A new threaded post on this topic can be found here. For previous posts about the Harreld hire, click the tag below.
04/21/16 — J. Bruce Harreld and the Daily Iowan Interview. Updated.
04/18/16 — J. Bruce Harreld and Campus Sexual Assault. Updated.
04/15/16 — J. Bruce Harreld and the Regents’ 2016 Funding Rebuke.
04/10/16 — The President That J. Bruce Harreld Will Never Be.
04/07/16 — Raise.me Scrubs Gates Foundation From ‘About’ Page.
04/04/16 — Revisiting the AAUP Report on the Harreld Hire in Detail.
04/02/16 — Regents President Rastetter and Performance Based Failure.
03/29/16 — Regents President Rastetter and the Meaning of Encouragement.
03/27/16 — Regents President Rastetter Makes a New Claim.
03/23/16 — Dr. Robillard and Col. Kurtz.
03/21/16 — The University of Iowa has begun advertising for a new Director of Public Safety. This is a small but important step in dealing with the intertwined issues of alcohol abuse and sexual assault on campus. The obvious concern, of course, is that the last nationwide search at the University of Iowa resulted in the hiring of someone who was fundamentally unqualified for the position he now holds.
03/16/16 — J. Bruce Harreld and the Raise.me Rollout.
03/14/16 — At the recent University of Iowa town hall, business genius and Harvard MBA J. Bruce Harreld said, during what is now infamously known as the Peanut Butter Fillibuster: “In economics, [it] is the notion that you actually could, without cutting, take resources and put more of them over other areas than all the areas at the same times. Some areas get more, and some get less. That’s not a cut.” Yesterday, in a guest column on the Gazette site, UI Professor Ahmed E. Souaiaia wrote that disabled students at the University of Iowa are now getting less peanut butter. I’m sure those students look forward to Harreld explaining how the reallocation of peanut butter away from services for disabled students is not a cut.
03/13/16 — J. Bruce Harreld and Shared Governance.
03/09/16 — Gender Discrimination and the Harreld Hire.
03/06/16 — J. Bruce Harreld: “There’s no there, there.”
03/05/16 — I am working on a post about the Visin debacle, but I need to wait for my keyboard to cool down so I can backspace through all the swearing. In the meantime, you should consider reading Bleeding Heartland’s excellent post on the same subject.
03/03/16 — J. Bruce Harreld and Transformational Change. Updated 03/04/16.
03/02/16 — Simon Newman, the ‘non-traditional’ president at Mount St. Mary’s college, resigned on Monday. If you read nothing else today, read Jack Striplng’s excellent report in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Then remind yourself that when J. Bruce Harreld wasn’t impressing himself at IBM, he was driving two companies into bankruptcy.
02/28/16 — J. Bruce Harreld: the Liar and the Lie.
If you stand in opposition to the fraudulently appointed president of the University of Iowa, J. Bruce Harreld, and to the cabal of co-conspirators who fixed the search and election in his favor — including particularly Regents President Bruce Rastetter, Vice President for Medical Affairs and university traitor Jean Robillard, and megadonor Jerre Stead — then this was probably both an exhilarating and discouraging week. Exhilarating because you were able to vent the rage that anyone would feel after enduring the serial abuses perpetrated by Harreld and his ilk over the past year. Discouraging because your legitimate frustrations were not only invalidated and trivialized by those men, they took evident delight in belittling you for showing the emotions you felt as a result of the very abuses they perpetrated against you.
It will take a while to unpack everything that happened last week, but we’ll get to all of it in due course. In this post, however, I want to take a step back and look at Tuesday’s town hall from the point of view of effectiveness. We’ve talked before about the somberly disingenuous calls that Rastetter and Harreld routinely make for professional and civil discourse, by which they really mean lying and backstabbing in a polite manner. In reality both men prefer that mode of interaction not because of some deeply held belief in a personal code of conduct, but because they’re simply better at it than most people, which means they are always playing from a position of strength.
If you can make people crazy while appearing calm yourself, then it’s fairly easy to convince observers that you’re a civil and professional individual, albeit one who, for some inexplicable reason, seems to be constantly surrounded by people who have gone berserk. Even better, the only people in a position to betray your fiendish ability to torment individuals to the point at which they lose control would be the deranged, red-faced victims of your manipulative wrath. Because you would have already destroyed their credibility by pushing them over the edge, however, it’s unlikely that anyone would believe a word they said, even if they were telling the truth.
It’s a neat trick, and one you’ve probably been on the receiving end of at some point in your life. It’s also loathsome, and all the more so when perpetrated by someone in a position of power. It becomes diabolical, however, when the perpetrator has the means to control the messaging of an organization that you both belong to, which should be watching out for such abuses. And yet as an instrument of success you can see its appeal, which goes a long way to explaining why both Regents President Bruce Rastetter and University of Iowa President J. Bruce Harreld are masters at destabilizing and invalidating other human beings.
Unfortunately, as you can see in the aftermath of last week’s town hall, including commentary about the town hall from a number of regents, it’s an effective tactic, and all the more galling when the person employing it seems to enjoy it as well. But that doesn’t mean that those two men, or any of their co-conspirators, do not have vulnerabilities themselves. In order to focus on those vulnerabilities we simply need to separate two issues which have become understandably conflated over the past six months. The goal in doing so is not to discourage emotion or to insist that everyone become more organized in opposition to Harreld and Rastetter, but to provide the most effective means by which they can be encouraged to vacate their respective offices. And I believe the best way to do that is to show people how those two men, among others, really have betrayed and antagonized the university community to the point of distraction.
The Shared Governance Lie
It is an established fact that in choosing J. Bruce Harreld as president in September, the Iowa Board of Regents violated its precedent and promise of shared governance with the university faculty. It was within the legal right of the board to hire whomever they wanted, even without conducting a search, but the board specifically implemented what it falsely portrayed as a fair and open search, including repeatedly inviting input from the faculty, staff and students. In choosing Harreld at the last moment, over what the board knew at the time to be almost unanimous objection from the university community, the regents acknowledged that they had been lying to the university community all along.
After the town hall on Tuesday I said this on Twitter:
It is that unilateral and overtly hostile action by the board that is at the heart of the emotions we saw on display during the Tuesday town hall. People who thought their voices were being heard and respected are still in shock that they were lied to — and they were lied to — by the Iowa Board of Regents. What the university community learned as a result of that abuse of shared governance is that Regents President Bruce Rastetter is a liar, and that going forward he cannot be, and should not be, trusted in any regard. Unfortunately, explaining all of that — let alone the premise of shared governance, which J. Bruce Harreld himself botched during his open forum — is a tall order.
While it’s perfectly understandable that people might still be angry, the abuse of shared governance which Rastetter engineered is not only not his greatest vulnerability, it omits Harreld as a co-conspirator because Harreld was a candidate at the time. To be clear, a violation did occur, and it’s one that anyone would be furious about, but it is not the only violation that occurred. In fact, in terms of explaining the emotions that are still boiling over on the University of Iowa campus, I believe the average citizen would be more sympathetic to the university community’s plight if Harreld could be shown to be complicit in an equally reprehensible violation of trust.
I am also not suggesting that anyone let go of their anger if that’s what they still feel. What I am suggesting is that anger and frustration about the regent’s willful, even gleeful abuse of shared governance is not the most effective strategy of gutting the people responsible for that abuse — metaphorically speaking, of course. If you need to scream into your pillow from time to time, go for it. If you want to bury your darts up to the barrel in a J. Bruce Harreld or Bruce Rastetter dart board, I hope your aim is true. When you’ve got that out of your system, however — even if only momentarily — I’d like you to consider another way to make the case that J. Bruce Harreld and Bruce Rastetter have, by their own demonstrable dishonesty, disqualified themselves from having anything to do with the welfare or education of students in the state of Iowa.
The Press and the Harreld Hire
As you probably noticed in press reports about the town hall, as well as in the opportunistic propaganda emanating from the bowels of Board of Regents, the emotions that were on display featured prominently in the coverage. To the extent that those emotions distracted from Harreld’s illegitimacy or Rastetter’s corruption, it’s important to note that the press did a good job of fully reporting what happened. Unlike the patronizing comments coming from Rastetter and his minions on the board, the press not only reported the outbursts, they reported on substantive issues which were raised and discussed. Which means whatever else may be happening with regard to the Harreld hire, and however powerless you may personally feel on occasion, and despite Rastetter and Harreld having the institutional ability to obfuscate the truth using state-funded media machines at the Board of Regents and the University of Iowa, respectively, the free press has been fairly reporting the story to the public.
The problem that the press faces — and here it is important to remember that many of the people reporting on the Harreld hire have been lied to by these same individuals — is that they can only report what happens. If a meeting takes place and people go berserk, that’s what gets reported, and that’s what the public learns. On the other hand, if the right questions are asked, then the press can report how Harreld or Rastetter responded to those issues. That is in fact the whole point of the regents’ sham feedback process: to deny any possibility of a response from the regents, which the press could then report. As has been noted before, however, by virtue of Harreld’s obligations as president, and despite the degree to which he is now being stage-managed by the Office of Strategic Communication, if not by the Board of Regents itself, Harreld must still occasionally appear before the unwashed masses that he presides over, and answer questions.
The Open Search Lie
It is entirely possible that a completely fair and open search could have resulted in a last-minute betrayal of shared governance. Given that the nine members of the Board of Regents have the only votes that matter, and four of those votes don’t count because it only takes a simple majority to prevail, it could be argued — and indeed was argued for the first two weeks after Harreld became president-elect — that what transpired simply reflected a difference in administrative philosophy. That would not excuse the abuse of shared governance that took place, because the board clearly did break its word to the faculty, but despite everything we now know a fraudulent search was not necessarily part of that abuse of power. Harreld could have been an innocent, the board could have been purely motivated by their convictions, and the faculty could have been betrayed on that basis alone.
In reality, even at the time of Harreld’s shocking appointment there were deep suspicions that something more nefarious was afoot. Then, starting about two weeks after the announcement, a series of rolling disclosures in the press revealed that there was indeed a conspiracy behind Harreld’s appointment, and that the search itself was fraudulent. Eventually, as a result of excellent reporting by the press, the key co-conspirators were exposed by their lies, on the record, including J. Bruce Harreld himself.
As a result of those damaging disclosures, for six months J. Bruce Harreld has been consistent in distancing himself from the obvious preferential treatment he received during the search. In changing his candidate origin story multiple times, Harreld even threw his co-conspirators under the bus to avoid charges of complicity. Despite visiting the state multiple times during the search, on private jets at his own considerable expense, including participating in secret meetings at least twice, Harreld repeatedly asserted that he never wanted the job, never sought he job, and had no idea what might or might not have transpired during the search.
For example, here is Harreld making that claim by proxy, in Iowa Alumni Magazine, which is not only a instrument of propaganda for the institution he now controls, but a publication on which he is an ex officio member of the board:
As you can see, not only is J. Bruce Harreld completely innocent of any abuses perpetrated by the board — abuses which were committed for the express purpose of giving him millions of dollars, and free housing to boot — but Harreld is a victim of those abuses as well. Poor J. Bruce…what a terrible sting.
Now here is Harreld making that same claim in the AAUP report, which determined that the search process resulted in a violation of shared governance:
Now, you may have missed it, but the exact same issue came up again during the town hall on Tuesday, and Harreld’s response was once again consistent. From a report by Lucy Morris of Little Village, on 02/24/16, here is the question, followed by Harreld’s standard response:
Look at Harreld’s response to almost any question or subject and you will see a man who enjoys pontificating, lecturing and debating at length. He not only does not avoid conflict, he incites it. Yet any time the search comes up, Harreld does whatever he can to get away from that subject as quickly as possible. And that should tell you everything you need to know about where J. Bruce Harreld’s real vulnerability lies.
The problem with Harreld’s response on Tuesday — and it has been a problem all along — is that when J. Bruce Harreld says he can’t comment on the search process, he is lying. Not only was J. Bruce Harreld not oblivious to the abuses perpetrated on his behalf during the search, immediately upon being appointed he betrayed his awareness by attempting to cover up those abuses. Which is why the one subject that everyone should be talking about regarding J. Bruce Harreld — if not with J. Bruce Harreld — is that he is not only the product of a lie, but a liar himself. And if you’ve been reading Ditchwalk, you know why.
If you click that cued link you will see J. Bruce Harreld explaining, to the press and assembled indignitaries, moments after his announcement as president-elect, how the search committee originally contacted him. The “president of a major university” that Harreld refers to was initially rumored to be Purdue’s Mitch Daniels — and later confirmed by former search chair Robillard and Daniels himself– but as a factual matter what Harreld asserted and Robillard and Daniels eventually confirmed was a lie, and Harreld knew it was a lie when he said it.
If you watch the clip several times, you can actually see Harreld remember that he is supposed to tell that specific lie in response to any question about his origin story as a candidate. That recollection prompts a spasm of blinks as the memory intrudes on consciousness, to such a degree that Harreld literally announces out loud that he needs to back up in order to get his story straight. (For a full explanation of why Harreld’s statement about Daniels is a lie, click here.)
In Flagrante Delicto
In order to prove a conspiracy you usually have to do all sorts of tedious things like apply for and justify an authorization for surveillance, then stake out a ‘joint’ or a ‘suspect’, perhaps for weeks if not months on end. Even if you use electronic means to gather information, you still have to listen to all of the mind-numbing sound files, and send any encrypted information to the nerds in the basement for forensic analysis. Yet in this instance, in one short video clip, the conspiracy which drove Harreld’s fraudulent appointment is not only on full if not flagrant display — it is Harreld himself who betrays that conspiracy.
In response to a simple and obvious question — which Harreld will struggle to answer for months on end, including altering his timeline once again only last month — the newly appointed president-elect tells a lie about how he came to the attention of the search committee. In order to truly comprehend the magnitude of that falsehood, remember that when Harreld spoke those words nothing was publicly known about the secret Kirkwood meeting between Rastetter, Robillard, Peter Matthes and J. Bruce Harreld on June 19th, which Jerre Stead was also scheduled to attend, but bailed on at the last minute; only a few people knew about the “VIP Lunch” on July 8th, which was hosted by Robillard and attended by Rastetter and two other members of the search committee; nothing was known about the secret regent meetings on July 30th, which Rastetter arranged for Harreld at Rastetter’s own place of business in Ames, and which were attended by regents Mulholland, McKibben, Dakovich and Andringa; and nobody knew about the phone call to Harreld, from Governor Terry Branstad, which Rastetter personally arranged. In telling that lie Harreld was leading the conversation away from all of the preferential and improper treatment he received during the rigged search process, and that necessarily betrays knowledge of the search process on his part. Even more incredibly, at the moment when Harreld tells the lie that Purdue’s Mitch Daniels prompted the search committee to reach out to him, there are three people in that room, on camera, who know that Harreld is lying: Regents President Rastetter, Vice President for Medical Affairs Robillard, and President-elect Harreld himself.
There can be no debate about that because Harreld, Rastetter, and to a great extent Robillard, participated in or arranged all of those meetings. This is not a situation where we have to prove that someone knew about something that someone else said or did. In this situation all three men are on video when J. Bruce Harreld tells a lie about how he came to the attention of the search committee, which Rastetter was on and Robillard chaired. And in that moment all of those men know, in real time, that what Harreld is saying is false, yet neither Rastetter nor Robillard correct Harreld’s false statement. And for two full months, neither Harreld, Rastetter or Robillard corrects the record. Quite the opposite, in fact, because Robillard later confirms to the press that Daniels did bring Harreld to the attention of the committee, even though Robillard knows that his confirmation is a lie.
Only on the eve of taking office does Harreld unveil an entirely new origin story in order to personally distance himself from his own fraudulent hire, yet even at that he never accounts for the Daniels lie. Instead, he tells a new version which actually proves that the Daniels story was a lie. Not a mistake, not a quote taken out of context, not confusion — but a lie.
Flash forward to today, and here again is what Harreld said at the town hall:
As you can see, the problem with that uncharacteristically curt and legalistic claim is that if Harreld was truly blind to the search process he would not have — could not have — lied about the origins of his candidacy. If he was an innocent, and all of the abuses that were perpetrated on his behalf were done without his knowledge or complicity, then in answering an obvious question about the origins of his candidacy he would have said what he started to say in the clip, and which he eventually disclosed over the past four months: that some of the members of the search committee reached out to him as early as March of 2015. He might even have talked fondly about the Kirkwood meeting, the “VIP Lunch” and his wife’s tour of the campus on that visit, his meetings with the regents on July 30th, and his phone call with the governor. Instead, J. Bruce Harreld told a lie about Mitch Daniels.
The only way Harreld could have possibly known to do that — the only conceivable justification for telling a lie about how he was introduced to the search committee — is if Harreld himself knew that the search process was corrupt. You don’t tell that lie if you are innocent, or you are ignorant of the duplicitous machinations of Rastetter and Robillard. You don’t tell that lie if you think you just got lucky, or that some combination of your devastating natural charisma and unnatural tan seduced at least five of the nine members of the board. You don’t even tell that lie if someone asks you to — even begs you to do so — because that would make you complicit in the fraudulent search that led to your hire. And yet J. Bruce Harreld told that lie.
Putting the Lie to J. Bruce Harreld
As you might imagine, the lie that Harreld told on the day of his appointment raises additional questions that have yet to be answered. Those questions in turn make clear that Harreld was not simply spitballing an explanation on the spot, but putting forward a lie that had been prepared precisely for that circumstance. For example, how did Mitch Daniels come to be involved? Who contacted him, and why? Given that Daniels later confirmed to the press that he was the initial point of contact between Harreld and the search committee — which is factually impossible — was Daniels himself used by the co-conspirators, or was he a willing accomplice?
Because Daniels is the president of Purdue, and Harreld is a Purdue alum, the most obvious person to have contacted Daniels is Harreld himself. Yet if that’s the case, then Harreld was so deep in the fraudulent search that led to his hire that he should be thrown out of office right now. On the other hand, if someone else contacted Daniels, when was Harreld told that the Daniels lie was in play?
Clearly, Harreld knew to introduce that lie, so where did that knowledge come from? If Harreld didn’t engineer the lie himself (Purdue pun intended), who told him that Mitch Daniels was standing by — wittingly or unwittingly — to provide crucial plausible deniability in the aftermath of Harreld’s sham hire? (It would obviously have been very easy for Daniels to have answered many of these questions by now, but as a ‘professional’ and the esteemed head of an institution of higher learning, Mitch Daniels seems to have as much concern for integrity, credibility and the truth as do Rastetter, Robillard and Harreld.)
Normally, when the regents aren’t conducting a sham search followed by a fixed vote followed by an immediate announcement of, and press conference with, their new puppet candidate, there is an gap between the final interviews and vote, in order to allow for thorough debate and vetting. In Harreld’s case the interviews, vote and announcement happened on the same day, within a few hours, meaning whatever Harreld knew about Daniels when he was speaking in front of the assembled media must have been learned earlier — perhaps on the order of days if not weeks. From Vanessa Miller of the Gazette, on 11/01/15, the day before Harreld actually took office:
So Harreld goes to the interviews, he waits out the vote, he gets a call, he’s told he’s the winner, everyone pats him on the back or reminds him that they know where he lives, then Harreld is announced and takes to the podium. At which point the first words out of his own mouth are a blatant lie about how he came to the attention of the search committee. And not a made-up-on-the-spot lie, an orchestrated lie — a lie that required the participation of a siting president at another university, which in turn required contacting that president and requesting whatever was requested.
As to Harreld’s repeatedly professed obliviousness to the search process, there is no scenario in which Harreld could possibly be an innocent, then step to the mic and say that Mitch Daniels was the first point of contact with the search committee when he clearly knew that was not the case. Which means every time Harreld says that he can’t speak to what happened during the search, he is in fact telling another lie. If his awareness of the Daniels lie predates the day of the final interviews and vote, or was passed to him on the morning of the final interviews and vote, then when he now says he can’t comment on the “search process”, and can only comment on his “experience”, part of his experience during the search was preparing to lie about the search.
Unless Harreld arranged the Daniels lie on his own — which, as already noted, puts him in a world of hurt — that also means Harreld had a conversation with someone else about his origin story, and that he and that person agreed that Harreld would tell the Daniels lie. And that brings us to an even bigger problem with the orchestration, which is the fact that the Daniels lie was prepared at all. Because the only reason you prepare an orchestrated lie like that is if you think you’ll need it.
If the search process was fair and above board, and all of those meetings with Harreld were proper, then you don’t need the Daniels lie. If you don’t think Harreld is going to win, you also don’t need the Daniels lie. On the other hand, if you think you did something wrong, or you already know the outcome of the election, you probably go out of your way to make sure you can cover your ass.
Even if Harreld was in the dark up to the point at which the Daniels lie was floated, that request would have made clear to Harreld that something wasn’t right with the search process. And that’s something Harreld could have communicated to the press or the AAUP or the university community any time he was asked about the search. And yet not only has Harreld never made any statements about why he told the Daniels lie, when confronted with the choice of telling it or not telling it, he stopped in mid-sentence, backed up, then let it fly.
When J. Bruce Harreld stepped to the podium to answer questions after being announced as the illegitimate president-elect of the University of Iowa, he was armed with a lie that must necessarily have been prepared in advance. When he was asked the right question he responded with that prepared lie even though he and others in the room knew that what he was saying was a lie. While the lie itself is bad enough, the fact that Harreld knew he might need a prepared lie — or that he accepted a prepared lie prior to the final interviews and vote — makes it that much more likely that whenever that lie was prepared, J. Bruce Harreld was already aware that he was going to win the regents’ vote.
Nobody Likes a Liar
During the contentious town hall this past Tuesday, between the tomatoes and grenades, someone asked exactly the right question, and in doing so provoked a lie from J. Bruce Harreld, president of the University of Iowa. That lie was then dutifully reported by the press, and is now part of the public record of the man’s abuses. It is not ‘the past’, it is not ‘old news’, it is a current lie.
Along with all of the questions above, there are plenty of other questions that might be asked of J. Bruce Harreld in a public forum, which might either prompt more provable lies, or put him in an uncomfortable bind. For example, will he release the email or correspondence in which he requested meeting with “at least four regents”? Will he release all of his records from the search committee, including particularly the records from Parker Executive Search regarding the receipt and vetting of his resume — which was a disaster in its own right, yet never seems to have been flagged as such? (As both the former candidate and sitting president he clearly has the legal authority to order the release of that information.)
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking there’s no way J. Bruce Harreld is going to answer such questions in public or private, but in fact he already promised to do so. Remember?
If for some reason you feel it would be improper to ask Harreld such questions in public, you could make an appointment to see him, either alone or with a witness. Or you could email him, because he’s a big fan of email. Or maybe invite him to lunch — or over for drinks after work.
If you prefer more extroverted interrogations, another good way to focus attention on Harreld’s complicity in his own fraudulent hire would be to press the issue in court. Unfortunately, as you may have noticed, all of the key co-conspirators in the Harreld hire — Bruce Rastetter, J. Bruce Harreld, Jean Robillard and Jerre Stead — are stinking rich. They’re also brimming with lawyers in their professional lives. Rastetter has lawyers on staff at the Board of Regents, Harreld and Robillard have the UI Office of General Counsel doing their bidding, and of course Jerre Stead probably has more attorneys on retainer than the university and regents combined.
Other than having the truth on their side, the rank and file members of the university community are badly outgunned, metaphorically speaking. Then again, I’m pretty sure there are a few deep-pocketed alums who are not happy about Harreld and his transformative plans for the school. And there may be faculty at the law school who oppose Harreld as well. And there may be lawyers in the community who are opposed to what’s happening in the administrative ranks. And perhaps one or more of those individuals could establish a basis upon which more information could be legally compelled from Harreld and his co-conspirators, because so far all of those civil professionals can’t seem to tell the truth on their own. Even filing a suit that got tossed would generate press coverage, and that would put the focus of opposition to J. Bruce Harreld back where it probably should have been all along.
If there’s one thing that crosses all ideological, socioeconomic and even political boundaries, it’s that most people do not like liars, and they particularly do not like having to work with liars. If nothing else, that short little video clip — and Harreld’s inability to defend it or explain it even after six months — makes clear that his word is no good. And I don’t see how you can be an effective president of a major research university, or, for that matter, the president of the Board of Regents, or the vice president for medical affairs at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, or the dean of the College of Medicine — if people know your word is no good.
In fact, the only thing worse than being a liar might be being a tool at the same time, and unfortunately that’s exactly what J. Bruce Harreld looks like when he tells the lie that he tells. Because the Daniels lie is not just a lie that Harreld tells to protect himself, it’s a lie that Harreld tells to protect Rastetter, Robillard, Stead, Matthes, and who knows who else. It’s a cover-up lie, designed to obscure the conspiracy behind his fraudulent appointment. The same conspiracy that Harreld constantly denies any knowledge of, when he repeatedly asserts that he can only speak to his own experience during the search, and not to the corrupt search process itself.
Dana F. says
The weird thing about this and what the press has chosen to ignore is that there were a lot of people who knew about the “fix” way before it happened. I learned from a well-connected UI staffer a couple weeks before the public forum that the person already “chosen” by the regents would start in early November. This seemed very strange at first, because the first three candidates were in university positions, but now it makes a lot of sense. Why doesn’t the press investigate this fraud issue? I don’t get it.
I do believe there is ample evidence to pursue a genuine investigation of fraud, if not criminal charges. I don’t know that the press is in a position to play that part, though they’ve certainly walked up to that line on several occasions — most notably in a Des Moines Register editorial
in early October, which called the search “flawed”.
It was only with Harreld’s subsequent disclosures in early November, about the origins of his candidacy, that it became demonstrable that almost everyone in a key position of power had lied either during or after Harreld was appointed. Unfortunately, at that point Harreld had signed on the dotted line and there was no will to remove him at the Board of Regents (quite the contrary), so that trail fell cold. (Since no regulatory body was willing to follow the available leads, the press had nothing to report.)
What hasn’t stopped, however, is the very close monitoring of Harreld by the press. And I have to say I think they’ve all done an excellent job and are doing an excellent job sticking with Harreld himself as a story. (In part because they were also lied to — and you can add The Chronicle of Higher Education to that list.)
It’s not apparent, but six months after the fact there is still an enormous amount of pressure on the key co-conspirators, and they keep bringing the spotlight back onto themselves in ways that erode rather than augment credibility. I don’t think this story is over.
“The press” is a Gannett outfit based in Des Moines, and the bosses there get paid to sell advertising, not to blow the lid off of anything. Foley, the AP reporter, has more freedom but less influence, because nobody cares nationally about a fraud story in Iowa unless it’s pretty lurid.
That leaves Little Village, Bleeding Heartland, Nick Johnson, and Ditchwalk.
Some focus in the coverage is in order, by the way. Your average reader does not care what goes on at universities until it screws up his kid’s life or shames him in front of the rest of the country; Iowa is still sensitive about that. You will have to start connecting some dots if you want this coverage to go anywhere:
1. This is essentially a TIF story. We’re looking at 30-year ed bond issues and other “get the money now, worry about how it’s paid back later” schemes: your children and grandchildren pay for today’s stadium, not just with taxes but with pinched, expensive education and narrowed opportunities. TIF stories are already a hard sell because people have trouble looking that far down the road. But if you can point to other state systems’ problems — systems that are 10 years ahead of us — and pile it on top of other greed-driven eviscerations, like the Medicaid story, and the mental-healthcare story, and the K12 story, and the usual Scott Walker story, then you have something: these guys are hurting us not just today but well into the future.
2. Like I said, none of this changes till the governor changes, because the governor chooses the regents. That, not whatever Kathy Tachau cares about, is what you’re after. The Gannett/AP press will pick up the story above for an election, but it has to be well-made and well-sold first; it has to be a set of coherent, defensible, well-disseminated talking points. This is just one of many crowbars.
3. While corruption isn’t a brand-new story in Iowa, the degree of corruption that’s come to characterize our politics at state and federal level is, I think, something new, and that could use some attention. We’ve known Branstad and Grassley for a long, long time, but the policies and legislation they’re supporting these days are pretty radical departures from their behavior of yesteryear. There are reasons for that, and that’s where we need some digging to happen. Iowans actually do care about corruption when it comes to their neighborhood. UI is not, for most of them, their neighborhood, but if they see that the corruption here is a part of something larger in their lives, they’ll pay attention.
As I said in another comment, I don’t think there is one magical solution to this problem, either in the near term or longer. There’s always a tendency to look for the hairline crack that can be exploited — the defect in the diamond that allows it to be cleaved — but that assumes no one is standing by to repair that crack.
Another line of approach is simply to apply pressure and wait for the cracks to develop on their own. In a democracy that pressure comes in the form of the press and the public paying attention. Maybe not as much as we might like, but still — it’s possible. And of course it’s also possible to prepare for moments when they do.
Almost everything I know about the Harreld hire came from the free press. I can’t thank them enough for what they’ve done, and I hope they keep doing it. I recognize that they have limits just like everyone else, but the internet has changed things, and newspapers are recognizing that their reporters are assets in that regard.
At the town hall J. Bruce Harreld taunted the assembled by not only committing to remaining at Iowa for the full five years of his contract, but perhaps longer. What struck me about that is that the one thing J. Bruce Harreld does not have on his side is time.
If you have a two-by-four that will only support a hundred pounds, and you drop a two-ton rock on that board, yes, it will break in two. But if you slowly add pebbles over time, sooner or later you’ll get to a hundred pounds, and that board will break. Maybe not all at once, but given time, it will fail.
A year ago last week the Iowa Board of Regents announced the names of the individuals comprising the Presidential Search and Screen Committee, which was charged with finding a replacement for the retiring Sally Mason. Among the members of that twenty-one-person panel were University of Iowa megadonor/investor Jerre Stead, Regents President Bruce Rastetter, and University of Iowa Vice President for Medical Affairs Jean Robillard, who also served as chair. Six months later — and six months ago to this day — the regents announced the shocking conclusion to that search, which was the unanimous appointment of former business executive J. Bruce Harreld. This despite the fact that Harreld not only had no prior experience in academic administration, but his resume was a disaster.
What we have learned in the six months since Harreld’s appointment is as shocking as the original announcement. The vote by the Board of Regents, while reported as unanimous by convention, was not unanimous. Instead, it was the fixed result of a fraudulent if not criminal search process that gave Harreld improper access to two members of the board who were not on the search committee. To this day basic questions about how Harreld learned of the Iowa job have have never been answered, and indeed cannot be answered without piercing the veil of secrecy that begat Harreld’s illegitimate presidency.
When I first started looking into the Harreld hire back in September I did so out of curiosity, but also anger. I had hoped the new president would tackle the twin cultural campus concerns of alcohol abuse and sexual assault, which have unfortunately become synonymous with Iowa’s brand. Instead, the Iowa Board of Regents, in their finite wisdom, chose the one candidate among the four finalists who was a cultural imbecile with regard to those issues. Issues which quite literally place the welfare of students at risk, and issues which the university’s own marketing research has revealed are of central concern to the people of Iowa.
My goal in looking into the Harreld hire was understanding what happened and why. In prior posts I have talked about trying to find the bottom of the conspiracy which led to Harreld’s appointment, yet while I now believe I understand the mechanics of the fraud, it occurred to me recently that there is no bottom because the people involved did not simply exercise poor judgment or do something they now regret. Quite the contrary, the Harreld hire reveals the utter contempt that Harreld, Stead, Robillard and Rastetter have for consensus, inclusion, honesty and integrity. If lying will get you what you want, then by all means lie. If the people you betray then complain about having been ignored, invalidated and deceived, all you have to do is wait until their frustration reaches the boiling point, at which point you can accuse them of incivility or a lack of professionalism.
As to why J. Bruce Harreld was appointed, for the past six months we have heard only mindless platitudes, which were themselves marketing pretext for procedural changes in the search process that suddenly made the unqualified Harreld eligible to be president. Instead of raising the bar, the search committee lowered it at the behest of Robillard and Rastetter, and in so doing conspired with Harreld and others to hijack a billion-dollar research university. After rallying around the phrase ‘transformational change’ – which quite literally means whatever you want it to mean — the architects of the sham search declared that anyone in opposition to their mindless fantasy was stuck in the ‘status quo’. What those same transformational visionaries failed to mention, however, was that the nebulous goal of transformational change would be advanced not by facts or force of argument, but conspiracy and deceit.
The Transformational Vision of J. Bruce Harreld
Whatever else transpired at last week’s contentious town hall — and we’ll get to that in an upcoming post — it was the first time since taking office in early November that J. Bruce Harreld stood before the university community and even attempted to outline his transformational vision for the school. As noted in a post on the morning of the town hall, not only had Harreld not presented any transformational ideas to that point, it was unlikely he would do so because he was already following in the well-worn footsteps of his legitimately elected predecessors, and because he had signaled on multiple occasions that he was almost exclusively focused on Iowa’s standing in the U.S. News & World Report college rankings.
In that post and another prior post I pointed out the following:
1) The $4.5M supplemental request that Harreld recently submitted to the regents was not only not his idea, but Regents President Rastetter lied about the origins of that request in order to make Harreld look good in the eyes of the public. In short, the only transformational act which has so far been credited to J. Bruce Harreld turns out to be as fraudulent as Harreld’s appointment.
2) If the $4.5M request is approved by the legislature, Harreld does get credit for electing to target a portion of that money at ‘faculty vitality’ — meaning, in Harreld’s narrow reading, faculty compensation. Yet in doing so Harreld is demonstrating the antithesis of transformational change, because all college and university presidents are perpetually short of the funds they need to retain and attract faculty.
3) Harreld’s stated impetus for devoting money to ‘faculty vitality’, and specifically for the color-coding of faculty salaries relative to salaries at other schools, is the shoring up of departments that are at a competitive disadvantage. In reality, Harreld’s interest in ‘faculty vitality’ is driven primarily if not solely by his naive fixation on Iowa’s standing in the U.S News rankings. By selectively cutting faculty positions, Harrreld can not only game the faculty compensation metric in the U.S. News formula, he will have that much more money available for rewarding faculty who prove loyal, or for focusing on departments which he hopes to elevate to national prominence.
While the lede in every news story about Harreld’s initial town hall rightly focused on the friction between Harreld and members of the university community, Harreld did manage to put forward his nascent vision of transformational change for the school. And once again it was hardly transformational. From a post credited to Dean Borg, on the RadioIowa site:
While that expression of Harreld’s overarching philosophy is in perfect keeping with his obsession with greaterness, it is also objectively idiotic. What Harreld pejoratively describes as ‘mediocre’ may also be competent, reliable and even integral. Not all aspects of higher education at Iowa need to win, or ever could win, whatever beauty contest Harreld believes he can manipulate in his favor. Particularly at the undergraduate level, the educational goal of the school is providing a standardized level of instruction which ensures that all students are exposed to information which they themselves will profit from in the future. Most if not all of the reading, writing and speaking courses serving millions of students at colleges and universities across the country would be described as “mediocre” by Harreld’s snobbish standards, yet those “mediocre” programs deliver exactly what they are designed and obliged to deliver — an education.
