Higher education

New UI president met with four regents before application deadline

Rastetter: 'He wanted to gather as many facts as he could'

Bruce Harreld listens to a question during a news conference after being announced as the 21st president of the University of Iowa at the Iowa Memorial Union in Iowa City, Iowa, on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015. Harreld was chosen out of four finalists that the Board of Regents interviewed earlier in the day. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Bruce Harreld listens to a question during a news conference after being announced as the 21st president of the University of Iowa at the Iowa Memorial Union in Iowa City, Iowa, on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015. Harreld was chosen out of four finalists that the Board of Regents interviewed earlier in the day. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — The day before applications were due for the vacant University of Iowa presidency, J. Bruce Harreld met with four members of the Board of Regents and had dinner with Iowa State University President Steven Leath.

These meetings occurred just weeks after Harreld — eventually chosen to become UI’s 21st president — first visited the UI campus July 8 to speak with UI Health Care leaders and meet with heads of the institution and the Board of Regents.

According to emails obtained by The Gazette on Thursday and a statement from Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter, Harreld participated in several meetings in Ames on July 30 “as part of the recruiting process for the position of president at the University of Iowa.”

One involved regent President Pro Tem Katie Mulholland and regent Milt Dakovich, and a second involved regents Mary Andringa and Larry McKibben. Harreld requested the meetings, and although Rastetter didn’t attend any of the gatherings, he did help coordinate them.

“I considered Mr. Harreld’s requests for these additional meetings on July 30 not only appropriate, but due diligence on his part,” Rastetter said in the statement. “He wanted to gather as many facts as he could about the position.”

Rastetter on Thursday also said Harreld was among the six candidates he recruited for the UI presidency. Four of those candidates were among the nine that were chosen for initial “airport interviews,” he said.

The pre-candidacy rendezvous involving UI President-Elect Harreld — first on July 8 and then on July 30 — were not initially publicly disclosed by officials with the regents, the university, or a 21-member presidential search committee. Some members of the search committee — including faculty members — have said they didn’t know about the meetings, raising questions among critics about whether Harreld received preferential treatment and was offered the job before the search’s official end.


UI law professor and Faculty Senate President Christina Bohannan, who served on the search committee, told The Gazette on Thursday she knew nothing about the July 30 meetings with regents and was surprised.

“During the time that the search was going on, the faculty members on the search committee — as well as Faculty Senate and other faculty on campus — were operating on the assumption that this was a legitimate search,” Bohannan said. “But the more these kinds of meetings become public, the harder it is to believe that the decision was not made prior to the announcement.”

‘Give us in Iowa a chance’

In one email from regent Andringa to Harreld on July 31 — the day applications for the job were due and the day after their meeting in Ames — she urged Harreld to “continue to give us in Iowa a chance to tap into your great skill set, experience, and passion for excellence through strategic change by being open to the presidency of the U of I.”

Andringa in that email told Harreld “higher education, as you articulated in our meeting, is heading toward crisis. Crisis necessitates change — it may be the big challenge that can energize you in the next 5 years!”

Harreld, in writing to Andringa that day, said he appreciated her “candor and perspectives on the challenges and opportunities at UI.”

“As we discussed, institutions only go up or down,” he wrote. “It is clear that many critical elements are in place to enable UI’s next leader to take the institution to the next level. I am sure you will attract an excellent academically oriented leader as you finalize the search.”

Andringa, who joined the board in May, is chair of the regents’ UI Hospitals and Clinics Committee. McKibben is chair of the board’s efficiency review, Dakovich is chair of the board’s property and facilities committee, and Mulholland is president pro tem.

Rastetter said the purpose of Harreld’s meetings with those regent representatives “was for him to become more informed about the expectations the board had for the next president of the University of Iowa.”


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Of the six candidates Rastetter said he recruited for the job, three were in conjunction with Robilliard, who also is vice president of medical affairs for UI Health Care and was head of the search committee.

