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01/23/21 — The third virtual meeting of the University of Iowa Presidential Search Committee took place Wednesday morning, and once again the diverse, competent and invested members advanced the noble cause of finding a replacement for illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld. With the persistent proviso that we will not know whether this search was legitimate until weeks or even months after the next president is named, it is still clear — and was made explicit during the meeting — that the current process bears little relationship to the abuses of power and violations of shared governance that were perpetrated in 2015, in service of Harreld’s sham appointment. As noted in multiple prior posts, it is possible that the university will end up with another done-deal appointment by the Iowa Board of Regents, and particularly so if an internal candidate is chosen to replace Harreld, but even in the worst-case scenario it is unlikely that the next president of the University of Iowa will be another unqualified boob with an attitude problem.
While following the livestream of the third meeting I once again got lost in the process implications of the conversation, but I did perk up when the committee was given early positive feedback from the search firm facilitating that process. Not surprisingly, that feedback was in turn highlighted by the beat reporters covering the search, and in a moment we will take a closer look at that coverage. Overall, as with the first two committee meetings, my impression was that the co-chairs and members are sincere in their desire to recruit and nominate the best possible slate of finalists, which the Board of Regents will then choose among, and it does seem inconceivable that the 2015 debacle will be repeated. That doesn’t mean the university will end up with an excellent new president, but unlike 2015 the current process does not foreclose on that possibility in favor of a rigged crony appointment.
The meeting started at 9 a.m. and was scheduled to run for an hour and a half, almost certainly to allow members to watch the presidential inauguration if they so chose, which took place around 11 a.m. CST that same day. The running time of the archived video is 1:40:25, but the meeting doesn’t begin until the 17:08 mark, so the meeting itself lasted one hour and thirteen minutes.
The first order of business involved co-chair Sandy Daack-Hirsch taking roll, which revealed that either seventeen or eighteen of the twenty-one members were in attendance. (The audio was a bit garbled at one point, and one or more of the absent members may have joined during the meeting.) After approving the minutes of the prior meeting, co-chair John Keller moved to the next agenda item and requested input from the search-firm executives about next steps for “advertising, receiving applications for the position, and other efforts to help build the candidate pool”.
While acknowledging that the executives at AGB Search have a vested interest in painting the ongoing process in the best possible light — both for their own benefit, and to make the position and process as attractive as possible to prospective candidates — the early positive feedback they did pass along would be easy for the committee to confirm in retrospect. For example, while providing a comprehensive update on advertising for the position, AGB confirmed that the approved ads were in process or in place, then also added that the ads had “already invited considerable attention and interest”. Listening to the meeting in real-time I was certainly glad to hear that, but I wasn’t particularly surprised.
As noted in a prior post, I believe the Iowa presidency will draw strong interest not only because openings at a school of Iowa’s scale, scope and caliber are rare, but because, as a state school, Iowa is financially well-positioned to weather and recover from the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. When I read the local reporting on the meeting, however, I was reminded of the importance of AGB’s feedback, which was highlighted by both the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: Search firm ‘absolutely inundated’ with interest in University of Iowa presidency; and by Sabine Martin and Eleanor Hildebrandt at the Daily Iowan: Search committee ‘inundated with interest’ for University of Iowa president position. For the first time AGB’s representatives also spoke openly about the prior search debacle, and particularly about how the current search process — and their ability to validate that process — was positively impacting client recruitment.
From the Gazette’s Miller:
“A number of these candidates that we talked to yesterday, they’re aware of the last search, what happened, and so on,” [AGB rep James] McCormick said Wednesday. “They’ve already done their homework. In fact, a number of them already are talking to people at Iowa that they might know.”
Praising the search committee for following best-practice guidance this time, McCormick said he’s been happy to put concerns to rest.
“The fact that we were able to say, ‘this process is outstanding, it’s according to best practices, and I don’t anticipate any situation that happened the last time to occur this time’ … I’ve been complimenting all of you for your hard work,” he said. “But there is that discussion of what happened last time.”
