Tuesday, October 29, 2013

You Make the Call!

Readers of a certain age who are also baseball fans will remember Mel Allen’s This Week in Baseball.  Back when we were lucky to get one game a week on television, TWIB was a highlight show that set the stage for, say, SportsCenter.  

My favorite recurring feature was “You Make the Call!,” in which they would show a complicated or rare play that occurred that week and ask the viewer how the umpire should have called it.  It gave me a new appreciation of how difficult umpiring actually is.

In that spirit, I’ll outline a hypothetical case, derived from a composite of things I’ve seen and/or heard about over the years.  This is not based completely on any one case.  I just want to get a sense of how wise and worldly people see this.  As context, let’s assume that this is taking place at a publicly funded community college.

The Basketweaving department has a few long-serving full-time faculty, and a host of adjuncts.  One of the adjuncts has been there longer than most, and has been conspicuous in going above and beyond to help the department.  Let’s call her SuperAdjunct.

The department has a retirement, and gets the opportunity to hire a full-time replacement.  It drafts a job description, assembles a search committee, and starts the process.  But the chair openly refers to the position as rightfully SuperAdjunct’s, and seems to resent even having to go through a process when it’s clear what the outcome should be.  Meanwhile, HR is pushing for the full, open process, on the grounds that anything less is discriminatory.

You make the call.  Is it absurd to bother running an open search when there’s somebody clearly deserving in-house, or is it unethical to assume a right answer before even running the search?  Is the chair or HR closer to right?