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.
02/08/16 — Regents President Rastetter and the Deconstructed Quorum.
02/05/16 — On Secret Polls and Getting J. Bruce Harreld’s Goat.
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.
01/11/16 — J. Bruce Harreld and the Crisis in Higher Education.
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’.
01/04/16 — Regents President Rastetter, Fairness and Fraud. Part 1. Part 2.
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.
12/23/15 — On the Origins of Candidate J. Bruce Harreld.
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.
12/14/15 — Nick Johnson posted a welcome and thorough recap yesterday of all of the disclosures from the past two weeks. My own scrambled thoughts here.
One problem with studying something closely is that after a while you lose your frame of reference. One minute you’re looking at a leaf, the next minute you’re taking a philosophical journey from the atomic to the biological to the metaphysical to the spiritual. Leaf as life. Leaf as art. At which point, hopefully, somebody tells you to quit screwing around and get back to raking.
After the barrage of disclosures over the past week or two I spent most of the weekend trying to get my mind around what I was seeing. And I couldn’t do it. Then, thankfully, yesterday evening I read a post on Nick Johnson’s site which summed up the problem nicely:
In any inquiry it can be difficult to distinguish signal from noise, but one thing we can say for sure is that over the past two weeks the pace of disclosures about political corruption at the University of Iowa, and the pace of disclosures about the key players in the fraudulent Harreld hire, have both increased. While correlation does not prove causation, and the stories themselves reflect focused intent on the part of the press, the fact remains that if everyone was doing their job instead of ripping off the people of Iowa there wouldn’t be anything to report.
One obvious question is where all this is coming from, and I think no matter how you feel about political corruption in the state or the fraudulent appointment of J. Bruce Harreld, the buck stops with Governor Terry Branstad. On the same day that he’s being celebrated as the longest-serving governor in U.S. history, I have no doubt that Harreld’s appointment is not simply a byproduct of the systemic political corruption that has grown on the north side of his knurled old trunk, but actually the point of it. Had the governor continued the state’s long history of treating education as a sacred trust he wouldn’t have turned the Iowa Board of Regents over to his biggest political donor and a hand-picked crony majority, and we wouldn’t have the farce we’re now saddled with — both in terms of the hire and Harreld himself.
From the governor’s initially snotty, then indignantly whiny response to faculty outrage months ago, to his continued silence as those same faculty concerns have proven valid again and again, the only conclusion I can reach is that what’s going on in terms of politicizing and exploiting higher education around the state is exactly what the governor wants. And we know that not only because of the lunatic advocacy he displayed when he insisted that pink slime is good for school children, but from more mundane, even laudable efforts to make sure that the integrity of an institution is not compromised.
Here is Branstad protecting the integrity of the Iowa Lottery, earlier this year:
I’m not surprised that Governor Branstad wants to protect the integrity of the lottery. He should. That’s his job. But when you demonstrate that you actually know how to do your job, you also make it pretty easy to spot when you’re sitting on your knurled old hands — as is demonstrably the case regarding the fraud perpetrated against the people of Iowa during the presidential search and selection process. At a minimum, $300,000 was wasted on a sham search, yet because that sham search was spearheaded by Regents President Bruce Rastetter, and because Governor Branstad couldn’t care less about maintaining the integrity of the University of Iowa or the Board of Regents, there is never going to be an investigation.
Still, given the accelerating pace of disclosures over the past few weeks, and the degree to which they reveal new aspects of the entrenched corruption which begat the Harreld hire, at some point we may not have to beg six-term Governor Branstad to actually do his job. Anyone with a badge at the state or federal level, who really does care about the integrity of not only higher education in Iowa, but state government itself, can rip the lid off this network of cronies simply by asking a few questions. For example, is Peter Matthes just a bit player in the fraudulent Harreld hire, and only coincidentally involved in other corrupt acts which benefit his fellow cronies, or is there a nexus there? Without the power to subpoena and indict those questions will probably never be answered. With that power they get answered in a minute and a half, because Peter Matthes didn’t sign up for a jail term.
J. Bruce Harreld and the Media
One distinction I have learned to make over the past few weeks is that between the willful acts of corruption committed by specific individuals, and the normal functioning of dumb bureaucracies which are determined to perpetuate themselves. Reading this write-up of J. Bruce Harreld for the Iowa Alumni Magazine was nauseating, but only because I know they left out all the moments where Harreld is enabled and abetted his own fraudulent hire. Yet I don’t think anyone involved in writing that piece cared about Harreld the man so much as they had a job to do, and that job was to sell the new guy. An unfortunate byproduct of that sales job is that it lends credence to the false narrative that Harreld himself is an innocent, which makes it that much harder to get at the truth, but I don’t for a minute believe anyone would shed any tears if Harreld announced that he was resigning tomorrow.
It was also disclosed last week that Harreld had hired a private media consultant to…well, we don’t really know. While the report framed Harreld’s move in the context of political connections to Regents President Rastetter and others, I think Paula Anton asked a fair question on Twitter:
I’m all for people improving themselves, and I’m all for them doing so out of their own pocket. The obvious concern, I think, is that Harreld was not so much paying to learn how to handle himself on camera, but paying for access to someone who could grease his way with the in-state media. Or at least tell him who to be nice to and who to stay away from. Yet I’m not sure there’s anything wrong with that, either, given the realities of media coverage in any age.
For me, the problem with Harreld hiring a media consultant is that it again speaks to the fact that he was not, is not and never will be qualified for the job he now holds. Any of the other three finalists already knew that being the president of a major university is a public position, and as such nothing even remotely like the protected world of a private-sector CEO. All you have to do to see the difference is compare news coverage of Jerre Stead and Sally Mason over the previous five or six years. When you’re a CEO you get to stage-manage every aspect of your career. When you’re the president of a major university your work is itself a matter of public record.
I don’t think Harreld truly grasped that difference until after he took the job. Hiring a media consultant may actually signal that Harreld is coming to terms with the fact that he’s in over his head, because this is not a man who is shy on camera, or who has trouble talking about himself. For example, here’s Harreld giving a lengthy interview, on-camera interview, from a little over two years ago.
At some point I think Harreld realized that he knows nothing about key aspects of the job that he’s expected to do, which in turn means he doesn’t know what to say when people who are knowledgeable about higher education ask informed policy questions, cultural questions, or governance questions. No matter how arrogant you are, or how ignorant you are, you probably don’t want anyone else to know how arrogant and ignorant you are, and that’s where a media consultant comes in. Because if they can help crazy, deluded or just plain disinterested political candidates keep it together long enough to win an election, they can help J. Bruce Harreld pretend to be a university president.
J. Bruce Harreld and the Faculty
Unfortunately, that still leaves the faculty, staff and students to deal with J. Bruce Harreld’s toxic mix of arrogance and incompetence. On that point I went back to some of the documents that were released in the past month through Stephen Voyce’s FOIA site, including particularly the faculty and staff feedback about Harreld as a candidate. In reading through that material I was reminded that although criminal fraud was committed along the way, the real crime was hiring Harreld at all. Even if everything had been on the up and up, it’s clear from reading the reasoned responses to his candidacy in general, and to his presentation on September 1st in particular, that the man simply was not and is not qualified — and will not be qualified no matter how much mentoring and coaching he receives.
One line from the Campus and Faculty Council Feedback.pdf, which was included in the 11/29 document dump by the regents, popped out at me. From page 3, speaking of Harreld:
In every interaction I’ve seen with Harreld, including his open forum, there is an almost pathological need to be seen as the guy with the answers — the smart guy. In that sense Harreld does want people to ask him questions, but only in a narrow band, and only as a means to the end of hearing himself talk. He does not like to be challenged, and he does not like to have the gaps in his knowledge exposed — which is again why hiring a media consultant was probably the right move.
J. Bruce Harreld is, by training, a problem solver, a salesman, and a lecturer, none of which qualifies him to be a consensus builder or leader in the public sector. To see what I mean, look again at the video above. That is a man basking in himself, yet I do not discount the applicability of what he has to say in the context of private-sector business. If you move to the 4:00 mark, however, you’ll hear him talk about how few companies make it to forty years old, let alone a hundred, while the University of Iowa is coming up on 170 years of continuous existence. Unless, or perhaps I should say until, Bruce Rastetter and Jerre Stead finally do take the school private, sell off the profitable pieces and liquidate the rest, the focus should be on stability, and on meeting the school’s main missions of research and education. Does that involve changing with the times? Yes, but not in the way that private-sector businesses need to change in order to quite literally survive.
However much damage J. Bruce Harreld does while he’s president, the University of Iowa isn’t going anywhere. But I think it’s also fairly easy to make the case that the single greatest threat facing the university at this moment is not external, but internal, and embodied in the corrupt way in which politics and business colluded to fraudulently elect J. Bruce Harreld. Meaning J. Bruce Harreld isn’t the answer, he’s part of the problem.
Of particularl interest to me were the comments in the Harreld+feedback.pdf, which was released by the regents on 12/06/15. Comprised of responses entered on a website during the search, I was genuinely impressed by the degree to which most respondents took the time to include a reasoned appraisal of Harreld as a candidate. If you haven’t given that file a look, I think it’s one of the more prescient documents in the entire debacle, because it underscores the reasons why Harreld will not be successful no matter how good the UI press office makes him look. You can fake it for the public, but when the people you work with every day know that you don’t have any idea what you’re doing, sooner or later that’s going to take a toll.
Where We Go From Here
Having said all that, and having profited from taking a step back and catching up on these issues, it’s time to get back to raking. And on that front I think the big news last week came on Friday, with disclosure of the travel expenses for the three individuals who held the office of president at Iowa in 2015. Vanessa Miller’s report in the Gazette was so informative that at first I couldn’t keep track of all the implications, in part because I kept getting lost in the fog of recent disclosures. After clearing my head I initially thought I would need to come at the article from two directions, but over the weekend I realized there’s a third angle to consider as well. So that’s where we’ll be going in the next three posts — back to the ever-murky origin story of J. Bruce Harreld’s candidacy.
And I thought maybe Harreld could fund raise, cheer lead, and kinda stay out of the way unless his benefactors Robillard, Rastetter, and Mathess needed some cash…and J Bruce goes and does this:
He says that unprepared teachers ‘should be shot’. Not like any terror issues are going on. Not like Hills Bank or the University of Iowa or the area would be sensitive to shootings, huh? http://cbs2iowa.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/Harreld-Apologizes-to-Employee-242298.shtml
How tone deaf can a person be?
My first thoughts were also about 11/01 and Hills Bank. Just devastating moments for the community.
In the post on Harreld’s motivation for taking the job I said he may simply not have the temperament for the work, and I think today makes that case rather alarmingly. The reason you hire people who are qualified is because, by the very nature of their professionalism, you know that they have all the intangibles covered. Harreld may have been great in his element back in the day, but higher education is another world, and this is a new day.
I should have read more; sounds like JBH has been obnoxious for some time now. He has used the ‘shot’ comment in many forums? Good Lord, did anyone ever point out to this guy how insensitive that is? In many forums?
“The University of Iowa’s new president has apologized to an employee who chastised him for saying publicly that instructors who aren’t ready to teach their classes should be shot.
“Bruce Harreld told librarian Lisa Gardinier in an email that his statement to the UI Staff Council last week was “an unfortunate off-the-cuff remark.” He said he didn’t mean to offend anyone or imply that he supports gun violence.
“Frankly, I have used the comment in many, many forums and this is the first time anyone has objected to it. I apologize and appreciate your calling my attention to it,” Harreld wrote.”
This is Lisa Gardinier asking one of the best questions at Harreld’s open forum.
This is not a bomb thrower. She was respectful and astute, and Harreld himself called her question ‘great’.
As for using the phrase all the time, I posted on Twitter that he probably wouldn’t have said the same thing about a governor, senator, representative, or the President of the United States. So even if he thinks he’s being consistent, the only thing he’s being consistent about is ‘aiming’ that comment at underlings and people who could not have objected even if they wanted to. Another blind spot from the private sector.
Last Friday the Gazette published an article by Vanessa Miller detailing the travel expenses of the three people who presided over the University of Iowa in 2015. The headline, appropriately, was the revelation that in late August, Jean Robillard — at that time the interim president and recent chair of the presidential search committee — took a $10K chartered flight to meet with longtime big-money donor and alum Jerre Stead, who was also a member of Robillard’s recently disbanded committee. From details in Miller’s article, and other information pieced together over the past few days, we can now circle back and fill in some of the blanks in our prior exploration of J. Bruce Harreld’s flying habits, specifically as they relate to his candidacy for president, and to the six known visits he made to the state in that capacity. (We will come back to Robillard’s $10K flight in the next post.)
The central concern in the previous Frequent Flyer post was the incongruity between J. Bruce Harreld’s willingness to blow a bunch of his own money on repeated trips to Iowa, and his own insistent testimony that he had no interest in the Iowa job at the time. That incongruity was made all the more glaring given evidence that Harreld took expensive chartered jets as opposed to flying commercial. Why would Harreld voluntarily absorb such expenses on a repeated basis, and why, specifically, would he do so during his first visit, which Jerre Stead had to beg him to even consider? On the other hand, if Stead fronted or covered Harreld’s travel costs, that would make it considerably more likely that Harreld might agree to that initial meeting, if only to placate his friend and long-time mentor.
In light of Robillard’s $10K trip we can now say that our previous estimation of the total cost of six round-trip business jet charters from Denver to the Midwest was extremely conservative. Where we previously thought $20K-$30K seemed plausible, it now seems the total cost could easily have been twice that high. From Miller’s report:
Here are the six known trips Harreld took in disinterested pursuit of the Iowa job:
Trip #1 — The Secret Kirkwood Meeting — ‘Early June’
Trip #2 — The “VIP Lunch” — July 8th
Trip #3 — The Secret Regent Meetings — July 30th
Trip #4 — The Chicago “Airport Interview” — August 12th
Trip #5 — The J. Bruce Harreld Open Forum — September 1st
Trip #6 — The Final Regent Interviews and Vote — September 3rd
Given Robillard’s $10K flight it’s hard not to see those six round trips costing Harreld $40k or $50K, if indeed he did take private jets. Even for a millionaire that’s a lot of money being spent by a man who didn’t want to come to Iowa, didn’t want to meet with anyone other than Stead when he got to Iowa, and definitely didn’t want to be president of the University of Iowa.
Another question we floated in the previous post was whether Harreld left Iowa after his September 1st open forum, or whether he stayed because he needed to be back on the morning of the 3rd for the final regent interviews and vote. As it turns out — thanks to an eagle-eyed reader — we do know that Harreld stayed in Iowa between those two appearances. From the Gazette on 10/30/15:
So Harreld arrived in Iowa on the 1st, picked up his done-deal presidency on the 3rd, then bolted for home, or wherever. While it seems unlikely that Harreld had a private jet waiting on the tarmac in Cedar Rapids for three days, given that there were no flight numbers on the itinerary for either his arrival or departure from Cedar Rapids on the 1st, it still seems reasonable to assume that Harreld arrived via a private jet.
So if he stays in Iowa from the 1st through the 3rd, why does the itinerary show him going back to the Cedar Rapids airport after his open forum? Does he stay in Iowa City, or does he drive/fly to Des Moines, or maybe Ames, where he can hang out with Bruce Rastetter on the 2nd? In fact, given that he had the 2nd wide open, is it possible that Harreld got more face time with any of the regents prior to the final vote? You know, like he got on July 30th, when Rastetter arranged secret meetings for Harreld at Rastetter’s own place of business, with four regents — including two who were not on the search committee?
Deserved suspicions aside, because we now know that Harreld stayed in Iowa from the 1st to the 3rd, we can combine trips #5 and #6 into a single trip. Maybe Harreld did pay for a private jet to hang out with him for three days, but more likely a plane simply dropped him off and picked him up. So on the question of financing, we now only need to account for five flights from Denver to Iowa, the majority of which Harreld took when he had no interest in applying to become president at Iowa.
Another question we posed in the previous post was how much Harreld may have been reimbursed for any of those flights, and from Miller’s reporting we now also have that:
The first trip that Harreld was reimbursed for occurred in late August. The only known trip to the state by Harreld at that time was on August 31st, when he arrived for his open forum on September 1st. From that we now know that the following four trips were paid for by Harreld — or by someone else — when Harreld was at the height of his disinterest in becoming president at Iowa.
Trip #1 — The Secret Kirkwood Meeting — ‘Early June’
Trip #2 — The “VIP Lunch” — July 8th
Trip #3 — The Secret Regent Meetings — July 30th
Trip #4 — The “Airport Interview” — August 12th
Unfortunately, trying to figure out what those flights cost based on what Harreld was subsequently reimbursed is problematic for two reasons. First, we don’t know how may flights and other expenses that $5,709.04 covers. Second, even if you prefer private jets, I’m guessing the University of Iowa caps expenses, including air travel. In fact, if you look at the other expenditures for Robillard and Sally Mason in Miller’s report, you can see flights that clearly look like business-class tickets at most, plus maybe a one-night hotel stay. What is also clear is that a private jet charter stands out like sore thumbs, and clearly seems to be the institutional exception rather than the rule. Which again brings us back to all the moolah Harreld — or someone — spent on four trips to Iowa for a job that he did not want, “at all“.
Even if we assume that Harreld got great bargains for those four round-trip flights, we’re still looking at $20K minimum. However, at the ‘Robillard rate’ those four flights would cost $40K, and because one of them was to Chicago we can add a couple grand more to either estimate. Then again, with regard to that Chicago trip, one way Harreld may have saved money — which we touched on in the previous post — is that he may have bummed a ride with search committee member, Colorado neighbor, old friend and mentor Jerre Stead.
On the arrival front we said that possibility was complicated by the fact that Stead needed to be in Chicago for two days of candidate interviews, while Harreld only needed to be in town for his own interview on the second day. Still, they could have flown home on the same plane, saving Harreld a few bucks — or maybe splitting the cost if that’s how they roll. As it turns out, however, in the meeting minutes prepared by ex-officio committee member and all-around do-gooder Peter Matthes, Jerre Stead is not present on the first day of airport interviews . (Matthes appears to have forgotten to take roll on the second day.) If that is the case, and Stead only flew in for the second day — the day of Harreld’s interview — then Stead and Harreld could have taken the same plane round trip, assuming they were both in the Denver area at the time.
If we now omit Trip #4 from the list of flights that Harreld had to pay for himself, that’s still a chunk of change. The flight we’re most curious about — the first one, to the half-day secret Kirkwood meeting with Rastetter, Robillard and Matthes, which Stead backed out of at the last minute — sounds a lot like Robillard’s half-day, $10K trip to Denver. Whatever that first flight cost, however, I still don’t see Harreld spending chartered-jet money out of his own pocket just to do a favor for his friend Stead, who, as it turns out, won’t even bother showing up.
If Harreld did pay for that first round-trip flight himself, I guess that’s what millionaires do for their millionaire friends. On the other hand, if Jerre Stead covered that cost, or the cost of any of the other early trips to Iowa, or the cost of the trip to Chicago in mid-August, then that’s a real problem, because at the time he was also a member of the search committee. Paying Harreld to fly to any meeting associated with the search process would not simply look like a conflict of interest, it would be a conflict of interest, and yet another clear indication that the search was a done deal from that start. Which may also be why Jean Robillard had to spend $10K in August on a half-day trip to Denver to meet with Jerry Stead face to face, when he could have just picked up the phone.
Note: I originally thought the final interviews and vote took place in Des Moines, but that was incorrect. The interviews, vote, and announcement of Harreld as the new president took place at the University of Iowa on the 3rd. The post has been updated to reflect that information.
We’ll get back to jet planes and secret meetings in the next post, but I think this is interesting — and in its own way tangentially related. We talked recently about the systemic political corruption in higher education around the state, and specifically about UI staffer Peter Matthes overseeing several no-bid contracts that were awarded to political cronies.
Well, yesterday Regents President Bruce Rastetter, the political crony of all political cronies, had this to say about all that:
Now, it’s not just the optics that are bad, it’s the fact that those no-bid contracts always end up going to political cronies. You know, like you would expect if the state government itself had become corrupted by political influence during Governor Branstad’s six terms in power.
In terms of the dynamics underlying the Harreld hire, however, this isn’t simply a announcement about a potential change in policy. This is Regents President Bruce Rastetter, former search committee member and attendee at the secret Kirkwood meeting with J. Bruce Harreld, throwing Petter Matthes, former ex officio search committee member and fellow attendee at the secret Kirkwood meeting with Harreld, under a very fast-moving bus.
Now, it may be that Matthes is one of those diehard loyalists who will take a (metaphorical) bullet for his party leaders. Then again, maybe Matthes prefers not to be made a scapegoat and eased out of his job, let alone fired — or worse, to become the subject of legislative inquiry. If he knows the right secrets he might be able to get Rastetter to back off, but he may also decide to take Rastetter down with him — perhaps by filling in as many blanks as possible regarding the fraudulent hiring process that put J. Bruce Harreld in power. Because, as we’ve discussed, time after time Peter Matthes is in the room. Or in the car.
1) No-bid contracts don’t ALWAYS go to political cronies. I’m sure Rastetter will find a way to screw over the legitimate contracts and still use my taxpayer dollars to line the pockets of his friends.
2) Matthes has a soul. It’s probably retrievable. He’s got some tough choices ahead. It will be interesting to see where this leads.
You’re right — I meant only that the contracts being reported and commented on by Rastetter seemed, oddly, to go to people affiliated with the political point of view favored by him and the governor. (That state-fair video makes it all too clear that your reference to ‘Governor Rastetter’ is more than a jab.)
As for Matthes, I don’t think he’s evil, but he’s also not at innocent. There were a lot of people who took the Board of Regents seriously when the request was made that candidates from outside academia be considered. Maybe they were gullible or naive, but they were also sincere.
In the sucker punch that followed, Matthes was, at the very least, one finger in that fist. Maybe he was just the pinkie, but he clearly didn’t protest, and may have been more involved than we know.
And yes, he does have some tough choices ahead. If he’s a man, in the old school sense, he’ll suck it up and come forward, because I don’t think this is how he saw his life playing out, or even how he saw the Harreld hire playing out. More likely, however, he’ll either take one for the team or lawyer up.
As reported by Vanessa Miller of the Gazette late last week, on August 25th, then-interim Iowa President Jean Robillard took a half-day trip to Denver, to meet in person with megadonor Jerre Stead. At the time, Robillard had just concluded chairing the presidential search committee, on which Stead also served. Among the four finalists nominated by the committee was J. Bruce Harreld, who would be appointed president at the University of Iowa nine days later, after the final interviews and vote by the Iowa Board of Regents.
While such trips are fairly routine in the world of higher education, what makes Robillard’s half-day junket stand out is that it came with a $10,747 charge for a chartered jet. We previously considered that expense in the context of Harreld’s own apparent penchant for private charters, but because of Robillard’s troubled role in Harreld’s hire, and because of the timing and destination of the trip, there is good reason to take a closer, eyebrow-raised look at that flight. Particularly when compared with all of the other UI travel expenses that Miller reported, which make that $10K half-day trip stand out like a sore if not radiating thumb.
Needless to say, $10,000 for a half-day trip covering less than 800 miles each way is a lot of money. So obviously that reported expenditure of university funds must come with some sort of explanation, and indeed it does. Unfortunately, as with many of the justifications that Robillard, Stead and others have made regarding their actions during and after the presidential selection process, the explanation makes no sense.
Here is the official rationale, as reported by Miller:
Okay — Stead’s a busy guy, he’s got a lot of money, you want some of that money, you jump when you have the chance. I get it. But it’s also important to remember that at the exact same time, Robillard, Stead and several other co-conspirators were about to ensure that J. Bruce Harreld — an old friend and mentee of Stead’s — would be appointed as the new president at Iowa. Coincidence? Well, speaking for myself, I think there is zero chance that Robillard’s flight on August 25th had everything to do with securing a paltry $5M donation from a man who has dropped multiple eight-figure donations on the university, while having nothing to do with Harreld’s candidacy and upcoming election.
To understand why, consider this additional bit of information, provided by Larson:
Okay — so we’ve got two guys who have known each other since forever, and one of them wants a few million dollars, and the other guys has a few million he doesn’t need. The guy with the millions has already given the guy without the millions many millions over the years, so there’s also nothing unique about these millions. Now, throw in the fact that the guy with the millions has a schedule that is “pretty impossible”, and the guy without the millions knows that the millionaire guy is always pressed for time, and instead of prompting a half-day $10K chartered jet flight, here’s how something like that would probably go down.
Robillard: Hey Jerre, it’s Jean.
Stead: Hey homie, wazzup?
Robillard: Well, Jerre, having known you for thirty years, and knowing you have a pretty impossible schedule, I was thinking of flying out to talk to you about this over several hours, but then I thought it would be better if I just called.
Stead: Thanks, Jean — what can I do for you?
Robillard: We need another five million.
Stead: Sure, no problem. I can have it wired, or overnight a check.
Robillard: Thank you, Jerre, overnight is fine.
Stead: Great! Adios….
As you can see, compared with flying all the way to Denver, that call would have taken a few minutes at most, even allowing for a bit more chit-chat at the beginning and end. If Robillard wanted the communication to be a bit more personal, but still didn’t want to spend all that time and money on a flight, between his staff and Stead’s staff I’m guessing they could probably round up enough nerds and geeks to put together a video conference — much like both UIHC and IHS (Stead’s company) probably already use to talk with people around the world, face to face, without actually having to go to the time and expense of getting said faces in the same physical location. You know, like kids do every day, via the internet, with the click of a button.
In fact, no matter how I slice it, given the professed rationale I can see no reason that Robillard has to meet in person with Stead on that day. And that’s particularly true if I’m supposed to believe there was some pressing need, which could suddenly be met because of a “window” in Stead’s schedule. Even if something needed to be signed, that could be done electronically, and if there was some haggling yet to be done, or horse-trading — well, again, that kind of thing is done via voice and video every day, all over the world.
So why did Jean Robillard and Jerre Stead need to be in the same room on August 25th? Well, what’s interesting about that question is that the more you think about it, the harder it is to come up with an answer. Even if Jerre was, say, getting rid of some old sweaters, and Jean wanted to try a couple of those sweaters on because he loves sweaters, and as a friend for thirty years he knows Stead only buys the best sweaters, Stead could still just overnight the sweaters.
So again, why does Robillard need to be in the room with Stead on that day? Well, the most obvious answer is, he doesn’t. At least not in the context of the justification that Larson put forward. As a friend of thirty years Robillard knows that Stead isn’t going to suddenly fall for Iowa State, or dump him for Mitch Daniels at Purdue. There’s nothing time-sensitive about the donation — Larson doesn’t claim that without that money UIHC would have to declare bankruptcy and go into receivership, so the whole question of financial immediacy is off the table. Again, taking a $10K chartered flight — along with booking the flight, and even knowing that you have to book the flight — means whatever “window” came up for Stead must have happened the night before at the latest, leaving Robillard plenty of time to grab a commercial flight out of Cedar Rapids.
So, having been pointedly assured by Larson that Robillard’s trip had nothing to do with the ongoing and rapidly concluding presidential search, what are we to think? Well, one thing we can say for sure is that whatever prompted Jean Robillard to jet his way to Denver on August 25th, it must have come up after August 12th, when both Robillard and Stead were in Chicago, in the same room, all day, along with other members of the search committee, conducting “airport interviews” for four of the nine semi-finalists.
Although Stead apparently missed the five interviews conducted on the 11th, by all accounts he was present on the 12th, which also happens to be the day of J. Bruce Harreld’s interview. As you might imagine on such a jam-packed day, not only were there several breaks, but forty-five minutes was set aside for lunch. Add in available free time in the morning, before the first interview at 7:45 a.m., and time at the end of the day, and maybe even time the night before, then throw in the fact that Jerre Stead likes to get up at 3:30 in the morning, and it’s hard to imagine that if Jean Robillard had a pressing need to talk to Jerre Stead, which would subsequently compel him to blow $10K on a private charter only two weeks later, that he wouldn’t have simply addressed that issue when he had the chance. (The fact that Regents President Bruce Rastetter was also a member of the search committee, and is also in Chicago on that day, only makes it that much more likely that Robillard and Stead would have preferred to conduct UIHC business then, if at all possible.)
And yet, by the very fact that Robillard is jumping on a chartered jet two weeks later, we know that did not happen. So either the reason for Robillard’s trip on the 25th came up suddenly, after the 12th — which would seem to blow a hole in the idea that it was part of the normal and regular process of securing a donation — or Chicago was not the right time and place to discuss whatever Robillard and Stead actually discussed, in person, on August 25th.
What else was happening around that time, which might occasion an in-person conversation? Well, just recently Jeff Charis-Carlson of the Press-Citizen reported on the moment when former search committee member and Regents President Bruce Rastetter instructed Governor Terry Branstad to make a personal call of encouragement to J. Bruce Harreld. Previously we knew that call took place “sometime in August”, but apparently, between Harreld, Rastetter and Branstad nobody could remember exactly when.
We now know, thanks to documentary footage, that the governor was prompted to call Harreld on August 15th, with the actual call taking place sometime later. At the very least, then, we can say that between the airport interviews on August 12th, and the Robillard-Stead meeting on August 25th, that the candidacy of J. Bruce Harreld — who also happens to be Stead’s longtime friend, mentee, and a fellow Colorado resident — was being aggressively shepherded through the election process at the highest levels.
Perhaps it’s pure coincidence that at roughly the same time when Rastetter is giving Branstad his marching orders, Robillard is jetting off to speak with Stead in person, in a one-off expenditure that has no equal in 2015, but the fact is those two things happened within ten days of each other, and the governor’s actual phone call to Harreld happened even closer than that. Whatever else is going on in mid-to-late August, after months of secret meetings and preferential treatment, we know that the conspirators abetting Harreld’s fraudulent hire are about to finally install their puppet in office.
Which is why we will now consider Robillard’s $10K flight in the context of the known lies that were told during and after the Harreld hire, including those by Stead and Robillard. Because if we’re going to believe Dana Larson, that Harreld’s ongoing candidacy was not the reason for the trip, what we’re really saying is that we believe the word of person who made that assertion to Larson — and yet if that assertion came from either Robillard or Stead there is no reason to believe either man. (The only way Larson can know if her assertion is true, is if Larson is the “UI Foundation staff member” who flew with Robillard to Denver on the 25th, and Larson was with Robillard and Stead during every minute of their meeting.)
On August 25th, when Robillard visits Stead in Denver, we are nine days away from the appointment of J. Bruce Harreld as the next president of the University of Iowa. We are ten days away from Jerre Stead lying to the press about when he first became aware that Harreld was interested in the position. And we are three weeks or so away from Jean Robillard lying to the press about whether Harreld was considering the position when Harreld and his wife visited the campus on July 8th. Too, at the almost no one affiliated with the search process, including the great majority of the search committee, knows about the secret Kirkwood meeting with Harreld in ‘early June’, or about the secret regent meetings that Rastetter arranges for Harreld on July 30th, or about the phone call with the governor.
Speaking of which, as noted above, J. Bruce Harreld also lives in Colorado, about an hour or two outside Denver. After his airport interview on August 12th, and prior to his open forum appearance on campus on September 1st, we have no reason to believe that Harreld is anywhere other than in Colorado during those intervening days. Which means if Jean Robillard is flying to Colorado to see Jerre Stead, it’s entirely possible that he’s also flying to Colorado to meet with J. Bruce Harreld, either in Stead’s presence or elsewhere — perhaps at the airport.
If we accept Larson’s explanation for the flight — that it was solely about “securing a donation” — then we have to acknowledge that although $10K is a lot of money for a half-day plane trip, $5M is a pretty good return on that investment. And yet, even if we allow that money was the only reason for the meeting, it also seems obvious that there were other ways to have that conversation, which would have allowed that $10K to be put to better and more productive use. (I think both Jerre Stead and Jean Robillard would agree that responsible financial stewardship is critical to making sure that donors continue to donate. Nobody wants University of Iowa donors to wonder if some big-shot administrator just pissed away their hard-earned and heartfelt contribution on a self-indulgent lark.)
On the other hand, if we reject the idea that Robillard spends $10K on a half-day flight because he’s chasing money, what are we left with? Well, unfortunately, a whole lot of speculation, but not without basis. One thing a private face-to-face meeting assures, assuming that you trust the other attendees, is that what you discuss won’t be overheard or recorded, either on audio or video. Which brings us back to the secret Kirkwood meeting, and how it too makes no objective sense.
According to Harreld, Stead finally convinces him to come to Iowa to talk with Rastetter, Robillard and Matthes yet instead of visiting the Iowa campus they hold up in a meeting room near the airport for three or four hours. Why? Well, again, if you don’t want anyone to know what you’re talking about — or even to know that you are talking — that’s a great way to keep your meeting and conversation off the record. No phone calls, no video chat, no emails, no nothing.
Given everything we know, I don’t think it’s outside the realm of possibility, or even particularly controversial, to suggest that part of the motivation for Robillard’s $10K flight, if not the sole motivation, had something to do with Harreld’s candidacy. Maybe Harreld was getting skittish. Maybe Harreld or Stead wanted specific assurances, either apart from, or in combination with, promised donations. I don’t know, but given the established facts, and the overlap of interactions, I wouldn’t take anything of the table.
What we do know, is that at the exact moment when Robillard is purportedly jetting off to secure a relatively small donation from Jerre Stead, the concerted, covert scheme to install J. Bruce Harreld as the next president at the University of Iowa is coming to a boil. Harreld has made it through the search committee, he’s one of the four finalists, and because Rastetter has already greased his candidacy with four other regents the final vote is fixed. And yet the done deal is still not done. Until Harreld commits on September 3rd and walks into the final interviews — something he has repeatedly stated he was not sure he was going to do until the last minute — there is still the possibility that the plan will fall apart at the last minute, leaving them no choice but to elect someone qualified.
Given the rarefied expense of the flight, and the context at the time, and the brutal track record with veracity that Stead and Robillard have established with regard to Harreld’s hire, it’s beyond me to accept Larson’s explanation for the trip, even as I’m also sure that’s exactly what she was told. Whatever got Robillard on that plane on the 25th, and whatever suddenly opened up a “window” in Jerre Stead’s “impossible” schedule, my guess is that it had something to do with Harreld and his candidacy.
Finally, as a footnote to all of the above, one other thing stood out in Miller’s report, regarding the source of funds for Robillard’s $10K round-trip flight.
Apparently it’s one thing to take donations, or even patient-care revenue, and blow it on a $10K flight, and another altogether to take taxpayer funds and use them for such purposes. Maybe like how it would be criminal fraud if someone took $300,000 from the state in order to run a fair and transparent search for the next president at the University of Iowa, but instead blew it on a sham search that was a done-deal from the start. Fortunately, because Larson is unambiguously explicit on that point, no matter what happened with or on Robillard’s $10K flight, the one thing we don’t have to worry about is that the taxpayers of Iowa were also taken for a ride.
Note: In the original version of this post I believed it had been established that Robillard’s charter left from Galesburg, IL. That was incorrect. The flight was booked with a company from Galesburg, but the plane picked up Robillard+1 in Iowa City. The post has been updated to reflect that information.
You are right on target with this line of thinking.
This 10K flight from where-ever was a hastily arranged face to face meeting between suitors.
As you say, donations are routine, regular business is not a big deal anymore, and even expedient business can be taken care of by video conferencing, for far fewer dollars.
Very important interactions go better face to face: you would not propose to a paramour by email, but you want to look he/she in the eye.
You outlined the events well; the nexus of the situation was about to play out and play out in an expectantly explosive way. Robillard, Rastetter, and others knew that it was going to be a controversial decision, and all hands had to be on-board, and on the same ‘page’.
Obviously Robillard discussed the Harreld deal with Stead, the main mover on the donor end of the conspiracy.
Further evidence on Sept 3, 2015 when Ms Miller interviewed Stead, which still appears odd. Why Stead? Then? So soon? Robillard alerted Stead, who prepared answers. Miller was somehow directed to Stead’s way because ‘his schedule is impossible’ right?
This was a rigged deal, a rigged search, and a rigged prepared for, interview arranged when Robillard jetted out to Co. Even the source of funds put that scrutiny out of usual state auditor perusal.
This search and process may be described as violating ‘shared governance’ or ‘outside normal processes’ when it really played out as ‘unethical’, ‘fraudulent’, ‘disgustingly corrupt’ and ‘illegal’.
Perhaps someone warned Robillard to not discuss the issue on email, or snail-mail, or telephone even; face to face, coordinate stories, and make it undiscoverable.
You learn these lessons from The Godfather or from The Sopranos.
There were a lot of people planting early lies to try to quickly move Harreld away from the search process. I think Stead wanted to use his goodwill at Iowa to aid that cause, while also distancing himself from interactions with Harreld that were and remain undisclosed. So Stead comes out and says, yeah, I know the guy, he’s good people, you should trust him. And I think that’s all pretty standard in the done-deal world of business and politics.
Only two weeks later the whole thing explodes, because nobody can figure out how this unqualified carpetbagging dilettante beat out three people who were qualified for the job. And now they know. He didn’t.
In a prior post we considered the broader implications of the AAUP investigation into the Harreld hire, and how the AAUP’s conclusion corroborated my belief that criminal fraud was perpetrated against the taxpayers of Iowa. At the time I said we would be revisiting the report in full at a later date, and that’s still in the pipeline. On Friday, however, I read an article on the Press-Citizen website which contained quotes from one of the AAUP investigators in the case, and at first I did not know how to react.
In previously discussing the AAUP investigation I took pains to point out that the inquiry was extremely narrow. In my view that decision was antithetical to understanding what actually happened, and it gave J. Bruce Harreld a pass I felt he did not deserve, but I could understand the AAUP’s decision making process. From the Cedar Rapids Gazette, on 10/06/15:
From the Press-Citizen, on 10/07/15:
From the KGAN website, on 10/16/15, when two investigators arrived on campus to conduct interviews:
Associate General Secretary Kurland could not have been more consistent or clear: the AAUP investigation into the Harreld hire concerned institutional failings at the Board of Regents and/or the University of Iowa, and was not concerned with Harreld. Whether you or I believe Harrled was complicit in the abuses that led to his hire, the AAUP was not investigating that charge. Whether you or I believe Harreld was unqualified for the job, the AAUP was not investigating that charge.
True to his word, when the final report was released there was nothing about Harreld’s qualifications for office, and there was nothing about Harreld’s complicity in his own fraudulent hire. The conclusion reached by the AAUP investigation, which could not have been clearer or more consistent with the original goal of the investigation, was as follows:
Do you see any mention of J. Bruce Harreld there? Any commentary about Harreld’s fitness for office, or whether he aided and abetted the fraud that put him there? No? Me either.
In press reports after the close of the investigation, it was also made clear that the AAUP would take time to consider whether sanctions were warranted, apparently as a goad to encourage the Iowa Board of Regents to demonstrate reform regarding their flagrant abuse of shared governance. From the Gazette, on 12/10/15:
Again, Associate General Secretary Kurland could not have been more clear or consistent: the AAUP aimed their investigation at the Board of Regents, and tangentially at the University of Iowa — not at J. Bruce Harreld. The case was investigated, a finding was reached on the merits, and at a future date judgment will be rendered as to whether sanctions should be imposed against the board.
So why then, on Friday, was I reading a story in the Press-Citizen in which one the AAUP’s investigators said this:
Who said Harreld was on the clock? Did anybody say that J. Bruce Harreld’s tenure as president was limited to six months? Or that there was some mechanism by which he would be or even could be removed from office at a date certain if he proved to be disastrous for the school?
No, nobody said that. And you know why nobody said that? Because once you jam your stealth candidate into the presidency at the University of Iowa by hook or by crook, there is no mechanism that can be used to pry him out of there. Even if Harreld proved to be the single most incompetent academic administrator the world has ever seen, he would still get his $4,000,000 over five years, and he would still get to make choices which materially affect the lives of other human beings.
In trying to square Finkin’s statements with the limited scope and clear conclusion of the investigation, my first thought was that perhaps I was misconstruing Finkin’s remarks. Except no.
What is this man talking about — and better yet, why is he talking? The six-month deadline is for sanctions against the Board of Regents, not for Harreld. As a factual matter, unless criminal fraud is charged, and Harreld is included in those indicted, there is no mechanism by which he can be jettisoned. So nobody — and I mean nobody — is saying that people won’t have to work with Harreld, or that he’s going to be thrown out if he hasn’t shown his worth in six months, or a year, or ever.
As to the claim that Harreld is willing to learn, what exactly would a seasoned investigator like Finkin expect Harreld to say, given the circumstance Harreld finds himself in? That’s he going to take six weeks off to work on his tan? That he couldn’t care less what anybody thinks? That somebody should be shot? (Sorry.) Even if J. Bruce Harreld’s intentions are duplicitous, he’s not an idiot, as he repeatedly proved by keeping key events in his fraudulent hire secret until he was forced to divulge them.
Too, on what basis does Finkin conclude that opposition to Harreld is shortsighted? Because unless Finkin can see into the future he’s guessing, not only about Harreld, but about the damage that Harreld and his handlers may do to the school, and to the lives of the people who study, teach and work there. While Finkin is within his rights to assert that Harreld will go from great to greater in his role as president — as a theory — he must allow that there are also equally viable theories that predict failure, including those in which removing Harreld from office as soon as possible prove to be the key to the school’s future recovery.
As for Finkin pointing to his long experience as a means of substantiating his judgment, when Finkin says he’s “handled a thousand academic controversies”, exactly how many of those cases met the following criteria:
* An open presidency at a major, state-run, public research university
* A fraudulent hiring process by the school’s governing board
* A candidate with zero experience in academic administration
* A candidate with zero experience in the public sector
* A candidate who received unparalleled preferential treatment
* A candidate elected despite opposition from the vast majority of faculty
* A candidate with no historical ties to the school or the state
Out of 1,000 cases in forty-seven years, or 21.28 cases per year, Finkin has handled what — 400 cases which met that same criteria? Or is it maybe closer to 200? How about 80? 65? 31? 8?
How about zero. Because as far as I can tell, in the modern era there is no analogue to Harreld’s hire at the University of Iowa. Even the mini-MBA who got himself tossed from the Missouri System had ties to that state. And of course Mitch Daniels, and other former government officials who now run large universities, all have long public-sector experience to draw from, along with, usually, close ties to their school.
So what is Matthew Finkin, venerable investigator and long-time member of the AAUP, talking about? More to the point, if the AAUP specifically said that no determinations would be made about Harreld, why is Finkin now coming out and making determinations about Harreld? On what basis does he conclude that the man is willing to learn? Because J. Bruce Harreld seems like a nice guy? Because Harreld promised Finkin that he himself had nothing to do with how he was fraudulently appointed?
Or is this like when George W. Bush looked into Putin’s eyes and saw his soul? Or maybe it’s more like six-term Governor Branstad, who’s been doing the same job so long that he no longer considers himself bound by anything other than his own paternalistic faith in himself. (If the latter that would be ironic, because that’s how the University of Iowa got into this mess in the first place.)
Well, if you know Matthew Finkin, here’s J. Bruce Harreld lying about the origins of his candidacy, on video, only minutes after being announced as president-elect. Or maybe send him this detailed analysis of the lies that others told on Harreld’s behalf. Or this rundown of Harreld’s own complicity in his fraudulent hire.
Given that the AAUP did not investigate Harreld, I’m hard-pressed to understand where Finkin’s advocacy comes from. So perhaps a clarification is in order from Finkin. Is he simply speaking “off the cuff”, as a private citizen with a forgiving heart? Or is he asserting that determinations about Harreld should have been made by the AAUP, and included in the final report? Because I for one would welcome reopening and broadening the AAUP investigation, if Finkin truly believes that Harreld somehow got jobbed by an investigation that avoided reaching any conclusions about his complicity or fitness for office.
As for the commentary about Harreld that the final report does include, when I first read it I was surprised to find many of the same pro-Harreld sentiments which Finkin is now disseminated through the press. Did that narrative not get enough play with the release of the original report? More pointedly, after the AAUP drastically limited the scope of its investigation, why does Finkin believe it’s important for him to pick a side in what’s happening at Iowa, when the facts that would be necessary for him to make an informed decision were not considered?
Originally, I took the report’s commentary about Harreld as a kind of good-cop counterpoint to the bad-cop finding. Much like the Press-Citizen staff editorial published a couple of weeks after Harreld took office, which concluded with a warning to Harreld that he was on a very short rope. Now, however, given Finkin’s resurgent if not incoherent effort to speak out on Harreld’s behalf, I think that initial reading was wrong.
I’m sure Matthew Finkin is sincere when he says it’s shortsighted not to work with a man who’s willing to learn, but it also seems understandable if not sensible that some people would prefer not to work with — or be subordinate to — an individual who did not earn the position of authority he now holds. Kind of like how Finkin himself would feel if I became the head of the AAUP, got paid a crap-ton more than he made, got free digs and a staff to insulate me from the rabble, and got to make decisions which materially affected both his welfare and the welfare of the institution to which he had dedicated his life. Except it would be much worse, because he would know that I helped lie myself into that job, and that I had no idea what I was doing or talking about. Except it would be even worse than that, because when I professed a genuine willingness to learn on the job, Finkin would be one of those obligated to teach me.
This is not and never was about J. Bruce Harreld’s willingness or unwillingness to learn how to do a job that he should have spent his life preparing for, as all the other finalists did. This was and is about a violation perpetrated by the Board of Regents against the University of Iowa, which the AAUP agreed was a violation. J. Bruce Harreld is not a victim of that violation, J. Bruce Harreld is the living embodiment of that violation.
The lawyer’s comments are heard frequently when sweetheart deals are arranged, or fixed searches that promoted unqualified companies or un-vetted candidates to prime jobs.
Does ‘professor at Illinois College of Law’ say anything? If any group of attorneys know how to cover corruption, it would be groups from New Jersey, Louisiana, Texas and Illinois.
This is business as usual in a corrupt state, corrupt city, or corrupt institution. Do anything that enriches you or friends then say bromides like ‘give it a chance’; ‘relax. we know what we are doing’.
I am reminded of Hymie Roth in the Godfather making an excuse when he evaded the law by moving to Israel: I am a retired investor on a pension, and I wished to live there as a Jew in the twilight of my life.
Nothing going on here; give Harreld 6 months when not a damn thing has changed but everyone’s emotions died out.
What’s happened since Harreld was appointed is that there have been a series of attempts to separate him from the actual abuse of power which propelled him into office. From various quarters we’ve heard people say that the regents fixed the search, at which point they then throw up their hands and say that Harreld is still the president. Meaning the co-conspirators get what they wanted all along, and the only price they have to pay is a PR hit for a few news cycles.
Yes, Harreld is the president. But he didn’t earn that job. And asking everyone to pretend otherwise — to believe that the search was fair when it was fraudulent — is magical thinking. It’s not the people who are opposed to Harreld’s presidency, either individually or collectively, who are confused, it’s the people who seem to believe that once a corrupt bureaucracy renders a corrupt decision by corrupt means, that that’s the end of the conversation.
I can’t do anything about the crime, but I don’t have to pretend it didn’t happen. It did happen. And the longer Harreld remains in office, regardless of the efforts that the corrupt machinery behind him goes to in order to project success, the greater the damage will be to the school.
My concern with Finkin’s commentary is that it now frames the AAUP report in the same light. The original narrow scope should have led to a narrow finding, but with Finkin muddying the waters it now looks like the AAUP bashed the regents so everyone will go easy on Harreld. If you say you’re not making a determination, then don’t come out afterward and tell people it’s shortsighted for them to loathe the man who got installed into office by the very abuse you cite in your report. Particularly if you don’t actually know what you’re talking about.
In a recent post we looked at J. Bruce Harreld’s flying habits for the five known trips that he made from Denver to the Midwest during his candidacy for president at the University of Iowa. In a subsequent post we took a close look at a late-August, half-day, $10K chartered flight to Denver by then Interim President Jean Robillard, for a face-to-face meeting with Jerre Stead. In both posts we referenced a recent Gazette article by Vanessa Miller about presidential travel expenses at the University of Iowa, and we will once again be revisiting that article again in this post.
If you’ve been reading Ditchwalk about the Harreld hire, you know that the origin story of J. Bruce Harreld’s candidacy for president has changed several times since Harreld was appointed on September 3rd. You also know that with each new version, lies were exposed which gutted the credibility of key players in Harreld’s fraudulent hire. Not surprisingly, as a result of those repeated and damaging disclosures, each subsequent origin story has proven more difficult to believe than the last, often for the exact same reasons.
What should be a simple and painless process of explaining how J. Bruce Harreld became aware of the Iowa job, campaigned for the Iowa job, and won the Iowa job on the merits of his candidacy, is instead a tortured and circuitous journey filled with backroom deals, preferential treatment, and voids in basic logic. The most recent origin story for Harreld’s candidacy comes to us courtesy Harreld himself, several days before taking office on November 2nd. In interviews with members of the local press Harreld not only detailed a new and startling version of the chain of events which led to his appointment, he also put forward two important themes about his mindset during the search and selection process, both of which we will consider in due course.
Speaking of themes, which I generally avoid doing at all costs, this post is an attempt to make sense of everything about J. Bruce Harreld’s origin story that has so far failed to meet that simple test. That does not mean we will end up with red-handed proof that Harreld and his co-conspirators are guilty of criminal fraud, but it may tell us where to look in order to make that case. Some of the issues may seem trivial or tangential at first, but it is in weaving everything together that we may finally be able to understand what happened and why.
Once again, as has often proven to be the case, we will profit greatly by placing Harreld’s comments in context. And the most important realization we can come to in that regard is that for the most part none of the key players referenced by Harreld in his most recent origin story have corroborated any of Harreld’s statements. Neither as to the purported facts of Harreld’s new origin story, nor as to Harreld’s mindset at the time. Only the assertion that Regents President Bruce Rastetter was the first person to contact Harreld regarding the Iowa job has remained consistent over time, even as there is good reason to dispute that claim as well. Given that Harreld himself lied in telling a prior version of his origin story as a candidate, we should not only be dubious about the new version, but doubly so because it is in fact almost wholly his own.
As was the case in several other posts, we are not trying to prove anything beyond all possible doubt. Instead, we’re going to stick with Occam’s Razor and look for the simplest — and thus most probable — explanation for the circumstances that led to Harreld’s candidacy and appointment. Too, for the most part this post assumes you are up to speed on the various players and their relationships. If you’re new to the Harreld hire, one fact that may not be immediately apparent is that the following people were, as of 02/25/15, all members of the search committee which eventually nominated J. Bruce Harreld and three other candidates: Regents President Bruce Rastetter, University of Iowa Vice President for Medical Affairs Jean Robillard (Chair), businessman and megadonor Jerre Stead, and UI staffer Peter Matthes (ex officio).
Five Things That Bug Me
After three months of digging for the bottom of the institutional corruption which facilitated J. Bruce Harreld’s appointment, there are five issues that really bug me about Harreld’s origin story and candidacy. Here, in chronological order, are those five irritants:
1) Despite the fact that J. Bruce Harreld and Jerre Stead have known each other for decades, and despite the fact that Harreld moved, in 2014, from the East Coast to a town in Colorado roughly a hundred miles from Stead’s company in Denver, neither man has affirmed or denied any contact prior to Stead calling Harreld in ‘late spring’, one week after Harreld says that Rastetter made initial contact about the Iowa job. From simple logic, however, and an offhand comment by Harreld in a video clip, there is good reason to believe that Harreld and Stead were in contact prior to that point. By virtue of the lies that each man has already told regarding previous version of Harreld’s origin story, there is also every reason to believe that neither man will tell the truth about their prior contacts unless placed under oath.
As it stands now, in J. Bruce Harreld’s latest telling, Jerre Stead simply pops back into Harreld’s life after Rastetter calls. In this ordering of contacts, however, Harreld is in fact consistent with every other origin story to-date, because in all cases the person most likely to convey news of the opening at Iowa — Jerre Stead — is never the person who conveys that news. No matter what else happens in any telling, the one thing J. Bruce Harreld is absolutely sure of is that his Colorado neighbor, old friend, mentor, bestest buddy and big toe, Jerre Stead, was absolutely not the first person to approach him about the open presidency at Iowa.
