A new threaded post on this topic can be found here. For previous posts about the Harreld hire, click the tag below.
07/14/16 — The Rastetter-Leath Land Deal and Iowa’s Gift Law. Updated.
07/12/16 — Following Up on the Rastetter-Leath Crony Land Deal. Updated.
07/12/16 — More on the Rastetter-Leath land deal from AP’s Ryan Foley here. Key confirmation that the Leaths directed the purchase through Rastetter’s company, rather than simply buying the land themselves, thus saving themselves 50% of all associated costs.
07/11/16 — DesMoinesDem at Bleeding Heartland had a post up yesterday about the Rastetter-Leath land deal, and assorted crony activities at ISU. The potential savings to Leath and his wife looks to be considerably more than that reported by the Des Moines Register. (See also the update in the post below.)
07/10/16 — The Beginning of the End for ISU President Steven Leath. Updated.
07/07/16 — J. Bruce Harreld, Tuition Hikes and Mental Health.
07/03/16 — J. Bruce Harreld is Right Behind You.
06/30/16 — The Daily Iowan’s coverage of the Iowa Board of Regents continues to impress. Brad Pector on the regents’ lack of transparency. Addison Martin on the proposed decrease in meetings.
06/28/16 — UI Faculty Senate Ex-President Christina Bohannan Tells a Lie.
06/26/16 — Bruce Rastetter’s Long Game at the Iowa Board of Regents. Part I. Part II.
06/24/16 — J. Bruce Harreld and World Class Incoherence.
06/22/16 — J. Bruce Harreld and the UI Faculty Senate.
06/19/16 — The AAUP Sanctions the University of Iowa. Updated.
06/10/16 — Branstad, Rastetter and Harreld, and the $20M Tuition Hike Caper. Updated.
06/07/16 — Branstad, Rastetter and Harreld, and the $1.7M Regents Shortfall. Updated.
06/05/16 — J. Bruce Harreld, Gary Barta, and Bromance. Updated.
06/02/16 — On the Lawsuit Challenging Rastetter’s Secret Regent Meetings.
On July 30th, 2015, Regents President Bruce Rastetter arranged for an unofficial, undeclared, and fervently disinterested candidate for president of the University of Iowa, J. Bruce Harreld, to meet with four regents, in two meetings of two, at Rastetter’s private place of business in Ames. Two of those regents were not on the search committee, yet not only did Rastetter arrange for them to meet with Harreld outside the formal search process, he forwarded Harreld’s resume to them even though Harreld had yet to submit any formal documentation through the committee. No other candidate for the presidency at Iowa — declared or undeclared — received such preferential treatment, there is no evidence that Rastetter, any member of the board, or Jean Robillard, the chair of the search committee, ever communicated the possibility of such meetings to any other candidates, and the secret regent meetings were themselves unknown to the majority of the search committee until weeks after Harreld’s appointment.
Beyond the ethical if not legal obligations which Rastetter, Robillard and the four regents had to conduct a fair and equitable search, there are state laws which determine how government meetings may and may not be conducted. On that basis, a suit was filed yesterday alleging that the secret regents meetings were in violation of the state’s Open Meetings law, which was itself recently the subject of legal dispute.
From the AP’s Ryan Foley, on 06/01/16:
Setting any potential resolution of the case aside, it’s important to note that there have never been any facts put forward by Rastetter, Harreld or Robillard to substantiate the claims they have made on the record about those meetings. Harreld insists that he demanded meetings with “at least four regents”, yet nowhere is that demand in evidence. Rastetter asserts that he was not present, thus precluding a quorum, yet we don’t know where he was at the time of the meetings, or before the meetings, when Harreld arrived in town, or after, when Harreld met with ISU President Steven Leath. We don’t even know why the meetings were kept secret for a full month, until the election, then for weeks afterward, before being belatedly disclosed in the press in mid-September.
To the extent that the lawsuit filed yesterday can help answer those questions, it will gone a long way to determining whether Rastetter did indeed intentionally violate the Open Meetings law. If Rastetter himself acted as a proxy for those two meetings of two regents each, along with facilitating and hosting those meetings, the courts may find that there was a de facto quorum established.
More from Foley:
As Foley also noted in his piece, this is the second lawsuit filed against the regents for violating the Open Meeting laws during the 2015 UI presidential search. The first, filed by UI Professor Emeritus Harrold Hammond, challenged meetings which were held out of state or at times inconvenient to the public, thus also violating state statute. Both Rastetter and Robillard were recently deposed in the Hammond case, and in writing about the Krapf suit yesterday the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller added some visibility to progress in that suit:
While Rastetter and the other regents certainly have every right to defend themselves in court, the big picture is consistent. During the search, on multiple occasions, the regents either intentionally skirted or broke the Open Meetings laws in order to avoid public awareness of, and input into, what was supposed to be a fair and honest publicly funded search. The very fact that the secret regent meetings on July 30th were exactly that — secret, and kept that way by all involved until well after the election — suggests that openness and transparency was the last thing on the mind of the people running the search.
I expect Rastetter and the other regents, and Robillard, and even Harreld, to fight this second suit tooth and nail because they are massively exposed on multiple fronts. As noted above and in prior posts (notably here), almost none of the existing narrative about the secret regent meetings makes any sense when closely considered. On that basis alone, and assuming that the suit is not simply dismissed, it’s reasonable to expect a serious fight in which the defendants will have access to essentially unlimited state-funded legal representation even if they intentionally broke the law.
In order to level the playing field as much as possible, a campaign has been launched to help fund Gerhild Krapf’s suit against the regents. If you believe the search process was rigged in Harreld’s favor, please consider contributing. You can donate anonymously, and any amount large or small will help.
Thank goodness for Prof. Krapf.
Where is Iowa AG Tom Miller? It is Miller’s state constitutional responsibility to protect the citizens who elected him to that office (many times) from the malfeasance and fraud that the BOR and Robillard perpetrated on those same voters.
Why should a private citizen bring civil suits against such corruption? This is Miller’s fight, one he apparently flees.
If Miller is too scared, too intimidated, too inattentive, or too lazy to carry out his responsibilities then he should be relieved of his duties.
Miller has sat on his hands when this huge nationally known fraud was perpetrated on Iowans. While Miller himself appears not to be corrupt, his derogation of duty, his neglect of obvious sleaze and fraud renders him unfit for further service as Attorney General of Iowa.
Miller needs to resign immediately for malpractice of his duties. Or should be impeached.
This fraud is now over 12 months old, not competently carried out, nor even covered up, and yet Miller sits constipated without action. This is not a trivial matter — costly in terms of money, time, careers, prestige, and a proud university with a good record.
Malfeasance on Miller’s part, and this should bring an end to Tom Miller’s otherwise modest but decent tenure as AG.
I want the main characters — Rastetter, Robillard, Harreld, Leath, Andringa, Matthes, Mulholland, and other important sources — under oath in court.
Forget Branstad, he appears to be an ignorant accessory. Subpoena those records too.
Iowa is owed answers. The university and it’s broad constituency needs answers on this ‘conspiracy’. Answers so this never happens again.
As Marvin Gay said “Whats Going On”?
In Iowa, the state university system seems floundering and without focus. The illegal presidential search in Iowa City, precipitated by a 1. a Mason Coup and 2. Corrupt Search Process, sponsored by BOR Pres Rastetter and the Interim President apparently scares off the President of UNI, who — without contract — flees for a small almost unknown college in Ohio.
While over in Ames, to quote here, a student-confinement lot operation run by scrap-sucking President Leath tries to out- flank his fellow presidents for funds.
Meanwhile as his legislature denies universities operating funds, Gov-For-Miserable-Life Terry Branstad comes out against tuition increases….does the Gov-For-Life not get irony?
The NY Times today runs an editorial on Univ Illinois system, a once great system on the brink of disaster. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/04/opinion/higher-education-in-illinois-is-dying.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-right-region®ion=opinion-c-col-right-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-right-region
The magazine of the AAUP runs several articles on how Gov-for Stupid Walker in Wisky is stripping down education on all levels from the Univ of Wisconsin to high schools. Ave ACT has fallen from 23 to 21 in HS.
And we have a major party presidential candidate who foisted a fake fraudulent ‘university’ on people ‘Trump University’ and thinks it is just peachy.
What kind of dark ignorance is falling on this country? It is almost condemned to be educated and liberal and not openly carry an automatic weapon.
Really..What Is Going on?
I wrote a non-Harreld-hire post recently about Capitalism vs. Democracy, which focused on the various parties in the 2016 presidential race, and what I think voters are really clamoring for this year. The larger point I would make in the context of higher education is simply to ask which of those two culture-orienting forces — capitalism or democracy — is most interested in a well-informed and educated citizenry?
The answer, obviously, is democracy. In fact, it is objectively true that capitalism prefers an uneducated populace because uneducated people are much easier to motivate via advertising. If you can make any claim, and you can deny people the right to check those claims, then you can sell, sell, sell. And no, I do not see any business operating today that would prefer its customer base to be fully knowledgeable about its business or products. That’s antithetical to what capitalism is all about.
Democracy, on the other hand, can only function when people have access to information, and on a more granular level, when they know how to think. If you can’t place political ideas in a historical or philosophical context, and you don’t even understand the mechanisms of your own government — separation of powers in the U.S.; the Constitution and its protections of your rights — then you’re finished before you start.
As to the manner of education, there’s a business-driven mania these days to compel state-funded education to be a revenue-generating machine. That focus has tilted higher education toward STEM degrees and careers, which also do nothing to teach students how to think about themselves as citizens. You can crank out STEM worker drones by the millions on campuses all over the country, but if they don’t know how to think about anything other than the calculator in front of them, they’re functional idiots at best.
So once again the powers that be look as if they’re concerned for the welfare of students, when their real goal is dumbing down the populace as much as possible, and papering over any holes that liberal arts classes would fill with promises of more money. (It would be fascinating to know how many of the people duped by Donald Trump had no college degree, a STEM degree, or a liberal arts degree.)
As far as I can tell, all of this comes not from an old-school Republican ideology, but from a diseased new-school libertarian ideology. The goal is to disrupt any sense of connection between individuals other than money, which means the people with the most money then have all the power — which is obviously where we’re already headed.
There was a great WaPo article recently on one of the Koch brothers, and his apparently-but-not-really well-considered plan to convert all of higher education into a machine which churns out products by narrowly educated human beings, rather than a machine which turns out broadly educated human beings who then go on to do good works in society — including making new products. (Reading it you may even see Rastetter’s and Mulholland’s crazed faces pop into your mind.)
In Iowa, I was fascinated when the legislature truly stiffed the regents, because the shortfall was so large it necessarily triggered tuition hikes, which of course meant new revenue for schools which Branstad, Rastetter and their crony ilk have been trying to starve for years. And that particularly screwed up their plans at the University of Iowa, where they had finally installed their puppet-idiot Harreld to lay waste to liberal arts under the pretense of necessary funding cuts. Yet as you noted, guess what folksy uber-crony Branstad had to say today?
Gotta put the genie back in the bottle, or people might remember that the entire impetus for funding cuts at the state schools was actually engineered by Branstad and his ideological pals in government. What’s missing from Branstad’s comments, of course, is the fact that he did nothing to encourage the legislature to fund the schools more, he did nothing with his line-item veto pen when the budget was finally signed, and he said nothing to help the regents schools during the budget process — because of course he wanted the schools starved of funding.
The thoroughly corrupt state of Illinois is a colossal mess (thanks for the link), and Walker has indeed gutted the Wisconsin higher-ed system in a way that will slowly convert that state into a backwater. And these are all intentional acts one way or the other. But until citizens demand the funding of higher-ed as something more than a jobs program, nothing will change — and the tougher things are economically, the less likely people are to prioritize democracy over the money they need to eat.
On 05/26/16, KGAN/FOX28 anchor Karen Fuller reported on a comprehensive interview that she conducted with J. Bruce Harreld, the fraudulently appointed (my words) president of the University of Iowa. One day later, on 05/27/16, a short article about Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta appeared on the HawkCentral.com site, which is owned by the Des Moines Register. A day after that, on 05/28/16, the HawkCentral piece was expand to include (apparently, more) information from an interview Barta had conducted with the Register the day before, and that piece was cross-posted to the Register site.
It is entirely possible that Harreld and Barta conducted their interviews at roughly the same time simply because the spring term was over and there was enough downtime to talk to the press. Or at least not enough going on to beg off talking to the press. What is odd about the content of the two interviews, however, is that each gives visibility not only to the professional dynamic between the two men, but the personal dynamic.
In prior posts we looked at the secret contract Harreld gave Barta at the end of last year, which included a multi-year extension and massive increase in pay despite Barta and the athletic department facing a federal investigation for gender discrimination, and a civil suit on that same basis. (The contract was finally disclosed in mid-February only because of reporting by AP reporters Luke Meredith and Ryan J. Foley.) We also looked at J. Bruce Harreld’s support for the Gartner Plan, which would co-mingle funds from athletics and academics, and at how Harreld and Provost P. Barry Butler later downplayed a second federal investigation which was on-site in mid-April. On top of all that, a second civil gender discrimination lawsuit was filed against Barta and the athletic department in mid-March.
In that context we now have J. Bruce Harreld supporting Barta, on the record, to a degree that seems to defy credulity. From Fuller’s report [3:15]:
The fact that Harreld starts to refer to the athletic department as “the institution” is obviously a concern. If you, as the actual president of “the institution”, have to stop in mid-sentence and remind yourself who’s in charge of what, you’re clearly not playing from a position of strength. Another possible explanation for that brain cramp, however, is that J. Bruce Harreld was so focused on selling what he was about to say that he forgot how to say it.
The following screencap doesn’t do the moment justice, but what you see here is J. Bruce Harreld giving you a deeply-emoted, paternalistic, you-can-trust-me squint:
Harreld starts and ends his impassioned squint over the following words in the above quote: “…world class, and we should be really, really proud of it…”. Setting aside Harreld’s acting ability, there is no equivocation in his words. And Harreld is not simply telling the camera how he feels about Barta, he’s telling everyone how they should feel about Barta.
A big problem with proclaiming that Gary Barta is “world class”, of course, has to do with that nagging gender discrimination lawsuit that Karen Fuller noted in her piece, plus the federal gender discrimination investigation that Fuller didn’t mentioned, plus the other gender discrimination lawsuit that Fuller didn’t mentioned, plus the other federal gender discrimination investigation that Fuller didn’t mention. And no — that’s not me knocking Fuller, because there are only so many minutes in a newscast. The person I am knocking is J. Bruce Harreld, for giving Barta a squinty rhetorical bro hug that not only seems absurd on its beady-eyed face, but goes well beyond what was appropriate for the president of the University of Iowa to profess given the circumstances.
Because Gary Barta and his athletic department are facing four potential legal threats, all related to gender discrimination, and the problems in his department have been reported on extensively, Harreld’s claim that Barta is “world-class” is a metaphorical slap in the face to all of the people who are looking into those matters, to say nothing of all of the people who may have been injured or affected by those alleged abuses. That Harreld had no problem proclaiming Barta to be “world class” before learning the results of the investigations and lawsuits can only be seen as a betrayal of his professional and administrative responsibility to represent everyone at the school, including the substantial population of women.
So what would drive a university president to do such a thing, on camera? Again, this wasn’t Harreld throwing Barta a bone in confidence, or during an early-morning speech to a booster group — this was Harreld giving his all for the local evening news. Who was he trying to reach with his unconditional statement of support for Barta? People who hate women? People who hate the federal government? People who do not believe in ethics, decency, honesty, fairness or integrity?
If you’re a genuinely talented university president, or even a Machiavellian monster solely invested in your own survival, you know how to suck-up to the athletic director, on camera, without insulting half of the world’s population. On the other hand, if you’re a swashbuckling business executive and you hail from the kind of bro culture that made Mad Men infamously famous, maybe you don’t even think about how your words are going to be received by the women on campus. Instead, you think only about how that one special person — Gary Barta himself — is going to react to your fervent pledge of devotion.
As for Barta, he made it clear in his recent interview that he saw his new contract as a validation of how he does business, and he was thankful to Harreld for that lucrative show of support:
On that point, here’s what Harreld had to say in mid-February, when news about Barta’s secret deal finally leaked, a month and a half after it was negotiated:
And here’s what Barta had to say about Harreld at the time:
Granted, in terms of collegiate politics much of this is standard fare. For all the lip-service paid to athletics as a component of higher education, Gary Barta is the head of the University of Iowa’s powerful entertainment division, to which normal administrative rules do not apply. At many schools the president sucks up to the AD precisely because that’s where the real money and power is on campus, but at Iowa that’s not the case. Not only are athletics and academics on separate ledgers — at least for now — but the academic side of the school is a power in itself.
Still, having gone on the record in support of the Gartner Plan, which would pool monies from all sources including athletics, it’s understandable that Harreld might need to do some extra groveling in order to get his hands on any surplus from the athletic department, including a potential short-term windfall from the Big Ten’s new TV deal. One of the problems with tying your long-term success and stability to sports as entertainment, however — and particularly to football, which is by far the largest revenue generator in collegiate athletics — is that an issue like concussion or CTE could take the fun, and thus the profit, out of watching young and otherwise healthy student-athletes turn themselves into mush. (Former UI player Tyler Sash has been dead less than a year, yet reading the latest buzz from the UI athletic department or the local press you wouldn’t know that brain trauma was even an issue with the sport of football, or that colleges and conferences were actually being sued by former players seeking relief.)
The question is not why Harreld and Barta would engage in mutual public displays of metaphorical affection, but why J. Bruce Harreld would do so with such zeal — particularly given the outstanding legal issues. It’s not as if Harreld’s passion for Barta is the result of some longstanding association, because at most J. Bruce Harreld has known of Gary Barta for less than a year, and known him in any meaningful way for less than that. Yet Harreld has clearly decided to be Gary Barta’s biggest cheerleader, to the point that he’s willing to stick up for the man regardless of any eventual legal findings.
If Barta goes 4-0 against the two gender discrimination lawsuits and the two federal gender discrimination investigations, then he and Bro Bruce are sitting pretty. But what happens if Barta goes 3-1? How about 2-2, however you want to apportion victories and defeats among the lawsuits and investigations? 1-3 is definitely going to look bad, particularly if the penalties are severe, and of course 0-4 is going to make Gary Barta look like a creep.
As you may or may not know, at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, a slew of sexual assaults and attendant efforts by coaches and administrators to cover up or downplay those abuses has led to a string of terminations and demotions over the past week. Art Briles, the phenomenally successful football coach, was suspended, then fired. Ian McCaw, the Baylor AD, was originally going to stay on, but less than a week later, after naming Briles’ successor, McCaw announced his resignation. The president and chancellor, Ken Starr (yes, that Ken Starr), who was in office when many of the abuses took place — was initially only removed as president:
(If you’re not sure of the difference between a university president and a university chancellor, join the club. At schools with more than one campus, the president often oversees the entire operation, while a chancellor heads up each individual campus. Except at some schools with more than one campus, where they seem to do the opposite. At Baylor — a private school with one campus — the president seems to be the chief administrator, while the chancellor raises money.)
Less than a week later, Starr also resigned as chancellor:
Proving prophetic, Starr then turned around and torpedoed his own credibility. Whether Ken Starr will be able to hang on to his faculty post remains to be seen, but the fact that he is out as both president and chancellor says a lot about how problems in an athletic department can take down the top administrator at a school.
If Gary Barta goes 2-2 or worse, it may be impossible for him to hang on to his job. Any actual sanctions would matter, and because Barta is head of the university’s entertainment division it would also matter how much money he was generating, along with whether the football and men’s basketball teams were riding high or had reverted to the mean, but at some point a calculation would have to be made — as clearly happened at Baylor — whether the University of Iowa could afford to keep Barta if he did discriminate on the basis of gender. Which of course brings us to J. Bruce Harreld and his presidential judgment — before any of the four outstanding cases have been concluded — that Gary Barta is “world-class”.
While it’s true that the issues coming home to roost in the UI athletic department pre-date Harreld’s tenure as an illegitimate president, if Harreld wanted to inoculate himself on that basis all he had to do was say the usual banal presidential things when asked about Barta. But that’s not what Harreld did. In the past five months alone Harreld has thrown a ton of new money at Barta, he has extended Barta’s contract, and, during an interview with the school’s newspaper, he went out of his way to provide cover for Barta regarding a team of federal investigators who were on campus at that very moment:
In the entire interview Harreld only mentions Barta once by name, in response to a question about the Gartner Plan. He does not mention Barta in connection with the on-campus federal gender discrimination investigation, nor does he mention the other federal gender discrimination investigation, nor either of the two pending civil gender discrimination lawsuits. Given Harreld’s unqualified support of Barta, including his most recent squinty vow, the obvious question is whether Harreld would hold onto his job if the athletics department took multiple gender discrimination hits.
If there are multiple findings against Barta, and even if Harreld is willing to throw Barta under the wheels of his presidential bus, how exactly does he do that after asserting that Barta was “world-class”, and that everyone “should be really, really proud” of Barta? Again, I don’t know why Harreld made Barta his go-to bro in less than a year, but he did, and I don’t see how he reverses course if Barta falters.
If you’re thinking that the situations at Baylor and Iowa are completely different, they are — but there are two critical differences. The obvious difference is that the crimes committed at Baylor were acts of violence against women, while the alleged gender abuses at Iowa were administrative. By the same token, however, the crimes at Baylor were not actually committed by administrators, they were covered-up by administrators. At the University of Iowa, it’s an administrator who is accused of committing the actual crimes.
Even if Barta goes 2-2, that would establish a pattern of gender discrimination at the highest levels of the University of Iowa athletic department. Gary Barta won’t be responsible for a cover-up, he’ll be responsible for the actual abuses, and that’s the guy J. Bruce Harreld just screwed his face into a squint for. In fact, we already know that the federal investigations have a substantive basis, because while the requirements for filing a Title IX complaint are quite low, triggering an actual investigation requires a protracted vetting process.
For all the abuses committed at Baylor, it was only a few days ago that the first Title IX complaint was filed against that school. From ESPN, on 06/01/16:
What J. Bruce Harreld knew when he squinted at the camera and voiced rapturous support for Gary Barta was that two federal gender discrimination complaints had already cleared the bar of legitimacy and triggered investigations. And that’s leaving aside the merits of the gender discrimination lawsuits, and whatever briefings he’s had from the Office of the General Counsel on those matters. (No matter what happens, Harreld is not going to be able to plead Starr-like ignorance about either of those suits.)
All we’ve ever heard from the co-conspirators who leveraged Harreld into office, and from Harreld himself, is that he’s a wiz at strategy. (On his resume Harreld states that he, “Led BM’s [sic] strategy unit that was responsible for the formulation and execution of the company’s overall strategy.” What he does not say is that he was VP of Strategy at IBM for only the final six months of his thirteen years at the company.) So what is the strategic value to Harreld of giving AD Gary Barta a bromantic bear hug before any of the four outstanding complaints against the athletic department have been resolved?
The problem with having committed himself is not simply that it puts Harreld’s personal credibility on the line, it’s that Harreld — as president of the University of Iowa — is publicly calling for everyone else on campus to embrace AD Barta as a “world-class” administrative leader when all available evidence suggests taking a wait-and-see approach at the very least. But that’s clearly not Harreld’s strategy. Instead, Harreld’s strategy, consistently, has been to reward and champion Barta at every opportunity, using the Office of President of the University of Iowa not to advocate for fairness, honesty and integrity, particularly on behalf of women, but for a man who may have broken the law.
I don’t know why the one person on campus that Harreld is most enamored of happens to be the school’s single biggest potential legal liability. It’s tempting to think that in resurrecting the Gartner Plan that Harreld may have overreached, taking some serious blowback from Barta and various high-dollar donors and boosters, but Harreld gave Barta his rich new contract months before the Gartner Plan was ever mentioned in public.
As previously noted, Harreld is a life-long product of bro culture, and seems to be particularly thrilled any time he gets to hang with the jocks. So maybe that’s all this is — a sixty-plus-year-old man finally getting to play big shot on campus. Whether that’s the case, or Harreld was forced to take a public stand on Barta’s behalf due to factors behind the scenes, no one can argue that his unreserved support of Barta is to the benefit of the university and its mission as an institution of higher learning. It may be politically expedient, and we know Harreld has no problem actually lying to cover for his crony pals, but that’s not being presidential.
If the goal of higher education is truth, J. Bruce Harreld clearly isn’t interested in waiting for the truth to catch up. Maybe he has inside info about the two federal investigations, but it’s unlikely he has inside info about the two lawsuits unless he’s already told the Office of the General Counsel to settle. So is that Harreld’s strategy — to pay off the civil suits and make them go away, then bargain the federal government down to an administrative slap on the wrist? Maybe even in exchange for Barta rolling over on the Gartner Plan?
Again, I have no idea. All I know is that the one man at the University of Iowa who should be advocating most for the rights of women has gone out of his way, almost from day one, to ally himself with — and to encourage everyone else to support — a man who may have denied women their rights under the law. Whatever else might be going on, that doesn’t seem like a very smart move for someone who claims to be a wiz at strategy, because I don’t see any way for Harreld to distance himself from Barta in the future. Not after that squint.
Update: On 06/07/16 the Gazette’s Scott Dochterman reported on a staggering projected increase in the cost of renovations for Kinnick Stadium:
In Dochterman’s piece UI officials take great pains to point out that the costs are preliminary, but the fact that the numbers have doubled in less than a year without any hard plans raises obvious questions — and obvious parallels to other recent UI projects that went over budget. Specifically, only a couple of months ago J. Bruce Harreld was touted for his visionary business leadership when he blew up the P3 UI Art Museum project because of the total cost of the project, yet here was have the athletic department suddenly doubling the cost of a project.
The fact that this doubling comes after the Big Ten’s announcement of a possible new windfall for each school as a result of its new TV deal is also interesting. Is AD Barta blowing out all the money he can from that deal, so there won’t be anything left if bro Harreld decides to co-mingle the academic and athletic ledgers under the Gartner Plan? If so, does that explain why Harreld is suddenly going all in on tuition increases, to the point that he’s now targeting increases on a per-college basis while ignoring the governor’s plaintive pleas to keep costs down?
It’s also interesting that after Harreld just gave Barta the biggest bro hung in the history of administrative admiration, that Harreld’s name is nowhere to be found in the Gazette story about the doubling of the projected stadium costs. Is that because Harreld took a private jet back to the Rockies for a few days of r-and-r, or is that because once again Harreld seems to be getting his ass handed to him by Barta?
Finally, how does spending another $75M on Kinnick make sense when that’s more than the projected cost of a brand-new Museum of Art for the school? Yes, UI is prepared to push ahead on that front at the upcoming regents’ meeting, but where’s the consistency? Is Harreld simply going to roll over for a sudden doubling of the Kinnick renovation costs, when the issue of CTE and concussion may very well start to take a toll on ticket sales? Or are we really all going to pretend that Tyler Sash didn’t actually die last September?
There is one obvious reason for Harreld’s bromance with Barta: it is his attempt to enlarge his potential base of political support to sports fans. That is particularly important to him because he obviously does not enjoy significant support on campus or in Johnson County. But in a state without any professional sport franchises and a college football team that has just had a historically successful season his very public support of Barta, even in the face of the legal challenges you detail, is perhaps Harrald’s only way to engage and activate a very large and vocal constituency to support him in all University matters. In the words of Bernie, that is huuuuge.
I think this is a big part of it. Harreld has repeatedly tried to go over the heads of the university community to appeal to the people of the state — much like Rastetter does — but honestly I don’t think people outside the university (or IC) care about Harreld one way or the other. The next best thing would be to ally himself with Barta, particularly given how last year went for the football team, so that’s what he’s done. And there’s no reason Barta wouldn’t reciprocate because Harreld can be so useful to him — as clearly demonstrated by Barta’s fat new contract.
I remain curious how all this plays out over the next calendar year, what with the football team playing a tougher schedule, and the basketball team losing its senior leadership. Sports fans are a fickle bunch, and expectations are sky high.
Your reference to Bro is fitting; I take a slightly different angle.
These are Fraud Bros, Fakes, Deceivers, and Hucketers. They flock together.
Harreld, an en engineer never worked as an engineer. He sold fast food. Then he marketed dying PCs. Although he thinks of himself as an elite (he disparages liberal arts) he deep down must feel like a fraud. His doctored CV shows it. His quotes indicate he has no idea how to be a univ president this he BS’s his way thru.
ADs must have similar emotions. At 500,000 a year they ostensibly boss around coaches who make 4-5 million a year. The quote about Hawkeyes football is misleading…sure undefeated with a weak season schedule, and made the Rose Bowl; however he didn’t mention losing the Big Ten title and participating in arguably the biggest bowl embarrassment over several years. Barta must feel vulnerable too.
This doesn’t even go into Rastetter who operates in the cruel world of agribusiness, and Branstad who is a shell of what he once was.
Fraud Bros, each hanging on to the others hoping this all doesn’t unravel.
This slant dovetails with the larger question of why J. Bruce Harreld wanted the Iowa job in the first place. He sells two multi-million dollar homes on the East Coast the year before applying for the job, and by all accounts is heading back home to Colorado for his retirement. And why not? He’s been teaching for six years, his heyday as an exec is over, it’s time to spend time with the family.
Then all of a sudden he’s spending tens of thousands of dollars on private jet flights to Iowa for a job he swear he has no interest in and doesn’t want until the last minute, when his new pals hand him the keys to the school. I keep coming back to the idea that Harreld needed the gig to feel like he was still a player, but maybe it’s like you say. Maybe he needed the gig to keep from feeling like a failure or a fraud.
In either case, those aren’t good reasons for trying your hand at something you’ve never done before, particularly when so many other lives will be affected. Right now we could be six months into Steinmetz’s tenure at Iowa, with a real leader at the helm. Instead, we’re stuck with a guy who’s telling people to “get over it”.
It is both, being the big man (BMOC, judging from his inflated resume with obvious BS achievements) but knowing he is far less that what he claims to be.
Presiding over a Big Ten university with 30,000 students, and a big medical school/center, law school,, etc etc. Is a big deal. Instant entry into the big time, the presidential suite, etc. He graduated from Purdue, he knows the Midwest deal.
In Iowa the Hawkeye football coach is #1, basketball coach #2, governor maybe 3, senator 4 or so. UIowa president immediately puts you with the elite.
Harreld walks into the country club in New Canaan CT and he is one more duffer.
In Iowa he is a BMOC with a free mansion, free transportation, and a vast tradition behind him.
It is really sad to be given something without earning it.
Do we know that Barta and Harreld are new friends? Is it possible that they already knew each other?
I do not see a prior relationship between Barta and Harold. They do share some common traits: often ADs are frustrated jocks or coaches; Harreld obviously loves hobnobbing with the real BMOCs. (Betting he was a real misfit as an athlete). So both get to play with the jocks now.
They also both need to be synchophants for big money. That likely makes strange bedfellows.
I agree with VT, but it’s a good question, Paula — you never know.
Barta is from Minnesota, came out of North Dakota State as a player, then went to Washington and Wyoming before coming to Iowa to take over after Bowlsby. I just don’t see any obvious overlap in terms of work or geography.
In this case, I think Harreld’s infatuation really is some weird combination of desperation and necessity. He took to Barta and the football team like a drowning victim when the Rose Bowl rolled around, which was only a few weeks after his “should be shot” debacle.
I believe Harreld attended Purdue from ’67 to ’72. Purdue basketball went to the NCAA title game with AA Rick Mount in the 70s.
Purdue football didn’t fair that well in the late 60s-70s but had QBs like Bob Griese, Mike Phipps, and Gary Danielson.
I remember those jocks as as an undergrad: they got the girls, the cars, the popularity. Who would not want to hob knob with these dudes?
A mature person like Willard Boyd would not care; frustrated jocks (like Harreld and me) would suck in the testosterone like lemon-aid in the desert.
In a post back in mid-February, which looked at the Iowa Board of Regents’ budget requests for the upcoming academic year, I said this:
A few days ago on Twitter I squawked about a tweet by Pat Grassley, which seemed to misrepresent the original regents’ budget request, the funding the regents were actually given by the state legislature, and the proposed tuition increases now before the board. However, following a tweet by the AP’s Ryan Foley and a related post by DesMoineDem at Bleeding Heartland, I went back and looked at what Regents President Rastetter actually said about the money needed to avoid tuition hikes, and I now see why people are questioning the magnitude of the proposed tuition increases.
