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AAUP criticizes Harreld statement, faculty response

'There was no respect for academic values or shared governance'

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The University of Iowa chapter of the American Association of University Professors on Monday criticized recent statements from President-Elect J. Bruce Harreld, who vowed to honor the campus’ core values, and the UI Faculty Council, which expressed appreciation for Harreld’s support.

“Given the circumstances of Mr. Harreld’s hiring, we are unable to credit his recent statement to the campus to the extent the Faculty Council has done,” according to the AAUP statement, made public Monday. “Compromised academic values cannot be revalidated by a mere declaration of support.”

And, referencing the Board of Regents search process that AAUP officials call “fundamentally flawed,” Monday’s statement argues the Faculty Council has no authority to legitimize “the outcome of an autocratic process that disregarded the principles of academic integrity.”

Harreld was chosen Sept. 3 to start as the 21st UI president Nov. 2. The former IBM and Boston Market Company executive, who has no academic administrative experience, was among four finalists introduced to campus in late August and early September.

Each candidate participated in a community forum and, after Harreld’s visit, hundreds of faculty, staff, and students voiced concern over his candidacy and asked the board to choose any other candidate.

The board ignored that vocal opposition and hired Harreld anyway. In the days that followed, the UI Faculty Senate and student governments issued votes of no confidence, one faculty group censured Harreld for inaccuracies on his resume, and hundreds staged a protest during a Board of Regents meeting calling for Harreld and board members to resign.

Harreld on Oct. 13 issued his first letter to the campus community, addressing some of the controversy and articulating his intentions at the helm. He stressed support for faculty tenure, shared governance, and sustained investment in recruiting and maintaining quality educators, while also acknowledging new challenges in the world of academia.

“Higher education stands at the threshold of changes driven by increased competition, diminished federal and state funding, increased tuition, rapid technology shifts, and questions about its value,” Harreld wrote. “Our campus and community are ready to meet those challenges with creativity and commitment, and I want to help us chart our future.”

Following that message, the UI Faculty Council issued a statement of appreciation for Harreld’s “support of our fundamental values,” and said faculty leadership is beginning to work with him.

“Building trust will undoubtedly take time and will depend on the good faith of all of us,” according to the Faculty Council message. “But creative thinking and problem solving are what faculty do best, and we look forward to working for the future of this great university.”

Still, AAUP leadership on Monday stressed their opposition to the search that landed Harreld and said it strikes “at the heart of academic values.”

“While we do not expect that every regents’ decision will reflect the faculty’s position, we do expect that when the regents seek faculty input, that input be taken seriously,” according to the AAUP statement. “It was not in the appointment of Mr. Harreld.”

Members of the Board of Regents have disputed those arguments, saying the opposition to Harreld represented only a portion of the feedback they received. Rather, regents said, many people both on and off the UI campus expressed support for Harreld and the fresh perspective he might bring.

The AAUP, in its criticism, cited media reports of efforts to recruit Harreld — he met with five regents, visited the UI campus, and had dinner with Iowa State University President Steven Leath during the private portion of the search.

The UI professor association, in its statement Monday, said Harreld was “clearly offered preferential treatment.”

“There was no respect for academic values or shared governance, but only deception, in the secretive process that actually produced the board’s selection of Mr. Harreld,” according to the statement. “The very manner of this presidential appointment subverted, is inherently incompatible with, and remains in irresolvable opposition to shared governance and the integrity that is the fundamental condition for all other academic values.”

The UI chapter of the AAUP has received support from other chapters, including those at Iowa State University and University of Northern Iowa. And even out-of-state faculty have expressed written support, including representatives from the universities of Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois.

Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter told reporters last week he has no intention to resign from the board, and Harreld still is scheduled to start Nov. 2.

l Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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