Higher education

University of Iowa faculty group 'deplores' lack of input

'It will validate the concerns of those who opposed your appointment'

Incoming University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld speaks during an interview with The Gazette in his office in Jessup Hall on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City on Friday, Oct. 30, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
Incoming University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld speaks during an interview with The Gazette in his office in Jessup Hall on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City on Friday, Oct. 30, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

A group of University of Iowa faculty members say they “deplore” UI President Bruce Harreld’s failure to follow “shared governance” practices, citing recent decisions he made to change the medical school’s leadership and renew the athletic director’s contract.

In a letter the UI chapter of the American Association of University Professors wrote this week, faculty members asked to meet with Harreld regarding their concerns.

“These decisions reflect the sort of top-down management style more associated with corporate than with academic governance,” according to the letter. “To the extent that is the model you follow as university president, it will validate the concerns of those who opposed your appointment.”

Harreld, a former IBM businessman with no academic administrative experience, was hired to replace former UI President Sally Mason despite criticism from some faculty, staff, and students. Since started Nov. 2, Harreld has reiterated his interest in faculty input and said he believes in shared governance.

But the AAUP letter — signed by UI history professor Katherine Tachau, the chapter’s president, and UI law professor Lois Cox — argues that two of Harreld’s recent actions are “inconsistent with both AAUP policies and Iowa’s highly valued governance practices.”

The two actions they cite are the appointment of Jean Robillard as dean of the Carver College of Medicine — in addition to his role leading UI Health Care — and the five-year contract extension for UI Athletic Director Gary Barta.

“We wish to be clear,” according to the letter. “AAUP does not claim that you made the wrong decision in either of the matters referred to above. Indeed, without consultation, a faculty body could not offer an informed opinion on either matter.”

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And it is that lack of consultation “that we deplore,” the letter states. The AAUP articulates in the letter the university’s history of “robust shared governance” and references the role various governance groups should play in areas of university operations.

It cites national AAUP policy in arguing the selection of academic deans “should be the responsibility of the president with the advice of, and in consultation with, the appropriate faculty.” Board of Regents policies require university presidents to initiate searches for departing deans and keep the board informed on the progress.

“Yet on Feb. 9 of this year, your office announced that Dr. Robillard would occupy the combined offices of vice president for medical affairs and dean of the College of Medicine, replacing then Dean Debra Schwinn in the latter role,” according to the letter. The Board of Regents approved the change at its Feb. 25 meeting, but the faculty group said they aren’t aware of any consultation with faculty on the change.

“Certainly no search was conducted to identify Dean Schwinn’s replacement,” according to the letter.

Likewise, AAUP policy outlines the role faculty should play in overseeing and regulating intercollegiate athletics — specifically related to decisions that affect the lives of students.

“Surely one of the ‘decisions that affect (the) lives’ of student athletes most strongly is the identity and vision of the university’s athletic director,” according to the AAUP letter.

UI has a committee charged with helping search for professional staff who work with student athletes and forming and enforcing policy related to intercollegiate athletics. Still, earlier this year, UI agreed to a five-year contract extension with Barta, increasing his salary from $400,000 to $550,000 and also guaranteeing $250,000 in annual deferred compensation.

Both amounts increase by $50,000 in 2018.

The AAUP said the Presidential Committee on Athletics was not consulted on the agreement.

“This happened in a year in which — though there was impressive success on the playing field — significant concerns were raised regarding gender equity in athletics,” according to the letter. “The university now faces investigation by the U.S. Department of Education in response to student athletes’ complaints.”

UI administrators did not immediately respond to the AAUP concerns.

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