A new threaded post on this topic can be found here. For previous posts about the Harreld hire, click the tag below.
10/06/16 — The Real Legacy of University of Iowa Traitor Jean Robillard.
10/01/16 — Wrong Way Leath and the Microburst Lie. Updated.
09/27/16 — J. Bruce Harreld and the UI ‘Speak Out Iowa’ Campus Climate Survey.
09/23/16 — J. Bruce Harreld Injects His Poison into the UI Faculty Ranks.
09/20/16 — J. Bruce Harreld and the UI Office of the Ombudsperson.
09/17/16 — On 03/22/16 Regents President Bruce Rastetter Lied to the Des Moines Register.
09/14/16 — J. Bruce Harreld’s 20-Year-Old Failed and Fake Ranking Plan From Kentucky.
09/11/16 — J. Bruce Harreld Officially Welcomes His Excellency J. Bruce Harreld. Part 1. Part 2. Updated.
09/08/16 — It’s not just me. Bleeding Heartland chronicles a year of posts about the Harreld hire.
09/06/16 — On the Origins of J. Bruce Harreld’s U.S. News Ranking Obsession. Part 1. Part 2.
09/03/16 — Bruce Rastetter, Joe Murphy, and the Iowa Board of Regents’ Revolving Door.
08/30/16 — Your Most Important Right as a University of Northern Iowa Presidential Candidate.
If you intend to apply for the position of president at the University of Northern Iowa, or are only considering applying, you need to know about a critical right that you have regarding your due diligence process. Whether you are a declared or undeclared candidate, as long as you meet the minimum criteria as determined by the 2016 University of Northern Iowa Search and Screen Committee, you have the absolute right to face-to-face meetings with any or all of the nine members of the Iowa Board of Regents.
In order to receive your in-person meetings you do not have to declare your candidacy to anyone on the search committee or at the firm managing the search. All you have to do is contact the Iowa Board of Regents and request the minimum number of meetings you would like.
Once you request your meetings, they will be arranged for you depending on your availability, and within the constraints of Iowa’s Open Meeting law. Meetings will last a minimum of one hour, with one or two regents per meeting.
To schedule your meetings, and for information about reimbursement for travel expenses to and from those meetings, contact the Iowa Board of Regents:
Phone: (515) 281-3934
Details and Strategy
Although every prospective candidate in the UNI search has the right to ask for face-to-face meetings with members of the Iowa Board of Regents, even before declaring their candidacy, the search committee, search firm, and board may elect not notify candidates of this right. As a result, any candidates who are aware of this right will have a considerable advantage during the search process, not only in terms of answering their own questions about the position, but in making an impression on the small group of individuals who will determine the winner among the final candidates selected by the committee.
As should be readily apparent, your ability to circumvent the constraints of both the search firm and committee, and to meet in person with any or all board members at your convenience, could give you a tremendous advantage compared to passive candidates who simply follow the dictates of the process. This right is also of particular advantage to candidates who may be concerned that the search firm or committee will pass over candidates who do not fit the traditional mold of past UNI presidents. By meeting in-person with members of the board you can make a direct and personal impression apart from any traits or descriptors in your documentation, thus also making sure the board really is open to candidates like you, and is not simply using your candidacy to demonstrate a plausible commitment to diversity.
Prospective candidates for the UNI presidency should pay particular attention to the specifics of the position description when it is released. Having met yesterday for the first time, however, the search committee has already indicated that it will remain open to non-traditional candidates, thus providing a much larger pool of potential applicants. Specifically, it has already been decided that a terminal degree will be listed as “strongly preferred” instead of required, and the board has “indicated they would not approve language of any such specific requirements.”
If you do not hold a doctorate, if you do not have any experience in academic administration, and even if you have little or no experience in education at all, as long as you meet the established criteria in any way you have the absolute right to request face-to-face meetings with as many members of the Iowa Board of Regents as you would like, even without officially declaring your candidacy. (Individuals with less than a sincere interest in the UNI presidency could use this right to secure face time with regents that they might not otherwise be able to meet with, but such behavior is obviously discouraged.)
One theory about why the Iowa Board of Regents does not publicize this right has to do with simple logistics. If every prospective candidate wanted to meet with every regent, there wouldn’t be enough time in the typical search schedule to accommodate all of those meetings. While that would seem to preclude offering such meetings to any prospective candidates on the grounds of simple fairness, there is an alternate theory which perhaps explains that inequity. Simply put, the Iowa Board of Regents may use the right to face-to-face meetings with members of the board as a means of winnowing candidates who are too timid to seize the initiative and exploit that right. (Based on the degree to which the board itself has worked to avoid regulatory and even statutory constraints in recent years, there is considerable merit to that argument.)
In any case, whether the search committee or board specifically acknowledges this right in the coming months, you can be assured — absent a specific public statement to the contrary — that it does exist. All you have to do to trigger the benefits conferred by this right is contact the Iowa Board of Regents and request your meetings. Whether other candidates do so or not, failure to do so could cost you the job.
To see how powerful this absolute right to face-to-face regent meetings can be, consider the 2015 University of Iowa presidential search, which concluded almost a year ago to this day. During the 2015 search at UI, the Board of Regents and search committee determined that they would cast a “wide net“, and as such listed the qualifications on the position description as “preferred” rather than required. One of the candidates who took advantage of that latitude was J. Bruce Harreld, a former IBM executive who had spent the preceding eight years as a senior lecturer at Harvard’s business school.
Shortly after Harreld’s unexpected appointment in early September of 2015, it was revealed that Harreld had met with four members of the Iowa Board of Regents on July 30th at the private place of business of Regents President Rastetter. Because two of the regents Harreld met with on that day were not even on the search committee, and because no other candidates had similar meetings, or were even apprised of their right to such meetings, accusations of preferential treatment and a ‘done-deal’ search were leveled against Rastetter and the board.
In response, President Rastetter made multiple references, on the record, about his official, unquestioned obligation to meet such requests. From Rastetter’s official board statement, released on 09/24/15:
As you can see, there is no ambiguity in President Rastetter’s words. Simply because Harreld made the request for those meetings, Rastetter was obligated to respond to that request by arranging those meetings. J. Bruce Harreld himself corroborated Rastetter’s recitation of events on 11/01/15 — the day before taking office as president at Iowa:
For reasons that have never been made clear, somehow, among all the candidates considering the open presidency at Iowa, only J. Bruce Harreld knew he could compel face-to-face conversations with as many regents as he wanted to meet with simply by asking for those meetings. And that included any or all of the regents not already on the 2015 UI Presidential Search and Screen Committee. While it is also unclear why President Rastetter or search Chair Jean Robillard did not inform the other candidates of that right during the 2015 UI search, Rastetter specifically confirmed that any candidate could have met with any or all of the regents during the 2015 UI search in a videotaped interview with the Des Moines Register on 03/22/16:
Regarding the possibility that the regents or search committee could reneg on this right during the 2016 UNI search, note that Rastetter’s comments above came four days after UNI President William Ruud announced that he was resigning. So when President Rastetter said this —
— he was already aware that a presidential search would soon be undertaken at UNI, and that the regents would be responsible for honoring similar requests from UNI candidates who were determined to “research” the job, and take “time gathering facts”. While Rastetter’s emphatic comments to the DMR are less than six months old, the board recently reaffirmed the fairness of the 2015 UI search just over two months ago, after the University of Iowa was sanctioned by the AAUP for gross administrative violations during that search process. In doing so, the board underscored how important it can be to make a favorable impression with the individual members of the board as early as possible:
As already determined by the 2016 UNI search committee during its first meeting, that search will follow a process very close to the one used at UI in 2015 (scroll down for scheduling details). For that reason alone it behooves any UNI presidential candidate who truly wants to take the initiative to call the Iowa Board of Regents and request their face-to-face meetings as soon as possible, if only to ensure availability.
If you’re still hesitant to take advantage, remember that even though Bruce Rastetter was (and still is) the president of the board, and a multi-millionaire with ties to powerful business and political interests across the country and around the globe, relative to the 2015 UI search he was — in his own words — literally obligated to meet J. Bruce Harreld’s request for face-to-face regent meetings. Even if you are currently only negligibly curious about the position — as J. Bruce Harreld himself was at the time — do not miss out on this critical opportunity. (The current ranking board member on the 2016 UNI search committee is President Pro Tem Katie Mulholland. Along with being co-chair of the UNI committee, Mulholland was on the 2015 UI search committee, and was one of the four regents who eagerly agreed to sit down for an extended face-to-face meeting with J. Bruce Harreld on July 30th, 2015.)
Also remember that the current president of the University of Iowa, J. Bruce Harreld, was and still is unqualified for the job he now holds, and that the resume he submitted was not simply a joke, it contained actual lies which led to Harreld’s censure by Iowa faculty before he even took office. Despite those seemingly insurmountable obstacles, however, because J. Bruce Harreld was savvy enough to demand face-to-face meetings with “at least four regents”, he is now making $800K per year ($200K deferred), and can trigger tenure of approximately $300K any time he wants, despite not having a doctorate. (Harreld also receives free housing in the UI presidential mansion, free staff support, and all the usual perks afforded to someone in his position of authority.)
Again, you do not have to be a declared candidate for the UNI presidency in order to receive face-to-face meetings with as many regents as you would like. When J. Bruce Harreld met with four regents in late July of last year, he did so only two days before all candidate records were made available to the search committee by the search firm, and only five days before the first committee cut-down from more than 45 candidate to 9 semifinalists. Even at that late date, however, candidate Harreld had not submitted any official paperwork to the search firm overseeing the search, and had not officially declared himself to be a candidate — yet by his own admission the president of the Board of Regents was compelled to personally arrange four regent meetings for Harreld simply because Harreld knew he had a right to those meetings.
Jonathan Swift says
Let’s hope credulous candidates take it seriously!
That’s the funny thing — it should be taken seriously because those are all verbatim quotes.
Rastetter’s sworn position after the 2015 UI search is that A) any/all candidates can meet with any/all regents, B) said candidates do not have to declare their intent, and C) those meetings can be requested apart from official contact with the committee or search firm.
That is Rastetter’s defense of the rank favoritism he showed to Harreld. All anyone has to do to confirm A, B and C — or, alternatively, to blow Rastetter’s claims to pieces — is contact the board and ask if any/all candidates are allowed in-person meetings with any/all regents as per Rastetter’s own on-camera, statement..
Unless Katie Mulholland is willing to renege on Rastetter’s promise, and is so doing expose her own hypocrisy and favoritism for having gladly met with Harreld, the nine members of the Iowa Board of Regents are going to be taking a lot of extra meetings in the coming months. (I’m also pretty sure nobody at the board informed the search firm of this looming obligation, so AGB isn’t going to want to handle the logistics.)
1. Could you receive accommodations for your bad back (which 99 % of Americans have)? Like private flights?
2. How about a VIP lunch? Any word of that right?
3. Considering Harreld’s dubious resume (or dishonest) are there any constraints on putting bogus achievements on a resume?
Could a candidate request face-to-face with anyone in the state system ala Leath? Might be an opportunity to meet Kirk Ferentz to ask about the 2016 Rose Bowl?
4. Considering Harreld’s ‘should be shot’ statement about bad teaching, does the successful candidate need to show marksmanship skill?
I might have a friend who is curious about applying. It’s nice to know she can have a sit-down with Bruce & the gang….
But how about a phone chat with the Gov? Just to make sure he’s in favor of higher ed, too.
You raise a very good point.
During the 2015 UI search, Harreld was the only candidate who received a private personal call from the governor, directly as a result of Rastetter’s passionate advocacy.
Because the regents are concerned about fairness, obviously all candidates for the UNI position now have the right to request a conversation with the governor as well.
It is not hard to infer what Rastetter’s separate agendas are for ISU or UI but it is not clear to me if Rastetter has a specific agenda for UNI like he has for the other schools. Are we about to find out?
I think the best answer comes from an interview three years ago, which I only ran across in the past month or so. It featured Craig Lang and Rastetter on Iowa Press, and included this exchange:
The term ‘comprehensive university’ has a specific meaning (that I also did not know about until recently), and as Rastetter notes the key distinction is that such schools are not involved in research (or Ph.D programs). Instead, they focuses on bachelors’ degrees in various disciplines.
Rastetter is also on the record saying UNI should be able to keep its athletics programs, even though they’re a drain (as opposed to the currently self-sustaining programs at ISU and UI). And of course he loves all those Iowa kids (as long as they do what they’re told, and thank him as well), so I’m guessing he just intends to keep hacking away at UNI until whatever is left fits his anemic ideal of a ‘comprehensive university’.
If you’re wondering if this also has implications for UI (and even ISU), I think it does. Move more and more of the rank-and-file LA&S/non-STEM students to UNI, close down any redundant departments at the bigger schools, and you’re pretty much on your way to Rastetter/Harreld/Robillard/Branstad heaven. (Rastetter is already on the record in multiple interviews saying he wants each of the state’s three universities to specialize.)
UNI has several research centers
UNI also has a graduate college, presumably offering EdDs.
Is this right?
Admittedly, I can only quote the noises Rastetter makes with his armpit. What they actually mean is often a mystery to me, but in this case maybe Rastetter was telling a future truth. He and Leath have already turned ISU into a higher-ed confinement operation for STEM students, so maybe the objective at UNI is getting rid of those grad programs and research centers and focusing solely on grinding out bachelors degrees by the carcass.
(That would also then remove any overlap with UI.)
Under the Iowa Board of Regents’ system of governance, each of the state’s three universities has a state relations officer embedded within its administration, but that individual — like the president of the school — works for the board. In that context, state relations officers act as official lobbyists for their respective schools, and as unofficial minders for the board, making sure board policy — stated, unstated or manifestly corrupt — is being followed. On 09/16/11 it was reported that the University of Northern Iowa’s state relations officer, Joe Murphy — who had three years on the job — was resigning to take a job in the private sector.
As suggested by the nature of the position, it is not uncommon for state relations officers to move between the state’s schools and the board offices. For example, Mark Braun, the current board COO, has been hired into multiple positions at UI and the board over the past twenty years — including three in 2015 alone — and was once the state relations officer for the board itself. (The board’s current state relations officer is Mary Braun.) Similarly, University of Iowa spokesperson Jeneane Beck was also a state relations officer at the University of Northern Iowa, serving after Murphy departed.
As for Murphy, one curiosity about his move to the private sector was that nowhere in the reporting of his departure did the Northern Iowan — the UNI school newspaper — mention where Murphy would be working. While that omission would have been trivial in any other situation, as it turned out Murphy was left UNI to take a job at Summit Agricultural Group, the company owned by current Regents President Bruce Rastetter. At the time, Rastetter himself had only just been appointed to the board in May of that year, yet had already risen to president pro tem following Governor Branstad’s unprecendented ousting of the prior board leadership.
So four months after Rastetter was named to the board, and only two months after Rastetter became president pro tem, Joe Murphy left his position as the state relations officer at UNI to work for Rastetter in the private sector. Why did Rastetter make that hire? Well, as noted in a prior post, there was that whole misunderstanding about how Rastetter was kicking refugees in Tanzania off their land in order to make a mint with industrial farms, which of course got some sensitive types all worked up. So much so that Rastetter needed a reliable spokesperson to help set the record straight:
Once Murphy made it clear that Rastetter was only interested in feeding the refugees in Tanzania, however, and not intent on making yet another fast buck off of someone else’s misfortune, there wasn’t much for Rastetter’s private-sector spokesperson to do. That in turn may be why — a little over a year after Murphy’s resignation from UNI — that the Board of Regents not only hired Murphy again, but did so without actually advertising the position Murphy filled:
After Joe Murphy rejoined the board as Iowa State’s state relations officer he seems to have kept a low profile for four years — until three days ago, when Murphy was announced as the new Senior VP of Government Relations and Public Policy for the Greater Des Moines Partnership. (The GDMP is Des Moines’ version of the Chamber of Commerce.) Currently Murphy is still listed as the state relations officer at Iowa State, with his work at the GDMP set to begin on 09/26.
As has been noted in a number of other contexts, there is a revolving door between business, government and higher-education in the state of Iowa, and as often as not Bruce Rastetter is there in the background, giving that door a whirl. Interestingly, however, if you dig into the GDMP website — and I mean really dig — you will not find Rastetter’s name anywhere, which is odd in itself given that Bruce Rastetter is the nexus of all things business and politics in Iowa.
The closest you can come is a series of press releases or articles about a group called the Cultivation Corridor, which was launched in May of 2014, of which Rastetter is one of a number of directors. (ISU President Steven Leath is an officer of the Cultivation Corridor, as is Jason Andringa, the son of recently resigned regent Mary Andringa.)
So why would Bruce Rastetter want Joe Murphy working at the GDMP, when Rastetter himself is involved with the Cultivation Corridor? Well, one possible answer is the announcement four days ago — as in one day before Murphy was announced as a new hire at the GDMP — that two of the biggest players in agriculture will be backing a new ag-tech start-up accelerator:
Still, from the reporting it’s not immediately obvious how the GDMP’s new venture fits with Rastetter’s work as one of the directors of the Cultivation Corridor, or how placing Murphy at the GDMP might be to Rastetter’s advantage. The Cultivation Corridor does have an office in Ames which is very close to Rastetter’s SummitAg office in the same town, but its main office is in Des Moines, so there doesn’t seem to be any overlap. At least until you notice that the street address for the Cultivation Corridor in Des Moines is the same as the street address for the Greater Des Moines Partnership.
Welcome to Louisiana or New York on the Mississippi.
Even with obvious ethics violations the Branstad/Rastetter mafia suppresses all opposition. An ethics complaint against Agrisol went nowhere http://www.oaklandinstitute.org/land-deals-africa/agrisol-energy-llc
Like many other brazen violations of law (such as Branstad’s crony medicaid takeover) these blatant money/power/land grabs go on unabated.
Do Iowans possess any shame anymore? Any ethical values?
If you were to learn that a document on a particular subject was a ‘white paper’, what associations would that term bring to mind? Until recently — because I am nothing if not perpetually naive — I thought of white papers as dry, officious, rigorous reports designed to lay out the parameters of an argument or decision. White papers might be authored by an individual or a group, and particularly by a group riven with conflicting perspectives or dissent, yet they would present the merits of a subject not merely with a pretense to fairness, but actual fairness.
Recently my own ruminations about what a white paper is and is not were prompted by a document which did in fact proclaim itself to be exactly that. Despite being titled White Paper on Advancing the University of Iowa’s Status as a Top-Tier Public Research University, however, and having been saved to disk as Top-tier white paper – FINAL.pdf, after multiple reading that report called into question everything I thought I knew about white papers, which was admittedly not a great deal. [Note: sometime after this post, during the fall term in the 2016-2017 academic year, the FSWG report was scrubbed from the Faculty Senate website. The link above now leads to an archived copy on this site.]
Confusing matters further, that particular paper was not prepared by a biased think tank or a self-interested, for-profit ranking publication, but by a panel of University of Iowa scholars who were also esteemed members of the UI Faculty Senate. Specifically, the purported white paper was the output of a Faculty Senate Working Group (FSWG) chaired by Meenakshi Gigi Durham (College of Liberal Arts & Sciences) and Larry Weber (College of Engineering). Also in the working group were Charlotte Adams (CLAS), Carolyn Colvin (College of Education), Peter Damiano (College of Dentistry and Public Policy Center), Lena Hill (CLAS), Christopher Morphew (College of Education), Tom Rietz (College of Business), Aliasger Salem (College of Pharmacy and Carver College of Medicine), Michael Sauders (CLAS), and Eric Tate (CLAS).
All told that’s eleven members of the UI Faculty Senate, all of whom participated, to some unknown degree, in the crafting of the document in question — or, at the very least, who signed off on said document. No matter what anyone might think when confronted with the term ‘white paper’ in another context, then, in that academic environment the impetus for such a claim would seem, by default, to lean toward the pursuit of truth, and away from some weaselly administrative attempt to obscure or deceive. Which — as has often proved to be the case with the circumstances surrounding J. Bruce Harreld’s fraudulent hire as president of the University of Iowa — just goes to show how wrong a person can be.
What is a White Paper?
After my first read-through of the FSWG ‘white paper’ I found myself thinking about some of the issues raised by the working group. Over the next day or so, however, I realized that relevant factors I had previously encountered while looking into college rankings myself were not simply glossed over by the ‘white paper’, they were entirely omitted. Confused by the academic origins of the document and its apparent claim to be an objective work, I gave the entire document a second and third read, at which point I concluded that I must be confused about what the term ‘white paper’ actually meant. Because while the document I was reading was clearly the work of eleven members of the University of Iowa faculty, it was not an honest presentation of the benefits and costs associated with influencing or gaming a school’s national rank.
Turning to the internet for salvation I typed out a question that would have seemed ludicrous prior to encountering the FSWG’s work product: “What is a white paper?” Quickly filtering the returned links for a familiar source, I settled on the third hit, which was a Wikipedia page devoted to that subject. (Admittedly, Wikipedia is often a dubious source itself, particularly from the perspective of academia.)
In the introductory paragraph of that short Wikipedia page my confusion was immediately resolved:
And then there was this, in the section devoted to the business use of ‘white papers’ for marketing purposes:
Looking for confirmation, I followed the second link on my original page of search hits, and found this on the Purdue.edu website:
Following additional search hits I found the same answers again and again. Whatever credibility the term ‘white paper’ used to have, it had long since been exploited by business and industry as a means of generating sales. (Because white papers originally promised, or at least aspired to, credibility, marketing weasels realized they could exploit that credibility simply by appropriating the term — which is pretty much what marketing weasels do. Freshness is a chemical spray, happiness is a pill away, fitness is fashion.)
I cannot say I was surprised to learn that marketing weasels had poached the term ‘white paper’ in furtherance of deceiving others. What did concern me, however, was that the ‘white paper’ I was reading was not a product of business — or at least not acknowledged as such. It wasn’t even a function of government per se, but purportedly represented the higher ideals of scholarship. And yet with each successive reading the FSWG ‘white paper’ seemed less and less like an objective document and more and more like marketing trash.
On the other hand, that all fit perfectly with the fault line laid bare by the fraudulent hire of J. Bruce Harreld, and in particular the complicity of UI administration in his sham hire. Was higher education — and in particular, public higher education — an aspirational function of government premised on the concept of citizenship, or was it a state-funded pipeline for a specific class of quasi-educated and narrowly trained professionals? Philosophically, should higher education be treated as sacred, or as a profit-center at the expense of all else, including institutional and personal integrity? While it was true that Regents President Bruce Rastetter, UI VP for Medical Affairs Jean Robillard, and even J. Bruce Harreld himself had all shredded their own credibility and integrity during and after the 2015 UI presidential search, the idea that eleven members of the UI Faculty Senate might be eager to follow them down the drain was more than a little disturbing.
And yet, as regular readers know, there has been good reason to question the motives of members of the Faculty Senate on multiple occasions. Most recently not only did the current Faculty Senate president happily step forward and take the heat for J. Bruce Harreld in the aftermath of the AAUP sanction, but that same Faculty Senate president put out a statement which denied any complicity by UI administrators, when UI VP Robillard clearly betrayed the school during the 2015 presidential search. Because that debasement of the Senate was apparently insufficient, however, the former Faculty Senate president, who was also on the search committee during the 2015 search — and who was Vice President when the Faculty Senate Working Group was constituted — also stepped forward to deny that UI administration was deeply involved in Harreld’s fraudulent hire.
Why did a Faculty Senate Working Group put out a purported white paper that read like a marketing plan, instead of a scholarly or even quasi-governmental analysis of the question at hand? I did not know, but having read through their work product multiple I felt I knew where to look for the answer. Which once again proved just how wrong a person can be.
On The Origins of the FSWG Report
If you have not yet looked at the FSWG report — which I will no longer describe as a white paper for what should now be obvious reasons — you should at least look at the top right corner of the first page. Because there you will find, prominently displayed, the words “Fall|16”.
Now, whatever else I may get wrong in interpreting the FSWG report, I think we can all agree that the document itself is dated Fall of 2016, meaning — at least according to the academic seasons as I know them — right now, at the commencement of the 2016-2017 school year. Yet it is also obviously the case that the report had to be prepared at some prior point, which, as it turns out, is not revealed by any of the information contained in the document itself. Other than “Fall|16” on the first page, there are no other relevant dates in the FSWG paper.
The reason accurately dating the FSWG report is important is because of the following sentence in the introduction on page two:
From the words “Fall|16” on the first page, then, and the words “Last December” on the second page, the sequence seems clear. In December of 2015, Bruce Rastetter urged the Faculty Senate to think big about UI’s national ranking as a public research university, after which the Senate put together a working group to prepare the report in question. And indeed if you look at the document properties for the .pdf file, they seem to confirm that sequence. The .pdf was originally created on 04/20/16, most likely from some prior document format, then modified for the last time on 05/17/16. That in turn also fits with the school year coming to a close at that time, followed by academic silence during the summer before picking up again at the beginning of 2016-2017 academic year.
All of that sequencing also fit perfectly with my long-held belief that J. Bruce Harreld auto-generated his obsessive quest to game Iowa’s U.S. News ranking — perhaps as early as his candidate forum on 09/01/15, but certainly no later than when he took office on 11/02/15. Searching the journalistic record yields example after example of Harreld talking up Iowa’s national college ranking, and specifically those numbers bestowed by the elves at U.S. News & World Report. So that’s what I was thinking each time I read through the FSWG report, which seemed to reveal that Bruce Rastetter himself had taken up Harreld’s rallying cry in December of 2015, which then led Rastetter to challenge the UI Faculty Senate, which in turn led to preparation of the FSWG report.
And yet as it turns out that timeline is completely wrong. I did not know that until a couple of days ago, however, when I tried to find press reports of Rastetter urging the UI Faculty Senate to aspire to top-ten status as a public research university. Because if you do a targeted search for the relevant keywords during December of 2015, you come up empty. Only if you open up the timeline will you discover that Rastetter’s prompt to the UI Faculty Senate occurred in December of 2014, not December of 2015. And that in turn means that the report as written — because it refers to “Last December” — was at least initially drafted at some point in 2015.
Except that’s also a problem, because right there on the first page it says “Fall|16”, and it is not possible that that is a simple typo. The reason we know that is because there are eleven faculty names attached to that report, and the words “Fall|16” are prominently displayed even as the .pdf opens, meaning all eleven people would have had to fail to notice that error in the original document. And of course the same holds true for the words “Last December”, if indeed “Fall|16” is correct. There is simply no chance that eleven pairs of eyes read that wording and failed to notice that the December being referenced was two years prior.
So what happened? Well, my guess is that the report was completed sometime in 2015, but more recently — perhaps last May, at the end of the 2015-2016 academic year — someone slapped a new date on the old report to make it seem current. Which, again, is perfectly fine if you’ve reduced yourself to nothing more than a marketing weasel in service of a lesser good, and not at all fine if you’re purporting to be scholars in service of the truth.
Rastetter’s Rank Appeal to Status
There was only one UI Faculty Senate meeting in December of 2014, and it was early in the month on 12/02/14. If you dig into the minutes from that meeting you will indeed find Regents President Rastetter — who was accompanied on that day by President Pro Tem Katie Mulholland — challenging the faculty to “help lift UI into the ranks of the top ten public universities”.
Given the timing of that meeting — only a month and a half before Sally Mason’s official retirement announcement in mid-January of 2015, and amid contentious debate about Rastetter’s performance-based funding plan — the idea of radically raising Iowa’s national rank seems odd. In fact, the reaction from various members of the Faculty Senate makes clear that the initial response was one of confusion about how that goal might be accomplished, particularly in light of Rastetter’s intent to strip tens of millions of dollars from University of Iowa.
As recorded in the meeting minutes, here is Rastetter’s initial pitch, prefaced by introductory remarks which will once again remind you that the president of the Iowa Board of Regents is an unrepentant liar:
As you might imagine, there were a number of responses to Rastetter’s lofty entreaty, including questions about how UI could accomplish that objective while simultaneously being stripped of funding by Rastetter’s performance-based funding plan. The first such question came from then-Vice President Christina Bohannnan, and occasioned a long, rambling, non-responsive answer from Rastetter, which concluded with this:
Spoken like a true commodity baron, Rastetter’s solution was simply to warehouse as many students as possible, then soak them for the tuition necessary not only to make up for funds diverted to other state schools by his performance-based funding plan, but to fund the goal of becoming a top-ten public university. After additional Senate debate about the funding plan, the conversation returned to the question of dramatically raising Iowa’s national rank. Following a question about how Iowa might achieve that goal, Rastetter responded again with rambling free association that culminated in this:
Rastetter’s response is consistent. The University of Iowa can become great by becoming bigger. Not qualitatively better in any way, just bigger. (That also gives considerable credence to the idea — discussed in a prior post — that one of Rastetter’s long-term goals is crushing competition in Iowa’s educational ecosystem so as to herd more and more students into regents institutions. That fixation in turn goes a long way to explaining why “Practices for Transformative Growth” are now codified as “Core Values” in the most recent strategic plan for the Iowa Board of Regents, when the word ‘growth’ did not appear once in the prior plan.)
After more sparring over the performance-based funding model, which was eventually defeated in the legislature, and another brief exchange about rankings, we get this:
Whatever else might be said about the UI Faculty Senate, and particularly about its serial leadership failures during and after the Harreld hire, the questions put to Rastetter on 02/02/14 — in response to his impromptu charge to improve Iowa’s ranking — were perceptive. In stark contrast, both Rastetter and Mulholland demonstrated that other than having a flashy goal in mind, they had no idea about how to accomplish that objective other than adding more and more students.
Finally, there was a bit more back-and-forth about the funding plan, which included this gem:
This from the man responsible for pissing away $300K in taxpayer money on a sham presidential search, for showering office employees with exorbitant salaries in open defiance of state law, and for condoning if not orchestrating multiple crony job appointment and contracts — to say nothing of giving away the $15M-$20M naming rights to the new UIHC Children’s Hospital to a co-conspirator, for bupkis.
The UI Faculty Council Weighs In
The UI Faculty Senate consists of eighty senators representing the various factions of the university. The smaller Faculty Council, which gathers between Senate meetings and as needed, is described as follows:
The UI Faculty Council met on 01/27/15, between the previous Senate meeting in December and the meeting scheduled for February. By that time Sally Mason had indeed announced her impending retirement, Jean Robillard’s unveiling as the treasonous chair of the presidential search committee was only a week away, and less than a month later the entire search committee would be impaneled. (The Daily Iowan’s Brendan Magee posted a story on the meeting on 01/28/15, including push-back on Rastetter’s ranking goal.)
From the Faculty Council meeting minutes, here is the introduction to the agenda item concerning Rastetter’s charge:
As you can see, presenting on the issue are two members of the UI faculty. What is not specifically noted is that both men are guests of the Council, there to put the question of improving Iowa’s national rank into actionable context. The meeting minutes on the topic begin as follows:
Here we have clear linkage between Rastetter’s initial charge to the full Senate at the end of 2014, and the genesis of the Faculty Senate Working Group’s final report. It is equally clear that the genesis of the report predates the official 2015 UI presidential search, which is not to say that it also predates Harreld’s association with that search, or Rastetter’s awareness of Harreld as a potential candidate. As to who asked for the FSWG report to be prepared, however, the clear answer is Regents President Rastetter.
