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University of Iowa faculty group calls for regents to be dismissed

Faculty Assembly wants governor to intervene after Harreld's hire

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IOWA CITY — Dozens of University of Iowa faculty members representing the institution’s largest college called Monday for the “immediate resignation and/or dismissal of the existing State of Iowa Board of Regents” for its hiring of J. Bruce Harreld as the new UI president.

In a motion of no confidence in the nine-member Board of Regents, the Faculty Assembly for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences called on Gov. Terry Branstad to appoint new regents who will be “broadly representative” and uphold core values.

The motion, unanimously approved during a closed Faculty Assembly meeting last week and made public Monday, goes on to list the values it wants in a new board — ethical behavior, honesty, open and effective communication, public accountability, stewardship and service, and transparency.

During a visit Monday to Cedar Rapids, Branstad dismissed the vote.

“I don’t have an authority to do that, and that is not appropriate,” he said. “I couldn’t disagree more.”

A spokesman for the regents said the board declined to comment.

The assembly — about 70 representatives of the college’s 39 departments and 700-plus faculty members — last week issued a motion of censure against Harreld for inaccuracies on his resume.

The censure said Harreld represented himself as managing principal of Executing Strategy LLC, in Avon, Colo. — a company The Gazette first reported is not registered with any state. Harreld also was accused the by faculty of not properly citing co-authors for most of his publications.

Since regents unanimously selected Harreld Sept. 3 to become the next UI president beginning Nov. 2, the UI Faculty Senate, UI Student Government, and the Graduate and Professional Student Government have issued no-confidence votes in the regents. The American Association of University Professors at Iowa State University and University of Northern Iowa also have issued statements of support for the UI faculty.

Harreld largely has a business background as a top executive at IBM and Boston Market, not little academic leadership experience.

Regents cited Harreld’s his fresh perspective and ability to turn around large organizations under trying circumstances.

Last week’s censure was the first against Harreld, and UI psychology professor Bob McMurray said the group agreed on the no-confidence vote at the same meeting but felt it important to separate the two.

“We felt the issue of intellectual honesty was of paramount importance and did not want to see that message muddied by another motion,” McMurray told The Gazette.

The no-confidence motion made public Monday “expresses a lack of confidence in the Board of Regents in the ability to effectively govern this institution and calls for their immediate resignation or dismissal.”

McMurray said he voted for the motion because — in his time at the university over the past decade — he’s seen the role of the regents shift.

The board, he said, used to be a group of citizens broadly representative of the state who advocated for the institutions and made sure they were best serving the state.

Over the last few years, however, McMurray said the board has become highly political — citing Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter’s political donations and the fact that of the nine regents, five are Republicans, two are Democrats and two are independents.

“I’ve always seen the relationship of the university to the State of Iowa as a relationship between proud partners,” McMurray said. “However, under the current leadership, this long-standing and important partnership is threatened in the name of a narrow political vision.”

‘Assuming the mantel of leadership’

Questions around Harreld’s hire have been fueled of late by news of previously undisclosed meetings he had with regents while being considered as a potential candidate. Harreld had lunch with Rastetter, UI Interim President Jean Robillard, and two members of the presidential search committee on July 8.

He then met with four other regents July 30 — the day before the application deadline — to further discuss the opportunity. That evening Harreld had dinner with Iowa State President Steven Leath.

New emails made public Monday indicate that Harreld requested the meeting with Leath to learn more about higher education in Iowa. Because Harreld wasn’t available until after 5 p.m., Leath organized the dinner, according to spokesman John McCarroll.

After their meeting, Harreld emailed Leath to thank him for his “candor and insights on Iowa, UI, and the process of assuming the mantel of leadership.”

“Please let me know if I can ever reciprocate in any way,” Harreld wrote, adding, “You should be quite proud of the impact you are having at ISU … Keep it up!”

Leath responded by calling UI “a challenging but excellent opportunity.”

“You would not be interested without the challenge!” Leath wrote.

Rastetter last week said Harreld was among the six candidates he helped recruit — four of whom were invited to initial airport interviews in Chicago. Of those four, Harreld was the only Rastetter recruit announced as a finalist and brought to the UI campus.

‘Never been more embarrassed’

In the days following Harreld’s hire, the board, its representatives, along with the university and its representatives fielded dozens of comments from the public — the majority of which were critical of the selection.

“Why any candidate would even be considered with a resume of non-truths and misinformation is troubling,” one person wrote to the board. “You as a board have received numerous votes of no confidence, and I am adding mine.”

The board did receive some positive feedback, praising it for going in a non-traditional direction at a time when higher education is facing unpredicted challenges.

After Harreld’s announcement, the UI Foundation and UI Alumni Association issued a joint statement introducing Harreld “with great enthusiasm and excitement.”

That statement drew criticism from constituents and prompted at least one person to discourage donations to the institution.

“I have never been more embarrassed and disappointed in my university as I am today,” one person wrote to the UI Foundation.

“As a faculty member of the U of I since 1977, I am saddened to see the president of our Foundation (put) out an announcement that completely ignores that many, if not the majority, of the UI community are concerned, if not alarmed by the president appointment,” UI internal medicine professor Konrad Schulze wrote to the Foundation.

l Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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