Regents expect to hire new University of Northern Iowa president by early December

'We will be conducting an open and transparent process'

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The Board of Regents intends to publicly introduce finalists for the University of Northern Iowa presidency by late November or early December and then announce a hire by Dec. 6.

Regents President Pro Tem Katie Mulholland on Tuesday sent a proposed timeline to lawmakers who on Friday penned a letter urging the board to state publicly its plans and process for the upcoming search and how it would differ from the recent, much-criticized University of Iowa search.

“First and foremost, we will be conducting an open and transparent process, very similar to the last UNI presidential search process,” Mulholland wrote in the letter sent on Tuesday to Democratic senators Jeff Danielson, Rob Hogg, and Brian Schoenjahn.

She said the UNI search process will bring candidates to campus in November “for meetings with constituent groups prior to the Board of Regents interviews of the finalists in December.”

“The (American Association of University Professors) guidelines for university presidential searches provided the backbone for the UNI process,” Mulholland wrote.

The Board of Regents last week announced it had hired AGB Search to facilitate the process, and Danielson told The Gazette some members of the UNI community have told him they’ve been invited to serve on the search committee.

Tuesday’s letter doesn’t include names of search committee members, as Mulholland said the deadline for campus leaders to submit nominations is Aug. 22 — the first day of UNI classes. The letter does indicate the committee will include 20 members — representing faculty, staff, student, and community constituents — and it will meet for the first time Aug. 29.

Mulholland did identify Dan Power as co-chair of the search. Power is a professor in the UNI College of Business Administration and, Mulholland said, “shares my dedication to a fair and transparent process in the selection of the next president of UNI.”

According to Mulholland’s letter, she worked with AGB to “ensure that the committee and the consultants will be able to access as much feedback as possible during the search process.”

The proposed timeline shows candidates visiting campus Nov. 30-Dec. 2, and the board choosing a new President Dec. 6. The schedule includes two meetings on Dec. 5 — one for the search committee to report to the board and a separate Board of Regents meeting.

“Note that we have added an additional meeting to the process: the search committee will meet with the Board of Regents to discuss the attributes of the candidates the committee has selected as finalists,” Mulholland wrote in her letter. “Per Iowa’s open meetings law, the candidates may request that this discussion happen in a closed session.”

Among concerns that arose during last year’s UI presidential search was the dismissal of the search committee after it chose finalists — but before those finalists came to campus for public town hall meetings. UI community members also expressed concern with the quick turnaround between the town halls and the board’s final decision — saying it wasn’t enough time to consider community feedback.

That was an issue because many members of the UI community strongly disapproved of businessman Bruce Harreld’s candidacy. Harreld was chosen, despite criticism across campus, prompting community members to ask whether he was the board’s choice all along.

Those questions were fueled by media reports in the following weeks that Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter aggressively recruited Harreld, affording him meetings with members of the search committee, other regents, and the interim UI president.

The UI Faculty Senate and UI Student Government eventually issued votes of no confident in the board for its hire of Harreld. And the AAUP sanctioned the university, saying its governing board violated shared governance policies.

According to the UNI search timeline made public Tuesday, regents are seeking input on the process from the campus community through a series of four August listening sessions. Two of those have occurred — yielding input from about 130 people — and two more are scheduled for next week.

Those who can’t attend can give input online.

During the search committee’s first meeting Aug. 29, it will discuss candidate confidentiality and further discuss the process and timeline — along with candidate qualifications and a position advertisement. The search committee will launch the search Sept. 12 and start mulling applications in October.

The application deadline, according to the proposed timeline, is Oct. 19 with the goal of choosing semifinalists by Oct. 26. The committee will conduct neutral site interviews Nov. 11 and 12 and choose finalists.

Danielson, who has stressed the important of conducting this search differently than the UI search, told The Gazette he’s pleased with the process outlined in Mulholland’s letter.

“I would say that this is a great start,” he said.

But, Danielson said, he wants the regents to state publicly what they want in a candidate. The board makes the final hiring decision, he said, so their opinion — not that of the committee or UNI community members — should be known at the outset.

“That will basically set the expectations and our ability to judge the success of the new president,” he said.

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