A new threaded post on this topic can be found here. For previous posts about the Harreld hire, click the tag below.
02/04/18 — Another One Bites the Dust: Administrative Turnover in the Time of Harreld.
01/28/18 — Iowa’s Rapidly Devolving Higher-Ed Budget Battle.
01/21/18 — Wendy Wintersteen Talks Tuition and Funding Cuts.
01/14/18 — Casino Kim’s FY19 Higher-Ed Budget Proposal.
12/29/17 — Jerre Stead’s Hostile Takeover of the University of Iowa.
12/21/17 — The Perfidious Administrative Priorities of Interim Provost Sue Curry.
12/15/17 — By Way of Thanks to the UI Faculty Senate.
12/03/17 — J. Bruce Harreld and the Proxy Provost.
11/30/17 — What the VPMA/CoM Search Tells Us About the CLAS Search at UI.
11/21/17 — Dismantling the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences — Phase I.
11/11/17 — A short note on Interim Provost Sue Curry’s Crusade to Destroy the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
10/29/17 — What the Wintersteen Hire Tells Us About J. Bruce Harreld.
10/20/17 — The Iowa State Presidential Search in Context.
10/16/17 — For all the right reasons, Art Cullen, editor of the Storm Lake Times, comes out hard against Wendy Wintersteen for president of Iowa State.
10/08/17 — The Conspiratorial Lies of Jerre Stead and J. Bruce Harreld.
09/28/17 — Updating the Iowa State Presidential Search.
09/24/17 — For Students at UNI, ISU and UI: the Tuition Task Force Explained.
09/17/17 — The Student Guide to the Iowa Tuition Task Force.
09/10/17 — A Defining Moment for the Iowa Board of Regents — Part 2.
09/03/17 — A Defining Moment for the Iowa Board of Regents — Part 1.
I don’t know when the Iowa Board of Regents decided that education was no longer its top priority, but if I had to pick a date it would be 07/12/11. That’s the day that political fixers Craig Lang and Bruce Rastetter — both of whom were and are heavily involved in corporate agriculture — were elected president and president pro tem of the board, respectively. That special election was in turn compelled by then-governor Terry “Butcher” Branstad, who drove the former board president and president pro tem — David Miles and Jack Evans — out of their leadership positions, in willful defiance of the fact that the board is by statute an independent body.
As regular readers know, Rastetter personally encouraged Branstad to get back into politics, and was his biggest donor during the 2010 campaign for governor. Upon his victory, Branstad then happily granted Rastetter’s request to be appointed to the Board of Regents, effective 05/01/11. Two and a half months later, after Branstad forced the elected leadership to step down, Rastetter became president pro tem on 07/11/11, and later president of the board on 06/05/13, after Lang failed to receive sufficient senate votes for reappointment to a second term.
I do not know the entire history of the Iowa Board of Regents, yet despite vast ignorance I would still bet real American tender that there has never been a more malevolent force on the board, let alone in the president’s chair, than Bruce Rastetter. From the fake, $300K, taxpayer-funded search that he engineered in 2015 to fraudulently appoint J. Bruce Harreld as president of the University of Iowa, to covering for and abetting abuses of power by former Iowa State President Steven Leath, to squeezing out University of Northern Iowa President Bill Ruud with no explanation after only three years on the job, Rastetter had a personal hand in destabilizing if not fracturing every university campus under the board’s control. Even now, months after Rastetter left office after failing to secure a second appointment from Branstad, his legacy of chaos lives on in the ongoing ISU presidential search to replace Leath, in the AAUP sanction against the University of Iowa, and even in a civil suit about the 2015 UI search, in which he and four other current and former regents are named as defendants.
On the tuition front, Rastetter treated the financial stability of the Iowa Board of Regents and the schools under its authority with all the regard you would expect from a commodity baron who made hog lots and pig-urine lagoons a ubiquitous feature of the American landscape. In anticipation of the legislative success of his performance-based funding plan, which would have shifted tens of millions of dollars from his hated alma mater at UI to his beloved adopted (if not also co-opted) home at Iowa State, Rastetter held tuition flat at all three schools for several years. When that plan ultimately failed in early 2015, however, not only did he run the fake Iowa search in order to appoint Harreld, but a year later Rastetter used a manufactured shortfall in requested supplemental funding to unleash massive tuition hikes at all three state universities.
In the final twelve months of Rastetter’s presidential rule he increased base tuition 12% at all three schools, but that doesn’t begin to cover the amount of new tuition revenue generated by the board. In addition to increasing the base cost of tuition, Rastetter approved differential tuition increases based on degree program and class standing, and other hikes for non-resident and graduate students. Even accounting for unexpected funding cuts along the way, the three state schools are now taking in a combined $90M more each year in total revenue than they were at the end of FY16. And yet, as one of his last acts before leaving the board, Rastetter also saw fit to call for a Tuition Task Force to study the problem of last-minute tuition hikes — such as those that occurred in the summers of 2016 and 2017 — for which he himself was largely responsible.
The conventional wisdom in public higher education — which is perpetually promulgated by self-serving regents and trustees who are eager to portray themselves as victims — is that schools across the country are suffering from endless legislative funding cuts, which governing boards must then compensate for with tuition hikes. In the main, and depending on how such things are counted, public funding has fallen in real dollars, but over the past few decades the majority of any decrease is a direct result not of political hostility to public higher education, but of the systemic ravages of the Great Recession. To the extent that most states have had to raise tuition to compensate, governing boards have done so reluctantly and responsibly because of the obvious negative impact on accessibility and affordability. (More on all that here.)
The facts in Iowa over the past two years, however — meaning, specifically, the two years of purported legislative horror which compelled the formation of a Tuition Task Force — make clear that the Board of Regents not only used funding cuts as a pretext to increase tuition much more than necessary, but that the board increased tuition even after the legislature increased funding:
Fall 2015 (FY16) — on behalf of the three state universities, the board submits a $20M supplemental funding request for FY17.
Spring 2016 (FY16) — in response to reports that FY17 would be a tight budget year for the state, the board announces that a minimum $8M of its $20M supplemental request will be necessary in order to avoid tuition hikes for FY17.
Spring 2016 (FY16) — the state legislature appropriates an additional $6.3M to the regents for FY17, in addition to its standing appropriation of over $630M.
Summer 2016 (FY16) — in response to the $1.7M shortfall relative to its previously announced $8M minimum threshold, the Iowa Board of Regents increases tuition by a combined $65.4M at all three schools for FY17. Those hikes are more than thirty-eight times greater than the $1.7M shortfall which purportedly triggered those hikes, and more than three times the original $20M ask.
Fall 2016 (FY17) — despite having increased tuition for FY17 wholly out of scale to any demonstrated or stated need, the board approves an additional 2% in tuition hikes for FY18, provided the legislature increases appropriations 2% as well.
(Note that 2% increases in tuition and appropriations do not produce the same amount of revenue at each state school. At UNI, state funding still exceeds tuition by a small amount, so 2% increases to each produce roughly the same return from each. At ISU and UI, however, the ratio of tuition to appropriations is roughly 2:1, meaning 2% increases will take twice as much money from students as will be contributed by the state.)
Spring 2017 (FY17) — following a massive revenue shortfall, the state takes back $20M in regent appropriations for FY17, and announces a $30M reduction in funding for FY18.
(The cuts in FY17 and FY18 were not cumulative, but per-year. Because the board increased tuition by $65.4M for FY17, the board was still net-ahead $35.4M in FY17, and would be net-ahead $25.4M for FY18 even if there were no additional hikes that year.)
Spring 2017 (FY17) — after the funding cuts in mid-FY17 and reductions for FY18, for the second year in a row the board announces that it will be forced to raise tuition at the last minute, for the coming academic year.
(The tuition hikes approved in summer of 2016, for FY17, were not forced by cuts. In addition, prior to FY17 cuts and the budget reductions for FY18 the board had already approved a 2% hike for FY18.)
Summer 2017 (FY17) — concerned about negative effects on students and families after two years of last minute tuition hikes, the board announces the formation of a Tuition Task Force that will look at ways to make tuition hikes more predictable.
Summer 2017 (FY17) — the regents approve an additional 3% hike for FY18, or 5% total. Those combined hikes will produce an estimated $56.1M in new tuition revenue at all three schools, which is almost twice the $30M in budget reductions imposed by the state.
Summer 2017 (FY18) — after the initial task force meeting is canceled due to lack of interest from the governor and the legislative leaders in her majority party, the three state schools take turns proposing five-year tuition plans designed to ensure predictability. UNI proposes a range of gradually decreasing rates predicated on various appropriations scenarios, with the majority of hikes at or well below 5%. At ISU and UI the proposals to ensure predictable tuition increases are virtually identical: 7% hikes per year for five years at ISU; 7.08% hikes for five years at UI.
That is the historical record of the board’s conduct with regard to tuition policy over the previous two fiscal and academic years. That record includes three tuition hikes in the span of twelve months, the first of which followed not from any cuts, but from an actual increase in state funding. Even to the extent that the regents were hit with unexpected cuts in mid-FY17, the board used that as a cynical opportunity to raise tuition twice as much as would eventually be lost. In FY18 those three hikes will generate $90M in excess of all cuts, and will continue to do so every year. (If appropriations increase or are restored, then those same hikes will generate as much as $120M per year going forward.)
The determination of the Iowa Board of Regents to increase tuition out of scale to any cuts, or even to their own professions of need, is wildly out of step with other governing boards. In most states there is a genuine understanding that increasing the cost of tuition, even for valid reasons, can have a life-altering effect on students. Some students may be forced to take on more debt, some may be forced to drop out, and others may not be able to attend a state school at all because they are already hanging by a thin financial thread. The question, of course, is why the Board of Regents is doing everything possible to make it harder and harder for students at the state schools to get a college degree, even as the board professes concern about accessibility, affordability and student debt.
From the perspective of a profit-obsessed entrepreneur — like, say, former regent president Bruce Rastetter, or former business executive J. Bruce Harreld — the enrollment increases at both Iowa State and Iowa in recent years provide the basest of all possible motives for raising the price of tuition. As long as there are enough wealthy students to pay the increase in cost, higher tuition will simply generate that much more revenue for the schools. Students of lesser means will obviously be frozen out — as they may already be from specific degree programs because of differential hikes that were imposed over the past year — but that in turn is why Harreld has promised to devote any future uptick in appropriations to need-based aid.
When given the choice between reasonable and responsible tuition hikes or soaking the students, the Iowa Board of Regents has chosen profit over its obligation to ensure accessibility and affordability. Raising tuition three times in a twelve-month span, and generating new revenue three times greater than any funding that was eventually lost, is not an accident. Those hikes, and the magnitude of those hikes, represent clear intent, as do the five-year plans recently submitted by ISU and UI. Despite ceaselessly portraying itself at a victim, when it comes to the cost of higher education in Iowa, the Board of Regents is the problem.
How We Got Here
After two years of tuition hikes far in excess of any cuts in state funding, the Iowa Board of Regents is now primed to subject students to five more years of truly abusive hikes predicated on no funding cuts at all. The obvious question is why the board has abandoned its obligation to provide affordable state-subsidized education to resident students, and instead adopted a predatory approach to tuition policy. Because of the seamless continuity between the egregious hikes over the past two years, and the beyond-egregious hikes proposed by ISU and UI for the next five years, it makes sense to consider that entire time frame in trying to unravel the motives that led to this moment.
When former president Rastetter’s performance-based funding plan went down in flames in early 2015, he was just launching his unprecedented (and as yet unrivaled) $300K, taxpayer-funded presidential search at the University of Iowa. As we now know, following preferential treatment and a done-deal process lasting months, J. Bruce Harreld was fraudulently appointed by the Board of Regents despite having no experience in academic administration, and despite massive objections from the UI community. That flagrant abuse of power in turn led to the AAUP sanction against the University of Iowa, which continues to this day.
In 2015 the presidents at ISU and UNI were Steven Leath and William Ruud, respectively, both of whom were hired during Rastetter’s six-year term on the board. With the appointment of Harreld at Iowa, all three presidents were answerable not only to the board as whole, but specifically to Rastetter after he assumed the presidency in 2013. The obvious outlier in that group, however, was Harreld, and by a wide margin.
Where Ruud and Leath were both creatures of academia, and both held Ph.D’s, Harreld not only had zero experience in academic administration at the time of his hire, he had neither a doctorate nor any prior experience in the public sector. He was, save a few stints as a lecturer over the course of his business career, entirely a creature of the private sector — albeit one who never even held the title of CEO — and as such could not have been appointed to the position he now holds on the merits of his own candidacy. Enter Rastetter and two other conspirators on the search committee, who proceeded to engineer a done-deal search at the highest levels of state government and UI administration.
Today is the exact two year anniversary of Harreld’s sham appointment, and in that relatively short amount of time a great deal has changed, yet some things have stayed remarkably the same. Gone are Ruud at UNI, Leath at ISU and Rastetter at the board, all of whom almost certainly expected to still be in those positions. In their places we have: Mark Nook at UNI, who has presided over that campus for a mere six months; former UNI president Ben Allen at Iowa State, serving in an interim capacity while the ISU Presidential Search Committee figures out how to hire their own done-deal candidate without getting caught; and new board president “Casino” Mike Richards, who happens to be an old political crony of Rastetter’s, and a major donor to both former governor Branstad and current governor “Casino” Kim Reynolds. (Also gone from the scene are: Katie Mulholland, Rastetter’s long-time president pro tem on the board; ex-governor Branstad, who took a job with the Trump administration as soon as he got wind of the impending fiscal crisis that hit the state in early 2017; and half or more of the high-level administrators at UI, most of whom seem to have fled of their own will.)
Despite all of that critical turnover, however, not only has there been no let-up in the board’s drive to increase the cost of tuition at the state schools, but that effort has only intensified. At the same time, the most prominent constant in that regard — both in his pugnacious presence and in his relentless advocacy for tuition increases — is none other than J. Bruce Harreld. Prior to his fraudulent hire the board held tuition flat, while in Harreld’s first twenty months in office the board has pushed through three separate hikes which are now generating 300% more revenue than was lost to legislative funding cuts over that time.
Now looking ahead to the next five years, Harreld is once again leading the charge. While Ben Allen unveiled Iowa State’s proposal first, it was Harreld who spent the past two years laying the groundwork for that moment, including providing the justification for the wholesale increases that Allen proposed. From an interview with the Daily Iowan on 05/03/16 — only seven months after taking office:
Two months later, Harreld introduced his argument for approving such unprecedented and unprompted hikes, which he relentlessly pushed over the following year. From a Corridor Business Journal article by Chase Castle on 06/22/16:
Harreld’s “small increase” in the summer of 2016, which was augmented with aggressive differential increases and more, generated roughly $27M in new tuition revenue at UI alone, or $23.5M more than the original supplemental request that Harreld himself submitted shortly after his sham appointment. Add two more hikes in the interim, and this year Iowa will generate an excess $41M even after a $15.5M reduction in state funding. Over that time Harreld also refined the magnitude of the tuition hikes he intended to push through, settling on a $3,000 increase in base undergraduate tuition over five years, which was in turn premised on rising to the average of tuition among Iowa’s so-called institutional peers.
Because Iowa State presented its plan first, calling for 7% annual hikes for five years, when UI presented its own plan the following week the two-decimal precision of its 7.08% hikes seemed odd. The evidence is pretty clear, however, that Iowa actually came to its proposed hikes first, after which ISU simply parroted those hikes without the hundredths. To see why, remember that even though Harreld’s peer-group rationale for raising tuition was wholly contrived, the actual mechanism for determining increases predicated on that rationale was formulaic. Take the average tuition among Iowa’s self-selected, research oriented peers, then raise Iowa’s tuition to that level over a given period. The only thing missing was a specific time frame, which the board finally delivered when the Tuition Task Force called for five-year tuition plans.
If you look at Slide 27 in the UI five-year tuition proposal, you will see how UI’s precise 7.08% hikes were determined by the formula Harreld specified. The current average tuition at Iowa’s self-selected, research oriented peers is $10,537. Factor in the 5% hikes already approved for the current fiscal year, then 7.08% hikes over five years are mathematically compelled by that peer average.
At Iowa State, however, that mathematical proof fails. While Allen made the same general argument about pricing — that Iowa State needs to increase its base cost of tuition by 40% over five years, to keep pace with its self-selected peers (which are even less relevant than Iowa’s) — nowhere in the ISU five-year proposal will you find the actual gap between the tuition charged by ISU and those purported peers. (That information is also not included in the board’s own presentation, which preceded the five-year proposals at each campus meeting.)
Perhaps because the good people at the University of Northern Iowa are not in on Harreld’s grift, they included a helpful appendix at the end of the UNI five-year proposal, and on Slide 26 we can see the tuition and fees for all schools in each university’s peer group. While not directly comparable to the tuition-only data in the UI presentation, it is clear from that UNI slide that the gap between ISU and its peers is actually greater than at UI — meaning ISU’s proposed hikes would be higher if both schools used the same formula to calculate their rate increases. Instead, what we see when we look at the actual dollar amount of the ISU hikes per year [p. 18], is that the one metric they are clearly pegged to is not peer tuition, but the price of tuition at the University of Iowa [p. 27].
After months of talk from the board about allowing the price of tuition at the state schools to diverge, the proposals from ISU and UI could not be more closely aligned. In the final year of their five-year plans (FY23), the price of tuition at UI is $10,537, while the price at ISU is $10,457. That mirroring, in turn, puts the lie to the idea that peer groups are driving these changes, and instead underscores the arbitrary nature of Harreld’s own claim in that regard. While the math is clear, and the formula that Harreld lays out is clear, the premise of pegging Iowa’s resident tuition to the average of peer institutions which are, in many cases, purely aspirational, has no established validity.
Because Harreld is a ceaseless chiseler, note also that the information on Slide 27 of the UI proposal does not fully disclose the tuition hikes that have already taken place during his first two years in office. The first amount listed is $7,128 for Fall of 2016, which was also early FY17 — meaning that amount includes the hikes that Harreld pushed through that summer. If we go back to Fall 2015 (FY16), when Harreld was fraudulently appointed, the price of resident undergraduate tuition was actually $6,678, or $808 less than the $7,486 that students are paying this year (FY18).
Put another way, Harreld — with Rastetter’s approval — has already raised tuition at the University of Iowa by 12%, and now wants to raise tuition 41% more on top of that. But even that doesn’t do the magnitude of the total increase justice, because percentages are not additive. All told, starting with the $6,678 base rate Harreld inherited, and the final rate of $10,537 in his five-year plan, Harreld is arguing for a 58% increase in the annual cost of resident undergrad tuition at Iowa, and he is already well on his way.
If there is any continuity in tuition policy at the board from two years ago to now to five years into the future, J. Bruce Harreld is that continuity. Shortly after he was hired the regents began raising tuition at any and every opportunity, and doing so wholly out of scale to any purported justification. Even when the mid-FY17 cuts first hit, and the presidents at ISU and UNI did everything possible to protect the students, Harreld’s first instinct was to use that debacle to stick thousands of UI students and families with $4.3M in scholarships that UI was legally obligated to pay. Harreld only backed off when students filed multiple class action lawsuits against the school, but even then the board said nothing.
It is beyond dispute that Harreld, the former head of global marketing at IBM, is the mastermind behind the multi-pronged marketing plan that the board is now pushing, from calling for hiring world-class faculty, to claiming that the state schools must increase tuition to the average of their self-selected peers, to arguing for hundreds of millions of dollars to be diverted away from education toward targeted, for-profit research. And yet, it should be equally clear that if the board did not want Harreld saying those things they would not have been said. What is a little odd is that the board could have accomplished that same goal by hiring a qualified president at Iowa instead of pulling Harreld out of the executive dust bin, let alone having to run a fake search to jam him into office. As we learned with Leath at Iowa State, it is not hard to find fully qualified academic administrators who check all the boxes, who will also happily treat students like a disposable resource, cut crony business and political deals behind closed doors, and otherwise sell out the state taxpayers.
All of which raises a very interesting question. Why did the board have to hired Harreld two years ago to this day? Why take the risk of hiring a remaindered business executive who had not found another job in the private sector in six years? If all the board wanted was Harreld’s marketing expertise they could have hired him on a consulting basis, but instead they gave him the keys to store.
The answer to that question follows from the board’s plan to raise a massive amount of unrestricted money — potentially a billion dollars or more combined — at ISU and UI over the next five years. If the board was simply trying to raise money to fund UI’s $155M strategic plan, or to keep the AAU from kicking ISU out for lack of performance, it could do all of that twice over with substantially smaller hikes over a much shorter period of time. Instead, the board, through its presidential proxies, is pushing for an unprecedented taking of funds from private citizens, which will then be transferred to the state’s two research universities.
The board’s intentions regarding that windfall are equally clear, as articulated by Harreld and Allen during their presentations: research, research, research, including for-profit research, the funding of state-owned startups, and public-private research partnerships. In effect the students at those two schools will become compulsory investors with no right of future profit participation, and little hope of any direct or even indirect benefit from the thousand of additional dollars they will pay each year in pursuit of their degrees. That also means, however, that the board needs to have presidents in place at Iowa State and Iowa who can can actually put those brazenly exploitative plans into action.
At Iowa State that president was supposed to be Steven Leath, who, by the time Harreld was hired, had already established himself as a deal-making wizard with little concern for the welfare of the students on campus. Perfectly content to increase enrollment by stacking undergrads anywhere and everywhere — because doing so produced substantial increases in tuition revenue — Leath then spent as little as possible when student services were inevitably overwhelmed. Instead, Leath busied himself with increasing the size of the ISU research park, expanding operations at the Ames airport (including helping to select a new fixed-base operator), giving former state legislators cushy jobs without having to submit an application or go through the tedium of an interview, and of course flying the school’s two aircraft on personal trips at state expense. In every respect he was the board’s dream president, right up until he crashed the school’s Cirrus SR22 at the Bloomington, IL airport in the summer of 2015, precipitating a series of increasingly embarrassing disclosures about his conduct.
As a result of Leath’s completely voluntary decision to move on to Auburn in early 2017, Iowa State is now conducting a presidential search, meaning we do not know who will be in charge of spending the hundreds of millions that will be generated if Ben Allen’s five-year tuition proposal — which is really Harreld’s proposal — is approved. Complicating matters, after having been properly crucified for the fake Iowa search in 2015, the board will have a much harder time using the ISU search committee to hire a full-blown tool like Harreld, even as key members of that committee, the board, and even former members like Bruce Rastetter, work overtime to subvert that search process. In any event, however, one of the most important qualities the board will look for in candidates for the Iowa State presidency will be the ability to implement and manage a massive research program.
That in turn brings us back to J. Bruce Harreld, and why three key members of the 2015 UI search committee — former regents president Rastetter; former search chair, interim Iowa president, UI VP for Medical Affairs and dean of the College of Medicine, Jean Robillard; and UI mega-donor and long-time Harreld pal Jerre Stead — all conspired to sneak Harreld through that search to a done-deal vote by a five-member majority at the board. Because among Harreld’s many duties at IBM, he also oversaw — under then-president Samuel J. Palmisan — what were known as Emerging Business Opportunities, or EBO’s. And as it turns out, the only real hitch with implementing a similar program at the University of Iowa has to do with funding. With IBM there was no shortage of cash because of the company’s massive market capitalization, even at its lowest point, but the University of Iowa has to rely on feeble increases in state appropriations, or minimal tuition hikes at most.
From this linkage to the IBM EBO program we can see the through-line of Harreld’s constant harping about increasing both tuition and research. Even though the University of Iowa was not and is not in danger of financial collapse, Harreld was hired to implement a pseudo-turnaround, first generating new capital from massive increases in unrestricted tuition revenue, then diverting that money to academic EBO’s — for-profit ventures paid for not with corporate reserves or venture capital, but money from students and families. In that light even the absurdity of the Tuition Task Force makes sense, because the predictability of those 7% hikes will be of immense benefit when Harreld is cutting deals with dubious or demanding private-sector CEO’s. (To be clear, the framework of a liberal arts college will be retained, because without an English department and other academic nuts and bolts you cannot sell accredited degrees at a 40% markup over their market value.)
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking maybe Harreld and the board are right. Not about conning UI students and families out of half a billion dollars under false pretenses, of course, but about trying to generate revenue in-house. And yes, it is an attractive idea. Use a perpetual stream of unrestricted money to fund not basic research for the good of humanity, but for-profit research for the good of Iowa’s bank account — along with making faculty, admins and local investors rich in the process, what with spinning off successful businesses now and then.
But here’s the problem with that — besides lying to the people of Iowa, price gouging, and all of the other abuses that Harreld is perpetrating, and the board encouraging. After Harreld left IBM he spent the next six years not as a hotshot consultant or turn-around expert, but as a lecturer at the Harvard School of Business. Given Harreld’s purported magic at IBM you would think he would have been in high demand, perhaps even prompting a bidding war between struggling companies, but that didn’t happen.
Why didn’t the world beat a path to Harreld’s door, given his self-proclaimed expertise? Why wasn’t Harreld able to raise start-up capital from other business executives for his own ventures? Why didn’t everyone jump on the EBO bandwagon?
One impediment to porting the EBO model to other companies, or to a university, let alone a public university at that, is that even though IBM was slow to react to the tech revolution, it had enormous financial reserves and concentrations of expertise that allowed it to reinvent itself on the fly. For there to be any parallels between IBM and Iowa, the entire UI campus would have to be devoted to a specific academic discipline, but of course it is not. Where a university is broadly diversified by design, IBM was all but monolithic in its purpose: to make money by leveraging expertise in a relatively narrow market segment. By contrast, universities are an amalgam if not a mish-mash of wildly divergent departments, which are in turn part of a greater academic whole distributed across multiple institutions. As long as everyone believes they are working for the betterment of mankind there will generally be a sharing of information among those schools, but that all changes when people set out to make money.
Generating a meaningful return on academic research is difficult under the best of circumstances. Not only does it take a long time, but by the very nature of private enterprise, for-profit companies are almost always better positioned to bring products or services to the market. Trying to keep inventions secret while funding their development and rollout is not only antithetical to the academic mission, the vast majority of for-profit companies who head down that road also end up on the trash heap, taking investors, shareholders and management down with them. And everybody knows this.
In fact, here is J. Bruce Harreld at his candidate forum, on August 31st, 2015, making it clear why his co-conspirators pushed him through as a finalist for the UI presidency, even though he was manifestly unqualified for the job:
And there’s the first warning: “…had to cut other things to maintain [research]….”
The second warning: “…what’s in it for IBM?”
Asking the narrow question of how UI would directly benefit from a given area of research presupposes that such things can be known in advance, and that such things are largely determined by financial profit, both of which we know to be false. Basic research is critical precisely because we do not know where it will lead, and it often falls to universities to perform basic research because they are detached from an immediate profit motive. (You can see an example of delayed research gratification here.)
Third warning: “…dealing with the intellectual property, and who owns them.”
Intellectual property can be incredibly valuable, which is why lawyers are always involved. The University of Wisconsin recently won a $506M judgment against Apple for infringing on one of the school’s patents. The problem, of course, is that it’s one thing to file a patent in the normal course of university research, which then turns out to be of value, and quite another to conduct research with the intent of producing valuable patents. That is in fact what some corporations do, but most of them also fail. (The University of Wisconsin conducts research at a scale which dwarfs research at UI, and will continue to do so no matter how much money Harreld and the board divert from tuition.)
From a bit later in Harreld’s candidate forum:
Fourth warning: “…the programic side was really missing.”
Here, not so coincidentally, we discover the end goal for Harreld’s restructuring of the UI campus, which is just now transitioning to its second phase. Departments which can work together to produce more IP or inventions will receive increased support, while other departments will lose funding or be “cut” in order to keep the focus on for-profit research.
Here, confusingly, Harreld undercuts not only his previous arguments, but the initiatives he is now implementing at Iowa. The odds of generating revenue from intellectual property or patents are extraordinarily long. And yet, if Harreld does not plan to produce products, inventions or services which can be legally protected and monetized by UI, what is the point of reorganizing the entire university to the goal of research? Why flush hundreds of millions of dollars down the toilet if it is clear that there will be little or no return on that investment?
The answer is that Harreld does not want to position UI to go into business directly. Rather, he wants to turn the UI campus into a business incubator for private industry. In fact, he is so intent on that objective that even as he has been loathe to challenge state legislators to increase funding for the school, on multiple occasions he has pressed the legislature to rewrite laws to make public-private partnerships easier.
From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, only three months ago, on 06/05/17:
Despite being the president of a nominally state-funded research university, Harreld’s main concern is protecting the proprietary information of corporations who enter a business relationship with UI. Even the board of regents under Rastetter balked at such arguments by consultants who were hired to identify inefficiencies in the enterprise, yet Harreld wants the legislature to codify such rights in state code.
Continuing from Miller’s report, here’s Harreld selling his for-profit initiative:
Again, note the focus on “economic opportunities” and “investment from the private sector”. Harreld is not talking about state-funded, basic academic research, but about building new businesses in the same manner that IBM used EBO’s to launch startups from within. The difference at Iowa is that the majority of the benefits from the changes Harreld hopes to make will fall to private corporations, not to the university. Some individual faculty may profit professionally, but even in the best-case scenario, generating actual revenue for the university will be a very long slog, with many more misses than hits along the way.
From the point of view of the private sector, of course, nothing could be better than partnering with a major research university which is willing to fleece its own students. Not only would such a school function as an off-the-books R&D platform, but under the guise of education and mentoring the university could provide free or low-cost interns, saving millions if not tens of millions on personnel costs in the aggregate. Throw in tax credits from the state, which are abundant in Iowa, and there is every reason for companies to consider such a beneficial relationship.
But here’s the kicker. While Harreld may talk a good game about “investment from the private sector”, what he is proposing is exactly the opposite: raising capital for UI business ventures through compulsory increases in tuition. It would be one thing if a business dropped $10M or $100M on UI for the right to partner on research, but that’s not happening. Instead, Harreld intends to take hundreds of millions of dollars from students under false pretenses, then use that money to subsidize for-profit ventures with private corporations. And that means those companies will have to “invest” a whole lost less of their own money.
Were that the actual mission of the University of Iowa, or of any college or university, there would still be considerable risk. But of course for-profit research — to say nothing of incubating startups — is not the mission of higher education, even at public research universities. The core mission is education, from which research flows for the greater public good. Harreld, however — at the direction of the board that hired him and pays his salary — intends to pervert that lofty paradigm by having students provide regular infusions of capital for risky ventures which will confer no appreciable benefit on them.
No matter how you feel about such boondoggles, it should be clear that even public-private partnerships entail a considerable amount of risk if they are intended to be self-sustaining, let alone profitable. So it also stands to reason that if someone — say, J. Bruce Harreld — claimed to know how to increase the odds in favor of sustainability or profitability, that person would be snatched up in seconds, if not precipitate a bidding war for their services. Again, however, not only did Harreld not reprise his EBO glory at another multinational corporation when he left IBM, or invest his own millions in startups or ventures, or launch his own fully staffed EBO consultancy, he actually spent six years as a lecturer at the Harvard School of Business, and even Harvard passed on Harreld as well.
So what’s the premise there? That Harvard, with its $37B endowment, endless connections and first-rank brain trust, could not see the genius in Harreld? Or is it more likely that Harvard passed because what Harreld did at IBM, and what he is now implementing at UI, will not work in higher-ed?
I don’t think it’s an accident that the same business genius that Harvard passed over intends to fund his EBO plans at the University of Iowa by fleecing students and their families of hundreds of millions of dollars. That money will then be diverted to for-profit research and partnerships with private industry, which is decidedly not the function of public higher education no matter how fervently the myopic entrepreneurial class insists that all things devolve to profit and loss. And yet, precisely because of the clear continuity between Harreld’s hire, his elevation of research to primacy at Iowa, and his obscene tuition hike proposals at UI and ISU, we know that Harreld has the explicit approval and support of the Iowa Board of Regents. From his consistent statements over the past two years, then, and even his candidate forum, it should be evident to everyone that what Harreld is attempting to do to the University of Iowa is in fact what he was hired to do.
For Part 2 of A Defining Moment for the Iowa Board of Regents, click here.
This is Part 2 of A Defining Moment for the Iowa Board of Regents. For Part 1, click here.
How We Really Got Here
The continuity between the Iowa Board of Regents’ corrupt hire of J. Bruce Harreld in 2015, and the subsequent prosecution of tuition policies hostile to students and families over the following two years, is beyond dispute. That Harreld now wants to convert hundreds of millions of dollars in tuition hikes into for-profit, university-owned businesses is also beyond dispute, and Harreld himself is clearly eager for that opportunity. Whether determined to prove that his successes at IBM were not a fluke, determined to prove that Harvard made a mistake when they passed on his ideas, or simply the result of toxic ego, as an employee of the regents, Harreld’s malice toward the students at Iowa, including particularly those already most at risk, still only reflects the board’s institutional priorities.
You can read the official mission statement and vision statement of the Iowa Board of Regents in the recently updated strategic plan [p. 4], and you can read all about the board’s mission and scope in the ever-evolving policy manual. The unofficial mission of the Board of Regents, however, is to perpetually portray itself as a victim of legislative funding cuts, even in years when the state increases appropriations. To its dark credit, the board has largely been successful in convincing the average Iowan — and even well-informed observers of higher education in the state — that it has endured funding cuts on an annual basis over the past few years, despite the fact that the historical record clearly shows that not to be the case.
In all of the board’s carefully managed interactions with the public and press, many of which omit critical information — particularly about the total dollar value of tuition revenue generated from new hikes — the board claims to be fighting for affordable education despite being undermined in that cause by lack of support from state legislators. To their eternal discredit, those same legislators play into and abet that lie by trying to stick each other with responsibility for the lie the board is telling. Because there are always partisan political points to be scored, however, and because more money from students means less money will be needed from the state, everyone blames everyone else while studiously avoiding any facts that will betray their codependent lies.
In reality, the past two years have revealed the Iowa Board of Regents to be an administrative thug of unparalleled menace in state government, yet even that blunt assessment fails to do the board’s abuses justice. It is one thing to be a straight-up crook, and quite another to position yourself as a savior while betraying everything you supposedly stand for. Whether rank hypocrisy or outright fraud, we now find ourselves at a historical moment in which the governing body charged with regulating state-subsidized higher education in Iowa is poised to implement a for-profit research boom funded by aggressive annual tuition increases. That those increases will disadvantage students, including compelling many students to take on more debt, is axiomatic, yet here is the board’s point man, J. Bruce Harreld, denying that inescapable reality after blithely proposing 7% annual hikes for the next five years:
Having already increased tuition 12% at Iowa over the previous fourteen months, Harreld’s five-year plan would result in a 58% increase in base undergraduate tuition since he took office. And yet, in his official presentation to the Tuition Task Force, Harreld did not hesitate to characterize his plan as “ensur[ing] critically needed…affordability”. That the members of the board who were in attendance — including but not limited to the four regents on the task force — had nothing to say in response to Harreld’s Orwellian claim was stupefying in itself, and yet given the board’s flagrant disregard for the truth over the past two years, that silence cannot be considered surprising.
In 2015, while professing to conduct an open and honest presidential search at the University of Iowa, the Board of Regents — at the direction of then-president Rastetter — perpetrated a $300K, taxpayer-funded charade in order to give the job to Harreld. As a result, the presidency of a billion-dollar public research university was handed to a carpetbagging dilettante with no prior experience in academic administration, who also happened to be a former business associate and personal friend of one of the members of the search committee. Not only did Harreld’s fraudulent hire set the campus back a year or more as he haltingly attempted to learn on the job, but it also led to the unprecedented AAUP sanction of Iowa for flagrant abuses of shared governance. Had the Iowa Board of Regents intentionally set out to cripple UI’s standing in both the public eye and the higher education industry, it could not have done a better job.
In 2016, when the ‘planegate‘ fiasco exploded at Iowa State, the Board of Regents not only swept former president Steven Leath’s violations of school policy, board policy and state law under the rug, it enlisted other state and local agencies to do so. Where anyone else would have been fired if not also charged, Leath was afforded the opportunity to make restitution before any official verdicts were rendered, thus retroactively inoculating himself against any legal liability. And of course that was in addition to former president Rastetter not only omitting critical information about Leath’s aviation habits from the other eight members of the board, but facilitating and then lying about a crony land deal that he brokered for Leath.
That Rastetter is no longer on the board would seem to break the chain of mendacity and prevarication, but it does not. From the Press-Citizen’s Jeff Charis-Carlson, on 04/28/17:
Not only was the Tuition Task Force Rastetter’s idea, but the man who recently replaced him as president — “Casino” Mike Richards — is in many ways simply Rastetter without the sadistic smirk. Both are heavyweight political cronies, both donated tens of thousands of dollars to the governor who appointed them, and both rose to the board presidency because of those political connections. Whatever reason Rastetter had for initiating the task force, not only is Richards following through, it is all but inevitable that they will continue to work together behind the scenes. (Yet another reason to expect the worst from the Iowa State presidential search.)
We find additional continuity in the board’s decision-making in the form of regent Larry McKibben, whose appointment predates Harreld’s hire, and who has two years to go on his six-year term. Although McKibben took a failed run at the board presidency back in April, as a consolation prize he was named chair of the Tuition Task Force, putting him in perfect position to facilitate the board’s long-range plans. Included among McKibben’s many distinctions on the Rastetter board was his participation in improper meetings with Harreld during the 2015 search, when McKibben himself was not on the committee. Of the five regents involved in those meetings, the only two who remain — McKibben, and Milt Dakovich, who was on the 2015 UI search committee — were both appointed to the task force by either Richards, Rastetter or both. (All five of those current and former regents are defendants in a lawsuit alleging that their meetings with Harreld constituted a violation of Iowa’s Open Meeting law.)
In his spirited defense of the crony land deal between Rastetter and ISU President Leath, McKibben invoked his standing as both a regent and practicing attorney to insist that there was no conflict of interest. When it later turned out that Rastetter lied about not having materially participated in that deal, McKibben had nothing to say. And of course after the ‘planegate’ saga reached a fever pitch, and it was clear that Leath violated school policy, board policy and state law, McKibben’s enthusiastic exoneration of the ISU president was so incomprehensible that it prompted an acidic op-ed from the Des Moines Register.