The minutes continue:
As regular readers know, this expert analysis comports perfectly with prior posts on the subject of college rankings. Even if a school throws everything it can at gaming its ranking, doing so is an incredibly costly and time-consuming vanity. Because schools higher in the rankings often have unconquerable advantages, there are also diminishing returns until schools reach their effective cap, which is often considerably below the top ten or twenty in their institutional category.
Next in the meeting minutes, Chemistry Professor Christopher Cheatham spoke about how the criteria for determining rankings have evolved to largely now favor undergraduate metrics. When questioned, Cheatham also noted that the evolution toward more data-driven metrics was initiated by the ranking publications themselves, in response to criticism about fuzzy criteria such as reputation. Then comes this exchange:
The problem with greater selectivity in admissions, of course, is that it not only runs headlong into Iowa’s obligation as a state school to educate resident students, it runs counter to Rastetter’s only suggestion about how to raise Iowa’s rank, which was to grow, grow, grow. (If you’re more selective, by definition your selectivity will shrink the available pool of students.) More discussion followed, including the fact that Rastetter left it open to the faculty to decide what “top ten status” actually meant. That led to the question of a ceiling for UI, and how others schools raised their rankings:
After a bit more conversation, the question of ethics arose:
That in turn led to questions about the goals for the report that Rastetter had requested:
The discussion concluded as follows:
If you read that section of the Faculty Council minutes, you will see that the discussion is robust and covers every aspect of the question at hand. The intent in creating the FSWG is equally clear, as are the instructions to that working group.
J. Bruce Harreld and the FSWG Report
After the authorization of the working group in late January of 2015, the next mention of Rastetter’s report in the Faculty Senate minutes — or even of UI achieving “top ten status” — occurs more than a full year later, during the 03/22/16 meeting:
During the fourteen months between authorization of the working group and completion of the report, a good deal changed. Six months after the report was authorized, J. Bruce Harreld was fraudulently appointed as president of the school, at the beginning of September, 2015. Two months after that, at the beginning of November, Harreld finally took office amid protests and even more revelations about his sham hire.
As noted above, the premise of the special Faculty Senate meeting on 04/11/16 was that the FSWG report would be shared for the first time, including with the illegitimate president. And yet as regular readers know there are considerable problems with that premise.
The first reported mention of Iowa’s national college rank by J. Bruce Harreld comes at the end of his candidate forum, on 09/01/15, after a contentious exchange about whether UI could ever become a “public Ivy”:
Two days before he is fraudulently appointed, Harreld’s belief is that Iowa can get into the “top 15” in some ranking classification. Toward the end of September, in a letter to the editor in the Des Moines Register, Jacob Soll brings the conversation back to reality:
On what to do to improve Iowa’s ranking, here Harreld is in a Press-Citizen report by Jeff Charis-Carlson, originally posted on 11/01/15, the day before Harreld took office:
Harreld’s inference — that the best way to raise Iowa’s college rank is to raise faculty salaries — soon becomes a mantra, leading to Harreld’s incessant call for “world class” faculty hires. It’s also worth noting in passing that Harreld’s humility about correlating a drop in faculty pay with a drop in school rank is itself intentionally deceptive, because faculty pay is clearly stipulated as one of the criteria in the U.S. News rankings. (Once again, J. Bruce Harreld seems almost congenitally incapable of passing up an opportunity to lie.)
From less than two weeks later, on Iowa Public Radio:
Almost exactly four months before the purported unveiling of the FSWG report, Harreld has not only linked faculty salaries to the school’s ranking, he has made raising Iowa’s national ranking his rallying cry. In interview after interview, Harreld focuses on raising Iowa’s rank, and specifically on the rankings produced by U.S. News & World Report. That then leads to a Gazette story by Vanessa Miller on 03/24/16 — two and a half weeks before Harreld will reportedly be briefed on the FSWG report for the first time:
While it will turn out that Harreld’s budgeting practices are even more autocratic than those of his predecessors, and Harreld will soon scrub the word “rankings” from his criteria for funding decisions, by some incredible miracle the ranking category that Harreld sees Iowa improving in evolves into exactly the category that Rastetter talked about in December of 2014. Even more amazingly, Harreld is not only hyping an unprecedented improvement in Iowa’s ranking, but the ranking he mentions ends up being the exact same numerical improvement that Rastetter asked for fifteen months earlier.
As to what actually transpired during the 04/11/16 Faculty Senate meeting, we do not know because the entire meeting took place in closed session. What we do know is that even before attending that meeting, and learning about the independent conclusions of the FSWG, J. Bruce Harreld was on fully on board with raising Iowa’s national college rank, and had been since before his appointment in early September of 2015.
For Part 2 of J. Bruce Harreld Officially Welcomes His Excellency J. Bruce Harreld, click here.
This is Part 2 of On the Origins of J. Bruce Harreld’s U.S. News Ranking Obsession. For Part 1, click here.
The FSWG Report in Detail
Why does the first page of the report say “Fall|16”, when that document was originally presented in April? Well, one answer might be that it has been updated, though the dates for the .pdf file would seem to contradict that. Instead of being modified a few weeks ago, it was last modified in May — meaning only a few weeks after being unveiled in April. If that’s the case, then “Fall|16” was slapped on the document back then, perhaps in advance of a public unveiling to come.
In any event, it’s now clear that when the FSWG report says “Last December” it is referring to December of 2014, not 2015. Which means, again, that the eleven members of the FSWG took more than a year to complete a document of eight pages, plus three additional pages of appendices. Among the many changes that took place during that intervening year, the most important relative to the report was the legislative defeat of the performance-based funding model, but that occurred in early 2015, only a few months after the FSWG was formed. As such, with that potential drain of funds off the table, the FSWG no longer had to highlight the tensions and trade-offs involved in increasing Iowa’s rank, but instead had free reign to tackle the ranking problem.
From the report’s Executive Summary, on page 2:
Earlier I said that while my first read-through of the FSWG report made sense, I soon began to notice that information important to a fair appraisal of the question at hand was missing. And it was not information that was hard to find. In that context, we will now look at not only what the reports says, but what it fails to say.
One of the first points that must made, if it is not already apparent, is that in talking about Iowa as a “public research university”, Harreld and others are already pulling a fast one because no such ranking exists — and that’s particularly true with regard to U.S. News & World Report. There are rankings for four-year colleges and universities, and rankings for public universities, but no specific ranking for “public research universities”. (While such rankings can be derived, the fact remains that aspiring to become a top-ten or top-twenty “public research university” requires inventing that category.)
In stating that it would be a “highly aspirational goal” to move Iowa into the “top ten among all public universities” — as opposed to public research universities — the FSWG report once again shifts the conversation. Still, the inclusion of the words “highly aspirational” makes clear that rising that high would be a long shot at best, and thus indirectly answers Rastetter’s original challenge from December of 2014, as well as Harreld’s claim of only a few weeks prior. Even in downplaying expectations, however, the FSWG report puts critical context in footnote 2:
Even a cursory review of those schools reveals that five of the ten are from the massive UC system, which is fed by what is now the sixth-largest economy in the world, while nine of the ten are in coastal states. Only the University of Michigan breaks that trend, yet Michigan’s population of almost ten million is more than three times that of Iowa. Ultimately, aspiring to a high national ranking is not sufficient because there are factors baked into the ranking cake that the University of Iowa simply cannot counter. Relative to many schools it is amazing that the University of Iowa has the prominence it has, but that’s perceived as defeatist talk by snobs who see only greatness and failure.
The next paragraph in the report contains a series of claims which culminate in a mathematical canard about the University of Iowa that will deservedly be destroyed:
Note the words “seen” and “quality”, followed by the flat assertion that rankings bring “substantial benefits” to universities, because that’s all marketing speak. Also, nowhere is it pointed out that rankings may simply reflect advantages or benefits already accrued. Instead, the clear implication of that sentence is that an increase in rankings does more than change an abstract number — yet nowhere is that claim proven, because of course it can’t be.
Note the words “reputation”, “branding” and “advertising”. As to whether rankings below top-ten or top-twenty attract students in any numbers, no evidence is cited.
As previously noted by the Faculty Senate itself, the problem is not in retaining more of the relatively rare high-quality students who leave the state, but Iowa’s obligation as a state university to accept many more students who will struggle or drop out. The only way to improve in the rankings on that score would be to tighten entrance requirements, but that’s not going to happen.
The point here seems to be that the prestige of the school will be a help to graduates, and that’s probably true. It’s also true that no matter how high Iowa rises in the rankings, no employer will ever equate Iowa with Harvard, Yale, Princeton or Standford.
I think we can all agree that cherry-picking anecdotal quotes is not a good sign in a scholarly work. The footnote points to the source, which is a publication from 2011 — when U.S. News’ rankings still placed significant emphasis on reputation. (One would think that after a year of research, the authors of the report would know that.)
Again, while almost certainly true, this sentence not only omits any other contributing factor, it entirely avoids the question of how critical “highly qualified faculty and staff” are to incubating groundbreaking advances. Are rankings the chicken or the egg?
This sentence seems to lead into the next sentence, but doesn’t. In fact, they are both non sequiturs. Speaking of which, here is the piece de resistance:
Now, if you’ve been around the University of Iowa for any length of time, you’ve probably heard some version of this claim. That particular impressive example seems to come from a 2010 news story by — wait for it — the University of Iowa, but okay. (For good measure, and to show just how careful the FSWG was in choosing its stats, here’s Sally Mason in 2009, pegging the ROI at 680%.)
The problem with such claims, of course, is that the one thing everyone agrees on is that there isn’t enough money being spent on higher education in and by the state. Yet if the University of Iowa really did generate a guaranteed 1500% return (or 680%) on every dollar invested, all four lanes of Interstate 80 — in both directions — would be clogged with dump trucks full of cash, all of then headed to Iowa City. (After unloading they would just burn the dump trucks — or maybe make a big sculpture out of the parts, what with all the Liberal Arts students running around.)
In sum, if you read all of the above rationales in the original block paragraph, what you get is justification salad topped with insanity dressing. Which then leads to this:
So there you go. In less than a page the FSWG conclusively proves that raising UI’s national ranking will produce a 1500% ROI, lots of branding, a sexy reputation and jobs for everyone.
In what can only be described as a welcome change of pace, the next page and a half, which comprises the remainder of the first section, involves an interesting discussion of organizations which rank schools based on research, as opposed to gimmicky education metrics which are used to sell magazines and ad copy. Prominent among them is the AAU, to which Iowa has belonged since 1909, but membership is not without its obligations:
And then there’s this:
For the moment, simply note the admission [italics mine] that changes could involve “significant related consequences — positive or negative“.
The next section is titled How are rankings determined? After breaking down the components of the U.S. News rankings — as well as committing the unpardonable sin of describing that for-profit company as a “disinterested party” — the FSWG gets to the point with regard to UI, which we have already covered twice:
Translation: it’s not gonna happen. Yes, if the regents allow J. Bruce Harreld to keep soaking the students with tuition hikes, then he’ll have more money to spend on faculty salaries, which may help in the margins. The bottom line, however, is that Rastetter’s goal of destroying Iowa’s higher-ed ecosystem and cornering the market on student bodies runs directly counter to the way that schools most effectively raise their rankings. Which of course leaves only one viable option, which the FSWG and Harreld and everyone else who is already on board with gaming UI’s ranking has already settled on, as indicated by the invention of the “public research university” category:
In the entire FSWG report, this is the crux, and rightly so. Constrained by state obligations, sited in the grasslands and subject to sweltering summers and frigid winters, the University of Iowa profits most when it can attract outside dollars. How to do so effectively and efficiently from the point of view of the university is of course the question.
The third section is titled Future perspectives: The benefits of advancing the UI’s ranking, which is weird because it’s actually all about the benefits of increasing “research and creative activities”. In any case, by the time you finish reading the third section, which is a bullet-pointed list less that one page long, all problems in Iowa have been solved — meaning across the entire state, not just at UI.
As for footnote 5 in the FSWG report — which, again, took over an entire year to complete, and included the input of eleven different faculty members — it is noted here without comment:
The fourth section, Recommendations, is one page long and concludes the report, save three pages of appendices. Here is the opening paragraph, which refers back to section three:
Of the eight Action items for the University of Iowa which follow, the first four and six total specifically mention research, and all eight relate to research. Of the two Action items for the Board of Regents, both are about research. So there you go. After eight grueling ‘white paper’ pages, the conclusion reached by the FSWG is that the best way for UI to increase its ranking among various groups that perform that noble service is research, research, research, and more research.
Writing a White Paper with a Brown Nose
As noted at the beginning of this post, there are two kinds of white papers. There are the kind of white papers that inform, and there are the kind of white papers that deceive. The white papers that inform are written by people who want to make sure that all sides of a question are presented. The white papers that deceive are written by people who want to sell you something.
Whether you had read the FSWG report in full or confined yourself to the liberal quotes reproduced here, it should be clear that the FSWG report falls distinctly in the deception camp. Yes, the conclusion that research is the best of a bunch of otherwise bad options for raising UI’s national college rank is right as far as it goes, but only if you buy into the premise that raising Iowa’s rank should be a consideration, let alone a priority. More tellingly, the only point in the entire report when that question was even obliquely broached was this:
What of the possible negative consequences? Well, because the FSWG report is a whitewash they aren’t mentioned. All the report presents is a set of facts in support of a foregone conclusion, which is the definition of a marketing ‘white paper’. Nowhere is there any mention of the cost of attempting to game UI’s rankings by any means, let alone the obvious risks and complexities associated with opening up a university to private-sector, for-profit dollars.
While focusing on research may enable UI to avoid some of the common pitfalls of gaming the U.S. News rankings, because it’s an indirect approach any consequent bump will likely be small, and only relevant to rankings which prioritize research to begin with. Meaning a full-out attempt to increase research in every conceivable way would probably only have a small effect on Iowa’s U.S. News rankings. Only by tackling the problem from multiple quarters could significant gains be made — albeit well short of top-ten or top-twenty status, and even lesser gains are conjectural. And yet where is any of that in the FSWG report?
Focusing the University of Iowa on research, and particularly on speculative, entrepreneurial-grade research, necessarily diverts resources from education. It is not possible to segregate dollars across the entire institution, particularly if faculty and staff are graded on their economic contribution to the school — as was recently proposed in an otherwise innocuous article on the UI website:
That’s right scholars, not only do you need to pay your own way, but you need a “greater willingness” to make it easy for businesspersons to profit from your work. It should also be obvious that businesses of every stripe would much rather play with state money than their own. Partner in a few start-ups where the state picks up most or all of the tab, along with providing plenty of free labor in the guise of student interns, and what’s not to love? Get your Research Activities Tax Credit here!
Having now settled the question of whether the FSWG report is a serious work of scholarship or marketing trash, one obvious remaining question is who wrote that marketing trash. While we know the names of the eleven people on the FSWG, it stands to reason that one or more individuals may have had a greater influence on the outcome than the others, but who?
In considering those eleven names, however, we notice a curiosity. While the FSGW was authorized on 01/27/15, we don’t know when it was staffed. What we do know, however, is when the 2015 University of Iowa Presidential Search and Screen Committee was named, and that was on 02/25/15. Oddly enough, on that committee were three individuals who would later be found among the authors of the FSGW report: Meenakshi Gigi Durham and Larry Weber, both co-chairs of the working group, and Lena Hill. (Also on the search committee was FS VP Christina Bohannan, who would later rise to president of the Senate during the search.)
While we haven’t run across Durham and Hill before, except insofar as they were on the search committee, Larry Weber is another matter. In fact, as noted by ‘TV’ in the comments to an earlier post, Weber played an important role on the committee by asking a question [see 7/30 meeting docx] which constrained the committee during the search:
That constraint proved particularly useful to Harreld, whose paperwork consisted entirely of a bungled and deceptive three-page resume. In fact, a cynic might wonder if Weber asked that question precisely to constrain the committee from doing any extramural vetting of Harreld, at least until committee chair Jean Robillard could abruptly disband the committee to prevent same.
Proving his loyalist leanings, committee member Weber next pops up on the day of Harreld’s appointment — seven months or so before he and the rest of the FSWG actually get around to finishing Rastetter’s report. From a Press-Citizen story by Jeff Charis-Carlson, on 09/03/15:
Weber next pops up indirectly, when J. Bruce Harreld mentions in an interview that he’s planning on pushing hydraulics research at UI:
Harreld’s comments come from a Corridor Business Journal article by Chase Castle, on 06/22/16, two months or so after Harreld purportedly first got a look at the FSWG report. In fact, the entire CBJ article was titled UI’s Harreld says private partnerships may supplant state funding, and repeatedly drove home the (only) conclusion of the FSWG document.
Finally, only a few days ago, the twitter account for Weber’s IIHR, if not Weber himself, announced the following gala event:
Why Harreld is being honored by Weber’s Flood Center has not been announced, though a cynic might wonder about the multiple convergences between the two men and their empires.
So — was Larry Weber the driving force behind the FSWG report? Well, who can say? It’s perhaps more concerning that ten other faculty members happily signed their name to what is, at best, a propaganda piece in service of the literal and figurative profit-motives of Rasetter and Harreld. Because once you signal that you’re willing to suck up to powerful interests by perverting your own values, you really don’t have much to offer anyone — particularly if you’re a scholar.
Readjusting the Ranking Obsession Narrative
On 02/02/14, almost nine months before J. Bruce Harreld’s fraudulent appointment, and almost two and a half months before then-UI President Sally Mason officially announced her retirement, Regents President Rastetter specifically challenged the UI Faculty Senate to improve UI’s standing in the U.S. News & World Report rankings. The most obvious question arising from that fact is why Rastetter made that appeal as president of the board, as opposed to the challenge coming from President Mason. As far as is known, Mason decided to retire after the “holiday break” at the end of 2014, meaning that when Rastetter spoke to the Faculty Senate she had not yet made her decision. On the other hand, if she made the decision earlier, or the “holiday break” that she herself referenced was Thanksgiving, then it’s possible that Rastetter knew Mason was leaving when he challenged the Senate.
One of many crackpot ideas which have floated up in these pages is the possibility that the sudden plunge in Iowa’s U.S. News Ranking in 2016 may have been rigged. After hovering at or near 70 for half a decade, in 2016 (meaning for the 2015-2106 academic year), Iowa’s ranking suddenly plunged to 82. What was never clear, however, was how anyone would have known to cripple Iowa’s ranking early in 2015, when J. Bruce Harreld himself only took to the stage (literally) at that same time. Now, however, knowing that Rastetter was seeking an increase in Iowa’s ranking nine months earlier, that timeline has changed.
I’m still not clear when the ranking data is compiled, but if it was sent to U.S. News in the six months or so prior to the rankings being released, that would mean a window from March of 2015 to the end of August. While Rastetter himself wouldn’t be in any position to directly fudge the data that was passed to U.S. News, he could appoint someone to the task, provided they had the access and authority. As it happens, we do know that one board employee — Mark Braun — was sent back to UI for a very short stint in 2015, before again returning to the board as the newly minted COO. Specifically, in early March of 2015 it was announced that Braun — who was Sally Mason’s longtime chief of staff — would return to UI after his TIER stint at the board offices, to become UI’s VP for Operational Efficiency and Regulatory Compliance. Four months later, however, at almost the exact time when Harreld was meeting secretly with four regents at Rastetter’s private place of business in Ames, it was announced that Braun would be headed back to the board.
Could Braun, in his UI VP position, have manipulated the information sent to U.S. News? Again, I have no idea, but that does fit with what we know about Rastetter, who tried a similar con just after Harreld was appointed. Instead of allowing UI’s budget request to be made for the coming legislative year, he ordered that no request be made so Harreld could then be credited with making that request. In that context, the idea that Rastetter might have primed UI for a ratings bounce-back under a new UI president — whether he had Harreld in mind in December of 2014 or not — doesn’t seem far-fetched. And if Braun had access to, or responsibility for, the data sent to U.S. News rankings data, that in itself would be concerning. (We’ll know soon enough whether Iowa’s 2017 U.S. News ranking does bounce back.)
Finally, with regard to Rastetter, there is a certain irony in the fact that he urged UI to raise its college rank to unprecedented heights, then turned around a few months later and precipitated a fraudulent presidential search leading to sanction by the AAUP. I’m not sure what other action Rastetter could have taken to more effectively undermine his own goal of seeing Iowa rise to “top ten status”, yet it seems likely than he simply blundered into that perfect calculus by virtue of his intrinsic drive to exploit every opportunity before him. (And in Rastetter’s defense, he obviously never thought he would get caught.)
As for J. Bruce Harreld, he has been consistent about advocating for the gaming of Iowa’s ranking since his candidate forum a year ago this month. There is also no question that subsequent to the closed-session Senate meeting in April of 2016, Harreld seems to be beating the drum of research funding as a key component of UI’s future success, while allowing his previous mania for “world class faculty” to fade. There is a big problem with assuming that the FSWG report changed Harreld’s mind about how to game UI’s U.S. News ranking, however, and that’s the fact that Harreld himself laid out the research argument in his candidate forum, over seven months before the FSWG paper was presented to the full Faculty Senate in closed session:
Had the FSWG report pre-dated Harreld’s candidate forum, it would be hard not to conclude that Harreld’s focus on research reflected the conclusions of that document — yet we know the report was not presented to the Faculty Senate until more than seven months later. On the other hand, the way that Harreld hangs on his words when he says, “…I’ve had discussions….” is interesting, because we also know about the secret meetings Harreld had with high-ranking members of the board and UI administration. Not only is it likely that Harreld was fully briefed on the direction Rastetter, Robillard and others wanted the school to take — including turning the university into a state-funded incubator for private-sector businesses — but in terms of abetting his own fraudulent hire, it’s particularly telling that Harreld knew not to mention his meetings with those men at any point during his candidate forum.
Later, on the subject of research, there’s this from the 26:34 mark:
If you just follow Harreld’s rhetoric about gaming the U.S. News rankings from when he takes office until now, it may seem as if he switches from talking about faculty pay to talking about research after the release of the FSWG report. But if you go back to Harreld’s candidate forum, you actually find that both approaches are laid out together, like pincers in a battle plan. (While it might not be surprising to hear any president talk about faculty salaries and research, the key point is that Harreld ties them both to improvements in Iowa’s college rank.)
As you can see from the long transcript above, that’s almost exactly what Harreld says after he’s apprised of the FSWG report, when he’s quoted by the Corridor Business Journal — which obviously raises another interesting question. How is it that J. Bruce Harreld was delivering the same message to the UI community in September of 2015, when the FSWG final report was only delivered in April of 2016? Had Harreld’s views changed after the release of that paper — or perhaps as a result of seeing an early draft — that would be one thing, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. In fact, the opposite seems to be true.
Where the members of the Faculty Senate asked a lot of smart questions in December of 2014 in response to Rastetter’s impromptu challenge, and again in January of 2015 when the FSWG was constituted to produce a report, by the time that report was completed there were no challenges to the premise of raising Iowa’s national rank, and all of the important questions were left unanswered by that document. What should have been a scholarly white paper was instead reduced to marketing propaganda which somehow mirrored candidate Harreld’s rhetoric seven months earlier. Which means one possible reason why the FSWG report aligns so perfectly with J. Bruce Harreld’s emphasis on research — and one possible reason why it took the eleven authors of that report over a year to produce eight pages of sloppy argument, followed by three pages of appendices — is that J. Bruce Harreld himself helped write that report.
Setting all that aside, however, one thing is clear. Since I first began looking into the Harreld hire I assumed that Harreld auto-generated his ranking obsession soon after being appointed. My theory was that Harreld’s marketing mind latched onto the simplest metric that would make him look good regardless of the possible damage to the school, and that he has been pursuing that self-aggrandizing objective ever since. As we now know, however, it was Rastetter who got the ball rolling on intentionally trying to game UI’s college rank, way back in December of 2014, which means I was clearly wrong about Harreld’s motive.
In my own defense, I did look for precursors to Harreld’s ranking mania in the press, but it never occurred to me to dig into the meeting minutes of the Faculty Senate from before the commencement of the 2015 UI presidential search. Yet despite having learned of Rastetter’s initial challenge only a few days ago, I can’t say I’m surprised that he was the originator of Harreld’s self-proclaimed “top 10 public research institution” goal. What I now belatedly realize, and probably should have realized from the start, is that Harreld has been championing the gaming of Iowa’s national rank not because it will reflect well on him — although it will, and he clearly relishes that idea — but because J. Bruce Harreld is, and was no doubt hired to be, the consummate tool.
I’m just going to leave this here.
One of the very smartest, bestest and brightest, most-top-high professors I know recently moved from the top-ranked university in the world — not the US, the world — to the 60somethingth-ranked university. On purpose. After many many interviews. He did this because he thought his family would be happier there.
Here is who freaks about rankings: very, very dumb people.
Here is who considers ranking as minor in the scheme of things: people bright enough to be able to walk away voluntarily from #1.
Key to my friend’s decision, of course, is what he takes to be assurance that #60something will not **** with his research program, and will let him get on with his work in peace. Alas, I think he’s probably wrong about that, because that university is also vulnerable to statehouse ****ery. His previous university was unbelievably well-protected from small-time crooks in the state capital, and one of the things it did with its money was to build a very strong wall protecting its faculty, so that they could get on with their work in peace.
Moral: Research-university rankings are directly related to how much the state government and its cronies **** with the university’s workings. More ****ery = lower rankings.
There are two vectors here. Internally, I agree that everyone should be aware that ratings mean nothing. These are all smart people and they’re not going to make a decision based on a number put out by U.S. News.
Externally, however — and here I include the collective rah-rah consciousness of UI — appeals to rankings and “excellence” can have real appeal, which is of course why such appeals are a mainstay of college and university administrators. (Look into the rhetoric coming from any president’s office, and it’s the same blather, only differentiated by degree.)
The ease with which otherwise well-credentialed people were duped into writing that absurd ‘white paper’ shows just how easily those same people could be suckered into Harreld’s marketing rhetoric. And again — who’s ever against being better or excellent?
For me it always comes back to the kids, and the students are not served by this approach. If they want to root for a given sport, that’s great — there are rankings for all of those. Turning the school itself into a team that then spends time and money trying to game its own ranking is a waste, and the definition of failed leadership.
As has been documented in these virtual pages over the past year, and was just chronicled by DesMoinesDem at BleedHeartland, J. Bruce Harreld’s tenure in office as president of the University of Iowa has been dominated not by important policy debates or renewed attention to the needs of the students who are paying his bloated and indefensible salary, but by the machinations behind his fraudulent hire. For that reason, it is not surprising that Harreld is now engaged in a robust stage-managed public relations offensive at the beginning of his first full year on the job, in the vain hope that he can somehow wipe away the indelible stain of crony corruption After having repeatedly kept the press at arms length, and at times having gone into hiding, for the past two weeks Harreld and his media minders have been doing their best to slap a veneer of credibility over his invalid rise to power.
First there were reports that just after moving into the presidential mansion, J. Bruce Harreld was spotted jogging on campus. This was of course wonderful news, given that only six months earlier Harreld had confessed to a UI alum that he was afflicted with a “severe spinal problem” which forced him to only fly first class or on chartered jets. Harreld’s miraculous rejuvenation was subsequently confirmed when he was photographed toting boxes and hefting bags up stairs, while helping students move in to their dorms before the start of classes.
Moving on to bigger and better things, next came the J. Bruce Harreld Friend of Football tour, which included using a dying old football coach as a prop for publicity stills. That was quickly followed by news that Harreld had approved another ten-year deal for the current football coach, even though it contained a buyout clause just as onerous as the last contract. (So much for Harreld’s business experience giving UI the edge.)
Now, in just the past few days, we have learned that the coming week — meaning the entirety of the week, on a daily basis — will be devoted to “Inspiration”, which “will culminate in a presidential reception and program that officially welcomes
President Bruce Harreld to the UI.” Lest you think, however, that the only event actually focusing on J. Bruce Harreld is the final event, we have this from the IIHR —
— this from the College of Education —
— and this from the Office of Strategic Communication:
That’s right. After arriving on campus in mid-semester last fall, and suffering the indignation of all those protests prompted by his illegitimate hire — which were in turn prompted by demonstrable abuses of power which eventually led to the University of Iowa being sanctioned by the AAUP — J. Bruce Harreld himself has arranged a week long celebration of J. Bruce Harreld. Truly, finally, an official welcome worthy of IBM’s former head of global marketing.
His Excellency J. Bruce Harreld in Context
Had J. Bruce Harreld been hired honestly, we could start the clock on his presidency in early November of 2015, when he took office. Because Harreld’s hire was an inside job, however, and because Harreld himself abetted the heist, we have to remind ourselves — despite whatever self-promotional marketing jag Harreld is on at the moment — that everything he says and does can only be understood in that context.
If you’re new to the Iowa campus, or you’re just wandering into the saga of the Harreld hire, the following three posts lay out the basics of the conspiracy behind Harreld’s fraudulent appointment. First, a point-by-point look at the lies told, in the press, by various co-conspirators. Second, a point-by-point look at Harreld’s own role in that conspiracy. Third, video evidence of Harreld lying to the press, the people of Iowa and the UI community only moments after being appointed.
The short version of the Harreld hire is that Regents President Bruce Rastetter and UI Vice President for Medical Affairs Jean Robillard engineered a sham search in which Harreld was the only candidate in the running long before the meat of the search took place. Had the exact same J. Bruce Harreld been hired after a fair search process, that legitimacy would have informed not only the response of the UI community to Harreld, but Harreld’s response to the UI community. What must always be remembered, however, is that it’s not just the UI community that knows Harreld is a fraud, it’s Harreld as well..
Every day, when J. Bruce Harreld wakes up, he knows he did not become president of the University of Iowa on the merits, but only as a result of conspiring with the two men who now dictate his every move. Although any UI president would answer to the Iowa Board of Regents, and in particular to the president of that body, the fact that Harreld is personally beholden to a subordinate on the UI campus only concentrates the toxicity of their mutual deceit. Because while J. Bruce Harreld does hold the title of president at Iowa, the real power behind his throne on the UI campus is VP Jean “Colonel Kurtz” Robillard, who is also dean of the college of medicine, the former interim president, and former chair of the search committee.
Precisely because of Harreld’s illegitimacy, in the regents’ system Robillard now functions not only as a de facto fourth university president in his overlapping roles as head of UI Healthcare, UIHC, and the College of Medicine, but he does so with impunity outside Harreld’s presidential influence. The reason for that — despite utterly embarrassing arguments to the contrary from the leadership of the UI Faculty Senate — is that Robillard was in on the conspiracy from the beginning. When Rastetter secretly met with Harreld in 2015, in a conference room on the Kirkwood campus on June 19th, Robillard was there. Several weeks later, it was Robillard who invited Harreld and his wife to the UI campus, so Harreld could give his dog and pony show to 40 bigwigs at UIHC. It was also Robillard who disbanded the search committee as soon as Harreld’s name was passed to the regents, so no vetting of Harreld could be done, as was traditionally the case.