2) According to J. Bruce Harreld, when he first meets Rastetter, Robillard and Matthes in person in ‘early June’, after incessant pleading from Rastetter and begging from Stead, that important initial meeting takes place not on the campus at Iowa, or at the Iowa Board of Regents offices in Des Moines, but in a hotel conference room on the Kirkwood Community College campus, only a few miles from the Cedar Rapids Airport. As regular readers know, not only is there uncertainty about whether Harreld used a commercial flight or chartered jet to attend that meeting, it is a complete mystery why those four men would hold up offsite in a nondescript room, when by Harreld’s own testimony Rastetter was relentless about getting Harreld to apply for the Iowa job.
Given the resources available, which they seem to have no problem flaunting in other circumstances related to the Harreld hire, how do Rastetter, Robillard and Matthes not pull out all the stops, as they subsequently will for Harreld and his wife during their visit to the Iowa campus on July 8th? If Harreld arrived for the Kirkwood meeting on a commercial flight, there’s plenty of time. If Harreld took a private jet, he doesn’t even need to land in Cedar Rapids, because as Robillard’s August 25th flight makes clear, corporate jets can easily get in and out of Iowa City. So why meet off-site if you’re finally getting your big change to sell Harreld on running for president?
3) The purported rationale for Jean Robillard’s trip on August 25th, when he met in person with Jerre Stead in Denver, makes no sense. Not only has Robillard known Stead for thirty years — a decade longer than Harreld has known Stead — but there is nothing about the relatively routine transaction which purportedly took place that requires meeting in person.
Too, the $10K cost of that 1,600 mile round trip stands out in stark relief compared to all of other travel expenses for the three people who served as president at Iowa in 2015. Prior to and after August 25th, all of the travel expenses are essentially of a piece. Then suddenly, on August 25th, Jean Robillard blows $10K on a half-day chartered jet to see Jerre Stead in Denver.
Perhaps not so coincidentally, that short-notice trip happens almost exactly between Harreld being chosen as one of four finalists on August 12th, and Harreld being appointed by the Board of Regents on September 3rd. Meaning at that very moment, the entire search and selection process is coming to a head. And of course Harreld lives in Colorado too, close enough to Denver to drive over for a chat.
4) In telling his new origin story the weekend before taking office, Harreld unveils two new themes about his mindset during the search process. Neither of the themes makes much sense when considered separately, and in combination they make no sense at all.
First, Harreld insists that he had absolutely no interest in the Iowa job — at all — from the time Rastetter purportedly called him in ‘late spring’ until very late in the search. Even on the morning of September 3rd, just before the final interviews and vote by the Board of Regents, Harreld reports that he was undecided. Second, in explaining away all of the preferential treatment that he received during the search, Harreld insists that although he had no interest in the Iowa job, he nonetheless voraciously sought out any and all information about the position in a ceaseless campaign to educate himself.
So for the great majority of the search process nobody could have compelled Harreld to actually apply for the Iowa job, yet at the same time it would have been impossible to supply him with enough information about that same job. And no, I am not making that up.
5) If anything about the Harreld hire truly baffles me, it’s the actual unveiling of Harreld’s most recent origin story the weekend before he takes office. Not only does Harreld disclose the previously unknown Kirkwood meeting, but the details of that new origin story lay to waste the credibility of Stead, Robillard and Harreld himself. Why does Harreld give up that meeting after he’s been quiet about it for the two full months since his election, and the only other people who know about it are Stead, Rastetter, Robillard and Matthes? Given the obvious downside, what can Harreld possibly hope to gain by giving up that previously unknown visit, let alone doing so in minute detail?
Whether your top-five list of Harreld hire mysteries agrees with mine or not, I think you can see why I’m anywhere from curious to confused to consternated. Until recently the main problem was that in trying to zoom in on the details I was just as likely to become lost — because of the absence of reliable information, or any information at all — as I was to glean anything useful. So instead I finally wised up and tried what we’re about to do now, which is to go the other way. Instead of zooming in we’re going to pull back, go wide-angle and defocus our lens a bit, just to see what stands out.
Here again are the five things that bug me, as tersely as I can convey them, followed by sourcing in parenthesis.
1) Stead and Harreld talk about the Iowa job. (Supposition.)
2) Harreld, Rastetter, Robillard and Matthes meet about the Iowa job at Kirkwood. (Harreld.)
3) Robillard spends $10K jetting to Denver for a meeting with Stead. (Expense report.)
4) Harreld voraciously seeks out information about a job he does not want. (Harreld.)
5) Harreld unveils the secret Kirkwood meeting as part of his new origin story. (Harreld.)
As you can see, items 2, 4 and 5 come to us from Harreld, who doesn’t have the best track record with honesty. Unfortunately, because nobody has corroborated the great majority of what Harreld now says about his candidacy, his statements are all we have to go on. We are right not to trust what he says, but we cannot discount what he says out of hand.
Item 1 is based on reasonable supposition about the relationship between Harreld and Stead, and the dynamics in play at the time. Harreld sells two million-dollar homes on the East Cost in 2014, then moves to Colorado where he and his family have old ties, including a relationship with Jerre Stead and his family, which goes back twenty years or more. While Harreld is officially a freelance business consultant at the time, the move has all the hallmarks of retirement, and why would it not? At the time Harreld is sixty-three years old and coming to the end of a successful business career. Unless of course he’s not ready for that career to be over. At the very least he might be willing to listen to a pitch from his old friend Jerre Stead, who, as early as December of 2014, and probably well before that, knows that Iowa President Sally Mason will be retiring in 2015.
Item 3 is factually certain as to the trip and the cost, but in previously looking at the stated motivation for Robillard’s meeting with Stead we found the official explanation wanting. Even if the rationale provided for the meeting proved factually true, however, given the context of the search process at the time, and the stakes involved for both men regarding Harreld’s candidacy, it is unimaginable that Robillard and Stead do not talk about Harreld and the ongoing presidential search when they meet on August 25th.
Taking all that into account, then, let’s defocus a little more and see what pops out.
1) Stead and Harreld talk about the Iowa job.
2) Harreld, Rastetter, Robillard and Matthes meet about the Iowa job at Kirkwood.
3) Robillard and Stead meet about the Iowa job (and other things) in Denver.
4) Harreld voraciously seeks out information about a job he does not want.
5) Harreld unveils the secret Kirkwood meeting as part of his new origin story.
The first three items all involve, to some degree, conversations about the presidential search at Iowa. While we don’t know if item 1 takes place electronically or face to face, it’s clear that the conversations which take place at Kirkwood and in Denver are in person. We could guess whether item 1 takes place face to face — and we will — but for now we’ll put supposition on hold and look around for more facts. Specifically, we’ll look for more face-to-face meetings between the key players, and of course we already know of several. We didn’t include them in the list of mysteries because they seem self-evident as to purpose, and they’ve been corroborated by at least two people, but if all we’re looking for is face-to-face meetings we’ve got them.
Here are three known, corroborated, in-person meetings (A, B and C) added to our list, also in chronological order, with dates in parentheses:
1) Stead and Harreld talk about the Iowa job. (Before ‘late spring’.)
2) Harreld, Rastetter, Robillard and Matthes meet about the Iowa job at Kirkwood. (‘Early June’.)
A) Harreld, Rastetter, Robillard, two other members of the search committee (Gardial and Bohannan), and forty or so hospital administrators meet and mingle at UIHC. (July 8th.)
B) Harreld meets with four regents — Mulholland, Dakovitch, Andringa and McKibben — at Regents President Bruce Rastetter’s place of business in Ames, before dining that evening with ISU President Steven Leath. (July 30th.)
C) Harreld, Stead, Rastetter, Robillard, Matthes and the remainder of the search committee are all on the premises and in the room for Harreld’s “airport interview” in Chicago. (August 12th.)
3) Robillard and Stead meet about the Iowa job (and other things) in Denver. (August 25th.)
4) Harreld voraciously seeks out information about a job he does not want. (Continuous.)
5) Harreld unveils secret Kirkwood meeting as part of new origin story. (October 31st.)
So from the Kirkwood meeting in ‘early June’ until Robillard jets off to see Stead on August 25th, we’ve got five face-to-face meetings which have something to do with Harreld’s candidacy for president. One of those meetings, Harreld’s airport interview, is compulsory, but still — all of those people are in the same room at the same time, and have the opportunity to speak to each other at multiple times during that stay. The other four meetings are all elective, and all face to face, even if we don’t know what was said.
In pulling back and broadly looking at what we know, we now have four elective meetings during the search and selection process, each of which had at least something to do with Harreld’s candidacy, and three of those meetings (Kirkwood, UIHC and Ames) have no analogue with regard to any other candidate in the search process. So those three meetings not only confirm the preferential treatment that Harreld received during the search, but make it clear that telephonic or electronic communication — which could have easily facilitated any of those conversations — was insufficient. In those three instances, as was also the case with Robillard’s $10K trip to see Stead in Denver, it was important to those individuals that they be in the same physical location at the same time.
Even if we don’t know what people were talking about at any given meeting, we have this pattern over time, like tracks that we can follow. Were it consistent across all candidates, or even the nine semi-finalists or four finalists, Harreld’s meeting tracks would simply be one set among many, but again, that’s not the case. Those particular tracks stand out for their uniqueness, their secrecy at the time (2, B and 5) and because the same people are present again and again. And the only candidate those tracks lead to is J. Bruce Harreld.
Which in turn leads us all the way back to item 1 — the initial conversation between Jerre Stead and J. Bruce Harreld about the Iowa job. We believe such a conversation took place, we have good reason for our belief, but we don’t know when it occurred or how it occurred. What we can say, looking at all the other tracks, is that all of those key interactions took place in person, face to face. Given their close proximity in Denver, their long personal history, the magnitude of the decision facing Harreld if he decides to run, or even initially just to look into the Iowa job, it makes sense that at least one face-to-face meeting took place between those two men prior to Harreld’s name being put in play.
Signal and Noise
Acknowledging our assumptions and suspicions, we now have six face-to-face meetings which begin with Stead floating the idea of the Iowa job to Harreld at some point prior to ‘late spring’, and end with Robillard’s half-day $10K flight to meet with Stead in Denver in late August. In between, Stead comes and goes (he was supposed to attend the Kirkwood meeting, but backed out at the last minute), Rastetter comes and goes (he set up the regent meetings, but did not attend), and Harreld is present more often than not (we don’t know if he met with Stead and Robillard on August 25th).
As noted, however, one problem with what we think we know is that a great deal of it comes from J. Bruce Harreld himself. In terms of details about his candidacy, and particularly about his mindset at the time, we have little or nothing to go on other than Harreld’s own word. While that limits the amount of information we have to work with, and we have already acknowledged that Harreld’s veracity is sketchy at best, the very fact that we’re only hearing from one voice means our perspective is also biased. We know there were other people involved in Harreld’s fraudulent hire, and we know three of them were in the room with Harreld during the Kirkwood meeting, but because we don’t have those people on the record their presence in our mind is diminished — which is of course why they’re all keeping their mouths shut.
In storytelling terms it’s as if the narrative we have is first-person, allowing us little insight into the lives of the other characters. We know that Rastetter, Robillard and Matthes are in the room with Harreld at Kirkwood, and Harreld relates some dialogue they supposedly said, but even at that they’re little more than cutouts — placeholders which function to bring Harreld to life, rather than to enlighten us about those men. And yet I think it is still possible to know things about those men that Harreld did not include in the most recent narrative about his candidacy. In fact, as we add in those missing aspects of Harreld’s origin story, take note in your mind of how the narrative focus on Harreld shifts, and he no longer dominates the stage.
To begin, regarding the six meetings we’re now talking about we can extrapolate a certain amount of conversation and communication prior to and subsequent to each meeting. Ideas and issues pop up, clarifications need to be made, conclusions need to be reached, schemes need to plotted before they can be hatched, etc. So whatever else is going on with those six face-to-face meetings, there is also a lot of electronic conversation going on around them. Which of course also gives us increased visibility to the phone calls and emails which occurred regarding other aspects of the clandestine search-within-a-search that led to Harreld’s hire.
As you might imagine, all of those face-to-face meetings also took time, including travel, and all of the conversing before and after also took time, even via cellphones and other modern communication technologies. Which brings us to the question of scheduling, and how among the five main players — Harreld, Stead, Rastetter, Robillard and Matthes — it is our unreliable first-person narrator, J. Bruce Harreld, who clearly has the most free time on his hands. Yes, he swears he was busy doing all kinds of things for various clients, but he also mentions spending time with his family, so we can infer that he was at least semi-retired.
As president of the Iowa Board of Regents, and as Governor Branstad’s ‘kingmaker’, Rastetter is wall-to-wall busy from the moment he gets up until three hours after he falls asleep. Likewise, as CEO of a large and successful company, Jerre Stead is so busy that Jean Robillard was forced — forced — to blow $10K on an impromptu trip to Denver when a “window” suddenly opened up in Stead’s “pretty impossible” schedule. As for Robillard himself, when he’s not chairing the search committee, as he was then, and not acting as interim president, as he was from August 1st to November 2nd, he is on perpetual call as the vice president for medical affairs at UIHC. And of course we can’t forget Peter Matthes, who as of this writing still somehow has a full-time administrative job at the University of Iowa, which was probably exhausting even before the press figured out that his responsibilities include managing rigged, no-bid contracts for political cronies.
No matter how busy Harreld was or was not at the time of the Kirkwood meeting, imagine the logistics involved in planning a get-together between Jerre Stead, Jean Robillard and Bruce Rastetter. We can assume that Matthes shows up when and where he’s told, and that Harreld can move things around in his quasi-retired freelance life, but putting Stead, Robillard and Rastetter in the same room in ‘early June’, even assuming that classes are out at the state’s three universities and things have died down a little, is going to be a nightmare. So simply on a percentage basis it’s probably not surprising that Stead doesn’t actually make it, while getting Rastetter and Robillard in the same room at the same time is quite an accomplishment.
Fortunately, Stead, Rastetter and Robillard each come with their own scheduling apparatus, support staff, satellite uplinks, and other counterbalancing assets. Matthes is himself the visible tip of an iceberg devoted to keeping Robillard running on time, probably with daily itineraries that are updated throughout the day. Rastetter has an entire staff at the Board of Regents to look out for him, which, even at that very moment, he is making more to his liking in a bureuacratic purge. And of course Stead is at the epicenter of so many deals that he must have levels of support standing by, from a few trusted confidants to a phalanx of foot soldiers.
Too, because of their long shared histories, Stead, Robillard and Rastetter are not simply familiar with each other or used to doing business with each other, as the Harreld hire attests they clearly share a vision of the future. As three figures with long ties to the state and the university, there may not be three more influential individuals when it comes to administering the school. While they operate in different spheres, those spheres overlap, often to a great degree, as their central roles in the Harreld hire again clearly demonstrate.
Which means there’s something else we need to take note of in all this, and that’s the fact that among all the players, every single one of them is a long-time insider, except for J. Bruce Harreld. While the narrative of J. Bruce Harreld’s fraudulent hire is almost entirely focused on him because he’s the only one talking, the mechanism of that fraud is deeply rooted in individuals with long-standing ties to the state. Harreld, as a carpetbagger, can at best only claim friendship with Stead, or to having once met Governor Branstad in the 1400’s, during one of Branstad’s early terms.
Finally, one more thing we know about the mechanism — the machine — that is at that time gearing up to elect the next president at the University of Iowa, is that it has no interest in going through what it just went through with Sally Mason. After treating her like dirt and embarrassing her at every turn, including refusing to give her a contract while lying about the basis for that refusal, they finally got her to retire. Now, whatever else happens, the co-conspirators at the Iowa Board of Regents and in administration at the University of Iowa, are determined to hire someone who will play ball — right down to taking strikes, bunting, and even leaning into the occasional fastball if it helps the team.
The Role of a Lifetime
Whatever Harreld is thinking or not thinking at whatever moment he first learns of the Iowa job, the machine that will propel him to victory in early September has been anticipating that glorious day for months if not years. As the AAUP report alludes, Harreld is not so much applying for a job as he is filling a role that has already been defined by Stead, Rastetter, Robillard and others — that of the transformational visionary who will save the University of Iowa from the dreaded status quo. (Those themes — the scourge of the status quo, and transformational change — are two sides of the same weary shtick that Rastetter and his crew had been peddling for at least a year.)
When the search committee is officially formed on 02/25/15, there will be several months before it begins to screen candidates, but that doesn’t mean individual members are not already thinking about people who might be right for the job. In that context, whenever Jerre Stead approaches Harreld about the idea of running for president at Iowa, there’s nothing wrong with him doing so. It doesn’t matter if that happens in early spring, late winter, before the committee is formed, or even at the end of 2014. (What does matter is whether Harreld and Stead come to any agreement about Harreld’s candidacy, and whether Stead abets Harreld’s run in ways that are not made available to other candidates.)
We assume that at some point Stead initially mentions the Iowa job to Harreld, and they kick the idea around during a face to face meeting. So what next? Well, according to the twin themes of Harreld’s most recent origin story, for months on end he simultaneously sucks up every available morsel of information about the position (while somehow ending up woefully uninformed and unprepared for his open forum on Septembers 1st), yet has absolutely no interest in the job until very late in the search process, meaning August at the earliest. As previously noted, those two claims don’t make much sense independently, and make no sense in combination. When contrasted with the bureaucratic machine that is toiling away behind the scenes, waiting for its chance to jam a friendly candidate into office, however, those two claims are rendered utterly laughable.
As to the first claim, that Harreld remained uncommitted until, literally, the morning of the final regent interviews and vote, think about what we’ve just said about Stead, Rastetter and Robillard. Now try to imagine any of those men, let alone all three of those men, putting up with a prima donna like Harreld, or waiting more than two minutes for another human being to make up their mind about anything. Because you cannot do it — and that’s apart from any imperatives inherent in orchestrating a fraudulent election.
These are not men who take maybe for an answer. They’ve been pushing human pawns around on bureaucratic chessboards their whole lives, and they know if they can’t get one pawn to do what they want it’s just easier to get another pawn. So very early in the search process, as soon as Harreld allows that he might consider the job, those men are going to explain to Harreld that he’s either in or out, and once he’s in, he’s in all the way. There isn’t going to be any hemming or hawing or pussy-footing around, because those men and the machinery they command are not going to put their muscle behind anything other than a sure thing. After the election they won’t care if Harreld tells everyone he played hard to get or was completely disinterested until the eleventh hour, but he’s not telling them anything other than yes or no.
Which brings us to the idea that Harreld was voraciously consuming any and all information about a job he did not want. That particular lie is necessary to cover for the egregiously bad judgment Rastetter showed in providing Harreld with face-to-face meetings with four regents, at his own place of business no less. In Harreld’s latest origin story he now says he specifically asked to meet with “at least four regents”, which miraculously fits with what Rastetter provided to Harreld, and only to Harreld. But that’s only the start of what’s wrong with Harreld’s claim that he was insatiable about gathering information.
Given how miserably uninformed Harreld was about the university at the end of August, and how many phone calls and emails he could have sent as a result of his insatiable desire for information, it’s hard to imagine that Harreld could not have learned everything he wanted to learn as a matter of simple inquiry. Regarding the Kirkwood meeting, why did that necessitate two (originally three) very busy men getting together to meet with Harreld, when by his own testimony Harreld was absolutely not interested in the job? Do Rastetter, Robillard or Stead take time out of their busy days to beg anyone to do anything, let alone to help indecisive semi-retirees decide if they want to be paid $4,000,000 over five years for pretending to be a university president? No, and no. (The idea that Jerre Stead takes time out of his “pretty impossible” schedule to get Robillard, Rastetter and Matthes together, for a meeting that Stead originally planned to attend himself, just so Harreld can “help them with their search”, is also utterly laughable — as is the idea that they’re all getting together so Harreld can decide whether he is comfortable with them.)
If Harreld had questions for any of those people, he could have called them, or better yet called their staff. Face time with Stead, Robillard and Rastetter is expensive, and those men are used to getting their money’s worth every minute of every day. Spending three or four hours in a conference room with J. Bruce Harreld, who has no interest in applying for the opening at Iowa, and who will remain indecisive until the last possible minute — at least according to Harreld’s own narrative — promises exactly zero return on that invested time.
Rastetter, Robillard and Stead are too old and too powerful to waste any time on someone who isn’t ready to roll. In fact, we can apply that standard to the initiating act in Harreld’s current origin story, which has Rastetter calling Harreld. In Harreld’s telling, he turns Rastetter down flatly, at which point Rastetter somehow knows to ask Stead to beg Harreld to meet at Kirkwood. In reality, if J. Bruce Harreld took a cold call from Bruce Rastetter, and flatly told Rastetter that he was not interested in the job, that’s the end of Rastter wasting his time on Harreld. And that’s true even if the Harreld recommendation came from Stead personally.
So what’s really going on when Harreld meets Rastetter, Robillard and Matthes in a meeting room at Kirkwood? The answer is that Harreld is auditioning. He’s an actor-applicant, and Rastetter, Robillard and, Matthes, and the four regents that Harreld meets later, are all casting a $4,000,000 role.
When Harreld meets with those three men at Kirkwood he’s not helping them with their search or seeking information, he’s passing muster, beginning the step-by-step process of generating buy-in from the only stakeholders that really matter. When Harreld passes that test he gets an invite to campus on July 8th, where he ‘presents’ to the administrators at UIHC. Having met him and listened to him talk transformational nuts and bolts, or at least buzzwords and doublespeak, on July 8th Rastetter and Robillard stand Harreld up in front of a live audience to see if he can sing the transformational songs they’ve written. As time passes Harreld auditions for others, moving deeper and deeper into the belly of the beast, until, in mid-to-late August, he finally receives a phone call from impresario Branstad.
Meet the Regents
Either at the face-to-face meeting at Kirkwood, or at the July 8th “VIP Lunch” — where Rastetter, Robillard and Harreld collectively conspire to keep Gardial and Bohannan in the dark about Harreld’s status as a candidate — Rastetter is finally sold. So much so that he subsequently sets up the regents interviews, assuring Harreld a five-vote majority on the board if Harreld is one of the four finalists. No other candidate gets that kind of preferential treatment, and no other candidate gets that kind of access, but then at that point no other candidate has a chance in hell of actually winning the election.
So what’s really happening when Harreld meets with the four regents at Rastetter’s business in Ames, on July 30th? And why meet with two of them, then, a short while later, another two? Harreld’s version of events is that he demanded to meet with “at least four regents”, but by now it should be clear that Harreld was in no position to demand anything. Instead, Harreld is once again auditioning.
One day before applications are due for a job posting that will also, somehow, remain open until the position is filled, Harreld has still not submitted his application and resume to Parker Executive Search — even though he has already made three separate trips to Iowa, including one with his wife. Yet just prior to meeting with the four regents, Harreld does submit his resume to Rastetter. From the Gazette on 09/24/15:
If, as Harreld asserts, he demanded to meet with four regents as part of his insatiable desire to perform exhaustive due diligence, why is he forwarding his resume? Rastetter confirms that Harreld demanded those meetings, and as such could have and would have simply told the four regents to give Harreld any information he requested, yet that’s not what happens. What happens is that Harreld submits his resume to Rastetter, to be passed along to the four regents in advance of their meetings, which doesn’t make sense until you realize that on that day Harreld is meeting with the only committee that matters.
Not only is Harreld getting face time with three of Rastetter’s hardliners at the regents (Mulholland, Dokavitch and McKibben — Andringa was appointed only weeks before), but Mulholland in particular is not given to trifling with university presidents, so she’s certainly not traveling to Ames to be interrogated by an indifferent candidate. In fact, here’s the regents’ resident scold taking President Sally Mason to opportunistic task , in an email about a controversial comment Mason made regarding campus sexual assault:
Does that sound like someone who would travel to Ames to sit down with Harreld and help him figure out his late-life hero’s journey? No, that sounds like someone who doesn’t take prisoners. So after hearing wonderful things from Rastetter for who knows how long, what Mulholland and other three regents who meet with Harreld on July 30th want to know is whether he can walk and chew gum at the same time. Does he share their world view, which is that there are special people who get to make decisions for everybody else, and those special people are allowed to make those decisions behind closed doors, without ever acknowledging what they did or taking responsibility for their actions? Or is Harreld one of those outmoded status quo types, paralyzed by fealty to fairness, honesty and transparency? Does Harreld believe in radical concepts like shared governance, or does he see the wiser path of doing whatever the regents tell him to do? And of course, at a minimum, will Harreld make them look like geniuses or idiots if they give him the job? (Such a good question.)
What Could Be Worse?
Whether you find all of that loony or think some of it makes sense, at the very least we have worked our way through the first four items on the list of things that bug me about the Harreld hire, leaving only the last issue to resolve. And I have to admit that for a long time the question of why Harreld gave up the Kirkwood meeting had me stumped, because again I was looking at the issue too closely. So let’s defocus our lens even more, and look at that question as nothing more than a rhetorical blur.
Why do you voluntarily confess to the secret Kirkwood meeting when you not only have every confidence that no one in attendance will rat you out, but you know doing so will destroy both your own credibility and that of several of your co-conspirators? And the only answer I can come up with is because doing so keeps people from asking questions that will lead to something worse. No matter how bad the hit is from revealing the Kirkwood meeting, it’s nothing compared to what might happen if some other secret became known. Which of course raises an obvious question. What could be worse?
Well, let’s look at the Kirkwood meeting in the context of Harreld’s latest origin story, including the twin contradictory themes of voraciously seeking out information for a job he absolutely did not want. In acknowledging all that — whether true or not — Harreld accomplishes two goals. First, by insisting he had no interest in the job until the last possible moment, Harreld makes it impossible for anyone to claim that there was a done deal early on. People can say what they want about him, but they can’t claim he was all-in from the get-go. Second, by insisting that he was voraciously consuming all available information about the job, he also insulates the machine — the co-conspirators — from the same charge. The meeting at Kirkwood, the meeting with the regents, the phone call from the governor, even the “VIP Lunch” – those aren’t all key cogs in the machine giving Harreld preferential treatment, step by step, as part of a conspiracy to defraud the taxpayers of Iowa, that’s just Harreld being obsessive about due diligence.
So what’s the total damage for establishing those two legally important positions, which are designed to keep people out of court, if not out of prison? Well, Jerre Stead takes a hit for lying to the press about when he first knew that Harreld was a potential applicant, but that’s not so bad. At seventy-plus years old, if things get dicey, Jerre can just say he was confused, and because everybody wants his money they’ll believe him. Robillard takes multiple hits for his assertion that Harreld wasn’t a candidate at the time of the July 8th “VIP Lunch”, but Robillard is also getting up there in age, and probably knows twenty doctors who will swear he’s got early-onset Alzheimer’s if it will keep him out of jail. As for Harreld, he takes a hit for saying that Mitch Daniels was the person who introduced him to the search committee, but unless that’s on video nobody’s going to remember. (Oh, wait.)
So yes, those men are exposed as liars, but hey — who doesn’t lie? I mean, it’s not like they ripped off the taxpayers of Iowa to the tune of $300,000+, then conspired to cover that up, which would obviously be a criminal offense. No, the most they’re guilty of are exactly the kind of gutter-trash bureaucratic tactics we’ve all come to expect from political cronies in positions of power. And yet…if there wasn’t something worse, would Harreld give all that up?
My answer, after thinking about it for the past month and a half, is no. There’s no way Harreld dumps that chamber pot on his own head if he doesn’t have to. Not with his ego. So what could be worse than holing up in a conference room in ‘early June’ with Rastetter, Robillard and Matthes — and Stead, if he’d bothered to show up? Well, let’s look again at the first two items in the alpha-numeric origin story that we’ve pieced together so far:
1) Stead and Harreld talk about the Iowa job. (Prior to ‘late spring’.)
2) Harreld, Rastetter, Robillard and Matthes meet about the Iowa job at Kirkwood. (‘Early June’.)
It’s assumed that Stead, Rastetter, Robillard, and perhaps Matthes and others, have talked endlessly about replacing Sally Mason, but until Harreld joins the picture we do not have the conspiracy that leads to his hire. So by definition there can’t be anything to hide prior to whenever Stead first approaches Harreld about auditioning for the starring role. Yet the very next event in the timeline is the Kirkwood meeting, which Harreld decides to disclose even though it exacts a grievous credibility toll among the co-conspriators. It may well keep some people out of prison, but it does damage.
In looking at the consistency of the tracks that lead to Harreld’s fraudulent hire, and the criteria we established for those tracks — meaning chiefly that these people seem to prefer getting together in person to hash things out — it seems odd that we make a leap from Harreld and Stead talking about the job, to Harreld meeting in person with Rastetter, Robillard and Matthes at Kirkwood. Because before Harreld arrives in Iowa in ‘early June’, at some point the key cogs in the machine had to decide that he was worth the time and trouble. That he wasn’t just a candidate for president, but could be the candidate for president. And I don’t see that conversation happening over the phone.
So the most obvious answer I can come up with, as to why Harreld discloses the Kirkwood meeting the weekend before taking office, is that there’s another meeting — a missing meeting — that we don’t know anything about. A meeting ‘X’, which doesn’t involve Harreld, because the Kirkwood meeting is Harreld’s first face-to-face interaction with his key co-conspirators.
1) Stead and Harreld talk about the Iowa job. (Before ‘late spring’.)
X) The key players have a face-to-face meeting where they scheme and toss out names, including J. Bruce Harreld.
2) Harreld, Rastetter, Robillard and Matthes meet about the Iowa job at Kirkwood. (‘Early June’.)
That missing meeting ‘X’ is when the small group of powerbrokers — men who have known each other for decades, who believe they are entitled to choose the next president at the University of Iowa – actually decide how they’re going to get what they want, and who they want. It’s the meeting where a specific plan is formulated and put into motion. The meeting where they themselves commit, and where Harreld’s name is put into serious play.
The Missing Meeting
Assuming for the sake of argument that such a meeting did take place, the obvious questions are: who attended, when did they meet, and where did they meet?
The who is pretty straightforward. Rastetetter, Robillard and Stead, and maybe Matthes depending on his pay grade at the time, all get together to hash out how they’re going to put their candidate in office. Maybe others are in attendance, and Harreld is certainly discussed, but Harreld himself is not present.
As to when, such a meeting could have taken place as early as the end of 2014, but it makes more sense that it occurs after the search committee is announced on 02/25/15, because only then do the co-conspirators know what they actually have to work with. That doesn’t mean Stead and Harreld haven’t talked earlier, perhaps much earlier, or that it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that the search itself would be sham — just that an earlier meeting would necessarily be less productive, and I don’t think these guys talk just to hear the sound of their own voice. (That’s Harreld’s thing.)
With the Kirkwood meeting happening in ‘early June’, at the latest we’re looking at May for a sit-down between Stead, Rastetter, Robillard and anyone else. On that point, however, we may have gotten lucky, because as ‘TV’ noted in the comments on 10/13/15, Jean Robillard actually says something improbably prescient in early May. From the Press-Citizen on 05/08/15:
Now, in retrospect I think you’ll agree that Robillard’s comment is quite an amazing feat of prognostication. Where all kinds of non-traditional candidates became viable as a result of changing the word ‘required’ to ‘preferred’, Robillard’s example concerns a businessman with no prior experience in academic administration, who has no ties to the state, and no experience in the public sector. I mean, apart from the fact that J. Bruce Harreld was never a CEO, in early May the chair of the search committee, who will be meeting Harreld in person in a few weeks at Kirkwood, is pretty much predicting the professional background of the long shot candidate who will, four months later, become the next president at the University of Iowa.
Of course one possible explanation for how uncanny Robillard’s offhand comment turned out to be is that it’s not an offhand comment at all. Instead, it’s a remark informed by prior conversations in which Harreld’s name has been put into play not simply as a candidate, but the candidate — someone who will be loyal to the machine, but whose non-traditional background requires telegraphing the machine’s interests, as was also done with the softening of the requirements for the position.
So when does that watering-down take place at the committee level? Well, the same P-C articles notes that the position description was finalized the day before, on Thursday, May 7th. On May 8th the committee meets with Parker Executive Search, at which point the position description is approved. So again, at some point prior to early May — meaning in all likelihood April, or perhaps March — the decision is made to leave the door open for a candidate like Harreld. Or, specifically, for Harreld himself.
As to where such a meeting might take place, the obvious answer would be Denver, but I think that’s wrong for two reasons, which we’ll get to in a moment. What we do know, beyond any doubt, is that these guys — Stead, Rastetter and Robillard — get around, often on private jets. (In a prior post I thought Rastetter only owned or leased a turboprop, but I now believe he has access to a jet — perhaps a Raytheon/Hawker 400 or variant.)
In Vanessa Miller’s report in the Gazette on 12/10/15, concerning presidential travel expenses at the University of Iowa in 2015, she specifically flags two of Robillard’s trips:
Now, obviously Jerre Stead’s company is in Denver, so maybe Robillard visited him in person during that late June stop. Then again, if you’ve been reading coverage about the Harreld hire, you know that Stead also spends part of the year in Scottsdale, Arizona. How far is Scottsdale from Phoenix? Well, consulting Google Maps, we find that they are approximately 13.5 miles apart from city center to city center, but in fact they abut. Meaning visiting Phoenix from anywhere outside Phoenix is visiting Scottsdale.
So if Jerre Stead is in Scottsdale in early March, Robillard can also meet him there during that stop — on the university’s dime, no less. And if Stead is then in Denver in late June, he can also meet with him there, again at no personal expense. Sure, those trips are documented by an expense trail, but who’s to say what was discussed, or who else might have been in the room? And of course if there’s a Robillard meeting with Stead and Rastetter in March or April, which does not show up on the university’s books, well that would be even more interesting.
So why would Jerre Stead be in Scottsdale in March, but Denver in June? Well, the first reason is that he seems to have maintained two residences for quite some time, overwintering in Arizona, then moving north when the weather clears. The second and more substantive reason is that in June of 2015, Jerre Stead again names himself CEO of IHS in Denver, after having stepped away from that role in 2013.
When Harreld Signed On
So if we’re looking for a face-to-face meeting between Stead, Rastetter and Robillard, in April or maybe even March, I think we’re looking for that meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona. And that’s particularly true if it’s not on the books, as part of the regular outreach that Robillard and Rastetter conduct in order to secure donations. Even if there is such a meeting, however, getting at what transpired would obviously require investigatory authority — assuming none of those men screwed up and actually blabbed about their participation — but still, it would be interesting if such a meeting took place, because it would reveal just how self-serving and disingenuous Harreld’s latest origin story really is.
Yes, the previously secret Kirkwood meeting was almost certainly Harreld’s first trip to the state, and his first meeting with anyone other than Stead, but that doesn’t mean Harreld was necessarily undecided about applying for the job at the time. He may not have filled out the paperwork until the last minute, but in meeting with Rastetter, Robillard and Matthes in ‘early June’ he was clearly auditioning for the role. In fact, it’s possible if not probable that Rastetter and Robillard insisted on assurances from Harreld that he would commit if he passed muster, because again I don’t think those guys take a lot of meetings where the outcome is maybe.
So how can we know what Harreld’s actual mindset was at the time? Well, I think that goes back to how he arrived in Iowa for the Kirkwood meeting, as well as the other four trips he made to the Midwest in conjunction with the search. If Harreld flew commercial for any or all of those trips, we’re out of luck. But if he did fly on private jets for any or all of those meetings, then I think we may be able to figure out when Harreld himself actually committed to the conspiracy.
If Harreld arrives for the Kirkwood meeting in ‘early June’ on a chartered business jet, and Stead paid for that trip, then I think Harreld is still on the fence, even if he’s given personal assurances to Stead. What we also know if Stead paid the freight on that trip, or any of the other four trips that Harreld took in conjunction with the search, is that search committee member Stead not only arranged a private meeting for Harreld with the president of the board or regents and the chair of his own search committee, but he put a pretty penny into doing so. And as Stead himself has said, he doesn’t just give money away to give, he invests.
On the other hand, if Harreld paid for a private jet to that meeting — a meeting he did not want to take, regarding a job he did not want to apply for — then I think he’s already on board. Because otherwise I have to imagine that Harreld is taking five or ten ground out of his own pocket and throwing it in the toilet because Jerre Stead asked him for a favor, and I don’t see that happening. So starting with the Kirkwood trip, and working through the other four flights, as soon as J. Bruce Harreld picks up the tab for any chartered jets, that’s when he has become part of the machine that will elect him in early September.
This post is spot on.
To elaborate, there are interesting parallels at the Iowa Regents Institutions.
Q: What is the best way to become an academic administrator?
A: Not how you think, but working way up the academe ladder. You lobby for the GOP it seems.
1. Iowa State Chief of Staff, Miles Lackey worked for Eliz Dole, then worked at Univ N Carolina as a lobbyist before becoming ISU CofS.
2. Iowa Chief of Staff, Peter Matthes, was on staff for Jim Leach, then spent 8 years on the staff of the Iowa Republican Caucus. He was appointed Asst VP for Iowa and Dir of Federal Relations. Now he is VP for External Relations at U Iowa.
3. Mark Braun, who is now some big for the Iowa Board of Regents (240,000 a year) (COO) while remaining at the U of Iowa as TIER director or something. Braun was also on the Iowa Republican Caucus.
Matthes was involved in the J Bruce Harreld off-campus (under radar) meetings, as well as the recent redirection of over 300,000 from U Iowa to a GOP booster. http://www.thegazette.com/subject/opinion/guest-columnists/pennies-pounds-and-university-of-iowa-leadership-20151223 http://qctimes.com/news/opinion/editorial/editorial-university-of-iowa-stinks-of-cronyism/article_688c8d3a-f59a-5c81-b423-7d439c322f1d.html
Braun is apparently running the BOR adminstration (at least it appears that way as Rastetter remakes the BOR) making over 100,000 more than the poor schmuch who has the official appt. http://www.press-citizen.com/story/news/education/university-of-iowa/2015/07/30/regents-name-uis-braun-newly-created-job/30895363/ http://www.press-citizen.com/story/news/education/university-of-iowa/2014/08/21/regents-name-mark-braun-transformation-project-manager/14386003/
4. Warren is VP at ISU, GOP donor, whose name pops up in GOP circles. http://www.dmcityview.com/civic-skinny/2013/09/18/runge-neu-and-madden-leaving-ipr-board/
Q: Who or what is directing this GOP takeover of public education.
A: Maybe not GOP, but more like ALEC. http://www.occasionalplanet.org/2013/03/22/alecs-real-goals-destroy-medicare-medicaid-osha-epa-and-head-start/ ALEC (supported by Terry Branstad) is dedicated to a number of things, one of which is the privatization (exploitation) of public education including college. http://billmoyers.com/2013/05/30/alec-update/ http://www.alec.org/legislation-tags/higher-education/
ALEC would also like conservative groups to influence young hearts and minds at colleges. God knows places like ‘the Peoples Republic of Johnson Co, Iowa” has been annoying neocons for decades. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/mar/23/conservative-professors-winning-legal-battles-but-/?page=all
Q: How does one become President at the University of Iowa (see above). Also not how you think by working your way up the academic ladder. You apparently become ingratiated with the Iowa BOR head, Bruce Rastetter (who is Iowa Gov Terry Branstads largest donor) and a huge conservative supporter (best friend Nick Ryan – head of the American Future Fund, knows Karl Rove, and the Kochs http://www.politico.com/story/2015/03/bruce-rastetter-iowa-2016-election-115677) and other GOP operatives on the BOR. You get Univ Iowa insiders like Peter Mattes to guide your path under the radar and outside the process, also apparently impressing the boss at the UIHC with ?promises of buddy donations?
And it doesn’t hurt to also be a GOP supporter, which is now important for academic success in Iowa, as well as important for success in non-bid contracts.
So what deals and promises were made to be president?
Thank you for the pointer to Mark Braun. I didn’t understand his role at the Board of Regents, but as you point out it’s interesting that he’s making a great deal more than the ‘boss’ Donley.
Yet another example of this crew simply inventing a job for someone they want to keep on the crony payroll.
At every juncture, from Rastetter at the peak, to Braun, to rank-and-file henchmen like Matthes, you see them putting people in positions of control, where state money can be directed to loyal parties. The same bit with Paulsen at ISU, where they actually invented a supply chain job for him so he could dole out money.
Update: So this is interesting about Braun….
From an 08/21/14, Board of Regents press release:
On 06/30/15 the move to the board becomes permanent, which, as you pointed out, comes with a massive salary bump considerably higher that CEO Donley. But back in 2014, when Braun is working at the university, he has the same job that Peter “Crony Contract” Matthes has now.
And yet the first of those no-bid crony contracts was “issued in the spring of 2013“, so does that mean Braun was the original ‘manager’ for that crony deal? Or did Matthes originate that deal in some other capacity?
In any case, I’m with the QCT editorial board on this:
Braun has a long history of working at the university and for higher education in the state, and I’d like to think that he’s not simply another stooge. But given what he’s getting paid, and his history, and the sorry crowd he’s running with, I think everyone has to be looked at closely, and if necessary, terminated.
Another excellent episode. Thorough work and thought. Perhaps a candidate for the next Serial podcast. Heh.
Thought: the Robillard-Chairing-of-the-Search -Committee has always seemed strange. The only thing more strange was appointing him interim president. This makes no sense in the wide lense and the only explanation I can think of is that he was the prime wide-eyed puppy dog to follow Rastetter around. Sad, really.
The survey sent to employees early on in the process also indicated a clear agenda. There is no doubt this was orchestrated.
I’m still not convinced there’s criminal fraud here yet. Deceit, lies, classic mansplaining, generally uncool and just plain wrong, yes. Power structure screws people over, day in and day out pushing legal boundaries.
Thanks for bringing respect back to due diligence.
Given the facts available at this moment in time, I think reasonable people can disagree about whether criminal fraud was committed. What I see as $300,000 in state funds being flushed down the toilet to provide the appearance of a fair search that was anything but, you see as business as usual — and honestly, based on other recent disclosures (Mathis, Paulsen) I can’t argue that you’re wrong.
In order to determine whether that $300,000+ expenditure meets the test of criminal fraud, the appropriate statue would have to be cited, and evidence would have to be offered that the statute was violated. In order to do that, however, you would first have to have an investigation, and that’s where I have a real problem with how this has been handled.
If you have evidence that something was wrong during the search, it seems to me that you’re obligated to look into that. Whether that’s the Iowa Attorney General’s job or the state legislature I don’t know, but the fact that nobody — and I mean NOBODY — in state government has said anything about the shockingly obvious improprieties involved in this hire is as big a scandal as the hire itself.
The more time passes, the more records are lost or erased, memories fade or at least seem to fade, and it gets harder and harder to see justice done. And honestly I think that’s what everyone wants — to just run out the clock, look the other way and give Harreld is four million bucks. I don’t know why there seems to be unanimity on that point, but it makes me think that the entire apparatus of government in the state is corrupt.
If one can prove that a public institution, which uses federal funds did not adhere to federal guidelines in the important (the most important) search for President, one of which includes the Equal Opportunity laws than it may be criminal fraud. http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/
The U of Iowa is an equal opportunity employer (it takes federal funds) http://diversity.uiowa.edu/creating-requisitionrecruitment-plan
It may be complicated, but if the process is grossly violated with a sham search I doubt that meets EEO guidelines; like the non-bid processes are likely also not legal.
Hello. At the three universities, employees are all required by state law to conduct open, fair searches for positions (unless they are pre-approved in certain cases). If the employees do not, they VIOLATE the law. The UI presidential search was not fair and not open, and therefore, violated the law governing the hiring of this position. The fraud perpetrated on the other candidates, which involved them spending money and the UI spending money for no reason as it turned out, also violates laws, e.g. financial ones. It is all black and white.
The search was not conducted by The University of Iowa nor by any of its employees.
You’re right that the Board of Regents ran the search and made the hire. As we’ve discussed before, however, once the BoR decided not to simply hire whoever they wanted — as they had a right to do — then I agree with Dana that they were obligated to meet whatever basic standards of hiring fairness apply to any position in state government.
I don’t know what the specific rules are, but I can’t imagine that you’re allowed to conduct a search the way the Harreld search was conducted. Yes, I know such abuses happen all the time, but so do lots of crimes, most of which are investigated, and if there is sufficient evidence, prosecuted.
Even if we allow that the BoR set up up unique guidelines, and that they had the right to do that, they then administratively violated their own guidelines in order to hire Harreld. If you’re going to conduct a fair search — which Rastetter currently asserts was done, meaning he accepts that he had that obligation — you cannot give one candidate blatantly preferential treatment that no other candidates receive.
Specifically, if you set up a hiring process in which four finalists will be voted on by the board, but you give one finalist face-to-face meetings with four regents — including two who are not even on the search committee — it is not only not possible to claim that the search was fair, you quite literally tampered with two of the judges.
The other three finalists did not have that advantage, and it’s fair to at least wonder — and investigate — whether that advantage was enough to tip the election in the winner’s favor. Taken in sum with all of the other abuses and improprieties in the search, to say nothing of facts that will only be disclosed in sworn testimony, I believe criminal fraud was perpetrated against the taxpayers of Iowa.
It was clearly sick, wrong, and in violation of principles and likely administrative rules. Even the political makeup of the BoR violates the spirit of the law. I’m just not convinced this was criminal. I would certainly not be sad to find out that it is criminal, since it should be. Justice for Rastetter’s misdeeds would likely prove satisfying. However, it’s not black and white and rarely is when dealing with people like Rastetter, who control the creation of laws and enforcement guidelines regarding administrative rules.
FYI: the State of Iowa, the Board of Regents and the University of Iowa are all the same entity: the official, legal term is that they are “instrumentalities” of the State of Iowa, and therefore the Regents are subject to the same rules and laws (this information is from the chief legal counsel of one of the regents’ institutions).
The UI president serves at the pleasure of the BoR. The BoR has sole authority for the election of an institutional head, as well as rules, procedures, policies for the search, and determining the role of the search committee.
They follow the rules in a technical sense but not the spirit of the rules.
I would welcome more information from a legal perspective on the hiring of JBH. Certainly Bohanan has an opinion on this?
Everyone remain calm.
As adults we should be able to get through this post without lapsing into sophomoric humor or winging anyone. In fact, on that point, and to assuage culture warriors who are determined to call out political correctness in any guise, I want to stress emphatically that no one should construe anything in this post as advocating violence, and that includes anyone reading this post who may be suffering from a mental health disorder which makes it impossible to make such distinctions. (Normally that’s why violent metaphors are avoided by people in positions of leadership, who can’t ever be sure just how their message will be interpreted by each individual, but here at Ditchwalk we refuse to be held hostage by the status quo.)
If you’ve been following the sham appointment of J. Bruce Harreld as president of the University of Iowa, you know that J. Bruce recently had what media types like to call a ‘bad week’. Without going into all the details, you can get a sense of the situation by comparing these two headlines from Google News, which you should not read if you are at this moment drinking any kind of beverage.
Now, as it turns out, after taking a moment to compose himself, Harreld became convinced that he was misquoted about who should be shot. In attempting to set the record straight, he then offered up this quote, which is beyond dispute:
Sensing that he was on to something important, Harreld then followed up with the original complainant, via email:
Whether Harreld is correct about what he now thinks he originally said, or whether he simply imagined a new version to protect his psyche, or he’s flat-out lying to save his own skin, it would be almost impossible to detail everything that’s wrong with Harreld’s response to the staff member who originally contacted him — but we’re going to come close.
To begin, consider that asking someone to do the honorable thing implies that you live by that code yourself, when that is clearly not the case with Harreld. And we know that because not only was he elected by fraud, but he himself abetted that fraud in order to be appointed. Had the search and selection process been fair, and decided on the merits of the actual candidates, out of the four finalists J. Bruce Harreld would have come in last. (As proof that we can all take the high road, note that I did not say ‘dead last’.)
That distinction is important because there is currently a meme floating around that only the Iowa Board of Regents did anything wrong, and that Harreld himself deserves a chance to succeed. While there are certainly plenty of people pushing that meme for duplicitous reasons, the real reason people are giving it consideration at all is that there is simply no mechanism by which a falsely elected president can be kicked out of office. Everyone knows that the election was not fair, yet Harreld still gets to keep his job, $4,000,000 over five years, plus free housing and a crack staff to clean up after his media accidents. In the absence of any justice, like hostages with Stockholm Syndrome, Iowa stakeholders are left to rationalize the injustice of Harreld’s presidency in order to prevent their own psychic collapse.
Speaking of which, I cannot tell you how appalling it was to read J. Bruce Harreld insisting that he only be held accountable for what he said, when he is in fact on the record lying to the people of Iowa only moments after being fraudulently elected. So at the very least — and I don’t think this is an unfair reading of Harreld’s comments — what he really means by honor in the above quote is that he only wants to be accurately quoted when it is to his personal benefit. At all other times, and specifically with regard to the perpetually changing origin story of his candidacy, we’re to forget anything except what he told us most recently.
Speaking of distinctions, whatever violent metaphor Harreld actually uttered, and whoever he targeted with that metaphor, the very fact that Harreld saw a “meaningful difference” in any violent metaphor goes to the heart of his unfitness for office. Yes, saying that any teacher should be shot is inexcusable — particularly at a school where where mass murder was committed with a firearm — but the larger point is that no such metaphor should have ever passed his sputtering lips. Had Harreld been fraudulently elected as head of a longshoreman’s union instead of an institution of higher learning, such verbiage would probably have garnered praise for its restraint, but academia has its own linguistic traditions, including eschewing rhetorical gunfire.
In the aftermath of Harreld’s misfire, reload, and subsequent self-inflicted wound, it was noted that even the simple reality of preparing to teach a class voids Harreld’s absolutist maxim, regardless of the intended victim. Too, there was the specter of propaganda in Harreld’s remarks, as he prepares to do the bidding of the corrupt core of the Iowa Board of Regents. Having granted the west side of campus and the mantle of research to co-conspirator Jean Robillard, and having asserted that the east side of campus should be limited to teaching, there is every reason to wonder if J. Bruce Harreld — himself a spectacularly unprepared university president — was taking rhetorical aim at teachers for other reasons.
As to uttering the metaphor itself, Nick Johnson pointed out that Harreld failed a very basic test of leadership:
The premeditated conceit underlying Harreld’s fraudulent hire, put forward largely by the self-interested co-conspirators who ensured his election, is that there is nothing unique about academic administration. As it turns out, however, not only is there a great deal to know about being the leader of a billion dollar research university, not everyone is cut out to do that job. For example, I do not have the right temperament to be the president of a university. Not only do I use violent metaphors all the time, but having been steeped in violence in American media for my entire life, I’m not sure I’d last ten minutes before shooting myself in the foot. Or shooting my mouth off. Or going metaphorically postal. Yet, even in my youth it was made clear to me that advocating for violence is a tricky business, and the best way to avoid ending up on the wrong end of your own advocacy is to just keep your beak shut.
Which brings us to the real problem with J. Bruce Harreld’s ‘bad week’, which is that it wasn’t a bad week at all. It was, rather, who the man is, and this is not the first time we have discussed Harreld’s temperamental tendencies. In light of his newfound and almost certainly temporary insistence that he be held accountable only for things he has actually said, it’s worth revisiting how inappropriate J. Bruce Harreld’s words have often been over the past few months. So much so, in fact, that he felt the need to hire an outside media expert, even though the university has media handlers on staff.
From a prior post about J. Bruce Harreld’s motive for applying for the Iowa job, here is Harreld defining “civilized discourse“:
“Dispute is fine, but it needs to be civilized discourse,” Harreld said. “I have a phrase that says: Bite me in the nose, don’t stab me in the back. I think we owe the citizens of Iowa more than getting down in the weeds and behaving in the way that some of the community members have behaved.”
As I noted in that earlier post, it takes some clinical-grade obliviousness to explain civilized discourse by encouraging someone to bite you “in the nose”, even if only metaphorically. Which is to say that among all the other reasons why J. Bruce Harreld was not and is not qualified to be the president of the University of Iowa, which were also enumerated in a recent post —
— it is clear that Harreld does not have the temperament to be the president of a university. And I do not mean that as a baseless charge. Rather, we can reach that conclusion not on hyperbole or by misquoting the man, but fairly, based solely on what he has actually said.