Playing the role of the board’s preeminent apologist to the hilt, former state senator, current practicing attorney and Regent Larry McKibben seems to know no bounds in pursuing the board’s agenda, regardless of the corrupt nature of the actions that result. True to form, in the task force meetings that he attended (he was absent at UI), McKibben tossed words like ‘collaborative’ and ‘transparent’ around like he was trying to make a monthly quota, and in comments to the press he simply lied.
From Adam Sodders, writing for the Times Republican on 08/14/17:
That statement is false, and McKibben knew it was false when he said it. In the preceding 14 months, with regard to tuition for fiscal years 2017 and 2018 (current), the Board of Regents raised tuition three times: first in the summer of 2016, following an increase in appropriations that was less than requested; second, in December of 2016, predicated on a commensurate 2% increase in state appropriations; and third, in June of 2017, following clawbacks earlier that year. Meaning once again, in lying to the press, McKibben was simply following the board’s policy of blaming the legislature for the board’s own regental abuses of students and families.
What makes McKibben particularly galling relative to most of the other regents, however, is that where they have simply voted for that abuse, over the past two years McKibben has been consistent in arguing that tuition should be kept as low as possible. As regular readers know, here at Ditchwalk we pay attention to what people do, not what they say, and McKibben did vote in favor of the past three tuition hikes, including hyping a meaningless reduction in the summer of 2016. Now, as head of the Tuition Task Force, he has not merely parroted but embellished the marketing messages honed by Harreld over the past two years, signaling apparent support for the ISU and UI proposals. And yet, even if a passive-aggressive dandy like McKibben doesn’t care about the students, at some point, out of simple self-respect, you would think he would get tired of being a perpetual hypocrite.
Even were the board as a whole to pare back Harreld’s request at UI and Allen’s request at ISU, the absence of any concurrent conversation about appropriations, or any reference in either five-year plan as to how increased appropriations would affect those proposals, makes clear that the objective is not raising tuition as little as possible, but facilitating a governmental cash-grab of historic proportions. As noted in a recent post, Harreld’s entire strategic plan — which he claims as the basis for his massive request — could be funded with a mix of annual reallocations and a single 4-5% hike. Meaning the following four years of 7% hikes are intended to generate a mountain of unrestricted funds, which can then be diverted behind the scenes to for-profit research.
The five-year plans from UI and ISU are so audacious — so far beyond any reasonable solution to the marginal problem of ensuring predictability — that we are left with an obvious question. We know what the plans are, and because Allen is the interim president at Iowa State we know that both plans are Harreld’s invention, but what we don’t know is who or what has been driving Harreld for the past two years. Yes, he was clearly hired to do this by Rastetter and a small cabal of co-conspirators, and he is on the cusp of achieving his goal, but why has the board itself abetted that agenda?
It is of course possible that the board is aware of, but has not admitted to, an impending fiscal disaster. At Iowa State there is panic about losing affiliation with the AAU, even though membership in that research-oriented ranking organization confers no actual benefits. Still, for reasons of simply vanity the board may be willing to generate funds from tuition which can be used to improve Iowa State’s AAU standing, even as that would clearly be a colossally rotten thing to do to the students.
At the University of Iowa it is possible that the cost-overruns for the new children’s hospital are worse than anyone knows, particularly since the last publicly disclosed budget numbers were released over two years ago. It is not likely that there is a black hole hiding in the UI budget because the bond-rating agencies have access to all of the critical numbers, and if UI was in that kind of trouble there would almost certainly have been a downgrade by now. On the other hand, only a couple of days ago UIHC announced that they would be blowing $150K on a consultant to look at partnering options, so maybe things are worse than we know.
Granting every possible fiscal motivation short of outright embezzlement, we simply cannot account for the magnitude of the proposed hikes at UI and ISU. We believe we know where all of the excess tuition revenue is headed — toward a massive build-out of new, for-profit research capacity at both schools — but why the board wants to go down that road is not clear, particularly given the accumulating damage to its credibility. What is behind the board’s concerted, premeditated intent, which is not only consistent with Harreld’s sham hire two years ago, but has been embodied by his every action since?
One possible answer involves what are often the quietest and most powerful constituents on any campus, including public research universities: big-name donors who drop ten, twenty, even fifty million dollars at a time. Not surprisingly, many of those donors made their money in the private sector, and many of them have egos to match their bank accounts. Having already pumped significant funds into a given institution, they may be perturbed to learn that a college or university to which they have given so much — which may even bear their family name — is in danger of suffering a setback which reflects poorly on them.
At Iowa State we saw the unspoken power of the donor class during Leath’s planegate fiasco. We never learned who donated $5M+ to buy Leath his two planes, or where the $1M came from to buy the silence of the ISU Foundation’s two former presidents, but clearly some very big checks were flying around just to keep Leath happy. That $6M+ could have done a lot of good for the over-enrolled and under-served student population, but instead it was happily spent making a self-indulgent huckster feel like a big shot at a state-run institution of higher education. Add in Leath’s miraculous ability to extricate himself from Ames after that self-inflicted debacle, and it is entirely possible that some of those same big-money donors helped him skip town precisely because they did not want their names divulged in the press.
At Iowa the most obvious big-time donor is Jerre Stead, who was not only Harreld’s pal for decades before he was appointed at UI, and not only served on the search committee when Harreld was appointed, and not only arranged for Rastetter and Robillard to initially meet with Harreld prior to his appointment, but Stead also lied about his involvement two weeks after Harreld was appointed. And of course there was Jean Robillard’s $10K panic flight to see Stead one week before Harreld’s appointment, purportedly to secure yet another donation, followed by Rastetter handing the naming rights to the new children’s hospital to Stead a month after Harreld took office.
There are other major donors at Iowa, of course, one of the most notable being the Roy Carver Trust, which recently gave $45M to UI for a new neuroscience center. That center will not only be “housed within the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine” — of which Robillard is currently the dean — but neuroscience also features prominently in the UI strategic plan [p. 24], which will be paid for with $155M from Harreld’s five-year plan.
Even the architect of Harreld’s fraudulent hire, Bruce Rastetter, is a quasi-biggish donor to UI and ISU, though some of his donations tend to be more of the Trumpian variety than actual outlays of cash. Still, as a UI alum and donor to both schools, to say nothing of partnering with Iowa State to conduct research and business ventures on multiple occasions in his capacity as an agricultural entrepreneur — including that whole Tanzania thing — Rastetter covers all of the bases, from conspiratorial mastermind to crony political operative to research partner to big-money donor.
While it is impossible to imagine that major donors do not factor into the current tuition conversation, even the magnitude of their donations — individually and collectively — is dwarfed by the amount of money that UI and ISU want to take from students. In the fifth year of the proposed 7% annual hikes, each of those schools will generate $200M or more in unrestricted general education revenue compared to today, and that amount will continue to accrue every year thereafter, even if no new hikes are implemented. That’s a billion dollars combined at both schools in years 1-5, and a billion dollars at each school in years 6-10, and every five years thereafter.
While it is all but inevitable that multiple factors are in play regarding Harreld’s obscene request at UI and Allen’s proxy request at ISU, even a confluence of vanity and vice, does not get us to the numbers we’re talking about, let alone explain the pathetic rationales the regents are putting forward. Not only is this not about maintaining quality, it is not about providing the education that students are already paying for, and it is certainly not about making tuition hikes more predictable. (Imagine your county treasurer telling you that your property taxes were going up 58%, but only because the county wanted to make sure you would not be surprised by last-minute changes in the assessed value of your home.)
While the key players will never tell the truth about what they are up to short of being placed under oath, and even then I’m not so sure, the very fact that they are all conspiring to generate this massive new revenue stream means we can follow that imaginary river of money and see where it leads. And in fact we already know the answer to that question. From Harreld’s hire to today and looking five years into the future, both the rhetoric and momentum is entirely consistent: raise tuition on the students, then divert as much of that money as possible toward research. Not just any kind of research, however, but for-profit research in partnership with private corporations. No more basic research for the greater good, no more academic research covering bases that industry won’t touch precisely because there is no obvious profit to be made. No. Going forward, UI and ISU will be wholly invested not only in making money with private-sector partners, but will target research at “strategic areas of growth”.
Included as specific examples in the UI proposal were human simulation, neuroscience and autonomous vehicles [p. 24]. And yet, of the 33,500 or so students currently on the UI campus — all of whom will pay at least $10K more for their degrees under Harreld’s plan — how many of those students will directly or even indirectly benefit from those programs? 100? 300? 700?
That’s an important question for a variety of reasons, including the fact that it exposes the hypocrisy of the differential or supplemental tuition that Iowa also began charging after Harreld was hired. To see why, here is how Ken Brown, UI Associate Dean of the Tippie College of Business, justified billing business students (and other degree programs, including engineering) at a higher rate, from a DI article by Rachel Zuckerman on 03/08/17:
While Brown’s deep concern for non-business students is laudable, note that under Harreld’s egregious five-year plan not only are all students coughing up thousands of additional dollars each year, but the vast majority of that money will not be spent on anyone’s education. Instead, every student will be contributing to a de facto economic development project for the state. As abusive and indefensible as that plan is, however, it fits perfectly within the current context of Iowa state government, which is itself little more than an excuse to funnel massive amounts of money to corporations. From tax cuts and tax credits, to boondoggles like the recent Apple tax giveaway in exchange for the promise of 50 middling jobs, the state of Iowa has become a fount of public money for private industry.
Ironically, those corporate giveaways were partly if not largely responsible for the collapse of the state budget last year, which in turn led to the cuts in higher-ed funding that Rastetter, McKibben, Harreld and Allen used to justify the latest round of tuition hikes in June. Money that should be going to state services, including education at all levels, is being shoveled out the back door to private industry, and the pace of that looting is only accelerating. In that context, what the regents are now considering is simply a belated adoption of that standard operating practice, which was first established by former governor Terry “Butcher” Branstad, and is now being perpetuated by his successor, Governor “Casino” Kim Reynolds.
To truly comprehend Harreld’s five-year plan for what it is, all we have to do is replace the word ‘tuition’ with a more accurate descriptor like ‘research fee’ or ‘research tax’ — because that’s what Harreld wants to impose on the UI and ISU campuses. UNI will keep chugging along, providing a useful benchmark for the true cost of education at any of the state universities, while the cost at UI and ISU will be driven through the roof to subsidize the kind of research that is and should be the province of private industry. And yet this particular grift is actually worse than a fee or a tax, both of which usually return something of value, whether in goods or services.
Because all of that private equity will be funneled through state institutions in the guise of tuition, the students and families providing that capital will receive none of the potential profits from any funded research. As willful investors or shareholders, those same citizens would be entitled to share in any profits, but simply by calling it tuition the state schools can claim that money — and all of the rights conferred on that money — as their own. Students will fund research facilities, research staff, and even some faculty hires primarily devoted to research, while also providing free or reduced labor in the form of internships, but they will never see a penny of profit, and the vast majority will see no educational benefit at all.
The very fact that tuition is being raised to make all of these fantasies come true for the state’s research schools tells us that any companies those schools partner with will not be paying that freight, as they would otherwise have to do in the private sector. In fact, it is not at all clear what contributions companies will make even if they do agree to a partnership, and because Harreld is pressing the legislature to facilitate such deals by shielding corporate information from public view, the general populace — including the students who are supporting those ventures — will almost certainly never receive an accurate accounting. Financial hits, if any, will be wildly publicized, while misses — which will constitute the majority of projects and expenditures — will be ignored and forgotten.
Even if all of the possible motivations above are in force, and it may well be that they are, nothing would happen if private industry was not eager to take advantage of such opportunities, and given the no-cost and low-cost advantages, who wouldn’t be? If you’re a CEO scrounging for research funds, or looking to defray costs, and a state school offers to throw tens of millions of dollars at a project you’re working on, are you going to say no? Or are you going to say yes — as long as you can treat that student-funded research as your own intellectual property?
Take the biggest companies in America, by capitalization or any other measure, and they are still dwarfed by the Gross Domestic Product of most states. And of course compared to America as a whole, even Facebook, Apple or GM are economic asterisks. For that reason there is no greater flow of cash to tap into than government money, whether in the form of direct contributions or tax breaks for private-sector projects, such as routinely happens with stadium projects for sports franchises. Alternatively, if you can’t tap into government money directly, you may be able to convince a state to change its laws so as to make it easier for its citizens to be exploited for profit. Not only is Harreld already committed to that effort at UI in terms of intellectual property, but Butcher Branstad accomplished the same thing on a much larger scale when he privatized Medicaid, just prior to quitting his job and leaving the country.
With private industry primed to take advantage of the benefits of subsidized public-sector research, all it takes to get the ball rolling is a commitment of public funds. Unfortunately, because the Iowa legislature is short on money right now — in part because it already gave most of the state away to private enterprise — there are no funds available to appropriate for such research. Fortunately, however, the Board of Regents can avoid the checks and balances of the legislative process with five yes votes out of nine, thus providing a perpetual fire hose of public funding.
So who exactly is waiting in the wings for the Iowa Board of Regents to authorize the wholesale fleecing of college students at Iowa and Iowa State? Well, we don’t know, but we did get a glimpse of Harreld’s priorities a little over a year ago, in a Corridor Business Journal article by Chase Castle, on 06/22/16. Titled, UI’s Harreld says private partnerships may supplant state funding, there is no mention of Iowa funding those partnerships with a 58% increase in the base cost of tuition, but Harreld did have this to say:
Fourteen months later, and almost two years into Harreld’s presidency, we still do not have the names of any corporations which are committed to making massive investments at UI, yet Harreld is making progress. In the meetings just concluded he got the regents to approve the axing of the full-time MBA program, which will now drive those MBA students into the more lucrative ‘Executive MBA’ program. And while hydraulics remains a mystery, by odd coincidence big data is something that Harreld’s old pal, Jerre Stead, knows a little about. As CEO of IHS Markit, a multi-billion-dollar company dedicated to information analysis, Stead is not only well-positioned to donate to UI, but also to partner with UI. Having already given more than $50M to the school, and forever on the cusp of retirement, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if Jerre was interested in mutually profitable synergies with his alma mater. More to the point, even without Harreld at the helm it would be almost impossible to say no.
A Defining Moment
That the Iowa Board of Regents finds itself at this deliberative juncture, let alone under the scandalous pretense of ensuring “predictability and affordability” for students and families, means the board has been corrupted to its core by the crony political appointments of Butcher Branstad and Casino Kim Reynolds. We know this as a factual matter because Branstad not only appointed Rastetter to the board in exchange for a big bag of money during his 2010 campaign with Reynolds, but because Branstad did Rastetter’s bidding in 2015 by abetting Harreld’s sham hire. Throw in a handful of other crony Branstad appointments, and Rastetter had at least five votes locked up for Harreld before the search committee even began winnowing the candidates. And because Rastetter, Robillard and Stead were all on the search committee, with Robillard as chair, getting Harreld through to the final vote was a done deal as well.
After the removal of both Rastetter and former president pro tem Katie Mulholland, who were replaced by two former state legislators, the questions now is whether there are also five votes to approve the egregious tuition proposals put forward by Harreld and Allen. Had you asked me that question at any point in the past three months prior to last Wednesday, I would have said I could get to four votes easy, but that unlike the Rastetter board the fifth vote was not a given. On this past Thursday, however, on the second day of the board meetings in Iowa City, Harreld’s proposal ran into unexpected headwinds during the report given by the Tuition Task Force.
It is almost certainly a given that neither Harreld nor Allen expected to get their initial requests approved, but even if the annual increases at UI and ISU were only 5% or 4%, the amount of money taken from students and diverted to research under false pretenses would amount to hundreds of millions of dollars over five years. Add in the fact that the state really did go through a budget crisis last year, and may well do so again this year, and a responsible board would be looking to raise rates as little as possible until the appropriations environment was settled — not using that uncertainty as a cynical justification to abuse students. Still, despite obvious momentum in favor of a proactive tuition policy which elevates research above affordable and accessible education, there are signs that the board knows it is very far out on a very thin limb.
Between Harreld promoting his abusive plan for six months or more, Rastetter launching the Tuition Task Force just before leaving office, and Richards and McKibben putting that committee to work with great fanfare, it turns out that none of those geniuses did their crony due diligence, leading to an epic political miscalculation. After inviting the governor and the legislative leaders in her party to present ideas about long-term tuition policy, along with the heads of a number of government departments, the governor, the majority leaders and most of the department heads failed to even respond. As a result, what should have been the initial, day-long fact-finding meeting of the task force was cancelled, leaving only the three campus meetings at which each of the five-year proposals was unveiled.
Continuing the political theme, not only were there no elected officials from the governor’s party who spoke at any of the campus meetings, but the opposition party was out in force, albeit largely to score political points. Still, when the ISU and UI proposals were finally unveiled, calling for 7% hikes for five years in a row, the political toxicity was so acute that the governor had to immediately come off the sidelines and publicly oppose the magnitude of the hikes, albeit without offering any alternative plan. That this is the same governor who just gave away the store to Apple, in a deal that will cost Iowans millions (if not tens of millions) more than it will ever recoup, only serves to underscore how far afield the board has wandered regarding its own avarice. Sensing political opportunity, the governor’s main primary opponent for the 2018 gubernatorial election then called for the Iowa Board of Regents to be abolished, which is an idea we will consider in an upcoming post.
Making matters exponentially worse, precisely because the regents are interested in setting tuition prospectively, they can no longer play the victim card. Instead of blaming the legislature for incremental and reactive rate hikes, the board will have to own the 40% increase proposed by UI and ISU over the next five years. While there may be some board members who believe tuition must go up because it was held flat for several years prior to Harreld’s hire, the problem with that justification is that the board has already raised tuition 12% since Harreld was fraudulently appointed. (All told, the UI and ISU proposals before the board would increase undergraduate resident tuition a staggering 58% since Harreld’s hire — from $6,678 to $10,537 in five years.)
The question now is whether the corruption that was revealed by Harreld’s fraudulent hire has enough lingering momentum to push those abusive hikes through. Harreld himself has pulled out all of the stops in his advocacy, and the Tuition Task Force was clearly empaneled to give his plan cover, yet even the task force has gone wobbly in the face of negative public reaction. The first sign of unease appeared ten days ago, when the task force released its final report late on a Friday afternoon — a clear attempt to avoid the weekday news cycle. In that report the task force also offered no conclusions, and instead simply summarized the proposals put forward at each school while rehashing talking points from those meetings. Finally, the very first sentence in the report [p. 2] made clear who was responsible for the proposals:
Although the initial publicly stated goal of the task force was ensuring predictability for students and families, the official charge for the task force was considerably broader [p. 6], and paved the way for the excessive tuition proposals from UI and ISU:
There is nothing surprising about the substance of that deception, of course, because it follows from Harreld’s messaging about quality and strategic objectives. Still, the fact that the actual charge was not made public until the final report does betray the board’s mendacity. Even the task force web page, which was put up several months ago, does not contain the actual charge that the task force was given:
Instead of working to make tuition hikes predictable while ensuring accessibility and affordability, Harreld offered nebulous promises of quality and massive increases in research spending in exchange for the right to charge a minimum of $10K more per conferred degree. That shell game is particularly perverse because the board was not pursuing the issue of predictability for the sake of scheduling alone, but because of the disruptive and potentially dire financial implications that last-minute hikes can have on students and families. Implicit in any concern about making tuition hikes predictable is that available funds may be short, to such an extent that even bills which increase a few hundred dollars could be a critical issue. (People who are wealthy — like, coincidentally, Bruce Rastetter and J. Bruce Harreld — could care less when bills arrive, because all they have to do is cut another check.)
While the final report ten days ago was noncommittal, less than a week later, on the second day of the regent meetings in Iowa City this past Thursday, the report from Chair McKibben was surprisingly negative. From the Press-Citizen’s Jeff Charis-Carlson, on 09/07/17:
Given McKibben’s track record it is of course possible — if not likely — that the board could simply be stalling for time. Throw water on the five-year plans in order to pacify dissent, and then, at the last minute, push through a slightly modified plan which still gives Iowa and Iowa State hundreds of millions of dollars in new, annual, unrestricted tuition revenue. And McKibben himself left that possibility open when questioned by the press:
Still, if Harreld has lost McKibben it is almost impossible to see how he gets the five votes he needs from the other eight members — and McKibben wasn’t the only regent throwing cold water on Harreld’s proposal. No news from last Thursday was more damaging to Harreld’s long-range plans than the following comments from President Richards, as reported by the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, on 09/08/17:
Approving annual tuition hikes for the time being brings Richards into agreement with comments made by McKibben at the UNI presentation. At that time, McKibben indicated that the board’s long-term decisions would not be made until next fall at the earliest, meaning the board will put forward a stand-alone proposal for next year. (That one-year delay is almost certainly designed to allow the 2018 election cycle to play out, thus protecting the governor and her party’s legislators from paying a political price — which, from the feedback Richards mentioned, could be severe.)
Even as Richards is leaving the door open to multi-year proposals, however, that one year delay is also a delay for Harreld, and an opportunity for students and families to keep the pressure on. If Harreld does not see a massive infusion of new revenue next year, then hikes proposed next fall will not be implemented until FY20, at which point Harreld will only have two years left on his five-year contract. With no guarantee that he will get anything close to what he is asking for in the next year or year and a half, that means Harreld himself may be at a critical decision point as well.
With regard to tuition for next year, there will be a first reading of the board’s plan in October, then a final reading in December. Again, McKibben and Richards cannot be trusted, but they seem to be signaling minimal hikes next year at most. Things could still change depending on the state economy, which is hanging by a thread, but if there are no new clawbacks this year, then a year of minimal increases tied to inflation (CPI, not HEPI) would keep the playing field level, while giving students a break from the 12% increases they have already endured over the past fourteen months.
Another sign that the board may back away from Harreld’s radioactive tuition proposal is the repeated mention of the need for increased appropriations in the reporting from last Thursday’s meeting. Where Rastetter paid lip service to increasing state aid while doing nothing to further that cause — and may even have engineering a trump-up shortfall in requested appropriations so as to trigger the hikes in the summer of 2016 — Richards seemed to be considerably more engaged on the topic. From Christina Crippes, writing for the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, on 09/07/17:
Whatever hold Rastetter still has on the board, and whatever allegiance Richards has to current governor Reynolds, the proposals from UI and ISU — which are the culmination of two year’s worth of conniving by Harreld — are going over like lead balloons. Even allowing them to see the light of day may prove to have been a serious miscalculation, and play out in the coming electoral cycle no matter how hard the board tries to diminish the possibility of those hikes coming to fruition. If the governor is compelled to take a position against long-term tuition proposals, or against funding for-profit research on the backs of students and families, that could also limit the available options when the board revisits the issue next year.
While there may still be some attempt at a compromise to keep everyone happy — and by everyone I mean all of the crony forces that compelled Harreld’s fraudulent hire and handiwork over the past two years — a full repudiation of Harreld’s for-profit plan is not out of the realm of possibility. In any event, given the alternately pleading and and petulant tone that Harreld evidenced in his most recent interview with the Daily Iowan, which was published just before last week’s regent meetings, it is clear that Harreld himself is uncertain about the fate of his proposal:
Leaving aside Harreld’s implicit slight of the University of Northern Iowa, this is whining. Even prior to the sentiments expressed by McKibben and Richards last Thursday, Harreld was aware — perhaps through back channels, or negative feedback he has received from the UI community — that his dream of funding a research binge with other people’s money was in peril. If the board comes to its senses and vows to keep tuition low, while also reengaging the state legislature in the context of an election season, it is entirely possible that Harreld may already be finished, and that in itself might very well open the door to the future.
In repudiating Harreld’s plans the board has the opportunity not only to set the regents back on the right course, but to right an egregious wrong that was perpetrated two years ago. There is a long way to go in determining what that board will ultimately do, but as of this past Thursday Harreld’s plans suffered a serious setback. Although tuition policy won’t be set for a year, we won’t have to wait that long to find out which direction the board is headed, because the upcoming selection of the next Iowa State president will betray the extent to which Rastetter’s corrosive, corrupting influence is still a factor. If, as Larry McKibben has been saying lately, this really is a change-agent board, then the next ISU president may back away from Allen’s parroted proposal, leaving Harreld all alone. At that point, being the high-class guy he is, Harreld might very well decide that he would rather spend his time wandering around one of his multi-million-dollar homes than settle for mediocrity at the University of Iowa.
Where can the specifics be found? What kind of private research is Harreld discussing? IBM with his ‘massive’ connections? Somebody else? What companies are going to share research with the U of Iowa?
it is difficult to gather in federal dollars for research, especially with the Trumpies hate and ignorance of science. It will all be slashed. But what is the BOR proposing?
Thinking how this will play out. You have an incompetent president in Herrald, and a bunch of liars at the BOR. You have a short termer, Robillard getting out before the crash he generated by building his pet projects. And you have huge tuition increases for a struggling over-institutionalized university.
I am thinking this cast of characters will leave town with huge amounts of Iowa cash in their bank accounts, with angry parents and students, a fialed 5 year plan costing millions (?billions), and with a smoldering ruins of a school. Not that state wreckers like Branstad and Reynolds care.
During his candidate forum and later, Harreld actually played the cliched role of the well-connected businessman who can pick up the phone and make things happen. What he routinely omits is that he himself is the single greatest liability the school faces, both because of the AAUP sanction and because he has proven that his word is no good.
I have no doubt that Harreld can and will sell out UI in some capacity to corporate interests, but as to generating partnerships which benefit the University of Iowa, I think that’s a long shot. Combine the rot at UIHC with the faculty exodus at the College of Medicine, and the one area where such synergies make the most sense seems to be having the most problems. (Still very thankful for Carver’s neuroscience gift, but am very worried that Harreld and Robillard are both impediments to its success.)
One aspect of Robillard’s tenure that seems to be overlooked is that he built out UIHC as a business right into the teeth of a pullback in federal and state support for the level of medical care that the state provides most. In essence, by driving competition out of the marketplace and replacing independent doctors with branded clinics, Robillard bought himself a greater share of a less-profitable market, and we’re seeing that now in the profits (or losses) at UIHC.
From a bit less than a year ago, after Robillard announced that he would be stepping down:
Unfortunately, the search committee that was belatedly empaneled to replace Robillard has fallen into a coma, and there is no sign that Robillard will ever relinquish his multiple roles in driving UIHC into the medical gutter. And of course UI’s well-connect business genius, J. Bruce Harreld, has done nothing to move Robillard out and stop the bleeding. (As both the beneficiary of, and abettor of, the corrupt search that landed him in office, Harreld himself would be destroyed by Robillard’s disclosure of what actually happened during the search in 2015.)
To be fair, this a health care environment fraught with mines. The state sold it’s medicaid ‘franchise’ illegally to private companies (with no loyalty to Iowa). At a national level the Republicans continue to ram huge cuts in medicaid and a death sentence to the ACA down everyone’s screaming throats (however the voters elected a fraud for POTUS and idiots for Congressmen, so they get what they deserve). So times are perilous.
Nevertheless, seems Harreld and Robillard have given up on changing medicine, and being world class (haha). It’s about money and profit. And for Robillard it is about domination of area health care and decimation of any normal market or professional dynamics.
There will be blowback, and consequences, there always is. But who knows in what form it comes, and how people react to a huge annoying money grabbing monolith rather than a finely turned gem that was a source of pride.
If you are a student at one of Iowa’s three state universities, you probably know that the Board of Regents empaneled a Tuition Task Force this summer to look at long-term tuition policy. Whatever else you may have heard, the most important thing you need to know is that you are not a hostage to that process. Not only can you give voice to your individual concerns, you can empower your elected student government leaders to advocate on your behalf.
The regents are currently considering five-year tuition plans at all three state universities. At Iowa and Iowa State the presidents have proposed 7% annual hikes over that term, increasing the base cost of tuition more than 40%. (Northern Iowa has proposed considerably smaller increases.)
For students at Iowa and Iowa State, the cost of a four-year degree will increase a minimum of $10K to $12K. Additional years of study will cost $3K above the current price of tuition. Differential tuition hikes based on college or class standing will increase the total cost even more..
The vast majority of students will see no direct benefit, and will simply pay more for the degrees they are currently earning. Much of the new tuition revenue will be diverted to research, or to for-profit ventures such state-owned startups and corporate partnerships.
The Iowa Board of Regents and the state universities are not being honest with you about the basis for these proposed hikes. Along with obscuring the total amount of revenue generated from the three most-recent tuition increases, they are refusing to release the estimated revenue that will be generated by the five-year plans under consideration. The board and schools have also largely refused to provide specifics about how all of that estimated revenue will be spent, and instead simply assert that the hikes will improve the quality of your education by various indirect means.
Using the contact info in the following section, make your voice heard on any or all of the following topics. Unlike many board decisions, these hikes are not a done deal. Advocating for responsible tuition policy now could save you $10K to $15K over a five-year span, and that does not include any tuition hikes which are approved for next year.
1) Request full disclosure of the tuition revenue that has been and is being generated from the tuition hikes implemented in July of 2016, December of 2016, and June of 2017.
2) Request revenue projections for the tuition hikes in the five-year plans, including any additional hikes which will also be enacted over that time.
3) Request an explanation of the educational need for these hikes, and the amount of funding needed, in dollars, for any general budget priorities or specific line items detailed in that explanation.
If you prefer not to contact the Tuition Task Force directly, please contact your student government representatives and ask them to advocate on your behalf. Let them know that you want answers to these questions so you can make an informed decision about the validity of these hikes.
Board of Regents: Tuition Task Force contact form.
Northern Iowa: NISG contact form; President Hunter Flesch; Vice President Avery Johnson; Twitter; Facebook.
Iowa State: StuGov contact form; President Cody West; Vice President Cody Smith; Twitter; Facebook; InstaGram.
Iowa: UISG contact form; President Jacob Simpson; Vice President Lilián Sánchez; Twitter; Facebook.
For more information, see the following recent task force posts:
The Iowa Board of Regents and the $91M Lie
The UNI and ISU Five-Year Tuition Proposals
J. Bruce Harreld and the UI Five-Year Tuition Proposal
A student-oriented Explainer has been posted here.
Despite what you may have heard from the regents or the administrators at your school, the core issue regarding tuition policy at Iowa’s state universities is not complicated. You are currently paying a given amount for a product — your degree — and the board is looking at long-range plans for increasing the cost of that product. The obvious question is what you will get in exchange for paying any increase in price.
The answer is that increasing the cost of your degree beyond the rate of inflation will confer little or no direct benefit, and that becomes all the more certain as the cost of your degree increases. We know that because the cost of delivering the education you are already receiving has been remarkably consistent over decades, meaning revenue generated from hikes above inflation will necessarily be spent on non-educational functions of your university. While perhaps of great interest to the administrators, faculty and staff at your school, subsidizing those expenditures will not increase the quality of your education or the value of the degree you receive.
The Tuition Task Force Mission and Context
Over a period of eight days in August, each of Iowa’s the three state schools presented five-year tuition proposals to the Board of Regents’ Tuition Task Force. Each two-and-a-half-hour campus meeting consisted of a short contextual presentation by the board office (UNI, ISU, UI), a presentation by the school (UNI, ISU, UI), a half-hour break, then a one-hour listening session during which attendees had the opportunity to provide comments. Video was also posted of each campus meeting: UNI presentations and feedback; ISU presentations and feedback; UI presentations and feedback.
In a combined post on the UNI and ISU Proposals, and in a two-part post on the UI Proposal, we analyzed the presentations and feedback in detail. The premise of those meetings was that five-year plans would allow for more predictable tuition hikes, thus preventing last-minute increases like those in the summers of 2016 and 2017. From prior posts, however, we know that the last-minute hikes in 2016 were manufactured by the board. We also know that the 2017 hikes followed an anomalous collapse in state revenues which was more than offset by the two tuition hikes that were approved in June and December of 2016 — meaning the last-minute hikes in the summer of 2017 were not actually compelled by legislative cuts or clawbacks.
You may also have heard that the state reduced funding to the regent universities for the current fiscal and academic year, and that is actually true. Because of the budget collapse in mid-FY17, the state legislature took almost $30M out of the standing appropriations for the Board of Regents on a permanent basis. Why did Iowa lawmakers make a permanent cut in higher-ed funding in response to a temporary budget crunch?
To answer that question we have to dig into information that the board routinely obscures and suppresses, which is the total amount of new revenue raised from tuition increases. While the board did lose $30M at all three schools combined, from the three tuition hikes approved in the past fifteen months alone the board is now taking in $120M more in tuition revenue, or $90M more overall. The reason you don’t know about that, however, is that it is to everyone’s advantage — at the board, in the governor’s office, and in the state legislature — to omit that information, because charging you more means more money for the government.
The Iowa, Iowa State and Northern Iowa Tuition Proposals
Currently, the cost of undergraduate resident tuition at all three regent universities is almost exactly the same. One of the policy changes under consideration by the task force is to allow the schools to diverge in price, and in fact that change was presumed by the proposals put forward at each school. Specifically, because Northern Iowa is a comprehensive university — meaning it focuses on undergraduate education — its five-year proposal reflected that less-costly pursuit. By contrast, because Iowa State and Iowa are research universities, costs at those schools are higher because of the the inclusion of masters and doctoral programs, as well as the cost of outfitting those schools for scholarly research by students and faculty.
Traditionally, the difference between the cost of funding UNI on one hand and ISU and UI on the other has been dealt with in two ways. First, state appropriations to ISU and UI have been greater because of research activity, often with significant funding specifically tied to that extra-educational mission. Second, because of the nature of those two schools, and the fact that they are both about three times larger than UNI (which has roughly 12,000 students), the foundations at UI and ISU have also vastly outpaced UNI in fundraising, and that charitable giving is often targeted at research.
While overall state funding has decreased in recent decades, that decrease is significantly less than the board claims. In the previous decade in particular, state funding faltered largely as a result of the Great Recession, yet the board and state schools routinely ignore that documented correlation. In reality, prior to last year’s budget disaster, state appropriations in Iowa rose over five or six years, and the UI and ISU Foundations took in more money than ever.
The UNI Five-Year Proposal
You can see the percentage increases requested by UNI on p. 18 here, and the dollar cost of those increases on p. 19. Helpfully — and unlike the ISU or UI proposals — the UNI proposal includes different appropriations scenarios. If the state covers the cost of inflation then UNI will ask for 3.9% next year, with that percentage falling off to 1.75% in the final two years of the four years listed. (It can be assumed that the fifth year would be the same.) In effect, other than the first year or two, UNI is looking for about 2% per year above the cost of inflation, or an annual increase of 3.5% overall.
Despite sharper increases in the first year or two, UNI’s proposal is generally reasonable given UNI’s fundraising disadvantage, and the fact that its athletics programs is partially subsidized by the state. (The ISU and UI programs are self-funding.) However, if the state does not cover the cost of inflation, the bump in the first year grows considerably to 6.7%, and that in itself does not make a whole lot of sense because adding a 1.75% inflation adjustment to the requested 3.9% base only equals a 5.65% increase, not 6.7%. In any event, the UNI five-year proposal is pretty much what we would expect to see in a disadvantaged school that was simply trying to keep pace, albeit with a little opportunistic administrative skimming here and there.
The ISU Five-Year Proposal
Unlike the graduated UNI proposal, ISU pitched annual 7% hikes for five years straight [p.18]. While that may seem like a 35% increase, because of compounding it actually yields more than a 40% increase in the base cost of resident undergraduate tuition. To that we can then also add the 12% that tuition has already increased over the past fifteen months at all of the regent schools. Again, because of compounding, five additional years of 7% hikes will not be a 52% increase, but a 58% increase in the cost of the exact same degrees that students at Iowa State are earning now.
While Iowa State presented no alternate scenarios contingent on appropriations, the proposal did assume that state funding would remain flat [p. 17], meaning no adjustments for inflation. In that context, the first year of the ISU plan was not wildly different from the first year of the UNI proposal if no state appropriations are forthcoming. Where UNI settled into maintenance increases in the following years, however, Iowa State budgeted for the moon.
In terms of new tuition revenue, each 7% hike at ISU will bring in an additional $45M or so per year, $225M in the fifth year alone, and $675M overall. What was not immediately clear, however, was how Iowa State arrived at its request for annual 7% hikes, particularly given that the school is currently under the stewardship of interim president Ben Allen. While Allen has long experience in the regent system as both provost at ISU and president at UNI, and a Ph.D in economics to boot, the idea that Allen would take it upon himself to propose such a radical departure from board policy is not credible. (Meaning someone else gave him those numbers.)
As to why Iowa State needs all that new money, if you flip through the ISU plan — which, at nineteen pages, including intro and thank-you slides, is the shortest of the three — it is not at all clear what that massive windfall will fund. Even on p. 17, which talks about “New Strategic Investments”, those investments include generic expenses such as faculty recruitment, retention and building maintenance. While ISU has grown a great deal in recent years, the total amount of money that would be generated over five years of 7% hikes, let alone every year thereafter, simply cannot be accounted for in any of the information in the Iowa State plan.
The UI Five-Year Proposal
Only when the third and final presentation took place on the Iowa campus did the ISU proposal finally make sense. Coming in at five straight years of 7.08% hikes [p. 27], the number presented by fraudulent UI president J. Bruce Harreld seemed preposterous in its precision, yet that number was actually determined by a formula Harreld had been talking about for more than six months. Take the average tuition among Iowa’s so-called peers, increase base tuition at Iowa over five years to reach that number, and you end up with five years of 7.08% hikes.
Iowa’s fussy proposal made clear that Iowa State’s purportedly independent numbers were also derived from Harreld’s formula, albeit with a little rounding down. That symmetry also meant that despite the policy change allowing schools to diverge in cost, Iowa and Iowa State would remain in virtual lockstep over the next five years, with UNI falling considerably behind. That parallel pricing between UI and ISU was effectively compelled, however, because without it the less-expensive of the two schools would undercut the other in terms of comparable degree programs, including the increasingly lucrative business and engineering colleges.
