IOWA CITY — University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld will host the first of what he said will become regular public forums on Feb. 23, giving him the chance to solicit input from the community and take questions.
In an email communication sent Thursday to the UI community, Harreld said the meetings also will allow him to provide status updates on progress toward addressing the campus’ immediate issues and long-term goals.
Harreld, in his second month as UI president, said feedback from the forums will help guide two new teams he has created — a “strategy and policy team” and an “operating team.”
Provost Barry Butler will chair the strategy team, which Harreld said will help the university craft a shared vision and recommend “long-term investments for implementing our vision.” Rod Lehnertz, interim senior vice president for finance and operations, will chair the operating team that will focus on short-term issues requiring more immediate attention.
“By focusing separately on the short and long term, these two new teams will ensure we not only execute well in the short term but also appropriately explore longer-term issues confronting higher education,” Harreld wrote in the email.
Harreld, who came to the university as an accomplished business executive but with no academic administrative experience, was hired Sept. 3 at a starting salary of $590,000. Right away — before officially beginning as the university’s 21st president Nov. 2 — Harreld started meeting with faculty, students, staff, alumni, and community members.
In his email Thursday, Harreld said he’s continued meeting and listening to constituents over the past month.
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“In these discussions, I have heard repeatedly how our faculty ranks are being thinned, how critical research opportunities are experiencing funding delays, how we might better prepare new instructors for their important classroom responsibilities, and how seemingly important investments in critical areas are being delayed,” Harreld wrote in Thursday’s email.
The conversations, he said, have reminded him of the “power of teams.”
“An institution such as Iowa achieves its greatest heights through teamwork,” he wrote. “And I believe that teams are the key to moving forward.”
Harreld’s newly-created teams will be staffed by “appropriate members from our university community” and, he stressed, they will be “steered through our shared governance structure.”
Members of the UI faculty have criticized the Board of Regents for devaluing and disregarding shared governance in its selection of Harreld — who many faculty members asked the board not to hire.
Harreld, after his hire, released a statement addressing “misconceptions about my vision and values” and calling himself a “strong supporter of the storied history of shared governance on our campus.”
Although Harreld, since starting as president, has received support and cooperation from a growing number of campus constituents, some have maintained their demands that he resign — along with every member of the Board of Regents.
Members of the graduate student union over the past few weeks have demanded Harreld hold a public forum to address their concerns, and union President Jeannette Gabriel on Thursday criticized the newly-announced date of the first forum as coming too late.
“It strengthens the sense that he is not here to work with the community but only to answer to the Board of Regents,” Gabriel said. “He should have a public forum with the UI community immediately to respond to our concerns.”
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Still, Gabriel said, graduate student representatives plan to attend the February forum and ask him about a series of concerns — including apparent inaccuracies on his resume, potential cuts in funding for graduate students, fees, tuition increases, and sexual violence on campus.
Harreld has said if lawmakers come through with a $4.5 million request in additional funding for UI in the next Legislative session, he will use it all to address slipping faculty compensation.
“Saying that he’s going to give a pay increase to faculty fails to address any of these serious systemic concerns about the quality of education,” Gabriel said. “And it raises questions about whether he even understands the issues.”
A time and location for the Feb. 23 forum will be forthcoming, according to Harreld’s email.
“Please mark your calendars and plan to join us for a meaningful dialogue about our future,” he wrote.