In a single quote from Harreld we see the difference between his vision of the University of Iowa as a trophy school, and the reality of its large-scale, education-based mission. Yes, if you’re determined to improve in the U.S. News rankings, anything that is scored as middling hurts you. In terms of the effectiveness of the education which Iowa is delivering, however — including expanding the minds of students, and giving them the confidence that they can learn, improve and succeed in the future — it cannot be overlooked that the word Harreld chooses to employ is “mediocre”.
From a Jeff Charis-Carlson piece in the Press-Citizen:
As noted in a prior post, Iowa’s standing in the U.S. News rankings was table-flat from 2010 to 2015, then fell off an eleven-point cliff in 2016. While Harreld prefers to take a much longer survey in order to support his case with more favorable data, in doing so he omits the fact that the main driver of Iowa’s fall-off over time was a persistent decrease in state support. For Harreld, that intentional, willful decrease in funding is simply a reality which must be accepted, not a hostile agenda that he himself should vigorously oppose — indeed, that he is contractually obligated to oppose in his role as president of the university. Instead, not only has Harreld not been reading the riot act to the Board of Regents, the legislature and the governor for their failure to support the university, he seems determined to exploit that same ideological hostility for his own ends.
From Vanessa Miller, for the Gazette:
What, in any of that, is even remotely insightful? I am among the least qualified people on the face of the earth to be president of anything, including a one-person club in which I am the sole member. And yet somehow, I know that one way to raise money at a school is to raise tuition — and I’m guessing most of the people at the town hall were aware of that as well. So how is it that the transformational J. Bruce Harreld — the Harvard MBA who saved ‘BM’ from certain metaphorical death — spent much of his precious time during the town hall explaining the most basic realities in higher education to a roomful of people who have lived with those realities for their entire careers?
From Lucy Morris at Little Village:
As of last week, J. Bruce Harreld, the Iowa Board of Regents’ transformational business genius, had been paid approximately $190,000 in salary for his first four months in office. In return for that considerable investment by the people of Iowa, Harreld conveyed a series of facts at his first town hall which were already apparent to everyone in attendance. Whether that in itself added to the contentious interactions which followed, as a factual matter it was an admission of incompetence on Harreld’s part. As for disliking the “option” of willful failure, what Harreld sees as a bold stand is again revealed to be a willful failure on his part to take the funding fight to the people who have been strangling the University of Iowa for years.
From Cindy Garcia at the Daily Iowa:
In what world does anyone project that a state school will reach zero state funding based on current trends? And in what world does anyone then treat that ludicrous argument as something that must be dealt with — particularly if he has yet to signal that he himself is personally willing to do everything he can to reverse that trend? Again, the main driver of decreases in the cartoon metrics that Harreld is staking his presidency to are not failings at the University of Iowa or an inescapable fiscal reality, but a willful attempt to weaken the school by people who are hostile to education as a function of government.
Also from Garcia:
Incredibly, here we have J. Bruce Harreld, Harvard MBA, explaining ‘economics’ to a roomful of people who all have at least some passing familiarity with the subject. More to the point, his explanation that you can apportion funding rather than simply divide it equally verges on inanity. Who does not know this? Who does not know that you can spend more in one place and less in another if such allocations are warranted? How is that even remotely transformational, or even useful information?
As for Harreld denying that he was talking about cuts, all you have to do is scroll up and you will find this, also from J. Bruce Harreld, during the town hall:
I don’t know whether that quote preceded or followed the one just above, but in either case it’s doggone hard to imagine how one might end up doing “perhaps fewer, things” if cuts were not made. Which again prompts me to wonder why this man is being paid millions of dollars to transform the University of Iowa from great to greater, when everything he’s done so far is what any of the other three academic finalists would have done — minus the reflexive penchant for violent metaphors.
Real Transformational Change in Higher Education
After six months in which to diagnose the problems at Iowa, and four months in office, J. Bruce Harreld’s first town hall was a disaster for multiple reasons, the most important being that he demonstrated an almost infantile understanding of the problems facing higher education. Again, I don’t have an MBA, but after reading every report I could find on the substance of Harreld’s transformative vision, I already knew everything that Harreld talked about — though I would never have framed any of it in the context of the for-profit and easily manipulated U.S. News rankings. In fact, here’s another Harvard grad talking about why the U.S. News rankings should not be used as a measure of success by anyone, and what he’s trying to do about that:
As noted in an earlier post, there are two related reasons why the U.S. News rankings have value to Harreld. First, as the President of the United States points out, they can be gamed — and in the case of Iowa’s current ranking, almost trivially so given last year’s precipitous plunge. Second, because they are designed to be easily gasped, Harreld — who is himself an accomplished marketing weasel — will then be able to tout Iowa’s improved ranking as evidence of his success. Because the vast majority of Iowans pay little or no attention to academic matters, he will almost certainly succeed in making that linkage.
On the other hand, if Harreld was truly concerned about the health of the University of Iowa as an institution, he would be going the other way — away from beauty contests and simplistic rankings, and toward the vital functions of the school, including aggressively addressing the cultural issues of alcohol abuse and sexual assault. Instead of providing genuine insight and a transformationl vision for solving Iowa’s complex problems, however, Harreld’s performance at the town hall — and here I mean on the substance of the issues alone — revealed an almost patronizing ignorance. Add to that Harreld’s willful indifference to the reasonable expectations of faculty and staff, that as president he would already have begun aggressively fighting for and even agitating for funding for the school, and it would have been clear to anyone in attendance that Harreld’ repeated entreaty to work with him was a one-way street, not a sincere offer to advance a collaborative process predicated on the principle of shared governance. A principle which he himself betrayed in abetting his own hire.
Transformational Change and the University of Iowa
All of which brings us to the real problem with J. Bruce Harreld and transformational change, which is that the only successful example on his resume took place not in the context of higher education, but during a unique moment of technological transition in the private sector. Precisely because of rapid shifts in the tech industry, coupled with the bottom-line reality of business, Harreld had the opportunity to ‘spread the peanut butter’ at IBM in ways that did create some profitable new businesses — while also creating business which eventually failed.
Unfortunately, even Harreld’s best work at IBM simply has no applicability to the educational mission of the University of Iowa. And no — pointing out that IBM and UI each represent billions of dollars in assets is not a meaningful comparison. While the literal currency by which IBM and UI each accomplish their goals is indeed similar — as it is in all aspects of life the world over — the critical distinction between the two has to do with the goals themselves. In business, the goal is currency — money, profit. In education, the goal is the education of students.
Take a big step back and look at the University of Iowa and you will see three distinct divisions, where most schools have only two. First, there is the athletic department. While it may seem easy to separate athletics from education, at most schools that’s not the case because the academic and athletic budgets are co-mingled, with one subsidizing the other. At the University of Iowa, however, there is currently no greater asset in the school’s entire financial portfolio than the fact that the athletic department pays for itself, and does not draw from academic funds. (If J. Bruce Harreld does nothing else in his presidency, the one thing he must not do is screw that up — but I’m sure anyone with a Harvard MBA already knows that.)
Second, there is the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, which is financially separate from, but also inherently related to, UI as an academic institution, including the College of Medicine. While again unique compared to many colleges and universities, it was UIHC’s importance which prompted search chair (and Vice President for Medical Affairs) Jean Robillard to repeatedly tout the possibility of a CEO president as good for the future of the university as a whole, and specifically for UIHC. Later, when Robillard betrayed the faculty and helped install Harreld in office, he championed Harreld specifically for his business acumen, which Robillard believed was critical for navigating the perilous, rapidly changing future in healthcare. Which, as it turns out, is a lot like the perilous rapidly changing future in higher education, or any other market segment which business people feel they can exploit by fomenting panic.
From a report in the Gazette by Vanessa Miller, the day before Harreld took office:
And yet, inexplicably, one of J. Bruce Harreld’s first acts in office, after having been specifically hired by Robillard to help save UIHC, was to take UIHC off the list of departments requiring transformational change. From a report by Jeff Charis-Carlson of the Press-Citizen, on the exact same day:
So whatever else Harreld plans on transforming at the University of Iowa, we knew going into last week’s town hall that it would not involve the athletic department, and it would not involve UIHC or anything else in Colonel Kurtz’s compound on the west side of the Iowa River. Which may explain why Harreld recently felt free to reward Athletic Director Gary Barta with millions of dollars in a new contract extension, despite the announcement of a federal civil rights investigation aimed at the athletics department, and why he graciously allowed Robillard to make himself dean of the College of Medicine, without first getting approval from the Iowa Board of Regents.
As you can see, in terms of transformational change the only target remaining is the academic heart of the university, on the east side of the river. (Albeit not including the Tippie College of Business, which is the pride and joy of co-conspirators Jerre Stead and Bruce Rastetter, and of course a soft spot for businessman J. Bruce Harreld himself — who is also in line for a big bump in salary when he makes tenure at that school.) Yet even that assessment overstates the case, because many if not most of the basic — or, as Harreld would say, “medicore” — functions of the school’s educational mission are baked into the academic cake. Sure, dispensing with the English department will save you a bunch of money, but the people who certify the school’s accreditation will not then allow the university to confer a whole rash of degrees. Given that general undergraduate education represents the greatest allocation of academic funds — or, as Harreld would say, “peanut butter” — almost all of the high-dollar academic areas are also excluded as targets of transformational change.
So what’s left? Where exactly can J. Bruce Harreld unleash a can of transformational whoop-ass on the status quo, if 95% or more of the University of Iowa is already off limits? Well, there are many small graduate programs, of course, so I guess if you’re involved in one of those, and you’re not on Harreld’s list of programs that are doing “really doggone well”, you may want to start exploring other options. And of course there’s exploiting the school’s massive workforce, which is an idea that transformational regent Larry McKibben championed just last week, so we can assume that Harreld would get a friendly reception at the home office if he decides to take Iowa down that venerable private-sector road. And yet…that still wouldn’t be transformative.
The Business of Transformational Change
If you read everything you can get your hands on regarding J. Bruce Harreld’s vision for transformational change at Iowa — both from the town hall and before — you come up with nothing. Literally, nothing. And what you do find is almost embarrassing. Explanations about how funding can be spread around like peanut butter, entreaties to join Harreld in pursuing greateritude, and a passion for cartoon metrics like the U.S. News rankings.
It is, in a word, inexplicable — but only if you accept the premise that J. Bruce Harreld was hired to bring transformational change to the academic mission of the school. And I am now firmly convinced that was not the case. There is no basis for that conclusion, there is no evidence of that intent, and I see no way in which anyone, no matter how successful in the public or private sector, would be able to transform the University of Iowa from what it is: a massive institution of higher learning which relies at least in part on state funding.
When I think back to the secret Kirkwood meeting, which we now know took place on July 19th, and included Harreld, Rastetter, Robillard and Peter Matthes (he of the crony contracts designed to avoid regulatory oversight) — and would have included Jerre Stead, had he not backed out at the last minute — I don’t see a group of men determined to improve the educational component of the University of Iowa, I see a lusty cabal determined to exploit the income-producing potential at the University of Iowa. In fact, in that light, that three-or-four-hour meeting must have been mesmerizing as Harreld regaled Rastetter, Robillard and Matthes about his experience heading up the EBO program at IBM.
While there will never be a day when Harreld steps up to the mic at a town hall and announces that the University of Iowa is being transformed into a business incubator at taxpayer expense, let alone at a cost to the school’s core educational mission, I have no trouble imagining that such a message would be warmly received by the Board of Regents. In fact, that seems to me the only message which could have possibly motivated all of Harreld’s co-conspirators to lie him into office. Improving education? No. Helping the students? Clearly not. Making money hand over fist on the government dime? You bet.
Taken to extremes I can imagine that any and every aspect of university life might be turned over to private-sector contractors, just as Governor Terry Branstad recently rammed private-sector healthcare down the throats of Iowa’s most vulnerable citizens. We already know that one of Harreld’s first official acts, literally only days after taking office, was gleefully accepting an invitation to become tri-chair of a local business committee. And of course just yesterday Harreld took to the gym floor at Des Moines East High School, where he announced a partnership with a tech company which hopes to corner the market on personally identifiable information in the all-important teen demographic. This is a man who quite literally means business.
Take Harreld’s passion for start-ups at IBM, Robillard’s mania for populating the countryside with UIHC clinics, the plans that Iowa and the Board of Regents have to expand into territories currently served by smaller colleges — thus putting them out of business, at which point monopolistic pricing practices can be put into effect — to say nothing of Jerre Stead’s ever-growing empire of acquisitions at IHS, and Rastetter’s crony political contacts ranging from Branstad to Matthes to Paulsen to who knows who else, and what you have is a cabal of individuals salivating at the prospect of transforming Iowa’s tedious and “mediocre” educational mission into the much more exciting and satisfying goal of making money. And the best way to do that is to inject business into every level of the school’s academic mission, including insisting that even core departments devote time and resources to generating revenue. No more status quo focus on the students, no more naive focus on education.
There’s your transformational change.
Update 03/04/16: You can see all of the above, distilled and telegraphed, in this moment from J. Bruce Harreld’s candidate forum on 09/01/15.
If you can’t watch the video, here is the transcribed text:
Pour money into research, cut other things. And by research Harreld means private-sector research, in which the goal is making money from products or services, not educating students. Apply that same model to the University of Iowa, and you have the reason why J. Bruce Harreld, savior of IBM, took the job.
Wait — you mean you didn’t know this?
Mark, these people are mobsters, plain and simple. They don’t care about anyone else’s laws or social mores or principles or any other such bull****. Somebody’s mob has been going around the last few years making deals otherwise harmless morons like Branstad can’t refuse, and here you go. You may notice they got Grassley a while back, too. Grassley never used to take insane positions on social issues; he took ordinary heartless positions, the kind you expect from pennypinching Republicans. The recent stuff is, as the kids say, off the chain, and why he finds it necessary to play this game at the age of four billion I don’t know, but I’m sure the man’s got his reasons.
Harreld strikes me as a guy who’s in deep over his head, and I don’t think he understands yet what kind of a leash he’s accepted, but it’ll be an expensive one. I think he’s going to wish he kept up his nice skiing retirement in Vail. If he doesn’t already.
I admit to being perpetually behind the curve. I see someone doing a job, I think they’re actually DOING that job. Only later do I find out they’re running a scam, or that they have to be badgered into doing whatever it is they’re supposed to be doing.
I also admit that I could warm up to the idea of mobsters, if these people weren’t constantly saying and doing just the very dumbest things. Go back through the key events of the past year and it’s disaster after disaster. Like a crime version of the Keystone Cops.
There are moments in every debacle where someone steps in it so perfectly that you know it’s going to stick. With Harreld that came a day or two ago when he said, “there’s no there, there” with regard to UI Public Safety Director Visin.
Today Visin stepped down but is remaining on staff, and UI is starting a ‘national search’. I guess there was something there after all.
But that’s just it — mobsters are super-stupid. It’s like a hallmark of the mob. Long ago, my dad had to sue John Gotti’s son-in-law, and his mom freaked out, told him to back off. He didn’t because he was pretty sure the guy didn’t know how to find the state he lived in on a map. He actually played for me a voice message the guy’s lawyer had sent – totally cartoonish, so, so dumb. I saw the same things myself when I was working in mob-infested areas.
So. dumb. This crew is actually a step up from real mob in terms of education. Still dumb, though.
For my mob-associated readers I would like to stress that comments are open and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ditchwalk. And no, I do not know where dormouse lives.
As you are undoubtedly aware, during a recent town hall which was hosted by the fraudulently appointed University of Iowa President J. Bruce Harreld and various members of his administration, long-simmering tensions boiled over on multiple occasions. In the aftermath of that contentious gathering, Regents President Bruce Rastetter, playing a tediously familiar and patronizing role, chastised the protesters:
“I would hope that, in the spirit of open transparency that’s happening at the University of Iowa, that some of those people would be more professional than what they appeared to be the other night,” Rastetter said.
Leaving aside the bitter irony of the word ‘transparency’, given Rasetetter’s role as one of the central architects of Harreld’s sham election, his statement was simply the latest in a string of similar remarks over the past six months. For example, here’s Rastetter back in September, commenting on the response that Harreld received during his candidate open forum:
Keeping with the theme of professionalism, and introducing the concept of civility, here’s Jeff Courter, a proud member of the presidential search committee that nominated Harreld as one of four finalists, from a Des Moines Register op-ed on 10/18/15:
And finally, here’s J. Bruce Harreld himself, commenting on the campus protests which took place during his first day in office, on 11/02/15:
While it’s quite noble that J. Bruce Harreld was so deeply concerned about the citizens of Iowa, what with having only moved to the state a few weeks earlier — and of course particularly after lying to them about the origins of his candidacy only moments after being announced as president-elect — in an earlier post I pointed out that what Rastetter, Harreld, Courter and others mean by ‘professionalism’ is probably not what most people, including most Iowans, think of when they hear that word. For the purposes of this post, however, we’re going to ignore their weaselly ways and instead buy into the premise that there really is an elevated standard of conduct that everyone in academia, if not civilization, should adhere to, without exception.
A Profile in UI Administrative Professionalism
At the beginning of this past week, the AP’s Ryan Foley reported on an incident last summer in which UI Director of Public Safety David Visin interfered with a local law enforcement investigation. From the Washington Post, on 02/29/16:
In the context of the contemporaneous events of the fraudulent hire of J. Bruce Harreld, it is clear that the Visin incident predates Harreld’s sham election by months, and predates most of the key events in that sorry timeline as well — at least so far as they are known to us. Six days earlier Harreld had flown to Iowa on a private jet at his own expense, to meet face-to-face with four members of the Presidential Search and Screen Committee: Regents President and Professionalism Czar Bruce Rastetter, Vice President for Medical Affairs and Search Chair Jean Robillard, Chief of Staff and now Senior Crony Adviser Peter Matthes (ex officio), and megadonor/investor Jerre Stead — who, to the everlasting sorrow of Harreld, cancelled at the last minute. In terms of those individuals having any responsibility for the handing of the Visin incident at that time, however, they’re all in the clear. (Though Robillard would become acting president on August 1st, at the time of Visin’s run-in with local law enforcement Sally Mason was still president of the university, albeit perhaps in name only.)
After Foley’s initial publication of the Visin story on Leap Day, over the next two days Foley and other reporters expanded the story, filled in details, and establishing the chain of command in force at the time. Keeping all of the above in mind, then, take a moment and consider how you think J. Bruce Harreld, the new president at Iowa — who happens to be deeply concerned with civility and professionalism, not only for his own benefit, but for the people of Iowa, including, presumably, the faculty, staff and students on the campus that he presides over — reacted when he found out that his interim Director of Public Safety had impeded an official police investigation. Because if you don’t already know the answer, I think you’re going to have a hard time squaring Marshall Harreld’s response this past week with his haughty rhetoric.
From a report by Dar Danielson on the RadioIowa site, on 03/02/16:
Yes, you read that right. The same man who cares deeply about civility and professionalism when he himself is interacting with the faculty, staff, and students that he helped to deceive in order to land the position he now holds, had absolutely no problem with the fact that his own director of public safety impeded the local police — because no charges were filed. And because that seems an important contradiction, let’s go over it again. J. Bruce Harreld, the new Mr. Manners on the University of Iowa campus, who believes that a few hostile remarks in a public forum are worthy of condemnation, had no problem with the judgment demonstrated by his director of public safety, who was, in turn, the man charged with, among other things, making sure that drunk students on campus, and victims of sexual assault and rape, are dealt with fairly and appropriately.
UI Administrative Professionalism in Action
Now, as it happens, we have a great deal of reporting from the recent town hall, and although there were certainly unprofessional and uncivil remarks uttered by Harreld’s detractors and Harreld himself, there does not seem to be any mention of the faculty, staff or students impeding an official police investigation, let alone abetting someone on the lam from a hit-and-run. So given Harreld’s professed belief in a professional code of conduct — and here I remind you that we’re still pretending he actually has such a belief — how does Harreld’s presidential concern meter not immediately go into the red when he learns that his director of public safety refused to help the local police? Even if Harreld limits himself to Visin’s claim that, as a diabetic, Visin needed to hurry home because that’s where his insulin was, what does it say about your director of public safety if he decides to drive all the way home instead of buying some food as soon as possible, or seeking medical attention? Even leaving out the abetting and eluding concerns, what if Visin had lapsed into a diabetic stupor? What if he lost control of his vehicle and killed someone?
Given that Harreld was a long-time, high-level business executive, and that his private-sector experience fully qualified him to take the helm of a billion dollar research university despite having absolutely no experience in academic administration, why was Harreld’s immediate response upon learning of the Visin incident not profound concern about the professional judgement shown by his interim director of public safety? Because that happens to be the one person on campus who is most directly charged with ensuring the safety of the students. Did the recent arrest of a man who was videotaping women in a dormitory shower fail to make a sufficient impression on President Harreld? How did his keen executive mind, honed to a razor’s edge after decades in the private-sector, not immediately connect those dots?
Because instead, we got this:
Really? As the new, take-charge transformational president of the University of Iowa, who insists on civility and professionalism from the faculty, staff and students, Harreld was only concerned about university policies and criminal charges? Because if I was in his shoes, and I stopped to think about the welfare of the students for even a half a second, I would have been deeply concerned about Visin’s decision making as reported by Foley in his original story?
Here is a Kunkel, a cop, trying to do his job. And it turns out that the one person standing in his way is not simply a University of Iowa public safety officer, but the director of public safety on the Iowa campus. And Kunkel is clearly not happy about that. No, no criminal charges were filed, but imagine how you might feel if you learned that someone you should have been able to rely on — a peer, a partner in your chosen profession — was instead selling you out, lying to you, betraying you.
Wouldn’t you be angry? Say, in the same way that the faculty, staff and students at the University of Iowa might be angry if they learned that the president of the board or regents, a major donor, the interim president, and the president-elect had all conspired to sell them out and rig the election in favor of J. Bruce Harreld? Because apparently that’s not a crime either — although I believe that has yet to be determined — and it doesn’t seem to have violated board or university policies, yet I think most people would agree that dong so would also well short of the standard of professionalism championed by the very civil J. Bruce Harreld himself.
The Professionalism of J. Bruce Harreld
So what does all this say about the professional judgment of the visionary, transformational, former IBM executive and current president of the University of Iowa? Harreld had nothing to do with the incident — indeed, he would not start drawing crony paychecks for months, even as his appointment may have been a done deal by that point — yet Harreld also had no problem categorically declaring that there was “no there, there” with regard to Visin. Which is a bit of a head-scratcher, because two days after making that categorical declaration, Visin stepped down as interim director, on 03/04/16:
So on Wednesday of this past week, in J. Bruce Harreld’s keen estimation as a former top-flight business executive at IBM, the was no “there, there” — but two days later there was? Why the about-face? More importantly, if Harreld had given any thought to the welfare of the students, or adhered to his own professed passion for professionalism — as opposed to reflexively gravitating to the low bar of criminality that is so often the only standard in the business world — how could he have possibly concluded that there was “no there, there”? Yet not only did he get that wrong, even as he is perpetually surrounded by media handlers from the Office of Strategic Communications, and has access to a private crisis communications media adviser — but he ended up being wrong twice.
More broadly, how can the faculty at the University of Iowa possibly expect the best from their students when the top administrators on campus routinely demonstrate the worst? How can the faculty hold students to the highest standards when the administrators are only willing to hold themselves to the lowest? While Iowa President J. Bruce Harreld and Regents President Bruce Rastetter are both keen on everyone meeting the high bar of civility and professionalism at all times, they also had no problem elevating Peter “Crony Contracts” Matthes from Chief of Staff to Senior Adviser a few weeks back. Now here we have Visin and the man he reported to — then-interim Vice President for Finance and Operations Rod “Chin Up” Lehnertz, whom Harreld also elevated to permanent status last month, with board approval — and the only administrative concern now, as last summer, seems to have been whether a law was broken. Not whether Visin showed poor judgement or the ethics of a slug, but whether the townie fuzz had enough to bust him.
Whatever else happens going forward, one thing seems clear. Before the next town hall someone needs to contact the president’s office and clarify this issue for all involved. Is the operative standard of conduct at the University of Iowa ‘professionalism’, or is it ‘criminality’? Because as demonstrated both by the original disposition of Visin’s incident and Harreld’s subsequent response, in the administrative corridors of power at the University of Iowa, the answer consistently seems to be the latter.
‘Professionalism’ is something not shown by Obergruppen Rastetter, when he grabs ISU monies or grabs land in Africa, but it is a concept he can use to shame others. Like transparency, another concept to be ignored by the autocrats at the top, however thrown around to degrade others below the top tier of hypocrites. Robillard too, co-conspirator in the fake, sham search for a president must be very concerned with honesty and professionalism, certainly in his hospital. These people are too inundated with US politics where you say anything long enough and loud enough and it must be true for the masses. Harreld himself appears to be clueless and hapless in all this presidential stuff. Now with his ‘First 100 Days’ complete, what has he done to stem the awful tidal waves of crisis in academia? I think you will find Herrald is expert in one big category: bull****!
Makes a great future headline, though, for when he has to testify: “Hark, the Harreld angles sing”
Wait, so does “in a professional manner” mean showing up with a proofread resume free of lies? Homework reading not restricted to Wikipedia?
Maybe they mean zoot suits? Oh! They would like professional media to show up and ask the hardball questions, with expensive cameras and all. Yes?
It occurs to me that what they forgot, in this whole game, was to bring the charming guy. You absolutely must have a charming guy if you want a worthwhile con, and orange though he may be, J. Bruce ain’t that guy. Not Robillard neither, he looks like his teeth go lunging out of his mouth when he eats his sandwich. I wonder where they can find a charming guy.
Following Bleeding Heartland’s post last Friday concerning the Visin debacle at the University of Iowa, and my own take on Sunday, the Des Moines Register posted an editorial on Monday titled “UI’s police scandal follows a pattern“:
While there will always be tension between the obligations of the press and the obligations of people in public service, and good people can genuinely disagree on the merits, this is obviously a problem:
In their editorial the DMR detailed a number of inexcusable lapses by UI administration regarding the original Visin incident, and from having watched disclosures about the fraudulent Harreld hire unfold over the past six months I have more than a little sympathy regarding their concerns. In this post, however, I want to look at another pattern of behavior at the University of Iowa and the Iowa Board of Regents that I find equally disturbing, if not also evidence of entrenched bias.
Whatever happened last summer when then-interim UI Director of Public Safety David Visin had his run-in with local law enforcement, the university clearly failed to notify the Board of Regents in a timely manner. From the Gazette, on 03/01/16:
So it wasn’t just the subcommittee on campus safety and security that did not know about Visin’s run-in until last week, but the entire Board of Regents, including President Bruce Rastetter and President Pro Tem Katie Mulholland. While that’s obviously a problem in terms of communication, so is the response of the board, which is particularly at odds with statements made by those two board members during a prior incident at the university.
In 2014, about ten months before announcing her retirement, Sally Mason made an offhand comment about campus sexual assault during a lengthy interview with the school’s newspaper, the Daily Iowan. In context the comment was understandable, but also seemed to betray a less-than-zerio-tolerance perspective on Mason’s part, and that reading ultimately led to a dust-up which received national coverage. As I wrote in a prior post about campus sexual assault, the Board of Regents was particularly pointed in its rebuke of Mason, not only in terms of her comment, but regarding what the board felt was laggardly notice that an important issue was unfolding. From that prior post:
Regents President Rastetter, too, used the media attention to take an opportunistic shot at Mason:
Regarding the Visin incident, as a matter of policy it should have been clear to UI administrators at the time that the board was to be looped into both the internal conversations which followed, and any substantive interactions with the county sheriff. And yet that was clearly not done. At the time Mason was still president, albeit a lame duck, but it’s not clear that Mason herself knew about the incident. All we know is that Visin reported the incident to his superior, Rod Lehnertz, who was also on staff during Mason’s tumultuous turn in the public eye, and thus should have known to elevate the Visin issue to board level.
While we don’t know why that was not done, it’s also important to note that in 2014 the lag between Mason’s comment causing a stir and her notification of the uproar to the board was literally measured in hours — yet she was still publicly excoriated by Mulholland and sniped at by Rastetter. With the Visin incident, there is a nine-month lag between until the board learns about that event in the press — again, in part because of the instinct for secrecy that the Register noted in its editorial — yet in this instance the board has “no further comment”. Why?
Although it should be clear that the current president at Iowa, J. Bruce Harreld, is not responsible for how the Visin incident was originally handled, it’s hard to see the board’s response to last week’s disclosures in the press as anything but contrary to its prior hostile reaction to Mason. Why has there been no public condemnation of Lehnertz, or even another belated swipe at Mason for that matter?
As for Harreld, he reportedly notified the regents of Visin’s incident as soon as he himself became aware of the issue. Unfortunately, at that point his keen executive judgment failed him entirely:
As we now know, Visin was demoted only two days after Harreld signaled the all clear. As should also be obvious, Mason’s comment in 2014 — no matter how infamous — was neither a violation of the law nor a violation of university policy. Yet the board of regents clearly expected Mason to inform them of that incident immediately, if not sooner. So how is Harreld now arguing that the administrators at Iowa, during the summer of 2015 — including Mason, but particularly Rod Lehnertz — was not obligated to inform the board about Visin’s run-in with the law?
More to the point, as a factual matter the two aren’t even remotely similar. Mason said something impolitic and it blew up in the media. With Visin you have the then-interim director of public safety at one of the state’s institutions of higher learning interfering with an unfolding police investigation. Not an investigation after the fact, but in the moment, as the crime itself was still playing out. Yet between the two incidents, the one which drew the board’s official ire was Mason’s comment, while the board has nothing to say about the lack of notification regarding Visin.
One obvious answer for the sudden restraint being show by the Board of Regents is that they don’t want to undermine their new, hand-picked sham president. Even if Harreld was in the clear with regard to the original incident last summer, coming down hard on Lehnertz could hardly be seen as a show of confidence, particularly given that Lehnertz just had his own interim title lifted a few weeks ago. That in turn might draw even more attention to Harreld’s own failed judgment upon learning about the matter, including his own now-infamous edict that “there’s no there, there.”
In a sense, however, the board’s hypocritical response to the Visin incident is actually consistent, because Harreld and his administrators have already established their own history of failing to notify the Board of Regents of important events taking place on the University of Iowa campus. For example, only a few weeks ago, in early February, Vice President for Medical Affairs Jean Robillard suddenly announced that he was moving Debra Schwinn aside and taking over as dean of the College of Medicine:
Several weeks later, however, when the regents got around to retroactively approving the change, the authority for making that “institutional decision” was still anything but clear:
Here again the University of Iowa — this time fully under the transformational control of J. Bruce Harreld — seems to have thrown the board a curve, yet once again the board doesn’t have anything to say about it. Sally Mason stumbled in an interview and had regents ripping her in the press within minutes, but with Harreld’s administration, including members of his staff who also worked for Mason, it’s all good. Which of course brings us to the recent contract extension and massive increase in pay awarded to Athletic Director Gary Barta, which was itself not publicly announced, but had to be unearthed by the press because the University of Iowa was once again operating in secret.
From the AP on 02/17/16:
Five days prior to the disclosure of Barta’s contract extension in the press, however, the AP also reported that the University of Iowa Athletic Department would be the target of a federal civil rights investigation:
While it’s unknown when the university or the regents became aware of the impending federal investigation, or how that timeline intersects with the extension of Barta’s contract, the board once again deferred to the university despite the obvious contradictions:
Now add in the announcement of yet another gender discrimination lawsuit against Barta, and both the timing and extension of Barta’s contract look even worse:
So what’s going on here? Although I can’t say I paid a whole lot of attention to Sally Mason’s tenure as president, I do know that the Iowa Board of Regents was hostile to her, including refusing to give her a contract in the final years of her service. Now, under J. Bruce Harreld, we have multiple behind-the-scenes decisions being disclosed in the press, some of which seem to have caught the regents by surprise, yet as often as not the only comment from the board is that they will have no more comment on the matter.
Had Sally Mason been throwing big money at Barta in the teeth of multiple gender discrimination lawsuits, I can’t help but think that the board’s response would have been different, and all the more so if it was caught flat-footed. The same goes with Robillard kicking Schwinn to the curb and anointing himself dean. At the very least, it’s not a good look. At worst, well….
While the regents have clearly been inconsistent in enforcing their expectations between the Mason and Harreld administrations, and they seem determined to give J. Bruce Harreld every benefit of the doubt even as he struggles to demonstrate competence in handling the simplest of media crises — let alone those he precipitates himself by shooting his mouth off — there is one way in which everything we’ve discussed so far in this post lines up with disquieting precision, and that’s on the question of gender. No matter where you look, no matter what the situation, women are being disregarded, disciplined or discarded, while men are continually being excused, rewarded and promoted.
About a week ago I asked the following question on Twitter, then listed four names:
Months ago, when I initially learned about the board’s hostile reaction to Sally Mason in 2014, I took gender discrimination off the table as a possible motive precisely because she was a woman at the pinnacle of administrative power at Iowa. What I did not take into account, however, was that the regents on the board in 2014 were not on the board when Mason was hired in 2007. In fact, of the nine current members on the Iowa Board of Regents, all of them were appointed subsequent to Mason being hired.
So how did the new board treat Mason? Well, for starters, when it came time to talk about renewing her contract, they just flat-out lied to her:
As you will note, the new president at Iowa State, and the new president at the University of Northern Iowa, were both male. Still, taken in isolation there’s certainly nothing probative about the board’s treatment of Mason, at least with regard to gender. The board and the professionals behind it may be packed with consummate weasels, but it’s entirely possible that they clashed with Mason on the merits of her performance — say, because she actually wanted to prioritize education over business.
Unfortunately, when you compare the board’s treatment of Mason with Barta’s treatment of Meyer and Griesbaum, and Robillard’s treatment of Schwinn, what you find again and again are situations in which women are disciplined or dismissed by men, and in some cases by men who have their own raging credibility problems. For example, take even a cursory look at Jean Robillard’s chairmanship of the presidential search committee which rigged the nomination of Harreld, and it’s abundantly clear that Robillard himself betrayed shared governance. Yet J. Bruce Harreld just allowed Robillard to anoint himself dean of the College of Medicine after ousting Schwinn.
By the same token, take even a cursory look at the serial preferential treatment Rastetter afforded Harreld during the search, or the way in which he rigged the final vote in Harreld’s favor a month before it actually transpired, and it’s clear that he should be out at the Board of Regents. Instead, Rastetter is not only still the president of the board, he’s the one who gets to decide whether the board will have any comment on a given matter, whether Harreld’s decisions will be approved, or whether any of those decisions deserve scrutiny. And of course regarding J. Bruce Harreld himself, the failures are as non-stop as the revisions to his candidate origin story.
How many of the four finalists for the presidency in 2015 were women? None. How many of the top administrators at the University of Iowa are currently women? None. On the University of Iowa’s own administration page — which is also out of date — you have to go nine deep before you get to Carrol Reasoner, who is in the office of general counsel, not the president’s office.
As if that’s not bad enough, one of the eight men listed above Reasoner is Peter “Crony Contracts” Matthes — yet another man high in the administrative ranks at the University of Iowa who was neither terminated, disciplined or even investigated for unethical conduct which caught the regents with their pants down. Not surprisingly, if you take a look at J. Bruce Harreld’s sparkly new transformational committees, you see them dominated by the same men who dominate the administrative ranks, including Matthes.