As to what Harreld plans to do with all of his loot, which will be comparable to the dollars raised at ISU, the Iowa plan was significantly more detailed, including a breakdown of costs associated with UI’s $155M five-year strategic plan [p. 20]. Tellingly, however, $127M of that plan, or 82%, will be devoted not to education but to federal research, even as the majority of the money funding the strategic plan will come from students. Factor in Harreld’s persistent profit-seeking rhetoric and it is clear that what Iowa and Iowa State intend to do with the vast majority of any new tuition revenue is spend that money on research. (In effect, under the guise of improving predictability and quality, students at Iowa and Iowa State will fund — but not benefit from — a billion-dollar economic development project.)
The Case Against Harreld and the Regents
Although the board subsequently said it will not implement any long-term plans this fall, all it takes is five votes out of nine and students at ISU and UI will pay thousands of dollars more each year for the same degrees they are getting now — $10K to $12K more over four years. While the proposals from those two schools do show clear evidence of collusion, by focusing on the information omitted by all three schools we can also clearly see the board’s complicity as well. In effect, Harreld’s plan — if not Harreld’s entire presidency — is simply the point of a spear launched by the regents.
* By the very nature of a tuition hike, the only people negatively affected will be the students and families who have to fork over extra money. While the Tuition Task Force was announced in May, the actual meetings were scheduled for early August, when the campuses were almost completely devoid of students. Moreover, for the initial day-long task force meeting — which was subsequently cancelled — the student representatives at each school were omitted from the elected and appointed officials who were invited to present. And yet, because task force chair Larry McKibben made clear that no final decision will be made until a year from now, all of the task force meetings could have been held when students were on campus.
* At the University of Iowa, the administration did not advertise or promote the on-campus meeting of the Tuition Task Force. After Harreld’s presentation, the UI proposal has never been referenced or linked to by the Iowa Now site, which is the main source of information for the UI community.
* The primary justification for the massive hikes that Harreld has proposed at UI is that Iowa badly lags the average tuition charged by its self-selected, research-oriented peers. What neither Harreld nor the board will acknowledge is that there is no scholarly research showing any correlation between tuition and peer schools. And that’s particularly true regarding resident tuition at public universities, which is largely a function of a state’s economy and gross domestic product. (For example, in his presentation Harreld highlighted the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a comparable peer, yet he omitted the critical fact that the state budget of N.C. is three times that of Iowa.)
* The members of the board and the university presidents talk about state funding cuts, whether real or imagined, in dollars. For example, as just noted, for the current academic and fiscal year there has been endless mention of the $30M that was cut from the regents’ budget. At the same time, however, the board and its presidents resolutely refrain from mentioning the dollar amount of any revenue generated by tuition hikes, which in almost every instance is significantly greater than any cuts.
While the Tuition Task Force pledged to look at every aspect of policy in pursuit of more predictable increases, and to have no preconceived notions about how that policy should play out, every single person involved in that conversation managed to avoid talking about the total amount of tuition revenue, in dollars, that would be generated by the plans put forward by UNI, ISU and UI. Because students and families with have to pay any increase, no single aspect of the entire conversation is more important than understanding how much money those five-year plans will generate, yet that is precisely the information the university presidents and regents have conspired to omit from the conversation. The fact that this information has been uniformly omitted reveals the board and the university presidents to be in league in attempting to take hundreds of millions of dollars from students and families in exchange for little or nothing of comparable value.
Financial Literacy and the Tuition Task Force
One absurd hypocrisy in all this is that at the same time that the regents are abetting proposals which constitute an unprecedented taking of private wealth under false pretenses, the board recently imposed a “financial literacy program” on the students at the state schools. Without irony, the board is requiring students to complete coursework that will, among other things, help them learn how to minimize debt, while at the same time allowing its university presidents to propose hikes which will inevitably lead to greater debt for thousands of students.
If you are in college you are also old enough to know that most of the time it does not matter how sincere you are or how good your arguments are in opposition to abuses of power. Fortunately, this is not one of those times. You do have a chance to make a difference, and the more you take the fight to the Board of Regents, the more likely it is that you will be able to limit future hikes to reasonable accommodations for inflation or specific educational needs. The 2018 election cycle, which is already under way, also factors in, and perhaps quite heavily now that one of the candidates — Republican Ron Corbett — actually called for abolishing the regents.
As a college student you are taught not simply to use reason, but to substantiate arguments with citations and facts. In arguing for 7% hikes for five years, both Harreld at Iowa and Allen at Iowa State omitted critical facts that would be necessary for anyone to make an objective determination about their plans. Instead of simply rejecting those plans outright, however, it is within your rights to ask for that missing information.
How much state funding was cut, total and per-school, from the FY17 and FY18 regent budgets? How much new tuition revenue was generated, total and per-school, by the FY17 tuition increases in July of 2016, and by the FY18 hikes in December of 2016 and June of 2017?
How much new tuition revenue, total and per-school, will be generated each year from the tuition hikes in the UNI, ISU and UI five-year proposals? How much new tuition revenue, total and per-school, will have been generated at the end of five years?
How much new tuition revenue, total and per-school, will be generated annually, and over five years, from any additional hikes which are not included in the UNI, ISU or UI presentations? This includes increases for nonresident undergraduates, resident and nonresident graduates, and differential hikes for specific degree programs and/or class standing.
Once the revenue picture has been filled in, students should be able to compare the amount of money that will be generated from specific hikes with the needs put forward by their school, but again we find that crucial information is missing. While the board and university presidents have routinely justified prior hikes based on funding cuts — even in years in which funding actually increased — by the very nature of a five-year plan that excuse cannot be blamed for the proposed hikes by UNI, ISU and UI. Instead, the board is asking students and families not to make up for funding lost to cuts, but to provide funding beyond current levels, and in the case of ISU and UI, well beyond. And yet, as it currently stands, other than Iowa’s request for $155M to fund its strategic plan, there are no specifics from UNI, ISU or UI which account for the expected revenue windfall.
Even at Iowa, most of that $155M would be generated by a single 7% hike in year one, and that’s with 2% of that set aside for inflation. Over five years, the revenue produced by a 5% hike in the first year would be roughly $150M, meaning the additional four years of 7% hikes in Harreld’s plan have yet to be tied to specific goals, and in particular, to specific educational goals.
What are the specific needs, in dollars, that the tuition hikes at each school are intended to address? Of the total amount of money generated at each school, what will that money be spent on in terms of education and research? How much of any new tuition revenue at each school will be used to fund for-profit research, startups, or corporate partnerships?
The elected student representatives at UI, and others at the school, are already speaking up. From a Daily Iowan report by Marissa Payne, on 06/13/17:
You can read Simpson’s full comments to the board here. Simpson also spoke at the UI task force presentation in August, and you can read more about that here (scroll down to The UI Listening Session). Also speaking at the UI presentation was grad student Landon Elkind, who had this to say in a 09/11/17 article by Payne:
Were the presidents at the regent universities applying for loans instead of taking money from students and families, they would have to provide all of this information and more. Even a business student putting together a business plan for a grade would have to specify where any new revenue would be directed, whether it came from sales, loans, investors or venture capital. Only at the Iowa Board of Regents is there a conviction that people should hand over hundreds of millions of dollars on vague promises.
Not only has the 2018 election cycle had an effect on the Tuition Task Force — leading to cancellation of its inaugural meeting, and disavowal of the proposed 7% hikes by Governor Reynolds and others — but push-back has impacted the disposition of the task force and board going forward. From the Press-Citizen’s Jeff Charis-Carlson, on 09/08/17:
From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, also on 09/08/17:
Given that Harreld and Allen, and to a lesser extent President Nook at UNI, have already lost the chair of the task force and the president of the board — let alone the governor and the governor’s party, while the loyal opposition has been making political hay with impunity — it is fair to assume that the tuition hikes as currently proposed will not be approved. But that does not mean the battle is over — in fact, far from it.
While no decision will be made until next fall on any five-year proposals, that also leaves plenty of time for people who are opposed to the current plans to evolve in their thinking. In fact, in comments reported by Charis-Carlson in the Des Moines Register on 09/15/17, interim ISU president Allen is disavowing peer tuition as the basis for his five-year proposal, perhaps because that justification is going down in flames at UI. And of course there is also the question of tuition hikes for next year, which seem to be assumed, yet have no clear basis.
Continuing to pressure the regents about tuition policy will also force the board to do what it should have done long ago, which is to confront the legislature and demand that higher education be prioritized ahead of tax breaks for corporations. Strike a minimal deal for state-funded inflation adjustments for the next five years, and suddenly the only documented financial problem facing the state universities goes away. If a school presents compelling need then a tuition hike might be warranted from time to time, but note also that because the regents are no longer keeping tuition in lockstep, there is now no justification for across-the-board hikes.
If you are a student at one of the regent universities, your voice matters in all of this. To amplify your voice, let your student representatives know you are concerned about these issues. They have the authority to speak for you, and the right to request information that will help you determine the validity of any requested hikes on your campus. (If you are a student rep at UNI, ISU or UI, and you are denied information that you request, you should pass that along to your school paper, and to the media in your community.)
On Wednesday the ISU Presidential Search Committee met in closed session and chose four finalists from among seven semifinalists for the position. (There were originally eight semifinalists, but one dropped out — a trivial fact that may seem more relevant by the end of this post.) The finalists will now advance to open forums on the ISU campus, which will be held on October 5th, 6th, 9th and 10th. After those forums conclude, the committee and Iowa State community will provide feedback to the Iowa Board of Regents, then the nine regents will conduct their own interviews and vote for the next president of Iowa State University.
To understand the dynamics of the current Iowa State search it is useful to look back at the previous ISU search in 2011. That search culminated in the appointment of Steven Leath, whose presidency ended in disgrace earlier this year. Four finalists were also advanced to the board in the 2011 search, but the manner in which that search played out serves as a cautionary tale. Specifically, both the pace of the 2011 search, and what happened after the four finalists were selected, are relevant to the current search, and for the same reason.
As we learned from the fraudulent 2015 presidential search at the University of Iowa, if not also the corrupt preceding searches on that campus between 2006 and 2008, the regents cannot be trusted to conduct a fair search process. That the board played it straight during the recent UNI search is indeed a good thing for that school, but hardly an indicator of rehabilitation. Given the AAUP sanction of UI after the 2015 search, the board was under such extraordinary scrutiny that it effectively had no option but to conduct a fair and open search. Having said that, Northern Iowa is the smallest of the three state schools by far, and of relatively little interest to the crony politicians and businesspersons who routinely prey on and exploit the state’s two, much-larger, research universities. For those reasons, only a fool would conclude that the UNI search demonstrated anything other than cynical, self-interested cunning on the part of the board.
Because no school in the regent system is more infested with crony corruption than Iowa State, the temptation to fix the current search in favor of a compliant president will almost certainly be too tempting for some. Whether they are ultimately successful or not will remain to be seen years down the road, but the possibility — if not likelihood — of interference in the current search cannot be overlooked. Whether from bad actors on campus, in the Ames community, or on the board itself, even at this late date there is still ample opportunity to skew the search in favor of a desired candidate.
As noted, four candidates were also passed along as finalists during the 2011 ISU search. Following that stage of the process, however, two of those candidates — meaning fifty percent of those deemed fit for the position — withdrew, leaving only Leath and one other candidate in play. Also, while Leath’s administrative experience was largely focused on research, the other finalist was the provost of the University of Kentucky — the job title that most often serves as training for a presidency. And yet Leath was hired.
We don’t know why the other two finalists dropped out, and we don’t know how Leath and the remaining finalist fared during their candidate forums and regent interviews, but consider the possibility that one or more individuals on the search committee wanted to make sure Leath would win. One sure-fire way to increase the odds in Leath’s favor would be to get rid of some of the finalists, and of course that’s exactly what happened. Instead of a one-in-four chance, Leath suddenly had a fifty-fifty shot of becoming president at Iowa State.
As to the remaining candidate, consider the following passage from a prior post on the 2011 search:
It may just be a coincidence that then-regent Bruce Rastetter — both the future president of the board and architect of the corrupt 2015 search at UI — was on the 2011 ISU search committee, but even if he kept his nose clean it’s still possible that the fix was in for Leath. The obvious question, of course, is how the other two finalists could have been convinced to withdraw, and the answer is equally obvious. While it’s likely that all four finalists would have been happy to be appointed president of ISU — else they would not have applied — if a given finalist believed they were unlikely to be chosen, that candidate might decide to drop out of the race for multiple reasons.
From a purely pragmatic point of view, why go through the considerable time and effort required during the remaining stages of the search process if there was little or no chance of success? In a closed search there would just be more waiting involved, with perhaps a bit of off-the-record politicking with the various constituencies who would have a say in the final vote. In an open-ish search, however — such as those traditionally conducted by the Board of Regents — participating in a candidate forum takes serious preparation. Between delivering personal remarks in extemporaneous fashion and responding to questions from the audience, such proceedings are not only not for the half-hearted, they become part of that candidate’s public record, which might be a disadvantage in future searches.
Precisely because presidential searches at Iowa’s state universities become open when they reach the final stage — meaning the names of the candidates are announced prior to the final vote by the board — there is not only the usual personal risk of disappointment, but professional risk for candidates who are currently employed. If finalists have not informed their employers that they are applying for another job, that in itself might cause hard feelings, which could of course be prevented by dropping out prior to being publicly named. As to how such a move might be orchestrated by others, there are two mechanisms which increase the odds that a candidate will drop out, and in combination they are that much more effective.
First, weaker competition is obviously better. If there are enough corrupt votes on the search committee to get the desired candidate through as a finalist — as was the case with Harreld at Iowa in 2015 — there might also be enough votes to get lesser candidates passed along instead of the strongest competition. (That was not the case at Iowa, where all three of the other finalists were eminently qualified for the position.) One particularly cynical means of accomplishing that goal involves voting for otherwise weak finalists on the basis of gender or race, which has the additional advantage of demonstrating diversity before the white guy is appointed.
After the finalists are selected, but before their names are publicly disclosed, all it may take to dislodge weak candidates are one or more credible voices communicating doubt about their viability. If such a voice was a member of the search committee, and also a member of the board of regents — meaning that individual had one of the nine critical votes that would determine the winner — it would be very hard to ignore a friendly heads-up about the strength of others candidates, or about the viability of one’s own candidacy. And of course because the finalists would want as much information about the competition as possible before having their own names announced, they would be particularly vulnerable to such information at that point in the search process. (Former board president pro tem, Katie Mulholland — who is currently a defendant, along with Rastetter, in a court case about the 2015 UI search — was the other regent on the 2011 ISU search committee.)
The second important factor in compelling finalists to quit is simply time itself. Here, however, not only is there a difference between the 2011 and 2017 searches at Iowa State, but the difference is profound. In the 2011 search the four finalists were chosen at the end of two days of meetings on September 15th and 16th. All four names were then announced three days later, on the 19th, with on-campus visits scheduled for the 22nd, 23rd, 26th and 28th. Because two of the candidates dropped out, however, the two on-campus visits took place on the 22nd and 23rd, and the next president was selected by the board four days later, on the 27th
All-told, progressing from the selection of the four finalists to the appointment of Leath took eleven days. The time between the selection of the finalists and the collective announcement of their names was three days, from the 16th to the 19th; the time to the first on-campus visit was another three days, from the 19th to the 22nd; and the time from the last on-campus visit to the appointment of Leath was four days, from the 23rd to the 27th.
Regarding the two candidates who dropped out of the 2011 race, I don’t know how often half of the finalists for a university presidency decide they don’t want the job after getting that far in the search process, but that they both withdrew in a three-day window seems oddly coincidental. In fact, that’s particularly true given that one of the responsibilities of any search committee is to make sure qualified candidates will accept the job if it is offered. In that light, the idea that two finalists would suddenly and independently decide they did not want a given job over any amount of time seems unlikely — unless of course they were encouraged to withdraw.
Now consider the wildly divergent timeline of the 2017 ISU search. The four finalists were chosen on September 27th, and the campus visits are scheduled for October 5th, 6th, 9th and 10th — though unlike the 2011 search the name of each finalist will be announced the day before they appear. (That is now standard practice for presidential searches at the Iowa Board of Regents.)
Assuming, then, that all four candidates remain in the race, that’s eight days between the choosing of the finalists and the first on-campus visit, and thirteen days until the last on-campus visit. That contrasts with seven total days between choosing the four finalists for the 2011 search and completing the two on-campus visits. Even acknowledging that there were only two visits in 2011, that stage of the search was completed in less time than it will take to initiate the first on-campus interview for the 2017 search.
As to the final interviews and vote by the board, that will all take place on October 23rd, another thirteen days after the last on-campus visit. As noted, in the 2011 search that decision was made in only four days, and in the corrupt 2015 UI search the decision to hire Harreld was made less than forty-eight hours after the final candidate forum — which was Harreld’s.
There is no question that the 2015 UI search was corrupt to its core. One of the blatant tells in that regard concerns the fact that once the corrupt leadership of the search committee and board knew they had the done-deal candidate they wanted, the original timetable for the final vote was greatly accelerated. Couple that with the disbanding of the search committee after the selection of the finalists — meaning the UI committee was unable to complete the board’s original charge by vetting those candidates — and it’s clear that Rastetter and others gave the UI community the bum’s rush.
That Leath’s hire at Iowa State took twice as long sounds good (and once again, the winning candidate went last), but it still only took four days for the regents to make that decision — again suggesting that the board had little interest in feedback following the candidate forums. In that context, expanding the 2017 ISU timeline to allow for due diligence on the part of the ISU committee and community is clearly a good thing. Expanding the timeline to the degree that the board has done so, however, may in itself be an attempt to encourage some of the finalists to drop out.
From the 27th until the first finalist is named, on October 4th, is seven days. That candidate will then appear on campus on the 5th, after which they will have to wait eighteen days to find out whether they have been selected. That’s two and a half weeks with their name publicly disclosed, and their current employer hamstrung and waiting as well, before the final decision is announced. Even the candidate who is announced last, on the 9th, will have two full weeks to wait before they learn of the board’s decision.
Waiting a couple of weeks to find out about any job is torture. Add in the fact that the finalists in the ISU search will be known to all, including their current employers, and the motivation to avoid twisting in the wind only increases. It’s also likely that once revealed, one or more of the finalists will clearly be weaker than the others, and particularly so if the search committee actively chose finalists on that cynical basis. Assuming there is no reprisal of the corrupt 2015 UI search, however — in which Harreld received negligible support and was still appointed by the utterly corrupt board — waiting to withdraw after the other candidates are known would definitely not be a good look, thus further incentivizing weaker finalists to withdraw before their names are disclosed.
Consider again the currently unfolding week of anonymity between the 27th and the announcement of the first finalist on the 3rd, which stretches to twelve days for the fourth finalist. Whether by members of the search committee, members of the board, or outsiders who have been tipped off, there is now, at a minimum, twice as much time to try to drive some of the finalists out as there was in the 2011 search. In addition, not only will the two-week (or more) span after their names are disclosed weigh heavily on the finalists — particularly if they already have doubts — but disclosure in itself provides endless opportunity for others to prey on the minds of the finalists, through either attributed or anonymous comments.
Did I mention that there are not two, not three, but four regents on the 2017 ISU search committee? Indeed, one more and they would constitute a quorum of the board. While one of those regents is new and one seems to be a decent person, the third is a crony appointee who votes as directed, and the fourth is yet another regent who was not only a member of the fraudulent 2015 UI committee, but is also named as a defendant in the ongoing lawsuit about Harreld’s sham hire.
Although it is less likely that a finalist will withdraw from consideration after their name has been disclosed, by the same token the opportunity for mischief explodes. Once a candidate’s name is known, anyone can reach out to that candidate under any pretense, putting pressure on them directly or indirectly. And of course that includes former regent presidents. (Because there will be two full weeks before the board makes its decision, other factors could also come into play after the candidates are known, including candidates using the search to re-sign with their current employer on better terms, or simply using renegotiation as an excuse to withdraw.)
If the 2017 Iowa State search committee did its job and picked the strongest of the available applicants, then all four of the finalists should be in it to win it. If one or more of the candidates drops out before their names are disclosed, however, we will have good reason to believe that the search committee made that happen by one or both means detailed above. That in turn will significantly increase the likelihood that a preferred candidate will be chosen by the board, as may well have been the case in 2011.
Given the 2011 Iowa State search, the corrupt 2015 Iowa search, and the fact that many of the same cronies are still involved at Iowa State, I will be genuinely surprised if all four of the finalists stick it out through the remainder of the process. Because the ideal time for a candidate to drop out is prior to having their name disclosed, we should know which candidates are in play in the next twelve days, but that still leaves another two weeks until the final decision. That’s a long time to leave the finalists hanging, and that structural delay may in itself contribute to one or more withdrawals — which may be part of the reason the 2017 timeline was greatly expanded.
Imagine that four students at a public research university conspired to rig a student government election so one of them became president. Once installed in office that fraudulent president was paid a $10,000 salary, while also controlling expenditures from a budget of $250,000. From that position of authority, the fraudulent president also then rewarded the other three students in the conspiracy by funneling money to their pet projects and pushing their political agendas. Were those four students later outed, what is the likelihood that the fraudulent president would be allowed to continue drawing a salary while serving in that role, and that the other students who participated in the conspiracy would remain enrolled in good standing?
Two weeks ago, on 09/25/17, the AP’s Ryan Foley reported on a lawsuit against five current and former members of the Iowa Board of Regents, concerning the 2015 presidential search at the University of Iowa. That suit, brought by former Iowa administrator Gerhild Krapf, alleges that former board president Bruce Rastetter and four other regents violated Iowa’s Open Meetings law on July 30, 2015, when they engaged in serial meetings with J. Bruce Harreld at Rastetter’s private place of business in Ames. In his report, Foley provided detailed information from depositions taken under oath, all of which paints a damning picture of Rastetter’s motivation for organizing those secret, serialized meetings, which took place one month prior to Harreld’s fraudulent appointment as president of UI.
On this past Friday, 10/06/17, the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller reported on a hearing in that case, about a summary motion to dismiss that was filed by the board. If the judge allows the case to go forward — and a ruling is expected soon — the trial is still set for November 6th. Whether the court allows Krapf’s case to proceed or not, we will take a closer look at the filings and depositions in that case in an upcoming post, because they shed new light on the mechanics of Harreld’s fraudulent hire at the University of Iowa. In this post, however, we will focus on a single question and answer from Rastetter’s deposition, which does not in itself relate to Krapf’s suit.
As regular readers know, for two years it has been all but a given that the person who first contacted Harreld about applying for the presidency at Iowa was alumnus and big-money donor Jerre Stead. Not only had Stead and Harreld known each other for decades, on both a personal and professional basis, and lived a hundred miles or so apart in Colorado, but crucially Stead was a member of the 2015 UI Presidential Search and Screen Committee when it was announced in late February of that year. There was no proof that Stead was the impetus behind Harreld’s candidacy, but the circumstantial evidence was overwhelming.
Now, however, Rastetter’s deposition in the Krapf case [p. 9, lines 7-9] confirms that belief:
As regular readers also know, even under the best of circumstances there is no good reason to believe Bruce Rastetter about anything, and that includes statements made in a deposition under oath. While Rastetter would probably prefer to avoid a perjury charge, he actually exposed himself to that possibility by omitting another secret meeting with Harreld. That meeting took place on the campus of Kirkwood Community College in “early June” of 2015, yet despite the fact that it was widely reported Rastetter made no mention of that meeting in response to questioning during his deposition. For the purposes of this post, however, that meeting between Harreld, Rastetter, UI Vice President for Medical Affairs Jean Robillard, and then-Chief of Staff Peter Matthes — who is now one of Harreld’s Senior Advisors — is important because it was arranged by Jerre Stead, who was himself originally slated to attend before backing out at the last minute.
In Rastetter’s favor regarding his sworn statement that Stead introduced him to Harreld, unlike many of his other deceptions there is no good reason for Rastetter to lie about the origins of Harreld’s candidacy. Given the weight of circumstantial evidence about Stead’s early involvement in pushing Harreld, Rastetter’s deposition simply confirms the obvious. At the same time, however, that confirmation — more than two years after the fact of Harreld’s fraudulent hire — fully reveals Stead and Harreld to have perpetrated premeditated, concerted lies in pursuit of obscuring Stead’s role.
What We Do and Do Not Know
While we previously took a detailed look at the conspiracy of lies told by Rastetter, Robillard, Stead and Harreld, in this post we will focus on the symbiotic deceit of Stead and Harreld regarding the origins of Harreld’s candidacy. While their lies may not rise to the level of crimes, they are lies nonetheless, and all the more noxious because both of those men have profited by millions of dollars as a result of Harreld’s hire, and they continue to profit to this day despite the obvious corruption of the search process. (Whether the courts determine that one facet of the 2015 UI presidential search actually violated the law or not, no one other than the co-conspirators themselves believes the search was fair.)
From comments by Harreld in the press, and from Rastetter’s deposition, we can now confirm that Rastetter and Harreld first talked in March of 2015, only weeks after the search committee was announced. From Rastetter’s statement above we also now know — as long suspected — that Stead gave Harreld’s name to Rastetter and encouraged him to make contact. What is not at all clear, however, is why Stead encouraged Rastetter to contact Harreld when Stead was a member of the search committee himself.
As the corrupt nature of the search was being exposed in the press following Harreld’s sham appointment, Rastetter stressed in statement after statement that each member of the committee was charged with recruiting the best candidates possible. In that context, and given their long history, the person who should have reached out to Harreld was Jerre Stead. If he found that Harreld was interested in the position, he could then pass that information along to the committee, and that’s true even if Harreld wanted to perform his own due diligence and wait until the last possible minute to officially apply.
Why Stead would pass Harreld’s name along to Rastetter, then have Rastetter make a cold call to someone Harreld did not know, makes no sense if Stead genuinely thought Harreld was a great candidate to lead UI. Unless, of course, Stead and Harreld had already talked about Harreld applying for the position, and Stead wanted Rastetter on board with that plan. In that case, having Harreld establish a rapport with Rastetter would be of immense benefit — as indeed it later turned out to be, when Rastetter arranged secret meetings with four other regents on Harreld’s behalf.
While we do know that Rastetter and Harreld first talked in March of 2015, we don’t know when Stead recommended Harreld to Rastetter. That could have come before Stead was named to the search committee by Rastetter, and conceivably even factored into that appointment. More importantly, we also do not know when Stead and Harreld first talked about the Iowa presidency. Did Stead talk to Harreld before the search officially began? How about as early as November or December of 2014, when former president Sally Mason notified the board of her decision to retire? (We do know Harreld liquidated two of his four known multi-million dollar homes in late 2014 and early 2015 — one of them in New Canaan, CT, the other in Cambridge, MA — suggesting he would not to return to the East Coast, where he had been a part-time lecturer at the Harvard Business School for six years.)
There would have been nothing wrong with Stead telling Harreld about the Iowa job whether the position had been formally announced or not, or whether Stead had been appointed to the search committee or not. Again, the whole point of the committee was to recruit the best candidates, and if Stead truly believed that a burned-out former business executive with zero experience in academic administration was the best person to run his beloved alma mater, then no matter how deranged that belief may have been he had a duty to convince that burned-out executive to apply. And of course when that burned-out executive was appointed against all odds, Stead would have had every right not only to be thrilled that his former business associate, social acquaintance and fellow Coloradan was the new president at Iowa, but to proudly proclaim that he had recruited Harreld himself. But that is decidedly not what Stead said after the fact.
As to why Stead did not take credit for having brought Harreld to UI, one of the things we know beyond any doubt is that the 2015 UI search was corrupt, and again that’s true whether the courts rule the search also violated the Open Meetings law. From the depositions in the Krapf case, and from press report over the past two years, it is clear that Harreld received preferential treatment at every stage of the search process, and that the people who were obligated to administer a fair search — meaning, specifically, regents president Bruce Rastetter and search chair Jean Robillard — not only failed to do so, they intentionally betrayed the University of Iowa.
What we don’t know is how early the search was corrupted. If Stead and Harreld were in league from the beginning, and Stead used his influence as a big-money donor to get his pet candidate through to the fixed final vote at the board, then the entire $300K search — the most expensive in history, by far — really was a fraud perpetrated against the state. (By law, the Board of Regents can hire university presidents without searches. What it should not be allowed to do is waste taxpayer money on a fake search simply to give a done-deal appointee the appearance of legitimacy or institutional support.)
To this day, Harreld insists he was not only completely oblivious to the corrupt administration of the search, but that he had no interest in the position until very late in the process. As we later learned, however, not only did Harreld repeatedly fly to Iowa for secret meetings about the job, but he did so on private chartered jets at his own expense, to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars. Another telling detail from one of those trips — the July 8th talk that Harreld gave to bigwigs at UIHC, prior to a VIP Lunch with Rastetter, Robillard and two other members of the search committee — is that Harreld’s wife not only accompanied him on that occasion, but she was given her own itinerary by Robillard, and her visit included a tour of the campus. (That was, again, preferential treatment that no other partner was afforded during the fraudulent 2015 search.)
While it is true that Rastetter and Robillard corrupted the mechanics of the search in their respective roles as president of the board and chair of the committee — and, in Robillard’s case, later as interim president of UI during the critical last month of the process — that does not mean Jerre Stead and J. Bruce Harreld were innocent of those abuses of power. In fact, if Harreld and Stead were innocents we would not only expect them not to lie about the search, they would be incapable of lying precisely because they would have no knowledge of the corruption. And yet, from their own words we know both men did lie to cover up the conspiracy that led to Harreld’s hire, and in particular to obscure their prior and ongoing relationship.
Where Stead should have been proud to recruit the candidate who became the next president of the University of Iowa, he lied not only to obscure the fact that he brought Harreld to Rastetter’s attention, but that he facilitated the first secret face-to-face meeting between Harreld, Rastetter and Robillard. Where Harreld should have been glad to have Stead broach such an opportunity with him, and proud to have Stead advocate for him on the committee, instead Harreld lied to obscure his relationship with Stead prior to and during the search. And the only possible reason why those two men conspired to distance themselves from each other in exactly the same way at exactly the same time is because they knew the search was dirty.
One Simple Question
When J. Bruce Harreld was revealed as the fourth finalist for the Iowa presidency in late August of 2015, less than seventy-two hours before his appointment by the Board of Regents, many in the UI Community smelled a Rastetter. As we now know from reports over the past two years, and from depositions in the current lawsuit, Harreld’s scandalous appointment was indeed the result of a done-deal search by the regents. Were Harreld an innocent to the abuses perpetrated by Rastetter and Robillard, as he insists, he should have had no problem answering one obvious question that was asked mere moments after he was appointed. In fact, he should have been incapable of doing anything but tell the truth, because he would have been oblivious to the fraud perpetrated on his behalf. Instead, on two separate occasions, Harreld lied to cover up for the conspiracy that led to his appointment, and in particular to obscure his relationship with Jerre Stead.
The question Harreld should have been able to answer with ease was how he first came to the attention of the search committee. From Rastetter’s deposition, and from Harreld’s endless professions of innocence, his immediate if not joyful response should have been that his old friend and business mentor, Jerre Stead — who was on the search committee — asked him to apply for the job. Instead, as reported by Erik Kelderman in the Chronicle of Higher Education on 09/14/15, here is what Harreld said only moments after being appointed on 09/03/15:
As should be clear by now, this halting explanation by Harreld is literally not possible. There is no conceivable timeline in which any president of any university could have tipped off anyone on the UI search committee about Harreld’s utterly unqualified availability before Stead put Rastetter in touch with Harreld. And Harreld knew that even as that lie was spilling from his lips. He could have said, and should have said, that Stead got in touch with him — or, if he wanted to insist that he and Stead did not talk first, that Stead put Rastetter in touch with him — but instead he conjured Mitch E. Daniels, Jr. out of thin air and named him as the original sponsor of his candidacy.
So why did Harreld lie? Why was one of his first acts as president-elect a bald-faced lie to the press, the UI community and the people of Iowa? The obvious intent was to distance his candidacy and appointment from Stead, but if everything about the search was on the up and up — or at least Harreld was oblivious to any abuses — how did he know to tell that lie?
As it turns out, that moment of infamy was captured on video, and it’s worse that it appears in print. In the clip, which you can see here, Harreld starts to answer the question, then lapses into a blinking fit when he remembers he’s supposed to lie about the origins of his candidacy. What should have prompted the simplest answer — that Jerre Stead recommended him for the job — instead became a moment of pure, premeditated deceit.
One day after Harreld’s appointment, on 09/04/15, the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller published a story about Jerre Stead’s role in the search. (That story originally appeared on the KCRG-TV9 website, among other outlets. If you search for the story today you will find it on the Gazette website with a date of 09/15/15, not on the KCRG site, but if you check the link for either location the original date is 20150904. You can also see the story as it was posted on the KCRG site by using the Wayback Machine, which again shows the story published on 09/04/15.) As was the case with Harreld the day before, what should have been the simplest question for Stead to answer instead prompted bald-faced lies:
As with Harreld the day before, Stead’s claim is literally not possible. There is no scenario in which Stead could have mentioned Harreld to Rastetter in March, or conceivably earlier, and then, months later, “remembered him” from a confidential list of candidates compiled by the committee. (Although Stead is at an advanced age, he is also the CEO of his own multinational corporation, and in his quarterly conference calls shows no sign of diminished capacity.)
What Stead should have said to Miller was that he knew Harreld from way back, and when he thought about people who would be good for his alma mater he though about Harreld. That’s all he had to say, yet just like Harreld twenty-four hours earlier, Stead chose to lie to the press when asked about the origins of Harreld’s candidacy. He did acknowledge that he knew Harreld prior to the search, but only decades earlier — not when he put Harreld’s name in play, and not when he personally arranged the secret Kirkwood meeting on Harreld’s behalf, using his pull as a major donor..
More from Miller’s piece:
Far from being an innocent, Stead was a facilitator of the special treatment that led to Harreld’s appointment, and that in turn gave him a very good reason for obscuring his role in that fraudulent process. Unsatisfied with merely perpetrating fraud against the UI community, however, Stead went on to troll the victims of his abuse, even as both he and Harreld conspired to lie to the press about their relationship a mere twenty-four hours apart:
As we have learned over the past two years, virtually every rumor about the corrupt nature of Harreld’s hire has proven true. What we now also know, as a result of Rastetter’s deposition, is that Jerre Stead knew those rumors were true even as he chastised the UI community for expressing legitimate outrage. But of course it’s worse than that because Stead facilitated some of the special treatment Harreld received, then lied about his participation.
In the two months between the lies that Harreld and Stead told one day apart, and Harreld’s first day on the job, the press continued to report on the preferential treatment Harreld received during the search, including the secret regent meetings which prompted the current lawsuit against the board. In response to that fallout, on the weekend before taking office Harreld gave interviews to the local press — his first, and last — and revealed the previously unknown Kirkwood meeting that Jerre Stead arranged.
The disclosure of the secret Kirkwood meeting laid waste to virtually every lie that Rastetter, Robillard, Stead and Harreld had told to that point, including Harreld’s assertion that Mitch Daniels brought him to the attention of the search committee. Despite the utter wreckage resulting from those interviews, however, and the sudden obvious involvement of Stead in the special treatment that Harreld received, Harreld told another lie about the origins of his candidacy. Instead of Daniels, who was not mentioned once in those interviews, Harreld asserted — falsely as we now know — that someone at Boston Consulting pitched his name to Rastetter. (You can also see that lie on video.)
Three times in the span of two months, Harreld (twice) and Stead (once) told lies to the press for the same exact reason: to conceal the fact that Jerre Stead was the initial point of contact between Harreld and the 2015 UI search committee. Incredibly, despite the fact that Harreld divulged the previously unknown Kirkwood meeting only days before taking office, and in doing so completely demolished his personal credibility, he still told a new lie to cover up the fact that Stead put his name in play as a candidate. That new lie actually blew the previous Daniels lie to pieces the moment it came out of Harreld’s mouth, yet despite the inevitable damage Harreld went right ahead and told the Boston Consulting lie to the press.
The obvious question, of course, is why those two men — who to this day profess to have done nothing wrong despite the blatant corruption of the search — nonetheless both told provable lies that had the same objective? These were also not slippery lies of omission, where some critical fact was elided in conversation, but full-on lies of commission — blatant, knowing falsehoods uttered with the intent to deceive. By rights the fact that Stead brought Harreld to the 2015 UI presidential search should have been a meaningless footnote to the fraud perpetrated by Rastetter and Robillard, yet precisely because Harreld and Stead repeatedly lied to conceal their relationship we know they were in league. But to what end?
Follow the Money
To learn what Harreld and Stead were up to in early 2015 — what they talked about before Stead introduced Rastetter to Harreld — we would have to compel answers under oath, but that probably won’t happen any time soon. While it is not yet on the record, there are rumors of yet another undisclosed meeting arranged by Stead, this one at his Arizona home in April of 2015. That meeting purportedly included Rastetter, Robillard and perhaps Matthes, but whether Harreld attended or communicated with the others by electronic means, or was the subject of that meeting, is not clear.
Whether money was the original objective or merely a side benefit we cannot say, but we do not have to speculate to show that both Harreld and Stead each profited by millions of dollars after Harreld was appointed. In fact, while Rastetter and Robillard were critical to Harreld’s fraudulent hire, the same profit motive cannot be ascribed to those two men. Whatever arrogance led them to engineer a fraudulent $300K search at taxpayer expense, taxpayer money did not end up in their own pockets.
Given the obvious wealth of Harreld and Stead, who, along with Rastetter and Robillard are millionaires many times over, it may seem incongruous to look to profit as a motive for their lies, but we don’t need to ascribe motive to point out that both Harreld and Stead profited in the aftermath of Harreld’s fraudulent appointment. Most obviously, had Harreld not been jammed into the Iowa presidency by the co-conspirators who engineered his hire, he would not be drawing a paycheck from the state. Not only does Harreld’s compensation package amount to $800K per year ($200K deferred), but despite the fact that he had no experience in academic administration, and openly acknowledged that he would need coaching and mentoring in order to succeed, he was given an unprecedented initial five year deal that put the state of Iowa on the hook for $4M guaranteed.
While it is true that someone would be drawing a salary from the state as president of the UI, without the fraudulent 2015 search it is also true that Harreld would not be making that money. At the very least, the fact that he will be $4M richer by the time his contract expires does give him motive to disassociate himself from the sham search that led to his hire, and as we have just seen that is exactly what Harreld did on multiple occasions. Instead of telling the truth about Stead’s involvement, Harreld lied, twice, on the record, and the Iowa Board of Regents continues to pay his salary.
