The Insider

Flunking the B-School
The late Jesse H. Jones is arguably the premier business genius in Houston's history, but the Rice University business school that bears his name doesn't enjoy nearly so lofty a reputation.

A confidential internal report to top Rice administrators, compiled by a blue-ribbon committee of corporate leaders and heads of high-ranked business schools, rips the unaccredited Jones Graduate School of Administration for mediocrity and lack of vision. The report, whose authors include retired Conoco CEO Constantine "Dino" Nicandros, declares, "Either Jones must embark on a course of becoming recognized for world-class distinctiveness and quality in management education or it should decide to close its doors."

The report notes the shaky status of a Jones School MBA, reflected in graduates' relatively low salaries. The 200-student enrollment is "too small and tailing off," the report states, and placement for graduates "is strongly local." On top of that, the school's junior faculty has turned over completely in the past five years, and dissension is rife among the current profs.

Since Rice is unlikely to compete across the board with top-ranked programs such as the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, the committee recommends that the Jones School focus on academic niche markets. Suggested areas of specialization include health care and public policy management, as well as business technology innovations and business relations with Mexico and Latin America.

Pursuing those areas, the report suggests, might boost the Jones School into the top ranks. Failing to do so, it warns, could spell disaster: "To not embark on the course of international recognition would be most unfortunate. The opportunity would be squandered. Rice would be embarrassed. Houston would be the worse."

The dean of the Jones School, Ben Bailar, catches criticism for failing to communicate with other Rice institutions, including the George R. Brown School of Engineering and the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy. "All the trump cards are in the Dean's office," the report quotes one campus source as observing. The school's board of influential overseers told the report's authors that their involvement in the school's management and future is "peripheral and in the anteroom."

Bailar, who was postmaster general during the Ronald Reagan administration, says the report's call to improve or close his school is "a semantic tool that got a lot of people's attention, and I think that's how it should be." He declines to address criticism that he is out of touch with the rest of the university.

Rice President Malcolm Gillis received the document in mid-May, but has not yet acted on the findings.

Rice Provost David Auston supervised the committee. He calls the report an advisory tool and says there's no guarantee that its recommendations will be followed. One campus source claims the Jones School has hired an expensive East Coast business consultant to deconstruct the findings, but Auston says he "can't comment on that just yet."

At least he didn't say it was none of our business.

More Stink from Casa de Stockman
Congressman Steve Stockman obviously didn't graduate from the Jones School, because he has plenty of innovative ideas about business management -- particularly in the political consulting sphere. As revealed several weeks ago in The Hill, a Congress-covering weekly, Stockman paid $126,000 to a firm called Political Won Stop, which operates, conveniently, out of the congressboy's Friendswood home. That's more than half the total spending by the Stockman campaign so far in 1996. One of the firm's principals, Jason Posey, told The Hill that he was a "volunteer" for Stockman. As it turns out, the other principal in the firm is Chris Cupit, who also happens to be the GOP nominee for Jefferson County tax assessor-collector. Stockman's Democratic challenger in November is Nick Lampson, who resigned the tax collector's post to make the congressional race. Cupit's opponent is Miriam Johnson, who was Lampson's chief deputy. While there may be nothing illegal about the housing arrangement for Political Won Stop, The Insider sure hopes that Cupit is careful about keeping his own campaign affairs separate from Stockman's.

The Federal Elections Commission is already investigating Stockman for another homegrown enterprise, the Southeast Texas Times, a newspaper published out of Stockman's home in 1993 and '94. The paper, which was tossed free into the yards of 9th District voters, was blatantly pro-Stockman, dishing up attacks on then-incumbent Jack Brooks and touting the Republican challenger. A Stockman primary opponent claimed the newspaper was campaign literature and should have been reported to the FEC as such. Questions also have been raised about whether Stockman donors were able to evade the federal limits on campaign contributions by purchasing ads in the paper.

The Insider called Political Won Stop's number, which is also the number for Stockman's home and campaign, but Cupit was unavailable to expound on the cheek-to-cheek relationship of Stockman, Political Won Stop and the Cupit campaign. And we're left to wonder where Li'l Stevie finds the room to accommodate all his buddies.

Not Any Port Commissioner in a Storm
While FBI stingee Betti Maldonado campaigns to save her public career, the resumes of candidates who would love to fill her seat on the Port Authority are accumulating at City Hall. Maldonado's term expires at the end of the month, and although she'd like to be reappointed, the smart money won't be in an envelope with her name on it.

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