Higher education

New University of Iowa president praised 'healthier environment at UI'

Emails reveal more about faculty, Harreld interactions

University of Iowa presidential candidate J. Bruce Harreld delivers remarks during the fourth and final public forum for candidates at the Iowa Memorial Union on the UI campus in Iowa City on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
University of Iowa presidential candidate J. Bruce Harreld delivers remarks during the fourth and final public forum for candidates at the Iowa Memorial Union on the UI campus in Iowa City on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Having just met July 8 with four members of the University of Iowa presidential search committee, J. Bruce Harreld sent an email to one of them praising the faculty’s “readiness and eagerness to take UI to the next level of excellence.”

“In far too many universities, there seems to be an unnecessary and futile battle between the faculty and the administration,” he wrote in the July 8 email to Sarah Gardial, dean of the Henry B. Tippie College of Business. “It’s refreshing to see a much healthier environment at UI!”

That communication is among hundreds made public this week regarding the search for a 21st UI president and the Board of Regents’ decision to hire Harreld, a former top executive with IBM and Boston Market whose appointment has sparked controversy on campus.

Since the board picked him, the Faculty Senate, undergraduate and graduate student leaders have issued votes of no confidence in the regents. The UI Staff Council penned a letter of disappointment in the process the regents followed. Faculty members have discussed unionizing, and one professor emeritus has sued the search committee.

Emails made public this week have revealed more about the process that went into picking a president, including details around previously undisclosed meetings involving Harreld, regents and members of the search committee.

Harreld, before becoming a candidate, was invited to speak with UI Health Care leadership July 8, when he also had lunch with Gardial, regents President Bruce Rastetter, Faculty Senate President Christina Bohannan, and interim UI President Jean Robillard, who also is vice president of medical affairs for UIHC and head of the search committee.

According to one of the email exchanges released this week, Gardial thanked Harreld for his thoughts on how to “move innovation forward within academic institutions.”

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“Without question, we are at a time that demands fresh ideas and creative solutions,” she wrote. “Harnessing the intellect and energy of our campus toward those ends is an exciting proposition.”

Bohannan told Gardial in a July 9 email that she, too, had exchanged follow-ups with Harreld.

“I have also told him I would love to have some follow-up discussions with him on a variety of issues,” Bohannan said.

Harreld went on to apply for the presidency, and was chosen over three other finalists with extensive academic leadership experience.

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