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I did not watch the Super Bowl this year. I could have, and there were a few moments when I was tempted to peek in, but I promised myself I would not, and I did not. In the interest of full disclosure I also cannot claim that abstaining was particularly difficult, because I had zero interest in either of the teams except to the extent that I hoped they might somehow both lose. Still, in a historical context my decision marked a turning point for me, and it is a choice I intend to continue going forward. As hard as it may be — and I suspect it will be a great deal more difficult than I imagine — I have decided to stop watching football at any level for the rest of my life.
In retrospect I am not surprised that I came to that decision, but I am surprised how quickly it took hold. As anyone even remotely aware of athletics knows, there is a serious problem with the game of football, which is that the game itself routinely if not inevitably maims the people who play it. For most of my life it was assumed that the physical damage from football was largely acute, occurring when a tendon ruptured or a bone snapped in two, and anyone who has watched football for any length of time has invariably seen players carted off as a result of such trauma. We now know, however, that there is a more insidious kind of damage which haunts players not only after their playing careers are over, but in some cases even while they are in what should be the prime of their life. This second class of injury may not become fully emergent until decades later, but there is now no question about where that damage comes from, and it comes from playing football. Otherwise healthy and fit — and in many cases extremely fit — human beings are disabled and even die, well before their time, for no other reason than having played the game.
That the first football game I chose to turn away from also happened to be the most celebrated annual event in American sports was not lost on me, but my decision was only incidentally symbolic. I could have watched the Super Bowl this year, then sworn off the game, but I decided I did not want to wait. Starting my football abstinence with the Super Bowl was indicative of my commitment, and I did not want to put off that commitment simply to satisfy my desire to be entertained for a few hours.
Abstaining from the Super Bowl was also not a specific indictment of the professional game. To be sure it is the National Football League which has been the focus of investigation into, and reporting on, long-term negative health effects for players, but the final straw that triggered my decision to stop watching football actually came from the college ranks. Specifically, only a few weeks into what would become my alma mater’s most improbably successful season on the gridiron, news broke that a former player at the University of Iowa — Tyler Sash — had died, in his hometown of Oskaloosa, Iowa, of what was believed to be an accidental drug overdose. Although there had been prior reports of odd behavior and scrapes with the law subsequent to Sash’s retirement from the NFL, nobody thought that his life would come to an end at the age of 27.
While there were certainly concerns that football might have contributed to Sash’s death in some way — perhaps because of chronic physical injuries sustained during his years on the field, and his subsequent need for painkillers — it was also clear that Tyler Sash had walked away from the game relatively unscathed. That assumption seemed to be borne out by findings a month or so later, when it was reported that Sash had died from a toxic mix of painkillers. Tragic, to be sure, but in a country overrun with opiate abuse, hardly an indictment of the game of football, which Sash himself clearly loved.
Not until after the end of the Hawkeye’s surprising season, however, was it learned that Tyler Sash not only had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) — a type of brain damage now closely associated with head injury, and particularly with concussion — but the development of the disease was shockingly advanced for someone so young:
The Times report says the severity of CTE in Sash’s brain was similar to the level found in the brain of former NFL hall-of-famer Junior Seau, who committed suicide in 2012 at age 43.
“With Tyler being so young, it’s very surprising to me,” linebacker A.J. Edds, who played at Iowa with Sash in 2008 and 2009, told The Register on Tuesday night. “But when you start looking back and connecting the dots, some of the symptoms and signs were there.
“It’s eye-opening. It tells you about the state and the standing of what football is continuing to do to guys, not just physically but mentally as well.”
The news of Sash’s post-mortem diagnosis broke at the end of January. Because CTE was already in the news at that time, and particularly because Sash played for a New York franchise in the NFL, the findings of his autopsy received national coverage. The news also occasioned deep reflection among several of the long-time beat reporters who cover Hawkeye sports, and their conflicted deliberations matched my own.