To understand why such statements from AGB are critical to the success of the current search, it is important to remember what happened in 2015. Even after it became clear that Harreld’s rigged appointment was the result of a conspiracy between the president of the Board of Regents, a high-ranking UI administrator, and a powerful alumnus and donor who was Harreld’s business mentor and pal, the theft of the Iowa presidency meant that the combined messaging apparatus of the board and university could be used to defend that abuse of power. Largely overshadowed by the subsequent false portrayal of J. Bruce Harreld as an innocent victim was the fact that the three eminently qualified academic administrators who were also finalists for the position had been cynically used as props to legitimize the search-and-selection process. What those candidates believed would be a fair search decided on the merits turned out to be a scam to which they dedicated time and effort, while also exposing themselves to potential repercussions at their current place of employment.
In that context, the biggest concern for the strongest applicants in the current search will be that they could also be exploited by another cabal of conscienceless yokels, who have no compunction about using people of considerable professional accomplishment as mere pawns. Because we have no alternate reality for comparison it is hard to document the damage that Harreld and his co-conspirators did to the university in 2015, but the very fact that five years later, AGB Search is obligated to reassure prospective applicants that the presidential search at an R1/AAU public university is not a thinly disguised confidence game gives us visibility to that long-term cost. To that point, at the 25:11 mark of Wednesday’s meeting, a member of the committee asked a fortuitous question about best practices, which prompted comments from the AGB reps that should also be reassuring to any prospective candidate who watches that portion of the video.
Specifically, in building the candidate pool the AGB reps made clear that the proper role for committee members was simply to nominate candidates to the search firm, and to let the search firm then reach out to those nominees. That cogent bit of advice — which was restated by several of the execs — may seem innocuous, but it stands in stark counterpoint to an excuse that was repeatedly put forward by the thugs who corrupted the 2015 search. After press reports exposed blatant preferential treatment for J. Bruce Harreld, the perpetrators asserted that their search firm encouraged committee members to engage in aggressive recruitment themselves. In reality, that slick dodge gave those creeps license to cater to Harreld while screwing every other candidate, and to their credit AGB clearly does not want members of the current committee acting in such a duplicitous capacity.
At the 30:20 mark there was an interesting discussion prompted by AGB Managing Principal Roderick J. McDavis, about whether the committee wants AGB to rank applications as they come in. While the specifics of that conversation were interesting in themselves, I was again reassured by the way the committee facilitated the discussion and explored the various options. It was a nerdy topic, but also consequential both to inclusiveness and optics. Should every applicant get a look by the committee even if they are unqualified according to criteria laid out by the committee, or should AGB — as part of its service — screen out candidates who do not meet the minimum requirements? (Although it involved a bit more work, the committee rightly favored the former approach.)
The next item on the agenda, which kicked off at the 52:38 mark, involved a presentation by UI communications staff about the search website, and other media that has been produced to facilitate recruitment. Initially I thought that would be a dry conversation, and there was a lot of ceremonial thanking and praising back and forth, but over time I was also reminded that there are a lot of talented people at Iowa — including in the Office of Strategic Communications — who have had to spend a good part of the past five years covering up for or compensating for J. Bruce Harreld’s shrieking deficiencies as president.
The main document that candidates will use to familiarize themselves with the university is the ‘search book’, and you can see a digital copy here‘. Along with that .pdf version, which is available to anyone, a print version will be produced for candidates who prefer that format. You can see a discussion of the search book at the 1:09:04 mark, and if you’re interested in the search I encourage you to skim through the online version to get a sense of the scope, scale and complexity of the school. (A ton of information is included, and it is particularly valuable because it is up to date — which is not always the case with university web pages on the same topics.)
One item in the search book that caught my attention was the organizational chart on page 26, precisely because the presidency is left open. In the context of the search that vacancy makes sense, and even helps prospective candidates envision themselves in that role. What struck me while looking at that blank box, however, was how crippling Harreld’s appointment has been for the past five years, compared to the good that a committed and qualified president could have produced with the same diagrammatic cast of administrators. (That in turn led me to run a quick word search on the 148-page .pdf to see if Harreld’s name appears even once — and it does not.)
