UI president Harreld promises regular public hearings to engage UI community

Harreld: It will be 'very collaborative'

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New University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld is planning to hold a series of public hearings, during which he will continue listening and learning from the community in hopes of creating a shared vision.

Details of the public hearings have not been made public, but Harreld told The Gazette on Tuesday they will happen on a regular basis.

Critics of Harreld have called on him to hold public forums, where members of the UI community could ask him questions and have an open dialogue.

During a public hearing held Nov. 20 on the UI campus in conjunction with this week’s Board of Regents meeting, several speakers reiterated the calls for a public forum.

“We need an open forum, during which members of the community can get answers,” UI professor emeritus Shelton Stromquist said during the video-recorded hearing.

Harreld, along with the presidents of Iowa’s other public universities, presented to Gov. Terry Branstad during a budget hearing at the State Capitol on Tuesday. He talked about information he’s gathered since starting as UI president Nov. 2 and said he’s continuing to work with community members and stakeholders on creating a unified vision.

He said the plan is to make that process collaborative, and he intends to report on progress — not just on final outcomes — hence the regular public forums.

“It’s time with new leaders and a new team in place to rethink, and I’ve been reaching out with my team to think about a process for engagement of the entire community,” Harreld said.

Of course, Harreld added, he has thoughts about where the university needs to go.

“But I think if I stand on top of a building and said here’s where we should go, I’m not sure there’d be anyone up on top of the building with me,” he said. “The real question is what is our vision, and what’s the process we run to get to our collective vision?”

Harreld, who has faced criticism for his lack of academic administrative experience and largely business background, said his staff is starting to launch the public exercise aimed at focusing in on key issues for the community.

“Stay tuned,” he said, reiterating his aim to make it “very collaborative and very supportive.”

“Rather than wait for the outcomes to occur,” he said, “we are going to embark on a continuous process of updating our community as to where we are throughout the process — even when we don’t know answers — just to engage the community and have the dialogue and have the discussion.”

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