Regents respond to protest calling for resignations.
By Cindy Garcia | firstname.lastname@example.org
One regent believes the board may have “dropped the ball.”
Regent Subhash Sahai made the comment at Thursday’s state Board of Regents meeting in reference to the search process behind the selection of Bruce Harreld to succeed Sally Mason as president of the University of Iowa.
The controversial hiring of business consultant Harreld continued to seep to the forefront of the regents’ meetings this week. Dissent has remained in the nearly two months after the announcement, culminating in a rally on Wednesday in the meeting room.
Protesters silently walked in, then loudly called for the resignation of both the regents and Harreld.
“To Bruce Harreld, I would say, however tainted this ball is, I hope for the sake of all us — and that is the Board of Regents, faculty, students, and staff — he runs with it and makes us all shine,” Sahai said.
Sahai, a Webster City physician, said he felt “angry, mad, and, most importantly, sad” after finding out Harreld and five of the nine regents had met before the presidential application closed.
However, he emphasized his trust in Regent President Bruce Rastetter and Regent President Pro Tem Katie Mulholland, who had assured him no decision about who would be president had been made in advance.
“I want people at the university to know that we had impassioned, intense, and rigorous debate about the choice of a candidate, whilst always maintaining that a decision of this magnitude required unanimous support,” he said. “… Right or wrong, I stick by it.”
Sahai said the protest on Wednesday demonstration how people at the UI “live, breathe, and love this place.”
“My criticism of the board is simply that the process of selection may not have appeared to be impartial,” he said.
Regent Larry McKibben recognized the protest was appropriate and peaceful in the middle of a TIER efficiency-study update presentation.
“We had over 30,000 students, faculty, and staff, out and about on this great campus doing their teaching, doing their research, doing their learning, while that was going on. That’s the number that’s important to me,” he said.
McKibben said he has received tremendous support for Harreld from people all over the state, including parents with children at the UI.
“I have also had some of the same presentations that we had yesterday, but by far, it’s the minority in the process,” he said.
Rastetter told reporters in a press conference that there were 21 members on the presidential search committee who reviewed 80 applicants. Nine candidates were selected to travel to Chicago for airport interviews, and four, including Harreld, came and spoke to the UI campus as public finalists.
“All four had the approval and consent of the full Search Committee that included [seven] faculty members, so I don’t know how much more open and transparent we could’ve been,” he said.
He noted that Harreld’s phone conversation with Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad about UI funding and meetings with regents to learn more about the university should be seen positively.
“Bruce Harreld wanted to do additional diligence work beyond what some of the candidates did, which I would view as good,” Rastetter said.
Mulholland, a retired superintendent, said people expressing themselves in a university setting is to be expected.
“For me, that was an expression by people who really love their university and want to see the best happen and that was the way they expressed it,” she said.