My first inkling that Harreld might not be a good fit came back in September, while watching the video of his open forum. Specifically, I found it momentarily jarring when he swore during his presentation — and I say that as someone whose conversational decorum and communications skills manifestly disqualify me from being the president of any university, except perhaps a university of longshoremen. While a mild temperament and emotional reserve may, along with elbow patches, be part of the academic cliche, they also clearly serve a purpose, and have served that same purpose for hundreds of years in academic institutions around the globe.
Even though my own vulgar habits would disqualify me from running the University of Iowa, I think it’s still possible to know when such language is and is not appropriate, which is why I was momentarily shocked when Harreld uttered an oath in front of the university community. I didn’t think much more of my response, however, until a few weeks ago, when I read the feedback to Harreld’s presentation, which was disclosed by the Iowa Board of Regents in a 12/06/15 document released to Stephen Voyce’s FOIA site:
From page 3, first respondent, under Candidate Weaknesses: “He made the choice to use expletives in his prepared remark as well as in the question and answer session. The expectations for the President would be to represent the University in a range of forums. It would be hoped that that individual would have a better command of language and advanced communication skills that would make those language choices unacceptable.”
Page 21, first respondent, under Candidate Weaknesses: “He was crass, interrupted stakeholders who came to ask him questions, and used profanity of a live stream for the world to hear!”
Now, to be clear, the worst thing Harreld said was hell here, then damn, here. And then damn again here. And again here. And here one and a half times, during the Q&A. And then hell again here. And then hell here, in a gripping F. Bruce Fitzharreld moment. Then here’s a damn from a questioner. And then one more damn from Harreld.
So that’s hell, damn, damn, damn and da-damn before we even get to the questions, then hell, hell, and a damn back from the audience, and a final damn from Harreld.
Now, whatever you think about Mitch Daniels at Purdue, do you see him getting up in front of any crowd and saying hell and damn multiple times? Because I don’t see it. Nor do I see it from Janet Napolitano at the University of California, or any of the other non-traditional candidates who have gone on to be university presidents. Which once again underscores the fact that J. Bruce Harreld wasn’t simply another non-traditional candidate, his non-traditional candidacy was defined by the rather startling fact that he was unqualified in every conceivable aspect, which is why he quite literally needed a fraudulent search and selection process in order to be appointed. (I’m guessing, but I think the other three finalists — all eminently qualified and steeped in the time-honored traditions of academic administration — probably used the words hell or damn exactly zero times in their own talks.)
Granted, in that same feedback and elsewhere some have argued that the audience on that day was disrespectful or even downright rude to Harreld, but I think that appraisal is a bit unfair. Harreld spoke for forty minutes or so before taking any questions, so clearly he was the one who set the tone for the evening. While we would all hope cooler heads would prevail in such a situation, it seems to me that if you swear at people for the better part of an hour, you don’t get to complain if they turn on you when they finally get a chance to respond.
As to the question of temperament, however, it wasn’t just profanity that was a problem with Harreld’s manner. At times he also seemed incapable of listening, particularly to students. In fact, as a general observation, I felt that the less authority an individual had, the less interested Harreld seemed to be in that person, or in waiting for them to ask their question or make their point. Once again, in reading the feedback a few weeks ago, I found confirmation of my own assessment.
From page 8, fourth respondent, under Candidate Weaknesses: “His responses to the student questioners were extremely insensitive to racial issues, and likely offensive to the students.”
Page 11, second respondent, under Candidate Weaknesses: “He became flustered with the questions asked of him and then became angry. While I was not pleased with the tone of the questions and sometimes lack of respect of those asking questions, it is not uncommon for academia to ask tough questions, as, unlike corporations, the employees don’t feel pressured to necessarily agree with management. I was a bit surprised at his lack of composure and felt it did not bode well for his service as president.”
Page 13, first respondent, under Candidate Weaknesses: “He reacted very poorly to critical questions.”
Page 17, first respondent, under Candidate Weaknesses: “Aside from the candidate’s alarming lack of preparation or understanding about what actually goes on at a major public research institution, Mr. Harreld’s marked contempt and dismissive, patronizing demeanor towards the two questioners who were young women of color was disgraceful.”
Page 21, second respondent, under Candidate Weaknesses: “Spoke over and interrupted students attempting to ask questions — lacked basic courtesy.”
Page 24, third respondent, under Other Comments: “After last year’s incident with the public statue on campus the last thing the University needs is a president who sticks his foot in his mouth when it comes to minority populations. Unfortunately, this candidate did just that, offending the Black woman who asked him a question by telling her she was part of the ‘African American community’. How did he know she doesn’t identify first as a woman? Or rape survivor? Or transgender? Ignorant white folks may think she was too easily offended; unfortunately, that says more about their ignorance than anything else. This guy is a public relations disaster waiting to happen.”
Page 32, first respondent, under Candidate Weaknesses: “Does not answer questions, is dismissive of people who try to pin him down (told one professor he was acting like an adolescent), has no real vision.”
Page 32, second respondent, under Candidate Weaknesses: “He handled the Q&A very poorly. He did not stay calm under pressure.”
Page 33, second respondent, under Candidate Weaknesses: “Some of his responses were a little too argumentative and dismissive (Donald Trumpish) and inappropriate under the circumstances.”
Page 35, third respondent, under Candidate Weaknesses: “I felt his responses to some were dismissive.”
Page 35, seventh respondent, under Other Comments: “It was offensive and disrespectful how he treated women who were asking questions and undergraduates or people of color. He kept rolling his eyes or responding with condescension, and interrupting them.”
Page 36, third respondent, under Candidate Weaknesses: “It was frustrating to watch people who asked questions be belittled.”
Page 38, first respondent, under Candidate Weaknesses: “His performance during the public forum was disrespectful and arrogant in tone and revealed some very worrisome insights into his past, his approach and his abilities. He several times rolled his eyes at questioners and then made a statement something like, ‘If you don’t like me, get rid of me.’ Flip comments such as this communicated to me that he does not respect the amount of time and effort that goes into a presidential search and does not appreciate that he might move on in two years, but those of us committed to the UI will live with the consequences of his presidency if he were to come here. His way of responding to difficult questions or interacting with people who may challenge him does not suggest that he has the ability to become the public face of a university.”
Page 43, first respondent, under Candidate Weaknesses: “His frequent eye rolling during interchanges alone make him a very bad choice and he should not be considered.”
All of which is why I said this weeks ago, before I read any of the above:
While Harreld’s comment that someone should be shot if they were not prepared to teach garnered a lot of press coverage, nothing about that comment was even remotely out of character despite the inappropriateness of the remark in an academic setting. Nor should Harreld’s coarse manner be a surprise, considering that the vast majority of his professional life involved high-pressure, highly hierarchical private-sector pursuits solely focused on making money. Unfortunately, while his manner may have served him well in that field, net profit or shareholder value is not and never will be the aim of higher education, regardless of the economics which are necessarily involved.
As a result of Harreld’s long professional private-sector experience, and by virtue of his intrinsic temperament, he is a swashbuckler, and I think he likes being a swashbuckler. And if he was still plying the high seas of free-market trade and piracy, that manner might be appropriate. But higher education is not the business world, and Harreld’s lack of experience in academic administration is not simply embarrassing him, it is embarrassing the school.
From his tattered resume, which some have attempted to excuse because ‘that’s how it’s done in the business world’ (it isn’t), to co-conspiring in his own fraudulent hire, to lying to the press, to refusing to detail his prior contact with Jerre Stead about the Iowa job, and on and on, this is a president who can certainly take the University of Iowa from great to greater on Pirate Day, but who will be a perpetual liability and risk the rest of the year. And that’s true even if we assume he can be coached and mentored to administrative competence at some future date.
While violent metaphors may be commonplace in society, and too commonly so, I think everyone would agree that there are times when they are inappropriate. I also think everyone would agree that a university president, or any leader outside of a combat platoon, should know that such metaphors have no place at work. And yet precisely because J. Bruce Harreld could not be bothered to learn the ropes of academic administration or public-sector service before applying for the Iowa job, he has no conception of how he is supposed to comport himself in his day-to-day duties.
If you come from the fiery hell of full-on marketplace competition, and you’ve been shaped by the economic equivalent of a survival of the fittest, you may simply be too aggressive, too focused on winning, too unprofessional to lead an institution of higher learning, and that includes West Point. That doesn’t mean you weren’t good at what you did, but that your skills don’t translate — even as arrogance may unfortunately convince you and others that they do.
From his ‘should be shot’ comment to his ‘bite me’ comment, to his swearing in front of students, faculty and staff, to his eye rolling and interrupting and belligerence when challenged, it’s clear that J. Bruce Harreld is temperamentally unqualified for the job he now holds. Which is in fact why he blithely went about trying to clarify his remarks when nobody was actually confused about what he meant. Instead of immediately acknowledging that he should never have used that language with anyone at the University of Iowa, and absolving the original complainant of her response, Harreld instead tried to rescue himself by insisting that she absolve him. And that’s the charitable version of what Harreld was doing.
Again, the central conceit of Harreld’s candidacy, and the argument put forward by Rastetter, Robillard, Stead and others in support of his non-traditional background, is that experience in academic administration is meaningless. And maybe relative to the myopic aims of financial warriors from the private sector it is. But as a factual matter, if you’ve been steeped in academic administration over a long professional career, you’ve not only learned important cultural lessons along the way — like, say, avoiding violent metaphors in the workplace — but you have endured your own survival of the fittest. Just as some people can’t cut it in the business world, there are some people who, by temperament, will never be suited to leading an institution of higher learning, and J. Bruce Harreld is one of those people.
Which brings us to the one comment that J. Bruce Harreld made in the ‘should be shot’ debacle that concerned me most. Here, in keeping with Harreld’s new-found desire to be held accountable for the things he actually says, are Harreld’s exact words, from an email to the staffer who originally wrote him concerning his use of a violent metaphor:
To be clear, that is in fact the entirety of Harreld’s initial response. Too, as noted when previously considering Harreld’s psychological makeup, I am not a psychologist or psychiatrist, or a counselor or even a bartender. Having said that, I do know juvenile, passive-aggressive whining when I see it, and the fact that Harreld actually wrote that email and hit send again makes me wonder about his unmet emotional needs.
If Harreld was a teenager and he was going to war with his parents, I can see him saying that. Or maybe if he was in a high-maintenance relationship that was headed downhill. But in a reply to someone on staff, when he’s the head of the organization, let alone a university? Is J. Bruce Harreld crying out for a big hug? Or is he projecting his own incompetence onto a subordinate, so he can then avoid dealing with the psychologically toxic fact that he has no idea what he’s doing, and wouldn’t even have his job if it hadn’t been given to him in a rigged election?
Remember, the inappropriate metaphorical remark that Harreld made was based on the premise that something violent should be done to someone if that person was not prepared to do the job they were hired to do. How does the glaring applicability of that premise to Harreld’s own circumstance not occur to him, unless he is in a true state of denial, or so arrogant that he really does believe he deserves the position he now holds? And yet we saw the exact same hypocrisy only weeks before, again pointing not to a ‘bad week’ but to a pattern of behavior. As quoted in the Press-Citizen on 11/19/15, here is J. Bruce Harreld obliviously doling out sanctimonious career advice to graduate students:
In order to land the Iowa job, which is slated to pay him $4,000,000 over five years, plus free housing, J. Bruce Harreld needed the president of the board of regents, the interim president of the university, and a big-money donor, to conspire with him to fix his election. And yet this same unprepared man — this ‘bite me’, ‘should be shot’, ‘hell’ and ‘damn’ man — has no problem standing up in front of a roomful of graduate students and telling them to live their lives by rules that he clearly believes he does not have to follow.
If you’re the president of a university you don’t have to be the smartest person in the room, and maybe it’s better if you’re not. What you do have to be, however, is the adult in the room, and J. Bruce Harreld has repeatedly shown he cannot rise to that challenge. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how hard he tries to live up to anyone’s expectations, or how much mentoring or coaching he receives, or how much money he spends on media consultants. Because at sixty-four years of age, what’s wrong with J. Bruce Harreld presiding over the University of Iowa is who J. Bruce Harreld is, and that’s not going to change.
Update 12/29/15: As I was reminded from multiple quarters over the past twenty-four hours, Harreld’s violent fantasy life did not suddenly spring to life when he was fraudulently appointed as president of the University of Iowa. During his heyday as the savior of ‘BM‘, Harreld used the metaphorical gallows to convince people that transformational change was good for them:
So there you go. When you’ve been hired to impose a new culture on another group of human beings, the best way to go about doing that is to metaphorically stretch a few necks, then pay everybody else off. (If you’re having trouble keeping up, that’s hanging, nose biting and shooting okay, back stabbing not okay.)
As to the original complaint, that Harreld metaphorically advocated for the shooting of teachers — a claim Harreld himself has rebutted — the AAUP chapters at all three state universities sent a literal letter to the Iowa Board of Regents on Sunday, condeming Harreld’s language and calling on the board for a response:
One interesting aspect of the current she-said/he-said standoff regarding what Harreld actually said is that his comment — whatever it was — was uttered in front of more than one person. If it turns out that Harreld’s new-found memory is wrong, that would not only lend credence to the idea that he was pressuring the original complainant to change her story, but it would crush Harreld with his own words:
While I’m sure Harreld’s version of being “held accountable” differs from what I’m imagining in my head as I type these words, if anyone else who was present at the time steps forward and confirms that Harreld actually did say that a teacher should be shot, the Board of Regents is obligated to fire him on the spot both for what he said and for attempting to lie about what he said.
Unless of course J. Bruce Harreld were to do the honorable thing himself and resign.
Your aim was true on this one. Bulls-eye! But then again, Harreld has painted a large target on himself when he was in the hunt for this position. When he interviewed for the presidency it seemed he was taking a shotgun approach, rather than narrowing his aim to the heart of the matter. Will J Bruce Harreld nuke the U of Iowa? Or will he take a stealth mode, carefully picking off objectives one by one?
Wow, there are alot of violent metaphors out there aren’t there. Seems especially prominent in my generation — the baby boomers, to which Harreld belongs. I was thinking about this the other day. I never heard my parents using these metaphors, and even today, my 90 y/o aunt doesn’t go to the violent metaphor. I suspect it has to do with the WW2 generation actually seeing people shot, or ‘targeted’ or shot some themselves, so that it was inappropriate to use violence in speech when they had enough of it. Whereas the Vietnam baby boomers, lost, and have since felt inferior, needing now to talk macho.
Harreld needs to jettison the violent and sexual metaphors. He uses ‘ping’, and should use other ‘tech’ metaphors. “Any teacher who enters class unprepared should have his plug pulled, or his CPU pulled’.
Apparently he should quit pandering to the PC groups he thinks he should (like AA) because chances are they don’t need pandering..
I watched David Skorton the other day giving a presentation as President of the Smithsonian. Skorton who came up as an engineer too, but also as a clinician (cardiologist) and an academic, skillfully navigated the ‘intellectual’ crowd’s questions never succumbing to old worn out metaphors. He did speak of the learning curve as an academic because ‘college students react quite differently, like taking over your office if they are unhappy. You learn that.’
Sallie Mason was known to put her foot in her mouth (notice I did not say ‘shoot herself in the foot’ ha!) and often. Which like Harreld is baffling. Aren’t these presidents hired because they are gifted in rhetoric, or in communication? If Harreld (who I thought was a PR person and a turn-around guy at IBM) doesn’t have a vision for the university, or a program of change, then what does he have? Apparently he needs a tutor for talent that should be a given for a univ president, like not getting tongue tied. (I once again skillfully avoided saying something like ‘misfiring’).
Harrled was hired to do what he does, which is to please the bosses with charts and graphs of ?profit. The bosses being Rastetter, and Branstad, and Robillard.
Be like hiring a football coach then needing to send in a tutor on how basic 4-3 defenses work.
Ditch the worn-out metaphors, which are dated, annoying, and only ask for a counter-attack (could not resist)
I think TV has largely abstracted violence in American culture. The generation before the boomers also grew up with all sorts of entertainment, but the kind of gritty ‘realistic’ fictional violence that we now see daily was almost unknown. There was real-world violence, then there was stylized, theatrical violence.
Unfortunately, in advocating for ‘real’ fictional violence, we have simply inured people to real violence, which we then demonstrate in our language. (Again, I am as culpable as anyone, which is precisely why I am not qualified to run a university.)
What’s so strange about Harreld is that he just doesn’t seem to have a check on his brain — at all. Twice now he’s condescended to tell others how to act, even as the very utterance of his advice proved that he was incapable of following his own advice. He is oblivious to his own indecencies, to his own hypocrisy, to his own illegitimacy, and yet has no problem demanding that others act with honor, or ‘professionalism’.
Mo Bettah says
” Public hanging of non-performers and culture change resistors was done in order to send a message”
From an interview with J. Bruce Harreld in the section “On Culture”
Thank you for the reminder. It’s honestly hard to keep up with Harreld’s violent metaphors — and I’m already limiting myself to only those which he has used in his professional capacity as an agent of transformational change. (My favorite part of the full quote, which I added to the post, is the part where he says that those public hangings were done ‘sparingly’. The nobility of the man’s restraint is awe inspiring.)
Yes, the thin-skinnedness is a problem — thin skin plus power plus lack of any care for the thing a man has power over, that’s a bad combination. I don’t think it’s accidental that the business guys in DM had to show him some public love.
Unfortunately I think we are going to find that the problem is quite a bit worse than this. We already knew his resume was strange and thin, not to mention riddled with inaccuracies. I get the impression that we’re looking at a guy who’s always gotten by with the help of a few buddies, and who’s been bigged up by those buddies all along. He had a star turn as an axman at IBM at a time when IBM lead the way in inflicting economic devastation on the northeast, but since then doesn’t appear to have been done much, and my guess is there are good reasons for that, and that not all of them involve skiing and deaconing.
I think that when the big ideas start rolling, we’re going to find that they’re remarkably small and not particularly fresh, and that there’ll be surprise and offense taken when that’s pointed out.
All of which leads one to the question of who’s fighting over the job of actually running the university. A vacuum at the top is a bad, bad thing. What’s Mr. Robillard doing these days, anyway?
I wonder what happened to all those ancient copies of The Peter Principle.
I think Robillard is looking for an exit strategy. (If he’s smart, anyway.)
As for Harreld, I don’t disagree. The man keeps getting smaller somehow.
I think that magical day just before the Rose Blow (not a typo) will prove to be the best day of his tenure as president, whether he lasts another week or five years.
In terms of controlling the school, which really means controlling the money, Rastetter’s in charge now, via Harreld’s puppet strings, so we’ll see how that plays out. Perhaps the greatest bit of fortune in all this is that just when the bad guys hope to raid the bank, there’s going to be very little money to play with. The state is short on what it needs, students are moving back to the job market, and the corrupt Board of Regents has done everything it can to cripple the reputation of the school.
They’ll be lucky if they can force another five or ten five-figure crony contracts on the school before the whole things blows up in their sorry faces.
On September 3rd, when J. Bruce Harreld was announced as the next president of the University of Iowa, the university community was shocked by the decision. Not necessarily surprised, given the heavy-handed way in which the politically corrupt Iowa Board of Regents had signaled its hostile intent, but shocked that the regents were willing to so brazenly betray shared governance by electing a man who registered only 3% support among faculty, staff and students.
The first inkling that the suspected done-deal hire may have been just that came only a few hours later, in initial press reports about the appointment. From an AP story by Ryan Foley on 09/03/15:
From a Press-Citizen story by Jeff Charis-Carlson on the same day:
As would be expected regarding press reports derived from the same press release or sourcing, the initial explanation of the Branstad-Harreld phone call was consistent. Harreld made a request to Rastetter, Rastetter dutifully presented that request to the governor, the governor called Harreld. As to the purported rationale for Harreld’s request, however, that was a bit odd. In what sense was Harreld asking about the governor’s “support for the university”?
Given that the Board of Regents oversees the state’s institutions of higher learning, and that Harreld was already Rastetter’s pet, what did Harreld hope to gain or learn by talking with the governor — who himself could be out of office in a couple of years, if he didn’t simply step down to give the Lt. Governor a jump-start on her own reign of error. What was Harreld so concerned about that he needed to talk to the governor, and what could Branstad actually do for J. Bruce?
When I finally engaged the Harreld hire shortly after his appointment, I kicked all of those questions around and more, and nothing I came up with made sense in terms of the stated rationale for that phone call. What did make sense, and what still makes the most sense, is that Harreld wanted reassurances from the governor that whatever Rastetter was telling him about the governor, about the governor’s political machine, and about the governor’s personal objectives in gutting the University of Iowa, were all true. Harreld had clearly been sold on the job by Rastetter, Jean Robillard and most of all Jerre Stead, and had probably been given mid-level assurances by all of them, but as the clock ticked down on the final interviews and vote I think Harreld needed to hear it from the figurehead himself.
During the three weeks following Harreld’s appointment a series of explosive disclosures appeared in the press, laying bare the fraud that had been perpetrated on his behalf. While the governor’s phone call paled in significance compared to the magnitude of more celebrated abuses, new information about the call continued to trickle out. From a 09/14/15 report by Eric Kelderman in the Chronicle for Higher Education:
From a Press-Citizen story by Jeff Charis-Carlson on 09/16/15:
As you can see, during that period the word ‘support’ came to be used in two different ways. Initially, in the earliest reports, the object of the governor’s support — and of Harreld’s concern — was the university, which occasioned confirmation from spokespeople along those lines. By the middle of September, however, when Governor Branstad is commenting directly, the support is for Harreld himself.
It is not until a 10/22/15 story in the Gazette, by Vanessa Miller, that we get some clarification about what ‘supporting the university’ actually means, from formerly reticent Regents President Rastetter himself:
While it was actually the governor who called Harreld, here Rastetter states that Harreld was concerned whether “there would continue to be increased funding”, and on that basis wanted to talk to the governor. Whatever we think of Rastetter’s veracity, he was clearly in a position to know because he personally brokered the phone call, meaning he might also be expected to give the fullest accounting of the reason for the call. Whether it was appropriate for Rastetter to broker the call or not, and absent any other explanation, we simply have to take Bruce Rastetter’s word that Harreld wanted to talk to the governor because he wanted to know what would happen to funding for the school if he was elected.
One additional oddity about the phone call between Branstad and Harreld is that although nobody disputed the fact that the call occurred, among Harreld, Rastetter, Branstad and Branstad’s gubernatorial staff, nobody could pin down when the call took place, except to say that it was “sometime in August“. Which brings us to a 12/14/15 report by Jeff Charis-Carlson in the Press-Citizen, concerning the actual moment when Regents President Rastetter told the governor to give Harreld a call. Because, incredibly, that conversation was captured by a documentary team that had been following Branstad around the state.
Here is the clip, and here is my transcript of the conversation:
There is some crosstalk in the clip, but if you compare the version above with the version at Bleeding Heartland, I think you’ll find they’re substantially the same. Also the same was my initial response to the way Rastetter ‘asked’ the governor to contact Harreld. Here’s the Bleeding Heartland take:
As jarring as that was, it recalled an even more jarring emasculation of the governor by Regents President Rastetter, which I came across in mid-September while trying to get up to speed on who Rastetter was. (I had never heard Rastetter’s name before Harreld was foisted on the university.) From a Des Moines Register profile of Rastetter by Mike Kilen, on 03/02/15:
When I first read the part where Rastetter demonstrates his personal control over Branstad, just to show off to the reporter, I admit I was shocked. Even if I was a kept politician like Branstad, if someone did that to me in the press they’d be in the woodshed for a while. But now, months later, I realize that Rastetter is as much the governor as Branstad, and that Rastetter’s gratuitous exercise of control over Branstad was intended to send a message, particularly entering a potent election cycle. If you want access to the governor — if you want the governor to do things for you — then you talk to Bruce Rastetter. For all I know, however, Branstad was fine with it, as he also seems to be in taking orders from Rastetter in the video clip.
So okay — you never really know what’s going on in any relationship. Setting the Rastetter-Branstad bromance aside, we’re still left with a rather startling fact, which is that none of the funding-related rationales, which were generously and repeatedly provided to the press to explain the Branstad-Harreld phone call, are actually present in the Rastetter-Branstad video. In fact, the only kind of support that Rastetter requests is support for Harreld directly, personally. There’s no mention of anything about funding or about the university, or even about Branstad’s feelings toward the school. All we see is a direct, gut-level appeal from Rastetter to Branstad that Harreld needs “encouragement”. Or maybe Harreld deserves “encouragement”, or has earned “encouragement”.
Too, nowhere does Rastetter say that his own appeal to Branstad originated with Harreld. There’s no, “He would like to talk to you….”, or “He would just feel better if….” Instead, Rastetter says, “I’d like you to….” Then again, maybe that’s how Rastetter gets Branstad to do what he wants. He couches his requests or demands in personal terms, so Branstad will feel like he’s letting his best friend down if he says no — meaning completely apart from how much money that best friend has shoveled into his gaping political maw over the years.
Is it possible that Harreld did initiate the call? Yes, but not about funding, or about the university, or even about Branstad’s support for the university, because Rastetter would have said so. If those were the issues Harreld wanted to talk about, there was no reason for Rastetter to avoid that aspect of Harreld’s interest — and particularly not in preference of some nebulous request for “encouragement.” Which means whether Harreld asked for access to the governor himself, or Rastetter was just flexing his political deltoids, or Rastetter really did sense that Harreld was getting a little skittish, the only plausible reason for that phone call was support for Harreld himself. Personal support. Moral support. Political I-got-your-back-wink-wink support.
So how did regent’s spokesman Josh “We’re Not Concerned About the Resume” Lehman respond, when asked about the video?
While Lehman’s comments may be excusable as paid lies, as you can see for yourself, the video clip is completely inconsistent with the idea that Harreld was concerned about funding, which was Rastetter’s unambiguous stated claim, or, about support for the university, which was asserted by both Lehman and Branstad’s spokesperson. And that’s all before we are obligated to infer that Harreld initiated Rastetter’s conversation with Branstad — an inference which itself hinges on statements from the same people whose assertions about the reason for the call are proven false by the video itself.
But wait — what about the follow-up email that Branstad asked Rastetter to send? Could that be when all those bone-dry funding questions were conveyed? Sure, it could have been, except that email was never sent. Again, from Charis-Carlson on 12/14/15:
What information did Rastetter convey? Well, obviously that would be Harreld’s cell phone number, along with anything else you might pass along, over the phone, to remind the governor about the reason for the call. Which I’m guessing is pretty much what Rastetter says in the video — that he wants Branstad to give Harreld personal encouragement. Which is, oddly enough, pretty much what Harreld himself said six weeks earlier regarding the governor’s phone call. From a Charis-Carlson piece in the P-C on 11/01/15:
So on one hand we have Harreld, Branstad and video of Rastetter all agreeing that the phone call was about providing personal support to a doubting Harreld. On the other hand we have paid lackeys and a latter-day, beleaguered Rastetter — who, at the time of his most expansive explanation, does not know that his verbatim conversation with Branstad is on video — and they assert that the call was about funding, or the school. Who you gonna believe? Well, if you’ve been following the Harreld hire you know the correct answer is always none of the above, yet here I think we have to side with Harreld, Branstad and Video Rastetter.
The reason for doing so is actually right there, in Rastetter’s first line in the video. What he says not only confirms the Harreld-Branstad-‘Video Rastetter’ explanation for the call, but also guts a critical assertion about the Harreld hire, which Rastetter was eventually compelled to make after weeks of mouth dragging. Here again is that first line, minus the conversational “Before I forget” lead-in:
Fortuitously, because we’ve already dealt with the bossiness of Rastetter’s demand, we can also edit out the “I’d like you to call” part, giving us this:
Too, because we know “that candidate” is Harreld, and “at Iowa” means the university, we can chop off the first two words and the last two words, leaving us with this:
So who is “we”? The Board of Regents? Because if that’s the answer, at the moment that Rastetter is speaking — on the 15th of August — the regents were, three days earlier, on August 12th, just given the names of the four finalists. And as both a member of the search committee which made those selections, and as the president of the board that was then informed of those selections, Rastetter certainly knows that.
Yes, Harreld is one of the four finalists, but there are three others. By saying “…that candidate…” Rastetter is clearly not referencing more than one person, so the “we” that he mentions in the same sentence cannot be the regents as a board. In order to speak as the president of the board, Rastetter would have to say something like, “…one of the candidates we have at Iowa…”, or “…one candidate among the finalists at Iowa….”
So again, who is “we”? Well, it would be fantastic if Rastetter meant the conspiratorial cabal of himself, Robillard and Stead, but I don’t think that’s the case. He might say “that candidate we have” if he was talking to Robillard or Stead, but not with Branstad. It would also be awesome if he meant himself and Branstad, meaning Branstad is up to his neck in the conspiracy as well, but I honestly don’t think Branstad is all that clued in to business before the board. (Or to anything else.)
Instead, the only way I can make Rastetter’s opening line work is to assume that “we” means the ‘crony we’ — the political machine that is at that moment poised to propel Harreld to victory. To see that for yourself, read the full line again, only this time imagine that Rastetter and Branstad are either political cronies, which they clearly are, or business cronies, which they are by proxy, or even crime-family cronies, in whatever politically incorrect incarnation you prefer:
When read in that context, as if conspiracy is assumed, it rings true. I ‘hear’ the machine behind Rastetter and Branstad, humming away. I ‘see’ the “we” as Rastetter and Branstad, yes, but also the four regents who met with Harreld on July 30th, and Robillard, and Stead, and Matthes — the entire mechanism of political cronyism that is determined to bleed higher education dry in the state of Iowa.
Which brings us to the critical importance of the word “have”, in the phrase “we have”. If we assume political cronyism, and change the last two words in the sentence — “at Iowa” — to any other location, the reason for the possessive phrasing becomes clear. For example:
Again, the “we” denotes the machine, while the “have” denotes ownership, control. And that reading in turn informs the rest of the conversation, including particularly the telling moment when Rastetter answers a question that Branstad has not yet asked:
If you look at the transcript, Branstad doesn’t ask how Harreld is doing, and he doesn’t ask why Rastetter wants him to make the call. Rastetter volunteers that information, as if they’ve had many similar conversations over the years. And I think what Rastetter is saying in crony shorthand, when he says that Harreld is “fine”, is that Harreld isn’t freaking out, but he’s nervous. He’s still in the race — and in fact he’s home free because Rastetter long ago made sure that Harreld had five votes locked up on the nine-member board — but maybe Harreld is feeling the pressure, or just uncertainty, and a call from the big crony would help calm him down.
Speculative? Yes, but also no. Because on 08/15/15, not only are we only a couple of weeks from the final interviews and vote on September 3rd, we’re only ten days from Jean Robillard blowing $10,747 on a short-notice, half-day trip to Denver to see Jerre Stead. And Denver is only a couple of hours from where J. Bruce Harreld lives, meaning Robillard would have been able to meet with a panicky Harreld as well.
Too, we still don’t know when Harreld and Branstad actually spoke. The video was shot on 08/15/15, but the call took place later. Maybe it took place before the $10K Robillard flight on August 25th, but maybe not.
In any case, all signs point to a crony phone call from the top of the political machine, to the stealth candidate that Rastetter and Branstad were running for president at the University of Iowa. Maybe Harreld was suddenly having second thoughts. Maybe he was worried that his complete lack of experience in academic administration, or his complete lack of experience in the public sector, or his complete lack of familiarity with Iowa as a place, a state, a culture or a school, would prove problematic. Or maybe he was having feverish nightmares, in which he inexplicably advocated for the shooting of unprepared teachers. Or maybe he was beginning to have doubts about his bold plan to combat campus sexual assault by deputizing the football team. Who knows?
The one thing I am sure of when I watch that video is that Rastetter is asking Branstad to provide personal reassurance to Harreld. He’s not asking Branstad to say nice things about the University of Iowa, or about funding levels, but to tell Harreld that he — the governor himself — is one hundred percent behind whatever subterfuge Rastetter is up to at the Board of Regents.
More importantly, however, that video clip, as short as it is, also eviscerates any claim by Rastetter, Harreld or anyone else, that the search and selection process was fair. As if that had not already been established, watching Rastetter — who, as president of the Board of Regents, will preside over the final interviews and vote — pointedly direct the governor to call one candidate and one candidate only, demolishes any claim of impartiality or fairness by Rastetter. The Bruce Rastetter you see in that video is not a servant of the state, acting in the best interest of the institutions of higher learning which fall under his bureaucratic purview, but a crony doing what’s best for his political machine. When crony Rastetter says this —
— he’s not thinking for a second about the other three finalists who were just selected, or about his obligation to those other candidates as president of the Board or Regents. And we know that not only because he does not ask the governor to call those other candidates, but because he does not subsequently inform those other candidates that a call from the governor is available for the asking. On that late date in the selection process the entire onus of fairness rests with Regents President Rastetter because the search committee has already been disbanded, and the only remaining hurdle for Harreld is his perfunctory appearance before the full board. And yet because of that video we can now hear Regents President Rastetter, in his own words, abdicate his responsibility to ensure fairness as the presiding authority at the Board of Regents, and instead dedicate himself solely to the concerns of Governor Branstad’s political machine.
That is what corruption looks like. Two men having a momentary chat in the middle of a busy day. Banal, pedestrian, businesslike.
What you do not see in that video is either of those two men expressing even passing interest in anyone other than their candidate, J. Bruce Harreld. There is no concern for fairness, for process, for governance, for shared governance, or for the other three finalists who do not yet know that the search is a sham and the conclusion foregone. The only concern those two men express is the possibility that their boy Harreld may be going weak in the knees, at the very moment when they are about to take control of an institution that has proven infuriatingly resistant to their intractable malfeasance.
It also serves as proof that Branstad and Rastetter have spoken about Harreld in the past. Rastetter doesn’t have to explain who “that candidate” refers to. Doesn’t take much imagination to envision the earlier conversation. “Jerre knows about this guy in Colorado who’s looking for work… He’s just the guy for this job. Let me tell you why.”
I hope Harreld took some time this holiday season to reflect on his own arrogance and naivety. He’s been taken for a ride and there’s no way out. Unfortunately, when he leaves, Branstetter won’t ever ‘forgive’ UI. There needs to be widespread exposure if the corrupted nature of the never-ending Branstad administration. It goes a long way beyond this fiasco.
Harreld is busy out in California, wrapping himself in Kirk Ferentz:
Whatever Ferentz did or didn’t do, he didn’t stand up in front of the state and lie to the people of Iowa five minutes after he was named head coach:
I think Harreld is right to be panicked. I think he’s also probably thrilled whenever he can get out of Iowa City and go on the road, because people are less informed about his incompetence. And yet, if you read the first link above, you’ll also see that people are asking him the right questions.
When I first started paying attention to the Harreld hire in September, you and others were right to point out that it was really the tip of an iceberg of corruption. I think Harreld may be realizing that he was taken for a bit of a ride, but I also think his arrogance is the heart of his own problems. He really did think, and apparently still does think, that he is qualified to have the job that he now has, and that is all you really need to know about the man.
One big change since September is that the press if fully on board with ferreting out the corruption, and that’s a huge plus. And they’re not interested in sucking up to Branstad. This editorial is withering, but I don’t think it would have been written four months ago:
I am just a lowly staff member at the University but I know I am not alone when I say that many of us had strong suspicions about what was going to happen when the fore-shortened presidential search process was announced. And those suspicions were confirmed when the last candidate, Harreld, was announced just 4 days before the President was to be named. We knew exactly what was going to happen and it did.
Thank you for providing a narrative that explains the obviously corrupt political process that put Harreld in the position that he holds. But that process began even before Michael Gartner and Wellmark cut short the Presidency of David Skorton. Skorton represented core values of decency, integrity and academic excellence that many of us have not forgotten. If the University of Iowa is to prevail against the attempts of Bransted, Rastetter and Harreld to corrupt it’s core mission we also have to construct a narrative that remembers what we all aspire to in the spirit of public service and those who have sacrificed for that mission in the past.
Thank you for taking the time to write. Four months ago I had no understanding of how such searches usually work, but you’re quite right that this one was intentionally truncated by Rastetter/Robillard in order to limit vetting of candidates, meaning specifically Harreld.
It’s no accident that Harreld was the last to appear before the search committee for the “airport interviews”, and then also the last to present in front of the university community during the open forums. The people who organized the process wanted as little time to learn about and think about Harreld as possible, so they disbanded the committee rather than allowing it to continue to work and provide the regents with more info.
I agree that the corruption is ingrained, but I’m also hopeful that it’s now being exposed in ways that it wasn’t before. The press are rightly furious about the corruption in the state, and I hope they keep digging.
(I liked Skorton very much as well. A truly decent man.)
“A Bruce Rastetter done deal, snow-job, fixed search, a machine hire”, resounded when the Harreld Presidency was announced. The mood at the university was stunned disbelieving. No one, no one expected Harreld. A weekend bit of research pointed to a Rastetter Coup.
After researching this process for about 6 months now, we come back full circle to a Rastetter Coup.
The other players:
Jere Stead: Rich guy, motivator, likely a Democrat. benefactor who had to be on-board for this to succeed. However no where in Stead’s history is covert under-handed coup. It goes against his religious convictions.
Jean Robillard: a legend in his own mind, he rules the UIHC with an iron fist, because he is on top. No where is he respected as the Ben Carson of the UIHC. He isn’t poor (at 1,000,000 a year) but he isn’t Rastetter, Stead rich.
Iowa BOR including Muholland. Tag-alongs for some (Mulhollad) and GOP power brokers for others (the CEO of Vermeer). Although Mulhollad thinks she runs things (according to citizens who saw her work at Linn-Mar where she tried to stage a coup too) she isn’t wealthy, nor brilliant. The majority 5 are Rastetter puppets.
Republican Caucus/GOP operatives/ISU president: Not rich but very influential in making the system work. A guy like Braun was appointed to keep old Prez Mason on track, and note when she was forced, out he left, sorta only with a raise. The Prez of ISU spoke at Rastetter’s shindig on Iowa agribusiness last spring.
The Iowa Search Committee/General Consul etc: Played like pawns by Rastetter. He and Robillard had almost no concern for their opinions and advice. You can see members of the committee taking their job seriously, doing research, AT THE SAME TIME RASTETTER AS FLYING IN HARRELD TO AMES. The members of the search committee must feel like The inspector in ‘V for Vendetta’ when he was completely snookered by V.
The dialog you found when Rastetter slips in his order to Branstad is revealing. :Oh yeah, I remembered that during your busy day (which you have likely forgotten already) could you cold call this guy (no name) who is a a candidate at Iowa (no big deal) and do your usual bull****. Tell him what he(Harreld) needs to hear, which you Terry Branstad know from years of politicking.
Branstad (who is frankly cognitively off, which is seen obviously and was at the Culver-Branstad debates) almost has no idea What Rastetter is talking about.
Rastetter is suggesting (manipulating) Branstad knows Harreld and that Harreld is ‘terrific’. What tripe. For all Branstad knows he is calling a pedophile to take a job at Headstart in Adel.
As articles suggest Rastetter is the Kingmaker in Iowa, and Terry is his figurehead.
Of all the people in this scenario, who has manipulating Iowa State into big loans, personal agribusiness research, tried to launder his African land-grab thru ISU, and places his cronies in Ames? Rastetter.
Of all the people in this scenario who has the cajones to interview all the GOP presidential candidates on-stage, and likely thinks he can manipulate the largest employer with the huge budget in Iowa (the U of Iowa) Who has the grandiose ego? Rastetter. And who can bully everyone else, including Dr Sahai, the faculty, and the staff? Rastetter.
Of all the characters, who can dominate the search, once he has his tools in place (Robillard, Mathes, Braun, the TIER people, the lawyers at the BOR)? Rastetter.
Of all the candidates, who has international connections, who has multiple business entities, reaching to the Boston Consulting Group, reaching into Connecticut, taking in Mitch Daniels, reaching to the Koch brothers even? Rastetter. Who wants the UofIowa to be a business? Rastetter and ALEC.
Of all the players who was the most upset with Sally Mason’s inability to stop faculty from disparaging the climate change, or brought bad PR to the fuel industry and the the U of Iowa? Rastetter And who hated a center named for a former Demo Lt Gov Peterson? Rastetter. And who loves football at Iowa, but hates the academics at Iowa? Rastetter.
The only person with the connections, the money, the skill, and the assassin’s aim to manipulate the players, the hand pick the candidate, and the intimidate the faculty, staff and students is Bruce Rastetter. And now he bugs out, let’s Mullholland and Matthes take heat, while he collects $$, influence, and football wins.
Rastetter has in place his GOP operatives at all state universities, he has tools in the presidencies (and VPs) at Iowa and ISU, he has his puppet in the governor’s office, he has spent a ton of money saving money thru TIER (that he directs to his cronies) and he has tons of money from his multiple business deals and blood sucking Govt programs. He is in perfect position to carry out ALEC and GOP goals of stripping down the new deal, and trampling on all things liberal.
Rastetter is your mastermind. And he is raiding the Iowa treasury like Vikings raided Scotland.
I agree that Rastetter is at the heart of this, even beyond Branstad.
(I’m genuinely concerned that Branstad may be faltering mentally.)
Rastetter’s naked advocacy for Harreld, only two weeks or so before presiding over the final vote, it startling, yet nobody in state government seems to care. I don’t know what Rastetter would have had to do on camera to actually get the attention of the AG or the legislature, but it’s truly disappointing that nobody has the guts to simply initiate the most basic investigation given the obviousness of the improprieties.
There are legitimate questions about the Board of Regents, and yet they seem to be their own country, governed by their own laws.
Agreed. Does the press have a responsibility for investigating improprieties and illegal behavior?
If there’s been any silver lining in all of this for me, it’s that I am no longer concerned that good journalism has faded alongside the newspaper industry. Not only has the reporting of Foley, Miller and Charis-Carlson been excellent on the Harreld hire, but more broadly they and their papers — and other papers around the state — have drawn a bead on state corruption.
This editorial in the Des Moines Register is almost jaw-dropping —
yet it pales in comparison with this one from the Quad City Times:
I’m sure there are still safe havens in the press, but mainstream reporters aren’t pulling any punches, and I’ve been nothing but impressed with the information that the print media has uncovered in such a short amount of time. My only hope is that they won’t stop digging until they hit bottom, and I think we’re a long way away.
Recently, in the comments, a conversation occurred about whether an actual crime had been committed in the otherwise clearly fraudulent hire of J. Bruce Harreld as president of the University of Iowa. Along with that debate, the recurrent issue of who actually works for whom was again broached, proving once again that even something as straightforward as hiring a university president can be fraught with bureaucratic and legal peril. Particularly if left to weasels.
As it turns out, the presidents of each of the state’s three universities do not in fact work for the schools, but for the Iowa Board of Regents, and they are not unique in that respect. I didn’t know this until a few days ago, but at each school there are State Relations Officers who are also board employees . Then again, because all of the state universities are answerable to the Board of Regents, it’s probably not wrong to say that all employees at the University of Iowa, Iowa State and the University of Northern Iowa, ultimately work for the board in some sense. (Further complicating matters, an organization which seems to be part of a state school may in fact be a private company.)
As regular readers know, I believe that the abuses committed during the Harreld hire necessarily constitute criminal fraud, because taxpayer money was used to pay for what was — by every reasonable appraisal — a fraudulent search. If you take money from the state to do X, but instead do Y, then you ripped off the state, end of story. However, as often seems to be the case these days, it’s entirely possible that no violation of the law was committed precisely because the conniving bureaucrats who committed the abuses in question took pains to absolve themselves of any impropriety before the fact.
And so it is with the Iowa Board or Regents, whose noble mission is currently being lampooned by politically appointed cronies who have no respect for integrity or fairness, even as they delight in holding everyone else accountable to such high standards. In broad daylight the election of the new president of the University of Iowa was hijacked and perverted, and the main co-conspirators are all on the record lying about their part in that fraud, yet nowhere is there even the slightest hint that a price will be paid for their naked abuse of power.
I still believe criminal fraud was committed, and I still believe that a full investigation into the Harreld hire would produce indictments and convictions. Because I am not a lawyer, however, and because I am not steeped in the bureaucracy of state government, there is a lot I don’t know. In the end, as is often the case, citizens are powerless without a means by which they can hold their government accountable, and unfortunately, having looked at the Harreld hire closely over the past four months, it seems that the state government in Iowa has been corrupted by cronyism to the point that it may longer have the capacity to function for any other purpose.
Who’s In Charge Here?
Whether you know a lot about the Iowa Board of Regents or only a little, if you had to pick one person — meaning their role or title — who would you say is ultimately responsible for what happens at the Board of Regents? Because if you’re like me, you probably think there’s a flow chart or hierarchy or some sort of chain of command that makes the answer plain to see. Except I can’t find one, and believe me I looked.
The problem seems to be that while the nine-member board has a president and a president pro tem, and those positions wield a great deal of power, the board members themselves are all volunteers, meaning they draw no salary and have no professional standing. Your grandmother could be a regent, or your bitter, angry landlord, or some unethical doofus who gave an unethical politician a big bag full of money. You don’t need to have experience doing anything to be on the board, which perhaps explains why a deranged majority of the board felt that the next president at the University of Iowa didn’t need to know anything about public service, academic administration, Iowa as a state, the University of Iowa as a culture, or how to spell ‘IBM’ even after working there for eights years.
In order to conduct board business with some degree of competency, the board members, including particularly the president and president pro tem, rely on the regents’ professional staff not only to implement board policy, but to make clear what is legal and not legal, permissible and not permissible, ethical and not ethical. As with many governmental bodies, no one really knows the rules of order, which is why there’s always someone on staff to appeal to when questions arise about how to properly use the levels of power to mercilessly screw constituents. Because most members of the Iowa Board of Regents are not hostile, ruthless professionals in their own right, or steeped in avoiding and evading the Iowa Code, governmental rules and regulations as a means of wealth generation, or simply devotees of perverting public policy and the greater good for ideological sport, such reliance on staff makes sense.
In contrast to the volunteer members of the board, the board staff are all professionals and employees of the state, and were all ostensibly hired because of their knowledge and experience running and controlling institutions of higher education. Included on the Board of Regents staff is an Executive Director, who functions like the CEO of the board, as well as multiple attorneys, multiple communications and media staffers, and on and on. Collectively their job is to make sure that the volunteer members of the board know their responsibilities and the limits of their authority, and that board policy is executed in accordance with all of the laws, regulations and rules that board members themselves could not reasonably be expected to know.
And yet you can see the problem. Without the nine volunteer members of the board the entire staff is effectively powerless. They can keep the machinery running, but they cannot make changes, set a course for the future, hire new presidents and other key administrators, and on and on. By the same token, if there was no staff, the nine volunteer members would not only be unable to execute any of their policy decisions, they might well veer into areas that were out of their realm, and in so doing either knowingly or unknowingly violate rules, regulations or even laws.
So who’s in charge at the Iowa Board of Regents? If something happens that should not happen — ranging from a breach of procedure or policy to an actual crime — who is ultimately responsible? Is it the board, or the staff? Or does it depend? And if it depends, who gets to decide?
Which of course leads to the next question, which concerns who has regulatory or governmental oversight over the regents as a body. Is that the governor, or the legislature? Because again, I looked, but I couldn’t find the answer, which makes me think maybe the Iowa Board of Regents is supposed to police itself. While ensuring a great deal of independence from political bodies that might otherwise treat the board like a cat toy, or an outhouse, such self-regulation could prove problematic if, say, key members of the staff, and a majority of the volunteer board, went rogue together, working hand-in-hand to betray the core principles of the board, to exploit higher education in Iowa for personal profit or political gain, or just because they were a bunch of small-minded, blue-blazered vandals. In such an unlikely scenario who would be empowered to step in an hold everyone accountable? Anyone? No one?
Regents President Bruce Rastetter
The more you read about the Board of Directors the more it becomes clear that the power at the board rests in two offices: the Executive Director on the staff side, and the president on the volunteer/board side. So while we’re still not sure exactly where any particular buck stops if someone makes a mistake, violates policy or breaks the law, it’s clear that one of those two positions, and perhaps both, would be answerable. They might not be culpable themselves, depending on the facts of the case, but one or both would have some ‘splainin’ to do.
The current president of the board is Bruce Rastetter:
On the board side, there is no question that the president is in charge, and that compared to all of the other board members the power of the president is virtually absolute. For example, here’s the Regents Policy Manual regarding the board officers:
While appointing all committee members is a pretty big perk, that really only begins to explain the power of the president, or why, if you were a corrupt governor, you might muscle the sitting president out of the way if they weren’t doing what you wanted them to do — even though the board is supposed to be apolitical by statute — and replace that loyal public servant with your own ham-fisted crony. Which then also give your hand-picked president control over new board members:
Now, if you’re wondering, yes — Bruce Rastetter and Katie Mulholland were named to the board in 2011, then jammed into the roles of president and president pro tem after Governor Branstad strong-armed two sitting members to resign their leadership positions. In the following three years, between 2012 and 2015, the governor then appointed the other seven members of the current board, meaning either Mulholland or Rastetter was responsible for their indoctrination and minding.
So how did Bruce Rastetter come to be named to the Iowa Board of Regents? Well, he gave Governor Terry Branstad a big bag of money. And that’s not me saying that, that’s from Bruce Rastetter himself, in the Des Moines Register, on 05/02/15:
Without putting too fine a point on it, if you’re an elected official and you’re handing out government jobs based on how much money people give you, you’re not principled, you’re corrupt.
Executive Director Bob Donley
On the staff side, there is also no question that the Executive Director is the boss of all bosses in the office, because it says so in the Regents Policy Manual:
The second sentence in the first paragraph above, which states that the Executive Director reports to the board, makes it clear that the entire board staff is also subordinate, and that in turn means that the president of the board has the ultimately authority. And yet, because the president of the board at any given time is probably not steeped in law or government regulations, or qualified to do any or all of ‘A’ through ‘H’ above, having such a person be the ultimate authority at the board would seem to present both considerable risk and considerable opportunity for malfeasance. If the president has to rely on the Executive Director and other members of staff to know what is and isn’t permissible, and if the president is a volunteer, it would also be fairly easy for the president to claim that they were not adequately informed by staff if something went awry, including the president.
The current Executive Director at the Iowa Board of Regents is Bob Donley, who was hired in 2008:
Not only is Bob the literal picture of effective and efficient management, but if you read Bob’s bio/c.v. on the regents’ website, it’s quite impressive. The kind of bio that actually makes you think Bob is a stand-up guy, devoted to noble goals like honesty and integrity. Unfortunately, when you dig into Bob’s actual performance, instead of finding a stand-up guy you find almost nothing. For example, here is the sum total of commentary produced by Board of Regents Executive Director and CEO Bob Donley, in response to the outrages and abuses perpetrated during the hiring of J. Bruce Harreld:
So even though the hire itself was fraudulent, and everyone can see that it was fraudulent, stand-up guy and Executive Director/CEO Bob Donley, the highest-ranking staff member at the board, has had nothing to say. Why would that be? Well maybe it’s because he’s not just an administrative tool, but a Bruce Rastetter tool:
Sound familiar? Of course it does, because that’s the same lie that was told a few weeks back, when another one of Rastetter’s political cronies — Kraig Paulsen, to whom Rastetter has personally donated at least $85,000 — was not only given an unadvertised six-figure job at Iowa State, but the position was created out of whole cloth just so Paulsen would have a cushy place to land when he stops being the speaker of the Iowa House of Representatives.
All of which means we can quit worrying about whether Bob Donley is in some way in charge of the Iowa Board of Regents. As we’ll see later that doesn’t necessarily mean Bob is off the hook, but as to our current concern about who’s responsible, we can definitively say that Bob Donley, Executive Director and CEO of the Iowa Board of Regents, is not the boss of the board. Nor, apparently, the boss of himself.
The Question of Accountability
Having eliminated the Executive Director and anyone else on the staff side, it should be clear that the buck ultimately stops with the acting president of the board. It should also be clear, however, that each individual member of the board and staff is still personally accountable for their own actions. If anyone in any position is caught taking bribes or embezzling or whatever, that person would obviously and appropriately take the fall for their own conduct — or, at least, that’s what would happen in a government that was not infested with political corruption.
