FOIA’d: Why Storbeck Might Be A Good Idea

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Probably not the U of M you were thinking of

Probably not the U of M you were thinking of

In early November, Deantini and Dean Boyce announced that they had hired executive search firm Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates to recruit the new Dean of Student Affairs. Thanks to the magic of the FOIA request, Bwog reported that as of 2007, Storbeck will charge at least $75,000 for the privilege. A couple days ago, Bwog got another request from the University of Minnesota, which in 2011 tasked Storbeck with finding a new “Vice Provost of Student Affairs and Dean of Students.” (That, as far as Bwog can tell, is the title of a single person.) In addition to the contract and invoices, Bwog got a copy of Storbecks request for proposal, which outlined how they carry out a search. And there is some more interesting stuff in it.

First: even though Storbeck and friends didn’t have a prior relationship with anyone at Minnesota, they still offered the flat-rate deal (as they did with UC Berkeley, saying that they were offering it on account of a prior relationship). So they probably offered it to us too. From page 23 of their proposal:

[G]iven the fiscal constraints currently impacting higher education and our strong desire to work with the University of Minnesota, we are willing to provide two additional options:

  • Option #1: Fixed fee/Flat-fee rate — This is a previously agreed upon fee to conduct the search regardless of the total amount of the placement’s final compensation package.
  • Option #2: Capped fee rate — This option provides an opportunity for the client to limit (cap) the maximum amount of the overall professional fee (to a specified “not-to-exceed” amount).

Another interesting proposal tidbit: Storbeck usually expects the final candidate to be chosen by the end of the fourth month (page 12). Since Columbia’s search started in early November, we should expect to hear back by early March—Deantini and Dean Boyce were probably adding some padding when they said “by the end of the academic year.”

Moving to the contract, the whole thing cost U of M $105,000 ($111,000 in 2014 dollars)—that’s $65,000 ($68,700) to conduct the search, and $40,000 ($42,300) to cover “miscellaneous expenses” like air travel and more overnight document shipping than you can imagine.

So why might spending over $100k make sense for Columbia? They could have just put up a job listing: it’s fair to say that people would have applied.

Depending on how many candidates Deantini and Dean Boyce want to review, following up with a ton of candidates themselves could cost more. If Student Affairs pays its recruiters $200k per year (benefits inclusive), Columbia would have to pull off the search in half a person-year or less to beat Storbeck’s price.

What’s more, the people at Storbeck appear to have really good networking skills, or they’re mind-readers; see page 8 of the proposal (emphasis is Bwog’s):

In addition, we will aggressively recruit individuals with superior qualifications who are not “on the job market” as well as those quietly seeking new employment opportunities.

In fewer words: “We know people, so we can poach them for you.” (Remember KSho?) Supposedly, they accomplish this by searching in their database with the personal information of those working in higher education—especially minorities and women, as they’re quick to point out.

So assuming the proposal is somewhat grounded in truth and its writers’ pants are flame-retardant, a search by Storbeck is likely to be cheaper than one that Columbia conducts by itself, simply because they already have the infrastructure in place to find people. A surprising conclusion, considering that Bwog’s initial reaction was “wow, handing it off to this expensive third party seems super shady.”More communication than an email blast from the admins—such as responding to students’ inquiries—would’ve gone a long way to resolve this misunderstanding.

Image via Alexius Horatius on Wikimedia Commons

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  1. Dear Bwog  

    Please send one of your spies through sorority rush and report back to us plebes what goes on behind closed doors.



  2. minnesotan

    Fuckin' A, Bwog, that's exactly the U of M I think of. I'm going to go cry some Midwestern tears now.

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