Timeline: Bruce Harreld's five-year tenure at University of Iowa

Melyssa Jo Kelly holds a sign that reads #x201c;Resign#x201d; as she talks Feb. 23. 2016, to University of Iowa Presiden
Melyssa Jo Kelly holds a sign that reads “Resign” as she talks Feb. 23. 2016, to University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld in the front row of a town hall meeting in Iowa City. (The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Here is a timeline of key events in Bruce Harreld’s five-year tenure as president of the University of Iowa:

Read the story: Bruce Harreld retiring from the UI


Jan. 15: Former UI President Sally Mason announces plans to retire Aug. 1, telling The Gazette, “There have been plenty of challenges.”

March 25: Regents identify UI Vice President for Medical Affairs Jean Robillard as their choice for interim UI president. Robillard also is charged with leading the search for Mason’s replacement.

July 8: Harreld, among regents President Bruce Rastetter’s nominated candidates, speaks at UI Hospitals and Clinics and meets with Robillard, Rastetter and other search committee members.

July 30: Harreld meets with four regents in Ames.

Aug. 1: Mason officially retires.

Aug. 4: Harreld meets with five regents ahead of interviews.

Aug. 11-12: UI search committee conducts “airport interviews” in Illinois with nine finalists, including Harreld. The committee, before being dismissed, passes on to the regents the names of its four finalists — including Harreld.

Aug. 31: Harreld is named as fourth of four finalists.

Sept. 1: Harreld participates in a contentious campus forum, prompting UI Faculty Senate leaders to send the board a letter reporting a large number see Harreld as unfit for the job.

Sept. 3: Regents unanimously choose Harreld as the 21st UI president.


Sept. 8: The UI Faculty Senate and Student Government cast votes of no confidence in the regents for the hire of Harreld, who had no academic administrative background and who faculty and staff largely rejected after the hostile town hall.

Oct. 21: Hundreds pack a regents meeting protesting Harreld’s hire and demanding he be dismissed, along with all the regents.

Nov. 2: Harreld officially begins his tenure as UI president, finding hundreds protesting outside his office.


Feb. 23: Harreld holds the first of what he initially said would be at least three town hall meetings a year. He spends much of the event responding to critical questions and never schedules another.

March: Harreld announces a new budgeting process giving deans and department heads more ownership and decision-making power over their units and resources.

June: The American Association of University Professors sanctions the UI for the Board of Regents’ disregard of faculty opinion in hiring Harreld.

June: After nixing a $107 million proposal to build a new UI Art Museum on private property, the regents agree to let the university instead move ahead with a Harreld-compelled redirection for a less-expensive project on UI land near the Main Library.

September: UI breaks ground on a $96.3 million pharmacy building.

December: Lawmakers slash $18 million from funds already allocated to the regents, cutting the UI budget midyear by $8 million. Further cuts in subsequent sessions reduce state aid to the regents by more than $40 million.


February: Harreld announces thousands of students on scholarship won’t receive money they were expecting in the next academic year following legislative cuts. He reverses that decision following lawsuits and widespread backlash from lawmakers, parents and students.

Feb. 25: UI Health Care opens seven floors of its 14-floor Stead Family Children’s Hospital — a year and a half late and after rampant delays and cost overruns later exposed through an investigation by The Gazette.


June: Regents vote for a tuition increase, backed by Harreld, after the Legislature finalizes a budget that shrinks UI’s state appropriation to what it was in 1997.

September: Harreld forges ahead with his plan to merge the Alumni Association with its independent fundraising foundation to form a new philanthropy-focused Center for Advancement, despite pushback from alumni and those with the eliminated center.


July: Harreld announces the closure of seven campus centers, reduced funding for three more and furloughs for more than 30 employees whose jobs are not tied to student instruction in light of back-to-back state budget cuts.

July: The university debuts a new 12-story Elizabeth Catlett Residence Hall.

September: Harreld goes public with a spat between the UI and contractors on the Children’s Hospital who were demanding millions more in payment the university said it didn’t owe.

November: The Board of Regents unveils a five-year tuition plan for the UI and Iowa State University, backed by Harreld, that promises to increase rates at least 3 percent in each year.


Feb. 8: Harreld and his administrative team begin investigating a public-private partnership to operate the campus’ $1 billion utilities system.

May: Harreld agrees to settle and pay contractors in the Children’s Hospital dispute, upping that project’s total cost to $392 million.

June 28: UI welcomes a new diversity head and provost after lengthy searches.

June: Harreld, along with the other regent university presidents, lands a three-year contract extension maintaining his $590,000 base salary but upping his deferred compensation to a total of $2.33 million to be paid out in 2023.


Aug. 9: The newly hired Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion TaJuan Wilson signs a settlement to resign, allowing him to continue earning hundreds of thousands while he looks for another job.

Dec. 10: The Board of Regents agree to a $1.165 billion deal allowing for the private operation of the UI utility system for the next 50 years.


March: The UI campus, along with most other colleges and universities nationally, sends students home to finish the spring semester virtually after the coronavirus pandemic begins spreading.

June: Protests and civil unrest erupt across the UI campus and community following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Protesters spray paint various campus buildings, including the UI President’s residence and the Old Capitol Museum.

July 16: Provost Montse Fuentes steps down after just a year, signing a similar settlement to Wilson, who had started the same day in 2019.

August: The UI welcomes tens of thousands of students, faculty and staff back to campus for an unprecedented hybrid fall semester: despite demands from some in the campus community to keep all instruction virtual in light of the ongoing spread of COVID-19.

Aug. 21: The UI announces plans to cut four sports after the academic year, in light of an Athletic Department deficit in the tens of millions.

Aug. 25: Harreld sends a letter to the Iowa City business community scolding it for poor decisions in failing to enforce masking and distancing mandates as students packed the bars upon their return to campus.

September: The UI reports among the highest tally of campus COVID-19 cases in the country.


Sept. 22: Harreld submits his retirement letter to the Board of Regents.

Sept. 23: Harreld defends before the board his decision to maintain the elimination of four athletic programs, even after Big Ten leadership opts to resurrect some semblance of a fall football season.

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