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.