The NFL Conference Championships played out on Sunday, January 24th, 2016, only two days before Sash’s CTE was reported in the news. The Super Bowl was scheduled for two weeks later, on Sunday, February 7th. During that two-week period my already growing concerns about football as a sport, as entertainment, as a for-profit business, and as an agent of misery and death, coalesced into the only avenue of action available to me. I decided I would stop watching football, not simply as a means of avoiding what was happening to players at all levels of the sport, but as a means of effecting change, however incrementally. [ Read more ]
A new threaded post on this topic can be found here. For previous posts about the Harreld hire, click the tag below.
05/29/16 — J. Bruce Harreld, Leadership and Sexual Assault.
05/24/16 — Gaming out the Iowa Regents’ Presidential Search at UNI. Updated.
05/19/16 — UNI President Ruud announced that he’s leaving to take a job at a much smaller school. In typical passive-aggressive fashion, the Rastetter-led Board of Regents left Ruud hanging without a contract extension. I expect a closed search predicated on lies told by Rastetter and Robillard after they got caught running the fraudulent search for J. Bruce Harreld at Iowa. There’s no conscience in any of this, and no concern for the students.
05/17/16 — J. Bruce Harreld and the Marcus Owens Case.
05/15/16 — The four candidates for Director of Public Safety at the University of Iowa have been named, and three have visited campus. On that subject, the Des Moines Register gave that department a ‘thorn’ today for the way in which it initially bungled the Marcus Owens case. (Remember when J. Bruce Harreld said there was “no there, there“? Good times.)
05/13/16 — A few thoughts about this weekend’s UI graduation ceremony. Updated.
05/11/16 — J. Bruce Harreld and Collaborative Budgeting.
05/08/16 — J. Bruce Harreld and the Question of Trust.
05/06/16 — On Wednesday, Brad Pector put up a well-argued and well-sourced post on J. Bruce Harreld, right into the teeth of a media storm. If you missed it, it’s worth a read for the insight it gives into Harreld’s obliviousness.
05/04/16 — J. Bruce Harreld at Six Months.
05/03/16 — J. Bruce Harreld: Hate Speech Victim.
05/01/16 — J. Bruce Harreld, Misogyny and UI Athletics.
04/28/16 — A few notes on the resignation of Regent Mary Andringa. Updated.
04/27/16 — J. Bruce Harreld Pulls a Fast One.
04/24/16 — J. Bruce Harreld and the Gartner Plan. Updated.
A new threaded post on this topic can be found here. For previous posts about the Harreld hire, click the tag below.
04/21/16 — J. Bruce Harreld and the Daily Iowan Interview. Updated.
04/18/16 — J. Bruce Harreld and Campus Sexual Assault. Updated.
03/27/16 — Regents President Rastetter Makes a New Claim.
03/23/16 — Dr. Robillard and Col. Kurtz.
03/21/16 — The University of Iowa has begun advertising for a new Director of Public Safety. This is a small but important step in dealing with the intertwined issues of alcohol abuse and sexual assault on campus. The obvious concern, of course, is that the last nationwide search at the University of Iowa resulted in the hiring of someone who was fundamentally unqualified for the position he now holds.
03/16/16 — J. Bruce Harreld and the Raise.me Rollout.
03/14/16 — At the recent University of Iowa town hall, business genius and Harvard MBA J. Bruce Harreld said, during what is now infamously known as the Peanut Butter Fillibuster: “In economics, [it] is the notion that you actually could, without cutting, take resources and put more of them over other areas than all the areas at the same times. Some areas get more, and some get less. That’s not a cut.” Yesterday, in a guest column on the Gazette site, UI Professor Ahmed E. Souaiaia wrote that disabled students at the University of Iowa are now getting less peanut butter. I’m sure those students look forward to Harreld explaining how the reallocation of peanut butter away from services for disabled students is not a cut.
03/13/16 — J. Bruce Harreld and Shared Governance.