The facts as we know them are these. The regents originally requested $20M in appropriations. The legislature gave the regents $6.3M. The key factor in that disparity, however, is not the difference of $13.7M, but how much money was needed to avoid triggering tuition increases. The assumption seems to be — for reasons that will become clear in a moment — that the regents needed $8M to keep tuition flat. Fortunately, we can reduce the entire question to one small block of text from a Des Moines Register piece by Jason Noble, back on 03/22/16:
In the second paragraph Rasetter does seem to say that a minimum of $8M will be necessary to avoid tuition hikes for the 2016-2017 school year. In fact, the Des Moines Register reached that same conclusion in the lede to the article:
In the fourth paragraph Branstad also clearly believes that $8M will prevent tuition hikes, which is why he adds that specific amount as a line item in his own budget. For perfectly understandable reasons, then, everyone seems to have concluded that $8M was the budgetary floor necessary to preclude tuition hikes, and Rastetter’s comment that, “…we’ll continue to negotiate for that…”, seems to reinforce that idea. Taking that in sum with the fact that I know nothing about the state budget, I now believe my own take on the numbers was wrong, or at least incomplete.
I do, however, have two lingering questions. First, if the floor for avoiding tuition hikes really was $8M, and Rastetter knew that as a hard fact back in mid-March, why didn’t he just say that? Granted, in quoting myself at the beginning of this post I acknowledged that people always ask for more than they need, but is it possible that the range Rastetter proposed actually was a range at the time? The reason I ask is because now, two months later, the number that the regents are coming up with as a result of the proposed tuition hikes actually nails the high end of the range that Rastetter originally proposed:
While the difference between $8M and $20M is substantial, relative to the entire budget of the Iowa Board of Regents, which in fiscal 2015 seems to have been $1.86B, that $14M range represents 0.0075% of the money in play. That in turn raises the question of whether Rastetter actually knew in mid-March that only $8M was needed to preclude any tuition hikes, or whether more data needed to be crunched in order to pin that number down between $8M and $20M.
Again, I have no idea about any of that so I’m going to go with my betters, which brings us to the second and more important question about that $8M threshold. If that really was the floor necessary to avoid tuition increases at the state schools, then why did the legislature only provide $6.3M? And why did Governor Branstad do nothing at the time to increase that $6.3M a relatively paltry $1.7M, thus making sure that $8M floor was reached? I mean, if everyone agreed that $8M was needed, why did all of the people who are now scrambling to quash the regents’ proposed tuition hikes not take care of business when they had the chance?
I take it as a given that Branstad and Rastetter want to keep tuition flat because that will allow the university presidents, and particularly J. Bruce Harreld at Iowa, to gut programs that might otherwise survive. By skimping on the $8M, however, the door to tuition increases has been kicked in, and both Harreld at Iowa and Leath at ISU are now pushing hard for money to shore up the metrics underpinning their national rankings. (As regular readers know, raising Iowa’s national ranking has been J. Bruce Harreld’s singular goal since he took office in November.)
Another interesting aspect of this funding dustup is that it provides visibility into just how connected all of these people truly are in their motivations and actions. On paper it looks like they’re all aligned in trying to cut the budgets of the state schools, and particularly the University of Iowa, yet here we have all three of the main players — Branstad, Rastetter and Harreld — apparently pulling in different directions. And all because nobody could figure out how to come up with an extra $1.7M to both preclude tuition increases at the state’s universities and prevent an intra-governmental turf war from breaking out.
Then again, we saw something like this before with the conspiracy to fraudulently appoint Harreld. There was no question that multiple people lied on the record and manipulated the presidential search behind the scenes, evidencing a clear conspiracy. Yet the actual mechanics of the deceit turned out to be more clown show than precision operation. Now, after everyone seems to have agreed that $8M was the number, the main players are falling out and working at cross purposes when it would have been trivially easy to prevent any of this from happening.
The obvious solution, as DesMoinesDem pointed out in her piece, is for Rastetter to capitulate to Branstad’s folksy propaganda, cutting the tuition hikes back to the bare minimum needed to raise the extra $1.7M. Except that will just as obviously put Rastetter at odds with his two hand-picked toady presidents at Iowa and Iowa State. Sure, both Harreld and Leath are getting paid big money to take the heat and remake those institutions in Rastetter’s crony image, but still — I don’t see any way there won’t be some unhappy campers when all of this finally plays out.
Which brings us back to the students and the families that Governor Branstad is suddenly so worried about. Because if he and the rest of the chiselers who put the state budget together had just figured out how to come up with another $1.7M for the regents, everybody including the governor agrees that no tuition hikes would be necessary. Whether that’s true or not I have no idea, but if $8M really was the number, then each and every student at the state’s three universities is looking at having money taken out of their pocket because the geniuses in charge of the state couldn’t find $1.7M (or 0.0013%) in a $7.35B state budget.
As absurd as that sounds, however, I have no trouble believing that the governor and his legislative cronies decided to get cute at the last minute and cut Rastetter’s clearly stated $8M minimum request a bit too close to the bone. On the other hand…it’s also possible that a few state legislators who believe in funding higher education realized they could effectively generate more revenue for the schools by coming in under $8M, thus triggering tuition increases. In fact, if you step back and look at the big picture, the regents are actually getting the $20M that was at the high end of Rastetter’s original range, albeit not from state coffers.
Instead, most of that money is now coming out of the pockets of hard-working families in the state of Iowa, which is why Governor Branstad is sobbing into his biography. And yet, all Branstad had to do was make sure that the legislature came across with the full $8M, and none of this would be an issue. As it stands now, the regents are getting their money and the state isn’t footing the bill, so other than the governor and the citizens who will be paying for his incompetence, it’s not clear who will actually keep the tuition hikes from going through.
But there’s more! As I was getting ready to publish this post, Ryan Foley reported that J. Bruce Harreld has gone back to the regents with additional targeted tuition increases, over and above the ones he’s already proposed:
As Foley noted, this news comes only three days after Branstad urged the regents to scale back their initial proposed tuition increases, so there are probably some fun phone conversations taking place right about now. Because the tuition-hike dam has been breached, however, J. Bruce Harreld clearly does not care what the governor thinks, and he’s going to grab every penny he can to throw at the faculty salaries and retention numbers that will give him a bump in the school’s rankings. Sure, a bunch of students and their families will take the financial hit for Harreld’s self-serving agenda, but I’m sure those students will feel real proud when the rankings are up again next year. (Go Hawks!)
All in all, it’s enough to make one wonder if Governor Branstad is still glad that he personally called Harreld and encouraged him to join the team back in August, as part of Rastetter’s effort to fix the election in Harreld’s favor. And of course there’s more than a little irony in Harreld targeting students in the Tippie College of Business for a tuition increase, given his revered status there as the business genius who saved IBM from possible Chapter 11 reorganizational bankruptcy.
Then again, maybe J. Bruce Harreld is thinking farther down the road than the rest of us, laying the financial groundwork necessary to exploit the tenure clause that the Iowa Board of Regents slipped into his contract on the sly. In which case a good chunk of the additional tuition increases that the business college students may end up paying could actually end up in Harreld’s own bank account. It would obviously be interesting to know what the students at the business college — and the engineering college, and all across campus — think about these increases being foisted on them because Governor Branstad and the legislature couldn’t come up with a measly $1.7M, but the courageous leaders who engineered this debacle managed to make all of these bold decisions when the students are home for the summer.
Update: On 06/08/16, President Steven Leath issued a statement patiently explaining why the tuition hikes at ISU are necessary. In doing so he made no mention of the fact that the hikes were triggered by a relatively miserly $1.7M shortfall across all three state universities, and instead referenced his original and much larger request for ISU, the great bulk of which had nothing to do with whether tuition hikes would be triggered or not.
Again, budget numbers are a scam. People just pick the ones they want to talk about, and feel no obligation to actually fully explain those numbers in context.
So — if you’re an Iowa State Students — here’s the context. If the regents wanted to avoid the tuition increases currently being called for, they could, according to their own numbers, simply increase tuition enough at all three state schools to raise the paltry $1.7M that the governor and legislature failed to appropriate. We will now see exactly how concerned Regents President Bruce Rastetter is about helping students avoid debt when the regents vote on the proposed tuition hikes, which will raise approximately $19.5M more than is needed to keep tuition flat. ($18.3M + the $1.2M that J. Bruce Harreld slipped in at the last minute, because engineering and business students were apparently getting too much in return for paying the same amount as all the other undergrads.)
1. There are a pretty easy solutions to keep U of Iowa tuition low:
– stop renovating Harreld’s presidential mansion; savings = 1.5 to 2.4 million
– stop no-bid crony gop contracts; savings = 300,000
– in fact, stop Harreld; 600,000 + 200,000 per year times 5; savings = 4,000,000 over 4 years
I wonder if prospective and current students know they paid about 10,000,000 for Harreld? Estimating all search costs, time, travel, search firm, salary, rent etc etc
Make then feel warm and fuzzy huh?
Another thought, although an engineer, Harreld peddled fast food, and marketed PCs. The skill most needed there would be making moves with other people’s money. (looking at the lawsuits, maybe he wasn’t so good at it
It sounds like Harreld learned his lessons well. To assure his own survival he needs other people’s money, big time. And he needs stranger’s money.
Harreld does not have the chops to obtain federal grants. He therefore needs to beg for state money, and he needs to stick it to students (and families). Neither the state nor the students embrace Harreld; they are essentially hostile strangers.
Even JBH knows he is on very thin ice here. Harreld has no record to assuage student’s worries about investing in Harreld’s record. He HAS NO RECORD. Is this all a waste of money? There is no academic track record of student success; no academic record at all. He may as well appeal to his thin constituency – engineers and business students.
So, in need of other people’s money, and extremely unpopular with students, faculty, parents, and alumni, Harreld now has two friends to lean on: Jean Robillard and Bruce Rastetter. Maybe Jerre Stead.
Even from a business point of view, hiring Harreld as president was historically stupid. Robillard jokingly said Bill Gated could be president. At least Gates could donate from his own deep pockets to the UIowa. Harreld really needs to turn up the money sucking, without a base to do that.
If I was a fair-minded student at Iowa, Harreld’s comments about the tuition hikes would push me over the edge to the anti-Harreld camp.
This is used-car-salesman-grade sleaze. (See post below.)
In the previous post we took a close look at my own confusion regarding the proposed tuition hikes at the state’s three regent-governed universities. What I thought was a cut-and-dry issue was considerably more murky, in large part because Regents President Rastetter never actually specified the amount of funding necessary to preclude tuition hikes for the upcoming academic year. Instead of flatly stating that hikes could be avoided if the legislature provided $8M or $12M or $16M or $20M, Rastetter floated a range somewhere between $8M and $20M, leaving the question open.
We also noted that when the governor and the legislature finally agreed on a budget, they came in at $6.3M for the regents, which was $1.7M under Rastetter’s low end of $8M. The prevailing opinion from the moment Rastetter floated the $8M-$20M range in mid-March, until just a few days ago — when I became convinced as well — was that if the governor and legislature had simply found that extra $1.7M, tuition hikes could have been avoided. Yet the record is clear that not only did the legislature fail to reach the purported $8M minimum, but despite having penciled in $8M for the regents as a line item in his own budget, Governor Branstad also did nothing to make sure that the $8M threshold was reached.
Without acknowledging that his own failure to act actually compelled the tuition hikes, Branstad came out in opposition to the magnitude of the hikes after they were known. While the governor bleated that the tuition increases were too much for students and their families, here at Ditchwalk we’ve operated under one simple rule in looking at the Harreld hire and its aftermath, and that rule says we should ignore what people say and only pay attention to what they do. And what Governor Branstad did when he had the chance to find that $1.7M — in a state budget of more than $7B — was nothing.
Couple Branstad’s inaction with Rastetter’s decision to refrain from specifying the actual amount necessary to preclude tuition hikes, and the words both men have uttered after the fact seem more like a good-cop/bad-cop routine than a policy break between them, let alone a serious expression of concern for the additional burden they both just dumped on students and families. As it stands now, because of what those two men didn’t do, the regents are moving ahead with a plan to increase tuition at the state’s schools that — when taken in sum with the legislature’s $6.3M allocation — will actually blow past Rastetter’s high-end number of $20M.
From a Press-Citizen article by Jeff Charis-Carlson, on 05/31/16:
Instead of trying to raise just enough money to cover the funding shortfall — whatever it was — the regents under Bruce Rastetter are now making a cash grab premised on intentionally withheld information. Even at this late date, with the regents having just concluded their board meeting on the issue yesterday, there is still no indication from the regents as to exactly how much money would have been necessary to prevent the hikes that are being proposed.
How can that be? How can the Iowa Board of Regents move to vote on tuition hikes when the president of the board never actually made the case for tuition hikes to begin with? And after having specified a range between $8M and $20M, why are the presidents of the state’s two largest universities now stampeding to the table with requests above last fall’s original $20M request? There’s no question that all of the state’s schools need more money, but that’s because Governor Branstad and the legislature have been strangling state appropriations for as long as anyone can remember. There’s no secret regarding the origins of the institutional need, but that it’s being sold to the public in this instance via governmental sleight of hand should prompt outrage. (Props to Pat Grassley for seeing this boondoggle for what it was.)
The problem, of course, is that having avoided committing to a specific threshold so far, Rastetter can now simply lie and put forward the high end of his previous range as the trigger point for compulsory hikes. That’s not what anyone originally thought when he proposed a range between $8M and $20M, and he did nothing at the time to disabuse anyone of the idea that $8M was the floor, but because he’s a consummate bureaucrat he can now flip the script and claim otherwise. (Would the president of the Iowa Board of Regents actually lie to the people of Iowa in order to rip them off? Well, that’s what he did when he orchestrated the fraudulent hire of J. Bruce Harreld, so yes.)
J. Bruce Harreld and the 2016 Tuition Grab
Way back in early September, just days before Harreld’s shocking sham appointment, Bruce Rastetter announced that the University of Iowa was not requesting any additional funds for the upcoming year. As it turns out, Rastetter made that perplexing announcement so he could subsequently credit Harreld for advocating for the regents’ pro forma appropriations request for the school. The $4.5M that Harreld eventually put his name to was not the result of the keen business acumen that the board used to justify his fraudulent hire, but rather the result of basic number crunching by a board staffer. (Once again we see that Rastetter is willing to manipulate and lie in his role as president.)
As for Harreld himself, he was quite consistent about what he would do if Rastetter was able to find $4.5M for him to play with. And what he would do is throw most of that money at what he calls ‘faculty vitality’, which in Harreld-ese means faculty pay or salary. Why is J. Bruce Harreld so keen on paying faculty more, or hiring more faculty? Because doing so is the quickest way to game Iowa’s college rankings, which in turn is the quickest was to purportedly prove that hiring him was a good idea.
Until recently, however, Harreld’s passion for faculty vitality was thwarted at every turn. Instead of meeting his original $4.5M request, the state legislature appropriated a measly $1.3M. Later, when the governor had a chance to step in and throw his weight around, the governor also did nothing, leaving Harreld hanging. And yet…because the legislature underfunded the overall regents’ low-end request by $1.7M, tuition increases that had previously been ideological anathema to the board were suddenly on the table. Not surprisingly, J. Bruce Harreld quickly proposed all kinds of additional increases in order to fund his self-aggrandizing rankings project.
Now, with Rastetter announcing his support for all of the proposed tuition increases, and a vote set for July, it looks like Harreld is going to not only get his $4.5M, but much more. But of course the great majority of that is not coming from the state’s coffers, it’s coming out of the pockets of students and their families. On that point, here’s J. Bruce Harreld, lobbying hard for his money, however he can get it, from a Radio Iowa report by O. Kay Henderson, on Thursday, 06/09/16:
First, if it’s so critical to the welfare of Iowa’s students that Harreld be given a bunch of money to play with, why didn’t we hear Harreld screaming about that from the rooftops for the past six months? Where were Harreld’s blistering speeches on behalf of the students, taking on the state legislature and the governor for having strangled higher education for so long that it’s now seen as normal? Why does Harreld only seem emboldened now that he knows he won’t be ruffling the feathers of his crony minders? Is this a profile in courage or cowardice?
Second, and maybe this is just me, but listening to J. Bruce Harreld talk about world-class anything is like listening to dog food talk about haute cuisine. Unfortunately, because Harreld is an inveterate snob, he’s only interested in things that are “excellent” or “world class”, which is doubly ironic given that he’s the antithesis of a world-class (or even second-class) university president. In fact, J. Bruce Harreld is exactly the kind of university president you’d expect if you went dumpster diving for a broken-down former business executives with no prior experience in academic administration, which means J. Bruce Harreld wouldn’t hire J. Bruce Harreld. (To see how Harreld’s mania for excellence affects the lives of the students on campus, consider that Harreld is currently slow-walking the hiring of desperately needed counselors — which students and their leaders have been begging for — because he’s only willing to hire “high quality” staffers.)
Third, how exactly is J. Bruce Harreld going to take whatever money he can get his grubby hands on and convert that into “world class” faculty hires? Because I would think one of the first questions a prospective “world class” faculty hire would have would be whether the current president was off his rocker or not. And maybe the second question would be whether the governing board that fraudulently appointed that president was corrupt or not. And maybe the third question would be whether the AAUP was still considering sanctions against the school for all of that. Meaning the likelihood of “world class” faculty coming to the University of Iowa if they have any other options — which you would expect “world class” faculty to have — is zero.
In anticipation of an extensive upcoming post I would also add that the Iowa Board of Regents as led by Bruce Rastetter not only does not care about the quality of the faculty at any of the state’s schools, the last thing Rastetter wants is for world-class faculty to start dictating terms about funding or staffing or anything else. Rastetter is a life-long commodity guy, and faculty (and students) are just another commodity. We know that not only because Rastetter and his board cronies remorselessly betrayed shared governance in order to fraudulently appoint Harreld, but because they also gave no thought to how Harreld’s own glaring lack of experience would negatively affect the faculty or students. Even when the board learned that 97% of the respondents to a survey were against Harreld as a candidate, the board’s response was to give the faculty, staff and students at Iowa the finger and hire Harreld anyway.
But I digress. Here’s more disingenuous marketing spin from J. Bruce Harreld, via Henderson’s report:
If you’re a student at the University of Iowa, you should pay very close attention to the load of steaming manure that your president is selling here. Not only is business genius J. Bruce Harreld making the case that students at Iowa are already getting a great deal on their education, he’s making the case that a 10% increase is still a bargain. He’s also making it clear that he will plow any new money into gaming the university’s college rank, which will somehow inflate the value of an Iowa degree in future years — assuming of course that students survive any suicidal depression they might encounter regarding the debt they’re incurring.
Ironically, I made a similar argument about the value of an Iowa degree at the end of October, in a post written specifically for students, only I had slightly different take:
As I learned since writing that post, the AAUP only has the authority to sanction the university itself, not the board, which will focus any potential blowback solely on the school. Yet knowing full well that the AAUP sword is hanging over the university, J. Bruce Harreld’s cynical pitch is that if you give him money to game the school’s rankings, your degree will be worth more in the future. The reality is that J. Bruce Harreld himself is the single biggest obstacle to improving the appeal of the school to prospective faculty, and thus improving the performance of the school for students.
More to the point, why should any student give Harreld or Rastetter or anyone else their money when none of those people have documented the actual need for the tuition hikes that are being proposed. Yes, money is objectively in short supply at all of the state’s schools, but that’s not the question. The only question that matters regarding the proposed tuition hikes is how much money the regents needed in order to avoid those hikes, and Rastetter has never divulged that number.
The Students Strike Back
As jaded as I am about the Harreld hire, and all of the crony politics it has exposed, I am genuinely thrilled by the amount of thought that the student representatives at each school put into grappling with the proposed tuition hikes. And that’s particularly true given that Rastetter took them all hostage by never telling them what the actual appropriations threshold was for triggering those hikes. Where the students could have blindly railed against the current proposals, their reactions have been measured, and more intellectually honest than the rhetoric from those who are now pressing for the increases.
To underscore the duplicity that the students are dealing with, not only did Rastetter never put the key number in play, but both Harreld and ISU President Steven Leath have couched their pleas for tuition hikes in the context of the original regents’ appropriations request, which totaled about $20M for all three schools. In effect, Harreld and Leath are now trying to make the case that the $20M high-end of Rastetter’s range was the threshold, not the much lower $8M, yet the total of all the new hikes is actually more than the regents’ original $20M request. (At least $6.3M more, which has already been allocated by the legislature.)
What all of that means is that the two men who head up the state’s two biggest universities are both telling the same self-serving lie to the campuses they preside over. You can see the effect of those lies — and of Rastetter’s facilitation of those lies — in an op-ed the student leaders from the state’s three schools wrote in the Des Moines Register on Wednesday, 06/08/16:
Note the numbers they’re working with. As was the case for me only a few days ago, the assumption in the op-ed is that the $20M in requested regent allocations was equivalent to the threshold that triggered the compulsory tuition increases, but as already noted that’s never been established. If anything, the conventional wisdom was and still is that the regents only needed $8M total to prevent hikes, which would mean they were only $1.7M short. Yet today Rastetter, Harreld and Leath are having no compunction about pushing through a full $20M in tuition hikes on top of the $6.3M already allocated by the legislature.
In terms of the big picture, however, the student leaders clearly get it:
From Christina Crippes, of the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, on 06/09/16:
The problem, again, is that the actual fiscal need was never articulated. That may be why, following their own presentations before the board on Thursday, that UI’s student leaders pushed back against the cash grab. From the Press-Citizen’s Jeff Charis-Carlson, on 06/09/16:
So how did J. Bruce Harreld respond to this astute counter-proposal? Was he thrilled to see these students acting with conviction and incisive insight regarding a complex problem that was foisted on them with little warning and inadequate disclosure? Well, I think Harreld responded with all of the concern you would expect from a man who sold not one but two multi-million dollars houses in the year before being fraudulently appointed president at Iowa, who also routinely flies himself around on private jets everywhere he goes. From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, on 06/10/16:
Note again the jaw-dropping assertion by Harreld that his self-appointed mania for gaming Iowa’s national college ranking is his mission as president. That “charge” is a pursuit that Harreld himself made up — literally invented out of his own utter ignorance of how a university actually works — yet here he is whining at the students that “I need some resources”. Again, where was Harreld when the legislature was stiffing the school? Where was Harreld when Branstad did nothing to get the extra $1.7M to hit the $8M line item that Branstad had specifically added to his budget to prevent tuition hikes?
But of course it’s worse than that. Here the student leaders at Iowa have come back with a counter-proposal that is not simply fair, it’s more than fair, and what is Harreld’s reply? His reply is a guilt trip — a victim-blaming threat — that if the students don’t take money out of their own pockets and give it to him, his self-appointed, incidental vanity project will take that much longer to complete. If it wasn’t so insane it would be shocking for its reprehensible condescension and menace.
So of course Harreld’s enabler-in-chief, Regents President Rastetter, chimed right in. From the piece above by Charis-Carlson:
Because that wasn’t enough, however, Rastetter also pulled down his control-freak pants and took a giant crap on the student leaders for daring to balk at his mannerly administrative abuse of their bank accounts. From the piece above by Miller:
Remember — this is the same Bruce Rastetter who still hasn’t divulged the dollar amount that would have kept tuition hikes from taking place. (I’m sure Rastetter would have been happier if the student leaders had given their feedback to a camera, like all of the other rabble who try to intrude on Rastetter’s pristine sanctuary.) For all the usual passive-aggressive hostility in Rastetter’s rhetoric, however, the facts are clear.
In the previous post, I speculated that perhaps a few white knights in the legislature shorted the regents’ on what was believed to be the $8M minimum necessary to prevent tuition hikes. By coming in $1.7M below that number, I reasoned, tuition hikes were compelled. Because I am perpetually naive, however, I now believe I only got that half right. Yes, somebody engineered a $1.7M shortfall in order to trigger tuition hikes — assuming that $8M really was the minimum needed — but the people who did it weren’t wearing white hats. The people who did it were Governor Branstad and Regents President Rastetter, and their cronies in the statehouse, who are now taking an additional $20M out of the pockets of students and families under the pretext of critical needs which they themselves refused to fund as members of state government.
Testing Rastetter’s Iron-Fisted Rule
If you’re a crony politician like Branstad, or a crony fixer like Rastetter, you probably feel pretty smug about pulling off that caper. If you actually have a shred of decency, however, and you care about the hit that students and their families are taking, you might be angered by the degree of duplicity evidenced by those two men. In fact, if you had to vote on the tuition hikes yourself, you might even feel like you’d been taken for a ride along with the students.
As noted endlessly, the one piece of information central to the entire discussion of the proposed tuition hikes is the specific amount of funding that was necessary to preclude those hikes. Was it really $8M, meaning the shortfall was only $1.7M, or was it more? As also noted, not only has Rastetter failed to produce that number, but given his clear support for the tuition hikes he can now simply lie and say that the minimum needed was $20M, which was at the high end of his earlier range.
Because of the statutory power vested in the office of president of the Iowa Board of Regents, and because of the repressed administrative rage embodied in the man currently occupying that office, it often seems as if the only member of the board who actually matters is Bruce Rastetter. Yet in terms of the statutory power of the other eight regents, they are all on equal footing as to the weight of their votes. As such, it’s entirely possible that one of the other eight regents could ask the board staff not only to provide the missing number that Rastetter refuses to divulge, but also to provide the date on which Rastetter was first informed of that number.
Who might do that? Well, it would obviously take someone with guts, particularly after Rastetter filleted Regent Sahai last year for having the temerity to point out that the presidential search process was a sham. Perhaps the regent with the greatest vested interest is Regent Johnson, who is also a full-time student at UNI, and thus on the receiving end of the rate hikes. Still, that would be a pretty bold act for a college student.
Anybody else? Well, there is someone on the board who has been adamant — often to the point of absurdity — about keeping costs down for Iowa’s students and their families, and as it happens he’s already given voice to pain about the coming. From Miller’s piece, above:
Even that statement is a bit of a brush-back to Rastetter, so the question is, how far is Regent McKibben willing to go to represent the good people of Iowa? Because all he needs to do to turn this entire rigged debate on its head is disclose the dollar amount that would have precluded the tuition hikes in the first place. And as far as I know, he has every right to that information, and every right to disclose it, even it if proves bitterly embarrassing to Rastetter.
I would like to think that Regent McKibben is capable of such an act of conscience, but he’s also one of the regents who is currently being sued for participating in secret meetings with candidate Harreld during the presidential search last year. Too, he never seems to miss a chance to denigrate the University of Iowa community, or Iowa City, or Johnson County, yet I do believe he’s serious about keeping costs down for students. Maybe not realistic at times, but serious.
Unfortunately, this is what happens when you hitch your wagon to an ornery mule like Bruce Rastetter. Every once in a while you get kicked in the face. And right know Rastetter is kicking a whole lot of people in the face so he can throw $20M of other people’s money at Harreld and Leath.
Still, there’s a chance for Regent McKibben, or any of the other regents, to do the right thing. Despite the fact that we don’t know what the magic allocation number was, we can still say with certainty that raising tuition just enough to hit that number would solve the problem for the upcoming academic year, at which point all involved could get together and look for a long-term and equitable solution to the funding problem. Maybe the answer is an increase in the state’s corporate tax, which would go directly to the regents like a gas tax aimed at highway funding. I don’t know the specifics, but I do know that sucker-punching students with a last-minute cash grab when they’re not even on campus is gutless, and all the more so when it’s being leveraged on the withholding of critical information by Regents President Rastetter.
The legislature allocated $6.3M of $20M requested by the regents. What we don’t know is how much additional money the regents needed in order to preclude tuition hikes. Find that number, then raise tuition at all three schools on a flat basis just enough to get to that number from $6.3M, and the short-term problem is solved. Even better, Governor Branstad should be all for that solution, which means he should also be all for disclosing that missing number. In fact there’s no reason the governor himself shouldn’t call on Rastetter to release that missing information, what with his stated opposition to the magnitude of the tuition hikes.
On the off chance that none of that happens, however, we’re left with one ugly question. Is there anybody at the Iowa Board of Regents who isn’t in on the con? Is there anyone who believes that the students and their families deserve to know the actual facts, or are we all just taking up space in the crony empire run by Governor for Life Branstad, and his crony fixer at the Board of Regents, Bruce Rastetter?
Update: On 06/13/16 Governor Branstad came out in favor of the compromise floated by UI student leaders. It’s a clever move on his part, made all the more cynical by the fact that he did nothing to prevent the tuition hikes in the first place. Despite being part of the problem, Branstad now gets to pretend that he’s concerned for the welfare of families that he’s been grinding down for decades in preference of corporate tax breaks.
On 06/14/16, the Press-Citizen’s Jeff Charis-Carlson posted a detailed look at the “supplemental” or “differential” hikes that J. Bruce Harreld is determined to jam through. Not only is the overall cash grab startling, but the administrative deceit implicit in this move says everything about who Harreld is as a leader. While the press reported on the possibility of differential tuition either by program or year, Harreld implemented both such increases in what is effectively the dead of night. Instead of signalling his intent to the student body, he waited until after the school year was over to implement his plans, which he already had on the table given the earlier appropriations shortfall.
Once again we see the true nature of the man not only in his deeds, but in the self-involved rhetoric he uses to justify his administrative abuses:
“…which I believe….” “…I need some resources….” “…I need….”
Don’t you dare get in the way of J. Bruce Harreld and his needs. Yes, he actually made up the “charge” of raising the school’s national ranking for self-serving reasons, but still — he’s the boss, and if you’re a student at Iowa you’re going to do what he says even if you’re the only one who actually ends up paying for it.
Finally, on the Rastetter front, here’s another way to think about his cynical ploy to float a range of funding rather than a specific threshold that would have triggered tuition hikes. By saying that the regents needed somewhere between $8M and $20M to avoid hikes, Rastetter made it possible to trigger hikes as long as the legislature came in under the high end, which was all but a certainty. As it happens the legislature came in under the low end, making it that much easier to claim poverty, but even if the legislature had come up with $13M, Rastetter could have come back and said, ‘Aw…dang — we needed $16M! Tough break, but tuition’s going up!”
This is a well-written and well-argued piece. I hope your questions are answered. And I wonder if our state legislators have the power and the guts to investigate the games that Rastetter & Co. are playing.
In initially digging into the lies behind the fraudulent hire of J. Bruce Harreld as president of the University of Iowa, then following those lies to the larger crony political empire of Branstad and Rastetter, I have been amazed at how little institutional interest there seems to be in even blatant abuses of power in Iowa. It’s almost as if everyone is just too damn worried about ‘upsetting the children’ to point out that what’s happening is blatantly corrupt.
I thought Tom Miller, the AG, would at least investigate the mechanics of the Harreld hire, but he did nothing — or at least nothing that ever found its way into the press. I thought political opponents of Branstad or Rastetter would make hay over their crony deals and lies, but nobody — NOBODY — has said anything I”m aware of. I don’t know if this is fear, boredom, negligence or what, but it’s maddeningly consistent.
The press has been good about following stories, but at the editorial level — at the highest levels of the Gazette, Gannett, and other papers around the state — there has been an unwillingness to report on things that were NOT done or said, as if nobody can figure out how to report on a negative. Regents President Bruce Rastetter is pushing hard to take money from Iowa students and their families, and he is pleading poverty in order to do so, yet he never actually articulated the dollar amount he needed in order to avoid tuition hikes. I don’t know what could be more obvious, yet I haven’t seen a single article that makes that point.
Where is the staff op-ed — or better yet, the managing editor’s op-ed — pointing out that Rastetter never actually made the case for the proposed tuition hikes? Better yet, why hasn’t Branstad himself made that point, if he really opposes the hikes? This affects 80,000 students and their families, who are being soaked for $20M.
In no surprise the AAUP sanctioned the Univ of Iowa today. BOR Rastetter gave an email response that indicated he could care less. While some faculty seemed upset the university was sanctioned Prof Logsdon pointed out U of Iowa leadership – like Robillard – were directly involved in the presidential search.
