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Speakers fault hiring of Harreld at transparency hearing

At hearing, some faculty assail video-recorded sessions as 'essentially meaningless'

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IOWA CITY — For the first time in more than a year, University of Iowa community members lined up to speak at one of the regularly scheduled public hearings held in conjunction with an upcoming Board of Regents meeting.

All eight of the people who spoke during the Nov. 20 hearing — preceding the regents meeting this week — criticized the board’s search for a new UI president, which resulted in the Sept. 3 hiring of Bruce Harreld.

“You should not underestimate ... the depth of anger and frustration in the university and the wider community over the illegitimate search and the unqualified president you have presented,” UI professor emeritus Shelton Stromquist said during the video-recorded hearing.

“You ignored the views of students, faculty, and staff, and — in doing so — you made a mockery of shared governance,” Stromquist said. “You’ve done serious harm to the reputation of the University of Iowa, nationally and internationally. Your stewardship, frankly, has been an embarrassment.”

The board began holding public hearings in 2013 on the campuses of its public universities and special schools before each of its meetings, based on recommendations from a Board of Regents Transparency Task Force. No regents or board staff attend the hearings. Rather, comments are video recorded, posted online and reviewed by board officials.

Board spokesman Josh Lehman said Monday he does not know whether any regents have viewed comments from the Nov. 20 hearing. And, Lehman said, he’s not aware of the board contacting any of the speakers to share their opinions at a meeting.

Before the Nov. 20 UI hearing, the last time anyone spoke at one of the hearings was in October 2014.

Some of the eight speakers Nov. 20 addressed the lack of participation in the hearings, which many said they didn’t know about until recently.

“I want to object strenuously to this method of transparency, as it’s called, which I see as not genuine, not interactive, essentially meaningless, because it provides no opportunity for give and take,” Stromquist said. “I think this is really why people rarely show up for these hearings. They don’t perceive it as a meaningful exercise.”

Assistant UI English professor Stephen Voyce, after voicing his concern with the presidential search and its result, criticized the public hearings.

“Let me point out that holding this particular meeting on the Friday afternoon before the Thanksgiving break seems like an explicit attempt to minimize the number of people who could come,” Voyce said. “There’s no effort whatsoever on the part of the regents to interact with the faculty who run the day-to-day operations of this university. That’s not only unprofessional, it’s flatly cowardly.”

Many of the hearing’s speakers, like the protesters who showed up to the board’s last meeting on the UI campus, called for the resignation of the nine-member board.

Dan Daly, a former UI employee and alumnus, said, “It was rigged, I want a do-over.”

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