03/09/16 — Gender Discrimination and the Harreld Hire.
03/06/16 — J. Bruce Harreld: “There’s no there, there.”
03/05/16 — I am working on a post about the Visin debacle, but I need to wait for my keyboard to cool down so I can backspace through all the swearing. In the meantime, you should consider reading Bleeding Heartland’s excellent post on the same subject.
03/03/16 — J. Bruce Harreld and Transformational Change. Updated 03/04/16.
03/02/16 — Simon Newman, the ‘non-traditional’ president at Mount St. Mary’s college, resigned on Monday. If you read nothing else today, read Jack Striplng’s excellent report in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Then remind yourself that when J. Bruce Harreld wasn’t impressing himself at IBM, he was driving two companies into bankruptcy.
02/28/16 — J. Bruce Harreld: the Liar and the Lie.
A new threaded post on this topic can be found here. For previous posts about the Harreld hire, click the tag below.
02/23/16 — The Incredible Shrinking J. Bruce Harreld. Updated.
02/21/16 — J. Bruce Harreld and Iowa’s National Rank.
02/20/16 — Solid reporting from Jeff Charis-Carlson here and Vanessa Miller here, regarding the recent Iowa Board of Regents’ ‘public hearings’, which are in fact neither public nor a hearing. Props to the 10 people who took the time to speak out despite the premeditated, calculated, ruthless technological indignity perpetrated against them.
Solid analysis here from Bleeding Heartland, regarding J. Bruce Harreld’s burgeoning corporate leadership culture at the University of Iowa. Run it like a business indeed.
02/15/16 — J. Bruce Harreld and Faculty Vitality.
02/13/16 — If you’ve been following the sham hire of J. Bruce Harreled at Iowa, you may find the parallels in the hiring of Simon Newman at Mount St. Mary startling. Or maybe not.
“Becoming a college president wasn’t on Mr. Newman’s radar, he told the board, until his wife stumbled across an online job posting and talked him into applying. He threw his hat into the ring in September 2014, on the last day applications were being accepted.”
‘Transformational change’, no experience in academic administration, claims that Newman was a ‘quick study’, it’s all there, and all of it facilitated by a board leader with a business background and a raging ego. Oh — and they also had no problem putting the needs of students last, then lying about their treachery in a moralizing tone.
02/11/16 — Regents President Rastetter, Transformational Change and UIHC. Updated.
02/10/16 — Every time I think we’ve finally hit bottom in the fetid sleaze surrounding the Harreld hire, there is a new low. Today Jean Robillard — one of the co-conspirators in J. Bruce Harreld’s fraudulent appointment as president of the University of Iowa, and a serial liar in that regard — was named Dean of Medicine at Iowa, while also retaining his position as Vice President for Medical Affairs. No word on whether a salary increase is involved, but it sure looks like the man is getting paid.
02/09/16 — I’ll have more to say about this in future posts regarding the uncomfortable parallels with J. Bruce Harreld, but if you’re a student at UI, or on staff or a member of the faculty, you need to read this Washington Post story about what is happening at Mount St. Mary’s college in Maryland. And if you don’t think that kind of despotic abuse of power can happen at a large state school, remember that the fraudulent hire of J. Bruce Harreld was state-sponsored and sanctioned at the highest levels of state government.
01/31/16 — Bruce Rastetter’s $20M Board of Regents Giveaway (At Least).
01/29/16 — An update from the Press-Citizen regarding the ‘crony polls previously noted on 01/19/16. Request denied.
01/26/16 — Regents President Rastetter and the Status Quo.
01/22/16 — Rastetter, Robillard and the Sham Harreld Search.
01/19/16 — Bleeding Heartland has an excellent post up about how the Strawn/Matthes no-bid crony contracts betray J. Bruce Harreld’s hypocrisy. Update: “UI Failed to Open Letter from FOIC“. Because of course.
01/17/16 — J. Bruce Harreld and Origin Story #3.
