch each other’s back. But what is beneficial to some might be harmful to others.

The same authority that is watching out for someone in turn creates a work environment that others can perceive as hostile.

Cronyism is at its worse when a person is not properly qualified for the position. The candidate might have the best intentions to succeed at the job, but good intentions do not make up for a lack of skills.

It is similarly harmful when selecting a candidate whose reputation is not the best, as is the case with the current Riverside Community College District Compliance Officer, Lorraine Jones.

Mt. San Antonio College previously employed Jones as the director of equal opportunity employment and diversity and as the Title IX coordinator.

We feel that because Jones is involved in a lawsuit, where she is accused of covering up an on-campus rape of a Mt. SAC student, that her hiring is a blatant example of cronyism and its negative effects right here at our very own college.

Aarefah Mosavi, former Mt. SAC student and alleged rape victim in the spotlighted case, spoke to the students at Riverside City College about the hiring of Jones.

“I am here today because this administration has insolently chosen to hire a woman who is responsible from trying to cover up the fact that I was raped,” Mosavi said.

According to Terri L. Hampton, RCCD vice chancellor of human resources and employee relations was adamant that Jones had the best qualifications out of a pool of 14 applicants and therefore was offered the position of compliance officer.

To Hampton it was appropriate to interview and hire someone involved with this kind of scandal.

Hampton said “respondents (of a lawsuit) have the right to be treated fairly, as well.”

“To condemn anyone without a fair and equitable process is inconsistent with the foundation principles upon which this country was founded,” Hampton said via email to Viewpoints.

Hampton, who coincidentally was also previously acquainted with Jones from working at Mt. SAC in the past explained she was aware of the trouble she could run into if she was involved in the hiring for this position.

“Upon realizing Ms. Jones had applied, I specifically communicated this information to the (hiring) committee, as I was keenly aware of the sensitivity that any action on my part might be perceived as undue influence and/or cronyism,” Hampton said.

Although Hampton tried to remove any perception of cronyism by communicating the relationship she had with Jones to the committee, we she could have gone further to remove all doubt

Her job as the vice chancellor of human resources does require her to perform interviews in the hiring process, but Administrative Procedure 7120a, Section 4e does not specify a specific position within the human resources department. Any “representative” from human resources could have done it.

In an effort to remain ethical and completely impartial, Hampton should have removed herself from the decision making process to hire the new compliance officer.

If cronyism was not at play, then why was the entire hiring so secretive if it really wasn’t a conflict of interest? If they knew it was going to be perceived as cronyism, wouldn’t it have been better to have a forum with the Faculty Association to answer any questions about the new hire?

The hiring has sparked controversy and the secrecy surrounding the ordeal has not made it any easier for that controversy to settle.

From the actions taken, it appears to have been a collaborative effort to keep everything under wraps from the public. Why the evasiveness to meet face-to-face for an interview?

Hampton has agreed to only conduct interviews via email. RCCD Chancellor Michael Burke declined to speak to Viewpoints and directed us to Peggy Cartwright, the assistant vice chancellor of strategic communications and institutional advancement for RCCD.

Cartwright said she was not aware of the allegations against Jones, so she was not sure how those allegations will affect Jones’ performance.

Furthermore although every district employee is listed in a directory on the RCCD website, Jones is not, despite being with the district since Feb. 16.

Although she is relatively a new employee, almost two months have passed since she was officially appointed by the Board of Trustees to the position.

Ample time has passed to update the directory to reflect her current position with the district.

All hiring process within the district needs to be more transparent to faculty, staff and students. No matter how high up.

A position as important as the district compliance officer, which affects every person within the district is surely significant enough to warrant complete and utter transparency.

Favoritism may be tolerated in a family businesses, but when it comes to a state funded educational institution like RCCD, they should be limited because they interfere with the goal of a community college.

To foster not only the best learning environment but an environment of free opportunity for the students, staff and community.