Background Checks Gordon Basichis on 02 Jul 2010
Tennessee Governor, Phil Bredsen, is requesting that after two failed Presidencies, the University of Tennessee take extra measures in conducting background checks on its new Presidential candidates. According to an article on Nashville Public Radio, Bredsen wisely cautioned against using search firms for recruiting candidates as they may have other agendas other than the best interest of the University.
In his effort to see the University of Tennessee become a top tier research University, the governor wants the school’s future presidents to come under greater scrutiny. A college president is responsible for administrative duties but also for fund raising. You can’t raise funds if you have a tainted president of a major institution of learning. The governor spoke about the difficulty in obtaining decent reference checks on candidates. He noted that in this day and age no one would reveal any negative qualities about an applicant.
The University of Tennessee is a fine school and deserves a president that can serve as an inspiring leader, one who can raise funding in help the University achieve its goals as it moves toward the middle of the twenty first century.
In general, after the Amy Bishop debacle, I can only stress that schools should issue a more comprehensive choice of background checks as part of their preemployment screening programs. Thankfully, not every administrator will make the headlines of an Amy Bishop, but changing times demand greater scrutiny.
With respect to background checks, the governor has a point. However, if the reference questions are phrased properly and the reference researcher is good at what he or she does, then it is possible to obtain a reference verification that will assist in ascertaining qualities and required skill sets. As a background check, the professional reference verifiction check while lmited, largely due to the fact it is your candidate providing the reference names, can still offer valuable insight into the character and capabilities of your job candidate.
I would suggest that the University also conduct both federal criminal searches as well as federal civil records searches and county civil court records searches, as these will address any issues of lawsuits or questionable behavior on he part of the candidate that does not meet the threshold of criminal malfeasance.
UT has been had three presidents in the last ten years. The last two were confronted with ethical questions regarding their finances,. The third quit in 2001 amid allegations of a relationship with a female administrator. Where have we seen this before?