The Board of Regents on Wednesday will conduct closed door midyear evaluations of the institutional heads they oversee.
For new University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld, the review comes after less than four months on the job and the day after his first town hall on the UI campus.
The Tuesday afternoon town hall has been billed as an opportunity for the UI community to hear from university leaders, ask questions, and share ideas for improvement. Harreld’s critics have been calling for a public forum for months, and some have expressed concern that now Provost Barry Butler, Senior Vice President for Finance and Operations Rod Lehnertz, and Vice President for Student Life Tom Rocklin also will be involved.
“In light of the UI community’s repeated requests for an open dialogue directly with President Harreld, we hope that conversation will remain the primary purpose of the event,” according to a statement from the advocacy group “Iowans Defending Our Universities,” which was formed in opposition to Harreld’s hiring and the search process that led to it.
“We are troubled by the addition of several people to the roster, which seems to suggest less time for direct communication,” according to the group, which went on to demand at least three-fourths of the two-hour forum be dedicated to “direct dialogue between President Harreld and the UI community.”
Harreld, a former IBM executive with no academic administrative experience, started his tenure at UI on Nov. 2 amid controversy — as many students, faculty, and staff had expressed concern over his candidacy and were outraged when the Board of Regents chose him anyway.
Since starting, Harreld said he’s been focused on meeting with different constituent groups and gathering feedback to create a shared vision. He has advocated for more state funding that he said would go toward increasing faculty pay and making Iowa more competitive in its efforts to attract and retain high-quality educators.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
Last week, Harreld agreed to a new five-year contract extension for UI Athletics Director Gary Barta, boosting his salary from $400,000 to $550,000 and guaranteeing $250,000 in annual deferred compensation — with both amounts scheduled to increase by $50,000 in 2018.
Harreld ran into controversy in December when he made a comment during a Staff Council meeting indicating unprepared teachers “should be shot.” He said the comment was in reference to feelings he had as an instructor at Harvard Business School and not meant as any sort of threat.
But critics said his words were inappropriate considering the spate of school shootings occurring across the country, including one on the UI campus in 1991.
The Board of Regents this week also will conduct standard midyear evaluations of Iowa State University President Steven Leath, University of Northern Iowa President William Ruud, Steven Gettel, superintendent of the Iowa School for the Deaf and the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School, and Robert Donley, the board’s executive director.
Josh Lehman, a spokesman for the Board of Regents, told The Gazette on Monday the board has no plans to tie compensation to the midyear evaluations this week.
“But, if there was any action like that, it would be revealed in open session,” he said.