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Nepotism, patronage and the public trust

27 Feb 2014
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Introduction: In September 2013, the Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) published a report of an investigation it had conducted into alleged misconduct at the University of Queensland. The misconduct concerned a decision in December 2010 that a school leaver who did not satisfy the university’s entrance requirements should receive an offer to enrol in Medicine which was not warranted according to the admission criteria at the time, there being 343 other applicants who were more qualified. The person who received the offer was the daughter of the then Vice-Chancellor. A formal complaint was made to the Chancellor of the university about nine months later. The following month the CMC began its investigation. The matter shortly afterwards became public knowledge through the media. Both the Vice-Chancellor and his deputy subsequently resigned their positions.

The CMC’s report contains just one mention of a word which describes the particular form of misconduct that was involved in this case, nepotism. This was in the introduction to the report, where reference was made to how the public became aware of the matter through having ‘read media accounts of irregularities and nepotism at the University’. For the rest of the report, the allegations are referred to as official misconduct and as conflicts of interest. There was no analysis of what ‘nepotism’ means or involves.

Nepotism is a form of patronage. The exercise of both nepotism and patronage may give rise to a conflict of interest. It is noteworthy that there is a special word for nepotist behaviour in most European languages. It is almost invariably used in a pejorative way.

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2014
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