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Published: Tuesday, 7/18/2006

Owens' China connection

THE appointment of the husband of Owens Community College President Christa Adams to a temporary post with the school falls predictably into a familiar category: news guaranteed to raise a few eyebrows.

Ms. Adams has given her husband, Bill Jacobus, a six-month appointment to develop cooperative business and nursing programs with vocational schools in China. He'll be paid $22,000 for his time. His title: project leader for international studies.

In fairness to Mr. Jacobus, who has been married to Ms. Adams for two years, he does bring some background in academic foreign exchange programs to the opportunity. While he was a medical researcher at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, he had a role in an exchange program with the former Soviet Union. He also is finishing his second trip to China on Owens' behalf to work on partnerships with institutions there.

Credentials aside, however, the hire brings with it an inevitable negative: it just looks bad.

In fact, David Matheny, president of the faculty union at Owens, says Ms. Adams expressed the hope, for that very reason, that the appointment would not lead to a story in The Blade. She says any such inference was the result of miscommunication, but regardless, the point is well taken.

Mr. Jacobus was hired without any advance notice to the faculty. Perhaps, at the very least, President Adams should have advertised the position in the customary in-house manner at Owens, and then made her choice. We suspect the outcome would have been the same, but faculty and staff would have at least had a shot.

In one sense, the taxpayers could wonder why a two-year community college, whose first obligation is to its own students, is reaching out to China in the first place.

But one could also argue that Owens' remarkable record of growth and popularity in recent years reflects a broadened and relatively affordable offering of programs, and that exposure to other cultures is not a bad thing, even at a two-year school.

It just should have been handled better.



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