Here’s Harreld himself describing how Robillard became fascinated with his smarts at the secret Kirkwood meeting, from a Press-Citizen story by Jeff Charis-Carlson, on 11/01/15:
Now here’s Robillard talking about how eager he was to have Harreld’s input, from a story by Eric Kelderman in the Chronicle of Higher Education, on 09/14/15:
Now here’s J. Bruce Harreld again, on the day before taking office, explaining just how involved he would be in Robillard’s medical empire:
As you can see, the newly minted president of the University of Iowa — the top-ranking administrator on campus, who is supposedly beholden only to the Board of Regents — publicly announced that he would be taking a hands-off approach to Robillard’s empire on the west side of campus. And why wouldn’t he, given that Robillard actually did more than anyone to make sure Harreld got his job? Again, J. Bruce Harreld knows full well that Rastetter and Robillard hired him to be their tool, and right out of the gate he followed through on that promise, cutting Robillard loose to do whatever he wanted — including, months later, suddenly making himself dean of the College of Medicine.
Understandably, however, as the putative president at Iowa, Harreld might not want everyone to know he’s not actually the big man on campus, and one way to prove that would be orchestrating a week-long celebration of himself — after getting approval from Colonel Kurtz, of course. (To be clear, this week’s official installation of Harreld as president was on the books last November. It should be equally clear, however, that if Harreld himself did not want to be in the spotlight for the entire week, he would not be in the spotlight for the entire week.)
The Daily Iowan Interviews his Excellency
Going into this important, tightly-scripted week, then, J. Bruce Harreld finds himself wrestling with two related problems. First, he knows he’s a fraud, and second, he knows he’s a puppet. Unfortunately, there’s a third related problem which is that J. Bruce Harreld is being payed $800K a year ($200K deferred) to pretend he actually is a university president, in between doing whatever his minders tell him or permit him to do. While Harreld clearly enjoys having a crack media team to help massage his message and burnish his persona, his pesky presidential duties also include, invariably, sitting down with actual members of the press from time to time.
Fortunately for the UI community, not only does the mainstream press have great reporters covering higher-ed for the local papers, but the university’s own paper — the Daily Iowan — has been steadfast and unflinching in covering Harreld’s administration. Case in point, between last week’s photo-ops and this week’s upcoming coronation festivities, the Daily Iowan interviewed Harreld on a range of topics, producing the second extensive interview with the sham president in less than a year.
Excerpted from the 09/07/16 interview, as reported by the Daily Iowan staff:
If you’ve been following J. Bruce Harreld even peripherally since he took office, you know that his mantra about excellence is consistent and consistently insufferable. What you may not have noticed, however, is that Harreld’s harping on excellence is a scam in itself, blatantly hypocritical, and — worst of all — damaging to, if not outright dismissive of, the majority of students who will ever attend the University of Iowa.
Until quite recently I believed that Harreld’s consonant mania for gaming the U.S. News rankings was self-invented. I now know that Harreld’s obsession was commanded by Regents President Rastetter, who put that tired motivational ploy in play toward the end of 2014, and even talked the UI Faculty Senate into generating a propaganda paper toward that end. On the question of “excellence”, however, there is no question that what Harreld now purports to be a “consensus” was and is wholly his own invention, except insofar as it should be obvious that no one is against excellence.
When Jean Robillard invited Harreld to UIHC on July 8th, to dazzle the top administrators from the hospital and university, the title of his talk had a familiar theme:
After one month in office, at the beginning of December, 2015 — and with the advantage of knowing that Rastetter’s performance-based funding model had gone down to legislative defeat in the interim — — Harreld went to his go-to move of trashing former UI President Sally Mason, while once again emphasizing the same theme:
Harreld’s claim that a consensus has now formed around excellence as an administrative strategy is a joke. Again, excellence is not a strategy in higher education, it is an omnipresent objective — just as it should be equally evident that not everyone and everything can be excellent. All of which means that what Harreld is touting is excellence as a marketing plan, which makes perfect sense given that Harreld is above all a marketing weasel. (Excellence in turn feeds right back into the idea of gaming Iowa’s college rankings, because rankings purport to signify excellence.)
As to the hypocrisy of Harreld focusing on excellence to the exclusion of all else, by his own definition Harreld should be fired on the spot and forced to return all the money he’s been given to-date. Other than among thieves, there is no definition of excellence which includes lying and cheating, and clearly Harreld did lie as part of the conspiracy to fraudulently appoint him to the presidency at Iowa. And yet this is the man who now presumes to speak to the students, faculty and staff at that school about excellence.
Even for jaded adults who have lived a good portion of their lives it may be hard to see past the veneer of Harreld’s accomplishments to his failings as a man. Unfortunately, for students just venturing into adulthood that sort of insight is all but impossible. Simply by virtue of having stolen his job, Harreld confers standing upon himself in the eyes of most students, who will never truly comprehend that a coup took place until elders of good conscience — and social and cultural standing — make that clear. Until that time, the 30,000+ students on the UI campus are hostage to Harreld’s hypocritical harping on excellence, and are unfortunately the most likely to fall for Harreld’s hype.
To see the danger in that, imagine you’re a freshman at Iowa, and you’re heading into the end of your first semester. Like a lot of students you find yourself struggling to fit in, struggling to keep up and struggling to meet the expectations of yourself and your family — who you will be returning to during winter break. Unfortunately, while you’re freaking out about your poor grades, and freaking out about all the money you’re wasting because of your poor grades, and freaking out about the fact that you’re responsible for yourself but there’s no owner’s manual for that, you notice that the president of your university spends all of his time saying things like this:
While you’re struggling, how are you going to feel when you hear that messaging, over and over? Are you going to feel like you’re excellent, or are you going to feel like maybe you’re not good enough to be at the University of Iowa? Because that is quite literally what Harreld is saying. If he can’t have excellence, he’s not interested in wasting time or resources on average or middling or normal or common — which, by definition, the great bulk of students in any class will necessarily be. (Unless Harreld also has plans for porting over blanket grade inflation from his stint at Harvard.)
This is why you do not hire a pugnacious business executive with no experience in academic administration to run a university. Because the odds are that such a person really will see the entire school as just another incubator for economic and professional success, as opposed to feeling any kind of sacred obligation to help those students who may have a hard time finding their academic footing. And of course once again we have to remind ourselves that this particular pugnacious business executive participated in a conspiracy of lies in order to acquire the academic pulpit from which he is now lecturing others about excellence.
Again, imagine you’re a freshman, the semester is coming to an end, and you know your grades are going to be a wreck. Maybe you’re isolated socially, and maybe the only lesson you’ve learned so far is that drinking takes your mind off your problems. If you don’t recognize the trouble you’re headed for, and someone else doesn’t step in, what might you do to avoid the embarrassment of not being excellent?
Even if you feel no stigma about reaching out for help — including asking for mental health support under what anyone would agree are appropriate circumstances — what are you going to do when you find out that the wait time is two or three weeks, right as finals are bearing down on you? Because despite Harreld’s incessant yammering about excellence, he himself is slow-walking the number of mental health hires necessary to keep up with student demand, which is particularly damning given that the incoming freshman class just set a record, by far.
Why is J. Bruce Harreld refusing to spend money when he could easily put those assets in place — particularly after jamming his egregious tuition hikes through only months before? Because J. Bruce Harreld only wants to spend money on people and projects that are excellent, not people who are struggling, or who may never be excellent in Harreld’s eyes. And if you think I’m joking, read his quote again from the point of view of a struggling student, who feels like they’re a failure, who’s trying to figure out what to do, and who’s looking for a sign from someone who supposedly knows:
Continuing, from the next paragraph in the DI interview:
Here again Harreld claims success for “getting that through”, when he actually stuffed “excellence as a strategy” down the collective throats of the UI community. Without breaking stride Harreld then pivots to another of his favorite themes, which is that people on campus were somehow hysterical last year, as opposed to rightly incensed by the illegitimacy of his appointment — to say nothing of his pugnacious demeanor, of which trolling and taunting others has proven to be a cornerstone.
Whether Harreld is aware of it or not, his recurrent use of the word ‘calm’ originated with Governor Terry Branstad last year, who trotted out the same condescending tone in initially responding to the legitimate outrage on the UI campus. From the Gazette’s Rob Boshart, on 09/29/15 — less than a month after Harreld’s sham appointment, and following weeks of belated disclosures about the conspiracy behind Harreld’s fraudulent hire:
Because Branstad is a politician, however, he recognized that he blew it, and came back a week later with a shocked tone reeking of faux disappointment. Because J. Bruce Harreld is a politically tone-deaf marketing weasel, he continued taunting the UI community with the word ‘calm’ last year, and as you can see from the quote above he continues to do so to this day. (If you’re wondering why Harreld’s use of the word ‘calm’ is inappropriate, imagine that Harreld punched you in the face, then told you to calm down when you reacted to being punched in the face. That’s why it’s inappropriate.)
Continuing, from the next paragraph of the DI interview:
Again, because Harreld is at heart a bully, he comes back to almost the exact same “calm down” language Branstad used. As for stepping up to “some of the hard issues we’re facing”, this is the same man who crapped his pants, went into hiding, then vomited all over himself in response to the AAUP sanction.
After a lucid paragraph about student housing, Harreld berates the same point for a third time:
After an entire summer to get his mind right, or at least ‘on message’, and with the obvious goal of at least pretending to be a university president in order to do his minders proud, it only takes one direct question from the Daily Iowan staff before J. Bruce Harreld goes right back to being the small, petty man he has been since he was hired. Nobody put a gun to his head (metaphorically) and forced him to say any of that, but he couldn’t stop picking at what he perceives to be slights against him from last year. Instead, he had to harp again and again on the idea that people who oppose him are out of control, while he himself is a paragon of virtue and sincerity.
Even assuming for the moment that Harreld’s presidency was legitimate, such comments are beneath the dignity of anyone occupying the office of president of the University of Iowa. In fact, however — and there is no objective dispute about this fact — Harreld’s presidency is illegitimate, and he knows that. As the AAUP sanction clearly showed, Harreld and his co-conspirators were the abusers, yet here we have J. Bruce Harreld, in statement after statement, using his illegitimately gained office for blame the victims of that abuse for their outrage at that abuse.
Picking up on Harreld’s apparent unhappiness, the DI follows Harreld’s lead:
How do you trust a liar? And no, that’s not a rhetorical question. J. Bruce Harreld is a liar. He will lie to your face, and yet he’s the one calling for trust.
As for meaningful discussions, where’s the meaningful discussion on how Harreld lied about the origins of his candidacy in order to cover up the conspiracy that hired him? Wouldn’t you think that would be an important topic — particularly if Harreld felt he was innocent? Instead, we got one story in early September, then another story in early November, yet Harreld never bothered to explain why the first story was suddenly false. (Or why Rastetter and Robillard said nothing at the time, even though they were in the room when that lie came out of Harreld’s mouth, and they both knew it was false.)
Here we come to another recurrent Harreld theme over the past year, which is that people are confused about who the bad guys were regarding his sham hire. That is in fact the same lie he had his toadies on the Faculty Senate trot out when Harreld himself could do nothing more than gurgle in response to the AAUP sanction. From the UI Alumni Magazine, in December of 2015:
The message, nine months later, is once again that J. Bruce Harreld is the real victim in all this.
For Part 2 of J. Bruce Harreld Officially Welcomes His Excellency J. Bruce Harreld., click here.
Concerning Part 1:
1. It appears a little weird to have this scheduled on on the 15th anniversary of 9/11, which is the defining history event of the 21st Century (thus far):
Student kickoff event
Sunday, Sept. 11, 4–6:30 p.m., Pentacrest
Enjoy performances by the UI’s Intersection, Hawkapellas, Iowa Agni, and UI Old Gold Acappella, as well as spoken word by B.A.R.S. (Black Art; Real Stories). There will be free burritos and ice cream while supplies last.
Not to get all unctuous and overly sentimental, but maybe this could have been scheduled Monday???
Maybe no one outside of New York or Washington feels that 9/11 is that important anymore, although arguably the event of the 3rd largest loss of life on US soil — and largest non-natural disaster– since the civil war dominates recent history.
2. It seems accurate that Harreld is celebrating Harreld for being Harreld as well as pimping the university about Harreld. The past year has been devoid of any great academic move forward, or great university accomplishment — perhaps the new Hancher or remodeled campus count although started years ago.
Harreld has done really nothing other than hang around and calm everyone down about Harreld. Harreld wants to be the center of all attention, despite Harreld being the center of no particular accomplishment.
And this I believe is how the Harreld years will go nothing monumental will occur, there will be no accomplishments of substance moving academics at the UIowa forward, as a result of Harreld.
We will see press releases, and bluster, and general marketing weaseling, but nothing really of any true importance.
Wonder if this is happening at UArkansas where the tOSU guy Steinmetz landed? Looks like Iowa got the self-indulgent marketing genius and Arkansas got the man with the plan.
If I’ve been surprised by anything over the past year, it’s the degree to which Harreld is just incredibly thin on understanding the media. Whatever else he did at IBM, he really was head of global marketing for years, and yet his bandwidth seems to be as narrow now as it must have been then. Yes, he’ll stay on message, but that’s true even if it’s the wrong message!
(Again, I come back to the fact that he had all summer to get himself together, and he can’t do it. Constitutionally, psychologically — I don’t know what the problem is, but unless he’s reading someone else’s words and sticking tightly to that script, he just lapses into bile.)
Of greater concern is how unprepared Harreld is to deal with an actual emergency or issue of serious gravitas. Not only has he fumbled basic decisions and responses over and over, but many of the wounds he suffered in his first year were entirely self-inflicted. Put any issue of real substance on his plate, let alone something unfolding in real time, and you’re going to get the same guy who literally could not — and still cannot — summon up a coherent response to the AAUP sanction.
Even if he just calls Eileen Wixted and asks her how to handle the issue he does better than he’s done so far, so what’s the problem?
Tomorrow is a milestone in that the U.S. News rankings for 2017 will be released. Harreld doesn’t have to own them because he’s just starting his first full year, and it will be easy for him to spin the results regardless of the actual number. If they’re down, he hits the panic button. If they’re flat, he hits the panic button. If they’re bounced back at all from the plunge they took last year he takes credit for the rebound and still hits the panic button.
After this year, however, those numbers are on him, and because he’s made a huge deal about raising those numbers (and others of his own invention), he’s going to have to go all-in on committing time and resources to that end. And that in itself is failed leadership. (And also about what you would expect from a marketing weasel.)
After tomorrow the clock really starts ticking on Harreld, and he’s set some pretty audacious goals. Transformational change. Top 10 public research university during his tenure. Going all-in on big data, hydraulics and professional education (which seems to be his new name for the “executive education” course he taught at Harvard).
Then there are the cuts, which he’s hinted at and promised endlessly, yet never actually specified. You can only talk smack for so long before you have to hit someone, and so far Harreld hasn’t tipped his hand. Who’s going to take the brunt of his abuse, and how are they going to respond — both publicly, and behind the scenes?
And yes, I really lament the loss of Steinmetz. A man who positioned himself perfectly for the leap to Iowa, and who would have understood the institution instead of forcing the institution to bow to his blind spots. If there’s any silver lining it’s that he didn’t end up wasting his time working for, and being impeded by, the crooks at the Iowa Board of Regents.
Anyway, like I said, tomorrow’s the big day. After that, Harreld owns UI, and he’s going to have to start delivering on his promises. And that starts with his big speech and coronation on Friday, to which he has summoned all of the power players on campus. Can’t you just feel the adoration?
It is amazing the vacuousness of Harreld’s responses. Almost cocktail speech like. He goes on and on to say nothing.
Words like ‘doggone good’. What person in a major leadership role says crap like that? (George Bush excepted)
Look at his responses. He knows the backstory on Dr Cech but doesn’t appear to remember his name. (btw Cech is a chemist which Harreld doesnt seem to know, amazed Cech isn’t in medicine)
I was going to pretend I am a new CEO of IBM, then answer the DI’s questions, Let’s see if I can fake it in broad generalities.
Harreld doesnt seem to know academics, nor know his university, so he retreats to broad platitudes.
Or he is losing it cognitively.
This is Part 2 of J. Bruce Harreld Officially Welcomes His Excellency J. Bruce Harreld. For Part 1, click here.
Continuing from the recent Daily Iowan interview:
Here, in a tour de force of ego, Harreld not only name drops his accomplished relatives — who almost certainly acquired their language skills as a result of hard work, as opposed to lying — but manages to distill all of his themes into a seamless whole. There’s “calming down” again, and “excellence”, and “big issues”, and “rankings” and “salaries”. If it wasn’t so revolting it would be impressive for its improvisational ruthlessness.
Here we have the ultimate in condescension. If not for the Great Man coming to the University of Iowa — albeit as a result of a conspiracy of lies which he himself abetted — the natives at UI would not understand just how great their school really is. Lucky Iowans! And no, don’t look too closely at that first sentence, where Harreld gets in yet another dig at the people who opposed his hire, which has nothing to do with the question, and nothing to do with the rest of that sentence or paragraph.
And of course Harreld also has to come back to the idea that everyone is complaining — only here he deflects from complaints about his diseased presence on campus and redirect them into complaints about the school itself. If only the poor stupid Iowa natives would stop whining and complaining, and lift their downcast heads, J. Bruce Harreld could instill in them a marketing plan that would profit him greatly!
Culture of dependency? Culture of dependency? This from the man who needed the corrupt sitting president of the Iowa Board of Regents and the corrupt VP for Medical Affairs at the University of Iowa to even have a shot at the job he now holds? And then he segues into “earn our way”, as if suddenly the University of Iowa is for-profit business?
Again, look at the impact of this sick messaging on a struggling college student. “People like supporting winners”. People like people “with a smile on their face”. And what the hell is wrong with saying you’re struggling when you’re really struggling? This is the same sham president who himself went down I-80 multiple times, begging the crony political powers that be to give him the job he now holds, and he’s the one passing out advice about self-reliance and “earning our way”?
After the next question Harreld gives a long whiny answer about how tough he had it commuting to campus and back, before again reminding the DI that he’s smart:
Translation: if only the regents had driven Sally Mason out sooner, and appointed Harreld in her place, he wouldn’t have had so much trouble getting to and from campus last year. And I honestly think in Harreld’s mind that he believes he would have seen the need and acted immediately, even though, when faced with an obvious problem at the UI Department of Public Safety, he took a close personal look at that issue and got the answer completely wrong.
Moments later, there’s this:
Because J. Bruce Harreld wasn’t around in 2008, it’s perhaps understandable that he doesn’t know the reality of what happened. What’s not understandable is how a grown man could use the phrase “silver lining” to describe any part of an inundation that led to over a billion dollars in losses in Iowa City alone. And yet as you can see, not only does Harreld go there, but he makes clear that the silver lining is really his, personally, because now he gets all those snazzy new buildings to play with, instead of the old, “antiquated” facilities that are dragging down other campus leaders.
If, like world-class business executive and visionary leader J. Bruce Harreld, you’re not actually familiar with the flooding in 2008, the first thing you need to know is that the flooding in Iowa City was caused by heavy rains to the northwest, which fed into a series of rivers that angle cross the state to the southeast, where they empty into the Mississippi. All told, the flooding on those rivers did over $50B in damage, including submerging downtown Cedar Rapids and the surrounding area:
Are you seeing the silver lining, because I’m not seeing it. One other thing I’m not seeing in the DI’s 5,000 word interview, by the way, is any mention of Sally Mason by J. Bruce Harreld. That’s partly weird because Mason was the one who pulled the school together and led the fundraising that went into buying J. Bruce Harreld all of his shiny new buildings, so he doesn’t have to mope around all day like a second-class fake university president. It’s also weird, however, because Harreld apparently likes Mason, whom he previously “worked with very closely” and knew for more than a decade as a member of the Purdue mafia — along with Purdue President Mitch Daniels, who was absolutely, positively the person who brought Harreld to the attention of the search committee, until suddenly he wasn’t.
And yet, as regular readers know, this isn’t the first time Harreld has failed to credit Mason with her successes. From an update to a post following Harreld’s first DI interview, in mid-April:
That DI interview, conducted also with UI Provost P. Barry Butler, was just over 4,000 words, and again Mason’s name never crossed Harreld’s lips. What is his pathological need to scrub Sally Mason from the history books at Iowa? Why can’t Harreld be gracious about someone he also professes to like? (Those questions were rhetorical. For the full post following Harreld’s first interview, click here.)
Returning to the recent DI interview, after more on the benefits of catastrophic natural disasters, Harreld’s answer to the next DI question is interesting:
Now, personally, I think this is very smart stuff, and I couldn’t agree more strongly about the importance of collaboration among academic and scientific disciplines. I’m not sure that Harreld is being particularly insightful, however, but because three years ago I wrote this, as part of a yet-to-be-published work:
As I think everyone would agree, if a non-academic free-radical like me can get there on my own, I’m not sure how much credit J. Bruce Harreld deserves for recognizing collaboration and interdisciplinary research as the wave of the future. And yet from his answer it’s quite clear that Harreld himself thinks this is a very big thing, even if it’s already ‘out there’. So why does Harreld go on and about all that for five paragraphs?
The answer, of course, is that J. Bruce Harreld is positioning himself to take credit for any advances that come from interdisciplinary collaboration. Yes, dropping the “Nobel laureate” mingle was lame, as was dropping his home state of Colorado — where he and mentor Jerry Stead somehow managed to live only a hundred miles apart, yet absolutely never, ever, ever talked about the Iowa presidency until after Bruce Rastetter called first — but the real red flag is in the last line:
What’s that “we” doing in there? Because from the gist of the story it sounds like whatever transpired happened without Harreld’s help, but there Harreld is inviting himself to a heaping helping of credit. And yet as regular readers know, that’s actually Harreld’s modus operandi.
Start with Harreld’s narrative about his years at IBM and you find a man not only claiming to have been critical to that company’s avoidance of what would have been Chapter 11 bankruptcy at worst, but also taking credit for all of the successes that followed as the company finally caught up to the pace of change in technology. (Lou Gerstner? Who’s that?) Okay, sure — that’s what people do on their resumes, they take credit. Except on Harreld’s resume he also took sole credit for papers he collaborated on, and some only marginally at that. Which of course led to Harreld being censured before he even took office, which he later excused by claiming that’s how citations are done in the business world, even though he spent the prior eight years not in business but as a senior lecturer at Harvard. (I am still waiting for someone to produce a list of all of the university presidents who got themselves censured before their first day on the job.)
Want more? Okay, how about taking credit for the completion of Sally Mason’s six-point plan to combat campus sexual assault in last April’s DI interview? Which of course followed on Harreld trashing Mason’s six-point plan during his candidate forum, which he intended to replace with “N-O”. Which, immediately after his appointment, Harreld then augmented with the bold idea of deputizing the football team to “do something”.
Which now brings us back to last week’s DI interview, the advantages of collaboration, and this:
The backstory here is that Harreld blew up plans for a public-private partnership that was on the boards, which would have led to a new UI Museum of Art (UIMA) on the edge of downtown Iowa City. The University needs a new art museum because the old one was one of those antiquated buildings that Harreld was spared from by the fortunate floods of 2008. When Harreld refers to the rarity and brilliance of combining an art museum and library, he’s talking about the new plan to site the UIMA next to the main library, and have them play off each other. And it’s clear from his quote that he himself is taking credit for that decision.
Except, as regular readers know, that location was actually one of two sites previously considered in 2010, in a report requested by former President Sally Mason, whom Harreld of course goes out of his way to screw over once again. Why does Harreld constantly position himself to take credit for other people’s work? Well, I don’t know. All I can tell you is that if you’re doing anything right now on the UI campus, and it’s successful, J. Bruce Harreld is going to take credit. It doesn’t matter if he knew about it in advance or had any bearing on your work — if he’s in office when your ten or twenty or thirty years of hard work pay off, he’s going to be there for the pictures. (Unless Jean Robillard tells him to stay home)
The next question from the DI interview covers territory from the April DI interview, and indicates that Harreld’s attempt to redirect money from athletics to academics is looking less and less likely by the day. Which is of course why Harreld is now lowering the bar of success to ankle height. And of course on closer inspection, Harreld’s plan — which he trumpeted as his own with great fanfare earlier in the year — was originally put forward by former Regents President Michael Gartner. From the recent DI interview:
The UI athletic department budget is over a hundred million dollars. The UI AD — whether Gary Barta or whoever replaces him — is never going to fork over any of that money. Instead, the AD will blow every available penny on bloated salaries, massive contracts, and improvements to facilities, etc. And I think maybe that’s finally sinking in for J. Bruce Harreld, even though he goes on and on for three more paragraphs.
After a question about whether the Athletics Department will expand (no), we get this:
Leaving context aside, if there’s one moment in the entire DI interview which reveals the real J. Bruce Harreld, it’s this forlorn line:
Now, I don’t know how many golf courses your college or university has, but from J. Bruce Harreld’s quote it’s clear he is not happy about having only one golf course. I’m not saying he would rank that failing with, say, not having even one art museum, but clearly it’s a concern. In fact, not only can you tell he’s bumming about only having one course, but he also mentions — twice — that the club house is “antiquated”, like all of those other shabby buildings that were thankfully wiped out by the 2008 floods. (Perhaps that’s part of his frustration. Why couldn’t the floods have taken the antiquated Finkbine club house, too, thus also saving him from that embarrassment?)
It is of course possible that there is a lot of unreported student unrest on campus about having an antiquated club house, to say nothing of only one course. Maybe students are having trouble getting tee times, maybe they’re bored with the course and want something new, or maybe they’re just used to the finer things in life. Or….
Maybe that’s all true, but only for J. Bruce Harreld, while the general student population has had nothing to say about Finkbine or its facilities. Instead, maybe J. Bruce Harreld is embarrassed to have his fat-cat friends or big UI boosters play a round there, particularly when he knows Augusta is just a short private jet flight away. Or maybe, when he’s trying to sell off chunks of the school to corporate CEO’s who are willing to ‘invest’ in research — as long as they get matching funds, free facilities, and an endless supply of free student interns — he feels inadequate about playing on campus.
To be honest, I don’t have a good explanation for why any of that came out of Harreld’s mouth, but because it did there are two important questions we need to ask. The first question, obviously, is whether Harreld’s statement — that Iowa is “one of the few Big Ten schools that only have one golf course” — is actually true. Well, here’s what I found after consulting the internet:
By my count, then, out of fourteen Big10 schools there are three with 0 campus golf courses, six with 1 campus course, and five with 2 campus courses. Which does not at all square with this statement from the current president of the University of Iowa:
Is Harreld lying, because that’s just what Harreld likes to do? Did he get some bad intel from an overly-eager or golf-biased member of the Athletics Department? I honestly have no idea. What I can say with some certainty, however, is that even if I’m off on my research by 50%, and there are seven schools with two golf courses, or even eight, Harreld’s flat statement of fact is still wrong.
Which brings us to the second question we need to ask. When Harreld mentions the antiquated Finkbine club house once, it’s like — okay, sure, the garage at his chalet in Avon, Colorado is probably nicer than the Finkbine club house. When he comes right back to the same point, however, and repeats it, it’s as if he himself was personally traumatized by the Finkbine club house, which would mean he’s been there.
The reason that’s important is because, as we noted earlier in this post, J. Bruce Harreld has a “severe spinal problem”. While whatever back problem he’s tormented by doesn’t seem to preclude him from jogging, or helping students move their belongings, I think it’s pretty well-established that golf is one sport that can really wreck the human back. In fact, although I don’t play the game myself, I’ve never heard anyone say that their doctor told them to take up golf because of stenosis or scoliosis or a slipped disk or degenerative arthritis or anything other than just needing to get a little exercise and sun. So the obvious question we need to ask here is whether J. Bruce Harreld has actually been playing rounds of golf at Finkbine, both to establish that fact, and to better understand why he might make up a completely ludicrous, easily checked fact that was not even close to being true. (If you’ve played golf with Harreld at Finkbine, or anywhere else for that matter — say, in the past year — or you’ve seen him playing golf, or he went berserk with a nine iron in your office, drop me a note.)
The final two questions in the DI interview have to do with Iowa deciding not to pursue a Bias Assessment and Response Team on campus. While I agree with that decision, and I agree that the issues are complicated, for the purposes of this post we’ll focus on two specific sentences in Harreld’s otherwise lucid replies:
I’m never sure in Harreld’s transcripts whether he’s the one who can’t say ‘shared governance’, or it somehow gets consistently garbled in transcription. In any case, it’s not surprising that a consummate marketing weasel would throw out the term whenever possible, particularly after laying waste to his own credibility and the credibility of the school by happily abusing shared governance in order to land the job he now has. Which is to say that as long as it suits his purpose, J. Bruce Harreld will happily take credit for doing the right thing, right up until it’s more profitable to do the wrong thing, which brings us back to the worst thing I said about J. Bruce Harreld in this entire post.
I think there are a lot of people who lie and I think there are a lot of people who take credit for things they haven’t done. Harreld’s propensity for both should immediately disqualify him from the job he now holds, but because the only reason he attained that position is that it was given to him by his co-conspirators, we know he’s not going to lose his job over being a liar or a cheat. What I do not believe, however, is that there are a lot of people who would knowingly do something wrong, then set about using the levers of power to blame the victims of their abuses. I know it happens, but it’s a deeply disturbing trait to victimize someone once, then victimize them again. And yet, as I noted at the beginning of this post, after having had the entire summer to get his mind right, Harreld’s instinct is still to taunt, belittle and invalidate the people who know — as a factual matter — that his presidency is illegitimate, and that’s menace.
The genuinely disturbing part, however, is that you would think most such people would recognize that it was in their self interest to adopt a more conciliatory tone, even if that’s not what was in their black heart. And yet despite the obvious benefit of doing so, it’s clear that Harreld can’t. Not that he won’t, not that he hasn’t thought about doing so, but that he quite literally cannot stop taunting, belittling and invalidating the very people that he himself abused in conspiring with Rastetter, Robillard and others.
What Harreld can do as president, of course, is command others to admire his greatness, and that’s what this coming week is about. Culminating in Harreld’s coronation on Friday, that may also be a good time to reflect on whether you intend to follow this man wherever he’s about to lead the university. Because if Harreld is capable of treating people who oppose him like dirt, even when he himself is demonstrably guilty of every charge that has ever been leveled against him, then it’s a given that at some point he may turn on you too.
From the official announcement:
If you do attend, while you’re listening to J. Bruce Harreld sound sensible, and watching him look like a normal human being on stage, remind yourself that despite the fact that he’s a liar and a cheat, at that moment he really does believe that he deserves — deserves — all of the attention he’s getting. Despite all of the secret meetings he held with Rastetter and Robillard, and kept secret until long after his appointment, despite the untold phone conversations and emails we don’t yet know about, despite the intent and the will to deceive the University of Iowa community, in Harreld’s mind the only people who are actually guilty of anything are those who would presume to hold him and his co-conspirators accountable for what they have actually done.
