Bruce Harreld talks with reporters in The Daily Iowan conference room about his upcoming term as the next president of the University of Iowa. Upon his acceptance, Harreld had an approval rating of three percent. (The Daily Iowan/Brooklynn Kascel)

Harreld’s first day

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By DI Staff |   daily-iowan@uiowa.edu

Bruce Harreld is finally on the clock.

After two months of intrigue and controversy, the former business consultant is settling into Jessup Hall as the 21st president of the University of Iowa. He spent the transition phase privately sitting down with numerous stakeholders across campus, including his first Q&A with The Daily Iowan on Oct. 30.

“We’ve gotten to several places where we say, we have an issue here, were concerned about what perspective you would take on an issue. In some cases I’ve got some ideas, and in some cases I say I need help,” Harreld told the DI. “They love this institution, and that may be a piece of this that’s important, that they love it. And therefore they’re appropriate to be concerned about where I’m coming from, that’s fine. I take that.”

Starting with an informal survey that found little support for him on campus, numerous segments of the campus community have vocally condemned the state Board of Regents’ search process and have called for both the regents and Harreld to resign. Harreld said it he doesn’t think the negative attention has affected him.

“It comes with the territory. I consider myself to be a leader, and walking into situations that need leadership, that’s kind of natural,” he said when asked about the negative attention. “I’ve seen this kind of thing before.”

Harreld said the criticism swirling around his appointment by the regents has gotten “a little personal” and that a line had perhaps been crossed.

“I hear this from a number of people from across the state and alumni, who basically said Iowans aren’t like that, and we apologize. I’ve heard that enough,” he said. “Dispute is fine, but you know, it’s face-to-face. I have a phrase that says ‘Bite me in the nose, don’t stab me in the back,’ and that is part of the academy, those types of discussions, so I don’t have a problem with that, but it needs to be civilized discourse.

Harreld will see the pushback face-to-face today, as some students plan to storm the Pentacrest at noon in an effort to “take back the UI.”

“I think the citizens of the state of Iowa should know that we owe them more than getting down in the weeds and behaving the way that some members of the campus community have behaved, in my opinion,” he said.

During the interview, the DI asked Harreld about a wide range of topics and issues affecting the campus, including the business of running a university, Athletics Department lawsuits, funding issues, and graduate student teaching.

On sexual assault, Harreld said he wants to do “everything I possibly can do” to combat the problem, which has afflicted college campuses nationwide and drawn the attention of the federal government.

He referred to former President Sally Mason’s efforts to recharge and boost the ways the UI tackles sexual assault through her six-point plan implemented last year and said the community has done a great job of responding to what he called a systemic problem.

“We’re talking about human dignity, safety, and all the rest of the things. We’ve got to be a safe campus,” Harreld said. “No question about it.”

The DI asked Harreld whether he would change anything about his tense public forum with members of the UI community prior to the regents’ selection. He responded with a simple, “No, not at all.”

“If I go down a path to say, ‘Oh, I’m just going to go police people,’ all of a sudden I wouldn’t be living up to personal set of values. I understand, it was a lot of people coming up and asking a lot of questions, there were a lot of gotchas in there, but that’s the process,” he said. “If I had done something like trying to look great for a job rather than point out what I think are the issues and changes that are occurring in the United States at least and around these public research institutions, that would have been unprofessional, in my opinion.”

The role of teaching assistants became a point of contention at the forum. During his discussion with the DI, Harreld spoke at length about boosting teaching training for graduate assistants, such as through the College of Education. He said he’s spoken with graduate students who told him they have, at most, a few days of training.

“I have a piece of me that says, wouldn’t it be wonderful if the graduate students who left here, got their Ph.D.s, and entered the job market, were known, that we were known as a great place to learn how to teach, that people come out of here as great teachers?” he said. “I’ve been asking graduate students, would that help you to have that on your résumé. They all go, yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah, because it’s a tough job market for them, too.”

Harreld’s supporters often point to financial difficulties wrought by heavily reduced state funding, necessitating a search for new revenue streams to support the UI’s mission.  Since the start of the 21st century, state money has gone from making up two-thirds of regent university revenue in Iowa to just one-third. Student tuition has filled in in the difference.

“It turns out more and more of the brunt across the United States is becoming the parents and the students themselves,” Harreld said. “What can we do about that? I think we can ask for more and more help from different resources.”

The DI wrapped up its first interview with Harreld by asking if there was a question that he wanted to answer but has gone unasked. He emphasized family.

“My family is an exceedingly important part of my life and of all of our lives, I think,” he said. “Come on, we’re all the same; let’s have a conversation. I’m a normal person just like you. Let’s go to a ball game.”

In graphics that appeared in the Daily Iowan on page 2 and online Nov 2., the DI misattributed several quotes. GPSG President Josh Schoenfeld’s quote was attributed to UI student Amanda Kane, while Kane’s quote was attributed to UI student Michael Nebor. UI student Hayden Meister’s quote was attributed to UI Athletics Director Gary Barta, while Barta’s quote was attributed to Schoenfeld. The graphics have been removed from the website. The DI regrets the errors.

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