01/08/16 — Two stories you should be aware of this week. It will take a while to unpack them, but that’s in the works. From Vanessa Miller, yesterday, in the Gazette: UI president to participate in business course dissecting IBM turnaround. From Jeff Charis-Carlson, today, in the Press-Citizen: Harreld will continue to answer critics via email. Regarding the former, note that the requirements for teaching students are different from being an administrator. Regarding the latter, note that March is not in ‘late spring’.
12/30/15 — J. Bruce Harreld — the Rastetter-Branstad Candidate.
12/29/15 — A question about Mark Braun, the Iowa Board of Regents’ highest paid employee (by far), and those no-bid crony contracts at the University of Iowa.
12/28/15 — The Metaphorical J. Bruce Harreld. Updated 12/29/15.
12/21/15 — The Quad City times weighs in on cronyism at the University of Iowa. “As if this bit of putrid meat wasn’t rank enough…”
12/20/15 — AAUP Investigator Finkin Goes Rogue.
12/18/15 — Jean Robillard’s $10K Flight of Fancy.
12/16/15 — Something’s tightening, but I don’t think it’s the Iowa Board of Regents bid policy.
12/15/15 — J. Bruce Harreld: Frequent Flyer Bonus Miles.
12/11/15 — What the AAUP Report Means to Iowans.
12/10/15 — J. Bruce Harreld: Frequent Flyer.
12/08/15 Are you tired of playing fair and actually earning your successes in life? Then you should cut a deal with Bruce Rastetter. Updated 12/09/15.
12/07/15 — J. Bruce Harreld in his own words. 2 Videos. 2 Origin Stories.
11/21/15 — When a ‘vocal minority’ rallied on Friday to apologize to J. Bruce Harreld, the UI’s own Rod Lehnertz noted — perhaps unintentionally — that the vast majority of community and business leaders were not in attendance, and thus did not support the fraudulently elected Harreld.
11/19/15 — A few thoughts about UI traitor Jean Robillard and the ongoing AAUP investigation.
11/18/15 — For months Jean Robillard tells a consistent lie about needing J. Bruce Harreld to save UIHC. Harreld repays Robillard by both confirming and betraying the lie on the exact same day.
11/16/15 — It’s early May, 2015, and Jean Robillard is hard at work, betraying the University of Iowa.
11/13/15 — Jean Robillard, UIHC, and the axes of power behind the carpetbagging dilettante on the University of Iowa throne.
11/12/15 — With his Harvard MBA neutered, J. Bruce Harreld gets religion on campus culture.
11/11/15 — Hiring a Harvard MBA to run a university is not thinking outside the box. It is the box.
11/11/15 — Christopher Brochu writes an open letter to J. Bruce Harreld.
11/10/15 — Click here for nagging questions about the previously undisclosed secret meeting in early June, which was arranged by Jerre Stead, and attended by J. Bruce Harreld, Regents President Bruce Rastetter, Search Chair Jean Robillard and staffer Peter Matthes.
11/09/15 — In 2012 the visionary Missouri Board of Curators bought themselves a ticking liability by hiring a president with no academic administrative experience. Today that liability blew up in their collective transformational faces. (Comment here.)
11/07/15 — The evolving J. Bruce Harreld origin story, and where it inevitably leads.
11/07/15 — Now that Iowa Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter has his man at the helm at Iowa, what can the students, faculty and staff expect? To be used as a six-figure political retirement community. Job not advertised, no search conducted — just cold hard cash.
11/06/15 — From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, on J. Bruce Harreld and the world of inter-collegiate athletics, which Harreld also knows nothing about:
Harreld said he’s committed to winning on the field but is more concerned with the department’s comprehensive value statement of ‘Win, Graduate and Do It Right.’
“I believe very strongly in the three-legged stool,” Harreld said. “I told Gary the winning is yours; I’m all about the integrity and the academics. I’ll do everything I can to support that.”
(My take here.)