But what about instances when a board member claims, as a volunteer, that they were either inadequately or erroneously informed? At what point would they — as a noble, apolitical citizen volunteer, concerned only with what’s best for higher education in the state of Iowa, and not at all beholden to the political machine that put them there — be responsible for their actions? For example, let’s say during the search and selection process for a new president at one of the three state universities, that one of the board members decides to arrange an improper meeting between one of the candidates and a majority of the board. Who would ultimately be accountable for that error in judgment — assuming for the moment that it did not also turn out to be a window into a much larger conspiracy to defraud the state?
As both employees of the state and professionals in their own right, it should be clear that staffers would never be able to offer a similar excuse. If you’re the CEO, COO or CAO, all the way down to the lowliest staffer in the office hierarchy, you’re expected to know your job. Because the nine board members are volunteers, however, it is indeed the job of board staff to keep those members not only informed but on the straight and narrow. So at what point does that responsibility fall on the volunteer board members themselves?
Again, while the specifics would need to be investigated, for the purposes of this post we will adopt the same expectations implicit in the Regents Policy Manual. During the first year of a regent’s six-year term, each regent is provided with a mentor/minder to help familiarize them with both the scope of their responsibilities and the process by which those responsibilities can be met. After that first year, it’s assumed that if a regent does not know the answer to a question, they will at the very least know who to ask in order to elicit any necessary clarifications or permissions.
Which means even if a regent did hijack a presidential search, or fix a presidential election, that regent would not then be able to accuse the Executive Director or anyone on staff of being responsible, provided that regent had served a year or more. To be clear, that would not prevent said regent from arguing that they did in fact ask the Executive Director or staff if what they were planning to do was okay, or even that the Executive Director or staff gave them the green light to go ahead and do something improper or criminal. So although we eliminated Executive Director Bob Donley as the ultimately authority at the Iowa Board of Regents, depending on the mendacity of the regents he answers to, and his own complicity, Bob would not necessarily be in the clear if anything improper actually went down.
State Employees and Fiduciary Responsibility
Assuming for the sake of argument that there really is a limit to how much abuse one can engage in while purporting to do the people’s business — and that’s a pretty big reach right now, given the apparently never-ending abuses of the Branstad machine — we’re going to approach the question of criminality from the fairly banal quarter of fiduciary duty.
If you have a fiduciary responsibility or duty, or you are, legally, a fiduciary, you have to put other interests, and often specific legally binding interests, before your own. Given all of the unethical people running around loose at any given time — or, alternatively, running the companies you do business with — I think it makes sense that civilization would eventually came up with such a classification or status, if only to protect the rich. You don’t want someone with no integrity, no honesty and no decency being put in charge of your money or property, or making important decisions that might adversely affect your livelihood or well-being. Which is why lawyers are assumed to have a fiduciary responsibility to their clients, and why banks want you to think they have a fiduciary responsibility to you as well, when they actually don’t. (If a financial representative is acting as a trustee they are also required to act as a fiduciary, but when it comes your your checking or saving account you’re just another sucker to be fleeced.)
The obvious question with regard to the Iowa Board of Regents is whether the nine volunteer members of the board have a fiduciary responsibility to the state. In fact, it’s such an obvious and important question that you would think the voluminous and detailed Regents Policy Manual would spell that out in explicit detail, but you would be wrong. There are all sorts of things spelled out in detail in the policy manual, but nowhere could I find a definitive statement about whether the members of the board have a fiduciary responsibility.
To my naive mind the regents would have to be fiduciaries, otherwise yu might end up with some weasel handing out six-figure jobs to business or political cronies, fixing presidential elections, and generally just behaving like a cartoon of a corrupt government official. Unfortunately, given the facts in evidence with regard to the Harreld hire, and various other questionable dealings by the board, that evidence strongly points to either a lack of fiduciary responsibility for board members, or a lack of enforcement of that duty by whichever enfeebled state body is currently refusing to, or constitutionally incapable of, doing its job.
Fortunately, we do have an indirect answer to the question from former Regents president and Branstad abuse victim, David W. Miles. As it turns out — and I did not know this until recently, in part because I missed a letter to the editor that would have clued me in — in 2011 a conniving Governor Branstad forced Regents President Miles and President Pro Tem Jack Evans to resign their leadership posts, so that Branstad’s top political donor, Bruce Rastetter, could eventually be made president. Prior to that unprecedented politicization of the board, however, Miles gave a speech to the Sioux City Rotary Club on 11/08/10, which seems to answer the fiduciary question:
So that seems pretty clear: Miles says that members of the board do have a fiduciary responsibility or duty. Could Miles be using that word generally, in a non-legally-binding way? Maybe, but I don’t think it’s likely, because Miles’ day job seems to be, or at least was in 2013, being president of Miles Capital, Inc. So I’m pretty sure he’s not just throwing the word ‘fiduciary’ around to sound like a smart guy.
Too, although there is no declarative statement about fiduciary duty or responsibility in the Regents Policy Manual, there is this:
So does that mean the regents aren’t covered by fiduciary responsibility when performing other duties, or that they’re always covered by that legally binding obligation? Again, because the manual is silent we’re going to have to guess, but given the massive amount of money involved in board business, it seems self-evident that the individual board members must have a legally binding fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interest of the state. And of course the same holds for all of the office staff.
One question you may have — which I had as well — is whether the board members can be held to such a standard given that they’re volunteers, serving for the love of the state and its students, and not out of any personal desire to broker power, funnel money to political cronies, or just to corrupt higher education for the hell of it. And that’s a good question. Fortunately, for once I believe we can answer that question by looking at the Iowa Code itself:
So that’s refreshingly clear. Even if you’re a volunteer, for legal purposes you are an ’employee’ of the state, and in the case of the Board of Regents, and particularly with regard to the unchecked power of the president, I think it makes sense that the volunteer members would be bound by such statutory obligations. If a regent does something they shouldn’t do, and it costs the state money, then even though they are a volunteer, they are still legally liable, and are not shielded from liability by virtue of the fact that they are not being paid for their services.
The Question of Criminality
As noted above, the question of criminal fraud in the Harreld hire seems straightforward, but apparently isn’t, at least relative to law enforcement. What was clearly a fraudulent election does not actually seem, from the outside looking in, to have violated any laws. The most obvious laws, having to do with equal opportunity or affirmative action, are simply not applicable, even if it could be shown that one class or group was given preference over another — which was in fact the case. We may not like such preferential treatment, and that may violate the spirit of fairness that we expect in any hire, let alone a government hire, but from a legal perspective that’s apparently tough noogies.
What I only recently realized, after doing a lot of reading in an attempt to answer the various questions above, is that the Board of Regents is, in many ways, its own separate entity. Meaning the only way to figure out if a crime was committed, or even what degree of fraud was committed, would be to look at the board from the inside out, starting with its own charter. That in turn led me to the Regents Policy Manual, to the question of employee status and fiduciary responsibility, and ultimately back to the question of criminal fraud — because there actually is, as you might expect, a type of fraud called fiduciary fraud.
Now, again, not being a lawyer I don’t know how hard fiduciary fraud is to prove, or what the penalties are, or whether you get one of those nifty striped outfits to go with your sledge hammer when you get convicted. As a layperson, however, it seems to me that if you, as a state ’employee’, breached your fiduciary duty toward the state, and doing so cost the state money that would not have otherwise been spent, that you could conceivably be charged with the crime of fiduciary fraud.
Instead of looking at the Harreld hire from the outside in, and trying to figure out whether the clearly apparent administrative fraud rises to the level of an indictable offense, we will look at the hire from the inside out, relative to the statutory obligations of the board members themselves. At some level, because the board spends state funds, I believe the board members have a fiduciary duty to avoid fraud and abuse. Not just an ethical duty, but a legal, binding obligation to stand in the way of, ferret out, expose, prevent or report any financial abuses committed by the board. Too, even though the Board of Regents is its own little governmental universe, the people who work there — including the nine volunteer board members — are not only obligated to follow all laws, they are obligated to follow the rules and regulations of the board itself.
To that end, we now arrive at the most important part of the Regents Policy Manual, both in terms of the conduct of the regents themselves, and specifically with regard to the regents’ 2015 presidential search at the University of Iowa:
The wording at the beginning of Section 7.02(1) could not be clearer:
As a matter of policy, the regents value fairness. Fairness.
Because the search which led to the appointment of J. Bruce Harreld was unfair by any objective measure, it was, by dint of its maladministration, the definition of malfeasance. Whether or not the abuses perpetrated during the search rise to the level of criminal fiduciary fraud, and whether any presidential search is by its nature covered by the board’s “fundamental expectations relating to all business and fiduciary conduct”, there can be no question that the 2015 presidential search at the University of Iowa violated board policy, and that the person ultimately responsible for that violation is Regents President Bruce Rastetter.
For Part 2 of Regents President Rastetter, Fairness and Fraud, click here.
I have to disagree with you about applicability of the federal equal opportunity or affirmative action to the Board’s actions. Once, the second, the University of Iowa takes federal funds (of which it collects tens of millions) it is subject to federal EO laws. Every hire (staff and faculty I believe) has to be reviewed and approved by the A office. There may be exceptions in times of emergency, but hires involving the use of federal funds need to meet federal guidelines. A fixed search is by definition abrogating the federal hiring policies.
The Gov’t definition of abuse of power that leads to misuse of funds and failure to carry out responsibilities is malfeasance.
I am not sure but I suspect someone would have to bring a complaint to the feds about abrogation of EO hiring. Someone with standing, which maybe candidates, or may include members of the university.
I would also suspect that the state attorney would have to investigate malfeasance. Maybe, just maybe a county attorney can????
The state legislature too could investigate this mess, and I do not understand why they do not. Not interested? Don’t care?
With regard to EEOC and AA laws, because all four final candidates were white males, there were no federal class distinctions which apply. I don’t disagree that a fixed/foregone hire should be a violation of federal hiring guidelines, but I don’t know enough to see where that breach might have occurred.
I think Rastetter and the other co-conspirators set out from day one to hire a non-academic, meaning all candidates with a background in academic administration were excluded/discriminated against. While hard to prove, the more damning problem is that eggheads are not a protected class, so apparently there’s no violation of law in acting on that bias.
As for the state legislature, it’s quite telling that nobody stood up after the hire and said what was plainly true then, and has only become glaringly obvious over the past four months. J. Bruce Harreld was appointed as a result of a fraudulent process, and as a result his tenure at Iowa is illegitimate.
That’s not even a political statement, though it could be read that way depending on the speaker, yet not even the loyal opposition in state government has said anything except that they’re not going to say anything. Are they all afraid, lazy, or too daft to see the abuse for what it is, or just so cynical that they don’t care?
Upon further consideration, one might ask were the elements of conspiracy present in this entire joke of a search?
To answer that, one should look at the entire conduct of the governor and the Iowa BOR over the past few years.
The University of Iowa piece starts a bit later than the ISU part. But the BOR put in place several policies to make regents institutions more fiscally ‘sound’ but really when looking at the massive dollars spent it looks like passing on money to consultants and businesses at a record rate without real return. For instance TIER, which is tied into several GOP operatives at the local and state level. There are other examples.
But for UIowa, the forced ouster of Miles and other Regents started with Branstad’s election. Rastetter took over, raiding ISU first. However with muscle on his side (BOR appointees) he forced Sally Mason out (all evidence points that way). He restaffed the BOR support group — Thomas Evens Jr the long time legal consultant of the BOR suddenly left in June (how timely for a presidential search huh? http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/education/2015/06/29/regents-legal-counsel/29451959/)
Various Rastetter/GOP/Branstad operatives took on academic responsibilities — Mathes, Braun, various people at ISU. Thus there was almost a coup to control the Iowa BOR.
With this done, and control of the permanent support staff of the Iowa BOR, it was time to replace Iowa Pres Sally Mason with a hand-picked business guy who would implement the sort of ALEC changes these guys want.
The manipulation of a presidential search can be implemented with several key members on board. For instance if the head of the search, and the interim President are on board during a manipulated fraudulent search, it makes it all feasible. (once you forced out a sitting president).
In UIowa’s case it was easy because the university appointed the same person both Interim President and head of the search committee.
So actually the elements of a conspiracy are in play, especially with the recent revelations about no-bid contracts, sweetheart deals, and under the table positions, documented in the papers. Especially when the same names come up in conjunction with all of the above: Rastetter as King of all; Robillard as Interim President, head of search, and a person who appears to meet outside HIS OWN SEARCH COMMITTEE FORUMS with a favored candidate and with a favored donor; Mathes, who is part of the tainted search process, & part of illegitimate off campus meetings, and dispenser of under-the-table non-bid contracts; Braun, whose name doesn’t turn up in the search, but is now the most compensated person on the BOR, and who was actually PUT IN CHARGE OF SALLY MASON before her sacking.
I would also add there are elements of business representatives aligned with this group, although that gets murky (like the U officials who apologized to Harreld).
It appears that the conspiracy is coming apart some as Rastetter appears to throw Matthes under the bus over the most recent no-bid incident. Don’t expect Rastetter nor Branstad to be loyal when their survival or
their money is on the line.
However, connecting the dots does seem to indicate a conspiracy to defraud the state and the federal Govt and the taxpayers of monies, grants, contracts, and official positions without due process or without sunlight.
Now, will the courts, or the federal agencies involved, or the Iowa voters care enough to take action?
Will also add the butcher went to work on other staff members in Des Moines, which appeared to be very odd, at least the to CR Gazette. This happened in June 2015.
Interesting isn’t it. Weasels everywhere.
This is Part 2 of Regents President Rastetter, Fairness and Fraud. For Part 1, click here.
The 2015 UI Presidential Search
In various posts over the past four months we assumed that Regents President Bruce Rastetter was the instigator of the search that led to J. Bruce Harreld being appointed at Iowa. As president of the Board of Regents it was ultimately Rastetter’s decision whether to launch a search at all, as opposed to simply hiring someone into the position, which the board could have done at considerable savings to the taxpayers of Iowa. By virtue of initiating a search, and by virtue of Section 7.02(1) of the Regents Policy Manual, it should be clear that once a search was authorized and initiated, there was — as a matter of policy — an expectation that the search would uphold the board’s own dictate of fairness.
From all of the above we can also conclude that the ultimate responsibility for conducting a fair search and selection process fell on Bruce Rastetter as president of the board. Even though UI administrator and co-conspirator Jean Robillard was the chair of the search committee, Rastetter had both a procedural and fiduciary obligation to make sure that the search was conducted fairly — and that’s true regardless of the role that Rastetter also played as a member of the search committee. As much as Rastetter and Robillard tried to shape-shift in and out of various roles during and after Harreld’s appointment, at no time was Bruce Rastetter ever not also acting as the president of the Board of Regents during the search.
In calling for and orchestrating the 2015 presidential search at Iowa, Rastetter and the board were acting on the wide authority granted to the board, but statute, for conducting presidential searches. Again, from the Regents Policy Manual:
As you can see, the board is allowed to search in whatever manner it deems best, and each subsequent search need have no relation to prior searches. However. Even though the Board of Regents is allowed to make up the rules for each search, once established, those rules are then subject to the same Section 7.02(1) requirements of fairness, integrity and respect as any other board business. Without notice, rules in a presidential search cannot simply be ignored, changed, or administered on a preferential basis. The rules themselves may be screwy, but if they don’t violate the law they are permissible, and as long as they are applied equally to all candidates they are in compliance with board policy.
In a recent post concerning the phone call which Regents President Rastetter instigated during the closing days of the search, from Governor Branstad to J. Bruce Harreld, it was clear that Rastetter was acting not as a member of the board but as a political crony. And yet, as just noted, it was not possible for Rastetter to recuse himself from his role as president of the board in that moment, meaning his advocacy for Harreld was manifestly unfair, showed no integrity, and showed no respect to either the other members of the board, the other candidates, or the search process itself. When Rastetter also failed to make the same opportunity available to the other three finalists at the time, he then breached his obligations a second time, continuously, until Harreld was appointed several weeks later.
While advocating for a single candidate was clearly improper, from a fiduciary perspective there were no prohibitions against phone calls in the rules governing the search. So while Rastetter should rightly be removed from office for his actions on that day, in isolation they do not prove fraud. The same might be said for Rastetter’s willful deception of search committee members Gardial and Bohannan during Harreld’s first appearance on campus on July 8th, or even of the secret Kirkwood meeting with Harreld in ‘early June’, which was also attended by Robillard and UI administrator Peter Matthes.
The same cannot be said, however, for the secret meetings that Regents President Rastetter arranged between J. Bruce Harreld and four regents on July 30th, at Rastetter’s place of business in Ames. In fact, in arranging and facilitating those meetings, Rastetter not only breached his responsibilities to the Board of Regents with regard to policy, he committed fiduciary fraud by fixing the outcome of the election at that point, even as the other candidates, the search committee and Parker Executive Search continued to rack up expenses which the taxpayers of Iowa were contractually obligated to reimburse.
The July 30th Secret Regent Meetings
If there is one day in the entire search when the conspiratorial fraud to elect J. Bruce Harreld is laid bare, it is July 30th. Not only does Harreld meet with four regents at Rastetter’s private place of business on that day, but the search committee meets telephonically. In doing so, Rastetter and the two other board members who are on the search committee — President Pro Tem Katie Mulholland and Milt Dakovitch — are joined not only by the other members of the committee, but by a staff attorney at the University of Iowa, who is available to answer all manner of legal questions about the search. And yet of the three participating regents, none of them asks the attorney whether it will be proper for four regents to meet with Harreld on that same day, including two regents who are not members of the search committee.
Although Regents President Rastetter arranges for Harreld to meet with the four regents on July 30th, and those meetings take place at Rastetter’s personal place of business in Ames, Rastetter himself does not attend. It is not clear where Rastetter is at that time, but he does appear in the meeting minutes of the telephonic conference, so it can be assumed that he is also available by phone if Harreld or any of the regents has questions during their meetings — — or even to join in telephonically, if needed.
Harreld meets with the four regents in two meetings of two. One meeting involves search committee members Mulholland and Dakovitch, the other meeting involves regents Larry McKibben and Mary Andringa, who are not members of the search committee.
In arranging and facilitating the July 30th meetings, Regents President Rastetter violates the rules of the the 2015 UI presidential search in two distinct ways. While we’ve talked about those violations generally, we have not done so specifically in the context of each board member’s obligation to fairness.
The first abuse of power which Rastetter commits on that day is inviting two regents who are not on the search committee to meet with Harreld. It is clear from the process and timeline described by the search committee that the twenty-one committee members will determine four finalists, who will then be presented to the full nine-member board for final interviews and a vote. By allowing two members of the regents to speak with Harreld in advance, Rastetter in effect tampers with the second stage of the search process. Compounding that willful error, Rastetter then not only fails to notify the search committee as a whole that the meetings with Harreld took place, thus allowing other candidates to avail themselves of the same opportunity, he fails to notify the other four members of the Board of Regents as well. (The secret regent meetings on July 30th are only disclosed to the public several weeks after Harreld is appointed.)
The second abuse of power committed by President Rastetter is that he supplies the four regents with Harreld’s resume either prior to or during the meetings. Again, from the process and timeline described by the search committee, it is clear that the candidate documents for the four finalists are to be delivered to the regents approximately one week before the final interviews and vote. Because Harreld becomes one of the finalists, the two regents who are not on the committee are able to view Harreld’s credentials almost a full month before the four regents who are not invited to the meetings, meaning Rastetter has once again tampered with the second stage of the established search process.
It should be emphasized that in conveying Harreld’s resume, Rastetter conveys all of the materials that Harreld is believed to have submitted to the committee and board. Where other candidates submitted a letter of application detailing their vision for the University of Iowa, Harreld did not. And where other candidates submitted comprehensive c.v.’s, appropriately cited and proofread, Harreld submits only the same misleading and error-riddled resume that he submitted to Rastetter in anticipation of meeting with the four regents.
While the issue of fiduciary fraud remains to be determined, from the secret regent meetings which take place on July 30th — arranged for and facilitated in multiple ways by Regents President Bruce Rastetter — it should be clear that section 7.02(1) of the Regents Policy Manual was not simply violated, it was brutalized. From inviting two regents who were not members of the search committee, to failing to invite all members of the regents to participate in those meetings, to failing to notify the search committee that those meetings were going to take place and had taken place, to conveying candidate materials to individuals outside of the search committee, it is clear that Rastetter’s conduct was unfair, lacking in integrity and devoid of respect for any of the other people involved in the search process. Taken in sum with other events in the search, however — including particularly the governor’s phone call, the intentionally deceptive “VIP Lunch” on July 8th, the secret meeting at Kirkwood Community College in ‘early June’, and the consistent maladministration of the search itself — it is clear that as of July 30th, at the latest, Regents President Bruce Rastetter has decided to fix the outcome of the election in J. Bruce harreld’s favor.
Section 7.02(1) and the Secret Regent Meetings
In keeping with our determination to judge conduct only relative to the expectations and rules of the Board of Regents itself, and in order to fully comprehend the magnitude of the betrayals that Regents President Bruce Rastetter commits with regard to the secret regent meetings which he arranged and facilitated for Harreld on July 30th, it’s worth considering the impact of Rastetter’s abuses on one of the four regents who was not given the opportunity to meet with Harreld. Specifically, after the election, regent Subhash Sahai courageously spoke out about Regent President Rastetter’s improper behavior, earning him yet more abuse from the petty and vindictive boar president.
With a bit of literary license, let’s imagine we are watching regent Subhash Sahai on September 3rd, during the final interviews and vote. Having had about a week to digest the candidate materials, Sahai is confronted with excellent c.v.’s and letters of application from three fully qualified candidates steeped in academic administration and culture, and one shabby, badly prepared resume from a candidate with no actual qualifications for the position. And yet, when it comes time for the final vote, Sahai discovers that at least five regents are firmly set on hiring the carpetbagging dilettante over any of the three qualified candidates. No matter how Sahai argues against that choice, the five votes remain firm for Harreld, leaving Sahais, at the very least, confused about their insistence. After ninety minutes of debate Sahai relents, and a unanimous vote in favor of J. Bruce Harreld is entered by convention.
Now imagine that it’s several weeks later, and Sahai learns, via news reports, that the five regents who were firm in favor of Harreld either met with, or arranged for other regents to meet with, Harreld on July 30th, at the personal place of business of President Rastetter. What is Sahai to think? Not only does the lightbulb finally go on, giving him insight into where those hardened votes came from, but he now also realizes that he was intentionally excluded from participating in those meetings. Not only was he kept in the dark by Rastetter, but after the fact he was also kept in the dark by Mulholland, Andringa, Dakovitch and McKibben.
Sahai also does not know how many people on staff knew about the meetings. Did Executive Director Donley know? If so, why didn’t he make sure that all members of the board were informed? Was anyone on staff questioned about whether those meetings were proper, either beforehand or afterward? If so, who, and what did they say? If not, when did individual members of the regents staff find out that those meetings were taking place or had taken place? If any member of the staff knew about those meetings before the final vote, and in particular if they knew that confidential materials from the search committee had been passed to two members of the board who were not members of the committee, why did those staffers not notify someone that the vote had been compromised by Regents President Rastetter himself?
But it’s worse than that. When Sahai does finally speak out about being disenfranchised, the president of the board, Bruce Rastetter, subjects Sahai to public ridicule:
Incredibly, in getting in a vengeful dig at Sahai, Rastetter ignores the fact that he is the very person who gave four regents — including two who were not on the search committee — close to a one-month early look at Harreld’s resume. What is Sahai to think, or what are any of the other three regents to think, who were not invited to or apprised of the July 30th secret meetings? Where Section 7.02(1) of the Regents Policy Manual specifically calls for fairness, integrity and respect, they have all been treated unfairly and with no respect, in a matter flagrantly lacking in integrity on the part of President Rastetter, yet subsequent to those revelations the entire apparatus of the Board of Regents acts as if no one did anything wrong.
Even apart from questions about the fraudulent nature of the search as a whole, more abuses are committed on July 30th against the ideals and rules of the Board of Regents than at any other point in the search, and yet there are no consequences. From Rastetter’s clear demonstration of disregard for the full board when arranging the meetings with Harreld, to his petty ridicule of Sahai after Sahai expresses frustration at having been deceived by Rastetter, it is clear that the rules at the Board of Regents do not actually apply to the president himself. Whether there is more to Rastetter’s misconduct with regard to the overall search, on July 30th Regents President Bruce Rastetter intentionally betrays four members of the nine-member board, then conspires with the four members of the board who participate in that betrayal to keep quiet about their meetings with J. Bruce Harreld.
The Question of Fiduciary Fraud
In order to prove fiduciary fraud, which is a criminal charge, a criminal investigation would have to be initiated. The basis for doing so, however, should be clear. Along with the improper regent meetings on July 30th, we have a politically motivated phone call from the governor, which was solicited if not ordered by Regents President Rastetter, we have the July 8th “VIP Lunch” in which two search committee members are kept in the dark by Rastetter and Robillard regarding Harreld’s status as a candidate, and we have the secret Kirkwood meeting with Harreld, where Rastetter, Robillard, and ex officio search committee member Peter Matthes, also appear. A few months after the secret Kirkwood meeting, Matthes will be revealed as part of a crony political machine at the University of Iowa, which is bilking taxpayers through no-bid contracts specifically engineered to avoid detection. By virtue of both the company Rastetter keeps and his own conduct, including the defrauding of other candidates throughout the search process, there is more that sufficient justification for a criminal investigation of the overall search, both to determine whether the case for fiduciary fraud can be made, and whether the fraudulent search is part of a broader criminal conspiracy in state government.
Included in such an investigation would be an exhaustive deposing of board staff to determine what they knew, when they came into possession of any relevant information, and whether or not they acted appropriately with regard to board policy. On July 30th, with a little over a month to go in the search and selection process, Regents President Bruce Rastetter so thoroughly abuses Section 7.02(1) of the board’s policy manual, as well as the four regents who do not meet with Harreld, and the established process for the search itself, that there can be no doubt that he is doing so specifically for the benefit of J. Bruce Harreld. From that point on it can reasonably be assumed that Harreld is not simply a candidate, but the stealth candidate of the Branstad-Rastetter political machine — a charge supported only weeks later when Rastetter instructs Governor Branstad to place a phone call to Harreld.
The question yet to be answered, which will again require a full investigation with subpoena power, is when the fraud began. That’s important not only in terms of the overall fraud, but specifically with regard to the amount of money that was stolen from Iowa taxpayers. Was Harreld targeted as early as June? May? April? Or was Harreld the object of the fraud from the beginning? And how early did Rastetter, Robillard and Jerre Stead agree that whatever search process was authorized by the board, they would run their own search-within-a-search?
Beginning on page 69 of the document titled Miscellaneous documents.pdf, which was released by the regents on November 29th, there is a four-page contract between Parker Executive Search and the Iowa Board of Regents. On the fourth page of the contract, page 72 of the pdf, there is the following language regarding termination of the contract:
The contract is dated 03/13/15, or mid-March, meaning the full set fee would be due in mid-June, or just shortly after the secret Kirkwood meeting takes place. What would continue to accrue, however, would be reimbursable expenses from candidates and search committee members, which would likely be the majority of those expenses because of the backloaded nature of the search schedule. (You can see the search timeline in that same document, starting on page 73.) Given that the cut-down to nine semifinalists takes place after the secret regent meetings on July 30th, as do the “airport interviews” in mid-August, and the presentations of the four finalists at the end of August, it can be assumed that the search committee continues to incur expenses for what is, by then, little more than theater.
Again, not only was the board not obligated to conduct a search at all — they could have simply hired Harreld, or anyone else — but once the board decided to authorize a search that search was required, as a matter of board policy, to be fair. If at any point the board, and specifically Bruce Rastetter, acting in his capacity as president, decided that the right candidate had been found, there was an obligation to immediately terminate the contract to prevent further expenditures. Failure to do so, while also showing preferential treatment or favoritism to one candidate, would necessarily constitute fiduciary fraud.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that even the president of the Board of Regents cannot summarily terminate a presidential search once it’s underway, but that doesn’t mean a board president cannot present compelling reasons — legitimate or otherwise — for why a search should be terminated. In fact, that actually happened during the University of Iowa presidential search conducted in 2006-2007. From page 4 of the AAUP report on the Harreld hire:
If at any point in the search process Regents President Rastetter became convinced that J. Bruce Harreld was the only appropriate hire as the next president at the University of Iowa, then his only option at that point was to make a compelling case to the full board that the search should be terminated in order to hire Harreld. What was inappropriate, as both a matter of board policy and fiduciary duty, was for the President Rastetter to secure Harreld’s appointment by running an unfair search.
The larger question of when Rastetter and the other co-conspirators decided to pervert the search process also needs to be answered. Simply by looking at the end result of the search, including the lies told by Jerre Stead, Jean Robillard and Rastetter, and the fact that all three men were on the search committee when it was announced in February, it can be inferred that the plan to corrupt the search process was in force from the get-go. That the regents made Robillard the chair of the committee, and also the interim president from August 1st until Harreld takes office on November 2nd, and that Robillard also then betrays the search process in order to appoint Harreld, only underscores the degree of advance planning that was necessary. Even the inclusion of crony Peter Matthes on the search committee, in a non-voting capacity, speaks to intent. Factor in Jerre Stead’s long relationship with Harreld, and Harreld’s recent move back to Colorado, where Jerre Stead is about to reinstall himself as the CEO of IHS, and the number of apparent coincidences stretching back into early 2015 and late 2014, strains credulity.
Although we have said that Executive Director Bob Donley is little more than an office manager, it is his signature on the contract with Parker Executive Search, not Rastetter’s. As such, if Donley had any knowledge of the preferential treatment given to Harreld on July 30th, particularly before those meetings took place, he had a fiduciary obligation to speak up and protect the taxpayers of the state. Then again, given that Donley has been at the board for eight years, during which Rastetter has purged long-time employees in favor of his own hand-picked cronies, it’s possible that Donley is simply another cog in the Branstad political machine. In which case, again, a full and independent investigation of the Board of Regents is not simply warranted but overdue. (Donley was recently named chair of SHEEO, not only presenting him with professional ramifications regarding the ongoing scandals at the board, but making it likely that he would be predisposed to help make those scandals go away.)
Among the many questions to be answered by a full and independent investigation are:
* Who did Regents President Bruce Rastetter recruit? He is on the record stating that he recruited six candidates, but it’s not clear what the background of those candidates was. Did he recruit five candidates with experience in academic administration, and only one non-traditional candidate, or did he recruit six non-traditional candidates?
It is possible if not likely that the first phase of the fraud involved using the greater search apparatus to sift for the exact right non-traditional candidate, meaning any candidates with academic backgrounds were effectively excluded before the search even began. Once identified, phase two then involved fixing the election in the chosen non-traditional candidate’s favor by whatever means necessary.
* Where is the email or correspondence in which J. Bruce Harreld specifically requests meetings with four or more regents? Harreld has stated that he made that specific request, and Rastetter has confirmed that Harreld made that request, but no record of that request has been made available. (Whether the request was made by Harreld or not, acceding to the request was a violation of board policy for all of the reasons stated above.)
* When did Rastetter, Robillard and Stead first get together, in-person, to discuss the search? When did Harreld’s name first come up among the three committee members? If that meeting took place in mid-April or earlier, that means the contract with PES had only been in force for one month at that time.
* To what extent is Executive Director/CEO Bob Donley involved in any of the improprieties which have taken place at the Board of Regents? Was he aware of the July 30th meetings? Was he aware that Rastetter failed to notify other candidates, search committee members and four of the regents that those meetings were taking or had taken place?
Given a full and independent investigation, it is entirely possible that many of the disparate acts of abuse and crony politics which are currently being disclosed on an almost weekly basis would reveal centralized corruption. That Peter Matthes is watching over crony contracts at the University of Iowa, while also helping Regents President Rastetter fix the presidential election at the University of Iowa, yet Rastetter insists he knew nothing about the contracts, again defies belief. In any event, however, relative to board policy, all of those things represent cause either for termination from the board, or from employment at any of the board’s institutions.
Fairness, Integrity and Respect
In the four months since J. Bruce Harreld was fraudulently elected by Regents President Rastetter and a small cabal of co-conspirators, it may seem as if little has changed. In fact, however, Rastetter has already been forced to make one concession he clearly did not want to make. As noted in an earlier post, Rastetter and Robillard initially tried every dodge in the book to avoid talking about whether the search was fair or not, for reasons that should now be obvious. That all changed on 10/21/15, however, when Rastetter said this, in response to demands for his resignation:
No one other than Rastetter, his co-conspirators, cronies and apologists believes that the search which produced J. Bruce Harreld was fair. Not only was the search unfair, as a matter of policy the regents expect fairness from their employees in any business dealings. Whether or not Rastetter’s abuses rise to the level of criminality, there is no question that the way in which the search was conducted was unfair, meaning Regents President Bruce Rastetter should already have been forced off the board by the board itself, by the corrupt governor who gave Rastetter his presidency in exchange for campaign donations, or by state legislators who are sick of crony politics getting in the way of good governance — or at least their own local crony politics.
Regents Mulholland, McKibben and Dakovitch should also be compelled to resign for participating in the secret meetings with Harreld on July 30th, for failing to notify the other four regents that those meetings took place, and for failing to report Regents President Rastetter for arranging and hosting meetings which involved two members of the board who were not on the search committee. Although regent Andringa also met with Harreld, on July 30th she had only been on the board for two months, and is thus exempted under our probationary first-year rule — at least as far as this blog post is concerned. (I obviously can’t speak for law enforcement.)
The initial act in Rastetter’s engineered perversion of the search process began with the make-up of the committee itself, as also noted in the recently released AAUP report:
When Rastetter put himself and two other members of the board on the search committee, he not only created a confusion of roles in the search process — which he later exploited by insisting that he was obligated to repeatedly perform servile feats in order to satisfy J. Bruce Harreld’s insatiable appetite for due diligence — but he created two classes of regents. Rastetter, Mulholland and Dakovitch, all on the search committee, received a massively disproportionate amount of information relative to the other six regents — at least until Rastetter violated that questionable division of responsibilities by inviting two of the remaining six regents to meet in secret with J. Bruce Harreld.
On an nine-member board it is also abundantly clear why Rastetter chose to break the search committee’s rules and introduce two other regents — McKibben and Andringa — to Harreld on July 30th. By doing so, at his own private place of business no less, Rastetter locked up five votes for Harreld, meaning all that was left was to guide Harreld through the cutdown process — a virtual certainty due in large part to the minimal faculty membership on the committee. In arranging the July 30th meetings, facilitating those meetings, and conveying Harreld’s resume to two members of the board who were not on the search committee during those meetings, Regents President Bruce Rastetter violated the board’s own policy regarding fairness, integrity and respect. And that’s before Rastetter revealed himself to be a straight-up punk by belittling regent Sahai in the press.
The upshot of Rastetter’s own conduct, and the collective malfeasant conduct of a majority of the members of the board, is that the board itself has now established such low precedents for fairness, integrity and respect that enforcement of appropriate conduct throughout the board’s institutions is impossible. Any penalties or discipline leveled against employees under Section 7.02(1) can now be easily rebutted simply by pointing to the conduct of the regents president himself, who violated both board policy and the rules of the search committee on which he served.
To return to the comment thread which occasioned this post, although reasonable people can disagree whether a criminal offense was committed, any such disagreement is premised on a lack of facts which can only be uncovered by law enforcement. And yet setting such questions aside, it is abundantly clear that Regents President Rastetter not only conducted a fraudulent search, in order to do so he violated board policy in multiple ways. So when Regents President Bruce Rastetter says that the search which led to the appointment of J. Bruce Harreld was fair, he is lying either to avoid running afoul of board policy, or of the law, or both.
What is beyond dispute at this point is that there is more than enough justification for launching a full and independent investigation not only of the board’s hiring of J. Bruce Harreld, but of no-bid contracts at regent schools, jobs at regent schools being doled out to political cronies, and deals being brokered with private companies which enrich those companies at the expense of students.
The question now is not whether Regents President Bruce Rastetter did something wrong, but the extent to which he can be held accountable for his abuses. And that’s an amazing change in only four months. I don’t know if the Iowa AG will ever wake up and take long-overdue interest in the serial abuses of power emanating from the board of regents, or whether the legislature will ever acknowledge that it’s a little late to be concerned about politicizing the board when the governor quite literally muscled his largest campaign contributor into the presidency, but I like to think that at some point someone is going to say enough. I don’t know who that person is going to be, but clearly it’s time.
The clock is already ticking on 2016, and with each tick more damage is being done to the reputation of the state, and particularly to the reputation of the University of Iowa. Shoveling hush-money at the faculty in the guise of ‘vitality’ is not going to attract the best and brightest professors and researchers to an institution presided over by a man who couldn’t spell ‘IBM’ on his own resume, who was censured by the faculty before taking office, and who only got his job because of corruption at the highest levels of state government. Unless that’s the point, and Regents President Rastetter’s plan is to use his new toady president to hire more carpetbagging dilettantes into positions of responsibility and authority at the University of Iowa, provided their disdain for fairness, integrity and respect matches his own.
S. Eastman says
Very thorough and well laid out. Thank you. One minor clarification, if I may? When Rastetter first joined the board, and Brandstad “strongly encouraged” the sitting president and president pro-tem to leave the board, it was now former Regent Craig Lang who was appointed president, with Rastetter as president pro-tem. Rastetter did not become president and Muholland president pro-tem until 2013 when Branstad recommended Lang for re-appointment to the board but his confirmation was denied by the Iowa Senate.
Iowa code 262 (https://coolice.legis.iowa.gov/Cool-ICE/default.asp?category=billinfo&service=IowaCode&ga=83&input=262) is the section of Iowa law pertaining to the regents. With the Senate responsible for confirming appointments and many initiatives of the board required to submit regular reports to the legislature, it would seem that the legislature would be where oversight should fall. Unfortunately, I agree that the question of who the Regents answer to is unclear. There have been attempts in recent years to clarify this in the legislature and in the code. I hope we might see additional effort in this session.
Sleuth in training says
Here was one attempt to change the status quo. Of course, many resist the status quo. Perhaps they should be subject to Harreld’s technique of ‘public hanging.’
Sleuth points to Harreld’s special session on implementing strategy and corporate transformation. http://convincedvince.blogspot.com/2012/05/special-session-with-bruce-harreld.html#!/2012/05/special-session-with-bruce-harreld.html
•Culture is a critical control system, it needed to be managed actively
•Actions speak louder than words, and is the most effective way to set the culture
•Public hanging of non-performers and culture change resistors was done in order to send a message, but this was done sparingly
•Public rewards were communicated across all levels of the business in order to encourage and reinforce behavior”
So public hanging (sparingly) and shooting the unprepared are Harreld’s interventions. Dang.
This guy apparently trained under Benito Mussolini.
Thanks for the clarification. I knew that Rastetter did not immediately become president, and I had something in the post to that effect, but when I was going at it with my editing loppers I seem to have pruned a bit too closely. (Yes — that was actually the short version.)
Anyway, now I can simply point people to your excellent explanation. 🙂
Sorry if I perseverate, but it is the overall mileu of corruption. I still get angry with Mark Brauns control. Mild mannered looking conservative operative assuming power. Where is the academic achievement? Where is the accountability?
You first few excellent paragraphs lay out the evidence for a court injunction against the Harreld hire in a legal challenge. Wonder why no one stopped the process from going forward? Rastetter clearly violated the rules, esp exposing Regents to Harreld’s fake CV, a month before the other candidates. Clear fraud. Malfeasance. Criminal.
Looks like the Education Committees of the Iowa House and Senate keep an eye on the Iowa BOR. We need to write them:
I have zero interest in the political ramifications of any of this, but I am surprised that no one — and I mean NO ONE — has tried to make noise about any of these issues. It’s shocking to me. And more than a little unsettling.
Is everybody just so completely inured to this kind of corruption that it’s normal?
True story. On this past Wednesday, or maybe it was early Thursday, after almost a full week in which the fraudulently elected president of the University of Iowa, J. Bruce Harreld, managed to keep himself out of the press, I thought maybe, finally, he was getting the message. It’s not the people who are opposed to him who are out of touch, it’s that as both a fraudulently elected leader imposed by an occupying power, and as a man completely unqualified to perform the job he now holds, J. Bruce Harreld himself is out of touch, and precariously so. I even convinced myself that an innocuous story about the UI banning hoverboards, and the absence of any mention of Harreld heroically stepping to the fore to stop the hoverboard menace, indicated that someone — maybe UI spokesperson Jeneane Beck, maybe Harreld’s own personal (and metaphorical) hired media gun, Eileen Wixted — had finally convinced Harreld that he needed to stop talking. As in maybe for the remainder of his presidency.
So shame on me when Thursday evening rolls around and the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller drops a story about Harreld coming out of retirement to ‘participate’ in and perhaps even teach a few courses at Iowa. Then Friday comes knocking with a Jeff Charis-Carlson piece in the Press-Citizen, in which J. Bruce Harreld once again blows his latest and greatest origin story to smithereens.
So no, J. Bruce Harreld has learned absolutely nothing over the past four months, ever since the Iowa Board of Regents corrupted its own hiring process, defiled its own policy manual, defrauded the taxpayers of Iowa, and lied Harreld into office. And why would he? Because while you may be killing yourself to prove your worth at work every day, J. Bruce Harreld, carpetbagging dilettante, is being paid $4,000,000 over five years — at a minimum — to learn on the job.
The Real Reason
As to why J. Bruce Harreld seems so completely oblivious to his own toxicity, there’s a good reason for that. Or at least a purported rationale which is slightly less loony than all of the other reasons you’re thinking about right now. Out of all of the people who applied for the Iowa job, J. Bruce Harreld was hand-picked by a small cabal of co-conspirators to save the University of Iowa from the onrushing and apocalyptic Crisis in Higher Education. And J. Bruce Harreld himself knows this. Yes, there may have been a few qualified candidates here and there who actually knew how to do the day-to-day job that Harreld was hired to do, but Harreld’s special gift is that he is a ‘turnaround expert’.
In fact, it says so right here, in this PBS piece, which, like much of the online ‘news’ from PBS these days, is a repost from a think tank:
So there you go — if PBS says it, it must be true. In fact, if it wasn’t true, you might expect that instead of leaping from one front-page turnaround to the next, Harreld would have found himself falling out of the business scene, perhaps even being relegated to the halls of academe, where he might then while away his remaining years regaling wide-eyed young students about his heroic exploits in the business world, including saving IBM from certain death. Or at least certain bankruptcy. Or maybe only possible bankruptcy. But still, there’s that word — bankruptcy — so you know things were serious.
If you dig a bit deeper into the faux PBS report, however, you do find an interesting discussion of the root cause of the need to hire outsiders. You also find a completely asymmetric discussion in which a massive institution like the University of Iowa is compared — apples to apples — to Quinn College, which neither you nor I nor anybody else has ever heard of, including the 425 students who actually attend Quinn.
Now, as you’ve probably realized, what’s particularly interesting about that quote is that it does not apply to what happened at Iowa. The Board of Regents had three excellent, fully qualified candidates to choose from, yet opted for the completely unqualified J. Bruce Harreld. Why? Because the Iowa Board of Regents, under the leadership of Regents President Bruce Rastetter, is politically corrupt. If a politically beneficial transaction can be made, the Iowa Board of Regents is going to make it, so you know the opportunity to install their own hand-picked stooge at the top of the University of Iowa administrative food chain was simply too good to pass up — particularly after Harreld made it clear early on that he was more than willing to participate in that sham process.
So what was the outcome of Harreld’s hire, according to the repost by PBS? Well, apparently poor Harreld was treated with ‘suspicion’ when he finally arrived to save the Iowa day:
Careful readers will note that two reasons are given for the outrage about Harreld’s hire. First, that he was an outsider, and thus not trusted by “self-interested constituencies”, as opposed to all of those ‘selfless constituencies’ we hear so much about. Second, that Harreld was manifestly unqualified for the job, which is of course an understatement.
If you’ve been following the Harreld hire from the beginning, however, you know that the first point — that Harreld was discounted by the Iowa community because he was an outsider — is false. That question was asked and eloquently answered early on, and the only reason it persists is that it’s a useful lie told by people who support Harreld. People who, oddly enough, also go out of their way to engender and exploit mistrust about the University of Iowa specifically, and Iowa City generally, among citizens across the state. By which we of course mean Iowa Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter.
As to the second point — that Harreld was unqualified — that’s actually not what the scathing AAUP report proved, although it easily could have done so. As regular readers know, the AAUP not only went out of its way to avoid tackling the question of Harreld’s qualifications, one of the authors of the report then went inexplicably rogue and tried to make the case that Harreld deserved time to learn on the job — thereby demonstrating that Harreld was and indeed is unqualified. How unqualified? Well, at the exact moment when he was appointed on September 3rd, 2015, Harreld had the same total amount of experience in academic administration as every single student at the University of Iowa, combined. (Or less, if there were any administrators who were also taking classes.)
And yet, incredibly, after getting all that wrong, the PBS story omits the real reason why people do not and never will respect J. Bruce Harreld or his illegitimate rule, which is that he’s a liar. Which of course brings us back to September 3rd, 2015, and the actual moment when Harreld is appointed to the Iowa presidency by his co-conspirators. Because it is at that point that Harreld nobly takes to the podium to lie on behalf of those co-conspirators, so no one will ever know about the low down, dirty fraud that was perpetrated on his behalf, or how he himself abetted that fraud.
The Professional Lie
While we’ve covered Harreld’s podium lie extensively, it’s worth taking another look at the press conference which takes place immediately after the announcement of Harreld’s fraudulent appointment. This link is cued to the precise moment when Harreld — in response to a question about the origins of his candidacy — screws up and starts answering the question honestly, then stops, backs up, and tells a blatant lie about who ‘threw his hat into the ring’.
When the video starts the man you see seated on the left is Regents President Bruce Rastetter. Against the back wall, looking like they would rather be anywhere else, from left to right, are regents Larry McKibben, Katie Mulholland and Milt Dakovitch — the three veteran regents, who, along with newly appointed regent Mary Andringa, met with Harreld during the secret regent meetings on July 30th, thus locking up a five-vote majority on the board before the search committee even began the candidate cut-down process. (Later in the video, when the camera pans to the right, you can also see the former search committee chair, Jean Robillard, seated on the right.)
At the moment when Harreld lies and says that the president of another university initially brought him to the attention of the search committee, Rastetter, McKibben, Mulholland, Dakovitch and Robillard all know that Harreld is telling a lie. They know that because they met with Harreld themselves not as a result of being tipped off by a university president, or even having heard about Harreld through the search committee proper, but because Rastetter and Robillard had been talking to Harreld for months, including the secret face-to-face meeting in ‘early June’ at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids.
So why does Harreld tell this idiotic lie? Because in doing so he protects Ratetter, McKibben, Mulholland, Dakovitch and Robillard from questions about their improper contact with him — none of which the public, press, and even many of the former members of the search committee knows about at that time. Harreld’s lie is, blatantly, an act of complicity, yet also perfectly in keeping with many such choices that he made as a candidate. It is an attempt to cover up the secret regent meetings, the secret Kirkwood meeting, the phone call which Rastetter arranged from Governor Branstad, and even the first point of contact about the job, which almost certainly came from mega-donor Jerre Stead.
In fact, the only co-conspirator missing from the whole ghastly video is Stead, Harreld’s dear friend and mentor on the search committee, whom Harreld will prove to be fanatical about keeping at arm’s length, despite the fact that they both live in Colorado and their families have decades-old ties. Yet in keeping with the overall commitment of the co-conspirators, Stead steps up and does his duty in the press the day after Harreld lies at the podium, telling his own lie about the origins of Harreld’s candidacy. A lie that President-elect Harreld will in turn ignore, even as he knows that Stead’s statement is patently false.
The Big Lie
If you’re old enough, the whole tableau in that video may look like nothing so much as a Soviet-era press conference in which the politburo introduces the new ‘freely elected’ head of Hungary or East Germany. In fact, when the ministry of propaganda formally known as the Iowa Board of Regents announces their new puppet on that day, he actually comes with what propaganda aficionados call a ‘big lie’. The big lie in Harreld’s case is that there is a crisis in higher education, and Harreld is the only person who can solve that problem. And we know that because Harreld and his supporters can never stop talking about how he solved an even more critical crisis at IBM, right before he became an adjunct professor for eight years, then a self-employed, semi-retired business consultant for one year or less.
And yet surprisingly, only two months after Harreld is announced as the savior of the University of Iowa, the big lie that served as the pretext for Harreld’s fraudulent appointment magically disappears, just as he is finally poised to take office. After months of blather about how someone like Harreld was desperately needed, particularly by former search chair, former interim president, and current Vice President for Medical Affairs Jean Robillard, Harreld suddenly announces that Robillard’s personal empire at UIHC does not need his visionary help. This despite the fact that Harreld’s first visit to campus was actually at UIHC on July 8th, at the behest of Robillard, to speak on precisely those critical issues.
Instead of putting out fires left and right, however, when Harreld actually takes office on November 2nd, he has so much free time on his hands — what with there no longer being a crisis in higher education, or even a crisis at the University of Iowa — that one of his first official acts, only days later, is to announce that he will become one of the tri-chairs of a local business committee which hopes, with Harreld’s help, to finally exploit the University of Iowa for all it’s worth. Now, two months after that announcement, we have the news that Harreld has found something else to do with all of his free time. Again, what with the crisis in higher education apparently having resolved itself, Harreld is now going to come down off his high, illegitimate, unqualified administrative horse and ‘participate’ in a class about how indispensable he was when IBM was fighting for its inanimate corporate life. And gosh, if that goes well, maybe Harreld will even teach a couple of honors classes, too:
While Harreld is exploring that option, and we’re all reeling about what that ‘twist’ might entail, it might be worthwhile for any administrators and faculty who are not themselves wholly owned subsidiaries of the ministry of propaganda to take a hard look at whether allowing J. Bruce Harreld to teach classes is a good idea. Yes, I know he spent the better part of a decade teaching part-time at Harvard, but there’s at least one important difference between then and now. Specifically, when Harreld was teaching at Harvard, he was not also on video lying about how he got that job.
A Shot Across the Bow
Another problem with allowing Harreld to ‘participate’ in or teach classes at Iowa — as Nick Johnson has pointed out several times — is that there doesn’t seem to have been any serious effort to establish just what Harreld did at IBM. Very much like how Harreld exaggerated and lied about his accomplishments on his resume, the self-serving story of his heroism at IBM, which he seems to have been living off for the better part of a decade, does not appear to have come under scholarly scrutiny. Even at a major research university it’s one thing to be a corrupt administrator and another thing all together to teach students — as the stink surrounding administrator Peter Matthes should make clear. Yes, Matthes can apparently keep his state-funded job and continue to ‘manage’ crony, no-bid contracts which were intentionally engineered to deceive, but I don’t think anyone wants Peter Matthes teaching coursework to students.
In the previous post we detailed how Regents President Rastetter and other regents betrayed the core ethics provisions of the Regents Policy Manual so relentlessly during the Harreld hire as to make a joke of the very concept of policy. As you might imagine, those same provisions also apply to each of the state’s schools, and you can find them liberally salted throughout the University of Iowa Operations Manual, as is the case here:
So given that Harreld has clearly not acted with “honesty and integrity in all matters related to [his] employment”, what’s the excuse now? That he’s not staff? That he wasn’t officially, legally an employee of the state or regents or the school when he lied to the press and the people of Iowa? Is that our answer to any student who might want to know why a liar is teaching their class, or ‘participating’ in their class — that Harreld wasn’t technically, legally required to be honest, even though he was speaking as the newly appointed president-elect of the university?
If you’re going to give J. Bruce Harreld a platform to do what he likes doing best, which is talk about himself, when he’s also on the record lying about himself, students could end up confused about which parts of his lectures are scholarly and which parts are self-aggrandizing fabrications. Too, some students might object to having a liar judge their work and assign them a grade. And of course some reactionary students may think that J. Bruce Harreld is a fraud and an embarrassment to the school, but they may also feel they have to keep quiet for fear of receiving a poor grade.