Speaking of investigations, whatever the outcome of the federal investigation into the athletic department, I’m fairly confident that the United States government did not launch a “wide-ranging probe of UI athletics” based on rumor and innuendo. Which again raises the question of how things got so bad under the ever-watchful eye of the Iowa Board of Regents. From the Gazette, on 02/22/16:
So how exactly is Barta’s athletic department discriminating against women? Well, consider this bit of bureaucratic wizardry, from Monday in the Gazette:
What does University of Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta have to say about all of these gender discrimination accusations? Fortuitously, with regard to the civil suit filed on Monday by former field hockey coach Tracey Griesbaum, Barta spoke up on Tuesday, as reported in the Gazette:
While that explanations probably sounds reasonable to a lot of people, and I’m guessing there will be plenty of ugly details forthcoming on both sides, I’m also willing to bet that most people reading this either don’t know about or have long forgotten about this:
How many people were fired or disciplined for administering workouts which put 13 athletes in the hospital? None. What about the idea that the workouts were punitive? Poppycock according to the special commission investigating the matter for the Iowa Board of Regents, notwithstanding those players who thought they were:
So to recap, in 2014 Griesbaum — a woman — had to be fired because of “fear and intimidation and mistreatment” directed at student-athletes. In 2011, however, none of the male coaches and trainers who put 13 football players in the hospital were fired, or even disciplined, despite the fact that some athletes did feel the workouts were punitive. Instead, after prompting national media attention, a special investigation by the Iowa Board of Regents, and a lawsuit by at least one player which was only recently settled, it was concluded that the football program had done important — albeit unintentional — research into one potential cause of exertional rhabdomyolysis. As if that knowledge did not exist prior to triggering that mass casualty event.
In a court of law I genuinely do believe that people are innocent until proven guilty. However, because we can’t all afford the time and expense necessary to get a ruling on every issue, it’s important to be able to form reasoned judgments outside of the legal system if only to keep from being serially abused. While Gary Barta and the University of Iowa will have their days in court, and the opportunity to defend themselves before the United States government, at some point the weight of evidence — even if it only the appearance of impropriety — takes a toll. Which is why I cannot now imagine that if Griesbaum and her training staff had put 13 athletes in the hospital, and prompted national media attention for having done so, and obligated the state to pay for a special investigation, that Griesbaum and her staff would have all kept their jobs, let alone avoided any formal disciplinary action.
We all have to fight against assumptions about what is normal, and make sure that nobody is being mistreated or hassled on the basis of gender — at which point we can move on and confront the next bias or prejudice. As I’ve stated on more than one occasion, my initial reason for looking into the Harreld hire — even before I learned that the search itself was a sham perpetrated by, among others, Regents President Rastetter and Vice President for Medical Affairs Jean Robillard — was that Harreld’s appointment ignored longstanding and intertwined issues of alcohol abuse and sexual assault. What I have tried very hard to do in writing about those issues over the past six months, however, was stay away from discussing them in the context of gender, because I know that discrimination on the basis of gender can affect anyone.
In thinking about all of the above, however, and trying to see some way in which gender discrimination is not playing a part in the decisions made by the Iowa Board of Regents and University of Iowa administrators, I ultimately concluded that it is precisely because sexual assault and the negative behavioral effects of alcohol use and abuse disproportionately affect women by a wide margin. And I’m not just talking about students. Women of all ages still have to deal with this garbage on a daily basis, including in the halls of academe.
Which brings us back to the Iowa Board of Regents’ decision to hire business executive J. Bruce Harreld instead of any of three candidates with vast experience in academic administration. Because as we soon learned, J. Bruce Harreld’s plan for dealing with sexual assault turned out to be a double-barreled blast from the past. First, just say N-O. Second, for any impertinent perpetrators who refused to get with that program, post those members of the football team who weren’t in the hospital on any given day on guard.
The reality of both sexual assault and gender discrimination is that they greatly affect women more than men. Which means, again, that the absolute best that can be said about the regents’ decision to hire J. Bruce Harreld is that they didn’t spend a single second thinking about the implications for women on campus, whether those women were students, staff or faculty. Unfortunately, the only alternative is that they did consider the implications of hiring a cultural imbecile to lead the university, yet did so anyway knowing that Harreld’s ignorance would disproportionately affect women.
When the only two excuses you can offer in defense of your decision making are anachronistic ignorance and overt misogyny, you’ve got a problem. If you have also destroyed your personal, professional or even institutional credibility by revealing yourself to be a liar, you’ve got an even bigger problem. As a man I can think of only one moment in my life when I was the victim of anything even remotely close to gender discrimination, yet I still remember that slight. If I have now arrived at a point where I can no longer assume that gender discrimination is not a factor in the administrative decisions made by the University of Iowa or the Iowa Board of Regents, then I can only assume that many if not most of the women on campus — whether on faculty, staff, or in the student body — reached that same conclusion a long time ago.
I see things a bit differently. While it is true women do not get ahead in a aspects at the UIowa there is not widespread total misogyny. Deans of law have been women; Dean of Business is a woman. And Mary Sue Coleman was a well respected president before she left to Michigan.
The four cases cited have different geneses.
Greisbaum and Meyer angered AD Gary Barta it appears. There were complaints about Greisbaum, but I do not think those administered the coup. It was the undisclosed relationship between the coach and the #2 person in the AD (Meyer) which did. People do not have to disclose their ‘spouses’ or ‘paramours’ except in conflicts of interest. And I imagine Barta was shaken when he realized his #2 was the paramour of a coach under investigation, and likely a channel of all inside info to the coach.
Robillard is very dismissive of nurses, which is well known. However his choice of Medicine Dean was inept at her position.
The Mason issue, I am convinced has more to do with Herr Rastetter and Guv Brandenburg (Branstad) devoting themselves to ALEC principles of education: With Mason at the helm, Rastetter and his MBA ALEC https://www.alec.org/issue/education/ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dennis-van-roekel/exposing-alecs-agenda-to-_b_3223651.html operatives could not sell off the public UIowa fast enough. So she was ‘retired’ to make way for the exploitation and sale of public higher ed. (the president of ISU is rewarded for already selling off his school assets). Now Herrald who likely knows nothing of higher ed, will not stand in the way of ALEC actions.
In fact I doubt Herrald will accomplish anything in his tenure than enriching Herrald and enabling Obergruppen Rastetter.
I don’t disagree with your reading of the circumstances surrounding the four women in question. The point I was trying to make was simply that whatever mistakes they may or may not have made, they were all held accountable, and yet as often as not the men holding them accountable were guilty of worse.
What does it say if Barta is guilty of the civil rights abuses that were alleged? And of course we know of Robillard’s administrative duplicity during the search, and how hostile Rastetter’s board was to Mason.
Here we have men committing abuses that seem to be self-evident, yet not one of them has yet to pay a price, and several of them have been rewarded. Conversely, all of the women have already paid a price whether they were guilty of anything or not.
Ten days ago the Press-Citizen published a guest opinion from University of Iowa faculty members Katherine Tachau and Lois Cox, who are also campus representatives of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). Titled “An Open Letter to Bruce Harreld from Iowa Faculty, the op-ed dealt with Harreld’s obligations to the longstanding tradition of shared governance at Iowa, and specifically detailed his failure to meet those obligations on two recent occasions. First, there was the massive new contract which Harreld awarded to Athletic Director Gary Barta, and second, there was the apparent bureaucratic ease with which Harreld allowed Vice President for Medical Affairs Jean Robillard to remove Debra Schwinn as Dean of the College Medicine, then anoint himself with that title.
I know less about the intricacies of shared governance at the University of Iowa than I know about any other subject on the face of the earth. While I learned a good deal from reading the piece authored by Tachau and Cox, even now my understanding is stick-figure grade. I get the concept, I get the various parties and tensions involved, but as to the actual administrative processes which make shared governance work, I have no clue.
As to J. Bruce Harreld’s awareness of, and apparent inability to adhere to, shared governance, however, I believe I can provide some useful context. Because as it turns out, in the six months since Harreld’s fraudulent appointment by the Iowa Board of Regents, J. Bruce Harreld has established his own record with regard to shared governance, and that record supports the concerns raised by Tachau and Cox.
J. Bruce Harreld: Shared Governance Mentee
A little over six months ago, on September 1st, 2015, candidate J. Bruce Harreld appeared in an open forum just two days before his rigged election by the Board of Regents. During Harreld’s ninety-minute presentation before members of the faculty, staff and student body, which was evenly split between consultant blather and Q&A, the subject of shared governance came up several times. In a prior post here’s how I described Harreld’s response to a direct question on that subject:
And yet, as I also noted in that same post, Harreld’s ignorance of, or confusion about, shared governance, was not so cut-and-dried:
While J. Bruce Harreld was at the time a candidate — albeit one who received unparalleled preferential treatment in what would soon prove to have been a fraudulent search — to this day he claims that he had an insatiable desire to learn everything he could about the University of Iowa before committing to the position. And yet somehow, with regard to core concepts like shared governance, transparency and even basic academic integrity, candidate Harreld repeatedly proved either incomprehensibly oblivious or selectively ignorant.
In the end, in that prior post, I could not explain Harreld’s obvious dissonance on the question of shared governance, except to suspect that it reflected some degree of cognitive dissonance within Harreld himself. What was clear, however, even as I watched the video of Harreld’s open forum for the first time — and despite my own acknowledged ignorance — was that Harreld did not understand shared governance in an academic context. Whether he would prove truly hostile to shared governance the way regent President Pro Tem Katie Mulholland had proven to be, or whether he was simply in over his head, I did not know, but he clearly did not get the concept.
Two days later, the Iowa Board of Regents shocked the university community by appointing Harreld as president of the University of Iowa. In commenting on his preposterous victory on that day — which, even in that moment was a clear betrayal of shared governance by the Iowa Board of Regents — Harred said this:
Whatever Harreld got wrong during his open forum, and whatever he did not understand about academic administration — which, at the time, was everything — Harreld immediately committed to learning what he needed to know in order to do the job he had just been given. I believe it can also reasonably be assumed that in following the ongoing conversation about his hire immediately after the fact, Harreld was made acutely aware not only of how important shared governance was and is at the University of Iowa, but how great a betrayal the regents committed by hiring him over the objections of the vast majority of the faculty. From that I also think it can be inferred that of all the subject matter that would have been important for Harreld to digest as soon as possible, none would have been more important than learning not simply what shared governance was in theory, but how it would be administered in day-to-day practice.
Fortunately for Harreld, as president-elect he was not left to the mentoring mercy of people who had been “really tough on” him. Immediately upon being appointed, and despite the fact that he would not take office for another two months, Harreld had available to him the entire accrued institutional knowledge of the Iowa Board of Regents and the University of Iowa, including individuals steeped in the nitty-gritty procedures and practices of shared governance. Administrators, managers, attorneys, faculty, staff — all were at Harreld’s disposal on September 3rd, 2015, and remain so to this day, more than half a year later. Because Harreld had two months to bone up on all things presidential, and because he held both an engineering degree from Purdue and an MBA from Harvard at the time of his appointment, we can also fairly assume that he was indeed capable of learning anything he put his mind to.
J. Bruce Harreld Talks the Talk
During the two months between Harreld’s appointment in early September and taking office in early November, rolling disclosures in the press conclusively proved that Regents President Bruce Rastetter and then-Interim President Jean Robillard willfully engineered not only a fraudulent search process, but a scandalous betrayal of shared governance. In attempting to obliquely address and distance himself from that premeditated betrayal, Harreld had this to say in a press release floated in mid-October, several weeks before taking office:
Leaving aside the question of what Harreld meant by “shared responsibility”, once again his statement could not be more clear. Harreld was all-in on shared governance, and after having willingly submitted to six weeks of remedial mentoring and coaching, it can safely be assumed that he finally did know what he was talking about.
Subsequent to taking office Harreld announced two new committees devoted to strategy and implementation, respectively, as well as the date of his first public forum, which would later be recast as a town hall. While that gathering would not take place for another three months, at the time of those announcements Harreld and his administration again signaled their intent to honor shared governance:
In mid-December, the AAUP released the final report on its investigation into the Harreld hire, conclusively documenting the abuse of shared governance which had taken place. In that report — which largely, and in my own view improperly, exonerated Harreld of any complicity — Harreld again reaffirmed his commitment to shared governance:
In the context of the AAUP investigation, including penalties which may yet be levied against the Iowa Board of Regents, Harreld’s pledge could not be more serious or binding. Whatever ultimately happens with the board, how the AAUP regards Harreld’s administration will be determined by the degree to which Harreld himself honors shared governance. And again, by December of 2015 it can be assumed that J. Bruce Harreld was fully aware of his presidential obligations to that process.
Yet as the spring semester got underway, a press release in mid-January, which once again invoked the promise of shared governance, also seemed to hearken back to Harreld’s open forum:
Whether Harreld still improperly equated shared governance with “listening”, by January of 2016 Harreld had been given ample opportunity to get up to speed on the subject. And perhaps in talking about “communication” and “collaborative planning”, Harreld was signaling that he did understand the difference between the two. In any case, however, shared governance was still being affirmed by Harreld himself.
Shared Governance on Steroids Indeed
Which brings us to this, from the contentious town hall at the end of February:
Assuming for the moment that J. Bruce Harreld does now truly understand shared governance, the faculty at Iowa could hardly have asked for a stronger statement of commitment. And yet Harreld’s full expression of shared governance, as reported in the press, is still concerning. Why? Because what Harreld seems to be taking credit for — “bringing administrators, faculty members and students to the same table” — not only smacks of the “listening” that Harreld routinely conflates with shared governance, that would all be happening whether Harreld himself participated or not.
If you belong at the table, no one can claim to have invited you. To that point, while there’s nothing wrong with Harreld putting together a couple of new committees if that makes him feel more comfortable, the decision to do so is neither transformative nor “shared governance on steroids”. Shared governance is not something Harreld is implementing at Iowa, it is something he’s obligated to demonstrate, and particularly so given last fall’s arch betrayal by the regents.
Yet as the recent op-ed by Tachau and Cox makes clear, the basic procedural steps which define the administrative implementation of shared governance are simply not being met by Harreld and his administration:
Despite six months of remedial education, and access to the very people who know how shared governance is implemented both procedurally and diplomatically, the faculty were clearly not apprised of what Harreld and his administration were doing. So what is Harreld’s excuse? Particularly given that only a few days prior to publication of the editorial, Harreld was crowing about an administrative policy of “shared governance on steroids”?
I see only two possible explanations. Either J. Bruce Harreld is utterly incompetent on a scale that even his greatest detractors never imagined, or he is lying when he says that he intends to honor shared governance. And I think after six months of watching the man, the latter is much more likely than the former.
What J. Bruce Harreld’s Words Really Mean
As I have pointed out before, whatever else J. Bruce Harreld has accomplished in his life, he has been a consummate marketing weasel, including during his ballyhooed stint at IBM. As such, Harreld not only knows the value of a catchy marketing slogan like “shared governance on steroids”, he also knows that most people will never follow up to see whether steroids were used or shared governance was even honored. In this there is of course a direct parallel with Harreld’s myopic focus on the U.S. News & World Report college rankings, which are easy to explain to the general public, but almost meaningless in terms of the quality of education that students receive. (That the U.S. News rankings do not include cultural factors like alcohol use and abuse or campus sexual assault is a major indictment of their utility, and also a big reason why Harreld can profit from manipulating Iowa’s score.)
In a post back in late September, regarding the bureaucratic betrayal of trust that was at the heart of the Harreld hire, I wrote:
J. Bruce Harreld’s words mean nothing without actions to back them up. Unfortunately, after six months, what we also know about J. Bruce Harreld is that at times his words aren’t simply empty — at times his words are lies. In this instance, the omissions cited by Tachau and Cox cannot be interpreted as inadvertent, or as an oversight on the part of the Harreld administration. They were intentional, and as such betray at least one administrative conversation in which obligations to shared governance were raised and rejected.
In light of those omissions, and their intentional implementation in direct contradiction to the positive rhetoric Harreld has repeatedly used — including particularly his “shared governance on steroids” sloganeering — the only reasonable conclusion is that J. Bruce Harreld is determined to continue the policy of betraying shared governance which the Iowa Board of Regents initiated with his hire. And as we now know, that betrayal was not only abetted by Harreld himself, but traitorously administered by search committee Chair Jean Robillard, who was himself a beneficiary of one of the omissions cited by Tachau and Cox. That Harreld, Robillard and the regents, as led by President Bruce Rastetter, are continuing policies hostile to shared governance, even as Harreld has spearheaded a marketing campaign promising shared governance, not only tells the faculty at the University of Iowa everything they need to know about Harreld’s intent, it suggests that a reappraisal of the AAUP’s investigation may not simply be necessary prior to a determination of sanctions, but already long overdue.
The fastest way to resolve this will be to vote Branstad out, which doesn’t seem to be the intent of the rest of the state, which is rapidly becoming Arkansas North. There may not be any other way to do it.
What you have to understand is that these guys don’t care if the university goes to hell academically. They have no interest whatsoever in intellectual ferment, and do not believe that it’s worth anything at all. They believe, religiously, that science and engineering and some sort of allegiance-compelling humanities songbook are pretty much all that matter, all that offer prosperity and strength, and the rest is just some sort of jacking off. Plus it should be self-supporting and turn a profit, and it should be run by them, not professors.
If a talented faculty member can afford to hang out 20 years and wait for another changing of the guard, that might be worthwhile, but that faculty member had better be in a STEM discipline with an impenetrable language, and able to get external funding. And unfortunately, after 20 years, the students coming in will not be the well-prepared Iowans of 20 years ago, but whatever the K12 ravages permit. If I were a smart young faculty member in any arts, humanities or non-business-bent social science discipline, I would be looking to get the hell out of here, and find a private university that actually values these things, so that I could have a career.
Essentially we’re in the part of the story where the urban mom decides that much as she champions public schools in her heart, she’s going to cough up the dough for private school so her kid learns something and doesn’t get knifed.
This is absolutely the case. The Regents really don’t care: all the arguments about the value of higher education–or even the value of the appearance of a high-functioning research university–is like speaking Martian to them. Yet I’m hopeful that JBH crashes and burns, makes the Regents look bad, and with the overreach by Branstad evidenced over the last six months, these all combine to help Iowans to oust the governor. What Democrats need are better, younger candidates.
I think it’s clear to everyone that this is a long march. Branstad and his ethically impoverished ilk have taken years if not decades to implement their ideological agenda, including dismantling public higher education in America. Scott Walker has made the most progress, but even now I think people in Wisconsin are waking up to the fact that all he’s really done is turn a once-proud asset into a liability which disadvantages the state in the global marketplace.
I don’t think there’s only one way to stand in opposition, however. In fact, I think the most effective response to provide opposition on as many fronts as possible. One line of attack can be managed. Two or more gets complicated, and sows division in the ranks. (Witness the number of people/organizations leaving ALEC in the past few years.)
I don’t disagree with your analysis of where we are, and yes, if I was interested in teaching and making education my profession, I would have to look past any of the Iowa schools. By the time thje regents are done we may end up with nothing more than three glorified community colleges, and I think Rastetter would be perfectly happy with that. And that’s not a swipe at community colleges, which do provide important opportunities for students.
Paul Diehl says
“I am a strong supporter of the storied history of shared governance on our campus” J Bruce Harreld
Mark– At the time of Harreld’s mid October press release, a number of us pointed out that Harreld was NOT stating his support for shared governance but rather his support of “THE STORIED HISTORY of shared governance” at the University of Iowa. Of course given Harreld’s careless/contorted habits of language, many of us (me included) assumed we were noticing a moment of Harreld-Happy-Talk style. Big mistake. He actually meant what he said and had no intention of honoring shared governance when he became fraudulent president of the University of Iowa. At this point, we can safely assume that Harreld is no more than Rastetter in quasi disguise. I’ve started keeping a list of Harreld’s statements and adding “said Obergruppenregent Bruce Rastetter” after each of them so I remember whom I’m really dealing with..
“I respect the storied history and now we will move from great to greater. Pay no attention to my own storied history of executing unfit models thst drive companies into bankruptcy “
Paul Diehl says
Paula– According to the official biography and resume posted on the University of Iowa website, J Bruce Harreld seems never to have worked for Boston Chicken and therefore could not have played a role in the Chicken’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy. So according to U.I public relations, J Bruce worked for Boston Market from 1993 to September 27, 1995, but on September 27, 1995 IBM announced Harreld was moving from Boston Chicken to IBM. Wonder who has this straight? IBM at the time it hired him or Harreld looking back two decades?
As president and board member of the Boston Market Company, Harreld with five other partners, led the organization from 20 stores in the Boston area to over 1,100 stores nationally..
Pretty impressive, yes? Well yeah, except J Bruce must have had another ‘BM-like typo moment, typing Boston Market when he actually meant Boston Chicken. Little else can explain how Harreld could have worked 1993 to September 27, 1995 for a company that DID NOT EXIST. Boston Chicken informally “changed its name to Boston Market in Fall 1995…though the corporate name remained ‘Boston Chicken, Inc.’ until 1997, when it became so popular with the new name, the corporate name was changed to ‘Boston Market Corporation’.” http://president.uiowa.edu/files/president.uiowa.edu/files/wysiwyg_uploads/Harreld.Resume_0.pdf
So who’s misremembering or lying here? IBM in September 1995, Harreld in 2015-2016, and/or the Rastetter Five who have no problem revising history in this matter and many others. In a message to Harreld via his U.I. website link, I asked him about this unresolvable state of affairs. That was over three weeks ago and Harreld has yet to respond-. Guess I’ll email him next.
I like that — supporting the history, not the policy. “See?”, you can almost imagine Harreld saying, “I’m not lying!”
Still, there are no excuses now. He’s not confused about higher education or academic administration. This is who the man is.
J. Bruce Harreld is a mercenary, and he works for the Iowa Board of Regents. Like Rod “Chin Up” Lehnertz, for Harreld the faculty, staff and students are simply obstacles to be overcome.
On March 2nd, as the Visin debacle was unfolding in the press and on social media, including Twitter, a series of PR tweets appeared featuring J. Bruce Harreld — the fraudulently elected president of the University of Iowa — announcing a new scholarship program at Des Moines East High School. The program in question, which was only loosely described on that day, involved a partnership with a startup called Raise.me, which proudly touted its prestigious association with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Having paid a great deal of attention to J. Bruce Harreld over the previous six months, including the lies he has repeatedly told in order to protect the co-conspirators who engineered his hire, my instinctive response to Harreld’s personal participation in the Raise.me rollout was to wonder how that program would inevitably end up being bad for students. To that end I began reading up on Raise.me and its microscholarship program, and here’s what I wrote in my notes at the time:
In sum, after learning everything I could I had more questions than answers, so I ultimately decided not to post on Harreld’s Raise.me initiative until I had more information. While I didn’t believe the idea of microscholarships to be nefarious in itself, basic privacy protections that should been built in were clearly missing, and given that Raise.me was a tech start-up that was clearly by design. The good news was that unlike the fraudulent search and election process, which Harreld and his co-conspirators had done their best to secret and obscure during the previous twelve months (and perhaps longer), more information would inevitably be forthcoming about the Raise.me program because the whole point of the rollout was to spread the word.
Still, based on my findings to that point, I did ask the following question on Twitter:
As it turns out, what I had stumbled across on Twitter on 03/02/16 was part of a national Raise.me rollout, and I wasn’t the only person who had concerns. Here’s Steve Nelson, writing on the Huffpost Education blog, on 02/23/16:
As the University of Iowa community learned with regard to J. Bruce Harreld’s disastrous resume, in the world of business the only truth is whatever you can get away with. For example, in his resume Harreld implied that he was part of a company called Executing Strategies, when he was in fact its sole employee. Conversely, Harreld took sole credit for numerous written works, when many of those works were co-authored.
While the University of Iowa should certainly not be involved in the exploitation of students and their personal information, under J. Bruce Harreld’s visionary leadership such concerns are not simply falling by the wayside, they are being brushed aside with entrepreneurial vigor. Yet in keeping with Harreld’s acknowledged fixation on gaming the college rankings, what other choice does the man have? If Iowa can gain a competitive advantage by mining or manipulating the application process deep into high school, and even into junior high, from a business perspective it would be criminal not to exploit those students.
Fortunately, as anticipated, more information about Raise.me and the UI partnership was indeed forthcoming. From Vanessa Miller of the Gazette, on the evening of 03/02/16:
To put the magnitude of the Raise.me marketing effort undertaken by Harreld and his top administrators into context, remember that it not only took J. Bruce Harreld four full months to march his team one hundred and seventy-five yards across campus to meet with the faculty, staff and students in his first town hall, but Harreld and his administrators took great pains to schedule that meeting at a particularly inconvenient time. With the Raise.me rollout, not only do we have Harreld and many of the same administrative cogs taking the time to physically travel to various cities and towns across the entire state — and doing so purely as a marketing stunt — but those coordinated appearances were clearly timed to accommodate both print and broadcast media.
From Jeff Charis-Carlson, also on the evening of 03/02/16:
So to translate: Raise.me provides non-binding microscholarships in exchange for students providing updated progress reports that would otherwise only be available in a massive data dump at the end of high school. In exchange for providing that steady stream of information, most students will end up getting nothing they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. Raise.me and the schools it partners with, however, will be able to profit from that freely disclosed information in a number of ways, including selling that information on the open market if that proves to be in the best interest of Raise.me as a company.
So what were the actual terms of the deal that J. Bruce Harreld made with Raise.me? The answer to that question arrived the next day, in a follow-up report by Miller, on 03/03/16:
Again, note the focus on the flow of student data — in this case, both pre-enrollment and post-enrollment, meaning the University of Iowa will be providing student information to a private company after students are enrolled. As to why the University of Iowa is paying to partner with Raise.me, when other schools are not, the explanation for that quirk was in the lede to Miller’s piece:
Although the Raise.me program is being sold as both a motivational aid and a source of financial aid — meaning more participating schools would seem to be better for the students — the University of Iowa locked up Raise.me contractually, preventing the state’s other public universities from joining in. Why? Why is the University of Iowa willing to pay $5,000 in cash, plus $10 for each student who submits data to Iowa through Raise.me, when other schools in the state and around the country are using the platform for free, and not insisting on exclusivity?
One possible answer is that Harreld may be positioning UI to meet the requirements of the performance-based funding model, which the Iowa Board of Regents has been trying to force on the state schools for years. While that proposal took a serious hit when the regents’ own consultants pointed out that there weren’t enough in-state students to meet the reqents’ requirements, Iowa would still come out ahead under that misconceived metric if it was able to corner the market on that limited supply.
Also of note in Miller’s article was this again, regarding the students who are specifically being targeted by the Iowa/Raise.me partnership:
If you look at the About page on the Raise.me site, there’s no mention of Raise.me being targeted at disadvantaged students. The closest they come is this:
So where Raise.me itself is egalitarian about data mining, the University of Iowa is paying Raise.me to specifically gather information about disadvantaged kids, and to be able to do so exclusively among the state’s public universities. Is there some advantage in identifying the best students from among the most needy families, either in terms of college rankings or federal financial aid? Does doing so help the University of Iowa meet specific requirements — either currently, or under the misbegotten performance-based funding model? Again, why the targeting and the exclusivity?
As for the students, what is the payoff? Every time I read the news coverage or the marketing blather on the Raise.me site, the rationales for student participation seem flimsy at best and disingenuous at worst. And that in turn leads me back to the fact that there are no iron-clad privacy protections built into the Raise.me platform, which is certainly not a benefit to the students who participate. (The fact that the Raise.me TOU limits eligibility to students 13 or older is a function not of restraint but of enforcement penalties under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule, which applies to kids 12 and younger.)
So how is the exclusive, targeted, UI-branded Raise.me campaign working so far? Once again Vanessa Miller at the Gazette answered that question, this time on 03/09/16:
With an initial $5,000 buy-in, and at $10 a head, in just over one week the cost of Raise.me to the University of Iowa was $29,150. At the same time, the university “promised” almost $300,000 in scholarships, but only if we assume that all 2,415 kids applied and were accepted, which seems unlikely. For each student those totals amount to an average of $121.96 in UI microscholarships, so if Iowa is not getting value from the data that students are uploading, or effectively paying for the exclusive right to market the Iowa brand to those students who participate, what is the return on that investment? And how much of that $295K in prospective scholarships would Iowa expect to pay out, given that Raise.me microscholarships aren’t conveyed if other sources of aid are available?
Worse, nowhere does there seem to be any guarantee of a tangible benefit to students who participate. If you aren’t accepted at a particular school, you get nothing, no matter how many microscholarships you accrued on the Raise.me site. There’s also nothing to prevent schools from offering ten times the money they can actually fund in scholarships, because schools don’t have to honor each commitment. Even maxing out on the Raise.me site doesn’t guarantee that doing so will increase the total amount of financial aid available. (Because the University of Iowa is targeting disadvantaged students, state and federal aid may be even more likely to relieve the school of any obligation to follow through on commitments made via the Raise.me program.)
So is this how Iowa goes from ‘great to greater’ under J. Bruce Harreld? Is this what transformative change looks like in higher education? Or is the University of Iowa simply using the Raise.me platform to exclusively market its brand to kids who may, by virtue of their family’s limited resources, be limited to choosing among the state’s three institutions of higher learning? Because after reading all of the articles above multiple times, and everything on the Raise.me site, I can’t find any guaranteed benefit for students who participate.
I see how the data that kids are supplying could easily be worth millions, and how owning that space could make the founders of Raise.me rich. I also understand how the Raise.me program has been made attractive to students who will never understand all of the qualifiers, conditions and fine print, and I see the cynical benefit to Harreld in partnering with Raise.me to gain access to the information that students provide. Not only do I not see any tangible benefit to the students themselves, however, but J. Bruce Harreld and his administration are actually paying a fee to Raise-me to limit the choices available to the least advantaged students in the state under that program. Whether Raise.me itself is a scam or not, I would think it would be obvious that the University of Iowa should not, under any circumstances, use contractual means to manipulate or exploit those students who are at greatest financial risk.
Also, Mark, please send this to LV if you haven’t, and tap Nick on the shoulder to make sure he reads it.
I think actually this could have broader exposure…this is a RS-type campus story once you turn away from UI specifically. Are you sending it to anyone?
Raise.Me is a project of a privately owned corporation Raise Labs, Inc., in San Francisco. It was started by four young guys, and it is a FOR PROFIT business. http://www.bloomberg.com/research/stocks/private/snapshot.asp?privcapid=268138890
Occurs to me, too — the info must be useful to testing and curriculum publishers. If you can correlate performance with activities and other factors, esp in high-risk groups, you can package and sell “activities and other factors” products to states and districts, no? And then you get people seizing on the poor 10th-graders who can afford to stay after school and do these programs, and the ones who have to work or babysit or who live 15 miles out and have to ride the bus are invisible.
This is how collections science works, too.
There’s really no end to how this data can be exploited, to say nothing of the pretense of building a ‘relationship’ with kids who are nervous about school, money, life, money and money.
And what about advertising on the app or site itself? Targeted? Sure, why not!
What’s slick about the whole plan is that Raise.me is monetizing information that was always there, but idle. There’s no new money here — no new pile of funds that is being distributed — just the same money being ‘put to work’ earlier, as data bait.
And of course the schools will all join both because they want that data and branding opportunity, and because — as with the U.S. News rankings — they can’t afford not to play once the game begins. Yet another new web space that devolves to nothing more than FOMO for colleges and universities.
It’s a brave new bottom-feeding world in higher education.
Let me get this straight. The University of Iowa pays the four guys in San Francisco for the privilege of “recruiting” potential students who may or may not attend UI and who may or may not ever receive any “Raise.Me” support. In what world does this make any sense, except to the four guys in SF who are getting rich?
I think the problem we’re all having is that we still think of students or puppies or whatever it was that Mount St. Mary’s former president wanted to drown or shoot. You have to think of kids as pigeons, like con artists do. Only by replacing your desire to educate with a desire to exploit can you take the University of Iowa from great to greater.
Congratulations Ditchwalk. Another great piece. Whenever I read your posts I visualize Harreld in the corner of a darkened room. He is held up by puppet strings. At a table, in the center of the room, under a single lightbulb is Stead, Rastetter and Robillard.
Rastetter and Robillard are cowering in fear. Sweat rolls down their faces, soaking their shirt collars. Stead has a laptop in front of him with the Ditchwalk site opened. The veins at his temples are bulging red. He is screaming at the top of his lungs, pounding on the table.
“Bring me the head of Ditchwalk!!!”
If you ever disappear, I will start a Go Fund me page to initiate a search.
Mo Bettah says
Sadly, this vision implies that Rastetter actually gives a rat’s ass about what anyone thinks.
It’s a nice image, but I’m afraid this is all just noise to those guys. You don’t rise to the levels they’ve risen to by caring what people think or worrying about breaking rules. You just do whatever you need to do and lie about it afterwards. If things ever get really dicey you call in some favors or cut a deal, or at the very worst you retire to spend more time with your family. Or your bank account. Or whatever you care about.
The only conceivable lesson anyone will take from all of this is how to do a better job ripping off the people of Iowa next time the university needs a new president. Which is of course why the same people who ran the sham search are now blaming the ‘openness’ of the search for the resulting anger. As if being robbed isn’t a rational justification.
A little over a month ago, on 02/10/16, I found myself reading a Press-Citizen story by Jeff Charis-Carlson, which detailed a sudden change at the helm of the University of Iowa’s College of Medicine. Here is the headline from that piece:
Several times over the past six months we have talked at length about Jean Robillard in the context of the Harreld hire, because he was central to both the fraudulent election of the current president at Iowa, J. Bruce Harreld, and to the premeditated betrayal of shared governance which was at the heart of that sham election process. Robillard accomplished those daunting feats of administrative larceny by positioning himself — with the help of Regents President Bruce Rastetter — as both the chair of the Presidential Search and Screen Committee, which met from February until mid-August, and as the interim president from the beginning of August until the end of October. And that was in addition to his regular gig, which Charis-Carlson noted in the lede to his story:
While there is a lot to unpack in the Charis-Carlson piece, and we’ll get to all of it in a minute, the reason I am detailing the actual presentation of that article is because a funny thing happened while I was reading those first few paragraphs. I don’t know if it was prompted by the fact that an image of Robillard accompanied the article — which you can see yourself by clicking the link above — but somewhere in those quoted lines, which called up images of the sprawling University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics on the west side of campus, across the ever-flowing Iowa River, my mind suddenly flashed on Colonel Kurtz.
If you’re not familiar with American cinema, Colonel Kurtz was a fictional character played by Marlon Brando in the movie Apocalypse Now. That movie, in turn, was based on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, which most people would probably not describe as light-hearted fare. So even if you’ve never heard of Colonel Kurtz, Apocalypse Now or Heart of Darkness, it would be fair for you to conclude that my mind flashing on Kurtz while I was reading about and thinking about the current Vice President for Medical Affairs and soon-also-to-be Dean of the College of Medicine, Dr. Jean Robillard, was not a particularly flattering association.
Now clearly, that association says a whole lot more about how my mind — or maybe even my brain — works, than it does about any connection between kindly Dr. Robillard and the maniacal fictional butcher played by Marlon Brando. So let’s get that out of the way right now. All you have to do is look at a few pictures of Brando as Colonel Kurtz, and you can even see that there’s no physical likeness whatsoever.