11/05/15 — Vanessa Miller of the Gazette reports on J. Bruce Harreld’s new venture: co-chairing a committee on monetizing the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City corridor.
— Mark Barrett
What is the last post on the hiring of J. Bruce Harreld to be the next president at the University of Iowa was also the first. I originally wrote this post in my head — or rather, it wrote itself — on September 5th, two days after the election. I finally typed it out over this past weekend, after two months of doing my best to understand the pathology that led to his appointment. Over that span I discovered more ugliness than I would have thought possible, most of it in human form. While this post is informed by that ugliness, and my newfound awareness has reinforced my original conviction, it is in spirit unaltered.
Prior to Harreld’s election my only thought about the retirement of Sally Mason was that I hoped the new president would make two pressing cultural issues a priority. Those issues were alcoholism and sexual assault, which are obviously intertwined.
If you’re not familiar with Iowa City it has always been a small town wrapped around a big university, and just off campus there have always been innumerable bars. But drinking is one thing, and routinely ranking among the top ‘party schools’ in the country another, and Iowa has been on those lists far too long. Likewise, while Iowa didn’t invent sexual assault, and it is a problem on campuses nationwide, without addressing the underlying causes, including alcohol use and abuse, and particularly binge drinking, it will be impossible to make lasting gains.
I cannot say that I paid close attention to Sally Mason’s tenure. I know she didn’t cause the floods that took much of her time, and I’m grateful for her efforts in helping the campus recover. What I did not know, and now appreciate, was how virulently and personally hostile the Board of Regents was to her. Between unwarranted condescension and intentional efforts to discredit her, I am surprised she lasted as long as she did. I would not have.
If you’re a student at the University of Iowa, this post is about how your new president, J. Bruce Harreld, is costing you money now, and may cost you a lot more in the future. If you find it useful, please share it with your friends on campus. (There are share buttons at the bottom, or you can drop this shortlink: http://goo.gl/RwrSjS.)
As an alum, my interest in Harreld’s election has grown over the past two months, because each time I try to find a silver lining in what is otherwise a colossal cluster, I come up empty. Whatever you’ve heard about your new president, and however you feel about the various frauds that were perpetrated in order to elect him, one thing you probably haven’t heard is that he’s decreasing the value of your education, but that’s objectively true. It may seem incongruous given that Harreld’s claim to fame is saving IBM from bankruptcy, and that his supporters are enthralled by his Harvard MBA, but behind that sales facade is a man who — as of the date of this post — has exactly the same amount of experience in academic administration that you do.
By hiring J. Bruce Harreld against the wishes of the vast majority of faculty and staff, the Board of Regents foisted a president on the university who has, even before taking office, cost you money for two separate but related reasons. We’ll get into those reasons in a moment, but the big-picture takeaway is that unlike everyone else in this debacle, you, the students of the University of Iowa, are paying for this bureaucratic abuse. Everybody else is getting a paycheck and will probably continue to do so no matter how bad things get. You, on the other hand, are paying for the privilege of being an unwitting test subject in an experiment authorized by five corrupt members of the Board of Regents.
One of the things I continually forget in life is that there really are people who cannot be embarrassed. I think everyone believes they feel some level of embarrassment, but objectively, when you look at what people do as opposed to what the say, it’s clear that some people do not register the kind of mortification you or I would experience if we did something wrong and were caught red-handed.
An obvious case in point, of course, would be the new president of the University of Iowa, J. Bruce Harreld. Not only was Harreld’s resume insufficiently proofed, but he was caught lying about himself in two entirely different ways. One of those ethical breaches was so antithetical to higher education that the Iowa faculty censured him before he took office. Yet in the aftermath of that rebuke it never occurred to Harreld that his personal failings disqualified him from a job he had lied his way into.
A normal human being would never get over that. They would go on, but they would remember the sting of that public unmasking for years. J. Bruce Harreld is still scheduled to take office on November 2nd, and by his own press-release is determined to fight any slurs against his plastic values.
