Does Chico State have a dysfunctional nepotism policy?

Worried that bad—or good—blood among family members could affect who’s hired at Chico State University, the Academic Senate last week considered revising the university’s policy addressing nepotism.

Professor Jennifer Meadows, who introduced the issue Feb. 28 after seeing it through a subcommittee, said there have been problems on campus with favoritism and “undue hardship” created when the school has been faced with whether to hire a person who’s related to someone already employed at Chico State. The university shouldn’t give preferential treatment to a relative, she summarized, but at the same time a relative shouldn’t be discriminated against because of the relationship.

Since the California State University’s systemwide policy was adopted in 1978, a lot has changed in the world, such as the openness of same-sex relationships. Also, it’s become fairly common for the university to hire spouses as a “package deal” when it initially sought to land only one of the pair.

Professor James Postma said one of the “stickiest” situations is “when there are ex-spouses.”

The existing policy is limited to spouses and immediate family members, such as parents, children and siblings. Meadows said the suggested revision changes “family member” to “close relative,” which is expected to cover domestic partners.

Some senators, like Prof. Richard Ford, believed the policy was a “non-issue,” that the matter was already addressed under sexual-harassment and conflict-of-interest policies. Others worried about the legal ramifications of such a policy. Ultimately, the senate voted to introduce the revised policy, which could be considered as soon as next week.

Throughout the discussion, senators hinted that a real-life situation sparked the Academic Senate to rework the policy now, but no one would say what that situation might be. Chairman Paul Persons said that often such things are dealt with on a case-by-case basis, as when President Manuel Esteban’s nephew was hired to teach at Chico State and the president was careful to remove himself from the process.