Butler Blue II and Trip are not the only related top dogs that work in the same office—several of Butler’s top administrators have spouses or domestic partners on the university payroll.
Butler’s practice of hiring its employees’ partners—including those of the university’s president, former provost, two associate provosts and a dean—is consistent with trends in higher education, Marcia Dowell, director of university relations, said.
At Butler, following the trend—36 percent of U.S. academics are couples—meant the hiring of a university relations associate, a political science instructor, visiting professor, an associate director of pre-professional studies and a multimedia coordinator.
Dowell said these positions needed to be filled at Butler in order to serve students.
The Board of Trustees approved hiring First Lady Bethanie Danko as the university relations associate, which she said is a big role with a modest salary.
“It is indeed a demanding professional position with a schedule nearly as busy as that of the leading spouse,” Bethanie Danko said.
Her schedule includes fundraising, advancement, communication and event planning, along with appearance requests, including recently helping with Blue II’s birthday party.
Former First Lady Suzanne Fong was not on the university payroll.
Bethanie Danko also worked with Jim Danko at Villanova University before their 2010 marriage.
At the Villanova School of Business, Jim Danko was the dean, and Bethanie Danko was the assistant dean for marketing and strategy.
In order to preserve continuity in a trailing spouse’s career, it also is good practice to hire loved ones as long as all university employees follow human resources policies, Elaine Johnson, director of compensation and organizational development, said.
“It’s within the best interest of the institution to help a trailing spouse find employment,” Johnson said. “I certainly can’t say it’s a bad idea.”
Is the payroll bloated with unnecessary positions in order to satisfy the desire to support partners?
“Whether they are created for anyone specifically, there’s no way anyone can say,” Johnson said.
The university is required to publicly advertise its full-time position openings, Johnson said, which it does on Career Builder.
But if positions are contract or adjunct positions, Butler does not ordinarily post job openings, Dowell said.
The university denied The Collegian’s requests for the once-public position advertisements.
The policies that Butler has in place that relate to inter-institution couples include a conflicts of interest policy and consensual relationships policy.
The conflicts of interest policy states that conflicts could arise when an employee evaluates or has direct or indirect control over the work or performance of his or her romantic partner.
Johnson said the human resources office currently is in the process of reviewing its policies in order to make sure they are updated and being followed.
Despite the high number of spouses and domestic partners who are on the payroll, Johnson said she is not aware of any complaints from the rest of the university about this practice.
The human resources management office is open to hearing from all individuals about complaints, she said.
“We’re not here to police the university,” Johnson said. “We have to depend on other individuals to make us aware when there might be things happening in the university that are against policy.”
Bethanie Danko said she hasn’t noticed any conflicts of interest while working with her husband at Butler.
“It’s been a non-issue,” she said. “Although we often discuss issues with each other and voice our opinions on the pros and cons, I wouldn’t characterize this kind of dialogue as presenting any divergent or conflicting interests.”