1. In George Akerlof’s Nobel-prize article, “The Market for Lemons,” he notes that used car buyers will rationally offer less for a car than the dealer would like, believing that the dealer has more information on the vehicle than the buyer, and assuming that negative information is unlikely to be conveyed.
4. Used car dealers (and deans, chairs, faculty) can avoid some of these problems by building a reputation for honesty and reliability, and for taking charge of their mistakes. At the same time, provosts, deans, and chairs must be willing to hear mixed messages and not immediately say NO, and be willing to consider extraordinary cases. The cream puff on the outside may be just what some buyers want, especially if they are told about the rusting frame and so the price is lowered.
5. Now, deans have limited appointments, usually for 5-10 years. But tenure for the faculty member (who is a lemon) is lifetime. Their colleagues are stuck with them, and if they are not forthcoming with negative opinions at tenure time, at least they suffer the consequences of their acts. But deans do not.
6. As for faculty who overpromise, salary raises can be delayed until the promised material arrives. If the faculty member is a tenured associate professor, promotion can be delayed as well. Those who are promising a big book year after year have to be given deadlines.
8. Now you might have a repair shop that takes in lemons and makes them good. You bought a lemon, but rather than getting rid of it, you bring it to the repair shop and they do the best they can without breaking your bank. Provosts should have active programs of faculty improvement, where the lemons are in fact repaired and set on a more fruitful path--although the mechanics here have to be very sophisticated in their people-skills and their technical skills.