IOWA CITY — The committee searching for the next president of the University of Iowa said Friday it hopes to have the post filled by April 30.
That timeline — revealed during the search committee’s first meeting — has the 21-member group choosing semifinalists by March 22, interviewing them and identifying finalists by April 6-7, and bringing finalists for campus visits by April 19-23.
The campus would gather feedback about the candidates through April 29, with the Board of Regents interviewing finalists and choosing the 22nd UI president April 30.
UI President Bruce Harreld announced his retirement in October, saying he wanted to allow more time to find his replacement during unparalleled pandemic conditions.
Harreld — who started in 2015 and last year signed a contract to stay until 2023 or forfeit $2.33 million in deferred compensation — told regents he was giving early notice to allow better succession planning and after asking experts how long a typical search takes these days.
Hearing 12 to 18 months, Harreld said he then asked how the pandemic could impact the search process.
“And everyone says, ‘Well, we don’t know, but if anything, it’s probably longer.’ So it could well be beyond an 18-month period,” Harreld told regents in early October, when he also vowed to stay on until a successor begins and help that person acclimate, negating the need for an interim.
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Some members of the UI search committee on Friday raised questions about the preliminary expectation their search could wrap in under four months from when the group plans to begin advertising the position Jan. 14.
Specifically, members expressed unease about virtual listening sessions with campus community groups this winter seeking input on what they’d like in a next leader. Those sessions are slated from Monday through Dec. 20, a period that encompasses finals week from Dec. 14 to 18.
“A lot of faculty will be burdened with coursework, students should be studying and the timing of the sessions relative to workload, my concern is that will have a negative impact on attendance,” said UI dentistry professor Teresa Marshall, vice president of the Faculty Senate and a search committee member.
Sandra Daack-Hirsch, search committee c-chair and interim executive associate dean of the UI College of Nursing, acknowledged that was considered in crafting the “aggressive timeline.”
But delaying the posts puts them closer to the holiday season, when community members either aren’t on campus or aren’t engaging in university business.
Graduate College Dean John Keller, search committee co-chair, said delaying the listening sessions could push out the process a month or so.
“It would really compress the time frame even further if we were trying to have a slate of candidates for the board to consider by the end of the spring semester,” Keller said, noting search leaders aim to counter finals week conflicts by having more sessions, offered virtually.
When asked whether that April 30 deadline is “very firm,” Keller said, “This is our goal.”
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“It is aggressive,” he said, noting the committee’s partner AGB Search has affirmed, “This is possible. But I think we all are in agreement … we are not going to try to unnecessarily delay the process or unnecessarily speed it up.”
Board of Regents Executive Director Mark Braun echoed that sentiment.
“It is simply a goal date,” he said. “If at any point along the line we are not, as a committee, ready to take the next step, then we don’t take the next step. If we don’t have the size of pool that we want, or the type of candidates that we want, then we’ll continue to search and look longer.”
After the search resulting in Harreld’s hire drew widespread criticism for its disregard of faculty, staff and student feedback — including an American Association of University Professors sanction — a group of campus leaders crafted a list of best practices this search committee has vowed to follow.
Those best practices urged agreement on “well-defined confidentiality requirements prior to beginning the search process,” prompting some concern among the committee Friday about an already-crafted confidentiality agreement they were asked to sign.
UI Faculty Senate President and committee member Joseph Yockey, for example, raised concerns about a clause prohibiting discussion about “closed session deliberations with other committee members outside of the closed session.”
“That would suggest that, for example, I couldn’t seek clarity from John and Sandy, if I was confused about something that came up in the closed session,” Yockey said. “That seems to me far broader than is necessary to protect the confidentiality of candidates.”
The group collectively decided not to sign the confidentiality agreement until they have more time to discuss amendments and issue a revised version.
In looking ahead to the position advertisement, the search committee Friday shared ideals they’d like to see in a next UI president — including the ability to unite during crises, provide a vision for sustainability in uncertain higher education times and offer proven leadership in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion.
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