On Monday I was again reminded that some people do not have the capacity to experience normal human embarrassment when Iowa Governor Terry Branstad took time out of his busy day to dismiss recent revelations by regent Subhash Sahai. While it was known that five members of the Board of Regents, led by President Bruce Rastetter, conducted secret meetings with J. Bruce Harreld, what was not known is that the other four members knew nothing about those meetings until after the final vote. Like the wind-up governor he has apparently become, after Rastetter threw Sahai under the bus late last week, for the third time the governor came to Rastetter’s defense over what is clearly a fraudulent hire.
Branstad was asked about Sahai’s concerns this morning during the governor’s weekly news conference.
“I would point out the last time the Regents went through this, choosing a president of the University of Iowa, they had similar controversy,” Branstad said.
As the governor knows, there is no equivalence between what happened with the fraudulent Harreld hire and what happened in 2006, except that in both cases a politically connected and heavy-handed regents president decided that the board was his to do with as he pleased with. Yet even if there was some equivalence, you don’t simply overlook accusations of criminal or malfeasant behavior because those accusations sound like something that happened in the past. The police respond to each call in order to determine whether a crime was committed. The fire department responds to each call in order to determine whether there’s a fire. And the governor should respond to each report of malfeasance or criminality in his own government, in order to determine the facts of each case.
When a sitting member of the Board of Regents points out — not suspects, but actually reveals — that a majority of the Board of Regents kept him in the dark about secret meetings with the winning candidate, that’s not something that should be summarily dismissed with a flimsy political lie. Which is why — and again, I know this is naive — I was momentarily shocked by the governor’s brazen disregard for Subhash Sahai personally, but also his ongoing disregard for education, which is a sacred trust that all Iowans hold dear. From a few week ago:
So how can the governor square his claim that he played no part in the hiring process, even as he only spoke to one candidate, and that candidate was J. Bruce Harreld? Well obviously he can’t, but he doesn’t care about that. Politically, the governor has to insist that he played no part in the hiring process in order to establish plausible deniability, so that’s why he said what he said, even as that claim is in direct conflict with what he actually did. Unless there’s a federal investigation and the governor is put under oath, however, he knows there’s no price to pay for appearing incoherent in the eyes of the citizens that he technically serves.
Like I said, I forget there are people like that, and that quite often the very thing that allows them to take to the political stage is an inherent incapacity for empathy or self-awareness. If, as a politician, you have no problem defending pink slime against a non-existent conspiracy, you’re probably capable of doing or saying anything, particularly in defense of the people who bankroll your campaigns. Even if that means stomping on a sacred trust, or on a good and loyal Iowan that you yourself appointed to protect that trust.
This past Wednesday and Thursday several important events took place in the ever-unfolding nightmare that is the election of J. Bruce Harreld to be the next president of the University of Iowa. Those events centered on and around the Iowa Board of Regents, which, in early September, reported a unanimous vote in Harreld’s favor, despite the fact that Harreld was manifestly unqualified for the position.
In previous posts we have looked at various dynamics involved in the search process, and we have documented the administrative fraud that occurred in the search committee itself. We have also pointed out, however, that the entire search process is not separate from the Iowa Board of Regents, but a function of the board, and as such any malfeasance is ultimately the board’s responsibility.
In this post we will look at the final vote by the nine-member Board of Regents, which took place after the conclusion of the search. In doing so it’s important to keep the following facts in mind. First, the board is not obligated to call a search. It can simply elect someone by whatever criteria it deems important. Second, if the board decides to initiate a search at taxpayer expense, for whatever reason, there is an implicit expectation that the search will be conducted fairly, so all candidates have an equal opportunity to present themselves throughout the search process. Third, in this search, when the committee concluded its business it sent four finalists to the board for a final vote. No other body, and no individuals other than the nine members on the Board of Regents at that time, had a say in who would be elected.