As for Jerre Stead, whose wealth dwarfs that of Harreld, Robillard and Rastetter combined, he profited from a transaction that took place almost immediately after Harreld took office. Specifically, on 12/02/15 — only one month after Harreld’s first day on the job — the Board of Regents suddenly announced that they would be naming the new UIHC Children’s Hospital after the Stead family. That gift was itself kept secret until the last possible minute using administrative deception, as reported by the AP’s Foley on that date:
As to who decided to name the new Children’s Hospital after the Steads, and why, we get that from the Press-Citizen’s Jeff Charis-Carlson, also on 12/02/15:
While it is always risky parsing motive from quotes in a newspaper, the rationale put forward by both Rastetter and Harreld for naming the Children’s Hospital after the Stead family was not simply that Stead was a great guy, but that he was a great guy in the context of the 2015 presidential search. That’s when Rastetter bonded with him, and of course that’s how Harreld came to meet Rastetter, Robillard and Matthes as a result of the secret Kirkwood meeting that Stead arranged. Whatever else may have factored into the decision to name the hospital after the Steads, both Rastetter and Harreld were clear in their statements that the thoroughly corrupt search which led to Harreld’s sham appointment was pivotal.
As for Stead, the “investments” he mentioned are donations, and that’s how he sees them — as an equity stake in the well-being of the university. At the time of the board’s announcement, Stead’s total giving to UI was $54M. When the regents belatedly added the full agenda item for the naming of the Children’s Hospital to their meeting records, that decision was justified, in large part, on the basis of Stead’s prior giving to UIHC:
Despite Rastetter’s personal statement of support, and his administrative approval of the proposal at the board, it is also clear that the idea to name the Children’s Hospital after the Steads originated at the University of Iowa, not at the Board of Regents. Given the lies that Harreld and Stead told immediately after Harreld’s appointment, one possible motivation for doing so was that a deal had already been struck to give the Steads the naming rights to that brand new facility, and in fact we actually know that to be true from reporting by the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, on 12/11/15, ten days after the regents meeting in which the renaming was approved by the board:
The narrative put forward by the board, the university, and by aw-shucks Stead himself, is that he had to be badgered into accepting the naming of the new Children’s Hospital after his family. In reality, Stead cut a deal with Robillard only a week before the board’s final vote, and that in turn raises a host of interesting possibilities, including scenarios in which Robillard threatened to sink Harreld’s candidacy if he didn’t get the money he was looking for. (As to why Robillard may have been in a mood to play hardball, not only was the 2015 presidential search about to come to a close, but in less than a week the university would announce that the construction cost of the Children’s Hospital had exceeded its budget by 28%, or $70M.)
The idea that Jerre Stead got the naming rights to the single most valuable property on the UI campus for $5M in new money seems laughable on its face, particularly when compared with other charitable giving on campus. The Carver Trust, for example, has given vastly more than Stead over the years — $195M and climbing — and counts Carver-Hawkeye Arena and the Carver College of Medicine among its named facilities. In fact, at the end of 2016 the university announced that the Carver Trust was donating another $45M to establish a new Iowa Neuroscience Institute, without the Carver name attached.
With regard to the new Children’s Hospital, Stead’s last-minute donation of $5M wasn’t even the single largest donation for that project. As of last count, that honor belonged to the Gerdin family, who gave $12M to the project early on, thus helping to spur additional donations. In thanks for giving almost three and a half times as much to the project as Jerre Stead, the university named the lobby and children’s theater after the Gerdins, while Stead’s name was raised high.
The idea that Stead, Harreld, Robillard and Rastetter engaged in back-room horsetrading during and after the search cannot be overlooked, and for a deep dive on that and more you can’t do better than this post by DesMoinesDem at Bleeding Heartland. Again, however, without taking depositions under oath we will probably never know what agreements were made while those men were shepherding Harreld through the corrupt search, but as it turns out that is not critical to our inquiry. Without ascribing motive to the naming of the Children’s Hospital after the Steads we can, as a factual matter, state that Jerre Stead made out like a bandit.
Naming buildings or parts of buildings in exchange for substantial donations is a time-honored tradition in academia, and in most instances there is nothing wrong with doing so because the facilities are obscure. Donate a few million here and there and you get a plaque anchored to an ivy-covered edifice that most of the world will never see. Implicit in such transactions, however, even if the calculations are never actually made, is that all such namings have a market value, even if that value is little or nothing.
We know this from major sports arenas, where the naming rights can be sold for tens or hundreds of millions of dollars, in large part because of the publicity those facilities generate. On the UI campus most named buildings are known only to people who work or conduct business at those facilities, yet even relatively obscure departmental buildings can have a surprising market value. From Charis-Carlson’s report on 12/02/15:
Even if you have heard of the UI College of Public Health, do you know where the building is? Have you been in it? Have you ever even seen it? Despite that obscurity, in 2007 a private-sector company valued the naming rights to that building and department at $15M, meaning it could be worth as much as $20M today.
As you probably do know even if you pay little attention to the academic side of the University of Iowa, the UIHC Children’s Hospital is not simply another new building on the UI campus, or the new home of the Department of Pediatrics, it is also the dominant physical structure at the hospital, and by far the most expensive. Coming in at a staggering $360M — at least as of the last publicly disclosed numbers, which, ironically, date from the day of Harreld’s candidate forum over two years ago — there is no comparison between the UI College of Public Health and the Children’s Hospital, and a decade ago the naming rights to the former were worth $15M.
Had the naming rights to the Children’s Hospital not simply been given to Jerre Stead as a gift, what would those rights be worth on the open market? Certainly less than a major league sports arena, but also certainly more than the UI College of Public Health. $25M? $30M? $40M?
In reality, that is a question that should not be open to debate. Just as the board performs market studies when it acquires or sells real estate, to make sure it gets the best deal possible for the people of Iowa, the regents should have conducted a market study to determine the value of the naming rights to the Children’s Hospital before those rights were given away. In fact, even setting aside the obligations of the board, it is inconceivable that the key players in that transaction did not know they had an obligation to establish the market value for those rights.
In his career as a businessperson Jerre Stead has performed over 200 acquisitions, and you can bet he did exhaustive due diligence prior to every transaction. Bruce Rastetter has started and acquired multiple businesses, and apart from his standing as president of the regents he would have known as a reflex that the naming rights to the new Children’s Hospital had a market value. And of course the entire premise of J. Bruce Harreld’s fraudulent presidency is that he was the business genius who saved IBM from the bureaucratic chore of reorganizational bankruptcy, so it should be a given that Harreld — who also has a Harvard MBA — was steeped in the process of properly evaluating and valuing assets. So why wasn’t that done?
There is no possible scenario in which the failure of all three of those men to determine the value of the naming rights to the Children’s Hospital was simply an oversight. The fact that the rights were never assigned a value was intentional on their part, as was the last-minute announcement of the granting of those valuable rights to Jerre Stead. As a result, at a time when every higher-education dollar is precious, the University of Iowa, under the direction of J. Bruce Harreld and Jean Robillard, and the Iowa Board of Regents, under the direction of Bruce Rastetter, transferred tens of millions of dollars in asset valuation — at a minimum — to Jerre Stead.
Granting Stead an asset conservatively valued in the tens of millions of dollars undercuts the entire premise of the justification for naming the building after the Stead family in the first place. To see why, all you have to do is compare the valuation of the naming rights with the amount of money that Stead donated up to that time, whether overall, or at UIHC alone. If the naming rights are worth $25M — which is almost certainly a conservative estimate — then the board simply returned Stead’s $25M donation to UIHC in the form of those rights.
Now, assuming that was all true two years ago, when the hospital was still under construction, then in combination with the current football season the value of those rights has almost certainly exploded now that the hospital is partially open. Not only is the celebrated wave that football fans are performing for the kids in the hospital a local phenomenon, but it has generated considerable national publicity. What would John Deer or any other corporation pay to be associated with a feel-good story like that, which last week was also plastered on the ESPN home page?
When it suits their purposes, the regents — collectively and individually — talk about their fiduciary obligation to the taxpayers of Iowa. As it turns out, however, there is no evidence that there is a statutory obligation on the part of the regents, or the presidents who are in their employ, to get the best deal for the citizens of the state. At a time when the board and the universities are howling about cuts in appropriations, and calling for egregious increases in tuition, the fact that three of the men involved in the conspiracy to fraudulently appoint J. Bruce Harreld at Iowa also conspired to give one of those conspirators a state asset worth tens of millions of dollars should be prompting a lot of hard questions. (Included in those questions is how State Auditor Mary Mosiman signed off on that transaction, when it should have been self-evident that state wealth was transferred to a private individual.)
The Most Important Question of All
Whether you believe the 2015 UI presidential search was legitimate or illegitimate, and whether you believe the secret regent meetings Rastetter arranged were legal or illegal, J. Bruce Harreld and his old pal Jerre Stead both profited after he was hired to the tune of millions of dollars. Along with that direct profit, Stead’s championing of Harreld also gave Harreld discretionary authority over a state budget measured in the billions. While the abuses Harreld can now commit for his own or Stead’s benefit are almost infinite, the continuity of that corruption is baldly apparent in a story about last fall’s dedication of the new Children’s Hospital. In a follow-up story on 02/18/17, the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller reported that although the project was being behind schedule and badly over budget, someone at UI or UIHC insisted on wasting even more time and money:
As to who gave the order to flush more time and money down the toilet in order to make the behind-schedule and over-budget hospital look further along, we don’t know. It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Robillard or Harreld having the authority — or audacity — to order such waste simply to impress the press, the public or the Steads, but that decision was made. That neither of the two highest ranking administrators on the UI campus investigated that waste and abuse would also seem to indicate that they were both okay with it, if not responsible themselves.
The larger concern, of course, is that this is simply one relatively trivial example of the power Harreld can wield over the course of his five-year deal. What others abuses do we know nothing about? What other objectives did Harreld and Stead have when Stead was championing his candidacy every step of the way, throughout the corrupt 2015 search? That a proven liar is making decisions which affect tens of thousands of people on the UI campus is disturbing enough, but Harreld is also perfectly positioned to advantage Stead’s “investments” at UIHC and the Tippie College of Business.
As we now also know, Harreld’s primary policy objective involves raising the base price of tuition at UI 41% over the next five years, or an obscene 58% since he was fraudulently appointed. This is a rich man who was put in office by three other very rich men, whose single-minded larcenous focus has been stripping students and families of as much money as possible in exchange for nothing of value. Even if Harreld only gets even half of the hikes he’s asking for, students will still be earning the same degrees they’re earning now, yet Harreld will have massive amounts of discretionary money to devote to his pet projects, or the pet project of his co-conspirators..
In a recent Daily Iowan report by Marissa Payne, Harreld described the Krapf suit against the regents as “old news“, but it isn’t old news. Quite apart from whether five members of the board broke the law during the fraudulent 2015 search, the lies that Harreld and Stead told to obscure that conspiracy continue to be rewarded. Jerre Stead’s handpicked president, who revealed himself to have the ethics of a snake earlier this year, continues to pull down $800K per year ($200K deferred) as president of UI. And of course Stead’s gratis branding of the UI Children’s Hospital has exploded in value, conceivably wiping out any contributions he made to UIHC, if not more.
At the beginning of this post we posited a scenario in which four students at a public research university used illicit means to install one of their own as president of the student government. That sham president drew a salary, and the co-conspirators profited because of that president’s crony largesse. Were that abuse of power later discovered, it should be obvious that the president would have to resign, and it’s entirely possible that all four of those students would be expelled.
What should also be obvious is that if a group of people at Jerre Stead’s company, or Rastetter’s company, or any of the administrators working under Robillard or Harreld at UI, tried anything even remotely similar, they would either be out of a job or severely disciplined. And yet at the University of Iowa, now two years on, J. Bruce Harreld continues to pocket state paychecks, Robillard is getting a big send off even though he isn’t going anywhere, and Jerre Stead is now thought of as the benevolent donor behind the new Children’s Hospital, when he could conceivably be turning a profit given the market value of those naming rights. Only Bruce Rastetter is currently subject to even the faint possibility of punishment, provided the court allows the Krapf case to proceed.
As a result of the depositions in the Krapf suit we know that J. Bruce Harreld and Jerre Stead both lied to the press, the UI community and the people of Iowa within twenty-four hours of Harreld’s sham appointment, and did so for the exact same reason — to obscure the fact that Stead recruited Harreld for the job he now holds. We don’t know why they believed that information to be damaging — to such a degree that Harreld told a new lie the weekend before taking office, to again obscure that fact — but we do know both men profited, and continue to profit, in the aftermath. All of which leads us to the most important question of all.
Why does J. Bruce Harreld still have a job?
In early 2015, when the search for the next president of the University of Iowa commenced, Steven Leath had been president of Iowa State for just over three years, and William Ruud president of Northern Iowa for less than two. By late 2015, several months after the appointment of J. Bruce Harreld at UI, it was revealed that the entire Iowa search was a $300K fraud perpetrated by a small cabal of co-conspirators, chief among them former regents president Bruce Rastetter, and outgoing UI vice president for medical affairs Jean Robillard. Despite the unraveling of the conspiracy which led to Harreld’s sham hire, however, first Ruud and then Leath found employment elsewhere, while Harreld continues to cash taxpayer checks with the blessings of the ethically bankrupt Board of Regents that rigged his election.
Had anyone suggested in September of 2015 that UNI and ISU would conduct searches to replace their presidents in less than two year’s time, that person would have been thought a fool. And yet, as we now know, less than six months after Harreld took office in early November of 2015, Bill Ruud found himself without a contract offer at the end of his initial three-year deal. No explanation was ever offered by the Rastetter-led board, but by the end of 2016 Ruud was gone and Mark Nook had been hired to replace him.
Following a stream of embarrassing revelations in late 2016 about Steven Leath’s serial violations of ISU policy, board policy and state law — all of which were initially denied or covered up by Rastetter at the end of his first and last term on the board — Leath gave up $1.2M, a recently-signed five-year deal, and a lovely new acreage in Hardin County, to preside over a spate of athletics scandals at Auburn University. (Following a laughable “national search”, Leath also recently hired his former Iowa State lackey — Miles Lackey — to become his chief of staff at Auburn, creating a secondary leadership void at Iowa State.)
Having turned my attention to state-funded higher education in Iowa only after Harreld’s scandalous appointment, it was inevitable that knowledge of the perverted UI search would color my expectations for the subsequent searches at UNI and ISU. In addition to the normal complexity of such endeavors, because UI remains under AAUP sanction for abuses of shared governance in the 2015 search, the Board of Regents was and is motivated to be on its best behavior, in the hope that refraining from similar abuses at UNI and ISU might lead to lifting of that sanction — while still allowing the board to retain the fruits of that betrayal in J. Bruce Harreld. It is thus to the board’s negligible credit that it does seem to have conducted a fair search at UNI in 2016, including passing over an in-house candidate for a more seasoned academic administrator from outside the regent system. (To its discredit, the board then immediately tried — and failed — to parlay its cynical compliance with academic norms into a justification for repealing the AAUP sanction.)
The reality of the 2016 UNI search, however, is that UNI is not only the smallest of the state schools by far, it is classified as a comprehensive school as opposed to a research university. As a consequence of those and other distinctions, the opportunities for exploitation and corruption by local, state and national business or political interests have always been minimal compared to the two much-larger research schools, though that does not mean UNI has never been corrupted. (More on that in a minute.)
Compared to the 2016 UNI search, or even the corrupt 2015 UI search, the currently concluding search at Iowa State involves so many axes of exploitation that it is hard to keep them straight. Fueled by the indivisible relationship between the ISU president’s office and the ISU Foundation, which functions as a de facto money-laundering operation for the school, and outside local, state and national interests who have pumped money into the school and foundation to exert maximal control, the search for the next Iowa State president is of critical importance to a murky group of vested power brokers who have little or no interest in the school’s educational mission. (Following Leath’s sudden and unexpected departure, that crony interest is not only forward-looking, but includes making sure no one ever learns what was happening behind the scenes during his five-year run.)
A Brief History of Ames and Iowa State
If you are not from Iowa, or even if you are, you may have little or no awareness of Ames as a community or of Iowa State as a school. As a long-time Iowa City resident I certainly knew where Ames was, and I visited the ISU campus for a few events over the years, but prior to Harreld’s rigged hire in 2015 what I knew was what everyone else knew: that Ames was home to Iowa State, and that ag-centric ISU was the state school for students who wanted to become veterinarians or business-savvy farmers. As a UI grad I also knew that ISU students and alums, if not the Ames community in general, tended to think of Iowa City and the University of Iowa as less-than-pure because of globalist leanings, while Ames and ISU embraced the nationalist/nativist strain that has always permeated much of the state, and has now broken out like a bad rash across the nation. (A rash which UI-alum and arch ISU exploiter Bruce Rastetter was always eager to scratch, even during his six-year term on the board.)
What I have learned over the past two years, however, and particularly following Leath’s ‘planegate‘ debacle, is what plenty of Iowans have known for a long time. By virtue of its location near Des Moines and its land-grant mission, Iowa State University should be an academic titan on critical issues which go to the heart of humanity not only in the state, but around the world. As an institution it is perfectly positioned geographically and philosophically not only to lead on those issues, but to attract the best and brightest, fueling its own ascendance. That Iowa State is, instead, struggling to keep its head above water with the AAU, if not to maintain relevance as an educational institution, is a function of governmental and business abuses which have reduced the school to everything from an old-legislator’s home for crony politicians to a mechanism by which programs and polices in the public interest can be co-opted, suppressed and even defeated through the able assistance of traitorous individuals in the school’s own employ.
Perpetually bled by leeches looking only to profit themselves, Iowa State is afflicted by the government-as-business ethos, and the poster boy for that diseased ideology is former regent president Rastetter. Having made millions from commodity plays ranging from hog lots to renewable fuels, Rastetter’s entire career has been founded on exploitation under the guise of entrepreneurship. Not surprisingly, after his stint on the board — including the legislative failure of his disastrous performance-based funding plan — the Iowa State campus now functions as a de facto higher-ed confinement operation, where tens of thousands of undergraduate students are milked for their tuition dollars.
In fact, the interim ISU president that Rastetter appointed before leaving the board is now parroting Harreld’s UI plan to increase base tuition 7% each year for five years, or 41% overall. Because enrollment at ISU has exploded over the past decade, however, the school is already taking in tens of millions of additional dollars in tuition revenue, yet critical student services have lagged woefully behind. Whatever all of that new money has been spent on, it’s not the students, and that will almost certainly be the case with any new tuition hikes as well. (What both UI and ISU hope to fund with Harreld’s plan is not education, but research, and for-profit research at that.)
As corrupting as Rastetter’s profit-first influence has been on the educational mission of ISU, if not also its research, his relationship with former president Leath was as cozy as two soybeans in a pod. When Leath crashed one of ISU’s school-owned planes a month before signing his five-year deal, he did not tell Rastetter or anyone at the board until a month after his new contract was approved. Then, when he finally did alert Rastetter, Rastetter himself failed to notify any of the other regents, who were all surprised a year later when news of the accident broke.
Several months after Leath signed his five-year deal, not only did Rastetter front Leath more than a million dollars to buy property that Leath could not afford on his own, but Rastetter lied about his personal involvement in that real estate transaction when the deal came to light. And of course when planegate became a full-on scandal, and Leath lied through his teeth to the ISU community, the press and the people of Iowa, Rastetter’s first instinct was not to call Leath on the carpet, but to put together a “points of pride” counter-offensive to protect his puppet in the ISU president’s office.
As to why Rastetter was so eager to save Leath — to the point that Rastetter marshaled the entire apparatus of state government to keep Leath from being charged with a crime — it was because he had invested so much in turning Leath into a political and business asset. Whatever upheaval Leath’s departure might cause for the school, it would be potentially catastrophic for Rastetter and his cronies. Instead of having four more years of smooth sailing, at a minimum, they would not only face the prospect of replacing Leath — which would in itself be difficult because of the abuse Rastetter perpetrated during the 2015 UI search — but of making sure that whatever they had all been up to behind the scenes did not leak to the public at large. Or at least not any more than it already had.
Fortunately, because of Leath’s own words and deeds, the damage was impossible to obscure even with the support of the governor’s office, the attorney general’s office, the state auditor’s office, and the Story County district attorney’s office — all of which ignored Leath’s flagrant abuses while he repaid $35K+ to the state. Unfortunately for Rastetter, that was not enough loyalty for Leath, who eventually outed Rastetter for the personal role he played in their land deal. After that shot across the bow — which clearly threatened further crony disclosures — Leath found himself a new job in Alabama, leaving Rastetter to clean up the mess they had both made at ISU.
The 2017 ISU Presidential Search
While by all accounts the regents did conduct a fair and open traditional search at UNI in 2016, the significantly greater stakes at ISU meant that the board — either directly, or by proxy through ex-president Rastetter and others behind the scenes — would at some point attempt to corrupt that search. Hinting strongly in that direction, when the committee was announced one of the co-chairs turned out to be a local business leader who went on to say virtually nothing to the press over the entirety of the search. Equally concerning was the fact that a record four regents were also packed onto the twenty-one-person committee, along with a local attorney — Steve Zumbach — who profited handsomely from his own relationship with Leath.
For those reasons and more the question was never whether the board would conduct an honest search at Iowa State, but how bold the board would be in selecting and moving a preferred candidate through the search-and-screen process. Having already been outed for flagrant instances of preferential treatment during the 2015 UI search, however, and still facing legal action as a result, the board and Rastetter faced serious constraints when they most needed administrative leeway. How best to replace Leath with a compliant successor who would further their stated and unstated agendas, while also keeping their secrets?
Having repeatedly threatened to take presidential searches private following the Harreld hire — and, incredibly, having used outrage at that flagrant abuse as justification for doing so — the eventual sanction by the AAUP took that wholesale commitment to crony corruption out of play. Instead, the 2016 UNI search followed standard practice in that the three finalists were first publicly named, then visited the campus for meetings and a candidate forum. After feedback was collected from the UNI community, those same finalists were then interviewed by the members of the board, leading to debate in closed session until there were five votes in favor of a particular candidate. (By regrettable convention, the Iowa Board of Regents approves all new presidents on a unanimous public vote, regardless of actual support, fake searches, backstabbing betrayals, or full-on administrative fraud.)
One inherent problem with an open search, however — which featured prominently in Harreld’s rigged appointment at UI — is that the only way to secret a done-deal candidate for as long as possible inevitably betrays the intent of that candidacy. Specifically, if the board already has a stealth candidate in mind before the final interviews and vote, the only way to keep that individual secret until the last possible minute is to schedule that candidate’s disclosure last. Depending on the obviousness of the impropriety that may be more or less beneficial, but in the case of the corrupted UI search it was critical. Only by scheduling Harreld’s disclosure last, then appointing him in a rush less than seventy-two hours later, were the regents able to stay ahead of the justifiable suspicion that followed his inclusion with three other candidates who were actually qualified. And of course that suspicion turned to outrage when Harreld was ultimately appointed, despite almost universal disapproval on the UI campus. (It should be noted that in that flagrant case the board also disbanded the search committee to prevent any vetting of Harreld, whose only documentation proved to be a ratty three-page resume.)
Having conducted an unrepentantly corrupt search at UI in 2015 — albeit in part because the smug engineers of that search never imagined that Leath would resign a little over a year later — when the UNI search rolled around in 2016, and, more importantly, the Iowa State search in 2017, the board could not turn to the same vile bag of tricks. Instead, the board had to play both searches straight, including promising not to disband the search committees, or to ignore the will of the university communities. And yet, particularly with regard to the ISU search, the same problem remained. If the board did have a favorite candidate, it would almost certainly be clear that the fix was in when that candidate’s name was announced, and that in turn put pressure on the board to disclose the name of that candidate last.
The Four ISU Finalists Are Revealed
On Sunday through Wednesday of last week, the Iowa State search committee announced one of four presidential finalists on each day. The following day each announced candidate toured the Ames campus and met with various constituencies, then concluded their mutual introductions with a one-hour candidate forum. (You can see videos of the candidate forums here, at least until ISU scrubs the history of the search.) Predictably, as the candidates were announced it was difficult not to see the selections through the lens of the corrupt UI search in 2015, and thus also to presume the board’s intent through the ordering of those disclosures.
On Sunday, 10/08/17, Sonny Ramaswamy was announced as the first of the four finalists. My immediate reaction upon reading his name was that the committee checked a cynical diversity box by going back to the 2011 playbook that led to Leath’s appointment. In that search two of the four finalists quit even before the candidate’s names were announced, leaving the board to pick between Leath and Kumble Subbaswamy, who was at the time the provost of University of Kentucky. (To be fair to ISU, the recent search at UI for a new VP for medical affairs/dean of the College of Medicine also sprang to mind, because it also led to only two candidates being named, and to the person of color going first, and to the white guy getting the job.)
As to whether Ramaswamy was qualified to be the next president of Iowa State, that question was complicated by the fact that in 2015 the Iowa Board of Regents hired an ex-business executive who had not held a job in private industry for seven years, who had zero experience in academic administration, and who admitted that he would need mentoring and coaching simply to do the job he was hired to do. In that context, of course, Ramaswamy was qualified if not overqualified, but relative to the demands of the position — and, more importantly, to the specific needs at Iowa State — he was not a strong candidate. While he checked the research box with gusto, and was validated by a shout-out from former governor Vilsack, Ramaswamy was also waiting to find out if he would be reappointed to his current position in the federal government, and his lack of recent academic experience showed in his candidate forum. He seemed like a nice guy, and in his sphere he was clearly knowledgeable, but he was winging it, and it showed.
The second announced candidate was current Georgia provost Pamela Whitten. My immediate reaction — amid a deepening sense of cynicism about the search — was that the committee had checked off yet another diversity box by nominating a woman. (While the heathen University of Iowa has had two women presidents in its godless history, the forever true Iowa State has had a grand total of zero women lead the school, so the odds against Whitten seemed prohibitive.)
In every regard, however, Whitten not only seemed qualified to lead ISU, but in watching her candidate forum I was struck by her ability to prioritize and explain issues without appealing to politics or emotion. That seemed a particularly valuable trait because Iowa State is currently in full-on panic about losing AAU membership, to the point that it is ready to rock the students with massive tuition increases just to keep up appearances. (As noted in prior posts, my personal view is that ISU and UI should leave the AAU of their own volition, in order to truly innovate for the 21st century. As I have come to learn over the past year or so, however, AAU panic is a real thing in higher education, even as it has no rational basis.)
You can see Whitten’s comments on the AAU issue here, which followed a well-considered and detailed discussion about improving both student outcomes and student metrics. In talking about the AAU, Whitten first validated the school’s collective concern, then eased the nebulous panic by explaining how the AAU actually ranks schools. No rah-rah talk — which UI got in spades from Harreld in 2015, because he didn’t have a clue about higher education — just the nuts and bolts of how to resolve the AAU problem.
Of the first three candidates announced by the committee, Whitten signaled her sincerity, interest and tenacity by being the most well-prepared. Among all four of the candidates, she also did the best job of addressing all of the critical issues currently facing Iowa State — which, as we will see momentarily, was an impressive feat in itself. (Again, contrast that with Harreld in 2015, who famously looked up Iowa on Wikipedia: “I’ve read the website as well!“) It’s not often that you see someone exhibit the perfect mix of being accessible and being in command, yet even as an outsider Whitten managed to pull that off in her candidate forum, and seemed to do so with ease.
The third announced candidate was Dale Whittaker, the current provost at the University of Central Florida. As a white male Whittaker failed to check off any diversity boxes, but in every other regard he was clearly qualified for the position. Like Whitten, Whittaker had clearly done his research on Iowa State, and did an excellent job of presenting himself in his candidate forum.
If there was one area where Whittaker excelled — and here I do not simply mean relative to the other three finalists, but in the higher-ed universe — it was in the diplomatic manner with which he navigated the complex social and cultural issues confronting any institution of higher learning. Were the issues facing the next Iowa State president solely limited to the abuses that have been perpetrated against the student body over the past half-decade, if not longer, without question Whittaker would be the right person for the job. As it is, I ranked him 1A behind Whitten’s 1A, but only because I think Whitten demonstrated greater awareness of and familiarity with all of peripheral, non-educational issues that are currently wagging the dog at ISU.
Having learned the identities of the first three ISU finalists, and having been scarred for life by the 2015 UI search when the fourth finalist turned out to be a zombie candidate from hell, the only question left was how the board would use the final candidate slot in the Iowa State search to retain crony control of the university. Again, not whether manipulative, exploitative, secretive constituents would do so, but how. The answer — and to their collective credit, it was a diabolically clever answer — was to put forward Wendy Wintersteen as the fourth candidate. Known formally and in every press mention as the Endowed Dean, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and, Director, Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station, Wintersteen not only checks a diversity box as a woman, but she also has intimate knowledge of Iowa State from her decades of service to that school. Which is to say both intimate knowledge of ISU as a school, and as a cesspool of crony politics and business.
The very fact that Wintersteen was scheduled last — as Harreld was scheduled last in 2015, and Leath last in 2011 — made clear that the board was aware of the effect that her candidacy would have on the search process. Had they announced her name earlier, at that point all of the air would have gone out of the search and the cynicism of the subsequent candidate selections would have been baldly apparent. While I grudgingly acknowledged the way the backroom boys threaded the needle with her candidacy, I also lost any hope that Iowa State would break free of the Rastetter-led coalition that has been exploiting that school for decades.
As if to underscore the importance of scheduling Wintersteen last, as this post was going to virtual print it was reported that Whittaker had withdrawn his name from consideration. If Wintersteen had been scheduled first, the other candidates may well have seen the writing on the wall and withdrawn their names prior to disclosure, further exposing the degree to which the search was simply a theatrical exercise. By scheduling Wintersteen last, however, the board trapped the first three candidates into playing supporting roles in that production before being let in on the joke themselves. Those duped candidates then faced the choice of staying in the race and losing, or bowing out and being able to claim they were never officially passed over.
On the merits of her candidacy Wintersteen is clearly qualified, and compared to Harreld she is infinitely overqualified. Although she is a dean and not a provost, a reasonable argument can be made that in the modern era deans are more akin to university presidents than are provosts. (The argument in that link fails with regard to Whitten and Whittaker, however, because they clearly belong to the minority of reported provosts who are looking to become the president of a college or university.)
As to the argument against Wintersteen, while I know nothing about her other than what I have read, anyone who was an apologist for the Rastetter/AgriSol fiasco, or who split legalistic hairs in defense of ISU’s involvement in that project, is disqualified from becoming president of any college or university. Wintersteen may simply be another crony tool in the shed for the people who call the shots in Ames and at Iowa State, but even if she has the best of intentions as a human being, at some point you have to show that you know right from wrong. As Storm Lake Times editor Art Cullen noted in a blistering LTE which has been published in multiple papers, not only does that not seem to be a strong suit for Wintersteen, more often than not she sides with narrow interests that are hostile to the greater good.
In other words, Wintersteen is the perfect crony candidate for Rastetter and his ilk, and on that basis alone she should be opposed. To understand why that is not simply guilt by association, however, note that while Rastetter may be the latest front man, Iowa State has been infested with local, state and national parasites for a long time, and the toll of that infestation is obvious. Not only is the school at risk of excommunication from the AAU, but the university keeps falling farther and farther behind in a variety of rankings and metrics. And of course thanks to the combined idiocy of Rastetter and Leath the campus is also overpopulated with students who are chronically under-served.
The great absurdity of Wintersteen’s candidacy is that she declared that Iowa State cannot afford to spend a year or two getting an outsider up to speed, yet where is the evidence of her own imperative advocacy and activism? If the needs at Iowa State are immediate to the point of alarm, where are the examples of Wintersteen sounding the alarm before now? It certainly helps to know where the rot is, but has Wintersteen been fighting the rot, watching it grow, or feeding it with a secret blend of EDCALS/DIAHEES fertilizer?
Perhaps Wintersteen’s excuse for not being more vocal is that she was prevented from taking action by Rastetter or Leath, or others who call the shots in Ames, or who have influence over the Board of Regents. What was recently an iron axis of crony political power running from former governor Branstad to Rastetter, to the board’s executive director Bob Donley, to Leath, would now run from current governor ‘Casino Kim’ Reynolds to regents president ‘Casino Mike’ Richards, to newly appointed executive director Mark Braun, to Wintersteen. Given that Reynolds was Branstad’s Lt. Governor, and Richards is Rastetter’s political ally, and Braun has more dirt on people in the regents enterprise than Donley ever did, in the best-case scenario those four personnel changes would equal no difference, and in the worst-case scenario they would increase the regents’ toxicity by an order of magnitude.
If there is a silver lining to Wintersteen’s candidacy it is that Iowa State finally looks set to appoint a woman to the presidency for the first time, albeit the wrong woman. Whether Wintersteen could continue as dean under Whitten or not, there is no question that Whitten would be the best choice for both the immediate and long-term needs of the institution. Not only was Whitten able — in a non-judgmental way, and at a considerable distnace — to put her finger on everything that was wrong with Iowa State, but she showed the kind of critical clarity of thought that is still lacking in J. Bruce Harreld. Whitten may have things to learn about ISU specifically, but as the provost at Georgia — which is part of a large state system that has gone through a great deal of change in recent years — she is more than qualified to lead Iowa State from day one, both in experience and temperament. That she would not be beholden to the crony cartel that helped put Iowa State in the fix it is in — while Wintersteen clearly would — is an ancillary benefit of very real value.
Transformational Change or Status Quo?
To the search committee’s credit they did find four qualified candidates for the regents to choose from, two of them women. With the candidate visits concluded, the board members are now pretending to process and digest feedback collected from the ISU campus, in advance of its own interviews, which take place on Monday. Following those interviews — which, in the case of the 2015 UI search, allowed for twenty minutes per regent, per candidate — the board will convene for the final vote, with the winner announced as unanimous regardless of who initially voted for whom.
Given the stakes for the old boy’s network in Ames, I do not have any hope that the board will choose someone other than Wintersteen, because the last thing the Iowa Board of Regents has ever demonstrated is courage. Still, I do not say this search is a done deal in the vein of the corrupt 2015 UI search, because all of the ISU candidates are qualified. On that point, however, it is also important to note that the fraudulent 2015 search at Iowa was not some random aberration. In reality it was the final act — the culmination — of an Ames-led initiative to corrupt not just that school, but the entire Board of Regents. And yes, I know that sounds loony, but bear with me. In a few paragraphs you can make your own judgment, and I think you will agree.
For the record, I didn’t see it myself until the board brought Ben Allen out of retirement to serve as interim president at Iowa State. From 2001 to 2012, for eleven years, the president of Iowa State University was Gregory Geoffrey. From 2002 to 2006, Geoffrey’s provost and VP for academic affairs was Ben Allen, who originally joined the ISU faculty thirty-eight years ago, in 1979.
In 2006 Allen left Iowa State to become president of…the University of Northern Iowa. He then served in that role for seven years, before retiring just ahead of a no-confidence vote from the UNI faculty. One of the reasons for that threatened vote, among other factors, was Allen’s decision to close the Malcom Price Lab School.
In 2010, former governor Branstad came out of retirement to win another term in office. Having helped fund that campaign victory with big bags of money, Rastetter asked Branstad to appoint him to the Board of Regents. In 2011 Branstad not only did so, he subsequently bulldozed the elected board leadership aside so Rastetter could become president pro tem, then president several years later. In 2011 Geoffrey resigned at ISU and Leath was appointed in his place, by a search committee on which Rastetter served. Shortly thereafter Allen announced his own retirement at UNI and was replaced by William Ruud, who was given a three-year contract by Rastetter’s board.
Starting in 2006, then, the only state school which was not controlled by individuals whose political and/or economic power emanated from Ames was the University of Iowa. By the time 2012 rolled around, UI was also the only school with a university president who had not been hired by those same individuals. Perhaps not so coincidentally, over the following two years Rastetter made life hell for then-UI president Sally Mason, generally doing everything possible to drive her from office. That day finally came in late 2014, at which point Rastetter left nothing to chance and launched his corrupt 2015 search, leading to Harreld’s done-deal appointment.
Finally, after a decade of hard work, all three of the state schools were controlled by presidents appointed by Rastetter and his crony crew — and yet look at the result. Ruud was let go for reasons that were never explained, necessitating an unexpected search in 2016. On Rastetter’s watch Leath went so berserk with the ISU air fleet that he had to be protected from prosecution by calling in favors across the entirety of state government. And when Leath suddenly left, who did Rastetter tap to take over at Iowa State? The provost? No. Super-qualified future presidential candidate and EDCALS/DIAHEES, Wendy Wintersteen? No. Instead, he called the Ames Fixer — Ben Allen — out or retirement, and gave him the same $500K+ contract Leath had. Add in Rastetter’s failed performance-based funding plan — which would have shifted tens of millions of dollars from UI to ISU and UNI — and the AAUP sanction following Harreld’s sham hire, and the end result of a decade of board and university dominance by a small group of Ames power brokers is pretty much you would expect: manure everywhere, six feet deep.
I do not have much hope that there are five regents of good conscience on the current board, let alone that those regents will take the bold step of rejecting continued control of Iowa State by individuals who have proven to be a disaster for that school, if not the entire regents enterprise. And yet I also think it’s important to note that the tide is already turning. Gone from Iowa State is Steven Leath, who was a stone-cold liar, and his handpicked CFO is now leaving as well. Gone from the board are Rastetter, former president pro tem Mulholland, and one-year wonder Mary Andringa, all of whom sold out the people of Iowa in support of Harreld’s fraudulent candidacy. At UNI the new president, Mark Nook, seems to be a decent sort, and has no ties to Ames or Iowa State. At UI Harreld is a disaster, but it is also clear that the easiest way to resolve the AAUP sanction is to send Harreld packing.
If there is any hope that the Board of Regents will break from its disastrous past, including the carnage of the past two years, this is the moment. Over the course of a few hours on Monday those nine volunteers — purportedly average citizens with the best interests of the state at heart — can tell the people who got the state into this mess to go stuff themselves. I don’t say it’s likely or that it would be easy, but it would be a critical break from the status quo. Speaking of which….