As you might imagine then, when Col. Kurtz’s name and Brando’s image suddenly did pop into my mind while I was reading about Dr. Robillard, I had to take a moment to process where that association came from. And my answer then as it is now is that I think it occurred because of several earlier posts where I referenced Robillard’s medical empire across the Iowa River, on the west side of campus. Again, if you don’t know Apocalypse Now that won’t make a lot of sense, but water and waterways figure heavily in both the plot and mis-en-scene of that film.
Too, as odd as the association was, as soon as it popped into my head I knew it wasn’t literal. I didn’t see any parallel between Robillard’s worst betrayals during the Harreld hire and any of the literal war crimes that Kurtz committed. And yet there was more to it than a simple visual association with a movie.
After a bit more cogitating on the Harreld hire, and Robillard’s ascension to dean of the medical college, I came up with a completely different literary association, that being Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In that fictional story, the two title characters are actually one man struggling with what today might (or might not) be diagnosed as dissociative personality disorder, which was previously and commonly called multiple personality disorder.
To be crystal clear, again I did not think there was any literal connection between Robillard and Stevenson’s book. The only parallel was the metaphorical question of duality — of an individual presenting as one person, but acting in ways that seemed to undermine that identity. From time to time we all do things that betray contradiction if not hypocrisy, yet most of the time those choices aren’t novel-worthy. In fact, most of the time they’re pretty boring, like when you tell someone not to do something that you then do yourself.
With regard to Robillard and the Harreld hire, as regular readers know I do think the question of hypocrisy is valid. There is a public presentation of Jean Robillard, the man — a persona, an identity — which simply doesn’t square with what I know about his conduct during the presidential search. Again, there’s no literal sense in which I think Robillard is two people, or a split personality, but there is a very real sense in which I cannot square the totality of his actions. Which is why, at some point, my mind simply solved that problem by creating two identities for the same person: Dr. Robillard and Col. Kurtz. And again, that’s on me.
And yet…as improbable as it may seem right now, by the time we get to the end of this post, I think I can also show you Dr. Robillard as Col. Kurtz. Not literally, of course, because Kurtz is a fiction — but metaphorically, by analogy. You may not agree, but at the very least I think you’ll understand how I got there, and how others might as well. Because when you get right down to it, Jean Robillard really did betray the faculty, staff and students at the University of Iowa in order to jam Harreld into the office he now holds. Which in turn brings us full circle, back to the news that J. Bruce Harreld personally approved of Dr. Jean Robillard taking over as dean.
Behind the Scenes at the College of Medicine
The first thing I found noteworthy about the news that Robillard had made himself dean was the fact that the move was announced on a Wednesday and became effective the following Monday. That’s only five days, or, as they say in the world of commerce, three business days, and in a large organization like the University of Iowa that’s probably faster than you can requisition a pencil. The speed of the transition, in turn, prompted another association in my mind, but fortunately this one was not a fiction.
Although it was not reported in the press until December, on August 25th, just as the sham Harreld hire was about to pay off, Jean Robillard took what I came to refer to as a ‘$10K panic flight‘ to meet face-to-face with megadonor Jerre Stead — who, as it happened, lived in Denver, Colorado, just down the road from the soon-and-improbably-to-be next president of the University of Iowa, J. Bruce Harreld. While the flight purportedly had to do with a $5M donation from Stead, which may or may not have played into Regents President Bruce Rastetter’s equally sudden renaming of Robillard’s new Children’s Hospital of Iowa after the Stead family, the abruptness of Robillard’s August trip undermined that explanation. And particularly so given that donations from Jerre Stead were more the norm than the exception for the University of Iowa.
Likewise, whatever I don’t know about how things are done at a major university, which is everything, I know you don’t simply announce on Wednesday that you’re taking over as dean of the College of Medicine the following Monday. I mean, you might do that if there was an emergency of some kind, but from the lede quoted above that’s clearly not the case. Instead of referencing urgency, Robillard describes the move as being in the best interests of “the people of Iowa”, and in the best interests of being “more transparent”, “more flexible” and “more agile” — none of which sounds like code for some sort of bureaucratic or administrative necessity.
While the entire Charis-Carlson piece seem to confirm that interpretation, it also reveals that the Iowa Board of Regents were caught with their collective pants down by Robillard’s sudden announcement:
Okay, fair enough. Even though the regents were often invasive in their response to, if not insistence on, decisions made by Sally Mason, for whatever reason the suddenly passive if not enabling regents deemed it in the best interests of “the people of Iowa” to roll over and allow Harreld to allow Robillard to take over as dean of the College of Medicine — after only five days notice, of which two of those days were a weekend. Which of course brings us to an obvious question. What happened to the person who was, until that fated Wednesday, already dean of the medical college?
So on the Tuesday prior to Robillard’s Wednesday announcement, we had two people doing two different jobs. We had Vice President for Medical Affairs Jean Robillard running University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, along with the able support of his number-crunching underling, CEO Ken Kates, and we had Debra Schwinn deaning the College of Medicine. Then, six days later, on Monday, we had Robillard doing both of those jobs, while Schwinn was in a new position titled Associate Vice President for Medical Affairs — which, according to UI Healthcare’s very own updated org chart, also makes her an underling of Robillard.
While we have no visibility to what actually happened behind the scenes on the west side of campus, at some point somebody decided that Debra Schwinn was being demoted in very short order. So how did the normally officious Board of Regents feel about that decision being foisted on them? Well, in a follow-up piece in the Press-Citizen several weeks later, also by Jeff Charis-Carlson, on 02/25/16, we learned that the regents felt just fine:
So Schwinn not only lost her title, which Robillard assumed, but Robillard appointed someone to do the actual job of dean, which in turn explains why he didn’t get a bump in pay. Schwinn’s salary stayed the same, which is interesting in itself, but what Robillard got out of the deal is even more impressive. Not only was he now in total control of the medical-industrial complex that is UI Healthcare, he didn’t have to actually do the work that went along with one of his titles. Instead, he could spend his time thinking about big picture issues, while an ‘executive dean’ handled the day-to-day drudgery. Which of course only makes it sound that much worse for Schwinn, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
Interestingly, while the regents had no problem retroactively rubber stamping Robillard’s consolidation of power, the question of whether he and Harreld actually had the authority to do so was still up in the air. From the same Charis-Carlson piece on 02/25/16:
Whether you think the move made by Robillard and Harreld at the med college was a bold stroke or a coup, and whether you see the oversight of the regents as appropriate or complicit, there can be no denying that this radical shift at UIHC took place in the bureaucratic blink of an eye. In fact, from the quote above about “multiple discussions”, it seems clear that the plan was put in motion after Harreld took office in early November — meaning, at most, that it had been ‘discussed’ for less than three and a half months. (For context, it took J. Bruce Harreld almost the same amount of time just to hold his first town hall.)
So what was the hurry? Why the sudden need to move Schwinn aside? Well, if you read everything you can about the decision you find a lot of blather about streamlining and strengthening and generally just making the world a better place for all of humanity until the end of time, but few details. Until you come to this, from Tom Ackerman of the Daily Iowan, on 02/26/16:
While I’m not one of them, there are indeed plenty of people who think of healthcare as a business first, if not only. And as we know from prior posts, that includes Regents President Rastetter, who, as a means of explaining why the regents hired a completely unqualified businessman to be the president of the entire school, raved about what a great job Robillard was doing driving revenue at UIHC. Here’s more on that point from Ackerman:
Well now. I’m not sure how you feel about training doctors in 25% less time, but as a former and probably future patient, that doesn’t sound like a good idea to me. Instead, it sounds like the kind of thing a business person would come up with if they were hell-bent on maximizing profits, and that’s particularly true if the accelerated curriculum ended up costing med students the same amount of money. Instead of waiting four years to greet each new debtor class, you would get a new class of debtors after every three years. Sure, with the old way you would adequately train the physicians you conferred degrees upon, but once they were in the job market their malpractice and mortality rates would no longer be your concern. Heck — why not two years? Or one? Four times the profits!
For the record, I know nothing about Debra Schwinn as a person, or about the reason(s) for her demotion. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist from the east side of campus to imagine that the dean of the College of Medicine might have taken a dim view of rushing students through med school. I mean, if you actually care about the patients you’re monetizing, and you think there’s some correlation between healthcare outcomes and, say, medical competence, at the very least you might have some doubts about such a radical departure from established practice.
Clearly there are a lot of interesting angles to all of this. Just as clearly they all seem to have something to do with the sudden demotion of Debra Schwinn, which may or may not have been warranted on any number of grounds. The problem I have with wading into such questions, however, is that relative to the metaphorical atrocities committed during the Harreld hire, she is an innocent bystander. Until Robillard’s coup deposed her in mid-February I had only run across her name once, and that was incidental to getting my head around just what Robillard did as the Vice President for Medical Affairs. (By which I mean other than running sham presidential searches or lying to the press.)
In order to talk about the issues surrounding Debra Schwinn, then, without actually talking about Debra Schwinn, we’re going to swap her out for an entirely fictional dean of the College of Medicine at the University of Iowa. We will call this person Dean X, and we will use the singular ‘they’ to avoid gender altogether, even though gender could conceivably have played a role in the way Schwinn was treated. We are going to do that not because gender discrimination is unheard of at the University of Iowa, but because even if gender was a factor, I do not believe it was the precipitating factor. It is indeed concerning that a woman was demoted at the College of Medicine at almost the exact same time that the male athletic director was given a massive contract extension and raise while facing multiple gender discrimination lawsuits and a federal civil rights investigation, but not everything connects. What does connect the Harreld hire to the change at the top of UI Healthcare, however, is Dr. Jean Robillard, and it is on that basis that I think Dean X might have some questions about the reason(s) for their demotion.
Behind the Scenes With Dr. Robillard
In our alternate version of reality it’s still entirely possible that Robillard’s decision to demote Dean X was based solely on performance. Every hire does not pan out, and some people really do rise to the level of their own incompetence.
That’s also why Dean X may accept some responsibility for what happened. People are not always blind to their own failings. They may not want to face them, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Dean X feels they were railroaded or robbed. Maybe it really was the wrong fit, or the right fit at the wrong time.
It’s even possible that Robillard and Dean X simply disagreed on how to move the university forward, and that’s also fine. Take a look at any decision large or small and you’ll usually find sincere people on opposite sides of the issue, particularly if there are uncertainties if not unknowns. Unfortunately, in most such instances disputes are resolved in favor of the person at the top of the pecking order, and I don’t think anyone is surprised when an underling is demoted or fired in such instances. It may not be fair, it may prove to be folly, but in the moment that’s how things usually play out.
The fact that Dean X was demoted, yet remained at the same salary, would seem to support the idea that the decision was based primarily on a difference of opinion rather than performance. If someone truly is falling down on the job you don’t move them into another position that they can screw up with equal incompetence. Then again, although Dean X’s salary is staying the same, the university is actually shelling out an extra $70K for the ‘executive dean’ who will carry the administrative load for Robillard, so that’s an additional cost. As it turns out, however, there is an interesting clause buried in the details of Dean X’s contract.
Unfortunately, because Dean X is an imaginary person we’re going to have to momentarily pop back into the real world and look at the exact same clause in Debra Schwinn’s contract:
So in our parallel universe, by moving Dean X out of the med college Robillard saves the university the cost of what might well be a mid-six-figure, lump-sum longevity payment. Obviously not a windfall at a school which annually grinds through well over a billion dollars, but then again, as we just learned with J. Bruce Harreld’s funding cuts to Student Disability Services, every penny counts.
Assuming for the moment that Dean X’s job performance was fine, or at least acceptable, and in no case worse than what is now expected from the new ‘executive dean’, why might Robillard have decided to kick Dean X to the curb? Well, it is possible that Dean X may have felt a moral obligation to oppose the Rastetter-Robillard plan to speed-train medical students in three years instead of four — and given what we know about Rastetter and Robillard that would certainly have been a professional death sentence. Yet that would still mean the demotion was on the merits, at least in mindless administrative terms, and not the result of some misogynistic gender bias, or any other prohibited punitive rationale.
On a personal level the problem for Dean X is that the demotion itself – regardless of the reason — is going to leave a mark. Even if it was a relief in terms of the day-to-day grind or bureaucratic run-ins with Robillard, it’s still a demotion, and nobody goes into administration looking to get knocked down a peg. Maybe there were practical or quality-of-life reasons for accepting the demotion rather than moving on to a new institution, or retiring in order to spend more time with the family, but it’s also possible that the decision was as much of as surprise to Dean X as it was to the Iowa Board of Regents or the good people of Iowa. And if that’s the case, there may be a lingering sense of unreality which is only now beginning to wear off.
In any event, even if Dean X was willing to accept some responsibility for what happened, I think it goes without saying that Dean X would want to know that the people who ultimately made the decision — and here we are specifically talking about University of Iowa Vice President for Medical Affairs Jean Robillard, University of Iowa President J. Bruce Harreld, and Regents President Bruce Rastetter, because each of them had to sign off on Dean X’s demotion — did so from a position of professional if not personal credibility, integrity and fairness. Which, if you’ve been following the Harreld hire at all, you know is not the case.
Behind the Scenes with Dean X
Imagine you’re Dean X, and it’s a few days or a week or a month after you were forced to accept whatever offer you were given behind the scenes. You’re in your new made-up job, you’re embarrassed, you’re unsure of yourself and the relationships you previously established, and frankly you just feel bad. What you would not want to feel on top of all that is that you had been ripped off, jobbed, cheated, lied to or otherwise abused by the people who imposed your demotion on you. And again, that’s true even if you acknowledged some responsibility for not solving whatever problems ultimately led to your abrupt and unanticipated career change.
Now imagine how you might feel, as Dean X, if you stumbled across a video showing J. Bruce Harreld lying about his origin story as a candidate. Or across a blog post detailing the lies that Jean Robillard told after it was disclosed that he gave candidate Harreld preferential treatment. Or another blog post detailing how Rastetter not only went out of his way to show Harreld preferential treatment, but violated board policy and lied to four members of the board in order to do so. Here are the three men who absolutely had to be on the same page regarding your demotion, and it turns out that only a few months earlier they were all equally enthusiastic about fraudulently electing J. Bruce Harreld.
I don’t think it’s hard to imagine, as Dean X, that your mind might go to a very dark place after taking in all that information. For starters, where you were previously willing to accept some responsibility for your demotion, you might suddenly wonder if you were actually set up to fail. Yes, something clearly went wrong, but in looking back over the months and years prior to being demoted, what warning did you have?
In 2015 you know that Robillard was not only the Vice President for Medical Affairs, but that he also became chair of the search committee that February. Too, although Sally Mason officially retired at the end of July, she announced her intentions at the beginning of that year, and it was only a few months later that the regents first signaled, then a month later announced, that Robillard would become interim president in August, and remain so until whenever the newly appointed president took office. You also know that in addition to wearing those three hats, that Robillard was responsible for bringing the Children’s Hospital in on budget, which he only failed to do by a whopping 23%.
Given all that, how could you be be sure, as Dean X, that in 2015 you were given all of the support you needed in order to succeed? Sure, you were a dean, but you still had a boss, and in 2015 he was everywhere doing everything else. Was he overworked, and thus negligent? Were you yourself overworked because you were covering bases for him? Is it possible that Robillard failed to inform you in a timely manner of any concerns, which were then later used as a justification for your demotion?
Unfortunately, as Dean X, once you head down that road it’s not going to take long before your doubts become jet black. Is it possible that you weren’t simply let down, but were actually scapegoated in order to cover for Robillard’s failings? Did you end up taking the heat for a man who was completely overextended, who not only blew the CHI budget by $68M, but administered a sham presidential search to boot? What kind of institutional support did you really have? What kind of timely notice did you have of performance concerns? What opportunities were you given to meet objective metrics that demonstrated improvement? Were your performance evaluations the real skinny, or some fraudulent, fake, made-up, sham skinny? How would you ever know?
Speaking of metrics, we know that the College of Medicine hemorrhaged faculty in 2015, but who was responsible? If, as Dean X, you were forced to implement policies which were hostile to the faculty, are you responsible for any blowpack from those plans?
We also know that the College of Medicine’s rankings fell this year, which is certainly not a good look, but what sort of causal connection can be drawn from that shabby data point? Particularly when clinical psych, fine arts and social work all took similar-sized hits, to say nothing of the precipitous drop which hit the entire university last fall. Do those drops reflect a leadership problem, or a problem caused by the legislature’s determination to financially starve the university?
If you, as Dean X, had been in charge of bringing the Children’s Hospital in on time and on budget, and you were off by $68M, do you think you would have been made Vice President for Medical Affairs as a reward? If the answer is no, then why was Robillard rewarded with the title of dean of the College of Medicine for similarly poor performance? Throw in the sham search that Robillard found time to administer during 2015, and the idea that you could be blamed for anything by Robillard would seem laughable on its face.
But of course if you’re at the head of the food chain, who’s keeping watch on you? J. Bruce Harreld wasn’t hired until the end of 2015, and Mason was president in name only, so for most of that time Robillard was the de facto boss at the University of Iowa. And although Robillard reported to the Board of Regents as interim president, the president of that board, Bruce Rastetter, actually spent most of 2015 conspiring with Robillard to hire Harreld. So again, what possible chance did you, as Dean X, have of a fair hearing once Robillard decided to move you out?
Now imagine that, as Dean X, you really dig into what happened during the fraudulent search process in 2015. And what you learn is that Rastetter and Robillard, and even Harreld himself, used every dodge, lie and administrative trick in the book to make sure that Harreld was the only viable candidate. Sure, to someone not steeped in administrative tactics it might all look plausible, but as an administrator yourself you can clearly see the lies of omission, the crimes of omission, the malfeasance and nonfeasance.
And what you see is that the Harreld hire did not simply reflect some last-minute tactical shenanigans, but a strategic and premeditated decision to run a fixed stealth search inside the larger publicly funded sham search. And the same men who were responsible for doing that are the exact same men who demoted you as dean at the College of Medicine. Whether or not they convinced you at the time that you bore some culpability for how things turns out, in looking at the monstrosity of the betrayals committed during the Harreld hire how could you possibly believe anything they said? If they were willing to lie about something as high profile as a presidential search, would they stop at lying about your job performance, or what they claimed other people said about you, or any data or metrics they used to build an administrative case against you?
Unfortunately, the only way you would ever be able to answer any of those questions would be to hire a lawyer and sue to get your job back. But of course a lawsuit would be expensive, and incredibly stressful, and hard to win because you would be fighting the good fight against a bureaucratic machine that was still entirely controlled by the people who displaced you. Then again, it might be pretty galling to realize that the people who pushed you aside, and damaged your professional reputation in doing so, were themselves guilty — at a minimum — of a monstrous administrative perversion which would have instantly cost you your job, and rightly so.
Behind the Scenes at the Secret Regent Meetings
Despite what seems to be the norm everywhere you look at the University of Iowa — in the president’s office, in the athletic director’s office, at UIHC and at the Board of Regents — credibility is not just a slogan. In the real world it actually does matter whether you back up your appearance of propriety with actual propriety. Sure, maybe you can maintain the facade of respectability for a while, but sooner or later people are going to notice the gaps, the tatters, the flim and the flam. And once that happens, all those fragile minds that used to think of you as a fine, upstanding citizen may start having stray thoughts, like whether you set them up to fail.
Whatever you think you would do if you found yourself in Dean X’s position, there is no question that Vice President for Medical Affairs and, for a time, Interim President Jean Robillard, administered a sham search process as chair of the Presidential Search and Screen Committee. From an administrative perspective there were no controls which precluded the shamefully preferential treatment that J. Bruce Harreld received, and at best that means Robillard fell down on the job. Unfortunately for Dr. Robillard, however, the fact that he never made those preferential opportunities available to any other candidates demonstrates complicity, but that’s not the worst of it.
As regular readers know, if Dean X or Dean X’s attorney really dug into the facts of the Harreld hire, they would find Jean Robillard repeatedly lying, on the record, in order to cover up the conspiracy behind the Harred hire. While we’ve covered many of those lies before, we will now consider two instances in which I believe the good doctor reveals his metaphorical alter-ego, Colonel Kurtz. In order to comprehend the magnitude of the lies that Robillard utters, however, and particularly for the benefit of readers who may not be up on the key events of the Harreld hire, we need to cover a little history to put those lies in context.
Shortly after J. Bruce Harreld was appointed in early September, Harreld retired to the shadows for two months while Interim President Jean Robillard presided over the new fall semester. Several weeks later, word that Robillard had hosted Harreld at a “VIP Lunch” on campus, in early June, became widely known via the press, confirming suspicions among the faculty, staff and students that Harreld had been given preferential treatment. One minute everyone was stunned at Harreld’s appointment, then came the news that Robillard had not only hosted Harreld and his wife on campus two months earlier, but that Robillard had chauffeured them to and from the airport. In his defense Robillard offered several explanations as to why that was not improper, at least one of which was revealed to be a lie in only a few days. That in turn precipitated more questions, including a light grilling which Robillard endured on September 22nd, while meeting with and reporting to the University of Iowa Student Government (UISG).
Two days later, on the 24th, any concerns about Robillard’s little-known but public luncheon were all but forgotten when news of the secret regent meetings broke. In fact, that news was of such a potentially damaging nature that unlike any other instance in the Harreld hire, Regents President Rastetter — who arranged those July 30th meetings between Harreld and four other regents, at his own place of business in Ames — immediately put out a statement.
To this day the single most egregious act in the entire sham search remains Rastetter’s orchestration and facilitation of those meetings in both covert defiance of the state’s open meetings law, and overt defiance of the Board of Regents’ policy manual. Those meetings were also clearly a direct insult to the integrity of the search process — over which Robillard was presiding as chair — because they not only involved preferential treatment that no other candidate received or was offered, they included two members of the board who were not on the search committee. One particularly interesting aspect of the fallout from the disclosure of the secret regent meetings, however, is that the magnitude of Rastetter’s betrayal seems to have precluded anyone from asking Robillard what would seem to be a rather obvious question. And yet I cannot find any evidence that that question was ever asked on the record. (I only noticed the omission myself this past weekend, despite having lived with the details of the Harreld hire for close to half a year.)
The question that Robillard should have been asked at the time was whether he himself knew that the secret regent meetings were taking place on that day. And yet after reading and re-reading everything I can find in the press, I do not believe the question was ever put to Robillard. With regard to Rastetter personally arranging a phone call from Governor Branstad to J. Bruce Harreld, we do have a denial of complicity because Robillard was specifically asked that question by Eric Kelderman, in an article published on the Chronicle of Higher Education website, on 09/14/15:
While that’s clear enough — assuming of course that Robillard is telling the truth — there does not seem to be a similar denial following the disclosure of the secret regent meetings, which were a much more egregious betrayal of the search process. And yet as regular readers know, there’s actually a plausible reason for why that question may never have been put to Robillard. Because at literally the exact same moment when J. Bruce Harreld was meeting with the first two regents in Ames on July 30th, Jean Robillard was 120 miles away, in Iowa City, meeting with the press en mass, on the eve of taking office as interim president.
In fact, here is the UI press release about that media availability, which seems to have drawn all of the state’s main higher-education reporters to campus. Even better, here is fifteen minutes of UI video showing Robillard answering questions from the assembled reporters. Meaning even as nobody in the room at the time had any idea that Harreld was at that moment meeting with regents Andringa, Dokavich, Mulholland and McKibben, in Ames, it’s perhaps understandable why everyone subsequently thought Robillard was in the clear.
Yet it doesn’t necessarily follow that just because Robillard was not in Ames himself, that he did not know those meetings were taking place. In fact, as regular readers know, circumstantial evidence would suggest quite the opposite, which in turn prompts more questions that Robillard has never been asked. (Questions which Robillard would almost certainly not answer now unless he was under oath, and maybe not even then.)
At 1 p.m on July 30th, Robillard, Rastetter and the other nineteen members of the search committee convened telephonically. At 2 p.m. Robillard then met with the press in Iowa City, while Harreld began the first of two meetings-of-two with regents in Ames. Where Rastetter was at the time has never been determined, but with regard to Robillard it’s clear that when the first regent meeting begins, he is in Iowa City. Yet given the totality of what we now know about Robillard and his relationship to both J. Bruce Harreld the man and the Harreld hire as an administrative crime, what are the odds that Robillard’s partner in that crime — Regents President Rastetter — rigged an invitation-only, policy-betraying board meeting for four members of the BOR with the one candidate they had both thrown their lot in with, yet Robillard was left in the dark about those machinations?
My answer is that the odds are a trillion to one, at best. Yet not only did that question apparently not come up in the aftermath of the disclosure of the secret regent meetings, other equally important questions seem to have been overlooked for the same logistical reasons. For instance, since Robillard’s media availability was scheduled to end at 2:30, where was Robillard the rest of the day? Harreld met with two more regents later that afternoon, then dined that evening with ISU President Leath. Is it possible that Robillard drove to Ames — or flew to Ames, or was flown to Ames by Harreld’s private plane — and either met with Harreld or dined with Harreld and Leath? And as long as we’re asking, did Harreld fly home on the night of the 30th, or did he stay in Iowa to get more face time with Rastetter and/or Robillard the next day?
Again, without compelling testimony under oath I don’t think we will ever know the degree to which both Rastetter and Robillard betrayed the search process, to say nothing of ripping off the people of Iowa, but for the purposes of this post I don’t think it matters. Because in the end there are only two options for Robillard regarding the secret regent meetings on July 30th, and they’re both bad. Either Robillard was oblivious to the fact that one of his own committee members went rogue and subverted the search process, or he did know, in which case he was complicit.
Behind the Scenes With Colonel Kurtz
Now, if you’re Dean X and you’re thinking about all this in terms of your demotion, even the possibility that Robillard was in league with Rastetter on July 30th is concerning, but again, there’s no proof. Fortunately that’s not the only instance in which Robillard was potentially complicit in working with Rastetter to pervert the search, and on at least one other occasion we know that to be the case, and we know that Robillard lied.
While the month of October slid by without any new bombshells being disclosed in the press, on the weekend before taking office J. Bruce Harreld himself dropped a payload which obliterated almost everything that had been previously asserted by him and his co-conspirators. In doing so, one point that Harreld went out of his way to make was that Rastetter was correct when he asserted that Harreld had asked for the secret meetings with the regents. And given Rastetter’s potential exposure at the time, that alibi was critically important. From a Gazette report by Vanessa Miller, on 11/01/15:
As you can see — and again, assuming that Harreld is telling the truth, which, based on his track record is completely unwarranted — by referencing “the search committee” Harreld at one and the same time alibis Rastetter and indicts Robillard. On its face, Harreld’s assertion would seem to confirm that Robillard — as chair of the search committee — must have known that the secret regent meetings were in the works before July 30th, if not also that they were taking place on that day. Yet it’s not actually clear what Harreld means when he says that he requested meetings with “at least four regents” from “the search committee”.
Does that mean Harred knew for a fact that the entire search committee was aware of his request, or simply that he submitted that request to at least one member of the committee? Because I’m willing to bet all of the money in the universe that it’s the latter and not the former. So even though Harreld asserts that the “search committee” — of which Robillard was chair — knew of his request to meet with at least four regents, which has in itself never been substantiated, and could well have been asserted simply to give Rastetter cover, we still don’t have any direct evidence that Robillard knew about the secret regent meetings at the time. Which means Dean X might also have doubts that Robillard could have acted in similarly monstrous fashion with regard to their demotion.
Except…in among all the other interesting tidbits that Harreld disclosed on the weekend before taking office, there was the explosive disclosure of yet another prior meeting which no one knew about at the time. That meeting — which was arranged by megadonor Jerre Stead (who bailed at the last minute), and attended by Harreld, Rastetter, Robillard, and Sally Mason’s then-interim chief of staff, Peter Matthes — took place at a hotel on the Kirkwood Community College campus, on June 19th, well before the “VIP Lunch” on July 8th, or the secret regent meetings on July 30th. Not only was Robillard personally in attendance at that secret Kirkwood meeting, however, but in the narrative about the meeting, which Harreld himself laid out on the weekend before taking office, it was Robillard, not Rastetter, who proved to be central — even critical — to Harreld’s decision to consider taking the Iowa job.
From the same Gazette piece quoted above:
Here Harreld asserts that it was Robillard and not Rastetter that he found entrepreneurially enticing. That assertion is substantiated by the fact that it is Robillard, not Rastetter, who invites Harreld and his wife to campus several weeks later, it is Robillard who personally chauffeurs Harreld and his wife to and from the airport, and it is Robillard who instructs Sally Mason’s interim chief of staff to coordinate the schedules and organize the itineraries for that visit. Yet until Harreld blabs about that secret Kirkwood meeting, Robillard keeps quiet about it as well, even as doing so means he has to repeatedly lie to the press regarding the actual origins of the invitation that he extended to Harreld and his wife.
Harreld’s belated acknowledgment of the secret Kirkwood meeting does catastrophic damage to the origin story of his candidacy as it was known at the time. Everyone involved — Stead, Rastetter, Robillard and Harreld — takes a terrible hit. As regards the narrow interests of this post, however, and particularly any doubts that Dean X may still have about whether kindly Dr. Robillard was capable of perpetrating something equally monstrous in order to engineer their demotion, it is a certainty that Robillard knew about, and lied about, the secret Kirkwood meeting, because unlike the secret regent meetings he himself was in attendance.
Now as I hope I’ve made clear, both in this post and over the past six months, I don’t know anything about Jean Robillard except what I’ve read in the papers or other online documents. I didn’t even know Robillard existed until Harreld was appointed, and in some ways he still seems like a kindly old doctor who has devoted his life to healthcare at the University of Iowa. As noted at the beginning of this post, however, that leaves me having to square that flattering bio with the bald-faced lies that Robillard told about the Harreld hire, and I am no longer able to do that. When I read that Robillard had pushed Debra Schwinn out of the big chair at the College of Medicine, my mind couldn’t take the dissonance any more, and up popped the image of Colonel Kurtz.
Whether you’re an aggrieved member of the faculty, staff, or student body, or just an interested observer, I think you now understand how that association transpired. If you’re still unable to conjure up that metaphorical melange yourself, however, I still believe I can show you Col. Kurtz, and that’s true even if you like Dr. Robillard and respect all of the good he’s done for the University of Iowa.
In order to do so we need to go back to September 22nd, which was roughly a week after widespread disclosure of the “VIP Lunch”, two days before disclosure of the secret regent meetings, and over a month prior to the belated revelation of the secret Kirkwood meeting. Again, early on that September evening Jean Robillard met with the University of Iowa Student Government, and did so not as the Vice President for Medical Affairs, or as the former chair of the Presidential Search and Screen Committee, or even as the once and future dean of the College of Medicine. On that day Dr. Robillard met with UISG as the interim president of the University of Iowa — the highest ranking administrative officer on campus.
While there doesn’t seem to be a transcript of Robillard’s appearance before the UISG, and there aren’t any recorded minutes, someone’s thumbs were busy tweeting that meeting to the masses. And in among all of the tweets from that meeting there are two which stand out against all the rest. In the first tweet, a member of the student government — Senator Montuclard — asks a very sensible question, given the facts of the Harreld hire as they were known at the time:
The response that UISG Senator Montuclard received, as a representative of the entire undergraduate student body, was succinct and to the point. From the vantage point of what we now know, however, it was also so flagrantly hostile to the facts of the Harreld hire that it may not merely give you pause as to Robillard’s character, it may leave you to wonder what sort of lies and machinations such a man might be capable of in other situations. Damn the rules, damn the truth, damn the obligations to education and integrity and transparency, damn shared governance, damn the faculty and staff, and last but certainly not least, damn the impertinence of the students.
That’s Colonel Kurtz.
The hospital needs rivets? Well, I guess it does.
I really think the bigger story here is the degree to which the university is steered by external, private, richy-poo investors looking to protect their investments in UI long-term debt. It’s by no means a UI-only story, but I see no reason why, given both the Regents/Harreld rhetoric and the fact that we’re not usually trailblazers, this isn’t a major concern. And if it is a major concern, then we ought to be talking about how Ye Olde Goldman, or whatever funds are hip these days, are influencing tuition rates and dorm fees and the proportion of low-wage adjuncts to profs and class sizes and “preferred” majors and so on. Seeing as how this is, as the Gov is fond of saying, a state university meant to serve Iowans.
Because that new Children’s Hospital sure is pretty and oval, also bound to generate some weird aerodynamics, but we borrowed quite a bit to build it and I’m sure the investors are serious about seeing those returns come in. And the same could be said about many other new and newish buildings on campus. There are a lot of them, a lot built in a relatively short time. And to believe that the various hires and shufflings have nothing to do with continued investor confidence in that Aa2 rating strikes me as…er…dumb. The question I have is what they’ve already, privately, committed to doing in order to keep it.
Paul Diehl says
Last week was Sunshine Week, a national celebration of open government and transparency. And the Iowa Supreme Court issued a ruling that may be keeping some co-conspirators we know up at night: they may have violated the Open Meeting law even if there wasn’t a quorum present. Clearly Rastetter’s little “Let’s have you meet two-regents-at-a-time” in Ames at Rastetter’s place of business (bing! this ruling raises the number to at least five regents unless Rastetter can prove he was in the Southern Hemisphere! Even then, his Ames employees (aka agents) may count as still another “regent” depending on the roles they played during those secret meetings.
I think the implications of the secret regent meetings have yet to be fully understood, in part because it took so long to see them for what they were. My hope would be that the “intent to avoid” the requirements of the open meetings law would be taken into account when Rastetter’s deceit is actually considered. You can’t reward someone for almost getting away with a crime.
On this past Tuesday, March 22nd, Regents President Bruce Rastetter sat down with the editorial board of the Des Moines Register for a wide-ranging interview. Although it is now almost seven months since the Iowa Board of Regents appointed J. Bruce Harreld as president of the University of Iowa, and almost five month since Harreld took office, to the credit of the Register editors they asked the regents president several questions about the controversial search process that led to Harreld’s appointment. In answering one of those questions Rastetter made an assertion that he has never made before, which is of particular relevance to the secret regent meetings which took place between Harreld and four regents on July 30th, 2015, at Rastetter’s place of business in Ames.
In the video of the interview (linked above), the first question about Harreld comes at the 19:35 mark from Lynn Hicks, editor of the opinion page, who asks Rastetter how Harreld is doing at Iowa. Rastetter responds at the 19:50 mark and says, among other things, that Harreld is doing “the exact right things” to succeed over the long haul. (We will revisit that assertion in a future post.)
At the 20:53 mark Amalie Nash, the executive editor of the Register, asks Rastetter a follow-up question about whether anything might have been done differently during the search. At the 20:59 mark Rastetter begins a long and at times rambling defense of the search process, repeating well-worn talking points that regular readers are already familiar with. Included in Rastetter’s defense is his oft-repeated assertion that in asking for meetings with the regents, J. Bruce Harreld was simply doing “diligence”.
The overall gist of Rastetter’s response to Nash is that the process used to appoint Harreld was the same process used to appoint the presidents of UNI and ISU, therefore there can be no valid basis for complaints about the Harreld search. In making that linkage, however, Rastetter not only fails to mention that the presidents of UNI and ISU both had long prior experience in academic administration, while J. Bruce Harreld had no prior experience in academic administration, he omits the fact that even before he took office Harreld was censured for falsifying his resume.
