Presidential search repercussions linger

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By Shelby Leisinger

shelby-leisinger@uiowa.edu

Conflicts and tensions continue to fester two months after the American Association of University Professors released a report on the 2015 University of Iowa presidential search.

Though the original report was officially released in June, it was included in the most recent issue of the faculty newsletter.

In the report, allegations were cited against the search committee, made up of regents and UI officials, and the process that resulted in the hiring of UI President Bruce Harreld.

Harreld was hired last year after a questionable search process. He was the only candidate of the final four who had no previous academic administrative experience.

In response to the report, Josh Lehman, senior communications director for the state Board of Regents, said nothing has changed from the perspective of the regents.

“The board ran a fair process in the search for president,” he said. “We disagree with the report’s overall characterization of the search.”

Professor Loren Glass, a member of the UI chapter of the AAUP, said he felt a lack of respect for the faculty from the regents.

“What is clear is that the search was corrupt and a sham and that they had someone chosen in advance,” he said. “I think that everything that is reported in this AAUP report has to be speculation, because [Vice President Jean] Robillard and [Regent President Bruce] Rastetter refused to speak with them.”

Rastetter and Robillard both served as members of the search committee.

“We are disappointed that some of those stakeholders have decided to embrace the status quo of the past over opportunities for the future and focus their efforts on resistance to change instead of working together to make the University of Iowa even greater,” Rastetter said in a statement.

AAUP UI chapter President and history Professor Katherine Tachau submitted requests orally and in writing that the AAUP be able to sanction a state’s regents instead of solely the university in question.

“The idea that only businessmen can deal with universities, this is not maybe as new or original as Rastetter may think, speaking as a historian,” she said.

Because of the sanction, finding new faculty and professorial staff may prove to be difficult, especially in regards to future presidential candidates, according to the AAUP report.

The report stated, “It is difficult to see how anyone of intelligence and probity would permit himself or herself to be considered for a future presidency in Iowa.”

In order to have the sanction removed from the UI, definite policy changes will need to be enforced to ensure that faculty voices are heard and given more weight, said Hans-Joerg Tiede, associate secretary of the national AAUP.

However, he said, the earliest that the sanction would be lifted would be in June 2017, when the association meets again for the annual meeting.

In a press release in June, Faculty Senate President Thomas Vaughn expressed disappointment with the report and the decision to sanction the UI for the regents’ conduct.

“The Faculty Senate has not been in session over the summer; however, the officers have met several times with President Harreld over the summer and he has continued to show his commitment to shared governance,” Vaughn said in an email to The Daily Iowan.

Glass said he agreed with Vaughn in that “the current administration as well as the faculty was not responsible for the fiasco that was the search.”

“On the other hand, there were some people at the university, [like] Dr. Robillard, who obviously participated and deserve to be part of whoever is being sanctioned,” Glass said.

The AAUP is observing the search for the University of Northern Iowa president to determine whether the regents will listen to faculty opinions, Tiede said.

“It’s very hard to believe that the regents will run a search that appropriately abides by the AAUP principles for the University of Northern Iowa,” Tachau said.

The search committee for the UNI presidential search was announced Wednesday, and Lehman stressed that transparency and fairness will be executed in this search.

“The first committee meeting will be the 29th,” he said. “Search committees have always included faculty to screen candidates and determine the finalists, where the board makes the final selection.”

In regards to the findings of the June report, Tiede said the regents “disagree with the conclusions that we drew, and we respectfully disagree with their review of the matter.”

Glass is cautiously optimistic about Harreld’s ability to act as president of the UI.

“For me, the search sort of poisoned the situation,” he said. “I hope he does good things for the university; I hope he listens to the faculty. After all, they are the ones who are doing the job with the teaching and the research.”