On Saturday the AAUP voted to sanction the University of Iowa for abuses of shared governance which were perpetrated during the fraudulent hire of J. Bruce Harreld as president of the school. While those abuses were largely at the direction of the Iowa Board of Regents, and particularly Regents’ President Bruce Rastetter, the school itself was also complicit in the persons of Vice President for Medical Affairs Jean Robillard and J. Bruce Harreld himself. Because the AAUP can only sanction schools and not governing bodies, however, the sanction falls to the University of Iowa by default, though it is intended to be more far-reaching.
From the Press-Citizen’s Jeff Charis-Carlson, on 06/18/16:
While a few schools fall out of compliance with AAUP guidelines from time to time, the fact that the University of Iowa — the state’s flagship university, and a institution of higher learning with world-renowned departments in multiple disciplines — is now among them can only be described as shocking. From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, on 06/18/16:
The AAUP’s sanction is not only a just response to the conscienceless administrative coup that was perpetrated by a small cabal of co-conspirators, however, three of those co-conspirators currently hold positions of power at either the board or university. As such, while it might otherwise be hoped that the AAUP’s sanction would be met with a swift determination to come back into compliance, it can safely be assumed that the leadership of both the University of Iowa and the Iowa Board of Regents will remain in denial:
As a practical matter, the impact of the AAUP’s sanction against the university (and the board) will be indirect, but that does not mean it is inconsequential. In fact, the sanction goes to the very heart of efforts to lead an academic resurgence at the University of Iowa, and to strengthen the state’s other two universities as well. Specifically, the AAUP’s sanction sends a warning that both UI and the Iowa Board of Regents do not care about shared governance or academic freedom, which are issues many prospective faculty members care passionately about.
For J. Bruce Harreld himself, not only is this yet another repudiation of his illegitimate presidency, but the AAUP’s sanction materially undercuts both his administrative agenda of hiring “world-class” faculty, and the abusive tuition hikes he recently proposed in order to fund those hires. From a recent post:
Were J. Bruce Harreld an honorable and ethical man, in light of the AAUP’s sanction he would recognize that the likelihood of “world-class” hires was minimal, and consequently rescind his cash-grab tuition hikes. On the other hand, if J. Bruce Harreld was an honorable and ethical man, he wouldn’t have abetted the conspiracy that led to his own hire in the first place, so we can assume that Harreld will continue to push for his tuition hikes even as the possibility of hiring “world-class” faculty has become a ludicrous joke.
That is not to say, however, that Harreld is not without allies. Shortly after the AAUP sanction was reported in the press and on social media, Dr. Thomas Vaughn, the president of the University of Iowa Faculty Senate, released the following statement:
Now, if you’ve been paying attention to the Harreld hire at all, I don’t know what to tell you about Dr. Thomas Vaughn’s response. At best he’s woefully uninformed about the fraud that took place, and at worst he’s intentionally excusing the abuses of power which propelled J. Bruce Harreld to office. Given the degree to which Vaughn’s statement not only dances around the facts of the AAUP investigation, but does so wholly in service of obscuring the truth, one obvious answer would be that Harreld may have given Dr. Thomas Vaughn an offer he couldn’t refuse — either in terms of gutting his department, or passing along a percentage of the loot Harreld hopes to score with his now-pointless tuition hikes.
Looking at the first sentence of the statement, which attempts to place blame for Harreld’s fraudulent hire entirely with the regents, what Dr. Thomas Vaughn should know as president of the faculty senate — and as mentioned at the beginning of this post — is that the AAUP is only able to sanction schools, not governing bodies. The AAUP may change that limitation as a direct result of the abuses which originated at the Iowa Board of Regents, but for the time being those are the rules. Which means unless Dr. Thomas Vaughn believes the AAUP should sweep the abuses committed during the fraudulent Harreld hire under the rug on a mere technicality, his following assertion that action “against the University is both unfair and wholly unjustified” is either inexcusably ignorant or the unconvincing wail of a crony apologist.
As to Dr. Thomas Vaughn’s statement that “the AAUP’s own report did not contain a single factual finding showing any wrongdoing by anyone at the University”, the only reason that might be considered technically true is because Jean Robillard, who was at one time both the interim Iowa president and chair of the search committee, refused to speak with the AAUP during its investigation. Instead of stepping forward to defend himself, Robillard shrank from both the glare of the spotlight and his responsibility as the highest-ranking administrator at the time, which hardly constitutes exoneration.
As regular readers know — and if you know Dr. Thomas Vaughn you may want to send him the following links — not only was the traitorous Robillard central to the abuses of power that led to Harreld’s fraudulent hire, but Robillard is demonstrably guilty of committing multiple lies, on the record, in service of that fraud. (For more on Robillard’s own penchant for deception, see here.)
The AAUP report is quite clear about Robillard’s administrative enabling of the regents’ abuses, including his decision to disband the search committee as soon as the final recommendations were made. From p. 8 of the AAUP report:
As anyone who has followed the Harreld hire knows, there never was any thorough vetting of Harreld as a candidate because Rastetter greased Harreld’s stealth inclusion among the final four candidates, then Robillard disbanded the committee in order to preclude the normal institutional vetting process from taking place. Which brings us to the closing sentence in Dr. Thomas Vaughn’s statement, which represents either his own attempt to deceive the university community about the facts of the Harreld hire, or his complete detachment from reality:
The past several months? Well, leaving aside Interim President Robillard’s critical, remorseless and blatantly obvious role in betraying shared governance, the AAUP’s sanction concern abuses of power which took place nine months ago and before. That means, even according to Dr. Thomas Vaughn’s timeline, that there is still a six-month gap between then and the “past several months” — and during that period J. Bruce Harreld was president for four of those six months. Even if we assume for the sake of argument that Dr. Thomas Vaughn is correct in his assertion that Harreld has been compliant for the “past several months”, that means up until that time Harreld himself failed to honor shared governance.
So what’s going on here? Why did the president of the UI faculty senate rush out to do damage control three or more hours before the Board of Regents even responded, on behalf of an illegitimate president who was not only jammed down the university’s throat by Regents President Bruce Rastetter and Interim Iowa President Jean Robillard, but who himself abetted that cause? Because as noted in multiple prior posts — and again, Dr. Thomas Vaughn may not know this — only moments after being appointed, Harreld himself told a premeditated lie to the press, to the people of Iowa and to the university community in order to cover for his co-conspirators.
So which is it? Is Dr. Thomas Vaughn, the president of the faculty senate, so woefully uninformed that he should be removed from office, or has the corrosive, corrupting ooze emanating from J. Bruce Harreld seeped down into yet another layer of UI administration? Unfortunately, if I had to choose I’d say it’s the latter, because Dr. Thomas Vaughn’s statement — assuming he wrote it himself — dances so perfectly along the tenuous line between technical truth and leading lie. Then again, given Harreld’s own penchant for similarly deceptive wording, it’s not hard to imagine that J. Bruce Harreld wrote Dr. Thomas Vaughn’s statement himself.
In either case, speaking as the president of the faculty senate is also problematic because the school is on break, meaning Dr. Thomas Vaughn cannot speak for the senate as a body, even as his statement purports to do so. Yet while we may never now why Faculty Senate President Vaughn stampeded to the press to mislead the public in multiple ways, we can draw one conclusion. If you’re taking a course from Dr. Thomas Vaughn, he’s either incurious about, or disinterested in, people who are cheaters, liars or frauds, so you should consider that your green light to do whatever it takes to ace his class.
As to the board, the university and the AAUP’s sanction, it’s still shocking that people who are currently in charge of three of the most important institutions of higher education in the state of Iowa — Bruce Rastetter at the Iowa Board of Regents, J. Bruce Harreld at the University of Iowa, and Jean Robillard at both the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and the College of Medicine — were also three of the key players in Harreld’s fraudulent hire. In a just world, and in light of the AAUP’s sanction, those men would recognize the damage they have done and resign. While there may be no way to calculate the economic cost of their abuses, there clearly is a cost, both in wasted resources and lost opportunities. Institutions of higher learning like the University of Iowa are supposed to be stable and reliable, but instead those men went out of their way to tarnish the reputation of the the University of Iowa while purportedly implementing some radical vision of transformational change.
Well, they changed the University of Iowa all right — from a respected school to an academic dead zone, and they did that by choice.
The only response I expect other than denial — which is inevitable given litigation pending against the board — is continuing insistence that all future presidential searches be closed, so they never again have to worry that their administrative malfeasance will be exposed. What should be apparent to everyone else, however, is that the AAUP’s sanction against the University of Iowa represents not simply failure, but guilt.
Update: In reporting on the AAUP’s sanction against Iowa, in a story posted on 06/19/16, the Chronicle for Higher Education’s Peter Schmidt wrote:
I’m not exactly sure how the president of the faculty senate became the point person for responding to the AAUP’s saction, instead of the Office of Strategic Communications, or indeed the Office of President, or, if the man had any guts, J. Bruce Harreld himself, but congratulations to Dr. Thomas Vaughn for his promotion. He is now a full-fledged tool in service of the very fraud he denied.
Bruce can’t write, but he’s got a staff who can. For now, anyway.
“Academic dead zone” is about right, and despite the scarcity of academic jobs out there, AAUP’s effectively posted a No Swimming notice for faculty and faculty-gone-administrative. I’m not happy that they have, and I’d be positively alarmed if I were a junior faculty member at UI, but I can’t say it’s unjustified. The fact that this is the first in the big league does say something; it’s not as though there hasn’t been significant corruption elsewhere. UNC. UC (California).
I’m a decided non-fan of Hans-Joerg for personal reasons, but I think you’d have to ask him why UI’s on the list when the others aren’t. It may have to do with the baldness with which the Rastetter gang ignored the existence of faculty.
Let me amend that: I’d be positively alarmed if I were a junior faculty member or an early/mid-career P&S staffer who’s actually trying to accomplish something academic, make a career in academia. Because this is as clear a sign as I’ve seen saying “it is time to go.”
The losers, in the end, are the people of Iowa, which was once a highly practical and cautiously progressive state that respected the schoolhouse. It actually matters whether or not you have universities full of smart people who can and do teach — not just the tenured faculty but the lecturers, the grad students, the professional staff, the clinicians. When you have a pretend university run by pretend faculty and staff, you not only rob the students but you leave the state with people who don’t in fact know how to do very much. And that matters when you need K12 teachers and healthcare and engineers and people who can solve whatever problems emerge. Then things, towns, institutions, lives fall apart while people stand around shrugging and knowing, deep down, that they’re all dumber than they oughta be after going to college, but not really knowing what they’re missing. People die earlier than they might. Children grow up poorly educated. Businesses stop coming or leave; people get poorer. Any bright kid who can get out does. Unfortunately, it happens slowly, and by the time most people are willing to recognize what’s going on, you’re stuck.
Or at least those who are stuck here are stuck.
And this, I think, is the bottom line. It becomes clear at some point that one can no longer even pretend that Branstad has any (things) let to give. His dessimation of k-12 schools is a prime indicator, as is his approach to ‘managing’ healthcare costs for the most vulnerable Iowans. The anti-UI stance is so egregiously anti-Iowa one must wonder who exactly is holding him hostage.
And if the only 2 UI agendas, and this is all I’ve seen, is to 1) raise College of Medicine faculty salaries in preparation for the radical alteration of the UIHC governing structure, and 2) Make Foitball Great Again, then what are the rest of us here for?
Well – take a look at that a minute.
On one hand we have the ongoing aggrandizement of UIHC admin and whatever it is they think they’re doing in building like mad, both academic programs and clinical buildings.
On the other hand we have a relatively poor state with few people, many of them old, many of them on various forms of state insurance.
On the other other hand we have a privatization of this insurance that guarantees unsustainably low reimbursement rates.
There’s a fundamental incompatibility amongst these things, and even if the idea is thoroughgoing corruption in which the hospital and insurance company folks essentially rob the people together, I’m not seeing how there’s enough money to pay for all those nice buildings, nice doctors, nice all the rest of it. It can’t come from the state, which will have all it can do trying to get out of its coming pension mess. It can’t come from the students, because there’s a limit to what the kids and their parents will pay for a No Swimming increasingly-crap education. UIHC has already tried the upmarket-revenue-source avenues (you may remember the sudden appearance of plastic-surgery come-ons, and you don’t get a lot of celebrity meth addicts). So yeah, I’m pretty curious about where the money for this grand UIHC/med-school empire’s supposed to come from.
I’m also really, really curious about what Skorton’s going to say when he shows up here in March.
About Robillard’s legal liability (which we were talking about on Twitter), imagine that you’re an attorney and you have what you think is a case of hiring discrimination or maybe an unfair bidding process against UI/UIHC. If you name Robillard to that suit, and you walk a jury through his personal and professional conduct during the Harreld hire, you can show he is willing to lie to the press, to corrupt a state-funded hiring process, and to collude with others to rig an election. I don’t see how Robillard’s ‘good name’ would survive even an hour on the stand in that context, which is why I think he represents an enormous risk.
Even something as simple as that no-bid contract for Herman-Miller furniture is a problem. While the regents and UI have offered a justification for screwing Group Lacasse (who also wanted to bid on the contract), it could still be litigated — meaning not only would you conceivably have Robillard’s reputation in play, but of course you’d have former Regent Andrigna also involved, and both of them were key players in Harreld’s fraudulent election.
Even the threat of a suit which named Robillard — and potentially exposed his abuses of power during the Harreld hire — might be enough to compel UI lawyers to settle in order to make the suit go away, whether it had merit or not. Whether that happens with those weird alleged jury tampering investigations or something out of left field, I can’t imagine that any attorney worth their salt would overlook a pressure point as obvious as Robillard’s utter lack of integrity while serving as both chair of the search committee and interim president.
As you know, I’ve been wondering how UIHC was going to make up the $68M cost overrun on the new Children’s hospital, which occurred under Robillard’s watch and was clearly not covered by whatever sham deal Rastetter made with Stead about the naming rights. As it turns out — and as is often the case with UIHC — they’re digging out of the hole they dug for themselves by leveraging what is essentially their monopolistic power in the marketplace. From April:
Because UIHC is part of the regents, and thus also state-funded, they can print money any time they want. All they have to do is get permission from the corrupt board that oversees them, and because Rastetter and Robillard were the lynch pins of the conspiracy to elect Harreld, what are the odds that the regents would say no?
In an economy with effective interest rates hovering close to zero for the better part of a decade, who wouldn’t want to be able to boost their rates by 6% with impunity? As long as students are going to fund the regents abuses of power, why shouldn’t patients as well?
Behold the miracle of monopolistic growth leveraged on a captive market at taxpayer expense!
Plus also a nagging investigation into UIHC’s business practices by the inspector general:
I agree with this, and in the short term it’s going to be a nightmare. Anyone who actually believes in education as a calling, or in truth as an academic pursuit, is going to leave or never come here in the first place. There won’t be any sudden shift, but the corrupt regents and Harreld’s inherently corrupt administration will support people who support them, who are willing to look away, or who can be intimidated or bought off.
In effect, Branstad, Rastetter, Robillard and Harreld have all hung out a great big sign that says * CORRUPTION WELCOME HERE *, and I have no doubt they will find plenty of takers.
What one would hope is that the current faculty at Iowa would see this as the threat that it is, and respond — whether publicly or via back channels, particularly to donors and legislators. Something needs to be done, or at least said. It may be that the only recourse for the time being is drawing a line in the sand, but it would be a big step toward fixing this problem if someone respected by the people of Iowa openly stated that Rastetter, Robillard and Harreld have to go.
They’ve done too much damage already, with more to come.
Someone, maybe a journalist, can tell everyone about the new faculty president. His responses sound so much like the Vichy faculty senate.
It’s interesting to put the AAUP sanction in a regional context as well. Between Branstad in Iowa, Walker in Wisconsin, and whoever the future-felon governor of Illinois is right now, all three states, in close proximity to each other, are doing their absolute best to crater higher education. If you were a wise governor in Iowa, Illinois or Wisconsin you might see that as an opportunity to strengthen your own educational brand — and poach the best of the best — but clearly wisdom and politics have little or nothing to do with each other.
Still, on what basis do all these pro-business geniuses constantly talk about markets when it suits their ends, then ignore market dynamics when it doesn’t? As I noted a while back in another post, South Dakota realized it can make inroads on Iowa students by granting them in-state tuition, bringing the population of Sioux City and NW Iowa into the fold simply on a geographic basis. Now the Iowa Board of Regents andcorrupt administrators at UI have made it that much easier for South Dakota to sell itself to Iowa students, who may not want to bankroll excessive and unjustified tuition hikes, or subject themselves to schools which are being sanctioned for abuses of power.
Vaughn’s academic chops are light at best. In other words: how did HE get to be faculty president? http://www.public-health.uiowa.edu/wp-coillardntent/uploads/2013/08/thomas_vaughn_bio.pdf
The guy started seminary in 1967, so he must be like 67-68…Harreld, and Robillards ages. He appears to be a sorta hospital administrator type who never quite made it
Also note this: Member of American College of Healthcare Executives.
If there are wheeler-dealers in academics these days, that is go-to group. (I put this kindly so read between the lines)
Harreld, Robillard and the rest are going to be grinding through loyalists at a faster and faster pace. Their own names are dirt, so they have to recruit others to find even a shred of integrity to trade on. What people like Vaughn need to realize is that whatever they’re getting out of that transaction in the short term, in the long term they’re going to be remembered as complicit.
You don’t hang around people this dirty and not get dirt on you as well. As the AAUP sanction itself makes clear, the stain is still spreading.
The sanctions by the AAUP climaxes a process that began degenerating 25 years ago.
Say 1990 and U of Iowa was a well recognized ‘Athens on the Iowa’ that produced art and literature and science. Academic people hailed the school on the muddy river that educated Tennessee Williams, Simon Estes, John Irving, Kurt Vonnegut and others. Van Allen put Physics on the map for over 3-4 decades. The Genetics/Biology revolution awakened those sciences with nice modest portfolios of research. Scholars wrote books; artists created prints; administration appeared small and somewhat humble.
Then several historic things happened:
1. Medicine became the ‘health care industry’
2. Midwestern states like Iowa veered toward a neo-conservative ‘starve-the-beast’, anti-liberal, anti-academic philosophy…Iowa..as did Indiana, Kansas, Wisconsin, Missouri etc.
3. Universities went down the path of ‘run it like a business’, or ‘pragmatic’ , or The Corporate University, where new buildings were dedicated to fund-raising, and selling students credit cards, bad debt, and over-crowded classes.
People out in Iowa or Kansas literally hate university faculty (although most never went to university). Liberal professors were commie, gay, lazy jerks who got fat on tax dollars.
The academic health center was taken over by administrators and profits; you will find 80% or more of the faculty at UIHC are simply clinicians who do not do research, write books, or push the limits of knowledge. They produce billable hours for the administrators to manipulate and give themselves 150,000-400,000 for ‘administration’ (or making other people work, and attending endless meetings) and playing political games.
With the market crash the state simply stopped supporting universities in Iowa, going from oh 70% support to like 30% support.
ALEC, thinking a less-educated population is a neocon population, was right on board with all of this. ALEC = Branstad.
Rastetter, a pragmatic manipulator, has little time for liberals unless they can be manipulated to serve his own agribusiness interests…like polluting the air and water, or displacing refugees in Africa so he can turn a profit, or running universities like hog confinement lots – no daylight or fresh air for you!
The selection of Harreld fits perfectly into this trajectory. Liberal lazy university professors should have no say in their own governance. A university president should leave an academic medical center alone to rake in the profits, which Robillard now has. And blood-sucking businesses like credit cards, agribusiness (to an extent), the alcohol sellers, and telemarketers should be given free-rein over captive students and parents. A muddled headed, confused leader can only chase his tail mouthing platitudes while the dirty work goes on in the dark. The unqualified mouth-piece president likely doesn’t even know he is the scarecrow, the diversion, the pawn, who doesn’t know he has been set up.
No room for artists (or Pollock), book-writers, liberals, or communists, but lots of rooms for shysters and marketing slogans (world class) which sell a product on anything but the merits of that product.
So yeah, the AAUP doesn’t like this, but who cares? They don’t run hog lots do they?
The people who care will be the parents of the Iowan children who could actually have used that Athens of the Midwest education; those children, eventually; sick Iowans who could have used good smart doctors; the relatives of Iowans who have died in poorly-engineered buildings and on collapsed bridges; a long list of people who could actually have used smart, good, well-educated people around them, or who could have been a smart, good, well-educated person. They’re mostly voiceless, of course, without the dollars.
I am sure the departures are already in the works; I’ll be sorry to see a lot of friends go. But I’ll be leaving too in not too long. Things aren’t so good anywhere, at the moment, but there are larger collections of people who understand what an Athens is about, and some with money who still take it seriously.
It’s the nature of Branstad’s political disease, and thus of cronies like Rastetter, Robillard and Harreld, to overreach. You have almost unanimous agreement in the editorial departments in the state’s main papers that the government is failing the people, and as the managed care problem devolves you’ll see more awareness of how Branstad’s policies in Iowa are simply a slow-motion version of the stupidity Brownback has implemented in Kansas.
The bill will come due. Maybe after all of these people are out of office, but they’re still writing that legacy, and it will find them.
People do not vote in their self interest anymore; politicians like Branstad know this.
Unemployed or minimum wage folks will vote neocon based on ‘choice v life’, or climate denial, or the welfare state, or the second amendment. Meanwhile those they vote in, cut wages, avoid the mass slaughter on the streets from automatic military weapons, and drink polluted water…..which is poison to their constituencies. Kansas being the great example of this. Trump may be elected by the same illogical thinking.
Seems to me, the ‘greatest generation’ if anything in Iowa recognized the role of college liberal arts and professional education. Not college educated but these 2nd, 3rd generation children of immigrants knew the value of what they did not have. They knew poverty and were fresh enough from war or indentured slavery in Ireland or Germany, or Poland to respect good government. They voted in Hughes or Bob Ray…Demo or Repub the values were about the same (remember when Iowa bragged about 99% literacy?)
Voters now seem to hate their reflections in the not-too-distant-past mirror. They hate immigrants, they despise the safety net, they glorify war (which means movie war because anyone who was in real war doesn’t romanticize it). They are like lobsters who claw at peers trying to crawl out of the bottom.
I do not think parents would vote a ‘liberal’ agenda emphasizing the benefits of a quality of higher education, over the right to bear arms, or cut welfare queens in Caddys (thanks Reagan) or fat govt, or climate denial, or anti-political correctness.
I am very pessimistic of Iowa, or Kansas, or Wisky, or Illinois voters shifting left even to save their own economies now.
Right now, the world of ideas is ascendant in California, or New England, or New York; the world of stubborn prejudice and bigotry appears to extend well beyond the traditional South. It will be a long interlude before sanity returns to the border and Midwest states again.
Looking at Vaughn’s weak resume, he is a product of the University of Iowa medical system and so it makes sense that he takes the same view of the UIHC doctors I know: Herrald and Robillard are good for the university because they will get rid of the lazy, tenured irrelevant folks across the river. How did Vaughn get elected? Seriously.
Vichy Iowa Faculty Senate.
Wonder if the election was corrupt? Or manipulated? Harreld and synchophants can now point to ‘faculty support’.
A Marshall Petain?
On this past Saturday, 06/18/16, the AAUP sanctioned the University of Iowa for abusing shared governance during the 2015 presidential search which culminated in the fraudulent appointment of J. Bruce Harreld as president of the University of Iowa. While there were statutory reasons for the AAUP sanctioning the university as opposed to the school’s governing board, there also seems to be a pervasive belief — in large part fostered by the co-conspirators who abused power and betrayed shared governance during the sham search process — that the university itself was blameless. That belief is demonstrably, provably false.
The sanctioning of the University of Iowa by the AAUP is an obscure event in the lives of most Americans, most Iowans and even most of the faculty, staff and students on the University of Iowa campus. Within the context of higher education as an industry, however, it is not simply a black mark, but relative to the university’s standing it is without recent precedent. (Were the AAUP handing out speeding tickets instead of sanctions, Iowa would have been tagged for doing 200 in a 35 mph zone.)
The single most remarkable aspect of the AAUP sanction, however, is not that it occurred, but how UI administration responded. Instead of marshaling its public relations and media resources, whether through official channels at the UI Office of Strategic Communications or through the president’s own bully media pulpit, for 72 hours the entirety of the official response was left to Dr. Thomas Vaughn, president of the Faculty Senate, who released the following statement:
It is also worth noting that Vaughn did not make himself available to, or even respond to, members of the press, even as all press inquiries about the AAUP sanction were being funneled to Vaughn by UI administration. (Indeed, it was almost as if the Faculty Senate had been sanctioned, as opposed to the university.) Instead, Vaughn simply released his statement as if it came from the full Faculty Senate — which it did not — and thereafter remained as silent as Harreld was until yesterday, when Harreld himself was finally cornered and forced to answer a question about the AAUP sanction:
While it’s perhaps useful to the AAUP to know that Harreld intends to discredit the sanction by reframing it as a negotiating ploy, for the rest of us the more salient aspect of Harreld’s response is that part where he sputters and drools down his chin. Yet as pathetic as Harreld’s response was, particularly regarding such a substantive event, and particularly given that he had over three days to prepare a coherent reply, that is actually how J. Bruce Harreld responds when he is confronted with an incontrovertible truth that he does not want to acknowledge.
In early November of 2015, just a day or two before taking office, Harreld finally granted interviews to the local press after having been dark for two months. During those interviews Harreld not only divulged a radical new origin story for his candidacy, which in turn betrayed multiple lies that he and his co-conspirators had told months earlier, but in characteristic fashion he flatly denied that he had been shown preferential treatment during the search when the opposite was clearly true. From a Gazette report by Vanessa Miller, on 11/01/15:
As you can see, when Harreld is forced to confront a reality that he cannot square with the illegitimacy of his presidency, he uses the word ‘bizarre’ both to deflect the questioner and impugn the sanity of those who would dare hold him to account. It’s a feeble defense, but it’s consistent. When reality competes with the narrative that Harreld needs to sell in order to keep his job, Harreld denies reality.
Perhaps not surprisingly that is also the core problem with the statement released by Dr. Thomas Vaughn in his capacity as president of the Faculty Senate. Unfortunately, as with Harreld’s denials, if you don’t know the full story of the betrayals which were committed during the Harreld hire, you won’t know why Vaughn’s statement is also in contravention of reality. In Harreld’s case — unless the Iowa Board of Regents truly did hire a blithering idiot — he knows full well why the AAUP sanctioned the school, and indirectly the Board of Regents, and he also knows he was given preferential treatment during the search by both Regents President Bruce Rastetter, and by UI VP for Medial Affairs, search chair, and later Interim UI President Jean Robillard.
What is not clear is how much Dr. Thomas Vaughn now knows, or knew three days ago, when he released the statement quoted above. As a factual matter, Vaughn’s statement is false because UI administrator Jean Robillard was, at every step during the search, a traitor to the University of Iowa. As the chair of the search committee, and later as interim president, Robillard was the inside man who aided and abetted Rastetter’s board in fixing the search and election in Harreld’s favor. As such, by omitting any reference to Robillard, Vaughn’s statement is itself an administrative lie perpetrated in the service of denialism.
Now, as you probably know, denialism has committed adherents all over the globe. There are AIDS deniers and evolution deniers, and 9/11 deniers and of course Holocaust deniers, and collectively such individuals probably number in the hundreds of millions. On the other hand, it’s not very often that you find deniers in the ranks of faculty or administrators at a prominent state-funded institution of higher learning, in large part because such institutions generally put a premium on facts and truth, and tend to take a dim view of deception and lying as methods of scholarly inquiry.
As to why Harreld, Rastetter and their co-conspirators would employ denialism as a defense, the answers are obvious. First, they don’t care about the truth, they only care about whether they can be hauled into court or not. Second, it’s to their advantage to wage a public relations war that obscures the truth and confuses the public. Third, they know that most people are too busy to dig into the facts of the Harreld hire. Fourth, the clock is ticking, and all they’re trying to do is buy enough time to profit from the abuses they’ve already committed before they duck out the door and leave someone else to clean up the mess. Fifth, and most importantly, they literally have no other options.
Again, relative to everyone in the United States, all Iowans, and even the University of Iowa community at large, most people aren’t going to know what really happened during the Harreld hire unless somebody puts a documentary together, or maybe a riveting book detailing the conspiracy. Within the small world of higher education as an industry, however, not only is the opposite true, it is already true. Simply by taking notice of the glaring omission of Robillard’s complicity, the claims made by Dr. Thomas Vaughn in his statement are provably false today, and as time grinds on it’s likely that more information will come out about what actually happened. (Particularly given that the University of Iowa comes armed with its own History department, which is staffed by people who live to disentangle collusion and chicanery.)
In the previous post I said I had no idea why Dr. Thomas Vaughn was serving as a dupe for Harreld and Rastetter, but it’s possible that Vaughn simply does not understand the degree to which the question of the university’s own guilt has already been established beyond any reasonable doubt. That is not an issue which can be credibly disputed on the merits, or even one in which good people can have differing opinions. Any claim that no one from the University of Iowa was involved in the abuses of shared governance which triggered the AAUP sanction is flatly, objectively false, if not also a premeditated lie.
The Perpetuation of a Lie
From the very moment J. Bruce Harreld was fraudulently appointed, the co-conspirators behind that abuse of power have pushed two parallel narratives. The first narrative, put forward repeatedly by the Iowa Board of Regents, and particularly President Bruce Rastetter, is that the search was fair. That claim — reiterated in Rastetter’s terse, single-sentence response to the AAUP sanction — is the last-ditch fallback position of individuals who face not only potential collapse in support of their fitness for presiding over higher education in Iowa, but also ongoing litigation.
The second narrative, put forward repeatedly by agents of the board and by administrators at the University of Iowa, is that whatever may have happened during the search, any improprieties have nothing to do with anyone employed by the university. We first saw that narrative put forward by Harreld himself in a profile in Iowa Alumni Magazine, shortly after Harreld took office:
Note the positioning. Harreld is depicted as a victim of the regents’ abuses, not a willing co-conspirator in those abuses. Yet at the time not only did we already already know that second narrative was false, that means Harreld knew it was false as well. Which in turn means that the acting president of the University of Iowa showed no compunction about using an organ of the school to distance himself from his own complicity, as well as the complicity of others at the school.
The next time we saw that second false narrative being pushed was, surprisingly, in the AAUP report itself. For reasons that have never been explained, one of the lead investigators in the case repeatedly went out of his way to avoid reaching conclusions about Robillard’s complicity, while also reaching conclusions which appeared to exonerate Harreld when those conclusions were not supported by the facts. (Even at the time a cursory review of the facts made clear that Jean Robillard was a traitor to the university, and that J. Bruce Harreld himself materially abetted the conspiracy that led to his hire.)
Finally, we now have a statement from Faculty Senate President Dr. Thomas Vaughn, which is quite literally a compilation of all of the above efforts to paint J. Bruce Harreld and UI administration as innocents if not victims as well, when the facts clearly show the opposite to be true:
Note the utter lack of concern about whether abuses took place at all, or what those abuses were. Note also the razor-like focus on distancing Harreld and UI from any abuses which did take place. It may be an accident of the AAUP’s bylaws that they were forced to sanction the University of Iowa instead of the Iowa Board of Regents, but as a factual matter members of both institutions were critical to the fraud that was perpetrated. That is not an accusation, it is a matter of established fact, which now brings us to the point of this post.
If you are a member of the University of Iowa faculty, and particularly if you are a member of the UI Faculty Senate, and you think the Harreld hire and its aftermath are playing out as academic administrative theater, you could not possibly be more wrong. The University of Iowa was just sanctioned, with cause, by the AAUP. That won’t mean anything to most people, and nine months ago it wouldn’t have meant anything to me, but if you’re a faculty member at any university in the United States you know that means something is seriously wrong. The upshot of that sanction is that the question of whether the corrupt administrators at the University of Iowa will be able to escape blame themselves is over.
The Grotesque, Contorted Mask Staring Back At You
The only remaining question is just how many members of the university faculty are willing to stand by those corrupt administrators or sit on their hands in denial of reality. As members of an institution of higher learning it is assumed that the faculty have at least some inclination toward evidence-based knowledge. Yet we also know, objectively, that three of the people who are most responsible for overseeing research, teaching, and patient care at the University of Iowa — Regents President Bruce Rastetter, UI President J. Bruce Harreld, and Vice President for Medical Affairs and dean of the College of Medicine Jean Robillard — are all liars on the record, and two of those people are the top two administrators at the the school.
