Education

7 finalists, but still no University of Iowa dean of students

After a second failed search, job to be reposted 'this semester'

TaJuan Wilson
TaJuan Wilson

IOWA CITY — Nearly two years after losing its dean of students, the University of Iowa has slowed its search to refill the post — a historically key cog in UI diversity, equality and inclusion efforts, which have come under scrutiny with the untimely departure of new UI diversity head TaJuan Wilson.

The UI website for its associate vice president and dean of students search is defunct and no new position profile has been created. Last year, administrators invited seven finalists for the job to campus — but didn’t hire any of them.

The former dean of students, Lyn Redington, announced her departure to Idaho State University in January 2017 after serving two-and-a-half years in the job.

The UI didn’t employ a search firm to generate its first round of dean finalists, but it signed on consulting firm Isaacson-Miller in June 2018 once the first attempt had failed. So far, the UI has paid the firm $61,363.

In January, Associate Dean of Students Angie Reams was appointed interim associate vice president and dean of students. In her new post, Reams earns $140,000 annually, which represents a 43 percent pay bump over the $98,000 she was earning before the interim appointment.

When the university announced her interim appointment in January, it said the second search for a dean of students was “unsuccessful in hiring the candidate recommended by the search committee.”

UI officials said Monday a new search committee has been convened and met once over the summer. The position hasn’t been reposted, but UI spokeswoman Anne Bassett said it will be “at some point this semester.”

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An agreement with Isaacson-Miller for the dean of students search indicates if the search is placed on hold for more than 60 days or hasn’t landed a hire in a year, it considers “this contract terminated.”

“Our fees are non-contingent and non-refundable,” according to the agreement.

The dean of students reports to the vice president for student life, a key position in the university’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

But the position atop the university’s Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion — like the UI dean of students post — has been without a permanent leader since former diversity dean Georgina Dodge left in 2017 for a similar job at Bucknell University in rural Pennsylvania.

Dodge was succeeded by two interim directors until the UI over the summer hired Wilson from the Medical University of South Carolina, where he was assistant professor and executive director of student programs and diversity.

Just six weeks after starting June 28, Wilson this month abruptly resigned from his position, signing a settlement with the university, Board of Regents and state allowing him to continue earning his $224,000 salary while working remotely on “special assignment.”

Wilson will be allowed to remain in that role through the end of January while he looks for another job outside the university — something he can do during working hours, according to the settlement. He also may keep $25,000 in moving expenses and is allowed up to $7,500 “to attend professional development conferences while still a university employee.”

The UI so far has paid consultant Isaacson-Miller $103,592 for its help on the failed diversity director search. UI officials have confirmed Wilson’s resignation qualifies it for another search with Isaacson-Miller, free of the standard fee, but officials have said they’re evaluating next steps.

None of the nine members of the Board of Regents governing the university have responded to questions from The Gazette about the resignation, including what information they were given about the reason for his resignation and whether they have concerns about how it was handled, given recent tuition increases and campus budget cuts.

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Board spokesman Josh Lehman said UI officials told board Executive Director Mark Braun about the resignation by phone several days before the deal.

“Information beyond what is in the settlement agreement would be confidential personnel records,” he said.

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

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