University of Iowa was told to seek no funding increase

'The Board of Regents determines the legislative request'

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Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter on Wednesday said the University of Iowa did not request any new general fund appropriations from the state for the 2017 budget year, unlike Iowa State and University of Northern Iowa.

“That’s what was forwarded to the board office,” Rastetter said. “They didn’t need any new money, coupled with the … decision on what the tuition increase may or may not be next year.”

But UI officials and board office staff confirmed Thursday the no-increase position for the UI originated with the regents — not the campus.

“The Board of Regents determines the legislative request,” according to UI spokeswoman Jeneane Beck. “The university submits a legislative budget document based on direction from the board office.”

Rastetter, during the board’s meeting Wednesday, said it wasn’t until he heard from UI faculty, students, staff, and President-elect J. Bruce Harreld following his hire last week that the board had a specific request from UI — $4.5 million, or the equivalent of an inflationary increase.

“There were specific requests from Iowa State and UNI, which we took into account … and now there was a more specific request from the University of Iowa to do the same, which is why I think you saw the board respond the way it did today,” Rastetter said Wednesday after the board approved state funding requests of $8.2 million more in general appropriations for ISU, $7.7 million more for UNI, and $4.5 million more for UI.

But regents Chief Business Office Patrice Sayre said she began preparing the board’s 2017 state funding requests on behalf of the universities earlier this summer — proposing two options for UI: no increase or an inflationary increase of about $4.5 million.

Sayre said she forwarded those options to Rastetter and the board’s Executive Director Robert Donley and asked them to decide what to tell UI to request. One reason she gave for proposing no increase was the university’s presidential vacancy.

“One of the options I laid out for consideration was to leave it as zero until the new president came,” Sayre said. “That person probably should be able to weigh in on what that would be.”

Donley and Rastetter chose to go with no increase for UI, Sayre said.

“Then I put out a communication to the universities that this is what I would like to see, in terms of submission,” she said.

Sayre said she also presented Rastetter and Donley with funding request options for Iowa State and UNI, including the $8.2 million and $7.7 million that ISU and UNI ended up requesting. Those totals, along with the proposal not to request more money for UI, were made public Sept. 1 — before Harreld was named the next UI president Sept. 3.

On Monday, four days after Harreld’s hire, Rastetter released a statement saying he would seek the $4.5 million for UI “after meeting with incoming President Harreld, as well as faculty, staff, and students.”

On Wednesday, Rastetter said when Harreld defined where the dollars would go — to the core mission of teaching and research — “rather than just a general appropriations increase, it made sense.”

Harreld, a former IBM and Boston Market Company executive who has teaching experience at Harvard Business School but no academic administrative experience, has faced sharp criticism from some UI faculty, staff, and students since he arrived on campus as a candidate last week. A dismal 2.5 percent of more than 500 faculty polled found him qualified to lead the university. About 5 percent of nearly 300 other UI community members felt he could do the job, according to a survey conducted by the UI chapter of the American Association of University Professors.

Despite that feedback, the board unanimously agreed to hire Harreld at a starting salary of $590,000 — with a five-year deferred compensation package worth $1 million. Rastetter said the board considered all the comments it received on the four finalists — not just those from the loudest voices.

“I think a number of Iowans are pretty excited about the choice,” he said Wednesday.

But the UI Faculty Senate, UI Student Government, and UI Graduate and Professional Student Government all issued votes of “no confidence” in the Board of Regents on Tuesday for its hiring of Harreld and its apparent “blatant disregard for the shared nature of the university governance.”

“We therefore have no confidence in the ability of the Board of Regents’ ability to wisely govern our institution,” according to the Faculty Senate resolution.

The UI Staff Council on Wednesday drafted a letter expressing “disappointment in the process by which the Iowa Board of Regents selected the next University of Iowa president.”

“There is a perception among many staff of a lack of transparency and disregard for the feedback provided by the UI community, which stands in contradiction to our valued principles of shared governance,” according to the Staff Council statement.

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