In the previous post about the election of the new University of Iowa president, we discussed three administrative crimes of omission which gave J. Bruce Harreld preferential treatment that no other candidate received. Included was a phone call Harreld received from Governor Terry Branstad, sometime in August; meetings Harreld held with four regents on July 30th, plus dinner that evening with ISU’s President Leath; and a “VIP lunch” and presentation Harreld was afforded on July 8th, which was attended by, among others, search committee member and Iowa Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter, search committee chair and acting Iowa President Jean Robillard, and two other members of the search committee.
At some point in the search process a determination was made that it was okay to offer those opportunities to Harreld. To-date, however, Robillard and Rastetter have failed to explain how those determinations were made. Because the weight of evidence suggests that they conspired to deprive other candidates of those opportunities, it is now incumbent on Rastetter, Robillard and even the governor to do what the Cedar Rapids Gazette suggested over a month ago.
It’s not uncommon for university instructors to demand their students thoroughly show their work. Not doing so can result in a lower grade, even if they arrive at the right final answer.
We think the same applies to the Iowa Board of Regents, which voted unanimously to hire Bruce Harreld as president of the University of Iowa. Clearly, the board is convinced that its unconventional choice of a former IBM and Boston Chicken executive with no university administrative experience is the right answer. They may be correct, but we believe the regents have failed to show their work.
Even if we allow, as the Gazette does, that the decision to hire Harreld may have been arrived at fairly, it’s clear that the key decision points remain cloaked in secrecy. Between claims of confidentiality from Parker Executive Search, which the regents hired at twice the normal rate, the confidentiality imposed on the search committee, and the secrecy of the final interviews and vote by the regents, we have only the announcement of their nine-to-nothing vote to go on. What the regents have yet to do is explain how they got to that conclusion by showing their work.
Why is that a problem? Well, again overlooking the fact that wanton favoritism has already been proven, there are a lot of ways to get to a unanimous vote when you know the machinations of that vote will never see the light of day. Too, although five of the regents met face-to-face with Harreld at least once during the selection process — a voting majority, and far more than any other candidate — some regents did not have the opportunity to interview Harreld until the last minute:
Rastetter said the regents were well aware of the concerns raised by the UI faculty. The board received a cautionary Sept. 2 email from UI Faculty Senate President Christina Bohannan, the night before the regents’ closed-session interviews with Harreld and the other three finalists for UI president.
“A number of the regents hadn’t even interviewed the candidates when we heard one wasn’t acceptable,” Rastetter said.
While we’ve heard quite a bit from Rastetter, and from Regent Katie Mulholland, and several of the other regents who met with Harreld on July 30th, at least four of the regents are missing from the post-vote conversation. Even though the regents are political appointees, and Govern Branstad went against the intent of the law that created the regents by packing it with political cronies, we also can’t be sure that all of the regents were aware of the special treatment Harreld received.
Did they all know about the phone call from the governor? Did they all know about the meetings in Ames, or the dinner with Leath? Did all of the regents know about the July 8th “VIP lunch”? Because if they didn’t know about those things, and wanted to know about those things, I’m not sure the vote itself can be said to be fully informed. And that’s particularly true given that we don’t know how they finally arrived at their nine-to-nothing decision.
It is a given that the regents as a body are corrupt. It is not a given that all nine members of that board have forgotten what personal integrity means to Iowans. In that silent minority there may be at least one member who is aghast at what was perpetrated in their name, and at how their vote now validates the administrative crimes that were systematically used to elect J. Bruce Harreld.