The final agenda item, which begins at the 1:29:22 mark, concerned the method by which the committee will generate questions to ask of the dozen or so candidates who are selected as semifinalists. It was suggested and accepted that the committee break into five subgroups, each of which will generate questions on one of five overarching themes related to the previously generated leadership profile, which is in turn the core document driving the entire search. Not so coincidentally, I have also been thinking about questions the committee should ask of prospective candidates, to both assess their competence and vision, as well as get them on the record about any possible conflicts of interest that could subsequently be disclosed after an appointment is made. More on those questions in an upcoming post.
This past Friday, December 4th, from 9 a.m. until shortly after 11 a.m., the University of Iowa Presidential Search Committee held its first meeting, which was conducted in a virtual setting due to the coronavirus pandemic. (You can see a replay of that meeting here.) The meeting was important not only because it symbolically marked the beginning of the end of illegitimate president J. Bruce Harreld’s reign of administrative incompetence and malevolence, but because the substance of the meeting reaffirmed that implicit symbolism. Despite Harreld’s efforts over the past two months to insinuate himself into the search process following announcement of his retirement, which is contingent on the appointment of his successor, the members of the committee and others who spoke on Friday’s seem to have moved on. Indeed, over two-plus hours I heard only one passing reference to the rigged 2015 search that led to Harreld’s corrupt appointment, and zero mentions of J. Bruce Harreld by name.
To be sure, this does not mean Harreld has been neutralized as a threat to the committee. As detailed in the previous post about the search, the Board of Regents has still not disclosed whether Harreld will have a post-presidential role at the school and/or at the board, and that uncertainty alone may deter the best candidates from applying for the position. As noted in multiple prior posts, I also believe the simplest explanation for the board’s uncharacteristic willingness to empower the UI faculty to lead this search is that the board has already identified, and expects to appoint, an in-house candidate from the school, thus reducing the national search to shared-governance theater. All we have to do to find out is wait and see what the regents ultimately decide, but what cannot be denied at this early stage is that — apart from the conspicuous uncertainty about Harreld’s future — everyone seems to be doing what they should be doing to facilitate the recruitment of exemplary external candidates. It was just one meeting, and there is plenty of time for the wheels to come off, but after two hours of introductions and discussion the UI community and the committee itself should feel good about the prospects for a fair, open and inclusive search. [ Read more ]
To say that the recently implemented presidential search at the University of Iowa is going well would be both an understatement and insufficient. It is an understatement because the Iowa Board of Regents not only seems determined to honor the letter of the 2018 agreement that was hammered out with the UI Faculty Senate in the protracted aftermath of the rigged 2015 presidential search — which resulted in the illegitimate appointment of J. Bruce Harreld — but also the spirit of that agreement. While the board obviously has a vested interest in ensuring that a competent and qualified individual is chosen to replace Harreld, and by statute only the regents can ultimately make that decision, the winnowing of applicants to a small slate of acceptable candidates is also a matter of self-determination for the UI community, which is now ably represented by a majority of the twenty-one committee members who are charged with that responsibility.
Indeed, in contemplating the initiation of the search, the composition of the committee, and the pace of the process so far, all signs are so uniformly encouraging that it is tempting to conclude that this search — unlike the 2015 search — cannot be corrupted. Unfortunately, while the 2015 search committee was subverted from the inside by a small cabal of co-conspirators, it is also possible for bad actors to negatively influence the current search from the outside. In fact, as noted in recent updates, we have already identified at least one individual extraneous to the current committee who, over the past two months, has repeatedly attempted to impose his will on the ongoing search, and of course that individual is none other than J. Bruce Harreld himself.
Making Harreld’s recurrent attempts to influence the search process all the more remarkable, when Harreld’s resignation was announced on October 1st, contingent on the appointment of his successor, the president of the Board of Regents issued an uncommonly blunt statement — which, as far as I can tell, has no precedent at the board. From Rylee Wilson at the Daily Iowan on 10/02/20:
Richards specified that although Harreld will remain president during the search process, he will not have input as to who is chosen as his replacement.
“I’ve had that discussion with him and he will not participate in any manner in the selection of the new president,” Richards said.
