By Tom Ackerman
Those in opposition to Bruce Harreld will soon get the chance to express their concerns.
After weeks of protests and concerns raised by commu
nity members, the University of Iowa confirmed that UI President Bruce Harreld will stage public forums — though details on the time and location of the events are currently unknown.
UI spokeswoman Jeneane Beck said Harreld will announce more information later this week.
“I think he’s been doing a lot of listening, and he intends to have a forum that includes other members of the community, other leaders on campus,” Beck said. “It will be about sharing information.”
Harreld has been meeting with numerous campus stakeholders one-on-one since before beginning his tenure. At a recent forum with the Graduate Student Senate, the Senate vetted audience members’ questions.
Ruth Bryant, a spokeswoman for the UI Campaign to Organize Graduate Students, is skeptical yet prepared for the opportunity to raise lingering questions.
“Judging by his responses to individuals who have attempted interactions with him in the past … he doesn’t react gratefully when challenged,” she said, adding that the chance to speak with Harreld directly “is extremely important in healing our community.”
Bryant hopes to see Harreld answer questions related to university funding and shared-governance issues, as well as live up to his statements since taking office. Harreld has been publicly focusing on issues such as faculty recruitment and retention, particularly pay, and emphasizing the UI’s liberal-arts core.
“He’s giving this rhetoric that he wants processes and changes to happen for the university in an open and collaborative way,” she said. “It hasn’t borne out yet, and we have yet to see it [happen].”
COGS and Iowans Defending Our Universities have been calling for public forums with Harreld for weeks. Several community members took the opportunity to have comments on the issue recorded and posted to the regents website in video form as part of the board’s transparency hearings.
In the last UI comment video on Nov. 20, history Professor Emeritus Shelton Stromquist called for a public forum.
“Rather than hiding behind a wall and pretending that random video comments represent real communication, [the regents] and Bruce Harreld need to come out into the public arena and explain yourselves and your agenda,” he said. “You are accountable ultimately to the public. Not to the government that appointed you.”
On the requests for public discussion, Beck said it’s important to remember Harreld has only been in office for about a month.
“It doesn’t seem appropriate to speak to a large group until he’s able to speak with people individually first,” Beck said. “Once he’s able to accomplish that, he can broaden that group.”