Update 09/22/16: It’s getting to the point that I can’t keep up with Harreld’s craziness. Although I commented on the following quote above, it didn’t really sink in until yesterday —
What does that even mean? Remember — this is the same guy who declared himself to be a victim of actual hate speech because he had to deal with some protesters at a meeting. So when Harreld declares that he has a “multicultural background” himself because other people in his family speak a foreign language, I think the only conclusion we can reach is that he really believes that, which is nuts.
My grandmother had six years of Latin. That doesn’t mean I get to claim to have been shaped or improved or diversified by her life experience, or that she would even have implied such about herself. And yet here Harreld is, blithely equating other people’s linguistic accomplishments with being “multicultural”. No. Absolutely not.
The only cultural traits that Harreld has demonstrated himself are being an enormously privileged and emotionally needy white male, whose basis for personal relationships is bro culture, and whose faith in himself is such that he felt empowered to participate in and lie about the conspiracy that put him in office.
Salon posted a new article on the Right’s plan to starve the college beast: http://www.salon.com/2016/09/09/the-rights-war-on-college-starving-the-beast-exposes-the-fight-to-destroy-americas-great-public-universities/
“In one egregious example cited in the new documentary “Starving the Beast” (not an untypical example, sadly), public funding for Louisiana State University went from 75 percent of the school’s operating budget to about 13.5 percent — in nine years”
USNWR rankings are out. Overall conclusions:
1. Big Ten universities, making money hand over foot on sports (with their own network) might reconsider having say like a Big Ten Academic Station. Because overall the Big Ten, the heart of the countries public research universities, SUCKS.
Yeah UIowa sucks academically, but to be honest, Michigan has really plummeted in rankings sucking even more. The state must have directed Flint-lead water to Ann Arbor. School needs an overhaul.
Traditionally strong schools like Illinois, Minnesota Wisky, have totally screwed up. One could blame the leadership of morons like the Guv of Wisky Walker (didn’t even graduate from Marquette) but Minnie is down too.
The rankings for Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota are totally unacceptable. I would wholesale fire those administrations for gross incompetence…and kick their Guvs out too.
Mitch Daniels has led Purdue to a very very hot #61. Come on PU. That really is PU! Ridiculous.
Let’s get to Iowa. Sure, Indiana has cut state support to like cents (that’s Veep candidate Pence….which is what he gives to education) so that is an excuse. There is no excuse for Iowa.
The great University of Iowa, led by genius J Bruce Harreld, falls in line w/ #82 tied with UC Santa Cruz. Well there is something to aim at: UCSC (and I only thought they had a boardwalk at Santa Cruz).
Iowa is looking up at Boston U, Col Mining, Tulane, and Yeshiva.
Harreld can point at disasters like UColordo (89), Bama (96), Nebraska (103), Oregon, Tenn, Mizzou, and Kansas, all of whom underachieve to a remarkable level. There is always somebody doing a worse job. Give Harreld time…
Oh and the great engineering school Iowa State at 108. One-oh-eight. President Leath should stop speculating on land and start paying attention to his academics.
Iowa #82 is pathetic. I would start with the pink slips at the Board of Regents. Bye bye to Braun, Connelly, Butler, Lehnertz, Matthes and the gang of incompetents and nincompoops who appear to be better at enriching themselves and cronies than at guiding a once good university to solid low level mediocrity. Can students even spell ‘Hawkeye’ anymore?
Hey but we have new infrastructure thanks to the blessing of the Great Flood.
So that’s two years in a row at #82 for national colleges. We’re also #33 for public universities, where we were #34 last year — except this year there are three schools at #33, so we basically haven’t moved in either ranking.
As for Iowa State, that’s what happens when you turn a university into an academic confinement operation. More students equals worse ratings — in lockstep. Which is also why Rastetter’s plan to become a top-tier public research university by growing enrollment was insane.
Speaking of which, it’s time for somebody to pin Harreld down about this:
“I think we could be a top 10 public research institution during my tenure.”
He said that back in March, and he needs to make clear exactly where Iowa currently is in that made-up rankings classification. Then he needs to own that claim, and this is the week to make him do it.
He and Rastetter have actual faculty members writing trash marketing propaganda for them about becoming “Top 10”, only nobody’s specifying the actual metrics that are being used. Well, it’s time for Harreld to man-up and get specific, before he starts hosing precious resources down the drain in pursuit of this scam.
World Class? Marketing slogan only. Iowa is #128 among global universities. Zhejang University kicks Iowa’s butt. As does Cal Riverside, and Hamburg.
Tied with National Taiwan, and Western Australia.
Western Australia and Iowa: WORLD CLASS!
A little over a week ago we took a close look at the origins of J. Bruce Harreld’s obsession with college rankings. Where I previously believed that the fraudulently appointed UI president’s mania for gaming Iowa’s college rank was self-generated, it turns out the idea originally came from none other than Harreld’s boss — Regents President Bruce Rastetter — who, during a Faculty Senate meeting in early December of 2014, floated an audacious challenge to make Iowa one of the “top ten public universities”, or, “top ten public research universities”.
As we will see, when it comes to ranking aspirations almost everyone ends up setting squishy goals. Also, while Rastetter and Harreld could have already been in contact at that point, the record is clear that it was Rastetter who put the rankings challenge before the Faculty Senate, and Rastetter who called for a report to be issued by the Senate about how that objective might best be reached. (That report, presented last spring as a ‘white paper‘, was discussed at length in the post linked above.)
What we have not yet considered is where Rastetter himself got that bold idea. That’s an interesting question because while Rastetter is clearly gifted in terms of exploiting people and situations, he has shown no propensity for working from a blank page. In fact, immediately after floating his “top ten” challenge, Rastetter revealed his ignorance about how that goal might best be achieved by proposing that Iowa grow its way to “top ten” status, when enrollment increases actually have a negative effect on rankings. (The more students a school lets in, the less selective it can necessarily be, and that in turn hurts that school’s score. Yet somehow the President of the Iowa Board of Regents was oblivious to that basic dynamic when he made his proposal.)
So where did Rastetter get his “top ten” idea? Well, if you look into other schools which have attempted similar bold moves, you find that they all trace back to a single grand initiative put forward twenty years ago by the Kentucky General Assembly:
Like Kentucky’s grand initiative, Rastetter’s unbidden challenge at the end of 2014 came with no details or specifics. It was left to the surprised members of the Faculty Senate to flesh out the details, even as Rastetter’s advice was to do the one thing that would make achieving that lofty goal impossible. (To be fair to Rastetter, at the time he was still hoping for passage of his performance-based funding plan, which encouraged enrollment increases at all of the state’s schools.)
As the University of Kentucky dutifully set about planning how to become a “Top 20 public research university by 2020”, other schools also got in on the act. As noted in another deep dive about college rankings, in 2001 the new president at Clemson University initiated the same challenge at that school:
While other schools had tried gaming U.S. News’ rankings before (Northeastern began dong so in 1996), what set Kentucky’s initiative apart was both its standing and the public status of the school, as well as the degree to which the effort was integrated throughout the state. This was not just a bold move by an administrator looking for headlines, but a state-wide, vertically integrated attempt to use the University of Kentucky as an economic engine.
Where many schools intentionally used mushy metrics and marketing hype to drive their ranking schemes, Kentucky put out a comprehensive plan which included critical metrics — including details about the category of competition. From the “Top 20 Business Plan“, finalized in 2006:
Note the specific mention of ranking in the “Top 20 of 88 public research universities”. Whatever else might be said about Kentucky’s Top 20 Plan, and more will be said in this post, the school committed to a serious, detailed, long-term effort to reach that goal. By contrast, Clemson’s plan (and the plan followed by Northeastern), was predicated on a willingness to game the U.S. News ranking system by any and every means available.
While Kentucky as a state and Kentucky as a school put a massive amount of time and resources into fleshing out a plan of attack, many more schools piled on the rankings bandwagon, setting their sights on top-ten or top-twenty rankings. Because achieving such status was a lot easier to imagine if the competition was smaller, however, many schools were intentionally vague about what they were actually competing for, and who they were competing with.
Where Kentucky was explicit — “Top 20 of 88 public research universities” — most schools kept the narrower “public research university” verbiage (as compared to the broader “public university” descriptor) while jettisoning any specific mention of how many schools fit that category. That’s important because not only does U.S. News not report rankings for that category (although they can be derived), but there is no consensus among all of the ranking organizations and institutions about what constitutes a “public research university”.
As might also be expected, as more and more schools joined the rankings bandwagon, the terminology of success broadened considerably, allowing everyone to aspire to and even claim exalted status. By the same token, aiming for a “Top X” ranking was dangerous because specifics could be checked. Even if you made up your own rankings category, and failed to specify how man schools you were competing against, aspiring to a top-ten or top-twenty ranking meant failure could be ascribed to you as well.
A win-win solution arrived with the introduction of the equally alliterative phrase ‘top tier’, which proved to be a wildly satisfying replacement for dangerously specific numeric goals. Perform and internet search for ‘top tier university’ (or ‘top-tier university‘) and you’ll find all sorts of schools either aspiring to that mushy claim, or simply bestowing it upon themselves. (‘Top tier’ as a phrase not only plays off ‘top ten’, but in Iowa it also plays off the TIER review process implemented by the Board of Regents.)
For example, here’s Texas A&M, an AAU school, claiming that it is a top tier public research university. As of yesterday, U.S. News had Texas A&M ranked #74 in national universities, and #27 in public universities. Here’s the University of Arkansas also claiming “top tier” status. For 2017, U.S. News has Arkansas ranked #135 nationally and #64 among public schools. Here’s the University of Tennessee aspiring to be a “top-tier public research university“, which — as far as I can tell — it could just go ahead and claim, since there is no agree-upon definition by which anyone could prove otherwise. (UT is #103 and #46.)
Compared to Kentucky’s painstaking process, metrics and goals, all of this literal and figurative self-promotion can be seen for what it is, which is nothing more than marketing hype. In the wide-open world of college rankings, ‘top tier’ simply means ‘super awesome’, albeit in phraseology which implies some actual accomplishment.
Again, that’s important because finishing in the top ten or top twenty is a fantasy for any school that hasn’t already been there for most of the prior decade. Because of structural limitations in the rankings themselves, because of costs, because of each school’s inherent advantages and disadvantages, for the most part any school’s ranking is baked into the cake within a relatively narrow band. If want to increase your ranking you also have only two options: either go the Kentucky route and throw everything you have at organically improving the school’s ranking-relevant metrics, or, throw in the towel on any pretense of integrity, like Clemson did, and just game the hell out of the system:
While the University of Iowa can choose the Kentucky way or the Clemson way, or some hybrid in-between, the fact remains — and it is an indisputable fact — that unless the category Iowa is competing in only has ten schools to begin with, it is not going to become a “top ten public research university”, let alone a “top ten public university”, no matter which approach J. Bruce Harreld takes. And yet there Harreld was, back in March, saying this:
No — whether Harreld goes the Kentucky route of the Clemson route that is never,ever going to happen, but of course being Harreld he’s giving mixed signals about that as well. Instead of details and specifics, Harreld is full of platitudes and generalizations. Instead of stating which rankings or schools Iowa is competing against, the words ‘top tier’ are constantly conflated with ‘top ten’ and ‘top twenty’.
For example, here are two quotes from the recent press release announcing UI’s Harreld-centric week of “Inspiration”, which culminates in Harreld’s big speech on Friday:
Top…what? Top ten? Top two hundred?
Wait — “top-tier”? What happened to Harreld’s unambiguous goal of “top 10”? Well, between dropping that “top 10” quote at the end of March, and being presented with the Faculty Senate ‘white paper’ at the beginning of April, the goal posts began to move:
In fact, the title of the ‘white paper’ itself demonstrates the bait-and-switch phrase-swapping we’ve been talking about. From the page on the Faculty Senate site, which links to the ‘white paper‘:
Nothing solid, nothing about ‘top ten’ or even ‘top twenty’. Instead, despite Rastetter’s clear mandate of becoming a “top ten” school, the Faculty Senate took a long look at the problem and backed all the way off to “top tier”. Then, in early June, we got this — from a working draft of the new UI Strategic Plan:
Again, while the ranking is specific, there are no details, no metrics, no context. Just “top-20 public research university” as a bullet point, which, as already noted, does not exist as a U.S. News ranking category.
Where Rastetter wanted “top ten” in early December of 2014, and he got “top 10” from Harreld a year and a half later, he only got “top-tier” and “highly aspirational” from the Faculty Senate, while Harreld’s own Strategic Plan moved the goal posts back to the “top-20” of the Kentucky and Clemson plans. Where the University of Kentucky produced a full-on business plan, however, the only document to come out of UI so far is an eight-page Faculty Senate ‘white paper’ which doesn’t even qualify as toilet paper. And of course there have been absolutely no specifics from Harreld at all. (For reasons no one can explain, the Faculty Seante ‘white paper’ which was released last spring carries a “Fall|16” date on the title page, suggesting it may yet drop in service of Harreld’s “top 10” initiative.)
So where did Rastetter come up with his bold (and naive, or disingenuous) challenge for Iowa to become a “top ten public research university”? Well, there are any number of pathways for such an obvious idea, but one direct route has to do with Kumble Subbaswamy, provost of the University of Kentucky, who was one of two finalists for the presidency at Iowa State University in 2011. At the time, Rastetter had just recently been appointed to the Iowa Board of Regents, while Kentucky’s “Top 20” plan had been grinding away for the better part of fourteen years — but only five since completing the comprehensive business plan which would dictate the pursuit of that objective. (If you haven’t checked out the business plan, or the Top 20 website, you should. The business plan runs 44 pages, and the website is impressive for the amount of information it provides — particularly compared with similar undertakings by other schools, and the glaring lack of any supporting information from Harreld’s administration.)
So how did things actually turn out for Clemson and Kentucky? Well, after selling its institutional credibility for almost fifteen years, Clemson now ranks #66 among national universities, and #23 among public schools — so it’s close, but still short of becoming a top-twenty public research institution. (Clemson hit #22 in 2009. In 2011, Clemson introduced its own version of the Kentucky plan, also aiming for top-twenty by 2020. To see just how far down the rankings rabbit hole Clemson has gone, click here.)
As for Kentucky, with four years to go until its self-imposed 2020 deadline, and with over a decade since its full-bore business plan was unveiled, the University of Kentucky currently ranks #133 in national universities, and #63 in public schools. Meaning not only is a “Top 20” ranking not going to happen in any category, but the case could be made that the last thing any school should do is follow the Kentucky plan.
(As far as I can tell, the single biggest determinant of a college or university ranking is how far it is to the nearest beach. And, no, that’s not a joke or a dig at the students, or not only. Faculty and admins go to the beach as well, or, more likely, to their beach house or their country club on the shore, or the marina that berths their sloop. Point being, even within a single rankings system not all of the relevant factors will be captured, and that’s particularly true of intrinsic factors like geography.)
Because no school that is not already in the top fifteen is ever going to make it into the top ten in any category, it makes sense that Iowa has now dropped back — like Kentucky and Clemson, and so many other schools — to aiming to become a “Top 20” school among “public research universities”. Unlike Kentucky, however, which identified 88 such competitors, Iowa has been typically squishy not only about the number of schools it is competing with, but about where it currently ranks among those schools. (In the 2017 U.S. News rankings, Iowa is #82 among national universities, and in a three-way tie at #33 among public schools, but again there is no ‘public research university’ category.)
While U.S. News is the college rankings leader, a lot of other organizations are getting into the rankings game because that’s where the page hits are. And while U.S. News doesn’t have a specific category for “public research universities”, others do. Running a search for ‘best public research universities‘ turns up plenty of rankings, none of which provides any useful insight about what a ‘public research university’ actually is, or how many exist.
For example, BestCollegeReviews.com has a page listing the Top 50 Public Research Universities. While Iowa States comes in at #39, Iowa doesn’t even make the list. CollegeRaptor.com lists the 25 Best Research Universities (not necessarily public), and again Iowa does not make the list. CollegeChoice.net ranks the Best National Research Universities (again, not necessarily public), and out of 50 schools Iowa does not make the list. BestColleges.com lists 40 Colleges Spending the Most on Research & Development in 2016, and again Iowa doesn’t make the list.
As for how Harreld intends to move the rankings needle, it should be obvious that he cannot announce that he’s embarking on the Clemson plan even if that’s what he has in mind. Openly acknowledging that he was throwing the entire weight of his office at manipulating a ranking as an end in itself would be administrative suicide, even with Rastetter watching his back at the board. By the same token, however, there’s no chance that Harreld and Rastetter can ramp-up the kind of comprehensive approach that Kentucky took, meaning the best that Harreld can offer is something Kentucky-like — or maybe Kentucky-lite — as a feint. (Again, that may be what the “Fall|16” version of the Faculty Senate ‘white paper’ is for. Anyone who knows anything about college rankings will know it’s a joke, but from a distance it looks legitimate.)
In 2001 Clemson started at #38 among public universities, but it still hasn’t cracked the top 20 in that category. Although Iowa is currently in a three-way tie at #33 — again, for public universities, as opposed to public research universities — not only did Clemson go all in on gaming the U.S. News rankings right down to the sleaziest tricks in the book, but they made most of their gains at a time when other schools we’re not competing as hard. Now, fifteen years later, it’s common for most schools to massage their ranking numbers, meaning it will be significantly harder for Iowa to make a similar move.
In order to legitimize whatever Harreld intends to do, he has to put forward some version of the failed Kentucky plan, but even that plan will be fake. Instead, he will set about trying to move Iowa’s ranking needle by going the Clemson route, which has admittedly proven much more effective. What may not be so obvious, particularly to people who are just turning in, is that Harreld is already well-along in his own version of the Clemson plan, as previously detailed in another post back in April:
Now compare Harreld’s public rhetoric in mid-April, regarding the filters he was applying to every line-item in the budget, with this final report from the Staff Council Executive Meeting at the end of June, which Harreld attended:
In public, Harreld ditched any talk of rankings. Internally, however, rankings were and remain the sole focus of what Harreld laughably touts as his new “collaborative budgeting process”. As noted in the post linked above, of Harreld’s four “filters”, the first two are both rankings related, while the second two are meaningless — meaning any proposed expenditures are already being filtered through only one criteria, which is how that money will help Iowa’s ranking.
And yet at this point that kind of Clemson-grade deceit shouldn’t really be shocking. As the former head of global marketing for IBM, not only is Harreld a marketing weasel, but as detailed in numerous posts he was also a co-conspirator in his own fraudulent hire. Meaning if the man was willing to help Rastetter and UI VP Jean Robillard hijack the entire university by putting him in the driver’s seat, it stands to reason that he’s not going to have any ethical qualms when lying to the school about gaming Iowa’s national college rank.
So why should you care? Well, if this was just another big fundraising push, or an attempt to generate support for an extra-curricular agenda, that would be one thing. But the problem with Harreld’s rankings scheme — whatever it turns out to be — is that the time and resources that will be devoted to that scheme have to come from somewhere, and that somewhere is the operating budget of the school. The same budget that funds faculty salaries and research will now be repurposed away from those organic metrics, and toward the process of gaming Iowa’s ranking.
The problem with taking a hands-off, not-my-problem approach to the scam already underway is that the actual evidence — the data, the research — conclusively shows that no matter how Harreld goes about whatever he’s aspiring to accomplish in raising Iowa’s rank, it will not work. Meaning all that time and all of those resources will be wasted when they could have been put to more effective use. That in turn means that to divorce yourself from that reality you’re going to have to embrace the idea that facts just don’t matter, which of course opens the door for others to question why your facts matter to you.
While higher education may not get a lot of headlines, it’s not as if people haven’t noticed what happened at Kentucky. Here’s an update from Inside HigherEd in 2005. And here’s a NYT update from 2007. Here’s an actual academic paper titled Engagement as a Brand Position in the Higher Education Marketplace from 2007. Here’s the Kentucky president stepping down in 2011, followed by a 2011 story in the Chronicle of Higher Education about Kentucky falling short — a full nine years before the 2020 deadline. And finally, here’s an actual analysis of the failed Kentucky business plan, from 2013.
Point being, while you may think that what Harreld’s doing is somehow apart from you, it’s not, on three fronts. First, Harreld’s ranking obsession will consume precious resources. Second, those resources will be diverted and reallocated based on rankings alone. Third, at some point what’s happening at Iowa will become the text of some other academic’s study, including questions about why the faculty bought into a plan that literally had no chance of success.
The reason all of this is important has nothing to do with yesterday’s release of the U.S. News rankings, and everything to do with the week of ‘inspiration’ currently unfolding on the UI campus. Designed to feature Harreld, and to build up to his official installation on Friday, from a thematic perspective Harreld is obligated to come across with something more than administrative positioning. After spending his first ten months in office blaming everyone else for what’s wrong at Iowa, he has to start specifying the changes he intends to make. And among those specifics should be the specifics of how he intends to make Iowa a “top 10” or “top 20” school, or whatever goal he finally commits to pursuing.
Starting Friday, J. Bruce Harreld owns the University of Iowa. There won’t be any more hiding or excuses. When he puts forward his vision for the school, the specifics of those plans should be subjected to the same academic rigor that is routinely applied to everything from student papers to departmental research proposals. When it comes to raising a school’s ranking by any means, there is a large and growing body of evidence that such efforts are minimally effective, and that must be factored in when determining whether Harreld’s plans are worthwhile. Anything else is not simply an abdication of responsibility, it is a betrayal of the ethos of education.
The problem with setting out specifics, of course — as detailed in this post — is that it makes it that much easier to know when Harreld has failed. And as a savvy former business executive, if Harreld knows how to do one thing it’s avoid accountability. That in turn makes it all the more important to insist that Harreld provide Kentucky-like specifics, instead of allowing him to continue speaking in generalities while implementing his Clemson-like plan behind the scenes.
J. Bruce Harreld is a marketing weasel. He is a former business executive who lied himself into office. He doesn’t care one whit about anyone else, which is why he’s already reconfigured the budgeting process to prioritize Iowa’s rankings above all. Those members of the faculty who put their names on the Senate ‘white paper’, even if they intended to write something other than the marketing trash that emerged, have already been burned by Harreld and his rankings scheme.
They won’t be the last.
There really is no magic in attaining a level of a ‘top tier research’ university. Check the literature, which Harreld will never do.
Down to brass tacks, a school needs to find research funds, carry out successful research, then publish in high quality journals.
An institution needs to retain faculty who build a career eminent enough to publish high quality chapters, books or edit same.
A university should promote and maintain high level graduate programs. Such graduates populate other universities and even their own graduate university.
A school should develop faculty who lead in their fields The faculty should be well known, and elected or appointed to high level national or international positions.
There should be awards given to the faculty, the Nobel or Pulitzer the highest, but there are plenty of other awards, some discipline specific.
The university library should maintain important volumes, and journals and perhaps even a collection of rare sources.
Students should be high achieving and successful Undergraduates should be accepted to professional and academic post-graduate schools. There should be a record of students achieving great things.
The professional schools should not only produce high quality practitioners in their states, like law and medicine, engineering, and vet medicine, but should produce a number of academic leaders.
Administration should recognize these goals. They should understand such a desire to be top-tier isn’t bullsh*t it is supporting faculty maintaining high level offices or laboratories, or centers. It is giving artists excellent galleries, and musicians wonderful auditoria.
Administration should support national and international leaders, giving students and faculty the resources and freedom to achieve and achieve in a way of original work, not follow-the leader.
Administration should promote their students and their faculty to allow them the facilities and resources, and freedom to map out original and innovating research.
Does Harreld understand one iota of these methods of attaining ‘top tier’ status? Maybe one or two aspects he may have picked u long his occasional academic life )although he doesn’t understand how academia composes CVs).
I doubt operatives and cronies like Braun, Connolly, Mathess and Lehnertz get some business principles but do not understand academic achievement si a different ball game tan selling Boston Chicken or screwing and lying to citizens about the stink of hog confinement lots.
Rastetter, as a agribusiness czar doesn’t get any of this although he understands rankings; after all he is ware the Iowa football team is threatening to break into the top 10.
So in the end I expect Harreld to scam, BS, and fake his way through all; maybe he will put kiosks on the Pentacrest. More likely Harreld will support and promote Harreld because after all, there is nothing more that high achieving academicians respect than the architect of the IBM turn-around of the 80s and 90s.
Rastetter will simply run and hide as he usually does, hide behind his isolated existence as well as his army of accountants to protect his ag profits.
If Harreld really wants to make the UIowa a top tier research university he better find someone with the expertise to understand the issues and the balls to take on these other dead-weight, money-grabbing cronies as a vice president. And he better find the support staff and the funding to uplift his school……
It seems to me that the moment — literally, the second — that you start talking about rankings as an objective, regardless of the number you’re aiming for, that you’re finished. Ideally you would take a look at your given school, then improve metrics as you’re able as long as those metrics were closely associated with the education that you’re supposed to be providing. The moment you put the rankings first, however — akin to teaching to the test, as mentioned in an earlier post — then everything you do is judged by that lens, and not at all by the lends of education.
UI, ISU and UNI are state schools. Because Rastetter has also turned them into hog lots they are now firmly anchored in the commodity end of the educational spectrum. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s fine, because that’s always been the mission. Maybe kids are less prepared than they used to be, but that only means there should be more assets going to educating those kids and making sure they have the mental health resources necessary if they become overwhelmed.
Instead, we’ve got the Iowa Board of Regents paying a carpetbagging dilettante $800K per year ($200K deferred, but his total compensation package puts him in the top-fifteen in the country -=- think about that), to game the rankings. How about we take that money and put it toward something useful, like more teachers? (Not “world-class” teachers, but more good faculty who want to stay instead of bolt town after three years?)
There’s nothing wrong with being a LA&S university, but man, you gotta tend that garden just like any other. Instead, the BoR went and got a varmint and turned him loose in the fields.
That’s really good, Mark.
Here’s the thing: topism is predicated on the idea that the national STEM funding agencies will actually, someday, send money your way. And the trend is very clear: the funding agencies, all of which are anxious, all of which (except perhaps DOD) are fighting anti-science, particularly anti-basic-science, forces in Congress, have been spending less and less, comparatively, in the midwest over the past decade or so. There is nothing to indicate reversal of the trend. Here’s who gets the bulk of the research money: Massachusetts, California, New York, Pennsylvania, and to lesser extents exactly the other places you’d expect, none of which are Iowa. Iowa, in a very real sense, is not on the map. And it’s not going to be on the map, because there is no infrastructure here to support the kind of large-scale work the agencies want to see going on in this country. No wishfulness, no mandatory grantsmanship seminar, can solve this problem. Billions of dollars might be a start, but only a start, because a strong research infrastructure has to be connected to other primetime local infrastructures, and we just don’t have very many of those here. There is no industrial corridor. There are not lots of people who know how to operate in an industrial corridor. There are not legal and accounting people who support industrial corridors. My guess is that Iowa Code doesn’t even envision these things any too clearly, so even if the lawyers showed up, they’d have nothing but US code to go by. (Consider the mess the state got itself into when it tried to play just in the minors in film production.)
While Bruce is a meanspirited dude not oversupplied with wattage, he isn’t stupid, and he’s spent enough time in the bigs to know all of this. He also knows what a midwest is. Which means that once he gets over his own hot air, he surely knows that we are not anybody’s top anything, unless you count the writing program which has been very quietly tiptoeing away from the university for some time now. (Heard about a Writing University lately? Nope? Me either. I’m sure Marilynne will have a nice time in New England, also that it’s going to sting when she accepts the next big prize in some room at Harvard or Yale and not here.)
Which means that all this top talk is pure Harold Hill. You don’t have to be a top university. You just have to say you’re a top university. And there will be tens of thousands of marks, excuse me, marketing targets, excuse me, futures of America willing to believe you because they really like thinking nice things about Iowa, and frankly they don’t want to hear anything bad about it. Which is why very sick people who live in Iowa City and know the ropes, as well as people with very sick children, are very quiet when they leave so that they can go to hospitals where their lives or their children’s lives stand a good chance of being saved. People get quite upset here if you say that the local hospital nearly killed your child through negligence and incompetence, and that you had to go to Chicago or St. Louis or Minnesota, where they’re now doing fine, thank you.
And I guess that’s what it comes down to with topism. I was struck, when I first moved here, by the nice, if silly, way that folks would applaud you for breathing. It took me a very long time to understand that part of the purpose of that applause was in blurring the distinction between things that actually deserve applause and things that don’t, so that no matter what happened, you could feel good about yourself and the life you hadn’t actually chosen but pretended you had. And, in the end, nobody was ever going to call you out for not doing such a hot job after all, and you wouldn’t have to spend quite so much time resenting people who were demanding more of you. The problem is that the geographic boundaries of this compact end, oh, well before you get to Bethesda and Arlington, where they make those research money decisions, and where they don’t care whether you feel terrible or not. They just look and see that not much is going on, comparatively — and that’s always the word that’s hard to hear, comparatively — and send the money elsewhere. Sure, they’ll be very pleased to find individual researchers here and there who’re really knocking it home, and those people will get funded, and nobody at the agencies will be surprised when they move to California, North Carolina, New York, etc.
It’s interesting, by the way, that you mention Clemson. I first became aware of Clemson’s existence in about 2000, and was surprised that I hadn’t heard of it — but not too surprised, because past NCSU, Emory, and…um…Emory I hadn’t paid much attention to the schools south of Hopkins. But they were plainly serious. The thing is, they were serious for real. They weren’t put-up-banners serious. They had a lot of smart people working energetically, to the point where you thought oh, well, Clemson’s okay. Their entire plan may have consisted in “hey, we have a lot of smart people here. Perhaps we should get out of their way and have real research tools and libraries and conference support for them to work with instead of “we found it in a cereal box” stuff. You know, like they’re always telling us, in these anguished tones, that they need.”
And then there’s Iowa. Old skinflinty Iowa that’s managed to survive by being old skinflinty Iowa. Old skinflinty Iowa’s never going to do those things. It will pretend to do those things. It will warm itself with tales of having gotten some bargain back-of-the-storeroom remnant that’s just as good as those things and outsmarted those coastal idiots once again, but then it’ll turn out that the facility only works when this one guy can tickle it into working, or it catches fire easily, or something. Which’ll teach those fancy eggheads to ask, won’t it. Spent all that money and they still don’t get any work done.
Iowa is a poor skinny schoolmaster and a farmer and a lad in the backyard with a Christmas telescope. Iowa’s actually very good at being a poor skinny schoolmaster and a farmer and the backyard lad with the telescope. We once had public universities that were in a sense the flowering of those archetypes. Here’s what Iowa is not: some burly Chicago financial exchange. Anything with the name Rockefeller in front. Anything that involves making the future.
Never understood the problem with knowing your own nature and playing to it, but that’s not really what crooks and charlatans are all about, is it.
Wow, Dormouse, just a bit cynical. (but not undeservedly cynical)
It is beyond the veil that anyone would think a marketing weasel who made his small mark in Chicago and Armonk NY would be able to turn UIowa into a research giant.