With regard to the courses themselves, what about any potential conflicts of interest at the faculty or staff level? As you may or may not know, the dean of the Tippie College of Business is Sarah Gardial. If that names rings a bell — and it should — Gardial is one of the two search committee members (the other being Faculty Senate President Christina Bohannan) who were intentionally deceived by Rastetter, Robillard and Harreld himself on July 8th, when Harreld flew to Iowa City, with his wife, for his first official visit on campus. While Harreld, Rastetter and Robillard all knew that Harreld was there at least in part to check out the open presidency — and they had in fact met face to face in that regard, along with Peter Matthes, at the secret Kirkwood meeting set up by Jerre Stead — during Harreld’s presentation to 40 or so UIHC administrators, and the following “VIP Lunch”, Gardial and Bohannan were intentionally kept in the dark about Harreld’s candidacy.
I don’t think there is any way we’ll ever know whose I idea it was that J. Bruce Harreld should start ‘participating’ in if not teaching courses, but at the very least I think everyone would agree that Gardial is in a tough spot. Particularly so in light of Harreld’s comment that he will only teach “as much as deans and faculty will allow.” What is that — a threat? A shot across the bow? If you don’t let me teach I’m going to gash your funding or slash your staff? Does Gardial now have to worry that she will be publicly hung as a culture change resistor?
Sure, maybe I’m making too much of this. On the other hand, not only does Gardial now have to answer to someone who lied to her, personally, on July 8th, but it also turns out that Regents President Bruce Rastetter funds four scholarships through the Tippie College of Business. So that’s two of the three people who lied to her on July 8th, and both of them outrank her.
What about Robillard? Well, as far as I know he’s got no way to lean on Gardial, but that’s definitely not the case with our fourth co-conspirator, Jerre Stead — he of the giant ‘investment’ checkbook. That’s the same Jerre Stead who lied about the origins of Harreld’s candidacy the day after Harreld was fraudulently appointed, who also arranged the secret Kirkwood meeting, and who — at least according to what’s left of Harreld’s latest origin story — also called Harreld and begged him to initially meet with Rastetter, Robillard and Matthes. Because among all of the other millions that Jerre has already spent buying up pieces of the University of Iowa, in 2003 he sank $25M into Tippie, which is why he now has this nifty web page on the Tippie site.
Now, for all I know Gardial is fine with whatever Harreld wants to do. But if we suppose even for a moment that she’s opposed to Harreld teaching any courses, either at the business college or elsewhere, what’s the likelihood that all of the combined weight behind Harreld’s illegitimate appointment will not put a boot on her neck? I mean, we’ve already got all these people lying, on the record, in order to hire Harreld, and now they’re suddenly going to start acting like upstanding citizens, because they believe in academic integrity? No, I don’t think so. Which is of course why colleges and universities go out of their way to avoid conflicts on interest like this, to say nothing of outright hiring fraud and lying by administrators. Because it tends to undercut everyone’s credibility.
Six Months or Less
Okay, so the whole ‘should he teach’ thing is a mess. What about the actual coursework? What sort of obligations does Harreld have there? Well, helpfully, we can once again turn to the Iowa Operations Manual for our answer:
Thankfully, that couldn’t be any clearer: “The faculty member has the responsibility of being unfailingly honest in research and teaching.” Now again, because Harreld is an administrator I’m sure there’s some dodge that will allow him to just make things up, but for the moment let’s assume that there really are some academic standards remaining at the University of Iowa, shredded though they might be by his tenure. How might Harreld’s frequent claims of having saved IBM from certain bankruptcy be squared with reality — particularly if the course is being officially taught my someone junior to the president hisself? (For a dispassionate history of IBM during Harreld’s time there, see the three-part series at the bottom of this post.)
Well, let’s start with the issue of bankruptcy. Here’s how Harreld framed that peril in his infamous ‘BM’ resume:
Sounds chilling, doesn’t it? Well, what you may not know, and what Harreld does not want to tell you because you would be a lot less impressed, is that there are actually multiple kinds of bankruptcy. The kind he wants you to think about, which you probably are thinking about right now, is called Chapter 7 bankruptcy. That’s when you go belly up and have to liquidate your assets, and it’s horrible. It’s the final nail in the coffin after a long struggle, it sinks people into a hole that may take a decade or more to climb out of, and if you remember nothing else from this post you need to remember that IBM was never going to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
The kind of bankruptcy that IBM might have faced, or, more likely, opted to embrace, is called Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Instead of liquidation, Chapter 11 is used routinely for reorganization, often including the discharge of crushing pension and healthcare obligations to former employees. United and American Airlines have gone bankrupt, General Motors has gone bankrupt, PG&E went bankrupt, and on and on.
What IBM was dealing with when Harreld worked there was a real problem, but not the problem Harreld describes. IBM had more corporate mass than just about any company in the world, and that mass needed to be repurposed, which is where the “CEO and senior management team” came in — setting that course. Did Harreld help? Sure. Did he make the difference? No, and we know that for multiple reasons, not the least of which is that Harreld didn’t even rate a mention in Lou Gerstner’s book.
But the problem with Harreld’s claims goes deeper than that. On his resume Harreld makes heavy use of the word strategy. What does that mean? Well, it’s a glorified term for marketing and communications — for messaging. If ‘strategy’ sounds like it means actual decision making, like moves over a chessboard, that’s not an accident. It’s intended to sound like that because one of the first things marketing people learn is that the world does not respect marketing people. (That’s one of the things I like about Sarah Gardial — she owns her expertise in marketing, as she should. It’s a critical aspect of business, all too often despoiled by con artists and frauds.)
As it happens, before J. Bruce Harreld was given — or asked for — the title of Senior Vice President, Strategy, at IBM, he was the head of Global Marketing. In fact, on Harreld’s resume he states that he worked for IBM from 1995-2008, yet it’s only in 2008, halfway through the year, that he becomes VP of Strategy:
If you want to think of ‘strategy’ as more than advertising or the implementation of communications policy that’s fine, but the fact is, Harreld leans very, very heavily on that word throughout his professional narrative, yet in the business world strategy is a very squishy concept. Again, if you’re into marketing, one of the things you learn very quickly is that marketing has a bad name because of all the weasels who go into that profession. Which is of course why all the marketing weasels realized that it would be much better to work in strategy instead of marketing or communications, or MAR-COM as everyone used to say. (If you’re a cartoon marketing weasel you pronounce the word as ‘stragety’, which doesn’t look funny, but sounds hilarious if you say it out loud.)
J. Bruce Harreld, Marketing Weasel
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking this is all a bit of a reach, but it isn’t. Remember those two people I mentioned earlier — the ones that Harreld should be listening to but clearly isn’t? Jeneane Beck is a spokesperson for the University of Iowa. She came to the university from — of course — the Board of Regents, where she worked as a State Relations Officer at UNI. Before that she was a reporter at Iowa Public Radio, which is — of course — the actual broadcast arm of the Iowa Board of Propaganda. With that background, would you care to guess what department she works for now, at Iowa? That’s right, the Office of Strategic Communications.
And what about Eileen Wixted, Harreld’s communications guru-for-hire? Well, if you go to Wixted’s website and look at the top of your browser — or at the description of her site in a search engine — you will see that ace communicator Wixted makes sure that the first two words you see are “Strategic Communication”. Drill down a little farther and you’ll even find a whole web page devoted to communication strategy.
To be clear, it’s always a good idea to have a strategy when you’re communicating. For example, your overall, general-purpose strategy could be honesty. Unfortunately, not everyone believes in honesty, and that includes a lot of people in business and politics, who really just want to pry money out of your pocket by any means available. Ironically, the more your motives are suspect if not criminal, the more important it is to have a really good communications strategy. For example, while I don’t usually approach my friends with a “communications strategy”, if I was going to embark on a career in securities fraud I would definitely have a really good “communications strategy”.
Anyway, as you can see, the word strategy gets thrown around a lot in ways that sound important but really aren’t. So at the very least, before Harreld is presented as an expert in strategy, it seems to me that someone — preferably other than Harreld — should nail down what that actually means so the students he is talking at aren’t misled. You know, maybe something like this:
So is that what you were thinking J. Bruce Harreld was doing when he was saving IBM from itself? You know, what with all of his strategizing? No? Well, now you know why marketing weasels like the word strategy.
So does that mean J. Bruce Harreld is really a glorified marketing weasel? Well, based on his career arc after IBM, and his open forum, and the abject idiocy of things that Harreld has said about the previously life-threatening but suddenly non-existent crisis in higher education, I would have to say yes. In fact, we’ve talked about much of this before.
If you really did save IBM from itself, everybody would know that about you and your value in the marketplace would be sky high. Instead, Harreld goes from being VP of Strategy at IBM for, at most, six months, to being a part-time teacher at Harvard for six years, then a self-employed, semi-retired consultant for a year or less. If you really are that guy you go on to work for BP or VW for tens of millions of dollars. You don’t end up playing president at a Midwestern university, let alone require a cabal of co-conspiring insiders to get you in the door.
At Harreld’s open forum you may remember that he talked about being ‘ambidextrous’, about ‘the core’, and about going from ‘great to greater‘. When I first heard Harreld utter those buzzwords I actually felt bad for the man because they just sounded so dumb. (Also, at that time I didn’t know how complicit he was in the fraud that led to his hire.) What I have learned since, however, is that not only is ‘great to greater’ especially dumb, it’s actually a ‘strategic twist’ on someone else’s work. From the bottom of page 17 of the faculty feedback released by the regents on 12/06/15:
So not only does Harreld get himself censured before taking office, for claiming sole authorship of collaborative works listed on his resume, but his biggest buzzphrase is, charitably, an ‘homage’ to someone else’s originality. Harreld’s strategic version definitely ups the greaterness, but in terms of specifics his entire presentation was lacking precisely because he didn’t have the slightest idea about the job of, or the problems in, academic administration.
Which brings us to the kind of dumb you would think even Harreld would be incapable of uttering, yet here it is:
Is there any faculty member on campus, or administrator, or staffer, or street person sleeping in the steam tunnels, who has ever said anything as idiotic as “institutions only go up or down”? No. The answer is no, nobody has every said anything that dumb.
What exactly is Harreld’s metric? Is Harreld speaking incrementally, catastrophically? Is saying that “institutions only go up or down” like saying that a thermometer only goes up or down? How about a stock price? Or your heart rate or blood pressure over the course of a day?
Granted, Harreld’s strategic phrasing seems to have worked wonders on at least one of the crisis-sensitive minds at the ministry of propaganda, but is that the same standard an institution of higher learning should use when determining who gets to teach a course to students? Or even ‘participate’ in a class? Where’s the scholarship? Where are the facts, the details, the proof? Or is that what Iowa is now — a dumping ground for old timers who want to prattle on about the glory days, without any fear that they will be contradicted by facts?
The Final Irony
The three words that Harreld most wants to be associated with are ‘IBM’, ‘strategy’ and ‘bankruptcy’, all in a spine-tingling context that makes him out to be a super-hero of transformational change. Yet the closer you look, the less J. Bruce Harreld seems to have played a critical role in anything except overstating his own importance. Which of course dovetails nicely with his resume, which got him censured for exactly the same reason.
Students are a captive audience, which is a genteel euphemism for hostages. That’s why it’s important that teachers at all levels of education are honest and sincere, and J. Bruce Harreld is neither honest nor sincere. If it’s not bad enough that he’s on video telling a bald-faced lie, now he wants to teach students about a bankruptcy that was never going to happen, based on his critical experience as the VP of Strategy, which is a position he held for six months at most.
As to why Harreld might want to get back into the teaching business, if you remember, during his open forum, J. Bruce Harreld was specifically asked whether he would make tenure a condition of his employment. After ably demonstrating the inability to answer a yes-or-no question with either yes or no, Harreld finally said that he would not. Fortunately, because the main business of the Iowa Ministry of Regents seems to be doling out taxpayer money to political cronies, Harreld didn’t actually have to make tenure a condition of employment. Instead, a provision for tenure was simply jammed into his contract by the infinitely corrupt regents themselves.
I’m quite sure some members of the faculty were confused. They probably thought the University of Iowa was an institution of higher learning, when it is in fact an insane asylum headed by a man who lied his way into a job that he was not, is not, and never will be qualified to hold. And yet, if he can just nail down tenure, that will add another fifty percent to his annual salary, netting him close to a million dollars each year — and that’s before factoring in his deferred annual compensation of $200,000, plus free housing, plus a state-funded staff to deal with all of that stuff he doesn’t know how to do, or want to do, or need to do now that the crisis in higher education is no longer strategically operative.
The final irony? There actually is a crisis in higher education, at least at the University of Iowa. It goes by the name of J. Bruce Harreld, and there are currently thirty thousand students at risk.
Quick comment: No one was more qualified to lead this ‘administration’ than J Bruce Harreld.
Look at the Univ of Iowa’s Administrative leadership:
J Bruce Harreld: BS Eng, MBA
Barry Butler, Exec VP: Ph.D. Engineering
Jean Robillard, VP Med Affairs, MD
Kevin Ward, Human Resources, BA and MBA (and head of ‘human resources’??)
Terry Johnson, CFO, BA and MBA
Ken Kates, DEO, UIHC, BA and MBA
Ron Lehnertz, Finance and Operations, BA and Exec MBA
Peter Matthes, VP External Relations (heh heh), BA and MBA
Carroll Reasoner, Counsel, JD and working in business
Dianel Reed, VP Research, PH.D Comp Sci
Thomas R Rocklin, Mech Engineering
The Univ of Iowa leadership is simply MBA and Engineering driven.
MBA? Like that is the degree of choice at an academic institution? Heck, Lehnertz has an EXECUTIVE MBA, which takes, what?, a weekend?
Is there a true academic in that administration? So of course Bruce Rastetter, BA, Drake law dropout, want an MBA guys there, because MBAs run every other aspect of the U of Iowa.
I mean what could go wrong? (which also asks: do they teach ethics in MBA programs?)
From Harreld’s favorite expert resource, Wiki on the MBA:
The media raised questions about the value and content of business school programs after the financial crisis of 2007–2010. In general, graduates had reportedly tended to go into finance after receiving their degrees. As financial professionals are widely seen as responsible for the global economic meltdown, anecdotal evidence suggests new graduates are choosing different career paths.
Deans at top business schools have acknowledged that media and public perception of the MBA degree shifted as a result of the financial crisis. Articles have been written about public perceptions of the crisis, ranging from schools’ acknowledgment of issues with the training students receive to criticisms of the MBA’s role in society.
Even before 2008, going back to the dot-com crash in 2000, there was awareness that business colleges, and in particular the MBA pipeline, had created a large pool of young entrepreneurs who were steeped not in ethics and integrity but in how to get around every rule. Where did they learn how to do that? By taking business ethics courses and examining cases studies in which business people got caught.
In effect, business colleges became like penal institutions: if you want to be a really good criminal, all you have to do is put in a few years in either place and you’ll come out knowing the tricks of the trade.
See also Boston Chicken/Market, which was a pump-and-dump scheme, but of course Harreld takes credit only for the expansion phase, before the entire business collapsed:
Look at this great look at MBAs
(Harreld) “I especially appreciated your candor and perspective on the challenges and opportunities at UI,” Harreld wrote to one regent after their July 30 meeting. “As we discussed, institutions only go up or down. It’s clear many critical elements are in place to enable UI’s next leader to take the institution to the next level.”
That regent, Mary Andringa, wrote back to Harreld and encouraged him to apply for the presidency: “Crisis necessitates change — it may be the big challenge that can energize you in the next five years!”
is one of the dumbest email exchanges recorded by edumacated peeples.
How does Harreld – who has no interest in the presidency, remember – even know what is great in university pecking order? How does he have the slightest idea what the U of Iowa needs to go from great to greater to greatest to greatginornous?
And what does Andringa understand about ‘crisis’. other than it sounds like drama which apparently all the right leadership people (read rich GOP donors) love.
In any of these emails, and in any exchange it is a bunch of hyped bull**** without specifics. Nothing detailed. Ridiculous!
The degree to which the entire case for Harreld rested on marketing speak, drama and ginned-up narratives was pathetic enough. Then you look at what the man said — “Institutions only go up or down”, “Great to greater” — and how he comported himself in his open forum, and it’s just incredible (to me anyway) that the five regents who conspired to elect him are still making decisions that affect our state institutions of higher learning.
What other demonstration of incompetence — if not malfeasance — is needed? Does nobody in a position of power in state government stand up and say, “This is a disgrace.” Even if you have no way to change the outcome, you can go on the record with your revulsion, and yet there’s nothing.
Among the various storylines we’ve been following with regard to the fraudulent election of J. Bruce Harreld as president of the University of Iowa, one stands out. That is of course Harreld’s origin story as a candidate, which was sketchy on the day of his appointment, and has changed every couple of months since. In the context of the Harreld hire, the first use of the phrase ‘origin story’ on this site occurred on 10/11/15, in reply to a comment about the willful maladministration of the search process by Regents President Bruce Rastetter (who appointed himself a member of the search committee), and search chair, interim president, and UIHC emperor, Jean Robillard:
While that may have been slightly prophetic, at the time I don’t think anyone other than the co-conspirators behind Harreld’s hire knew how revealing the story could eventually become. Even in mid-October, after rolling disclosures in the press about the consistent preferential treatment Harreld received as a candidate, we were still operating under assumptions about Harreld’s origin story which came from his press conference as the just-announced president-elect on September 3rd. At that time, as has been endlessly recounted here, Harreld claimed — using what may be the most halting, conditional English sentence ever uttered by anyone over the age of nine — that the search committee was initially made aware of his untapped eminence by the president of another university. Here is that moment as reported by Eric Kelderman of the Chronicle of Higher Education, on 09/14/15:
As regular readers know, one whopping big problem with Harreld’s initial explanation about how the search committee “reached out to” him to gauge his nonexistent interest in the Iowa job, is that two members of the search committee — Faculty Senate President Christina Bohannan, and Sarah Gardial, dean of the Tippie College of Business — would later go on the record stating that they had no idea who Harreld was or why he was in town when he visited the campus on July 8th, at the invitation of Search Committee Chair Jean Robillard. If Harreld was initially brought to the attention of the search committee by the president of a major university, and that spurred the invitation from the search chair, how was it possible that he was not on a list of possible candidates at that time?
The phrase ‘origin story’ pops up again on Ditchwalk only a few days later, on 10/18/15, in a post explaining why the Harreld hire could constitute fraud against the taxpayers of Iowa:
The phrase appears again, three days later, on 10/21/15, in a post about co-conspriator Jerre Stead, whose longstanding relationship with J. Bruce Harreld was at that point only beginning to become known:
Two months after intimating that he was nominated by Purdue President Mitch Daniels, and only a day or two before he takes office on November 2nd, Harreld gives interviews to the local press which not only shred his prior statements about the origins of his candidacy, they expose the lies that his co-conspirators have told in support of that false narrative. The damage is so extensive that you would have to read this entire post to understand all of the implications, but here’s how that post began:
And a moment later, from the same post:
As I later discovered, Harreld’s two wildly divergent candidate origin stories were both on video, allowing anyone with a few spare minutes to watch the “president of another university” magically disappear, only to be replaced, in the revised version, by an anonymous individual at Boston Consulting. In the new version this individual purportedly tips Rastetter off about Harreld, at which point Rastetter then cold-calls Harreld about the Iowa job — even though Harreld is already good friends with, and lives near, search committee member Jerre Stead.
Here’s how that origin-story revision was reported by Jeff Charis-Carlson of the Press-Citizen, on 11/01/15:
Note the phrase “late spring”. Until a week ago Friday, that was the earliest acknowledged point of contact between Harreld and any member of the search committee, and Harreld made that assertion himself, to the press, on the weekend before taking office. As it happens, even that claim was fraught with potential problems, as we analyzed and debated in several subsequent posts. Given that the ‘late spring’ timeline was also a complete overhaul of his previous explanation, it seemed reasonable at the time to be dubious about Harreld’s new claims, particularly as they once again made certain to omit any initiating conversation from Stead.
While the uncertainties only grew from there, including questions about whether Harreld used commercial air travel or private charters for what turned out to be four trips to Iowa (and a fifth to Chicago) during the search process, the question of when Harreld was first approached by any member of the committee seemed to have been settled — at least as far as Harreld was concerned. At least until a little over a week ago, when a contentious email exchange between Harreld and an alum was reported in the Press-Citizen by Charis-Carlson, on 01/08/16:
In a single remark J. Bruce Harreld suddenly shifts his entire origin story two months earlier into 2015, yet even a week after that unexpected disclosure it’s hard to keep track of all of the implications. Without speculating in any way, however, one thing we know right off the bat is that when Harreld stated that he was first contacted about the position in ‘late spring’, that was apparently also a lie. We know that because March is not ‘late spring’. In fact, the majority of March is actually ‘late winter’, with only the last ten days or so qualifying as the earliest days of spring.
Which brings us to the next problem with J. Bruce Harreld’s origin story. If Harreld got a call from Rastetter in March, presumably then still followed by a beseeching call from Stead a week or so later, that leaves a gap between when the first contact is made and when Stead arranges the get-together at Kirkwood. Even if the initial call from Rastetter comes on the last day of March, and the sit-down still happens in ‘early June’, that’s a span of a month or more. If the first contact happens in early March, that means almost two full months pass before they meet face to face. Unless of course the meeting at Kirkwood also really happened in March, or perhaps ‘early April’, putting all of those events back in proper sequence relative to each other, only two months earlier.
Even if Harreld says he was confused when he wrote that he initially heard from Rastetter in March, at this point there is be no plausible or even extenuating reason for believing him, while there are plenty of reasons why the March version makes more sense — as does moving the Kirkwood meeting earlier into 2015 as well. Precariously, however, that would also move Harreld and his co-conspirators that much closer to the most serious charge of all, which is that his hire was not simply fraudulent, but a done-deal from the start. Meaning it was decided even before Iowa Board of Regents Executive Director Bob Donley signed the search contract with Parker Executive Search on 03/15/15 — a contract which has cost the state at least $300,000.
While determining whether Harreld’s appointment was a done deal would probably be trivial with investigative authority, including subpoena power and the ability to indict, as noted in numerous previous posts there seems to be no governmental will to actually hold public officials in Iowa accountable for their misdeeds. What we can do until that day comes, however, is point to patterns of behavior which support the launch of a full investigation. And the first pattern of behavior we would obviously point to would be the fact that J. Bruce Harreld keeps lying to the press and the people of Iowa about how he initially came to be aware of the open presidency.
First, Harreld asserts that he was brought to the attention of the search committee, possibly, by the president of a major university. Then, in the second version, he says that he was brought to the attention of the search committee by Boston Consulting in ‘late spring’. Now, in the third version, Boston Consulting (but in any case definitely not Jerre Stead) still presumably still tips Rastetter off about Harreld, but does so two months earlier, in March, instead of ‘late spring’.
As to the question of conspiracy, while each subsequent iteration of Harreld’s origin story currently rests on Harreld’s word alone, it turns out that’s not true of the initial origin story that Harreld presented. In fact, we can actually see the conspiracy in action following Harreld’s initial claim that he was brought to the attention of the search committee by the “president of a major university”. Because after Eric Kelderman noted that Harreld’s explanation was wishy-washy, Kelderman did what any good reporter would do and followed up on that claim. And that claim was indeed confirmed by both Jean Robillard, the former search chair, and Mitch Daniels himself, the current president of Purdue University.
Except we now know it’s not possible that Mitch Daniels was the original initiating contact between the search committee and Harreld. Long before Mitch Daniels could have thrown Harreld’s name into the search committee’s hopper, Harreld was already talking to and even meeting with Rastetter and Robillard face to face. So at the very least, when Robillard confirms to Kelderman that Mitch Daniels was the person who prompted the search committee “to reach out to” Harreld, we know that Robillard is telling yet another of the lies that he told in order to conceal the conspiracy which rigged Harreld’s appointment.
Why did Mitch Daniels confirm that he brought Harreld to the attention of the search committee? Well, one possibility is that Daniels was in on the conspiracy as well, and just doing his bit to defraud the people of Iowa. Assuming that Daniels was not in on the conspiracy, however, the problem with his confirmation to Kelderman is that we don’t know where Daniels got the idea that a Purdue alum with no experience in academic administration would be the right long-shot candidate at Iowa. Does Daniels just wake up one morning and think, “Gosh, the completely unqualified J Bruce Harreld would make an excellent university president!” No, he does not do that. Which means the most likely reason for Daniels making any recommendation about Harreld to any member of the search committee at any time is that someone asks Daniels to make that recommendation on Harreld’s behalf, including, possibly, even Harreld himself.
Now, we could solve some of this if we knew what Harreld’s nominating papers said, but the Iowa Board of Regents has refused to release any of the candidate-specific information held by Parker Executive Search. So we don’t actually know when Harreld was officially introduced into the search process. There is no question, however, that Harreld’s official nomination took place long after the initial contact, which Harreld now says occurred in March — meaning, conceivably, the earliest days of that month. In fact, Harreld’s introduction into the official search process clearly takes place after the secret Kirkwood meeting with Rastetter, Robillard and Matthes, after the “VIP Lunch” with Rastetter, Robillard, Gardial and Bohannan, and apparently even after the secret July 30th regent meetings, which Rastetter personally arranges for Harreld at Rastetter’s own place of business in Ames.
Even today we don’t actually know when the search committee becomes aware of Harreld as an official candidate, in part because the committee, under the leadership of Robillard and the ever-attendant Rastetter, along with dubious advice from Parker Executive Search, goes out of its way to set up ambiguous rules for that declaratory process. What we do know is that there is no way that Mitch Daniels facilitated the introduction between Rastetter and Harreld, yet we still have Daniels confirming that critical role with the press. Is Daniels simply lying?
Well, from Daniels’ perspective he may have thought he was telling the truth at the time, but clearly he no longer thinks that. As to how he might have come to that original misperception, the simplest answer is that someone asked Daniels to make an official or on-the-record introduction, only well after the fact of Harreld’s actual involvement in the search. The reason for doing so would be that Daniels would then act as a cut-out or front for the conspiracy which installed Harreld in office, giving the entire sham search the appearance of Purdue-grade propriety.
Will Mitch Daniels ever set the record straight about who asked him to pretend to nominate Harreld? No, he will never do that. What we still do know, however, is that three people — Harreld, Robillard and Daniels — at one time insisted that Mitch Daniels introduced Harreld to at least one person on the search committee. That story is now void, but the fact that it was once in force means that at least one person really did try to use Daniels as a fake point of origin for Harreld’s candidacy, and that fact has important implications for Harreld’s subsequent revisions.
We have also seen Harreld’s instinct to obfuscate and deflect play out with regard to Jerre Stead’s involvement, albeit circumstantially. Where Stead is the most obvious initial conduit of information about the Iowa job, particularly by virtue of their long history and proximity to each other in Colorado, at every step of the way J. Bruce Harreld is absolutely certain this his old friend, coach and mentor, who is also a University of Iowa mega-donor and search committee member, was not the first person to contact him about the position. And of course the day after Harreld’s appointment Stead himself famously tells a heart-warming story about how surprised he was to see Harreld’s name on a list of candidates which had been provided to him by either PES or the search committee. Except of course that’s impossible, given that Harreld wasn’t on any committee list as late as July 8th, which is well after Stead calls and begs Harreld to meet with Rastetter, Robillard and Matthes, then personally arranges that face-to-face meeting at Kirkwood. (Stead originally planned to attend the meeting himself, but, according to the origin story that Harreld tells the weekend before taking office, Stead backed out at the last minute, leaving J. Bruce so very sad.)
Like Robillard, Stead tells a bald-faced lie to the press in support of Harreld’s initial and patently false origin story. With Harreld’s recent statement that he was actually contacted by Rastetter in March, and not ‘late spring’, the likelihood that Stead was Harreld’s initial contact about the Iowa presidency increases significantly, because while the search committee was officially announced on 02/25/15, it didn’t get serious about searching for candidates until May or June, when the official advertising for the position began. Prior to that, according to an official timeline dated 06/02/15, which was released to Stephen Voyce’s FOIA site by the regents on 11/29/15, the first official contact between the search committee and PES takes place on 03/25/15, ten days after the signing of the contract by Regents Executive Director Bob Donely — meaning at the tail end of the month in which Harreld now says he was first contacted by Rastetter. (See page 73 in Miscellaneous documents.pdf.)
Given that someone enlisted Mitch Daniels in a premeditated effort to obfuscate the origins of Harreld’s candidacy, we would have to be credulous idiots to assume that same instinct was not now driving aspects of Harreld’s latest origin story. An origin story which features a blind tip from Boston Consulting, which in turn prompts search committee member and Regents President Bruce Rastetter to cold-call someone he does not know, who turns out to be someone that fellow search committee member and mega-donor Jerre Stead has known for decades. Then again, as you may or may not know, the first job listed on Harreld’s infamous resume is with Boston Consulting, where he worked in various capacities from 1975 to 1983, including serving as a member of the board. And of course as a world-wide business success, Jerre Stead also has his own history with Boston Consulting, going back decades. And of course Bruce Rastetter is a regionally successful businessman, who has undoubtedly heard of Boston Consulting, and apparently must have contacts there if they reached out to him sometime in March, before the position was even advertised, to clue Rastetter in about J. Bruce Harreld’s disinterest. (Does Jean Robillard, emperor of UIHC, have any connection to Boston Consulting? I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised. More to the point, however, it hardly matters.)
If J. Bruce Harreld or Jerre Stead wanted to use Boston Consulting as the new Mitch Daniels — meaning as a cut-out for any prior conversations between the two of them about the Iowa job — that would literally be as easy as making a phone call. It’s even possible that Harreld or Stead really did prompt Boston Consulting to wittingly or unwittingly contact Rastetter, in order to initially put Harreld’s name in play. To be fair to Harreld and his co-conspirators, however, it’s also possible that Boston Consulting played an active role in Harreld’s hire, by which I mean that Boston Consulting was also in on the conspiracy in some way.
As evidence for that deeply suspicious line of thinking we need only look at the recent imposition of Margaret Spellings on the University of North Carolina, which was engineered by a small cabal of co-conspirators in that state. What’s the connection to Boston Consulting? Well, from 2009 to 2013 Spellings was a Senior Adviser to Boston Consulting.
Why would Boston Consulting suddenly want to place former advisers or members of the board in positions of power at large universities? Perhaps they’ve grown tired of getting their asses handed to them by Deloitte, including the multi-million-dollar TIER review currently being conducted by the Iowa Board of Regents. In fact, that may be why one of Spellings’ first official acts at UNC was funneling over a million dollars to Boston Consulting for a review of the UNC system.
But here’s the thing. No matter how deep you want to go down the conspiracy rabbit hole, and no matter what role you think Boston Consulting may or may not have played in tipping off anyone at Iowa about Harreld’s availability, and regardless whether Boston Consulting was at the time or is now being used as a cut-out in order to keep Harreld’s true origin story secret, the one thing you cannot do is imagine any permutation in which Boston Consulting tips off anyone about Harreld without first getting the okay from the former Boston Consulting director himself. Or maybe you can, but I can’t. Because between his old connections with that firm, and any new connections that Harreld establishes while living in and working part-time as a Harvard professor in Boston (or Cambridge, as he pointedly notes in the email quote above), there is zero chance that Boston Consulting was not aware of Harreld and what he was doing prior to the Iowa position becoming available in late 2014. Which also happens to be when Harreld decides to pull up stakes in Boston and move back to Colorado, near his old friend, mentor and coach, Jerre Stead.
We know that Harreld and others lied about Mitch Daniels originally putting Harreld’s name in play, because Harreld himself later tells a completely different and contradictory story. We know that Jerre Stead lied the day after Harreld’s election in order to distance himself from Harreld’s fraudulent appointment. We know that Regents President Bruce Rastetter gave preferential treatment to Harreld on multiple occasions, then lied and said that the search was fair. So what are the odds that in now saying he was first contacted by Rastetter in March, after Rastetter was purportedly tipped off by Boston Consulting, that Harreld is finally telling the whole truth?
Well, let’s look again at the man’s instincts, as betrayed in the quote above about his political affiliations:
Yes, let’s think about that. Or better yet, let’s do an internet search for information about J. Bruce Harreld’s political allegiances. Because this right here seems to be a web page showing, as of 09/30/14, that J. Bruce Harreld was a registered member of the Republican Party in Colorado, despite having “lived in Cambridge for many years”. (Note: that website, like many similar sites on the internet, may be little more than a scam in which information is posted online to force individuals to pay to have that information removed, but voter information in Colorado is indeed a matter of public record.)
Now, maybe Harreld’s politics change as often as his origin story, and when he was in Cambridge he was a Democrat, or even a Socialist. But just looking at the facts, it does seem to be the case that J. Bruce Harreld cannot resist telling a leading lie when the opportunity presents itself. Instead of saying that his politics are nobody’s business, or saying he’s been a Republican for life, or whatever the truth is, he almost compulsively injects a comment into the conversation which is intended to mislead. Which of course brings us back to Harreld’s comment about first being contacted in March:
Notice that Harreld does not say he “never knew” any member of the search committee “until March 2015”, because of course he had known Jerre Stead for two decades. In that quote Harreld does confirm, however, that he had no prior relationship with Rastetter, which means his current origin story really is that Regents President Bruce Rastetter cold-called him about the Iowa job. And apparently that’s true even though Rastetter and Stead were not only both members of the search committee at the time, but after initially being rebuffed by Harreld, Rastetter somehow magically knows to call Stead and ask him to beg Harreld for a meeting on Rastetter’s behalf.
In the emails reported in the Press-Citizen last week Harreld also responded to the alum about his flying habits, which have been a source of keen interest and speculation here at Ditchwalk. Specifically, we noted in a flight-happy post that J. Bruce Harreld may have taken private charters — either at his own expense, or paid for by others — to all of his meetings with members of the search committee during the search process, and that seems to be true:
Okay, that seems pretty clear. For the four trips that Harreld takes to Iowa during his perpetually disinterested candidacy — none of which would have, to my knowledge, been available with first-class accommodations — we can assume that Harreld booked a private charter. For the flight to Chicago for his “airport interview” that conclusion is a little dicey if Harreld left from Denver, but considerably less so if he left on a private carrier from nearby Eagle Country Regional Airport.
In any case, even if we just consider the four trips to Iowa, along with Harreld’s insistence that he had absolutely no interest in the Iowa job at the time, that really does mean, as previously speculated, that Harreld spent at least $20,000, and probably considerably more, flying back and forth to Iowa for a job he did not want. We also speculated, however, that Harreld might have been conveyed to Iowa on planes owned by Stead, or leased by Stead, or paid for by Stead, because again — according to Harreld’s revised origin story — it was Stead who begged him to meet with Rastetter, Robillard and Matthes at Kirkwood. So keeping in mind how slippery this guy is (…”think about it”…) look again at what Harreld specifically says with regard to his flying habits over the past eight years:
As I think you can see, that’s not quite the same thing as saying that nobody else paid for any of his flights. What about the part where he says, “I fly privately at my own expense”? Well, given the tense it’s not clear whether he means only in the context of the Iowa job, or since 2008, but here we can make an educated guess because of Harreld’s very busy pre-presidential freelance consulting period in 2014. A time when he was in fact so loyal to his clients that he couldn’t even imagine taking the Iowa job for fear of betraying them. Until of course he did take the Iowa job, and obviously then did betray those clients.
It’s possible if not likely that in whizzing around the world for his clients Harreld billed for his travel costs, as consultants seem to do routinely. Which would mean he’s either lying about always flying privately at his own expense, or he means only when he’s not working for someone, or doing someone a personal favor that would cost him thousands of dollars. Which means Stead may very well have paid for at least the first of Harreld’s trips to the state, which — according to Harreld’s current narrative — he only agreed to make because Stead begged him.
So taken in sum, what does all this mean? Well, the disclosure that Harreld was talking to any member of the Iowa Board of Regents in March of 2015 radically shifts the previous origin story, and greatly increases the likelihood that the conspiracy which shepherded Harreld through the search process was a done deal from the start. In fact, I think we’re at the point where people are obligated to argue against that possibility, whereas four months ago there was scant evidence in favor of that deep suspicion among stakeholders in the university community. Couple this latest radical timeline shift with Harreld’s slippery ways, however, and I still don’t think we’ve heard the full story, and probably won’t unless someone with investigatory powers decides to do the right thing and get involved.
What I am also sure of, is that after they finally installed J. Bruce Harreld in office, none of his co-conspirators imagined that Harreld would go on to suggest that the football team be recruited to fight campus sexual assault, or that teachers should be shot for being unprepared (particularly given that Harreld was and still is manifestly unprepared to be president), or, that Harreld would insist on having an open email policy despite having repeatedly demonstrated that the last thing he should ever have is spontaneous contact with the university community. Which of course brings us to the lede in the entire quote-rich Charis-Carlson piece from last week:
As regular readers know, J. Bruce Harreld does not value direct and candid feedback from students, faculty, staff and alumni, and all you have to do to see his condescension, disdain, unease and boredom on display is watch the video of his open forum from September 1st. In fact, here’s how Harreld himself viewed all that “direct and candid feedback”, from a Press-Citizen story on 11/19/15:
It takes real arrogance — or worse — for a man who has repeatedly and premeditatedly lied to the press, to the university community, and to the people of Iowa, to then accuse others of playing “gotcha”. Which is exactly why J. Bruce Harreld is never going to be the kind of president that the University of Iowa “needs and deserves”. Then again that shouldn’t be surprising given that the corrupt Iowa Board of Regents, with the blessings of the corrupt governor of the state, hired him over the vehement — and, as we have learned over the past four and a half months, completely valid — objections of the university community.
Still, I’m confident that one of the politically corrupt individuals who did fraudulently hire J. Bruce Harreld will eventually shorten Harreld’s leash, including telling Harreld what his email policy is going to be going forward. That’s going to happen because Harreld has already made that individual look like an idiot on multiple occasions, but more importantly because this is now the third origin story that Harreld has told on the record, proving that the first two versions were, at least in part, premeditated lies designed to obscure the genesis of his fraudulent hire. A fraudulent hire that he could not possibly have engineered on his own.
Concerned Alumnus says
I still wonder when we will discover the true endgame here.
And to address comments re Branstad and his cognitive state. It’s been obvious since 2010 that he has early Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s dementia or both going on. He has Parkinson’s shuffle, despite what we saw in the 2014 commercials, he is a very ill person for his age.
Broadly speaking I think the goal is to damage the University of Iowa. I think that’s been Rastetter’s personal goal all along, and that it’s shared by a number of the members of the Board of Regents who have probably had their own life-long hostility to that institution.
Shifting $40M to Iowa State isn’t simply a scam, it’s a scam that puts that $40M in Rastetter’s lap because Iowa State and his own business are both in Ames. It also puts that money closer to the governmental seat of power (Des Moines), where it can be more easily distributed to political cronies. (As we just saw with ISU President Leath, who manufactured a six-figure job for outgoing Republican Speaker Paulsen.)
As for the premise of ‘performance-based funding’, that’s the kind of propaganda that got us into a world of hurt in secondary ed all over this country. If you’re the person who defines the metrics, it’s easy to cheat. All you have to do is put together criteria that gives you the result you want, then claim that a ‘standard’ has been met.
Which of course leaves us with Harreld, and how his hiring damages the UI twice. First, he’s a lapdog who will do whatever Rastetter tells him. Second, his idiocy is eroding the credibility of the institution itself. (In only four months I would have to say job well done on the latter point.)
As for Branstad’s health, if he’s ill he has my sympathies — or would, if his handlers acknowledged the problem and Branstad stepped down. As it is, it only seems to be creating a vacuum of power which is being exploited for ill. (If Branstad really wants to set up his Lt. Gov for the next election, now’s his chance. Step down, pass the torch, and get out with what’s left of his dignity.)
David B. Wheeler says
Hi all – I have another email that confirms his secret Kirkwood meeting was on June 19th and he did indeed fly a private jet. The jet isn’t that big a deal but his lack of disclosure on who paid for it is and June 19th isn’t really “early June” as BH has stated. Why doesn’t BH just put out a timeline, disclose how this deal really went down, hold press conference with no time limits and deal with these questions? In my email exchange with him on January 4th I directly suggested that his lack of transparency and unwillingness to have a “come clean moment” would be the downfall of his time in Iowa City. You can prevaricate and blow off critics in the corporate work but as a public official you have an obligation to transparency at all costs. Mark my words, the constant drip, drip, drip of new and contradictory information will mark the end of his time in Iowa City and someone will have to come in and clean up the pieces. He’s really out of his league and to prove it he’s not a big enough leader to admit he has anything to learn.
I’m so jaded at this point that nothing Harreld’s says — or lies about — surprises me. Yet how the man can be wrong on every single facet of his origin story, multiple times over, verges on clinical concern. Is he simply congenitally incapable of telling the truth, or is there some manifest slippage in his recall which bodes worse down the line?
I agree with you that his lack of candor about this issue and others will lead to his downfall. In every single meeting he takes people now have to choose whether they want to be co-conspirators or hostages. What kind of choice is that? It’s one thing to be an honest broker and disagree with people on the merits, and another thing to be serially deceptive.
From the secret June 19th Kirkwood meeting to the deceptive July 8th “VIP Lunch” to the secret July 30th regent meetings you can see both the done-deal hire unfolding and the trail of lies that are being told to facilitate his appointment. In retrospect it’s so naked that it conveys the contempt all involved have for fairness, integrity and honesty.
What a great lesson for the students at all three regent universities.
In early September, when I first started looking at the Harreld hire, I was entirely naive to the ways of presidential searches in higher education. One thing I was pleased to discover, however, was that the Iowa Board of Regents, unlike the administrative bodies in many states, conducts at least partially open searches, and I strongly support that practice going forward. Unfortunately, as you probably know, the corrupt co-conspirators who hijacked the Harreld search are now also doing their best to discredit and destroy that important tradition. (To be fair to those corrupt co-conspirators, it is obviously a lot easier to rip off the people of Iowa if you can just cut the usual backroom deal, instead of having to pretend that you really do care about fairness, integrity and respect.)
Over the past four months or so I have learned a lot more about presidential searches, about presidential searches at the University of Iowa, and specifically about the search that led to J. Bruce Harreld’s fraudulent appointment. As a result, what initially seemed to be a robust and thorough process now seems nothing more than a series of administrative deceptions engineered to advance J. Bruce Harreld’s decrepit candidacy. In this post we will look at two specific and related aspects of administrative malfeasance which were implemented in order to jam the utterly unqualified Harreld into office.
The Harreld Search Timeline
On paper the timeline of the Harreld search seems both straightforward and expansive. The search committee was announced on 02/25/15, over a period of five and a half months it ground through various milestones and requirements, until, on or about 08/13/15, it sent the names of four finalists to the Board of Regents. In reality, however, when you get into the actual mechanics of the search, the effective timeline not only shrinks dramatically, it becomes clear that the full search committee was repeatedly and intentionally undermined by key members of that panel. As to why that was done, we will once again see — as we have seen before — that the only people who profited from those willful administrative abuses were J. Bruce Harreld and his co-conspirators.
The gist of any search process is that you attract as many people as possible, then use specific criteria to identify the best candidate. While a few members of the search committee used their own secret criteria in championing Harreld, it can be safely assumed that most of the committee members were sincere in pursuing their charge. They sought out candidates, encouraged candidates to apply for the position, then did their best to vet those candidates — all in service of sending the four most qualified applicants to the Board of Regents for the final interviews and vote.
Here is the original charge given to the search committee by Bruce Rastetter, who was at that time both a committee member and president of the board of regents, from the minutes of an early committee meeting on 03/25/15 (page 73 here):
As you can see, the bulk of the committee’s decision making takes place during steps 4 and 5: the evaluation, vetting and selection of candidates. In fact, step 5 is effectively the result of step 4, so it is in evaluating “the nominees and applications” that the twenty-one committee members will have the greatest deliberative impact.
What follows is the initial timetable for the search, as prepared and distributed to the committee by Parker Executive Search on 05/13/15:
In the email accompanying the above schedule, PES asks for feedback so the timeline can be adjusted. Although there are a lot of moving parts, note the sequence from 07/30/15, when the third update is to be made, to 08/03/15, when “ALL candidate materials” will be made available, to 8/11/15, when the pool of applicants will be cut down to approximately 8 semifinalists. In total, those three line items represent a span of twelve days.
After feedback from various members of the search committee — none of which we have on the record — the following changes to that sequence are sent to the members of the committee on 05/29/15:
In the revision the span of time between the third update and the cutdown of all declared candidates shrinks from twelve days to only four. The third update is still 07/30/15, but “ALL candidate materials” will now be made available the very next day, on 07/31/15. The actual cutdown process then takes place only four days after that, on 08/04/15.
Given that the fourth item in Rastetter’s charge to the committee — “To evaluate the nominees and applications.” — will necessarily involve debate and decision making, reducing the time for evaluation and vetting by two thirds seems inexplicable. The “airport interviews” of the 8 or so semifinalists are also moved up about a week, from 8/18-8/19 to 8/11-8/12, but the overall length of the search does not change. As a result, a week and a day are excised from the timeline during the period when the committee will most likely be performing the bulk of the winnowing process, including preliminary vetting.
As it happens, when the cutdown eventually does take place, there are 46 or so candidates in the pipeline, meaning the search committee must sift through the majority of those applications in only a few days. Is it possible that some or maybe even most of the committee members will pre-screen candidates on a rolling basis, as applications and documents are submitted? Theoretically yes, but in practice, no. As PES repeatedly states in emails to the committee (see the same document linked above), many of the candidates will only submit their paperwork at the last minute because of confidentiality concerns regarding their current employers.
Yet even with that information in play, when the revised schedule comes out the amount of time the committee has to sift through the expected last-minute crush of submissions shrinks by two thirds. Why? Why is there a decrease in the critical period between the release of applicant materials to the committee and the need to chop the pool of applicants down to 8, when by rights it should either stay as originally scheduled or expand?
In the next update, distributed to the committee only a few days later, on 06/02/15, there is a single addition to the schedule, apparently in an effort to resolve that obvious problem:
While all of the previous dates remain unchanged, there is a new item scheduled for 07/24/15. On that date, all available materials will be uploaded so the committee can get an early look. And that does indeed increase the span during which committee members can access candidate paperwork and information, from four days back up to eleven. In terms of the expected last-minute crush, however, having seven days to look at information that will not be posted until later does nothing to solve the expected problem.
We don’t know who shrank the allotted time that the committee would have to sift through applications, from twelve days to four, and we don’t know who came up with the pointless accommodation a few days later. From the accommodation itself, however, we can conclude that at least one person realized that the committee was being given insufficient time to meet the charge given by Regents President Rastetter, and that brings us to a larger point. While the committee was constituted in late February, from the above schedules it is clear that the bulk of the selection process takes place only when PES makes “ALL candidate materials” available on July 31st, and that the committee then has only four days to find the 8 or so candidates it wants to interview. Not twelve days, as originally scheduled, but only four days out of the entire five-and-a-half-month search process.
J. Bruce Harreld and the Phantom Deadline
Taking all that into account, we will now entertain a question that should be preposterously easy to answer. When was the deadline for candidate submissions? Because as you may or may not have noticed, the word ‘deadline’ does not actually appear in any of the schedules. At first blush, the item scheduled for 07/31/15 in the last two schedules, and for 08/03/15 in the first schedule, seems to be the deadline:
Clearly you can’t be given access to “ALL candidate materials” if those materials are not available, so it can reasonably be inferred that PES will be working diligently behind the scenes to make sure that candidate materials are submitted and available by that date. Too, the addition of the 07/24/15 item in the third schedule seems to confirm that assumption, because of the use of, and italicization of, the word ‘available’:
Yet as much sense as that seems to make — and I honestly can’t think of any other answer — not only is 07/31/15 not the deadline for candidate submissions, there is no deadline for candidate submissions. In order to learn that, however, you would have to read the position description (see page 10 here), which is explicit on that point. The position is to remain open…
So there is a date, but note the qualifier: preferred, not required. In fact, as times passes, 07/28/15 is not even the ‘preferred’ deadline, because in multiple emails PES warns that many if not most of the applicants will not be submitting paperwork until 07/31/15. And that’s still not a deadline because the position is listed as remaining open “until the appointment is made.”
Which brings us to our next question. Given that there was no hard deadline for applications, when was J. Bruce Harreld nominated, and when did he actually submit his application and paperwork? And the answer is…nobody knows. (Well, somebody knows, but they’re not talking.)
We know that J. Bruce Harreld submitted his resume to Regents President Rastetter on 07/29/15 — when Rastetter was still a member of the search committee — but not because Harreld was formally applying to or through PES. Instead, on that occasion Harreld submitted his resume in anticipation of the secret regent meetings that he would be participating in the next day, on July 30th, at Rastetter’s place of business in Ames.
The AAUP report makes clear that Harreld was one of two candidates who held off declaring their candidacy until on or after 07/31/15. During the “airport interviews” the AAUP report also notes that the only paperwork the committee had to review for Harreld was his “terse resume”. (Harreld did not even submit a letter of application for the position — again, because one was not ‘required’. Just as the position description did not ‘require’ a Ph.D., thus making Harreld’s MBA a valid means of entree into the search.)
To review, then, there was no hard deadline for applications, the job was to remain open until filled even after the cutdown process was under way, and the amount of time that the committee had to screen and vet candidates during the first and largest cutdown was — at most — four days, itself cut down from twelve days. Which means any candidate who blew off the preferred date for submissions (07/28/15), or the later date on which disclosure of “ALL” materials was to take place (07/31/15), could still weasel in the door at the last minute. Which is how we come to this email exchange (pages 5 and 6 here), between PES and committee member Sarah Gardial, dean of the business college, on 08/03/15:
Now keep in mind, this is the day before the entire committee gathers to cut the pool of candidates down to 8 or 9. And here we not only have three new candidates being added, but, apparently, there are two other candidates in the mix who have still not technically applied. And PES specifically tells Gardial not to evaluate those two candidates.
The obvious question is whether J. Bruce Harreld is one of the two candidates who are still not “active” at that late date. Yes, Harreld insists in later interviews that he remains undecided about the job until the last minute, but remember: we’re only talking about the processing of paperwork. There’s no commitment at this point, and thus no risk, particularly for a down-and-out, semi-retired freelance business consultant. He’s got no boss, there’s no confidentiality issue, so all he has to do is say he’s willing to be considered and he becomes ‘active’. Yet even today we have no evidence, as of 08/03/15, that Harreld was “in the hopper”, while circumstantial evidence suggests he may have been one of the two candidates Gardial was talking about.
Even if Harreld declared his candidacy on 07/31/15, the day after he participated in the secret regent meetings in Ames, and his information was instantly uploaded by PES to their secure site, that would have put his resume in with the expected crush from the other 45 applicants, giving the twenty-one members of the committee only four days to sift through all of those documents. On the other hand, if we assume that Harreld does not declare his candidacy until the last possible moment, just prior to the first cutdown, then out of the prior five months of dedicated service, the amount of time that the committee has to initially consider and vet Harreld’s application plunges to virtually nothing.
The time stamp on Gardial’s 08/03/15 email to PES is 4:10 p.m. The cutdown meeting on 08/04/15 is scheduled for 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. If Harreld is one of the two known-but-undeclared candidates referenced by Gardial, per PES instructions no one can ‘evaluate’ him until he declares. As a result, what is supposed to be a deliberate and thorough vetting process could be, at the first stage of the decision making process, shortened for Harreld to only a matter of hours, if not minutes.
We do know that the cutdown takes place on 08/04/15, as scheduled. Yet because there is no actual deadline, and the position remains open until filled, only a day later we encounter this moment of absurdity from PES, dated 08/05/15 (see page 29 here):
Incredibly, the day after the cutdown from 46 to 9 candidates, another candidate is added to the process. A candidate that Robillard will apparently make a determination about all by his lonesome. Is that candidate J. Bruce Harreld? Probably not, but again we don’t know. Harreld is clearly one of the 9 candidates invited to the “airport interviews”, but given the lack of a deadline, and the fact that PES only had 8 of 9 candidates firmed up at that time, anything is possible. And that’s the problem.
