Graduate students say University of Iowa president should quit over 'should be shot' remark

Harreld apologizes for 'off the cuff' comment made during a meeting

  • Photo

IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa graduate student union is calling for UI President Bruce Harreld to resign after he said during a recent Staff Council meeting that unprepared lecturers “should be shot.”

“We stand in solidarity with teachers who feel threatened and are committed to creating and maintaining the university as a safe place,” according to a statement from the UI Campaign to Organize Graduate Students. “Therefore, COGS demands that Harreld forfeits his position as president in light of the threat that he poses to the campus community.”

Lisa Gardinier, a UI Latin American and Iberian studies librarian, in a Dec. 10 email to Harreld raised concerns over his comments at the Dec. 9 meeting, documents show.

“For a university president to use the term ‘should be shot’ so flippantly, and just a week after the most recent highly publicized mass shooting and in a tense atmosphere of racist law enforcement violence, is horrifying and unacceptable,” Gardinier wrote.

Harreld replied that he “likely will never be able to live up to your expectations, but will try,” according to the emails. He followed up after Gardinier noted he hadn’t addressed her concern.

“It was an unfortunate off the cuff remark, and I had no intention to offend anyone,” he said in the email. “Nor did I seriously mean to imply I support gun violence in any shape, manner, or form.”

Harreld told Gardinier he has used the comment in “many, many forums.”

“And this is the first time anyone has objected to it,” he said. “I apologize and appreciate your calling my attention to it.”

According to Gardinier’s email, Harreld made the comment in response to a question regarding instruction. When discussing lesson planning, according to Gardinier, he said there was “one way” to prepare lessons, and any instructor who goes into class without having done so “should be shot.”

Graduate students disputed the contention that Harreld’s comment was rhetorical, and they said he violated university and regent policies that prohibit violent threats.

“It is a threat — an act of violence — against the university community as a whole, and particularly against workers in their workplace,” COGS stated.

The union, in a news release, mentioned the Dec. 2 mass shooting in San Bernadino, Calif. that killed 14 people and the 1991 shooting on the UI campus that left six people dead.

“Harreld’s statement displays not only a callous disdain for the members of this community, it shows an appalling disregard for this campus’ history,” according to the union. “His offending statement and flippant response are but one clear example of Harreld’s inability to function adequately or behave appropriately in the role of university president.”

COGS is among the groups on campus that objected to Harreld’s hiring from the start — calling the presidential search that landed him illegitimate. The group has called for his resignation in the past.

Like what you're reading?

We make it easy to stay connected:

to our email newsletters
Download our free apps

Give us feedback

Have you found an error or omission in our reporting? Tell us here.
Do you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.