Higher education

Regents review 4 companies for University of Northern Iowa president search

Board may accept proposals after deadline

(File Photo) A Board of Regents meeting at the Iowa Memorial Union on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City on Wednesday, Mar. 11, 2015. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
(File Photo) A Board of Regents meeting at the Iowa Memorial Union on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City on Wednesday, Mar. 11, 2015. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

Four firms have applied to help in the search for a new University of Northern Iowa president, and the Board of Regents expects to pick one by the end of next week.

The board moved the application deadline from Friday to Monday after one firm requested an extension, board spokesman Josh Lehman said.

The change shouldn’t affect the board’s ability to award a contract by the end of next week but, Lehman said, that date is tentative.

“Additionally, I would note that the (request for qualifications) reserves the right to accept proposals after the deadline,” he said.

The board made the same appeal last year for qualifications from search firms before its hunt for a University of Iowa president.

Parker Executive Search, which the board used for all three of its last presidential searches, was the highest bidder for last year’s UI job, at a flat fee of $200,000 plus expenses and advertising costs.

This summer’s appeal for firms interested in the UNI search also includes a new “public records” section that advises applicants to familiarize themselves with Iowa Code before submitting materials. The board in its request warns applicants that it will treat all submitted materials as public information and advises firms to “conspicuously” identify information it considers confidential.

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“A firm’s designation of information as confidential is for informational purposes and is not necessarily binding on the board,” according to the section.

Last year, consulting firms competing to aid the regents in an efficiency review sued the board after it released to The Gazette application materials it assumed were confidential and contained trade secrets. The case later was dropped.

Lehman said the modified language doesn’t necessarily reflect a change.

“It’s just cleaner and clearer language,” he said.

Names of the firms that applied for the UNI search, along with application materials, will be made public after the board chooses, Lehman said. That decision will move the board closer to officially launching a search to replace former UNI President Bill Ruud, who took over July 3 as president of the small, private Marietta College in Ohio.

The board last March hired Atlanta-based Parker Executive Search for the search that landed UI President Bruce Harreld. It also used Parker in the 2011 search that found Iowa State University President Steven Leath and in the 2012 search that netted Ruud for UNI.

The board paid Parker a flat fee of $95,000 for its help at Iowa State and $90,000 for the UNI search. Its flat fee for the UI search was $200,000 because of its different size and mission, officials said at the time.

Including travel, lodging, and advertising costs, the board paid Parker more than $300,000 for the UI search, Lehman confirmed Tuesday.

Parker has been scrutinized in recent years by university officials and faculty as well as by the media, including for its vetting of candidates in the UI search after The Gazette reported inaccuracies on Harreld’s resume. It also was criticized for helping the University of Minnesota in 2012 hire athletic director Norwood Teague, who eventually was ousted amid allegations of sexual harassment.

The university faulted Parker for failing to uncover a past complaint against Teague.

Parker officials have not returned calls and emails from The Gazette asking whether they have applied for the UNI search.

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