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Editorial: Sweet deal for UNM spouse

A sweet package deal.

The dean of the University of New Mexico’s libraries has created a position in his department that is tailor-made for his wife, who also will get first shot at it.

Rick Clement was hired last year at a $195,000 salary. As part of the hiring process, he openly negotiated a “spousal accommodation” giving his wife a preferential spot in the university’s hiring process so long as she was deemed qualified for the position in question.

After Clement came on board in July, he elevated a vacant collections librarian position to director of collections. Steven Harris, who left UNM two years ago, did the work previously but did not receive a stipend for the responsibility. However, according to Clement, the new position will carry a $10,000 stipend on top of the salary.

Clement’s wife, Suzanne, will be the first and only candidate for the new job to be considered in round one. She would be hired if a search committee considers her qualified and if the library staff vote to support her, absent competition from any other candidates for the post.

Rick Clement came to UNM from Utah State University, where he was dean of libraries and adjunct professor of history. His wife was a tenured associate professor and head of cataloging there. Clement says there’s no conflict because his wife would not answer directly to him – although anyone else hired for this position presumably would – and he would not participate in the hiring process. Clement acknowledged he would have prefered it if his wife had been able to find another job.

Though Clement is seeking only what UNM promised him when he was hired, UNM’s filling this job without competition smacks of favoritism.

While offering jobs to spouses is not uncommon in academia, perhaps it’s time for the entrenched university culture to take another look at this practice. UNM is, after all, a public institution supported by taxpayers who prefer fair competition to insider perks.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.