Having established that J. Bruce Harreld submitted a resume which contained false information about his consulting business*, and having exposed Governor Branstad’s claim that he was not involved in the Harreld hire as incoherent at best, we now revisit acting president Jean Robillard’s important contribution to Harreld’s election as the next president of the University of Iowa.
It has been reported that at the time Harreld was not a candidate for the position, and that Robillard simply invited him to speak to a small group of people at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, but that narrative is now falling apart.
“The chief of staff for Robillard sent Harreld a July 2 email with itineraries for his and his wife’s trip. The message referenced Robillard’s invitation to Harreld to speak to UIHC leadership on “sustaining success.” At the time, Robillard was head of the presidential search committee.”
The news that Harreld was on campus two months before appearing as a finalist for the presidency shocked the university community, which largely new nothing about the visit. The news was particularly jarring because Harreld himself made no mention of having been in the state, let alone having visited with his wife, when he subsequently spoke to the faculty and staff during an open forum. The fact that Harreld had previously met with Robillard and Regents President Bruce Rastetter, and two other members of the search committee who were roped in at the last minute, was actually news to other members of the search committee.
Yet to date there has been no follow-up regarding Jean Robillard’s personal facilitation of Harreld’s July 8th presentation and meeting, which makes the following tweet from Tuesday all the more interesting.
Interim President Robillard says he does not know what occurred behind the scenes during the selection of the new UI President.
— UIowa Student Gov (@uisg) September 23, 2015
When Robillard mentions “what occurred behind the scenes”, the clear implication is that he is talking about the Board of Regents and their deliberations — if indeed there were any — prior to their unanimous vote in favor of Harreld. However, as both head of the university’s presidential search committee and as the person who invited Harreld to speak at UIHC on July 8th, Robillard’s actions also remain behind the scenes, belying his own personal promise of a transparent hiring process.
Jean Robillard, Iowa’s interim president and chair of the search committee, pointed out that while the final stage of the search is moving quickly, the search itself has been taking place for months. The search firm was hired in February.
He highlighted the fact that faculty members have multiple avenues to submit feedback — through both the Faculty Senate and the search firm — and noted that at many other flagship public universities, faculty don’t have the opportunity to hear from multiple finalists publicly.
“The process has been transparent and open at every corner,” Robillard offered. “Many, many searches at universities, even public ones, are not that open. This is probably one of the most open searches that’s done in the country.”
In that context, as the acting president of the University of Iowa, and as the standard bearer for personal and academic integrity, I’m sure Jean Robillard would be more than willing to provide answers to the following questions in order to reassure the university community about his role in the timeline of events surrounding the Harreld hire:
- When did J. Bruce Harreld first come to Robillard’s attention?
- How did Harreld first come to Robillard’s attention?
- When did Robillard and Harreld first communicate?
- Who initiated the first contact — Robillard or Harreld? Someone else?
- Was it solely Robillard’s idea to invite Harreld to speak?
- If not, who suggested to Robillard that Harreld be invited to speak?
- Prior to extending the invitation to Harreld, did Robillard consult with anyone about doing so, and if so, who?
- Did Robillard notify anyone on the search committee, or anyone affiliated with the hiring process, including members of the regents who were not on the search committee, that Harreld was going to be invited to speak?
- When did Robillard extend an invitation to Harreld to speak?
- When did Harreld accept the invitation to speak?
- Did Robillard notify anyone on the search committee, or anyone affiliated with the hiring process, including members of the regents not on the search committee, that Harreld had been invited to speak?
- If so, in each case, when and to whom did Robillard make those notifications?
- Were any members of the Board of Regents other that President Bruce Rastetter in attendance at UIHC when Harreld spoke on July 8th, 2015?
- Apart from Harreld’s presentation at UIHC, did Robillard meet with Harreld and any members of the Board of Regents during that July visit?
- In the 365 days prior to July 8th, 2015, how many other speakers did Robillard personally invite to the university to speak in any capacity?
- Did Robillard invite any other prospective or declared candidates to speak at the university, or offer them the opportunity to speak prior to the election? If not, why not?
- Did Robillard turn down any requests from prospective or declared candidates to visit Iowa, to speak at Iowa, to meet with Robillard personally, or to arrange meetings with members of the Board of Regents? If so, why?
- What was the search committee’s procedure for determining when candidates were deemed officially declared?
- What was the procedure by which newly declared candidates were brought to the attention of the full search committee?
- When did Harreld declare his candidacy?
- To whom did Harreld make that declaration?
- When was the full search committee notified of Harreld’s intent to run?
Jean Robillard, the chair of the search committee and top hospital official, extended the invitation, met Harreld at the airport and called a “special leadership meeting” of his staff to hear the lecture. Search committee members Gardial, Rastetter, and Faculty Senate President Christina Bohannan had a university-catered “VIP lunch” with Harreld, whose wife was also given a tour of the campus. No other candidates or potential candidates received similar invitations.
As I’m sure acting president Robillard would agree, nothing is more important at an institution of higher learning than maintaining the highest standards of personal integrity and professional conduct. Answering these questions will help dispel the pall of suspicion hanging over Robillard regarding the behind-the-scenes role that he clearly did play in the miraculously successful, against-all-odds candidacy of J. Bruce Harreld for president of the University of Iowa.
* Pay particular attention to the moment in the video when J. Bruce Harreld rubs his eye. I believe that’s what poker players and body-language experts call a ‘tell’.
— Mark Barrett