If you are a member of the UI faculty or the Faculty Senate, and you don’t know or care about the abuses perpetrated during the Harreld hire, that’s fine. You’ve been abused like everyone else, and there are only so many hours in the day that one can devote to problems others should have prevented or taken care of. Even if you honestly believe that J. Bruce Harreld was and is exactly the right person to be president of the University of Iowa, however, you also have to own the fact that he couldn’t get himself hired on the merits. Instead, a small cabal of co-conspirators had to rig his appointment in defiance not only of shared governance, but of the most basic standards of ethics and integrity.
What they did is on them, but your support of their ends is support of their means, and that’s on you. As a factual matter, J. Bruce Harreld himself conspired to abet and cover up the conspiracy which led to his appointment, which was in turn engineered by Regents President Bruce Rastetter and and top-ranking UI administrator Jean Robillard, among others. If you support these people now you are also necessarily undermining the very premise of higher education, which is the unyielding, uncompromising search for truth.
Shortly after Harreld took office the Faculty Senate — for whatever reason(s) — decided it would be more beneficial to work with J. Bruce Harreld than to oppose him. The problem with acting on that determination is that there’s a big difference between working with someone who is contrite about having done something wrong, and working on behalf of someone who is still lying his ass off about what really happened. In one case your collegiality is in service of justice, and in the other case you’re a sap.
Unfortunately, the very fact that Dr. Thomas Vaughn’s statement omits any reference to Jean Robillard makes clear that Vaughn, if not also the Faculty Senate as a body, is not acting in the best interests of the greater faculty, the university community, or the ethics and principles underpinning higher education, but solely in support of Harreld himself. Which means in exchange for 82 words comprising 4 intentionally misleading sentences, Dr. Thomas Vaughn just hosed the Faculty Senate’s credibility down the drain.
Whether you’re a member of the greater faculty, or on the Faculty Senate yourself, the next time J. Bruce Harreld knocks on your door and asks you to advocate for him, you need to know that he’s not asking you to walk across the street and have a friendly heart-to-heart with a neighbor. What he’s asking you to do is stand in front of a train that he’s not willing to stand in front of himself. That train may not be moving very fast, at least not yet, but it doesn’t matter how fast a train is going if you’re standing on the tracks. You’re going to get run over.
Since the announcement of the AAUP’s sanction, J. Bruce Harreld has done everything possible to avoid standing in front of that train himself, including asking otherwise decent if perhaps also clueless people to take his place. Would you call someone like that a friend? A colleague? A leader? Is that the kind of behavior you expect from someone you’re trying to build trust with? Or did J. Bruce Harreld just sell you out again?
What happened and is still happening at the University of Iowa is not an administrative food fight. It goes to the very heart of what it means to be an educator, to be part of the public trust, and to uphold ideals like honesty and integrity. The question for you is whether you’re willing to help corrupt people in positions of power — who were all central to the abuses perpetrated during the Harreld hire — try to wipe their crimes from the history books.
If you’re thinking of carrying water for these people — these deniers — then you should set aside some time and read this, this and this. After that, find yourself a mirror and take a good long look at yourself. Because whatever you think you’re going to accomplish by pretending that this egregious conspiratorial abuse of power did not happen, let alone abetting the lie that it was not facilitated by an individual at the pinnacle of the university’s own administrative ranks, history is going to remember the grotesque, contorted mask staring back at you.
For the purposes of this post we’re going to forget everything we know. We’re going to forget that in 2015 the current president of the Iowa Board of Regents, Bruce Rastetter, ran a fraudulent presidential search at the University of Iowa. We’re going to forget that the current Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the College of Medicine, Jean Robillard, in both his role as chair of the search committee and interim president of the school, was Rastetter’s full partner and inside man on the Iowa campus. We’re going to forget that the current president of the University of Iowa, J. Bruce Harreld, materially abetted Rastetter and Robillard in their heist. We’re also going to forget that at the time of his fraudulent hiring, J. Bruce Harreld was a remaindered business exec with no experience in academic administration, who was nonetheless given an unprecedented five-year contract worth a minimum of $4,000,000. We’re even going to ignore the duplicitous origins of the tuition hikes which J. Bruce Harreld recently proposed, how both Rastetter and Governor Terry Branstad seem to have intentionally triggered those hikes, and how those hikes are almost five times greater than the supplemental funding shortfall they purportedly address.
Instead, we’re going to simply acknowledge Harreld’s proposed tuition hikes and concentrate instead on his stated justification for those increases. From a report by Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson, two weeks ago, on 06/09/16:
Now, if you go back through press coverage of Harreld’s presidency to-date, you will indeed find that he’s remarkably consistent in calling for resources to be spent on faculty hires, and particularly “world-class faculty”. Along with all the other facts we’re ignoring in this post, however, we will also ignore the fact that Harreld’s persistent mania for hiring “world-class faculty” is aimed not at improving the education of the students on campus, but at his self-appointed charge of gaming the university’s national college rank. Instead, we will again only concern ourselves with Harreld’s justification for taking hundreds of additional dollars out of the pockets of each and every student, and on that point Harreld is explicit. He’s not just going to use that money to retain or hire additional faculty, he’s going to use that money on “world-class faculty”.
In that context, we now turn to the AAUP’s sanction of the University of Iowa, which occurred one week ago tomorrow. If you don’t already know, AAUP stands for American Association of University Professors, and of course the faculty at any institution of higher learning is largely made up of professors. Again, leaving aside the fact that the AAUP’s sanction springs directly from abuses of power that were committed by Rastetter and Robillard, and abetted by Harreld, it’s clear that the AAUP sanction — which alerts prospective faculty that the current UI administration, if not also its governing board, is corrupt — pierces the very heart of Harreld’s plan to hire “world-class faculty”.
Precisely because the AAUP’s sanction is so injurious to the logical case that Harreld is making for his cash-grab tuition hikes, you would think he would aggressively defend those proposed hikes against the AAUP’s sanction. As noted in the previous post, however, during the past week Harreld has uttered only one belated, sputtering comment. Specifically, in response to a question from the press on Tuesday, here is the entirety of Harreld’s reaction to the AAUP’s sanction, despite having had three days to prepare his reply:
As pathetic as that was, it’s possible that Harreld simply needed a little more time to square his proposed tuition hikes with the fact that a world-class faculty organization had just outed his own UI administration as corrupt. And yet from a well-considered press-release that Harreld floated yesterday, we now know that’s not the case. It’s not that J. Bruce Harreld needed more time to get his thoughts together, it’s that he doesn’t want to talk about the AAUP’s sanction at all, and particularly not in the context of the tuition hikes that he continues to push with all his might:
As you can see, that block of text is little more than a reworking of the same pitch that Harreld made two weeks ago. In fact, in the entirety of yesterday’s statement there isn’t a single indication that the AAUP sanction even occurred, let alone any explanation for how tuition hikes aimed at “world-class faculty” are going to bear fruit when the faculty world now knows that both the administration at Iowa and its governing board can’t be trusted. Nowhere will you find ‘AAUP’ or ‘sanction’ mentioned, nor will you find any explanation for how Harreld intends to go about making world-class hires while under sanction by the AAUP.
Whether you agree with Harreld that the AAUP’s sanction is “bizarre” and “doesn’t make any sense”, it should be self-evident that after proposing to spend millions of dollars of other people’s money on “world-class faculty”, that the AAUP’s sanction will negatively affect Harreld’s ability to accomplish that goal. As such you might reasonably expect that Harreld would have some coherent argument about why he should still be given all that money, and that’s particularly true if you’re a student at Iowa and you’re being asked to pony up money for something that will never happen. One thing that does seem to have finally dawned on J. Bruce Harreld, however, is that by constantly talking about hiring “world-class faculty” he was obliviously denigrating the good and loyal faculty already on staff (note the italics):
The University of Iowa does indeed have world-class faculty and world-class programs. The problem, of course, is that the AAUP’s sanction only increases the likelihood that the best faculty will now leave, which again means money isn’t the only problem Harreld needs to address in terms of faculty retention and recruitment. Yet over the past two weeks Harreld has made it abundantly clear that money is the only solution he’s willing to consider, and only by jamming through excessive and disproportionate tuition hikes which go far beyond the supplemental increase he himself requested only last fall. Whether Harreld and his cronies at the Iowa Board of Regents have the muscle to push the tuition hikes through is a political question, but in terms of any coherent argument Harreld has made in favor of those hikes, there isn’t one.
Okay, so about these professor-money hikes.
The weird thing is what an antique argument this is. This is the argument that was made for mad tuition hikes all over the country in the early 2000s, and it went on a long time, and they were able to get away with it because people still had this delusion about “good debt”. That’s gone, and, nationally, even Moody’s recognizes that there’s a limit to what you can sucker kids and parents into paying for school when the job market’s what it is.
Locally, it’s a weird argument because it’s such transparent baloney. These kids are not ravening with ambition, seriously and knowledgeably hunting for “world class professors”. If they are, they’re already gone (and they’re not coming back). That’s not what this university is for, and it’s not really what the legislature ever wanted it to be for. This is a university meant to supply the state of Iowa with competent — that’s all, competent — administrators and teachers and doctors and pharmacists and engineers and the like. People who want to live in Mason City and Sioux City and Ankeny. The state of Iowa, which has low wages and unexciting job prospects. We’re not stocking NASA here. So no, the kids aren’t going to pay $25K/yr (or whatever it is now) more to go to Berkeley or UVA.
Either what he’s saying is complete bull**** meant to screen something else or he really doesn’t understand where he is.
I’m glad you said that about the argument he’s making, because the longer Harreld drones on about “world class” anything, the more I find myself wondering why a man who was a marketing weasel at IBM for more than a decade can’t come up with something better. I don’t know whether he thinks all Iowans share his inferiority complex, and can thus be seduced with promises of being relevant outside the Midwest, or if he’s just an incurable snob, but it’s lame.
As to the tuition hikes themselves, I’ve gotten to the point with Harreld where I simply assume that everything is a grift. His hire was a scam. Taking credit for the original $4.5M budget request was a scam. When he blew up the UIMA P3, he tried to sell it as a visionary move when he was going back to a plan from 2010. Throw in his neediness — which more and more I think of as the main reason he took the job, because he missed being in command — and I’m not at all surprised that Harreld reverted to denialism regarding the AAUP sanction.
That the Iowa Board of Regents hired a man who can’t even address such a serious blight on the school’s record ought to be shocking, yet relative to the past nine months it’s the new normal. Nobody even expects that Harreld will have a coherent reply, or step up and actually demonstrate leadership. It’s just not in him.
So the calculus for me is simple. Harreld likes playing president and doesn’t want to be fired, because that would be a serious ego hit. The easiest way to purportedly prove his worth is to raise UI’s college ranking, which will almost certainly bounce back some anyway. The easiest way to accomplish that goal is to grab all the cash he can from the students, then throw it at gaming the rankings by any means available.
I said a while ago on Twitter that the moment we validate college rankings we invalidate competence, which goes to your point about the education that UI (and the other state schools) was set up to provide. The goal isn’t winning some academic beauty contest — or at least it shouldn’t be — but actually providing the promised education. Are we teaching young college students how to think? Because if we’re not doing that we’re just creating headaches down the line, when those drone workers start having problems with finances or relationships or whatever.
Everything everywhere can’t be world class, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. What Harreld (and his minder, Rastetter) should be wholly fixated on is stabilizing higher-ed in Iowa, and that includes telling Branstad and the state legislature that the cutbacks in state funding have to stop. What do we get instead? Cash-grab tuition hikes which not only punish the kids, but Harreld’s own ad nauseum rationale for those hikes assumes that UI students are suckers.
Dormouse makes a great deal of sense.
Define ‘world class’. It is tripe as used by Harreld. Are there any Nobel laureates at Iowa? Pulitzer Prize winners?
Not even sure there are any Amer Acad Arts and Sciences members left.
So ‘world class’ is BS. Iowa is not Princeton, or Columbia or Yale.
Comparison to Texas or UNC is likewise ridiculous. Both are far more academically powerful, and backed by more funding. Iowa’s peers are Kansas and Mizzou.
As stated then, supporting good schools for Iowa residents is paramount. Is that even happening?
Does Rastetter and Branstad and Harreld have any clues? (no)
No world class professor is coming to Iowa with such clowns leading it…That is BS.
Like ppl voting for Brexit…..do not believe the lies…you are going to wake up with a big hangover.
For me the words ‘world class’ mean almost nothing.
Of all the character traits in humanity, there is none I loathe more than the snob gene. J. Bruce Harreld has the snob gene. If you’re not “world class” or “excellent” you’re nothing to the man, but of course — as you note — what are the criteria?
Snobbery and ranking people or things by class is for the most part a con. Right now there’s a “world class” philosopher being outed for repeated sexual harassment. Bill Cosby was a “world class” comedian. Do you want those “world class” people anywhere near women? Do you want them in your community?
The obligation of the University of Iowa to its students is the same obligation that parents have to their children. You can see the poison which leeches into any relationship when ranking is a factor simply by asking what kind of parents would ever aspire to be “world class”. In fact, you’ve probably known parents who aspired to be “world class”, who then inevitably turned out tortured kids.
Is the education that Iowa provides the best that can provided with the resources available? Are we pouring everything we have into that obligation, or are we being distracting with concerns about rankings, let alone spending precious resources chasing or gaming those rankings?
In almost every respect, J. Bruce Harreld’s instinct is to go the wrong way. To spend money chasing and gaming rankings, for no other reason than that he was born a snob.
I think you might be putting too much weight on what the AAUP does. Money is always the overriding factor, in my opinion. If a “world class” professor is offered significantly more at UI, I doubt that he/she is going to worry all that much about what the AAUP thinks. From Exxon to Bank of America to Time Warner Cable, or any terrible company you can name, there are plenty of smart employees/executives happy to stick around and cash nice paychecks despite what reservations they may have about the leadership.
Being that Herreld comes from the business world, he would likely agree. Offer the most money and guarantee academic freedom and many of the “world class” professors will happily come.
Of course, not being a professor, I may be wrong. Do you know of any instances where a “world class” professor turned down a university position because the university was sanctioned by the AAUP?
An aside – if you haven’t taken a look at the Cinema Department curriculum lately, please do. There are way too many film theory courses and requirements, in my opinion. Unless a student wants to teach film theory – and I suspect there aren’t too many film theory teaching jobs out there – why is UI pushing this? It’s basically guaranteeing that the Cinema student will learn very little of value. It certainly won’t get him into cinema. As the communication world rapidly changes, the UI cinema department should be offering courses on current and burgeoning media platforms. If these students want to be filmmakers, they best be making films and getting them exposed on Youtube or Facebook or wherever the newest platforms are. An expertise on semiotics isn’t going to get them far.
Obviously there are a lot of variables, so let’s kick a few around….
In terms of the AAUP’s sanction itself, the magnitude of the ‘crime’ cannot be overstated, if only because you have to be a bumbling, black-hearted bunch to suffer such a penalty. I mean, seriously — these idiots had to go so far out of their way and beyond the pale to end up in this situation that I don’t think either stupidity or arrogance alone explains it. So if nothing else, anyone who does take notice of the AAUP’s sanction knows that something is seriously, seriously out of whack at Iowa — which is not some sleepy college on a dappled hillside, but a major research university.
In terms of who might take notice of the sanction in the context of prospective employment at Iowa, the number of individuals is obviously small, and gets considerably smaller as we ratchet up the currently unstated criteria for being “world class”. Even without the sanction, the number of people who would rather be in the middle of Iowa than on either coast or in the sun belt or the mountains east or west is small.
Too, on pure economics you have to factor in the cost of living here versus anywhere else, so you can’t just look at salaries in constant dollars. X dollars in IC is worth more than X dollars in many other locations, because it’s more expensive to live in those other locations. Having said that, I think the AAUP sanction now adds a price premium, meaning Harreld will have to pay more (X + Y) to compete, which is obviously a waste of money.
If Iowa has a department which excels, and they make a big-time offer to a rising (or established) star, and that person’s contract has guarantees that protect them from whatever act of idiocy Harreld or Rastetter has planned next, then yeah, I don’t think they sweat the AAUP sanction. But in that instance we’re talking about a very small population indeed.
For your average prospective faculty member, I think the AAUP sanction is a warning, and I think people will heed it. I also think current non-tenured faculty will start leaving, which of course Harreld will then blame on poaching rather that his own corrosive leadership.
To your question, no, I don’t know of any examples where a “world class” prof (or anyone else) turned down a gig because of an AAUP sanction, but at a school with the size and rep of UI I think it probably hasn’t happened much because such schools almost never get sanctioned.
As for the Cinema Department, you’re not surprised that they’re deep into crit/theory or semiotics, right? I agree they should be evolving, but in terms of “world class” departments they’ve been a major player in that field for fifty years or more. Like you I think there should be some evolution, which I’ve seen on other campuses with regard to game studies, etc., but I don’t know if they have that mindset. At some point commitment becomes calcification, but it’s only easy to identify that point in retrospect.
World class scholars would come to a school based on:
1. World class peers and leaders (eg economics faculty at U Chicago)
2. Already famous programs (ditto, or say Wharton)
3. Reputation of school (Stanford, Princeton)
4. Money (the monies Texas can throw at people)
5. Climate during retirement (UCLA, Stanford)
Does Iowa have any of that?
You’re wrong about the money, MK.
If someone’s really that terrific, they’ll need a bonus to be here anyway because we don’t have the facilities, seeing colleagues is a giant pain in the ass (forget direct flights to anywhere), the atmosphere is not great, and — most important — you know that the administration will treat you like a hired hand. You will not have any power in steering the institution that, to a very large degree, controls your career.
Academics make nice money, but they don’t make great money given the amount of education and apprentice work they have to get before they get a real job, and they know that going in. Money’s important but so long as there’s enough to live on reasonably and the area’s okay for the kids (plenty of academics won’t come here on that score alone), it’s not a tremendous consideration.
Oh, and Mark, MK seems to think that Cinema is a craft outfit. Almost no academic departments are about craft. They’re about the scholarly study of the craft. If you want to learn to make stuff to watch you should be going to a place like SVA or (if your daddy’s a prince somewhere) SAIC or someplace like that.
I think he knows. For me, it’s been interesting to watch new (and new-media) criticism struggle to take hold despite the fact that the subject matter has evolved radically over the past few decades. It’s almost as if the scholarly work can’t be done until there’s a mass of material to sift through. (The evolution itself is interesting to everyone, but for some reason there seems to be a reluctance to see it as legitimate academic fodder for criticism.)
Why is Bruce Rastetter, commodity entrepreneur and political crony, even on the Iowa Board of Regents, let alone president of that body? And by ‘why’ I don’t mean how did he get there, because we know how he got there. Rastetter asked to be appointed to the board after giving Governor Terry Branstad a bunch of money. Branstad in turn happily acceded to Rastetter’s request, because when it comes to appointing people to the Iowa Board of Regents, the governor loves him some cold hard cash.
What I mean by ‘why’ is, why does a guy like Rastetter, who has devoted his life to making money and wielding political power, suddenly take on the heavy administrative workload of a job that pays him nothing? Sure, maybe he wants to give something back to the state, but even if his motives were pure — and by virtue of the corrupt Harreld hire we know they are not — what could Rastetter hope to accomplish in leading an institution which is expected, unlike many of his business ventures, to persist and thrive for decades if not centuries to come?
As noted in previous posts, I had not heard of Bruce Rastetter prior to 09/03/15, when J. Bruce Harreld was fraudulently appointed president of the University of Iowa following an administrative conspiracy led by Rastetter in his capacity as president of the regents. I now know that Rastetter is a Libertarian mover and shaker in the Republican party, that he has successfully exploited a number of entrepreneurial ventures over the years, and that he has no problem lying to the people of Iowa whenever it suits his purpose. By itself none of that distinguishes Rastetter from other individuals in the state or even in state government, but still — why does a man like that actually pay to take control of the board that governs Iowa’s three universities, the University of Iowa’s Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC), and several other state-funded educational institutions?
While I’m sure Rastetter himself has written endless proclamations of selfless service into the record, and could produce endless testimonials of selfless service from current and former business partners and political cronies, in all the reading I’ve done I have yet to find any inclination in the man for either selflessness or public service. A mania for success? Yes. Profit? Yes. Exploitation? Yes.
Doing the right thing because it makes the world a better place? No.
Then again, while it is true that Rastetter is not being paid by the state to chart the board’s course into the future, that does not mean there isn’t money to be made, and lots of it. In fact, to an economic predator like Rastetter, Iowa’s three state universities probably seem comically inefficient at generating revenue, albeit perhaps because revenue generation is not the core mission of the regents’ charter. Put the right person in control of the levers of power at the board, however, and the opportunities for business and political exploitation would be almost endless. Even better, there would be little or no risk because of the annual taxpayer subsidy.
While Bruce Rastetter will never come right out and confess what he’s up to at the Iowa Board of Regents, if you listen to anyone talk long enough you get a sense of how they think and what they care about. It’s most important to watch what people do, of course, but considering a person’s words in the context of their actions can also betray bias and intent. For example, J. Bruce Harreld, the fraudulently appointed president at Iowa, primarily thinks about systems, processes and his own emotional needs. It’s a toxic mix for a university president, to be sure, and a big reason why it took a cabal of co-conspirators to elevate Harreld to the office he now holds.
That mindset is also why Harreld intends to hammer students at the University of Iowa with tuition hikes far in excess of those needed to make up the state’s supplemental funding shortfall. Last September, in yet another moment of administrative chicanery rigged by Regents President Rastetter, president-elect Harreld asked the legislature for an additional $4.5M for the school. When the budget was finalized a few months ago, however, Iowa received only $1.3M, yet the ever-resourceful Rastetter is now using the overall regents’ shortfall of only $1.7M as a pretext to green light abusive tuition hikes at the state’s three schools. As a result, at Iowa Harreld is pushing not just for $3.2M to make up the difference between what he requested and what he received, but for an additional $17M beyond that.
Why is J. Bruce Harreld, president of the University of Iowa, sticking students with tuition hikes more than four times greater than his earlier request? Because for Harreld — who is himself stinking rich — his emotional need to demonstrate personal success takes precedence over the financial burden he is placing on the lowly student body. And that’s ignoring the fact that Harreld’s purported justification for those additional hikes was just eviscerated by the AAUP’s sanction of the school. (As a result, none of the “world-class faculty” which Harreld is wailing about hiring will ever be coming to Iowa.)
The larger question, of course, is why J. Bruce Harreld is suddenly strip-mining the student body for cash when he spent the first six months of his presidency perfectly happy with his $4.5M supplemental request. A president who was deeply concerned about even the possibility of a funding shortfall would have been out well in advance of the budget process, signalling alarm. Harreld, by contrast, was a veritable bystander during budget negotiations, as were Rastetter and even Governor Terry Branstad, who did nothing to ensure that the regents received the full $8M purportedly necessary to avoid tuition hikes. While Rastetter came out in support of Harreld’s hikes after they were formally proposed to the board — and likewise supports ISU President Steven Leath’s cash-grab tuition hikes at that school — there is exactly zero chance that Harreld and Leath proposed their tuition hikes without first getting Rastetter’s approval. And if you don’t believe that now, you will by the end of this post.
For his part, Bruce Rastetter has been on the nine-member Iowa Board of Regents since he bought his seat in 2011. In terms of crony appeal, as a mover and a shaker and a tidy little profit maker it is perfectly in keeping with Rastetter’s modus operandi that he would want to exert control over the billions of dollars in funding which moves through the state’s institutions of higher learning. Too, as his puppet Harreld is demonstrating at Iowa, it’s so much less risky to play with other people’s money, particularly when you don’t have to entice them to spend. All you have to do is tell them they’re paying more, and they have to pay more.
Not so coincidentally, during the nine months or so since I first learned of Rastetter’s existence, I also learned of crony contracts at the University of Iowa, crony jobs that were conjured out of thin air at Iowa State, and I even learned that one of Bruce Rastetter’s private-sector employees was named ISU’s lobbyist in 2012 — by which time Rastetter had already risen to President Pro Tem — despite the fact that the job was never advertised. Throw in Rastetter’s conspiracy to appoint J. Bruce Harreld even though Harreld had no prior experience in academic administration, and renaming the new Children’s Hospital after Jerre Stead and his family when Stead was one of Rastetter’s co-conspirators, and Rastetter’s motivation for becoming president of the Iowa Board of Regents seems clear. Whether in the private or public sector, Bruce Rastetter lives to cut deals and broker power in ways that benefit himself and the people he favors.
And yet…that doesn’t quite explain all of the things that Rastetter has been up to, because there is a side of Rastetter that wouldn’t be satisfied being a mere crony functionary. It’s the same part of Rastetter that fancies himself every bit the transformative business visionary as the carpetbagging dilettante he jammed into the president’s office at Iowa. And why wouldn’t he feel that way? Rastetter has had business success not only in the United States, but around the globe:
Of course there was also that one time when Rastetter tried to kick 160,000 refugees in Tanzania off of land they had been living on for 40 years, so he could profit from building industrial farms. Fortunately, after an entire year of saying nothing, Bruce Rastetter patiently explained that it was all a big misunderstanding:
Leaving aside both his ethics and his at-times incomprehensible phrasing, Bruce Rastetter does seem to enjoy thinking big. Yet that only makes his decision to join the Iowa Board of Regents — where he quickly elbowed his way to the presidency with the help of his crony political benefactor in the governor’s office — all the more perplexing. Because if there’s one thing the regents do more than anything it’s manage the state’s schools, and Bruce Rastetter is not a manager.
Just Say No to Competition
The most important insight we have into the character of the current president of the Iowa Board of Regents comes to us from the fraud at the heart of the Harreld hire, and that insight is that Bruce Rastetter does not believe in a world in which people compete on the merits. Where Rastetter could have insisted on a fair search, he chose to corrupt the search at every step, to run J. Bruce Harreld as a stealth candidate inside a taxpayer-funded sham search, and to rig the final election by the board. To the extent that Rastetter was successful at doing all of those things he probably felt pretty chipper, and from the point of view of pure efficiency it’s not hard to imagine why he preferred corruption to personal integrity. Compared with wasting time on things like fair hiring practices, regulatory compliance, or tediously following the letter of the law, it’s a whole lot more expedient to simply hand out jobs to people you like, or to people who profess loyalty to you.
In that context being president of the Iowa Board of Regents might have a great deal of appeal for Rastetter, not simply because it would grant him relative impunity in populating the entire board hierarchy with his own hand-picked tools, but because the board itself is a monopolistic entity. Provided laws aren’t being broken — and in order to know that the Iowa Attorney General or the state legislature would have to conduct a time-consuming and politically charged investigation, which neither has shown the slightest interest in doing — the board as a body, and particularly the president of the board, wields essentially unchecked power. And that’s particularly true if there are five corrupt votes on the board, which is almost a given now that the governor has packed the board with cronies heavily weighted in favor of his own political machine.
The three universities governed by the Iowa Board of Regents are the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa State University in Ames, and the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, which abuts the larger metropolis of Waterloo. The University of Iowa (enrollment 31,000) is nationally and even globally renowned in multiple disciplines, and includes the teaching medical component of UIHC. Iowa State University (34,500) is a regionally renowned school focusing on STEM and Ag education. The University of Northern Iowa (12,000) primarily educates in-state residents in teaching, accounting, and other service disciplines.
In sum, Iowa’s state schools cover the entire range of higher education, providing residents the opportunity to earn virtually any degree or study any subject without leaving the state. Unlike many states, however, in Iowa the regents’ three state campuses are all separate entities governed by the board. That contrasts with a state like Missouri, for example, where the state’s schools are all part of the Missouri System. Administratively, where each university in Iowa is presided over by a president, in Missouri the entire system is governed by a single president, with each campus administrated by a chancellor. As with Iowa, the Missouri System is overseen by a nine-member board appointed by the governor, with each board member serving a six-year term. (One notable difference is that in Iowa the ‘student regent’ is a full voting member, while in Missouri the ‘student regent’ is a non-voting prop.)
From an efficiency perspective you can see the appeal of the Missouri System when compared to Iowa’s three separate universities. Because of the central command, competition and friction between campuses is at least theoretically eliminated, whether over resources or prestige. In Iowa, on the other hand, where each school is its own little empire, there’s nothing to prevent one president from trying to outdo the others in terms of faculty hires, student recruitment and on and on. With a unified system, one person makes such administrative determinations, squelching points of contention and — again, at least in theory — profiting by eliminating redundancies and costs associated with competition.
In fact, here is Bruce Rastetter, from a recent Des Moines Register interview, speaking directly to that point [23:52]:
The elimination of competition between Iowa’s three state schools is the central organizing principle behind Bruce Rastetter’s decision making as president of the Iowa Board of Regents, but that does not mean that is also Rastetter’s ultimate goal. Rather, implementing what is effectively a system-like structure on the state’s universities is merely a fastidious means to an exploitative end. Specifically, instead of allowing each of the state’s schools to function independently, Rastetter is reorganizing the three state universities into a single entity which he controls.
The problem with any organizational overhaul is that you always have to factor in the human dynamic. Or at least that’s the case when you can’t count on a corrupt government to displace refugees so you can profit from their adopted land. And so it is for Regents’ President Rastetter, whose mania for organizational efficiency has been opposed and even thwarted by human beings who are, maddeningly, most concerned with the actual education the state’s students receive. If there are cost savings to be had while meeting the schools’ educational mission that’s fine, but it’s another thing altogether to pervert the structure of higher education in Iowa in order to prioritize efficiencies over education. While turning the entire Board of Regents into nothing more than a business incubator or a fount of political patronage would be incredibly efficient, to say nothing of profitable for whoever controlled the tap, doing so would do nothing to improve the campuses on which the students study, or the quality of the education they receive. In fact, it might even have the opposite effect.
Rastetter’s New Breed of University Presidents
If we assume that Rastetter is imposing a system-like structure on Iowa’s three state universities, with the politically appointed president of the Board of Regents acting as the de facto president of the entire system, it is immediately clear that Rastetter’s plan has almost reached fruition. We can see that most clearly in the way Rastetter has driven out and/or replaced the presidents of the state’s three schools, all of which have now experienced turnover at least once — and in the case of UNI, twice — since Rastetter was first appointed in 2011. To grasp the magnitude of that transformation yourself, take a moment and imagine your ideal university president. If you’re at all like me, you’ll probably end up thinking about someone a bit stuffy and nerdy, who nonetheless has a diplomatic air and a deep, abiding commitment to education as both a professional responsibility and public good.
Now, let’s contrast that cartoonish cliche with the university presidents currently employed by the Iowa Board of Regents. While Rastetter was not president of the regents when Steven Leath was hired at Iowa State, he began serving on the board on 05/01/11, and was elected president pro tem only two months later. Within that narrow window, Rastetter and Katie Mulholland, who had also just been appointed to the board — and who would both sit on the search committee which nominated Harreld four years later — were also both named to the presidential search committee at Iowa State.
From September of 2011:
Having served most recently as a provost, Subbaswamy clearly hailed from the traditional, well-worn academic path of presidential succession. By contrast, Leath had previously been something called a “VP for research and sponsored programs”. What are sponsored programs?
Now, ignoring the fact that Iowa State was in Rastetter’s backyard, and that as an agricultural entrepreneur he had a vested interest in who would become the next president at Iowa State, can you guess who got the job? That’s right! VP Steve! Go sponsored research!
In 2012, Rastetter was still not president when the board set out to replace outgoing UNI President Allen, but Rastetter was also not on the search committee [see p. 9] that year. After whittling the UNI applicants down to two finalists, both of whom received overwhelming support from the faculty, Shippensburg University President Willam Ruud was appointed president of UNI in February of 2013, and took office on June 1st. Shortly thereafter, Bruce Rastetter — who had been serving as interim president of the board since April — was named president of the Iowa Board of Regents.