If the board does choose Wintersteen, as feared, one consequence of that decision will not merely be the repudiation but utter annihilation of the justification for hiring J. Bruce Harreld at Iowa. From the Press-Citizen’s Jeff Charis-Carlson on 09/10/15 — one week after Harreld’s fraudulent hire:
Qualified as she may be, at Iowa State Wendy Wintersteen is the dictionary definition of the status quo. Whatever problems UI had and has, they pale in comparison with the entrenched dysfunction and corruption at ISU, and yet — when Harreld’s sham candidacy was finally revealed, and Harreld was forced on the UI community, his conspirators and collaborators, and some of the biggest donors on campus, all said the same thing. That what was needed during a purported time of unparalleled change in higher education was an outsider with a fresh set of eyes.
So which is it? Do Iowa’s state universities need non-traditional presidents who think outside the box, or do they need home-grown, traditional presidents? Because it can’t be both. If the Board of Regents picks Wendy Wintersteen on Monday, that’s not good news for Iowa State. They may love her there, but she’s part of the problem, and that choice may very well make Iowa State’s exit from the AAU all but inevitable. What it will mean at the University of Iowa, however, is that there will no longer be any pretense about the fraud that Bruce Rastetter and his co-conspirators perpetrated against that school in 2015. They did not need or want a fresh set of eyes, they wanted a toad they could control, and they got one. Now they’re aiming for two.
You called it!
In the previous post we looked at the concluding stage of the presidential search at Iowa State University, and why the selection of ISU Dean Wendy Wintersteen from among the four (later three) finalists was all but inevitable. Now that Wintersteen has indeed been appointed, note also that her selection obliterates the purported justification for hiring J. Bruce Harreld as president of the University of Iowa in 2015. Specifically, at that time the Iowa Board of Regents stated that higher education was in crisis in Iowa and across the country, and that “fresh eyes” were needed to tackle problems that academic administrators seemed incapable of identifying, let alone solving. To that end, the board rejected three eminently qualified academic administrators for the UI presidency, and instead hired a former business executive — Harreld — who had not worked as a business executive in seven years. (After leaving IBM in 2008, Harreld worked part-time as a lecturer for the Harvard School of Business until 2014, then one year as a sole proprietor — which he misrepresented on his resume, among other abuses.)
One explanation for the schizophrenic divergence between the hiring of outsider Harreld at Iowa and insider Wintersteen at Iowa State, is that the regents saw different needs for the three universities under its control — the third being Northern Iowa. Fortunately, former regents president Bruce Rastetter — the architect of the fraudulent search that led to Harreld’s appointment — made clear that wasn’t the case. As quoted in the previous post, from the Press-Citizen’s Jeff Charis-Carlson, on 09/10/15 — one week after Harreld’s fraudulent hire:
Two years ago, the most important factor in new hires “at any of the three regent universities” was avoidance of the dreaded “status quo”. And yet, when we look at key hires in the regents enterprise over the intervening two years, not only do we find the board consistently maintaining the status quo, but doing so in the extreme. Of the four paid positions which are most critical to the functioning of the regents — the three university presidents, and the Executive Director/CEO of the board — all four have been filled since 2015, yet in only once instance was there any divergence from the status quo.
In the fall of 2015, when Harreld was appointed at Iowa, the regents did radically diverge not only from state tradition, but from any presidential hire of commensurate status in the country. Not only did Harreld have no experience in academic administration, but unlike non-traditional presidents such as Mitch Daniels at Purdue and Margaret Spellings at UNC, Harreld also had zero experience in the public sector. Indeed, when Harreld was hired, he himself stated: “I will be the first to admit that my unusual background requires a lot of help, a lot of coaching.”
In 2015 the need for “fresh eyes” was so important that the board bypassed three finalists who were eminently qualified academic administrators, and instead hired an apprentice as president. And yet, less than a year later, after the board drove President Bill Ruud out at UNI — who was himself a long-time academic administrator — who did the regents hire to replace him? They hired long-time academic administrator Mark Nook.
When long-time board XD/CEO Bob Donley announced his retirement at the beginning of this summer, and a national search was conducted, did the board bring in a forward-looking business executive with “fresh eyes” to run its own operation? No. After pretending to consider other candidates, the board hired long-time regents operative and board COO Mark Braun, who was already the highest-paid administrator on staff, and who had more than two decades of experience in academic administration in the regents enterprise.
And of course now, following a search that began earlier this year, we have Wendy Wintersteen being hired at Iowa State, from Iowa State, which is the only academic employer she has ever known. Both a long-time academic administrator and an ISU lifer, there may be no other person in America who so perfectly encapsulates the status quo, yet that’s who the Board of Regents hired. Not an outsider, not someone with “fresh eyes” who thinks outside the box, but an insider’s insider, whose entire career has been defined by the great, storied traditions of public higher-education.
The Entrepreneurial Ethos at Work
Although Rastetter left the board last May, and is a self-loathing UI alum, his crony control over Iowa State verges on absolute. Having previously stated that the “status quo, in our mind, is not acceptable at any of the three regent universities”, you might assume he would have championed a maverick president like Harreld at Iowa State. And yet, when the four finalists were revealed, none were even remotely non-traditional. The weakest of the four had a research-intensive background like that of ex-ISU president Leath, while the other two were cut from the prototypical provost mold. Given Rastetter’s influence in Ames, and the way he salted cronies through the ISU search committee, he could have easily introduced a former GM exec into the mix, or a libertarian zealot from a powerhouse tech company, but he did not. Instead, the entire search was conducted in the state’s great status quo tradition, and Wintersteen was chosen to lead.
Admittedly, the fact that Rastetter was caught red-handed, rigging the 2015 UI search in Harreld’s favor, may have been a factor, but if Iowa desperately needed outside help in 2015 — which, somehow, only a carpetbagging apprentice could provide — then in 2017 the need for a non-traditional president at Iowa State should have verged on panic. Not only is the school overwhelmed by a decade of uncontrolled growth, but it continues to slide in the national rankings and is at risk of being booted from the AAU. Given that Wintersteen was an Iowa State administrator during all of that and more, it would seem self-evident that the last person Rastetter would want to see hired was Wintersteen, yet there she is — the newly minted president of Iowa State University.
As just noted, however, Wintersteen’s hire is only incoherent when compared to the board’s justification for Harreld’s sham appointment. As the most recent of the four major searches over the past two years — including all three university presidents and the board XD/CEO — Wintersteen’s appointment is entirely coherent with the majority of those hires, while Harreld’s appointment is the outlier. Iowa State, Northern Iowa and the board’s home office all hired the most traditional, vanilla, status quo candidates imaginable, while only UI got “fresh eyes” in J. Bruce Harreld.
If hiring Harreld was not the first step in a new ideological commitment by the Board of Regents to thinking outside the academic box — and as the three most recent hires attest, it clearly was not — then what made Harreld so valuable that Rastetter risked running a fake search, at taxpayer expense no less, to jam Harreld into office? That Rastetter and his co-conspirators had to cheat tells us everything we need to know about their lack of integrity, but it says nothing about the intent of that corrupt appointment. The most obvious answer, of course — if not now proven — is that Rastetter was lying when he claimed Harreld was desperately needed to battle the dreaded status quo in higher education, but that still doesn’t explain why Harreld was hired.
One thing we are sure of is that Harreld’s appointment was not the result of random chance. As we recently learned and long suspected, Harreld was introduced to Rastetter by UI mega-donor Jerre Stead, whom Rastetter had either already appointed, or would soon appoint, to the 2015 UI presidential search committee. Whatever Stead saw in Harreld as a potential president, Rastetter was also soon on board, followed by co-conspirator and arch UI traitor Jean Robillard — currently the outgoing Vice President for Medical Affairs, but then also the chair of the search committee on which both Stead and Rastetter served.
Because Harreld was not simply a non-traditional candidate, but an outlier even among outliers, it is fair to assume that whatever job those three men had in mind for him, it had something to do with his prior qualifications — meaning as a business executive, and not as a lecturer at Harvard. From the moment Harreld’s name was revealed as the fourth finalist in 2015, and for weeks if not months afterward, the main claim put forward by Harreld and his supporters, as to why he was qualified to lead a billion-dollar research university when he had never even run a daycare, had to do with the years he spent at IBM. Because those years coincided with a difficult financial period for that company, Harreld characterized that as a “near-death experience”, and claimed to being one of the principles in the “turnaround” of IBM’s fortunes.
From his LinkedIn profile, here’s how Harreld was selling himself prior to being handed the Iowa job:
During Harreld’s candidate forum in 2015, he stressed that “great institutions can fail quickly“, and in a business context that’s obviously correct. Kodak was a behemoth, now it’s gone. IBM went from global titan to asterisk to something in-between. GM was the largest, most powerful company in the world, until it declared bankruptcy.
As to how all that compares to public higher education, however, it doesn’t. Both Iowa and Iowa State have been around for a hundred and fifty years, and precisely because they are not for-profit businesses they are not going out of business any time soon. At the current rate of legislative neglect they may be destined for cultural irrelevance as educational institutions, but chances are that even a hundred years from now they will be cranking of certificates of achievement even if they no longer teach students how to think. As to turning around Iowa or any other state-funded university, there is literally nothing to turn around. Efficiencies can be found, and institutions will evolve, but there are no creditors to pay off and no shareholders to appease.
What we have to remember is that from the point of view of Harreld and his three primary co-conspirators — Stead, Rastetter and Robillard — there are two different lenses through which the state’s universities can be viewed. The first, of course is as educational institutions, and in that context ISU is suffering to a greater degree than UI or even UNI. It is overwhelmed, and while there was some hope that a new president could lead it back to health, that is not going to happen under Wintersteen. As a card-carrying member of the Iowa State status quo, she is part of what is uniquely wrong at ISU, which leads us to the second lens through which the state schools can be viewed.
Because they are such large institutions, and burn through massive amounts of cash each year — in tuition, appropriations, grants and gifts — Iowa’s state universities are magnets for local, state and national businesses hoping to skim money from that fire hose of funding. At the significantly smaller UNI, however, that’s much less of an issue because it is a comprehensive school, and is primarily focused on its educational mission. Because Iowa State and Iowa are both research universities, those schools offer greater opportunity for what are routinely called partnerships, but are often parasitical or crony deals which bleed those institutions of critically needed resources.
Although Iowa State is the smaller of the state’s two research universities in terms of total budget, not only has it become the largest in terms of enrollment, but by virtue of its focus on agricultural research it has long been riddled with crony interests. That entrenched corporate and political corruption is in turn facilitated by the school’s close proximity to Des Moines, which is the state capital. Throw in a governor and state legislature eager to sell out to businesses at the expense of citizens — including citizen-students from the state — and Iowa State often seems to be defined by crony scandals.
In that context, to whatever degree Wintersteen has facilitated crony corruption in her years as an endowed dean, and to whatever extent her presidency was contingent on a continued commitment to do so, what the crony interests who control that school actually need her to do is to manage the school academically, which is of course her strength. She may be asked to put more burned-out state legislators on the payroll from time to time, but for the most part her job is to keep up the facade, while turning a blind eye to business as usual in the back room.
Now compare Iowa’s status in that regard. Unlike ag-intensive Iowa State, the only significant inroads that corporate America has made have been on the medical side of the UI campus, which Harreld actually washed his hands of the moment he took office. The reason he did so is because that is the empire of the outgoing VPMA and dean of the College of Medicine — Jean “Colonel Kurtz” Robillard — whose side job over the past decade has been building out the UIHC footprint into clinics across the county and state. (Just in time, ironically, to buy a bigger share of the looming healthcare disaster, which has already crippled UIHC’s profits.)
So what’s left? At its heart the University of Iowa is a liberal arts school covering the traditional academic arts and sciences, ranging from philosophy to psychology to physics. Precisely because of its broad-based nature, however, UI does not lend itself to exploitation by any single industry. In fact, many if not most of the liberal arts and sciences do not lend themselves to easy exploitation at all, which is why the core of UI has yet to be corrupted by the kind of entrepreneurial trash that specializes in that sort of thing. More to the point, however, in order for outsiders to get their hooks into a liberal arts school, first, a high-level administrator who cared nothing about the students would have to isolate the potential profit centers by undermining and destroying the less-commercial — or more educational — departments, including driving away attendant faculty and staff.
Again, the main reason Iowa State hired Wendy Wintersteen is because no one needs to establish those kinds of for-profit beachheads at that school. That was all taken care of years ago, including by former president Leath. What ISU’s political and business cronies need is a friendly face that the campus trusts, so they can get back to the business of looting the place, which Leath wrecked when his ego needs got the best of him. Conversely, although UI is healthier in an academic sense, the main liberal arts college has never been corrupted, which is obviously frustrating to those who believe they should be able to exploit UI to the same extent.
Enter three perturbed entrepreneurs — Rastetter, Robillard and Stead — who decided that even if they had to run a fake $300K search at taxpayer expense, it would be worth the risk because they could finally break the long chain of UI presidents who prioritized education over profit and loss. Even if they had to lie and cheat to install their puppet in the president’s office, they could finally start hacking out the pieces of the school that showed no entrepreneurial promise, while diverting as many resources as possible to academic pursuits which could be exploited for profit. Sure, that might mean students would suffer in terms of the education they received, but because there is no reliable method of determining the quality of a liberal arts education, no one would ever be able to document that abuse.
By astounding coincidence, however, all of the parties involved, to the last old man, also had a clear self-interest in stealing the presidency at UI, and no one cared more about pulling off that heist than Bruce Rastetter. To understand why, recall that in 2014 — as regent president, but through his toad Leath — Rastetter proposed a performance-based funding plan for the regent universities. That plan would have cut the UI budget by tens of millions of dollars each year, while increasing the budgets of ISU and UNI by that same amount. Not only would Rastetter’s beloved Iowa State have received the lion’s share of that redistributed state support, but by crippling UI that would also help make ISU the dominant university in the regents system.
When the performance-based funding plan flopped in the legislature, Rastetter and Leath — who intended to profit by commoditizing enrollment — were left with thousands of new students stuffed into every corner of Iowa State. With no new funding to provide services or faculty, the school’s student success metrics suffered, leading to a multi-year plunge in ISU’s national ranking. That’s the mess Wintersteen was hired to clean up, while local, state and national business and political interests continue to bleed the institution, but the recovery process would clearly be helped if UI could be crippled in other ways. And one way to do that would be to put a turnaround expert from the private sector in charge of that school, who could then make decisions which profited Iowa State — like, say, killing off Iowa’s full-time MBA program, thus driving interested students to ISU.
We also know that Jean Robillard cares only about the medical-industrial complex on the west side of campus, meaning any damage Harreld did on the east side could serve his ends as well. As long as Robillard’s budgets were protected, it wouldn’t matter if liberal arts students no longer learned to think for themselves, or if entire programs or departments were cut off and died. Likewise, mega-donor Jerre Stead has given more than $50M to UI, roughly half of it to Robillard’s hospital complex, and the rest to the Tippie College of Business. Gutting philosophy, psychology or physics would be no skin off his nose, nor would it concern businessman Harreld — Stead’s long-time friend and mentee — who does not have a liberal arts background himself.
Of the four key individuals who conspired to steal the presidency of the University of Iowa, who among them cares about the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS), which is the largest college on the UI campus by far? And the answer is no one. All of those men pursued lives fixated on money, as if they really do believe that wealth equals success in life.
Again, at the board office and the other state schools, the new hires have been as status quo as they could possibly be. At UNI the new president is a life-long academician and higher-ed administrator. At the Board of Regents and Iowa State, the regents didn’t just hire academic administrators, they hired lifers from within the regents’ system — the very people who defined the status quo that Rastetter railed against in 2015. Only at the University of Iowa did the board scrape J. Bruce Harreld off the bottom of Jerre Stead’s shoe, and give him control of the state’s flagship university.
Why J. Bruce Harreld Was Hired
From all of the above we can now see that what actually infuriated Rastetter about the status quo at Iowa was that the school had not yet been perverted by his own shallow measure of success. To see how Harreld helps him achieve that long-sought goal, we noted in the previous post that Ben Allen — himself a lifer in the regents enterprise, largely at Iowa State — was called out of retirement to serve as interim president after Leath resigned. (Yet another status-quo hire by the board.) We also noted, however, that in 2006 Allen was effectively transferred, via appointment, to the presidency of UNI. Like the Ames loyalist he is, Allen then proceeded to kill off UNI’s venerable Malcolm Price Lab School, among other administrative abuses. That eventually led to his resignation ahead of a no-confidence vote by the UNI faculty, but by then the damage was done.
That’s the role Harreld was hired to play at Iowa — the role of regent fixer, appointed by the don of the Ames mafia to kill off programs and departments which compete with causes favored by both the ISU and UI good-old-boy networks. And yet, unlike Ames, where exploiting agricultural advances for political or business gain is a no-brainer, a liberal arts college does present unique obstacles. How do you profit from the exploitation of research that is usually conducted at a liberal arts college, most of which is, by definition, academic in nature? How do you monetize philosophy or communications, semiotics or the fine arts, in the same way that you would with crop research?
The answer, of course, is that you can’t. What you can do, however — like Ben Allen did at UNI — is kill off everything that doesn’t promise a profit, at least to the extent that it is not otherwise needed to satisfy pesky accreditation requirements. (Speaking of which, the board office — under the leadership of new status-quo XD/CEO Mark Braun — just announced that it intends to obscure the accreditation process as much as possible, so as to make the educational validity of a degree from one of Iowa’s regent university that much more difficult to establish.)
Like the good little turnaround expert he is, Harreld knows that his ability to generate future profits from for-profit startups and corporate partnerships depends on two factors: cutting costs and raising revenue. As to the former, Harreld has already instituted budget reforms which commit the entire school to the entrepreneurial ethos, filtering all expenditures through the narrow prism of national rankings and profitability. As to the latter point, Harreld is pushing hard for a 41% increase in the base cost of an Iowa degree, even though degrees conferred by UI will either remain the same, or be qualitatively worse thanks to the cuts he intends to make.
In this we also find the bitterest of ironies regarding Harreld’s non-traditional background, and how that predisposes him to grapple with the financial issues bedeviling higher education. On college and university campuses all over the country, status-quo academic administrators are also cutting costs and raising tuition, but only to the extent necessary to keep their institutions functional and solvent. At the University of Iowa, however, it is the non-traditional president — who comes with a Harvard MBA and the ethics of a bandit, and who has already raised tuition 12% in a year and a half — who is demanding an additional 41% increase in tuition over five years, for no other reason than because he believes the market can withstand those hikes. And we know that to a certainty because Harreld said as much in his most recent interview with the Daily Iowan, on 09/06/17:
Where status quo academic administrators almost reflexively seek to protect students from increased costs, Harreld’s predatory, profit-first mindset sees college students as just another segment of consumers to exploit to the maximum extent possible. Never mind that hundreds or even thousands of students will have to take on thousands of dollars in additional debt: there is money being left on the table, and Harreld means to take it. Then again, this is the same non-traditional president who, earlier this year, illegally attempted to renege on $4.3M in scholarships, thus sticking students with that amount. (He retreated, in a matter of days, in the face of multiple class-action lawsuits.)
Precisely because Harreld is a bureaucratic thug, in concert with proposing that the minimum cost of an Iowa degree be increased by $10K-$12K for students who graduate in four years, Harreld is also threatening to make cuts if he does not get the hikes that he wants. From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, on 10/05/17:
Like another deranged president who claims to have magical powers from his years as a private-sector business executive, Harreld’s offer is simple: give him what he wants and no one gets hurt. That’s the same deal Donald Trump gave the nation at the conclusion of the healthcare debate, and when he didn’t get what he wanted he followed through on his promise, cutting support for millions of Americans and throwing the healthcare markets into turmoil. What Harreld has in mind for UI remains to be seen, but he has already launched a reorganization plan for the entire campus, which he will use to validate the cuts he has already decided to make.
To be clear, however, even if Harreld gets all of the state funding and tuition hikes he could hope for, he will still make the cuts he is planning to make because that will produce more profit. While the board can refuse to meet his tuition demands, the only way to stop Harreld from making cuts is for the board to fire him, but that is exceedingly unlikely because the board approves of his mercenary agenda. We know that because at no time prior to Harreld’s hire in 2015, and at no time since, has anyone with Harreld’s non-traditional credentials even been disclosed as candidate for the other presidencies, or for leadership of the board office. Not even after the regents spent millions on consultants for their own TIER process did they think to hire a businessperson to run the board’s business, yet the board went out of its way to foist a down-and-out business exec on the UI community using a rigged search.
Harreld the turnaround expert is not at Iowa by accident, but by design. When he was hired in 2015 his pay package alone made it clear that he had not been hired to facilitate the school’s educational mission, or even its academic research. Despite having no experience in academic administration, and having not worked in any executive capacity for seven years, the Board of Regents gave Harreld an unprecedented five-year contract, and an annual salary of almost $600K per year — well in excess of both former UI president Sally Mason’s compensation, and the salary being paid to then-ISU president Leath. Then, on top of that windfall, the board also granted Harreld $200K in annual deferred compensation, or an additional $1M overall.
Now, on the heels of Wintersteen’s hire, we find that Harreld is still the highest-paid regent president, even though Iowa State is the larger school in terms of enrollment, and faces more critical issues on the academic front. While Wintersteen was also given a five-year deal — because the board’s hand was forced by Harreld’s contract — her initial salary is significantly lower, and her deferred comp for the first three years is $125K less than Harreld will receive.
Even with Wintersteen’s strengths as an academic administrator, which is the reason she was hired, the board values Harreld more. As to what might explain that preference, clearly experience is not a factor. The entire justification for hiring Wintersteen was that she was not only a long-time academic administrator, but a lifer at Iowa State. On that score Harreld should make pennies to Wintersteen’s dollars, but instead he tops her in base pay and deferred comp. Even in terms of education Wintersteen kicks Harreld’s can, trumping his Harvard MBA with her doctorate, yet Harreld is still paid more.
The fact that the board eagerly paid Harreld more than Sally Mason, who put in eight years at UI, raised questions at the time about whether gender discrimination was a factor. More recently, two lawsuits were settled by the board this summer — to the tune of $6.5M, after losing the first case in court — for gender discrimination against former employees in the UI Athletics Department. And of course just last week, the board announced that it had settled another gender discrimination lawsuit, this time brought by a former long-time employee of the board itself, who was replaced by a man who was also given a higher starting salary. So yes, as a factual matter, it is entirely possible that the board is not only corrupt, but that it routinely compensates men more than women on the basis of gender alone.
Assuming, however, that Wintersteen is not being cheated because of her gender, the only remaining justification for paying Harreld more for doing what is purportedly the same job — presiding over an academic institution — is that Harreld was not appointed to further the school’s educational mission, but to exploit the school economically. Not even to help resolve financial problems common in higher-ed, with which Iowa State is clearly struggling as much or more, but to leverage the school — to open the campus up to crony contracts that will profit political and business grifters, including those who put Harreld in office. And of course on that score, based on his background, Harreld is in fact the right man for that anti-educational role.
To that point — and in yet another example of what has become almost routine convergence over the past two years — after I had written all of the above, a story dropped in the press which substantiates the arguments in this post. From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller on 10/27/17:
As regular readers know, not only is none of this surprising, it is exceedingly unlikely that the review was instigated by former provost Butler. While his office did initiate the formal proceedings, Butler himself bailed on the University of Iowa shortly afterward, despite having spent decades at the school. Equally telling is the fact that the reorganization was immediately handed off to interim provost Sue Curry, who was originally one of the four deans appointed to the ad-hoc reorganization committee. (And where did Curry come from? That’s right — from the medical-industrial complex on the west side of campus, where she was dean of the College of Public Health.)
Like Harreld’s infamous joint committee between the UI Foundation and the Alumni Association, the real job of Curry and the deans on the reorganization committee is to identify collaborators who will help Harreld split CLAS into chunks, so weaker programs and departments can be starved of funding and killed off. Given that the four deans hail from the College of Business, the College of Education, the Graduate College and the College of Engineering, it’s not hard to imagine that the lack of representation from CLAS will lead to the brutalizing of that college by all involved.
More from Miller, confirming everything we have talked about for the past two years:
As noted endlessly in these virtual pages, the entire budgeting process at UI was reconfigured in order to game Iowa’s national college rank, and to favor the kind of research that makes the AAU happy. As Miller notes in her report, the campus-wide reorganization is also tightly aligned with the recently adopted UI Strategic Plan. As also noted in these pages, over 80% of the budgeted resources in the strategic plan go to federal research, not education. To reorganize the UI campus around the strategic plan, then, is to quite literally reorganize the campus around federal research, not around educating the students who will be paying 41% more for the same degrees.
While the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences makes up half of total enrollment at the University of Iowa, by the very nature of the liberal arts many of those programs do not lend themselves to the kind of federal research which pleases the AAU. Because that kind of federal research is also costly, that also explains Harreld’s determination to raise tuition 41% campus-wide, using the indebtedness of liberal arts undergrads to fund a massive increase in research expenditures. In fact, if there is a surprise in any of this, it is that the collaborating UI administrators have now openly admitted as much, given Harreld’s penchant for secrecy, lying and duplicity.
Speaking of which, you can see Harreld’s treachery first hand, including the degree to which he was willing to lie to ingratiate himself to the UI community, in this short video clip. Taken from Harreld’s appearance on Iowa Press only a week after taking office, he gave a stirring defense of the liberal arts tradition, hitting all the right notes. Eight months later, in a ghost-written press release, Harreld doubled down on his commitment to the liberal arts, and particularly the humanities, in response to a letter written by UI professor Teresa Mangum.
Flash forward to today, and Harreld is sharpening his knife in anticipation of slicing CLAS to pieces, at which point his fundamentally biased budget-allocation process will do the rest. With individual CLAS departments forced to defend themselves, and prioritized by federal research, they can be picked off or marginalized until they expire from lack of support — while all the while Harreld touts the value of corporate partnerships. Still, if there are enough faculty to oppose Harreld’s plans, once he finally makes them known, at the last possible moment, reminding Harreld and others of his words in that video clip, and in that ghost-written post release, would be a good place to start.
Break it down to basics. UIowa and ISU are different schools. And forget undergraduate studies; for decades the highest level of administration could care less about undergraduate (or liberal arts) education other than throw it on TAs and charge alot of money. Maintain football and basketball and you will always have students in a confinement operation.
Graduate studies and business opportunities are money. ISU is a agriculture school. They need a President who connives with Monsanto, and Koch, and ADM, and Du Pont and Rastetter industries. That is the one for ISU. And that will satisfy the corrupt politicians like the former Gov Branstad. Follow the money. So they needed an Agribusiness sycophant as President.
Meanwhile At Iowa the money rolls in from graduate schools and especially the UIHC. Robillard wanted a big dummy as President, one he can manipulate into anything he wants. And He wants a million dollars a year and all kinds of new buildings. Look at the great publicity Robillard gets: Children’s Hospital is hot even on ESPN. So the monolith rolls on hemorrhaging money at all orifices.
Convenient for Robillard to retire while the getting is good. And his ‘no-compete contracts’ ensure a monopoly. The buildings built, Jerry Stead on the hook for some money, but basically a financial disaster to follow.
So Robillard needed a big dummy as the President of Iowa. Someone to stay out of his way. And someone to suck as much money as possible for UIHC and business enterprises like in engineering. And he got it in Harreld.
It breaks down to money and corruption, and who is getting big salaries and lots of publicity.
ISU needed a agribusiness shill. Iowa needed an academic idjit. And UNI needed a humble servant.
A couple of weeks ago the UI 2020 Academic Organizational Structure Task Force (2020TF) submitted a report at the end of Phase I, which we will take a closer look at in an upcoming post. On Thursday of this past week, at the last possible moment, the university announced that Phase II would kick off with three open forums on the issues at hand, the first of which will be held on Monday. As with the initial schedule for development of the new UI Strategic Plan, under faux president J. Bruce Harreld it has become standard operating procedure to provide public notice as late as possible for issues involving shared governance, and here we have another shining example. (You can see the dates, times and places of all three open forums here.)
The problem with attending such open forums at Iowa is that they are, universally, charades — at least under Harreld’s illegitimate leadership. After promising three town halls per year himself, he delivered only one — and that little more than a troll session designed to provoke and discredit those on campus who knew he was a liar and a cheat. Having gone back on his word and wilted under the pressure of demonstrating a shred of integrity, Harreld nonetheless then launched a slap-dash schedule for generating a new UI Strategic Plan in a matter of a few weeks, over the summer of 2016. When the UI community balked at getting the bum’s rush — at the end of the spring semester no less — the feedback timeline was extended, yet it didn’t matter. Harreld produced the document he wanted to produce all along, focusing (and mortgaging) Iowa’s future on for-profit research and fundraising, while giving lip service to the school’s core mission of education.
Next up was Harreld’s joint committee between the UI Alumni Association and the UI Foundation, which was, in reality, an administrative act of cannibalistic predation. After Harreld put the two groups together to work out a more collaborative process of engagement (fundraising), then learned what he wanted to know from his Foundation spies, he simply declared that the unsuspecting UIAA would be euthanized, and its functions transferred to the Foundation. As you might imagine, the good folks at the Alumni Association were more than a little miffed about having been set-up and suckered, but that didn’t bother Harreld, because he lies as easily as he breathes.
The problem with not attending the upcoming open forums is that the corrupt Iowa administrators will characterize that understandable if not sensible response as disinterest, then claim they were forced to forge ahead on their own. That is of course victim-blaming, which is particularly disgusting when it is committed by people in power, but Harreld and his collaborators — chief among them, now, Interim Provost Sue Curry — are only interested in the end result. They could not care less how they get there.
As a factual matter it is unlikely that attending or not attending the open forums will alter the end result of the campus-wide reorganization, in the same way that the UI Strategic Plan and the shotgun merger of the Alumni Association were preordained outcomes. To the extent that dialogue and feedback was encouraged in those instances, and is being encouraged now, that merely provides cover for judgements which were made months if not years ago. Still, it is always good to go on the record, even if the bureaucracy you’re talking to is crooked, so I encourage you to attend and ask questions so you have no regrets. It’s your university — despite the traitors who are running the place right now — and you never know how your advocacy might help turn the tide.
If you cannot attend any of the open forums, there is a feedback form on the UI 2020 Initiative website, or you can request a meeting with the committee.
Way back in January of 2017, former University of Iowa provost P. Barry Butler kicked off a spontaneous campus-wide review of UI’s academic organizational structure, which purportedly had nothing to do with illegitimate president J. Bruce Harreld’s plan to transform Iowa from an institution of higher education into a for-profit engine for economic development. Or at least that was Butler’s story, while Harreld was characteristically silent on the issue, lest he be forced to lie to the UI community yet again. Among the obvious tells that the review was not coincidental, and that Harreld initiated the process, is the fact that only a few weeks after Butler sent out a memo announcing the ambitious review, he was appointed president of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida. Since Butler obviously knew he had applied for that position, and had done so well in advance of announcing the organizational review, he must have known there was a chance that he would not only not be around to see the project through, he might not be around long enough to get it off the ground.
In only a few short weeks following Butler’s appointment at Embry, however, Harreld solved the problem of Butler’s vacancy by appointing Sue Curry — then dean of the UI College of Public Health — as interim provost. Even better, Curry was already one of the four deans that Butler had, purportedly all on his own, appointed to the ad-hoc committee responsible for Phase I of the review of Iowa’s academic organizational structure. As such, not only was Curry already familiar with the initiative, but she was perfectly positioned to take up the mantle of Harreld’s — I mean Butler’s — project.
From Butler’s original memo/charge, here is the scope of the review:
We will dig into the origins and implications of this campus-wide review in an upcoming post. In this post we will focus on the first work product from that process, which is the recently released Phase I report prepared by the ad-hoc committee of four deans. Whether Curry actively decided to continue Butler’s initiative — if it was Butler’s initiative — or she was merely following Harreld’s imperial dictates, she was smart enough to keep her name off that report, even though she was a founding member of the committee. As the putative manager of the overall process, however, it can be assumed that the contents of the Phase I report belong as much to Curry as to the four deans who collected and distilled that information.
The deans in question are: John Keller, dean of the Graduate College, who created the actual document; Sarah Gardial, dean of the College of Business; Alec Scranton, dean of the College of Engineering; and Dan Clay, dean of the College of Education, who was appointed when Curry left the committee to become interim provost. As to the contents of the Phase I report, it can be assumed that all four of the deans and Curry read and contributed to the contents, albeit to varying degrees. Whether Harreld stuck his conniving mitts into the Phase I report is not known, but there are a few lines which suggest that IBM’s former head of global marketing may have contributed his thoughts as well.
If there is any overarching context to keep in mind, particularly given Curry’s enthusiastic embrace of the project, it is this. Although Curry was appointed dean of the College of Public Health (CoPH) in 2008, the college itself only came into existence in 1999, from programs spun off by the College of Medicine. In fact, creation of the College of Public Health resulted from the previous review of the university’s academic structure, twenty years ago.
Prior to 2014 the CoPH did not have its own building, but simply existed as an academic unit. Until 2016, the CoPH also had no undergraduate students, meaning many if not most of the 32 students (not a typo) who enrolled in the inaugural B.A. and B.S. programs have yet to graduate. For comparison’s sake, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) — which was the University of Iowa 170 years ago, in 1847, and remains foundational today — had 16,494 undergraduate students in 2016. (Gardial’s biz college had 2,773 undergrads, Scranton’s engineering college had 2,843, and Clay’s ed college had 338. There were also 5,698 grad students enrolled that year, making Keller’s graduate college the second largest academic unit on the UI campus, although many of those graduates were pursuing advanced degrees in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.)
As a former dean, Sue Curry should be proud of her work in the College of Public Health, and the four deans on the ad-hoc committee should be proud of their own colleges. Still, it is worth noting that the person who is now in charge of the campus-wide academic organizational review is herself the beneficiary of, and a product of, such a transitional process. It is also worth noting that among the five individuals involved in the creation of the Phase I report — assuming Harreld had no involvement — no one represented the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which is the largest academic unit on the Iowa campus by far.
The Phase I Report
The four-plus-page report contains five sections: Process, Principles, Themes, Challenging Issues and Summary. We will take each section in order, then conclude with an overall impression both as to the stand-alone document and the review process so far. As noted above, we will also assume that at the very least Curry provided notes during the drafting of the report, over and above dictating the process and constraints of the review at this stage.
Here we are given the gist of Butler’s original charge to the “2020 Academic Organizational Structure Task Force” — aka the four deans — as well as key facets of Curry’s updated charge. Also included are individuals and groups that the four deans met with while gathering information for the Phase I report. Interestingly, however, this section belies assertions which were made when the review was initiated.
From the UI Faculty Senate minutes on 03/21/17, shortly after Curry’s appointment as interim provost:
In fact, Butler’s original memo/charge made specific mention of the new UI Strategic Plan, which was completed in the fall of 2016:
By the end of April, Curry’s updated charge to the ad-hoc committee actually slaved the review to the UI Strategic Plan, albeit without mentioning the plan directly:
That implicit connection was not lost on the four-dean task force, which included a further elucidation of the linkage in this section:
The problem with the new UI Strategic Plan is that while it seems to be evenly divided between three pursuits — research, education and fundraising — when you break down the requisite budgeting, a full 82% of the funds needed to enact the UISP are earmarked for research. As to the statements excerpted by the four deans, as you can see from the bullet points above, the Phase I report reads more like a marketing plan for a for-profit corporation than it does an organizational plan for a long-lived institution of higher learning. Phrases like “change, innovation and growth”, and “opportunities for innovation and competitive advantage” are the buzzwords of business, and have little applicability to a state-run university, whether research is a core part of the school’s mission or not.
As with Butler’s original charge and Curry’s update, the first two sentences in this section serve notice that the core concern among administrators at the University of Iowa is research, not education. To make sure that point was not overlooked by readers, bold text was used for emphasis:
The first sentence, however vague, is indeed a guiding principle. Like many such sentiments, however, no one on the UI campus would disagree. In fact, as the word “enhance” suggests, that particular “overall principle” is little more than marketing hype, framing the entire Phase I report as less an objective document than a sales tool designed to influence the reader.
Conversely, while the second sentence is bracingly concrete, what it states is not a guiding principle but a goal. That this goal is the “first and foremost” principle in the document, and bolded for emphasis, makes clear that the four deans believe AAU membership is the single most important factor driving the need for “academic structure change” on the UI campus. In fact, the sequencing of the two sentences clearly implies that “excellence and distinction” is a function of AAU membership, as opposed to a result of pursuit of the school’s educational mission. (For the uninitiated, the AAU is entirely concerned with research conducted by institutions of higher learning. To the extent that the AAU expresses any interest in the educational mission of member schools, that interest is also research based, and primarily focused on STEM programs.)
While Iowa is currently in good standing with the AAU, it has reportedly fallen relative to other schools, as determined by the AAU’s secretive ranking criteria. Although not at risk of being expelled, as Nebraska was in 2011 — and in contrast with Iowa State, which is in full-fledged AAU panic — use of the word “robust” in the Phase I report signals the intent of UI administrators to devote scarce resources to improving Iowa’s AAU score. (As noted in prior posts, appeasing the AAU is also the basis for Harreld’s tuition hike proposal, which would increase base tuition by 41% over five years. Although some of that money would go to education and financial aid, the bulk would be spent on AAU-qualified research.)
Given the comprehensive scope of UI’s academic organizational review, one might presume that the question of whether Iowa should be concerned about the AAU — or even leave that body voluntarily — would at least be considered. Instead, the presumption in the report is not only that Iowa should improve its standing in the AAU, but that it should use that “principle” as the primary criterion for reorganizing the school’s entire academic structure. This despite the fact that membership in the AAU confers no actual benefits on the university.
It is possible, in fact, that instead of fostering “change, innovation and growth”, or “opportunities for innovation and competitive advantage”, that the AAU stifles genuine innovation by compelling schools to conduct research which satisfies its criteria for membership. Instead of working from a truly blank page, or playing to the strengths of specific faculty and staff, the AAU forces schools to bend to its priorities, and the Phase I report is all-in on continuing that submissive posture. (This is in fact a pervasive problem with rankings in higher-ed. Like teaching to a test, rankings often drive decision making instead of reflecting decision making.)
