University of Iowa grad students urge Harreld to attend assembly

'We would very much welcome him'

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IOWA CITY — A group of University of Iowa students and faculty on Monday reiterated their demand that new UI President Bruce Harreld participate in a public forum, and they openly invited him to a previously-planned assembly about his appointment Tuesday night.

“Everyone in the campus and Iowa City community is invited to the event, that includes Mr. Harreld,” Jeannette Gabriel, president of the UI graduate student union, said Monday during a news conference on the topic.

Ruth Bryant, a spokeswoman for the union, last week invited Harreld via email to hold a separate public forum to address community concerns around his appointment, and she said Monday that he has not agreed. Emails provided to The Gazette show Harreld responded to Bryant’s request promptly and repeatedly, asking about specific concerns and requesting she meet in person “to discuss this.”

Bryant told Harreld she’d only meet with him if that meeting occurred in a public place and if she could invite the entire campus community, according to the emails.

“I believe it’s very important for Harreld to be accountable to his constituents and, thus far, he’s been hiding behind private, heavily guarded meetings with people who have been vetted beforehand,” Bryant said Monday. “We can’t have a president who’s afraid of his constituents.”

The union, in conjunction with the campus group “Iowans Defending Our Universities,” last week announced a community assembly at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Van Allen Hall to “learn about the Harreld appointment and what it means.”

“We would very much welcome (Harreld) at the assembly tomorrow night,” Bryant said Monday.

Harreld has faced significant pushback and criticism since before he was chosen to succeed former UI President Sally Mason. His non-traditional background — which includes stints as a top executive at corporations like IBM and Boston Market Company — has some concerned he’s not qualified to lead the institution.

UI officials, in response to the call for a community forum, told The Gazette that Harreld has been meeting one-on-one or in small groups with members of the UI community, allowing “for a more open and constructive conversation.”

“It’s a pattern he’d like to continue,” said UI spokeswoman Jeneane Beck.

In addition to addressing Harreld’s appointment, Tuesday’s assembly also will facilitate debate around hot topics facing universities nationwide, including race relations, sexual assault, and public funding.

Race, specifically, has been paramount on the University of Missouri campus, and UI graduate students on Monday said two representatives from MU will be at the Tuesday night forum.

Samuel Cohen, associate professor in English at the University of Missouri, and Jim Hayden, a graduate student in English at MU who also represents the institution’s Coalition of Graduate Workers, plan to attend, officials said.

If you go:

What: Campus community assembly

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Van Allen Hall on the UI campus, lecture room 1

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