On the specific issue of the search process, however, Lynn Hicks is not deterred, and immediately follows up at the 23:29 mark:
Rastetter’s response begins at 23:52:
At the 25:19 mark the interview continues with a question about whether presidential searches should be private or not. Rastetter answers at the 25:32 mark, and after a bit of hesitation comes down decidedly in favor of both. On the point of fairness in the search process, however, the new claim that Rastetter makes in the above block of transcribed text is this:
Whether Rastetter’s use of ‘we’ in that quote refers to members of the search committee or members of the board of regents, as a hypothetical his assertion can be shown to be necessarily false. Rastetter’s new claim also flies in the face of every fact that has been established regarding the context of the secret meetings which took place between Harreld and four regents on July 30th, 2015, at Rastetter’s business in Ames. As regular readers know, we have previously examined the flagrant abuse of power which Rastetter himself engineered on that day, including detailing why those meetings constituted a deconstructed board meeting in willful disregard of Iowa’s open meetings law.
Until this past Tuesday, Rastetter had excused his arrangement of, and facilitation of, those two meetings of two regents each, by asserting that he was obligated to provide them simply because Harreld made the request. While that assertion is absurd on its face, it has been Rastetter’s consistent position since the end of September, when the secret regent meetings first became known.
The implication of that defense is that business genius J. Bruce Harreld was simply savvy enough to ask for those meetings, while all of the academically inclined “status quo” candidates were either too timid or daft to do so. The problem with that contention, however, is that even if Harreld was the first to make such a request, both Rastetter and the chair of the search committee, Jean Robillard, were immediately obligated to offer similar meetings to all other candidates. And not merely as of the date of those meetings, but as soon as that determination was made — either by the committee as a whole, or, by Rastetter himself, if he acted alone.
Dismantling Rastetter’s Assertion as a Hypothetical
There are nine members of the Iowa Board of Regents. Any gathering of five or more regents in the same place at the same time, for purposes having to do with business before the board, constitutes a quorum, and thus an official meeting of the board subject to Iowa’s open meetings law. For that simple reason Rastetter’s blanket statement that he “would have entertained any candidate who asked to meet with any regents” cannot be true.
As a matter of law it would not have been allowable for five or more regents to meet with any candidate unless that meeting also met all of the requirements of the state’s open meetings law. That in turn means that more than 50% of the theoretical instances which would satisfy the new assertion made by Rastetter last Tuesday are necessarily false. Had Harreld or any candidate asked to meet with five or more regents, and been granted that request, that would have triggered a slew of obligations under the open meetings law, to say nothing of the obligation to make sure that all of the other candidates were aware of, and able to avail themselves of, such an opportunity.
As you might imagine, however, where there are administrators and bureaucrats there are black-hearted versions of both who prefer to conduct business without adhering to either the letter or spirit of the open meetings law. In practice the two main ways that individuals have traditionally gone about subverting that law involve stringing meetings out so a quorum is never established, and using a proxy as a go-between to establish plausible deniability. On that latter point, as you may know, an important court case just recently found that the Warren County Board of Supervisors did indeed seek to subvert the open meetings law by using a proxy, and in a moment we’ll take a look at what that does and does not mean regarding the Harreld hire.
As you might also imagine, the people who are charged with enforcing the open meetings law are wise to such shenanigans, as noted here on the website for the Iowa Public Information Board (IPIB):
Note the phrase “intent to avoid”. While it’s perfectly okay for people to schedule meetings in serial fashion, and it’s perfectly okay for staffers to communicate with multiple members of a board about business, if either of those things is done to avoid the open meetings law, then those acts are a violation. That is in fact the whole point of the IPIB — to resolve disputes about open meetings and open records. Which brings us back to the secret regent meetings between Harreld and four regents, which Rastetter insists he arranged and facilitated for the express purpose of providing both Harreld and those regents an opportunity to advance board business – namely, the selection of the next president of the University of Iowa.
The Open Meeting Law, Proxies and the Intent to Avoid
Not only has there been a great deal of interest regarding the recent decision in the Warren County case, but that case has prompted renewed interest in the secret regent meetings which Regents President Rastetter arranged and facilitated for J. Bruce Harreld. (For an excellent rundown of the Warren County case, see this post on Bleeding Heartland.)
The Warren County case broke new ground because it held that a third-party proxy to a board or commission could not be used to get around the open meetings law. From that narrow decision, however, it should be abundantly clear that if third-party proxies are illegal, then it is illegal for any member of a board, commission or governing body to avoid the intent of the open meetings law by acting as a proxy themselves. (While at times legally complex, at root all attempts to avoid the open meetings law come back to the question of intent.)
It is entirely possible that in arranging for and facilitating the secret regent meetings at his own place of business, that Regents President Rastetter violated the open meetings law by using someone on his staff — perhaps Sara Hobson, perhaps someone else — as a go-between. It it also possible, however, if not significantly more likely, that Rastetter himself functioned as a proxy for the four members of the board who were meeting with Harreld for the first time.
It should also be abundantly clear that even though Rastetter sequenced the two meetings-of-two over several hours, and that Rastetter insists he himself did not attend either of those meetings, that neither of those choices relieves Rastetter of his obligations under the open meetings law if he made made those decisions with the “intent to avoid” that law. In fact, because both of those choices would have ensured that five regents did not meet with Harreld in the same place at the same time, those choices could in themselves be seen as evidence that Rastetter was trying to avoid the intent of the open meetings law.
As noted in prior posts, however, it’s not even the case that Rastetter had to be physically present in order to establish a quorum, or to function as a proxy. Simply by using a computer or telephone to check in on the meetings, or to pass information from one set of regents to the other, Rastetter would not only have met the definition of a quorum under the Iowa code, he would have been functioning as a proxy with the “intent to avoid” the open meetings law. As you might imagine, then, not only has the Warren County ruling caused consternation across the state, but Regents President Rastetter is himself eager for some clarity with regard to the ruling:
As also noted in previous posts, the only standard of conduct that Regents President Rastetter cares about, despite the lofty aims of his office, is whether an act is legal or not. Not whether it is unethical or deceptive, or shifty or underhanded or weaselly or corrupt, or bad form or just not done, but whether it could land him in court. So not only is it understandable that he would be eager to get a ruling on how the Warren County decision affects him going forward, it may be that his new assertion this past Tuesday was a panic move to get as far away from the implications of the Warren Country ruling as possible.
With regard to the search process, by impaneling a twenty-one person committee not only did the board purportedly ensure that all constituencies had a voice, the board shielded itself from accusations of conflicts of interest, improper influence or the betrayal of shared governance. All of which search committee member and Regents President Rastetter then triggered himself by arranging a clandestine meeting between Harreld and two members of the board who were not on the search committee. To underscore the magnitude of that violation, consider the fifth charge which Rastetter gave to the committee at the commencement of the search (see page 92 here):
By arranging for the secret regent meetings with Harreld, and by acting as a proxy for those meetings, Rastetter violated his own directions to the search committee. Instead of waiting for the committee to do its work and “recommend…to the board” three or four finalists — which took place weeks later — Rastetter subverted the committee and arranged for Harreld to have a de facto job interview with four regents well in advance of the cutdown process. (It could even be argued that in arranging only for Harreld to meet with the two regents who were not on the search committee, that Rastetter implicitly ‘ranked’ Harreld first among all of the candidates.)
Although Rastetter has asserted, and Harreld has agreed, that Harreld initiated the request for the secret regent meetings which took place on July 30th, those assertions have never been proven. Not only has no communication ever been produced showing such a request from Harreld, even if such a document exists it is possible that Harreld submitted that request at Rastetter’s behest. That is in fact exactly the maneuver that Rastetter performed in September, during the budgetary process, in order to make president-elect Harreld look as if he on the ball.
As to Rastetter’s assertion that Harreld himself was simply doing “diligence” in asking for those meetings, it’s also worth considering the specific request that Harreld reportedly made. From a Gazette article by Vanessa Miller, on 11/01/15:
Having already established that five regents could not have met with Harreld without establishing a quorum, merely by virtue of his candidacy, now consider the odd specificity of Harreld’s request for meetings with “at least four regents”. If five or more regents is impossible, and Harreld wanted to meet with four regents at a minimum, then the only number of regents which satisfies both concerns is four regents — which is exactly how many regents Rastetter scrounged up to meet with Harreld. Not three, not six – four, excluding Rastetter himself, who of course makes five if he was anywhere near the SummitAg offices on July 30th, or in remote communication with any of the other regents during those meetings.
Note, too, that despite parroting Rastetter’s claim that Harreld was insatiable about gathering information and doing “diligence”, Harreld’s request was not qualitative at all. Instead, Harreld’s only concern was quantitative, for reasons that should be obvious. In order to be appointed by the nine-member board a candidate would need a minimum of five votes. Because Harreld already had Rastetter’s vote locked up — witness the extent to which Rastetter put himself out to arrange for and facilitate the July 30th regent meetings — both Harreld and Rastetter knew they only needed to corral four more votes to ensure that the remaining month of the search process would be little more than theater.
Dismantling Rastetter’s Assertion as a Matter of Fact
Because the human mind is always gravitating to the new normal, it’s easy to overlook how far we’ve come in a relatively short amount of time. Seven months ago the University of Iowa community was stunned to learn that the Iowa Board of Regents had unanimously appointed a completely unqualified candidate as president. Since then, however, not only have we learned that the vote was unanimous in name only, but every concern voiced by the faculty, staff and students at that time has been proven true, both regarding improprieties in the search, and the impropriety of putting a man of Harreld’s temperament and professional background in charge of an institution of higher learning.
Today, as regards the secret regent meetings — which, it must be remembered, were completely unknown at the time of Harreld’s appointment — the only remaining question is whether Regents President Rastetter actually broke the law. Whether that question is ever answered or not, there can be no argument that in arranging for and facilitating meetings between Harreld and four regents, Rastetter premeditatedly violated not only the spirit of the open meetings laws, but also the ethics provisions of the regents’ policy manual and his own charge to the search committee, of which he was also a member.
It would be one thing if Rastetter had responded to Hicks’ comment, during his meeting with the Register’s editorial board, by asserting that nothing improper was done during the search, or that he stood by his actions, or that reasonable people could disagree, or simply by repeating his previous mantra that Harreld was doing “diligence”, or even by falling back to his favorite last line of defense and stating that he would have no further comment on the matter. But that’s not what he did. What Rastetter did was assert something that, as far as I know, he has never asserted before, which is that “any” requests for “any” meetings with “any” members of the board would have been “entertained”.
Despite Rastetter’s revisionist insistence that “any candidate” could have met with “any regents” during the search, other than J. Bruce Harreld’s meetings with four regents at Rastetter’s private place of business in Ames we not only have no indication that such meetings were made available to other candidates, we have no indication that such meetings have ever taken place in the entire history of presidential searches at the University of Iowa. In fact, it’s entirely possible that in asserting that “any candidate who asked to meet with any regents” would have had their request accepted by the board — in order to “sell them on why they should want to be president of the University of Iowa” — that Rastetter is countering the entire history of presidential searches in the state.
Again, the mendacious implication behind both Rastetter’s original assertion and his new assertion is that Harreld the business genius was aggressive and savvy enough to ask for what he wanted, while the doltish academic candidates were too timid or dumb to do so. While blaming the victims of any abuse of power is always a gutless move, to say nothing of doing so when you yourself perpetrated that abuse, even if we assume that Harreld was the first to ask for such meetings, Rastetter and Robillard clearly had an obligation to make the availability of those meetings known to every other candidate once those meetings were approved.
So whenever Rastetter decided that the secret regents meetings were acceptable, why is there no evidence — not even a shred of proof — that he brought that determination to the committee as a whole, at which point that opportunity was disseminated to all of the candidates in the pipeline? If that was actually the case at the time, and Rastetter is not simply making up a defense after the fact, there should be some paper trail to that effect, along with memories from the majority of the search committee that such a determination was made, and such an offer was extended to all of the other candidates.
To-date, of course, such evidence has never been produced, and likely never will be because it almost certainly doesn’t exist. What we do have, however, is incontrovertible proof that some of the members of the board — who, by Rastetter’s assertion last Tuesday, were all eager to meet with any candidate who wanted to talk — did not actually know that the secret regent meetings with Harreld had taken place until weeks after Harreld’s purportedly unanimous appointment by the board. So not only did Rastetter personally choose which regents got to meet with Harreld, he and those regents then kept their meetings with Harreld secret from the rest of the board.
Given Rastetter’s new claim that the board would have been happy to meet with “any candidate” who wanted to meet with “any regents”, we can also assume that the board staff was aware of that eagerness, if not actively planning to meet such requests. And yet to-date we have no such confirmation from anyone on the board staff, including Executive Director Bob Donley, who remains perpetually mute. Too, given that the board offices are in Urbandale, which is a suburb of Des Moines and only a relatively short drive from Ames, it’s also worth asking why the purportedly aboveboard meetings with Harreld were not held at the regents’ offices.
If the answer is that it was more convenient for Harreld to meet with the regents in Ames because Harreld was having dinner that evening with ISU President Leath, then why were the secret regent meetings not held on the campus of Iowa State, which is also in Ames? By virtue of their duties as regents, all of the regents who met with Harreld at Rastetter’s place of business were familiar with Iowa State, and had probably been there multiple times — yet Rastetter hosted the meetings at his own company. Why?
In speaking with the Register’s editorial board, Rastetter asserted that the same process which was used to elect both Leath at ISU and William Ruud at UNI was used to elect Harreld. If that is indeed the case, is it possible that both Leath and Ruud were also “entertained” by Rastetter and four other regents at his SummitAg offices? If so, why has that never been reported? Alternatively, if that did not happen during those searches, why not? Were Leath and Ruud simply to timid or doltish to ask for such meetings — and if so, why did Rastetter and the board appoint them? Did any other candidates in either of those searches request such meetings? If so, were those meetings provided to candidates who were not eventually appointed by the board?
From a historical perspective, across the entire history of presidential searches in the state, is there any other search in which a candidate was provided secret meetings with four or more regents at a private location, either all at once, or in series, as occurred with Harreld? Is there any evidence in the historical record, from any prior search, that the Iowa Board of Regents as a body has ever affirmed — as Regents President Rastetter is now asserting after the fact — that candidates should have to opportunity to meet with as many members of the board as they want, even if those members were not on the search committee?
Rastetter’s new claim — which may even rise to the level of board policy — would also seem to settle a key question that was raised in the previous post, which is whether search chair Jean Robillard was himself aware, on July 30th, that the secret regent meetings were taking place. Given Rastetter’s assertion that such meetings were available as a matter of course, it seems impossible to imagine that the search chair was not aware of that policy as well. Why neither the president of the Board of Regents nor the chair of the search committee offered such meetings to any other candidate, or broadcast their availability during the search, or indeed talked to anyone about Harreld’s meetings until well after Harreld’s appointment, and even then only subsequent to the disclosure of those meetings in the press, obviously leaves us with a bit of a conundrum, but still — on the question of whether Robillard knew in advance that Harreld was meeting with four regents on July 30th, he clearly must have known.
As to that nagging conundrum, the obvious answer, of course, is that Regents President Rastetter lied last Tuesday. If that is the case, it’s important to remember that even though the events he intended to obscure took place almost eight months ago, that lie is itself a brand new lie. Meaning seven months after the conspiracy to appoint J. Bruce Harreld reached fruition, and five months since Harreld took office, the president of the Iowa Board of Regents is not only still stonewalling any attempt to get at the truth, but in blatant contravention of his obligations as president of the Board of Regents he is still making up new lies to tell the press, and, by extension, the people of Iowa. That the editorial board of the Des Moines Register elicited Rastetter’s new lie by pressing him on documented inconsistencies in the search process, instead of ‘moving on’ or simply ignoring those concerns, is to be commended.
You asked a question a couple days ago about Hammond’s suit, and there’s no word on where that’s gone, except that it’s gone to Thornhill of the Sixth Circuit, a Culver appointee, also a UI grad, MBA and JD. What little I can find about him says people seem to regard him as fair and square, not without some sense of mercy and reason.
Hammond settled last time in exchange for $65K — his costs, I imagine — and admission of wrongdoing; I’d also think they’re working pretty hard on him, trying to get him to settle. He’s emeritus, of course, so there goes that handle; I think I’m glad, actually, not to be privy to whatever’s going on there. But my guess is that the BoR is actually working pretty frantically to slice it fine, so that they can admit some wrongdoing without voiding the search itself (and that the news out of DM has thrown a hell of a wrench into all this). And that’d mean the question is “is Hammond after Harreld, or is he after a particular thing to do with process.” The answer may determine whether Judge Thornhill gets a workout or not.
Of course, last time the BoR admitted wrongdoing, then turned right around and brought us this. I think if I were Dr. Hammond, and I’d been around that place for decades and decades and knew the graveyard map, I’d probably be caught between trying to engineer some good longterm change at the cost of letting Harreld be and just letting the BoR have it, though of course there’s no guarantee about Thornhill’s decision. Bird-in-hand question. Maybe the big risk is “we couldn’t possibly have known the rules were meant to be interpreted in this way, nobody said so, we’ll never ever do it again, promise, Maw.” Which is the kind of thing Rastetter’s been saying lately: we have to be very careful, we want to make sure we don’t skirt the law, our hearts and intentions are pure.
And the answer would be “yes, that’s fine if it’s the sort of excuse a UI student hands you, but you’re a savvy businessman who’s no stranger to the inside of a court room, you know what phrases suggest you ought to find out where exactly the lines are; you tried intentionally to defeat the purpose of the law, and in this case you just figured you’d get away with it by specifically ignoring any questions about where the lines lay.”
It’d explain why Rastetter’s out talking up his boy, too. Culture change, good man, all that. I’m thinking they’re not going to have Harreld talking publicly till after all this is settled.
I know the correspondence between the BoR and others have been FOIAed, but is there anything that’s been FOIAed showing correspondence or conversations between regents and whoever advises them on interpretation of search rules?
Hammond’s suit is still active, but won’t be heard until 3/7/17.
One interesting aspect of that considerable delay is that the landscape seems to be shifting in Hammond’s favor:
If Hammond’s case has merit, I wonder if the courts might not be predisposed to a harsher ruling than last time, given the regents’ obvious recidivism. (That’s all the more true depending on what happens between now and then with regard to issues like the secret regent meetings which Rastetter arranged.)
If I’m Hammond, I simply press the point of the suit until something gives. If you watch last week’s interview of Rastetter at the Register, including the parts that I commented about in the previous post, you can seem him tighten up and stumble in ways that seem uncharacteristic. He literally has no defense except to insist that he did nothing wrong, yet it is abundantly clear that he favored Harreld over all the other candidates.
Again, if that thin veil of denial is ever pierced by someone with subpoena power and the ability to indict, Rastetter is in a world of hurt.
As to the two bros, Rastetter and Harreld are wedded in their lies. If either one of them cracks, the other is going down too. In that sense it shouldn’t be surprising that Rastetter is constantly talking up Harreld, but I don’t think it helps. Where Rastetter was insistent months ago that there were a lot of faculty who supported Harreld’s hire, in the Register video the support that he cites is considerably smaller, if it exists at all.
At the end of last December we took a very close look at what originally seemed to be an almost incidental introduction of politics into the Iowa Board of Regents’ fraudulent election of J. Bruce Harreld as president of the University of Iowa. The specific event in question was a phone call which Governor Branstad made to candidate Harreld, at the behest if not direction of Regents President Bruce Rastetter. Although the call itself was never disputed, both Rastetter and Branstad dismissed the contact as being of no consequence, even though Branstad did not make similar calls to any other candidates.
In mid-December, however, it was discovered that the actual moment when Rastetter instructed Branstad to make the call had been captured on video back in August, during the filming of a documentary on Branstad. Importantly, the transcript of that video made clear that the phone call was not made at Harreld’s request, but was initiated by Regents President Rastetter himself:
While it was clear that Rastetter’s use of the word ‘encouragement’ was a euphemism, the fact that Rastetter used such an ambiguous word allowed him to maintain plausible deniability even as his actions betrayed his intent. Thanks to another opportune and improbable quote from Rastetter himself, however — this time from a recent taping of Iowa Press, as quoted by DesMoinesDem at Bleeding Heartland — we now also have Rastetter’s open acknowledgement that the world ‘encouragement’ is indeed a euphemism for political favoritism:
By acknowledging that the word ‘encouragement’ is a synonym for ‘recruitment’ in Rastetter’s own mind, and that he uses both of those words to describe his own active participation “in helping principled people win”, we can no go back and revise the first four lines in the transcript from the video, as follows:
Because Rastetter only instructed Branstad to call one of the four finalists for the position, and that candidate was J. Bruce Harreld, it has long been clear that Rastetter was determined to fix the outcome of the search process in Harreld’s favor. As noted in the previous post, however, concerning Rastetter’s appearance last week before the editorial board of the Des Moines Register, his own words continue to make that case better than anything that has been said by those who stand opposed to his abuses of power. Now, with Rastetter’s inferential acknowledgment that he was indeed using Governor Branstad to recruit Harreld alone among the four purportedly unranked and equal finalists which the search committee had sent to the board — as per Rastetter’s own charge as president of the board — we can again see that Rastetter’s claims of innocence before the Register’s editorial board were indeed naked lies.
I don’t know what it will take to prompt the press or anyone in a position of authority in state government to publicly concur, but we are now at a point where the actual evidence is overwhelming. On July 30th, 2015, at the absolute latest, Regents President Bruce Rastetter himself, in league with several other co-conspirators, put in motion a plan to appoint J. Bruce Harreld as president of the University of Iowa. Included in that plan was the recruitment of Harreld by Governor Terry Branstad, who agreed to participate under the euphemistic pretext of apolitical “encouragement”. (That Branstad clearly knew what Rastetter meant by “encouragement” should not be surprising, given that Rastetter was Branstad’s largest political contributor, and was appointed by Branstad to the presidency of the Board of Regents on that basis.)
The end result of this fraudulent scheme is that not only was more than $300,000 of taxpayer money wasted in a sham search, but the current president of the University of Iowa — J. Bruce Harreld — is now being paid more than $4,000,000 in taxpayer money not because of the merits of his candidacy, but as crony compensation for participating in and remaining loyal to Rastetter’s political scheme. We may never see the day when law enforcement at any level strips the veneer of professionalism from these men and exposes them as the thieves they are, but neither does that mean this flagrant abuse of power should be implicitly condoned by silence.
Noteworthy too that Branstad insists that he doesn’t use email, so why ask for an email? Seems like hidden public business. “Branstad and his staff have consistently maintained the governor doesn’t use email, even for personal use.” http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/investigations/2015/03/24/branstad-email-blackberry-news-summaries/70383686/
Paul Diehl says
Excellent catch, Paula! If Branstad screwed up and used “email” for some OTHER kind of written communication, then Stephen Voyce is back in the Open Records business. Rastetter initially said he would send the email, but a week later, on December 21, [Josh] Lehman [regent spokesman] volunteered that no such email was ever sent. That’s a very odd thing to volunteer and smacks of CYA insurance for Branstad.
“Bruce Rastetter called the governor’s chief of staff’s office and gave the information that way,” Lehman said. Odd again. You don’t give information to an office, without leaving a record, unless the call was to an individual in that office, who STILL should have logged in that call. And the individual in particular REALLY should have logged it because until August 8, 2015, he had been Branstad’s office legal counsel and knew better than to dump it. That individual is Michael Bousselot (Boo-sa-low), Branstad’s current Chief of Staff, whose name will now appear on the list of conspirators to defraud Iowans of at least $300,000 for an open search that in fact was fixed. You’d think Bousselot would have been more attentive in his Drake Law School classes.
Time to query Bousselot about the nature of record keeping in the governor’s office and about whether that process meets the legal standard for handling the communication records of the governor.
Speaking of emails and phone calls, one of the reasons an actual legal investigation is needed into the Harreld hire is to uncover the web of communication that occurred prior to and around events as we now know them. For example, Harreld, Rastetter, Robillard and Matthes didn’t all just show up in a conference room on the Kirkwood campus on June 19th after a text. There must have been a lot of back and forth before that meeting took place, including contact with Stead.
(I noted in an earlier post that Harreld’s story about learning that Stead would not be attending only when he arrived in CR and Matthes informed him of that fact seemed preposterous on its face. Stead couldn’t call Harreld, or leave a message or text?)
And of course Harreld recently moved the entire timeline for first contact back to March, instead of ‘late spring’ as he previously asserted. Once you’re back that far, it’s not hard to put Stead and Harreld in contact about the position before the search committee is even formed. (Harreld was very specific in his quote, that he had never met or talked to a REGENT before March. Stead, of course, is not a regent.)
As someone not steeped in crony politics it’s almost jarring at times how transparent the lies are. Falsehoods litter the landscape, both as to the Harreld hire and the mechanics of Branstad’s political machine, and yet no one cares.
There is literal video evidence of Rastetter initiating the call from Branstad to Harreld, and Branstad requesting Harreld’s contact information by email, and that contradicts prior statements by all three. When does the needle swing into the red that those lies may signal other lies — including lies that cost the people of the state money?
Momentarily setting aside the abuses of power that Regents President Bruce Rastetter committed in fraudulently electing J. Bruce Harreld as president of the University of Iowa, it’s worth noting that the status-quo-bucking Rastetter has had his ass handed to him three times over the past few months, all on the same issue. Specifically, after relentlessly lobbying for a performance-based funding model which would compel all of the state’s universities to compete for and enroll Iowa students, there is now clear evidence not only that Rastetter’s plan will not work, but than in pursuing that plan he will decrease overall revenue from tuition and weaken Iowa’s regional competitive standing.
First, consultants who were specifically hired to look at the viability of Rastetter’s performance-based funding model returned the following verdict back in October, as reported by the Press-Citizen:
Second, Rastetter has routinely denigrated the University of Iowa for the number of students who come from outside the state. From the Des Moines Register, in May of 2014:
While Rastetter’s patriarchal posturing is nauseating enough, his condescension was clearly intended to boost the performance-based funding model, which he was pushing at exactly the same time. One problem with Rastetter’s self-serving harangue against the University of Iowa, however, is that out-of-state students often pay considerably more in tuition, which means more money coming into the state. As long as there are sufficient slots for in-state students who want to attend, then it’s to the advantage of the regent’s bottom line to attract out-of-state students.
From U.S. News and Word Report, yesterday:
Given the consultant’s report from last October, Iowa’s three state schools clearly do not have the same problem that California is wrestling with — which should be no surprise to anyone who has lived in, or even traveled through, both states. As long as in-state students who want to attend the University of Iowa have that choice, there’s nothing wrong with UI having a large number of out-of-state students. In fact, from a savvy, bottom-line, business-oriented perspective, it’s ideal.
Third, while the Iowa Board of Regents has been myopically focused on imposing its unworkable performance-based funding plan on the state’s schools, largely at Rastetter’s behest, surrounding states are also trying to attract out-of-state students to their schools. One of those states — South Dakota — is such a natural draw for high school students who live in the northwest corner of Iowa that it has come up with a novel way to poach even more of those scarce Iowa students. From the Des Moines Register, yesterday:
South Dakota saw a dip in out-of-state enrollment, and in response they didn’t just amp up their marketing budget, they cut tuition costs so that Iowa students in close geographical proximity won’t have to travel all the way to Ames, or even farther to UNI or Iowa, to receive discounted tuition. If that increases enrollment for South Dakota, however, it means even fewer in-state students available for Iowa’s state’s schools, which in turn means that attracting more out-of-state students may not simply be profitable, it may be necessary. And yet for years now Rastetter has been driving the Iowa Board of Regents in exactly the opposite direction.
So what did the Iowa Board of Regents have to say about South Dakota’s new plan?
Again, leaving aside Rastetter’s blatant crony politics and his complicity in the fraudulent Harreld hire, how many times does the man have to fall down in the performance of his basic responsibilities before someone points out that he actually deserves to be fired for incompetence as well? Or is this what transformative leadership in higher education looks like? Because from my admittedly outside perspective, it looks a lot like the back end of a horse.
I’ve never understood the logic in making three universities compete for a piece of a shrinking pie. What an intelligent regent, assuming there is such a beast, should have done is to suggest to UNI that they look into ways to improve out of state recruitment.
I agree that it’s a serious mistake. As I noted in another comment below, it actually limits the choices for in-state students, by homogenizing the schools.
UNI was always perfect for kids who didn’t want to attend a really big school, and it had its specialties. The way Rastetter and his ilk are going, in a couple of years it will be little more than a regional campus for one of the other state universities.
On reread I see it: competition is pretty much their only model apart from “my buddy”. They have no understanding of cooperative/planned models, which is why MITI freaked out their ilk so hard in the 80s and they figured the Japanese were psychic. Also why Amtrak gets them so up in arms. In their religion, if you want something to be better, you set up some kind of battle royale and let the victor emerge and then worship and model everything after the victor, repeat. It’s what Harreld’s doing with the various units at UI next, with no regard whatsoever for the fact that the place is held together not just by money but by the collegiality, however Virginia Woolf things may become. And that the damage from this process will be felt long after he’s gone. Collegiality is not a thing in his world. Since it’s not competitive, it must not be efficient, and therefore it’s beneath contempt. (I’ve wondered since college why they don’t pick up on the fact that they themselves really would not do well in a more efficient world.)
It’s pretty much all these guys know how to do. I’m also waiting for the emergence of our eugenics program, which is what these guys really want out of medical science no matter the season. Why go to the bother of drowning bunnies when you can produce all T. rexes in the first place? (Plus some nice lady T. rexes who are of course much nicer and less competitive and more maternal…though of course they should be bred to be maximally productive.)
I just looked through a giant and very dull slideshow from, I think, 2014 in which various consultants and pals told the Regents all about the virtues of PBF and how everyone was doing it or about to do it. I’ll see if I can find the link and post it. Much was made too of pushing schools and kids in the direction of particular fields of studies, which happen to line up nicely with the Gartner-Robillard-Rastetter preferred “core strengths” for UI, nevermind that UI already had core strengths that were better-suited to native soil. Obviously PBF’s been a national thing, but it doesn’t matter — it was obvious from the outset that it made no sense whatsoever here, also that this particular goalpost would be replaced by another one pretty fast.
I expect that some pressure to push PBF came from the investor side, because the major bond-rating-related complaint ca. 2013 was that the schools couldn’t get these danged kids and parents to shell out any more for a degree without assurances of paying jobs. Hence cessation of revenue growth. So if you’ve got that problem and you decide that Fields XYZ are the paying ones, and tell everyone that these are the paying fields (while those in the field look around quizzically and say, “Really? Where did they put the jobs?”), when you build big programs in those fields while uh deëmphasizing the rest, theoretically the customers will come running and be willing to pay more for them. What with the job prospects and all. It’s just a death-rattle for the good-debt idea that had them crowding in 10 years ago.
It may also have something to do with completion rates (which is actually at odds with the program emphases, since many of the favored fields have programs that tend to have high dropout rates) and job-placement rates with the Dept of Ed looking over their shoulders and wanting to see something about value for loan money.
The competing for Iowa kids thing was weird, though, and I’d assumed it was a bull**** thing to punish the one blue county in the state in the last gubernatorial election. UI is after all the worm in that particular apple. It takes up some room in the slideshow and seems to have to do with future viability of the Iowa workforce, but it’s pretty diffuse and in any case there’s no obvious (to me) reason why that should turn into a corndog-eating contest. I guess it’s possible that they really are so dumb they hadn’t thought about differences between CA and IA, but…well…wow.
A few months back I took a deep dive into performance-based funding because it kept coming up at the periphery of the Harreld hire. I’d never heard of the term before, and like ‘right to work’ it seemed to have the appearance of fairness. Like all political euphemisms, however, it turned out to be less than the sum of its parts.
What concerned me then and concerns me even more now is that Rastetter seemed to be embracing PFB not because it was ideal for the state, but because, as you noted, it allowed him to take an axe to the vile University of Iowa. Okay, fair enough — Rastetter’s got an inferiority complex about UI and he’s never going to get over it (or Branstad either), but at some point even the money people have to be concerned that this train is headed in the wrong direction.
One of Iowa’s advantages in higher education was always that its three universities were almost perfectly integrated vertically, covering the quasi-community college rungs of the ladder at UNI all the way up to the world-class stage at UI. Because of that diversity in-state kids could choose the level at which they felt comfortable entering the higher-ed pipeline, and as far as I know there has never been problem accommodating those different groups. Likewise, the schools as a group were somewhat insulated from downturns in one higher-ed demand segment here or there. With PFB you get none of those advantages and instead leave every school open to the same liabilities, so if one takes a hit because of state or national stresses, they all do.
As to why Rastetter thinks that is a good, idea, I keep coming back to the fact that he’s a commodity guy. Ethanol, hog lots — whatever he’s been involved in, it’s always paid to refine a model and then replicate it. But of course education is not a commodity, or even a business — it’s a service, and you have to understand that service regionally, relative to the economy, and relative to demand.
Instead of diversifying heavily, which every state should be trying to do, Rastetter is commodotizing higher education so that there will be no meaningful distinctions in-state. Which in turn makes simple factors like drive time more important, and gives states like South Dakota a much better shot at poaching in-state students. When does somebody with a functional mind step forward and say that this is a massive mistake?
Back in mid-December the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) released the final report on its investigation into the Harreld hire. At the time I promised we would come back and take a detailed look at that report, and here we are. In two prior posts, toward the end of last year, we considered both the broad implications of the findings of the AAUP report, and internal inconsistencies in the AAUP’s conclusions about J. Bruce Harreld. In this post we will consider the AAUP report not from the limited perspective of the AAUP’s administrative grievance with the Iowa Board of Regents, but from the much broader perspective of truth. In that context we will not only be taking a close look at specific statements and conclusions, but at whether J. Bruce Harreld’s stewardship as president over the past five months has born out the optimistic stance that the AAUP initially took regarding his appointment.
Here is the AAUP’s finding on the Iowa Board of Regents’ hiring of J. Bruce Harreld as president of the University of Iowa (p. 14, upper right):
While the AAUP’s conclusion was damning, and certainly justifies whatever sanctions the AAUP chooses to levy against the Iowa Board of Regents in the future, as a factual matter the abuses to which the AAUP report speaks transcend the board and include both Jean Robillard, a top-ranking administrator at the University of Iowa, and J. Bruce Harreld himself. It is with those additional conspirators in mind that we will work through the AAUP report and highlight the degree to which the Harreld hire was indeed a conspiracy, and why facts which were assumed to be true only a few short months ago should be revisited prior to any subsequent determinations by the AAUP.
The AAUP Report in Detail
On p.1, first full paragraph, J. Bruce Harreld’s employment history is summarized as follows:
For the moment we will simply note Harreld’s status as a “senior lecturer at the Harvard Business School”.
Also on p.1, third paragraph:
While the board did indeed record a unanimous vote in Harreld’s favor, that vote was by convention, and did not reflect unanimous support for Harreld’s candidacy. Specifically, once Harreld had a five-vote majority on the nine-member board, any board members opposed to his candidacy switched their votes in order to give Harreld the appearance of undivided support.