Once again the search process is set up to look fair, but in fact it is decidedly unfair — particularly to any candidate who isn’t already in tight with one or more of the weasels running the show. If you’re a sincere but obscure candidate you’re going to screw up and take the ‘preferred’ date for candidate submissions seriously, on the reasonable assumption that meeting such conditions would be in your best interest. What you won’t know is that you also have the option of blowing off all of the preferred dates, and instead sucking up to all of the powerful members on the committee, because policies and preferred criteria are for suckers. It’s understandable that you won’t know all that, of course, because the same weasels who repeatedly grant J. Bruce Harreld preferential treatment, and allow him to cut corners and game the system, make sure they do not tell any other candidates that those opportunities are available to them.
A Pattern of Administrative Malfeasance
Not only does Harreld’s last-minute (if not last-second) declaration of an active candidacy allow him to slip through the first critical stage of the selection process with as little vetting as possible, that tactic fits a pattern of administrative deceit which is evident throughout the search. During the first cutdown, on 08/04/15, Harreld only declares his candidacy at the last minute. During the second cutdown from 9 candidates to 4, which takes place during the “airport interviews” on 08/12 and 08/13, Harreld is scheduled to go last (page 6 here) — meaning whatever the committee thinks of him beforehand, based solely on his resume at most, after his interview the committee will again be given the least possible amount of time to form an opinion about him before a decision must be made.
Although the search committee fulfills its charge by selecting four candidates to send to the regents, including J. Bruce Harreld, the twenty-one members of the committee are still covered by a confidentiality agreement which will apparently remain in force for the rest of their lives. So even though the committee knows the names of the four finalists, and the regents know the names of the four finalists, no one else knows the name of the finalists except for the finalists themselves. Which is why, a week later, on 08/20/15, the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller publishes a piece explaining how the upcoming public forums will play out:
Despite the fact that the names of the four finalists are known internally in mid-August, they do not become public until the end of August. In fact, the last of the four finalists — whoever that randomly happens to be — will not be announced until 08/31/15, will then present on 09/01/15, and will then have little more than thirty-six hours to wait before the final interviews and vote by the Board of Regents.
As you might imagine, all of this secrecy, to say nothing of the compressed nature of the end of the selection process, causes concern among stakeholders in the university community, even among recently retired members of the Iowa Board of Regents. Which is why, on 08/24/15, Vanessa Miller publishes an incisive follow-up detailing those concerns, as well as providing insight into the second administrative means by which the weasels running the search have subverted the vetting process. Because as it turns out, although Rastetter and Robillard have Harreld’s identity and resume locked up until only days before the appointment, there is still one potential threat that must be dealt with.
When I first heard about the search in early September, and I subsequently learned that the search committee was disbanded after the “airport interviews” in mid-August, that seemed to make sense. The search committee selected four finalists, sent those finalists to the regents, and the committee’s work was done. In fact, however, that’s not how search committees usually work, and that reality is embodied in the full name of the committee: the University of Iowa Presidential Search and Screen Committee.
See that ‘Screen’ in there? Well, I did not know this, but that’s standard for academic searches. As such, when the Iowa search committee sent the names of four finalists to the Iowa Board of Regents, its work on the second phase of its charge was just beginning. Yet because that obviously posed a threat to the candidacy of the unqualified J. Bruce Harreld, search Chair Jean Robillard simply dissolved the committee.
From page 8 of the AAUP report:
And from page 12:
As Miller’s piece on 08/24 pointed out, however, even without yet knowing the identities of the finalists there was a growing sense that the Board of Regents was up to something:
Having had little more than propaganda from both the University of Iowa press machine and the Iowa Board of Regents to go by up to that point, Miller’s article — published on the Gazette website at 9:45 p.m. on 08/24/15 — gives the university community and the public at large a comprehensive and unvarnished view of the search process. Miller’s article also underscores how antithetical to openness some of the administrative decisions have been along the way, raising questions if not suspicions about the board’s motives, and about the four finalists.
Transparent and Open at Every Corner
Early the next morning, on 08/25/15, Jean Robillard — at that time the recently retired strongman of the search committee, but also the interim president of the university — boards a chartered jet for a hastily scheduled $10K ‘panic flight‘ to Denver, Colorado, to meet with Jerre Stead. The meeting purportedly concerns a large donation that Stead will be making to the Children’s Hospital of Iowa — a new addition to Robillard’s administrative empire which is nearing completion — but the suddenness of the flight, and the timing relative to the ongoing search, along with the relatively routine transaction taking place, raise questions about Robillard’s real reason for making the trip.
By coincidence, one of the four yet-to-be-announced finalists for the presidency at Iowa, J. Bruce Harreld himself, is not only an old friend and mentee of Stead’s, but Harreld happens to live only a couple hours away in Avon, Colorado — assuming Harreld travels by car. Of course if Harreld travels by air, say also on a private jet, which it will later be learned he favors almost exclusively, he is only minutes away from the meeting suddenly taking between Robillard and Stead. And of course Harreld is also only a week or so away from becoming president of the University of Iowa.
We don’t know whether Harreld is in panic mode at Miller’s report in the Gazette, or perhaps having second thoughts about participating in the sham search which is now becoming all too public. We also don’t know whether he participates in the meeting with Stead and Robillard — either in person, or telephonically — or has Stead speak on his behalf. What we do know is that only ten days earlier, search committee member and regents president Rastetter is on video tape, instructing Governor Terry Branstad to call Harreld and offer him “encouragement”. At the time of that recording, on 08/15/15, Harreld has just been named one of the four finalists for the position, and has a little over two weeks to go before he starts collecting big fat paychecks from Rastetter. (When Branstad actually places the call to Harreld is not known, but it is assumed to take place sometime in the final two weeks of August.)
Whatever happens with Harreld during those two dark weeks, in the end he remains a candidate. Which brings us to our next question. When the candidates are finally revealed, guess which one of the four finalists ends up going last? No, really — go ahead and take a wild guess, which of the four finalists ends up being announced last, having his resume released last, and presenting last (page 3 here), then only has thirty-six hours to kill before enduring the mind-numbing boredom of the final sham interviews with the regents, followed by the perfunctory vote that was rigged in his favor way back on July 30th.
Give up? Why, it’s none other than J. Bruce Harreld! (Poor J. Bruce, always going last.)
As predicted, the feedback process that was set up by PES and the regents, in order to assess the university community’s response to the candidates after the open forums, also proves to be a sham — particularly with regard to the final candidate to appear. From faculty feedback following Harreld’s contentious open forum:
On the day before the final interviews and vote, an article by Kellie Woodhouse appears on the Inside Higher Ed website. At the time it shines yet more light on the ‘non-standard’ search process which was implemented and administered by Rastetter and Robillard.
And later this:
As we now know, of course, while there was indeed a public search, the real search — the sham, fraudulent search that was engineered and administrated by Robillard and Rastetter, with the able assistance of Jerre Stead, Peter Matthes, and J. Bruce Harreld himself — was the antithesis of open. While the search committee was extant for over five months, in that sham search, at every juncture, J. Bruce Harreld was shielded from scrutiny by design.
Having successfully prevented the committee from vetting any of the four finalists, it is left to the press to investigate and report on the finalists as their names are announced. Fortunately, stones are indeed turned, and as a result, when Harreld finally appears for his open forum — less that thirty-six hours before the final sham interviews and vote are to take place with the regents — the failings of his resume, and thus of his candidacy, belatedly become known. Yet that also means that during the entire search process neither PES, nor Rastetter, nor the four regents who met with Harreld in secret on July 30th, nor the search committee as a whole, did any appreciable vetting of Harreld at all. (Even after reading the detailed AAUP report — see pages 6 and 8 — it is not certain that PES ever received Harreld’s resume, let alone subjected it to review.)
Rastetter, Robillard and the Sham Harreld Search
Here again is Regents President Rastetter’s original charge to the search committee, from meeting notes on 03/25/15, (page 73 here):
Now keeping in mind that Rastetter is both the president of the Board of Regents and a self-appointed member of the search committee, what single individual would be more well-positioned to make sure that all of those charges were carried out? And yet every step of the way, Regents President Bruce Rastetter, in league with Search Chair Jean Robillard, makes sure that J. Bruce Harreld is subjected to the absolute minimum of scrutiny. Even the final item on the search schedule is abruptly truncated in order to limit the ability of stakeholders to respond to Harreld’s shockingly unqualified candidacy:
Not only do the regents not wait a week, or even a few days, before voting on and announcing the winner, they vote on the day of the final interviews, then immediately announce the results. Again, at every turn, everything is done that can be done to limit the amount of time people have to form opinions about Harreld or respond to Harreld — or to dig into Harreld’s resume, which will eventually see him censured by the University of Iowa faculty before taking office.
Every other candidate plays by the rules, because every other candidate expects the search to be administered fairly. Yet at every critical juncture J. Bruce Harreld gets preferential treatment, slips in at the last minute, and avoids the vetting process that was the heart of Rastetter’s charge to the committee. Which is why J. Bruce Harreld is now, and will remain, the illegitimate president of the University of Iowa as long as he holds office.
There were rules for the presidential search committee and for the usual candidates, but different ones for the Bruce the Chosen One. Too bad, no one is in any position to object strongly because Rastetter has the BOR wrapped up, the governor eating out of his wealthy and dirty hand, and throws up the middle finger to all faculty, students, and anyone else concerned. The State AG appears uninterested.
And if you don’t like it, you will get the old bus throw routine as Sahai found out.
For someone as unctuous about state funds waste, Rastetter sure wasted alot of peoples money and time.
As for Robillard, isn’t everyone comforted that this clown runs the biggest health care operation in the state. Sleep well, your academics and your health care are in dirty hands.
What’s next? Import water from Flint MI?
Concerned Alumnus says
We dont need Flint water, the major rivers in Iowa are basically open sewers from farms and feedlots. The clowns fighting the law suite from DM must think that having to run the process to remove nitrates from Racoon River almost every day now are making it up. I dare Branstad to run a pipe from the Racoon up the hill for his water at Terrace Hill.
The pasty skinned porno mustache brigade his run this state into the ground. Public education gutted…check. Regents Universities under funded and over crowded…check. A legion of holy rollers throwing up the culture war smokescreen while the barons do the robbing….check. This is NOT the Iowa nice that we think it is.
Both at the state level and in the administrative ranks at the University of Iowa it’s clear that corruption is entrenched. When you have a fraud/liar president, and his ‘senior adviser’ is a man who ran herd on crony contracts that were designed to avoid detection, you know going in that every single decision they make is colored by a diseased view of the world.
The problem, as we saw in the Gazette article a couple of days ago detailing anti-Harreld email comments from faculty and staff, is that the powerlessness everyone feels about these abuses comes out in ways that aren’t particularly helpful. It’s understandable that people are frustrated, but fighting Harreld and the corruption that put him in office takes discipline.
If there’s a lesson to be learned from the way the Iowa Board of Regents harassed Sally Mason until they drove her out of office, it’s that you have to commit to these fights long-term. Harreld wouldn’t have any compunction about destroying someone that opposes him, but he’ll do it behind the scenes, stabbing people in the back while professing not to stab people in the back. The same goes for Rastetter.
You can’t play nice with these people, because they don’t think that way. They smile or look at you with dead, stony eyes, then they go about doing whatever the hell they want to do, including lying. So that’s the playing field. If the faculty and staff are serious about protecting the school they’ll do likewise, undermining Harreld and his cronies and minders every step of the way, until the crooks decide to take their state-funded retirement.
If you’ve been following the fraudulent election of J. Bruce Harreld as president of the University of Iowa, you know that during the propaganda phase of the search, Regents President Rastetter and his co-conspirators rallied around a crude marketing campaign. If you were a good person and cared about the future of higher education, then you were for ‘transformational change’. If you were a bad person, and wanted to live in the past, then you were for the ‘status quo’.
Yes, it was super-dumb, but because most people lead easily distracted lives, it is often just as effective — to say nothing of being much more profitable — to dupe people with a cynical marketing strategy, than it is to define your terms and make your case using actual facts. Particularly if you don’t actually have any actual facts.
In several prior posts we noted that Rastetter’s use of the term ‘transformational change’ goes back at least a year before the search, and that it was particularly deployed as a justification for the massive consulting contract that was being given to Deloitte.
I’m not sure what those stick-in-the-mud “university folks” had to say on that listening tour, but when Rastetter said the study wasn’t just about saving dollars, he meant it. In fact, as of last report, the Deloitte contract alone has rocketed past $3 million, with the entire TIER review now over $5.5 million. And of course there’s that whole nasty lawsuit, but still – nobody said transformational change would come cheap.
All they said was that you were a good person if you were with them, and a bad person if you were against them, which pretty much tells you everything you need to know. Except where that marketing mumbo-jumbo came from in the first place.
Bruce Rastetter’s Marketing Muse
Unlike the positive emphasis that was used to sell the consulting boondoggle, during and after the fraudulent Harreld hire Rastetter and his cronies started leaning more and more heavily on the ‘status quo’ part of the marketing campaign, and less so on the ‘transformational change’ dynamic. From an op-ed in the Press-Citizen, on 09/18/15:
The phrase ‘status quo’ has obviously been around a long time, but for a while Rastetter took to it like Joe McCarthy took to ‘communist sympathizer’. If anyone objected to the idea of hiring a non-traditional president, or specifically to hiring a semi-retired business consultant with no prior experience in academic administration, Rastetter unleashed a belittling ‘status quo’ belch in their direction. And believe you me, Regents President Bruce Rastetter likes him some belittling, so the phrase ‘status quo’ — if not the spectacularly redundant phrase “status quo of the past” — was being tossed around with pugnacious regularity.
Now, if you’re just joining the Harreld hire saga, it should be noted that where Regents President Rastetter says “all stakeholder feedback” was listened to, he does not mean he paid any attention to what he heard, just that feedback was submitted to the board, at which point it was summarily ignored as a matter of board policy under his rule. It should also be pointed out that although the vote for Harreld was recorded as unanimous, that’s a convention of the Iowa Board of Regents, and does not reflect the actual votes that all nine members initially cast. If you manage to lock up five majority votes on the nine-member board, perhaps by giving one of the candidates secret meetings at your own place of business in Ames, you get the other four votes gratis because the board wants its new presidents to feel all warm and fuzzy, even if — and maybe particularly if — they were appointed illegitimately. So not only was Regents President Rastetter belittling people for redundantly embracing the “status quo of the past” in the above quote, but in making the case for “change” he was intentionally misleading the public about how he himself engineered that corrupt mandate.
Despite everything we’ve learned about the fraud that was perpetrated to install J. Bruce Harreld in office, however, one question that has yet to be answered is where Rastetter’s dueling fixations on the ‘status quo’ and ‘transformational change’ came from. Was it pure chance? Or was it something that evolved organically, like anthrax? Was it his idea, or was there some synergy at work — kismet, even?
Well, I’m surprised that I think I know the answer, but I really do think I know the answer. Or at least I ran across an odd bit of convergence recently that seems a tad bit too coincidental to be mere coincidence. So take a moment and think back over all the players in this sorry saga, then I’ll give you fourteen guesses as to who gave Regents President Rastetter his cue to start brandishing the phrase ‘status quo’ as a marketing weapon. (Hint-hint!)
No. No. Nope. No. No…but you’re getting warmer. No. No, no, no. Nope. Haha — but no. No. Okay, now you’re not even trying. And…no.
Why, it’s none other than former search committee member and current dean of the Tippie College of Business, Sarah Gardial! How awesome is that?!
The Origin of a Punitive Message
In the previous post we referenced an email exchange that Gardial had with Parker Executive Search, just prior to the initial cutdown of the candidate pool. At the bottom of Gardial’s email (see page 6), dated 08/03/15, you will find the following super-awesome sig quote:
“Special freedoms”! “Act and not merely react”! “Gamble and dare”!
Holy cow — after getting a gander at that it’s a wonder Rastetter didn’t take up arms, overthrow the entire board and make himself president for life. I mean, even though the Harreld hire was a sham, after I read that elided quote myself, which was attributed to someone I knew nothing about, I was willing to run through a brick wall for no other reason than I suddenly had a loathing for brick walls! Stupid walls! Stupid status quo bricks!
If it had that effect on me, it’s not hard to imagine Rastetter, Robillard, Stead and Harreld all sitting around, talking about their “special freedoms”. I mean, that’s almost as good as Navin Johnson’s “special purpose“. Of course it’s worth remembering that when the rich and powerful talk about “special freedoms”, what they are asserting is the right to lie or cheat whenever it suits their interests, while the rest of us saps are obligated to tell the truth. Or better yet, to submit feedback that nobody pays attention to as a matter of policy.
Okay, yes — Gardial’s sig quote dates from August, right as the conspiracy to hire Harreld was coming to a head. So how do we know Rastetter didn’t inspire Gardial to adopt that sig? Well, we have Stephen Voyce’s FOIA site to thank for that, because Sarah Gardial seems to have been using that same siq quote since at least September of 2013. So not only could she have provided Rastetter’s talking points for the fraudulent Harreld hire, she may have been his propaganda muse all that time.
As for the message itself, I think we can all agree that automatically endorsing the status quo is not a good idea. It is indeed prudent to reassess from time to time, if only to make sure you’re still headed in the right direction. If you’re driving a car and you’ve been going perfectly straight for five miles, you can’t assume that the road will keep going straight for the next five miles. Adjustments need to be anticipated and made so you don’t hit a tree, drive off a cliff, or drift into the oncoming lane.
So who is this visionary, who gifted his great insight — by proxy — to the propaganda campaign driving J. Bruce Harreld’s fraudulent election? Well, if you’ve never heard of him, and I had not, it turns out that Waldemar A. Nielsen is an interesting guy. In fact, I can see why Sarah Gardial quotes him as an agent of change, because in his time he did something pretty radical:
When The Big Foundations came out not only was $100 million still real money, the book caused quite a stir because it revealed a world that people didn’t know much about. From Nielsen’s NYT obit:
Pretty cool, right? Not only did Nielsen advocate for change, but he became an agent of change by breaking the code of silence that existed among the donor class. And yet…incongruously, when we look at the Harreld hire, it turns out that all of the people hiding behind self-imposed confidentiality agreements and meeting in closed session and doing pretty much everything possible to avoid scrutiny, turn out to be the very same people who claim to be proponents of transformational change. So how did Waldemar A. Nielsen’s noble goal become so deeply perverted in implementation?
How to Repurpose a Message
As you may have noticed, Gardial’s version of Nielsen’s quote contains a couple of elisions, and a single-word parenthetical that should be in brackets. Here’s the original quote:
As you can see, that’s a bit different, because Nielsen was speaking specifically about foundations, not about institutions generally. For example, you’d have to be pretty careful about applying that same rallying cry to something like a hospital, lest you end up killing people with your enthusiasm for change. While hospitals should always be striving to improve, nobody wants to hear that their surgeon likes to “gamble or dare”, or that the therapy they’re being given is “unproven”.
More importantly, there doesn’t seem to be any part of that quote where Nielsen advocates lying your ass off, joining in a conspiracy to defraud taxpayers, betraying your own stated policies, or just generally being a miserable human being. Because it’s one thing to seize the initiative or think outside the box, and quite another, say, to fraudulently appoint a carpetbagging dilettante to a position he’s manifestly unqualified to hold.
Speaking of which, I found this interesting, also from the NYT obit:
Again, while Rastetter, Robillard, Stead, Harreld clearly believe they’re the ones bucking the status quo, from my point of view as a non-stinking-rich citizen, everything they’ve done strikes me as exactly the kind of condescending “secretive” and “unaccountable” abuse of power that the “very rich” have used to pervert otherwise healthy and benevolent institutions throughout history. Backroom deals, political cronyism, lies to the press, lies to the public — there’s nothing new or transformative in what these men did, yet they have cast themselves as the good guys, if not heroes.
You Say You Want a Revolution
There’s something else that bothers me, and it’s bothered me for a long time. When did the students, staff and faculty at the University of Iowa all agree that they wanted to be used as guinea pigs in a deluded “gamble and dare” by the Iowa Board of Regents? I mean, even in a simple undergrad psych experiment there’s an obligation to secure informed consent — you know, to keep people from doing things they shouldn’t do. Or maybe that’s why the regents arranged for all that sham feedback to be run through Parker Executive Search while they were fixing the election in Harreld’s favor. And why they ignored the 97% of respondents to a survey who said that J. Bruce Harreld was unqualified to be the president of the University of Iowa.
It does seem to undercut Gardial’s fab quote that in order to “facilitate change”, Harreld and his co-conspirators had to lie and cheat to give him the job he now holds. And of course it’s possible that this will all turn out to be a disastrous “gamble and dare”, negatively impacting the education and careers of tens of thousands of innocents. Which is of course why those very same corrupt co-conspirators are already hard at work, using the University of Iowa’s resources — including, perhaps, resources in the business college — to engineer corrupt metrics that they can then use to claim success.
But that’s all months down the road. In the meantime, the important takeaway here is that all of you people with funny little quotes in your sig block are missing out. Choose the right words, and you really can change the world. Or at least provide a philosophical pretext for hiring fraud.
If you do not currently have a sig quote, or you’re thinking of making a transformative change, here’s one you might like:
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Over the past four and a half months we have closely examined the machinations of a small group of co-conspirators who fraudulently appointed J. Bruce Harreld as president of the University of Iowa. Along the way we have uncovered a number of interesting facts, including who lied, when they lied, and in some cases even why they lied. In terms of the dynamics driving that flagrant abuse of power, however, we’ve only been able to speculate as to motive, and for the most part the motivations seem mundane.
Leading the historical parade of traditional human failings are ego and vice, and in the case of the Harreld hire there certainly seems to be plenty of ego to go around. Like many men — and here I am particularly referencing gender — the key players in the Harreld fiasco mistook the mortal immediacy of their own human existence for a crisis in higher education that does not in fact exist. What was indeed an important custodial obligation on the part of the Iowa Board of Regents became instead a hysterical (or disingenuous) call for transformational change, which was itself left tellingly undefined. After repeatedly asserting that higher education was in crisis in Iowa and across the nation, the board then claimed to have found salvation in a carpetbagging dilettante who had no experience in academic administration, no experience in the public sector, no ties to Iowa as a place, community or institution, no fundraising experience, and the condescending temperament of a petulant aristocrat.
As to vice, there are of course many ways to profit. Because all of the key players are wealthy if not rich, it is easy to dismiss money as a motive because there’s so much money sloshing around. Yet it is precisely because these men long ago unmoored themselves from common concerns like food, clothing and shelter that they all managed to become lost in their own minds during the search that led to the appointment of the spectacularly unqualified J. Bruce Harreld. Yes, Harreld himself is now profiting to the tune of millions of dollars in cold hard taxpayer cash, and that will undoubtedly help him pay for the private jets to which he has grown accustomed, but in this post we are less concerned with the puppet than his masters. And it does not appear — at least not yet — that Regents President Bruce Rastetter, Vice President for Medical Affairs Jean Robillard, or megadonor Jerre Stead installed Harreld in office because they wanted Harreld to put more money in their pockets. (If you’re just joining the Harreld saga, all three of those illustrious men were on the sham search committee which sent Harreld and three other finalists to the regents for the final sham vote. Jean Robillard was the sham chair.)
Still, as has often been said, one of the best ways to understand the murky motivations of men who prefer, by insectoid instinct, to orchestrate events from the shadows, is to follow the money, because sooner or later money comes to light. And in fact, if we step back from the brazen hijacking of the presidency at the University of Iowa, and instead look at what else those three men were up to in 2015, money is not only everywhere, it is the nexus of key interactions between them. And some of those interactions — both as reported by the press, and as asserted by the individuals themselves — do not make sense.
In turning away from the infuriating bureaucratic abuses which begat the stain of J. Bruce Harreld’s appointment we find another series of events which closely paralleled the unfolding of that injustice. Like the Harreld hire, this second narrative produced a string of reports in 2015, but the news only hinted at what was transpiring behind the scenes. The story itself was easy to overlook in part because of the brazen audacity of Harreld’s appointment, but primarily because it was not clear until the end of the year that something shady had transpired. Yet in looking back we can now see that just as Rastetter, Robillard and Stead were all intimately involved in the fraudulent Harreld hire, all three mere were intimately involved in this second narrative as well — and money was at the heart of that story.
Even a cursory glance at the Iowa Board of Regents reveals that money flows through that body by the billions. As such, funneling funds to political cronies from time to time would be easy — as has already been ably demonstrated by J. Bruce Harreld’s senior adviser, Peter Matthes, and by Regents President Rastetter himself. Besides, if you can tell the governor what to do — and we know that Rastetter has that kind of juice — then as the Harreld hire itself attests, you can pretty much do whatever you want.
Still, money matters. Even if you’re a decent and honest person the books have to balance, and you’re limited in the amount of good you can do by your available revenue. You may have the best of intentions, but if profits dry up you’ll have to start laying people off, so it pays to be vigilant. Not predatory, or ruthless, or deceptive, but responsible. In the private sector in particular there’s nothing more important than the bottom line, because only by making a profit, even as a non-profit, can you sustain your enterprise. And that’s as true for a mom-and-pop shop as it is for a multi-national conglomerate.
In the public sector you can always print more money or raise taxes, but by and large the same factors are in play. If you keep your books balanced you have more options, including the option to enrich your friends and political cronies by funneling money through their businesses. If you allow your balance sheet to sink into the red you’re at serious risk — particularly if you made a name for yourself, or at least advertised yourself, as a success in the private sector, then brashly promised to show the rubes in higher education how a titan of industry runs a tight and profitable ship.
While looking at the key players behind the Harreld hire more than any sensible person ever should, we paralleled a narrative involving the same three men and their roles in the construction of the Children’s Hospital of Iowa. What does J. Bruce himself have to do with the children’s hospital? Nothing, as far as I can tell. What I do know is that in comparing the timeline of the Harreld hire with the timeline of noteworthy events in the construction of the Children’s Hospital over that same span, those two endeavors repeatedly turn on decisions made by the same three men.
What recently became known as the cumbrous Stead Family University of Iowa Children’s Hospital — which we will refer to in this post as the Children’s Hospital of Iowa (CHI), for reasons that will be made clear — was, for most of its existence, not a physical place but an organizational structure within the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Over the decades, as UIHC grew, the various departments providing care to children became disconnected and fragmented, while at the same time advances in medical practice dictated that the care of young patients become more cohesive and integrated. (If you’re not from Iowa City you won’t know this, but UIHC as an interconnected series of buildings in in fact a living, metastatic architectural organism that will eventually take over the entire world. Note the tiny football stadium to the lower left.)
After decades of splintered functionality and frayed administrative nerves, the decision was made to build a separate hospital within the UIHC footprint in order to meet the unique needs of young patients and their families. While obviously a massive undertaking, given the growing awareness of both the healthcare and business dynamics involved, there was unquestionably an unmet regional demand, and only UIHC had the institutional heft to meet that need. So after planning and more planning, and yet more planning, construction began in 2012, and after pouring a lot of concrete the Children’s Hospital of Iowa is slated to be completed this summer.
Funding the Children’s Hospital of Iowa
Importantly, the funding of CHI did not involve tax dollars. Instead, a combination of bonds, revenue from UIHC operations, and donations large and small, helped cover the gargantuan cost, which was originally budgeted at $292M. While obviously expensive, because of catastrophic damage to multiple university buildings during the 2008 floods, at about the same time a construction boom was taking place across the University of Iowa campus, driving outlays well over a billion dollars. In that context, and acknowledging that much of the money for that recovery effort came from FEMA, the financial health of UIHC, the university overall, and by extension the Iowa Board of Regents, was of obvious concern.
On 03/28/14, in an article in the Gazette, the design phase of the children’s hospital was said to be nearing completion, with the overall project still on budget:
Six months later, however, with construction underway, the following article appeared in the Press-Citizen, on 09/17/14:
S&P was looking down the financial road and saw storm clouds on the horizon. If UIHC’s income lagged, or, if the cost of the new Children’s Hospital increased, that could negatively impact the rating for UIHC as a whole, meaning it would cost UIHC more to borrow money. And that would be of particular concern to the Iowa Board of Regents, because the regents are, by statute, the trustees of UIHC.
Four months later, on 01/15/15, Sally Mason announced her retirement as president of the University of Iowa. Though the official announcement came in 2015, the decision was made earlier, as Mason herself acknowledged:
While Mason’s announcement came only a few months after the ratings threat from S&P, it came after years of serial abuse from the Board of Regents and the governor who appointed them. For example, here’s a rank bit of sniveling hypocrisy from Governor Terry Branstad:
Joining Branstad in kicking Mason while she was down were Regent President Rastetter and Regent President Pro Tem Katie Mulholland, who were, oddly enough, also instrumental in betraying shared governance with the university faculty during the Harreld hire, in large part by imposing bureaucratic opacity on the shamtastic search which they initiated at taxpayer expense. Again, as absurd as it was that Harreld had no prior experience in academic administration, or in the public sector, he had no fundraising experience, which is critical to the success of any university president. Conversely, Sally Mason — the president that the regents relentlessly hounded out of office — not only presided over the complex logistical response to the flooding in 2008, she performed admirably in her role as chief fundraiser:
On 02/25/15 the members of the Presidential Search and Screen Committee were announced, including Rastetter, Robillard and Stead. (Not only was Ruth Harkin not one of the three regents appointed to the search committee, she retired from the board at the end of her term, on 04/30/15, along with two other regents, while the presidential search was underway.) On 03/10/15, two weeks later, the Press-Citizen updated the progress at CHI:
It was also in March — as we now know thanks to the third revision that J. Bruce Harreld has made to his origin story — that search committee member and regents president Rastetter purportedly cold-called Harreld about the Iowa presidency. After Harreld purportedly turned Rastetter down, Jerre Stead, Harreld’s old coach, mentor and friend purportedly called Harreld on Rastetter’s behalf, and begged Harreld to meet with him, Rastetter and Robillard regarding the open presidency at Iowa.
The CHI Budget Surprise
Whatever the revised CHI budget revealed in mid-April, nobody was talking. Relative to the presidential search, however, that budgetary milestone occurred at the same time that a ‘missing meeting‘ may have taken place between Rastetter, Robillard and Stead, if not others as well. It is at that hypothesized meeting that the plan to run Harreld as a stealth candidate may have come into focus, but it’s likely that progress on CHI would have also came up — particularly given that it was both the costliest UI project in history, and that it was slated to become the centerpiece of Robillard’s empire on the west side of campus.
In early May, in his guise as search committee chair, Jean Robillard began talking about hiring a non-traditional candidate along the lines of Bill Gates — except, as it turned out, without any of Gates’ actual advantages or qualifications. As May turned to June the secret Kirkwood meeting between Rastetter, Robillard, Matthes and Harreld came and went, on June 19th (Jerre Stead bailed at the last minute), but there was still no news about the CHI budget. On June 30th there were still no new budget numbers, but as the Press-Citizen reported, that didn’t keep Jean Robillard from touting UIHC’s bond rating:
On July 8th Harreld had a “VIP Lunch” in Iowa City with Rastetter, Robillard and two other members of the search committee, while Harreld’s wife toured the campus. At the end of July there was still no update on the CHI budget, leaving Regents President Rastetter plenty of free time to arrange for four of his regent elves to meet secretly with Harreld on July 30th, at Rastetter’s place of business in Ames, thus locking up five votes for Harreld with a full month yet to go in the sham search. Because there were still no new CHI budget numbers through the end of August, Regents President Rastetter even found the time to instruct Governor Branstad to call Harreld and offer him “encouragement”, because apparently, at that critical juncture, Harreld was becoming a little weak in the conspiratorial knees.
So, would you care to guess when the updated CHI budget numbers were finally reported in the press? Because as it turns out, that revision, which may have been known or at least suspected as far back as the middle of April, ended up in both the Press-Citizen and Gazette on 09/01/15, in stories posted to the web at 4:11 p.m. and 5:56 p.m., respectively. Now, do you remember what else happened on 09/01/15, between 4:45 and 6:15 p.m? That’s right! By the most incredible coincidence, that is exactly when candidate J. Bruce Harreld took to the stage and spent an hour and a half spewing expletives and second-hand marketing slogans at stunned University of Iowa stakeholders.
So what were the revised budget numbers for the Children’s Hospital of Iowa? From the Press-Citizen, on 09/01/15:
From the Gazette, on 09/01/15:
Granted, cost overruns during construction are hardly a shock. Whether you’re building a new doghouse or a full-service kennel, you know you’re going to end up paying more than the initial estimate. Still, it’s one thing to be off by a few million dollars, and quite another to be off by a whopping $68M, or 23% of the original projection. Nowhere else on campus, during construction of the new art building, auditorium, or music building, was a budget projection so wildly off the mark. And even though the university was grinding through more than a billion dollars in new construction, coming up with another $68M would obviously not be easy — particularly when it would have to be raised either through bonds or private donations. Worse yet, after the regents had been put on notice that the UIHC bond rating would take a hit if they didn’t increase revenue or cut costs, they were not-so-suddenly facing a $68M cost overrun.
S&P Takes Action
When the Board of Regents shocked the university by announcing Harreld as the new president on 09/03/15, only two days after dropping the shocking news about the CHI budget, J. Bruce Harreld’s first act as president-elect was to lie to the press and the people of Iowa about his origins as a candidate. He did that to deflect attention away from the conspiracy which he himself abetted in order to become president, and for two months his rickety lie did the trick. Stead, Rastetter and Robillard all escaped close scrutiny until late October, when Harreld inexplicably revealed a new origin story for his candidacy, just before taking office on 11/02/15, which laid waste to multiple false statements by his co-conspirators.
Only three days later, on 11/05/15, in an online snippet that would have been easy to miss, S&P finally revised its outlook for UIHC. As you might imagine, given the warning that S&P issued a year earlier, and the subsequent cost overruns that were revealed in early September, S&P’s response was also shocking — but not for the reason you would expect. In fact, quite the opposite:
That’s right — just over two months after announcing that the CHI budget had been blown by a cool $68M, S&P revised its outlook to “stable” based on “a decision to trim capital spending”. (I am not registered for that site so I could not read the full article.)
Now, I know that any competent accountant can make a ledger say almost anything, and I’m not talking about cooking the books. Maybe the regents took a slated project and pushed it out a couple of years, thus making the next year or two look “stable”. But the fact remains that on September 1st, UIHC suddenly needed to come up with another $68M in funding for CHI, while also facing the threat of a decrease in its bond rating. Yet despite no evidence that the extra $68M had been secured at that time, S&P backed off its threat to drop the hammer. Even as late as mid-October, only a couple of weeks before S&P changed its outlook, the only news on the CHI budget front was the formal administrative request to spend the extra $68M:
For a project being driven by hospital revenue, bonds and gifts, $68M was a big hit. It takes time to raise that kind of money, and clearly UIHC didn’t have time on its side. And yet between 09/01/15, and 11/05/15, despite no evidence that the money had been raised, S&P raised its outlook. Why? (Hold that thought.)
In Grateful Re-Appreciation
While obviously good news for UIHC and the Board of Regents, the upward revision of S&P’s outlook was by far the smaller of two surprises involving the children’s hospital at the end of 2015. Just shy of a month later, the board announced another shocking decision which was also engineered by the same group of insiders who fraudulently elected J. Bruce Harreld. When finally completed, the Children’s Hospital of Iowa would henceforth be named after the Stead Family. From the Gazette on 12/02/15:
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that the Steads dropped a big donation on the regents in order to help with the cost overruns at CHI, in exchange for which the naming rights of the hospital were presented to the Steads as a ‘gift’ or ‘thanks’ or out of ‘gratitude’. Because that’s what I thought after reading that article in December, and what I still thought when I started writing this post. In fact, if you took a poll on campus and asked why the children’s hospital was being named after the Steads, I think most people would say that the Steads gave a big pile of money to help with construction — meaning new money.
That is how such things work, even as everyone pretends there’s no quid pro quo or ego involved. You give some money, you get your name on something. If you don’t give any money you don’t get your name on anything. Yet in reading everything there was to read about the regents’ sudden decision to name the hospital after the Steads, it was not at all clear that they had donated any money to CHI.
From the Gazette article:
So at the time of the naming the Steads had given, total, $53.9M. That included $25M to Tippie, and another $25M to UIHC, and apparently another $3.9M elsewhere. But how much of that was directed at CHI?
Well, in order to sort that out we have to consider a report two weeks later, in mid-December, which detailed the 2015 travel expenses of the various presidents at Iowa, including a $10K ‘panic flight’ that Jean Robillard took on 98/25/15, to meet with Jerre Stead in Denver. Less than two weeks before the sham Harreld search reached fruition, and before the reporting of the CHI cost overruns in the press, here’s how that meeting was explained in the Gazette on 12/11/15, over three and a half months after it took place, and two weeks after the regents’ announcement of the renaming of CHI:
Clearly the timing of that meeting is suspect, as is the idea that a fairly routine $5M gift suddenly had to be conveyed in an unscheduled face-to-face meeting. In a little more than a week not only was the plan to fraudulently appoint Harreld about to reach fruition, but news of the massive CHI cost overruns would also drop. Was Robillard in Denver to ask for more money in advance of the shocking news about CHI? Was Stead suddenly in a position of power, and thus able to generate concessions — or more concessions — ahead of the sham regents vote? Was the S&P rating threat in play?
In order to confirm that $5M was given to Robillard in mid-August — whether or not it was intended for CHI at the time — we can compare the current total of lifetime giving by the Stead family with earlier reports. For example, here’s a Gazette story from 2013, which details the Steads’ prior gifts to UIHC:
So if we factor in the $5M from Robillard’s ‘panic flight’ on 08/25/15, that gets us back to the $25M currently being credited to the Steads for UIHC, and $50M total, with another $3.9M in loose change. It’s also clear from that article that the Steads ‘bought’ the naming rights to the pediatrics department for $20M, even if nobody would be so crass (or honest) as to actually come right out and say that. Which raises an obvious question. Was Jerre Steads $5M ‘panic flight’ donation — I’m sorry, investment — in exchange for having the entire $360M children’s hospital named after his family?
Well, here’s the Press-Citizen’s story on the renaming, also from 12/02/15:
Seriously — doesn’t that sound as if the Steads are giving another $25M to the Children’s Hospital? Because that’s the impression I came away with when I first read that piece in early December, yet that’s not what the story says. It says the renaming was done because of the Stead’s “$25 million commitment to further children’s medicine at UI”, meaning the $25M they already donated. Not new money, but old money — in fact, the same $20M that previously earned them the Stead Family Department of Pediatrics, plus the $5M kicker from late August.
So if Jerre Stead didn’t give more money, or only gave $5M more in August, what on earth possessed the Iowa Board of Regents to name the entire CHI after the Steads? Well, the Press-Citizen provides more detail on that front:
Admittedly, that explanation does follow a certain cynical if not deeply disturbed logic. The upshot of the warm glow emanating from the bowels of the Iowa Board of Regents, however, is that they gave away the naming rights to the Children’s Hospital of Iowa because Bruce Rottweiler came to “know and respect” Jerre Stead while they were jamming J. Bruce Harreld down the unsuspecting throats of the students, faculty and staff at the University of Iowa. And I cannot find any news anywhere that leads me to any other conclusion.
The Regents’ $20M Giveaway (At Least)
So why is naming CHI after the Steads a problem? Well, if you’re all about the bottom line — and we know Bruce Rastetter loves him some bottom line — then even if you’re the worst businessperson in the world you know you can demand a pretty penny for the naming rights to your brand new children’s hospital. Even if you pretend it’s a ‘gift’ or ‘thanks’ in exchange for a big-money donation, you’re going to get that big-money donation before anybody’s name goes up in lights. Yet here’s how the University of Iowa’s press machine framed the shocking news, also on 12/02/15:
Now, I may be the worst writer in the world, but I can tell you that in crafting that paragraph someone went to a lot of trouble to make it seem like the Steads were giving $25M to CHI. I know that because the amount mentioned is not $5M, but $25M, followed by a statement that the Steads were helping to complete “the new UI Children’s Hospital facility”. And yet, incredibly, the UI press release also cites the same cumulative total of lifetime giving. I mean, investing:
Given how despotic the Board of Regents has become under Rastetter’s iron-fisted rule, I would not have been surprised to learn that the regents approved the sale of the children’s hospital naming rights “without debate”. What I would have expected, however, is that they would have gotten at least $20M in return — and even that would have been a steal. What is stunning is that in exchange for the naming rights to CHI, the regents received, at most, $5M in new money from the Steads, dating back to Robillard’s ‘panic flight’ in late August, and that hardly put a dent in the yet-to-be-announced cost overruns..
How can I be sure that the naming rights for the entire children’s hospital would be worth at least $20M? Well, consider that in 2007 the Board of Regents gave serious consideration to selling the naming rights to the university’s public health college for $15M. From the same P-C article on 12/02/15:
Take $15M in 2007 dollars, adjust for inflation and the considerable prestige of the Children’s Hospital of Iowa, and you easily get to $20M. Still not convinced? Okay, let’s look at a comparable from 2012, which quite literally established the naming-rights market for large-dollar donations to CHI:
Now, take a guess what the Gerdins ‘got’ for their $12M, from whatever scrupulous entity hands out naming rights at the University of Iowa. And I’m not for a moment suggesting that the Gerdins wanted anything, or that they think of donating to the university as investing, the way Jerre Stead does. But just between us, what do you think $12M was worth at the beginning of the CHI project, in terms of naming rights granted by the project overlords?
That’s right — while Jerre Stead got the entire children’s hospital named after his family for a last-minute $5M, at most, the Gerdin family donated $12M up front and got a theater and a lobby (see page 16 here). Can you explain that? Is there anyone who can explain that disparity? No, there is no one who can do that because only someone who was off his rockerstetter would give away naming rights that could conceivably command $20M, $30M or $50M in donations. Or investments.
Naming Rights and Asset Valuation
If you think I’m joking about those valuations, here’s a super-snazzy rendering of what CHI will look like when it’s finished, provided you catch it at exactly the right time of day and the weather is perfect. If a CHI theater and lobby are worth $12M, then you tell me what the whole CHI is worth. Better yet, trot on over to the construction site and measure the square footage of the lobby and theater, then divide $12M by that number to get donation-dollars per square foot. Next, subtract the square footage of the lobby and theater from the 507,000 square feet of total CHI construction, then multiply that number by your square foot number, which will give you the current market value of the naming rights for the rest of the building. And I think that number will easily top $50M.
No, nobody’s going to pay $50M, but based on the market established by the Gerdins in 2012, that would be the proper valuation of the naming rights until the market proved otherwise. Which is why you would think the business-oriented and cost-conscious Board of Regents would have beaten the holy heck out of the bushes to see if maybe IBM or Boston Market or IHS or Summit Agriculture, or any of a thousand other businesses, or other big-name Iowa donors, wanted to bid higher than $5M. But the board didn’t do that. Inexplicably — literally, without explanation — the Iowa Board of Regents — meaning Bruce Rastetter’s Board of Regents — meaning the forward-thinking, business-oriented, transformational Board of Regents that foisted a semi-retired businessman on the University of Iowa — that Board of Regents — gave an insanely valuable state asset away for next to nothing.
Was there some quid pro quo with Jerre Stead that we don’t know about? If not, why was Stead allowed to bigfoot the Gerdin family by giving $7M less to CHI. (If you’re wondering, while not at the Steads’ ‘level’, then Gerdins have also given generously over the years to a number of UI projects.)
Even if the $5M ‘panic flight’ donation-investment from Jerre Stead was originally directed toward the ballooning budget of CHI, and there was no mention of that at the time, or for months afterward, the Gerdin family donated two and a half times that much, and did so early on. And yet now the entire building is being named after the Steads because Jerre Stead came in at the last minute? Or because Jerre Stead gave money years ago?
If I’m a Gerdin, I’m angry. (Actually, even though I’m not a Gerdin I’m still miffed.) By rights the new children’s hospital should either be called the Gerdin Family University of Iowa Children’s Hospital, or UIHC should give the Gerdins back their $12M, plus name all the doughnut carts and supply closest after them, on top of the lobby and theater, as a way to make up for the interest the Gerdins would have made on that money if they had known the regents would be giving away naming rights for free. (We’ll call it Donor Price Protection, and I’m willing to bet that it’s going to be written into a lot of UI Foundation contracts in the future.)
Alternatively, if the regents wanted to squeeze more out of the Gerdins, and maybe even more out of the Steads’, they could have done what people usually do in such situations, which is encourage a bidding war. And yet somehow, despite the fact that Bruce Rastetter is all about business all the time, and all about the bottom line, and fervently invested in bringing transformational change to the University of Iowa at the expense of the school’s well-being and sanity, he nonetheless decided to give tens of millions of dollars in asset value to the Steads, who, if I understand their financial situation, do not need it.
What about the idea that the Steads are getting carry-over credit for their prior generosity? I mean, for their shrewd investments? Well, imagine that you ask me for a donation one year, and I give you a dollar. In thanks you name your coffee cup after me. Now imagine that a few years pass and you buy a new top-of-the-line thermos, after which you ask if I’d like to make another contribution, in part to defray the cost of that high-end, temperature-stabilizing technology. Instead of giving you another dollar, however, I tell you that I’ll give you another ten cents, but in exchange for that ten cents I not only want you to name your thermos after me, I want you to name your entire kitchen after me, except for the pantry, which goes to the Gerdins.
Are you down with that? Because that’s the steely-eyed deal that Bruce Rastetter just made with Jerre Stead. In exchange for $5M against a whopping $68M hole in the CHI budget, and $360M overall, the Steads are now receiving an asset that is worth at least $20M. And that means just as you won’t be able to get market value for the naming rights to your thermos after you take my ten cents, UIHC won’t be able to sell the naming rights to the Children’s Hospital of Iowa at market value because they gave the name to the Steads for a new $5M.
Is that your idea of a hard bargain? Is that how people steeped in business do business with their own money, or is that only how they do business when they’re playing with other people’s money? Money that could be used to feed people, or help clean up the state’s water supply, or maybe even go back into the coffers of the state’s higher education system, so J. Bruce Harreld can buy off the faculty with a bag full of green vitality. Or wait — here’s an even batter idea! Why not sell the naming rights for $20M or more, to the highest bidder, then put all the money to work taking care of sick kids?
As long as we’re asking uncomfortable questions, is there any precedent for the regents transferring such a vast amount of state wealth to a private individual or individuals? Because that is what happened in this case. A state asset, easily worth tens of millions of dollars, was given — without debate — to a private individual. And I do not understand why people are not screaming about that.
And that’s before we get to the obvious question of whether there was some quid pro quo involved, including some arrangement by which Stead helped resolve the blown CHI budget and protect UIHC’s rating at S&P, in exchange for putting the family name on the children’s hospital. And I’m not talking about the $5M publicly acknowledged donation-investment. I’m talking about something behind the scenes, which was done, perhaps in part, to save someone from looking like an incompetent boob.
While we’re at it, what are the tax implications for the Board of Regents in gifting the CHI naming rights to Jerre Stead? Is that cool with the IRS? I looked into the issue just long enough to give myself a nosebleed, and I don’t know if anyone knows the answer. Because I am pretty sure that particular circumstance doesn’t come up very often — or ever.
What remains clear is that by gifting the naming rights to the Steads the Iowa Board of Regents is passing tens of millions of dollars of market value from the state to a private individual, and I can’t understand why the state legislature isn’t throwing a fit — and I mean both political parties, in rare bipartisan fury. Is this the fun-house world we live in now, where a man who spent the entirety of the past year belittling anyone who didn’t want to run the University of Iowa like a business is perfectly free to swap tens of millions of dollars in market value for $5M in cash from his BFF? Because unless there’s more to that deal that’s what just happened.
Okay. Because that’s all maddening and insulting and just plain ludicrous let’s take a deep breath and review. In September of 2014 S&P fires a warning shot across the UIHC bow because of its top-heavy outlook for the next two years. A year later, in September of 2015, CHI reports a massive cost overrun, which would seem to meet the test of financial incompetence laid out by S&P. Two months later, in November of 2015, S&P revises its outlook upward, citing changes in the UIHC balance sheet, even though there’s no evidence that the $68M cost overrun was resolved at that time. One month after that, in December of 2015, the Iowa Board of Regents, led by President Bruce Rastetter, decides to give Jerre Stead a minimum of $20M in asset value in belated exchange for a prior $5M check, because he just plain likes the guy.
And yet….lost in all that insanity, and obscured by the intertwining storyline of the fraudulent Harreld hire, one important question remains unanswered. Who screwed up? Who blew the budget on the Children’s Hospital of Iowa by almost 25%, and in so doing put UIHC’s bond rating at risk?
Given that UIHC is his baby, the obvious answer would be Jean Robillard. In fact, one of the truly nauseating moments in the aftermath of the Harreld hire featured Bruce Rastetter talking about all the money Robillard was able to make off sick people, and how that was all the justification he needed for fixing the appointment of J. Bruce Harreld. (Actually, Rastetter left out the part about how they had to lie, cheat and conspire to get that done.) From a Press-Citizen editorial on 09/18/15:
Now, as regular readers know, what’s doubly disingenuous about that black-hearted quote from Rastetter is that as soon as Harreld was hired, J. Bruce announced that he would be taking a hands-off approach to Robillard’s money mill across the river. Too, as noted in the above quote, that was after Robillard sold Harreld to the UI community by claiming, in part, that Harreld was badly needed at UIHC. Yet in all the construction going on across campus, it’s only the Children’s Hospital of Iowa that goes spectacularly over budget, suggesting that no matter what Robillard saw or sat on in the past, if anyone on campus needed the services of a semi-retired freelance carpetbagging dilettante, it was Jean Robillard at UIHC.
Who else could be responsible? Well, did Rastetter and his crack staff at the regents fail to do sufficient ‘due diligence’ on the project? Did Ken Kates, the CEO of UIHC, drop the ball? How about Bob Donley? One too many rubber stamps? I don’t know, and the people who do know aren’t going to talk, but there is one thing I’m sure of. Former president Sally Mason did not drop the ball on the CHI budget, or put the UIHC bond rating at risk.
Well, somebody blew it, but then again why hash that all out in public, as was routinely done to Mason — particularly when financial incompetence and failed leadership would hurt the case you’ve been making that higher education should be run like a business. Meaning, of course, not a business like Enron. Or Lehman Brothers. Or WorldCom. Instead, in order to preserve everyone’s dignity, what better than papering over the past with $20M in state asset value, then quickly moving on to the next agenda item.
On the other hand, if there’s a silver lining in all this, it’s that nobody has to take any more crap from Bruce Rastetter about being stuck in the status quo, because there’s nothing more status quo than doing favors for old friends at the expense of the people. Will we ever learn what actually happened in 2015, including how J. Bruce Harreld became a glassy-eyed poker chip in a high-stakes game of bureaucratic deceit? Probably not. The key players are thick as thieves, and not a single investigatory agency has shown any interest in what happened, either with the Harreld hire, the cost overruns at CHI, or the convergence of the two in the regents giveaway of tens of millions of dollars in asset value to Jerre Stead.
Which is why you now get this when you link to the CHI website, and this when you link to the office of the president of the University of Iowa. And until recently those two men lived a hundred miles apart in Colorado, and had been good friends for decades. But it’s all okay, because nobody did anything wrong, and Iowa Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter, University of Iowa Vice President for Medical Affairs Jean Robillard, University of Iowa President J. Bruce Harreld, and mega-investor Jerre Stead, will all personally attest to that, as long as it’s in closed session.
Yet in the end none of this really comes as a surprise. It is a bedrock principle of good-old-boy business relationships that the only people you ever hold publicly accountable are people you do not like. People like Sally Mason, who refused to simply hand the keys to the University of Iowa to a political crony who bought his seat on the Board of Regents. If you like someone, however, not only do you shelter them from scrutiny, but you forgive every incompetent act, as the Board of Regents has already done with Jerre Stead’s longtime friend and Colorado sidekick, J. Bruce “Somebody Should Be Shot” Harreld. Because even if you do everything right and give it your all, bad things can still happen, which is why there’s nothing more important than having good friends in high places.
Good connection between the $$ and the strange naming that occurred. Hadn’t really thought about it from the Gerdin angle. I’m starting to see that there may be a connection between all of this and the related Medicaid fiasco although I can’t quite draw the line yet.
Harreld has got to see the writing on the wall by now. Just wondering how he can get out of it? Fake illness or something? And then what happens next to UI is an even more frightening thought.
