Education

University of Iowa to hold campus forums seeking presidential search input

Campus will hold 10 sessions via Zoom

The Pentacrest on the campus of the University of Iowa including the Old Capitol Building (center), Macbride Hall (top l
The Pentacrest on the campus of the University of Iowa including the Old Capitol Building (center), Macbride Hall (top left), Jessup Hall (bottom left), Schaeffer Hall (top right), and MacLean Hall (bottom right) in an aerial photograph. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette/file photo)

IOWA CITY — With the University of Iowa pursuing an aggressive timeline to find its next president by the end of April, a search committee this week is launching a series of student, faculty and staff virtual listening sessions — merging the end of the semester with the start of a presidential hunt.

Acknowledging the timing complicates the ability to participate for students who need to study and faculty and staff who need to proffer final exams and calculate semester grades, a presidential search committee is offering 10 hourlong options — three targeting students, three for faculty three for staff, plus one all-campus listening session after finals week.

The first will occur at 5 p.m. Thursday for students, followed by a faculty session at noon Friday and a staff session at 7:30 that evening — the last official day of fall classes, which went entirely virtual after Thanksgiving over concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

During finals week — from Dec. 14-18 — the university will offer its last two staff sessions and one session each for its faculty and student groups. The final sessions will occur Dec. 21 and 22 — including the all-campus forum — aimed at gathering input about what constituents want in the next campus president and what should be included in a position description.

Outgoing UI President Bruce Harreld announced Oct. 1 plans to retire — three years before his contract expires and just one year after signing an extension to stay until 2023.

Harreld told regents he wanted to give them time for better succession planning, and he expects to stay on until a new leader starts and gets acclimated — negating the need for interim leadership.

Although Harreld signaled in announcing his retirement the process could take 12 to 18 months — plus advising once a new president starts, pushing him through the end of its 2023 contract — the UI search committee’s timeline is much swifter.

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The task force expects to begin advertising in mid-January for the position and wrapping up in under four months after that. Committee members have said finding a new president by April 30 is a goal, but they would revise that timeline if necessary.

According to Harreld’s contract extension, he loses $2.33 million in deferred compensation if he leaves before 2023 — although his contract allows him to collect if he stays on with the university or Board of Regents in some other capacity, like as a lecturer or consultant, until then.

The UI and the Board of Regents fielded widespread criticism for their handling of the search that led to Harreld’s hire in 2015 — prompting campus leaders to craft best practices for the next search, which now is underway.

Those practices involve widespread community involvement — although the campus warned in announcing this month’s virtual listening sessions that each is limited to 300 people.

Anyone unable to attend a session can provide feedback through a UI website.

“In addition to the campus listening sessions, the search committee will gather input from other constituencies, including UI leadership, local community leaders, and alumni,” according to the UI Office of Strategic Communication.

For more information and links to the Zoom sessions, visit the UI Presidential Search site at presidentialsearch.uiowa.edu.

Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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