Monday, June 27, 2011

Poshard's Granddaughter to Give Up Award

At 6:00 pm the Southern carried the news that Maddie Poshard has given up her Presidential Scholarship at SIUC [hat tip to an anonymous comment to my prior post].
“I have decided to forgo the presidential scholarship at SIU,” Maddie Poshard said in a statement. “I would like to thank the panel for recognizing by achievements, however, under the circumstances, I feel it would be best to avoid any further disparagement of Southern Illinois University and my family."
Earlier in the day Poshard had defended his family's handling of the situation on his monthly morning conversation with WSIU radio

This is probably the best solution available at this point, and I'm glad Poshard and his family came to see things this way. This was a difficult business to handle: it is understandable (and indeed a good sign) that Maddie Poshard wanted to come to SIUC, given her family connections to this place. And she is clearly a good student who wanted to win merit aid, as she did at Xavier and St. Louis University (though apparently far from enough to cover their $50k annual costs--Poshard suggested she received scholarship offers from each place that were worth more or less the $20k a student needs to attend SIUC). But the Poshard family should have seen this train wreck coming; Poshard several times said that those questioning the scholarship were raising a legitimate point, and said also that his family has been struggling with this issue forever. You'd hope they would have figured it out by now.

Poshard said that he and his family thought it was unfair for SIUC to be the one school to deny Maddie an equal shot at merit aid. Well, this isn't the worst sort of inequality to affect a potential SIUC student, to say the least. Poshard also emphasized that both he and Maddie's parents allowed her to make the final decision about what school to attend, but he could certainly have intervened to tell her not to apply for merit based aid directly through SIUC. This would be a tough thing for a grandfather who loves SIUC to tell his ambitious granddaughter, but if my grandfather had made $320,000 annually and could afford to pay my way through college, I would certainly not have complained about my fate.

Having a grandfather who is a university president has its pluses and minuses. It does mean that people in Southern Illinois will wonder if you've earned what you've got. So either leave Southern Illinois (for Xavier or St. Louis), or you'll need to make a special effort to avoid looking like grandpa, the most influential man in Southern Illinois, has made you everything you are. I bet Maddie Poshard will do well at SIUC, and deserve to do well; she'll get advantages from being Glenn Poshard's daughter here, and disadvantages. 

Moving forward, SIUC should perhaps institute some system of blind review or, if that proves unfeasible, adopt a policy saying that anyone whose parent or grandparent is in the chain of command above the final person to make merit aid decisions (presumably the director of financial aid or the like) is ineligible for merit aid here. But the place to start thinking about this would be to look at how other universities have handled it--i.e., more or less what the Chicago Tribune reporter did covering the story.

My grandfather, while no college president (or graduate), did build himself a pretty nice house on a lake in upstate New York. That's where I'll be headed soon--so expect another somewhat dry spell in postings from me starting this weekend. And, thanks, grandpa, and congratulations on getting internet access in the world to come.

1 comment:

  1. Related to this issue is the general problem of attracting

    a) academically superior students
    b) sons and daughters of faculty and other staff

    The latter get half tuition waiver but with fees equal to tuition that is only 25% discount. Moreover, it is not based on merit. There ought to be some minimum floor even if it is regular admission requirements (no "special admits").

    For faculty, especially, there seems to be little interest in promoting SIUC by word of mouth. When asked "would you send your own child there?" how many of us say "yes?" (I'm pleading the Fifth). DE did a survey of faculty a few years ago and asked "would you recommend SIUC to a friend?" I wish they had asked "would you recommend that your own child attend SIUC?"

    With morale low and pay cuts, a full waiver of tuition and fees (but not room and board) would be an incentive for staff.


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