Having sworn fealty to the AAU, the next two sentences in the report hasten to remind the reader — sans bold — that education is also important:
The first sentence is interesting because it talks about “research” and “scholarship” as separate pursuits, without differentiating between the two. While it is possible that everyone in higher-ed knows the difference as terms of art, that doesn’t actually seem to be the case. Instead, the terms often overlap in meaning, effectively speaking to different stages in any academic process of investigation. And yet even at that the process is endlessly cyclical, with scholarship betting research begetting scholarship.
The problem with this fuzziness, as we will see later, is that it provides an opportunity for exploitation by administrative weasels, including those who are currently running the University of Iowa. While “education” is also mentioned in the first sentence, and “our students” are mentioned in the second sentence, how Iowa’s current “academic structures” are failing the student body is not explained. Nor is there any explanation as to how the future needs of Iowa students will be determined with any accuracy.
Here now is the fifth sentence in the opening paragraph of the Principles section:
The issue of inter-disciplinary education and research is important, but before we wade into that meaty subject, a word about the bold text. I don’t know who contributed that wording, let alone added the bold, but invoking the “status quo” can only be interpreted as a provocation. While Harreld was appointed over two years ago, four of the five deans who produced the Phase I report were on campus at the time (Clay was hired by Harreld last year), and one of them — Gardial — was on the search committee. As such, they know full well that the corrupt manner of Harreld’s hire not only cast a shadow over the school — which continues to this day in the ongoing AAUP sanction — but that the architect of that abuse of power, former regents president Bruce Rastetter, justified Harreld’s appointment by stating that the “status quo” was not acceptable.
The first paragraph concludes with a sentence which purports to move the discussion from the “broad principles” in the first five sentences to six “specific principles” which comprise the remainder of the section. In reality, however, not only was the task force’s pledge of allegiance to the AAU irreducibly specific, but the six principles that follow contain more (bolded) marketing speak than anything else. From four uses of the word “enhance” to four mentions of “strategy” as a tie-in to to the UI Strategic Plan, to talk about “competitiveness” and “growth”, those “specific priorities” are clearly intended to generate buy-in for any proposed change, and only incidentally concern interdisciplinary education and research.
Speaking of which, we will now momentarily set aside the Phase I report to address those genuinely important and intimately related topics….
On Interdisciplinary Education and Research
My interest in interdisciplinary education stretches back to my undergrad days at Iowa in the early-to-mid 1980’s. (Coincidentally, that is also when academia sold out to the go-go business world and began pimping MBA programs.) After struggling to find a way to be successful as a student, I traded that battle for a war against the university bureaucracy itself. By luck, determination or likely both, after a lot of failure I finally found an area of study that clicked for me, only to realize that it came with no conferable degree — meaning no matter how hard I studied, and no matter how successful I was in each and every class, I could not graduate.
What I discovered was that I loved storytelling across all mediums: short fiction, playwriting, film and television. Unfortunately, although the subject matter was clearly related, those mediums were segregated in different CLAS departments which had no interest in acknowledging the obvious commonalities. The only thing that saved me was that at the time there was a degree called the BGS — Bachelors of General Studies — which was primarily used to get jocks around nagging academic requirements, while they otherwise spent every waking hour training and competing.
Flash forward thirty years, and only last year did the University of Iowa — world famous for its writing programs — create an undergraduate degree which even remotely replicates the course of study I pursued as a BGS student. Called the English and Creative Writing major, that degree, or something like it, should have been available for decades. Unfortunately, because of administrative resistance such an obvious interdisciplinary major was denied to students who had been clamoring for such an opportunity. (As to following my path, apparently at some point the BGS program was also dispensed with.)
To this day I don’t understand what’s so hard about establishing a core set of general education classes for a BA or BS, which meet all of the basic accreditation requirements, then allowing students to fill out the rest of their course of study as they see fit. Call it a BGS degree, call it whatever you want, but what’s the harm? You make sure students learn how to think, but you also given them latitude to study what they want to study, even if that falls outside a traditional degree track. Seriously, what is the issue — other than denying round-hole administrators more square-peg victims?
On the research side the problems would seem to be similar, and from a historical perspective they are. Funding is always a problem, and credit is always critical — leading to the time-honored tradition of tenured faculty exploiting the work of grad students for their own self-aggrandizement — while working across disciplines only weakens the supportive mythologies that build up in any academic discipline over time. Specialization, on the other hand, preserves the status quo (irony intended), leading to more and more navel gazing, which unfortunately also has real-world implications.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the science and practice of medicine. What should be the most integrated of approaches, for the benefit of patients, is still often a segmented, segregated nightmare featuring perversely unacknowledged voids. Neurology, psychology and therapy are all the same thing from different points of view, yet in practical application there is more divergence than convergence. Precisely because the scientific method requires limiting variables as much as possible, medicine as science too often fails to pull back and look at how an interdisciplinary approach might benefit both research and clinical practice. And of course there is still no greater segmentation in modern medicine than the mind-body divide.
As with education, impediments to interdisciplinary research are age-old, largely artificial, and afflict the public and private sector alike. If anything can be said about the particular benefits of public-sector research, it’s that colleges and universities traditionally investigated what is often called basic research — meaning the kind of research that usually does not pay off in terms of products or services. That is also largely what the AAU champions, although the AAU penalizes and discounts land-grant schools like Iowa State and Nebraska because of their emphasis on agriculture.
All of this would seem to suggest that Harreld could very well make himself useful as an instigator — as an agent of change — in breaking down barriers between disciplines, yet there is one big problem in that regard. Whatever else Harreld is, he is a liar and a cheat, and as such cannot be trusted to be a reliable agent of lofty academic goals. In fact, his very presence of campus speaks not to long experience in academia or with academic research, but to the desire of his co-conspirators to inject an entrepreneurial lust into the heart of the University of Iowa.
When Iowa was founded it was understood that the twin pillars of its academic mission — education and research — spoke to pursuits outside the for-profit business world. There was always some interplay in the margins, but the public and private sectors each served distinct cultural needs. Now, today, the entrepreneurial ethos has become so entrenched in American society that we have highly educated and talented academics happily reducing themselves to game show contestants in the hope that they might make a splash in the marketplace. (What was initially an outbreak limited to business schools in the early 80’s is now a greed-is-good pandemic in higher-ed.)
As ever with the marketing weasels of the world — and Harreld is an acknowledged master — the word ‘research’ as traditionally used in academia is now being repurposed to serve an entrepreneurial end. Instead of speaking to basic research — academic research, non-commercial research — the word is being associated with for-profit activity on the UI campus. And of course to the average citizen that’s an easy sell, because if you can’t make a buck with research, why bother? (This may very well be why the four deans made a distinction between research and scholarship, so they could legitimize for-profit research within the basic charter of Iowa as a public-sector university. Academic research would then become “scholarship”, which makes no money.)
As that perversion continues to permeate the school, it also has the effect of devaluing students past the point of being lowly customers, and instead recasts them as a commodity to be consumed, financially, in pursuit of the kind of applied research that used to be the province of the private sector. Again, on the tuition front, Harreld has proposed a 41% increase in base tuition over five years — to go with the 12% increase that he pushed through in his first year and a half on the job. Of the required $155M-$165M needed to put the UI Strategic Plan into action, most of which will come from students, fully 82%, or $127M, will be spent on what UI calls “funded federal research” [p. 20 here]. (That wording makes in itself no sense, because if research is funded by the federal government, then Iowa’s students would not have to pay for it.)
The core of Harreld’s claim to money-making wizardry is the time he spent running IBM’s Emerging Business Opportunities (EBO) unit for CEO Lou Gerstner. Strip out any requirement to educate students, and dispense with academic research for the sake of knowledge itself, and what is a public university but a platform for emerging taxpayer-subsidized businesses? Which raises an obvious question….
Exactly how much of a problem is the current academic organizational structure at UI in terms of education or basic academic research? In particular, is the sprawling College of Liberal Arts and Sciences an impediment to education or academic research — interdisciplinary or otherwise? If so, is that a widespread problem, or something that has been, and should continue to be, handled on a case-by-case basis?
If this is indeed a bait and switch on Harreld’s part, however, it is not a hostage taking. The four deans who wrote the Phase I report must be in on the scam, because nowhere in the report is the concept of research redefined. And yet, what sounds like the usual blather about basic research may instead mask a deeply corrupt attempt to turn core parts of the University of Iowa to economic development, while minimizing or even killing off other parts of the school to fund those for-profit pursuits.
Case in point, consider this story from only a few days ago, about private funding being used to build a new “Center for Entrepreneurial Innovation” at Gardial’s Tippie College of Business. Once that new go-go business incubator is up and running, will it be operated entirely by private support, or will the staff and faculty draw state salaries? More to the point, why is that considered appropriate at the University of Iowa, under either the core mission of education or research? But of course it isn’t, yet various donors — or perhaps we should call them investors — are willing to plow tens of millions of their own hard-earned dollars into that venture.
The first sentence in the first paragraph of this section of the Phase I report speaks not only to the needs of the university, but of the entire state:
One obvious Grand Challenge that Iowans face is paying for college, but as Harreld’s tuition plan makes clear, that’s not a concern at the University of Iowa. Because the education of students has been diminished to the point of simple revenue generation for commercial research, worrying about the debt load on students and families would obviously be antithetical.
In the second sentence the four deans note that while their interviews with various campus constituents did indeed prompt actual solutions to the problem at hand, none of those solutions are contained in the report:
Now contrast that hands-off approach with the way the project was described last March, to the Faculty Senate, by Dean Keller:
Phase II is now well underway, yet no plans or even suggestions were passed along to that new, larger committee. In fact, however, there is a recommended plan in the Phase I report, and that plan involves breaking up the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. (If you think I am being unfair, hold that thought.)
The next sentence introduces the first ‘theme’, in bold:
How does one go about optimizing unit size with any rigor? What are the metrics, and what are the definitions of “faculty productivity” and “student success” that inform those metrics? Those are obviously all good questions, but also far afield from the intent of the Phase I report, which is why the next sentence merely restates that assertion in anecdotal form:
As to this being a common concern, how common? I mean, of all of the people that the four deans talked to, how many said: “You know, I’m really concerned about whether our current collegiate and administrative units [optimize] our future research and teaching potential”. Ten? Three? None?
How many said anything remotely like that? Ten? Three? No one?
The reason I ask, is because what that sentence does sound like is a distillation of the following text, which comes from a paper that Harreld initially claimed, on his celebrated resume, to have written all by himself. (That false claim led to Harreld’s censure by the Faculty Assembly of the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, even before Harreld took office):
That bit of folksy wisdom comes from Leading Strategic Renewal: Proactive Punctuated Change through Innovation Streams and Disciplined Learning, by Michael Tushman, Charles O’Reilly and Bruce Harreld, April 11, 2013. And yes, that is the same paper Harreld emailed to former regent Mary Andringa the day after his secret meetings with her and four other regents in late July of 2015. (That forwarded version was dated May 9, 2014, and varies a bit from the above text — see p. 23.)
There are only two options here. First, despite the fact that P. Barry Butler purportedly initiated the organizational review of his own volition, and Harreld was purportedly not involved in the drafting of Phase I report, he somehow managed to inject his biases through one or more of the four deans, or perhaps even Interim Provost Curry. Second, Harreld had no effect on the Phase I report, and lots of people just happen to share his concerns about the “status quo”, “performance gaps”, “strategic challenges”, and “strategic opportunities” at the “unit” level.
It’s a real puzzler, isn’t it? What is not a puzzle is what the four deans meant by the very next sentence, which betrays their plan to take apart the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. And because you probably think I’m joking, here is that sentence, from a report which — only sentences earlier — pledged not to “specifically recommend” any “alternative structures”:
Where to begin? Well, how about with “over-large”, which could also have been written as “overly large”? Because no matter how I come at that bashed-together term, it means that whatever is being described is too large, improperly large, unduly large — wrong-large, and in desperate need of down-sizing.
Our next clue as to the identity of this organizational monstrosity is the following clause: “…disparate in the assortment of academic units….” Okay, let’s see. Of all the colleges at UI, which colleges could be construed as “over-large”, and at the same time “disparate in the assortment of academic units”? Dentistry? Engineering? Public Health? Wait — how about the sprawling College of Liberal Arts and Sciences? (Put another way, if there is more than one UI college that meets that criteria, could CLAS not be on that list? No, CLAS is definitely on the list.)
Finally, because the four-dean task force was apparently concerned that distracted readers might not grasp the obvious negative inference of “over-large”, the sentence ends with: “…several disadvantages were noted.” And of course if something is wrong-large, it makes sense that there would be disadvantages, but here the deans are being kind. There aren’t “several disadvantages”, there are five, and the Phase I report lists them all.
As to what the 2020 UI Academic Organizational Review is actually about, it is about reducing the size of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and there is literally no other possible interpretation. I don’t know if one or more of the deans felt honor-bound to give their colleagues at CLAS fair warning, and I obviously don’t know whether all four deans read and signed off on that sentence, but I’m honestly surprised that it is in the report. As the heads of non-CLAS colleges, it is to their advantage as deans not only to cut CLAS down to size, but to take up as many academic assets or units as possible, thus increasing their own influence on campus.
What that sentence also reveals, however, is that this sentence from the introduction to the Themes section — four sentences earlier — is a lie:
The alternative structure proposed if not championed by the Phase I report is to shrink the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and five reasons are given why that should be done. There is no debate about whether it should be done, and no positive attributes of CLAS are listed. Instead, CLAS is simply “over-large”, and as a result must be cut down to a size that satisfies the report’s vaguely stated criteria — which, coincidentally, sound a lot like that kind of thing J. Bruce Harreld talks about when he goes all guru about organizational change.
Now, to be fair, it may well be that CLAS is too big, but again — too big for what? To maximally educate students? To conduct interdisciplinary academic research? Or too big for commercial product development?
As to which CLAS units might be split off into a new college, or doled out to other colleges on the UI campus, one obvious move would be to liberate potentially lucrative STEM departments from the otherwise pointless liberal arts. What is Math even doing in CLAS? Writers use words, artists draw pictures — if they need any calculating done they can always hire an accountant, so maybe Math should be part of the Business College. As for Physics and Geology — let me be the first to propose a College of Fracking.
The remainder of the Themes section — three short paragraphs of various themes distilled from the information-gathering process — unintentionally substantiates the clear intent to dismantle CLAS. The first paragraph describes an ongoing process of review completely divorced from the task force, the second paragraph introduces the possibility of “re-envisioning” the General Education (GE) curriculum, and the third paragraph mentions specific programs which may be expendable. In none of those instances is or was a comprehensive academic organizational review necessary to address those issues. The only ‘theme’ that does require such a review is the report’s anti-liberal-arts crusade.
Thanks to the Phase I report we now know what Interim Provost Curry plans to recommend to Harreld — meaning the dismantling of CLAS, because it is “over-large” — but not how that objective will be accomplished. Given institutional resistance, such a task could be very challenging indeed, even for a man who enjoys punishing and terrorizing “culture change resistors“. Fortunately, the four-dean task force has a plan:
One obvious impediment to such an “honest appraisal”, of course, is that not only is Harreld a liar and a cheat, but from the Phase I report we also know the four-dean task force is dishonest as well. Since Harreld, Curry, Keller, Gardial, Clay and Scranton are demonstrably incapable of an “honest appraisal” of Iowa’s “strengths, weaknesses and opportunities”, the the real question is how they will impose their plan on the school. We find the first clue two sentences later:
Here, again, the academic organizational review is explicitly tied to the UI Strategic Plan, which Harreld warped to reflect a research-centric bias over a year ago. The idea that the “faculty and staff need to embrace a collaborative, holistic approach” is also laughable given that the four deans demonstrated neither in compiling the Phase I report, but such hypocrisy is a staple of Harreld’s presidency. Impose fake shared governance from the top down, then insist that everyone accept the results — as was the case with the shotgun ‘merger’ of the Alumni Association and the UI Foundation.
As to how Harreld, Curry and the four deans will fake a “collaborative, holistic approach” which inevitably leads to the dismantling of CLAS, we get the answer to that question in the next paragraph:
Not surprisingly, the word ‘performance’ and variants like ‘underperforming’ show up five times in the Challenging Issues section alone. The word ‘metrics’ also implies that objective criteria will be used to determine which units are to be rewarded and which units are to starved of resources until they die, but is that true? As we saw with Harreld’s so-called “collaborative budgeting” model, which he imposed in his first year, reality was quite different from the promotional materials. If Harreld doesn’t care about an expense he lets the deans or unit leaders decide, then calls that a collaborative process. If Harreld does care, however, he gets the final say.
Because Iowa’s academic organizational review has been slaved to the UI Strategic Plan, and the plan contains metrics, you might think some of the metrics from the UISP could be used to determine who is and is not performing at the unit level. Although the UISP has nothing to do with the academic structure at Iowa, there are indeed metrics for Research & Discovery (p. 9), Student Success (p. 15), and Engagement, or fundraising (p. 21).
As to which of those metrics might apply to the question of academic performance, however, the answer is none. Instead, as the Phase I report states, those critical metrics “need to be determined”. As to who gets to do the determining, the answer is obvious. Whether as part of the formal review process or not, Harreld will inject controls into the “performance metrics” in question, so they inevitably favor revenue-producing units.
The remainder of the Challenging Issues section contains specifics which — for the first time, in the entire report — do seem as if they were derived from interviews with campus constituents. Again, however, none of those issues necessitate a campus-wide review of Iowa’s academic organizational structure. The only ‘challenging issue’ specifically related to the review involves rigging the metrics which will inevitably prove that CLAS needs to be broken up, which can then be used on an ongoing basis to direct the bulk of available resources to favored academic units.
The Phase I report concludes with a single paragraph gussied up with more bold text. Among the dappled wording there is a second gratuitous mention that “the status quo is unacceptable” (bolded, of course), and another cinching of the organizational review to the Strategic Plan, even though the UISP has no direct applicability. The most telling sentence in that closing paragraph, however, is the first, because it betrays the manipulative intent of the four deans who signed their names.
As noted in prior posts, while advocating for their amazingly similar but completely coincidental five-year tuition proposals, recently-departed interim president Ben Allen at Iowa State (7% per year) and Harreld at Iowa (7.08% per year) persistently emphasized the threat of AAU expulsion. What I did not realize until I read the Phase I report, however, was the degree to which their emphatic statements were not simply warnings, but premeditated attempts to monger fear among the faculty on each campus. Speaking of which….
If momentous policy changes at UI and ISU are indeed being driven by warnings from the AAU that their membership is at stake, then the AAU and those schools have an obligation to make those statements known to the public, and particularly to the state legislature. The idea that tens (if not hundreds) of millions of dollars may be taken from students and their families — and the focus and destiny of two state universities intrinsically altered — by secret communications from a secretive organization, is antithetical to whatever is left of the premise of public education. Either Harreld and/or newly appointed ISU president Wendy Wintersteen should substantiate threats from the AAU, and fully explain the pluses and minuses (and dollars and cents) of continued membership, or they should stop using the AAU as an excuse for fomenting radical changes.
In fact, I’ll go one better than that. The problem with all of this secret-society garbage is that it means there are no checks on claims made by either party. How do we know that Harreld isn’t lying about the AAU, and the same goes for interim president Allen, and now Wintersteen at Iowa State? It is to their administrative advantage to be able to point to a trade group like the AAU and say they must have massive amounts of new funding to stay competitive — either via the state, or through egregious tuition hikes imposed on the students — but where is the proof?
And while we’re on the subject, why does the AAU rank members anyway? What is the justification for doing that, let alone for passing that ranking information along to the schools? Read any commentary by the AAU itself and the organization routinely denies that it ranks members schools, yet it seems to be an open secret that the AAU does track various metrics, and informs its member schools about faltering performance. Case in point, here’s J. Bruce Harreld himself, from an interview this past May, helpfully explaining — or at least claiming — that Iowa’s AAU rank is slipping, :
Assuming that’s true, why does the AAU care whether schools are in the 50th percentile, 25th percentile or any percentile? Why doesn’t the AAU simply establish a set of criteria, then tell schools whether they meet the criteria for inclusion or not? As we discovered with Harreld’s attempts to game Iowa’s national college rank, and as many objective observers have pointed out over the years — including Iowa’s own Michael Sauder, who co-wrote Engines of Anxiety — rankings inherently promote the waste of critical resources.
The only advantage I see to the AAU having a ranking system, instead of a threshold for membership, is that rankings give the AAU a means of applying pressure to member schools, to improve their research metrics at the expense of other facets of a school. Why would the AAU do that — and in particular why would the AAU do that to the University of Iowa, when the current head of the AAU is Mary Sue Coleman, who was once the president of UI? Does Coleman know that administrators at Iowa and Iowa State are actively fostering AAU panic among the faculty, as a means of justifying massive increases in tuition which will inevitably explode student debt, if not make it impossible for some students to attend those schools? Or that at Iowa, the AAU is now also being used to justify the cannibalizing of CLAS for the benefit of for-profit research?
Wherever Iowa and Iowa State currently rank, the reality is that they are never going to rank at the top of the AAU member schools, just as they are never going to rank at the top of the US News rankings. The top quartile, if not the top half of any AAU ranking scale belongs to schools with more research funding and connections, and always has, but that does not mean Iowa or Iowa State do not meet the threshold criteria for membership. Given their location, it may actually be that Iowa and Iowa state are, academic pound for pound, punching well above their weight compared to the glittering Ivies. (If you know Mary Sue Coleman, you might mention that the way she runs her organization has serious negative real-world consequences.)
There are three mentions of the AAU in the Phase I report. As noted earlier, the first mention appears in the first paragraph, second sentence, of the Principles section:
In that passage the University of Iowa is characterized as a “robust AAU institution”. The second mention appears in the first sentence of the first paragraph of the Challenging Issues section:
Here the specter of possible expulsion is raised, and tied to the need for action. The third AAU mention comes from the first sentence in the Summary:
Two concerns here. First, in terms of sentence construction, this quote reads as if someone wrote the first two clauses as a complete and utterly banal thought, only to later have someone else hammer the final clause onto the sentence — using bent nails. Second, note the use of the word “worthy”, and the positioning implicit in that phrasing. If you are not in the AAU then you are not worthy. Between the University of Iowa and the AAU, it is the latter that has primacy. It is the AAU that is to be looked up to, while Iowa should consider itself fortunate to be a member.
I have no idea how many vain faculty there are on the UI campus, but that appended clause is aimed right at their insecurities. It is also the kind of manipulative sentiment a seasoned marketing weasel might write, as opposed to a learned college dean — even if they were fronting for a fake shared governance process. Regardless of the author, however, Harreld clearly does believe that keeping up academic appearances is sufficient justification for stripping tens of millions of dollars from students and their families, so it makes sense that he might also port that handy excuse over to the task of dismantling the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
With Phase I complete, Phase II is pushing ahead will all deliberation, as well it might. The new and larger Phase II committee — albeit still under the watchful eye of Dean Keller — is scheduled to “generate a second report for the Offices of the President and Provost early in the spring semester”. Given the usual workload at the end of the current semester, the upcoming holiday breaks, and the start of the new term in the spring, the Phase II committee will be pressed to reach specific conclusions about how to hack CLAS to pieces. (More on Phase II here.)
As to the Phase I report, despite the fact that the Phase II committee must rely on that text, as a document it is almost entirely meaningless. Hack out all of the meaninglessness, however, and the objective of the 2020 Academic Organizational Structure Task Force is clear. In that document, in three sentences, we find the justification for splitting up CLAS, the goal of splitting up CLAS, and the murky method by which CLAS will be split:
As to how the CLAS faculty will be impacted, we find the answer to that question back in the Challenging Issues section:
If you are on the faculty at CLAS, and you pay attention to nothing else in this post, pay attention to this. Earlier we said that the difference between research and scholarship was undefined in the Phase I report. We also said commercial research is being legitimized in academia precisely because the word ‘research’ allows for such chicanery.
In the quote above, then, “non-research productive” means “non-revenue-producing”. (In fact, I defy you to come up with any other interpretation.) Meaning if your research does not generate a profit, or have the potential of generating a profit, the you will be asked to stop whatever research you’re doing — which would, by definition, be academic research, or scholarship — and devote yourself to the educational mission of the school.
For example, if you’re in the English department, and you’re the world’s foremost expert on an obscure period in world literature, then you’re done doing research or scholarship on that subject, and will instead be consigned to teaching. To the extent that your department may need to crank out a few Ph.D’s to maintain the university’s research status, you can still do that, but you won’t be given resources for more than that, because you won’t need more than that — and Harreld’s as-yet-undefined metrics will prove it. (If you agree to any organizational changes in the academic structure of UI before those metrics are defined, you’re a fool.)
What Harreld ostensibly cares about — and by extension Curry and the four non-CLAS deans who perpetrated the Phase I report — is maintaining Iowa’s AAU status. If you or you academic unit do not factor into that calculus, then you are quite literally superfluous. In fact, over time it’s possible that whatever is left of CLAS will become little more than an undeclared comprehensive college on the campus of a Research One university.
Does that sound like what you signed up for? Because if it doesn’t, you need to think seriously about entrusting your future to a man who tried to steal $4.3M from students by reneging on scholarships that the University of Iowa was legally obligated to pay. J. Bruce Harreld and his collaborators on campus don’t care about your loyalty to the ideals of academe, or about academic research. They’re in the business of making money, and you’re in the way.
My understanding is that CLAS faculty are still turning up to these “fora” and, sensibly enough in a parallel universe where anyone cared what they had to say, pointed out that the entire project here seems to run over, stop, back over, stop, and run over again the things that UI is actually good at, while funneling money into expensive projects where we’re not only trailing the world but unlikely ever to be recognized as players. And suggesting that if we’re going to reorganize CLAS, we do it in some way that actually does good things for LA and S. (Mostly LA, I think.)
As Carole King once sang: “Alack, a day! Oh, woe! Oy vey!”
Following a year-long search, today is the first day on the job for the University of Iowa’s new Vice President for Medical Affairs (VPMA) and dean of the College of Medicine (CoM), Brooks Jackson. Whatever Jackson does or does not accomplish in his tenure at Iowa, I think we all hope that he will be significantly more committed to honesty, integrity and shared governance than his traitorous predecessor, Jean Robillard, who administered a fake, $300K search at taxpayer expense in order to fraudulently appoint J. Bruce Harreld as president. In any event, in the context of the upcoming search for a new dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences — which was initially delayed until completion of the ongoing campus-wide academic organizational review, but will now commence in early 2018 — I thought we might get a sense of how that search will play out by taking a closer look at the VPMA/CoM search that concluded with Jackson’s appointment.
In the previous post we looked at the still-unfolding plan to dismantle the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS), which is the school’s largest college by far. That plan was made considerably easier last March, however, when the current dean — Chaden Djalali — announced that he would step down in the summer of 2018. From the Press-Citizen’s Jeff Charis-Carlson, on 03/09/17:
While giving Harreld and Interim Provost Sue Curry more than a year’s notice was considerate, Djalali’s announcement also meant that he would be a lame duck during that time. With little or no administrative capital to spend in fighting Harreld and Curry’s plan to dismantle the college, Djalali’s announcement had the unfortunate consequence of leaving CLAS utterly exposed when it most needed administrative advocacy and support. That vulnerability was further exacerbated by the fact that for the following seven and a half months — from early March until late October — neither Harreld nor Curry initiated a search to find DJalali’s replacement.
In fact, only recently, during the UI Faculty Senate meeting on 10/24/17 [minutes not yet posted], Interim Provost Curry announced — again, after remaining idle for seven-and-a-half months — that no search for Djalali’s replacement would be initiated until the UI academic organizational review was completed. With Phase II of that ongoing process slated to conclude in early 2018, but no timetable given as to the completion of the overall process — including the actual dismantling of CLAS — it was entirely possible that CLAS could be without a dean for a year or more.
Clearly aware of that threat, on 10/31/17 a letter was sent to Curry asking her to reconsider that belated decision. From later reporting by the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, on 11/20/17:
As to why Curry was suddenly roused from her administrative indifference to the impending CLAS vacancy in late October, only to then announce that no search would take place until after the academic organizational review was completed, we find a likely answer in reporting from the Daily Iowan’s Marissa Payne, on 11/03/17:
So the backstory on Djalali, like so many other UI administrators following Harreld’s sham hire, is that he was looking to get out even before he publicly announced his impending resignation. The resulting timetable gave him fifteen months to find a new job, and if he left sooner rather than later no one could accuse him of not giving the school sufficient warning. (As this post was going to virtual print, it was reported that the UConn provost position went to another candidate.)
Three weeks after announcing that no CLAS search would be undertaken for the foreseeable future, however, Curry announced — just before Thanksgiving — that she was reversing course, and the search for a new CLAS dean would begin in early 2018. From above-linked report by the Gazette’s Miller:
On paper it now looks as if Curry will do what she should have been doing for the past eight months, which is put together a search committee to find Djalali’s replacement. Of course if Djalali had been hired away earlier — or even now, by UConn — all of her foot-dragging would have been revealed for what it was, which was an attempt to leave CLAS without leadership and advocacy while Curry and Harreld hacked the college to pieces. Unfortunately, in taking a look at how the Brooks Jackson hire played out, it will become clear that even though Curry has reversed course and promised to start the search process sooner rather than later, the odds are she will still be able to delay hiring a new CLAS dean for a year or more.
Backstory on the Brooks Jackson Hire
To understand the Brooks Jackson hire at UI, we have to start with Jackson’s hire as the dean of the College of Medicine and VP of Health Services at the University of Minnesota — which occurred all of three three years ago. From Dan Browning of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, on 02/16/14:
That Jackson was a candidate for the UI job less than three years later would seem to indicate that things did not go well at Minnesota, and that was indeed the case. Still, during the first year or so Jackson seems to have given it the old college try, however, and the institution certainly had hopes of better days ahead. From the Duluth News Tribune’s John Landy, on 09/08/14 — six months into Jackson’s tenure at UM:
All was not well on the University of Minnesota campus, however. From the Star Tribune’s Maura Lerner, in either late 2014 or early 2015 (the URL is dated 12/21/14, the web page dated 01/21/15):
To be crystal clear, the specific incidents that Elliott was concerned about took place long before Jackson arrived on the UM campus. That doesn’t make them any less reprehensible, of course, but it means Jackson wasn’t the root cause of the problem, which should be reassuring to Iowans. Also dated 01/21/15 — and perhaps released as a counter to the above story, which administrators would either have already read, or been aware of as a result of interview requests — was a press release by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, touting a new plan by Governor Mark Dayton:
Two months later, however, the question of medical ethics at the University of Minnesota — particularly with regard to human testing — was back in the news. From Jennifer Couzin-Frankel, writing for Science Magazine, on 03/02/15 — or just over a year after Jackson’s appointment:
Again, the issues that were investigated predated Jackson’s hire, but it is obviously not a good look when any organization is accused of — let alone found guilty of — abuses in human testing, animal testing, or any kind of testing. There are some lines you simply do not cross, yet here was UM being investigated for having done so not in the deep dark past, but in the twenty-first century. Unfortunately, whether Jackson was caught unaware or simply overwhelmed by his new position, by the time the report was released it did overlap, by about five months, with Jackson’s hire:
“[T]he external review team believes the University has not taken an appropriately aggressive and informed approach to protecting subjects and regaining lost trust,” the authors write. They examined protocols from 20 active trials as well as minutes from meetings of the institutional review board (IRB). Many IRB members, the panel noted, did not regularly attend meetings from January to July 2014. “[T]here were no individuals on the IRB during this time period with expertise in adult hematology, oncology and transplant, cardiology, surgery, or neurology, although those fields taken together represented over 300 protocols. There was only one psychiatrist on the IRB, despite the fact that the Psychiatry Department submitted 85 protocols for review during the time period examined.” That doctor attended only four of the 26 medical IRB meetings at which new protocols were reviewed. “This departure not only contravenes the University’s own policy of having at least one member with ‘primary professional expertise in a scientific field relevant to the type of research reviewed by that panel,’ but also prompts concern about the quality of review.”
While Jackson was not named or quoted in the Science article, and he was not mentioned in the body of the ethics report, he was quoted in a footnote on p. 11.
Whatever Jackson inherited when he was hired at UM, by early 2015 — as both dean of the College of Medicine and VP for Health Services — he owned the issue of medical ethics. A mere two weeks after the release of that damning report, however, when Jackson was profiled by Minnesota Public Radio the ongoing ethics investigations barely warranted a mention. Much more pressing was the inability of UM to secure a permanent relationship with the private hospital at which faculty and students engaged in clinical practice. From MPR’s Alex Friedrich, in an article titled, Can new dean heal U medical school?, on 03/18/15:
Whatever Jackson expected when he applied for the twin positions of dean and VP at the University of Minnesota, advancing the school’s lofty goals was a heavy lift on multiple fronts. Whether Jackson gave everything he had or not we don’t know, but there are some problems that simply do not have a solution. On the question of medical ethics, however, Jackson spoke to that issue in a op-ed in the Star Tribune, in early 2016:
Whether Jackson knew in early 2016, after two years on the job, that he was ready to move on from the University of Minnesota, we also do not know. Given the obstacles he faced — many of them structural, having to do with UM and the state economy — it would not be surprising if he found himself thinking how much easier life would be if he did not have to battle a toxic testing culture, or fight over resources with the administrators at the non-profit hospital that was affiliated with — but not owned by — the university. Perhaps not so coincidentally, those are also two problems that the University of Iowa does not have, both because its testing horrors are in the distant past, and because the state owns the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
Speaking of coincidences, at about the same time that Jackson was writing his op-ed, UI VPMA Jean Robillard abruptly kicked the UI College of Medicine dean, Debra Schwinn, to the administrative curb, and took on that responsibility himself — without first asking for or receiving permission from the Iowa Board of Regents. In fact, that move came so quickly that it was reported on Wednesday, 02/10/15, and became effective the following Monday, on 02/15/16. From the Press-Citizen’s Jeff Charis-Carlson:
Six months later Robillard announced that he would be stepping down from both positions — meaning, effectively, the same dual roles that Jackson already held at UM — as soon as his replacement was hired.
The 2016-2017 UI VPMA/CoM Search
On September 3rd, 2015, J. Bruce Harreld was fraudulently appointed president of the University of Iowa. A little over a year later, at the end of September, 2016, Jean Robillard — who also played multiple administrative roles in that conspiratorial abuse of power, and whose betrayal of shared governance earned the still-ongoing sanction of the AAUP — announced his intention to step down as both VPMA and self-appointed dean of CoM. From Robillard himself, on 09/30/16:
While Robillard’s supporters — including one of his co-conspirators in the Harreld hire, and the architect of a previous compromised search at UI — fell all over themselves praising Robillard’s genius, true to his otherwise meaningless word, the search was quickly underway. In fact, only a week later the co-chairs of the search committee were announced:
Of additional benefit in speeding the search process along was the fact that Robillard was not moving on from UI, but simply stepping back. Because he intended to remain on staff, at least nominally, there was no need to time the hiring of his replacement with his transition to another institution. As soon as the right person was found, Robillard would step down and the new hire would take his place. And yet, despite the utter simplicity of the task, and claims of immediacy, the only result following the naming of the search chairs seemed to be foot-dragging.
From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, on 10/13/16:
After a month and a half of not setting any arbitrary deadlines, the search chairs finally announced the composition of the search committee in mid-November:
Among the notables on the committee were “Casino Mike” Richards, who had served on the Iowa Board of Regents for less than a year, but would be appointed the next board president in May of 2017; UI Provost P. Barry Butler, who would soon leave for a new job in Florida; and Ken Kates, CEO of UIHC. Although there was still no timetable for the search, the committee was empaneled and ready to conduct a national search. And then…nothing for three and a half months, until mid-March of 2017, when the committee announced that it had finally gotten around to hiring a search firm to help with the search that they had supposedly been conducting since early December of 2016:
Why the delay? Well, because the only people who know also have a track record of fixing searches and lying about them after the fact, the odds are we’re never going to know why it took the University of Iowa six and a half months to hire a search firm following Robillard’s announcement. What we can say is that there was a great deal happening at UI in March of 2017, including Harreld’s appointment of Curry as interim provost. And of course, as noted earlier, March of 2017 is also when Chaden Djalali announced that he would be leaving UI by the summer of 2018. (All three of those announcements — Curry, Djalali, and the hiring of the search firm, occurred in the span of a couple of weeks.)
Still, with a search firm under contract, the committee was finally primed to hit on all cylinders — at which point no further progress was reported for another six months. (As to what Brooks Jackson was doing during that time, here’s everything I could find.) On 09/21/17, almost a full year after Robillard’s announcement, a puff piece appeared on the UI website celebrating Robillard for all of his successes — minus his successful betrayal of the university community during the 2015 presidential search. Ten days later a similar retrospective appeared in the student-run Daily Iowan, on 09/27/17.
The following day — two days short of the anniversary of Robillard’s announcement that he would be stepping down — the search committee recommended two finalists for the VPMA/CoM position at UI.
The Selection Process and Appointment
From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, on 09/28/17:
The problem with the timing of the visits was not only that they were a full week apart, but the first visit was scheduled only four days after the announcement that two candidates had been selected. Having been silent for six months, and having refused to publicize a timeline, giving the UI community only five or six days to plan to attend a gathering with so much at stake was a failing on the part of the committee and UI. That the first candidate was announced with short notice, while the second candidate would have the advantage of knowing what the first candidate talked about, and how well they had done, also seemed borderline punitive.)
On 10/02/17 the name of the first candidate — John Carethers — was revealed. Two days later, on 10/04/17, Carethers visited the UI campus.
Four days later, on 10/08/17, the name of the second candidate — Brooks Jackson — was announced, and Jackson visited the campus on 10/10/17. (You can see more info on both candidates here, on the UI VPMA/CoM search site, which is still up as of this date.)
