Staff Editorial

What's going on at the University of Iowa?

The Pentacrest is seen from a condo under construction at Hieronymus Square in Iowa City on Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
The Pentacrest is seen from a condo under construction at Hieronymus Square in Iowa City on Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

The University of Iowa is losing staff faster than they can hire them.

Since 2017, UI has lost 20 top administrators — deans, directors and vice presidents. This year, Melissa Shivers, the UI’s vice president for student life and interim diversity head, left for Ohio State.

Sarah Gardial, the dean of the UI’s Tippie College of Business since 2012, is leaving to take a job at the Massey College of Business at Belmont University.

And TaJuan Wilson, who was hired to be the director of diversity, equity and inclusion resigned just six weeks after he started June 28.

The losses are also a blow to the university’s diversity initiatives. A key part of the 2019-2021 Diversity Action plan, is to recruit, retain, and advance a diverse campus community. But this is clearly not happening.

The university hasn’t provided clarity on why administrators are leaving, neither has anyone who is leaving, which is understandable in a fraught and difficult job market. But Wilson did say something in an interview in August, when he noted: “I have great respect for the university and the work being done in diversity, equity, and inclusion and believe Iowa has the potential to be on the right path.”

The university is also having a hard time hiring people too. The Gazette’s Vanessa Miller reported months after renewing its contract with the search firm Isaacson-Miller, the University dropped the firm this week during its search for a new dean of students. The university has been looking for a dean of students for two years, and after two failed searches has hired Angie Reams, who has been serving as the interim director. The firm was behind two failed searches, which has cost the university thousands of dollars. The Gazette reported that the estimated fee for each search was $50,000 and to date the university has paid $61,363.63. And yes, the university plans to use the search firm again.

The cost of the searches is mounting. And the cost to students and the university is untold. And the inability of the university to hire and keep top talent reveals a deeper problem with our university system and the state. Miller summed it up succinctly in 2018, when she wrote, “Those costs represent a sort of Catch-22: As the university absorbs state funding cuts that have depleted resources helpful in retaining top administrators, it finds itself spending more to replace them.”

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Part of the Diversity Action plan is a faculty salary equity report, which will look at faculty salary equity and assess for sex or racial/ethnic disparities. But even if disparities are found, how can the university achieve equality without the budget for it?

It should be concerning to our state leaders that the University of Iowa cannot recruit and maintain talented leaders. It is sign of an unhealthy atmosphere for employees or students and is a deterrent to developing a diverse campus community.

Comments: (319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

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