While ISU and UNI were getting new presidents back-to-back, at the University of Iowa President Sally Mason, who was hired in 2007, was working through her sixth of eight years on the job. In the context of power-mad presidents at the Board of Regents it’s important to note that Mason was herself hired after former board president Michael Gartner failed to appoint his own pet candidate, despite employing a devious plan oddly similar to the one Rastetter used to appoint Harreld. While Leath and Ruud were working under initial three year contracts that were standard at the time, by 2014 Mason was not only working without a contract, when it was time for her and Leath to sign new deals in 2014, Mason ended up working ‘at will’ — meaning without a contract — purportedly because she had tenure:
At the same time, however, Steven Leath was not only given a new five-year contract, he was also granted tenure:
While no one explained why Leath’s raise was almost three times that of his peers, or why Mason might be “terminated”, the upshot of the two contracts was that Leath had tenure and job security in the guise of a five-year deal that the board had said it would no longer be offering, while Mason was left hanging by a thread. Not surprisingly, a year and a half later, at the beginning of 2015, Sally Mason announced her impending retirement. Flash past the ensuing machinations of the Harreld hire and not only did Regents President Rastetter replace Mason with a former business executive who had no prior experience in academic administration, and in doing so betray shared governance because Harreld was overwhelmingly opposed by the UI faculty, but the board gave said carpetbagging dilettante an unprecedented five-year contract right off the bat, which paid more in annual salary and benefits than Mason ever received. The board even slipped a provision into Harreld’s contract which allowed for tenure in the business college at 100% of the salary of the highest-paid tenured professor in that department (currently $300,000+), despite the fact that Harreld does not hold a doctorate.
With the state’s two largest universities now being led by pro-business presidents, we leap ahead to early 2016 and the surprising announcement by UNI President Ruud that he was leaving to head up a small private school with one tenth the enrollment. While there was plenty of speculation about why Ruud was resigning after only three years — including by former regents president Michael Gartner, who crawled out from whatever rock he winters under in order to smear Ruud in the press — the one fact not in dispute was that, as had been the case with Sally Mason, the regents refused to offer Ruud a contract extension. What made that particularly remarkable was that Ruud was only coming to the end of his initial three-year deal, and by all accounts had done a good job helping the school move on from a difficult time.
While Ruud’s resignation continues to confound, Ruud himself may have divulged the reason he was not offered a new contract, as reported by Jeff Charis-Carlson in the Press-Citizen on 06.07/16:
Here again is Rastetter’s quote about competition, from his interview with the Des Moines Register [23:52]:
Comparing Ruud’s defiance with the acquiescence of Rastetter’s hand-picked toadies at UI and ISU, it seems blatantly obvious that Ruud was not offered a contract extension because Bruce Rastetter is not interested in any university president who actually acts like a university president. Instead, Rastetter expects his presidents to act like chancellors if not division managers, functioning in sycophantic synchronicity with his dictates.
In his first three years at ISU, Steven Leath not only got that message, he went all-in to the point that Michael Gartner (of all people) ended up on the right side of an argument about academic freedom, after Leath tried to exert operational control of research at Iowa State. And of course Harreld was so far out of his element that he had to have Rastetter and others commit election fraud just to get himself appointed, so there’s never been any question about where his loyalties lie. All of which brings us back to UNI and the upcoming presidential search. (Note to UNI: if Rastetter appoints himself to the search committee, you’re screwed.)
The Political Calculus of the UNI Presidential Search
The upshot of all this is that under Bruce Rastetter’s leadership, in only a few years the Iowa Board of Regents has effectively stripped each state school of its academically inclined president, meaning an individual primarily focused on the core mission of education. In replacing the traditional presidents at the state’s two largest schools Rastetter has appointed kowtowing, business-first managers, and in the case of the University of Iowa Rastetter actually orchestrated a fraudulent search in order to do so. While UNI is considerably smaller, as an independent institution the board has been hacking away at that school for years, and as such will almost certainly appoint another manager whose loyalties lie first with the board, second with business interests in and around the Waterloo-Cedar Falls metro area, and lastly with the students, faculty and staff who are — or at least were — its very reason for being. (There is an outside possibility that the board will run a legitimate search for an academic leader, and in a moment we’ll get into the corrupt reason for doing so.)
If Rastetter and the board do intend to create an integrated ‘system’ of higher education in Iowa, the most pressing question on the table is what to do with UNI. As a separate institution UNI is the odd duck for multiple reasons, including its relatively small size and narrower educational focus. While currently enrolling almost 12,000 students — most of them state residents — the University of Northern Iowa is roughly one third the size of Iowa and Iowa State, yet has considerably less than one-third the potential for generating revenue or crony perks. (Not only are in-state students less lucrative that out-of-state students, but UNI doesn’t have the research focus that UI and ISU have, which is necessary to profit from innovation.)
As already noted, in some ways the dismantling of UNI has already begun, which means the regents will probably look for someone to continue that process. For example, in 2012, at the end of President Allen’s tenure, not only did the regents kill the Malcolm Price Lab School, but they killed UNI’s museum as well. (You know you’re in trouble when the regents start gunning for your museum. Then again, when your perceived role is cranking out worker bees, what do you need a museum for?) While UNI will almost certainly survive as a branded campus, based on the testimony and treatment of former President Ruud, Bruce Rastetter and his board do not want anyone advocating for UNI as an institution.
Symptomatic of UNI’s relative weakness among the state’s three schools is its athletics department, which has a considerably more difficult time raising money because the school does not belong to a conference covered by a lucrative television contract. As the Press-Citizen’s Jeff Charis-Carlson reported on 07/19/15, unlike the state’s other two schools, UNI actually subsidizes athletics from both taxpayer funds and student fees:
In sync with Rastetter’s determination to treat all of the state’s schools like a single enterprise, on 02/11/16 Charis-Carlson also reported on proposed state legislation that would transfer money from UI and ISU, to defray UNI’s athletics expenses:
While UNI is smaller than Iowa or Iowa State, on a percentage basis the economic pressures on that institution may actually be greater — in part because of the cost of remaining competitive in Division I athletics, but also because of the school’s limited programmatic ability to generate its own revenue. As such Rastetter may be even more inclined to solve the school’s accounting imbalance by appointing another puppet, which again brings us back to the upcoming presidential search.
The regents recently named UNI Provost Jim Wohlpart — who was himself only hired a year ago — as interim president. Wohlpart has a solid academic background, but no loyalty to UNI as a school or a place, and is eligible to run for the presidency if he so chooses. Having been hired at a time when Rastetter probably knew the board would not be extending Ruud’s contract, and having been privy to the inside scoop regarding tensions between Ruud and the board, and perhaps having even been granted a private audience with Rastetter on occasion, it’s entirely possible that Wohlpart already has the inside track to win whatever sham search process the regents implement.
Adding insult to the actual and ongoing injury of the Harreld hire, after that debacle both Rastetter and Jean Robillard — the current Dean of the College of Medicine and VP of Medical Affairs at the University of Iowa, as well as the former search chair and interim president during the Harreld search — had the jaw-dropping gall to blame outrage over their willful betrayal of shared governance on the openness of the search process. On more than one occasion each of them stated, falsely, that a closed search would produce stronger candidates and thus better results [scroll down to the update], so it’s quite possible that the board will now use that prepared rationale to justify a closed search at UNI. And prior to the AAUP’s sanction of UI I think that would have been the case.
Now, however, I think the more conniving deceivers on the board may be willing to endure one more open search precisely because UNI is significantly less important to their long-range plans. Rastetter certainly won’t tolerate any insolence from a new president, but I’m confident that message has already been heard loud and clear by Wohlpart or anyone else who’s thinking of applying. The only real obstacle for Rastetter is that even if the committee sends three or four candidates to the board for the final vote, the faculty will expect to be heard and respected, which was decidedly not the case with the Harreld hire. Then again, pretending to listen to the UNI faculty would go a long way to purportedly proving that the board does believe in shared governance, thus discrediting the abused UI community as a bunch of whiners.
Knowing how much Rastetter likes belittling people, he may very well decide to eat the upcoming UNI search in service of political advantage. After which he can then insist on a closed search when there’s an opening at the more lucrative Iowa or Iowa State. (The UNI search is being orchestrated by Regents Executive Director Bob Donley, who recently struggled with his own resume issues while applying for the job of chancellor of the North Dakota System, and by Regents’ President Pro Tem Katie Mulholland, who was on the previous presidential search committees at all three schools, and who fervently supported Rastetter’s abuses of shared governance during the Harreld hire.)
When Competition Between Universities is a Good Thing
Fights over funding are nothing new in academia. Even J. Bruce Harreld recently resurrected one of Michael Gartner’s old ideas, which was to eliminate any separation between the academic and athletic ledgers at the University of Iowa, thus creating a single pool of funds. Likewise, Senator Johnson’s proposed legislation effectively eliminated separation between the three ledgers at the state’s schools, using money from the larger schools to subsidize athletics at the state’s smallest school.
Despite the reliance on taxpayer money and student subsidies, Rastetter himself has signaled clear support for UNI’s athletics program, and by inference support for the transfer of funds from UI and ISU to UNI. While perhaps incongruous given Rastetter’s repeated harangues about efficiency, even more frustrating to Rastetter than waste is the fact that he simply doesn’t have the unilateral authority to move money wherever he wants, whenever he wants. Not only is he routinely obligated to dredge up four other votes in his favor — albeit a task made considerably easier by the crony appointments of Governor Branstad — in many instances the legislature has the final say not only on how much money each school gets, but how that money can be spent.
Starting in 2013 [links to the earliest press releases on that page are broken], Rastetter tried working around those legislative constraints by pushing a so-called performance-based funding model for the state’s three universities. While sold as a long-overdue updating of the state’s historical funding splits, the performance-based funding model also institutionalized Rastetter’s personal biases. Not only would it have shifted millions of dollars away from UI and toward UNI and his favored ISU, thus weakening the University of Iowa and its dreaded emphasis on liberal arts, but it would have done so under the pretense of favoring in-state students over out-of-state students — which has long been another favorite anti-UI talking point for Rastetter.
Initially approved by the regents in June of 2014 — at which time Rastetter was president of the board, and his nemesis Sally Mason was president at Iowa — the main change was that fully 60% of funding would be determined by the number of full-time resident students enrolled at each school. Because UNI was almost entirely populated by Iowa residents, and Leath had turned ISU into a confinement operation for home-grown Iowa STEM students, it was inevitable that the plan would shift millions from Iowa to ISU and UNI, on an annual basis.
From the point of the Iowa Board of Regents, however, and particularly Bruce Rastetter, the real selling point of performance-based funding was to be found in two relatively innocuous line items:
During the recent debate about the proposed 2016 tuition hikes at the state’s three schools, various numbers were thrown around regarding the money that was actually allocated by the legislature for 2016, versus the amount the regents originally requested. What’s important to note about all of those numbers, however, is that they represent supplemental requests over and above the regents’ standing take-out order. For 2016, total state funding of the Iowa Board of Regents is projected to be $670M+, meaning 5% of that amount would equal $33.5M.
Whatever else the performance-based funding model would have accomplished, it would have given the Iowa Board of Regents the discretionary ability to move up to 10% of the state’s total funding allocation ($67M in 2016) wherever they wanted it to go. If the regents wanted one of the state schools to receive the lion’s share of the 5% Sponsored Research cut, all they had to do was implement research policies which favored one school over the others. Likewise, to push $37.5M one way or the other under the Selected Metrics provision, all the regents had to do was establish metrics which sent that money where they wanted it to go.
There are, of course, enormous problems with granting the regents such discretionary authority, and all the more so when you imagine a board president like Rastetter, whose primary objective is exploiting opportunities wherever he can find them. In terms of dealing with each state school, under performance-based funding Rastetter would have also wielded a financial cudgel that no president could afford to ignore. Fail to do what Rastetter wanted you to do, or even fail to show the deference he clearly expects, and you might find yourself short on sponsored research or selected metrics. (Tying funding to sponsored research is inherently corrupt, which is of course why it was in the plan. If, as president of the board, you not only control which schools profit from sponsored research, but control which companies get the chance to sponsor research, the opportunity for exploiting political and business relationships increases exponentially.)
While the performance-based funding model was ultimately rejected by the legislature, there are two important points to make about how that played out. The first has to do with when the performance-based funding model finally met serious opposition. We find that moment memorialized in a Des Moines Register article by Brianne Pfannenstiel, on 02/17/15:
Eight days later, on 02/25/15, the regents announced the names of the individuals on the UI Presidential Search and Screen Committee, who were charged with finding a replacement for Sally Mason. Chairing the committee was UI second-in-command Jean Robillard, and on his committee were, among twenty others, Rastetter, Mulholland, and biz-whiz alum Jerre Stead. A little over two months later, on 05/01/15, the Press-Citizen’s Charis-Carlson wrote a follow-up piece indicating that the performance-based funding plan was in serious trouble:
Only a week later, as reported in another article by Charis-Carlson on 05/08/15, Jean Robillard, the chair of the search committee and soon-to-be interim president at Iowa, openly talked about hiring a non-traditional, business-oriented president along the lines of Bill Gates. A month and a half later, with the performance-based funding model effectively dead, Robillard, Rastetter, Peter Matthes and J. Bruce Harreld met for three or four hours in a conference room at Kirkwood Community College, at the behest of Jerre Stead, who backed out of the meeting at the last minute. By Harreld’s own testimony, however, his first point of contact with Rastetter occurred in March, meaning that at about the same time the legislative tide was turning against the performance-based funding model, Rastetter was purportedly reaching out to the man he would eventually appoint to the presidency at Iowa. (As a result, Rastetter and Robillard both achieved what they could not achieve through legislation, which was to put themselves in effective control of the University of Iowa’s budget by hiring a puppet president.)
The second important point about the performance-based funding model is why it failed. While push-back from the University of Iowa and its legislative supporters was to be expected, the real problem with the performance based funding model was that it was the last thing Rastetter should have wanted if he genuinely opposed competition between the state’s schools. From the Pfannenstiel article in mid-February:
How can we square the competition inherent in the performance-based funding model with Rastetter’s quote that he doesn’t want the state’s schools competing with each other? The answer is that the regent universities do not exist in a vacuum, but in a world populated by other higher-ed players. In that context it makes perfect sense that Rastetter would support an educational recruitment race if that allowed the regent schools to stockpile as many in-state students as possible. (That is in fact what Steven Leath did at ISU, right before the performance-based funding model that he was counting on for salvation blew up in his face.)
From a story on 05/30/15, by Jeff Charis-Carlson:
While performance-based funding would have pitted the state’s three schools against each other, that competition would not have been a zero-sum game. The more UI, ISU and UNI competed for in-state students, the greater the number of students they would have poached from private and community colleges around the state. As you might also imagine, the people who worked at those schools noticed that threat:
For a businessman like Rastetter, who’s used to working with commodities, the advantage of increased dominance in the marketplace would be obvious. Greater revenue, decreased competition, more weight with the legislature and governor, and more opportunities to exploit that increase in market control on behalf of political and business cronies. The larger your higher-ed system or enterprise, and the more fully integrated and streamlined that operation is, the more power and agility you would have compared with other companies and institutions providing college courses in the state. In that context, who wouldn’t expand the footprint of the regent schools, crush smaller private institutions with three quarters of a billion dollars in annual state appropriations, leverage multiple prominent schools with well-known brands, and exploit the ability to meet the needs of all students in the state?
For Part II of Bruce Rastetter’s Long Game at the Iowa Board of Regents, click here.
Dr. Bob Donley, got his EdD (thus Dr Bob) from Northeastern…likely much online
60 hours and 46,000 and too can be a Dr.
I’m not seeing the sinister in hiring a sponsored-research VP. ISU’s a research university, meaning that a significant slice of its operating budget is supposed to be coming from federal granting agencies — NIH, DOD, NSF, NASA, etc. (Not so much NIH there, I imagine, but even so.) Federal grant funding has also become extremely competitive in the last decade, and it’s unsurprising to me that any university would want, at the top, any kind of edge at all in grantsmanship, and someone who can lean on faculty to get them producing grant proposals. What’s important to understand here is that with every federal grant, the university gets about an additional 50% to put in its own pocket. So if a researcher writes a proposal for $500M, and it’s funded, she gets $500M and the university gets about $250M for its own use. And all the universities are hungry for that money.
I believe it was Gartner’s BOR, too, that looked to put an end to competition among the universities and carve out distinct turf for each of them. Frankly, it’s not that terrible an idea — the only terrible thing about it, to my mind, is that in doing so they ignored UI’s actual strength and have done their best, over the last decades, to kill it off in favor of the thing they imagine will make money. But from a funding perspective, when you think about why the agencies grant money, it’s very difficult to make a case for two biomedical campuses, two engineering campuses, etc.
The reality is that the bulk of federal research money goes to the coasts. To Massachusetts, California, New York, PA, NC, and then to a much lesser extent it’s sprinkled up and down the coasts and around the Great Lakes area. It’s not unjust, from a bang-for-research-buck perspective: the top facilities and largest collections of researchers are in those coastal places. But the agencies also have a mission of education and of ensuring that we draw research talent from across the country, so they’re careful to spread some of that everloving peanut butter across the non-urban midwest, too.
But not that much. And the reality is also that as the agencies come under pressure from Congress, the midsection money’s been leaving for the coasts.
So if you’re in Bethesda, or Arlington, or whatever, and you’re looking at where you’re sending the money, at some point you’re going to ask whether Iowa, with a population of 3M, really needs two well-funded biomedical campuses when the truth is that they haven’t got hot concentrations of top talent and worldbeating facilities. (Before you get defensive, go have a look at MIT’s new nanocenter, under construction, and then take a look at what we’ve got in Iowa. We’ve got nanocenters, but not like that, and we don’t have the scale of private money shoring up the public money.) And if the answer is no, then do you want two struggling campuses or one that’s the center of research for the state? Keep in mind that one of the things funding agencies look for, when they review these research proposals, is the availability of equipment and collaborators. The reality is that it’s easier to collaborate with someone two floors down than it is to collaborate with someone two hours away in a state with severe weather. If you can concentrate the researchers, it helps.
These are, in a sense, new questions, also sensitive ones. The level of competition for the money is new. It used to be relatively easy to get the money, and no doubt that’s why there is the degree of duplication that there is. And nobody wants to lose a department or a program.
The real difficulty, to my mind, is the one you point out, and it’s not a new thing in American university life: the liberal arts, which are aptly named, versus tech schools. There is no Iowa university that is now meant to specialize in the liberal arts, in the humanities, in basic science, knowledge for the sake of knowledge. It’s very clear that our BOR, like the last BOR, is uninterested in the liberal arts. Doesn’t know what they’re for except what they see as trouble. And that, I think, is a cultural issue. You’re watching the same one play out in Britain.
I find it miraculous that the progressive midwest existed. It may be time to recognize that this is now part of the midwest’s history, a thing it knows how to do, but that it isn’t currently interested in doing it, and may not be interested again for a long time. Keep in mind that in the last gubernatorial election, the only county in Iowa that did not go for Terry was Johnson County. It wasn’t the Koch brothers running around filling out those ballots; it was the people who live in those 98 counties. I sense no change for the next round. I think it may be time to do what even Sinclair Lewis did, and heed George Michael’s words: You got to go to the city.
There’s nothing inherently sinister about sponsored research, just as there’s nothing inherently sinister about the Iowa Board of Regents. Put corrupt people in charge of either or both, however, and the resulting abuses are inevitable.
With Leath at ISU, my point was simply that all you have to do with these people is follow the money. Between Leath and the other candidate, which one was going to make Rastetter the most money, or profit SummitAg the most? Not even a question.
I know the grant world is competitive, and that you want someone who’s good at all of that on your campus, and maybe even heading up your campus. But you also don’t want that person to be the tool of a malevolent business interest who has little or no interest in higher education. (Maybe Steven Leath would have been better with an honest board, but we’ll never know.)
It’s also my belief that most of what Rastetter is implementing comes from Gartner’s tenure on the board. As ‘TV’ mentioned in another comment, the template for much of it comes from Robillard’s ‘success’ at UIHC, and Robillard himself dates back to Gartner. I also agree that it’s not a terrible idea to eliminate redundancies, as long as it’s done above-board and everyone knows why it’s happening. The process could be managed carefully, and done over the long-term, and nobody would get hurt.
Unfortunately, Rastetter doesn’t know the meaning of “above board”, and he’s much more interested in using the regents for predation as opposed to finding ways to make higher-ed sustainable. The closest analogue to Rastetter that I can think of is Dick Cheney, who also volunteered himself into an out-of-the-way but high-ranking administrative position which turned out to have few controls. Once there he exploited his authority for all it was worth, killing a whole lot of people in the process. While Rastetter won’t end up with a lot of actual blood on his hands, his modus operandi is the same.
As for the research money and where it’s going, I’m all for research if it needs doing, but the core mission — which almost nobody seems interested in any more — is providing an education to, mostly, Iowa students. As you point out, that is getting lost, and particularly so in terms of the advantages of a liberal arts education.
Regarding the Midwest, I pointed out recently that higher-ed in Illinois is a shambles, it’s being intentionally dismantled in Wisconsin, the whole state of Kansas is a sinkhole, and of course Iowa is doing its best to turn higher-ed into a commodity operation. (I have no idea what Minnesota is up to, but I hope they don’t follow suit.) If the center of the country wanted to do anything to drive people toward the sun belt and the coats, it’s doing it.
This is Part II of Bruce Rastetter’s Long Game at the Iowa Board of Regents. For Part I, click here.
The University of Iowa, John Deere, and AIB
The city of Dubuque sits in the northeast corner of Iowa, alongside the Mississippi River . It is ninety miles, or about two hours by car, from the nearest regent university, which is the University of Iowa in Iowa City. (UNI in Cedar Falls is 15 miles farther.)
On 10/27/15, the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller reported that the University of Iowa was planning to offer an MBA program in Dubuque, purportedly at the behest of John Deere, Inc:
One day after Miller’s initial report, UI decided to delay offering an MBA in Dubuque:
Among the governmental functions provided by the Iowa Board of Regents is the Iowa Coordinating Council for Post-High School Education:
As you might imagine, the people who run the private colleges in Dubuque were not only not happy that a regent school was suddenly setting up shop on their doorstep, under the pretext of having been invited by an agricultural corporation, they were particularly frustrated that the board’s own coordinating body failed to do its job. Then again, the UI plan to offer an MBA program in Dubuque embodies all of the factors that Bruce Rastetter seems to care about as president of the regents. By leveraging the regents’ own administrative authority, along with the power of one of its institutions, while purportedly also meeting demand from a corporate player — which was not at all orchestrated behind the scenes, because who would ever do such a thing — a ninety-mile-long tentacle snaked out from Iowa City into a brand new market.
Which brings us now to the last thing you would expect Rastetter’s board to do when it’s always under the gun for money, and Rastetter is always taking about saving through improved efficiencies. Because at the exact same moment when Regents President Rastetter is standing back and letting his toads at UI and ISU propose tuition increases which soak the students, the regents are also pushing to open and expand a new campus in Des Moines. In fact, while I was putting this post together, the regents took a big step toward the greater goal of turning all three of the state’s schools into a single rampaging octopus.
In early February of 2015, the private AIB College of Business in Des Moines donated itself to the University of Iowa, in order to continue providing courses to students already enrolled. The main reason for the donation was that AIB could no longer compete in the marketplace, so they decided to fold themselves in to the regents’ flagship university, which has a strong business college. Then this happened:
Now, if you enjoy a good laugh as I do, you were particularly tickled by the part where Iowa President Sally Mason informed the regents that she had personally negotiated a new arrangement involving both the regents and the other two universities in the state. Because ordinarily that kind of coordination would require the president of the board to be deeply involved. As you might also imagine, there were more than a few spit takes from legislators, who of all people knew a bait-and-switch when they saw one:
One day the University of Iowa had a new satellite business college in Des Moines, then ten days later the Iowa Board of Regents had a new regional center which would offer courses from all three of the state schools. All thanks to Sally Mason! But it gets better.
On 10/22/15 the Iowa Board of Regents approved the donation of the AIB College of Business to the University of Iowa:
Because nothing is ever a done deal at the Iowa Board of Regents until it’s been validated or corroborated by a sham administrative process, Rastetter immediately hired consultants to determine where the best location would be for a joint campus in Des Moines. Not surprisingly, that in turn set off all kinds of speculation in the capital. From a 04/19/16 story by the Register’s Joel Aschbrenner:
The Register itself also chimed in with an editorial:
The Register editorial included apt cautionary historical tales, all of which missed the point. Bruce Rastetter doesn’t hire consultants to provide answers any more than he hires executive search firms to vet candidates, or participates in presidential searches to identify the best applicant. Bruce Rastetter does all of those things — at taxpayer expense — to get the answers he already knows he wants. From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller on 06/01/16:
Now here’s Miller’s follow-up report from the regents’ meeting a week later, on 06/09/16:
Not only does Rastetter make sure his consultant gives him the answer he wanted all along, but note again both the pretext of demand coupled with his complete lack of interest in how a new collaborative campus in Des Moines might impact any of the community colleges or private colleges in the area. (The demise of AIB itself reflects the intensity of competition in the higher education market, of which the Board of Regents is the top dog, yet perversely the Iowa Board of Regents ended up with the AIB campus gifted to them.)
Every private college, community college, trade school and continuing education service in Iowa is impacted by the moves the regents make, and here Rastetter is making an unprecedented move into the state’s largest city. What could go wrong? Well, for the regents probably nothing, because they can either stick the legislature with any costs or raise tuition on students to generate revenue — much as they’re doing right now, with the cash-grab hikes that Harreld and Leath slapped on the table once Rastetter gave them the thumbs-up.
The Ministry of Efficiency and Quality
Pay even scant attention to the propaganda coming from the Iowa Board of Regents and you’ll quickly realize that efficiency and quality are persistent themes. And why wouldn’t they be? Who would ever stand in opposition to efficiency or quality? (A wasteful and careless person, that’s who.)
So it is with rigging a compelling justification for taking big swings with the budget axe at the state’s three schools, and as of a week ago it looks like we are at that point. From a 06/10/16 story by the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, reporting on the regents’ never-ending TIER process:
Where will Rastetter find “enhanced opportunities for savings and efficiences”, now that he is about to have his own hand-picked division managers heading up each of the state’s three schools? Well, if we compare departments across all three campuses, and we remember that Rastetter doesn’t want the schools competing academically, all we have to do is index redundant departments by their quality — meaning their national rank or “world class” prominence. That in turn gives us a road map for the cuts Harreld will be making at UI, that Leath will be making at ISU, and that Rastetter’s new toad will be making at UNI.
Does each university really need its own psychology department? If not, which one is most prominent, successful, lucrative? And what about STEM overlap? Which campus is best at science, technology, math and engineering? Why are the state’s schools competing in those disciplines, instead of collaborating?
Now, you may be thinking there will always be accreditation requirements for each school, but will there?
What happens when Iowa, Iowa State and UNI become one big higher-ed blob — much like the AIB campus is slated to become? Can students on one campus fulfill their requirements by taking online courses at another campus, thus allowing the toady presidents at those schools to gut redundant programs, faculty and staff? Sure, there will always be campuses in Iowa City and Ames and (probably) Cedar Falls, and a new campus in Des Moines on the former AIB campus, but they may function as a single networked, taxpayer subsidized colossus, spreading out across the state and devouring competition in its path.
What does Rasetter do when he finally squeezes every last bit of “savings and efficiences” out of the regents’ system? Well, that’s where quality comes in. When you want people to pay more for the same service or product — meaning, at the regents’ schools, an education and a degree — the easiest thing to do is tell them that the increased cost will result in increased quality. Fortunately, because most people have no way to objectively assess quality, you can promise improved quality without actually delivering on that promise, then spend all the money you just raised on something else.
All of the proposed tuition hikes currently before the board are being aggressively sold as critical to maintaining or improving the quality of the education provided at the state’s three universities. From Rastetter to Harreld to Leath, there is an unbroken assertion that without a whole bunch of new money from students and their families, educational quality will suffer. Yet when we compare the concern they have shown for outflows directed to political and business cronies, we find that they are all completely disinterested in how that routine leeching affects the quality of education provided by the state’s institutions of higher learning.
While organizing the entire regents’ enterprise around the principles of quality, efficiency and collaboration sounds good, for Rastetter that reorganization is only a means to an end. The more resources he can free up, the more those resources can be directed to political and business cronies. Putting cronies on the state payroll is one scam, no-bid contracts another, but those are relatively small grifts. The next step up the corruption ladder is making sure the right people end up with large-scale contracts, including everything from products to services to construction.
We find a perfect example of that in a recent furniture contract with UIHC, which favored a sitting member of the Board of Regents, who suddenly resigned only days before news of that contract appeared in the press. Regent Mary Andringa was a paid employee of a company which received a multi-million-dollar contract from UIHC without having to go through a bidding process. Despite serving only one year of her six year term, Andringa also ended up chairing the regents’ committee which had oversight of University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
So what did the always cost-conscious Bruce Rastetter do to make sure the cash-strapped regents were getting the most bang for their buck, so all available funds could be put toward maintaining the quality of the education offered by the state’s institutions of higher learning? He did nothing. As with the crony contracts mentioned earlier, and the crony jobs, Rastetter did nothing to make sure the regents, the students and the families they represent were not being ripped off. (And of course neither did Harreld.)
Putting the final irony to the crony furniture contract, UI administrators actually touted the no-bid deal as a savings to the school:
That’s the up-is-down world of crony politics. A backroom deal that was allowed on a technicality, which inevitably cost the people of Iowa money, was then sold as a model of efficiency to the public. Not surprisingly, in the aftermath of such abuses the only substantive change that board has adopted has been to increase the amount of money that can be awarded without triggering a competitive bidding process. And yes, you read that right. It is now easier to put through a crony contract than it was before:
So what does “appropriately documented and approved…by Mark Braun” actually mean? It means that if you can structure your new crony contracts in a way that meets the criteria of Rastetter’s hand-picked right-hand man — whom Rastetter also gave a new position invented out of whole cloth, along with a salary almost $100K higher than the Executive Director/CEO of the board — then you too can suck on the government teat. (I don’t know whether you can apply for multiple contracts using shell corporations or not, but as a state employee Braun is obligated to answer your questions until you can figure out exactly where the loopholes are.)
In that context, the crony appeal of the new AIB campus should be obvious. A few $49,999 no-bid contracts here, a few $49,999 no-bid contracts there, and the next thing you know you’re talking about millions of dollars, and all the goodwill that goes with funneling that money to old friends. Better yet, you don’t have to fit all of that exploitation into a preexisting and resistant organization. Instead, you can build it yourself from the ground up, using the twin dictates of quality and efficiency to light your way. From a Des Moines Register article by Jeff Charis-Carlson, two days ago, on 06/24/16:
And of course faculty and staff will also be able to take advantage of proximity to lawmakers and business leaders, and vice versa. So what about the plans to merge all three state universities into a hybrid Des Moines campus? Still on track:
If you’re thinking of applying to be the next president at UNI, it would obviously be to your advantage to signal your eagerness to cooperate with Regents’ President Rastetter. If you do that early and often enough, it just might land you a cushy five-year contract, and maybe even a six-figure tenure clause that you don’t actually deserve.
“Sure, There Were Odors Associated With It”
As noted in prior posts, businessman J. Bruce “BM” Harreld turned out to be a whole lot less than advertised. As noted in this post, businessman Bruce “SummitAg” Rastetter’s career has not been without controversy. In terms of business experience specifically applicable to the board, however, it also seems fair to ask just how successful Bruce Rastetter has been in the service sector, or at building long-term, stable businesses.
From a 03/02/15 profile of Rastetter by the Des Moines Register’s Mike Kilen:
So there you go. No service sector experience, and his main successes have come from timing the market, but as long as you’re loyal to Bruce Rastetter you’ll get your cut of whatever short-term opportunities he exploits. He may leave wreckage behind when he’s done squeezing every last dollar from a venture, but if you’re on the team you’ll be taken care of.
We can gain more insight into Rastetter’s ‘principled’ conduct as a businessman, however, by taking a close look at that money he donated to the University of Iowa. In 2008 Bruce Rastetter announced that he was giving $5M to the Iowa athletic department, and since that time he’s had no problem taking credit for that donation. In April of 2016, however, the AP’s Ryan Foley reported that Rastetter never followed through on his pledge:
Yes, taking credit for something you haven’t actually done is sleazy, but looked at purely from a business perspective, can you really blame Rastetter? If you’ve only got a finite amount of money, it’s a lot more efficient to take credit for a massive donation if you don’t actually have to donate all of the money, or even most of the money. In fact, that leaves you free to take some of that money you never donated and put it toward something else, like donations to your political pals over the next three years, at which point one of them will be governor again, and you can ask him ever so nicely to appoint you to the Board of Regents.