On p.2, first partial paragraph, the following text appears regarding the faculty’s censure of J. Bruce Harreld for misstatements on his resume, and concludes with a reference to footnote 3:
Here is the full text of footnote 3:
As noted in an earlier post, while the AAUP made clear, prior to its investigation into the Harreld hire, that Harreld himself would not be a subject of the investigation, at least one member of the AAUP’s ad hoc committee took it upon himself, on multiple occasions, to not only render judgments about the facts surrounding Harreld’s candidacy, but to make judgments about Harreld’s intent. Specifically, regarding the listing of the company that Harreld had most recently worked for, and Harreld’s subsequent explanation for that misleading description, we have this exculpatory judgment from Footnote 3:
The assumption here is that the explanation that J. Bruce Harreld gave during his candidate open forum was accurate, yet where is the evidence in support of that conclusion? In point of fact, Harreld’s listing of himself as the “Managing Principal” of Executing Strategies, LLC, in Avon, Colorado, is deceptive for not one but two completely different reasons. First, as noted, because it implies that a business called Executing Strategies, LLC, was registered in Colorado when it was not. Second, because use of the words “Managing Principal” implies that there were employees or an organization being actively managed by Harreld, when there was not.
While the AAUP report does not address Harreld’s intent on the second charge, one possible if not likely explanation for both of his misstatements is that J. Bruce Harreld wanted to inflate his work as a sole-proprietor and business consultant into something more impressive. Yet footnote 3 of the AAUP report concludes, as a factual matter, that Harreld “simply neglected to register” his business in Colorado when there is no evidence to support that claim. Alternatively, it’s entirely possible that when Harreld moved from the East Coast to Colorado in 2014, he fully intended to retire. Then, when suddenly presented with a gift-wrapped offer to preside over the University of Iowa, either in late 2014 or early 2015, Harreld cobbled together a title and company for his resume with the intent of making himself seem more desirable as a candidate.
That is in fact common practice when it comes to the preparation of resumes in sectors of the economy which do not have standards akin to those in higher education, where such license is not simply frowned upon but considered deceitful. On that basis alone, then, rank ego seems a more likely explanation for Harreld’s behavior than simple sloppiness. More to the point, while we only have Harreld’s word for the conclusions reached in footnote 3, as should be clear from Harreld’s resume alone his word is insufficient, which again raises the question of why footnote 3 accepts Harreld’s unsubstantiated explanation as fact.
On the question of the seriousness of Harreld’s two errors — only one of which is even addressed by footnote 3, and only one of which can conceivably be dismissed as unintentional — by what objective measure is Harreld’s acknowledged misstatement described as “hardly a serious failure”? Of the four finalists for the position, only one — J. Bruce Harreld — had any trouble accurately describing his work history. Again, given the magnitude of the leap that Harreld was hoping to make, from self-employed business consultant to president of a billion-dollar research university, it’s not hard to imagine that he was eager if not desperate to inflate his recent (and at that time purportedly current) employment status, which he accomplished by being intentionally deceptive in two different ways. Rather than being “hardly a serious failure”, then, as suggestive of accident or oversight, Harreld’s listing of himself as the “Managing Principal” of Executive Strategies, LLC could just as easily be deemed evidence of a willful intent to mislead.
So which is it? While neither sloppiness nor dishonesty are usually considered qualities attractive to employers, in order to determine which of those two readings is correct we can look for patterns of behavior which predispose us to one conclusion or the other. And as regular readers know, particularly with regard to Harreld’s resume, there is one obvious example of sloppiness which is hard to overlook. Specifically, in writing about his work history at IBM, Harreld failed to catch a ‘BM’ typo which clearly should have been corrected.
While evidence of sloppiness, the ‘BM’ typo is also just as clearly an example of sloppiness in execution, not intent. There is no sense in which Harreld omitted mention of the letter ‘I’ on purpose, or even forgot that ‘IBM’ has an ‘I’ in it. Rather, he simply failed to notice that it was missing, either directly, or indirectly through the delegation of that task to others. Contrast that with his listing of Executing Strategies as an LLC registered in Colorado when it was not, and even if the AAUP is correct that such an error is “hardly a serious failure”, it is certainly not one of simple neglect. And in no case does any of that account for the license Harreld demonstrated by electing to describe himself as the “Managing Principal” of that company.
As to the possibility that J. Bruce Harreld was being willfully dishonest with regard to his description of Executing Strategies as an LLC, and his lofty description of his role at that sole proprietorship, not only do we have evidence of exactly that kind of deceptive intent elsewhere in Harreld’s resume, we can point to an example of that same deceptive instinct in Harreld’s presentation of himself as the sitting president of the University of Iowa. Specifically, and again as regards his own work history, J. Bruce Harreld continues to promote narratives which are at best incomplete, if not factually false.
As was noted recently in the comments, although Harreld’s online resume and presidential bio reference his tenure at Boston Market, J. Bruce Harreld never worked for the company under that name. Considerably worse, however, is the fact that although Harreld left Boston Chicken to work for IBM in 1995, in both his resume and his online bio he nonetheless lays claim to the explosive growth which took place at that company (which was subsequently renamed Boston Market), while simultaneously omitting any reference to the bankruptcy and lawsuits which resulted from the collapse of business practices that he initiated and oversaw as president:
Here not only do we have clear evidence that Harreld’s current presidential bio is misleading at best and deceptive at worst, but the specifics he omits with regard to Boston Chicken speak directly to serial deception which he perpetrated in the business world. With regard to Harreld’s resume, then, we see not only the same intent to mislead or deceive in his claims about Executive Strategies as a business, and his role as the “Managing Principal” of that business, but also, later in his resume, in Hareld’s claim of sole credit for works which were in fact co-authored. While the AAUP report seems to implicitly acknowledge that those latter failings were serious because they occasioned actual censure by the faculty, again — and this time incredulously — the incurious text of footnote 3 takes Harreld at his word:
One obvious rejoinder here is that J. Bruce Harreld must have been aware at the time that he was not applying for a position in the business world, and that he might thus need to make necessary accommodations, including asking people whether his resume was appropriate for higher education. The more salient point, however, is that not only did J. Bruce Harreld have a Bachelors in Engineering from Purdue and a Masters of Business Administration from Harvard at the time of his application for the Iowa presidency, suggesting more than passing familiarity with the ethical requirements for citations in an academic setting, but his most recent substantive work experience was in higher education. Again, as quoted at the beginning of this post:
While the AAUP report does mention Harreld’s stint at Harvard, it omits the fact that Harreld worked there for SIX YEARS — from the end of his employment at IBM in 2008 through 2014, when Harreld suddenly reinvented himself as the “Managing Principal” of an unregistered sole-proprietorship in Avon, Colorado. Not only would that additional information seem to be relevant to the favorable and unsubstantiated conclusions reached in Footnote 3, but it would also seem to raise concerns that J. Bruce Harreld may not have been the best of educators if, after six years of teaching at Harvard, he still did not know how to produce a proper academic citation.
As a factual matter, at the time of his appointment and subsequent censure, J. Bruce Harreld had spent the majority of the previous decade in academia, not in the business world. While Harreld had no experience in academic administration at the time of his appointment, it is impossible to imagine that as a faculty member he was not familiar with, if not required to actually grade, proper form for academic citations. That, in turn, again suggests that both the preparation of Harreld’s resume and his subsequent explanation for its failings were not the result of confusion or sloppiness, but intentional deceit.
Continuing on p. 2, first full paragraph, we have this, regarding cooperation with the AAUP investigation:
While the AAUP’s investigation ostensibly focused solely on the complicity of the Board of Regents in betraying shared governance, in two recent posts we have shown that both Jean Robillard and J. Bruce Harreld were central to — if not critical to — the betrayal of shared governance which the regents committed. In noting that none of the key co-conspirators were even willing to meet with the AAUP, and that J. Bruce Harreld did not even have the courtesy to reply, the unanimity of that response not only seems telling, it makes clear that the University of Iowa as an administrative body was also hostile to the AAUP inquiry.
On p. 7, first paragraph, there is a brief summary of J. Bruce Harreld’s origin story as a candidate:
As regular readers know, the origin of Harreld’s candidacy is a tortured saga in itself, replete with lies by all of the co-conspirators. As such the enormity of those intertwined abuses of power can hardly be captured in a single block of text, yet in general the AAUP account is accurate. With specific regard to Jerre Stead’s role, however, it is important to note that Stead himself told a bald-faced lie the day after Harreld’s appointment, which Harreld himself knew to be a lie. Yet in response, Harreld — as president-elect (or president-designate) — did nothing to correct the record, which again speaks directly to the question of Harreld’s veracity. (In truth, Harreld’s lack of response to a false statement being made on his behalf is not unique, but representative.)
In the last full paragraph on p. 7, the AAUP report summarizes comments from Christina Bohannan regarding the July 8th “VIP Lunch”, which Robillard hosted on Harreld’s behalf:
The characterization of the “VIP Lunch” as a “non-event” from Bohannan’s perspective is, to be charitable, misleading. Both Bohannan and Sarah Gardial, dean of the college of business, reported that there was no indication that J. Bruce Harreld was even interested in applying for the presidency at Iowa, when in fact his attendance (and his wife’s accompaniment) was partly if not fully predicated on that question. In that context, Regents President Bruce Rastetter, Search Chair Jean Robillard, and J. Bruce Harreld himself all conspired to omit any mention, to Bohannan and Gardial, of their prior face-to-face contact on the campus of Kirkwood Community College in mid-June. That omission was in fact staunchly perpetuated by those three men subsequent to widespread disclosure of the “VIP Lunch” in the press, including the telling of multiple lies by Robillard, who at the time had also ascended to the role of interim president. Tellingly, again, neither Regents President Rastetter nor President-elect Harreld corrected Robillard’s lies at the time, even as they knew Robillard’s statements to be false because of their own presence at that secret Kirkwood meeting.
On p.8, first full paragraph, we have this, regarding the phone call which Governor Terry Branstad placed to J. Bruce Harreld during the search:
Not only has it never been determined that J. Bruce Harreld asked to speak with the governor, there is now considerable evidence that the impetus for the call came from Regents President Rastetter himself. In addition, during a recent interview with the local Iowa press, Rastetter unintentionally revealed that the euphemistic terminology he used in soliciting Branstad’s aid was in fact code for helping Harreld win.
From p. 8, last full paragraph, regarding the search committee chaired by Jean Robillard:
As the report goes on to note, the decision to disband the search committee was in contravention of long established practice at the University of Iowa. What the report does not say is that this single act by the chair of the search committee, who was at that time also interim president, was as blunt a betrayal of shared governance as any act committed by the regents. The name of the committee was the Presidential Search and Screen Committee, yet when the committee finally had the names of the four finalists who most deserved — and, as we now know, in Harreld’s case, needed — a thorough vetting, the senior-most administrator at the University of Iowa disbanded the committee.
It must also be noted that nothing precluded Robillard from announcing his intent to do so well beforehand, including at the inception of the search. That Robillard clearly chose not to do so, and instead surprised the committee with his unilateral decision, makes it self-evident that he did not want the final candidates to be rigorously vetted, particularly by members of the faculty. (There is still no evidence — either within the AAUP report or elsewhere — that J. Bruce Harreld’s resume, which was the only documentation provided by Harreld during the search, was ever vetted by Parker Executive Search or by the regents themselves.)
From p. 13, sixth full paragraph:
On 01/08/16, in a report in the Press-Citizen, J. Bruce Harreld himself moved the initial date of contact by Regents President Rastetter from ‘early June’ to “March’. In doing so, he contradicted his candidate origin story for for the third time.
On p. 14 of the AAUP report, seventh paragraph, there is this note about Harreld:
On 03/03/16, faculty members and AAUP representatives Katherine Tachau and Lois Cox wrote an op-ed in the Press-Citizen pointing out two ways in which Harreld had ignored his obligations to shared governance. In commenting on that letter I wrote:
Continuing on p. 14 of the AAUP report:
However heartened the authors of the report were at the time, it should now be clear — after only five months in office — that J. Bruce Harreld is at best agnostic to, and at worst hostile to, his obligations to shared governance. That is, however, the least concern both as regards the AAUP’s celebration of Harreld’s response to the draft report, and Harreld’s response in itself.
Any reading of the AAUP report leads to the conclusion that the Iowa Board of Regents betrayed its obligations to shared governance, and that the procedural mechanism of that betrayal was the persistent secretive favoritism and preferential treatment afforded to Harreld during the search. The AAUP report in its entirety makes that linkage explicit. Yet in stating that the report is “accurate from his perspective”, J. Bruce Harreld contradicts his own statements about the search on the eve of taking office. From the Gazette, on 01/01/15:
While I do not know the date of Harreld’s response to the draft report, and thus whether it predates or postdates his comments to the press on the eve of taking office, one of Harreld’s two quoted statements about the search must necessarily be false. That, in turn, brings us back to the central question of the man’s apparent incapacity to “be really honest about” anything, including the degree to which he was repeatedly given preferential treatment during the search by Regents President Rastetter and Interim President Robillard. Even if the AAUP remains unconcerned with J. Bruce Harreld’s own conduct during the search, as relates to the possibility of sanctions against the Iowa Board of Regents the positive tone which the report takes with regard to Harreld clearly needs to be reconsidered.
If it is not within the AAUP’s powers to impose sanctions against the University of Iowa as well as the Board of Regents, it is nonetheless true that during the search the UI Vice President for Medical Affairs, search chair, and, for a four month period, interim president, Jean Robillard, was fully in league with the regents. By the same token, although he was only a candidate until appointed on September 3rd, J. Bruce Harreld has remained loyal to the co-conspirators who put him in office, even when doing so necessitated lies of omission and commission on his part.
Again, from the optimistic passage on p.14 of the AAUP report:
In a little over five months on the job, time has told. Along with being paid by the regents, and taking his marching orders from the regents, J. Bruce Harreld is, and was even before his appointment, a co-conspirator in his own fraudulent hire, and as such materially betrayed shared governance along with Rastetter, Robillard and others. On the question of whether J. Bruce Harreld will defend the University of Iowa from “the worst instincts of its present governing board”, then, the answer is that he will not.
Paul Diehl says
The following will come as no surprise to you, but it may to other members of the university community. Before he was hired, Harreld trotted out his little ‘BM resume as a summary of his work record, a fraudulent summary to boot. For that breach of ethical conduct, the Faculty Assembly of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences voted to censure Harreld before he took office. Bad enough, yes? But wait. Harreld then disseminated that resume verbatim on the University of Iowa website! Graduating seniors are looking for models and tips about good resumes, so perhaps Harreld has left it up as a public service. It hasn’t been left up inadvertently because I have written him four times (without getting a reply) about the unseemliness of such a resume as a university document. The elimination of co-authors is still there, his padded work history is still there, and his being managing principal of a Colorado company that doesn’t exist is still there too. Newspapers around the country still identify him as president and member of the board of Boston Market Company, a company which didn’t exist until years later. “Market” sounds so much more professional than “Chicken,” so Harreld’s indulged in a little revisionist history and perhaps even some time travel. In fall 1995, the head of IBM announced that Harreld would be coming “from “Boston Chicken,” So who are we going to believe?: J Bruce looking back twenty years with a desperate agenda to make himself look good or the IBM’s head honcho speaking to reporters in 1995?? (See http://president.uiowa.edu/files/president.uiowa.edu/files/wysiwyg_uploads/Harreld.Resume_0.pdf)
“After meeting in closed session this afternoon, the Faculty Assembly of the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences unanimously approved the motion against Harreld for failing to uphold “the highest ethical standards” and violating professional ethics by misrepresenting his recent work experience and publication history..
“‘I think the message is that values and ethics matter,’ said Bob McMurray, a professor of psychology and a member of the assembly that represents 700 faculty members in the college. “This is not a call for any action. This is not saying that we will not support President Harreld. … But it is a statement that we expect people to behave with intellectual honesty.”
I think the time has come again to revisit what is now a University of Iowa document, and as fraudulent now as when it first appeared. Next week I will ask the Faculty Assembly to censure Harreld again, for not correcting such a dishonest, unprofessional record.
The Harreld “biography,” also now an official University of Iowa document, “corrects” the omission of co-authors by referring to them and the publications in the aggregate: “President Harreld is the author or coauthor of numerous articles and book chapters….” But once again Harreld’s gone time-traveling, returning to Boston Market, the company that wouldn’t exist for another three years. (See http://president.uiowa.edu/presidents-message/biography-president-bruce-harreld)
These “records” are not those of someone trying to get to an honest place; they’re the ongoing and thereby changing records of an unprofessional swindler., in league with other swindlers in high places as they continue to damage one of the nation’s finest Liberal Arts State Universities. It is now time for Harreld to go skiing and stay there. He said in his first Iowa forum he had better things to do. You’ve been a disaster, J Bruce, and will be until you leave or are thrown out as the University’s faux president.
In mid-March, with great fanfare, J. Bruce Harreld deployed his leadership team across Iowa to launch a new partnership with microscholarship startup Raise.me. In previously taking a close look at that transformative publicity push we noted several concerns, including the fact that the University of Iowa paid a fee to make its deal with Raise.me exclusive among the state’s public universities. Too, because the Raise.me partnership involves no new money, and instead re-brands money that students would have received anyway, the entire program seemed more of a marketing initiative and data grab than anything to do with helping students find new ways to pay for college.
As noted in the previous post, Steve Nelson of the Huffpost Education Blog addressed many of those same concerns about Raise.me several weeks before the UI rollout, including Raise.me’s purported ties to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which both Raise.me and the University of Iowa touted:
Nelson’s skepticism was apparently warranted, because sometime in the past couple of weeks Raise.me scrubbed any mention of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation from its ‘About’ page, while revising its FAQ to conform with the actual facts of the Gates Foundation’s indirect and incidental involvement with Raise.me.
Here is the text of the Raise.me ‘About’ page as it appeared during the UI rollout:
Here is the ‘About’ page text as it appears today:
Here is the Raise.me ‘FAQ’ text, as it appeared during the UI rollout in mid-March:
Here is the revised ‘FAQ’ text as it appears today:
It is in the nature of Silicon Valley startups to overstate their importance, if not in the nature of businesspersons generally to do the same thing — witness J. Bruce Harreld’s own intentional overstatement of his recent work history. Given that Raise.me is aimed at underage students, however, and that the University of Iowa has married its own brand to that of Raise.me, it seems more than a little concerning that no one at Iowa performed the kind of exhaustive due diligence on Raise.me that would be expected from a university administration helmed by a business genius.
From the UI press release on 03/02/16, the day of the rollout:
Because reporters often work from press releases in writing their own copy, it should not be surprising that Raise.me’s claim of association with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation made its way into the full-court press offensive which followed on that same day:
From the Press-Citizen, on 03/02/16:
From KCRG, on 03/02/16:
From the Mason City Globe Gazette, on 03/02/16:
From the Daily Nonpariel, on 03/03/16:
Claims of association with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation were even embellished during interviews with J. Bruce Harreld’s team:
From KMA, on 03/02/16:
The only press coverage I found which did not include any mention of the Gates Foundation was this short piece on the WQAD8 website, and this piece by the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier. In every other instance, reporting included the UI’s own mention of the Gates Foundation, and in some cases asserted that the Gates Foundation was materially involved with Raise.me.
A week or so after rolling out the new UI/Raise.me partnership, Brent Gage, the UI VP for Enrollment Management, authored an op-ed which appeared in at least three other outlets. From the Des Moines Register, on 03/11/16:
The same op-ed appeared in the Quad City Times on 03/13/16, and in the Daily Reporter on 03/18/16, which was actually after mention of the Gates Foundation had been scrubbed from the Raise.me ‘About’ page. (To be fair to Gage, the op-ed had probably been submitted beforehand.)
Now that Raise.me has abandoned claims that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a “partner” or a “funder” of Raise.me, it would seem pertinent to ask why the University of Iowa’s new transformative president, whose sole claim to office hinged on his purported world-class business acumen — and whose insistent justification for the preferential treatment he received during the search is that he was compelled by his very nature to do unremitting due diligence — allowed the University of Iowa to become involved with a company which was plainly overstating its association with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Because even if this is just another example of the kind of failed attention to detail that led to the infamous ‘BM’ typo on Harreld’s own resume, it should be clear that the stakes are considerably higher.
As a businessman J. Bruce Harreld should have known that Raise.me’s description of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as a “funder” was a particularly strong claim of association, because it implied material involvement in what are normally multiple funding rounds at the genesis of any Silicon Valley startup. That Harreld instead facilitated the targeting of that deception at children in the state of Iowa is not simply a bad look for the university, it calls into question the entire premise of the Raise.me partnership, and why J. Bruce Harreld signed on in the first place. In fact, had Harreld done any due diligence at all regarding Raise.me’s claimed association with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, or directed the Office of General Counsel to do so, it’s likely that he would have exposed the misleading nature of that claim as a matter of course — as did a member of the press.
Aneesh Raman says
My name is Aneesh Raman and I head up growth at Raise.me. While we would have loved the chance to answer your questions before you posted, we’re thankful for your interest and I’m happy to answer your questions now. I’d also encourage anyone who would like to discuss this further to email me: aneesh at raise.me.
First, some background: Raise.me is a social enterprise focused on expanding access to higher education by improving the impact of financial aid. Rather than waiting until the end of high school to earn scholarships, which is often too late to impact a student’s college ambitions or choices, Raise.me enables students to earn scholarships throughout high school, starting as early as 9th grade, for taking all the right steps that best prepare them to succeed, whether that’s getting good grades, volunteering in the community or joining an extracurricular. Especially for low income and first generation students, that newfound transparency and motivation is helping them do better in high school and prepare better for college.
I encourage you to read this testimonial from a counselor (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/julie-vivian-/a-game-changer-for-students-and-counselors_b_9519894.html) and this from a student (http://kennedytorch.org/12309/opinion/micro-scholarships-with-the-click-of-a-button/), as well as watch this report that aired recently on the PBS NewsHour (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vs2uKhDv-ns).
As to your question – in 2013, Raise.me won initial funding from the College Knowledge Challenge contest, sponsored by the Gates Foundation and Facebook. That point has been made clear by us from the start. You can see it properly reported in this Business Insider story (http://www.businessinsider.com/raise-helps-students-earn-money-for-college-2016-1) and in this Tech Crunch story (http://techcrunch.com/2013/01/29/the-17-winners-of-the-facebook-gates-foundations-education-app-contest-are-making-college-easier/). As you pointed out, we have updated our site to make sure that the link is clear and that there is no cause for confusion.
As to your point about ‘no new money’, that is true for the vast majority of our programs but is actually not true for the University of Iowa, which is offering additional, stackable dollars to students on Raise.me. That is something that should be celebrated. If you’d like, I can send you a number of studies on the impact of aid for low income students, not just on college access but also college preparedness and completion.
In terms of our other programs, we know that the ability for students to earn that same pool of scholarship money throughout high school, rather than all the way at the end, is having a meaningful and positive impact on motivation and achievement. In many cases, it is enabling students to earn more than they would have otherwise since they end up being stronger applicants by their senior year than they would have without this transparency.
Again, happy to discuss any or all of this further. And thanks for your feedback.
Why do the PR Millennials all have the same chirpy voice?
There is perpetual tension between the ideal and the real. Even if your lofty goals are enthusiastically supported by the masses, reality has a way of intruding on, if not derailing, the best of plans. For every exhortation that one should reach for the stars, there is a sober reminder waiting in the wings that one must work within one’s means.
Because time stands still for no one, compromises are inevitable in moving ahead as one must. While considered deliberation is usually better than mindless activity, paralysis by analysis can be just as damaging as blindly plunging ahead. Look before you leap. He who hesitates is lost.
Decisions can have a polarizing effect of their own, however, warping one’s perception of what is possible in ways that may not be true. A little over seven months ago J. Bruce Harreld was appointed president of the University of Iowa, with the promise that he would transform the university from “great to greater”. A little over five months ago Harreld took office, at which time the reality of his considerable shortcomings began to undermine the ideological arguments which were used to justify his election. In particular, on occasion after occasion, J. Bruce Harreld showed himself to be of a decidedly inappropriate temperament for the office he now holds, while also evidencing serial instances of failed judgment regarding what were purportedly his strengths as a candidate.
The problem with fully perceiving the magnitude of Harreld’s failings is that his very presence in office warps one’s conception of what is appropriate, to say nothing of what might have transpired had someone else been hired. Instead of comparing Harreld to an ideal — which is what his co-conspirators did while propelling him through the fraudulent search process — the reality of Harreld’s day-to-day administration at Iowa has lowered the bar of expectations as low as it can go without triggering summary dismissal. As such, behavior that would have been considered unacceptable if not unimaginable in an ideal president, or even in one of the other three finalists who were robbed by the Iowa Board of Regents, is ignored simply because that’s who J. Bruce Harreld is.
To rectify that problem, at least for this post, take a moment and imagine your ideal University of Iowa president in terms of temperament and judgment. You can fill in or ignore attributes as you like — gender, ethnicity, academic pedigree — but once you’ve settled all that I want you to imagine the mindset, the disposition, the steadiness of your ideal president. Because if you’re like me, it won’t take long until you find yourself thinking about qualities like reserve or statesmanship, or grace under metaphorical fire — which may even be qualities you yourself do not possess. The reason you may find yourself drifting in that direction, of course, is that being the president of a university, let alone a billion-dollar research university with a global brand, is a high-pressure job which requires balancing the needs of multiple constituencies.
As regular readers know, J. Bruce Harreld’s temperament has been a problem since he first appeared at his candidate forum back in early September. In a number of posts we have talked about his inappropriate language, about his testy demeanor, and even about his motive for taking the job. More recently we also took an anticipatory look at the contentious town hall which Harreld and his leadership team conducted on 02/23/16, then noted after the fact that Harreld’s presentation was utterly devoid of transformative ideas.
Following up on all that we are now going to take a much closer look at the town hall and compare Harreld’s actual conduct with that of your idealized president. In doing so I think you will find that J. Bruce Harreld has already proven himself incapable of being the president that the University of Iowa needs and deserves. By way of prior example, consider this well-chronicled moment of preposterous denial from an interview Harreld gave on the eve of taking office:
There is no possible scenario in which my ideal university president could ever utter such statements, and not simply because that would mean my ideal president was a stone-cold liar or certifiably insane. Not only is Harreld’s denial in the above quote impossibly absolute, but in his zeal to assert that he was not given preferential treatment, when it is objectively true that he was, Harreld characterizes the thought processes of anyone who acknowledges that objective truth as “bizarre”. Is that how effective university presidents make their points — by painting people with differing views as delusional or mentally unstable, let alone doing so in the press?
To avoid having to factor in or account for such obvious lapses — both in terms of veracity and decorum — for this post only we’re going to give J. Bruce Harreld a clean slate. Instead of saddling him with his own on-the-record and off-the-wall words and deeds, we’re going to elevate him to the status of an ideal president and judge the town hall in that context. In that spirit we are also going to acknowledge that the town hall was what comedians and politicians call a tough crowd, if not one spoiling for a fight. Far from absolving our ideal president of any responsibility for the outcome, however, the open hostility that Harreld faced raises the bar, giving us an excellent opportunity to see how he handled a situation which was not scripted by toadies and flunkies.
Because we have promised to give J. Bruce Harreld a hypothetical clean slate, we will also assume that rather than literally embodying an abuse of power, Harreld simply inherited a problem from the previous administration. In that context, and knowing that Harreld’s audience at the town hall was infuriated as far back as the moment of his appointment in early September, the obvious concern should have been — at least from the point of view of an ideal university president determined have a positive and productive working relationship with the students, faculty and staff — how to best diffuse that contentious situation. In reality, Harreld’s response to the campus outrage after his appointment was to put off even the possibility of an open forum for more than three months, at which point he finally did announce that an open forum would take place, but only at the end of February, after another three months had passed.
Is that how you would expect your ideal university president to act, particularly if the problem they were confronting was not of their own making? For me the answer is no, because there is no sense in which the best response to a controversy is to ignore it, allow it to fester, refuse to engage people who are frustrated or angry, and generally just abdicate responsibility. Sure, if you’re guilty of something that’s probably how you would act, in the vain hope that your abuses would simply fade from memory, but again, we’re assuming that Harreld inherited a problem, not that he was complicit. Such failings might even be understandable if you were an underling, but when you’re the president of anything — a business, a country, an institution of higher learning — it’s your job to step up and deal with such issues, no matter whose fault they are.
Taking the belated scheduling of the town hall into account, it is not hard to imagine Harreld facing protests on that basis alone when the town hall finally took place, almost six full months after his appointment. Bottling up anger and frustration is a great way to generate an explosion of emotion, which of course raises an interesting question. If such administrative decision making is obviously hostile to the resolution of conflict in any organization, if not antithetical to anyone’s conception of how an ideal university president would behave, why did J. Bruce Harreld make all of those choices? Because they were, indeed, conscious choices on Harreld’s part. He could have acted differently, he could have moved aggressively to confront the unrest, but by his own free will he did not.
Even assuming the best-case scenario for Harreld, in which he himself was not the agent of unrest on campus, it should be clear that putting the issue off for half a year — including four full months after taking office — was not the best course of action. Leaders lead, and yet with regard to the most toxic controversy on campus Harreld’s every move was to sidestep, ignore and delay engagement. If Harreld genuinely believed the issue would simply go away, he obviously miscalculated. On the other hand, if Harreld knew that ignoring those who wished to confront him would wind them up to the point of irrationality, then he was correct in that assessment, vile as it would have been to actually implement such a plan.
In fact, one obvious and cynical advantage to making the opposition crazy in any administrative context — assuming you were capable of thinking up such a miserable scheme — would be that you could then adopt a more “professional” demeanor, not only invalidating the opposition but discrediting them as well. If you seemed calm in the face of chaos, even if you manufactured that chaos yourself, people who weren’t really paying attention, or perhaps only read dispassionate press accounts, would assume that your relative calm evidenced genuine leadership. Which of course raises another interesting question, which is whether the town hall on 02/23/16 was primarily engineered not for those in attendance, but for the press.
As it happens, not only was there copious reporting on the town hall, that reporting was fair. A number of incendiary moments did transpire during that contentious two-hour confrontation, and the press dutifully reported those moments, while also providing appropriate context. On the question of motive, however, and in particular J. Bruce Harreld’s decision making prior to and during the town hall, I think it’s important to also consider a first-person account that was posted by Nick Johnson. Not only did Nick put up an excellent post on the entire debacle, but informed by his long experience as a law professor and former FCC commissioner, he was able to provide the following insight into the dynamics behind the meeting:
Momentarily leaving aside whether Harreld was oblivious to, or instigated, the issues which Nick noted, it seems self-evident that neither of those possibilities meets the test of what we would expect from an ideal university president. In fact, Nick’s rundown almost seems the antithesis of what we should expect from someone determined to practice statecraft in furtherance of a collegial campus. Which again raises the possibility that the run-up to and commencement of the town hall was not simply a miscalculation on Harreld’s part, but willful — meaning he engineered all of the problems that Nick pointed out.
So how do we decide whether Harreld simply bungled the town hall, or whether that meeting was itself a hostile act? Well, having granted Harreld a clean slate we can’t use his prior conduct to answer that question, but we can take a look at the town hall itself — again comparing Harreld’s behavior to what we might expect from an ideal president. Because after keeping the audience waiting for almost six months, and fully cognizant of the elephant in the room — even if we’re pretending that Harreld himself was not that elephant — here’s how Harreld actually began the town hall, as reported by Jeff Charis-Carlson for the Press-Citizen, on 02/23/16:
Then, after commenting on a protestor who interrupted the proceedings, there’s this:
As a historical footnote, when the town hall was first announced in December it was originally sold as an open forum, not a data dump. So after not only keeping the audience waiting for the first four months of his presidency, then changing the agenda for the meeting at a very late date, what did J. Bruce Harreld do when the moment of engagement finally arrived? Did he address the elephant in the room, or in any way acknowledge the frustrations of those in attendance? No, he did not. Instead, he continued to ignore the only issue of interest to the audience, thus further invalidating their frustrations.
Again the obvious question is why. Why start the town hall with charts and graphs and pedestrian observations which could have been disseminated in a press release or email, then turn the meeting over to subordinates for perfunctory updates on issues even less germane to the interests of those assembled? Even if it meant upending the agenda for the meeting, what was university president J. Bruce Harreld’s responsibility in that moment — to stick to the script, or to acknowledge tensions that were apparent to everyone, including the press?
In answering that question it may be useful to remember that J. Bruce Harreld not only had no prior experience in academic administration, he had no prior experience in the public sector at all. Instead, all of his administrative experience came from executive interactions in the private sector, where power struggles are often considerably more hostile. As such, it can reasonably be assumed that J. Bruce Harreld was not simply aware of the various means by which his opposition could be invalidated or discredited, he was probably practiced in those black arts.
While it could still be conceivably argued that Harreld was tone-deaf to the audience during the town hall, it could not be argued that he was oblivious to the inevitable effect of the dynamics which he himself imposed on those assembled. Where the audience wanted to be heard, Harreld kept them waiting for six months, then changed the agenda for the meeting away from their interests, then kept them waiting for the better part of another hour while he and his crack leadership team droned on about subjects that only they wanted to talk about. Contrast all of that with what an ideal university president would have done, and Harreld’s failings should be obvious — if they were indeed failings.
A more jaundiced view, of course, is that Harreld kept his audience waiting precisely because he knew that would make them crazy, and it clearly did. While university presidents certainly need to be persuasive and effective in moving their agendas forward, we expect that an ideal president will do so on the merits, by making cogent and incisive arguments in support of their ideas, not by resorting to gambits, ploys, schemes or lies. Yet the weight of evidence from the town hall alone suggests that the latter is exactly how Harreld conducted himself.
Still, having vowed to give Harreld a clean slate we will now set aside the question of whether Harreld manufactured the hostility that he faced at the town hall, and simply ask how he handled it. How close did Harreld come to comporting himself in the manner of an ideal university president — meaning someone able to stay above the fray, and respond diplomatically to even the most unkind of remarks? How successful was Harreld at diffusing moments of confrontation, rather than provoking them?
From Vanessa Miller of the Gazette, on 02/23/16:
Regardless of the context, does your ideal university professor take a rhetorical shot at anyone, let alone in a large-scale public forum teeming with reporters? Is that the temperament of someone who can lead an institution of higher learning, with all of its varied constituencies?
Lucy Morris of Little Village followed up on the moment above, in a report on 02/24/16:
Again, would your ideal university president ever say anything like that, even if your ideal university president really did feel insulted by protest signs? Or would your ideal president simply accept that such forms of protest are not merely acceptable but inevitable in an academic setting?
A bit later, from the same Little Village report:
Is that how your ideal university president responds to concerns about — if not charges of — sexist behavior?
A bit later, also from Little Village:
Does your conception of an ideal university president preface hopes for the future by characterizing an ongoing interaction as a “haranguing”? And how could any president expect a university community to come together and “start dealing with some of the issues we face as an institution” if they refused to address a pressing issue on campus, let alone then characterized those concerned in a dismissive manner?