As has been previously reported by The Gazette, Robillard first invited Harreld to campus July 8 to speak with UIHC leadership about “sustaining success.” During that visit, Harreld had lunch with Robilliard, Rastetter, and search committee members Bohannan and Sarah Gardial, dean of the business college.

Harreld’s wife, Mary, was given a tour of parts of campus — including the new Hancher Auditorium, which is under construction.

According to emails made public Thursday, Harreld forwarded his resume to Rastetter on July 29 and asked him to forward it on to “those with whom I will be meeting.”

Rastetter, who has praised Harreld’s executive leadership at IBM and Boston Market Company and his academic experience as a lecturer at Harvard Business School, said one of the search committee’s primary charges was to recruit candidates.

“Parker Executive Search reiterated this charge throughout the process to all members of the committee,” Rastetter said in his Thursday statement. “Parker wanted the search committee to talk to as many people as possible to find qualified candidates, which would get us the best possible pool to choose from.”

“All of us on the search committee took that seriously and recruited candidates.”

Bohannan said that earlier in the process, several candidates came to campus — including the Harrelds — and she acknowledged the charge to recruit as many candidates as possible.

“But we were not aware of the other meetings that were set up … and to me, that’s what starts to look bad,” Bohannan said. “The regents had authority to hire the president, but it was incredibly disrespectful not only to the constituency groups on campus but also the other candidates to say this was a transparent process and to say that all the candidates were treated equally when more and more is coming out now about these extra meetings.”

Some applied post-deadline


Details have not been made public about when Harreld officially submitted his application materials for the presidency, although Robillard has said all the candidates submitted materials on time.

But, according to emails made public Thursday, officials with Parker Executive Search on July 24 warned the search committee that a few candidates might submit materials after the July 31 deadline and they would be alerted if that happens.

On Aug. 3, Parker sent an email to the group saying materials for three additional candidates had been uploaded to a secure site. The committee on Aug. 4 made its selection about who — from a pool of 46 candidates — it wanted to bring to Chicago for initial interviews.

Nine were chosen, and four from among that group were invited to campus in late August and early September. They including Harreld, Oberlin College President Marvin Krislov, Tulane University Provost Michael Bernstein, and Ohio State University Provost Joseph Steinmetz.

Each candidate participated in a public forum, and Harreld’s grew contentious — with members of the UI community asking whether he already had been offered the job and why he wanted it in the first place.

In conjunction with the forums, the UI chapter of the American Association of University Professors polled about 760 faculty, staff, students, and other community members and found dismal support for Harreld as president.

That group passed along those findings to the Board of Regents the day before it was scheduled to choose a new president. The Faculty Senate also wrote to the board, warning against hiring Harreld.

Despite that feedback, the board on Sept. 3 unanimously agreed to hire Harreld as the next UI president at a starting annual salary of $590,000, with a five-year deferred compensation package worth $1 million. Rastetter said he and other members of the board had received support for Harreld from other — less vocal — UI constituents and Iowa residents.


He and Robillard have said Harreld brings a fresh perspective to the university at a time when higher education is changing and innovative thinking is imperative. They site Harreld’s past experience helping turn around IBM and establishing Boston Market as a nationally-known restaurant chain.

But his appointment hit faculty, staff, and students hard, as — according to many — their opinions did not seem to weigh much into the final decision. The Faculty Senate, less than a week after Harreld’s selection, issued a vote of no confidence in the Board of Regents, followed by similar votes from student government leaders for both undergraduate and graduate Hawkeyes.

The UI Staff Council issued a letter of disappointment for the regents’ process in picking Harreld. And the Faculty Assembly for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences on Wednesday issued the first “reprimand” against Harreld himself — passing a motion of censure for misrepresentations on his resume.

Although Harreld is not scheduled to start his new job until Nov. 2, UI officials said he has been reaching out to faculty members. Details about those interactions were not immediately made public Thursday, as UI officials said he’s keeping his own schedule and making his own travel arrangements.


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