Monday, June 27, 2011

Poshard's Granddaughter Lands Major SIUC Scholarship

Kristi Brownfield over at Unions United brought my attention to the June 25 Chicago Tribune story about Maddie Poshard, who won one of SIUC's most prestigious "Presidential/Chancellor" scholarships (why couldn't they decide whether to name the damn things after the president or the chancellor?). It sounds like she's an excellent student, although the Tribune didn't compare her stats to other recent winners, which would be difficult, given confidentiality issues, I assume (and certainly goes beyond the energies of a lazy blogger).  

Now this sort of all expense paid scholarship isn't something one simply has to be qualified to win, I assume--it's not like you get it automatically if your ACT score is 30 and you can make some claim to "leadership skills" (which the award calls for).  It is, I assume (lots of assuming here, I grant you) highly competitive, and the final decisions would thus be judgment calls, not a objective decision based on clear data of some sort or another. That's presumably why on-campus interviews are required for the award. Maybe Maddie Poshard was so far superior to all those who applied but didn't receive the award that any rational judge would have chosen her; but we can never know this. Poshard's own endorsement of his granddaughter fails to note this point. 
"If she is unqualified that is one thing. But she is not unqualified. I'm not trying to get any special favors for my granddaughter and she didn't get any," said Poshard, who earns $320,000 a year.  [Quote from the Tribune, whose reporter deserves a Tacitean Cynicism award for tagging on the bit about Poshard's salary.]
More on how to avoid this fuss, and why the fuss is in some sense deserved, after the break.

The Tribune didn't have much trouble finding financial aid directors elsewhere who pointed out how to avoid the perception problem--and found none who defended Poshard's decision. Here's the Bradley University financial aid director with one solution: 

Pardieck said he thought Bradley's current and former presidents would have responded differently than Poshard did. "Simply because of the perception issue, (they) would have told their granddaughter, 'Look don't apply for this. Grandma and I will help you out,'" Pardieck said.
Another suggested that Maddie Poshard be given the recognition of the scholarship, but not the money.  

Why the fuss, assuming, as I have no good reason to doubt, that Maddie Poshard may well have won this award if her name were Maddie Jones?  Three reasons. Well, it gets Glen Poshard and SIUC into the Chronicle in a dubious way, adding to our reputation as a laughingstock

It forces Chancellor Cheng and the SIUC financial aid office to defend their decision, putting them in an awkward position (as Cheng admits in the article). Imagine having to evaluate the President's granddaughter for a competitive Presidential Scholarship. 

Finally and most importantly, it seems to me that it's not in the best interest of Maddie Poshard to have this issue haunting her. Fellow students and faculty who meet her now will know her as the girl who got the Presidential scholarship from Grandpa President.  She'll have to prove herself deserving of the award again and again. This award is more of a burden than an honor for her. A wiser grandpa, I think, would have avoided saddling her with this. 

But perhaps she's up to it. She emailed the Trib herself, defending her decision, saying she didn't realize it could be a problem until she won the scholarship, then still thought it was "the best way to set myself up for success in the future, no matter what criticisms may be said." Sounds like she may have inherited a certain willingness to flaunt her stuff even when this risks public disapproval (I'm thinking, I suppose, of Poshard's coronotation ceremony). But maybe she's a better student.  Good luck to her.  


  1. Just a note about the local media. The Carbondale Times had this story 3 weeks ago and no attention was given to it. It took a while for the Southern and Tribune to address the issue and now it is generating a lot of comments.

  2. Whatever the reasons, it does look bad for this institution giving it another black eye and another addition to the bad reputation it already has. Poshard has enough loot to fund his granddaughter himself. This is another example of the culture of corruption at SIUC and one which will be defended by our infamous "silent majority" if they are not already burrowing their heads into the sand due to shame like the ostrich illustration. A Federal investigation into this institution is long overdue.

  3. The Presidential/Chancellor Scholarship came from the merger of what used to be two separate scholarships, hence the cumbersome name.

  4. This year's recipients and summaries of their qualifications are posted at

  5. It would be interesting to know who determines the recipient of this scholarship. I would venture to guess that Poshard has no direct involvement and therefore nothing unethical has taken place. Why be so quick to judge without all of the facts? Perhaps she truly is an outstanding young scholar.

  6. To anonymous #2 above, I assume you are somehow affiliated with SIUC. It is beyond me why you would choose to work for an institution that you have such a low opinion of.

  7. In a world of declining opportunities especially in academia, one can not "choose" one's destiny. Instead one works to educate students according to the best of one's ability. This does not entail shutting one's eyes and mind to the corruption going on around one but speaking out against it. This is what a university should encourage: criticism, speaking out against corruption wherever one finds it, and not ignoring the evidence especially when it is openly flouted in one's face as it is today.

  8. I sent the following to Rita:

    While I doubt Glenn played any role in the awarding of scholarships, public perception matters.
    Perhaps we should review the process we use.

    The process should be more transparent to the public. I could find nothing on the university's web
    site about how the selection committee is formed. This should be made public - but the names of
    the committee members should not be.

    In reviewing scholarship awards for the XX Dept the committee is never given the names of the students being considered. Once I was a science fair judge in Texas and even though we interviewed the students, we never learned their names or the schools they were from.

    We may wish to consider if relatives of administrators should be excluded although I have mixed feelings about that. What about relatives of faculty? What about the Governor's daughter, and so
    on? Radio stations exclude relatives of all employees from winning prizes in on air contests, but merit based scholarships aren't the same thing. What do other universities do?

    We should welcome Ms. Poshard to our campus, but it would be good PR and good policy to announce that we will review the selection process.

  9. As per the Southern's webpage, she is giving up the scholarship:

  10. This is the best thing that could have come from this situation. Based on what I've seen in the press, she is indeed a fine young lady. However, without the review being blind, there is no way that this could ever be viewed as fair outside of SIUC. I wish her the best.

    As for Anonymous #2 (and his/her follow on comment), good academics always have choices. If you have no choice, you are at the mercy of your unit/college/university.

  11. There is also something known as fighting back even if you are stuck to one location. Just look at the job market.


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