From the same Press-Citizen piece quoted above:
While it could be argued here that Harreld was simply trying to put the best face on what was obviously a contentious meeting, no one can argue — at least with a straight face — that Harreld’s comments about remaining in office, if not extending his stay, reflected a desire to remain above the fray, or to build a consensus going forward. Alternatively, it seems almost self-evident that those comments were stone-cold trolling, if not gloating in the aftermath of a meeting which devolved in exactly the way Harreld hoped that it would.
Which brings us to this stray moment of reflection from J. Bruce Harreld, via Dora Miller, writing for the CBS2 website:
Protestors were indeed passing out flyers prior to the town hall. As it happens, however, at least one person disputed Harreld’s recollection:
Did University of Iowa President J. Bruce Harreld tell a spur-of-the-moment lie to the press about passing out protest leaflets? Because if Harreld did not actually hand out protest leaflets, and instead handed out copies of his PowerPoint presentation, the only other possible explanation is that he is having potentially serious problems with short-term memory. Whatever your judgment about that, however, or about any of the above items individually, when taken in sum do those accounts — all of which were ably reported by dispassionate members of the press — meet whatever test of civility and decorum you would ascribe to any university president under fire?
Even if you think Harreld was wronged by the assembled University of Iowa stakeholders, do you get the sense, from all of the above, that he was constantly looking for a way to build bridges? Or does it almost seem as if Harreld himself was spoiling for a fight? Did he carry himself like a statesman, measuring every word, or did he act like a pugnacious brat?
As a factual matter, of course, Harreld may not have been treated kindly during the town hall, but he wasn’t treated unfairly. J. Bruce Harreld really has lied the press, the people of Iowa and the university community, and he really is the living embodiment of the premeditated abuses of power which led to his fraudulent appointment. So while people can argue about whether those who attended the town hall should have taken the high road themselves, as the sitting president of the University of Iowa it is impossible to argue that Harreld himself had no such obligation. If you are the president of a university, no matter how you attained that status, you are expected if not obligated to remain above the fray. That is a central tenet of your position as a leader, if not a key factor in your ability to lead. No matter how others act, or act toward you, you should not sink to their level, let alone do so reflexively in order to score cheap rhetorical points, thereby betraying an incapacity for self-control.
Although we gave J. Bruce Harreld a clean slate in order to measure him against an ideal, as a factual matter Harreld is, by the very nature of his appointment, an illegitimate president. Because he himself is incapable of owning up to the abuses of power that propelled him into office, which he abetted, then covered up, Harreld’s only option is to discredit those who are enraged by his deceit. From the earliest days of his candidacy through all of the moments above it should be clear that J. Bruce Harreld has no compunction about doing whatever it takes to get whatever he wants, which is yet another difference between Harreld and whatever conception you have of an ideal university president.
For most of his life J.Bruce Harreld’s combative temperament and abject disinterest in fairness appropriately and unerringly led him to toil in the private sector. Only when he was remaindered as an executive did Harreld turn to the public sector, and only by virtue of a conspiracy was he able to rise to the position he now holds. While it would certainly be unfair to expect any mortal to embody an ideal, it is not too much to ask that people in positions of leadership at institutions of higher learning aspire to decency, honesty and fairness even if they will, at times, inevitably fall short. Such aspirations define the president that the University of Iowa deserved and indeed needed in order to remain competitive in a marketplace in which personal, professional and institutional integrity and credibility still matter. Unfortunately for the faculty, staff, students and stakeholders at Iowa, those qualities also describe a president that J. Bruce Harreld will never be.
Over the past few days a number of important stories were reported regarding the University of Iowa and its ongoing struggle to survive the illegitimate presidency of J. Bruce Harreld. While there will be additional fallout down the road as a direct result of some of those developments, Wednesday’s revelation that the Iowa legislature will only see fit to fund $1.3M of Harreld’s $4.5M supplemental request can only be described as shocking. Yes, it was clear even back in the fall that this was going to be a tough cycle, but I don’t think anyone predicted that the statehouse would deliver such a stern budgetary rebuke to Regents President Bruce Rastetter, and by extension to his hand-picked puppet at Iowa.
From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, on 04/13/16:
As alluded to by Miller, the regents’ original supplemental request was close to $20M, and even Governor Branstad’s own niggardly budget granted an additional $8M to the state’s schools. Yet as we now know the legislature is set to deliver almost $2M below that latter figure. While there is no doubt that the state is facing a funding crunch, shortly after Harreld’s appointment last fall there was a belief that the legislature would be politically motivated to meet Harreld’s request precisely because it would signal support for his ‘non-traditional’ (meaning anti-academic, pro-business) appointment. Less that six months into Harreld’s presidency, however, whatever political capital he may have had is clearly already gone.
As noted in a prior post, I believed that Rastetter and his political patron Branstad would twist the necessary budgetary arms and come up with the full $4.5M. Doing so was important not only because Harreld had loudly and repeatedly promised to target that money at ‘faculty vitality’ — meaning, in Harreld’s narrow view of that term, faculty compensation, or, more bluntly, the ability to persuade targeted members of the faculty to support his mendacious reforms — but it was also the most expedient means by which Harreld could game the school’s national college ranking:
That the University of Iowa faces both a cash crunch and a hostile legislature is unfortunately nothing new. All of that is separate, however, from what J. Bruce Harreld himself now faces as president. Having promised to increase faculty salaries, albeit for entirely self-serving reasons, Harreld now finds himself stymied by the same dysfunctional political machine to which he slaved his own fading star. When even the governor and the politically impacted president of the Board of Regents fail to deliver on public promises, let alone whatever they promised Harreld when they spoke with him in private on multiple occasions during the sham search, that’s not only startling, it signals serious political weakness.
If Branstad and Rastetter really did have juice in Iowa politics they could have gotten Harreld more money to spread around, and maybe much more, so it’s worth asking why they were unable to deliver. One possible answer is that this is exactly what happens when you appoint a political crony to preside over what is supposed to be — by statute — a non-political board. Regents President Rastetter is an unapologetic political opportunist, who got his job simply by asking for it, albeit after donating a large sum of money to Governor Branstad. Yet once elevated to that powerful position, Rastetter refused to take himself out of politics despite the obvious potential for negative repercussions.
Granted, it probably wasn’t a big deal in the Hawkeye state when Rastetter pledged himself to Chris Christie last September, but still — was that public brokering of political power appropriate for the president of the Iowa Board of Regents? In a similar vein, but of considerably greater potential consequence, now consider Rastetter’s recent announcement that he would be backing a challenger to sitting U.S. Representative Steve King. Because that news broke in mid-March, right in the middle of the heated budget negotiations at the statehouse.
While King serves in the nation’s capital, not only does he rely on votes from Iowans to get there, his strident ideological bent has consequent support in the Iowa legislature from those same voters. For that reason, it’s possible that in projecting himself into King’s re-election campaign, Rastetter caught the attention of — if not the ire of — one or more local Iowa politicians. Again, given the responsibilities of the Board of Regents, and in particular the unparalleled power invested in the president of that body, it seems incredible that Bruce Rastetter is allowed to operate as both a state employee (even though he receives no salary) and a blatant political operative (if not kingmaker) without anyone batting an eye.
As you might imagine, the budgetary mauling they just received did not go over well with the regents. Here is their entire press release in reply:
Did Rastetter’s public opposition to King hurt the regents during budget negotiations? I have no idea. What I do know is that there is no possible scenario in which coming out against King during those negotiations could have possibly helped the regents. More to the point, not only would any seasoned political operative have known there was no upside, if Rastetter’s endorsement of King’s opponent was indeed more important to Rastetter than the potential risk to the regents’ legislative agenda, then that in itself is clear evidence that Bruce Rastetter is no longer interested in doing, or capable of doing, his appointed job.
As you can see from the press release quoted above, the regents continue to position themselves as fighting for the state’s students and families. Yet as Vanessa Miller noted in another Gazette report on Wednesday, the regents seem to have no problem overpaying for presidents, including one university president who had zero experience in academic administration when he was hired:
As regular readers know, amateur academic administrator J. Bruce Harreld will actually be paid more in his first year than outgoing president Sally Mason was paid in any of her years of service. Despite admitting that he would need remedial help, despite having no doctoral degree, and despite being fraudulently appointed at taxpayer expense, not once did the regents think about how much Harreld’s compensation package would cost students and their families. Yet when denied funding by the statehouse that righteous indignation suddenly arose.
As for J. Bruce Harreld’s response to the legislature’s paltry budget numbers, his words should prompt alarm in anyone concerned with the reputation of Iowa as a serious research university with a global brand:
In an upcoming post we’ll take a close look at one of the potential horrors which may result from J. Bruce Harreld’s transformational “revenue models”. In this post it’s important to note that the perpetual budget crunch facing the state’s schools is not only not surprising, it is the result of policy, not economic calamity:
Although shortfalls in the funding of higher education are routinely described as necessary because of insufficient revenue, it is more than mere happenstance that those shortfalls perfectly mirror a longstanding political ideology in America called ‘starving the beast‘. Simply put, by cutting taxes — particularly taxes on corporations — cutbacks to services are inevitably compelled, which in turn forces people to choose between basic survival needs and the funding of governmental expenditures which produce delayed benefits, including higher education.
In that context, what is particularly ironic about the 2016 Iowa budget is that everyone now agrees that tuition increases will be necessary, which means there will be an inflow of desperately needed funds at the exact moment when the people most eager to ‘starve the beast’ are seeking to perpetuate that bureaucratic abuse. And that in turn leads us back to the most telling line in the regents’ terse press release:
While sold as a pro-student, pro-family goal, and obviously helpful to anyone feeling a pinch, the freezing of tuition at the state’s schools for multiple consecutive years has also made it that much easier to starve the educational beast. Now, however, after multiple years of declining revenue support and increases in enrollment — including an explosion at Iowa State which has turned that school into an educational confinement operation — the accumulated pressure on the bottom line is forcing the hand of the Board of Regents only months after Harreld’s fraudulent hire, when they clearly wanted to keep that pressure on.
That is, in fact, why I believe the regents are particularly frustrated by the spiking of their $20M request for 2016. Had the regents’ request been met, by their own admission they could have limped through another year without raising tuition, which means all of the arguments and justifications in favor of radical policies like performance-based funding or J. Bruce Harreld’s ‘non-traditional’ hire would have remained in force. Now, however, with tuition increases compelled, pressure will decrease, and that in turn makes Harreld’s assertion that “everything is on the table” particularly suspect.
To be sure, the current budgetary landscape will still be used by the regents to justify whatever agenda Harreld was hired to implement at the University of Iowa. What has changed is that the timetable for implementing that agenda has now been advanced by the legislature, meaning Harreld and the regents will have to pull the trigger sooner rather than later. That in turn explains why, despite having just had his budgetary problems effectively solved by compulsory tuition increases, Harreld is not only claiming that a crisis still exists, but rushing to put “everything on the table” even as he suddenly finds himself facing the least amount of financial uncertainty since taking office. (Only a few weeks ago, at the contentious town hall, Harreld speculated that tuition hikes might have to be put “on the table“. So now that he knows that’s a given, why is he insisting on putting everything else on the table as well?)
If all of this seems a bit cloak-and-dagger, I understand, but there’s something you need to remember. The people who are in charge of the University of Iowa’s budget and financial health are the exact same people who really did get together and conspire to hire J. Bruce Harreld through a sham search funded at taxpayer expense. J. Bruce Harreld really is an illegitimate president, and Bruce Rastetter — along with Jean Robillard — really did engineer the fraudulent search process that put him in office. So while the idea of a conspiracy operating in the shadows always seems a bit loony, in this instance it has already been proven.
While the people who engineered Harreld’s fraudulent hire are manifestly corrupt, they are not idiots — or at least not reliably so. Because the Iowa legislature is forcing their hand they are going to react, but that does not mean they are going to relent in their attempts to drive the University of Iowa into a ditch. They’re just going to use the 2016 funding shortfall as the latest excuse for waging a trumped-up war on the ‘status quo’.
Still, in a purely political context there can be no mistake that Harreld and the regents have taken a big hit. Much bigger than ever I imagined possible, and all the more so given the effort Rastetter and his co-conspirators (including Harreld) went to last year in order to hijack the UI presidency. This may even accelerate a falling out among the state’s three schools, particularly after Rastetter also failed to deliver legislative support for his disingenuous performance-based-funding plan, which would have shifted tens of millions of dollars from Iowa to Iowa State and UNI.
Given all of that you might think — if you were naive, like me — that Rastetter would be in trouble during the in-house elections of president and president pro tem, which are scheduled for next week. That is not, of course, how crony politics play out. Even if you are the architect of a fraudulent search at taxpayer expense, and fail to push through your performance-based funding scheme, and fail to line up the votes for your own legislative funding, as long as you are still protected by the governor you are guaranteed a landslide victory for your loyal incompetence.
Despite being packed with political cronies, however — or perhaps because it is packed with political cronies — the Iowa Board of Regents seems incredibly weak. Yes, they can steal their own presidential elections, and within their operational sphere the board’s leadership will continue to reign as petty tyrants, but when it came to actually making the case for funding in 2016, despite all of their political backing the regents failed miserably. And nothing makes that weakness more apparent than the legislature’s abject disregard for the regents’ celebrated, transformational, hand-picked puppet, J. Bruce Harreld.
The Kingmaker has lost his tarnished crown eh? Seems like his power was supreme last spring, when he ousted his nemesis at UIowa (Mason), hosted the ‘major players’ at the GOP Farmgate confab,, engineered the Harreld sham at Iowa, and rolled on in od heaven. How things changed:
1. Rastetter’s national preferences amounted to a hill of beans. Christie (along with Bush, Walker etc) all collapsed. Likely the most antagonistic of presidential candidates to his nonsense remain in both parties.
2. Branstad has been more exposed as a fraud this time around. For instance proposing to take educational funds for clean water (likely to go to GOP companies) like his Medicaid fiasco.
3. U of Iowa’s GOP operatives have been exposed as funneling money to their cronies. Even the sleepy legislature can see the fraud in 300,000 to some operative for an online poll. Even the legislature can see the wasted millions Rastetter’s BOR spends on crap, fake searches, grants to himself, and hiring consultants.
4. And this so called ‘crisis in education’ has been exposed as bullhunk.
Now what a university president should do is to get in touch with his grant and research contacts, his long time allies in academia, fly to the big funding agencies in Govt and in private and get them excited about his fantastic academic plans.
Umm our IBM retiree has no academic contacts, no experience in funding, and not even an honest CV.
UIowa is screwed.
Almost in the same way that it’s hard to look away from a car wreck, I find myself losing the thread of my own indignation at times and simply being mesmerized by the classless way these people go about their business. It’s like they’re bored even pretending to be anything other than corrupt, yet because they control the media apparatus of the state there’s little to no commentary about any of it.
I’ve developed a belief over the years that nothing is more important than leadership, and Branstad, Rastetter and Harreld make that case. Look at their veneers and they seem to be accomplished. Look at little closer and it’s just one layer of slime on top of another. (I don’t know where Branstad developed his visceral hatred of powerless citizens, but it’s a revolting legacy.)
As to UI, you’re quite right about what should be done, and what won’t be done. At the exact historical moment when Iowa needed ACADEMIC leadership, we got a man who couldn’t spell ‘IBM’ on his own resume, and who couldn’t correctly cite his own authored works despite having taught part-time at Harvard for six years.
Note: I haven’t heard that the Governor has signed off on the budget yet. Last year he line-itemed out many of the “compromises” that were agreed upon during last year’s state budget fiasco.
I don’t see this as anything other than another orchestrated move. I really don’t. It’s an excuse to keep spreading the peanut butter while publicly appearing to be on the side of students by not raising tuition.
Meanwhile College of Medicine faculty (docs) get a state funded pay raise to make up for the lost revenue due to the Medicaid fiasco while JBRastetter squeezes liberal arts dry. It’s the only reason there is a public discussion about “lost” faculty– they are primarily College of Medicine docs and things work totally differently there. We should be asking for a evidence that Iowa loses CoM faculty at a higher rate than other state schools instead of buying hook line sinker into the “Iowa is losing faculty due to low wages” line.
We continue to allow Branstetter to control the narrative. Tell JBH what metrics you would find meaningful. Provide a reasonable “shared governance on steroids” proposal so he needs to either sign off or outright reject it.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I hadn’t thought about Branstad’s veto power, but you’re right — he could step in at the last minute. (If he’s not planning on running again in 2018 he may feel perfectly free to wreck the joint on his way out.)
Still, I can’t see these budget numbers as anything other than a political setback. You know when a legislature fears a governor, and this legislature clearly does not. They may be in cahoots at times, but as the growing political fracture around Steve King shows there are also deep divisions. What surprises me — again from a purely political perspective — is that nobody has really stepped into that void on the local scene.
There is clearly political vulnerability here, yet no one is taking advantage. Very odd.
This is a rudderless, floundering ship of state. Branstad reminds me so much of the last days of Reagan when a cognitively compromised leader is manipulated into poor decisions. Rastetter seems to be untethered even now, after the past few months where his obvious over-reaches (as Iowa Kingmaker and friend to conservative PAC giants, and leader or Iowa’s academic future) have been rendered silly by Trump and Harreld. Rastetter has no clue about good Govt nor good academics.
So Iowa will run on fumes until an actual governor assumes the helm with a real agenda.
And so until then the BOR will be directed by little GOP operatives building big buildings on campus, driving nice cars, and pontificating about things.
Overall, both Branstad and Rastetter want to ‘starve the beast’ without knowing where to go when the beast(s) are crippled other than directing funds to friends of the program.
Maybe Harreld was appointed because he was, in fact, the least qualified presidential candidate, with the least knowledge, the fewest agenda items, the least (if not absent) agenda of progress; his take great to greater was simple bullshat.
Given Rastetter’s and Branstad’s hatred of all things liberal and Democratic, this may be just one huge middle finger toward Eastern Iowa and progress. Spank JoCo hard with a president who is a completely insipid dick.
I see the song and dance performed by the various cronies but the choreographers remain the same – education defunding Republicans. I am not surprised by the budget and I doubt Rastetter or Harreld are either. Harreld was hired to cut costs, put a dress on that pig and call it progress. He will now come to the University community and say “so sorry, but we have no choice to cut, cut and cut some more. But don’t worry, I will lead you to greater heights and spend less doing it.” And I would bet he already is preparing the metrics to prove it. That is all perfectly consistent with what we should expect from Bransted and Rastetter Inc.
Yep – that exactly.
Mark, there wasn’t going to be any $4.5B ever. Remember the charade surrounding hiring a president? This was the charade around state appropriations. The entire point is to be able to say “we tried”. Note that there isn’t even a specific fall guy named in the legislature.
The regents are specifically uninterested in boosting state revenues for the universities: they want to push this hard in the direction of private, meaning student/parent, funding and cutting labor costs. You’ve already heard their immediate target: $10K for tuition, though note this doesn’t count any costs they can call “not tuition”. And yes, that will please the bond-rating overlords.
This is why I’ve been saying, for the last forever, that the direction here is “worst of both worlds”: you don’t get state funding, but you do get all the state steering and politics and restrictions. Instead of trustees who might have some interest in legitimate education, you get crony regents beholden to party interests. Unfortunately, every time a new building goes up, it makes it harder to take the university private. Where you gonna get the loans to buy it all? And why would you want them?
I think you mentioned the sale of the Pollock, but I think this is probably not going to happen. If you have a valuable asset that’s in demand by rich folks, you lease it, you don’t sell it. It’s a handy bargaining chip, though, since people freak out so whenever it’s mentioned. If I were in that presidential office and intent on turning this place into a third-rate good-ol-boy hospital with a fifth-rate good-ol-boy biz school attached, I’d wave that stupid canvas at every opportunity, and say well, if we don’t cut this other beloved thing, the painting’s gotta go. And people would fall all over themselves sacrificing this and that to keep our One Important Painting.
(It’s not that miraculous a painting, btw. It’s important historically because Pollack did other paintings that were miraculous, and that was the visible turn towards miraculousness (from paintings that looked like something a the disturbed kid in the back of the classroom was doing to his notebook), and those things will never touch ground here. But I’m not actually that wound up about that early Pollock. We’ve got stuff by important regional painters that’s much better.)
One thing I might do, though — if it were me, and we did actually flog that thing — would be to put in place a campaign to reach Iowa’s top, oh, 10% of high school students, and show them what the Regents leadership really thinks is important, and ask them if this is really what they want from college. Sale of our only big-league important painting to — what? Build a new basketball arena? Line various someones’ pockets? — would be a pretty good demo of how they view serious talent, and I think it’d get the message across.
The problem with totally stiffing the regents (or UI) is that at some point — and we seem to be at that point — tuition hikes have to be considered, which provides new cash flow. I may not have made the point very clearly in the post, but I think the regents would have much preferred to get their requested funding and keep things as they are, rather than tap into a funding source (tuition) that they successfully squelched for three years running.
I agree that the Pollock can be positioned almost any which way, but that only reveals the mendacity of those doing the positioning. As you point out, there are ways to exploit ‘Mural’ in perpetuity which do not require that it be sold, and yet to the small-minded they see only an immediate cash infusion. Given Harreld’s professed desire to game the college rankings before he quits, I can’t think of a more likely target for him.
(We could argue about the value of ‘Mural’ as a painting, but even that concedes territory I’m not willing to concede. Iowa has a long history of prominence not just in literature but in the visual arts, and that has also been overlooked for too long in the rush to STEM and bottom-line unilateral thinking. So of course they hired a business dolt who doesn’t know how to think any other way.)
I think you’re right that Rastetter and Harreld had advance warning of the recently reported budget numbers. I don’t think they thought those numbers were even possible back in September, when the original (pro forma) request was put forward in yet another of Rastetter’s staged administrative acts.
I also agree that Harreld is now reverse-engineering a marketing script that will justify whatever plans he already intended to implement. He won’t be deterred, particularly given that he’s already set his sights on the only goal that matters to him, which is gaming the university’s college ranking.
In a purely political context, however, this is not a good look, and lends credence — as noted in Paula’s comment above — to the possibility that Branstad may step in at the last minute with his veto pen and deliver for his cronies.
As noted in multiple prior posts, my personal interest in the fraudulent hire of J. Bruce Harreld as president of the University of Iowa was galvanized by the fact that the Iowa Board of Regents not only failed to hire a candidate qualified to address the cultural maladies of alcohol abuse and sexual assault on campus, they went out of their way to hire an imbecile in both regards. To whatever extent you may find yourself recoiling from that assessment, it is a given that such comments are not usually made in polite company, but I want to stress that this is not simply name-calling on my part. J. Bruce Harreld was a literal imbecile with regard to both of those problems, because at the time of his appointment he not only had no experience in academic administration, he had no experience confronting either of those issues in an academic context — and the board knew that.
After giving campus sexual assault and student safety lip service for years, and particularly after going out of their way to capitalize on a widely-publicized gaffe by former UI President Sally Mason, the regents betrayed their own scandalous lack of commitment by hiring the one candidate among the final four who was a full-on dunce on those issues. While there is, thankfully, some recent evidence that alcohol-related arrests have decreased — due entirely to policy changes which pre-date Harreld’s sham appointment — the data on campus sexual assault is not only murkier, the problem seems considerably more entrenched.
As noted in the previous post, there were a number of important stories in the press toward the end of this past week. Roughly a week earlier, however, there was another story which bubbled up very quietly, which specifically addressed campus sexual assault at the University of Iowa. I did not post about that story at the time because I though there might be further announcements by the university, or follow-up in the mainstream press, but in the intervening ten days none of that transpired.
The story in question was reported by Anna Onstad-Hargrave of the Daily Iowan, on 04/07/16 (Friday):
I don’t know anything about the recently concluded UISG elections, but whoever put pressure on the administration to report on that important milestone is to be commended. In fact, given the full-court press which J. Bruce Harreld and his crack media team at the Office of Strategic Communications have launched on other occasions, it’s hard to fathom exactly why this particular development was not loudly and proudly touted, particularly given how important campus safety is to all concerned. Having finally brought such an important plan to fruition, what could possibly explain such a lapse in Harreld’s otherwise well-lubricated and opportunistic public relations machine?
Again, from Onstad-Hargrave’s piece in the DI:
Well, okay — if you’re a new university president, and you’re the petty sort, you might not want to go out of your way to give credit to the person you replaced, even if the program in question makes the campus safer, and particularly so for women. So in that context I suppose we can take great solace that J. Bruce Harreld has “indicated” that he won’t stand in the way of the six-point plan’s “momentum”. In fact, to be fair to Harreld, that position is a sea change from his scathing dismissal of Mason’s plan only seven and half months ago.
What’s that you say? You’re a little hazy on that gobsmacking moment of arrogance and ignorance? Well, allow me to transport you back to J. Bruce Harreld’s candidate forum last September, which took place only two days before the rigged regents’ election:
If you can’t play that video clip, here is a transcript of business genius J. Bruce Harreld explaining the problem of, and simple solution to, campus sexual assault, not only to people who spent decades wrestling with that issue themselves, but also undoubtedly to individuals in attendance who were victims of sexual assault themselves:
Now again, that is candidate J. Bruce Harreld, who at the time had no experience in academic administration, no experience in law enforcement, and — based on his own reported interrogation of one of his daughters — no experience dealing with campus sexual assault, even after having earned a Bachelors in Engineering from Purdue, followed by an MBA from Harvard, and having most recently taught part-time at Harvard for six years. Yet despite that glaring and acknowledged ignorance, not only did Harreld go out of his way to take a great big condescending crap on Sally Mason’s six-point plan, he followed that up with B-movie tough-guy talk. And that’s the guy the Iowa Board of Regents hired.
What Harreld had to say about campus sexual assault during his candidate forum was no less idiotic than it would have been if I had stood up at an IBM board meeting in the mid-nineties and advised Lou Gerstner to just say N-O to bankruptcy. Yet as regular readers know, only a few days later Harreld outdid himself. Having already ridiculed and dismissed Mason’s six point plan, after his shocking appointment Harreld announced a one-point plan which involved deputizing the Iowa football team to “do something”. And if you think I am joking, I am not joking — and neither was J. Bruce Harreld on that day.
If all of the above isn’t enough to convince you that the hiring of J. Bruce Harreld was not simply negligent regarding campus sexual assault, but hostile to efforts to find a workable solution to that problem, I would also point you to the following from the UI media machine, on 08/08/15. Sally Mason had officially retired six weeks earlier, and interim president Jean Robillard was feverishly working behind the scenes to betray the university and fix the search process in Harreld’s favor, yet somehow, despite all of that upheaval, important progress was still being made on the issue of campus sexual assault:
So less than three weeks before J. Bruce Harreld flew to Iowa City in a private jet, fresh from his chalet in the Rockies, and lectured the rubes in Iowa about campus sexual assault during his candidate forum, Iowa’s efforts were being touted by a federal official as an example of the right way to combat that very problem. And J. Bruce Harreld himself would have known that if he had taken any time to research the school, because that news was reported by the school.
Now there’s an interesting word — leadership. What sort of leadership is the University of Iowa getting from J. Bruce Harreld on the issue of campus sexual assault? Well, the good news is that Harreld seems to have tabled his plan to enlist the football team, at least for the time being. The bad news is that even after the six-point plan was completed, the best his office could do was release the following statement to the Daily Iowan, which Anna Onstad-Hargrave included in her report:
Do I believe that Harreld himself gave credit to Mason? No, I do not believe that. What I believe is that whoever wrote that statement did the honorable thing and referenced Mason, because you don’t just go around taking credit for other people’s work, particularly at an institution of higher learning.
As a result of all this you may be wondering exactly how much effort J. Bruce Harreld intends to put behind Iowa’s six-point plan, and that’s an important question. Although the DI reported that the plan has been “completed”, the plan will be ongoing, and require both administrative support and diligent enforcement. Given the deafening silence over the past ten days, let alone Harreld’s prior derisive comments, it would be understandable if you concluded that J. Bruce Harreld still believes the recently completed six-point plan is little more than a joke. While that opinion would be obviously be imbecilic, because Harreld is the president of the university his enmity could negatively affect the efficacy of the plan, or even doom it to failure.
A lot of people, many of whom are still on campus, put a great deal of time and effort into seeing Mason’s six-point plan through to completion. The fact that it took someone running for student government to prompt Harreld to acknowledge the plan’s completion raises obvious concerns that he will now allow the plan to languish by diverting resources and attention to more self-aggrandizing concerns, like how he’s going to game Iowa’s college ranking. In the near term, however, there may be an opportunity for the university community to encourage Harreld to do otherwise.
From a report by the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller in the aftermath of Harreld’s initial town hall in February:
While sexual assault and diversity are entirely separate topics, and deserve individual attention, devoting an hour to each during the next town hall might be a good way for Harreld to demonstrate that he himself is engaged on those issues. Admittedly the signs are not good, particularly given his failed judgment during the recent Visin debacle, but because of his burning desire to “get people engaged” I’m sure he would be willing, if not eager, to take the lead.
Then again…roughly a million years ago I did a teensy bit of unproduced screenwriting in Hollywood, and one of the lessons I learned in Tinseltown was that you don’t want to have a script in development when the studio hires a new production head. As a vestige of the old regime the new boss has no incentive to see you succeed, and it is often better for that person if you and your project simply disappear. Because contracts can get in the way of outright termination, however, and lead to messy lawsuits, the preferred course of executive action in such instances is often inaction — something that J. Bruce Harreld has demonstrated a gift for on more than one occasion.
You see the same thing in sports, of course, where a new GM or coach leads to a change in the roster or style of play. Players who were favorites or who no longer fit the new system are traded or sent to the bench, while players who reflect the new priorities are brought in. I’m sure you also see the same thing in business, where a new VP or CEO either terminates the old officer’s plans, or simply starves them of resources by diverting energy to their own initiatives.
In that context it’s understandable that J. Bruce Harreld would impose his will on the University of Iowa, and indeed that’s exactly why the Board of Regents went out of its way to fix the election in his favor, to say nothing of running a sham search at taxpayer expense. They expect him to shake things up, as he did recently by summarily killing another of Sally Mason’s projects — the public-private partnership which would have produced a new UI Art Museum.
The problem with treating Mason’s six-point plan to combat sexual assault in the same manner, of course, is that not only has J. Bruce Harreld already proven he has no idea how to combat campus sexual assault himself, the idea that he might starve Mason’s plan of resources and institutional support out of sheer vanity is objectively reprehensible. This wasn’t Sally Mason’s plan to beautify dumpsters, this was Sally Mason’s plan to tackle a problem that is endemic in society. As president of the University of Iowa, J. Bruce Harreld is now charged with forcefully perpetuating that plan in order to combat that same problem on campus. And yet until his administration was goaded into acknowledging the completion of Mason’s plan ten days ago, there was no public notice that that important milestone had been achieved
If J. Bruce Harreld genuinely cared about the issue of campus sexual assault, as opposed to who got credit, he would not merely pledge to support the plan’s current “momentum”, he would put the full force of his office behind that plan and push for all he was worth. Yet today, all that Harreld has publicly offered is an impersonal bureaucratic pat on the head and a static web page. Contrast that with the state-wide publicity campaign that Harreld himself led in order to launch Iowa’s dubious partnership with Raise.me, and the most that can be said in Harreld’s favor is that he did get one thing right during his candidate forum. Shame is indeed on J. Bruce Harreld.
Update: As if on cue, the Daily Iowan published an extensive interview with J. Bruce Harreld today. In that at-times rambling interview, Harreld does seem, at first blush, to address some of the concerns above, but as always with Harreld it’s the second blush that counts.
As before, Harreld’s comments about campus sexual assault were specifically prompted by questioning from the Daily Iowan. Had the DI not recently reported on that issue, and had they not continued to press Harreld for information, I have zero doubt that the issue would never have come up. Although Harreld’s response was scattershot and at times incoherent, there is also no question that he himself claimed implicit ownership of the plan’s advancement and success, while at the same time failing to mention Sally Mason at all. That disreputable tendency — first exhibited on his own resume, when Harreld took sole credit for works which were co-authored — is emblematic of why J. Bruce Harreld is temperamentally unsuited to be the president of any college or university.
Where J. Bruce Harreld should be generous and gracious, he is petty and self-serving. Where Harreld should instinctively put the completion of the six-point plan in historical context, he instead uses the work of others to whitewash his own past. Seven and a half months ago J. Bruce Harreld dismissed Sally Mason’s six-point plan to combat campus sexual assault as a joke. In the interview published today, however, he repeatedly implies that he himself was materially involved in the university community’s longstanding efforts to combat that problem. Once again, shame on J. Bruce Harreld.
Harreld is a one or at best two trick pony. His biggie is “Proactive Punctuated Change” which is ummmm, who knows. His other appeared to be putting kiosks in Boston Chicken.
He really appeared to know little about the Univ of Iowa, and maybe less about university administration. He also obviously knows how to take other people’s work, as his own, and take credit for his own career advancement — which is a good skill in academics.
However his public pronouncements are almost incomprehensible. His academic ideas are primitive and puerile. That much is obvious.
It is also obvious that the BOR has little to no understanding of academic issues, other than desire to downgrade liberal arts, and upgrade the Rose Bowl team.
There was no academic crisis as the BOR constructed. There was no ‘breath of fresh air’ as Robillard called JBH. There is no overall plan for the university.
JBH appears to be like a jazz musician — improvising, going with the flow, except he cannot play his instrument, he doesn’t get the bet, and he cannot hear the melody. In other words he is tone deaf to these issues, but really good at taking credit as the conductor.
I have no idea what the BOR really as thinking with this guy as their president (perhaps a huge middle finger to the liberals in JoCo). I don’t believe JBH has any agenda, no plans, no revolutionary change in mind for the university.
It would be like putting the late John Belushi in charge of university in character from Animal House, or Bill Murray in character from almost any of his movies — clueless and gauche.
Does anyone out there: BOR, Branstad, Harreld have any idea what they are doing, or where they are going — except to the bank with nice salaries, free housing, and secure retirements?
It’s been interesting watching Harreld balk — at times, appropriately — at some of the policy choices the regents have made. (Including their idiotic public hearings, which are not hearings at all.) After essentially getting stiffed by the legislature on supplemental funding, I think the feel-good portion of the program is over, and Harreld realizes he’s on his own, if not actively competing with Leath and Ruud for scarce resources.
I don’t know how deep they got into the whole ‘brotherhood’ thing during the search process, but Harreld has gotten little to no follow-through from the regents other than cheerleading from Rastetter any time he manages to say something without drooling.
Will definitely be interesting going forward to see if there’s a more public split. (Interesting also how quiet Robillard has been lately. Maybe he’s finally getting the hint.)
Okay. So he’s about to make a complete shambles of things by pitting the departments, and within them the faculty, against on another in ways that screw with their usual modes of being pitted against each other, and then he’ll yank them around just as they’re getting used to their new double-dutch. After he does that two or three times they’ll box him out of the action. He won’t know when it’s coming because he doesn’t know when he’s screwing with things, because he doesn’t know how the place works. At that point we’ll just have this growling stasis during which the Regents try to co-opt the faculty de-facto rep and don’t understand that it’s no longer playtime. And the magic word will be morale.
Somewhere in all that game, Bruce will lose his temper and say something to the wrong mom and dad, and it’ll be over.
And that’s a best-case scenario. Sigh.
