Last year, when the public relations position at our college was vacated, many faculty and staff of the college were hopeful that the new PR person would be someone with strong qualifications for the job, someone who would bring new knowledge and skills to enhance the many outreach projects of the college and its departments. The faculty and staff from the Performing and Fine Arts Department had been waiting years for the time when the public relations office would open up. When it finally happened, the position was filled temporarily by B. G. Heffelfinger. The reports we've heard of B.G. have been positive, "She knew her stuff!" said Kathy Shearn, the school graphic designer. That is the way things stood last spring when most of the faculty left for the summer.
When the faculty returned in August, they found that the PR position, a $37,000/yr job, was to be filled by Lael Morrison, the President's personal secretary, a charming woman with practically no experience in any of the demanding skills of Public Relations work.
On September 20th, at a meeting of the Academic Senate, a collection of comments based on more than a dozen informal discussions with faculty and staff from several departments of the college was presented.
"If marketing and public rela-tions and increased enroll-ments are such a high priority, I cannot understand how the makeup of the Selection Committee included NOT ONE of the primary users of the services of our PR office. Theatre Arts, Music, Dance, Athletics, Community Extension, the College Graphic Artist, Willits and Lakeport Centers, all depend greatly on advertising and promotion. Many individuals from the above segments of the college have been quite vocal over the need for improvement in PR during the past few years. It is not as if their concerns were unknown to the administration. Many of these same individuals even asked to serve on the Selection Committee and were turned down."
"It is very obvious that the committee was hand picked by Carl. There is no doubt in my mind that this was purposely kept secret so that Carl could pull the strings he needed to get Lael in."
"It was going to be Lael all along. People were talking about it even before the interviews took place."
"It was set up for Carl and the Foundation to get who they wanted."
"We are missing the whole boat. This is a mom and pop institution. No class. No Wisdom. Everyone expected this. "
"I accept the fact that I am going to have to do my own publicity as usual. We all know that faculty needs and concerns are always at the bottom of the list."
"I was not surprised at all. I really like Lael, but come on! It's typical for this institution and this administration."
"I am angry! I'm sick of having to train people. I'll just have to do it myself, as usual."
"Lael is a nice person. But we need a lot more than someone whose main experience is the TBA (in house administrative newsletter) and Foundation galas."
"The newsletter (presented to the Selection Committee by Lael) was pathetic. Obviously she and the committee are completely out of touch with what we need and how we should be represented. I'm disgusted with this place. "
"I don't have the time to waste on this. It is typical. It's another one of those behind-closed-doors decisions that Carl makes and everyone just goes along with."
"I've tried to stay out of it because I like Lael. Everyone knows that Carl hand picked the committee and kept it quiet so that he would have control over the process and the outcome. He keeps talking about the importance of the process, but once again he ignores it."
"I heard from a candidate who interviewed for the job that a large number of the questions had to do with the Foundation and he was surprised by that. For this job, I would rather the College hire someone who is experienced and skilled in all the processes needed for successful PR and have them learn the specifics of the Foundation's PR needs after coming on board, than hire someone who happens to be aware of a portion of the CONTENT (in this case the Foundation's need) but not the FORM (such as writing, photography, working with media personnel, working with graphic artists and printers, and perhaps even has experience or training specifically in marketing.)"
"Not having served on the committee I have no way of knowing whether or not Lael in fact has all the necessary skills, training and experience. I hope she does. It would be a lot easier to have confidence that the most qualified person was hired if the selection process had less of the appearance of favoritism for an inside candidate."
**Please note that many more comments of a similar nature were expressed.
Copyright Mendocino College Eagle 1996
Permission granted to excerpt or use this article if source is cited