UIowa made a reputation by honest hard-working leadership as provided by Willard Boyd. Therefore I disagree that Iowa is lazily floating down the crick with a piece of straw in mouth, fishing for bullhead with a piece of red cotton. True that UIowa is energized by an international contingent of good people; but false that Iowans are happy to blow smoke rings all day.
I point out that within 15 miles, two notable people grew up: James Van Allen in Mt Pleasent, and Robert Noyce in Burlington.
Van Allen, of course, was instrumental in the US space program a Time Man-of-the-Year.
Noyce was the MIT-educated engineer who worked with Gordon Moore in founding Intel.
Two native Iowans who arguably changed the course of the 20th century. One stayed in state, one left, landing in California.
It is absolutely true that the greatest innovation will happen in MA, CA, NY, and even NJ; therefore talented Iowans will leave for other destinations. Iowa after all, is the agricultural heart of America not the scientific nor the cultural heart. However there is a role for native Iowans, and adopted Iowans to achieve at a high level, despite the modest circumstances. A fellow like Harreld will never support and nuture that. A fellow like Steinmetz might have.
I don’t know when I first noticed that people from Iowa were insecure about being people from Iowa, but it royally pissed me off. Travel around the country or the world and everybody’s pretty much the same unless they’re being led by a fascist or a warmonger. Even recently, when McKibben and others fell all over themselves thanking Steven Leath for buying land in Iowa I wanted to barf.
The man is from North Carolina, not Monaco. (And for the record, I love NC and its people, and have since my youth.)
Unfortunately, you can see Branstad playing to that insecurity constantly, and now Harreld is doing it in spades with the “Top 10” talk, or whatever number he’s teasing now. And it’s never going to happen — not top ten, not top twenty, not top forty — and he knows that. And yet he’s still doing it because he’s a marketing weasel.
I don’t really see any out except for the collapse that’s coming. The way that Bohannan and Vaughn and others at UI rolled over for this fraud, and the degree to which they reflexively banded together to try to deflect attention from Robillard’s central role in that fraud, speaks volumes about the utter lack of any moral compass at the school. Yes, I’m sure there are good people who are just keeping their heads down, but at the highest levels of administration there wasn’t even a squawk. Instead, people lined up to tell even more lies on behalf of Harreld and his co-conspirators.
So Harreld will waste a lot of time and money and move the needle barely if at all, and whenever someone else comes along and tries to do it the right way again the needle will snap back and it will look like they did something wrong.
The people we should all being caring most about are the kids coming to UI, some of whom just need the right spark to do really great things. Instead, we’ve got a pugnacious brat running the school, talking trash about anything that isn’t world-class, instead of doing the hard work to actually meet the student’s needs.
It’s been a really eye-opening year for me on that score, and I’m still surprised by the depth of the corruption. The only silver lining is that Harreld’s out of places to hide. He probably won’t do three town halls this year, either, but at the first one he’s going to have to come across with actual plans and commit to targets, and that’s going to be interesting.
Because if we’ve learned anything about Harreld so far, he absolutely cannot stand being held accountable for his behavior.
I have a lecture I give that bores everyone to death. I have no idea why, but your reply reminded me of it.
It is about Joseph Warren and physicians who actuality stood up to bullies in 1775. (Warren was a physician from Boston who co-funded the Sons of Liberty. He was brutally killed and mutilated at Bunker Hill. Paul Revere — Warren’s dentist — identified his mutilated body some time later from dental records.) Warrens brother also helped the revolutionaries; he later founded Harvard Med School.
One of Paul Revere’s compatriot riders was Dr. Samuel Prescott. He died in a British prison.
Benjamin Rush. Josiah Bartlett. Lyman Hall. Oliver Walcott. Matthew Thornton. All were physicians and ‘academics’ who stood up to authority, some losing their life.
Long ago most academics quit standing up to the cronies and administrators attempting to monetize college or dumb it down. No more metaphoric Joseph Warrens.
So I guess comments about Vaughn and Bohannon remind us that only a few from within will fight this abuse of higher education.
Get on the train, the Harreld Train. Come to the reception to honor his illegitimate presidency.
The New York Times addresses college rankings in a column today:
If you have been keeping up with the fraudulent appointment of J. Bruce Harreld as president of the University of Iowa, most of what follows will be familiar. I offer it here in compressed form so the absurdity of Bruce Rasetter’s deceit will be clearly apparent. For further elucidation on specifics, follow the links.
On 07/30/15, just prior to the initiation of the formal cut-down process by the 2015 University of Iowa Presidential Search and Screen Committee, committee member and Regents President Bruce Rastetter arranged secret meetings between undeclared candidate J. Bruce Harreld and four members of the Iowa Board of Regents. Those face-to-face interviews, which took place in two meetings of two regents each at Rastetter’s private place of business in Ames, not only included two regents who were not on the search committee, but also the passing of Harreld’s resume to all four regents outside of the committee’s internal process for document review.
Between his own meetings with Harreld and providing face time with four other regents on the nine-member board, Rastetter secured five votes in Harreld’s favor before the search committee even began winnowing candidates. With co-conspirator and high-ranking University of Iowa administrator Jean Robillard chairing the search, and also acting as interim president, the outcome of the search was effectively determined in Harreld’s favor over a month before the final vote was taken. (While it is true that the secret regent meetings may also have violated the state’s Open Meeting law — which has in turn led to a lawsuit being filed on that basis — for the purposes of this post we are concerned only with whether the 07/30/15 secret regent meetings were fair to other candidates and members of the committee.)
Although the secret regent meetings took place on 07/30/15, it was not until weeks after Harreld’s shocking appointment on 09/03/15 that those meetings were revealed to the general public, to all of the former members of the search committee, and even toother members of the Board of Regents who were kept in the dark about those meetings through the entirety of the search and election process.
Whatever else we do or do not know about the fraudulent 2015 UI search, it is clear from the record that not only did those secret meetings take place, but that the six people involved — Rastetter, Harreld, and the four regents who met with Harreld on that day — all conspired to keep those meetings secret after the fact. It is also known that no other candidates received such meetings. What is not known but is believed, is that the full search committee was never informed about the secret regent meetings with Harreld, and that other candidates were never informed that they had the right to ask for such meetings — even after it was determined that such meetings would be provided to Harreld. Somehow, out of all of the candidates who eventually applied for the job, only Harreld purportedly knew that he had the right to ask for those meetings, and only Harreld exercised that right.
In an official statement released on 09/24/15, as word of the secret regent meetings was rapidly spreading, Regents President Rastetter asserted that as a candidate for president at Iowa, Harreld had that specific right:
Although no other candidate knew they had a right to such meetings, and neither the search committee nor the board notified any other candidates that they had a right to such meetings, in the statement above Rastetter asserts that right as a matter of board policy. Which brings us now to Rastetter’s 03/22/16 interview with the Des Moines Register, when Rastetter asserted that specific right again [question at 23:29; answer at 23:52]:
In the context of the 2015 UI search, it is clear that the only candidate was who aware of and afforded what Rastetter deems a basic right was J. Bruce Harreld. In terms of running a fair search, it is clear on that basis alone that Rastetter and UI administrator Jean Robillard not only did not run a fair search, but that they went out of their way to administer an unfair search by giving Harreld preferential treatment.
Even with all that, however, until a few days ago there was a belated, after-the-fact opportunity for Rastetter to demonstrate some validity to his claim, and that had to do with the recently launched search for a new president at the University of Northern Iowa. Specifically, if the 2016 UNI Search and Screen Committee publicly announced that any and all candidates — declared or undeclared, because Harreld himself was undeclared at the time — could meet with any or all regents in face-to-face interviews, then Rastetter could claim that his explanation for the preferential treatment Harreld received during the 2015 UI search was correct. Three days ago, however, the ad for the UNI position was posted, and there is no mention of any candidate right to meet face-to-face with any or all members of the board, let alone any right to do so outside of the formal application and candidate-review process.
Rastetter’s position was and remains that it is a basic right of every candidate in a regents search to be able to meet with any or all members of the Iowa Board of Regents, and it is a responsibility of the regents to facilitate and attend those meetings. And yet over two separate presidential searches, the only candidate who ever took advantage of that right — and almost certainly the only candidate who was ever apprised of that right — was J. Bruce Harreld, during the 2015 UI search. Despite the UNI ad now being published, and despite multiple press releases from the 2016 UNI committee, and multiple reports in the press about the UNI search, and awareness by the board of Rastetter’s prior claim, there has not been a single mention of the candidate right that Rastetter asserted in his official board statement on 09/24/15, and reiterated in his DMR interview on 03/22/16.
Despite corroborating statements by co-conspirators Rastetter and Harreld, no evidence has ever been presented — no letters, emails or texts — that J. Bruce Harreld asked to meet with four regents on 07/30/15. To this day, over a year after the conclusion of the fraudulent 2015 UI search, no evidence has ever been presented that Rastetter or any other regent, or any officer or employee of the regents, or any other member of the search committee, communicated the right of candidates to meet face-to-face with any or all regents to any candidate. Now, during the 2016 UNI search, there is also no evidence that candidates have been apprised of that same right, which not only calls into question Rastetter’s veracity about the 2015 UI search, but once again leaves open the possibility that one or more candidates will exploit that same right during the UNI search, rendering that presidential appointment illegitimate as well.
One other way of looking at all this, of course, is that other than Rastetter’s statements to the contrary, there is no evidence that any such candidate right ever existed prior to the 2015 UI search, during the 2015 UI search, or exists now, during the 2016 UNI search. Absent any such evidence, in fact, the only possible conclusion is that when Regents President Rastetter said, during his 03/22/16 interview with the Des Moines Register, that “[the board] would have entertained any candidate who asked to meet with any regents”, he was lying in order to cover up one of many preferential acts which were afforded to J. Bruce Harreld during the corrupt and fraudulent 2015 UI presidential search. What remains unclear is why the Des Moines Register itself has not yet commented on this glaring disparity, particularly given the bearing it could have on the legitimacy of the UNI search.
Not Ken Burns says
There may surely be something to the fine are of lying through your teeth that can be learned from these four blaggards.
In Iowa, Governor Terry Branstad, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and Bruce Rastetter, the president of Summit Ag Group, have been appointed to Donald Trump’s agricultural advisory panel. Rastetter denies it is part of a plan to be named Secretary of Agriculture in the event of a Trump presidency while Brandstad had denied being an advisor to Trump last week. He has been advising Trump on renewable fuels in recent weeks. Rastetter is heavily invested in corn and soybeans.
A few weeks ago — or maybe it was a month — I was doing a little light reading on the University of Iowa website when I ran across a link, which led to another link, which delivered me to the home page of the UI Office of the Ombudsperson. Given how the administrative ranks at the university had either been co-opted by, or rolled over for, J. Bruce Harreld immediately after his fraudulent appointment, until that moment it had not occurred to me that there might be an actual honest broker anywhere in UI administration. After reading every page on the ombudsperson’s site, I finally concluded that while their mission was laudable, there was no way to determine whether they themselves had been co-opted by, or had rolled over for, J. Bruce Harreld. And yes, I’m sure that’s not a nice thing to say about an ombudsperson, but after coming to the embarrassingly late realization that Attorney General Tom Miller actually works for Regents President Rottweiler, I don’t have a lot of faith that the powers that be in any organization will ever police themselves. (On the UI org chart you’ll find the ombudsperson’s office beneath the office of president, so it’s clear who works for whom.)
Flash forward to a week ago or so and I ran across a related page while again linking my way through the UI site — this one on the subject of conflict management. Wouldn’t you know it, right there on that page was a big ol’ wisdomatic quote from J. Bruce Harreld himself:
If you’ve been following the Harreld hire at all, and in particular if you’re aware of Harreld’s gurgling response to the AAUP sanction, you know that the line where Harreld talks about “un-addressed conflicts” goes beyond projection to jet-black trolling. And yet because Harreld is the president regardless of his illegitimacy, he gets to tell other people how to deal with issues in a manner that he himself cannot demonstrate.
That page on conflict management also led me to a page which talks about core values, which was as hilarious to read as both the old and new strategic plans for the Iowa Board of Regents. Like those regent pages, the UI Core Values page mentions a number of lofty ethical goals that Harreld and his co-conspirators would never pay any attention to because you can’t be honest and thoroughly corrupt at the same time.
As to how all this relates to Harreld’s fraudulent hire, the nightmare scenario for anyone working at UI is that the illegitimate J. Bruce Harreld or the traitorous VP for Medical Affairs Jean Robillard will use their positions of authority to punish people who do not want to play ball with their corrupt administration. And of course that’s exactly what you would expect from the kind of ethical trash that would conspire to steal the president’s office in the first place, so it’s hard not to think that at some point someone is going to show up in the ombudsperson’s office asking for relief because they are being targeted.
Admittedly, if you’re not up to speed on Harreld and his ruthless approach to administration that may sound implausible, but I guarantee it will sound eminently plausible as soon as you finish reading the following quote about J. Bruce Harreld’s time at IBM:
Now, you’ve probably noticed that a number of people at UI have proudly signed on to the carrot side of Harreld’s heavy-handed approach to changing the school’s “critical control system”, and that he himself has not been shy about handing out rewards to those who have demonstrated loyalty going all the way back to the fraudulent 2015 search which propelled him into office. By the same token, however, it should also be clear that Harreld has no compunction about making an example out of people who oppose him, whether that involves taunting, belittling and invalidating them in the press, or hanging them in public.
While all of that has been percolating in the background for the past month or so, I am bringing it to the fore today because yesterday, on 09/19/16, the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller put up an interesting story about the UI Office of the Ombudsperson, and in among the various details from the recently released annual report was this:
Out of 600-plus visits over the previous year, the report from the Office of the Ombudsperson acknowledges that factors related to Harreld’s fraudulent hire may have played a part in some of that traffic, and I think that leads to an obvious question. What is the reality base in the ombudsperson’s office regarding Harreld’s fraudulent hire? Because to hear Harreld tell it, all of the noise last year surrounding his sham appointment was about the regents and old grudges, and had nothing to do with the fact that he himself conspired to hijack the job he now has.
Without exception, in fact, the official line from UI administration — of which Harreld is undeniably the head — is that there was no UI complicity in the fraudulent 2015 UI search that led to Harreld’s appointment. Harreld is so good with his carrot that he even convinced the current and past Facutly Senate presidents to promulgate that lie, and of course the traitor Robillard has been peddling multiple strains of denial (often in contradictory fashion) since teeming up with Rottweiler to run the sham search. Meaning despite the obviousness of both Robillard’s and Harreld’s complicity, you can’t actually find anyone in UI administration who has gone on the record and said that the claims of innocence made by Harreld (and Robillard, and Thomas Vaughn and Christina Bohannan) are misleading at best and false at worst.
So, what about the UI Office of the Ombudsperson, which is right there on the UI administrative org chart, and reports directly to Harreld? Are they reality based, or are they living in the same co-opted and corrupt bubble that the rest of UI administration has embraced?
The reason I think that question is important is because the reality base a person comes from has a lot to do with how that person reacts to other situations. For example, years ago, if you were being sexually harassed /a> or tormented at the University of Iowa, you would have gotten no relief from the administration because there just wasn’t any sensitivity to such abuses. Now, decades later, UI may actually give out an award with your name on it, in deep thanks for taking all of the abuse that they did nothing to prevent.
In that context, the same question holds regarding honesty, integrity and ethics. Are those real standards at UI, or are they just branding statements — as they clearly are at the Iowa Board of Regents? In a given dispute does it actually matter if one person is credible and the other is a proven liar, or is the power structure at UI the only relevant dynamic? Does the ombudsperson’s office actually exist to promote justice on the UI campus, or just to make problems go away as quickly and quietly as possible?
If you go to the UI ombudsperson’s website, you’ll see seven menu items on the top-level nav for the site:
So far, so good. If you’re being hassled by a malevolent bureaucracy that has decided to make an example out of you, those are some pretty reassuring links. Even better, the text on the homepage makes clear that you’re in the right place:
Pretty good, right? In particular, if you’ve been reading Ditchwalk posts about the Harreld hire, you know that nobody at the Board of Regents or in the upper reaches of UI administration takes fairness seriously, so the idea that fairness is an objective of the Office of the Ombudsperson is good news. As is the idea that the ombudsperson is independent, and that you can’t be retaliated against for seeking help.
Also, from the homepage sidebar:
Unethical behavior! You mean, like lying about how you got your job? (Hold that thought.)
The fact that sexual harassment is specifically listed suggests that the ombudsperson’s office exists in the real world, as opposed to the public relations fantasy that has been created by Harreld and the UI Office of Strategic Communications. So maybe the ombudsperson’s office really would do their best to get an individual some relief if that individual was being abused by an unethical person is a position of power, as opposed to just having a personal dispute or disagreement over policy.
On the How We Can Help page you learn that the ombudsperson’s office is a clearinghouse for information — what your options are in a given situation, and how the ombudsperson’s office may (or may not) be able to help facilitate a resolution to your problem. The Mediation page gives a quick overview of that service, while the About Us page introduces the two ombudspersons currently employed in that role. The Code of Ethics page expands on the info in the homepage sidebar, and the FAQ is informative and includes another reference to fairness:
And later there’s this bit of welcome reassurance:
The Reports and Documents page contains links to reports and documents, including the report referenced in Miller’s story. Finally, the Resources and Training page contains the best single page of links I’ve run across on a UI web page — including a link to the Code of Student Life, which includes this no-nonsense standard:
Great stuff! Speaking of which, are UI administrators held to those same standards? Yes? No? Only if the top-ranking administrator wants them to be?
Point being, if you’re looking for dishonestly, collusion, or fabricated or false information, you don’t have to look any farther than J. Bruce Harreld and Jean Robillard — the two highest-ranking administrators on the UI campus. Which brings us back to our question. Do the people who work in the UI Office of the Ombudsperson actually know what happened during the Harreld hire, or are they working from Harreld’s propaganda that any abuses of power emanated solely from the Board of Regents? Because even if they are fiercely independent, if someone comes into the ombudsperson’s office looking for fairness and ethical treatment in the face of an administrative abuse of power, and the ombudsperson’s office does not know that J. Bruce Harreld and Jean Robillard both lied, on the record, in order to cover up the conspiracy behind Harreld’s fraudulent appointment, then I’m not really sure said individual will get a fair shake.
To that end, then, if you know anyone in the UI Office of the Ombudsperson who might appreciate specific, verifiable information about the abuses of power committed by Harreld and Robillard during and after the 2015 UI presidential search, please direct them to this post and the following three links:
* J. Bruce Harreld in his own words. 2 Videos, 2 Origin Stories.
Clear evidence of J. Bruce Harreld lying about the origins of his candidacy to the press, the people of Iowa, and the UI community, only moments after his fraudulent appointment.
* The evolving J. Bruce Harreld origin story, and where it inevitably leads.
A point-by-point examination of the lies told, on the record, by the cabal of conspirators who jammed Harreld into the office.
* J. Bruce Harreld: Co-conspirator.
A point-by-point examination of the ways in which Harreld abetted his co-conspirators.
Again, maybe it doesn’t actually matter that the man who is now in charge of the University of Iowa, and ultimately in charge of enforcing the university’s code of conduct, and in charge of many if not most of the administrative decisions that will be made for the foreseeable future, is a proven liar. But at the very least, if I was working in the UI Office of the Ombudsperson, I think that’s information I would want to have. Because even if it’s not material to my independent status as an information resource or moderator or conflict management expert, I would want to know that the one person I was obligated to report to on campus actually conspired with others on campus to steal his job.
In a recent post, and in other posts over the past year, we took a close look at J. Bruce Harreld’s obsession with gaming Iowa’s national college rank — particularly but not exclusively in terms of the numbers put out by U.S. News & World Report. As the fraudulently appointed president of the University of Iowa, we now know that Harreld was given marching orders by Regents President Bruce Rastetter to make Iowa a “top-ten” or “top-tier” or top-something university, and in response Harreld has gone on the record saying Iowa could become a “top-ten research institution” during his illegitimate tenure in office.
At the same time, as demonstrated to a nauseating degree during Harreld’s recent self-celebratory week of “inspiration”, he has worked hard to sell the University of Iowa as a credible institution of higher learning focused on research and education. And yet, even in constantly harping about the need to hire “world-class faculty”, which would seem to speak directly to both of those issues, we know that Harreld’s main interest in such hires is the degree to which they will improve Iowa’s rank. Likewise, while Harreld was purportedly hired to lead the school at a time of critical change in higher-ed, bringing a transformative vision to the school, Harreld spends a lot of time talking up Iowa’s core values and heritage. Thematically, it’s as if Harreld is selling the academic version of Hollywood’s ‘new cliche’ — meaning a kind of ‘transformative tradition’ in which everything is both sparkling new and the same as it ever was.
Exploiting the Troops
In prior posts on the subject of rankings, one of the points we have raised again and again is the fact that the rankings themselves are of little actual value. Yes, college students and administrative marketing weasels obsess about them in the same way that people obsess about all sorts of meaningless numbers, but in terms of actually determining value or worth, rankings are only as accurate as the data behind them, and quite often the data in the U.S. News rankings has been corrupted by the reporting institutions themselves. That is in fact the whole point of Harreld’s commitment to game Iowa’s college rank, because it is possible to do so, albeit usually to marginal effect.
After the most recent post on Harreld’s deeply cynical plan to implement Rastetter’s utterly idiotic plan, Frank Bruni of the New York Times wrote a fortuitous column titled Why College Rankings are a Joke:
Now, the first point to make here is that while real college presidents, provosts and deans of admission may express disdain for college rankings, the fraudulently appointed president of the University of Iowa, who used to be the head of global marketing for IBM, is so completely all-in on college rankings that he has already rigged the entire budgeting process at UI to serve that end. And yes, that’s pretty damn sad.
The most important point to make about Bruni’s column is that here we once again have the time-honored tradition of exploiting troops who have served our country for publicity and feel-good, flag-waving goose bumps. Wait — make that American goose bumps. No — better yet, make that ranked American flag-waving goose bumps.
None of this is surprising, of course. By packaging the troops in a trumped-up data set, U.S. News not only makes itself look good, but it gives the marketing weasels at universities across the country another way to sell themselves in the crowded higher-ed marketplace. As Bruni points out, there is no actual number crunching involved in the veterans rankings, but they’re presented anyway, because U.S. News is nothing if not a willing enabler of the publicity value of its own product.
Predictably, in touting this year’s U.S. News rankings, the UI Office of Strategic Communication made good use of U.S. News’ meaningless numbers:
Again, here we have the media machine of a billion-dollar research university touting a meaningless (if not made-up) metric in order to sell itself, and I can’t really think of a better example of the wholesale hypocrisy that J. Bruce Harreld has brought to Iowa. In order to promote a school which is predicated on reason and scholarship, Harreld and his media machine are promoting a third-party metric which means nothing. Yes, it’s advertising, yes, everybody does it, yes, it’s expected and factored in — but there is still a cost. And in particular you don’t get to go down the rankings road the way Harreld has, committing the entire UI administration to the singular purpose of gaming Iowa’s rank, and not also do real damage to the credibility of the institution.
Exploiting the Faculty
The problem with committing a entire billion-dollar research university to the gaming of its college rankings is that doing so necessarily drives that hypocrisy down to the faculty level, which should be immune to such ploys. Yes, people expect colleges to tout their rankings, and to put the best face possible on their numbers, but only as a veneer. The idea that rankings — no matter how diligently quantified — might become the engine of scholarship, or influence scholarship, should be anathema to everyone.
As detailed in the most recent post on Harreld’s rankings obsession, however, that’s clearly not the case at the University of Iowa. Not only did the Faculty Senate put together a working group in response to Rastetter’s initial rankings challenge back in December of 2014, but the eventual work product of that group had little or nothing to do with scholarship and everything to do providing propaganda in service of Rastetter’s goal. For many if not most of the people in that working group, having their name on a trash document which is itself antithetical to scholarship won’t have much impact on them personally, because it’s outside their sphere, but that’s not true of everyone.
As noted in the prior post on the subject, one of the people I was most intrigued by while learning about the Faculty Senate Working Group (FSWG) was Michael Sauder, a professor in the Sociology department. Sauder initially spoke to the Faculty Council as an expert on the subject of rankings, and even from the meeting minutes it was clear that he knew Rastetter’s challenge was folly. Based on his expertise it’s also not surprising that the Faculty Council recommended him to be one of eleven faculty in the FSWG, but therein lies the problem.
What I did not know at the time — because I am an idiot and didn’t check — was that Sauder (along with Northwestern’s Wendy Espeland), has written a book about college rankings, titled Engines of Anxiety:
Extrapolate all of that that from law schools to entire universities, and you can see the damage — the perversion — that rankings cause when spineless administrators give in to their appeal. Now factor in an administrator like Harreld, who is full-on in favor of doing everything possible to maximize the University of Iowa’s rankings, and there’s no end to the amount of damage that diseased mindset may do to the institution.
In fact, as a case in point, we only have to look at Sauder’s participation in the FSWG, which led to a ‘white paper’ which was presented to Harreld in April of 2016, while Sauder’s book was published in May of 2016 — only one month later. For someone like, say, Lena Hill, whose name is also on the FSWG paper, who was also on the search committee that nominated Harreld, and who now serves as Harreld’s senior associate to the president, it doesn’t matter that the ‘white paper’ was trash because it doesn’t speak to her competency as a professor in the English department. For Sauder, however, that FSWG paper couldn’t be more relevant to his work, and yet there it is, standing in direct counterpoint to the themes and conclusions in his book.
Exploiting the Opportunity
As someone outside academia, I have to say that it’s more than a little disappointing watching faculty members happily throw another faculty member under the bus in order to advance their own personal agendas, but then again bureaucracies are the antithesis of courage. If you can get ahead even a little bit by selling someone out, why not? That’s pretty much the ethos that Harreld embodies in every cell of his lying, cheating body, so in that sense his affinity for gaming Iowa’s college ranking can’t even be seen as surprising. (It’s corrupt, but not surprising.)
The good news for Sauder, or anyone else who has an academic interest in the damage that such vain pursuits do to institutions of higher education, is that Harreld is about to give everyone a front-row seat into exactly that. He will try to hide his machinations, of course, as he’s already done with the budgeting process, but they will still be visible, and will be all the more obvious behind the scenes in conversations and decisions to which only administrators and faculty are privy.
Faculty on campuses across the country also do not have to come together en mass to repel the kind of crony abuses of power that are taking place at the University of Iowa. In fact, faculty don’t even have to police themselves, wasting time by trying to identify who actually believes in scholarship, and who’s just looking for the quickest way to the top. As noted in a Des Moines Register letter-to-the-editor in July, by UNI Professor Rodney Dieser, all it takes are a few faculty here and there doing actual research:
Despite the fact that the Iowa Board of Regents is responsible for higher education in Iowa, and that the University of Iowa is the state’s flagship school, the corrupt leadership at the board hired Harreld based on nothing more than a tattered three-page resume and a billowing cloud of marketing hype emanating from his body. (Okay, to be fair, Harreld’s willingness to do whatever he was told certainly helped.) There was no reason involved, and no evidence presented that business executives — let alone pugnacious executives with no history of academic administration — are of any particular benefit, yet the board went out of its way to run a fraudulent search and fix the election in Harreld’s favor.
At some point in the future, and maybe the not-so-distant future, someone is going to crunch the numbers at Iowa and we’re going to know whether Harreld’s hire, and Harreld’s complete commitment to gaming Iowa’s college rank, was a good idea or not. That the UI Tippie College of Business in particular has had literally nothing to say about this issue is particularly telling, but all is not lost. Somewhere, either on campus at UI or at another school, someone is getting ready to document the academic atrocities committed at UI in the name of expediency, vanity, ego and vice, and I expect that J. Bruce Harreld himself will have a starring role in that scholarship.
Iowa sure hired themselves gems for university presidents didn’t it?
Iowa State president Steve Leath, between making sweet investment land deals with Bruce Rastetter money and chatting up Rastetter’s dilettante candidates for UIowa presidency, flies himself to North Carolina using one of Iowa State’s airplanes. Who would have thought? No one apparently until one year after the incident when Leath crash landed on an Illinois airport, damaging the Cyclone wings.
Another fortuitous discovery about Leath Behavior?
Appears Leath uses the ISU plane for ‘official’ business and ‘private’ business (he has family and a tree farm in NC). Heck-fire if youre an ethically challenged university president just get in the old ISU airplane, fire her up and wing it down to see the folk in Tar Heal country. Just like you can use state property any time you want: grab a car from the pool to head out to the drive-in, use a state tractor to till your garden, take condoms from student health …..
What a legacy of corruption this Bradstad/Rastetter regime is building up: Sweet unadvertised jobs for cronies in academia; big bonuses for buddies; sweetheart no-bid contracts for operatives; free money for land (and your chicks for free); almost free airplanes (the state pays for repairs); nice grants and monies for Rastetter v ISU.
How nasty bad does it sound for the ISU president to borrow the state plane to travel? Obviously he saves time and money using it for his padded trips back home. And he is a amateur pilot to boot; his wreck was bailed out by the state no less. Leath needs to save time because he is so busy making corrupt land deals too ( he said he wants to stay in Iowa, hahahaha, what a line?)
Leath could stay in Iowa. Long stay with free meals and bed (if Iowa had anything but a eunuch as AG)……for presidential malfeasance.
What we have now are two university presidents who lied themselves into their most recent BoR contracts. Harreld lied in order to cover up the conspiracy that put him in office, which was led by the president of the board. Leath lied — at least purportedly — to the board, by hiding the accident until long after he had signed his new 5-year deal, which included a pay raise and additional deferred compensation.
In 2015 alone, these two clowns were paid close to $1.5M dollars by the people of Iowa, as directed by the Iowa Board of Regents. You couldn’t make this up if you tried, but it’s really happening.
Here are a couple links to Sauder’s book.
One of the things I try to do here on Ditchwalk – by which I mean always, not just in terms of the fraudulent hire of J. Bruce Harreld as president of the University of Iowa — is to put issues in context. I do that because I find it far too easy for people to slip into a mindset in which the thing they’re thinking about or talking about or writing about at the moment is the most important thing ever. (For a quick guide about how issues are prioritized on Ditchwalk, see the handy Ditchwalk Indignation Scale.)
My first published post on the shameful debacle that unfolded last year at about this time was titled Anatomy of the Harreld Hire. It was posted on 09/13/15. What I have not said before is that I actually wrote that post a week earlier, then deleted the entire thing. And by deleted I do not mean I simply clicked ‘trash’, and then was able to recover the post. I mean I deleted it in its entirety, because I knew what I would be committing to if I decided to go to war with the crony trash that precipitated Harreld’s sham hire.
What I did not anticipate at the time of deletion, however, was that whatever part of me had initially been outraged by Harreld’s hire was not willing to give up that fight. Which is why, a few days later, I rewrote the entire post, point by point, from memory. As to why Harreld’s hire — whether legitimate or illegitimate at the time — prompted such fury, I would point to this, from early in that initial post:
I next tried to wriggle off the Harreld-hire hook in early November, just as Harreld was taking office. Here is the first paragraph of that post, titled Sexual Assault and the Harreld Hire:
What I did not know when that post went live was that in only a few hours I would learn that J. Bruce Harreld had so radically changed the origin story of his candidacy as to prove — beyond any doubt — that he himself had lied to the press, the people of Iowa and the UI community only moments after being appointed in early September. It was at that point not only that I rejoined the conversation about Harreld’s corrupt appointment, but that I mentally settled in for the long haul.