Six days after Jackson’s appearance on campus, word came from on high: J. Bruce Harreld, the fraudulent president of the University of Iowa — who holds that job because Robillard helped rig the 2015 presidential search in Harreld’s favor — had selected Brooks Jackson to replace Robillard as both Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the College of Medicine. On 10/16/17 the university issued a press release announcing Jackson’s appointment, and the Daily-Iowan, Press-Citizen and Gazette followed up with their own stories. Also running stories on Jackson’s hire that same day were TwinCities.com and the Minnesota University paper, the Minnesota Daily, which included this interesting quote:
Given the high hopes everyone at UM had for Jackson when he was hired only three years earlier, it must have come as a shock that he was leaving so quickly. Kaler’s note to faculty and staff reads, for the most part, like a morale boost in the face of bad news…except for that last bit about sending “updates in the near future”. Even if Harreld made his decision prior to 10/16/17 — meaning closer to 10/10/17, immediately following Jackson’s appearance on the UI campus — the idea that Kaler could have substantive news to pass along seemed dubious. And that’s particularly true given the time-consuming task of appointing interim administrators, let alone organizing, launching and conducting a new nation-wide search.
The next day, on 10/17/17, there was additional reporting on Kaler, from Glenn Howatt of the Star Tribune:
On that same date — meaning still one day after the announcement of Jackson’s appointment at UI, which came late in the day at that — the Minnesota Daily published a sit-down interview with Kaler, which included the following:
Again, this is one day after the announcement that Jackson had been hired at UI, yet Kaler was already promising to identify “Brooks’ successor” in the “next several days”. Given that it took Iowa six months to hire a search firm, the idea that Kaler could, in only a matter of days, plug either or both of the holes that Jackson was leaving, seemed absurd. Even if Harreld pulled the trigger on the hire on 10/10/17, immediately following Jackson’s appearance on campus, that still only give Kaler a week to come to terms with the problems he faced, let alone to solve them.
And yet, three days later — meaning only four days after Jackson was announced at UI, and a maximum of ten days after Jackson’s hire could have been known by anyone — Kaler followed through on his promise. From the Minnesota Daily’s Allison Cramer, on 10/20/17:
Note here that Kaler did not announce Tolar’s interim appointment as dean of the UM Medical School, but the filling of that position by Tolar on a permanent basis. For the sake of comparison, when former provost Butler announced that he was leaving UI, it took Harreld two weeks just to announce Curry as Butler’s interim replacement. Yet somehow Kaler was able to hire Tolar in less time? How was that possible?
One obvious factor is that Tolar was already on staff at UM, meaning Kaler didn’t have to look far. Indeed, Tolar was a University of Minnesota lifer, who, a little more than a year earlier, had been appointed Executive Vice Dean of the Medical School by Brooks Jackson himself. Even though a possible line of succession had been determined well in advance of Jackson’s departure, however, that still doesn’t explain how Tolar’s promotion was considered and approved by all parties involved in only a matter of days. On most campuses it can take longer to requisition a box of pencils, yet here was a critical hire being filled in record time, with no search, and apparently no internal debate.
Even if Tolar was ready and willing, and the stars aligned just right, and everyone was in agreement, it is not possible that Jackson’s potential departure was first known on or after 10/08/17, when he was revealed as a candidate on the UI campus. Even assuming twelve days of feverish activity prior to Tolar’s appointment as the new dean of the UM Medical School, on 10/20/17, that is not enough time to establish buy-in from all of the affected constituencies. Meaning Kaler had to know, not simply that Jackson might be leaving prior to his name being revealed on 10/08/17, but that Jackson would be leaving at some point — if not for Iowa, then some other horizon.
The most benign explanation for that advance knowledge is that at some earlier date Jackson informed Kaler that he would be moving on from Minnesota, much as Djalali informed Iowa that he would leave CLAS by the summer of 2018. Whether such determinations are or are not publicized is probably determined by multiple factors, but at the very least having such internal discussions helps everyone prepare for inevitable transitions. In fact, it is entirely possible that Tolar was appointed Executive Vice Dean in August of 2016 precisely because Jackson had notified Kaler of his intent to leave, and Kaler wanted the next dean at the ready when Jackson found a new home. (Given the headwinds UM was and still is facing on multiple fronts, continuity may have been as or more important than making another sexy outside hire.)
The nightmare scenario, of course, is that just as the Harreld hire was rigged, two of the principles in that abuse of power — meaning Robillard and Harreld himself — may have tilted the UI VPMA/CoM search in Jackson’s favor. In fact, all it would have taken was a behind-the-scenes agreement that Jackson would be appointed when he was able to move on from UM, and the rest of the search process could play out according to form. All Jackson would have to do was apply for the position, because clearly his background warranted serious consideration, and it was likely that his name would be passed along as one of the finalists — at which point Harreld cold pull the trigger and give him the job.
The worst-case scenario would have been that some other, better candidate might also apply, testing Robillard and Harreld’s resolve, but even if they betrayed Jackson that would still work to UI’s advantage. With Jackson pre-approved there would have been no downside to launching a search, which may also be why Robillard announced his readiness to step back in September of 2016, only a month or so after Tolar’s appointment as Executive Vice Dean at UM. Ironically, even the ongoing AAUP sanction — which was imposed because of abuses during the Harreld hire — would have also worked to everyone’s advantage, discouraging other highly qualified candidates from exposing themselves to the corrupt administrators at UI.
The only real obstacle would have been the question of timing, which may in turn explain why the search committee went idle for five months before it even hired a search firm. If Jackson couldn’t get out of his contract until then, or had research he wanted to complete, or had other obligations to fulfill before departing UM, Harreld would have had no problem waiting a year or more because Robillard — his personal benefactor, if not de facto boss — was still on the job. From the point of view of any other candidates who did apply, of course and particularly from the perspective of John Carethers — who was the only other candidate invited to the UI campus — being used as dupes in a done-deal hire would obviously be an insult at minimum, if not a potential violation of fair hiring practices.
Again, we will never now what really happened, but the speed with which the University of Minnesota hired a permanent replacement as dean of the College of Medicine makes clear that UM knew Jackson would be leaving at some point. Whether Robillard and Harreld would conduct a fake search isn’t even a question, because they already participated in a significantly more egregious abuse of power when Harreld was hired. There is, however, a more objective reason for concern that the UI VPMA/CoM search was in fact a done-deal hire.
In the past two years the Iowa Board of Regents has conducted, either directly or by proxy, all four of the highest-profile searches that the regents can ever conduct. Those searches include a presidential hire at each of the state’s three universities, and the hire of a new VPMA/CoM dean at UI — a position which pays as much or more than Harreld makes as the highest-paid regent president. In all four of those searches, the last candidate to be announced as a finalist turned out to be the candidate who was ultimately appointed: J. Bruce Harreld at UI, Mark Nook at UNI, Brooks Jackson at UI, and Wendy Wintersteen at ISU.
The probability of that happening as a result of random chance is 1%. (We find that probability by multiplying the number of candidates in each race: 1/2 x 1/3 x 1/4 x 1/4 = 1/96 = 0.0104 = 1%.) In at least one instance, however, we already know chance had nothing to do with when a candidate was announced, and of course that was during the Harreld hire. Having successfully maneuvered Harreld’s candidacy through the stacked search committee, Harreld’s co-conspirators — including the president of the Board of Regents, who was on the committee, and Robillard, who was the committee chair — knew that including Harreld among the four finalists would spark outrage. In order to limit the possibility of organized protests, or investigation into Harreld’s background prior to his appointment, not only was Harreld’s candidate forum scheduled last, but it took place less than forty-eight hours before the final fake interviews and rigged vote by the board.
Other than pure chance, the most benign explanation for the last candidate winning each of those four searches is still damning. At best, it suggests that going last really does confer an advantage, because the last candidate can profit from the presentations of other competitors. The most damning explanation is that done-deal candidates are scheduled last not simply to pull a fast one, as was the case in the Harreld hire, but also to use the other candidates as props, thus giving the appearance of a fair and open search when in fact the hire was a foregone conclusion. Again, that is in fact what happened during the sham 2015 UI presidential search: Robillard and others happily turned three esteemed and sincere candidates into window dressing to disguise the fact that Harreld already had the job in the bag.
The Search for a New CLAS Dean at UI
Regarding Interim Provost Curry’s decision to conduct the search for a new dean of the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in parallel with the ongoing campus academic organizational review, instead of first waiting for that review to be completed, there are a few obvious and not-so-obvious implications from the Brooks Jackson search. First and most obviously, that search took over an entire year to reach fruition, meaning Curry can stall the search for a CLAS dean as long or longer while still claiming that a search is underway. Second, simply because a search is undertaken, that does not mean that search cannot also be corrupted, resulting in a done-deal hire or worse. CLAS may indeed get a new dean, but as Harreld’s hire of Dan Clay at the College of Education made clear, Harreld has a predictable bent for entrepreneurial types — meaning the next CLAS dean could support breaking up the college. (In fact, behind the scenes that complicity could be made a condition of any candidate’s hire.)
As detailed in the previous post, Sue Curry — whether with or without Harreld’s string-pulling approval — has already decided to break up CLAS. A new dean simply gives Curry and Harreld the chance to marginalize CLAS faculty that much more by installing their own sub-sub-toad in that office. Given the ill repute of high-ranking administrators not only at UI but across the country, I have no doubt that a search will turn up exactly the kind of toad Curry and Harreld are looking for, even as all of the trappings of a fair and open search are on display. In the end, what CLAS will get is a tool hired by tools, all of them dedicated to task of remaking the University of Iowa in Harreld’s entrepreneurial image.
It is also worth noting that by having Brooks Jackson in place, while Djalali remains a lame duck at CLAS with no successor in sight, the most powerful administrative constituency at UI — Robillard’s medical-industrial complex on the west side of campus — not only remains at full strength, but now has two powerful advocates: Robillard, in his role as traitor emeritus, and Jackson as the new VPMA and CoM dean. To that we can add the fact that the medical division has more representation in the UI Faculty Senate than the much larger CLAS (by enrollment), and as often as not also dominates the leadership of that deliberative body, meaning it should be self-evident that hiring the best possible dean for CLAS may still do nothing to thwart Curry’s anti-liberal-arts agenda. [Number of faculty senators by department: Medicine (28), CLAS (22), Business (4), Engineering (4), Dentistry (3), Education (3), At-Large (3), Nursing (3), Public Health (3), Law (2), Pharm (2). The total number of non-CLAS senators is 55, compared to 22 for CLAS, or a 2.5 to 1 disadvantage. The total number of medical-affiliated senators is 39 — from Medicine, Dentistry, Nursing, Public Health and Pharm — while the remaining senators number 38.]
Finally, although Curry recently delayed the search for a new CLAS dean until after completion of the campus-wide academic organizational review, then subsequently reversed herself, there is no indication that she ever considered stalling the VPMA/CoM search for the same reason. Oddly enough, however, when we look back to March of 2017, not only do we find Djalali announcing his intent to resign more than a year in advance, only then did the VPMA/CoM search committee get around to finally hiring a search firm — after the academic organizational review was underway. Not only was the VPMA/CoM search allowed to push through to completion, however, but only after it was completed did Curry announce that she intended to put off the CLAS search until the organizational review was completed. One practical result of that hypocrisy is that Brooks Jackson is now perfectly positioned — as an administrative competitor and resource foe — to aid Curry and Harreld in dismantling CLAS.
Despite having spent the past two years paying close attention to the administrative machinations at the Iowa Board of Regents and at the University of Iowa in particular, while also learning about higher education more generally, in order to understand those machinations, I am still not entirely clear on the role of a ‘provost’ on a modern college or university campus. I know the provost is traditionally the highest ranking academic administrator — effectively dean of deans at a large university — but that description also seems somewhat of an artifact. Today’s provost must be an operational maestro to keep a multi-college university firing on all cylinders, but most of those responsibilities are internal. While the president and deans handle many of the public-facing tasks, the provost takes care of operations — or at least I think that’s what a provost does….
At the University of Iowa this fuzziness is reinforced because the provost wears two hats: provost and executive vice president. While there are many other VP’s at Iowa, most of those positions are self-explanatory: VP for Student Life, VP for Legal Affairs and General Counsel, etc. Even the title Provost is more descriptive of the task at hand than Executive VP (EVP), which might be anything from an actual job to an excuse for kicking in extra money if the provost is top of scale, to a meaningless organizational convention at UI.
If Executive VP is a separate job, do the requirements of that position create tension with the obligations of provost — whatever those may be on the UI campus — either in the position itself, or in the person occupying that dual role? What is the first obligation of the Provost and Executive VP? Is it to Iowa’s academic mission, meaning the provost role, or to the president at the top of the org chart, meaning to whatever the EVP does in the context of the school’s overall administrative structure?
In February of 2017, long-time UI Provost P. Barry Butler announced that he had been appointed president of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Shortly thereafter, on 02/16/17, the fraudulently appointed president of the University of Iowa, J. Bruce Harreld, gave a speech at the annual banquet of the Iowa City Chamber of Commerce annual banquet, and offered the following thoughts on that transition:
In retrospect these pronouncements not only loom large, but ominous in the context of the ongoing campus-wide academic organizational review. First, even though the provost is effectively the head of academic administration on the UI campus, Harreld may “restructure the provost position and possibly rework its duties”. To what end? And will that restructuring and reworking be done as part of the shared governance process, or by administrative fiat? Second, Harreld said that the interim provost would “not be in the running to become permanent provost but could be on the job for as long as 12 months”, and that declaration was made over 9 months ago. With less than three months to go, where is the search for Butler’s permanent replacement?
Ten days after his promise to appoint an interim provost, Harreld named Sue Curry, dean of the College of Public Health (CoPH), to that position. What was not clear, however, was where Curry would go when her 12 months were up. Given that the interim provost was not eligible for the position on a permanent basis, would she go back to being dean of CoPH, or would she be given some other role in administration?
Along with assuming responsibility for day-to-day operations, Curry took over the ongoing review of the UI academic organizational structure that Butler had initiated on his watch — ostensibly without any input, goading or pressure from Harreld, whose only pale qualification for the position of president at Iowa was his purported success managing organizational change at large, private-sector institutions. As noted in a recent post, that campus-wide review, which is purportedly only in its second phase, has already determined that the only real change that needs to be made is busting up the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS). And of course who better to facilitate such an assault than an interim provost serving at the whim of a mercenary president?
As we saw in the previous post, the search for a new, combined VP for Medical Affairs and dean of the College of Medicine took over a year to reach fruition — though there may have been some funny business which extended that timeline. In any event, however, if Harreld intended to appoint a new provost after 12 months, then he needed to launch that search months ago, but clearly that has not happened. In fact, during the Faculty Senate meeting on 09/12/17 — which is the same meeting where it was announced that Curry initially intended to appoint an interim dean at CLAS, instead of hiring a permanent replacement — the issue of finding Butler’s permanent replacement was broached [p. 7]:
Now two and a half months later, and only three months from the end of Harreld’s 12-month timeline for Curry’s interim role, there is still no word that the search for a new UI provost is underway, nor has Harreld followed through on his threat to “restructure the provost position and possibly rework its duties”. And of course that also means we don’t know where Curry will end up when the clock runs out on her time as interim provost — although from the same Faculty Senate meeting we did learn that she won’t be going back to the College of Public Health [also p. 7]:
So Curry won’t be going back to CoPH, and because she’s the interim provost she is not eligible to become provost on a permanent basis — so where does she go? Is she planning to leave UI when a new provost is hired? Will she become a standalone Executive Vice President, whatever that means? Or might there already be a plan, behind the scenes, to make her the dean of a new college, cleaved from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences? That would mean the entire academic organizational review is nothing but a pretense, of course, but coming from Harreld would that really be a surprise?
Speaking of which, there is one obvious solution to the limbo Curry finds herself in, or volunteered for, and that would be to go ahead and make Curry the permanent provost because she did such a super job of running the school for a year or more — while also turning in an absolutely heroic effort as head of the process by which CLAS will now be whittled down to size, so other, more Harreld-friendly colleges, can prosper. Sure, that would reveal yet another lie on Harreld’s part, but given that Harreld has lied, repeatedly, to the press, the UI community and the people of Iowa, I’m not sure anyone would be surprised if Harreld went back on his word, let alone if he once again did so in order to evade and betray shared governance at UI.
Whether Curry herself knows where she will end up — and whether she knew when she agreed to take on the interim role, despite the constraint that she would not be eligible for that job on a permanent basis — of more pressing concern is that her fate is now entirely in Harreld’s hands. Because the CoPH search is underway, albeit six-and-a-half months late, she can’t go back to her previous position. With no path forward — unless Harreld lied about her eligibility for the provost job — what are Curry’s career prospects?
It is possible that Curry simply screwed up in taking the title of interim provost, and that she will now have to look for work at another institution. Then again, it would be exceedingly unlikely for someone of Curry’s education and experience to make that kind of a career-killing mistake, meaning the more likely scenario is that she already knows what Harreld has in mind for her. The real problem with both of these scenarios, however — meaning whether she is a dolt, or a co-conspirator in Harreld’s impending abuses — is that Harreld still holds all of the cards regarding her future.
Whatever opportunities may await Curry at UI, if she fails to perform in her interim role — including, particularly, getting Harreld the results he wants from the academic organizational review — he can simply discard her by moving ahead with the search for a new provost. To the extent that he has already rewarded others on campus who supported him during and after his sham hire, it is entirely possible that Harreld will follow through on any promises he made to Curry, but because she has no power base she has no means of resisting his executive edicts. If he wants a certain result, and she does not deliver, he can end her career at UI — and she knows that.
Were the search for a new provost to begin today, it would still take six months or more to reach fruition, and that’s if everything went well. By the end of Harreld’s twelve-month deadline this coming February, if a search commences at that time, Iowa will be lucky to have a new provost when the Fall 2018 term begins, which would obviously not be ideal for that new hire. Bringing someone aboard this summer would be perfect, but there are no indications that a search is in the offing, while there is every indication that Harreld has frozen critical hires until after he jams his campus reorganization down the university’s throat, albeit with an able and eager assist from Sue Curry. Who, by the way, will not only have to take the heat for whatever Harreld has engineered behind the scenes, but will continue to own that ignominy if she does remain on the UI campus in some capacity.
Because there is so much uncertainty on the UI campus, it is worth taking a step back and looking at how completely vulnerable the school now is to Harreld’s abuses as a result of his machinations. With Dean Djalali a lame duck at CLAS, and with Curry only having just reversed herself and agreed to conduct a search to replace him in parallel with the organizational review, the largest college on campus is effectively without leadership, and will remain so for at least another eight or nine months — and perhaps well past Djalali’s departure this coming summer. At the same time, the provost position is also in limbo, both as to the person who will fill that position on a permanent basis, and the power of that position going forward.
In effect, J. Bruce Harreld has negated the independence of both CLAS and the provost’s office by funneling the power and fate of both of those critical positions through Sue Curry — who is at best a hostage herself, and at worst in league with his grand designs. To Harreld and his campus collaborators, of course, any resistance to change would simply be dismissed as the status quo, yet despite Harreld’s purported background in managing organizational change, it is worth asking if he actually knows what he is doing. Because the evidence from the past year is that he does not.
On 11/12/17 — three weeks ago — the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller reported on a number of the ongoing changes at UI, including the revamping of the fast-track committee process that Harreld imposed during his first year:
Six months ago, all signs pointed to unbridled success from the private-sector, decision-making regime that Harreld brought to the antiquated world of academia. From an enthusiastic UI press release on 04/27/17:
So why, after six more months of success, did Harreld scrap his vaunted dual committees? We find the answer to that question in another press release — this one from three days before Miller’s Gazette report — on on 11/09/17:
So…to hear Harreld tell it, the much-smaller single committee — which will necessarily also consolidate power in the hands of fewer decision makers — was simply being phased in as a natural extension of Harreld’s long-term strategy. And yet, from the same meeting minutes of the Faculty Senate linked above, we get a decidedly different interpretation [p. 6-7]:
While Harreld made it sound as if the change to a smaller, centralized committee was part of his plan all along, it turns out that Harreld’s two-committee structure simply did not work and had to be scrapped. Which is of course what might be expected, given that Harreld had zero experience in academic administration when he was hired, to the point that he himself admitted he would need coaching to do the job he had been hired to do. Unfortunately, not only does that mean the University of Iowa is behind where it would be right now if the corrupt board of regents had hired any of the other three eminently qualified finalists for the position, but the same man who is still clearly learning on the job is now poised to reorganize the entire University of Iowa campus, along with having final say over the appointment of the next CLAS dean and the next provost — assuming of course that a search for Butler’s permanent replacement is ever undertaken.
Speaking of which, with regard to the new Path Forward Steering Committee, we also find this on p. 7 of the Faculty Senate meeting minutes:
What should be three distinct seats of campus power — the provost, the CLAS dean, and the head of Harreld’s administrative committee process — are in fact embodied in one person: Interim Provost Sue Curry. And even that might be acceptable if all of that power was concentrated by consensus, through the shared-governance process, but that isn’t how we arrived at this point. Instead, we have arrived at this point via administrative treachery.
In her current position, Interim Provost Curry — an executive temp — controls the rapidly progressing academic organizational review, the timeline of the currently non-existent search to replace the outgoing CLAS dean (who will step down this summer, meaning a search should already be underway), and the new, concentrated committee that determines which problems on campus receive attention, and which problems are ignored or allowed to fester. And in each of those capacities Harreld has positioned himself at a remove, giving him plausible deniability in the event that those processes end in disaster, even as he retains complete control over Curry’s fate, because she does not have a job to go back to, and her tenure as interim provost expires in the next few months.
What could go wrong? I mean, other than Harreld using Curry to reorganize the UI campus in a way that looks good on paper, but falls apart upon implementation, as his dual-committee process did over the summer. How much time and energy was wasted on that experiment — assuming, of course, that wasting the time of students, faculty and staff in a useless shared-governance exercise was not the objective in the first place? Now, that sophisticated two-stage committee process — which business genius J. Bruce Harreld imposed on the school, and current Faculty Senate president Pete Snyder described as “unwieldy” — is gone, replaced by a much smaller process led by Curry (and Lehnertz).
In multiple critical matters Harreld has positioned Curry to take the blame — and even to be scapegoated and discarded if his plans truly go off the rails — or to be rewarded if she does a good job. That so much responsibility has been concentrated in a single person who has no job security, however, and is thus entirely beholden to Harreld, should make everyone nervous about where her loyalties might lie, and how Harreld might abuse his authority. Unfortunately, if Harreld demonstrated anything in the private sector it was ruthlessness in the service of what he euphemistically described as culture change. The only difference between then and now is that on the UI campus Harreld is hiding behind Sue Curry.
One of the core differences between public and private institutions, including but not limited to institutions of higher learning, is that public institutions report a great deal more information about themselves than private institutions would ever voluntarily divulge. In exchange for public funding, taxpayers deserve and expect accountability about how and why money is spent. While there will always be individuals in government who attempt to evade and even eliminate transparency and accountability, at worst the reporting from government institutions — and, by the free press on government institutions — is still orders of magnitude greater compared to the information available in the private sector.
Not surprisingly, the relative secrecy of the private sector tends to attract people who prefer more discretionary latitude in their dealings with others, and that includes private education as well as private industry. And that’s particularly true for individuals who aspire to power and/or wealth, because it’s much easier to achieve those goals through mercenary pursuit of the entrepreneurial ethos, as opposed to public service. If what you’re up to would prompt concern or opposition in the public sphere — particularly if it were widely reported — then you will probably be happier, and more successful by your own vain measures, in a private concern, precisely because it is that much easier to obscure malfeasance and abuse.
Still, for the vast majority of individuals in the public sector, whether elected, appointed or employed — including rank and file faculty at state colleges and universities — public accountability is a minimal concern. Whether teaching or pushing paper in an obscure office, or mopping up at night, being on the public payroll does not mean your life, or even your work life, is an open book. Between basic rights of personal privacy and the confidentiality of personnel records, there are few obligations for most public-sector employees to do anything other than the jobs they were elected, appointed or hired to do.
Absent a high-profile position that is routinely reported on in the press, there is little real-world difference in terms of public accountability between grinding out semesters at a state or private school. Most faculty in the public sector toil in relative obscurity, just like their private-sector counterparts, at least until there is reason for the public or press to dig into the official record. Even then, however, at both public and private schools there will often be no record, or information that does exist will be legally shielded. (There will also usually be an office or individual charged with handling outside inquiries.)
At some public schools, however, the faculty do consider it part of their professional obligation, as state-funded educators, to keep records which can be consulted by the public and press, and one sterling example of that tradition is the archive of meeting minutes for the University of Iowa Faculty Senate (UIFS). Of course members who volunteer for that political role do so with the understanding that there will necessarily be additional visibility to their deliberations and actions, but that acceptance of transparency and accountability is itself a good sign. As far as I know, there is also no statutory obligation for the UIFS to post the kind of detailed minutes that are regularly compiled, which not only record actions take, but provide critical insight into the inner workings of that body, and into the rationales driving initiatives on the UI campus.
For example, immediately after his fraudulent appointment to the Iowa presidency in September of 2015, J. Bruce Harreld demonstrated a fervent commitment to gaming Iowa’s U.S. News ranking. While there are plenty of corrupt academic administrators who have gone down that same road, we were ultimately able to track down the origin of Harreld’s instant mania because of the UIFS meeting minutes. Specifically, Harreld’s fervor traces back to a Faculty Senate meeting with former regents president Bruce Rastetter in late 2014, almost a year before Harreld took office. In that December meeting, Rastetter goaded the senate to come up with a strategy by which Iowa could become a “top-ten” public research university, or at least a “top-twenty” school, or, later, a “top-tier”research institution. That charge in turn prompted the creation of a Faculty Senate Working Group which prepared a so-called “white paper”, which was in fact little more than a propaganda document designed to validate Harreld’s efforts. (The white paper was subsequently scrubbed from the Faculty Senate site, but you can see an archived copy here.)
Whether for historical purposes or as a means of understanding the current political and administrative climate on campus, the information contained in the UIFS meeting minutes is invaluable and has no counterpart in the private sector. It is also clear from the detail in the UIFS minutes that the senate takes its reporting obligations seriously, which is all the more impressive given that they could easily whitewash the minutes or reduce them to perfunctory notes. While there are clearly individuals in the Faculty Senate who carry water for the administration, and who cut back-room deals without copping to their complicity, the fact remains that the UIFS meeting minutes demonstrate an obligation to the higher ideals not only of education but of government, and that is to be commended.
By contrast, not only is the private sector prone to secrecy, but people who hail from the private sector often bring that instinct with them when they enter the public sphere. Whether Scott Pruitt at the EPA, who blew $25K of taxpayer money building a “cone of silence” in his own office, or former regents president Bruce Rastetter, who arranged and hosted secret meetings with Harreld and four regents at his private place of business in Ames, individuals from the private-sector tend to cling to the secretive practices that allowed them to be successful. And of course that description applies in spades to current Iowa president Harreld, who, prior to his sham appointment, not only had no prior experience in academic administration, but no public-sector experience of any kind. (Even the two universities Harreld worked for over the course of his professional life — Northwestern and Harvard — are both private.)
We see Harreld’s instinct to avoid exposure to public scrutiny — including even basic accountability to the UI community — in a number of decisions he has made. For example, although his position requires giving speeches as a matter of routine, unlike his predecessor, Sally Mason, none of Harreld’s speeches — including speeches given to the UI community, in his official capacity as president of the school — have been added to the presidential archive over the past two years. And of course after promising to hold three town halls per academic year, Harreld reneged on that promise after one town hall, and has yet to appear in a similar forum to this day. (Harreld has even stopped giving interviews to the local press because there are questions he simply cannot answer.)
Likewise, when the FSWG white paper was finally completed, it was presented to Harreld in closed session, in the context of a larger discussion of the future of the school. The fact that the white paper read like something written by a corporate marketing weasel, as opposed to the work product of a learned faculty committee, also suggested that Harreld himself — who was once head of global marketing for IBM — may have played a role in its creation. That in turn has implications for both the Phase I report of the 2020 Task Force, which has already been completed, and the ongoing Phase II portion of the UI academic organizational review.
We don’t have to content ourselves with suspicions, however, to see that Harreld truly does prefer to lurk and work in the shadows, even as he also has a pathological craving for credit when his machinations bear fruit. In axing the UI Alumni Association, Harreld first put together a joint committee from the UIAA and UI Foundation, then used the findings from their report — which never addressed the possibility of a merger — as a pretext for killing off the Alumni Association and passing its assets to the Foundation. Now that the decision has been implemented, however, in his most recent Daily Iowan interview Harreld goes on at length about how perceptive he was to see the need for that shotgun merger. (This is the same gift Harreld claimed when he relocated the new UI Museum of Art to an alternative site, which turned out to have been originally identified by former president Mason.)
We see similar behavior now regarding the ongoing review of the UI academic organizational structure. Officially, Harreld not only had nothing to do with initiating the review — that was former provost P. Barry Butler’s idea — but even after Harreld hand-picked Curry for the role of interim provost, he had nothing to do with updating the charge or pushing the review ahead, despite more pressing priorities on campus. And yet, in the same recent Daily Iowan interview, Harreld cannot resist putting his thumb on the scale at the very least, or, at worst, telegraphing the plans he already has in mind, even as he continues to hide behind Curry in public:
Setting aside Harreld’s perpetual efforts to justify his own actions by citing similar initiatives at other schools — and, for the record, when Harreld says it has been “many decades”, it has been twenty years since a review was last conducted — what are we to make of Harreld’s self-aggrandizing reference to his years as a part-time lecturer at Harvard? Is he proposing that the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences — which has already been targeted for dismantling by the Phase I report — be split along STEM lines? Has Harreld argued for that change in his private meetings, either with the ad-hoc, four-dean committee during Phase I, or with members of the current Phase II committee? Does talking about such ideas in public telegraph what he would like to see in the final report? More to the point, if that is the final recommendation of the Phase II committee, why would anyone believe that the review was an honest shared governance process, as opposed to a done-deal from the start?
From a historical perspective — even over the past few semesters — the UIFS meeting minutes also help us fight against the natural tendency of whatever is happening in the now to dominate consciousness. The faculty on the Iowa campus have just come to the end of the fourth full semester under Harreld’s fractious rule. Even if they had little or no interaction with him personally, the students and classes they taught when Harreld took office in 2015 are a distant memory, lost in a morass of emails and grade reports and endless meetings, including endless meetings about how to curb endless meetings. And of course some faculty are new to the UI campus, and some faculty have departed — or fled.
Contrary to the sedate reputation of college and university life, transition is the very nature of the educational enterprise. Students come and go, and on a large university campus even the faculty, staff and administrators change with regularity. As a result, and despite his demonstrably corrupt hire, J. Bruce Harreld probably looks like he just kind’a belongs to many members of the UI faculty — like a toxic fungus at the base of a stately oak. Even the UI Faculty Senate as currently constituted may generally feel that the issues surrounding Harreld’s appointment are now ancient history.
The problem with that perspective — meaning apart from Harreld’s refusal to accept personal responsibility for perpetrating a fraud against the school, which will, among other things, put $4M in his pocket — is that it denies the inevitable distilling effect of history. Whatever you think of Harreld personally or as a leader, for the seven years prior to being handed the Iowa presidency he spent the first six as a part-time lecturer at the Harvard School of Business, and the seventh running a sole-proprietorship. And yet, of all of the people who could have been appointed at Iowa, Harreld’s co-conspirators went dumpster diving for a former business executive who had not worked as a business executive for the better part of a decade. Why?
In answering that question we find the through-line to the current review and reorganization of the UI academic organizational structure, which was purportedly initiated without Harreld’s involvement, and continues only because of Curry’s single-minded devotion to that inherited task. Beyond the ten-figure improbability of a businessman with no prior experience in the public sector, let alone in academic administration, being plucked from obscurity to preside over a billion-dollar public research university, the only calling card Harreld had to play as a candidate — meaning his experience with organizational change and strategic renewal at large institutions — is now at the center of the academic discussion at UI. That in turn means that anyone who fails to see the clear continuity between Harreld’s preposterous hire and the process currently underway on the UI campus is either oblivious, in denial, or in cahoots.
More to the point, history will inevitably obliterate such excuses because at some point Harreld and his collaborators will have to put their plans into action, regardless of the result of the review or the consensus on campus. Other than firing Harreld, nothing will keep him from doing whatever his co-conspirators hired him to do two years ago, whether he figures out a way to sell that to the UI community, or simply jams it down their throats.
The idea that Harreld currently has no agenda, or that he had nothing to do with prompting former provost Butler to launch the ongoing review, is ludicrous, and will only become more so as the foregone conclusions of Harreld and his collaborators are revealed by their actions. In fact, it is already quite telling that no has figured out how to put the most obvious of questions to Harreld directly, even after that question came up in the Faculty Senate. From the minutes of the 03/21/17 meeting:
That was over six months ago, yet in the interim there has been no clarification of who actually initiated the 2020 Academic Organizational Review. At the time of that meeting, Curry had just taken over as interim provost, and Keller was one of the four deans named to the Phase I task force. At the end of this past September, Keller was also named interim VP for Research and Economic Development, meaning whatever minimal opportunities Keller had for interaction with Harreld before, as a dean, those opportunities only increased in the past few months. And yet…we still have no definitive word on whether Harreld initiated the review.
Having access to the UIFS meeting minutes not only provides us with critical visibility into what has been done or is being contemplated, but to issues that should have been addressed but have not. How is it possible that the purported guru of organizational change — the very illegitimate J. Bruce Harreld — cannot communicate, either himself or through his hand-picked interim provost, who originated the ongoing academic organizational review? And this is not simply about establishing the historical record or ascribing blame, or ensuring proper accountability.
In terms of the currently unfolding review, it is astounding that there is no clear ownership of that process, even as the UI faculty — and particularly the faculty of CLAS — have been asked to set aside their valid concerns and participate. Participate with whom, and for whom?
As we will see in the next post, Interim Provost Curry has taken a great deal of heat — appropriately so — for the disregard with which she has treated the faculty of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. There is no excuse for her decision making and lack of communication, but knowing how to respond appropriately requires full disclosure about who is driving the ongoing organizational review. The fact that neither Keller, Curry nor Harreld himself has cleared up that uncertainty for the benefit of the faculty, strongly suggests yet another orchestrated attempt to betray shared governance on the UI campus, albeit this time on a targeted basis.
In the next post we will flesh out the implications of that omission in the context of the Faculty Senate meeting in October, during which Interim Provost Sue Curry was reduced to administrative roadkill. Regarding the meeting minutes themselves, however, I do not know if they are driven by statute, school policy or simple tradition, but whatever the impetus, the UIFS is to be commended not simply for making them available, but for the sincerity and rigor with which they prepare those documents.
If you have ever looked at the minutes for an Iowa Board of Regents meeting, the intrinsic corruption of that body is self-evident in the perpetual poverty of its reports. Little or no discussion of any kind is ever documented, particularly on the most important issues — and the same holds for recordings of the proceedings. Despite the obligations of Iowa’s Open Meetings law, the board routinely conducts most of its discussions behind the scenes or in closed session, then simply records the final votes in open session.
The people doing the people’s business should be accountable to the people, but as we all learn far too early in life, most of what our elected and appointed government leaders are up to involves doing favors for business or political cronies. Case in point: Bruce Rastetter giving Jerre Stead the naming rights to the new UI Children’s Hospital without any public debate, with little notice, and without first conducting a study as to the market value of those rights [p. 5; pro forma agenda item]. Instead, by employing absolutely minimal compliance with applicable laws the board gifted tens of millions of dollars back to Stead, in demonstrable disregard of the board’s purported fiduciary responsibility to the citizens of the state.
In stark contrast, the minutes of the UI Faculty Senate record the deliberative processes by which decisions are made. Because faculty know their arguments are being recorded, the less-reputable types will always conduct backroom conversations and cut deals in smoke-free rooms, but as a whole that deliberative body still has the opportunity to ask questions on the record. As a concerned UI alum, even when I disagree with what is being said I have respect for anyone who stands up and makes their arguments on the record, as opposed to hiding behind bureaucratic facades or ordering subordinates to take the heat.
Speaking of which, I do not know whether Sue Curry fell on her own sword back in October, or whether she was covering for Harreld — either willingly, or out of concern for her career because she is now in professional limbo — but even as I found her reasoning insulting, I respected the fact that she showed up. In an age when no one wants to be held accountable for their actions, at a university which is presided over by a president who personifies that trait, I am also thankful that the UI Faculty Senate adheres to a level of transparency that is clearly anathema to J. Bruce Harreld. Amid the sickness that has descended over the University of Iowa these past two years, that transparency is a reminder that the true Path Forward will be found by being open and honest about the problems the school faces, and that includes the ongoing review of Iowa’s academic organizational structure.
In the next post we will delve into the contentious October meeting, but I first wanted to acknowledge that doing so would not be possible if the UI Faculty Senate did not hold itself to such a high standard. So thank you to everyone involved in the UIFS, including particularly those individuals who take the time to prepare the meeting minutes. It is a task that would be easy to perform in a perfunctory manner, or forgo altogether, yet the minutes clearly demonstrate the highest ideals of public service, and of education as a public good.
Ms. Laura Zaper deserves all of the credit for so assiduously and professionally preparing these meeting minutes.
In a recent post we detailed how J. Bruce Harreld — the fraudulently appointed president of the University of Iowa — positioned Interim Provost Sue Curry, whom Harreld appointed last March, as the agent of three critical, interrelated aspects of his grand plan to reorganize the UI campus around for-profit research. Those aspects are: a single, smaller Path Forward committee, which Curry will co-chair; the hiring of a new dean for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS), which Curry initially put off, but has now agreed to feebly pursue; and the review currently being conducted by the Academic Organizational Structure 2020 Task Force, which has already targeted CLAS for dismemberment. We also noted that because a search is underway to replace Curry as dean of the College of Public Health, and her interim appointment disqualifies her from becoming the permanent provost, at the exact moment when Harreld can profit most from her administrative complicity, Curry finds herself at Harreld’s presidential mercy.
In that same post we also gained considerable insight into Harreld’s bureaucratic machinations, and Curry’s role in facilitating his objectives, from the 09/12/17 meeting minutes of the UI Faculty Senate (UIFS). Because UIFS minutes lag by a month or more, the minutes for the next meeting on 10/24/17 were not available at the time, even though the post about the 09/12/17 meeting was published on 12/03/17. The minutes for the October meeting were finally posted two weeks ago, and as a result we now have visibility into the simmering tensions on the UI campus, and the embarrassing lengths to which Curry will go to further Harreld’s agenda.