Despite Richards’ conspicuous and explicit prohibition, that has not prevented Harreld from repeatedly shooting his mouth off about the current search, including during the nine-minute board meeting at which Harreld’s letter of resignation was formally accepted. Between Harreld’s open-ended retirement date — as opposed to a date certain, which his predecessor, Sally Mason, specified when she announced her own departure — and his repeated comments about how the search should be conducted, as well as broadcasting his desire to hang around indefinitely as a mentor to the new president, everything Harreld has done over the past two months has increased uncertainty about the context in which the search is taking place. As we will see shortly, however, this impudence should also come as no surprise because Harreld has multiple overlapping motivations for influencing the outcome of the search, including the fact that Harreld’s own bastardized presidency resulted from an arrogant and elitist administrative mindset that is not only hostile to the academic tradition of shared governance, but which explicitly rejects fundamental precepts of equal opportunity. [ Read more ]
A new threaded post on this topic can be found here. For previous posts about the Harreld hire, click the tag below.
01/16/21 — Last Thursday, the UI Presidential Search Committee announced that its next meeting will be held this coming Wednesday, January 20th. Scheduled from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., the meeting will, “include next steps in the search process, the presidential search website, and discussion of potential questions for semifinalists”. While there has been no official word that advertising for the Iowa presidency was placed as scheduled, on Friday (yesterday) the final text of the position description was added to the regent and university search websites, and that text also appeared as an advertisement on the Chronicle of Higher Education website.
More details on the UI presidential search from the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: Mount Mercy and University of Iowa following similar presidential search timelines.
A new threaded post on this topic can be found here. For previous posts about the Harreld hire, click the tag below.
11/19/20 — One of the lesser-known traditions at Iowa’s regent universities involves waiting until the day after a regent meeting to drop news that might otherwise occasion comment or notice from the assembled dignitaries and press. Today’s relatively benign example of that venerable practice is the announcement that Amy Kristof-Brown has been appointed dean of the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business. One of three finalists for the position, Kristof-Brown was already serving as the interim dean, and as such there should be no transition period involved — and in the current context that is enough of a benefit to recommend the choice.
As noted in a recent update, what Tippie — and the entire UI campus — needs right now is stability. There is no perfect candidate who would have taken the UI College of Business to the academic stratosphere, but there are plenty of good people working there who need support, particularly during the chaos and uncertainty occasioned by the pandemic. As a side benefit, this appointment also relieves the campus of concerns that would inevitably have arisen if the university had appointed Harreld’s old Harvard bro to the post — so we got that goin’ for us too, which is nice.
More from Claire Benson at the Daily Iowan: Amy Kristof-Brown named new dean of University of Iowa Tippie College of Business; and from Vanessa Miller at the Gazette: University of Iowa names interim to business dean post after national search.
A little over five years ago the corrupt Iowa Board of Regents concluded a rigged search, at a cost to the state of more than $300K, and appointed a complicit J. Bruce Harreld as president of the University of Iowa. A little over ten days ago Harreld announced that he would be retiring from that purloined position, pending the hire of his successor. One week ago the board formally accepted Harreld’s retirement letter and immediately set in motion the next six-figure, state-funded search process by which that individual will be chosen.
Along with initiating the vetting process by which an executive search firm will be hired to facilitate the recruitment of Harreld’s replacement, the board also began the internal process by which the presidential search committee will be constituted and charged with that statutory responsibility. In that context, understandably dubious members of the UI community are already pointing to a 2018 agreement between the UI Faculty Senate and several representatives of the Board of Regents, which purports to establish hard guidelines by which future searches will be conducted at the University of Iowa. (That agreement was negotiated to facilitate removal of UI from a list of sanctioned institutions maintained by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), which conducted an investigation and issued a report following the corrupt 2015 presidential search at Iowa.)