To the extent that the story of Harreld’s fraudulent hire has also exposed endless corruption emanating from the Iowa Board of Regents — including news this week that ISU President Steven Leath damaged a state-owned plane on a private trip, then lied about the cause to cover up for his own incompetence as a pilot — my original and ongoing motivation to stay with the Harreld story has not and will not change. The University of Iowa campus is and has been sick for a long time. When given the chance to address that sickness, however — which the Iowa Board of Regents was not only fully aware of, but used as a cudgel to browbeat the former president — the corrupt, lying trash leadership of the regents, in conspiratorial consort with the highest-ranking UI administrator at the time, instead rigged a fake search at taxpayer expense so they could hire an arrogant, condescending, pugnacious, bro-culture brat. In so doing, and in accepting that rigged appointment, Harreld and his co-conspirators made clear that the safety and security of students on campus was irrelevant to their aims as corrupt administrators, let alone as men.
What Rape is and is Not
Whether you personally agree with that assessment of J. Bruce Harreld or not, the next bit of context we need to address has to do with who is and is not a victim. While it’s understandable that Harreld himself might not feel too good about being described as an arrogant, condescending, pugnacious bro-culture brat, he is not a victim in that regard because he is being paid $800K per year ($200K deferred) to be the president of a billion-dollar public research university. Just like the head football coach or basketball coach, part of Harreld’s pay is compensation for taking the heat that anyone has to take in the public eye, whether they’re a good and decent person, or crony garbage hired by the corrupt Board of Regents.
While the issue of sexual assault was both the impetus for my initial engagement with the Harreld hire, and the impetus for the recently released UI ‘Speak Out Iowa’ campus climate survey, there is an almost inherent uncertainty if not euphemism in the term ‘sexual assault’ — to say nothing of the term ‘climate survey’. To omit any possibility of confusion, in this post we will not be focusing on the spectrum of demented conduct which falls under the heading of verbal or physical sexual harassment, but on rape. And to omit any confusion about what rape is, we will first describe what rape is not.
Rape is not a statistic in a climate survey. For the purposes of this post it is not even a crime, because we can imagine rape happening in a lawless society. Rape is also not a dramatic act recreated in any medium regardless of the talents of the creators. If you were once riveted by a theatrical portrayal of rape, if you found yourself deeply affected by the dramatization of rape or the acting chops of those involved, you have still not experienced rape.
Rape is a traumatic experience which happens to human beings not only far too frequently around the world, and far too frequently in the United States, but far too frequently on the campus of the University of Iowa. For the purposes of this post, and acknowledging a very small number of rapes which do not meet this test, we will define rape as the uninvited introduction of a penis into the body cavity of another human. The act of rape may be opportunistic, if the victim is unconscious, or, if the victim is conscious, it may be forcible and involve threats and acts of violence including slaps, punches, bites and choking, or the brandishing and use of weapons.
When the act of rape is completed, the experience of rape is not. Rape victims, if they are conscious, may no longer fear for their immediate safety, but must still recover from and process the trauma of that experience, including deciding what to do in response to that violation. If the rape is reported, the victim may have to endure invasive requirements imposed on them by the authorities, extending the trauma. If the victim knows the attacker, and even if the victim identifies the attacker, because of the presumption of innocence and procedural delays the victim may be repeatedly exposed to that individual in the future. If the victim does not know their attacker, they may wonder if every male they encounter was the attacker. In any case, all rape victims will also wonder if the individual who raped them will try to rape them again.
Even if the rapist is caught and held with no chance of parole or escape, the experience of rape continues for the victim. Tests will need to be conducted to determine whether the penis (or penises) in question was (or were) also diseased. If the victim was female, and the vagina was penetrated, the victim will have to make choices regarding the possibility of conception that they would otherwise not have been forced to make. Depending on the circumstances, simply determining the physical toll of the rape could take weeks or longer.
Finally, even if the rapist is convicted, no diseases are contracted and no pregnancy occurs, the experience of rape will stay with the victim forever. Some victims will be able to move on in most respects, but some victims will be so traumatized that they will never be able to have a normal relationship with another human being, let alone a normal intimate relationship. If the rapist remains free, the post-traumatic stress only intensifies. If the rapist is never identified, the post-traumatic stress only intensifies.
The Origin of the ‘Speak Out Iowa’ Campus Climate Survey
In the summer of 2014, in response to unending reports of sexual assault on college campuses across the country — if not also to untold millennia in which women had been and still were being openly treated as disposable objects of sexual gratification by males at every level of cultural strata — a bipartisan bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate:
In response to the threat of that proposed legislation, the American Association of Universities (AAU), of which the University of Iowa was and is a member, offered to conduct climate surveys on behalf of its member organizations. Perhaps predictably, the AAU’s offer seemed to be more concerned with giving its member institutions political cover and plausible deniability with regard to sexual assault than with actually getting to the root of the problem. To the University of Iowa’s credit — and unlike fellow AAU member Iowa State University — UI declined to participate in the AAU survey:
As the AAU surveys got underway, and as the University of Iowa began planning its own survey, the 2015 UI Presidential Search also began. Seven months later, in early September of that year, the conniving Iowa Board of Regents, in league with traitorous interim UI President and VP for Medical Affairs, Jean Robillard, shocked the world by appointing J. Bruce Harreld as president despite an utter lack of qualifications for the job, and strong if not overwhelming opposition on campus. Less than a month later, as the machinations and lies of Harreld and his co-conspirators came into focus, Iowa State University released the results of its AAU-sponsored climate survey:
Just over a month later, and ten days or so before J. Bruce Harreld officially desecrated the University of Iowa by taking office, the school finally announced its own climate survey on campus sexual assault:
In mid-December, however, it was announced that the deadline for the survey had been extended, in part because the survey itself was a mess:
At the time, the newly installed sham president, J. Bruce Harreld, was notified of problems with the survey:
Although the original plan was to release the results of the four-week UI survey in the spring of 2016, most of the spring term came and went with no announcement. Then, in May, on an obscure UI web page, it was announced that the results of the survey would not be made public until fall because of low participation:
And the specific reason given for the delay?
Finally, last week, on 09/21/16, the results of the UI ‘Speak Out Iowa’ climate survey were released, more than a full year after the AAU surveys were completed, and more than a full year after J. Bruce Harreld’s appointment. (Key findings here; full report here.)
From the lede to Vanessa Miller’s report on the survey in the Gazette:
From the lede to Jeff Charis-Carlson’s report in the Press-Citizen:
By any measure — by every measure — the results of the UI climate survey on campus sexual assault are horrifying. And yet, precisely because the University of Iowa chose to go its own way, because the university created its own one-off survey, and because it botched the implementation of that survey, the University of Iowa performed the neat trick of being able to discredit its own report. From Miller’s story:
From Charis-Carlson’s story:
Data, but unreliable data. Data, but incomplete data. Data, but biased data.
Had the same data been reported in the context of any other organization or business, or function of government including the military, it would have been so shocking as to instigate a full-scale criminal investigation. And yet because of its bungled and sparsely answered survey, the University of Iowa simply declared those same results moot. Sure, women were being raped, but like the rapists themselves the percentages reported by UI couldn’t be trusted.
Which of course prompts an obvious question. Whose fault is this?
J. Bruce Harreld and the ‘Speak Out Iowa’ Climate Survey
No matter how early we might speculate that J. Bruce Harreld began conspiring with Regents President Bruce Rastetter, UI VP for Medical Affairs Jean Robillard, and megadonor Jerre Stead, to steal the job he now holds, the impetus for the UI climate survey on campus sexual assault clearly predates the most paranoid scenario. At about the time when former UI President Sally Mason was officially announcing her retirement, in mid-January of 2015, Iowa opted out of the AAU survey and decided to go its own way. That in-house survey then underwent development during the spring, summer and early fall of 2015, paralleling the ongoing presidential search and sham appointment of Harreld on 09/03/15..
Although Harreld remained largely out of sight for the following two months, as details of his fraudulent hire were repeatedly revealed in the press, it’s safe to assume that he was brought up to speed on all of the initiatives underway at UI, including the ‘Speak Out Iowa’ climate survey. Although the survey went live about ten days before Harreld took office at the beginning of November, it was — as a result of the extension triggered by the botched rollout — active for the first six weeks of Harreld’s tenure. Meaning even at that point the early problems and low response rate would have been known to UI administration.
As an issue, campus sexual assault was making major headlines at the time, and would have been well-known to Harreld if he had had any prior experience in academic administration, which he did not. Instead, as a swashbuckling former business executive, by his own admission Harreld somehow arrived on the UI campus almost completely oblivious to the issue, despite having been a lecturer at Harvard for the preceding six years. From J. Bruce Harreld’s candidate forum, on 09/01/15, at the 57:42 mark:
Now, as regular readers know, this particular moment in the Harreld hire has become legend for multiple reasons. From trashing Sally Mason’s six-point plan, to proposing his own gung-ho two-letter plan, to — three days later, on the day after his fraudulent appointment — deputizing the football team to “do something”, Harreld’s bombast about campus sexual assault during his candidate forum still says more about his lack of qualifications than anything before or since.
Regarding the UI ‘Speak Out Iowa’ climate survey and Harreld’s personal responsibility for its success, however, we can draw a few conclusions from the passage quoted above. First, whatever Harreld thought about Sally Mason’s six-point plan before he eventually took credit for it himself last April (without mentioning Mason’s name in the process), it’s clear from Harreld’s own words that even before he was appointed he was not only aware of and had read the six-point plan, but he was aware that campus sexual assault was “front and center in the dialogue” at the University of Iowa.
Second, Harreld’s response — however idiotic — included the following two quotes, which explicitly make him responsible for the ‘Speak Out Iowa’ climate survey:
Only two days after his disastrous candidate forum, the thoroughly corrupt Iowa Board of Regents appointed Harreld president-elect of the University of Iowa. Having already read Sally Mason’s plan, and having taken such a strong rhetorical stand against campus sexual assault, it is reasonable to assume that Harreld was thus aware of the development and upcoming release of the UI campus climate survey on sexual assault, which went live approximately seven weeks later. It is also reasonable to assume that as responses came in, that Harreld was made aware of the low rate of response, and of the problems with the survey itself.
Admittedly, for the average status-quo academic administrator, that kind of survey and data analysis may have been far afield, but in an ironic stroke of luck it turned out to be right in the middle of J. Bruce Harreld’s otherwise absurdly narrow intellectual wheelhouse. As an engineer and MBA, Harreld had been trained, twice, to gather and analyze data, often using higher levels of math than most people ever encounter. As a longtime executive at IBM, and as the man who single-handedly kept that company from imploding, Harreld also knew everything there was to know about gathering data in large organizations, and about how to best sift through that data for answers. And it’s not just me saying that.
From an article by the Press-Citizen’s Jeff Charis-Carlson, dated 11/02/15 — the day Harreld finally took office:
(As regular readers know, and as covered in numerous posts, J. Bruce Harreld is so obsessed with rankings data and gaming Iowa’s national college rank that he has made that objective the centerpiece of every budgeting decision throughout the school. It cannot be overstated how committed Harreld is to rankings data.)
Continuing, from the same article:
From an 11/13/15 interview on Iowa Press, only two weeks after taking office, and in the middle of the UI ‘Speak Out Iowa’ climate survey:
From a 12/16/15 Staff Council Executive Meeting:
From an article by the Press-Citizen’s Charis-Carlson, about Harreld’s first (and, so far, only) town hall, on 02/24/16:
From a 05/03/16 interview with the Daily Iowan:
Here’s Harreld in a Corridor Business Journal article by Chase Castle on 06/22/16, promising to increase resource allocations to specific programs:
Finally, here is J. Bruce Harreld only three weeks ago, in a DI interview at the start of the 2016-2017 academic year:
And of course Harreld is right. Without data you know nothing. So what the hell happened with the ‘Speak Out Iowa’ climate survey?
J. Bruce Harreld’s Commitment to (Not) Gathering Data
How did the University of Iowa spend an entire extra year on its own climate survey, as compared to the AAU survey, yet somehow manage to discredit its own mortifying results with a lower response rate? Better yet, how did that happen when the Iowa Board of Regents fraudulently hired the exact right person to wring rock-solid data from every aspect of the University of Iowa, including parking-space rates?
Well, those are all good questions. Unfortunately, because J. Bruce Harreld is a liar, and because his crack administrative team wouldn’t know how to tell the truth if you spotted them the truth, there’s no chance that we’re ever going to find out what happened behind the scenes. In fact, if we go poking around too much the most likely result is that J. Bruce Harreld — a consummate, gut-fighting bureaucrat — will simply hang an underling out to dry instead of standing up, being a man and taking responsibility himself.
How do we know? Because at the beginning of the current term, after an entire gratuitous week of celebrating himself, in which Harreld weaseled his way into story after story about the University of Iowa and its accomplishments — which in turn followed a week of public relations events staged for Harreld’s benefit, including bravely battling his “severe spinal problem” to help students move into the dorms, and exploiting a dying old football coach for publicity stills — J. Bruce Harreld was completely absent from any reporting on the horrifying results of the climate survey by either the Gazette or Press-Citizen. The reason for that absence was that despite using the UI Office of Communication and his powers as president to inject himself into every UI press release imaginable, in the original UI press release about the survey — which was signed by, but not specifically attributed to, Harreld — there wasn’t a single direct quote. (As far as I can tell, Harreld still hasn’t been quoted on the record about the results.)
Despite being a “data freak”, despite data showing that UI is a sexual predator’s playground, despite endlessly hyping his own business background and savvy, the fraudulent president of the University of Iowa, J. Bruce Harreld, has put as much distance between himself and the feeble results of the Speak Out Iowa survey as possible. And this despite the fact that if he wasn’t the head of a university or college, where, apparently, such serial sexual maulings are expected, it’s impossible to believe that Harreld would still have his job. Again, imagine if one in five female guests reported being raped at a given resort, or if one in five female employees at IBM had reported being raped.
In fact, you probably can’t imagine those situations because they would be completely insane. And yet, at the University of Iowa the only response that same news has occasioned from the man at the top of the administrative heap is allowing his signature to be included among a group of individuals on an unattributed press release. No statement of shock or revulsion — no follow-up using the same caricatured passion he displayed at his candidate forum — just a boilerplate message which is even less likely to garner attention than the failed climate survey itself.
And then there’s the timing. The shocking results of the UI climate survey did not drop during Harreld’s personally choreographed two-week coronation — they came out only after Harreld was done soaking up all the applause he could manufacture. And yet what information could be more critical to all of the students on campus, and particularly young women in their first year, who are most vulnerable? What responsible leader learns that the community they preside over is a sexual hunting ground, then spends two weeks basking in self-congratulatory, trumped-up media events?
But that’s only the beginning of questions about the release of the data, which takes us back to last spring, when the results were initially slated to be revealed. Even back then, while J. Bruce Harreld was using a $1.7M funding shortfall to jack up the cost of being raped on campus, the general results were certainty known, yet the reporting of those results was put off until the beginning of the current term. Through the end of the 2015-2016 school year, and through the summer term, when UI administration clearly knew what they had, there was nothing.
I know next to nothing about statistics and data analysis, but what I do know is that from the earliest responses to the UI climate survey back in October and November of 2015, administrators at the university — including J. Bruce Harreld himself — were aware of the nightmarish results. You can tweak data all you want in order to graph it and chart it and put it in context, but when one in five of any group says they’ve been raped — not sexually assaulted, but raped — you’ve got a world-class problem. Delaying notice of that problem in order to do “additional statistical consultation” was tantamount to delaying the report of a building fire — which is to say that it was insane.
So who decided that no advance word of the deeply embarrassing and damaging results of the UI climate survey would be released — even if doing so might have given students a critical, perhaps even life-altering heads-up about their own personal safety? Well, again, the captain of the ship is J. Bruce ‘Data Freak’ Harreld. The same J. Bruce Harreld who had a disastrous first year on the job, and who just spent the beginning of this semester orchestrating a campus-wide publicity tour to demonstrate what a wonderful human being he is. And there’s no way in hell he didn’t know the results of the climate survey as soon as they started coming in.
Unfortunately, however, that just brings us back to the stalemate we ran into before, where we’ll never really know who gave the order to sit on the survey results until last week. So instead, we’re going to ask a different question. Let’s assume that J. Bruce Harreld wanted more data on campus sexual assault and rape — better data, more extensive data — than has ever been collected on any campus ever. Given his educational background, his business chops, and his self-professed data fetish, what could possibly stop him? If Harreld didn’t have the right people on staff he could pick up the phone and call someone at IBM or Boston Consulting and have the right person in an hour. If he wanted to make sure students participate in large numbers he could have made the survey mandatory.
While the genesis of the UI climate survey on sexual assault predates Harreld’s tenure in office, he was president-elect while the final touches were being added to the bungled survey, and president while the majority of the survey was taking place. He was also president when the survey results were first analyzed and known internally, and president when the decision was made to put off releasing the results until the current semester, and president when the decision was made to release the results only after his recent media blitz was over. And of course as that same president, Harreld’s only statement about the results of the survey has been as a passive member of an organizational press release.
Ironically, the J. Bruce Harreld who failed to accurately gauge and report on sexual violence on the UI campus is the same J. Bruce Harreld who made data collection in service of gaming Iowa’s college rank the number one priority of his administration. In pursuit of that deranged goal Harreld has gone so far as to rig the entire budgeting process to accomplish that objective, made it clear to faculty and staff that improving int the rankings is the only relevant objective, and even co-opted the Faculty Senate into writing a trash report in support of that time-and-resource-wasting vanity. So you would think — if Harreld was actually motivated to do so — that he could implement and execute one crummy survey that would give him the answers he needed in order to aggressively combat and even prevent rapes on campus. And yet just as obviously you would be completely wrong in making that assertion.
Which raises another question. Just how personally vested in the question of campus sexual assault, including rape, is J. Bruce Harreld? Because if there’s any time-honored tradition on campuses around the world, it’s that ignoring the problem is best for everyone except the women (and men) who are being assaulted and raped. That is in fact why the federal government decided to mandate data collection on such crimes, because the thin reporting available elsewhere wasn’t cutting it. Despite clear awareness of that chronic if not endemic problem, school administrators and marketing weasels had no incentive to notify students or their parents that a given campus — or every campus — was a locus of sexual predation.
Fortunately, in this particular instance we do have an answer from J. Bruce Harreld. From his interview with the Daily Iowan three weeks ago, on 09/07/16:
And yes, we’re going there.
Mr. and Ms. J. Bruce Harreld and the Student Issue of Being Raped
To begin, no — I am not denigrating J. Bruce Harreld’s wife by referring to her with a ‘slave name’ or as Harreld’s property. I am using “Ms. J. Bruce Harreld” in this instance because in the quote above, and in other mentions of his wife that Harreld has offered as proof that he’s a genial fellow, we do not actually have his wife on the record. Yes, I know his wife’s name, yes, I know she has a life of her own, yes, I know she’s an attorney. But I also know that J. Bruce Harreld makes things up on occasion, if not perpetually, which means we can’t assume that any story he relates about his wife is accurate. So until she goes on the record herself, we’re just going to think of Harreld’s wife — as introduced into the conversation by Harreld himself, in quotes to the press — as a figment of Harreld’s imagination that goes by the name of Ms. J. Bruce Harreld.
Now, personally I do not know, and have no right to know, whether Mr. or Ms. J. Bruce Harreld have been touched by rape, or whether any of their relatives or close friends have been touched by rape to their knowledge. What I do know from this quote, however —
— is that it once again raises questions about J. Bruce Harreld’s veracity. And pulling back to look at the full context of that quote does not help Harreld’s case:
As you can see, most of this is completely nuts. Nobody is concerned about the number of artists that Harreld does or does not have in his family. What they’re concerned about is that Harreld himself is a liar and a cheat, and that he conspired with others to steal the job he now has. Even if they weren’t concerned about that, however, the fact that he has artists in his family does not make Harreld an artist, or artist-friendly, or an appreciator or supporter of the arts.
The same goes for Harreld’s lunatic line about having four Mandarin speakers in his family, and how that supposedly grants Harreld a “multicultural background”. No, that’s not how multiculturalism works. You don’t get to label yourself as multicultural because of the accomplishments of the people you’re related to.
And of course at the end of the above quote we again have Harreld trolling people about “calming down”, as detailed exhaustively in a prior two-part post. And there, sandwiched between all three of those Harreld-isms, we have the bold assertion — not only by Harreld but also attributed to his wife — that they have “experienced” every “student issue”, which would include the issue of being sexually harassed, stalked, assaulted and even raped.
Now, if this is ringing a faint bell, you’re right — we’ve actually been down this road before with Mr. and Ms. J. Bruce Harreld, at least as recounted by Harreld himself. From Harreld’s second extended DI interview, conducted last year on 05/03/16:
Now again, we don’t actually have J. Bruce Harreld’s wife on the record here, but it’s pretty clear from Harreld’s comments, and his report of his wife’s response, that they both equated what Harreld experienced in a town meeting with the kind of hate speech normally directed at people who belong to abused protected classes or minority groups. Given that the Harreld’s are both white and stinking rich, that would seem to be rhetorical overreach, and yet that really does seem to be what he’s claiming. (I would also point out that where Harreld said, “in my own town meetings”, plural, he had actually held only one of a promised three town meetings at that point, and would not hold another during that academic year. And yes, that’s Harreld once again telling a lie simply because the opportunity presented itself.)
Four months later, then, when we once again find Harreld invoking his wife in order to prove that he’s already “experienced” every possible “student issue”, what are we to think? Well, for all of the reasons listed in this post and more, if we tried to build a circumstantial case that sexual assault and rape were deeply personal issues for J. Bruce Harreld, we would fail. From Harreld’s comments at his candidate forum to his comments immediately after being appointed, to his comments throughout the 2015-2016 academic year, his rhetoric has all the poignancy of someone opposed to ‘badness’ or people ‘not being nice’.
For example, here’s the anti-abuse part of the press release that accompanied publication of the results of the climate survey:
No mention of the word ‘rape’. Then later, there’s this:
Even a full year after his disastrous candidate forum, and having had time to digest the results of the ‘Speak Out Iowa’ climate survey, Harreld’s rhetoric about sexual assault and rape is distant, abstract, administrative. There’s no personal engagement, at all, which really does call into question his assertion that he and his wife have “experienced” every “student issue”. In fact, after talking about the importance of leadership on the issue during his candidate forum, Harreld’s leadership is not only lacking, but he’s actually going backwards.
We know this because of one thing Harreld got right during his candidate forum. Here again is that specific text from the longer passage quoted above:
Harreld is exactly right. If you don’t take a stand against the really horrible stuff — actual crimes against individuals — then you send a tacit signal that administrative abuses are also acceptable or condoned, or at least not taken seriously. And yet what do we find Harreld doing only two months after taking office in early November of 2015? Despite the fact that Athletic Director Gary Barta was facing a federal gender discrimination investigation and a related civil lawsuit, Harreld backs up the truck — in a secret deal that is only outed in the press weeks later — and gives Barta a massive new contract extension and pay increase.
Because that wasn’t enough, however, several months later, when Barta found himself facing a second lawsuit, and the Athletics Department was targeted in a second and much broader federal gender discrimination investigation — which included on-site evidence collection — not only did Harreld refuse to give up his bro culture man-crush on Barta, he doubled down. From a 05/26/16 KGAN interview with Karen Fuller:
“The people he’s hired, the way he’s run the inst…the athletic department is world class, and we should be really, really proud of it. And I’m glad that he’s a — on the team, and I’m glad he’s a friend.”
That interview aired shortly after UI administration meekly announced that the results of the long-completed ‘Speak Out Iowa’ climate survey would be delayed so “additional statistical consultation” could be performed. As noted in a recent post, that interview was also the moment when J. Bruce Harreld sold out every woman on campus and went all-in on bro culture at UI. There is no way that Harreld’s pro-Barta message did not have an effect on the men on campus, just as repeatedly kicking the scandalous climate survey down the road had an effect — and a bad one. (And of course at the beginning of the current semester, the results of the survey were are also delayed until after Harreld and Barta announced the massive new contract for head football coach Kirk Ferentz.)
When you’re a leader — meaning a real leader, and not just a toady tool — you don’t pick and choose the issues you lead on. Yes, palling around with jocks has to be very exciting for a former dweeb business executive, but that former dweeb business executive is also responsible for the rapes on campus, even if that’s not as much fun. Which once again brings us back to the question implicit in Harreld’s quote:
Just as we’ll never know what went on behind the scenes with the climate survey, we’ll never know — and should not know — whether the Harreds have been touched by rape in some meaningful way. What we can say, however, without intruding on anyone’s privacy, is that Harreld’s statement is either true or false with regard to rape.
If it’s true, then obviously that’s horrible. But that should also give the Harreld’s as a couple personal motivation to fight tooth and nail for women (and men) on campus. In fact, if that is the case, one way that Ms. J. Bruce Harreld might put that horrible “experience” to work for the University of Iowa — besides keeping her husband focused on the issue — would be to become the director of the Rape Victim Advocacy Program, which lost its director last January. As Harreld himself might say, that would be a great way to “work on” that “student issue”, while also touching the lives of people who had been victimized.
(Whether there are plans to discontinue the RVAP program or not, I don’t know, but perhaps the hiring process was held up while Harreld turned the UI HR department into his own private crony jobs emporium. In any case, the fact that the RVAP director position has not been filled in over nine months would seem to lend credence to the idea that preventing and responding to rapes is not a priority for J. Bruce Harreld.)
Alternatively, if J. Bruce Harreld and Ms. J. Bruce Harreld have not been touched by rape, and yet they also truly believe they have “experienced” every “student issue”, then they both owe the entire campus an extensive apology for being truly miserable, thoughtless human beings. And yet when you’re stinking rich and jetting around the country on private jets, from one of your two or three or four multi-million-dollar homes to the next, and on a whim you decide to devote a few years to civilizing the backward Iowa natives, I think that’s pretty much exactly the kind of mistake you make. You assume you’ve seen it all because you’ve got a complex tax return or family members who speak Mandarin, when in fact you’re so clueless as to constitute a danger to the campus in and of yourself. (In fact, that’s a telling mistake Harreld has made before, and quite recently.)
A Grave Injustice
Now, if you have that thing in your head where you reflexively think of wealthy people or successful people or famous people as having special emotional sensitivities which must be respected, while regular people deserve little or no emotional regard, then you’re probably having trouble keeping your priorities straight right now. So as a reminder, this isn’t a post about hurt feelings, its a post about men who stick their penises into the body cavities of other human beings without being invited to do so, and how best to prevent that from happening. In that context, J. Bruce Harreld is not only not deserving of deference, he’s obligated by the absurd amount of money he’s making to set aside his own personal emotional needs and petty vanities and lead on that issue, even if he would really rather not.
In fact, if the King and Queen of the University of Iowa find themselves incensed at having their integrity questioned — leaving aside the fact that we already know the King has no integrity — that in itself is a pretty clear indicator that they don’ t have the slightest idea what real victimization is like. The kind of victimization that leads to a life on prescription-strength tranquilizers, chronic insomnia, bouts of weeping and depression, and on and on. The kind of victimization that even causes some people to kill themselves, because they can’t ever recover their sense of identify after being violated.
Speaking of which, as if determined to prove my point, while also going down in history as walking, talking fecal matter, Baylor’s former president, Ken Starr (yes that Ken Starr), popped up in the press a couple of days ago, right while I was in the middle of this post. Here is what the former esteemed university president and federal prosecutor had to say:
No. Art Briles is not a victim of anything. At Baylor, Briles was both a successful football coach and a failure as a man. Just like Joe Paterno was a successful football coach at Penn State, and a failure as a man. Just as so many males have been successful in their collegiate professions, yet failures as men when it came to meeting their responsibility to protect the most vulnerable on campus. To whatever degree the media machines currently propping up J. Bruce Harreld eventually declare his illegitimate presidency to have been a success, we now know, based solely on the way in which the ‘Speak Out Iowa’ campus climate survey was conducted and reported — apart from the actual plague of rape and sexual assault on the University of Iowa campus, which he is responsible for fighting with every fiber of his illegitimate presidency — that Harreld himself can be added to that inglorious list.
Looks like where there is smoke there are cyclones.
AP has been digging into ISU President Leath’s barn-storming escapades. Seems like university business involves celebrity hunting trips, relative t rips to basketball games, and it looks like just about any thing the President could dream up.
Damn nice perk!
PA Dolan says
Without in any way taking President Harreld off the hook, let’s bear in mind that the women of the U of Iowa and their allies have been begging, cajoling, asking and demanding that the university assess the prevalence of sexual misconduct for decades. The response has ranged from overt stonewalling to passive aggressive.
Consequently, the University has been able to say it’s doing something, when it’s mostly engaged in covering its ass. Here’s one example https://now.uiowa.edu/2013/12/making-campus-safe-all. But when pressed to put its full weight behind the effort, it has refused. (One small but telling example. President Mason was asked to sign a letter to students asking them to respond to the survey listed above. She refused.)
In my view, it’s clear that the only reason the University engaged in any survey at all was because it was required to by law. That culture was well established here well before J. Bruce Harreld arrived. Apparently there’s one part of the status quo he’s okay with.
PA Dolan says
Sorry. To clarify: President Mason was asked to sign an email. To its credit UI Student Government stepped up when she refused.
I completely agree about the shameful history at UI regarding sexual assault and violence. (The Jean Jew case is but another sordid and disgraceful tangent.) I tried to allude to that history in the post, when I said, “The University of Iowa campus is and has been sick for a long time.” However, I also wanted to keep the spotlight on the now, because I can’t do anything about the past. (While the problem has clearly been ongoing, and is not limited to UI, I worry that to some people the history of abuses committed grants those crimes — and they are crimes — some kind of insane legitimacy, as if victimizing other human beings really is just part of the collegiate experience.)
As we have recently seen with gay marriage, and earlier with civil rights and other cultural tipping points, there are moments when the bar of expectations is raised, and this is one of those moments. Whatever Harreld’s predecessors failed to do, he is going to own in full if he also fails to make headway. Much as I’m sure Harreld would prefer to preside over the UI campus in an age reminiscent of his own frat-boy experience at Purdue, there are no more excuses.
Ken Starr is out at Baylor — a private, religious school in the heart of Texas — because he viewed sexual violence against women as incidental to his job. If it can happen there, it can happen at UI.
Again, it’s beyond belief that they are now using their own incompetence to discredit the horrors communicated by those who took the survey seriously. And yet I do not know if they actually understand that what they just did is invalidate not only the survey, but the women who had the courage to step forward and respond. That Harreld has simply been allowed to pass this off as somebody else’s responsibility is both emblematic of his gutlessness, and indicative of the degree to which he has co-opted the very people on campus who should be most furious.