You say you’re doing a good thing, you take credit for doing a good thing, but you don’t have to tie up your precious capital by actually doing that good thing. Efficiency, efficiency, what could possibly be wrong with efficiency? Speaking of which, how about those hyper-efficient “public hearings” the regents hold? Instituted as a result of a Transparency Task Force in 2013, the regents’ public hearings dispense with messy interpersonal exchanges at board meetings, and instead segregate dissent. From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, on 02/18/16:
What if an actual human being wants to address the board? Well, we get that from an earlier report by Miller, on 10/20/15:
So how does current Regents’ President Bruce Rastetter feel about these Orwellian “public hearings’, which no regent actually attends, or is ever compelled to witness? We get that from the Press-Citizen’s Jeff Charis-Carlson, on 06/03/16:
As you can see, the regents’ “public hearings” are a perfect passive-aggressive expression of Rastetter’s administrative contempt for the people of Iowa. If anyone shows up, they’re sequestered, ignored and invalidated by technological means. If nobody shows up — because they know in advance that they will be ignored — then Rastetter can claim there is no dissent. In fact, the regents’ “public hearings” have been so successful at quelling objections, the regents are now floating the idea that the board may also hold significantly fewer meetings in the future.
From the Gazette’s Miller, on 06/15/16:
As to why the board might want to cut its public meetings in half, we get that from the board’s chief operating officer and highest paid staffer, Mark Braun, who was also on the Transparency Task Force which came up with the disingenuous “public hearing” format:
So fewer meetings actually means more meetings, and fewer meetings means higher quality meetings, and fewer meetings means more efficient meetings, and fewer meetings means less costly meetings. Given all of those improvements in quality and efficiency, how could anyone in their right mind not be for fewer meetings? Well, that’s a good question, and in answering that question one former regent inadvertently gets to the heart of why Bruce Rastetter wanted to the president of the board, instead of out in the private sector, kicking refugees off their land:
Five billion dollars. That’s the scale of the enterprise that Bruce Rastetter — a political appointee — now controls. I have no idea how much money Bruce Rastetter made in the private sector, but I don’t think he’s a billionaire. As president of the Iowa Board of Regents, however, he is a billionaire, at least in terms of his ability to grease his pals in business and politics. Even better, because of the structure of the regents, when Rastetter pushes a controversial plan — like, say, the egregious, exploitative tuition hikes now on the table — it’s his toady university presidents who take the heat.
To see the magnitude of possible exploitation we need only look at a sampling of what Rastetter has done for himself during his time on the board. From an AP story by Ryan Foley, on 08/29/14:
From a Des Moines Register story by Matthew Patane, on 05/31/16:
To Bruce Rastetter, the entire Iowa Board of Regents is nothing more than a cornucopia of entrepreneurial initiatives. Maybe you invest in a start-up one year, then a year or two later that start-up gets a shot at a game-changing opportunity with a regent institution. Sure, along the way the currently enrolled students — who provide the regents with hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue each year — are supposed to get an education, but that’s incidental to the goal of ceaseless exploitation. As Rastetter himself said, “A lot of business success revolves around timing.”
When you’re the president of the regents you’re going to be the first to know about a no-interest loan program, or about a new private research venture on regent grounds. Even if you decide to pass yourself, you can point your good friends in the right direction, or make it possible for good friends of good friends to move to the front of the line. And of course all of those good friends will remember you when you need a favor, like helping a political crony raise cash.
Yes, by the time Rastetter is done turning Iowa’s “higher-education ecosystem” into an academic pig-urine lagoon, students will have fewer choices in the marketplace, fewer choices about which regent school to attend for a given degree, and pay more because of the lack of competition, but those are the breaks. When you see an opportunity you can’t be afraid to act, just as Bruce Rastetter demonstrated by hijacking the presidency at Iowa.
The question is not how to stabilize higher education in Iowa and rebuild a healthy higher-ed ecosystem, but how to radicalize higher education and profit from the chaos. Not how to teach the next generation of students, but how to profit from them. What’s the angle? Who do we favor? Who do we punish? How do we rig things in our favor? What can we get away with?
That’s Bruce Rastetter’s long game at the Iowa Board of Regents. Transforming the regents from a good citizen and steward into a predatory enterprise focused on business and political exploitation. And from all of the above, I think he’s just about there.
Mark Braun, you mean the 300,000 Iowa BOR COO, who babysat President Mason, and formerly was on the Republican State Caucus? The one who tools around in a free ‘BOR’ state car plus all his other perks.
Corruption takes many forms…
Reading the DM Register article, Rastetter is a more diabolical character than most realized: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/2016/04/15/bruce-rastetter-delays-5-million-dollar-donation-iowa-hawkeyes-football/83102422/
“Rastetter gave his first payment of $500,000 in 2012 but then nothing for three years during the rest of Mason’s presidency. Rastetter and other regents had at times been critical of Mason and pushed for a leadership change.
Once Mason announced plans to step down last year, Rastetter again opened his pocketbook for the project. He has given $1 million in five gifts over the last year, bringing his donations to $1.5 million, according to the UI Foundation.
Despite the recent barrage of payments, Rastetter’s donations have fallen short of repeated published accounts claiming he has given the full $5 million.”
In 8 years The Bruce (all resemblance to The Donald is purely intentional) has not only pouted because Mason was a bad president giving only 10% of his promised donation, but after he sacked Mason he still give only an additional 20%. In 8 years he has given 1.5/5.0 or 30%. At this rate The Bruce will complete his donation in about 25 years, all the time bragging about what a great and magnanimous guy he is. Damn, that is just pathetic narcissistic deception.
I never realized that donations can be dribbled out for over 25 years, all the time making claims of benevolence.
This guy is a genius of manipulation…timing bankruptcies, loans, donations, even stiffing the Koch brothers for his own monetary and political gain.
Rastetter is a piece of work. I’ve gone back to that Register profile many times, and it’s just jaw-dropping. Not only does he actually trash his own father, but he goes out of his way to show that Branstad is nothing more than a puppet to him. Really incredible, and yet to Rastetter those are all things to be proud of.
Thank you for compiling significant evidence that our public Universities are being transformed into institutions dedicated to private gain, it is compelling and convincing in scope. But surely Bruce Rastetter is not simply this evil, is he?
I grew up around several people who had either inherited significant wealth or knew they would eventually inherit wealth. They all had one singular focus to their life; the moral justification of unearned advantage. Every waking moment was dedicated to the compulsive rhetorical gymnastics required to equate wealth with virtue in all circumstances. Their relationship to the men who made the wealth they craved was at first strange to me but it eventually came into focus.
These wealthy businessmen naturally had a different focus; every waking moment was dedicated to making money by every means necessary. The role of a successful sycophantic inheritor was to reassure the canny businessman that all of those means were morally justified even when they smelled otherwise. That may sound crass or simplistic but is an efficient division of intellectual labor for someone with considerable wealth who has the means to control their everyday social environment.
Once you understand the dynamics of that particularly perverse social milieu where wealth must always be associated with virtue it becomes clear that the obverse necessarily becomes true; poverty must always be associated with depravity. Then you can start to understand the moral motivations of a man like Rastetter to “take on the heavy administrative workload of a job that pays him nothing”. He needs his wealth to be validated publically and for his values to be affirmed and institutionalized. And he needs to have the people who opposed him in any way to be morally defined as deficient.
I do not doubt the financial motivations that you outline for a second, I just wonder about what comes first for him and what is a side benefit in his reign as the President of the Board of Regents; moral validation or money?
There is one particular aspect of Rastetter’s entrepreneurial endeavors that has to concern Jean Robilliard; the potential devastation that could occur from antibiotic resistant bacteria created by the past and continued use of antibiotics in confined animal feeding operations. Do researchers at Iowa and ISU have adequate funding and appropriate incentives to attack all aspects of that threat to public health?
Rastetter’s relationship to wealth is not particularly unique in the human species, but he’s definitely a believer. I’m also not sure that Rastetter ever worries about morally justifying anything. For him the ends justify the means, whether that leads to pig urine lagoons or a fraudulent presidential search at a billion dollar research university.
I do think this makes sense:
Rastetter does like belittling people, such that anyone who opposed the Harreld hire was accused of being for the “status quo” and against progress. (He would have been so good during the Cold War/Red Scare.)
As for which comes first, however, it’s money all the way.
I’ve noted in other posts that I think Robillard represents a tremendous liability for the campus, yet every time I turn around he’s being given even more power. Antibiotics are about to become a nightmarish problem around the globe in terms of human health, at the same time when new animal-borne diseases are showing an increased ability to leap to humans. I don’t see any good solution, and I don’t see any real preparation. Multiply the Zika virus by a thousand and that’s the scale of the threat, yet more and more we’re concentrating animals in confinement operations.
Unfortunately, more and more in Iowa those confinement operations include the regents’ college campuses, where students are being packed in tighter and tighter. Whether that translates into increased mental health issues, increased substance abuse, or the greater likelihood of disease transmission, it’s clear that nobody is willing to slow increased enrollment if it leaves money on the table.
Do not even walk near a livestock lot. The antibiotics are aerosolized. You breathe them in.
I thought Gov For Life Terry Branstad’s comments after Brexit illustrated the pervasive creep of Agribusiness think. He did not empathize with the chaos in UK society and Govt, nor acknowledge the financial problems engendered by that referendum. Nope he sees this as an opportunity to dump Iowa GMO corn somewhere.
Pardon me Mrs Lincoln, but we have a nice supply of fine burial suits for the president once you wipe the blood off….
It is interesting the UIowa’s heavy handed approach to Dubuque, kinda like ignoring Drake and DMACC in DM.
Kinda like VEEP Robillard exercising power to control all health care in Eastern Iowa..like making clinicians sign ‘no compete’ contracts as if any single physician is a threat to the evil UIHC empire. Or opening clinics everywhere oxygen is breathed.
Odds are the the Iowa Regents Univ System will have one President, and odds are his name will be Leath.
Campus provosts or chancellors will reign at the regional centers in Iowa City, Ames, and CF. Grand President Leath will rule from Des Moines with Grand Maester Rastetter ruling from Alden
It’s a Game of Academic Thrones — Win or Die.
Winter is Coming
One of the earliest signs that something was seriously amiss with the fraudulent hire of J. Bruce Harreld as president of the University of Iowa comes to us from an email sent by UI Law Professor Christina Bohannan, who, on 09/02/15 — the day before Harreld’s sham appointment was announced — was not only president of the Faculty Senate, but also a former member of the abruptly disbanded presidential search committee. From a 09/08/15 Press-Citizen story by Jeff Charis-Carlson:
Bohannan was not only right about the damage Harreld’s appointment would do to the relationship between UI faculty and the Board of Regents, she was also correct that Harreld had little to no support as a candidate. Bohannan went further than that, however, calling Harreld’s appointment a betrayal. From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, on 09/08/15:
On 09/09/16, the Faculty Senate followed through on a vote of no-confidence in the Iowa Board of Regents. Several weeks later, however, in late September, when the Faculty Assembly of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences voted to censure Harreld for falsifying his resume, the Faculty Senate was silent. The Faculty Senate was also silent a week later, when the Faculty Assembly called on the Board of Regents to resign.
Several weeks later, in mid-October, despite the fact that new information about Harreld’s fraudulent hire was still being disclosed in the press, and that there was clear evidence of a conspiracy, the Faculty Senate threw its lot in with Harreld:
In early November, on the weekend before taking office, J. Bruce Harreld gave interviews to the local press which not only obliterated his origin story as a candidate, but revealed multiple prior statements by his co-conspirators to have been lies as well. Only ten days later, however, Bohannan and the Faculty Senate again reiterated support for Harreld:
Flash forward seven months to the AAUP’s recent sanction of the University of Iowa, and the Faculty Senate — or at least its new president, Dr. Thomas Vaughn — again defended Harreld by issuing a terse statement which misstated the facts of the Harreld hire:
As noted in a recent post, the Faculty Senate’s statement is intentionally misleading, and even contains a legalistic term of art — “factual finding” — which is intended to convince the public that the university itself was blameless. In a follow-up letter, Faculty Senate President Vaughn went even further:
As a factual matter, J. Bruce Harreld was indeed a knowing participant in his own fraudulent election. As Faculty Senate President Vaughn also knows, or should know, and despite attempts by one rogue investigator to do otherwise, the AAUP rendered no official judgment on Harreld’s complicity. Add in the fact that both Harreld and Robillard refused to speak to the AAUP about any of the gross deviations from accepted norms during the search, and Vaughn’s statement is simply another attempt to whitewash the past.
Not only did J. Bruce Harreld abet his co-conspirators on multiple occasions prior to his appointment, but only moments after being appointed Harreld told a lie to the press, to the people of Iowa and to the university community in order to cover for the machinations of his co-conspirators. Included among the people who witnessed Harreld’s lie on that day, and who knew Harreld was lying, were Regents’ President Bruce Rastetter, and UI Vice President for Medical Affairs, search chair, and UI Interim President, Jean Robillard — the top-ranking administrator at the school at the time, whom Harreld would later also name Dean of the College of Medicine.
Now, today, on 06/28/16, in an article in the Chronicle for Higher Education by Peter Schmidt, we have this:
As a factual matter the University of Iowa is not only not blameless in the abuses of power perpetrated by the Iowa Board of Regents, the single highest ranking administrator on campus at the time — Jean Robillard — was a blatant, unrepentant traitor to the school. The fact that the school, the Faculty Senate, and even a duplicitous member of the AAUP have worked like dogs to keep Robillard’s name out of the abuses committed during the Harreld hire does not alter the fact that Robillard was central to those abuses.
More importantly, Christina Bohannan knows Robillard was involved. Not only was Robillard the chair of the search committee on which she sat, and not only was Robillard the interim president at the time of Harreld’s appointment, meaning he would have had regular contact with her in her role as president of the Faculty Senate, but it was Robillard who invited J. Bruce Harreld and Harreld’s wife to the Iowa campus on 07/08/15, to give a presentation to a bunch of UI movers and shakers including Christina Bohannan. From a piece by Eric Kelderman in the Chronicle of Higher Education, on 09/25/15:
Unbeknownst to Bohannan at the time, but disclosed in the press following Harreld’s sham appointment, was the fact that Harreld, Rastetter, Peter Matthes and Robillard all met for three or four hours several weeks earlier, in mid-June, to talk about Harreld’s candidacy. So not only were three of the people at the July 8 “VIP Lunch” fully aware that Harreld was considering and being considered for the presidency at Iowa, but those people then went out of their way to keep that prior meeting secret from Bohannan and Gardial.
From all of the above, then, this statement today by Christina Bohannan is not simply false, it is a lie:
Unless Christina Bohannan is so daft as to be unfit to teach on any college campus, she knows full well that Jean Robillard — the University of Iowa’s top administrator at the time, and the chair of the search committee — was not only party to Harreld’s fraudulent appointment, but central to the act of administrative betrayal which was ultimately perpetrated by Rastetter and the Iowa Board of Regents. It’s not one or the other which is guilty, but both, which the AAUP itself is also finally waking up to.
From the Schmidt piece in CHE:
There is no question that the administration of any campus involves a great deal of politics. There may have been good reasons for Bohannan to believe that throwing her lot in with Harreld and Robillard last fall was the right move, yet even the coldest of such calculations does not change the facts of what happened. It may also be that Bohannan has failed to notice how far she has drifted over the past ten moths, from her own prescient warning to the board when she realized what they were about to perpetrate against her and the other members of the faculty, to rank denialism in service of Harreld’s illegitimate rule.
Unfortunately, that’s what happens when you throw your lot in with people who have already proven that they will lie to your face. You become just another asset to be exploited, until one day words are coming out of your mouth in service of your tortured allegiance which you know to be untrue. And that’s on you.
As to what the University of Iowa can do to get off the AAUP’s sanction list, it can impress upon the Iowa Board of Regents that J. Bruce Harreld should be fired for cause, then either do the same for Jean Robillard, or convince Robillard that it is in his best interest to retire. What is not acceptable, and will never be acceptable, is lying to the university community under the paternalistic, self-serving and fantastically convenient guise of doing not what’s right, but what’s deemed best by a few people in positions of power. Because that’s exactly how the University of Iowa ended up being sanctioned by the AAUP in the first place.
IDK, anyone following government, or politics, or higher education has to be mortified.
There have always been liars and morons in these fields, but now we seem to be swimming in lying morons. CNN, online sources, and twitter appear to magnify these pustules of deception.
Internationally a lying nincompoop like Boris Johnson can BS the Brexis vote, then totally collapse when his deceptions usher in significant governmental destabilization.
Nationally, an obvious huckster, narcissistic fraud like Trump can simply lie 80% of the time, yet still become a candidate for president.
State-wise Terry Branstad and Steve King can repeat nonsensical bigoted crap, which apparently is believed by a majority of their constituents.
Thus, it is not surprising that Rastetter, Branstad, Leath, Robillard, maybe Bohannon can simply spout non-truths that exist in their own little deceptive reality.
No one will challenge them. We live in a world of rapid internet dissemination; only what is disseminated is slanted propaganda. No one seems to be able to fact check these charlatans. Or no one with power cares.
The university reflects the larger universe of a autocratic or plutocratic dystopic modern mess. Rail against it all we want, I don’t see it changing.
I laughed out loud the other day when CNN announced that they had signed Trump’s former field marshal, Corey Lewandowski, only hours after he got axed by the campaign. Why even pretend to be involved in journalism when you can sell out for money?
And you’re right about Rastetter, Branstad, Leath, Robillard, Bohannon (and Vaughn) and others. They just make up their own little reality, and anyone who wants to get paid off by those people has to play along.
As for changing things, I don’t see any institutional will at the Regents to be anything other that corrupt, but of course that originates with Branstad. That doesn’t mean small gains can’t be made, however, and in the case of Harreld there have already been positive evolutions on several fronts. The true levers of power are out of reach, but Harreld is the one who has to stand up in front of the state with a half-cooked omelette streaming down his face. And given his vanity and emotional neediness, that leaves room for negotiation.
I would like to know more about that mysterious email written by Bohannan sometime after the VIP lunch, and that was sent to Harreld, a regent, or someone (I forgot who at this point) and that was “accidentally” erased. Its curious how that was the one email never recovered.
I don’t think there’s a big mystery, though I tend to prove endlessly naive about such things.
Bohannan exchanged emails with Harreld after the “VIP Lunch”, and in talking about that exchange she later mentioned another email she no longer had. Here’s the gist:
You can also read more about email policy at UI here.
It’s possible that Bohannan at that point was already in league with Harreld and his co-conspirators, but I don’t think so. The reason I don’t think so is that all she had to do was keep her mouth shut about that other email and no one would have ever known. (Just as we don’t know about all the other emails and phone calls that Harreld exchanged with his co-conspirators during the search.)
The evolution of Bohannan from (relatively) honest broker at the moment when she realized that Rastetter, Robillard and the regents had set her and the other faculty up, to all-in apologist, is disappointing, but clearly Harreld did some panicked horse trading after he was appointed in order to find key allies on the faculty. I’m guessing said faculty probably didn’t know they would be left to take the heat for the AAUP’s sanction, while Harreld blubbered nonsense and Rastetter hid behind his media machine.
I am going to draw similarities between Boris Johnson and Bruce Rastetter.
Johnson the baffoon played his hand, looking for publicity and hero worship. Finally he was revealed as a vacuous liar, leaving a huge mess.
While some say Rastetter is simply a megalo-businessman, it looks like he craves power and attention too.
His fake 5 million dollar donation, his controlling his ag-summit (personally interviewing candidates), and his buffoonish presidential search, all indicate the Ras craves big power.
When he leaves there will likely be a large mess at the Regents school with this chaotic meddling. I hope not but i expect it.
As regular readers know, no objective has been more important to the co-conspirators behind the fraudulent appointment of J. Bruce Harreld as president of the University of Iowa than distancing Harreld himself — and by extension the school — from the stain of that fraud. As regular readers also know, that effort is now at the point of collapse. The two highest-ranking administrators currently employed at the University of Iowa were both in on the conspiracy, and both have profited as a result of Harreld’s sham hire. (J. Bruce Harreld is slated to make a minimum of $4,000,000 over the next five years. Jean Robillard, the former search chair, interim president, and current Vice President for Medical Affairs, was recently also named Dean of the College of Medicine — by J. Bruce Harreld.)
Following the recent sanction of the University of Iowa by the AAUP, the Board of Regents simply clammed up, hiding behind their consistent and patently false assertion that the search process was fair:
In a recent post it was suggested that the regents might use the upcoming presidential search at the University of Northern Iowa to try to reestablish credibility, and it now looks as if that may be the case:
As for Harreld, his protracted silence following the AAUP sanction was finally broken by what can only be described as rhetorical flatulence:
To be sure, stonewalling was not unexpected. What was unexpected was what happened next. Instead of simply letting the story die for lack of reportorial oxygen, Harreld grabbed a couple of highly placed faculty loyalists and used them as human shields. Those now-discredited faculty members are the current president of the Faculty Senate, Thomas Vaughn, and the past president of the Faculty Senate, Christina Bohannan, both of whom dutifully took one for the wrong team.
The key point about this inexplicable turn of events is that there is no external political or public relations context in which incinerating the credibility of Vaughn and Bohannan would produce any benefit to Harreld or the Board of Regents. In fact, almost no one outside the University of Iowa has any idea who Vaughn or Bohannan are, or what the Faculty Senate does, nor do they care. The only constituency to whom Vaughn and Bohannan are relevant is the faculty of the school itself, which means their parroted protestations about the school’s innocence were intended for internal consumption.
The firewall that the regents, Harreld and his supporters hoped to build, which would allow them to project Harreld as a legitimate president despite his co-conspirators’ abuses, has not simply failed, but Harreld’s response proves that the fetid taint of corruption is inside the school. In order to buy himself more time — meaning, specifically, until the upcoming regent meeting when Harreld hopes to be rewarded for his own loyalty with $20M in cash-grab tuition hikes, which he can then turn around and pass out to his loyal faculty supporters — Harreld did not simply stonewall, he threw whatever university assets he had at the AAUP sanction. The problem, of course, is that Harreld also consumed those assets in the process.
Whatever Harreld expects the Faculty Senate, or individual members of that body, to do for him in the future, most people do not enjoy standing in front of a fan that is dispersing manure. While it’s true that J. Bruce Harreld is employed by the corrupt Iowa Board of Regents, the very fact that he has taken shelter behind two faculty loyalists while the fertilizer is flying makes clear that his leadership is tenuous at best. As long as a majority of the faculty are willing to sit on their hands or look the other way, or even help him out on occasion, he will remain president. But as the AAUP sanction shows — and particularly Harreld’s interposing of the Faculty Senate in place of an official administrative response — the potential damage from allegiance with Harreld is no longer benign.
So, how many more saps are there among the University of Iowa faculty, who are willing to be used as human shields when Harreld once again decides he can’t take the heat or answer for his own complicity? Speaking of which, it’s not surprising that the president of the regents and the presidents of the state’s two largest universities would try to push egregious tuition hikes through during the summer. Why face a mob of angry students who know they’re being gashed if you don’t have to? Likewise, summer is the perfect time to co-opt the leadership of the Faculty Senate in the service of keeping Harreld afloat, because the members of that deliberative body are also widely dispersed. If Harreld can stall long enough to pilfer that $20M from the students and start passing it out — particularly to his loyal supporters — he might be able to survive another budget cycle.
On the other hand, the greater Faculty Senate may not be too happy about having been used while they were away. And on that point, members of the Faculty Senate, if not the greater faculty, may want to take a lesson from the students. On the entirely separate issue of the proposed tuition hikes, the student leadership noticed that their own brand-new, business-oriented president was trying to rip them off. In response, however, instead of taking his abuse lying down or making excuses for him, or blaming the board, they responded with a fair — and in my view, overly fair — counter-proposal.
Maybe the Faculty Senate leadership will be able to keep Robillard’s treason a secret when school is back in session,, even though it’s easily proven to anyone who spends five minutes looking into the matter. And maybe most of the faculty will never look into Harreld’s own complicity in his fraudulent hire. And perhaps the entire campus won’t ever realize that the school’s two highest-ranking Iowa administrators were both up to their righteously indignant eyeballs in the abuses purportedly perpetrated solely by the board.
Even if every break goes Harreld’s way, however, it only took the students a few months to realize that Harreld can’t be trusted to be an honest broker, or to look out for their best interests. Instead, when given half a chance, his first instinct was to rip them off on a pretext engineered by the board president. The question now, if you’re on the faculty, is when that same lesson is going to sink in given the overwhelming evidence already available to you — including the fact that Harreld just used your Faculty Senate to put forward a lie on his behalf.
The odds are that the campus is not going to remain perpetually ignorant of Harreld’s complicity, or of Robillard’s central, critical, treasonous role in the abuses of power which led to Harreld’s fraudulent hire. If that awareness does continue to grow, Harreld will need to consume more and more assets — including loyal faculty members — in order to remain in power. In that context, then, if Harreld comes to you seeking support, a prudent counter-proposal might be to suggest that Harreld resign before the spatter from his administration attaches itself to you. He certainly won’t take you up on the offer, of course, but if a majority of the faculty refuses to turn a blind eye to his complicity, let alone to take the heat for what he himself has done, it may occur to people with significantly more influence that Harreld might make a pretty good human shield himself.
In the context of the corporate university, the Regents search makes sense.
Corporations do not disclose candidates. Corporations do not poll their employees about whom the CEO should be.
Therefore the Regents needed to pretend their is faculty shared governance; there isn’t in the corporate model.
Does IBM allow ‘academic freedom’? To a small degree maybe, but generally not. A president like Harreld understands corporate think. Fits in well with the corporate university and the UIHC Inc.
It’s maximize profit; it’s favors to friendly firms (like Herman Miller; like Gartner’s presidential choice years ago who was a friend to BC/BS).
How much tuition can be marginally squeezed out of students and families? How many donations from alumni? How many fees from patients and insurance and Medicare?
No room for dissent. No tenure asked, none given.
In this milieu can you blame a Bohannon or a Vaughn for kissing up and kicking down? Job advancement.
What are the consequences of a corporate, no-dissent, buttoned-down college? Cut goofy idiosyncratic courses? Get rid of creative faculty, who tend to be eccentric? Cut off new ventures that do not deliver profit? Make $$$ No greater good in profit.
Seems fitting with the privatised world – prisons, health care, schools, VA, military support. Like sitting atop a low-bid rocket…just when will it all explode?
Do tuition hikes matter? Of course they do. The incorporation of American higher education can hurt alot of people.
This is the crux of a lot of what’s happening on campuses around the country, from the link you posted:
And of course to tie the article in with Iowa, Regents’ President Rastetter was early out of the gate backing NJ Governor Chris Christie for the presidency, which was a blight on both their reputations.
It’s orientation season on the University of Iowa campus. In that spirit, this post might also be seen as an Unofficial 2016 University of Iowa Orientation for new students, family and friends, and anyone else who is concerned that the corrupt leadership at UI is both exploiting the student body and leaving it unnecessarily exposed to obvious and serious threats. Which of course immediately brings us to J. Bruce Harreld, the fraudulently appointed president who was not only complicit in his own sham hire, but whose first act as president-elect was to lie to the press, the people of Iowa and the university community in order to cover for his co-conspirators. Because as hard as it may be to imagine — whether you are a new or returning student — not only is the illegitimate president of UI determined to rip you off financially, he’s being derelict in his most important duty, which is to keep you safe.
What makes those two egregious failings particularly astonishing, however, is that in justifying his decision-making Harreld invokes the same self-serving rationale in each instance, yet comes to completely different, equally self-serving and manifestly wrong conclusions about how to prioritize those issues. On the financial side, Harreld’s self-appointed rationale not only dictates that he commit the actual abuse, but that he must do so immediately, while on matters of student safety Harreld uses the exact same rationale to justify dragging his feet. Not surprisingly, Harreld does all of this in order to put his own self-aggrandizement ahead of his most basic responsibility as the university’s leader…but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
If you’re a new student at Iowa you may have heard a lot of strange stories about the university over the past year. Not only were there many reports in the press about the shocking abuses of power perpetrated by Bruce Rastetter, the president of the Iowa Board of Regents, in fraudulently appointing Harreld, but you may have heard that Harreld himself was censured by the faculty for errors on his resume even before taking office. You may also have heard that even though the university’s athletic director is facing multiple gender discrimination lawsuits and federal gender discrimination investigations, that after only two months on the job Harreld gave the AD a massive new extension and increase in pay. You may even have heard that one of Harreld’s key co-conspirators — UI administrator Jean Robillard, the former chair of the search committee, former interim president at the time of Harreld’s appointment, and current Vice President for Academic Affairs — was also allowed to name himself Dean of the College of Medicine after Harreld had only been in office for four months. And of course there were also stories about crony contracts, which Harreld responded to by promoting the individual responsible to Senior Adviser. All true.
The good news for the vast majority of students at Iowa is that all of those abuses of power, crony political affiliations and ethical failings will have no discernible impact on your education. That’s the kind of high-level administrative corruption that ends up destroying professional reputations and occasionally even putting people in jail, not the kind of corrosive institutional crud that leaches into the academic pipeline. Even assuming a worst-case scenario in which Harreld lasts for the remainder of his current contract, the many good people already in place at the school will buffer you from Harreld’s incompetence, impropriety and malfeasance.
The bad news is that there are two important ways in which J. Bruce Harreld’s failed leadership could negatively impact you as a student, and you may already have heard of one of them. After sitting on his hands for most of his first year in office, in early June Harreld suddenly introduced tuition hikes at least two-times greater than necessary to make up for the legislature’s supplemental funding shortfall. We’ll get to the math on that in a moment, but note that in keeping with everything else about Harreld’s presidency, this boondoggle was abetted by both the president of the regents and the governor, who did nothing to prevent the legislature from falling short of the minimum allocation which purportedly triggered the need for tuition hikes. (Even that was a scam, however, because Rastetter never actually committed to a hard number that the legislature had to reach, thus giving him the opportunity to force tuition hikes in almost any case.)
Setting aside the omnipresent stink of corruption leaching out of Harreld’s office, the facts of the proposed tuition hikes are not in dispute. Last fall, in yet another bit of trumped-up crony theater orchestrated by Rastetter, J. Bruce Harreld requested $4.5M in supplemental funding from the state. From last fall through early June Harreld did not budge from that number, until after the legislature delivered only $1.3M, leaving a supplemental shortfall of $3.2M. Harreld’s response to that shortfall was to propose cash-grab tuition hikes which exceeded the funding shortfall by twice or more.
Despite the blur of tuition numbers in the press over the past month, however, I could not find any breakdown, by school, of the proposed tuition hike totals. If the tuition hikes are approved by the regents a couple of weeks from now, the total supplemental revenue for all three state schools, including the $6.3 already allocated by the legislature, will be as high as $21.1M. Of that additional $14-$15M, it’s reasonable to assume — because Iowa’s proposed increases are the highest — that at least two fifths of that money will flow to UI, or, another $5.6 to $6M. Adding that to the $1.7M already allocated to the school, that will give Iowa between $7.3M and $7.7M in supplemental funding, or $2.8M to $3.2M over the original $4.5M request.
So what does Harreld plan to do with the additional $3M or so that he did not have the testicular fortitude to demand from the legislature? Well, not only does he intend to use it to retain and hire faculty, but as you may have noticed from his full-court press in the media, he has a particular fixation on hiring “world class” faculty. Yes, “world-class faculty” are better than, say, hemisphere-class or continent-class faculty, but it is impossible to hire “world-class faculty” into every position, to say nothing of convincing prospective “world-class” hires that they should work at a school led by a corrupt governing board and its illegitimate puppet president.
Now, as a prospective or current student the idea of having better faculty on campus probably sounds great — and of course it would be great if it happened in large numbers, instead of here and there or not at all. The problem with Harreld’s fixation on ‘faculty vitality’ as he calls it, meaning faculty compensation or pay, is that Harreld wants to spend money on faculty not to improve your education, but to game the school’s college ranking, which he has adopted as his own personal presidential ‘charge’. (Over a period of several months, Harreld actually manipulated the school’s ‘values’ until they validated that self-appointed goal.)