The 2018 agreement between the UI Faculty Senate and the Board of Regents is titled, Summary of Best Practice for Faculty Engagement in a UI Presidential Search. It is a robust and thorough document, and if you have not read it I encourage you to do so, not only because it is also a useful repository of information about prior presidential searches at Iowa, but because I will be referencing that information in this post. Whether you read the document or not, the most important thing you must remember is that it has no statutory enforcement mechanism. It is, at best, an aspirational document that was forged with a governmental body that previously showed no compunction about wasting $300K in state funds, merely to give the appearance of legitimacy to a search process that was corrupted from the very start. Having said that, the 2018 agreement is still of considerable value and benefit, because it will tell us, precisely, when the board once again decides to abandon it’s commitment to a fair search process, and reverts to cheating, lying and bullying the UI community into selecting the candidate the board wants. [ Read more ]
A new threaded post on this topic can be found here. For previous posts about the Harreld hire, click the tag below.
10/24/20 — Following up on the discrimination lawsuit that will inevitably be filed against the University of Iowa by eight former football players, which we dealt with at length in the update just below, this article by Chad Emmert at Hawk Central is a good rundown of the fix UI is in: Threatened lawsuit poses pivotal moment for University of Iowa football, experts say, with no pain-free way out.
If the university agrees to a settlement, it would be viewed by the public as an admission of guilt and would likely spur similar lawsuits from former players, said two legal experts who reviewed documents about the potential case at the Register’s request. But allowing the matter to go to trial would potentially put Ferentz and his program under a cloud of doubt for months, making it difficult to recruit Black athletes and leading to depositions and cross-examinations of him and his coaching staff that could prove embarrassing.
Either path the university takes must include a further commitment to real change in the way Black athletes are treated, the experts said, or the reputations of Ferentz, Barta and any others involved will be damaged permanently.
After five years of mutual dereliction, disregard and ass kissing by illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld and UI Athletic Director Gary Barta, the university as an institution is suddenly weaving concerns about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) into every aspect of its messaging, including outright lying. For example, over the past year there have been multiple attempts to claim that diversity is one of the core concerns of the current UI Strategic Plan, when it is objectively not. From an Iowa Now article on 06/25/20, written by the UI Office of Strategic Lying:
As one of the four pillars of the University of Iowa’s strategic plan, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is a critical element of the future of the university. The UI has been taking steps within and beyond the 2019-2021 Excellence through Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Action Plan, but more immediate action is needed.
As regular readers know, and as the following screenshot attests, there are three main pillars to the current UI Strategic Plan, and diversity is not one of them.
But hey — when you’re in a white-hot panic because you precipitated your own discrimination disaster in the same year that the Minneapolis police choked the life out of George Floyd, maybe you can be excused for trying to lie your way out of your troubles, right? Except…when you think about it, that’s pretty much how the University of Iowa got into this mess in the first place, so maybe it would be better to own up to these problems, clean house, then get on with the business of actually being a good governmental citizen instead of faking it. Unfortunately, as just noted, J. Bruce Harreld and AD Barta have a particularly incestuous administrative relationship, in which they express mutual respect for each other while never holding anyone accountable for anything. That includes, particularly, Harreld offering slavish support even after Barta cost the university $6.5M in a gender discrimination lawsuit, at the same time that Harreld was kicking the DEI administrator out of his cabinet and out of the president’s office. [ Read more ]
09/25/20 — The big news this week — at least so far — concerns the recent murder of four University of Iowa athletic programs by illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld and Athletic Director Gary Barta. For two reasons, however, I will be tackling (hahaha) that complicated narrative this weekend. First, reporting is still coming in about events that transpired over the past few days, and I don’t want to jump the gun (ha). Second, I don’t want the following news to get lost in the mix, which would certainly happen if I dove (ha) into the deep end (hoho) of that sports story (I’ll stop now).
As I have mentioned in the past, one of my biggest concerns about the pandemic is that idiots in positions of leadership might take University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics for granted, and in so doing swamp the biggest and best medical center in Iowa. Speaking of which, on Wednesday we got this report from the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: Sicker patients now packing University of Iowa hospitals.
Because UIHC is accepting only the transfers it can handle, “many hospitals across the state are disappointed when we decline to take a transfer, and many have complained to me because they believe it is happening at a higher rate than it did before.
