By KayLynn Harris
A record number of community members attended the latest state Board of Regents public transparency hearing, although most believed it was just another way for their voices to be ignored.
Thursday, the hearing allowed people to record messages through a web camera. The comments, which could not be longer than five minutes, would later be shared with the regents.
Ten people attended the hearing.
The participants shared frustration about the method used by the regents to accept and respond to messages from the public, especially members of the University of Iowa community. Most comments touched upon Bruce Harreld’s selection as UI president and no-bid contracts.
Matthew Brown, a UI associate professor of English, believes the public hearing isn’t the best way for the regents to hear comments. He believes the regents are not obligated to hear the one-way videotapes recorded.
“Their job is to be a steward for public education, and they are not living up to their duties,” he said. “I would like to see actual give-and-take, as well as dialogue with constituencies that they serve here at the university.”
Brown said he attended the previous public hearing, which was in November and had eight attendees. Participants who attended the last hearing said they had only received an automated notification, informing them the regents had received their message.
Tyler Priest, a UI associate professor of history and geography, said it is still important to voice opinions.
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“The last time this hearing was held, they never responded to any of the people who came before the camera, but it is important that members of the UI community make their voice known,” he said. “We can’t afford not to challenge these issues.”
UI English Professor Judith Pascoe believes that if the regents would circumvent the “awkward” communication method, they would demonstrate a desire to talk to UI faculty and community.
“It takes a great deal of courage for these individuals to come present their message that will be posted on the regents’ website for the world to see,” she said. “I just wish that the regents would pay us that same respect with an adequate response and dialogue.”
UI students also left comments for the regents expressing grievances.
UI graduate student Hodna Nuernberg said the regents should resign because of their disregard for UI students and faculty.
“I would like to see a lot more transparency from them,” she said. “After all, that was a transparency hearing, and they weren’t even there. I left a comment last time and was disappointed by the lack of response. I know I’m just a graduate student, but I am a member of the UI community. I think that some acknowledgement and engagement is deserved.”