Higher education

'I would like to be part of your team,' first UI president finalist says

Candidate for UI president tours campus, takes questions

Oberlin College president Marvin Krislov, a candidate for University of Iowa president, speaks to a public forum in the Second Floor Ballroom of the Iowa Memorial Union in Iowa City on Thursday, August 27, 2015. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)
Oberlin College president Marvin Krislov, a candidate for University of Iowa president, speaks to a public forum in the Second Floor Ballroom of the Iowa Memorial Union in Iowa City on Thursday, August 27, 2015. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)
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IOWA CITY — Oberlin College is much smaller than the University of Iowa, but Marvin Krislov said he has plenty of experience working at large institutions — like the U.S. government, for instance, or the University of Michigan.

“And I think people are people,” said Krislov, Oberlin president and the first of four finalists for the UI presidency to visit campus. “The ability to guide them and to come up with a strategic vision … those are people skills. Those are building-relationships skills, and that’s what I delight in.”

Thursday, Krislov told a crowd of about 250 in the Iowa Memorial Union — and another couple hundred watching a live stream online — that he believes anyone who approaches a job with a “sense of humility and a sense of wanting to learn” can succeed.

“And I think experiences in a variety of places allows you to have insights … and that can be a benefit as well.”

Krislov’s visit to the campus included meetings with faculty, students, staff, elected officials and other community members. It culminated in an evening public forum, during which he spoke about his passion for higher education, research, the arts and scholarship.

“It’s a moment of opportunity. A moment of challenge. A moment to do great things together,” he said. “And I would like to be part of your team.”

When talking about recruiting and reach, Krislov said the university’s vision and message should infiltrate every corner of the state.

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“It’s so important for a public university to communicate its values to the people of Iowa,” he said. “This is your university. Send your children here. Send your grandchildren here. Explore through distance learning or on campus.”

Krislov took question after question, including some referencing campus controversies involving sexual assaults, diversity and the regents.

Law professor Nicholas Johnson asked a “hypothetical” question that seemed to refer to the regents’ controversial proposal to implement a performance-based funding model that could have pulled tens of millions of dollars from the UI had it been approved.

Former UI President Sally Mason, now retired, signed a letter supporting it, drawing the ire of some faculty members. Johnson asked Krislov how he would react if “asked by the Board of Regents to take a position on some policy or to sign off on some document or fire someone” against his best judgment and beliefs.

“You have a reputation for being a great compromiser, but sometimes you can’t compromise,” Johnson said. “Some things are worth losing an election for … a job for.”

Krislov espoused his belief in finding common ground by trying to “understand why people want what they want.”

“I will tell you that it’s not worth it to me to have any job in American that requires me to sacrifice my morals and values,” he said to applause. “But I do not think it would need to get to that point.”

Answering questions about diversity, he shared a passion for an inclusive environment.

“Almost nothing is more important,” he said. “But it takes a lot of work and is not easy.”

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After the forum, education professor Laurie Croft and lecturer Robert van Deusen said they were impressed by Krislov’s presentation, quick thinking, sensitivity to a variety of groups and apparent effort to listen.

“He seemed to me like an excellent administrator,” van Deusen said.

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