Had Harreld remained consistent in his supplemental request this post would now debate the merits of his overall plan. Because he effectively doubled the amount of extra money he is seeking, however — most or all of which he is still determined to throw at “world class faculty” — the more salient question is why Harreld gets to rip that money out of student pockets and spend it on whatever he wants. To their credit, the student leadership at the University of Iowa immediately countered with a more restrained tuition-hike that was still in excess of Harreld’s original $4.5M request. While the student’s counter-proposal of $200 across the board has drawn support from the governor, who is himself using the issue to paper over the fact that he did nothing to make sure the regents met the purported funding threshold that would have prevented tuition hikes in the first place, Rastetter has signaled support for the hikes.
Because of the inherent corruption of the Iowa Board of Regents — which Governor Branstad packed with political cronies over the years for just such occasions — it’s likely that much if not all of the proposed tuition hikes will be approved. That in turn means that if you are a student at the University of Iowa, J. Bruce Harreld will be taking money out of your pocket to pay for his fantasy of having “world-class faculty” to go with his world-class opinion of himself. While Harreld has shown no reluctance to taking money from students under false pretenses, however, he has at the same time gone out of his way to slow-walk improvements in student mental health services which should have been an immediate priority for two completely different reasons.
Torment Does Not Build Character
Going to college is fun and exciting. It’s also daunting and challenging. Leaving home for the first time, moving hundreds if not thousands of miles away, to say nothing of leaving all of the friends, family and familiar surroundings that bounded your consciousness for years if not decades, can be inherently destabilizing. Add in pressures related to peer activities, grades and finances, and what started out as a great liberating adventure can, in only a few months, turn into a toxic emotional experience bordering on torment.
None of that is surprising, of course. Particularly for students in their first year, it’s known that the changes and challenges can be difficult, which is why many schools make a full range of resources available to students who are struggling. Unfortunately, it’s also why some college administrators — including, most infamously, Simon Newman, the former president of Mount St. Mary’s College — target struggling students for dismissal, because quickly getting those students off the books also improves a school’s ranking.
While that’s a truly heinous approach to academic leadership, there is a broader but equally unsettling undercurrent in academia which says that a certain number of students — and particularly young students — simply won’t make it, whether that means dropping out or taking their own life. While such a jaundiced view is equally reprehensible, in the same way that many football coaches think of brain-damaged athletes as an inevitable byproduct of the sport they love to teach and only incidentally profit from, too many people in academia and society believe that the psychological if not psychiatric trials they themselves went through in college were, in retrospect, merely a rite of passage.
Even sexual assault, which is now at the forefront of American consciousness, was once assumed to be an almost inevitable part of the college experience:
Hard to imagine, right? Well, one big reason campus sexual assault is taken more seriously today than are mental health issues is because sexual assault involves a perpetrator. With mental health stresses on campus there’s clearly no crime being committed, but that unfortunately also leads to implicit victim blaming. Yes, students can make unhealthy choices, which in turn lead to or exacerbate mental health problems, but that’s no reason not to provide services to those students. More importantly, even if students make all the right choices, the pressures inherent in college will inevitably lead to mental health issues for some. (And of course we also know that some students arrive on campus with pre-existing diagnoses or undiagnosed predispositions, which the purported adults in the room should be prepared to respond to appropriately.)
Just as the University of Iowa recently addressed the problem of campus sexual assault by implementing former President Sally Mason’s six-point plan, the school can and should put proper and needed resources in place to help students who are struggling with mental health issues. More importantly, there aren’t many things you can do on a college campus that might actually save a life, so making sure students have timely access to mental health resources is an obvious administrative obligation. While struggle and even suicide on campus are endlessly romanticized in the arts (see The Paper Chase, or Dead Poets Society for but two examples), just as concussions don’t build character on the gridiron, academic torment does not build character in the classroom.
A Pattern of Failure
Unfortunately, J. Bruce Harreld’s approach to addressing problems with student mental health services fits a pattern of failure that he has established in less than one full year on the job. To be sure, Harreld loves talking a good game, but when it comes to prioritizing the apportionment of resources for the welfare and safety of students, Harreld’s high-level snobbery consistently puts students at risk. To be fair, that’s not solely Harreld’s fault, because although he fudged his resume in multiple ways, he was completely open about the fact that he had no prior experience in academic administration. Even to the extent that he himself abetted his own fraudulent hire, it’s ultimately not Harreld’s fault that a corrupt majority of the Iowa Board of Regents decided to hire a cultural imbecile to preside over the UI campus, when they had to know that doing so would necessarily put the student body at risk.
As noted on multiple prior occasions, the first indication that Harreld was in over his head occurred during his campus open forum, two days before his shocking appointment by the board. After deriding his predecessor’s six-point plan to combat campus sexual assault, Harreld pivoted to hard-line rhetoric right out of an action-movie satire: just say N-O to sexual assault. Proving that wasn’t a fluke, only days later he rolled out his own plan, which involved deputizing the football team to “do something”. Next up was the controversy over Harreld’s remark that someone should be shot — on a campus which had itself seen multiple handgun murders. Finally, there was the debacle with the interim director of public safety, whom Harreld deemed to be perfectly suitable even after it was reported that the interim director had had his own scrape with local law enforcement.
In each instance, the last thought on Harreld’s mind was how his decisions might negatively affect student safety. Fortunately, as we now know, Harreld changed course on all of the above. His moronic tough-guy talk and B-movie plan for combating campus sexual assault was quietly forgotten, in preference of completing and implementing Sally Mason’s six-point plan — though Harreld did attempt to save face by taking credit for the plan himself. The ‘shoot someone’ controversy was resolved when Harreld acknowledged that talking about killing people — even metaphorically — was probably a bad move for a university president, let alone one presiding over a school that had been visited by murder. Finally, two days after declaring that the interim director of public safety was the right man for the job, said man stepped down and a national search was initiated for a new director, which by all accounts resulted in an excellent hire.
As you can see, the idea that Harreld might have a hard time prioritizing mental health services over, say, fantasies of “world-class faculty” hires, shouldn’t really be surprising. Even if it’s not the part of the job that he cares about, however, as a factual matter J. Bruce Harreld’s most important responsibility is to keep everyone safe, and that includes young, impressionable students who are on their own for the first time. Which is why you would think — even ignoring Harreld’s mania for “world-class” everything and his mania for rankings — that the following tidbit of information, from a 05/01/16 report by the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, would have caught his attention:
Worst in the Big Ten. The good news is that more mental health hires are in the pipeline. The bad news is that Harreld’s reaction to Iowa’s bottom-of-the-barrel ranking was inexplicably tepid when contrasted with his pathological obsession for using student money to game the school’s national college rank. From an interview with Harreld conducted by the Daily Iowan, two weeks earlier:
While Harreld has committed to “dramatically” increasing the number of mental health staff available to students, he claims he can’t do so immediately because there aren’t enough “high quality” candidates available. In a previous post we detailed why that assertion is one of the most idiotic statements to ever come out of Harreld’s mouth, so we’ll bypass any lingering incredulity and simply point out that where Harreld posits a need for “world-class faculty” as justification for immediate and egregious tuition hikes, he then turns around and posits the need for “high quality” counselors as justification for dragging his heels on those hires.
Stop the Bleeding
What no one seems to be able to impress on J. Bruce Harreld is that waiting for “high quality” mental health staff might not actually be in the best interest of students who are stacked up like cord wood, waiting for help. It’s also not clear why Harreld can’t get “high quality” mental health hires out of the local community, or even from the UI College of Medicine, which cranks out scores of healthcare professionals every semester. (Unless of course Harreld does not believe that Jean Robillard’s UI med school grads are of sufficiently “high quality”.)
To see why Harreld’s fixation on quality is inappropriate, imagine you’re out taking a world-class stroll on a world-class trail, when you come across world-class J. Bruce Harreld, who has taken a world-class fall and is bleeding profusely from a ghastly world-class wound in his world-class leg. Springing into action you improvise a perfectly serviceable tourniquet and save J. Bruce Harreld’s life — or at least that’s what you intend to do when Harreld stops you and demands to know if your improvised tourniquet is “high quality”.
From your point of view Harreld’s question seems beside the point, which is to stop the bleeding before Harreld dies, yet for some reason that’s not Harreld’s most pressing concern. While we might all philosophically support J. Bruce Harreld’s right to bleed out if he didn’t feel comfortable availing himself of, say, an average tourniquet, it’s one thing to make such decisions for yourself, and quite another to impose your idiotic and embarrassing value system on others, particularly when lives are at stake. (Note that the actual solution here is not to allow Harreld to bleed out, but to wait until he lapses into unconsciousness, then save his life.)
Let’s now imagine the situation is reversed. You’re out walking and you gash your leg, but fortunately fate smiles on you and minutes later along comes J. Bruce Harreld, who also happens to be responsible for safety on that trail. Except when you ask him if he might fashion a tourniquet to stop the bleeding from your leg, and thus save your life, he informs you that he doesn’t have the materials on him to make a “high quality” tourniquet. Worse, he then tells you that even if he immediately orders everything he needs in order to make a “high quality” tourniquet, because of a seasonal backlog it will take weeks for all of the materials to arrive. It’s Harreld’s job to help you, but he’s not going to help you because the standard of care that he can provide would be below the standard of care that he demands.
As you might imagine, such a turn of events would be most distressing. The problem with Harreld’s snobbery, of course, is that sometimes you just need something to be effective, not “high quality” or “world class”. If Harreld wants to bleed out because he can’t find a “high quality” tourniquet, that’s on him. On the other hand, denying resources to others — particularly if they are in distress — because Harreld equates competence or effectiveness with failure, is a functional definition of insanity.
The Current Plan
Setting aside the “high quality” dodge, is there any other reason why Harreld hasn’t already hired all of the mental health professionals that everyone agrees are warranted and necessary? Well, apparently there’s some sort of funding hangup as well. Continuing from the DI interview:
Here again Harreld is saying all the right things. Money won’t be used as an excuse, the administration will press ahead and do what’s right for the institution, blah blah blah. Yet when you look at what’s actually happening, it’s all slow-motion and double-speak. “We’re a little off-cycle.” We will only hire people who are “high quality”.
As you might imagine, however, when they are not being tortured into double-speak by Harreld’s marketing demands, the people who actually provide mental health services to students at Iowa understand the need. From the earlier Gazette piece by Vanessa Miller:
So the current plan is to make eight new hires spread out over two years, which will shorten the two-to-three-week wait time. I don’t know how much effect those eight hires will have, but it’s obviously a good start. Except of course for the part about spreading the hires over two years.
As you probably know, going to college is not like working a day job. A two-to-three-week wait for any doctor visit is not enjoyable, but when you’re working nine-to-five you can probably bide your time. For college students, however, and particularly in the context of mental health, there are predictable points in each semester which are significantly more stressful than others.
From papers and projects to midterms and finals, college presents many predictable points of crisis. Unfortunately, it often increases pressure on every student on campus at the exact same time. At the beginning of the year new students may be worried about finding their classes and buying their books, but the semester is full of promise. By midterms, however, fear may be setting in if things aren’t going well, and looming finals may provoke unspeakable dread. Even if classwork is getting done and grades are satisfactory, the crush of work at the end of the semester may prove too much for some, at which point they may appropriately seek help — and the same predictable moment many other students are seeking helping.
Telling a nine-to-five employee that they have to wait two to three weeks just to be seen is one thing. Telling a college student two weeks away from finals that they won’t be able to get help until after finals is a recipe for disaster on all fronts. Again, it may all be inevitable in some sense, but that doesn’t mean we simply accept a few nervous breakdowns or suicides as normal or expected.
Prioritizing Resource Allocations
The good news is that your fellow students, including your student leaders, are aware of this problem. They have been begging for more mental health resources on your behalf, and when you have a moment you should let them know that their advocacy is appreciated. Unfortunately, J. Bruce Harreld has not only proven resistant to taking the aggressive action he should have taken as soon as he took office, but his pretext for slow-walking needed hires is truly nauseating when you consider the possible negative outcomes.
From a 02/16/16 report by the Gazette’s Erin Murphy:
So how big of a problem is this? From a 04/23/14 piece in the Daily Iowan, by Aleksandra Vujicic:
Today, 300 students is roughly 1% of total enrollment at Iowa. If 1% of the student body is attempting suicide, then the number contemplating suicide is greater, and the number of students dealing with acute or chronic depression or anxiety only grows from there. And yet somehow this is a problem that J. Bruce Harreld is dragging his heels about, perhaps because addressing it will do nothing to boost his precious national rank.
In reality, J. Bruce Harreld’s failure to prioritize student mental health services above the hiring of “world class faculty” should be grounds for dismissal. Why? Because if you take all of the “world-class faculty” that Harreld fantasizes about hiring, and sprinkle those hires with endless amounts of funding, you won’t keep anyone from dying. You may get a nice bump in your college rank, but while you’re basking in your ability to manipulate a data point on a third-party, for-profit scale designed only to perpetuate itself, real human beings will be hurting, and in their torment one of those human beings may make a choice that can’t be undone.
To make Harreld’s administrative dereliction of duty even clearer, we will now take note of the recent AAUP sanction against the University of Iowa, which sends a clear signal to any prospective hires that something is seriously amiss at the school. Whomever Harreld previously believed he was going to hire with the bounty from his proposed tuition hikes, those people will now either laugh in his face or come at a significant premium that will further reduce his available funds.
Too, while the majority of any school’s mental health contacts involve students who are collapsing in on themselves one way or the other, some students may be more inclined to act out, or to lash out at the school. While any correlation between mental illness and acts of violence has been refuted extensively in terms of statistical relevance, it is nonetheless to everyone’s advantage to make sure that individuals in a state of disequilibrium are screened for threats to themselves and others, and I think the new director of public safety would echo that sentiment. If someone is coming apart on campus, better to have a system in place which can identify that person as soon as possible, as opposed to telling them to chill for a couple of weeks so J. Bruce Harreld can make plaintive appeals to “world-class faculty” who want nothing to do with him.
A Compromise Emerges
From all of the above, and assuming you’re a normal human being, I don’t think there’s any question which problem you solve first. You improve the lagging state of mental health services at Iowa before you start worrying about the “world-class faculty” who are going to shoot you down because they know that you and your minders at the board are corrupt. Yet for some reason — as with campus sexual assault, and metaphorical gun violence, and the competence of the interim director of public safety — J. Bruce Harreld can’t get there on his own.
So how do we solve this problem? How do we help J. Bruce Harreld actually do the right thing, instead of doing whatever minimal thing he thinks he can get away with? From Murphy’s Gazette article, about mental health services at the regent schools:
If you’re not familiar with the Iowa Board of Regents, although Rachael Johnson is indeed the “student representative” on the board, in Iowa the position of ‘student regent’ is not advisory, it confers full voting membership. So when Johnson stressed the importance of meeting the full funding request in the context of campus mental health services, she was speaking not only as a student, but as one of nine regents.
Note also that the original regent funding splits only gave Iowa $4.5M out of $20M requested, while Harreld’s cash-grab hikes will bring the school considerably more. Even if the student-proposed compromise of $200 across the board is adopted, however, Iowa should still end up with more than its original $4.5M request when the $1.7M from the legislature is factored in. Given Regent Johnson’s comment above, it is also clear that she expects UI (and the other schools) to resolve their student mental health backlogs if full funding occurs, as it will under any of the proposed hikes.
From all that, then, a compromise emerges:
1) Harreld accepts the student-led, governor-backed, $200 across-the-board compromise. If Harreld balks, the proposed tuition hikes at Iowa should be voted down, leaving him with only his $1.7M supplemental appropriation from the state.
2) From the total that Iowa receives from the $200 hike, Harreld sets aside sufficient funding for hiring all eight new mental health professionals in the next four months, prior to November 15th, which is the beginning of the first pressure-packed, end-of-semester stretch for incoming freshmen.
Why would Harreld agree to that, when it means he’ll have a little less money to throw at fantasy hires of “world class faculty”? Because he ultimately has no choice. Quoting Harreld himself: “We’ll do…what’s right for the short-term and long-term interests of the institution.” Yes, based on his prior decision making it’s clear that those are just words to Harreld, but if the board — including Regent Johnson, who is also a student at UNI — puts that compromise on the table, I don’t know how Harreld balks.
An Important Lesson
If you are a new or current student at Iowa, remember that what you’re doing is hard. Some of your peers will be wired up in just the right way to make college look easy, but for the vast majority of students the pursuit of any college degree is a trial by fire — and particularly so given the age at which college is usually undertaken. If you can, keep your expectations in check, if not also those of others. If you get in trouble, ask for help early and often. If you fail at anything — a paper, a test, a class, a whole semester — take stock, then give it another shot, and another.
If you need to take a break for a semester, go ahead, but come back. If you need to take a year off, go ahead, but do come back. (You may be surprised at how easy things seem when you’re 20 or 22 as compared to 18.)
Along the way, don’t compare your own life journey to an unrealistic conception of success that is most often put forward by people who turn out to be frauds. In fact, many of the people who make college look easy do so by putting off any reckoning with who they are as individuals. They glide along the educational conveyor belt, they get dumped into a profession, and only later do they realize that they don’t like what they’re doing with their life — at which point the same crisis of confidence that hit you in your junior year may hit them, and with even more punch.
It may seem incredible that some of the highest-ranking administrators at the University of Iowa and at the Iowa Board of Regents are nothing more than two-bit liars, but that is another way that people perpetuate a veneer or success that you should not aspire to. No matter how much money they have, and no matter how many people think of them as wonderful, you don’t want to become one of those hollow souls.
Figuring out who you are and what you like to do — and, if you’re lucky, what you love to do — takes time, and commitment to that cause. Prioritize yourself. Do what you can to take care of yourself and each other, but if you or someone you know gets in trouble, ask for help. If you don’t know who to ask, send me an email via the contact page on this site and I’ll point you in the right direction.
And no matter how lost or angry you feel, don’t hurt yourself or anyone else.
In looking into the fraudulent appointment of J. Bruce Harreld as president of the University of Iowa, and consequently pulling back the curtain on the crony sleaze at the Iowa Board of Regents, we have, from time to time, crossed paths with Iowa State President Steven Leath. Leath’s association was first occasioned by a dinner he hosted for then-candidate Harreld on 07/30/15, after Harreld participated in improper meetings with four members of the board at Regents’ President Bruce Rastetter’s private place of business in Ames. (Those meetings, which were held at Rastetter’s SummitAg office, and which Rastetter personally arranged but purportedly did not attend, subsequently prompted a lawsuit alleging violations of the state’s open meetings law.
We don’t know much about the dinner that Harreld had with Leath, but we do know that even the most basic facts had a stink to them when news of the dinner finally broke last September. What was abundantly clear at the time, however, was that just as Harreld lied in order to cover for Rastetter (and Jean Robillard) only moments after his appointment, when the dinner with Harreld was disclosed Leath also went out of his way to alibi Rastetter:
In among his comments about the Harreld dinner, Leath also related some sage advice he had passed along to the prospective university president:
We next crossed Leath’s path last December, when it was disclosed that he had simply invented, then awarded, a six-figure job to retiring Republican House Speaker Kraig Paulsen. From a report by the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, on 12/13/15:
Leath again came to the fore more recently — along with UI’s Harreld — when he jumped at the chance to raise tuition at Iowa State. While Harreld’s proposed hikes are higher for many individual students , Leath’s proposed hikes are only a step behind, and are unique in targeting the much larger in-state population at ISU. From the Press-Citizen’s Jeff Charis-Carlson, on 05/31/16:
Having previously turned ISU into an undergraduate confinement operation in anticipation of a performance-based funding plan that eventually fell flat, Leath now hopes to generate as much revenue as possible by hitting his surplus of in-state students the hardest. Ironically, only a year earlier Leath was using those same resident students to justify the performance-based funding model:
While recently looking at the long game Bruce Rastetter is playing at the board, we also touched on Rastetter’s role in hiring Leath in 2011. In that two-part post — which exposed my own earlier naivete about Leath’s crony connections to Rastetter’s political machine — it was noted that at the same time that Sally Mason was being shoved out the door by the board, Leath was being rewarded with a new five-year contract, a raise three times greater than that of Mason or UNI’s recently resigned President William Rudd, and tenure.
Now, only three days ago, in two excellent stories by the Gazette’s Miller, we see more evidence that Leath has turned ISU into the unofficial state capital of corruption in higher-education. First, there was the revelation by Miller that Leath had approved yet another six-figure job for a retiring crony politician:
Next came the story of Kurtenbach’s overhaul of ISU’s IT services unit, and how staffers are being paid to do nothing while Kurtenbach privatizes that department:
For only two staff positions — neither of which was advertised — ISU President Steven Leath is blowing an annual $380,000+ in state funds on crony politicians. Adding insult to that injury for the people of Iowa, those crony politicians are the same pols who crippled higher education in the state by repeatedly cutting funding. Meaning not only is Leath wasting his own limited resources on those crony salaries, but in so doing he’s rewarding the very people who made it harder and harder for him to do his job since he’s been at ISU. And yet for some completely unfathomable reason, ISU President Steven Leath can’t stop giving those people jobs.
All of which brings us to yesterday’s story by the Des Moines Register’s Lee Rood, which details how ISU President Stephen Leath — who made more than $800,000 in 2015 — used one of Rastetter’s companies, Summit Farms, to buy property for himself and his family:
Well, if Steven “Crony Jobs” Leath says there was nothing improper about the transaction, then I’m sure there was nothing improper about the transaction. Except maybe this:
In an earlier post about the Harreld hire we took a very close look at the Regents Policy Manual, and particularly at concepts like fairness and integrity. As it turns out, Regents’ President Bruce Rastetter has no interest in fairness or integrity even when overseeing the board’s most important function, which is the selection of a new president for one of the state’s schools. Meaning it can probably fairly be assumed that Rastetter also does not care about conflicts of interest or the appearance of impropriety when brokering a land deal for Steven Leath.
The particulars of the Rastetter-Leath property transfer are straightforward and public:
For some reason, however, when initially contacted by Rood, ISU President Steven Leath had a mini-meltdown:
Later, however, Leath recovered sufficiently to fill in a few details about his property search and purchase:
Whether or not Leath profited financially by buying land from SummitAg at below market value is a good question, but it’s also one of the least interesting aspects of the transaction. Much more interesting is this:
If Bruce Rastetter and Steven Leath have become close personal friends over the past five years or so, what with ISU and SmmitAg both doing business in Ames, and at times even doing business with each other — to say nothing of Rastetter and Leath working hand in hand to find cushy jobs for former politicians — there’s obviously nothing wrong with Rastetter taking precious time out of his high-pressure job as president of the Iowa Board of Regents to chauffeur Leath and his wife around Hardin County. On the other hand, if Rastetter’s company then went out and bought the exact parcel of land that the Leaths wanted to own, then surveyed and subdivided that land for the Leaths, then sold only the part of the land that the Leaths wanted — and the Leaths paid no fees to SummitAg for doing all of that work — then someone needs to ask some serious questions about why Rastetter’s company was allowed to cover all of those costs for the Leaths.
As for Peterson’s claim that Rastetter “was not involved in the transaction”, Rastetter not only drove the Leaths around to help them find the property they wanted, but as CEO of SummitAg he authorized and absorbed the cost of purchasing, surveying and subdividing the land before it was sold to the Leaths. And incredibly, SummitAg’s Peterson acknowledges all of that:
Simpler, and also cheaper. While the Gazette report says that “Summit Farms located a potential property”, it can be inferred that it was a “potential property” because the Leaths had not yet given their approval — meaning it was the Leaths and not Summit Farms directing the purchase. Given that the Leaths make a ton of money themselves, the main advantage of the involvement of Summit Farms was that the Leaths did not have to hold on to the remaining parcels until they could be sold — which is yet another favor-with-a-cost that Rastetter’s Summit Farms did for the Leaths. (If you’re wondering why Peterson was so eager to impress upon the Register that “no fees were paid to Summit Agricultural Group”, that’s because those fees could conceivably imply that Rastetter and/or SummitAg was acting as a real estate agent, without a license.)
The impropriety in this crony transaction is clear. Yet for all of the above, and all of the questions that need to be asked following Rood’s report, the real eye opener is Leath’s defensive response to the Register’s inquiry. Here again is the advice that Leath gave to J. Bruce Harreld eleven and a half months ago:
And here again is Leath’s initial response when contacted by the Register about his crony land deal with Rastetter:
From the advice that Leath gave Harreld, it’s clear Leath understands that his job as a university president is not simply governmental, but prominent and public-facing. So whining about his “personal life” when his “personal life” includes gratis business services from the person who writes his checks is more than a little disingenuous. Which of course brings us to Leath’s advice about having thick skin, and about being open, honest and transparent. While it might be frustrating to have people second guess you, particularly if they only know half the facts, when you’re contacted by a reporter who works for the state’s largest newspaper, who is specifically trying to understand the facts behind a publicly recorded real estate transaction, you don’t get to hide behind your family. Instead, you get to earn a chunk of your $800,0000 in annual compensation by doing your job, which includes answering that reporter’s questions openly, honestly and transparently.
Finally, regarding the implicit claim that answering Rood’s questions somehow kept Leath from “running the university”, if Leath needs more minutes in each day to do his job, he might consider dispensing with the hiring of crony politicians, or with the rigging of gimmicks like performance-based-funding in order to pilfer funds from UI, or with any other assorted administrative distraction that has nothing to do with “running the university”. In fact, tally up all the time that Rastetter and Summit Farms saved Leath on his land purchase and he should have enough time in the bank from this one cozy little crony transaction to grant interviews to any members of the press or the state legislature who call him on Monday morning.
I don’t think it’s an accident that this crony transaction involved dreams of a country estate after retirement, or that when questioned about the deal Leath’s first instinct was to hide behind his family. In fact, I think it’s a sign that Leath has already checked out of his job. It’s also not an accident that Leath turned to the ever-servile Rastetter to take care of him and his family, in the same way that Leath is making life easier for Rastetter’s crony political pals by putting them on the ISU payroll. Whether Leath himself can connect those dots or not, and whether his failed judgment takes him down or he manages to save face and hang on through the end of his contract, I think this is the beginning of the end of Steven Leath’s presidency at ISU. What this all means for Rastetter is another question.
Update 07/11/16: I don’t know anything about tax law, but it occurred to me that in buying a significantly smaller parcel of land from Rastetter, that the Leaths must have paid less in state and local taxes compared with what they would have owed if they had purchased the entire original parcel. The Iowa Department of Revenue and the IRS may ultimately have received the same amount of money in either case, but it’s possible that the transaction was structured in order to shelter the Leaths from the higher taxes due on the full plot of land. (Effectively, Rastetter/Summit Farms paid those taxes for the Leaths by purchasing the larger plot for them.) Whether structuring a real estate transaction in that way is a state or federal crime I do not know.
Uh, hang the **** on. “Timber land for recreational purposes”? You may want to check into whether Iowa has any sort of conservation-for-cash arrangements by which people can place a covenant on land, reserving it for conservation, and then sell the conserved land to the state for a fat lot of money. They do this in other states and it’s a fine way of walking away from unproductive land. People get millions that way.
Yes, good point.
It seems to me that the Leaths would more likely fall in love with better scenery & hunting area in North Carolina or Colorado than this particular patch of Hardin County Heaven.
If a landing strip for a private plane isn’t built on the property, I would expect this to be a shorter term investment acquisition.
Yesterday Ryan Foley of the AP reported that the Iowa Board of Regents would not be investigating the crony land deal between Regents’ President Bruce Rastetter and Iowa State President Steven Leath. The board’s rationale for refusing to look into the transaction was that the deal was a “private business transaction”. The fact that both men are government employees of the state of Iowa, have an intimate working relationship, and that Rastetter is Leath’s direct superior, was apparently deemed irrelevant.
This decision by the regents is interesting for two completely different reasons. First, given the obvious conflict of interest in undertaking such an investigation, to say nothing of the omnipresent crony sleaze already in evidence at the board, I have not actually seen anyone publicly call for the board itself to investigate Rastetter or Leath. Second, it’s entirely possible for a deal between two or more people to be both a “private business transaction” and improper, unethical or even against the law. For example, the sale of illegal narcotics often takes place in what could accurately be described as “private business transactions”, yet that fact probably proves of little value in court.
Given that Rastetter engineered the hijacking of the presidency of the University of Iowa at taxpayer expense almost exactly one year ago, I don’t think anyone expects the body he presides over — which now seems to function as much as an appendage of Rastetter’s company, SummitAg, as a governmental board — to be particularly interested in investigating his business practices. Rather, I think people who are concerned about this deal, if not also about the apparently unending malevolent ooze emanating from the board, hope that those who are responsible for providing governmental oversight of the board, or who are empowered to investigate potentially illegal “private business transactions” by government officials, will look into the matter.
As to the actual value of the land, Foley’s story contains a new set of numbers, and more details on how the deal was structured. As noted in the initial Ditchwalk post about the Rastetter-Leath crony land deal, however, the cost-per-acre of the transaction — and, consequently, whether the Leaths profited financially on that basis — remains the least interesting aspect of the story. Much more interesting is the fact that Leath directed the purchase through Rastetter’s private company, which the original Register story by Lee Rood reported, and Foley’s story now confirms:
The key phrase above is “potential property”, meaning Summit was acting at the direction of the Leaths. That is confirmed by the first sentence in the above quote, in which Summit President Peterson says the Leaths “approached the company”. In response to the Leaths’ interest, Rastetter’s company then decided to shell out over a million dollars for the property the Leaths wanted, to survey and subdivide the land, then to sell to the Leaths only the acres they wanted, retaining the remaining acres.
As for Rastetter himself, Foley also confirms Rood’s reporting that Rastetter personally escorted the Leaths around Hardin County in order to familiarize them with the area, meaning Rastetter knew the Leaths were in the market for land. Foley’s story also confirms Rood’s report, however — according to Summit Farms President Peterson — that Rastetter “wasn’t involved in the sale,” or, from Rood’s report, that Rastetter “wasn’t involved in the transaction”.
As to what Rastetter has to say for himself, he is currently using the regents’ taxpayer funded mouthpiece to cover for him at the board office, and using his employee at Summit Farms to cover for him there. Yet even though Rastetter has not said anything on the record himself, his story as related by others is simply not believable. To see why, here are the facts as established by both Rood and Foley:
1) The Leaths wanted to purchase some land.
2) On that basis, Rastetter gave the Leaths a tour of Hardin County.
3) Summit Farms — a subsidiary of Rastetter’s company, SummitAG, of which Rastetter is CEO — located a “potential property” for the Leaths, which the Leaths approved.
4) Summit Farms purchased that property for the Leaths at a cost of over a million dollars, surveyed and subdivided the land, then sold only those acres to the Leaths that they wanted to acquire.
5) As reported by Foley, Summit and the Leaths “split the closing costs, including fees for the land survey and related legal work” associated with subdividing the land. By using Summit Farms to make the purchase, then, the Leaths saved themselves at least 50% on those same costs compared with making the purchase on their own, to say nothing of the burden of having to either carry or dispose of the acres they did not want.
6) As specifically regards SummitAg CEO Rastetter, however — who knew the Leaths were looking for property prior to any involvement by Summit Farms — Rastetter was reportedly “not involved in the sale/transaction”.
Consider now the timeline of events. We know Rastetter gave the Leaths a tour of Hardin County at some point, and that he did so specifically because the Leaths were interested in buying property. Whenever that tour took place, then, from that moment on we can assume that Rastetter knew the Leaths were in the market for land. We also know that Summit Farms subsequently presented the Leaths with a “potential property” in Hardin County, and that after the Leaths approved the purchase of that parcel it was purchased by Summit Farms sometime in November. Two months later, in January of 2016, after the parcel had been surveyed and subdivided, the Leaths used an LLC which they had created in November to purchase the acres they wanted, leaving Summit Farms with ownership of the remaining land.
From all of that, the latest Rastetter could have given the Leaths a tour of Hardin County would have been just before Summit Farms purchased the land in November. It is reasonable to assume, however, that some time actually passed between Rastetter’s guided tour, Summit Farms’ subsequent identification of a “potential property”, and the Leath’s instruction to Summit Farms to purchase that property. Taken altogether, even a conservative timeline would suggest that several weeks passed between Rastetter’s tour and the Summit Farms purchase, with a month or more being likely. Meaning even if the actual purchase occurred on the last day of November, it’s likely that Rastetter knew the Leath’s were in the market for property sometime in October at the latest.
