Clarity, openness needed in UNI presidential search

Staff Editorial,

We’ve no doubt the Iowa Board of Regents has ideas about how the state’s higher education institutions should adapt to 21st Century educational needs and financial realities. Indeed, that is part of the board’s responsibility and charge.

But it’s also Regents’ responsibility to clearly articulate that vision, empower our three public universities to pursue it and engage Iowans in the process.

Regents have been doing a poor job of that of late. The University of Northern Iowa presidential search is an opportunity for a course correction.

After declining to renew current President Bill Ruud’s contract, Regents are developing the process by which a new president will selected. In doing so, they must be sure the process is transparent, inclusive and clear to all stakeholders in order to avoid a repeat of the most recent University of Iowa presidential search.

The UI search was intrinsically flawed in large part because Regents did not disclose their goal of hiring a non-traditional president. The lack of clarity and transparency led to a murky process orchestrated and manipulated by the Regents toward an invisible finish line.

As a direct result of Regents’ actions, the UI community and its new president have suffered for nearly a year under a shadow of suspicion and mistrust. It didn’t have to be this way.

If the Regents have a vision for UNI’s future they must share it with stakeholders and the public, and hone that vision through meaningful discussions with the UNI community. UNI faculty, students and staff are perfectly positioned to provide critical insights into conversations about the future of Iowa’s smallest public university, and about the type of president best suited to lead the charge in making that vision a reality.


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