In a way, Trump has pre-empted normality in the USA this year. That is good for Harreld. JBH will stumble and bumble around, say dumb things and insult any number of groups, but no one will be paying as much attention as in a normal year because 50% of all headlines will be focusing on this new obscene shiny new candidate -Trump.
I suspect sometime about a year from now, after whatever happens in the fall (and you know something totally out of the blue will decide this thing) people will start paying attention to the UIowa. Maybe there will be overwhelming debt, or maybe some faculty member will be abusing all his students, or enrollment will drop, or faculty will leave in double digit numbers, but then everyone will wake up and wonder how this all happened.
Maybe there will be a Demo flood, due to Trump-flame out, or there will be the sensible American way (as Churchill says “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.”) even in Iowa when Iowans say ‘ we are tired of this BS, turning out Rastetter’s failed nonvision for higher ed in Iowa.
Someone has to see that Iowa needs a reboot in economic plans, in social programs, and in education; and just before it all goes to hell like Illinois, people will try to restore the ‘Athens on the Iowa River’ after the Branstad/Rastetter coup attempts.
Your take about the new ‘collaborative’ budgeting process is exactly what I thought a few weeks back when the first trial balloon went up. People who have never had to take the heat for making tough decisions, including turning down friends and colleagues, are now on the hook.
There may be some who welcome the tradeoffs, and a few who use this new power for score settling, but I would gather that most of the people who now have to decide these issues probably had plenty on their plate already. And some will have a hard time resolving all the conflicting demands, both personal and professional.
The worst case scenario will be if Harreld overrides any of their decision making using his new ‘four filters’ philosophy, which is really only one filter — rankings. (And he’s built exactly that kind of ‘review’ step into the process.) If he’s given people responsibility with no authority, I think things could go south in a hurry.
Someone should look at what is going on the campus in Iowa City. This is a leaderless campus with much overuse of alcohol, wasted class time, and non direction.
Really what is needed is strong leadership on campus safety (including sex crimes), alcoholism, and academic floundering. What they are getting is flabby non-leadership and academic stagnation.
I’m curious how the ‘national search’ for a new Director of Public Safety is going, and how it will turn out. I can’t imagine it will be done fairly, let alone with any transparency, but for the sake of the students I hope they don’t just treat this as another sham administrative exercise.
I wonder if there will ever be a ‘Flint Moment’ for Iowa in this entire mess. Basically Michigan officials (perhaps scapegoated) were charged in the Flint water disaster.
Although a different issue, and a different problem, aren’t Iowa officials (from Branstad to Rastetter on down) also guilty of malfeasance? Didn’t they subvert a public search with a fraudulent search? Didn’t they once again violate open meeting rules? Aren’t they continuing to stonewall the FOIA requests so the truth is not revealed? And isn’t the Univ of Iowa left with a costly, figurehead president without qualifications for his position?
Rastetter continues to manipulate the state’s education system for personal gain. Although this isn’t supplying developing children with leaded water, it certainly isn’t supplying his public responsibility to watch over the university system in Iowa.
And isn’t Branstad destroying the medicaid health care system, selling off student loans, and depleting the states schools of resources?
Where is Tom Miller? Hiding? Defending his colleagues malfeasance? Will there ever be a Flint type accountability for these (illegal) actions?
I hear what you are saying, but I would be super careful with this comparison. What happened in Flint resulted directly and undoubtedly criminally in the poisoning of thousands of people through callous disregard for already disempowered families. This includes many many young children who will suffer from irreparable brain damage leading to serious and lifelong issues. What is happening at UIowa is sick, wrong, and unprincipled bull****, but it’s not poisoned babies.
I sympathize with the temptation to draw analogies to other disasters. It’s frustrating to watch any bureaucracy run amok, often with complete disregard for the people most at risk.
At UI the issues of sexual assault (including rape), binge drinking, alcoholism and insufficient mental health services are a toxic stew of their own. That the regents hired this ignorant man to come in and address such issues is still beyond my grasp because of the utter disregard that it demonstrates.
We don’t have to rank abuses, we can simply point to them and insist that they be corrected. Unfortunately, here in Iowa there’s no authority with the will to do so.
After a quiet first two weeks in April, the amount of information that was revealed in news reports on this past Monday alone felt like a barrage. Chief among all of the interesting stories from the past week was the Daily Iowan’s extensive interview — conducted last Friday, published at the beginning of this week — with the fraudulently appointed president of the University of Iowa, J. Bruce Harreld. In the previous post about J. Bruce Harreld and Campus Sexual Assault, I noted that had there not been prompting by the University of Iowa Student Government, and reporting about that prompting by the DI’s Anna Onstad-Hargrave, that the completion of former UI President Sally Mason’s six-point plan to combat sexual assault would almost certainly have been ignored by Harreld and his administration. I also noted in an update to that post that the transcript of the DI’s extensive interview with Harreld included additional comments about Mason’s six-point plan, which further exposed Harreld’s unfitness for office.
The entirety of the DI interview contains many more important insights into the dubious, disingenuous — and, in at least one instance — downright dangerous plans that Harreld has for the University of Iowa. As a general overview, this interview marks Harreld’s transition from passive administrative listener to full-on perpetrator of ‘transformational change’ at the school. In substance Harreld’s plans will produce none of that, but in verbiage Harreld is clearly at pains to describe the changes he is imposing as not only revolutionary, but also collaborative, if not desperately welcomed by a demoralized institution. In reality, as we will see, Harreld has simply constrained the school’s options in a way that will inevitably produce the result he desires.
In this post we will work through the transcript and note a number of thematic and substantive concerns, but the amount of information is so great that we will have to explore several issues in upcoming posts in order to do them justice. Before proceeding, however, I want to underscore how absolutely critical it is that the reporters and editors at the Daily Iowan continue to press Harreld on issues of importance to the students and school. In a single interview they not only revealed more about Harreld’s ‘vision’ for the school than I have see in all other reporting to date, they put Harreld on the record in ways that are not only important going forward, but which also provide important insight into decisions that Harreld has already made.
I think a lot of people have probably forgotten this already, if they ever knew, but the revelations about businessman Simon Newman’s despotic presidency at Mount St. Mary’s College, which ultimately led to his resignation, did not occur as a result of reporting from the mainstream press, but because of solid, old-fashioned investigative journalism by students writing for the school’s own paper, the Mountain Echo. I cannot imagine the pressure those young reporters felt when they were putting that story together, but I do know they faced an administrative crackdown in the aftermath of publication, which lasted until well after the mainstream press took on some of the reporting load. (Despot to the end, Newman actually fired the faculty advisor of the Mountain Echo, effectively shuttering the school’s own paper for months.)
If you are a reporter or editor at the Daily Iowan, please remind yourself every day that the University of Iowa is your beat. There are a number of veteran reporters doing excellent work covering higher education and state government for their news outlets, but none of them have the kind of access you have. Keep asking questions, and if you’re given a non-responsive answer, ask follow-up questions until you get the truth. And if anyone in UI administration or anywhere else lies to your face, and you can prove it, then report that they lied.
A Note on the Transcript
For reasons that escape me even after reading the full transcript several times, Harreld was joined in the DI interview by UI Provost P. Barry Butler. That partnering continues a pattern of co-dependence in which Harreld seems to have difficulty presenting himself on his own, as was most recently demonstrated by the gratuitous if not antagonistic inclusion of multiple administrators during Harreld’s inaugural town hall. Perhaps a lingering aftereffect of Harreld’s infamous candidate forum, or simply a desire by his subordinate administrators to keep Harreld on message, it is nonetheless a bad look, and particularly so for a man who sold himself — and continues to sell himself — as a visionary, transformative leader.
Based on the published transcript it would be fairly easy, as a general observation, to raise concerns about Harreld’s ability to communicate intelligently, or even intelligibly, but it’s also important to note that transcribing anything J. Bruce Harreld says can be quite difficult. Where you might assume that a university president would speak clearly, using complete and coherent sentences, J. Bruce Harreld’s background as a marketing weasel compels him to change rhetorical tacks in mid-speak so as to account for all of the bullet points dancing around in his head. Having myself transcribed a number of relatively short passages from Harreld’s candidate forum, I can not only personally attest to the difficulty of doing so, the Daily Iowan has my sympathies for what they must have gone through with this particular diarrhetic stew.
The reason it is important to acknowledge this difficulty is that there are, in the text of the interview, multiple points when Harreld’s thinking lapses into literal incoherence. So much so, in fact, that I’m almost compelled to give the man the benefit of the doubt and suspect that the transcription is at least partly responsible for that impression. On the other hand, I don’t want to malign the competence of the Daily Iowan staff, so for the time being we will simply note that translating J. Bruce Harreld’s weasel-speak to print would be a challenge for anyone.
The Daily Iowan Interview
In the published transcript there is no prompt from the DI prior to the first statements from Harreld, yet clearly his comments arise from a dialogue with the Daily Iowan staff. The first full sentence is actually a run-on sentence in which Harreld characterizes his deliberate trolling of university stakeholders at the February town hall, using slides full of dry data to provoke anger and frustration in those assembled, as proof that his fixation on resource allocation is now somehow the result of that contentious meeting, which is decidedly not the case. Harreld himself set that agenda, so pointing to his own slides as evidence of anything is at best idiotic and at worst intentionally deceptive. More to the point, there is no organization on the planet — and particularly none which has been financially suffocated for the better part of several decades by its own state legislature — which is not continually concerned with resources and how to make the most of them. In his opening remarks, however, Harreld not only denies that reality, he asserts that the issues which he alone raised at the town hall now represent some sort of consensus view among the stakeholders who were in attendance, which is also false.
Here now is Harreld’s second full sentence from the DI transcript:
Again, leaving aside the scattershot nature of his statements, note the lagging and completely incoherent mention of shared governance. Having exhaustively documented the egregious betrayal of shared governance which begat Harreld’s fraudulent hire, as well as Harreld’s own persistent disinterest in, if not outright hostility to, his administrative obligations to shared governance, the appending of that concept to the end of that particular sentence underscores the degree to which Harreld still thinks of shared governance as nothing more than a buzz-phrase. (Or perhaps there is a UI Department of Shared Governance that I do not know about.)
In the third sentence of the interview Harreld quickly pivots to his marketing agenda with the revelation that all future allocations of resources will be determined by “four key pillars, four key filters”. Harreld then enumerates those pillars/filters as follows: values; rankings; student outcomes and success; and “where our world is headed, our future” — which we will think of as ‘objectives’. Whether you agree with those criteria or not, to my knowledge that represents the first time that Harreld has described the actual workflow by which his vision of transformational change will be implemented at the University of Iowa, and at least in theory that workflow is clear.
So how will those four pillars/filters fare in practice? Well, as mentioned in other posts I have no administrative experience myself, but it seems to me that there are some fairly obvious problems with implementing Harreld’s approach. In fact, having been on the receiving end of administrative fraud more than once in my life — particularly as an American citizen held hostage by purportedly representative politicians — I honestly feel that I have standing to offer a critique of Harreld’s plan. And my overall critique is that of the four guiding pillars or filters that Harreld enumerated in the Daily Iowa interview, in effect only one filter will be employed. Perhaps not surprisingly, that single effective filter also relates directly the only long-term goal that Harreld himself has repeatedly expressed interest in since taking office.
The first pillar or filter is ‘values’ — meaning, apparently, some yet-to-be-defined expression of same. One obvious problem with stating that money will be allocated depending on how it impacts or reflects the school’s values is that there is no evidence that J. Bruce Harreld actually cares about values, whether they are carefully articulated or not. We know that not only because the Iowa Board of Regents gleefully butchered their own values in rigging Harreld’s sham hire, but because Harreld’s first act as president-elect was to tell a lie to the press, the people of Iowa and the university community in order to cover up for his co-conspirator’s abuses.
An even bigger problem with using values as a filter, however, is that values cannot be quantified, meaning the filtering of any proposed allocation of resources will almost certainly be subjective. As any marketing weasel knows — which means as J. Bruce Harreld knows — it is easy enough to write an uplifting but generic values memorandum that will apply to almost any future endeavor, whether anticipated or not, meaning that statement will cover anything Harreld decides to do. That in turn means that the school’s values — no matter how artfully expressed — will not actually function as a meaningful filter when they are applied to any proposed allocation of resources.
The second resource-allocation filter which Harreld has now obligated the University of Iowa to employ is the potential effect on the school’s national ranking. As far as I know, this enslavement to for-profit, third-party rankings has never been formally adopted by the University of Iowa, so here we truly can credit J. Bruce Harreld with transformational change. As noted in a prior post, however, this change is not only antithetical to the implicit values of the University of Iowa as an institution of higher learning, it is entirely self-serving on Harreld’s part because it is the means by which he plans to validate his own illegitimate hire. As a practical matter, and as noted in that earlier post, one big advantage to buying into the college rankings is that the process is entirely quantifiable. That is in fact of particular appeal to business people, because in any dispute between quantifiable and non-quantifiable data — like, say, a university’s values versus that same university’s national ranking — the quantifiable outcome will almost always win because the results can at least purportedly be demonstrated with some objectivity.
The third filter in Harreld’s validation quartet — and here I am specifically quoting Harreld’s words from the DI transcript — is “student outcomes and success.” While portrayed by Harreld as a distinct filter, however, regular readers may recall that during a deep dive into the college rankings process we learned that Harreld’s third filter is in fact simply another way of comparing institutions of higher learning. From that prior post:
As you might imagine, U.S. News & World Report was not going to simply stand by and watch some buttinsky POTUS render its rankings franchise obsolete, which is this transpired in 2013:
What would have been an excellent new tool for judging colleges was ultimately killed by the higher-ed lobby, but that doesn’t mean metrics like student debt, attendance costs or graduation rates won’t eventually be factored into the current commercial college rankings. In fact, as just noted, some of those factors are already being folded into the commercial national rankings. From the FAQ for the 2016 U.S. News rankings:
The upshot of all this is that when Harreld talks about “student outcomes and success” as his third filter, he’s not actually talking about something separate from the second ‘rankings’ filter, he’s just talking about a new and different means of ranking schools. And it’s not just me saying that. Do a search for “college ranking” and “student outcomes” and you will see that what Harreld is putting forward as an entirely separate filter for determining resource allocations is in fact simply another set of ranking factors. And of course these new outcome-based ranking factors have all of the quantifiable advantages of the older college rankings, which means they too will inevitably carry the day over squishy filters like ‘values’.
The fourth value/filter which Harreld championed in the DI interview was described by Harreld himself as follows:
Earlier I translated all of that into “objectives”, and I think that’s a fair approximation. In the quote above Harreld himself frames resource allocation as an “investment decision”, and in the financial markets it’s a basic tenet of investing that you try to position yourself for the future, notwithstanding black swans. The problem with Harreld’s fourth filter, of course, beyond the implication that one can reliably peer into the future, is that it is no more pragmatic than the ‘values’ filter.
Whatever future you want to envision you can do so, and by definition no one can prove you wrong. Again, unlike the second and third filters, comparing resource allocations against future events is little different than comparing resource allocations to values, because neither can be quantified, yet both can easily be made all-encompassing. Like values statements, objectives are almost always written in such a way as to be plastic, and for good reason. You don’t want to obligate yourself to a course of action that may become antithetical to your goals when circumstances change.
Taking all of Harreld’s resource-allocation filters in sum, then, we have two non-quantifiable filters which either don’t mean anything or allow for anything, and two quantifiable filters which are simply different types of college rankings. Because the two rankings filters are quantifiable they will necessarily carry more weight, yet it’s also important to note that rankings in themselves are not antithetical to the “values” and “objectives” filters. Any resource allocations which pass the test of either or both rankings filters will almost certainly pass the more subjective filtering tests of Iowa’s values and objectives, giving those allocations that much more apparent weight. In effect, then, Harreld’s four filters in theory are only one filter in practice, and were intentionally designed as such.
In the next two paragraphs of the DI interview Harreld lapses into full-on sales mode, detailing the transformative way in which the 40 individuals in attendance at the Oakdale campus broke into discussion groups to talk about his four filters. I don’t know who got to be in which group, or whether those groups of veteran administrators were aware that they were really only discussing one actionable filter — college rankings — but Harreld seems convinced that what happened on that day was groundbreaking:
Again, I’ve never administrated at any organizational level, including my own life, but I think the problem here should be obvious to anyone. If you’re handed four filters for resource allocation, but there is in reality only one filter — how resources affect the university’s rank — then not only doesn’t it matter what anyone says in a breakout group, no commensurate authority is being granted to go along with the accountability being imposed. In effect Harreld has simply dictated terms to the entire university, while only appearing to empower key decision makers at the school. Again, I don’t know how many of the 40 leaders in attendance were aware of this charade, but this is not the first time Harreld has done this — as we will see in an upcoming post about Harreld’s new plan for “collaborative” budgeting.
If you were to read the first four paragraphs of the DI interview, which informed all of the above, you might gather from Harreld’s enthusiasm that the whole filtering and allocating workflow was already a done deal. In fact, Harreld’s gung-ho attitude may be why Provost Butler was moved to interject, prompting a follow-up from the DI:
So: memos are going out, then each person/unit will meet with Harreld’s leadership team individually for reasons which aren’t disclosed, then they will all get back together in late May — meaning after the end of the spring semester — and at that point they will finalize some groups, which will then do something which is also not explained. While not particularly illuminating, as I hope I’ve made clear it literally does not matter who is in those groups or what those groups decide, because ace strategist J. Bruce Harreld has already constrained the filtering process. The intentional gaming of multiple college ranking factors is now the only practical metric for resource allocation at the University of Iowa — meaning that will probably also be the focus of the administration’s individual meetings with those 40 people-units.
After a bit more blather from Harreld, the DI asked a question which spurred the dominant social media takeaway from the interview:
There is so much to unpack here that we will be dealing with all of those questions, and Harreld’s full response, in a separate post. For the time being, however, a few quick observations. First, as reported by Zack Creglow of the Des Moines Register on Monday — meaning the same day as publication of Harreld’s interview — the University of Iowa athletic department lost money during the most recent fiscal year:
Later on Monday Jeff Charis-Carlson of the Press-Citizen followed up with this:
Whether or not UI Athletics will ever be a cash cow that can be milked, the University of Iowa is currently one of the few colleges or universities in the country which mandates that the athletic department carry its own weight. Not that it necessarily has to turn a profit, but it is not allowed to draw from academics in order to fund operations. That rule was adopted in 2007, effectively enshrining a collegiate Glass- Steagall Act at Iowa, and for almost a decade that rule has kept the academic and athletic books separate. What Harreld is now proposing is not simply that academics be allowed to take profits from athletics, but that academics should also be exposed to the operational costs of the athletic department.
Under the current policy, the athletic department has to fend for itself, which might be particularly beneficial if athletics were to take a significant economic hit. With Harreld’s new plan, academics would not only be exposed to economic loss in athletics, it would be exposed to administrative abuses in the athletic department, including the willful incurring of costs which the department could not otherwise pay for itself. While that alone should be enough to quell any discussion of tearing down the separation between athletic and academic finances at Iowa, as we will see in two upcoming and related posts, Harreld could not have proposed this short-sighted, duplicitous and enabling change at a worse possible time in the entire history of collegiate athletics.
The DI followed up with another question about the athletic department, leading to the following truly nauseating duet by Harreld and Butler:
This is what you get when you hire a marketing weasel to run a major research university. You get a man turning a deeply embarrassing federal investigation into a purported benefit:
Had J. Bruce Harreld wanted to learn something genuinely useful — like, say, what the federal investigators would eventually conclude — he could have waited before handing AD Gary Barta a massive new contract extension, but he didn’t do that. Despite more than one outstanding civil lawsuit against the athletics department, and a federal civil rights probe, J. Bruce Harreld had no problem rewarding the man at the heart of all of those complaints, then turning around and characterizing the actual federal investigation of the school as little more than an accreditation inspection. All of which raises an interesting question.
Is J. Bruce Harreld completely off his rocker? Because that’s the most favorable explanation I can imagine regarding his official response to what is and should be a deeply troubling moment in Iowa’s history. And as long as we’re going down that road, do you think Harreld’s comments reflect the kind of contrition and concern that federal investigators like to read in a school paper while they are on campus?
As for P. Barry Butler, I don’t know anything about him, and I don’t believe his name has come up before in any post about the Harreld hire, but I have to say — if you’ve got some Kool-aid that needs drinking, this is your guy:
The United States government sent investigators to the University of Iowa because allegations of civil rights abuses were strong enough to warrant that action, and UI Provost Butler believes that everyone could profit from that same experience. Again, I don’t know anything about academic administration, but it seems to me that the real lesson here is to not allow your misogynistic athletic department to run itself like a good-old-boy’s club in the first, place. Or is that kind of linkage too complex for Provost Butler?
The next question from the DI had to do with campus sexual assault, which we dealt with in the previous post. Here is the question after that:
Even considering the above quote in context, it is not entirely clear when Harreld transitions from talking about his achievements to talking about the important issues he’ll be facing in the upcoming year, or vice versa. For example, when he says, “We just touched on one,” he seems to be framing campus sexual assault as an issue of concern, right up until he adds, “I’ve appreciated all the help I’ve gotten from a lot of people.” When Harreld displays that bit of welcome humility, it’s hard not to conclude that he is counting the six-point plan to combat campus sexual assault as one of his early achievements — albeit with the “help” he’s gotten from “a lot of people”. The problem with Harreld making such a claim, of course, as detailed exhaustively in the previous post, is that J. Bruce Harreld not only had little or nothing to do with the completion of the six-point plan, he derided that same plan during his candidate forum in September.
As noted in multiple prior posts, J. Bruce Harreld is temperamentally unsuited to be a university president. I don’t know how leadership transitions are handled in the business world, but I do know that taking credit for other people’s work seems to be a persistent problem in the private sector. What a real university president would have said in response to the above question was something like this: “Well, the six-point plan is an important achievement for the University of Iowa, but I had nothing to do with that. I inherited a great team that Sally Mason put together, and they followed her inspiring leadership.”
In his multi-paragraph response to the DI’s question about achievements and issues of concern, Harreld also said the following:
If you read the full transcript you’ll notice that Harreld finally finds his rhetorical footing not by getting into the minutia of academic administration, or even just being a decent human being, but by giving voice to his inner road-show consultant. The problem with Harreld training students in “leadership”, or the “principles of leadership”, is that whenever we look for examples of Harreld’s own leadership we find him doing things like abetting his own fraudulent hire and betraying shared governance along the way; using the apparatus of his administration to impose the self-serving goal of improving Iowa’s collegiate ranking on the university, and wasting precious resources in the process; and repeatedly taking credit for other people’s work, which he did both on his resume and as just noted with regard to Sally Mason’s six-point plan to combat campus sexual assault. While there are certainly some important lessons that students could learn from all that, I remain baffled how any student could learn leadership lessons from a man who needed a small cabal of co-conspirators to elevate him to the office he now holds.
And about that form, storm, norm and perform riff…. No, that’s not original. As with everything else, J. Bruce Harreld got that from someone else.
The next question the DI asked concerned the abandonment of the public-private partnership behind a proposed downtown UI Art Museum, which is yet another topic we will be dealing with in a separate post. For now, suffice to say that there is nothing I enjoy more than watching an oblivious J. Bruce Harreld toss a brick through one of Regents President Rastetter’s carefully crafted bureaucratic facades. (That Harreld did so by volunteering information which I had been unable to discover from any other source over the past month and a half was particularly enjoyable.)
The last question posed by the Daily Iowan was, to my mind, the most important, and the DI staff is to be commended for raising the issue:
In the past eight months I have gone from knowing very little about the Iowa Board of Regents and the current state of higher education in Iowa, to having my eyes opened to abuses that I find genuinely disturbing. No single news story has affected me more, however, than a short piece by Jeff Charis-Carlson back on 02/16/16, describing the appeals that students from all three of the state’s universities made for more mental health services:
Whether she personally believes that J. Bruce Harreld is a visionary, a colossal fraud, or a deeply flawed human being who deserves a chance, I am 100% behind Rachael Johnson as a regent, in part because she is also a student, but particularly because of her stewardship on this issue, including her subcommittee work. As I have said repeatedly, when I first learned of Harreld’s shocking appointment I was immediately concerned because it demonstrated a disgraceful willingness on the part of the regents as a body — meaning particularly Regents President Bruce Rastetter and his political cronies on the board — to put students at risk. Of the four finalists for the position of president at Iowa, three were steeped in academic administration, meaning they not only had long experience with cultural issues like binge drinking and sexual assault, they were aware of the relationship between those problems and the need for mental health services. As we know, however, the Board of Regents unerringly chose the fourth candidate, who was an imbecile relative to those and other critical issues affecting student health and well-being.
From a report on the same event by Erin Murphy of the Gazette, also on 02/16/16:
Not only is it likely that legislative funding this year will fall far short of the supplemental requests made by each of the state’s schools, at the University of Iowa none of the additional money which Harreld requested was targeted at mental health services for students — or any services for students. That probably won’t change any time soon, either, given that J. Bruce Harreld’s most pressing short-term goal is raising faculty salaries, because that is one of the quickest ways that he can raise Iowa’s national college rank. Despite massive enrollment increases at the state’s schools in recent years, to no one’s surprise the funding of counseling and mental health services have not kept pace, with disastrous results.
Undergraduate college students make up the vast majority of students at each of the state’s public universities, and they are unique in a number of ways. While they are almost all adults in the legal sense, they are also away from home for the first time, they are still finding themselves as individuals, they are years away from full brain development, they are routinely exposed to environments and situations that they may not know how to handle or process, and through all of that they are also expected to demonstrate success by producing work which is constantly judged — and to pay for that privilege. Mental health stresses are inevitable in such an environment, yet at far too many colleges and universities those inevitable stresses are ignored in favor of an idealized and thus marketable image. Even at the University of Iowa, which has long carried the stain of a party school, that lowly brand can itself predispose students to mental health consequences, apart from the stresses inherent in academics or trying to graduate in four years — or even five years.
Here now is the initial response from both Harreld and Butler, regarding the DI’s question about the shortage of mental health support staff:
As you have probably gathered from this post alone, if not other posts in this series, I don’t have a lot of patience for bureaucratic excuse-making. Where my reaction to many of the abuses in the Harreld hire ranges from tsk-tsk to genuine alarm, however, my response to these quotes is black rage. There are at-risk students who do not have immediate or sustained access to mental health services — which they themselves have the courage to seek out despite all of the cultural obstacles that still prevent so many people from doing so — yet the two top administrators at the University of Iowa cannot figure out how to meet those needs because there aren’t enough “high quality” counselors available on the market.
If given a choice, do you think students requesting mental health services, or in need of mental health services, would prefer to have a counselor or therapist available who was of, perhaps, middling quality, or would those students prefer to wait in torment for “high quality” staff to be hired? Because to my mind — and maybe I’m off base here — it’s usually better to have someone on hand to prevent someone from committing suicide than it is to leave that individual twisting in their own despair until you find someone who meets your own lofty standards.
While I don’t know anything about the healthcare situation in Ames or Cedar Falls — home to ISU and UNI respectively — what I know about healthcare in Iowa City is that there are counselors, social workers and therapists all over the place, to say nothing of clinical psychologists and psychiatrists. Sure, they may not all be “high quality” in Harreld’s discriminating eyes, but Iowa City is not a half-dead, rust-belt town with an inadequate supply of licensed caregivers. Meaning that if basic human decency was a resource allocation filter in Harreld’s administration, as opposed to rank snobbery, some of those abundantly available mental health professionals could have been tapped, if only to solve the problem of being “a little off cycle”?
Or here’s another idea. When Vice President for Medical Affairs and Harreld-Hire Co-Conspirator Jean Robillard isn’t obsessing about profits at UIHC, he could focus the university’s vast medical empire — which he now controls in its entirety, having also recently been named dean of the college of medicine — on the objective of providing mental health services to students until Harreld finds proper “high quality” staff. In fact, given that part of Robillard’s mission is cranking out healthcare providers in the mental health disciplines — albeit from the University of Iowa, as opposed to whatever “high quality” schools Harreld prefers to recruit from — I would think there might be a number of newly licensed professionals available at regular intervals. Throw in the UI School of Social Work, and UI’s College of Education, and it may even be that at any point in time Iowa City has more trained mental health professionals, per capita, than any city in the world. Yet somehow the transformative business genius in charge of the University of Iowa cannot resolve a shortage in mental health resources on campus, even as students and student leaders plead for relief.
This now brings us to the end of J. Bruce Harreld’s interview with the Daily Iowan. To summarize, going forward the only real-world test for resource allocations at the University of Iowa will be how those expenditures improve the school’s college rank. As for doing everything possible to prevent students at the University of Iowa from killing themselves, J. Bruce Harreld and his leadership team will solve that problem when and if the job market is more cooperative, and the hires are of sufficient quality. Provided, of course, that doing so also passes Harreld’s new businesslike test for resource allocations.
Update: Ceaseless in his intent to deceive, during the week since he conducted the Daily Iowan interview Harreld has massaged his four filters to make them more attractive to the masses. From a report on today’s Iowa Board of Regents meeting in Council Bluffs, by the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller:
Notice the change. The values filter is still ‘values’; the previously unfinished future filter is now ‘the future’; the student outcomes and success filter is now ‘student success’, but rankings is now ‘quality indicators’. Can you think of anyone who is against values, the future, student success and quality indicators? No? Me either. Then again I don’t think even the most horrific political regimes in human history would have been against any of those factors.
When you come across someone whose carefully chosen words quite literally mean nothing, it’s worth asking why. Instead of talking about rankings now, the illegitimate president of the University of Iowa will be taking about ‘quality indicators’, as if those are not rankings, or are not effectively synonymous with what he means by ‘student success’. The entire filtering process is aimed at improving Iowa’s national college rank, and two of Harreld’s four filters are ranking factors, yet the word ‘ranking’ has now been scrubbed. This is transformational change at the University of Iowa.
Paul Diehl says
Rastetter Misses An Opportunity
Last month Bruce Rastetter complained that the state universities “aren’t doing enough online to reach thousands of Iowans with partial degrees who can’t come to campus.” As always, Rastetter pulls his estimate straight out of thin air, admitting to the Register that “I will be wrong on the number.” But in typical Rastetter fashion, he kept plowing anyway, never giving the Register Editorial Board the source(s) of his data and worse yet, never clarifying what constitutes a “partial degree.”
Does one credit-hour do it? One completed course? Five completed courses? Ten completed courses? Or perhaps only one course short of completing a degree? Three courses short? A year? The answers to these questions will have a profound effect on how U.N.I., I.S.U., and U.I. prepare to accommodate 340,000 Iowans online. Anyone who’s ever designed and taught an online course knows the tremendous amount of effort and time it takes to make the transition. And yet Rastetter is calling for hundreds, if not thousands, of more online degree courses at the three universities. It boggles the mind, but not Rastetter’s. He seems to assume the tough part is getting the universities on the same calendar and class schedules (see taped interview http://www.desmoinesregister.com/videos/news/education/2016/03/22/82128628/ ). This is signature Rastetter: he gets distracted by a peripheral issue and then insists others do something about it. Rastetter admits the regent universities are already offering “more” online opportunities but points out the [Deloitte] “study identified that [the universities] could do much more.”
A student wanting to take a course at another regent institution would have to depend on special registration and transportation, possibly via Rastetter’s jet. However, this accommodation of a single student is breathtaking in its implications. Does the student have the necessary prerequisites? Can the professor translate her classroom abilities into online magic? Will the student get his hands dirty in lab or will he be limited to video screens and paper? Perhaps inter-university studies could be done more effectively by involving more than one student at a time. Certainly worth considering, because getting online learning wrong would damage Iowa’s three universities beyond repair. Online teaching is not what the vast majority of professors have experienced or signed up for. A couple of years of online courses and the faculty will vote with their feet. Happily, the University of Iowa is nothing like the University of Phoenix and I imagine most Iowans prefer their state universities to stay that way. I’ve taught in Iowa since 1973 and not once has a student, parent, colleague, administrator, alumna, alumnus, fellow Iowan expressed an interest in trading classrooms for distance learning. Well, now one administrator has, Bruce Rastetter, and he can’t run an honest search, let himself be governed by Iowa’s open meetings laws, avoid conflicts of interests, steer clear of the ethical bankruptcy of displacing for personal profit some of the poorest, most desperate people on Earth, thereby sullying the reputation of one of the nation’s finest land grant universities. When I came to Iowa, I quickly discovered who Norman Borlaug was. I figured I wouldn’t see such a giant again. But little did I know that at my career’s end I’d have to come to grips with Borlaug’s antithesis, an uncivil, unprofessional, ethically challenged money grubber, fraud, liar, conspirator, Machiavellian regent. The world will long remember Borlaug. But Rastetter will drift through empty bins, an unwanted ghost, still scheming to displace “180,000 Burundian refugees from land where they’ve been living for 40 years.” Those around Iowa State already know this story, but here’s the link for anyone who doesn’t. That Rastetter is still a regent after his Tanzanian land grab shows how low Branstad has fallen. [http://www.farmlandgrab.org/post/view/20667-ethics-complaint-rastetter-used-regents-board-to-push-african-land-grab#sthash.F1KKtWkW.dpuf]
In the meantime, Rastetter should take a close look at the tremendous funding opportunities partial degrees provide. It should be easy for the regents to print up and sign 340,000 impressive Partial-Degree Certificates. At, say, a hundred bucks a pop, Rastetter gets himself a funding stream north of $34 million. And if the regents agree to let Iowa students use credits from the University of Phoenix, the regents could also dodge the huge online start-up costs. Then faculty can buckle down to teach the undergraduates and graduate students most historically important to a state university: the students who actually come to campus.
An interesting parallel to the online push is the desire to expand the state’s schools in terms of brick-and-mortar presence. Particularly with UI there have been efforts to move the school, physically, into communities where it has not previously had a presence. Most recently, the business college tried to open an outpost in Dubuque, but that had to be tabled because of the push-back from local colleges.
And of course there’s the AIB saga, and calls just a few weeks ago by Des Moines business leaders to get in on the regent’s patronage pie.
In the entire history of the state this is obviously unprecedented, but it’s still getting very little notice. There’s a higher-ed ecosystem in Iowa, and the regents are proposing nothing short of wiping it out and replacing it with regent tentacles reaching into every community. Given the rampant crony politics if not crimes which are being exposed in the regents’ offices every other week, to say nothing of what happens when the state truly stops funding the regents’ institutions, all of this should raise alarm.
I mentioned the serious problems with online learning in a post long before I ever heard of J. Bruce Harreld or his fraudulent election, and later also mentioned those concerns in context after I started writing about the Harreld hire. What seems persistently absent from Rastetter’s talk about online learning is that many if not most of the previous efforts — including those which were more than adequately funded — all crashed and burned. It’s not as if these things haven’t been attempted, but clearly the dynamics which ensure success are lacking. Which in turn means that what Rastetter is proposing is not something that helps students, but something that makes money for cronies in the short term, before it goes belly up.
Online schools also factor into Harreld’s fixation on raising Iowa’s college rank, over and above any profitability. And of course as with many businesses — including, famously, Boston Chicken — there seems to be a desire here to simply expand the state’s schools into success, which of course will not work. Most likely, it will lead to what happened after Harreld oversaw the massive expansion of Boston Chicken, which was powered by little more than inflows of revenue from franchise fees. Collapse.