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AAUP completes investigation into UI president hire

Full report to be made public Thursday

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IOWA CITY — About two months after the American Association of University Professors announced plans to launch an inquiry into the search that landed new University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld, the group has completed its investigation and is planning to disclose its findings later this week.

The AAUP on Thursday will release its full investigative report on the Board of Regents search that incensed the UI chapter of the AAUP for its apparent breach of the association’s values related to shared governance and the selection of administrators.

Although the AAUP is not a regulatory body, it can censure universities or governing bodies — potentially harming their reputation nationally and making it more difficult to recruit faculty and students.

As part of its inquiry, AAUP officials asked to speak with interim UI President Jean Robillard and members of the Board of Regents. Both Robillard and regents President Pro Tem Katie Mulholland declined to meet, citing pending litigation against the search committee related to the search process.

Jordan E. Kurland, associate general secretary for the AAUP’s department of academic freedom, tenure, and governance, told The Gazette at the start of the inquiry that his group wasn’t looking into Harreld’s qualifications.

“He doesn’t have traditional qualifications,” Kurland said. “But that is not our purpose here.”

Rather, he said, the UI chapter of the AAUP requested the national inquiry based on concerns around the search. Harreld, an accomplished businessman without academic administrative experience, was one of four candidates presented to the UI campus.

Hundreds of faculty, students, and staff voiced disapproval of his candidacy and asked regents not to hire him, and the president of the UI Faculty Senate — on the eve of the board’s selection — threatened a no-confidence vote if the board chose Harreld.

The regents unanimously selected him anyway, and — in the weeks that followed — details emerged about previously undisclosed meetings Harreld had with regents and members of the search committee during the search process.

“For a major research university of that caliber to have private meetings and things done on the side … the deviation from sound and due process is striking,” Kurland told The Gazette.

The AAUP’s statement on government of colleges and universities calls for “appropriate shared responsibility and cooperative action among the components of the academic institution” — which, it says, includes governing boards.

The organization’s statement specific to faculty participation in the selection of administrators, including presidents, states governing boards should “either select a name from among those submitted by the faculty committee or should agree that no person will be chosen over the objections of the faculty committee.”

The 21-member search committee charged with selecting four finalists for the Board of Regents to consider for UI president included faculty members. And board President Bruce Rastetter has said he received positive feedback about Harreld from UI community members and others across the state who value his experience leading corporations like IBM and Boston Market Inc.

AAUP investigating committees are appointed in select cases “in which severe violations of association-supported principals and standards on academic freedom, tenure, or governance have been alleged and persist despite AAUP efforts to resolve them.”

Those investigative committees are comprised of AAUP members from other institutions with no previous involvement in the matter.

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