One of the truly great mysteries in all this is why Harreld wanted the job in the first place. Ego clearly plays a big part — the idea of savior/transformer — and as I’ve noted elsewhere I think he has unmet needs in terms of being recognized as a key cog in the very tiresome IBM story. At the time he was 63 years old, he had just sold two multi-million dollars homes on the East Coast and relocated to his old Denver-area haunts — then suddenly he decides he has to be in Iowa City for five years?
I don’t get it, and I’ve gotten to a place over the past couple of months where I’m not sure Harreld himself really understands what drove him to fall in league with his co-conspirators. My gut says he’s going to become very seriously bored in another thirteen months or so, and that if he has tenure by then he’ll already be planning his escape with all the honesty and integrity that he used to land the job in the first place.
As for faking an illness, he may not have to. Based on his recent pictures in the press, I think he’s aged a good five years since his open forum, when he still had a bit of semi-retired-rich-guy pep in his step. Now he’s having to come to terms with a job that never stops, and I don’t think he had any idea what that was going to be like, or how it was going to wear on him.
As for what happens to UI down the road, until Branstad is out of office and a real governor has the chance to replace the cronies at the BoR, who will then clean house at the university, nothing will change. Which is sad for all concerned.
As you may have noticed over the past week or so, the illegitimate president of the University of Iowa, J. Bruce Harreld, has once again gone dark. In this instance I believe Harreld was muzzled by his regent overlords partly in response to his infamous email exchange with alumnus David B. Wheeler, which included both an abrupt and dismissive response to Wheeler personally, and another deluded projection of the multi-million-dollar swashbuckling role that Harreld believes he is playing:
We saw this early on, of course, only a day after Harreld’s rigged appointment in September, in what I called his ‘F. Bruce Fitzharreld‘ moment — when Harreld decided to ‘take action’ by recruiting the football team to fight campus sexual assault. Because the Iowa Board of Regents felt compelled to fix the presidential election in favor of a candidate with no experience in academic administration, Harreld has been repeatedly forced to call upon fiction, and often cliche, to fill the many blanks in his background that are at this very moment rapidly setting the school back from where it was under Sally Mason.
While the need for damage control will be a perpetual concern with Harreld, I also believe Harreld was put on a short leash because it is critically important that he not have another ‘Harreld moment’ in the next few weeks. Why? Because in mid-December, after hiding out for months on end, and making himself available only to small groups and in one-on-one interactions, Harreld was finally forced to schedule what he is now calling a “town hall” with the community he has presided over since last fall. Given his disastrous candidate forum, and how consistent he’s been in using violent metaphors in the workplace, the last thing Harreld or the regents want is for February 23rd to roll around while another “shoot somebody” story explodes in the press.
As you may also have noticed over the past week or so, there have been multiple sightings of a goat that escaped from a University of Iowa testing facility. While I personally believe that the sudden appearance of the goat and the equally sudden disappearance of Harreld are mere coincidence, there is a persistent rumor that perhaps the goat is J. Bruce Harreld, escaped from some sort of retraining facility or regents’ educational camp. And I have to admit, not only do you never see J. Bruce Harreld and the goat in the same place at the same time, but the descriptions are eerily similar:
Whether Harreld is baaaaack in the public eye or not before his town hall, it’s worth noting that on that occasion he will be physically flanked by several UI minders. From a first-person UI press release in the character of Harreld:
Along with keeping Harreld from escaping the town hall, Barry and Rod will be on hand to pooh-pooh off-topic questions, including the multiple lies that Harreld has already told to the university community about his origin story as a candidate. Instead, they will want their “engagement” with the community and their “listening” to be “productive”, which brings us to the question of success as J. Bruce Harreld has defined it:
As we will explore in the coming weeks, J. Bruce Harreld, the UI administration, and the Iowa Board of Regents have already decided how they are going to demonstrate Harreld’s success. That doing so will involve gaming a system in order to get the results they want is a trivial concern to the hard-bitten group of unethical co-conspirators behind his rise to power. And yet Harreld has it half right: the fix for what ails Iowa is, or rather was, pure and simple, yet the masterminds behind his corrupt appointment decided to pick Harreld anyway.
Here is what I said in my initial post about the Harreld hire:
When faced with their single most important responsibility, the Iowa Board or Regents not only had to lie and cheat in order to install their marionette in office, but in tying their manipulative strings to J. Bruce Harreld they picked exactly the wrong man for the job. Wrong by temperament, wrong by inclination, wrong by professional experience, wrong by ethical leanings, wrong by cultural background, wrong by educational training, wrong by every conceivable metric except the willingness to throw his lot in with people who believe they are exempt from any obligations to fairness, integrity and respect.
All of which — except, possibly, for the wild-and-woolly goat — is why you will not be surprised to learn that those same pressing cultural needs were not only widely known on campus during the search process that led to Harreld’s fraudulent appointment, but as a result of reporting from the AP’s Ryan Foley we now know that those issues had been documented internally, as of the end of 2014, when Sally Mason was about to announce her retirement:
So the University of Iowa and the Iowa Board of Regents not only knew about the pressing cultural needs on campus, but how those cultural issues were negatively impacting the reputation of the school, and by extension, the economic value of a degree from Iowa. And yet forewarned with that knowledge, their collective response to those problems, at the highest levels, was to conspire to fraudulently appoint the one finalist among the final four who literally had no clue.
Instead of addressing the clear and present needs of the UI campus, the regents relentlessly hyped a lie about a need for transformational change in higher education, and in so doing intentionally shortchanged the students, faculty and staff who were looking for strong leadership on key cultural issues. What the University of Iowa needed was someone steeped in cultural issues central to higher education, who would be able to tackle issues of student safety and health, on a campus that was looking for guidance, in a state that wanted those needs met. Instead, under the astute business-oriented leadership of Regents President Bruce Rastetter, the Iowa Board of Regents hired a cultural imbecile who couldn’t spell ‘IBM’ on his own resume, whose first official act as president-elect was lying to the press and the people of Iowa about his origins as a candidate, who also managed to get himself censured by the faculty before even taking office.
So how is that pesky sexual assault problem going these days?
And of course the director of the Rape Victim Advocacy Program also decided to bolt shortly after Harreld was hired, so that’s another step backward:
Yes, it is a critical time on the University of Iowa campus. And at this critical time the Iowa Board of Regents intentionally failed the University of Iowa by hiring J. Bruce Harreld to address a manufactured, non-existent, ego-gratifying fantasy of transformational change. And when they got polling they didn’t like they suppressed that as well, intentionally cherry-picking the intel that was used to sell their trumped up War on the Status Quo to the people of Iowa.
If you want to address the damage that students are doing to themselves with alcohol, or do what you can to minimize the risk of sexual assault that students are exposed to every day, you may want to circle February 23rd on your calendar. Because — at least as of today — that’s when J. Bruce Harreld is scheduled to finally make himself available to the university community that he is being paid millions of dollars to lead. Since Harreld is a state employee, and as a taxpayer you’re paying his salary, you not only have every right to get your money’s worth, but as Harreld himself has said, he values “direct and candid feedback” from students, faculty, staff, and alumni.
On February 23rd, in C20 Pomerantz Center, from 4 to 6 p.m, you will have your opportunity to give it to him.
Mo Bettah says
He commented that Wilson didn’t know his political affiliations. But the Internet remembers…
HARRELD, JAMES MR
NEW CANAAN, CT 06840 IBM 8/31/04 $2,000 Bush, George W (R)
Having taken a hard look over the past five months at every critical aspect of the fraudulent appointment of J. Bruce Harreld as president of the University of Iowa, I recently found myself perusing a list of stray issues that had never quite made sense for one reason or another. In doing so I was reminded of an innocuous email which contained a nagging reference that seemed to contradict the facts as I knew them, yet the only other reading of that reference also seemed problematic. In taking another look at that email, and working through the possibilities, I was not only able to resolve that trivial uncertainty, I was surprised to find that doing so led, in turn, to two other issues on that same list. I was even more surprised to discover that both of those issues went to the heart of the bureaucratic fraud that was perpetrated by the Iowa Board of Regents against the students, faculty and staff at the University of Iowa.
The Two Bruces
It is a quirk of the Harreld hire that two of the key co-conspirators are both named Bruce. I don’t know what the odds are of that occurring, but I would think they would be pretty long, if only because I do not personally know anyone named Bruce. There’s Bruce Springsteen, obviously, and Bruce Berry (deceased), and Bruce Sutter, and the former Bruce Jenner, but that’s about all that comes to mind sans internet search. Yet somehow, among the handful of people who got together to screw the University of Iowa out of a fair and transparent presidential search, not only do we have the illegitimate appointee — J. Bruce Harreld — but we also have the mastermind of the entire debacle in Regents President Bruce Rastetter.
When I first started looking into the Harreld hire back in September, I expected there to be occasional confusion about which ‘Bruce’ someone was talking about. In all of the documents and articles I have read, however, there was only one occasion when I was not immediately sure which ‘Bruce’ was being referenced. The reason that single moment of ambiguity stayed with me is because it occurred in the context of the secret regent meetings, which Rastetter arranged before the search committee’s cutdown process had even begun.
If you’re not familiar with the secret regent meetings, J. Bruce Harreld flew to Iowa on July 30th to meet with four members of the nine-member Iowa Board or Regents at the Ames office of Rastetter’s company, Summit Agriculture. On that day Harreld met with the regents in two meetings of two regents each, then had dinner that evening with ISU President Stephen Leath. Although the meetings took place at Rastetter’s place of business, and Rastetter arranged the meetings, Rastetter himself purportedly did not attend either of the meetings with Harreld because of “other commitments“.
On several prior occasions we have analyzed and dissected what took place at the secret regent meetings (notably here), but in this instance we’re primarily interested in the logistics leading up to those sequenced gatherings. While it was never clear to me which particular regents met with Harreld at what times, as it turns out we can piece all of that together thanks to a series of otherwise super-boring emails that you can download in a .pdf from Stephen Voyce’s FOIA site.
In the emails in that document, Rastetter and SummitAg employee Sara Hobson exchange messages with regent Mary Andringa, who is one of the four regents who will be traveling to Ames to meet with Harreld. Here are the emails which lead up to the single instance in which I was not sure which ‘Bruce’ was being mentioned:
The next morning, Sara does indeed follow up:
There are more back-and-forth messages on the 28th involving driving directions, but that’s the gist of it. There is a meeting taking place on the 30th, the meeting itself isn’t explained or discussed, but there seems to be an opportunity to either meet at 2 or 4, or, to participate in one of two meetings which are already scheduled for 2 and 4.
While we don’t know what was discussed in any other emails, or via telephone or in person, as improbable as it may seem those emails still help fill in what happened on July 30th. And of course there’s that one line, which bugged me for the longest time:
That’s from SummitAg staffer Sara Hobson, the morning after the initial scheduling exchange between Rastetter and Andringa. In the context of the time I’m sure her comment was nothing — a simple follow-up in which Hobson herself was probably half-informed, at best, about what would be transpiring on the 30th.
The problem I had with that line was that I initially read those emails months after the fact, when I knew two things that Hobson may not have known at the time. First, I knew that a man named J. Bruce Harreld had taken part in meetings at SummitAg on July 30th. Second, I knew that Bruce Rastetter, Hobson’s boss, reportedly did not take part in those meetings. Which is why, when I read Hobson asking if Andringa could “meet Bruce at the Ames office at 2pm this Thursday”, I was brought up short by the possible implications.
The most obvious reason for ignoring any of those implications is that J. Bruce Harreld’s name is ‘J. Bruce’, and not simply ‘Bruce’, as is the case with Rastetter. And yet we know from at least two different sources that J. Bruce does indeed prefer to be called Bruce. As it happens, in that same .pdf you’ll find a copy of a paper about proactive change that Harreld sent to Andringa, and in that paper you’ll see that Harreld is listed as ‘Bruce Harreld’. Too, toward the end of his celebrated open forum, Harreld actually went out of his way to interrupt a questioner and instruct her to call him ‘Bruce’, instead of referring to him as ‘Mr. Harreld’. (Curiously, Harreld neglected to offer that same entreaty to another questioner a few minutes earlier, let alone to the entire audience after being referred to, and being introduced as, Mr. Harreld, at the beginning of his presentation.)
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that Hobson obviously meant Bruce Rastetter, and I agree. For Hobson to have been referring to J. Bruce in that sentence, some basis for that familiarity would have to have been established, and Hobson would have had to have some expectation that Andringa would know which ‘Bruce’ was being referenced. So while it’s spine-tingling to think of all the potential implications were Hobson actually referring to J. Bruce in that line, I just don’t think it’s plausible. If Hobson had specifically wanted to specify J. Bruce Harreld for any reason, she would have done so by calling him by that name, or Mr. Harreld, if only to differentiate him from her employer and from Andringa’s co-regent on the board.
But that still leaves us with a problem. Even if “Bruce” means Bruce Rastetter, why does Hobson ask Andringa to confirm that she can “meet Bruce at the Ames office”? Because if Hobson is referencing Rastetter, that implies that at least as of July28th, Rastetter is planning on being at the secret regent meetings.
In looking closely at the prior emails between Rastetter and Andringa, Rastetter doesn’t actually say whether he’s attending or not, he just asks about Andringa’s availability. So either Rastetter did attend the meetings with Harreld and lied about doing so, or, he intended to attend the meetings, but something came up. And as sorry as I am to say this, I think the odds are much more in favor of the latter scenario than the former, for reasons we’ll get to in a moment.
The Two Meetings
The second issue on my list of nagging concerns dovetails with the emails above. Specifically, it’s the fact that two separate meetings were held on July 30th. Why two meetings on that day — and why is Rastetter himself doing the scheduling? Fortunately, here we do not have to parse Rastetter’s intent through the words of a subordinate. From the very first email above:
Either Rastetter is offering Andringa a choice of meeting times, or he’s slotting Andringa into one of two meetings that have already been scheduled. To me it sounds like the latter, but I must acknowledge that my perception is clearly influenced by the fact that two meetings actually did take place. I can’t be certain of that, obviously, but given that we know that Harreld did meet with four regents in two meetings of two, I think that reading of Rastetter’s question makes the most sense.
The fact that Andringa picked the 2 p.m. slot allows us to fill out the timeline of events on that day, which we were previously unable to do. And if you have been following the Harreld hire you know that the first meaningful event on July 30th was not the 2 p.m. meeting with Harreld in Ames, but a 1 p.m. telephonic meeting of the full search committee, including Rastetter and regents Mulholland and Dakovich.
As for Harreld’s whereabouts at the time, he may have arrived in Ames earlier in the day, but it’s fair to assume that if he’s meeting with a pair of regents at 2 p.m. that he’s either at the SummitAg offices when the telephonic meeting takes place, or about to be delivered. In fact, if Rastetter was also in town at the time — and we have no evidence that he was not — it’s likely that he would have met Harreld’s chartered jet himself, rather than farming that task out to someone that Harreld did not know. And that in turn means it is entirely possible that Harreld — a candidate — was with Rastetter when Rastetter participated in that telephonic committee meeting.
While we don’t know how Harreld got to the SummitAg offices, there is considerable circumstantial evidence that Rastetter would not have given that task to someone who was not already part of the conspiracy to appoint Harreld to the presidency. Like several of Harreld’s other trips to Iowa early in the sham search process, Harreld was visiting a location he had almost certainly never been to, and would thus need assistance in getting where he was going. Where he was chauffeured from the Cedar Rapids airport to the secret Kirkwood meeting on July 19th by Peter Matthes, and chauffeured from the Cedar Rapids airport to the UI campus with his wife on July 8th by search committee chair Jean Robillard, it is likely that on July 30th Harreld was chauffeured to the secret regent meetings in Ames in the same executive manner. Rastetter would not have asked Hobson to send Harreld the same driving directions that she sent to Andringa, or a set of GPS coordinates to be plugged into a rental car.
For those reasons, even though Rastetter reportedly did not attend either of the secret regent meetings, I think Rastetter probably picked Harreld up at either the Ames or Des Moines airport, because that was a big moment for Rastetter, and a big bonding opportunity for both of them. Rastetter was clearly sold on Harreld, but he also knew he needed buy-in from four other regents in order to lock up a five-vote majority in Harreld’s favor. And I think Rastetter was determined to get that done on July 30th, so nothing would be left to chance once the cutdown process began on August 4th. (When it comes to being a fixer, I don’t believe Rastetter leaves anything to chance.)
In any case, from press reports we know that regents Andringa and McKibben — neither of whom were on the search committee — met with Harreld together. From the emails above we know that Andringa met with Harreld at 2 p.m., which means McKibben also met with Harreld at 2. That in turn means that regents Mulholland and Dakovich — both of whom were on the search committee — met with Harreld at 4 p.m., because they also met with Harreld as a pair.
So the telephonic committee meeting takes place at 1 p.m., Andringa and McKibben meet with Harreld at 2 p.m., then Mulholland and Dakovich meet with Harreld at 4 p.m. While the regents who are on the committee (Rastetter, Mulholland and Dakovich) can call in from anywhere — meaning we don’t know where they are at 1 p.m. on July 30th — we know that all four of the regents who meet with Harreld do so in person, so that means time on the road. Assuming that each regent starts from home, Mulholland will be driving from Marion (116 miles), Dakovich from Waterloo (100 miles), Andringa from Pella (75 miles), and McKibben from Marshalltown (42 miles).
The fact that Rastetter went out of his way to arrange face-to-face meetings between Harreld and four regents, then avoided offering those same meetings to other candidates, not only exposes the corruption at the heart of the search, it underscores how important such interactions are during any hiring process. That it turn exposes the pathetic lie offered by regent Katie Mulholland in defense of those secret meetings:
If face-to-face meetings were not critical to Harreld’s extracurricular and improper interviews with those four regents, Rastetter would have arranged telephonic meetings for all concerned, and he did not. He went to great pains to arrange face-to-face meetings, and Harreld went to considerable expense to attend, and all four of the regents who participated devoted considerable time to attending those meetings in person.
Location, Location, Location
Which brings us to our next question. Given that four regents have to travel to Ames from four different locations in order to meet with Harreld, why does Rastetter schedule two separate meetings with two regents each, at his offices in Ames — particularly if he is not planning on attending those meetings himself? From the Andringa email chain it’s clear that she’s never been to the SummitAg offices, so this is not something they’ve all done before. Yet of all the places they could have met — and all of the places the regents have met as a body, which they would have each been familiar with — Rastetter chooses his own private place of business, then doesn’t participate. Why?
Again, if the oddities of the occasion seem familiar, that’s because we wrestled with this on multiple occasions regarding the secret June 19th Kirkwood meeting between Harreld, Rastetter, Robillard and Matthes. (That’s the secret meeting Jerre Stead arranged, only to bail on at the last minute.) As with the secret regent meetings, all four of the attendees at the Kirkwood meeting could have just as easily — if not more easily — met in Iowa City, thus also giving the three search committee members (Matthes was ex officio) the perfect opportunity to show Harreld the campus and community. Why give that up, unless meeting off-site conferred a benefit of some kind?
By the same token, if Rastetter was not going to participate in the July 30th regent meetings at his own place of business, and he knew that in advance, why not schedule the meetings in Iowa City (UI) or Cedar Falls (UNI) instead of at his business in Ames? Harreld’s jet can get to either of those places just as easily as it can get to Ames, and those locations would mean less travel time all-around for the four regents. (Assuming they all start from home it is 333 total road miles to Ames, 305 to Iowa City, and only 231 to Cedar Falls.)
Even if Rastetter scheduled the meetings in Ames because it was more convenient for Harreld, who would be dining that evening with ISU President Stephen Leath, why were the meetings not held on the ISU campus? In fact, if Leath was the critical factor, there was no reason all four regents could nott have joined Leath and Harreld for dinner, along with Rastetter for that matter. And if Leath wasn’t the critical factor, then Harreld and his chiropractic chartered jet could have flown Harreld to Ames after meetings in Iowa City or Cedar Falls, or anywhere else, so again I don’t think Ames as a town was the deciding factor.
The deciding factor was Rastetter’s place of business, precisely because it was not part of the normal sphere of regent operations. As with the secret Kirkwood meeting, the whole point of those locations was that they were out of view of the normal administrative processes that Rastetter was obligated to adhere to in his role as regents president. In order to slip into the role of an electoral Machiavelli, Rastetter needed locations that were private and controlled. Otherwise, if word got out that he was holding multiple secret meetings with one candidate, including facilitating a meeting between Harreld and two regents who were not on the search committee, he would leave himself open to the charge that he was being unfair to the other candidates because he was being unfair. In order to prevent that, at least while the sham search was ongoing, Rastetter repeatedly chose to meet at times and locations known only to his loyal co-conspirators.
For all of those reasons, the only conclusion I’ve been able to come to regarding the secret regent meetings is that Bruce Rastetter originally planned on attending the two scheduled sitdowns with Harreld. Not only do I think that fits with the Andringa email chain and the site of the meetings, I think it fits with Rastetter’s modus operandi as a fixer, because Rastetter does not leave anything to chance. When he’s not appointing himself to the search committee he’s making himself an ex officio member of the TIER committee, or attending the secret Kirkwood meeting, or the “VIP Lunch” on July 8th, or arranging the “encouraging” phone call from Branstad to Harreld in mid-to-late August. Throughout the entire Harreld hire, at every key moment, not only is Rastetter actively facilitating, organizing, orchestrating, he is in the room.
Assuming that Rastetter did not attend the meetings with Harreld on the 30th — even if all he did was hang out in the parking lot or the john, so he could technically claim to have not participated — the next question is why Rastetter would have skipped those meetings after taking such pains to arrange them. While it is possible that something came up, including an emergency, I think the most likely reason for Rastetter’s absence is that he finally realized how bad it would look when people found out what he had done. And if that is the case, all I can say is that he only got it half right, because even in his absence the secret regent meetings are clearly an abuse of power.
On July 30th, at his own place of business, and as a result of his own machinations, Regents President Rastetter and four other regents effectively decided the outcome of the election thirty days before the final interviews and vote, and they did that by holding a job interview in which only one candidate was considered. A month later, when the nine-member Board of Regents held what were purportedly the final interviews and vote, nobody except Harreld, Rastetter and the four conspiring regents knew that they had all previously met on July 30th at Rastetter’s place of business. Those stark facts are why I now believe, after planning everything to the last detail, Rastetter decided — perhaps on his own, or after getting sage advice from someone who was well-versed in weaving plausible deniability into abuses of power — that it would be better, if only for his own future, that he not participate.
The Deconstructed Quorum
As clear as all that seems today, however, I don’t think it does justice to what Regents President Rastetter actually pulled off on July 30th. The nagging clue that something more was going on was the fact that Rastetter arranged two meetings for two regents each, instead of one meeting with all four regents, or even one meeting with three regents, then another meeting with one regent, as might have happened if there was a scheduling conflict that couldn’t be avoided. The problem with seeing what Rastetter was actually up to was that in trying to understand his absence and the serial structure of the meetings, I lost sight of the big picture. In order to see what was really happening on July 30th, I needed to pull back until those admittedly significant details became indistinct.
On July 30th candidate J. Bruce Harreld met with four regents at Rastetter’s place of business in Ames, and I believe Regents President Rastetter could have and would have attended those meetings if he had wanted to. Which means what Rastetter arranged on that day was very much like a meeting of the Iowa Board of Regents, albeit only for select members of that august body. Just as they did at other times throughout the year, the four invited regents gathered at the behest of the president in order to conduct board business — in this case the vetting of a single, solitary candidate for president of the University of Iowa. That their interviews of Harreld and perusal of his resume was in violation of both board policy and the search schedule is relevant to the overall case against Rastetter and his cronies, but as to the intent of the events of July 30th even those charges are a distraction.
What Rastetter puts together on July 30th doesn’t look like a meeting of the Board of Regents because of his absence, because of the staggered sitdown times, and because of the private-sector location. Yet taken in sum, that’s what it is — a deconstructed meeting of the Iowa Board of Regents. Which is why it wasn’t until I put all that together that I was able to make sense of the third item on my list of things that bugged me, which was a line from a Des Moines Register op-ed that had been published in early October.
The editorial addressed what the editors described, charitably, as the “flawed” search process that led to Harreld’s appointment, but what stayed with me was a line that ostensibly explained why Rastetter and the regents did nothing illegal in meeting with Harreld. Here are two full paragraphs for context, including the line in question, from the DMR on 10/03/15:
Given my naivete about the workings of committees and boards and such, when the Des Moines Register editors said that the secret regent meetings were not illegal because “none involved a quorum of the nine-member board”, I trusted that they knew what they were talking about. What finally hit me this week, however, particularly after thinking about the odd sequencing of the secret regent meetings, was that if you wanted to hold an unofficial, invitation-only board meeting, all you would have to do to make it legal would be to break the meeting into chunks — which is exactly what Rastetter did. All five regents could have just as easily gotten together in the same place at the same time, as they did for any other meeting of the board, but as the Register noted, that would have established a quorum.
If you’re not familiar with that term, a quorum is just a fancy word for the majority of any body or group. If there are twenty-five people in your club, and you’re voting on an issue, a quorum is established when there are thirteen people in the room. If you’re having an office party, or your committee is all on the same plane, that doesn’t mean a quorum is established because you’re not doing business. What matters are both the reason for the gathering and the number of people in attendance.
Yet as the Register op-ed noted, a quorum can not only determine the legality or illegality of a decision that is made, it can also determine the legality or illegality of a gathering itself. And so it is with the Iowa Board of Regents, who, as you might expect, have a section in their routinely ignored Regents Policy Manual which details how board business is done, including the obligations that kick in when a quorum is established. See if you can spot any reason why Regents President Rastetter would have gone to logistical extremes to avoid establishing a quorum on July 30th, when four regents were meeting with J. Bruce Harreld at his place of business in Ames:
Again, while I’m not familiar with committee procedures and such, let alone Robert’s Rules of Order, by my count I think Rastetter arranged the secret regent meetings in chunks as a premeditated means of avoiding basically every single obligation listed above. And I think the structure and location of the secret regent meetings bears that out. I even believe that Rastetter originally structured the meetings that way so he would be able to sit in on both meetings and still avoid establishing a quorum. At some point, however, either Rastetter or someone privy to his scheme realized that he was being too clever by half, at which point he decided to settle for being too clever by four ninths.
Because Rastetter did not want to post advance notice about meeting with Harreld, or meet in open session, or account for the meetings in any way, he deconstructed a board meeting until it no longer looked like a board meeting. While it probably killed him not to be in the room when Harreld met with the other regents — and here we’re assuming without any justification that the SummitAg offices are not rigged for eavesdropping — as a practical matter Rastetter had to trust that Harreld could sell himself to those four friendly voters, because if Harreld couldn’t get over that absurdly low bar there was no point in trying to sneak him through the upcoming committee cutdown process. On the other hand, if Harreld did passably well in his face-to-face interviews with the four regents, Rastetter could work any doubters over for the next thirty days, until they understood who they were going to be supporting when it was time for the final sham interviews and vote.
A Fair and Transparent Search
So what did Regents President Rastetter have to say for himself when the news of the secret regents meetings, and other improper, preferential administrative acts, were finally revealed? From a Press-Citizen article on 12/10/15, following the release of the damning AAUP report:
There is no one who believes that Rastetter, Mulholland, and the other three regents who met with Harreld on July 30th, ran a fair and transparent search process. No one. What they perpetrated on the people of Iowa was a premeditated fraud at taxpayer expense, and J. Bruce Harreld is the product of that fraud. Rastetter and the four regents who met with Harreld on July 30th not only did so in contravention of the search process, they intentionally kept the other regents in the dark about that prior contact until well after the election. Had a quorum been established none of that would have been possible, although even as constructed the meetings were still a gross violation of the board’s ethics policy.
Because of the secret regent meetings, and the other preferential opportunities that Rastetter showered on Harreld and Harreld alone, no matter how long Harreld stays in office, and no matter how diligently the state-funded machinery of the Iowa Board of Regents and the University of Iowa works to paint him as a success, J. Bruce Harreld’s legacy will always be that of an illegitimate president. He could not have won the job he now holds on the merits, so in order to solve that problem he and a small cabal of co-conspirators simply decided to cheat.
That those same people are in charge of more than 30,000 students lives on the University of Iowa campus, as well as the careers of thousands of faculty and staff, is unconscionable. Yet despite blatant abuses of power which should disqualify all of them from any governmental position, neither the complicit governor, the willfully blind attorney general, or the timid members of the state legislature have uttered any objections. Which is why those same co-conspirators are at this very moment gearing up to erect a facade of success for J. Bruce Harreld by doing what they do best — cheating, and lying to the students, faculty and staff at the University of Iowa.
Despite peeling back the lies and duplicitous machinations that were at the heart of the Harreld hire, there are still several questions that remain unanswered. Chief among them is why a semi-retired carpetbagging dilettante would suddenly decide to spend the next five years of his life in Iowa when he had just relocated back to his ancestral haunts in Colorado. And why would Regents President Rastetter go to all of the trouble and risk of appointing the bumbling Harreld by fraudulent means?
Too, why would Rastetter quite literally hand megadonor — I’m sorry, investor — Jerre Stead $20M in asset value, at a minimum, in exchange for a four-month-old $5M check? And why, today, was it suddenly announced that Jean Robillard had stripped the deanship at the College of Medicine from Debra Schwinn, only to grace himself with that title?
We’ve heard a lot from Regents President Rastetter about transformational change, but so far nothing on the table seems in the least transformational. Robillard’s brazen and apparently unilateral move to consolidate power on the west side of campus, however, kicked off a thought that I floated on Twitter, and it turns out it’s not as crazy as it first seemed. Because the Iowa Board of Regents are, by statute, the trustees of University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, they may very well have the legal power — by themselves — to either take UIHC private, or split UIHC from the University of Iowa as an economic entity.
Now, I don’t have the slightest idea how something like that would be done in terms of the details, but there are apparently a number of legal and even quasi-governmental structures that could facilitate such a conversion. As to why that would be done, it would allow Robillard to do what Rastetter believes Robillard does best, and that’s to make money off of sick people. Gut union contracts, gut pensions, gut services and standards — and because UIHC, and now the new Children’s Hospital of Iowa, are by far the biggest healthcare providers in the region, Robillard can print money while crushing the competition.
As for that $20M that just got handed to Jerre Stead, maybe that’s payback for prior donations that Stead thought he was making to a public health concern. This way even if UIHC does go private Stead gets the family name up in lights, and maybe a ground floor opportunity to invest early. The same goes for J. Bruce Harreld, who had no trouble rubber-stamping Robillard’s power grab, which will also be retroactively approved by Rastetter’s Board or Regents.
Yes, that’s all spectacularly speculative, but it’s not crazy. Not by a longshot given the weight these four co-conspirators have been throwing around for almost a year now, to say nothing of the fraudulent ends they went to in order to appoint the utterly unqualified Harreld. These guys do not respect anything more than they respect money, and there’s a lot of money to be mined by converting state assets into private assets that can then be run into the ground and sold off in pieces. Get in early, cash out while things look great, then fight off the lawsuits — which is of course exactly what J. Bruce Harreld did at Boston Chicken/Market.
So. At the very least, we’re left with an interesting question, which someone might want to put to Robillard, Harreld, Rastetter, Branstad, and even Jerre Stead. Have there been ANY discussions about taking UIHC private, and if so, when and with whom? Because if that’s what they’re planning on doing, they’ve been planning on doing it for a long time.
Update: It’s worth adding that there has been a parallel story unfolding in Iowa over the past year, regarding Governor Branstad’s slap-dash plan to privatize Medicaid services across the state. The plan has been so poorly designed, and so rife with crony politics, that it has suffered setbacks in court and the federal government even stepped in and told Governor Branstad to delay implementation.
Not only is there widespread opposition to Branstad’s plan, but just this past week a bill was introduced in the state legislature to end the plan altogether. While few hospitals have signed up for the new program, one of those to do so is University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, under Jean Robillard, which has now positioned itself to reap massive benefits from providing services to the poor on an industrial scale.
It is also worth noting that in 2014, Jennifer Vermeer, who had been the director of the Iowa Medicaid program since 2008, left that program to take a position at UIHC:
I do not know if Jennifer Vermeer is any relation to Mary Vermeer Andringa, who is one of the five members of the Iowa Board of Regents who fixed J. Bruce Harreld’s appointment over a month before the sham search process was concluded.
As to who would be most likely to make an offer for UIHC, I would think that would be WellCare, and not simply because they were kicked out of Branstad’s privatization scheme for cheating. They are signaling an interest in mergers and acquisitions, and have the cash on hand to make such a move, which would give them the dominant healthcare provider in the region.
More on developments in the Iowa statehouse today, from Bleeding Heartland:
There are clearly massive forces at work here, just as there are clearly powerful players behind the fraudulent appointment of J. Bruce Harreld. Governor Branstad has turned a blind eye to fairness and integrity in both regards, and on that basis alone I find it hard to believe that these two stories do not in some way intersect. And the most likely point of intersection between them is UIHC.
There was some surprise when Centene didn’t win the Medicaid contract. WellCare had the Schulte/Rants conflict of interest. Centene had it’s own conflicts of interest, but a strong application. I wonder if Centene buys hospitals. Here is the scorecard. Centene’s Iowa organization was Iowa Total Care. Oddly, my recollection was that Wellcare and Centene were 4th and 5th with minimal point spread, but that’s not what is documented here.
In the strange bedfellows department, a partnership with UnityPoint would be pretty amazing.
Or maybe our imaginations are stranger than reality. But this: Robillard said today, “Moving forward, to achieve our shared vision we must focus on teamwork and integration; development, attraction, and retention of a talented and diverse workforce; facilitation of initiatives and partnerships; a stronger regional, national, and global presence; and a sustainable financial model.”
Wondering whose ‘shared vision’ is being referred to exactly? And what is this ‘global presence’? Also, who wrote this? JBHs ghost writer? And I think by “Integration” means “Consolidation of Power” in this context. It’s not the same thing.
I wonder how much of that $4.5 million is supposed to go to finance $300,000+/year Faculty Doctormen to become head-of-this or chair-of-that or director-of-whatever. We should begin asking for time-studies because it’s possible that your tax dollars and mine are subsidizing some very costly idleness.
While Branstad’s Medicaid plan is bad enough, the moves being made at UIHC seem almost radical at times. Why the sudden change at the College of Medicine? That was not an orderly move, it was a panic move — like Robillard’s $10K flight to see Stead last August.
Cost overruns at CHI, a sham search that he presided over, now Schwinn gets the boot, although they’re calling it a reassignment. Harreld is completely hands-off, even Rastetter just seems to be doing whatever Robillard tells him to do. Have we underestimated the good doctor’s role in all of this? And if so, what’s his objective?
Over the past five months or so we have looked into every nook and cranny of the fraudulent appointment of J. Bruce Harreld as president of the University of Iowa. Having detailed the conspiracy behind his sham appointment, it is now time to turn from the carnage of the past to the carnage of the future, at least until someone leaks new info, spills their guts about what really went down, or ends up being deposed. This is a timely transition, too, because early next week Harreld will finally communicate with the university community in something other than a stage-managed ceremonial media availability or deeply heartfelt ghost-written press release.
If you don’t have Harreld’s upcoming ‘town hall’ circled on your calendar, remember: it’s February 23rd, C20 Pomerantz Center, from 4 to 6 p.m. Harreld will be flanked by minders who will discourage any attempt to discuss the carnage of the past, so my hope is that this post and the one to follow will provide fertile ground for a productive discussion of the carnage in J. Bruce Harreld’s future. As much as it may seem that J. Bruce Harreld’s presidency has been, so far, an uninspiring and incomprehensible mess, the man really does have a plan, at least in terms of making himself look good. Too, the first big test of J. Bruce Harreld’s transformational leadership powers is already underway, and if he flunks that test he may be finished before he starts.
While Regents President Bruce Rastetter, Vice President for Medical Affairs Jean Robillard, and mega-UI-investor Jerre Stead can simply cut deals with each other, or even themselves — as demonstrated recently by Robillard kicking Debra Schwinn to the curb and annointing himself Dean of the Medical College — Harreld not only has to prove himself to the riff-raffian students, faculty and staff at the university, but to the status-quo legislators who control the UI purse strings. Fortunately, as the architect of Harreld’s sham appointment, Rastetter is known for taking good care of his political cronies, and as the governor’s biggest donor he’s not shy about telling the governor what to do.
Follow the Money
Back in early November, for the first time in my life, I encountered the phrase ‘faculty vitality’. Because it appeared in the context of J. Bruce Harreld’s big, bold, transformational plans for the university — or at least for buying his way out of the doghouse he was in with the faculty — the moment my eyes alighted on that term I busted out laughing. The reason I laughed was because ‘faculty vitality’ could only mean one thing, and that thing was money.
As you may or may not know, academia prefers to refer to its fiscal realities in euphemistic terms. Given that the end of academia is education and research which may or may not produce a profit, diminishing the importance of money linguistically helps to keep the focus where it belongs. As you probably are aware, that is in sharp contrast with the business world, where the whole point is making out like a bandit at every conceivable opportunity, even if you have to break a regulation or bend a law — or pay the people who enact laws to write news laws that favor your transactional bent.
Months later, when I finally got around to looking into ‘faculty vitality’ as an academic euphemism, I learned four interesting things. First, as referenced in countless papers and articles, the phrase referred to much more than salary or departmental funding. In fact, the more I read the more I realized that ‘faculty vitality’ was intended to be a comprehensive euphemism, the laudable goal being increased faculty interest, motivation and engagement.
Second, the concept of ‘faculty vitality’ seemed to be particularly important in the context of medical colleges, which made sense given the grind that practicing healthcare workers endure. Having to treat patients on top of teaching or conducting research is not something that most faculty in higher-ed have to deal with. Couple that stress with the medical tendency to be more data driven, and it seemed sensible that medical practitioners might be particularly interested in the dynamics underpinning faculty satisfaction or dissatisfaction.
Third, not only did ‘faculty vitality’ no longer seem to have strong currency in academic circles, but despite considerable discussion and study, the concept itself was squishy at best:
While ill-defined concepts are obviously problematic in terms of serious study and analysis, they are a marketing weasel’s dream. For example, all you have to do to keep a certain percentage of the population spellbound is pull a term like ‘transformational change’ out of any available orifice, then claim that your newfound phrase will solve whatever problem seems most profitable. Precisely because there are no metrics tied to your mumbo-jumbo you cannot be proved wrong, while your magical belief system also has the potential to produce dreams of happiness everlasting. Dreams which the dreamers may then be reluctant to abandon, even in the face of reality.
Regarding the phrase ‘faculty vitality’, if you do an internet search for use of that term in the past year, by odd coincidence a fair amount of that usage springs from J. Bruce Harreld himself, and much of it from reporting in the weeks just after he took office in early November. There are some other mentions, but when I looked for recent studies I didn’t find many, suggesting that something more au courant, or perhaps more concrete, may be in play among younger faculty and administrators. Or people more firmly in touch with reality.
Fourth, as pertains specifically to J. Bruce Harreld’s usage of that phrase, in every single instance he really did seem to be using ‘faculty vitality’ as a euphemism for money and money only. For example, here is Harreld’s first reported use of the phrase, from a Gazette article by Vanessa Miller on 11/04/15, just two days after Harreld took office:
We have talked before about how J. Bruce Harreld is, among other things, a marketing weasel par excellence, so it’s not surprising that he would gravitate to a cuddly academic euphemism for talking about money — and specifically money that he planned to throw at faculty. Coming off his shocking sham appointment, his faculty censure even before taking office, and his complicity in the betrayal of shared governance during the presidential search, Harreld clearly has need of both a beckoning carrot and bully stick. When it comes to rewarding people who are willing to look the other way, or punishing people who insist on accountability, every businessperson knows there’s nothing better than handing out or withholding cold hard cash.
Begging for Dollars
From early November on, the phrase ‘faculty vitality’ pops up with regularity in news reports and press releases about Harreld’s bold new plans for the University of Iowa. Yet in all of that verbiage, including the report by Miller in early November, the key question — the only question — is money. Can the state, as currently corrupted by Governor Branstad’s political machine, find enough money to give to the Iowa Board of Regents, who happen to be led by the governor’s biggest political contributor in Bruce Rastetter, so Rastetter can steer that money to J. Bruce Harreld, who can then dole it out opportunistically, as he sees fit?
To be clear, the only thing I know about budgeting at any level of government is that there is no bigger shell game on the face of the earth, and many if not most of the players are in on the con. Even if you’re honest, however, the appropriations process is fraught with absurdities, including the ritual of the budgetary request. For example, if you know you need ten boxes of paperclips to get through the next fiscal budget, you have to anticipate that the people charged with allocating money for paperclips will only give you enough to buy four boxes. As a result, in order to get the ten boxes of paperclips you actually need, you have to request funding equivalent to seventeen boxes.
And so it is with institutions of higher learning. If you really do need a million dollars over and above what you got the previous year, in order to get that million you have to request six million, while claiming that you really need twelve million. Which brings us to late last week, when J. Bruce Harreld finally found himself in front of his overlord, Regents President Bruce Rastetter, and formally requested the $4.5M that he plans to use ‘faculty vitality’:
While $4.5M certainly sounds like a lot of money, it’s a drop in the bucket against the state’s $7B overall budget, which raises some interesting questions. For example, where did that $4.5M figure come from, and how do we know it’s sufficient to bootstrap meaningful ‘faculty vitality’ at the University of Iowa? As it turns out, searching for the answers to those questions leads back to Miller’s Gazette article on 11/04/15, which includes this:
So the targeting of the $4.5M toward ‘faculty vitality’ was announced in early November, just after Harreld took office, but the decision to request that additional $4.5M in funding for UI was the result of a much earlier high-level conversation between Rastetter and Harreld, just after Harreld’s appointment in early September. Jumping into the internet WABAC machine we work our way back through Harreld’s post-appointment news blackout in October and most of September, until we come to an interesting series of news reports about just how much the University of Iowa should request from the legislature, over and above its usual allocation.
From the Gazette’s Miller, on 09/01/15:
While the lack of any proposed budget increase for UI is obviously interesting, if you’ve been following the saga of the fraudulent appointment of J. Bruce Harreld you know that a lot of other interesting stuff also happened on that same day. Not only was that the date of Harreld’s infamous open forum, it was also the date when the massive cost overruns at the Children’s Hospital of Iowa were finally announced, even though they had been known internally for months.
Now, on that exact same date, we learn that yet another important event took place, which was the stiffing of the University of Iowa in the regents’ proposed budget. At first blush that probably doesn’t seem like a surprise given Rastetter’s loathing of the school, but here it is particularly important that we not be distracted by petty personal vendettas. Instead, we must focus on the timeline of events in the UI budget request, because as it turns out the regents — and specifically President Rastetter — pulled a fast one.
The Regents’ Sham Budget Request
On 09/01/15, while J. Bruce Harreld is swearing at the university community for ninety minutes, and unwittingly confirming every concern that the students, faculty and staff have about his possible appointment, the regents announce that there will be no additional request for the University of Iowa in the proposed budget. Two days later, the university community is rocked by the announcement of Harreld’s appointment, which will later be revealed to have been a preordained result engineered by Regents President Rastetter and several co-conspirators. Then, four days after that, in another report from the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, on 09/07/15, we get this:
So there we go. Because the Iowa Board of Regents had the foresight — the bureaucratic guts — to fix the election and hire a carpetbagging dilettante instead of someone who was actually qualified for the job, the regents were compelled by said carpetbagging dilettante to add $4.5M to their budget request, some of all of it to be spent on teaching and research at the University of Iowa. And that’s probably how it would still be remembered, had Miller not filed yet another report on the subject three days later, on 09/10/15:
Wait — what? The budget requests for each university do not actually originate at each university? Well, if that’s the case, that means the original decision not to request any additional money for UI, which was announced two days before Harreld’s predetermined appointment, also originated with the board.
The fact that Rastetter knew that Harreld would be appointed two days later — because Rastetter himself fixed the results of the election over a month earlier — in turn suggests that instead of being convinced by Harreld’s business acumen and powers of persuasion that the University of Iowa needed an additional $4.5M, Rastetter held off on that request in order to make Harreld look good in the immediate aftermath of his sham appointment. Which would have also sent the not-so-subtle message that money would keep flowing from the board as long as Harreld’s illegitimate presidency was accepted.
Yet even if that’s all true, it still doesn’t explain where the actual $4.5M number came from. More from Miller on 09/10/15:
So let’s review. The $4.5M request that Harreld just formally submitted to the Iowa Board of Regents at the end of last week — which is the not simply the cornerstone but the only stone anchoring his ‘faculty vitality’ initiative — not only did not originate from Harreld’s transformational advocacy shortly after being appointed, it wasn’t even Rastetter’s idea. Instead, that exact number, down to the penny, can be traced back to the regents’ Chief Business Officer, who initially proposed $4.5M as one of two options that the board could consider. Because Regents President Rastetter is nothing if not a world-class manipulator, and never misses an opportunity to fix an outcome in his own favor, he held off on the suggested $4.5M request until he could credit it to the semi-retired former business executive he had just jammed into office. Then, because world-class manipulators don’t like being identified as such, Rastetter lied about what he had just done.
Reality Meets the Road
I don’t know what the state budget projections looked like back when that regents’ staffer was putting together the $4.5M option that would later be billed as J. Bruce Harreld’s bold new initiative on faculty pay, but they have gone downhill since. From funding shortfalls triggered by Governor Branstand’s laissez-faire policies, to tax giveaways to corporations, there just isn’t enough money to go around, and everybody knows it:
Well, what about the regents’ schools? Any good news there?
So as long as the regents were savvy enough to tell UNI to ask for twice what it needs it will be fine, and the same goes for ISU and Iowa. Which in turn suggests that Harreld really only needs an additional $2.25M for ‘faculty vitality’. Then again, among the three state schools there has long been cultural antipathy toward the University of Iowa because of its international reputation and willingness to challenge ideological dogma. That hostility, emboldened over the past few years by Rastetter’s open loathing of UI, was in fact on full display in early November, just after Harreld took office and announced his game-changing plan to give more money to UI faculty. From a Jeff Charis-Carlson piece in the Des Moines Register, on 11/06/15:
Now, if you’re not from Iowa, I can assure you that nobody who previously thought well of the university suddenly became enraged because of the faculty’s response to Harreld’s unethical resume. What actually happened is that a bunch of people who were already hostile to UI — including self-loathing alumnus Terry Branstad — used Harreld’s entirely justified faculty censure as a pretext for changing the conversation. Instead of acknowledging the royal screwing that the university got from the Iowa Board of Regents, who abandoned even the pretense of shared governance in their zeal to hire Harreld, those perpetually indignant politicos followed Rastetter’s lead and blamed the victims.
So taking that all that hostility into account, what are the odds that Harreld gets his $4.5M from that bitter, angry mob?
What Representative Kaufmann is saying is that he’s not about to get out in front of the UI funding request. If the governor and the president of the regents can’t find enough votes for their puppet on their own, then Kauffman is willing to walk away. Unless, of course, somebody twists his arm — metaphorically speaking. Ironically, however, the same people who normally hate on the University of Iowa as a matter of ideological routine are now in the odd position of having to support the school in order to support Harreld. And if you think I’m joking, here’s a long-time member of the state legislature from the UI’s neck of the woods:
In short, in order to punish the faculty at Iowa for their treatment of Harreld — or, more accurately, just for being faculty at that university — the state legislature must now give J. Bruce Harreld money so he can turn around and give that money to the faculty. (You cannot make this stuff up.) Because if Harreld comes up short on his very first funding request, not only will that be a slap in the face to Rastetter and the governor, but it will weaken an already weak Harreld going forward.
So far the governor is playing scrooge to the Board of Regents, but as I said, out of a $7B state budget I believe J. Bruce Harreld’s supporters are going to find the money to meet his $4.5M request. I don’t know what UNI and ISU are going to get, but if the legislature cuts their much-larger requests by a couple million each, they pretty much have Iowa’s request covered. And of course they can always go to town on the entire budget, shorting each of fifty different departments by $100K, which will again cover Iowa’s request.
While the economic outlook is indeed bleak, the main reason I believe that the University of Iowa is going to end up getting its full $4.5M request is because nobody has more on the line right now that Regents President Rastetter. By going to the lengths he went to in order to fraudulently appoint J. Bruce Harreld, he put his reputation as a bureaucratic enforcer on the line. If Harreld fails in his faux advocacy for the school, then Rastetter’s power and prestige will be reduced, and as we know Bruce Rastetter likes him some power and prestige.
There’s one more reason why I believe Harreld will get his money, and it may be the most important reason of all. Without that $4.5M, properly targeted, Harreld has no way of claiming success during his first year. And I don’t think there’s anything more important to J. Bruce Harreld right now than proving, however tenuously, that he was the right man for the job — even if he has to cheat to do it. Sure, Harreld can talk about funding increases and ‘faculty vitality’, but that won’t mean anything to the average Iowan, or even the average member of the University of Iowa community. Instead, what Harreld needs is a simple quasi-objective metric that he can point to as proof that his appointment was the turning point for the school. With $4.5M in hand, Harreld can manufacture that proof himself.
Business Genius at Work
In the next post we’ll take a close look at Harreld’s premeditated plan to demonstrate his own worth by rigging results in his favor, including the fact that his duplicitous scheme isn’t even original. Regarding ‘faculty vitality’, however, having concluded that Harreld will almost certainly get the $4.5M he’s asking for, we will now consider how much credit Harreld should get for having the keen insight to identify faculty pay as a central component of what’s ailing the University of Iowa.
Even if we buy the load of stinking manure that Rastetter tried to sell back in early September, and start the clock on J. Bruce Harreld’s transformational presidency at that time, in the intervening five and a half months Harreld has produced exactly one new initiative — that being the idea that $4.5M in additional spending, which was originally proposed by a regents’ staffer, should be directed to ‘faculty vitality’. To put that in context, in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary and benefits to-date, and at the cost of betraying shared governance, violating the Iowa Board of Regents’ ethics provisions, running a sham search at taxpayer expense, and setting the cause of campus safety back a hundred years, the total work product from J. Bruce Harreld’s incisive business background is his firm belief that paying faculty more will make the school more appealing as an academic destination.
Which brings us to the next thing we can say, which is that the idea of improving any school by giving the faculty more money is — as always seems to be the case with Harreld — not even remotely original. Indeed, long before Regents President Rastetter and his co-conspirators decided that they needed to hire a business genius to save the naive ‘status quo’ academics at the University of Iowa from themselves, a bunch of naive academics at the University of Iowa formulated exactly that same plan as part of a much broader set of strategic initiatives to strengthen the school.
Okay, fine — but whatever Skorton was up to, one thing we can be sure of is that he did not target the faculty for more pay, because that’s the kind of thing only a business genius would think of. Naive academics focus on things like elbow patches and sabbatical pajamas, not forward-looking plans like spending more money on ‘faculty vitality’.
Well, I stand corrected. Apparently this whole ‘faculty vitality’ thing has been known for some time, even outside of business circles. As for the Iowa Promise, that plan was renewed in 2010 and expires in 2016, so I guess we should all get ready for some super-exciting new proposals at the hands of business maestro J. Bruce Harreld. Private jets for everyone. No accountability for anyone. Professionalism as a birthright. Nose biting, but no back stabbing. And the basketball team will join the football team in stamping out campus sexual assault. (They’re tall you know, so they can see over hedges.)
To truly comprehend the insanity now playing out in the aftermath of the Harreld hire, consider that one of the last great battles waged and lost by recently retired President Sally Mason was over the regents’ so-called ‘performance-based funding’ model, which the legislature thankfully shot down. After bludgeoning Mason into signing on with the program, then driving her into retirement, what did her replacement, business genius J. Bruce Harreld, have to say about the regents’ plan?
A change in direction — away from the heavy-handed schemes of the Board of Regents, and back to the same well-worn path followed by Harreld’s legitimately elected predecessors. Six months into Rastetter’s revolution of transformational change, the purported agent of that change is instead doing exactly what every president has done before — begging the state legislature for more money to make the school more attractive to faculty. The only difference between Harreld and Mason is that the people who hold the purse strings are at least temporarily motivated to give money to J. Bruce Harreld because they want him to be perceived as a success.
