IOWA CITY — Iowa State University and University of Northern Iowa chapters of the American Association of University Professors have issued statements supporting the no-confidence votes taken by University of Iowa faculty and students in response to the Board of Regents hiring businessman J. Bruce Harreld as the next UI president.
Of about 760 UI faculty, students and staff who participated in an online survey of the four presidential finalists introduced on campus earlier this month, only a small percent found Harreld capable of doing the job. Additionally, the UI Faculty Senate leadership sent the Board of Regents an email before they hired him, warning them of the community concerns and threatening a no-confidence vote should they name him president.
The faculty — along with UI undergraduate and graduate student government groups — passed votes of no confidence less than a week after Harreld was hired at a starting salary of $590,000, with a five-year deferred compensation plan worth $1 million.
Harreld’s experience includes roles at the top of IBM and Boston Market Co. and lecture experience at Harvard Business School. But he has no academic administrative experience, and his public forum on campus turned contentious — with UI community members raising questions about his resume and his knowledge of the university.
The UI Staff Council also has issued a letter of disappointment in the process the board followed in hiring Harreld.
Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter has defended the decision, saying the loudest UI faculty members, staff and students were not the only voices he and his colleagues heard. And, Rastetter said, Harreld remains the next UI president — he has a scheduled start date of Nov. 2.
But faculty members at both UNI and ISU have come out in support of the UI faculty, “deploring” the board’s actions and calling them a “clear violation” of AAUP principles.
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The Iowa State letter of support cites the AAUP statement on government of colleges and universities and its discussion of mutual collaboration among faculty and board members in the search for a president.
“The president should have the confidence of the board and the faculty,” according to the statement, which goes on to say that “joint effort of a most critical kind must be taken when an institution chooses a new president.”
The statement also stresses the importance of “taking into consideration the opinions of others who are appropriately interested.”
“The procedure followed by the regents is in violation of this principle,” according to the ISU statement, “as the opinions of the vast majority of faculty and students/staff regarding the inadvisability of Harreld’s appointment were summarily ignored.”
UNI’s support of the UI faculty and student votes cites the regents’ “rapid speed in selecting candidates,” lack of diversity, “disregard for the appropriate academic credentials that must be possessed by a university president” and the failure to respect UI faculty opinion.
UI history professor Katherine Tachau said all three chapters of the AAUP governed by the Board of Regents found its actions to be a “serious breach of the principles of shared governance.”
Contrary to assertions that the principles are obsolete, Tachau said, “nothing in the current academic environment makes them so.”
“On the contrary,” she said, “robust sharing of governance in accordance with these principles is especially important in times of crisis.”