Then again, when you can claim to have been a victim of hate speech and nobody on campus questions your right to do so, and you can claim to be multicultural because other people in your family speak Mandarin, and you can claim to have a severe spinal problem when all evidence points to the contrary, you don’t really have anything to worry about when you cripple a survey, delay the results so that they won’t interfere with your self-aggrandizing agenda, and then order your subordinates to disavow the findings.
Robillard to “step down” from both positions.
“I write to share with you my plans to step down as vice president for medical affairs and dean of the Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine. President Harreld plans to launch a search for my successor immediately, and to help ensure a smooth transition I am pleased to remain in my role until a new leader is named and to work as hard as ever.”
Two questions; Did exodus of staff play a part in this decision? How golden is his parachute?
Here’s where I’m at on this. I do not think Robillard was forced out. I don’t think anyone could have dislodged him if he did not want to go. Absent a health issue, then, this is to some degree voluntary.
On the other hand, I do believe pressure played a part, including Robillard’s role in the 2015 presidential search. Most likely, I think he’s looking ahead and simply doesn’t want to end up wearing whatever is coming down the pike. He can step back and take credit for a whole bunch of stuff, and if it all blows up later he’s clean — at least in terms of the legacy he’s currently touting.
Vanessa Miller had more quotes from Robillard, Rastetter and Harreld in a piece late Friday, but because they’re all liars you can’t trust anything they say. Everyone wanted him to stay, it’s all his decision to walk away, blah blah blah.
I don’t know that we’ll ever know the truth. The one way we might is if another shoe drops, and one of the biggest hanging shoes is the total cost of the new Children’s Hospital. Over a year ago it was already $68M over budget, so I’m guessing it’s close to $85 or $90 now — which would be north of a 33% cost overrun. Throw in labor issues, Robillard’s insane plan to shorten medical college, his bizarre half-year tenure as dean of that college, and there are a lot of reasons why he might just want to bow out now, before things really go south. (Even patient care is faltering under his watch, but it hasn’t collapsed enough yet that he’s been blamed for it.)
How golden is the parachute?
– heads of departments and deans (I believe) can receive their full salary paid out for a couple years after they step down. For instance if you were a Chair of Medicine and you got 450,000 a year to pontificate, you could step down, assume normal clinical roles (which would generally be paid form 100,000 to 250,000) or less at your full bloated salary.
-Consider he gets 1,000,000 a year now
-Consider he likely gets about 150,000-200,000 a year in deferred income (retirement)
– consider they continue to pay his health insurance
I would say, conservatively Robillard has from 10-20 million in the bank. He likely has 5-6-7 million in retirement benefits.
You are talking about a guy who might work 5-6 months a year, then spend the rest of his time at one of his 3-4 vacation homes.
I know one past chairman who made about 400,000/yr., and now maintains 2 homes in other states; he stays in hotels in IC.
That’s how sweet it is.
As you are probably aware, AP reporter Ryan Foley recently broke a story about a 2015 airplane accident which Iowa State and the president of the Iowa Board of Regents covered up for more than year:
Following Foley’s original reporting there has been a steady drip-drip-drip of additional information, including multiple lies told by Leath and officials at Iowa State in repeated attempts to kill the story. If you want to follow the carnage you should read Foley’s piece, then go here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and — as of this post — here, with more certainly to come. In this post, however, we will limit ourselves to Leath’s original sin, which was almost killing himself and his wife at the Bloomington, Illinois airport.
Flying any airplane is a complicated task. Even the gentlest, most forgiving aircraft can kill you ten different ways without breaking a sweat. The faster an airplane flies, the less forgiving it will be in almost any flight environment, and the more likely it is that you will have less time to recover from any mistakes you make. If you screw up at altitude, however, you necessarily have an advantage when compared with making the same mistake close to the ground, which is why pilots pay particularly close attention to what they are doing when they are landing.
The vagaries of air as a fluid are such that sooner or later every pilot will experience a momentary loss of control requiring an immediate and accurate correction. As we will see, there is one particularly harrowing instance when it does not matter what a pilot does because a crash becomes inevitable, but such instances are rare and tend to produce telltale impacts. For the most part, as you might imagine, the more volatile the air is the bumpier the ride will be all the way to touchdown. Given the right mix of sudden changes in wind direction and velocity, it’s possible for almost any pilot to have a bumpy landing, or even to have to ‘go around’ for another try — which is in fact normal procedure. If you can’t put your plane on the ground in controlled flight, then as long as you have sufficient fuel on board you are taught to back off and try again.
Here is how ISU President Steven Leath’s accident was initially described in Foley’s story:
Now, it’s one thing to routinely lie to the press, the people of Iowa and your own campus as a university president, and another thing altogether to lie to the FAA. So if we’re to believe anything that Leath has said about the accident — and as regular readers know, believing anything Leath says is a bad idea — we’re probably correct in assuming that his explanation to the FAA was more accurate than any of the excuses that followed.
Later in Foley’s report we also get this:
So the conditions were less than ideal, but still manageable, meaning Leath just screwed up. And yet in the very next paragraph in Foley’s story, we get this:
By shocking coincidence, on the same day that Foley’s well-researched story broke, Iowa State’s press office put out an extended press release to get ahead of the story and change the narrative. In that release, here is how Leath’s accident was described:
While a “microburst” or a “localized downdraft within a thunderstorm” certainly sounds menacing, nowhere else do we find anyone talking about microbursts, downdrafts or thunderstorms. Even Leath, as quoted in his original statement to the FAA, does not mention anything about microbursts, downdrafts or thunderstorms. Instead, he specifically mentions “an extremely strong gust that lifted me”. In addition, the pilot who landed just before Leath also made no mention of a microburst, downdraft or thunderstorm in the area. (The ISU press release also omits the fact that Leath’s right wingtip struck the ground first, before he took out the light with the left wing.)
Three days later, here is how Leath himself characterizes the accident in an official statement:
Once again, Leath himself simply describes the accident as a “hard landing”. (Regarding Leath’s lie that “there was no attempt to hide this event from anyone”, two quick points. First, when you damage your plane and the airport you’re landing at, you certainly better notify the proper authorities. Second, when Leath says he notified Rastetter, he means he did so over a month later, after Leath signed a lucrative new contract extension. At that time at least one of the regents who voted in favor of that contract did not know about Leath’s accident, and still did not know over a year later when Foley’s story broke. So yes, both Wrong Way Leath and Regents President Bruce Rastetter intentionally hid the story from practically everyone.)
At the same time that Leath was issuing his own statement, the microburst excuse was being reported in the student paper — the Iowa State Daily:
The next day, the microburst excuse was also included in the Gazette’s coverage of Leath’s accident:
If you are not well-versed in flying or meteorology you may now be wondering if a microburst or downdraft is significantly different from any other type of gusting wind, and the answer, emphatically, is yes. No one who flies, and no one who studies the weather, would ever describe a microburst or a downdraft as a wind gust — which is why Leath himself does not confuse those terms, nor do any of the pilots quoted in Foley’s story.
A microburst or downdraft is not only a specific weather phenomenon, but one that is uniquely lethal to aircraft during landings. To see why, imagine you’re flying straight and level, but all of the air you’re flying through is moving straight down, like an elevator. You’ll still be flying, meaning you’ll still have positive control over your plane, but you will also lose altitude, often at a considerable rate. In fact, unless you are flying a jet fighter there may be nothing you can do to prevent that loss of altitude. If all of the air around you is going down, and you cannot power your way out of that problem, then you are going down with it.
Perhaps the most infamous example of what happens to an airplane in a microburst or downdraft concerns the crash of Delta Air Lines Flight 191 in Dallas, Texas, in August of 1985. In that accident, an L1011 airliner on final approach was slammed into the ground by a microburst because the pilots could not spool the engines up quickly enough to regain altitude. Had the same downdraft occurred at 30,000 feet the plane would have also lost altitude, and anyone who wasn’t buckled in may well have hit the ceiling, but the plane itself would not have crashed, or even necessarily sustained any damage.
As a result of the Flight 191 crash, awareness and understanding of the threat of microbursts grew considerably, such that many airports are now equipped with microburst detectors, and all commercial aircraft are equipped with radar that can detect windshear. Too, because thunderstorms are a prime generator of microbursts, pilots are taught to avoid landing when thunderstorms are in the area, which means it’s exceedingly unlikely that Leath would have even headed for Bloomington, IL, if his avionics reported unstable weather in that location.
So if there was no “microburst”, and there was no “localized downdraft within a thunderstorm”, why did Wrong Way Leath bounce himself, his wife and his airplane all over the Bloomington, Illinois airfield? Again, here’s Leath’s description of what happened:
While the Cirrus SR22 is a small, single-engine airplane, it’s also pretty fast. Even at 100% flaps its normal landing speed is 80-85 knots indicated (p. N-13), which translates to 92-98 mph . (To put that in context, if you’ve ever landed in a small plane before, the odds are that your landing speed at touchdown was considerably slower.)
You can get a sense of the speed of a normal Cirrus SR22 landing here and here. If you listen to the audio in the second link, or read the comments, you’ll see that the pilot lands at a slightly slower speed than recommended because the manual reflects best practices at maximum gross weight. In any case, however, as the rate of closure in the videos shows, that plane is not your grandfather’s Piper Cub.
The next thing you need to know is that when you’re flying in gusty conditions you need to be up on power so you don’t find yourself suddenly stalled by a change in wind direction or a momentary decrease in headwind. No matter what you’re flying, the only thing holding your plane up in the air are the invisible gasses flowing over the surface of your wing at sufficient speed, and in gusting conditions that speed is inherently unreliable. So even though landing is trickier when the winds are gusty, you want to make sure you are using more power on approach.
When Leath says that a strong gust lifted his plane, that makes sense. Increase the speed of the air flowing over the wings and you increase lift. What’s odd is that he mentions adding power, because A) he should already be up on power because of the gusting winds, and B) his first correction would normally be a quick lowering of the nose to compensate. The obvious conclusion from Leath’s report is that it must have been a really strong gust, which means the correct move at that point would have been to go around — particularly since Leath says he lost the runway track as well.
If you’ve ever been in a small plane landing in gusty winds, or even watched one from the ground, you’ve seen the pilot make almost constant corrections. In fact, in this video you can see the pilots of large planes — including huge airliners — doing exactly the same thing, because landing in gusty winds or with a crosswind requires constant corrections. While pilots may also make power corrections at the same time, sustained increases in throttle often lead to a go-around — meaning an aborted landing, even if the plane was almost on the ground.
Again, no matter what size or type of aircraft you’re piloting, you want to ‘fly’ your plane through the landing, with positive control, not just drop it on the runway. In the above video, the first plane actually climbs back into the sky after initially touching down (watch for a telltale puff of smoke from the right main, when the tires make contact), because the pilot could not transition to a smooth landing. And that was exactly the right call.
As already alluded to, the next problem with gusty winds is that they are almost never blowing straight down the runway, right at your plane. If you’re lucky, there will be multiple runways which allow for landings in either direction, but that’s not always the case. If you can only land in one direction, and that would give you a strong tailwind, most pilots would not even try to land in those conditions, and rightly so. If there is only one runway and the wind is blowing at ninety degrees to that strip, and gusting to boot, that’s another indication that you should find somewhere else to land if at all possible.
From the other pilot who landed at Bloomington on that day, we know the weather wasn’t crazy. From the pilot who reviewed the conditions on that day, we know the flight conditions were manageable. And yet, still, Leath got crossed up and not only managed to hit one wing on the runway, he hit the other wing on a runway light — meaning on two occasions his wings were not straight and level.
When you’re attempting a crosswind landing, there are two techniques you can use: crabbing or slipping. The techniques differ in the control surfaces which are employed to remain flying on a straight track, but in the case of slipping there’s also a bit of a performance penalty:
Because slipping involves using the ailerons (which are on the wings, as opposed to crabbing, which uses the rudder on the tail), and because slipping requires an uptick in power — particularly in gusting conditions — then any change in the angle of attack of the wing (from pulling on the yoke or shoving the nose down) or the speed of the air over the wings, will affect how each wing is functioning. If you get a little off course and drop a wing to correct, you could actually cause a momentary stall on the flight surface of only one wing — and if that happens when you’re close to the ground that would be bad.
I’m not a pilot, but if I had to guess, I’d say that Leath was side-slipping on approach, and when he got hit with a big gust he made a correction which momentarily stalled his right wing, which then dropped and struck the ground. In trying to regain control of the plane while also maintaining his track down the runway Leath then over-corrected, which caused his left wing to drop and clip a runway light.
I don’t think there’s any question that Leath screwed up, and I think he’s lucky no one was injured or killed. As to why Leath screwed up, however, that brings us back to this:
We’ll get to the “localized downdraft” part of that quote in a moment, but look at that second sentence. If you know anything about flying you know it doesn’t matter how long — in years — someone has been licensed to fly. What matters is not only how many total hours they have at the controls, but how many hours in type. ISU President Steven Leath may have received his private license ten years earlier, but that tells us nothing about how proficient he was in piloting that particular plane.
In terms of flying the Cirrus SR22, we know the plane that Leath damaged was purchased by Iowa State in 2014, and that Leath’s accident occurred in the summer of 2015. While it’s possible that Leath had hundreds or even thousands of hours in rented Cirrus SR22’s — or that Iowa State also previously owned a different Cirrus — it’s also possible that Leath had minimal experience with the plane until it was purchased by the university. It’s also possible that even if he used that plane for a year and a half before the accident, that use may have amounted to only a handful of hours, few of them involving gusty crosswind landings. Which is to say that the university’s implicit claim that Leath’s ten-year piloting career had any relevance to the accident was misleading at best, and, given the particulars, potentially provably false.
What we do know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is that any contention that Leath was caught in a microburst or downdraft is flagrantly false. So false, in fact, that no one who was paying any attention to what Leath himself said could have written and disseminated that explanation, except for the express purpose of deceiving everyone who received that misinformation. Which brings us to an interesting observation.
Is it possible that Leath himself ordered the ISU press office to spread that lie? Yes, of course. When it comes to covering his own ass — as we learned earlier this year, when the crony Rastetter-Leath land deal was exposed — Steven Leath will say whatever it takes to avoid taking responsibility for his own unethical if not illegal actions. Indeed, the very fact that Leath has not publicly corrected the microburst lie makes clear that he is happy to have that misinformation weaseling its way into the public consciousness.
More importantly, however, along with key personnel at the Iowa Board of Regents, including president Bruce Rastetter, other members and officers, and ISU”s Leath, and UI’s J. Bruce Harreld and Jean Robillard, we can now add the Iowa State University press office to the long list of lying trash serving the aims of crony corruption in Iowa. And what particularly interests me about that development is that despite the propaganda generated by the UI Office of Strategic Communications (OSC), I have never accused them of flat-out lying on Harreld’s behalf, or Robillard’s, or anyone else’s.
The UI OSC may not always tell the complete truth when they know it, but over the past year I don’t remember anyone simply inventing and spreading a full-on lie in order to bail out a high-ranking administrator at the University of Iowa. In fact, on at least two occasions I can recall OSC staff contradicting high-ranking administrators who were lying their asses off. At the taxpayer-funded Iowa State press office, however, even that minimal degree of professionalism and integrity is clearly not a concern.
Update 10/04/16: Yesterday the AP’s Ryan Foley reported that the FAA put Leath through a check ride to make sure he was current on his piloting techniques:
So no — there was no microburst, there was no downdraft, and thunderstorms played no part in Leath almost killing himself and his wife. He screwed up on a windy day, and thankfully no one got hurt. Also, thankfully, the federal government isn’t run like Terry Branstad runs Iowa, or Bruce Rastetter runs the Iowa Board of Regents. It’s not just enough to be in tight with your crony pals — you actually have to demonstrate that you have the necessary skills and training to fly a plane.
Getting serious, or at least less excitable, for a moment:
Somewhere in there, Leath is busy flogging the tenured at ISU and demanding they bring home money. Research grant money. The thing is, the people who run the agencies and who hand out the money are not actually stupid. When they see that a university president is not only a crook but a damn fool, they are, I’d guess, much less inclined to cut checks to send to researchers at that university. The research funds will go directly to the researcher, but any promises to support the research institutionally, any sense that the slice on top that’s supposed to be for facilities support/maintenance will actually be used that way — why would the federal program officers believe the money wouldn’t be pissed away in a demolition derby of some kind? Or on locker rooms? Or a presidential palace? I don’t think they would. And unfortunately it only takes the shadow of doubt for “fund” to turn into “not a priority at this time”
If I had to guess, I’d guess that Leath & co would react by announcing that the program officers all do the same thing. But they don’t. It’s the defense of every corrupt person, that everyone else is just as corrupt. Fortunately, it isn’t true. As these stories keep rolling out, though, I imagine it will indeed have some effect on ISU’s funding levels.
This makes sense.
The president of a university has several jobs: such as fund-raising; leadership of academics, research, and professionalism; assuring the safety of students; and faculty, budgeting etc. One of the most important ‘jobs’ of a president is to set the moral compass of the university, to anchor the honest and accountable execution of all the teaching, research and public service a university offers.
And what have we at ISU and Iowa. ISU is led by a dishonest, manipulative liar who flies in university planes for his own private business, makes land-buying schemes, advances his political agenda, and hauls in big bucks.
Iowa is led by a profiteering dilettante who is whole unqualified, lied to get his position (both on paper in in words), who likewise profits from his position.
And all the crony minions in between.
Who would trust this crew to supply an honest education to students? Who would trust them to insure ethical and honest research practices? Who would assume these clowns can design an open, honest, and appropriate budget for their schools? Right, really moral compasses as they lie, cheat, and steal all at the public trough.
One of the more interesting contrasts between Leath and Harreld is that Leath has been on the job since 2012 (appointed September of 2011), while Harreld only has 11 months under his belt (appointed September of 2015). Whatever it’s like to work for either of those impossibly arrogant men, Leath has been bombasting (new word — either pronunciation is acceptable) the ISU campus for four and a half years, and I’m guessing between the land deal and the plane crash that there are some people who are tired of taking crap from him.
To your point about external funding, I think you’re right — a lot of people may just shuffle the Iowa State (and Iowa, and BoR) files to the bottom of the pile, because who needs it? Who needs the headache of trying to figure out who can be trusted in a system filled with crony jerks, when you can just give that same money to someone in a state that has effective controls?
I’ve also been laughing myself sick the past day or two at this huge new fundraising scheme at Iowa State, which had to be in the works for months — then Ryan breaks the plane crash story!
Yet another lesson in which you own your mistakes and move on, as opposed to trying to hide them.
Who’s giving money to a school that buys its president a hot little airplane on the sly? Any big donor is going to lock up their contributions with iron-clad guarantees, which means the small donors are the ones who will be paying for whatever perk Leath feels he’s owed next. Even the name of the campaign — “Forever True, For Iowa State” — is hilariously ironic.
The true colors showing at this point are absolutely blazing, too.
He wishes those durn relatives of his had never got on the plane. Not “I wish I hadn’t invited them.” They’re doing him dirty by having accepted the invitation of the fancy show-off plane ride.
Next set of ingrates: the press. After all he’s done for ISU! Focusing on a trivial little lawbreaking…just out of curiosity, had Leath ever been arrested for anything? Internal complaints at the last place? I mean I’m 100% sure it would all have been someone else’s fault or insultingly trivial, no matter what it was, but it does seem to me that the guys who can’t own up to their own peccadilloes don’t start behaving that way out of the blue at Leath’s age.
Interesting how you connected the dots here.
Leath, given his own private playground, in what should be the public university environment, went pretty (excuse the pun) hog wild.
So the big speculation is that Leath, needing to see family and run his business in North Carolina, needed a faster mode of transportation than normal working stiff human beings. Suppose it does take a full day to drive to DSM airport, fly to Raleigh or Durham then drive home. So Leath leans on the bean-counters at ISU to buy the little hot rod they did. He doesn’t have time to wait, just like that Trump fellow.
Why should a man with so many irons in the \]==fire waste time? He has political obligations to Rastetter to fulfill. He is a man on the lookout for land in Iowa which he can buy on a suspect floated loan from his political connections and not pay the usual fees. He has his tree farms in NC. He has to conspire to hire other state university presidents. There is a helluva lot of lobbying to do. And oh yeah, a university to run. That is a busy schedule.
Obviously absolute power absolutely corrupts and Leath took full advantage of his perch on top of a major university (colleges now being one way to wealth and power as a fellow like Rastetter knows).
However like most nouveau rich and powerful, Leath overplays his hand. Too much land, too much salary, too much airplane, too much scheming, all on the public coin.
More and more leaths (I mean leaks) out each day. Turns out the FAA even retested Leath because of his bad piloting skills http://www.kcrg.com/content/news/FAA-says-agency-retested-ISU-president-after-rough-landing-395703251.html. And he gets the ISU PR group to write blatant lies to cover up his ineptness.
Sounds like this leach, I mean Leath has sucked too much blood from the state. I suspect he is going to hard time surviving all this…or he should have. ISU looks like a bunch of bumbling lying bumpkins whose president borrows the university plane like a scooter, winging off to his private adventures in NC, then happily slides the rig into third in an airport in Illinois.
I suspect Robillard looks at the consequences as the past 5-6-7 years of this crony party start unraveling; the no-bid contracts, the crony jobs, the system gaming, the Rastetter manipulation of ISU to kick a bunch of African refugees off the ranch, all come to light. Robillard has alot to hide including his complicity in the presidential search, the massive cost overruns (more to come) and massive ineptness of the construction of his pet Children’s Hospital, and his inept guidance of the UIHC and College of Medicine comes to light. He can continue on as Prof at Pediatrics (at his current salary of a million or so) and rake in the money without cleaning up the impending huge mess, leaving that to his poor successor.
This Mess under Branstad is likely to be a huge tug of war the next couple years as the media and others seek to dig exploring what really was going on and who was really bilked out of millions, while the state and university PR machines work very hard at hiding the truth and excuse-splaning away the crony buffoonery…
This is actually sort of what I was thinking about the sudden Robillard announcement (note that Harreld’s careful to say that it’s been on the table for quite a long time and they’ve been begging him to stay, which almost certainly means he surprised everyone with the decision). I think he saw writing on the wall, and I’m also thinking there’s some unhappy and expensive news waiting to come out of the children’s hospital.
I don’t know if anybody’s noticed, by the way, but that’s a very large building in a state without a giant number of children. You may recall the much more modest children’s hospital of 15-20 years ago. While I believe that one was outgrown, it’s difficult for me to imagine that this region actually has enough seriously ill children to fill that building and keep it occupied. It’s possible that on the inside it’s just an incredibly inefficient use of space, but even if that’s so, you do still have to maintain the space.
The thing is, even if things start falling apart now, I can’t see where the grownups start showing up. Where would they even come from so long as Branstad and Rastetter are still running this show?
My impression last year was, and remains, that the new Children’s Hospital was not built to meet current demand, but to take market share away from surrounding healthcare providers. Parents with sick kids are trauma victims themselves, and if you proclaim yourself the best that’s where parents are going to want to go. At least right up until they read that the sitting Ag Secretary, former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, had to come to Iowa and rip Robillard and the College of Medicine for falling behind the rest of the country on opioid treatment protocols. (Or those same parents really dig into the details in the U.S. News Hospital rankings.)
I also believe that Robillard is getting out before the roof caves in, and the coming numbers on the CHI cost overruns are part of that. He’s left a terrible mess, including whatever is happening at the College of Medicine.
And by the way — when this guy is signing your praises, that’s pretty much the end of any talk of a legacy:
The excuses given during the unveiling of the Children’s Hospital included ‘we will fall behind competition if we don’t build this’. Unfortunately no one in the press actually questioned this logic. There were no stats to back up the claim.
Academic medical centers (AMC) do not answer to normal economic pressures. Building in AMC is a matter of reputation and stature in the academic world. If Standford or tOSU built new hospitals, it would be a lose of face for the UIHC not to match.
One paper I read stated that the leaders of AMCs want ‘nice carpets, new buildings, and pretty secretaries”; perhaps a bit dated, but generally right on. It is bragging rights at major conferences.
Robillard is a pediatrician. He wanted to divert funds to his monument. He did and now he is gone (without naming rights). The actual number of patients to be served in the space will be remarkably low.
And you are right, there are more cost overruns to be released. Things are behind schedule and over-budget.
Hate to be so negative on all this, but sooner or later someone has to call a halt to all the new construction for show-offs sake. Iowa’s population of 3 million doesn’t support the massive luxury over-building. Further as pointed out here, while children are important, Iowa’s population tends to be aged. Where is the new ‘geriatric hospital’?
It is clear why drug treatment and narcotic treatment facilities died: 1.) it is messy business…you cannot have a ‘narc captain’ the same way you can have ‘kid captain’ at football games; 2.) Insurance does not reimburse drug treatment facilities like it does say pediatric ortho surgery; 3.) It is just not sexy to offer drug treatment programs and thus all efforts at that (after being banished to Oakdale) have been eliminated at UIHC). The medical intelligentsia looks way way down on drug treatment (ever see a building named after a drug addicted person?)
Vilsack’s Govt is partially to blame for this; Medicaid/Medicare/Insurance has almost no concern about the drug dependent for all the above reasons.
What scares the hell out of me is that the new Children’s Hospital and everything else at UIHC succeeds first and foremost on reputation, which Robillard and Rastetter seem to have taken for granted. If there’s a high-profile slip-up, or a sudden slip in the rankings, then the entire enterprise will be devalued, and more and more people will look for treatment elsewhere (like Mayo).
To be particularly crass about it, if you want the Jerre Steads of the world to keep throwing money at you, you have to take care of them and their families, which you can’t do if you take your eye off the quality factor. Stead doesn’t want his named on a stain — notwithstanding his complicity in the Harreld fiasco. He’s giving that money to be “world-class”, but, like Harreld, Robillard took that to be a marketing cry, not a goad to actually build a rock-solid organization from the ground up.
The chaos at the College of Medicine only intensifies my unease.
Just in the past twenty-four hours or so I’ve really come to realize how much damage Branstad has done to the state overall, but specifically how much damage he did by appointing Rastetter. I don’t see any way things get better in less than a decade, because the corruption is so entrenched. (I know people who are not familiar with this blog will think I’m making a political point, but I’m not. I don’t care about party affiliation, I care about good governance, and after six terms Branstad’s disease is so entrenched it’s going to take half a generation to recover.)
The dynamic between Rastetter, Robillard and Harreld is toxic as well. They’re all co-conspirators, which means none of them can really control the others. All one of them has to do is start talking to the press and they all go down the tubes — and we’re talking in a matter of days, not months.
The funniest part about Robillard bowing out is that what Rastetter and Harreld are now saying (we tried to get him to stay) is like the bizarro-world reverse of the garbage Harreld told about his own hire (they all wanted me, I couldn’t have been less interested).
Not too fast! says
Robillard may NOT be on his way out of UI!
These guys are thinking three steps ahead of the rest of us. That’s what makes them so dangerous.
In fairness to Robillard he is going to be 73. And the workload must be incredible. He can retain his million dollar salary while serving as a part time clinician — a very plum deal.
However, the leadership vacuum is getting ridiculous. Aside from the departmental leadership ineptness and vacancies, Robillard will leave holes in the Veep role and the Dean role. With a crippled president — Harreld in no way is remotely qualified to oversee searches of this magnitude — one wonders who is calling the shots at the COM and the UIHC.
Will we see so me kind of asset sell-off? Privatization? Selling off assets is what Branstad is all about (like Medicaid, Mental Health etc etc). Should we all be prepared to see the Cigna-UIHC? Or the Humana-UIHC?
The hell they are.
And tv, yeah, that’s exactly the kind of deal they work in the end, because someone will cut them a fat personal check for it.
I’ve been wondering about privatization for some time.
I also still don’t get how Stead got the naming rights to CHI, retroactively, for a measly $5M donation three months prior, when those rights could have gone for $15-20M. For a bunch of guys who profess to be all about the bottom line, that’s a staggering giveaway.
People immediately jump to Leath’s defense.
Iowa State announces a new fund raising initiative:
You are telling me that people are that dumb, to be played like fools for Leath’s enjoyment?
I doubt that over 1 % (maybe 0.1%) of ISU grads make what Leath makes per year. The new graduates are coming out with huge loan debts. Meanwhile their president is flying a university plane, damaging it with ineptness, giving himself fat raises, steering high paying jobs to Branstad/Rastetter cronies, guiding money to Rastetter, and getting sweetheart land buy loans NOT AVAILABLE to ISU grads. You are telling me that ISU wants contributions to fund the corrupt activities behind the scenes?
What is this like? Contributing to Al Capone’s operation, only not getting any booze in return? Arrogance!
Foley, continuing his work reported extensively today about the Leath trips.
Seems ISU inadvertently had momentarily posted the plane’s schedule online (is this like someone inadvertently mailed Trumps taxes to the NYT).
Read the article. Wonder if ISU knew it had such a jet-setting president. In North Carolina for a couple weeks. Bow hunting with the stars in Texas. Hunting in Indiana. Stopping in New York for fuel so the family can watch ISU play basketball in NYC.
Most of this is on the public donations dimes.
I wonder if Leath was ever in Ames. Maybe it was just lucky that he was in town to meet with Harreld in 2015; Leath is usually traveling and hunting with the stars. Must be an impressive life to be jetting all over the place like the CEO of IBM.
Sounds like the subject of ‘You’re So Vain”. Nova Scotia to Saratoga, you’re sooo vain.
How much has it cost the ISU fans to have a jet-setting, hip president?
I think ISU President Steven Leath is headed for another hard landing.
Hey but Leath is sorry!
“I regret all of this,” Leath said Wednesday during an interview with the Iowa State Daily in his office. “I don’t like to bring any negative image to the university. The fact that there has been all kinds of articles written about this makes me sad.”
What will Leath do when he is sad? Head to the Leath-Rastetter Bar-L ranch in northern Iowa? Cruise out to North Carolina? Count his money?
Oh gosh, he’s sad.
I’m sad, too, Wrecker McPhee. Sad about the destruction of what had been a remarkably good public higher-ed system. Sad about all those screwed-over kids and parents. It’s sad.
Leath’s sadness seems to have had this effect on him:
And that’s only hours after Ryan reported that the regents were going to conduct a “compliance review” that would have bought everyone time:
I don’t know if Leath decided that Rastetter was going to hang him out to dry or not, but this is clearly an escalation between the two men, if not open warfare.
ISU far outclasses the University of Iowa in a aircraft.
The ISU planes are a Cirrus (2011) and the King Air 350. Both were purchased in 2014.
Iowa meanwhile has:
1. Cessna 172n (1979)
2. Beech A36 (1977)
There is a 1972 helicopter and some kind of jet flight trainer.
Really, an old pathetic fleet compared with LeathAir.
Poor UNI doesn’t appear to own a small aircraft. No wonder they cannot retain a president.
The University of Dubuque, with a pilot program, cannot match ISU. Dubuque has a few Socata TB-20 TRINIDAD from the 90s.
Very interesting Leath v. Rastetter…
If Leath commented that Rastetter was involved in the land deal, he is escalating the controversy. Implicating his cronies…slowly turning….
