How to Pad Your CV

Hershey H. Friedman and Frimette Kass-Shraibman provide a tongue-in-cheek primer to help dishonest senior administrators advance in their careers.

May 10, 2017

The average tenure of college presidents is only seven years, and the average tenure of chief academic officers/provosts is less than four years. Given such rapid job turnover, it is not surprising that the loyalty of the college leadership may not be to the institution. Many college presidents and provosts may more interested in padding their curricula vitae in order to look good and advance to the next position than in making meaningful improvements in the current position. Why be concerned about the long-term viability of the institution if you will not be there for too long?

Indeed, the practice of CV padding is becoming more commonplace in academe, where it seems some administrators have unfortunately forgotten that colleges are about educating young people and providing them with skills, not just getting ahead. In this essay, we will demonstrate how easy it is for a senior administrator to waste resources and look good in the process. Here is all a president or other institutional leader needs to do.

Create new schools. Since college administrators do not get rewarded for maintaining buildings and repairing infrastructure, those activities have low priority. An administrator who wants to look good will create more structure. Creating a new school looks great on a CV and allows administrators to say that they built something. Ideas for new schools to build: School of Public Affairs, School of Science, School of Health Sciences, School of Business, School of Behavioral Sciences, School of Fine Arts, School of Ethnic Studies, School of Cinema and Performing Arts, and so on. If your institution has three schools, there are many opportunities to create six or even seven schools.

Of course, no one will ask whether the additional structures made the institution more efficient, improved education quality or expanded research. And the public does not realize that each school has a dean, associate dean and several administrative assistants. The cost of creating a new school is not insignificant: salaries and office support can easily approach, and even exceed, a million dollars a year. However, the public can easily be manipulated into believing that more schools mean more learning.

A lucky college president might be employed at a college or university that has no schools. That is a golden opportunity to pad a CV and brag about all the schools that were created -- going from zero to seven schools sounds like a huge accomplishment.

Create new departments. No one is rewarded for merging weak departments, so that should not be done. Creating new departments does not sound as good as creating new schools, but it is still a good way to pad a CV. The easiest way to generate departments is to build area studies departments. How about separate departments for Africana studies, Asian studies, Italian studies, Judaic studies, Latin American and Latino studies, LGBT studies, Native American studies, religious studies, women’s and gender studies, and so on? (An alternative to those would be a diversity studies department, but that would mean one department instead of nine.) The Asian studies department could eventually be broken up into separate Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese and Philippine studies departments.

A business department could easily be split into accounting, decision sciences, economics, finance, information systems, law, management, marketing and real estate departments. Accounting could be further divided into public accounting, managerial accounting and taxation. Imagine bragging that you created 20 new departments. Adding departments increases costs, decreases efficiency, requires space for offices and does nothing to improve learning, educational outcomes or the quality of research. (If anything, we believe, it harms education and impedes research. That’s a story for another essay.) But so what, if the goal is to pad the CVs of administrators?

Construct new buildings. If members of the U.S. Congress can build bridges to nowhere, college presidents can build unneeded buildings. You get more recognition for a new building than maintaining old buildings. Indeed, it may make sense to tear down some old buildings, rather than update them, and then build a new structure. No one checks whether a new building is justified, and it is often taxpayer money (or alumni donations), so who cares? It sounds good to say a new science building with the latest technology was constructed. It sounds good to tear down an old library and build a new one. Of course, most research is done online, and many people think libraries are not as important as they were in the past. But again, who cares? Remember the purpose here is to build a CV, not necessarily be efficient or serve students.

Establish new centers. Centers do not cost as much as buildings and also sound good. There are centers that do a great deal of good, but those were not created to pad a CV. And since the center is not going to do anything useful, the cost can be kept quite low. All that is needed is a part-time director and a room somewhere. Here are some ideas for names: Center for Entrepreneurship, Center for Ethical Leadership, Center for Integrity in Higher Education, Center for Innovation, Center for Environmental Health and Safety, Center for Character Development, Center for Reducing the Number of Centers -- you get the picture.

Hire visiting professors. Rachel Leventhal-Weiner has written about the visiting professor scam. It is a way colleges dilute the quality of education by bringing in temporary full-time faculty rather than hiring permanent faculty on tenure lines. This trick can also be used to fatten up a CV. Bring in some renowned scholars but only for a year or even one semester. You might even be able to get a Nobel laureate for a semester, provided that the price is right. Instead of having the visiting professor teach some courses, have them give one or two lectures during the year. Of course, this will not improve the quality of education, but it will enhance a CV.

So, in conclusion, assume that you have five years to make your mark. It is quite easy to do the following:

  • Create at least three new schools.
  • Create at least six new departments.
  • Tear down at least one adequate building and replace it with a new building with the latest technology.
  • Establish at least three centers.
  • Hire a renowned scholar as a visiting professor for a semester or a year.

That is all it takes to look good for the next job: think Potemkin University. The goal is to look like an impressive institution; no one has to know that it lacks any real substance. Oh yes, and, make sure to hire the best public relations people in the business.


Hershey H. Friedman is a professor of business at the Murray Koppelman School of Business at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. Frimette Kass-Shraibman is a professor of accountancy at Brooklyn College.

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