Now, here’s what needs to have happened for Rastetter not to have been “involved” in the “transaction” (Rood) or “sale” (Foley). First, after Rastetter gives the Leaths a tour of Hardin County, he must avoid mentioning the Leath’s interest in acquiring property to anyone at SummitAg or Summit Farms. Then, the Leaths have to independently approach Summit Farms about finding land for them, without telling Rastetter they are doing so, and without anyone at Summit Farms communicating the Leath’s interest to Rastetter.
Rastetter’s obliviousness not only needs to hold true prior to the identification of a “potential property”, it needs to remain in force throughout the purchase, surveying and subdividing of the property, until the final sale to the Leaths sometime in January. For a minimum of several months, then, if not longer, while the Leaths direct the purchase of land through one of Rastetter’s companies, Rastetter is asserting — through one of his employees — that he knew nothing of that deal, even though he knew that the Leaths were looking for land. Meaning not once in all that time, during all of the telephonic and in-person conversations that Rastetter and Leath necessarily had given their roles at the board and at ISU respectively, did Rastetter ever inquire as to whether the Leaths had found any property that they liked, and not once during all that time did Leath ever ask Rastetter how the million-dollar land deal that Leath initiated was progressing at Summit Farms.
If Rastetter and Leath talked even once about the Summit Farms deal after their vehicular survey of Hardin County, then any claim by Bruce Rastetter or anyone acting on his behalf that he was not “involved” in the deal is a lie. As to how that lie might be exposed, I think the answer is straightforward. First, get Rastetter’s personal account of the land deal on the record, which he has so far avoided giving. Next, talk to Steven Leath, Leath’s wife, Peterson at Summit Farms, and anyone else who may have had knowledge of the deal, to see whether any contact about the deal can be established between Rastetter and Leath. It is possible that everyone will tell a consistent story in which Rastetter gave the Leaths a tour, then remained oblivious to the million-dollar purchase his own company made on the Leath’s behalf, but given even a cursory investigation it’s unlikely that such a story would hold up for long.
For the time being, since Bruce Rastetter seems to be incommunicado, someone could also ask Steven Leath, on the record, whether he ever talked with Rastetter about the land he was buying through Rastetter’s own company. Because unless Leath is willing to state categorically that he never talked to Rastetter about the “potential property”, about directing the purchase by Summit Farms, or about his eventual purchase from Summit Farms, then we already know Rastetter is lying. Of course if Leath does step up and alibi Rastetter again — the first time being the impetus for the dinner Leath hosted for candidate Harreld on 07/30/15 — and it subsequently turns out that Leath did talk to Rastetter about the land deal as it was progressing, then they’re both toast.
As to the specifics of the deal, while the cost-per-acre needs to be verified to make sure the Leaths did not profit financially from that aspect of the transaction, it’s clear from facts already established that directing the purchase through Summit Farms — as opposed to making the purchase themselves — saved the Leaths money. Specifically, Foley’s AP report states that the Leaths and Summit Farms “split the closing costs, including fees for the land survey and related legal work,” meaning the Leaths saved 50% on those costs compared with what they would have paid had they made the purchase themselves.
It’s also worth noting that it would have been proper to share the associated costs on a prorated basis rather than a fifty-fifty split. To see why, here are the most recent numbers, from Foley’s report:
The original plot was 215 acres of mixed farmland and timber. Of that total, 145 acres of both farmland (56 acres) and timber (89 acres) was conveyed to the Leaths, meaning Summit retained 70 acres. From the Rood report in the Register, we also know that Summit Farms “wanted to buy a portion of the tillable acreage”, so we can assume that the 70 acres Summit Farms retained were farmland and not timber. Meaning of the original 215-acre plot, 126 acres were tillable, and 89 acres were in timber.
Multiplying the dollar values for farmland and timber from Foley’s report by those acre totals, we get:
While the Leaths paid 50% of the costs of the deal, they acquired 54% of the value of the property, meaning they actually saved an additional 4% on the transaction costs. And of course nowhere is there any accounting for the hours Summit Farms employees put into the purchase, which would also have a dollar value. Instead, because Summit Farms President Peterson stated that “no fees were paid to Summit Agricultural Group by Steve and Janet Leath”, we know that Summit also ate those costs for the Leaths. Finally, by directing the purchase through Summit Farms instead of making the entire $1.16M purchase themselves, the Leaths also avoided paying state or federal taxes on the land they did not want to retain.
(It’s reasonable to assume that when Summit Farms made the original $1.16M purchase, that Summit paid all applicable state and federal taxes. It’s also reasonable to assume that the Leaths paid taxes on the 54% valuation of the tract that they purchased from Summit. Whether Summit was able to use the taxes paid by the Leaths to decrease their own taxes is unknown, but if not, that means Summit Farms voluntarily assumed 100% of the taxes on the entire purchase, but did not recover those costs when selling a 54% stake in the land to the Leaths.)
As to whether the Rastetter-Leath land deal was improper or unethical, that can be answered by ascertaining whether Summit Farms or SummitAg ever offered such services to anyone else prior to the Leath transaction, and whether they will continue to offer such transactions to others who might like to use Summit to avoid paying 50% of the costs of buying, surveying, subdividing and acquiring only specific acres in a larger plot, without also then having to dispose of the remaining acres. Because unless that’s a business SummitAg is in, or plans to be in for the foreseeable future, it can safely be assumed that the entire transaction was done simply as a favor to the Leaths. At which point it can also safely be assumed that Rastetter himself was not simply aware of the transaction, but that Rastetter personally approved the original $1.16M purchase in order to then sell 145 of those acres to the Leaths.
Which brings us to the crux of the problem for Bruce Rastetter, and by extension the state of Iowa. If the president of the Iowa Board of Regents believes there was nothing wrong with the “private business transaction” that his company brokered for his subordinate, Steven Leath, then why is Rastetter refusing to talk about that deal? If the reason he’s refusing to talk is that his subordinate at Summit Farms, Eric Peterson, is lying about Rastetter’s involvement, shouldn’t that be known? And if it is the case that Rastetter — through a proxy — has lied to the press and the people of Iowa about his knowledge of the deal, why is he still president of the board that governs higher education in the state? Or is the only remaining disqualifying criteria for that job an actual criminal conviction?
Update 07/13/16: One of the things I constantly marvel at regarding the crony sleaze at the Iowa Board of Regents is just how good all these people are at working the angles. For example, when you read that Rastetter and Leath split the costs associated with the purchase, that sounds reasonable. When you do the math and find out that Leath skated on 4% of the costs that he should have covered, you think maybe that’s not a huge deal. And yet all the while, staring you in the face, is the fact that Rastetter’s company took no fees for brokering the deal.
What that means is that it’s entirely possible that the total fees to the Leaths were considerably less than they would have been if they had brokered the deal themselves, because Rastetter’s company ate those associated costs. Instead of hiring professionals who would have included billable hours in their professional services, Leath was able to ‘hire’ Rastetter’s company — Summit Farms — to work for him for free. After which he paid half of the applicable and lesser costs.
This as well as most of the cronyism that you have documented is all perfectly understandable if and only if you accept the implicit premises of plutocracy; wealth equals virtue and poverty equals degeneracy. The attitude of Rastetter and Leath in response to obvious corruption confirms their belief that all objections are mere trifles that are motivated by envy and spite and they deserve to be ignored because they originate from people who do not understand the virtue implicit in wealth. They can do no wrong that money cannot absolve.
Malfeasance. Corruption. Violation of the public trust.
I have no idea where the watchdogs of responsibility, ethics, & public interest now sleep.
AG Tom Miller is Rip Van Winkle
The legislature is uninterested.
Iowa government and leadership is perverse. Sad.
Iowa congressman Steve King waves a confederate flag on his desk. Does he not understand Iowans died bringing down that flag?
Does Iowa BOR Obergruppenführer Rastetter understand he is a corrupt, unethical, malfaisant money-grubbing plutocrat?
I believe both the above know they are sleaze-bags, but they love their dog whistle politics and their greasy slimey financial deals.
The state seal should feature a weasel.
More plausible than anything else:
Rastetter has a Summit goon call Leath and tell him that he’s going to be buying some land, and that this is how it will work, and that his bonus for helping out the boss will be $X and various other favors.
Leath does as told and lets Rastetter’s company buy land for him, then accepts holding it in his own name, and takes the first part of his fee.
Summit will work some deal involving flipping the land, either as conservation or to someone else who’ll pay serious money for it (what’s in/under there, anyway? Anyone spotted a fracking survey team?), and Leath will take and hold the money, which will be channeled back to Summmit/Rastetter in due time, except for Leath’s cut and/or favors.
In other words, looks like a front of some kind to me. I’d look for whatever kind of transaction Bruce/Summit isn’t allowed to participate in, something where there’s some benefit to Leath being the transactor instead of him.
There are so many possible angles to this deal, and the story is blowing up so fast, that I keep having to stand back just to keep it in perspective.
I agree that what really stands out is the fact that they did this deal together at all. Leath and his wife could have just hired a real estate agent, paid a lawyer to handle the paperwork, paid for the survey, etc., but they didn’t. Instead, they went to a company not known for being a developer and had that company do all the work on their behalf — apparently at no direct cost.
In that context almost any of the proposed scenarios above make sense, because the key missing ingredient is the motivation to go down that road in the first place. Are the Leaths just cheap, the way plenty of wealthy people are always looking for a way to save money, or is there a longer game in play?
It’s promising that the legislature is starting to wake up to the abuses at the BoR, and that the Register came out with such a strong editorial, so I’m hopeful we’ll get answers. The fact that the Leaths felt obligated to defend themselves says a lot, and when push comes to shove I don’t believe their interests will be sufficiently aligned with Rastetter’s to fall on a sword for him.
Updated: As noted in an update to the most recent post, the simplest answer is actually provided by Leath himself, in a stunning admission from his LTE:
My assumption all along was that a guy like Leath pulling down a high-six-figure income would either have the money in the bank or easily be able to secure a loan, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. The problem for Leath, however, is that in acknowledging that he didn’t have the money, that means Rastetter actually became his banker, and Rastetter is the only reason he was able to buy his now-beloved property.
Well, I think that’s bull****. It’s a nice front reason for why Summit had to buy the land, but I don’t think it was Leath’s idea in the first place. Notice how careful they are to get that out in front, who went to whom. As if someone had asked that specific question.
I’m quite sure that if the land had been for sale and Leath had been the actual interested buyer, Leath and the landowner would’ve arranged for a survey and they’d have figured out who would pay for the survey and the abstracts, and no daddy would’ve been necessary. He’s got plenty of money and I’m sure he and his lawyer could’ve handled it.
I have no problem believing that there’s more to the story. In terms of the story that Leath has told, however, he’s out of options. In a week he’s gone from an indignant “It’s none of your business!” to patiently explaining that there’s no possible crime or ethics violation because all he did was ask his boss to buy a million-dollar property for him that he couldn’t buy himself.
I’m also curious about the timeline in his new story, where he had to suddenly act within a week. What’s not clear is whether he got blanket clearance from his crack legal team before that, or whether he got legal advice during that critical week. In any case, I’m pretty sure he didn’t explain that SummitAg would be buying the property on his behalf, and that he would be paying exactly nothing for the use of that money over several months. (The worst lawyer in the world would have nixed that.)
In a LTE, Suku Radia (CEO of Banker’s Trust), Randy Hertz (CEO Hertz Farms) and Dean Hunziker (some broker) express their sincere heartfelt outrage at the thought the president of a public university would manipulate the finances of a farmlandgrab, using a firm his college does business with, and a firm where the CEO evaluates him, sets his dalary, and supports his school.
Does anyone with PR experience advise these people?
This not only is the exact wrong thing to do, but it furthers suspicions. More smoke to cover this fire.
Likely Radia, Hertz, and Hunziker are involved in shady deals with Leath and ISU. Why else to rush to defend an indefensible action. Scared — Skeered.
As if business leaders understand academic or public service ethics. Really!
Just wondering, does the ISU B-School teach business ethics?
I ran across that LTE earlier today. As a rule I haven’t commented when private citizens pipe up about events at the board or at UI, because everybody has a right to their opinion. I was shocked, however, that instead of simply saying that Leath was a great guy, they went so far as to assert that such transactions are normal.
No, there’s nothing normal about getting a freebie seven-figure loan from your boss when you can’t afford to buy your wife the property she somehow fell in love with in less than a week.
Honestly, I don’t know if Leath asked them to speak up for him, or if it’s one of those clubby things that business people just seem to do reflexively, but the lack of awareness was unnerving given the professional standing of those who were speaking on Leath’s behalf
I have to hope that they’re simply unaware of the actual facts, because the alternative is too alarming.
There just isn’t something right here. You see ‘well connected’ businessmen jump to defense this quickly?
Sure Hertz was named as looking for land for Leath. And the fellow from Banker trust must have given Leath a loan. But this fast? Something is rotten in Denmark (or Hardin).
1. Why set up a holding company obviously for the express reason of hiding this purchase
2. And why at first deny the purchase, then become indignant, and then call in your buddies to defend you?
Seems Leath really does know this is unethical, and maybe by calling it OK long enough and loud enough he believes he can sanitize it.
Isn’t Leath supposed to be working hard for ISU? Where does he get the time to manage Xmas trees? Or hoe 145 acres?
There is something else going on here. And I bet the farmer who blew the whistle knows it…
Good work everyone on this story. The story is remarkable in the machinations involved so the Leaths become Iowa farm-lords.
Has anyone seen such an incriminating LTE as from Leath? He admits he ‘used’ (was gifted) the services of his supervisor’s company to
– identify land
– buy land at auction
– survey then divide property
– thus allowing Leath to finance land he admits he could not afford
His supervisor’s corporation!!!! And both are ‘pubic officials’.
1. ISU and Summit Ag have had clear business deals. Loans, research deals, land grabs.
So the CEO of ISU is given a sweetheart deal from a company his college does business with. From this angle = bribe! Pure and simple bribe.
2. Leath knows something is amiss. Why else form SLS Holding? It is obviously to hide the land deal from prying eyes (which it did until someone with information blew the whistle to the DMR)
3. Wonder what arms were twisted to get that land on the market? I would bet Bruce Rastetter and Summit own Hardin CO. I bet Rastetter and his lawyers do what ever they want up there. Like hide inside deals. The previous owner was named Baker. Bakers still have land there. https://beacon.schneidercorp.com/Application.aspx?AppID=140&LayerID=1772&PageTypeID=1&PageID=932&KeyValue=882002300003
This orphan plot is far from Summit’s other land. What does someone know??
4. The ‘private business deal’ is sooooo corrupt. Again, ignore the Rastetter-Leath relationship. Consider the Leath, CEO of ISU, getting clear benefits from a company with whom his college does business. That is not a private deal, that is the very essence of bribing a public official. I would guess the SLS Holding does not change the issue of bribery.
(eg, did Jean Robillard receive new Howard Miller furniture in his house from at a discount from Mary Andringa?)
Have these people never heard of Whitewater?
I had the same exact thought about the Herman-Miller furniture! 🙂
I think at some point people of privilege just start thinking of their privilege as normal. Why shouldn’t I be able to borrow a million dollars, interest-free, from my boss? What’s wrong with that? And who cares about the Gift Law, and such restrictions?
I don’t see any way out of this for Leath except to try to get ahead of the oncoming investigation and admit that he blew it. And even then I don’t think that should put an end to legislative review, if not a criminal investigation.
Most telling of all, however, is the fact that Rastetter hasn’t said a peep about this himself. Like Harreld after the AAUP sanction, he’s sending others out to cover his ass, and it’s not working.
As you may or may not have noticed, Iowa State President Steven Leath and his wife, Janet, published a letter-to-the-editor (LTE) in the Des Moines Register last night. That LTE was posted online at 9:58 p.m. CDT, July 13, 2016, and in it the Leaths personally assured the people of Iowa that there was no possible conflict of interest in their land deal with Regents’ President Bruce Rastetter. Ten minutes later, in an editorial posted online at 10:08 p.m., the DMR opened a can of whoop-ass on the Leaths, calling their claims “absurd”.
As noted in prior posts (see here, and here), one of the most interesting quotes in the Rastetter-Leath land deal comes from Summit Agricultural Group President Eric Peterson:
As pointed out in the prior posts on this issue, it is not possible that Summit Farms did no work in brokering the land deal for the Leaths, which means whatever work Summit Farms performed was done for free. As was pointed out to me in a subsequent email, however, another way to phrase that would be to say that Summit Farms gifted their services to Leaths. In that specific context, it is also now possible to make better sense of the second most interesting claim in the entire land deal, which was also made by Peterson:
As it turns out — and I was only dully aware of this — there is a Gift Law in Iowa which sets out who can and cannot give gifts to whom. And although I am not an attorney, the statute seems pretty unambiguous:
Okay, so who is a restricted donor? From the same link:
Again, I’m not a lawyer, but from prior posts and reports in the press it should be clear that Bruce Rastetter, who is both president of the Iowa Board of Regents and CEO of Summit Agricultural Group, has not only done business with Iowa State before, but may also be doing so at the moment or have plans to do so in the future. For example, in 2011 Summit Farms took out half a million dollars in no-interest loans from Iowa State. Likewise, as Bleeding Heartland noted in a recent post about the Rastetter-Leath land deal, Summit Farms was also involved in a 2011 research project with ISU.
So what about current or pending business between Rastetter in his role as CEO of SummitAg, and Iowa State? Well, there’s this, as reported by the DMR at the end of May:
So does that represent a potential conflict of interest? Well, the most authoritative source on that matter would seem to be Rastetter’s current conflict-of-interest disclosure statement, as signed by Rastetter himself:
One of the many problems with running a government agency like a business, or using a state-funded agency to host for-profit businesses, or using a state university to provide free student labor to businesses, or to give private investors an early look at startups they might want to invest in, is that it’s never really clear which part of such dealings are public and which part are private. Except in this case we have the Ag Startup Engine clearly listed on Rastetter’s conflict-of-interest form, which would seem to suggest that subsequently doing free work for the president of the school that was hosting the Ag Startup Engine would be a no-no.
Again, Rastetter’s acknowledged conflict of interest explains why it was so important for SummitAg’s Peterson to categorically state that Bruce Rastetter — his boss, and the CEO of the company that brokered the Leath’s land deal — was “not involved” in the transaction. Unfortunately, as noted in both prior posts on this issue, it is utterly ridiculous for Peterson to suggest that over a million dollars was fronted for the Leaths without Rastetter giving his personal approval of that expenditure — particularly after Rastetter gave the Leaths a tour of the county for the express purpose of locating property to buy.
So, what are the penalties for accepting gifts from a restricted donor?
Quite a range, obviously, but anything that includes “Refer the complaint and supporting information to the attorney general…”, is obviously not to be trifled with. If there are other dealings between Rastetter and Leath, or Rastetter and Iowa State, that would complicate matters, but even if what is now known is all there is to know, it should be clear that the Rastetter-Leath land deal represents a serious conflict of interest, if not also a violation of the state’s Gift Law. Every time Rastetter and Leath talk, whether in person or on the phone, Leath knows that Rastetter and his company did him a personal favor which saved him and his family money. If Rastetter as president of the regents wants Leath to do something as president of Iowa State, that favor is always going to be in their minds, which is of course why such deals are precluded by law.
The Board of Regents and the Leaths will now go to a great deal of public and behind-the-scenes effort to diminish the importance of this breach of ethics, if not outright violation of law. There may even be an attempt on the part of the Leaths to belatedly pay for the services Summit Farms performed on their behalf, in order to avoid exposure to the Gift Law, but I don’t see how the Leaths or Rastetter will ever prove that Rastetter wasn’t “involved” in the transaction. On that point, however, there is also the interesting question of how the Attorney General’s office would go about investigating the deal, given that the Attorney General’s office is currently defending Rastetter and four other members of the Board of Regents against a civil suit arising from the fraudulent hire of J. Bruce Harreld as president of the University of Iowa.
At the very least, the state legislature should step in and investigate, and perhaps compel testimony under oath as to Rastetter’s involvement in the deal, and determine the dollar value of the free work the Leaths received from Rastetter’s company. If it is found that Rastetter lied about his involvement, or that the Leaths profited from the deal, or both, then whether the matter is forwarded to the judiciary or not, the legislature should dismiss both men from their current positions.
Updated 07/13/16: I don’t know who’s advising Leath on his media strategy, but this is exactly what he should not have said in his LTE:
Translation: without Rastetter bankrolling the deal for the Leaths, they could not have afforded to buy the property. Meaning Rastetter didn’t simply provide them with a gift of services, but by acting as their de facto banker he made the purchase itself possible. That’s Leath’s defense???
And the questions keep coming. Did the Leaths pay Rastetter back for effectively loaning them a million dollars for several months? Did they compensate Rastetter for the fact the his cash was tied up for that period of time?
The Leathgate land grab when analyzed, strongly indicates Steven Leath is singularly unqualified to be a university president.
A university president should be the paragon of ethics, and moral standards for the 40,000 or so students, faculty, and more like 100,000-200,000 including alumni…millions if one considers his leadership in the state.
In examining Leath’s defense published in the DM Register. http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/iowa-view/2016/07/13/leath-land-purchase-not-improper-unethical/87031504/ He reveals either incredible ignorance, or incredible ingenuousness. Either way it is dishonorable to his office and to the school.
Point by point:
– Leath is an avid hunter (heh heh, wonder when he hunted last) and his wife an interested gardener (as we will see she better be good at 120 acres). Thus he wanted an Iowa get-away.
-He then declares his land purchase neither unethical or improper (it was both)
-Leath (through Summit) discovered 215 acres in Hardin Co set for auction. He says essentially he could not afford it, nor could get a loan for 1.2 million. (stop right there; if you or I cannot afford a house, that’s it We stop, we don’t go asking someone else to bail us out)
-Summit bought the land (Rastetter must have a ton of cash). Land was then divided and Leath could afford about 145 acres. (If things are fair, no one goes to their boss or their supervisor with such a scheme: hey you buy me land or house and then split it up to a degree that I can obtain a loan. That is ludicrous. It may be collusion???)
-To determine conflict of interest (ethics) Leath consulted an attorney. HAHAHA! Leath, boy, YOU ARE THE ULTIMATE AUTHRITY ON ETHICS AT ISU. An attorney maybe able to tell you about legality, but I would think any honest attorney would leave ethical issues foe the professional. Leath has obviously either lost his way or is deceiving himself and the public)
-Leath said it was ‘private matter’. Really? If Leath decided to date or have an affair with a 30 y/ grad student, is that too a ‘private matter’? No, it would be inappropriate because of the imbalance of power etc.
1. If one cannot afford a car or some land, that’s it unless you go to your daddy. In this case daddy is Bruce Rastetter. This is clearly special treatment, and an inside deal. (Could I go to Rastetter for a vacation home in Maine?)
2. Leath averted all realtor fees didn’t he? Everyone else without a rich friend like this would add on 5% or so (another 50,000 Leath didn’t have). Did he pay for abstract etc?
3. So Leath clearly received special treatment from a man who is his supervisor. Now how would the President of UNI feel if say the BOR wanted to eliminate a school of education and chose between ISU and UNI? Wouldn’t the president of ISU have a clear advantage as it appears he will be drinking Scotch after a day of hunting with the powerful BOR president?
4. As an analogy if Leath sprained his ankle and his personal doctor wouldn’t give him Vicodin, could he call up Dr. Sahai (on the BOR) who would send him out some Vicodin RX, as well as no charges.
5. The hiring of Rastetter employees the no interest loans from ISU to Rastetter, the participation of ISU in the Summit African land grab all indicate corrupt back scratching. Very very unethical interactions
Leath has clearly indicated he does not serve as either a prophet of ethical behavior at ISU, nor does he exhibit ethical behavior as the leader of the college. Leath has lied, involved himself in the unethical Iowa search, and now shown himself to be a manipulator too. He is unqualified to lead ISU.
Rastetter is being Rastetter which is always squeezing deals that border on immoral or unethical. They may not be illegal, but he reminds me of Tony Soprano. He is really not a person of the moral standard who can lead an entire state’s public higher education system, as he seems to consider everything something to use or manipulate to his advantage. Rastetter has compromised himself to his campus presidents, to the students and parents and alumni of state schools, and to all others dealing in good faith with the BOR. This is not private this is corruption of Leath’s position.
This falls into Gov Branstad’s lap as sleazy, corrupt damaging and smelly. Will it ever end?
Only when the good people of Iowa decide they’ve had enough of living in Arkansas, I’m afraid.
I think this is almost a perfect storm for Leath and Rastetter. Higher-ed and students and faculty and blah blah blah. But land prices? Getting a freebie loan because you know a rich player? Paying less tax, less overall costs, and no interest for your dream acres?
There are a LOT of farmers in this state who aren’t going to be happy about that deal, because it goes to the heart of struggles they’ve had all their lives.
Let’s take a step back and look at the context.
Rastetter is the CEO of the Summit Agricultural Group, “a leader in agribusiness, production agriculture, renewable energy and international development” according to the BOR website.
According to Wikipedia ISU is “ranked among the top 50 public universities in the U.S. by Washington Monthly and is known for its degree programs in agriculture, engineering, and science. Classified as one of Carnegie’s “R1: Doctoral Universities – Highest Research Activity,” Iowa State receives nearly $300 million in research grants each year…In engineering specialties, at schools whose highest degree is a doctorate, Iowa State’s biological/agricultural engineering program is ranked second in the U.S. by U.S. News & World Report.”
Whatever else you can say about this land deal there is one undisputable fact: Rastetter did Leath a huge sloppy wet kiss of a favor.
What exactly did Rastetter expect in return? Or is he paying back Leath for something he already received?
Unless they are under oath, i suppose we never really know the inside of this deal but:
What Leath did for Rastetter:
– allowed ISU to participate in SummitAg’s African attempted land grab
– ISU gave SummitAg a 500k, no interest loan for wind power
– ISU researched Summit’s feedlots
– Leath spoke at Summit’s AgFest
– Leath gave 2 Rastetter operatives unadvertised 250k positions
– covertly courted Harreld in Ames
– allowed Rastetter to micromanage the Harkin Inst, therefore suppressing untoward Ag research
What Rastetter did for Leath:
– tried to pull more $$ to ISU w/ goofy incentive plans
– gave Leath a raise while giving Mason no contract
– finally paid back Leath for all his obsequious by floating him a land loan, handling the deal, and smoothing out the legalities
Rastetter served as President Pro Tem from July 11, 2011 until June 5, 2013. Leath was hired in February 2012 so Rastetter was probably instrumental in getting Leath his job. Summit’s African land grab started in 2011 and Leath wasn’t there then but that could have motivated Rastetter to make sure that the next President of ISU was indebted to him directly.
For some reason he recently felt the need to double down on that indebtedness.
I don’t think you get it. The land is not really Leath’s. The land is Bruce’s. Leath is the front man.
Tell me, who’s the guy who goes around buying land? Leath or Bruce? Has Leath ever suddenly become interested in buying big ol chunks of land before? I don’t believe he has. Has Bruce ever been interested in buying big ol chunks of land? Well, it does seem to be a major part of what he does.
I really would be looking for why it was inconvenient, assuming the land was to have been Bruce’s all along, for him to just go right ahead and buy that sucker and hang onto it in his own name.
It might be Rastetters. Could be. But why this charade? That makes no sense at all. Rastetter can buy all the land he wishes, and not even go to the bank for a loan.
Perhaps he told a fib to someone? This to cover. But why?
No I believe the land is for Leath. Being about his age, I have looked for wooded land too, with dreams of a vacation home to get away. My former neighbor also bought some wooded land like this.
This land is on the Iowa river. Sure Hardin County isn’t Marin county , but considering the global climate change, Iowa isn’t in a bad position for ag and for recreation by 2100. People look to hunt from metro areas on Iowa land. The USA has 320 million people are growing with the same land mass.
I think it is Leath’s and I admire his acquisition. But he did it in an unethical way.
Tv, come on. That’s a lot of land to manage and keep clear of trouble, otherwise known as a headache. We have not so far known Leathy-boy as a big game hunter. He has a job, he’s pretty busy. And he’s not from Iowa. He’s not going to retire in Iowa. He’s not going to come back to Iowa to go hunting. He’s here doing a job, and if five years from now a better job comes up in Georgia or Texas or some other big-state-university state, you bet he’ll take it. And this gardening thing about his wife is simply ludicrous.
There are many reasons why someone might not want land held in his own name, or even in his company’s own name. There are things that it might be impossible or quite expensive for for him to do with it if he has other, conflicting interests. There may be inconvenient tax implications to owning the land, implications that would not affect someone else who did not have various other business interests. It could be that he wants to do something with the land that would look pretty bad for him to do, so he went looking for a reliable fall guy who owes him. Who knows. But the idea that Leath and his wife wanted a giant wooded huntin-and-gardenin playground (better wear orange when you’re putting in those tomatoes, Janet) in Iowa, so they went to generous daddy Bruce for helpety help and a discount, and it was kind complicated and a lot of work and involved setting up a holding company and whatnot but it was all worth it because of the luv daddy Bruce has for Leath…come on, now. Does any of that comport with anything you know of Bruce Rastetter? Anything at all?
I can see a hundred permutations of sleaze in the Rastetter-Leath land deal. What sticks with me — apart from the deal itself — is that Leath’s story is that his wife fell for the property in less than a week, and so completely that they then had to be Rastetter to buy the property for them because they couldn’t swing it on their own. Really?
Even if Leath lobs that at Rastetter on a Monday, can Rastetter free up that amount of cash in five days? Or does he literally just have millions lying around?
The other problem is the LLC. I don’t know a lot of people who buy land for a private future home or hunting ground, who stuff that property in an LLC. I can imagine, however, that if the Leaths are thinking of opening up another tree farm — as TV suggested — that they would want it to be registered as a business entity from day one.
But then that would mean Rastetter actually fronted the Leaths a bunch of money to go into a future business, which somehow seems even worse. You know, what with Rastetter being Leath’s current boss and all.
Leath’s NC tree farm:
We are a family owned, wholesale tree farm and we sell our trees to brokers, other wholesalers, and landscapers. Our buyers then sell our trees to retailers, lots, homeowners, etc. We currently own and manage 75 acres and 60,000 trees. Every harvest we sell about 3,000 trees but are quickly expanding. Please contact us if you are interested in purchasing any of our trees.
One Steamed Iowan says
“We here at SLS (Steve Leath and Sons LLC) are proud to announce we have recently added to our prime timber and and hunting lease properties by acquiring 140 acres of Iowa timber and farm land from Bruce Rastetter, president of the Iowa Board of Regents and Steve Leath’s boss. As you can imagine, there’s major political blowback here, but the land deal was more than worth it. Few other residents of Iowa could have acquired the land for land-cost only, i.e. no fees, no surveying costs, etc. Now we have a chance to pass on to our customers.reduced hunting leases, timber, and corn Stay tuned for other developments and please thank Bruce Rastetter,, Iowa Board of Regents, for making our gift to you possible. In the I.S.U. president mansion, we know Bruce as a very close friend, $ugar Daddy. That said, your thank you will be better received by addressing him by his full title.”
This is interesting:
One of Leath’s defenders is Banker’s Trust CEO Suku Radia.
Back in early 2012 when the African land Grab( AgriSol, Rastetter) was going strong involving Rastetter, Dean Wendy Wintersteen, ISU and a new ISU president (Leath), one of AgriSol’s defenders was….Suku Radia.
I guess if you’re going to be involved in crony politics, and you’re going to be involved in crony business dealings, sooner or later you’re going to need a crony character reference when someone shines a light in your misdeeds..
I can’t say I’m surprised, but this is getting a little tiresome. Maybe Dan Rather would like to take a close look at the Rastetter-Leath land deal. And the Harreld hire at UI, while he’s at it.
I can see your point. 145 acres is not trivial. Tons of work. I was thinking that too. For that kind of land, and for Leath’ status he would build nothing less than a 500,000-1,000,000 cabin.
1. Leath already owns a ‘christmas tree farm in NC he ‘manages’ (really?)
2. Could he be looking at timber mills?
3. And will he lease out the tillable acres to Summit? Or will Janet grow tomatoes and beans on 65 acres.
I think Leath is pretty good at bringing in income…