DES MOINES — Since being chosen as president of the University of Iowa in September, and with just one full week officially under his belt, Bruce Harreld said Tuesday he has met with about 60 faculty members and asked deans in every college to collect data on faculty pay.
He asked them to compare numbers with peer groups and color code the data: green where UI faculty pay is in the top third, yellow where it's in the middle and red where it's at the bottom.
“The one chart that I've taken a look at says that we've got an awful lot of red on that,” Harreld said during recording of Iowa Press at the Iowa Public Television studios in Johnston.
He also cited U.S. News & World Report rankings showing a UI slide of 25 positions from 2004 to 2016, and a drop by 26 positions when looking at specifically at faculty compensation.
Still, Harreld said the UI's reputation remains strong.
“Our brand and historical reputation is solid, so it's recoverable,” he said. “But we need to get to work here.”
That work, he said, hinges on faculty vitality and retention, and again stressed the importance of pay. He said the UI is not even in the top 100 in the U.S. News rankings on faculty compensation.
“We are losing faculty members here to other peer schools in the Big 10 and beyond,” he said. “And, secondly, we are having a hard time replacing them. There is a whole system here that is a little bit out of whack.”
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Harreld said among the faculty he has met with are those who have been involved in protests over his hiring. “It's not fun,” to start his presidency with that pushback on campus, Harrels said, but he stressed his efforts to meet with constituents and listen to them.
“When you open that door, many — in fact almost all — of the faculty members … they will admit that we've got issues and they're saying, 'Are you going to get behind working on this?'” Harreld said. “Of course.”
Harreld said he's going to do that by changing the culture and pushing the Legislature to support his $4.5 million request for a “faculty vitality” initiative. And even if lawmakers don't come through, Harreld said his proposal won't die.
“I'll find another way to do it,” he said. “I'm going to have to do it because it's the right thing to do.”
Harreld, during the show's recording, was asked about a comment he made previously comparing university campuses with country clubs.
Harreld said he's “going to take a close look at what is really necessary.” If, he said, funding for such things as extracurricular amenities is taking away from faculty recruiting and support and student success, “We have to re-evaluate.”
“The balance might be out of whack,” he said.
In addressing racial tensions at the University of Missouri system this week that led to administrative resignations, Harreld said he doesn't know enough about that situation to comment on its specifics.
But he stressed the importance of communication, and said he has met with members of the UI's African American community about the importance of inclusion.
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He also talked about discussions he has had with the UI football squad — not just about athletics but about players' roles as campus leaders. He talked to players on his first day after being named president about the problem of sexual violence on campus and asked them to step up and stop bad behavior when they see it.
“They weren't looking at shoes. They were eyes on,” Harreld said.
Harreld said he has been impressed by the strength of the leadership team in place on campus, and he has been “ripping off the i-word” in many cases — referring to the numerous “interim” roles in place.
Harreld declined to specify which positions he is making permanent rather than interim.