Real Faculty Vitality
Although there is no consensus about what ‘faculty vitality’ means, there have been interesting efforts to define and even quantify the concept. From a 2015 study:
What interested me most about the studies and abstracts I read was that although money was indeed a factor, real faculty vitality — the kind that wasn’t simply a euphemism for pay — was the culmination of multiple factors, chief among them a feeling of genuine inclusion. Unfortunately, that’s also the first thing to go in the toilet when a governing board abandons even the pretext of shared governance and jams a completely unqualified candidate down the throats of a shell-shocked university (or college) community. Even if the unqualified, illegitimate president then goes around handing out bags of money, that’s not going to undo the damage to faculty morale.
And that’s the inherent problem with J. Bruce Harreld’s ‘faculty vitality’ initiative. At best it seems like a pay off, or an effort to sow dissension in the faculty ranks by making individuals compete against each other for a chunk of that money. At worst it completely misses the point about what real faculty vitality entails, including the fact that J. Bruce Harreld is the last person on earth who will ever be able to successfully implement a long-term ‘faculty vitality’ program at the University of Iowa.
By his very presence, because of the fraudulent lengths that his co-conspirators went to in order to appoint him against the will of the vast majority of the university community, J. Bruce Harreld disincentivizes current and prospective faculty. And I don’t think that’s going to change no matter how much money he has to throw around. At best Harreld might encourage or attract faculty who are primarily interested in getting paid, which is itself antithetical to the goal of building a strong and vibrant campus community. At worst the people who will be most eager to take Harreld’s money will be people who believe, as Harreld’s co-conspirators clearly do, that integrity and honesty are plastic concepts, and rules are for suckers.
Seriously, try to imagine any honorable person choosing to come to Iowa if they have other offers that are even remotely equivalent in terms of salary. At the University of Iowa you’re guaranteed a meddling governor, a hostile Board of Regents, and a president who was censured even before taking office, to say nothing of a student body that perpetually ranks Iowa as one of the top party schools in the nation because the Board of Regents have turned a blind eye to that profitable problem for far too long. And of course there’s also that shadowy ‘senior adviser’ high in the administrative ranks, who was caught shoveling money to political cronies through no-bid contracts. Throw in this week’s news about a broad federal civil rights investigation focused on the athletic department, and who wouldn’t want to come to Iowa to start or burnish their professional resume?
In order to retain or hire anyone, the University of Iowa — as a direct result of the malfeasance of the Iowa Board of Regents, and of President Harreld himself — is now in the astounding position of having to pay a price premium in order to offset all of those self-inflicted wounds. Even if Harreld does make a recruiting call with cash on hand, who will listen? The best and the brightest, or only those individuals who are looking to cash in and check out? What happens when prospective faculty, staff or even students do an internet search to see what’s been happening at Iowa?
Faculty pay is down at Iowa compared to peer schools because the leaders of the state do not value education, and that’s been a problem for quite some time. The state also routinely treats the University of Iowa like a budgetary slush fund, which may explain why there are no legislators making a stink over any of the regents’ recent abuses. If the state legislature wants to find $4.5M for the University of Iowa, all it has to do is stop using the school to meet the medical needs of prisoners off the books, at an annual cost of $6M. Or is that why J. Bruce Harreld was hired? To help the state’s political leaders find even more ways to bury line items that they don’t want account for, along with manufacturing cushy jobs for political cronies who are ready to retire?
The $4.5M Question
So what are we to make of all this? In pursuit of the nebulous concept of transformational change, which meets no consensus definition and has no metrics, the Iowa Board of Regents hired a completely unqualified candidate whose one big proposal is throwing money at the nebulous concept of ‘faculty vitality’, which also has no consensus definition and no established metrics. The upshot of all that heavy bureaucratic breathing is that the regents’ new whiz-bang president is now begging for budgetary scraps, just as all of his ‘status quo’ predecessors were forced to do.
Either Harreld’s hire was a scam inside a sham, or something has changed behind the scenes in the six months since he was fraudulently appointed. It may very well be that the transformational aspirations of the Harreld hire were a lie to begin with, and we have only to consider the conduct of co-conspirator Jean Robillard to see flagrant evidence of that. After bleeding all over the landscape about how Harreld was just the man to save the university and UIHC from financial ruin, Harreld’s first act in office was to throw total control of UIHC to Robillard. Meaning everything that Robillard ever said about the desperate need to hire Harreld has already been proven to be a lie.
By the same token it is entirely possible that the Iowa Board of Regents, led by President Rastetter, simply said and did whatever they had to in order to get their puppet Harreld into office. They were sick of former president Sally Mason actually doing her job and advocating for the best interests of the school, so they drove her out and replaced her with a pliable flunkie. There’s nothing transformational about that, but in terms of making the board’s machinations easier the appeal should be obvious.
On the other hand, maybe another shoe will drop down the line. As noted in the previous post, taking UIHC private would certainly qualify as transformational change, and I’m sure there are other lootings of the state coffers that we could speculate about as well. Maybe the regents are going to go after pensions or healthcare plans, or unions — who knows? Whatever dark motives they do have, Harreld certainly won’t stand in their way, and may even abet their cause.
And yet…there’s something funny going on, and I don’t know how to read it. One of the things that seems to have drawn Harreld to the Iowa job was the opportunity not just to implement transformational change, but to actually play president. Whether he was bored in his chalet in the Rockies, or has a deep-seated emotional need to be listened to and admired, J. Bruce Harreld was clearly attracted to the role of university president, even though — or perhaps because — he had no actual experience in academic administration. Maybe he’s a closet Dean Wormer fan, maybe he was frustrated by administrative incompetence at Harvard during his six years as an adjunct professor — who knows? At some point the man seems to have become enamored of the idea of being a swashbuckling captain on the higher-educational seas, at least according to the most recent version of his constantly changing candidate narrative.
Which brings us to an interesting question. What did J. Bruce Harreld think he was signing up for? Because if the Iowa Board of Regents — and specifically Regents President Rastetter — sold Harreld the same steaming load of malarky about transformational change that they sold to everyone else, then J. Bruce Harreld may not be a very happy camper right now. And that’s before taking into account the fact that he’s been muzzled for the past few weeks, since shortly after his highly publicized and very un-presidential email exchange with an Iowa alum, which means he’s now also playing a largely ceremonial and perfunctory role.
As for the $4.5M request that he just put before the board, I still think Harreld gets that money because there’s too much on the line for all involved. On the other hand, if things have soured between Harreld and Rastetter — perhaps after Harreld revealed multiple new origin stories about his candidacy, and in so doing laid bare the Rastetter-led conspiracy behind his sham appointment — then maybe Harreld does not have the support he thought he was going to have. Again, after only four months he’s already being muzzled, and as a transformational leader he’s been reduced to begging for budgetary loose change, so what happens if he actually gets stuffed on that request? What would that signal about Harreld’s power, or Rastetter’s?
In terms of Harreld’s longevity as president, I don’t think there’s a more important indicator than whether the powers that be are willing to do what it takes to find that $4.5M. Because if they can’t — or won’t — meet Harreld’s measly appropriated budget request after all of the promises they made, and the lengths they went to in order to install him in office over three fully qualified candidates, then something really has changed, and whatever they thought they were going to do is already off the table. And that in turn may mean that J. Bruce Harreld is already looking for a way to get back to the slopes. Because one thing I am absolutely convinced of is that the man did not sign on be a bit player. In his own mind he’s the star of the show, and he expects to be treated that way.
In other developments…While Jean Robillard was out subverting the presidential search process his own house was falling apart. From the Gazette http://www.thegazette.com/subject/news/education/higher-education/university-of-iowa-resignations-surge-36-percent-20160216
Robillard fired his College of Medicine Dean:
“In a news release, Robillard — who served as vice president for medical affairs for more than eight years after first serving as dean of the College of Medicine — said the change was spurred by rapid changes in health care that has put pressure on the organization to adapt its existing infrastructure.
“We must become even more tightly aligned if we are to succeed in the face of so many environmental factors and be able to readily respond to opportunities,” said Robillard, who also served as interim UI president over the summer after former UI President Sally Mason’s retirement.”
Hilarious. You cannot believe these PR pieces. Here is the real reason: The new Dean of Medicine was grossly incompetent, and in fact damaging to the College. They had to actually hire babysitters for her..
So after hundreds of thousands of dollars in search and a contract of 400k to 500k a year, they fired the Dean, but had to make new position for her the duration of the contract. Now Robillard is Dean and VP.
So while Robillard was away manipulating the UI Presidency, his own court was becoming kaput.
I tried to find reporting in the press about the search process that was used to hire Schwinn, but I came up empty. (I found reports of her hire, but nothing about a search being conducted.)
Also, while the simplest explanation of the transition is that Schwinn wasn’t up to the task, there are a lot of moving parts that bother me. To what extent was Schwinn given the support she needed in order to do her job? With Robillard overseeing the exploding budget at CHI and running the sham presidential search in 2015, was Schwinn doing more than she was supposed to do, or covering for him in some way? Was he negligent in his oversight, until things got truly out of hand?
What I’m getting at is that even if Schwinn was the problem, how is Robillard himself not at least partly responsible, given his power at UIHC, and his own interim presidency at UI after Mason left? How does Robillard get through all that, then suddenly make a change at the College of Medicine which doesn’t even get vetted beforehand — just retroactively approved after it’s announced?
Anything you have on this or can point me to would be helpful. (Feel free to email me if you don’t want to post.)
In the previous post we took a long look at J. Bruce Harreld’s anything-but-bold plan for ‘faculty vitality’. While that euphemistic academic concept encompasses a wide range of factors, in Harreld’s narrow view it means paying the faculty more money, or competing for faculty with more money, or — more plainly — using money to get the faculty to do what he wants them to do. There is of course nothing new about such a crass approach to team building or culture change, particularly in the business world that Harreld hails from, and as a former hangman at IBM Harreld obviously knows everything there is to know about motivating people by threatening their careers and livelihoods. So when it comes to running the University of Iowa like a business, nobody should be surprised that J. Bruce Harreld instinctively, if not instantly, gravitated to one of the oldest motivational weapons in the leadership arsenal.
What we also learned in the previous post, however, is that Harreld’s bold request for an additional $4.5M in UI funding, which he just formally requested a week ago, was not his idea. Rather, that $4.5M increase — which is officially targeted, in some unstated percentage split, at both ‘faculty vitality’ and ‘interdisciplinary research’ — was initially suggested as one of two options by a staffer at the Iowa Board of Regents. Because Regents President Rastetter never misses an opportunity to manipulate the board’s business in favor of his political and institutional cronies, Rastetter initially turned that $4.5M request down, only to suddenly reverse course a few days later, when Harreld’s done-deal appointment finally came to fruition. Rastetter did that in order to credit Harreld with his sudden about-face, thereby deceiving the university community, which both men also deceived during the presidential search that led to Harreld’s sham appointment.
In initially explaining Harreld’s phony moment of insight, however, Rastetter referenced not ‘faculty vitality’ but boilerplate aspects of the consulting blather that Harreld had bellowed at a university audience several weeks earlier, just before his fraudulent appointed. From the Gazette, on 09/17/15, here is Regents President Rastetter lying about why the additional $4.5M that he initially turned down was suddenly critical:
In early November, after being dark for two months, and with the regents’ bit firmly in his own mouth, J. Bruce Harreld took up the reins of the school and immediately clarified his plans for the additional $4.5M in funding. From the Gazette on 11/04/15, two days after taking office:
For all the reasons noted in the previous post, there is considerable political and institutional benefit to the Iowa Board of Regents in providing their illegitimate president with discretionary funds to pass along to key members of the faculty. Yet as also intimated in the previous post, there is another reason why J. Bruce Harreld desperately wants as much of that $4.5M as he can get, and were it not for that specific motivation it’s unlikely that he would targeting any money at faculty pay. Instead, he would focus on some other aspect of academic administration that gave him the same self-interested bang for those taxpayer bucks.
What J. Bruce Harreld Wants Most
From a human perspective it is understandable that J. Bruce Harreld would not want to be remembered as the illegitimate fraud that he is. While Harreld can currently rely on the state-funded propaganda ministries at both the Iowa Board of Regents and the University of Iowa to crank out press-releases touting his on-the-job training, almost no one will remember anything that is said on Harreld’s behalf, or uttered by Harreld himself. What Harreld needs in order to be remembered kindly by the academic history books — and, more importantly, to keep from being ridden out of town on a rail in the near future — is objective evidence that his magical powers of transformational change have done the university proud.
Enter the U.S. News & World Report college rankings. As you probably know, there are a lot of college rankings these days, but all of them follow in the footsteps of the franchise-founding U.S. News scorecard. As you probably also know, from a scholarly perspective all college rankings are crap because they are not only not purely objective, but because they can easily be gamed by anyone with the determination and means to do so.
Even before J. Bruce Harreld finally took office in early November he was directly linking his vision for the school to the U.S. News rankings. Harreld’s first reported mention of that metric comes from an Eric Kelderman article on the Chronicle for Higher Education site, on 11/01/15, on the eve of Harreld’s first day on the job (subscription required, but you can see the key quote here):
As noted here many times, whatever else J. Bruce Harreld is or is not, he is a marketing weasel par excellence, and all marketing weasels have a nose for what they can sell — particularly to uninformed consumers. It doesn’t matter whether a blurb or claim or even purportedly objective data is accurate or not, it only matters whether the desired result is achieved. Which is why even before he took office J. Bruce Harreld knew he was going to hitch his star to Iowa’s U.S. News ranking.
At the end of his first week on the job, in early November, Harreld participated in a state-wide press tour, and while doing so talked openly not only about his determination to address faculty compensation, but where that determination came from. From a Gazette article on 11/10/15:
The linkage could not be clearer in Harreld’s mind: if you pay the faculty more, your ranking goes up. In the press over the following month Harreld continued to tie his own success at Iowa to improvement in the U.S. News rankings. From the Sioux City Journal, on 12/01/15:
From the Daily Iowan on 12/03/15:
While Harreld’s claim is laughably simplistic, one way he could attempt to prove that idiotic argument would be to appeal to a national metric which purports to measure the ‘strength’ of schools around the country. Again, enter the U.S. News college rankings. From the Daily Iowan on 12/11/15:
From the UI Office of Strategic Communications, on 01/12/16:
Whatever you think about Harreld linking his ‘faculty vitality’ plan to the U.S. News rankings, in repeatedly citing Iowa’s rank as the source of his conviction that faculty pay must be raised, Harreld has accomplished the rather weaselly trick of validating the importance of Iowa’s rank going forward. If you buy into the data he’s been spewing, and you accept his linkage between faculty pay and ‘national strength’, then you are effectively obligated to accept whatever U.S. News has to say about Iowa in the future. And that’s exactly what Harreld wants. In order to prove that he’s a success, J. Bruce Harreld first has to convince you that the one metric he will allow himself to be judged by is valid, even when that metric is produced by a private company, for profit, instead of a rigorous scholarly source.
I don’t know when U.S. News first realized it could ‘own’ college rankings, but once that realization hit home the publication went all out, expanding the rankings until it was impossible for anyone to bigfoot their franchise. As to the accuracy of the rankings, the only way to determine in any year that the data reported for a given school was accurate would be audit the numbers that were reported. As should be fairly obvious, not only would that probably not be allowed by the institution in question, it would also be prohibitive in terms of time and expense. Which is why U.S. News itself usually just takes the numbers that schools provide and plugs those numbers into their formula.
The obvious downside to that approach is that the simplest way to game the U.S. News rankings is to lie. For example, in 2009 the University of Nebraska-Lincoln reported that 100% of its faculty was full-time, but it achieved that laudable statistic by pretending that its grad students and adjunct professors did not exist. Despite clearly gaming the system, when U.S. News was finally informed of that abuse it refused to update the UNL ranking.
If your conscience precludes you from making up the numbers you want to submit, the next-best solution to your college ranking concerns is to get a copy of the U.S. News formula and look for ways to manipulate the underlying data. Fortunately, not only does U.S. News make its formula freely available, it happily explains its methodology in detail. U.S. News apparently does this in the spirit of journalistic integrity, yet it also has no effective prohibition against gaming its ranking formula, and does not routinely identify schools which have made that unethical approach a core tenet of their administrative philosophy. All U.S. News cares about is getting every school to play ball and report the numbers they request. They do not care if schools massage those numbers, and they do not care how schools get those numbers.
As with the disservice done to students when teachers ‘teach to the test’, the educational needs of students are neglected when resources are siphoned off to ‘administer to the rankings’. Unfortunately, because a purportedly objective metric has been established, and because most people will never grasp the conceptual failings of the U.S. News methodology, even schools which are genuinely concerned about education may feel obliged to play ball, lest they be unfairly punished in the eyes of an easily misled public. Worse, once a few schools start gaming the system, schools which are reporting accurate numbers will again be disadvantaged, even thought those schools may be doing the most to provide a solid education for their students.
Ironically, as things currently stand, the gaming of the U.S. News college rankings has, to a large extent, become so ingrained at every college and university, that all of that time and expense cancels itself out. If each school focuses on improving retention numbers or faculty compensation in the same way — whether ethically or unethically — then in relative terms nothing changes. And that means the only way to really improve your position is to come up with a comprehensive, integrated plan to exhaustively game the U.S. News formula. Which brings us to the case of Clemson, as reported by Doug Lederman for Inside Higher Ed, also from 2009:
Interestingly, where Clemson’s sports teams might have used boosters to recruit and reward players off the books while administrators in the athletic department looked the other way, because the decision to game the U.S. News rankings broke no NCAA rules, it was perfectly acceptable even as it was clearly just as corrupt. Relative to J. Bruce Harreld’s big plans for Iowa, here’s how Clemson manipulated the faculty compensation component of the rankings:
How could Clemson be sure it was getting the most ratings bang for its bucks?
So, how low was Clemson willing to go to make South Carolina proud?
Welcome to the wonderful world of college rankings. All you need in order to improve your national rank is an ethically challenged transformational president and a staff of administrators who care more about their paychecks than they do about the students they are supposed to be educating. Even better, once you concern yourself solely with your school’s ranking, and you game many if not most of the numbers that go into that score, you no longer have to worry about actually providing an excellent education to the students who are paying tuition, because their subjective complaints will largely be ignored. Sure, at some point your reputation sub-score may take a hit, but if that happens you can then decide whether to actually improve the educational experience you’re providing, or to game that pesky sub-score in an innovative new way.
Proving that nothing succeeds like success, only a few years after Clemson threw itself headlong down the ignoble rankings road, the new president at Northeastern was gripped by the same manic fixation, and implemented many of the same plans:
While the staffer’s $4.5M request that J. Bruce Harreld recently put forward in his own name is a drop in the University of Iowa’s overall budget bucket, and not all of that money will be spent on faculty pay, any increase will have a positive effect on the U.S. News formula. Yet I do not believe that’s why Harreld is having the UI Arts and Crafts Department colorize salary charts in red, yellow and green. Because even if that does make it easier to see salary differences between the institutions that Iowa competes with for faculty, addressing those differences will do nothing to improve Iowa’s college ranking — which Harreld has clearly tied to both Iowa’s “strength” and his own success.
Unfortunately, unlike the presidents of Clemson and Northeastern in their time, Harreld is sixty-four years old, which means he doesn’t have the luxury of implementing a long-term, top-to-bottom manipulation of Iowa’s college ranking. Instead, as someone who may only last a year or two on his current administrative trajectory, Harreld needs immediate results which prove that he is in fact the transformational savior that Bruce Rastetter and Jean Robillard were presciently calling for throughout 2015, even as it was later revealed that those two men rigged the entire search in Harreld’s favor. Dangling a few million dollars as bait for new faculty will not only take too long to produce measurable results, the relative strength of individual departments do not factor into the U.S. News rankings. Instead, what J. Bruce Harreld needs are short-term fixes which raise his own standing in lockstep with Iowa’s rank.
Addition By Subtraction
In terms of Iowa’s U.S. News ranking, it doesn’t matter what kind of color coding or targeted approach Harreld uses for increases in faculty salary, because that factor is calculated as a simple average. Whether you give every member of the faculty a small increase, or only a couple of people huge increases, the effect on the overall average is the same. For example, if your faculty salaries are $9, $4, $9, $6, $7, that’s $35 total, or an average faculty salary of $5. If you give everyone an additional $1 — raising those salaries to $10, $5, $10, $7, $8 — that’s now $40 total, or an average of $6. On the other hand, if you give the entire $5 increase to one person — $9, $4, $9, $6, $12 –, that’s also $40 total, which still gives you a faculty average of $6.
So why color-code UI salaries relative to other institutions? Because that shows you where to cut. Unlike throwing more money at existing faculty, which produces minimal ranking gains, firing people — as executives in the business world know all too well — produces a benefit multiplier. In terms of the faculty compensation component of the U.S. News rankings, cutting the lowest-paid faculty not only increases the average salary without any increase in individual compensation, recouping the salaries of the terminated faculty increases discretionary funds.
For example, if your faculty salaries are, again, $9, $4, $9, $6, $7, for $35 in total payroll, or an average of $5 per faculty, watch what happens when you fire that $4 faculty member. First, because the remaining four faculty members are earning $9, $9, $6, $7, for a total payroll of $31, the average salary suddenly jumps to $7.75, with no actual increase in pay. Too, you’ve now got that extra $4 to play with, which, if you put it with a $5 increase, gives you $9 discretionary salary dollars to throw around as you see fit — say, depending on who among the remaining faculty have proven that they’re team players. Best of all, when you throw that $9 at any or all of those four faculty members, the average salary you end up with is almost twice what you started with. For example, if the new salaries are $10, $13, $8, $9, for $40 in total payroll, your average faculty salary is now a whopping $10, instead of a paltry $6.
Yes, if you fire full-time faculty that’s going to hurt your class-size numbers, but remember — U.S. News doesn’t really care how you calculate your data in-house. That in turn gives you the latitude to plug in adjuncts and grad students to keep those all-important class-size numbers golden, while you quietly restrict your own definition of ‘faculty compensation’ to full-time or even tenured faculty. What’s the worst that could happen if you get caught? Well, you’ll have to blame some poor sap for your own calculated abuses, then promise to do better next time. You know, just like executives do in the business world.
Regarding the University of Iowa, you may have read recently that faculty resignations spiked over the past year, while UNI and ISU both had a slight dip. You may also have noticed that there was a cluster of resignations at the Medical College, which may or may not correlate with Jean Robillard elbowing Debra Schwinn to the side and anointing himself dean. What does seem inarguable, however, is that with that loss of faculty — particularly if the people who left were on the lower end of the pay scale — the Medical College is due for a snappy little bump in its own U.S. News rankings.
And speaking of ISU, all those gaudy enrollment numbers they’ve been boasting about over the past few years — which stem in large part from the unapologetic institutional favoritism of Regents President Bruce Rastetter — finally seem to be putting a strain on Iowa State President Steven Leath.
What are the odds of Leath getting the money to hire a massive amount of new, low-paid faculty, so he can drive the class-size ratio down to 16:1? The odds are zero, and not just because that would hurt ISU’s ranking by decreasing the average faculty salary. The real roadblock is the fact that you don’t get bonus points for a 16:1 student-teacher ratio, you only get points for coming in at 19:1 or below. While smaller class sizes may indeed correlate with a better education for the students on campus, they do nothing to help improve a school’s rank once the 19:1 threshold has been met. Which is exactly why that approach was part of the ‘playbook’ that Northeastern developed in the early aughts:
Honestly, no matter how many times I read Leath’s quote, I can’t figure out if the tipping point he’s talking about relates to education or to the school’s rank. And the very fact that I can’t tell says a whole lot about how diseased the ranking process truly is. As for Iowa, what is the likelihood that the current administration will follow any part of the Clemson/Northeastern playbook? Well, if you’re willing to participate in a sham presidential search at taxpayer expense, I can’t think of any reason why you would balk at devoting precious resources to gaming your school’s college rankings by any and every means available — particularly if that also made you look good.
The Limits of Rank Manipulation
While an infinite amount of money would certainly help improve any school’s U.S. News ranking, few schools other than Harvard, Princeton and Stanford can afford to simply buy their way to success. Too, as already noted, if everyone games the rankings in the same way, the sum of all that effort is effectively wasted. Yet merely because the rankings exist, even honest schools — by which I specifically do not mean the University of Iowa as currently administered — must devote resources to managing their rankings, or risk being penalized by the blood-sucking marketing weasels at U.S. News & World Report.
So okay: college rankings are here to stay, and we have to learn to live with them just as we all have to learn to live with the occasional bout of diarrhea. No matter where your school currently is in the rankings, however, even if you were as gung-ho as the presidents of Clemson and Northeastern it would take a massive amount of time and effort, and an even greater amount of money, to really move the ranking needle. From an Inside Higher Ed piece by Ry Rivard, on 06/03/14, discussing research into the cost of improving the University of Rochester’s rank:
Because the University if Iowa routinely ranks well outside the top 40 in the U.S. News ranking for all colleges and universities, in any given year Iowa could expect a swing of +4 to -4 based on nothing more than statistical noise. As you can imagine, however, while such moves might cause euphoria or panic in the minds of the uninformed, they might also confuse administrators who were determined to manipulate or at least manage their rank. If you throw everything you’ve got at improving your score, but your rank still drops a point or two because of statistical noise, what are you going to think? Or, more importantly, how are you going to keep your job? By the same token, if you attempt to boost your ranking, but the small increase you see is in fact due to statistical noise, how would you possibly know that your efforts failed? Or, more to the point, what administrator would ever admit to that possibility?
As for making big moves in the short term, or even the long term, that’s almost impossible. The University of Rochester consistently ranks in the mid-30’s, but the effort it would take to rank 20th would cripple the school.
Given the sheer size of the University of Iowa compared to the University of Rochester, which currently has approximately 11,000 students, the cost to Iowa to game the U.S. News rankings in any truly momentous way could easily approach a billion dollars in just a few years, and even then that expenditure might only raise the school’s rankings ten or fifteen positions. While I’m sure there are plenty of Iowa supporters who would gladly make that trade — particularly if it wasn’t their money that was being spent– you would think it would be evident to academic administrators that flushing hundreds of millions of dollars down the rankings toilet was tantamount to a crime, when that money could have been spent on improving research and academics at the school.
What about smaller movements, or opportunistically timed efforts to game the rankings over the short term? As it turns out, not all of the factors in the U.S. News formula can be easily gamed. Some require a long time to change, while others can be manipulated quite quickly. Here are the top six factors, by percentage, which currently go into the ranking for each school:
Graduation and Retention: 22.5%
Financial Resources: 10%
Graduation Rate: 7.5%
Faculty compensation 7%
As you can see, moving most of those factors even a little bit would require a dedicated effort over time. Not so, however, with faculty compensation, which changes as soon as you start cutting bigger checks. Or firing people who make less than the current average.
In fact, if you were new on the job and wanted the quickest way to increase your school’s ranking, you couldn’t do better than throwing as much money as possible at faculty compensation, while also firing a bunch of low-hanging professors. And that’s particularly true if clusters of those professors worked in departments that were lagging behind the same departments at other schools. Because those entire departments would require a great deal of resources simply to be brought up to par, it would make a whole lot more sense rankings-wise just to cut the department and focus resources on departments that were already strong. Which you could easily identify, say, by color-coding the salaries of your faculty compared to the faculty at other schools.
Tanking the Rankings
As you can see, given the ease of manipulation and the tendency of human beings to have strong opinions about things they know nothing about, there is a great deal on the line each time the U.S. News rankings come out. Despite the fact that no one can possibly know whether movement of a couple of positions in either direction reflects real change in the academic quality of a school, manipulation of the numbers, or statistical noise, that won’t stop people from drawing conclusions. If your ranking drops and you end up on the receiving end of ten or two hundred angry phone calls from trustees and influential alums, chances are you’re going to do what you can to keep that number from dropping in the future. And that’s true even if you know in your heart that your national ranking has little or nothing to do with providing the best possible education for the students at your school.
Even if you are scrupulously honest — and again I am excluding the current University of Iowa administration from that classification — you could conceivably lose your job simply because you were unlucky for several years in a row. If you managed to hang on you would at the very least be repeatedly called upon to explain what happened by exactly the kind of passionately ignorant individuals who seem to gravitate to rankings in the first place. And yet what could you possibly say that would be reassuring, when U.S. News itself turns a blind eye to institutional manipulation in order to fuel profits?
To even a casual observer it’s clear that U.S. News & World Report has no serious journalistic interest in ranking colleges, because if they did they would include a measure of the cultural factors that might negatively affect a student’s experience at a given school. For example, where are the rankings for campus safety, sexual assault, rape, substance abuse, mental health services, suicides, and other factors that relate to the physical and mental well-being of students? If you send your kid to a highly ranked school, then your child is traumatized or dies because that school routinely ignored or failed to report campus threats, how are you going to feel about U.S. News leaving that information out of its rankings? Or are you supposed to know that you should consult other rankings to determine if a school represents a threat to prospective students? Say, the various rankings of party schools, where the University of Iowa always seems to get high marks?
More to the point, do you think the University of Iowa or the Iowa Board of Regents, or the downtown businesses in Iowa City, which feed off of undergraduate enrollment, would perpetually sit on their hands regarding those issues if doing so hurt the school’s rankings? No, they would not. The same members of the business community who debased themselves back in November by ‘apologizing’ to Harreld for the way his sham appointment was deservedly treated, would rip him to shreds if they thought he was getting in the way of making money off of Iowa students, Fewer students would mean falling rental prices and decreased hospitality revenue, and that would trigger a lot of screaming from those otherwise upstanding members of the business community.
Unfortunately, no matter how flawed, easily manipulated or dangerously incomplete, the mere existence of college rankings creates a need to devote valuable resources to improving those rankings, even as every school cannot possible improve. For that reason, no matter how committed the approach, the vast majority of resources devoted to improving a school’s national ranking will be wasted, or at the very least merely allow a school to retain its place, notwithstanding changes due to the formula’s margin of error. On the other hand, the very fact that there is an inherent bias toward positive results leaves the door open to a possibility I have not seen explored anywhere else, and that’s the idea of gaming the U.S. News rankings in reverse.
Given the pressure at all schools to either maintain or improve their ranking, all a school would have to do to drop several places (or more) in a given year would be suspend their efforts to manipulate the rankings in their favor. On the other hand, if a school really wanted to tank all out for a year or two, there’s nothing that would prevent anyone from manipulating the entire U.S. News formula in reverse. Even better, if you didn’t want to go to the time and expense of actually gaming the system, you could just lie in ways that hurt your score, because nobody would ever think to audit a poor showing.
Why would administrators at a college or university — or the board or trustees governing a school — do something like that? Well, suppose you had a university president that you wanted to get rid of, but that person wouldn’t quit no matter how badly you treated them. Suppose that person also believed in education, whereas you thought of colleges and universities as massive cash pipes waiting to be exploited. If you happened to control the purse strings, or you happened to be the person who submitted the actual data, or you happened to be in a position to influence or buy off or intimidate the person who submitted the ranking data, you could cripple the school’s ranking in a way that no one would ever suspect. That in turn would allow you to pressure the high-minded, moralistic president to resign, or even allow you to fire the president for cause if you were smart enough to put a rankings clause in their contract. (You were smart enough to do that, weren’t you?)
Once you had the decks cleared you could then put your own stooge in the president’s office, stop all the reverse dirty tricks you were pulling, then go back to the dirty tricks that you normally use to raise or at least protect your ranking. Voila, within a year or two your new puppet president would have performed the transformational miracle of not only arresting your ranking fall, but of quickly beginning the climb back to your prior rank. At which point you might then have to reward your stooge with a massive increase in base pay or deferred compensation, or both, if that president was smart enough to put those clauses in their own contract.
Ranking the University of Iowa
As quoted above, J. Bruce Harreld correlates the 25-place drop-off in Iowa’s U.S. News ranking over the past twelve years with a 26-position drop-off in the faculty compensation component of the U.S. News formula. Whether there is effectively a 1:1 correlation between those numbers in all cases or not, it’s clear that more money spent on faculty compensation is better that less with regard to any school’s ranking. (That would also seem to suggest that much of the fall-off in Iowa’s ranking over that time period is in fact due to serial legislative underfunding.)
Now, because the fine folks at U.S. News provide college rankings as a journalistic public service, you might think you would be able to go to their site and look at historical rankings as far back as they exist, but you would be wrong about that. And that’s surprising because were I a prospective student, or the parent or guardian of a student looking at colleges, one of the first things I would want to know would be the trend of a given college’s ranking, if not also how those trends compared across schools. As when comparing cameras or cars online, I might even expect to be able to tick a box and see the historical rankings of three or four school’s at the same time, but unfortunately the U.S. News & World Report website does not seem to have reached that technological level of sophistication. (Either that, or in a crass money grab they have intentionally omitted historical data from their site in order to sell it for a profit.)
In any case, after noodling around in the internet wilds, and begging for (and getting) a lot of help, I ended up with the following U.S. News numbers for the University of Iowa, from 2000 to the most recent ranking in 2016. The first number after each year represents UI’s rank among all four-year colleges and universities (2,474 in 2016); the second number represents UI’s rank against public universities (629 in 2016):
2001: 41; 20
2002: 43; 24
2003: 58; 21
2004: 57; 19
2005: 60; 21
2006: 53; 21
2007: 64; 25
2008: 64; 24
2009: 66; 26
2010: 72; 28
2011: 72; 28
2012: 71; 28
2013: 72; 28
2014: 73; 29
2015: 71; —
2016: 82; 34
Assuming for the moment that those numbers are accurate, the downward trends in both categories are obvious, as are several of the larger single-year drops. (If you have the missing data, or can confirm different numbers for a given year, drop me a note or leave a comment and I’ll update the list.) Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons — some of which we’ve discussed, and some we haven’t — it’s impossible to know what went into determining Iowa’s rankings for any given year, what caused the changes from year to year, or even what seems to be driving the steady downward trend in Iowa’s rankings over time.
Along with more and more schools gaming the system, even for purely defensive reasons, it’s entirely possible that more schools are also going all out in order to improve their ranking. Couple intentional manipulation with decreased state funding year after year, along with the general trend in education of turning colleges and universities into resorts in order to attract student dollars, and I’m confident that the overall competition for students has never been more intense. Still, the most we can say with certainty is that Iowa’s ranking has not only decreased by 100% in the sixteen years since 2001, from 41 to 82, of the total 25-place fall-off reference by J. Bruce Harreld since 2004, almost half of that decrease — a full 11 positions — occurred in the most recent year, which was the last year of data compiled under former president Sally Mason. What’s especially remarkable about that precipitous fall-off, however, is that prior to that plunge Iowa’s ranking had been remarkably stable for the majority of Mason’s tenure.
Again, while we can’t say for certain why Iowa dropped 11 places in one year, one thing we do know is that such a drop is outside the bounds of the expected statistical noise in the formula. At most the formula’s margin of error might account for a drop of 4 or 5 of the places, but that still leaves 7 or 6 places unaccounted for. Assuming that Iowa’s efforts to either game or defensively manage the rankings did not change during 2015, the only way to account for that sharp drop would be to actually compare the year-to-year numbers, if not audit the books from whence those numbers came. Which means even if we’re never going to know the answer, somebody at the University of Iowa knows the answer to that question, and they’ve known ever since those numbers were submitted to U.S. News for the 2016 rankings.
Speaking of which, do you know when those 2016 numbers were actually released? Because as luck would have it — and I think J. Bruce Harreld’s face probably lit up like a non-denominational holiday tree on that day — Iowa’s plunge in the U.S. News & World Report rankings was reported in the press on 09/10/15, only one week after Harreld’s sham appointment, and only three days after Regents President Rastetter announced that he was suddenly reversing course on Iowa’s $4.5M supplemental request, purportedly because of Harreld’s advocacy. From the Gazette:
While there’s every reason to believe that Harreld knew those numbers in advance, just as he and five of the nine-member Board of Regents knew the outcome of his election in advance, the real value to Harreld in the 2016 Iowa rankings is that they have established and incredibly low bar of success for the first year of his illegitimate presidency. Even if half or more of the drop was due to real decreases in Iowa’s academic metrics, the odds are that there will still be some rebound in any statistical noise that factored in, and that’s assuming Harreld does nothing at all. If Harreld also throws new money at faculty compensation, while strategically cutting a few positions here and there — to say nothing of urging his enthusiastically unethical administrative underlings to go all-out in gaming Iowa’s numbers for 2017 — I can’t imagine that Harreld will not be able to claim that he improved Iowa’s college rank in the coming year.
The truly infuriating aspect of that purported linkage is that if state appropriations had not fallen off consistently over the years, the school’s rank would probably not have tailed off in lockstep over that time. So not only have the anti-education forces in Iowa been successful at weakening the school, in doing so they laid the groundwork for then claiming that Iowa needs to be run more like a business in order to be successful on the national stage. Meaning the only way to save the University of Iowa is to turn it over to the same group of co-conspirators who proved their larceny by running a fraudulent presidential search in 2015.
As for Harreld specifically, you can see his single-minded focus on Iowa’s national ranking in the fact that he openly rejected the regents’ long-standing desire to implement ‘performance-based funding’, and instead championed ‘excellence’ as an argument for raising faculty salaries. From the Gazette, on 12/01/15:
That’s a pretty remarkable repudiation given that Harreld had only been on the job for a month, and that his comments threw Regents President Rastetter under the funding bus. And yet, from a self-interested perspective Harreld’s statements make perfect sense. ‘Performance-based funding’ gets you no bump in the college rankings, while increases in faculty compensation net you immediate results.
Administering to the Rankings
To see how college rankings have perverted the cause of higher education, all you have to do is ask whether J. Bruce Harreld’s first, and so far only, transformational initiative — even after having six months to figure out how to take Iowa from great to greater — would focus solely on faculty compensation, and in so doing follow in the footsteps of all of his legitimately elected predecessors. Yes, all college and university presidents are always looking for more money for everything, but would faculty compensation not only be the centerpiece, but the only piece of Harreld’s executive vision? My answer is no, it would not, because as detailed in the previous post, that need is baked into the academic cake.
Instead, with all the free time that he and his minions would have on hand — what with not having to game the college rankings, or color salary charts — they might be able to deal with truly pressing issues on the Iowa campus, like the twin pillars of alcohol abuse and sexual assault. Unfortunately, as it stands today you don’t get points off for exposing students to physical and mental harms, even if you intentionally ignore those issues in your zeal to hire an utterly unqualified and ignorant former business executive to run your school. You only get points off if you don’t have enough money to throw around, which is yet another impetus for everyone to mine as much money as they can in the short term, lest the national ranking numbers go south on their watch.
Because there is no easy way to judge the success of a university president, or the quality of a school, U.S. News and World Report created a ranking system that they could sell. Because the average individual is as interested in understanding the complexities of academic administration as they are in understanding anything else, the U.S. News rankings perform the important cultural service of allowing uninformed people to feel fully informed, if not also smug or righteously indignant. Because the rankings are now firmly entrenched, savvy administrators have realized that they can skip much of the administrative drudgery of providing a solid education or a safe campus, and instead simply spend their time and resources gaming the rankings, because that’s the only metric they will be held accountable for anyway.
And so it is with J. Bruce Harreld. Ever since he was fraudulently appointed he’s been talking about Iowa’s college rank non-stop. Part of his reason for doing so is that only a week after his fixed election Harreld got the best of all possible news when Iowa’s ranking plunged 11 points, making it all but certain that it will rebound in his favor, and particularly so given his focus on raising faculty compensation. The only way Harreld can possibly end up in trouble is if the U.S. News numbers do not rebound, or worse, continue to fall, but I think neither of those outcomes is likely.
Instead, even if the legislature decides to stiff Harreld on some or all of Iowa’s $4.5M supplemental request, it’s almost certain that Iowa’s college rank will improve in 2017. At which point the entire media apparatus of the school and the regents will champion Harreld for being exactly the transformational leader Iowa needed all along. Then the real looting can begin.
Are you suggesting that UI purposely submitted information that would lower the rankings, in order to allow a “transformational” president to swoop in and single-handedly increase the ratings in a short time? Who might be responsible for submitting such information? Perhaps the External Relations officer?
It’s very odd, isn’t it? Four or five years in a row with absolutely flat rankings — steady, stable — then suddenly an 11-point plunge, as if the University of Iowa fell off a cliff. What happened?
I would love to tell you where that kind of plunge ranks among all the schools in the U.S. News Rankings, but as noted in the post, U.S. News goes out of its way to not make that information freely available. They certainly know, of course, and they know what it would take to spark a move like that year-to-year, but because they have no incentive to police their own rankings I doubt we’ll hear from them.
Still, it does make one wonder. Between omitting any useful information about campus safety from their rankings, and making it impossible to understand how a given school could suddenly drop 11 points — well outside any expected margin of error in the formula — we’re left with one of two possibilities. Either the formula is truly worthless, or somebody monkeyed with those numbers.
I think you’re probably giving them too much credit, Mark. We can do bad all by ourselves. Especially when we keep getting told there’s no money and the internal metrics are all to do with asses in seats, numbers in programs, and grad-school-admission success rates, rather than whether or not the kids know or can do anything.
The saving grace is that it’s a very, very large institution, and nobody has time to police it carefully, meaning that instructors who actually want to teach can probably get away with it. They won’t get paid or recognized for that, of course. But until the standardized curricula arrive, and they will, the opportunity is there.
The bigger difficulty is that for some time now the bright and savvy kids have recognized that there’s not much point in coming here. It’s quite expensive, even if tuition’s covered, and if you’re really that good you may as well apply to some selective place far away and let them fund you well. You might even pay less than you would here. Didn’t used to be the case 20 years ago.
Is it likely that someone cooked the books to lower the bar for Harreld? No. Still, someone could have easily done so, and it fits with the established modus operandi of two people who could have put such a plan in motion.
In a recent post I pointed out that back in September Rastetter initially said UI did not request any additional money for 2016. That was a lie on his part, because it was the board which told UI not to request any money. Rastetter orchestrated that lie in order to then claim that Harreld convinced him of the need for additional funds — thus manipulating a different set of numbers to make Harreld look good.
And then of course there’s Peter Matthes, who structured crony no-bid contracts specifically to avoid detection. The same Matthes who was just given the new title of ‘Senior Adviser’ to the illegitimate Harreld, by the illegitimate Harreld.
I don’t know when the data for the 2016 US News rankings was submitted, but since Mason’s retirement was known internally at the end of 2014, it would have been easy — particularly during the transition — to weaken UI’s numbers in order to make Harreld look good in 2017, when the numbers bounce back.
It should also now be clear from Harreld’s disastrous town hall that he is all-in on the US News rankings, and that he has indeed tied his own success to that idiotic metric. (A better metric might be personal credibility, but I can see why he’d shy away from that standard.)
If you look through this compilation of recent scores by the Washington Post, you’ll see a few other schools which suddenly spike or dip, so perhaps it’s just a function of the formula itself:
Without a full and independent accounting we’ll never know, but if anyone would rig the numbers to make Harreld look good, it’s those two.
So, today is the big day. After a tumultuous four months in office, and a whole lot of sucking up to the suddenly ascendant and scandalously compensated athletic administration, J. Bruce Harreld, the fraudulently appointed president of the University of Iowa, will finally participate in an academic public forum before members of the faculty, staff and student body. If you’re of a mind to attend yourself, Harreld will be appearing tonight only at C20 Pomerantz Center, from 4 to 6 p.m.
Smaller and Smaller
This will be Harreld’s first appearance before the people he now presides over since his disastrous open forum in early September, just prior to being fraudulently appointed by the Iowa Board of Regents. As Jeff Charis-Carlson noted in the Press-Citizen last week, however, in a story about the Orwellian and dehumanizing feedback process that the Board of Regents has implemented in the name of transparency, the description of Harreld’s get-together this evening has morphed considerably over the past few months:
Indeed, that’s all true. Here’s the the initial announcement, from 12/03/15:
By the beginning of the current spring semester, the terminology used to describe tonight’s event had not only become squishy — note use of both terms in the following quote — but instead of doing a solo Harreld was to be flanked by his ‘administrative team’. Although, oddly enough, not including the high-ranking administrator who got caught shoveling money into the trunk of a political crony’s getaway vehicle, through contracts specifically structured to avoid detection. (After Regents President Bruce Rastetter announced there would be no investigation into the matter, Harreld even elevated that clever smurf to the role of ‘Senior Adviser’, so you would think such an important member of Harreld’s administration would be up there on the stage as well.)
Instead, we got this bit of presidential positioning, from a UI press release on 01/19/16:
As the initially announced ‘public forum’ slowly changed into a ‘town hall’ over several months, J. Bruce Harreld’s prominence at the gathering continued to shrink, until, only a week ago, the UI Office of Stategeric Communications put out a generic reminder which omitted Harreld’s name from the title and subhead:
Yes, Harreld was still there in the body copy if, for some reason, that bland headline prompted you to read further, but given that the president of the university would be participating — if not playing the lead — you would think his presence might have warranted a bold mention. But no, Harreld was now being billed as ‘leading’ the town hall, instead of being the focal point.
So there you go. From ‘public forum’ with ‘President Harreld’, to ‘town hall’ with ‘UI Leaders’ in three months. Still, hopefully Harreld will find time to make a good joke or two, or maybe some balloon animals for the kids. (If you don’t feel that your questions are answered sufficiently during the formal discussion, don’t forget the ‘social engagement’ phase of tonight’s festivities, which will almost certainly never happen again as long as Harreld remains president.)
J. Bruce Harreld and the Status Quo
As if there weren’t enough on the line tonight, it was announced in the press late yesterday that J. Bruce Harreld will be having a closed-door performance review with the Iowa Board of Regents on Wednesday, less than twenty-four hours after whatever transpires tonight. And by the Iowa Board of Regents I not only mean the five regents who fixed the election in Harreld’s favor a full month before the final sham interviews and vote, but the other four honorable regents who were not only deceived by their peers, but by J. Bruce Harreld himself.
From the Gazette, on 02/22/15:
Oh, to be a fly on the wall….
Will the four regents who were ruthlessly deceived by their peers have anything to say to Harreld, or to the majority of the board? Will regent Subhash Sahai have any comment about Harreld’s transformational presidency, including that ugly little turn in the press about metaphorical firearms violence? What about Regents President Rastetter, whose previous ‘performance-based funding’ plan has already been given the cold shoulder by the rankings-obsessed Harreld? And what will Harreld himself have to say, now that he’s had a fun four months in office — is the job everything he thought it would be, or was told it would be? And of course how can we forget President Pro Tem Katie Mulholland, who never seemed to miss a chance to take Sally Mason to task in public. Will she do the same to Harreld in private?
Unfortunately, I can’t imagine that anything of substance will be said, even in a closed meeting, because none of the key players have any incentive to be honest. Nobody is going to admit that the transformational Harreld has proven to be an ongoing embarrassment, let alone that his maladministration has set the university back. One thing I am confident of, however, is that this is not where Harreld and his key co-conspirators thought they would be at this point. Whether they’ve had some big caper in the works all along or not, I wouldn’t be surprised if there is now some real tension between Harreld and Rastetter.
So anyway, here we are at the four-month mark, and what do we have to show for the constant assertion that Harreld’s legendary business acumen was critical to the long-term future of the University of Iowa? Well, in the previous two posts we learned that the $4.5M supplemental request, which Rastetter credited to J. Bruce Harreld, was not actually Harreld’s idea, but came from a staffer at the Iowa Board of Regents. To the extent that Harreld then decided to target faculty pay with some unstated chunk of that $4.5M — assuming it is approved by the legislature — that means the regents’ transformational business wizard is now following in the mundane footsteps of every academic administrator who ever headed up a college or university. As to why Harreld is targeting ‘faculty vitality’ instead of campus concerns like alcohol abuse and sexual assault — which not only directly affect the well-being of students, but which the university’s own marketing research has proven to be of statewide concern — well, that’s because paying the faculty more money will give J. Bruce a bump in the U.S. News college rankings, while taking care of the students does nothing to help him prove his worth.
Shrinking From the Spotlight
One thing we have learned about J. Bruce Harreld’s on-the-job performance over the past six months — and well before that — is that he is a master of misdirection. It’s not usually what he says that matters, but what he omits that proves critical. It’s not what he does, but what he should do that he doesn’t do. And so it is with Harreld’s town hall tonight, where once again J. Bruce Harreld is pulling a fast one right in front of the eyes of a much smaller number of people than might otherwise be invited to hear all of the wonderful things this marvel of a man has been up to.
As you may have heard, before becoming the illegitimate president of the University of Iowa, J. Bruce Harreld single-handedly saved IBM from hordes or creditors using only a slingshot and a forty-pound bag of sub-standard 8088 processors. During that heroic stand, and in his capacity as IBM’s lead marketing weasel, it’s almost a certainty that Harreld made regular use of live video chats to communicate with his underlings and future hanging victims at IBM outposts around the globe. In fact, without denigrating any of his legitimately elected predecessors, I think it’s fair to say that there has probably never been a more technology savvy president at Iowa.
So it was with keen interest that I found myself watching each new evolving announcement of Harreld’s ‘public forum’-slash-‘town hall’, yet not once was there any mention of tonight’s momentous and pivotal event being broadcast to the greater university community. And I am honestly perplexed by that. (Not really.) Why would a man so eager to demonstrate progress in his own remedial instruction as a completely unqualified, fraudulently elected university president, not make use of technology which is routinely used to live-stream lectures, concerts, and other relatively routine events across the university campus?
While the administration is billing tonight’s whatever-it-is as a major moment in Harreld’s presidency, his appearance has in fact been minimized in every conceivable way. What could have been a genuine appeal to the community that Harreld helped deceive last fall, and earlier during the sham search process, has been reduced to an attempt to goad opposition forces into making a misstep in front of the press, which will then be the sole ‘honest brokers’ of information about what transpired. Will the people who are still furious about Harreld’s appointment act ‘professionally‘, or will they take the bait and give Harreld the upper hand?
J. Bruce Harreld was not, is not, and never will be qualified to preside over a university. And I don’t think we need look any further to make that case than the fact that when presented with a golden opportunity to broadcast tonight’s sham performance to the entire university community, Harreld and his media minders declined. And yes, I mean they made a conscious choice not to live-stream tonight’s meeting over the university’s own cable system, over the local municipal UI cable channel, or the internet. And that decision — that non-action — was ultimately sanctioned by, if not insisted upon, by J. Bruce Harreld himself.
Update: As noted here, the scheduling of tonight’s event was itself a hostile administrative act:
If you want people to attend, you make it easy for them to attend. And J. Bruce Harreld knows that. Which is why he scheduled his first appearance in front of the UI community for a Tuesday, from 4 to 6 p.m., and why the event is not being broadcast.
In updates: Obergruppen-Regent Bruce Rastetter is upset that persons interested in the Univ of Iowa express how they feel about his illicit, illegal, oligarchic hire of the ‘The Bruce’ Harreld. http://www.thegazette.com/subject/news/education/higher-education/regents-president-rastetter-criticizes-behavior-at-university-of-iowa-town-hall-for-harreld-20160225
Regent Larry McKibben is upset that Univ of Iowa’s host county enacted a reasonable livable minimum wage. The Univ of Iowa can give 310,000 sweetheart contracts to GOP operative, but god knows they cannot allow low income workers to actually afford their lives.
VP – and GOP operative — Rod Lehnertz says the U of Iowa is not going to obey the law and will continue to hire GOP operatives, spouses, and GOP friends while screwing poor workers. (the JoCo min wage is still well below a livable wage and much less than Lehnertz and his admin buddies make driving their complementary U of Iowa cars around)
It was reported Iowa President Bruce Harreld was too busy calculating his bank account and retire benefits to comment…
It must be awesome having a job where you just make up the reality you want to believe in. You know, like Governor Branstad does.
You can see why all of these people are involved in higher education in the state. There’s an endless opportunity to steer money toward political cronies and away from people who might actually need or even deserve help. Screw the students, and screw the people who actually have to live in Iowa City without a cushy six-figure or seven-figure government salary.
If you really believe in market forces you don’t corrupt the government in order to tilt the playing field in your favor. The last thing any of these people want is to be exposed to real market forces, which is why they all sucking on the government teat.
“J. Bruce Harreld single-handedly saved IBM from hordes of creditors using only a slingshot and a forty-pound bag of sub-standard 8088 processors.”
Like Carly, only one engineer at a time. Thwack!