By Tom Ackerman
The most recent campus appearance by University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld was met with both discussion and protest.
The University of Iowa Graduate Student Senate held a forum with Harreld on Wednesday evening to ask questions concerning professional students and issues surrounding the UI.
Immediately, two students held up signs in protest of the recently hired president. More demonstrators joined them, holding their signs for the entire meeting.
Senate President Nicole Jardine said the meeting went as well as could have been expected.
“This is part one of the discussion,” she said, notng the group plans to meet with Harreld at least once a semester to address needs of the graduate student body.
Harreld addressed a number of questions from the senators, which have been posted publicly on the Senate’s website — including his vision for the UI and what it means, as well as fiscal and academic goals. Senators also asked questions specifically focused on graduate students.
“We need to know collectively what we need to do to move forward,” Harreld said, stressing his willingness to help once issues are put on the table.
Harreld is in his third week of office at the UI. He has met with numerous stakeholders on campus while the stir over his hiring continues.
Harreld said he has met with around 100 student and university groups where he has been questioned on similar issues, leaving a need for single and open list of concerns to address, he said.
“Give me your thoughts on how we can do this better,” he said. “I’m open, but I have my own thoughts.”
Shortly into the meeting, a group of silent protesters filed into the back of the room, holding signs that questioned Harreld. One sign read, “Why should I trust you?”
When a protester asked Harreld to address questions written on the signs, he told her they should write more neatly next time.
“We already are aware of his public speaking skills,” said protester Naoki Izumo, a graduate student, who thought Harreld didn’t get to the heart of many questions asked.
Harreld asked for patience as he begins his responsibilities as president, and tells students to know he is on their team.
Protesters expressed interest in hearing more about how Harreld will combat women’s issues and sexual assault on campus, in addition to funding questions they feel have not been answered fully.
“What we really need is a public forum,” said Jessica Pleyel, a student protester. “I think that we’ve been very politely requesting that.”
The graduate student union, COGS, and the organization Iowans Defending Our Universities have called for a public forum with Harreld — so far to no avail.
Others said they were pleased with the outcome of the meeting and his responses to graduate students who often are asked to teach with little notice.
“I like the way he reserves judgment and waits for the facts,” said graduate student Cattie Patterson. “I felt all the responses were appropriate given the length of the forum.”
Harreld also spoke on faculty issues with fewer faculty members being hired. He cited U.S. News, saying the UI has fallen several positions in terms of faculty-salary ranking.
He tied the issue to resource allocation and said the UI needs to assess funding and find what the college’s voice is as an institution.
“We have to stand up and say who we are,” he said. “We don’t want to be Iowa State.”
Of the $3.7 billion coming into the UI annually, Harreld thinks an answer to funding issues will be met, though he is concerned about the UI in the realm of STEM and critical thinking.
“We’re a classic liberal-arts college,” he said. “If we don’t take care of the core, then we’re going to have issues.”