I wonder if Leath understands his arse is on the line…even if the Iowa AG is solidly asleep at the wheel.
But getting any truth out of these guys is impossible. Leath is maybe the worst public liar in Iowa. In this article. Leath lied (or walked back) many many things. http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/investigations/readers-watchdog/2016/07/08/regents-firm-sold-land-isu-president-leath/86815250/
First Leath said the big land buy was no ones business. Then he said he consulted an ISU lawyer. Then he walked that back and said a private lawyer (each statement reveals more and more corruption). Later it was revealed Leath consulted McKibben, another regent.
Leath is a man who writes his own rules, and rather bad at covering his arse when his actions are obviously in conflict with university policy and likely more than that == illegal.
When the Regents announced they were investigating Leath, he must have realized the depth of Rastetter’s sociopathic rage. Cross the Bruce and suffer the consequences.
There has to be many many bits of evidence of Leath’s malfeasance. He felt as long as Rastetter was covering for him (as well as Branstad, and the AG) he was immune to prosecution. Now if Rastetter has decided to sacrifice Leath….all that protection vaporizes.
This is like the mob. The Boss has put out a hit on one of his capos. So what can the capo do? He turns. He goes to the FBI, sings, and then into the witness protection program.
Wonder who would prosecute this malfeasance? And wonder where Leath will end up in the witness protection program?
Here’s Ryan’s story, backing it all up:
Given that Sahai has already stated that the other regents weren’t informed about the plane accident prior to voting on Leath’s sweet new deal, Leath can also hang Rastetter out to dry by claiming that he told Rastetter about the accident before the vote. (That won’t save Leath, but it would cripple Rastetter.)
Also, why is he flying a hotrod like that when he can’t control it? You’re right, that’s a fast put-down speed.
I did used to fly, and also worked at a small airport, and what I saw was that every now and then a show-off with money — doctor, usually — would in fact kill himself with his inability to control his toy. These guys never did buy ordinary get-you-there planes. What they really wanted, of course, was Gulfstreams, but that was out of their league. But anyway yeah, every now and then one of them would just drop right out of the sky, usually after having broken a piece off their plane with a maneuver that exceeded tolerances. There was even a plane popular around that time known colloquially as the Doctor-Killer. V-tail. (Bonanza? Can’t remember.) Saw it happen once.
The thing is, someone who’s careless flying is not so often a careful person on the ground. Can you imagine Skorton doing this? I can’t.
What also astonishes me is how these women go along for the ride. Not just in the plane, but in life. Can’t understand them. I mean if Leath had said to me, “Hey, come for a ride,” I’d have said, “Sorry, I don’t fly with amateurs who don’t have time for adequate practice and are shady anyhow.” But in she pops.
Returning to the subject: beyond huntin’ and flyin’ and real-estate-finaglin’ otherwise good-ol-boyin’ it up, does this guy run a university? Or is someone else handling that part now?
Your memory is correct. The v-tail demon back in the day was indeed the Beechcraft Bonanza. We had one in Iowa City when I was growing up, and yes, it was owned by a doctor.
Like the Cirrus, the Bonanza was a hot plane in its day, and yes, it killed a lot of people.
You can indeed tell a lot about a person by how they fly. Flying is about preparedness, discipline, and knowing your limits. There are numbers for everything, and they’re constantly changing. If you do not know those numbers and abide by them, you’re just marking time.
Leath is not a numbers guy. He may be when he’s in a lab, but when he’s being the Laird of Iowa State, he’s a shoot-from-the-hip guy. The kind of guy who forgets the numbers and gets fixated on sticking a landing so he looks cool, instead of fixating on being safe, or keeping his wife safe. Or maybe he forces the plane down when he should go around, because he cut his schedule too tight and doesn’t want to miss the kickoff of the big game.
(To be fair to Leath, Harreld would kill himself and his instructor during the first lesson.)
I would still love to know the total hours Leath had in type, before the school decided to buy him this hot little rocket and turn him loose.
As to your question in the comment below, Leath was very clear about why he needed someone to buy that plane that he almost killed himself and/or his wife in. From an ISU propaganda sheet custom-tailored for the occasion:
Okay, sure — that clearly has no applicability whatsoever to taking an eleven day vacation, but I really don’t think we can expect coherence from Leath at this point.
As for the cost-effectiveness, that’s $500,000 outright for the plane, plus fuel costs, maintenance costs, storage costs, tax costs, the occasional repair costs, and insurance, which is obviously going to be way cheaper than working out some frequent-flyer deal with a national carrier that won’t kiss his entitled ass like everyone at Iowa State.
Holy ****** of ****. That ******* actually got them to buy him a ************* half-million-dollar toy. Whose **** is he ******* and with what kind of velvet prep for the lips?
************ THAT’S A HALF-MILLION DOLLAR PLANE.
*Why* is Leath flying that thing at all? He can’t ******* go coach like the rest of us?
AND WHAT THE HELL, he just took the half-million-dollar Foundation-paid toy he can’t handle for a spin down home? For goddamned kicks? Show it off to the folks?
What a turd. Good ol’ boy turd. Buy him a replica General Lee, it’s cheaper, and he can land it in a ditch somewhere.
I get some great laughs here. General Lee? Hilarious.
Don’t Leath ideas. I can see the ISU buying an orange General Lee, and see it parked outside his land grab up in northern Iowa….. so Leath can pull donuts out in the field when he is bored…
As you probably heard last Friday, University of Iowa Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the College of Medicine, Jean Robillard, will be stepping down from both positions as soon as a replacement is, or replacements are, hired. As to how that hiring process will play out, all you have to know is that the imposter Robillard jammed into office while serving as chair of the 2015 UI presidential search committee will now dictate the terms of the search. From the Daily Iowan’s Marissa Payne, on 10/01/16:
It is a convention of administrations and bureaucracies the world over that everyone says good things about anyone who bows out, no matter how much damage that person did on the job. In keeping with that tradition, the UI press release announcing Robillard’s resignations contains no mention of the fact that he chaired the sham 2015 UI committee that nominated J. Bruce Harreld, let alone that he scandalously betrayed the University of Iowa while doing so. (Even in the History Department, UI will only get around to dealing with Robillard’s flagrant treachery and abuses of power after a decade or two, if then.)
For Robillard’s actual legacy regarding the 2015 UI presidential search, see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and especially here. Likewise, if you’re interested in Robillard’s real legacy regarding his dual administrative roles, keep your eye on faculty resignations at the UI College of Medicine over the next year, on the total cost overrun at the new Children’s Hospital (which was already $68M, or 27%, at this time last year), on the frightening U.S. News rankings for procedures performed at UIHC, and on a host of other performance metrics that Robillard will be responsible for even after some poor sap or saps signs on to take the heat and clean up the mess.
If that all seems like a lot of work, however, and you just want to read the single greatest indictment that anyone will ever level against Robillard, that would be this, from former president of the Iowa Board of Regents, Michael Gartner:
Granted, that certainty seems like a laudatory quote, but what you may not know is that in 2007, Michael Gartner himself tried to install a puppet president of his own at the University of Iowa. Even better, when Gartner was rebuffed he actually blew up the entire search like a petulant child, after which a second search was initiated, leading to the appointment of Sally Mason. (In that context, it is entirely plausible that Gartner respects Robillard for pulling off the caper he himself bungled, but that’s hardly a feather in Robillard’s cap.)
Whether Robillard is genuinely fading into the cockroach-infested woodwork at UI, or simply gearing up to do more damage with the illegitimate crony in the president’s office, there is at this moment an ongoing presidential search taking place at the University of Northern Iowa. While we have previously talked about the farce of Regents President Pro Tem Katie Muholland co-chairing that committee, and we have repeatedly noted that Mulholland’s committee has not alerted potential candidates to a crucial secret right that Harreld himself exploited at UI, we do have the official advertisement for the UNI position, and that in turn allows us to shed some important light on Robillard’s fraudulent 2015 search.
A Few Minor Changes
Over a year ago now, when I first learned that Harreld had been appointed, I knew nothing about how presidential searches were conducted at colleges or universities. I still don’t know a lot, but what I do know about the 2015 UI search is that it was corrupt, and the one person who corrupted that search more than anyone else was Jean Robillard. Yes, Robillard was either working hand in hand with, or at the direction of, Regents President Bruce Rastetter, but Robillard was a full partner in Rastetter’s fraud. From administering the committee in ways which ensured Harreld’s nomination, to disbanding the committee immediately after nominating Harreld — thus preventing the committee from meeting its traditional screening responsibilities — Robillard was the engineer of the carnage that followed, and is equally responsible for all of the damage Harreld is about to do.
Back in October of last year, when I first read the advertisement for the 2015 UI search, I knew that one of the ways the committee opened the door for Harreld to slither through was by making the candidate criteria preferred, rather than required. As for the rest of the ad, however, I had nothing to compare the text to, so I didn’t know if other intentional loopholes were staring me in the face. Now, however, with the release of the 2016 UNI ad, the ways in which Jean Robillard himself personally greased the nominating process for Harreld are starkly evident.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Gosh, Mark, how do we know it was Robillard who rigged the ad, and not one of the other people on the committee who later turned out to have helped Robillard and Rastetter corrupt the process?” Well, that’s a good question. For the answer we can thank the Press-Citizen’s Jeff Charis-Carlson, who reported the following on 05/08/15, from the link just above:
So — what were those “minor changes” made by Robillard? Well, we don’t have before-and-after drafts, or surveillance footage, or hacked hard drives to search, but comparing Robillard’s handiwork to the 2016 UNI position description is indeed revealing of Robillard’s duplicity.
As regular readers know, the currently constituted Iowa Board of Regents is so thoroughly corrupt as to resemble more of a disease process than a deliberative body. As such, despite the carnage from the 2015 UI search (which included the unprecedented sanction of UI by the AAUP), the board and its toadies on the hand-picked 2016 UNI search committee once again refused to require a Ph.D for the open presidency. From Charis-Carlson on 09/06/16:
The implication of the 2016 UNI search committee also leaving the door open to a non-traditional (meaning sham) candidate was not lost on anyone who was familiar with the administrative abuses perpetrated during the 2015 UI search. From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, on 09/06/16:
Less than a week later, on 09/12/16, the final UNI position description was posted on the search firm’s website. Under the heading of “CHARACTERISTICS”, the contentious degree criterion was listed third:
For the text of the UI position description we turn to records released to Stephen Voyce under the Freedom of Information Act. In a compilation titled Email+Parker+Board+of+Regents.pdf (p. 66), we find this email from Peter ‘Crony Contracts’ Matthes — ex officio of the 2015 UI search committee — to the rest of the committee, on 05/11/15:
Again, note the “Committee Chair approved” designation, giving Robillard ownership of the resulting document. As attached to that email, the full position description appears on p. 67-69 of the compilation file. In that three-page position description, the “Qualifications Preferred” and “Skills” sections make up the last page and a quarter of the attachment, leading to this at the bottom of p. 68:
While the stated criteria are the same for both the 2016 UNI search and the 2015 UI search — “earned doctorate or terminal degree”, and “preferred” versus ‘required’ — there is one small and obvious difference between the two searches, and one large and not-so-obvious difference. The small and obvious difference is that the 2016 UNI committee lists the degree criterion as “strongly preferred”, while the 2015 UI committee merely listed the same degrees as “preferred”. Then again, as a practical matter there are no standards for discriminating between such terms, so despite the stronger characterization it’s easy to see why a state senator and others might still be concerned about a last-minute bait and switch at UNI.
The larger and not-so-obvious difference between the 2016 UNI search and the 2015 UI search is that where all of the qualifications for the UI search were listed as preferred rather than required, under the “CHARACTERISTICS” section of the 2016 UNI position description only the degree criterion is listed as preferred in any strength — as specifically denoted by the parenthetical.
Because all of the 2015 UI qualifications were listed as preferred, literally anyone was eligible to apply for the position of president at the University of Iowa. By contrast, here is the heading and the first line of text for the 2016 UNI search criteria:
Yes, the language is still mushy — “should” rather than ‘must’ — but from the wording of the criteria that follows, including the parenthetical “strongly preferred” after the degree criteria, it can be inferred that the rest of the criteria are required. More importantly, in stating the specific criteria for the UNI search, the wording itself was at times significantly more specific, further constraining the pool of potential candidates.
For example, here is the first criterion for the 2016 UNI search, as it appears in the position description:
Now consider the same criterion as listed second in the 2015 UI position description:
As you can see, what’s missing from the 2015 UI criteria, but present in the 2016 UNI criteria, is the word “academic”. Again, however, that omission will come as no surprise to regular readers because J. Bruce Harreld was hired with absolutely no experience in academic administration. Yes, the 2015 UI administrative-experience requirement made it unlikely that a baker or waiter would land the job, but there was no expectation that candidates would have any idea what the hell they were doing on a university of college campus. (Which, coming up on a full year now of Harreld’s gaffes and blunders, to say nothing of his soulless disinterest in dealing with mental health issues on campus, has already proven to be an unconscionable mistake.)
To its credit, the 2016 UNI search committee specifies “significant senior-level executive experience in an academic institution” (italics mine), meaning Harreld would not be eligible to lead the much smaller, non-research-oriented University of Northern Iowa, which also does not host a major teaching hospital. (This is the bizarro world of crony corruption at the Iowa Board of Regents. J. Bruce Harreld is qualified to run the University of Iowa, and not qualified to run UNI.)
From just two criteria, then — degrees held and administrative experience — we can see how the 2015 UI search committee exploded the available pool of candidates to include business burnouts like Harreld, while the 2016 UNI criteria constrains the pool to candidates with a background in academic administration. Even the second criterion listed for the 2016 UNI search backs up that intent relative to the degree requirement:
Where the 2015 UI search put its lax degree requirements up front, and relaxed all of the criteria on the list by designating them “preferred”, the first two criteria in the 2016 UNI position description make clear that the “successful candidate” will come from academia. In fact, in the 2015 UI position description, the only two specific criteria which are even listed — in the entire ad — are the preferred degrees and the non-academic administrative-experience requirement. Following those two meager bullet points there is a meaningless section titled “Values and Principles” which repeatedly demands “a commitment to” eight different line items, meaning the majority of the 2015 UI position description simply requires a pledge on the part of interested candidates.
(Hilariously, the “Values and Principles” section includes a commitment to shared governance, which Robillard and the board summarily shredded during the 2015 search, and which Harreld has done nothing to uphold. Infuriatingly, it also includes a commitment to student safety and welfare, which Harreld betrayed on day one when he vowed to game UI’s national college rank, while intentionally slow-walking desperately needed mental health resources that could keep students from killing themselves.)
Even the issue of fundraising — which is often held out as the main responsibility of a college or university president, over and above even the school’s academic mission — is watered down in the 2015 UI position description. Listed under the “Skills” subsection of “Qualifications Preferred”, that criterion reads:
For what many believe is the most important aspect of being a university president, the 2015 UI fundraising criterion for a major research university does not even demand “demonstrated ability”, just “ability” — meaning another pledge. Which is of course perfect, not only because there is no pledge that J. Bruce Harreld would not be willing to make, but because Harreld had no applicable fundraising experience when he took the job.
Now compare that with the 2016 UNI position description, and that committee’s expectations with regard to fundraising:
Not just the “ability” to raise funds, but “experience” raising funds.
To whatever extent the 2016 UNI search committee is still leaving the door open to board mischief, by the stated criteria in the position description it would not be possible to hire J. Bruce Harreld. Yet despite the much greater size and complexity of UI, in 2015 Jean Robillard dumbed down the criteria for that search to such a degree that the position was tailor-made for a man of Harreld’s background, or lack thereof.
Having successfully watered down the candidate criteria, then, the only administrative crime left for Robillard to commit was watering down the application process as well, which he managed to do in spectacular fashion by again altering a single word. Here is the application process as described in the 2016 UNI position description:
Now here is the equivalent section from the 2015 UI position description:
Incredibly, because of a carefully placed “or”, Robillard made it possible to apply for the job of president of a billion-dollar research university without submitting any paperwork at all. All candidates had to do was submit an “expression of interest”, or get some sap like Mitch Daniels to nominate them, and they were in. By contrast, the application process for the 2016 UNI search compels all of the requested information to be supplied.
And no, that is not a loaded reading of the 2015 UI text. As regular readers know, the only documentation Harreld ever submitted to the 2015 UI search committee was a ratty three-page resume which was so full of lies that it later led to his censure by UI faculty. Where most candidates in 2015 submitted an extensive CV — as attested to by none other than Katie Mulholland herself, after meeting in secret with Harreld and getting an advanced look at his resume — Harreld submitted no additional documentation, including no letter of application. (As the AAUP investigation noted (p. 8), it has never even been determined whether Harreld officially applied for the position through the search committee.)
In sum, then, in comparing the 2015 UI position description to the 2016 UNI position description, we see that by changing three words and dropping one — ‘required’ to ‘preferred’, ‘experience’ to ‘ability’, ‘and’ to ‘or’, and omitting ‘academic’ — Jean Robillard gutted the entire UI search process in exactly the right way so as to shepherd his done-deal sham candidate, J. Bruce Harreld, through the search and (non-)screen process. Will the regents and their minions at UNI still try to corrupt the 2016 search? Of course — that’s what corrupt people do. And yet compared to the 2015 UI search, the UNI position description is iron-clad in its insistence that the next president of that university will come from academia.
This and the other abuses of power that Jean Robillard committed during the 2015 UI search represent his true legacy. When he had the opportunity to do the right thing he did the wrong thing so consistently and reflexively as to call into question every other accomplishment in his life. And again the great irony in all this, now that Robillard is stepping down from his dual leadership roles, is that Harreld will be the key player in the hiring of Robillard’s replacement, thus perpetuating the corruption that began when former Regents President Gartner allowed former Interim UI President Gary Fethke to appoint Robillard as VP for Medical Affairs without a search.
Instead of conducting fair and honest searches, the same old boys’ network has been passing off leadership positions at UI for over a decade, and there is no reason that think that practice will change under J. Bruce Harreld. If there is a search for a new Dean at the College of Medicine, that person — or some other person — may also simply be appointed to the role of VP of Medical Affairs, perhaps using one of those HR waivers that Harreld has taken a fancy to lately. In any event, the causes of diversity and inclusion, and even the cause of hiring the best available candidate, will once again be subordinated to the whims of a self-interested man.
Slightly off-piste but the more I look at that CHI building, the more I think it’s going to be the one that takes the whole house of cards down. I mean I know the idea is to steal business from some magical radius around, but not only don’t I believe there’s that much business to steal, it skips right over the whole business where parents deliberately take their children elsewhere, sometimes at great expense and inconvenience, because their very sick children are not actually getting good medical care at UIHC.
This is perhaps what Bruce was talking about when he was saying that it’s time now to think about who goes in the buildings, but you cannot buy A-1 medical people and bring them to a shambles. A-1 medical people will run away from your shambles. We’ve had many of them take a hike in the last decade.
I’m guessing we’re going to spend a ****-ton of money trying, though. (And rob and squash a lot of other programs to do it.) And along the way we’ll buy a high-priced charlatan doc and advertise the bejeezus out of him, and push him to build some kind of medical carnival in that building and shower him with money to do it, and he’ll take us for a ride, but we won’t get a great hospital. We’ll still have a hospital that parents rescue their kids from. And the numbers will have been crap the whole time, and the whole thing will slide into a money black hole that starts eating the rest of the joint, which, if you’ll recall, is only making about $5M a year, with the rest coming from playing the market — and that only works when Wall Street cooperates. Meaning that the nest egg from playing the market will, if CHI doesn’t pan out, drain right into it, and then when the market goes to hell (or when the nest egg’s gone) we have a serious problem.
In a different part of the world you could switch up and turn it into a geriatric hospital, which is to say, a hospital, but Iowa’s always had trouble that way because there’s no culture of running to the doctor every time you’ve got a spot or your arm’s hanging off funny, also not enough people have insurance that cover such things, also the Medicaid privatization can’t be helping.
I guess they could turn the top half into luxury suites for season ticketholders and give them a very short walk to Kinnick, but the tailgating would play hell with the patient care.
I’m suddenly reminded of the media corporations’ takeover of publishing in the ’90s, and how pissed they were when they found out that books weren’t widgets after all, that they’d imagined riches there, and that they weren’t going to make any money from them. One thing I’ve learned from sitting in meetings with the high-level people who plan these sorts of things is that they’re shockingly bad with numbers and they’ve got no clear sense of the business at all. They just, with great self-assurance, make things up and actually believe that this will do, so long as they’ve tested their own parachutes.
It’s really too bad.
I’m wholly in your camp these days, and not due to some anti-Harreld bias. My biggest concern after the fraudulent Harreld hire was exposed was that someone in Robillard’s critical position thought nothing of simply throwing over the entire search process to a corrupt political appointee like Rottweiler. Even if you have to go down swinging, you’re supposed to oppose that, and yet Robillard was all-in on the scam, if not gleefully so.
Everything from the symbolism of CHI looming over Kinnick — meaning it can be seen and adored by the muckety-mucks in the corporate pressbox suites when the team is fumbling away another victory — to the hard numbers on the cost (which clearly exploded, if that wasn’t anticipated beforehand), to the degree to which CHI is clearly sapping resources away from core functions (staffing), to the unbridled emphasis on rank money-making in the press, tells me that this is an organization that has been hollowed out. It still looks good on paper, but the damage has been done.
Also, these people are courting a lawsuit hard.
Suppose three readers here merely expressed interest, and the search firm never got back to them, never did any sort of screening. And the anointed candidate expressed interest, and there was great expression of interest.
On what basis, then, were the first three ignored?
It seems to me that an easy way of shutting that down is simply to ask all readers across social media to — if they’ve even a glimmer of interest in the job — express interest directly to the search firm.
Also, have they published contact info for the search firm? I mean to whom are you supposed to express your interest?
The info is in the full ad/pd, but yeah — they don’t make it easy.
The UNI search website is here, but it’s meager:
(Click the ‘update to AGB search’ message and you’ll be taken to the AGB website, where you can then click on the advert.)
Would be very interesting to know what kind of feedback AGB was getting about the position (and about the Board of Regents) before Wrong Way Leath’s flying exploits became front-page news. I can imagine that the UNI committee will now have an even harder time finding first-class candidates.
Oh, they won’t get any first-class candidates. They all saw what happened to Krislov and the others. They’d better hope for third-class.
I think actually you can trust that the idea is to find a mid-career ax man. Harreld and Leath are already in competition to mechanize everything they can, essentially turn as much of ed over to the screens and robots as looks possible from some delusional pov. Then you hire a bunch of kids at no money or benefits to babysit the machines and play CSR a while before moving on to their “real jobs”. Essentially, the idea is to “deliver educational content” while running a research institute with a football team. The ed content can be contracted out, largely — get someone to write a course script, throw a prof with a name a bone to deliver it online. The growth area’s in what’s called “retention”, meaning the kids taking the online courses won’t actually watch the videos, and if they do, they won’t understand anything and won’t finish the courses. And you need them to take the test at the end and score high so that you can say you did good with educating them and sign them up for the next class in the sequence. So you’ll need to hire battalions of nice overeducated ladies at $12/hr to handhold groups of kids through and help them with their homework. You won’t want TAs for that, they’re much too expensive.
To get there, though, you’ve really got to fire a ****-ton of people. Although first you hire people who’ll help you shop for IT solutions.
Anyway, the UNI guy will be charged with making UNI “lean”, meaning eviscerated. Then he’ll be expected to move on. And I’m still not sure I believe that ed will stay at UI, rather than being shunted back up there. I have a feeling that they’ll want Weeg for bioengineering types. But I think this comprehensive business is on its way out regardless. These guys don’t really want humanities anywhere. It’s full of smart kids who like to poke at social institutions, and the last thing they need is anything like that.
As alluded to in an earlier post —
— I think the most likely outcome is that current Interim President Wohlpart applies for and is given the job. Not only is his interim presidency an effective trial run in dealing with the BoR and faculty, but I don’t think there’s any way the board would have kicked Ruud to the curb the way they did if they didn’t already know how this was going to play out.
Wohlpart steps in, the board allows him to do and say all the right things during the interim period, hearts swell with gladness, Wohlpart wins the day, then the blood starts flowing.
— Meant also to add that, yes, Leath’s interview just reeks of condescension and a patronizing tone. The man is caught dead to rights, and yet his response to that is to just keep shoveling the manure, lying to the students, and deflecting blame onto the people who are reporting the facts. It’s pathetic, and yet so clearly the style of university presidents in the state of Iowa.
No wonder the board wouldn’t renew Ruud’s contract. He wasn’t trashy enough.
Couple of comments:
– The positions of VP Medical, and Dean COM are somewhat removed from the Board of Regents. Really there should be a minimum of interaction there, beyond the COM and UIHC should endeavor to select the very best people for those jobs. Unfortunately the BOR became politicized over the past decade, which introduces new complexities.
– The VP does negotiate over state support , which has dwindled, because the UIHC would not play some of the state’s political games (and that may be why Robillard played ball with Rastetter/Branstad)
– I do not think parents are grabbing their kids en mass to flee the UIHC. It is true that the qualify of faculty has decreased with the tilt toward ‘the health care industry’ which makes UIHC salaries relatively lower (not starvation obviously). Also the huge debt that medical people graduate with tends to force their hands toward more lucrative positions in larger metro areas. Some also recognize the over-bureaucratized AMC means less individual creativity and freedom for professionals used to controlling their own careers. On the other hand the medical ppl at UIHC do not have to deal as much with insurance reimbursement as private practice.
– One major player who escapes most news stories these days is the UIHC CEO. As long as the UIHC makes money, the CEO will be a very large presence in selecting the VP/Dean. Although he makes near a million a year, most people have no idea of his name.
– So the people who will be selected as finalists in this search will likely have some credentials in medical research/practice/grants. No way can Harreld claim the least bit of experience in these areas. However such person must be able to comply with UIHC business ppl (who are also not too bowed by an IBM-retiree).
– The last two Deans/VPs came from pediatrics at Michigan. So the new person will be either: 1. Someone internally or 2. someone from pediatrics or internal medicine who can mix and match medicine with business. This person will be far more qualified to lead than Harreld or Rastetter.
– The one harbinger of change to look at is business experience with a private/public AMC. If Branstad and or Rastetter has decided to sell off UIHC assets then they need the sort of person who has experience with that complication.
If you candidates from medical centers that were sold off to private health care entities, then you know what is up.
Banner bought the Univ of Arizona in 2015, under state GOP leadership. Emory was thinking the same. Duke and Cleveland Clinic have ‘arrangements’.
Considering the Branstad public asset sell-off and the Rastetter blurring of private/public lines, if you see MDs from Duke or Cleveland Clinic, or one of the major New York players, you will know what the next move will be.
It is even conceivable that Robillard stooped to conquer. Perhaps he resigned as VP/Dean to then accept a private position in some new business-COM-UIHC enterprise.
Or he is accepting nice fees as a consultant with the ultimate inside access. Looking at the Medicaid debacle, that seems to be the Branstad-GOP way.
– It is true that the ppl in charge, the administration doesn’t really know about medical services. I fact they don’t care. Administration wants to market the UIHC as an amusement park with smiles all over. It might be a real jolt to them to realize sick people are in pain, bleed and suffer. They die too. That would shatter marketing weasels images.
Yeah, actually, the parents of every seriously ill kid I’ve known who started out at UIHC, because rankings and besides they’re here and the insurance covers it, grabbed the kids and got the hell out. Because their kids were dying here. They took them elsewhere and got excellent care. I have no idea how they paid for it, but I guess when the situation is “she’s dying and these jerks are standing around with their thumbs up their butts”, you figure it out.
It’s a real thing, unfortunately. And it doesn’t surprise me. I’ve had surgery scheduled (and misscheduled) in a grungy room where the surgeon waltzed in without a clue about what we were supposed to be doing. My kid’s been exposed to measles. I’ve been lied to routinely, told that of course no med students or first-year residents will be in attendance, and then bam, they try to shove them on you to start fumbling with procedures till you yell bloody murder to make them stop and go away, and then of course you sound like the insane patient. I got consequentially wrong info from UIHC staff while pregnant and after delivery. I’ve seen a friend with a lifethreatening but strange illness get shrugged at — the docs got to “huh, don’t know what that is” AND THEN STOPPED. Didn’t try to find someone with more expertise. Didn’t work their networks. Didn’t work their brains, either. Just stopped.
Robillard selling out sounds about right to me. Either way. One of the reasons I decided to stay here after school was that the medical care and its availability were tremendous compared with what was going on on the coasts. That’s not a reason to stay anymore, and it sounds like within five years we’ll see mortality and morbidity rates climb significantly here even for those who can get the care.
Not my experience at all. There will always be parents who will try every other option available in a serious situation but there are still pediatric specialists in oto, ortho, neurosurg and optho that draw patients from outside the state and even outside the country.
But that is also an asset that could be mined if the motivation is privatization. The Children’s Hospital also makes room for more adult inpatient units and they will make that transition so that every room in the hospital will be for single occupancy. Big selling point (and also reduction of ID vectors) in the Disnification of health care. Not many AMC hospitals can say that and that could be seen as a big asset to be mined also.
No: let me be quite clear.
The parents were not “trying every option available” to find optimal whatever.
They went to UIHC because it was local, paid for, and well-advertised.
Their kids were so poorly cared for at UIHC that they were, in literal fact, suffering major organ traumas from their diseases and dying, and the UIHC staff seemed not to know what to do about this, would in fact frequently do nothing.
The parents — multiple sets — took the children — multiple children — elsewhere. Not shopping them around, not let’s try this let’s try that: they each went to one other hospital, where they found the care that saved their children’s lives.
Okay? Let’s be very, very plain about that.
I mean I guess this is something else that can’t be helped. There’s a significant allergy in this part of the country to noticing that we’re doing something poorly. Because it’s local, and because people mean well, it is by definition high-quality stuff. Arguing against this, and even demonstrating plainly that it’s third-rate at best and often worse, gets derailed into the land of hurt feelings, thus obviating, once again, the need to look in cleareyed fashion at what’s going on.
That, in a nutshell, is why your state higher ed system is turning to ****, and why Rastetter and the rest are having such a walk doing it. You’re never going to fight anything if you’re committed to, regardless of weather, talking about how great it is.
I’m not one to fight culture, and that is very much the culture here. But I can also see when a party’s over.
It is of course not true that all critically ill children are misdiagnosed at UIHC. It is almost certainly true that UIHC fails more often than people know, if only because of the gaping disparity between UIHC’s reported ratings and those of a hospital like Mayo or Hopkins.
I do agree with dormouse’s point that there is a kind of entrenched fantasy in the Iowa mind that things are rosy because they must be, rather than because they are provably so. If you want UI to be great you don’t hire a carpetbagging dilettante to squawk about “excellence” or “world-class” this and that — you hire someone who can credibly lead the school.
UIHC needs the person who replaces Robillard to be strong enough to insist on doing all of the little things that matter to patient care, not the sloganeering that Harreld is doing at UI. The best-case scenario would be someone who’s willing to expose the problems in order to fix them, but the regents would never go for that.