“That’s not the case,” Gunasekaran said. “It’s that we have sicker patients now than we did before.”
When asked why patient are sicker now, Gunasekaran surmised the answer might be twofold.
“One is that there is going to be a public health impact to delaying health care for three months,” he said. “I think a lot of chronic diseases didn’t get managed as well as they could, and they progressed to a different state.”
Secondly, many other hospitals don’t have the ability to handle the sicker patients.
It isn’t only intra-state transfers that are becoming a problem however. This in particular is a massive red flag for Johnson County:
“We’ve had two months of the worst left-without-being-seen rate in our emergency department since I’ve been here,” Gunasekaran told the regents. “I regret to tell you that in the month of August, 20 percent of patients left without being seen, which has never happened.”
Typically, on the worst day, that rate is between 7 and 10 percent.
As to why this is happening, there is no secret. Iowa’s governor prioritizes revenue generation on par with the literal lives of Iowans, and that means she is keeping cases, hospitalizations and deaths higher than they should be. As Iowa’s medical professionals have become better at keeping people alive, however, patients are no longer dying off at the same rate, thus clogging the state hospital system with patients that Governor Reynolds was killing outright only a few months ago. Unfortunately, because there is no chance that Demon Kim will change her money-grubbing ways, she may very well overwhelm UIHC just as the flu season picks up, and more COVID-19 cases are generated from decreased social distancing in the cold months. [ Read more ]
09/03/20 — Five years ago today the corrupt Iowa Board of Regents used a rigged, taxpayer funded search to appoint Jerre Stead’s little buddy as the illegitimate president of the University of Iowa, even though J. Bruce Harreld had no public sector or academic administrative experience, and was never the CEO of anything. Perhaps in celebration of that catastrophic milestone, Harreld posted an oddly cryptic message to the Iowa Now website, even as his failed COVID-19 plan disintegrates and cases soar across Iowa City and Johnson County.
However, we also react to new information as it comes in. We adapt. In that process, we are bound to make mistakes, but our only option is to act in good faith on the information available to us.
I don’t know why Harreld is putting out an ass-covering statement two weeks into the semester, and I don’t care. The University of Iowa doesn’t need another press release from the same man whose arrogance and ignorance led to the mess we’re in, yet asking people to absolve him of responsibility while the campus is on fire is entirely on-brand. Case counts will inevitably fall if only because there are no more students, faculty and staff to infect, but nothing will get better at the University of Iowa until J. Bruce Harreld is gone. [ Read more ]
08/16/20 — Having your suburban homestead blasted by a derecho has a certain clarifying effect on the mind. No electrical power for 70 hours, no internet for 85 hours, yet I know I am one of the lucky ones. In Iowa City/Johnson County I had no damage to structures or trees, and only lost a little food after securing most of the frozen goods offsite. Meanwhile, Cedar-Rapids/Linn County just to the north was obliterated, and going on six days now tens of thousands are still without power and a thousand homes have been deemed unsafe for human habitation until repairs are made. (Which will now bring out the con artists by the score, fleecing people when they are in most in need, and when law enforcement is otherwise occupied.)
The most interesting mental aspect of the power outage was that even though I was witness to the storm, I had no information about the storm. It also became clear as days passed, and as I picked up a little news here and there, that most of the country was oblivious to what happened. A landed hurricane launched a sneak attack on the Midwest, yet both coasts and the Sun Belt cared not a whit. Yes, the pandemic accounted for some of that, but I also lay blame squarely on Iowa’s demon governor and the leadership in Linn County, which failed utterly to provide for its dazed citizenry and to communicate to the outside world the severity of the damage. (As I have said many times, if this had happened on the East Coast, and particularly around New York City, it would have received wall-to-wall coverage for days.)
Having said all that, for three days I didn’t think about the idiot president of the United States or the idiots at the Iowa Board of Regents. I did think about the illegitimate idiot in the president’s office at the University of Iowa, and about the idiot in the athletic director’s office at UI, because I heard that the Big Ten finally cancelled its football season. But even then the only substantive thought I had was that it’s a real problem that we keep electing and appointing idiots to important leadership positions.