We will dig into the 10/24/17 meeting minutes in a moment, but before we do we need to address an undercurrent to the proceedings, which was also apparent in the minutes from the prior meeting in September. While past Faculty Senate presidents Alexandra Thomas, Christina Bohannan and Thomas Vaughn all played willing dupes regarding Harreld’s sham appointment — the latter two in spectacular fashion, following the sanction levied by the AAUP — there seems to be a sense among some of the UI faculty, and particularly the Faculty Senate officers, that there is no verifiable basis by which to conclude that Harreld was himself a co-conspirator in that fraud. And yet as regular readers know, Harreld lied about his appointment to the press, the UI community and the people of Iowa only moments after being appointed by the corrupt Iowa Board of Regents.
To that end, the following concise history details specific evidence of Harreld aiding and abetting the co-conspirators who rigged his illegitimate appointment. If you know members of the UI faculty who believe Harreld can be trusted, particularly regarding the ongoing academic organizational review, the following information will disabuse any fair-minded person of that erroneous assumption. Not only can Harreld not be trusted, but in terms of the 2020 Task Force it is almost certainly the case that Harreld already knows what he intends to do when the review is completed, because reorganizing the campus around profit-making ventures is precisely why he was fraudulently hired.
A Brief History of Harreld as a Liar and a Cheat
Everything anyone needs to know about why Harreld was hired, how he was hired, and what Harreld did to obscure the fraud that was perpetrated on his behalf, occurred in a three-month window in 2015, between the end of July and beginning of November:
1) Following secret meetings with five regents on 07/30/15, Harreld emailed a copy of a paper he co-authored [p. 17-51] to one of the regents he met with. The title of the paper was Leading Strategic Renewal: Proactive Punctuated Change through Innovation Streams and Disciplined Learning. (You can see a later version of that same paper here.)
2) When Harreld was announced as a candidate at Iowa on 08/31/15, and when he conducted his candidate forum on 09/01/15, the entire justification for his “non-traditional candidacy” rested on his claim of experience leading transformational change at large organizations. Precisely because Harreld had zero experience in academic administration, that was viewed as the only leg he had to stand on, but it was in fact the reason he was sought ought by his co-conspirators, who then smuggled him through the search process to a rigged vote by the regents.
3) Only moments after he was appointed on 09/03/15, Harreld told a premeditated lie about the origins of his candidacy. He told that lie not only to the press, the people of Iowa and the UI community, but did so in front of two of his co-conspirators — Regents President Bruce Rastetter, who appointed himself to the search committee, and UI Vice President for Medical Affairs Jean Robillard, who was appointed chair of the committee by Rastetter — and both of those men knew that Harreld was lying at the time.
4) The objective of the lie that Harreld told was to obscure the fact that his candidacy originated with UI alum and mega-donor Jerre Stead. Twenty-four hours later, in an article in the Gazette, Stead himself told a different premeditated lie which had the same objective: to obscure the fact that Harreld was Stead’s candidate from the beginning. As with Harreld’s lie the day before, when Stead told his lie to and through the press, Rastetter, Robillard and Harreld all knew Stead was lying.
5) Two months later, on the day before Harreld took office, he told a new lie about the origins of his candidacy. That new lie exploded both his prior lie and the lie told by Stead, yet the new lie had the same objective: to obscure the fact that Harreld’s candidacy originated with Stead. Only recently, two years after the fact, in a deposition taken for a court case about the search, did Rastetter acknowledge that Stead introduced him to Harreld.
There is no disputing these facts, and there is no reading of the lies of commission and omission told by Rastetter, Robillard, Stead and Harreld which does not betray a blatant conspiracy to conduct a fraudulent search on Harreld’s behalf, which they then attempted to obscure with Harreld’s help. The aim of that fraudulent hire was to use Harreld to engineer exactly the kind of large-scale organizational change that UI is now contemplating, only focused on for-profit business opportunities as opposed to the core missions of education and academic research. Everything that followed, including the ongoing AAUP sanction, was not simply the result of corruption by the regents, but also by the UI administrator who chaired the search, who was also appointed interim president of the university; by one of Iowa’s biggest and most influential donors; and by Harreld himself.
The academic organizational review that is currently taking place on the UI campus — which was initiated by former UI provost P. Barry Butler, ostensibly without any prompting or goading by Harreld himself — is not simply coincidental to Harreld’s “non-traditional” hire, it is a necessary precursor for legitimizing the cuts he has been signalling since he was hired. As to any assertion that Harreld deserves the benefit of the doubt in that regard, or in any regard, there are only two reasons why someone might hold that objectively wrong opinion. Either they are oblivious to the facts above, or they are corrupt themselves. As we delve into the minutes of the 10/24/17 UIFS meeting, it will be useful to keep those two alternatives in mind.
The 10/24/17 Meeting of the UI Faculty Senate Meeting
The minutes for the October meeting run eleven-plus pages, single spaced. The bulk of the minutes concern two items under “New Business”: the 2020 Task Force reviewing Iowa’s academic organizational structure, and the search for a new CLAS dean. While the speakers addressing those agenda items were different, as noted in a recent post those initiatives are — at least officially — both under the control and authority of Interim Provost Sue Curry.
As also noted above and in recent posts, the idea that Harreld was hired because he has experience in organizational change, and UI is now in the midst of reviewing its academic organizational structure, yet there is no correlation between these two exceedingly uncommon events, is beyond preposterous. That is, however, the official line: that Butler initiated the review of his own volition, even as he knew he would likely be leaving the university in coming weeks; that Interim Provost Sue Curry took up the mantle of Butler’s charge with gusto, including issuing her own updated charge; and that J. Bruce Harreld is simply an administrative gawker — interested, but neither driving nor controlling the process. To that end, in this post we will endeavor to keep a straight face and assume that the 2020 Task Force is solely Curry’s responsibility.
One aspect of the minutes which may be a bit confusing is that they reference an event now two months past, yet from subsequent press reports we know that the issues which were central to that meeting have evolved. Specifically, a few days after the UIFS meeting in question, the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller reported on Faculty Senate reaction to the Phase I report — which, as we will soon see, prompted both considerable alarm and justifiable suspicion among the faculty. In that same article, Miller also reported on Curry’s decision to put off the search for a new CLAS dean for a year or more, and instead to appoint an interim dean until the 2020 Task Force concluded and its recommendations were implemented.
A little over three weeks later, in mid-November, Miller followed up on the CLAS issue with news that Curry had reversed herself, and that the search for a new permanent CLAS dean would run in parallel with the ongoing academic organizational review. To the extent that we know where things stand now, however, it is also useful to know how we got here, who made the relevant decisions, and what their justifications were.
Quoting from select passages of the 10/24/17 meeting minutes….
As a result of the hemorrhage of administrators that has taken place at UI since Harreld was hired, note that along with functioning as the point person for Phase I of Curry’s 2020 Task Force, Keller is now wearing three official hats, including one interim title. As with Curry’s interim appointment, however, it is likely that such concentrations or power are neither accident nor the result of triage. Instead, the coalescing of power into the hands of a very few serves Harreld’s interests because it reduces what Harreld would probably characterize as culture-change resistance. The fewer layers of administration that Harreld has to corrupt, and the more amenable his collaborators are to doing things his way, the more likely it is that he will be able to push his plans through to fruition.
From the section of the minutes on Keller’s presentation:
As noted in a recent post, the assertion that the Phase I report does not “contain any recommendations” is categorically false, which is why Keller was obligated to add the “made directly” qualifier. Indeed, the report did make a specific recommendation — albeit obliquely — which was that the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences should be whittled down to a much smaller size. From the Phase I report:
Speaking of things being noted, note the two separate criteria in that Phase I quote (italics mine): “…over-large and disparate…”.
Continuing again from the October minutes:
Keller’s answer is disingenuous at best, a lie at worst. While the eleven separate colleges on the UI campus vary greatly in size, and CCOM and CLAS are two of the larger colleges in terms of faculty and staff, in terms of enrollment there is only one — CLAS — which could be characterized as “over-large”. (Where CCOM has approximately 600 med students enrolled in any given year, CLAS has 16,000 students or more, or 27 times as many.) Keller is technically correct that there are other UI colleges which meet his singular criteria for inclusion — specifically, Engineering and Business, both with about 2,800 students — but again the Phase I report used two criteria for identifying problematic colleges on the UI campus:
On the University of Iowa campus there is only one college which meets both criteria, and that is the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Because readers can be inattentive, however, Keller and the other three deans who prepared the Phase I report emphasized that point at the conclusion of the same paragraph:
Again, there is only one college on the UI campus which is “large” and “disparate”, and could ever be accused of having an “overly broad mission”, and Keller knows that.
If you were to read up on the issues facing public colleges and universities, you would inevitably run across Michael M. Crow, the president of ASU, who is the darling of the transformational change crowd. Notable here is that Rice not only signaled that Crow would be sought out for his insights, but that there would also be “considerable outside reading regarding university organization”. That’s particularly relevant because in 2015 Crow published a co-authored book entitled Designing The New American University, and of course 2015 is also the year that Harreld — a businessman with no experience in academic administration — was fraudulently appointed president at Iowa, thanks to Jerre Stead. (The December progress report of the Phase II committee noted that, “So far we have held video conferences with Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University; and David Skorton, former president of the University of Iowa and of Cornell University, and now secretary of the Smithsonian.” In one or more upcoming posts we will have more to say about Crow and his book, and how they may have factored into Harreld’s hire.)
Despite the targeting of CLAS in the Phase I report, it does seem that Rice — the chair of the Phase II Committee — tried to open the conversation up again. As regular readers know, however, in his first year in office Harreld skewed the strategic plan to his goal of funding for-profit research and ventures, as opposed to academic research or the educational mission of the school. To that end, of the $155M or so that Harreld claims he needs to fund the strategic plan, 18% will be spent on education, while 82% will be gambled on efforts to generate income from intellectual property, patents, and start-ups on the Iowa campus. Because the reorganization of the campus is now being linked to that bastardized view of Iowa’s mission, that will in turn result in the educational component being defunded, while revenue, assets, faculty and staff are redirected to economic development.
In his response, Rice made it sound as if the 2020 Task Force is entirely separate from any administrative transitions on campus — meaning, by extension, that the review is not responsible for any delay in making new hires — but that is decidedly not the case. The concern among CLAS faculty and others — which will become glaringly apparent momentarily, when Sue Curry takes the floor — is that key administrative transitions are being held up by the 2020 Task Force, and indeed they are. To say that the task force is “not tied to any administrative transitions” is ambiguous at best and disingenuous at worst, but it is also revealing. What Rice acknowledged, unambiguously, is that the task force is being prioritized ahead of the need to hire a permanent provost or new CLAS dean, regardless of any negative impact to the UI community.
Not surprisingly, some of the faculty immediately grasped that implication:
The official Phase II listening tour is already over, even if the committee remains open to input, and the final Phase II report is slated to be released by “the end of the spring semester”. That timing means Harreld will be able to swing his administrative axe over the summer, without a permanent provost or new CLAS dean, despite the fact that Curry and Harreld will have known for over a year that both positions needed to be filled. And of course as of the October meeting, it was also believed that the CLAS dean would be replaced by an interim dean, putting the hire of a permanent dean off by another year or more.
The first paragraph of this section contains eleven sentences, which we will parse in order. Here are the first three:
Sue Curry was appointed interim provost on 02/27/17, and there is no evidence that she was forced to take the position. If Curry felt she was given “very little notice” by Harreld before having to accept the position or not, that does not explain why, as of October, Curry failed to initiate or even address the CLAS dean search for eight months. As to also being given “very little notice” that the current CLAS dean would be stepping down, that announcement was made by UI on 03/09/17, ten days after Curry’s appointment was made public. Meaning, again, that at the time of the October meeting, Curry had already wasted eight months during which that search could have been underway.
In March of 2017, now ten months ago, Curry not only knew a new CLAS dean would need to be hired by the summer of 2018, but that a permanent provost would need to be in place when her interim appointment expired in early 2018. That no steps were taken by Curry or Harreld to address those obvious needs not only suggests their inaction has been intentional and concerted, but also that no action was taken in order to cripple the leadership of the faculty at large, and of CLAS in particular, while the 2020 Task Force continued unabated. That Curry then appeared before the Faculty Senate in October and argued she was not responsible for that dereliction of duty merely foreshadowed the embarrassment she would bring to herself at that assembly.
When Curry was appointed it was reported that she would serve as interim provost for a year or so, and that she would be ineligible to be hired into the position on a permanent basis. From the quote above it is not clear whether she anticipated staying in the role past March of 2018, but it was recently reported that the job she used to have — dean of the College of Public Health (CoPH) — is now the subject of an ongoing search. How CoPH managed to put a search together to replace Curry on equally short notice, while Curry failed to initiate a search to replace the outgoing CLAS dean in that same time frame, was not explained by Curry.
When exactly Curry made that determination was also not explained, but it certainly sounds like information that should have been communicated as soon as she came to that conclusion. In fact, there is a passive-aggressive thread running through much of Curry’s comments to the Faculty Senate, in which the faculty were repeatedly obligated to compel her to disclose information that should have been readily available prior to that meeting. Then again, it is also possible that Curry only came to that decision when she knew she would have to appear before the faculty, and needed a handy excuse to explain her inaction. That the excuse she offered also meant the hiring of a new CLAS dean would be put off even longer may have simply been a bonus.
From the defensive nature of the second sentence — which, in the minutes at least, seems to answer a question that was not asked — it is likely that some CLAS faculty had already let Curry know they viewed the 2020 Task Force as little more than a ploy to validate the wrecking ball that Harreld intends to swing. And of course given the corrupt nature of Harreld’s hire, or the unilateral way that he dispatched the UI Alumni Association after it participated in a committee process in which administrative euthanasia was not on the agenda, the faculty had every right to be suspicious. (Speaking of Harreld, as I was drafting this post the Daily Iowan published its most recent interview with Harreld a little over ten days ago. Among Harreld’s comments about the 2020 review, he said: “I was at Harvard during a period of time they were taking a look at their arts and sciences and deciding to actually pull some of that apart.” From that and the targeting of CLAS in the Phase I report, anyone on the UI campus who believes that Harreld, and Curry by proxy, do not already know what they are going to do to the university, and particularly CLAS, is beyond naive.)
At first blush that may sound reasonable, or at least plausible, yet close inspection proves otherwise. First, if that is true of CLAS, then the same concern should have prompted a freeze on the hiring of deans at other colleges, including the College of Public Health. To the contrary, however, in September Curry herself appointed a search committee to find a new dean for the College of Law, less than a month before her appearance in front of the Faculty Senate. Second, because only CLAS is being denied a new dean on that basis, it is again abundantly clear that CLAS is being targeted for significant change, even as Curry and the members of the various task force committees insist otherwise. Third, even if marginal changes were anticipated at CLAS, that wouldn’t require that the search for a new CLAS dean be put off for a year and a half or more, so it is reasonable to conclude that Curry already knows that the changes at CLAS will be significant or even extreme.
We now know that Curry backtracked on her decision soon after the October UIFS meeting, and instead announced that the search for a CLAS dean would run in parallel with the 2020 Task Force. In terms of that ongoing review, however, the effect of her change of heart was meaningless, because CLAS will remain without active and invested leadership during that time. (As of today there is still is no timeline for the CLAS dean search, while the 2020 Task Force is well along in its detailed schedule.)
From the timeline implicit in Curry’s comments it is not at all surprising that there was strenuous push-back from the faculty. After doing nothing for close to eight months, while consistently failing to notify the faculty of her thinking or decision making in the matter, Curry then proposed not merely kicking the search for a permanent CLAS dean down the road another six months, but delaying the appointment of an interim dean for that same period of time. At that point the interim dean would serve for “at least” another year, meaning CLAS would be without committed leadership not only through the end of the task force, but through the implementation phase as well.
Again, the only way Curry could have known in October that the interim CLAS dean would be needed for at least a year — meaning to the end of the 2018-2019 academic cycle, at the earliest — was if CLAS was already targeted for massive changes. (Neither the College of Public Health nor the College of Law is being subjected to an interim dean for a year and a half or more.) Note also that while Curry’s interim appointment was set to expire early next semester, here she admits that she will still be serving in that capacity next April — assuming of course that Harreld does not simply make her appointment permanent before then, thus also voiding his obligations to shared governance in making that hire.
Not surprisingly, the meeting went downhill from there. Quoting again selectively:
The specifics with regard to the recently concluded VPMA/CoM-dean search are even more damning. In late September of 2016, Jean Robillard — one of Harreld’s co-conspirators, who held both of those positions by executive fiat, including the latter by his own administrative decree some six months earlier — announced that he would be stepping down. In response a search committee was immediately appointed…and then did nothing for six months. Only when former provost Butler resigned to take a job elsewhere, and Curry was appointed to the interim role, and the CLAS dean announced that he would be stepping down in the summer of 2018, did the VPMA/CoM-dean committee even get around to hiring a search firm.
Not only does that mean the VPMA/CoM-dean search committee waited until after the 2020 review was underway to proceed — again in contravention of Curry’s October rationale for prohibiting the search for a CLAS dean — but because Robillard promised to remain in both positions until a hire was made, there was literally no imperative to act. If anything, the VPMA/CoM-dean search should have been tabled using the same logic Curry used to deny the CLAS search, because the College of Medicine — at least according to Dean Keller — could also be subject to substantial changes as a result of the ongoing review.
That an interim dean at any college would have “limited decision-making capability” might make sense in theory, but only if we presume that an otherwise decent individual was appointed. Precisely because an interim dean can be appointed, however — as opposed to surviving the checks and balances of a shared governance committee — that would allow Curry, or more likely Harreld, with Curry as his stooge, to install an interim CLAS dean who was particularly enthusiastic about whatever abuses Harreld intends to enact. (After the 2020 Task Force issues its report, of course.)
Continuing from the meeting minutes:
Speaking of hiring people into positions that have a dual role — and particularly dual roles which overlap academic and executive administration — note that Curry also serves dual roles at Iowa. From a recent post:
From Curry’s quote above, it would seem that because she also has an otherwise superfluous executive title, Harreld may not only have the right to appoint her as interim provost, but to make the position permanent as well, using the same justification Curry cited in defending the VPMA/CoM-dean hire. Assuming of course that Harreld did not already promise that promotion to Curry, when she agreed to accept the interim position on short notice. Continuing from the October meeting minutes:
Again, note the glaring inconsistencies. The 2020 Task Force was initiated in early 2017. A month or so later, then-provost Butler — who ostensibly launched the project of his own volition — left the UI campus. According to the official line, following her interim appointment Curry not only vigorously embraced the 2020 review, she went on to prioritize it above all else, albeit on a highly selective basis. At the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences a new dean could not be hired because of the inherent uncertainty involved in the review. At the College of Medicine, however, a stalled search kicked back into gear only after the review was initiated, and after Curry was appointed. And of course at the College of Law and the College of Public Health, searches were launched by Curry herself after the 2020 review began, with no such concerns about uncertainties.
Again, note the extent to which the faculty had to compel Curry to explain her thinking, addled as it may have been. Only after being pinned down by basic logic did she apprise the faculty of a decision that should have communicated previously, and yet that decision contradicted something she had said only moments before. We also finally got confirmation that Curry expected to be in the interim provost role for a full year and a half, yet as of this post there is still no explanation as to where she will go next, now that her previous post at the College of Public Health is being filled. (The only open and applicable position on campus would seem to be that of provost. Of course, after a year and a half doing that job, it will be absurdly easy for Harreld to hand her the job on a permanent basis, with all of the usual testimonials about how the university could never hope to find anyone better — notwithstanding her performance on 10/24/17.)
So…Curry originally decided she would not hire a new CLAS dean because her permanent replacement should make that decision, and she used that rationale to avoid doing anything about the impending CLAS vacancy for eight months. At some point, however, she decided she would be on the job so long that she would need to make an interim dean appointment at CLAS, because she also decided to kick the hiring of a permanent dean down the road for another year and a half, at minimum. All of which she somehow failed to communicate to the faculty each time her thinking changed during that eight-month span, until pinned down on those points by the Faculty Senate.
As to why Curry was incapable of communicating either of those decisions prior to the October meeting, that was not explained. In her comment just above, however, Curry did say that it was Harreld who wanted to hold off hiring a new provost for a year to a year and a half. Not surprisingly, that time frame also maps perfectly to the 2020 review, including allowing for the implementation phase, which will begin this summer.
While I’m sure the “central service review committees”, whatever they are, are deeply satisfying, as noted at the top of this post, not only is Curry overseeing the 2020 Task Force, but a month or so before the October meeting of the Faculty Senate Harreld also made her the co-chair of the latest iteration of the Path Forward committee. So of the three options Curry mentioned for participating in shared governance, two are under her direct control. Curry also has the unilateral authority to subvert shared governance by appointing interim deans on a highly inconsistent basis, meaning she can then use those hand-picked deans as proxies to further an agenda that is hostile to shared governance.
Remarkably, however, when Curry then said the following, she was apparently oblivious to the fact that she was also raising the specter of both of those threats:
Those threats, however, were not lost on the faculty in attendance:
In attempting to defend her decision making, Curry then became defensive and made an argument which not only failed on the merits, but betrayed her hostility to CLAS:
As a factual matter, without the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences providing the general education courses which ensure that UI remains accredited as a university, colleges like Engineering and Business literally could not exist, while CLAS would function just fine without those academic appendages. So unless Curry was proposing that the colleges of Engineering, Business, Education and more provide their own gen-ed faculty — in effect not merely duplicating CLAS, but dong so on a redundant basis — why argue the point? The University of Iowa was founded as a liberal arts school, and 170 years later that is still its dominant function, even if there are people in government, industry, and public higher education itself who would gladly kill off the humanities. (It is possible that what Harreld intends to do — with an able assist from his passive-aggressive interim provost — is to leave the gen-ed departments in place because they serve a support function for the other colleges, while hacking out the CLAS degree programs which do not hold any promise of profitable research.)
Whether Curry’s testy response was fueled by prior CLAS resentment, lingering CoPH insecurity, or an unseen hand — or all three — she followed up with what reads like a petulant assertion of authority, but may in fact be an unintended admission that she is not the final arbiter of any decisions issued by her office.
It is always maddening to have someone say they will listen to you as a courtesy, but that what you have to say will not change their mind, because it implies that what you have to say is inherently irrational. It is also possible, however, that Curry cannot make any decisions without getting Harreld’s permission first. Despite having portrayed herself as the final arbiter of the decision to initially defer the search for a new CLAS dean, then to appoint an interim dean and defer the search even longer, Curry may simply have been following orders.
In any event, in another setting the obvious implications of her statement might have been missed, but not so before the UI Faculty Senate:
Not surprisingly, the specter of Harreld’s lurking presence then came to the fore:
Apparently oblivious both to the arguments which had just been made, and to recent history at UI, Curry then tried to guilt-trip the dubious faculty. It would be gross understatement to say that did not turn out well:
Wasserman’s rejoinder was not simply a searing burn, though that, but a reminder that Curry’s appointment as interim provost also came about as the result of a fake shared governance process — meaning Harreld’s corrupt 2015 hire. She owes her appointment as interim provost to a man who could not have been appointed on the merits of his own candidacy, who nonetheless became president as a result of a conspiracy which treated that $300K+ search process as administrative cover. That faculty on the UI campus might feel that participating in the 2020 review would be pointless, if not also then used to justify Harreld’s subsequent unilateral abuses as if they were validated by consensus, should have been apparent to Curry before she spoke to the senate.
The irony of Curry stating that “one person in a leadership position” should not dictate the 2020 review for CLAS, while she attempted to dictate an extended delay in the hiring of a new CLAS dean, was apparently lost on her. What Curry said next, however, may have been her most important admission:
If Sue Curry was genuinely interested in what was best for both CLAS and the university, she would have, at the very least, put the brakes on the 2020 Task Force until a permanent CLAS dean was hired. We know that because while there may be some desire on the UI campus to reassess the university’s academic organizational structure, which is normally revisited on an irregular timescale measured in multiple decades, there is a pressing need to hire a new CLAS dean. Faced with those two choices, however — pushing ahead with the 2020 Task Force, or hiring a new CLAS dean — and despite reversing herself on appointing an interim dean, Curry still insists on prioritizing the former over the latter.
All of which brings us to the point in this post where we cut the crap. Despite the laughable official line from Curry and Harreld, that the provost’s office is solely responsible for launching and inexorably driving the academic organizational review, there is only one constituent on the University of Iowa campus who is champing at the bit for that review to conclude, and that is almost certainly the same person who initiated the process. J. Bruce Harreld, who was fraudulently appointed as president of the University of Iowa, is on a five-year clock to implement the reforms that his co-conspirators hired him to enact by 2020. Now fully two years into that five-year window, and still six months from being able to lay waste to CLAS, Harreld needs to push ahead in order to deliver the goods. That he can do so without being hindered by either a permanent CLAS dean or a permanent provost merely abets his cause.
Watch What They Do, Not What They Say
As noted, following Curry’s disastrous turn before the UI Faculty Senate she agreed to conduct the search for a new CLAS dean in parallel with the 2020 Task Force. That concession was meaningless, however, because the Phase II committee will almost certainly produce its final report long before the CLAS search bears fruit, if not before that search is genuinely underway. In that context it is critical to look past the cringe-worthy spectacle of Curry’s appearance before the senate, and note that despite the rhetorical tumult and apparent about-face, Curry not only protected the ongoing review at all costs — including the sacrifice of her dignity — she deflected attention from the incomprehensibility of her own allegiance to that ongoing administrative process.
From a very early post about the Harreld hire, back on 09/23/15:
From the point of view of the ongoing 2020 academic organizational review, it is to Harreld’s tactical advantage to have the faculty fight Curry on the search for a new CLAS dean, or even on the search for a new provost, because those administrative vacancies are peripheral to Harreld’s plan to dismantle CLAS. That plan hinges not on those stalled hires, but on completion of the Phase II report, which is the one issue Sue Curry will not change her mind about, and she made that clear to the Faculty Senate:
Whatever promises Harreld made to Curry, which convinced her, on “very little notice”, to act as his fall gal — both in relentlessly pushing and protecting the 2020 Task Force, and delaying the hire of a new CLAS dean to facilitate that goal — it is objectively true that Curry did not initiate the review. When former provost Butler purportedly launched that initiative in early January, not only was Curry still the dean of the College of Public Health, but given her pleas about the suddenness of her interim appointment, it would be reasonable to conclude that in January and much of February she had no cause to imagine that she would soon be running the provost’s office on an interim basis.
And yet, we are now asked to believe that Curry has not simply taken up the mantle of Butler’s charge, but that she has prioritized it above more pressing issues on the UI campus to the point that she is willing to demonstrate contempt for the CLAS faculty in order to keep the 2020 academic organizational review on schedule. Again we must ask: who at the University of Iowa would be inconvenienced if Interim Provost Curry used her liberty and authority to extend or even idle the 2020 review until a new CLAS dean and a new permanent provost were hired? And again there is only one person who would be perturbed by that delay, but because that person is Curry’s superior and professional benefactor, the 2020 Task Force remains an unstoppable juggernaut.
And yet…only ten days ago, Harreld made it clear, on the record, that the 2020 Task Force is interesting, but it is not critical. From his most recent Daily Iowan interview, on 10/10/17:
Two months after Curry’s embarrassing presentation to the UI Faculty Senate, and as determined as ever to avoid acknowledging his role in initiating and driving the ongoing review, Harreld parrots the official line that the process is being conducted by the provost’s office alone. In presenting himself as little more than an interested bystander, Harreld not only protects himself, he leaves Curry to take the personal and professional heat for the frustrations and tensions on campus. The same man who is drumming his fingers on the soul of the institution, waiting for Curry to give him the procedural green light to turn the University of Iowa into a for-profit economic development engine, “can’t predict” how that “important exercise” will turn out.
The obvious problem, of course, is that there is nothing in Curry’s background to explain her mania for updating the school’s academic organizational structure, while Harreld’s background includes the authoring of papers on organizational structure. Again, that is in fact the reason his co-conspirators corrupted the 2015 presidential search, betrayed shared governance, and foisted Harreld on the UI community. From a 2012 blog post about the Harvard School of Business, here is how Harreld was described a mere three years before he was installed at Iowa:
On the one hand, we have an overwhelmed if not oblivious interim provost, who nonetheless insists that the 2020 Task Force must not be delayed or derailed for any reason, even if that triggers open revolt by the CLAS faculty. On the other hand, we have an illegitimate university president, who lied to the UI community on multiple occasions, whose only real claim to the position was a background in organizational change, who claims to only have a distant sense of what is happening with the ongoing review, which he deems an “important exercise”. Despite that divergence of interest, however, Curry and Harreld do agree that the 2020 Task Force is being conducted by the provost’s office, and that Curry has unilateral authority over that “exercise”.
From the point of view of concerned faculty at CLAS, or any other college, the demand they should be making is not that the search for a new CLAS dean be conducted in parallel with the 2020 review, or even that a permanent provost be hired in a timely manner, but that the timeline for the 2020 Task Force be extended or suspended until both of those positions are filled. The Phase I report has been released and the scheduled meetings of the Phase II committee have also largely concluded. Over winter break and next semester, research will be conducted about how other institutions have updated their own academic structures, then a final report released. While Harreld’s motivation to conclude the review without delay is baldly apparent, from the point of view of the University of Iowa as an institution, it does not matter if the research phase is extended for an additional six months or even a year, which would then allow time for a new CLAS dean and permanent provost to be hired. There is, literally, no downside for the school, and in fact a longer period of research and reflection would almost certainly guarantee a better result, while having a new CLAS dean and provost on staff would allow them to contribute as vested constituents.
Why is this option not on the table? More to the point, why has the faculty of the University of Iowa, en mass, not insisted that the ongoing review either be extended or suspended until those two mission-critical positions are filled on a permanent basis? In her role as interim provost I do not now see how Curry could refuse such a reasonable request, particularly if it were made public, and in his role as an outside observer I do not see how Harreld could object — at least, not without giving away his clandestine sponsorship. (Not only did Curry fail to give a “a sound rationale for her decision not to hire a dean” at the October Faculty Senate meeting, to this day she has not offered a sound rationale as to why the 2020 Task Force cannot be extended or delayed.)
To all of that we can add multiple converging economic factors which also give Curry cause to extend or pause the 2020 Task Force until those issues are resolved, or at least clarified. Specifically, the revenue picture for the University of Iowa is uncertain on multiple fronts, and will probably remain so for another year. For the second legislative session in a row state budget cuts are expected to put appropriations at risk. For that same reason the Board of Regents has delayed its own decision on tuition policy for the coming year, and the five-year plans that were rolled out last summer are not expected to be announced until next fall. (With the new tax bill poised to become law at the beginning of the new year, many basic fiscal assumptions have also been thrown into chaos at the federal, state, local and individual levels. Those may not only affect appropriations, but also charitable giving and the availability of federal and state student loans and aid.)
In that kind of uncertain financial environment, with two critical positions open on the UI campus, what is the justification for pushing the ongoing organizational review to completion when the odds are prohibitive that any plan conceived today will survive the next twelve months? Alternatively, what conceivable risk would be involved if the ongoing review is simply extended for another year, thus allowing for more study and research? With a new CLAS dean in place, and a new provost in place, and the appropriations, tuition and taxation pictures clarified, how could the resulting Phase II report not be more relevant to the issues Iowa will face going forward?
Even if there are faculty on the UI campus who are eager for Harreld to break up the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and clearly there are, the fact that Curry has not, at of this late date, articulated a “sound rationale” for prioritizing what Harreld himself recently branded an administrative “exercise” ahead of more immediate needs, sets a precedent that should concern faculty at every college. Like liberty, shared governance applies to all or it means nothing, and Curry is brazenly asserting that it means nothing. Absent a compelling justification, the faculty of the University of Iowa should insist that the 2020 Task Force either be extended or idled, both until a new CLAS dean is hired, and until the opening in the provost’s office is filled by someone not named Sue Curry.
Almost two years and four months after J. Bruce Harreld’s fraudulent appointment as president of the University of Iowa, the story of that unrepentant abuse of power is now largely told. A small cabal of co-conspirators — including former Board of Regents president Bruce Rastetter, who appointed himself to the search committee; former UI Vice President for Medical Affairs Jean Robillard, whom Rastetter appointed chair of that committee, then later appointed interim UI president ahead of the final critical month of the search; and UI alum and mega-donor Jerre Stead, who was an old friend, mentor and business associate of Harreld’s, whom Rastetter also appointed to the committee — used administrative deceit and preferential treatment to smuggle Harreld through the search process to a rigged final vote by the board. From testimony in a related court case we now also know that it was Stead who initially introduced Harreld to Rastetter, meaning it is also likely that Harreld first learned about the Iowa job from Stead. Betraying appropriate consciousness of guilt, in the twenty-four hours after Harreld’s sham appointment, both Harreld and Stead told premeditated lies which were designed to obscure their prior, longstanding relationship.
Today, as a result of the ongoing 2020 Task Force, which is “reimagining” the academic organizational structure on the UI campus, we also now know that one of the main tasks Harreld was hired to accomplish was to hack up the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS), then reallocate its resources to other colleges — including the Tippie College of Business, to which Stead gave $25M in 2003. What remains unexplained, however, is the genesis of the objectively absurd idea to hire Harreld in the first place.
It would have been one thing to rig an appointment which otherwise adhered to the norms in higher-ed, but the idea Stead came up with, then sold to Rastetter and Robillard, was not only outlandish, it had no precedent at any public research university — and for good reason, as we have seen over the past two and a half years. Even hiring a business executive at the top of his game would have been audacious, but Stead, Rastetter and Robillard not only hired a down-and-out business exec with no experience in academic administration or the public sector, Harreld had not worked as an executive for seven years. Instead, he spent the first six years slumming at the Harvard School of Business, followed by a year working as a consultant out of his own sole-proprietorship. Relative to the norms of academia — where the appointment of former governor and OMB director Mitch Daniels as president of Purdue was a noteworthy departure — the hiring of Harreld at Iowa was utterly preposterous.
While Rastetter, as president of the regents, was the architect of the administrative process that facilitated Harreld’s fraudulent hire, and Robillard was the critical inside man who betrayed the UI community — including disbanding the search committee before it could vet the finalists — it was Stead who initially conceived of Harreld as the right candidate to lead the University of Iowa. Where Rastetter and Robillard provided the means, including making Stead part of the search committee, it was Stead who put Harreld’s name in play, then arranged the initial face-to-face meeting between Harreld, Rastetter, Robillard, and Peter ‘No Bid‘ Matthes, whom Harreld would subsequently name as one of his Senior Advisors. (Stead was originally slated to attend that meeting, but according to Harreld he backed out at the last minute, leaving Harreld very sad.)
What we still do not know is how Stead initially arrived at Harreld as the right candidate to become the next president of UI. What we do know of a certainty is that Jerre Stead was the agent of Harreld’s hire. When Mason announced her impending resignation in late 2014, neither Rastetter nor Robillard knew Harreld existed. We also know that Harreld did not approach Stead about the Iowa job, because Harreld has consistently stated that he had to be talked into applying for the position. Whatever Stead did to convince Harreld to meet with Rastetter and Robillard, and to pursue the Iowa presidency, among the four co-conspirators it was Stead who had the initial vision, and Stead who believed that Harreld would allow him to realize that vision at Iowa.
The Genesis of the Harreld Hire
In order to understand Stead’s motivation for hiring J. Bruce Harreld at the University of Iowa, we have to jump in the WABAC Machine and return to early 2015. Sally Mason publicly announced her retirement in mid-January of that year. By the end of February, the twenty-one-person UI Presidential Search and Screen Committee had been announced, which Rastetter packed not only with Robillard and Stead, but with sufficient cronies and collaborators that he could have passed a hundred and fifty pounds of raw meat to the full board as one of the finalists for the position.
While we don’t know when Stead and Harreld first talked about the Iowa job, we do know that Stead gave Harreld’s name to Rastetter, and that Rastetter contacted Harreld in March — meaning shortly after the search officially kicked off. That also means that whatever vision Stead had for the University of Iowa, which then prompted him to offer up Harreld as the right man for the job, that vision was fully formed by March of 2015. While Rastetter would run roughshod over the Board of Regents in 2015, and Robillard would betray the University of Iowa at the highest level of administration — after which he would then appoint himself dean of the College of Medicine in early 2016 — Jerre Stead was coming off a banner year in 2014.
Specifically, in January of 2014 Stead was named Business Person of the Year by the Denver Post, in part for leading the state’s response to catastrophic flooding in 2013. From one of the three articles the Post ran about Stead on January 3rd and 4th, here is a summary of Stead as both a person and a modern-day entrepreneurial warrior:
No one at any age bounces out of bed at 3:30 in the morning — let alone exercises and meditates and jogs 4 to 5 miles before going to work — if they are not intensely driven. That Jerre Stead was doing all of that at 71 clearly put him in rare company, As for Stead’s wife, for the moment we will simply note that she was and remains a member of Board of Directors of the University of Iowa Foundation, to which the Steads have donated more than $50M over the years. (The other two, longer Post articles about Stead can be found here and here.)
Regarding IHS, in 2014 and 2015 Stead was not only making money hand over fist — while still finding time to hijack the UI presidency on the side — he was lining up a merger with a European counterpart in the informatics/analytics space. That merger, to Markit in March of 2016, would result in the largest consultancy of its kind in the world, with a combined valuation of more than $13B. Following the merger, the headquarters for IHS Markit relocated from the Denver suburb of Englewood, to London, England, which was the site of Markit’s home office.
One odd thing about the Steads, however, is that despite the fact that IHS was headquartered in Denver, and Stead was named Business Person of the Year by the Denver Post, the Steads don’t officially reside in Colorado. I’m sure they have a home in Denver, and maybe another home in Aspen or Telluride or a similar locale, but if you look at the listing for Stead’s wife on the UI Foundation website, this is what is says:
As you may or may not know, Scottsdale, along with Tempe and a number of other incorporated cities, is part of Phoenix. As you may or may not also know, Tempe is the site of the main campus of Arizona State University, while there are several other satellite campuses in the Phoenix area, and more across the state. (The University of Arizona is in Tucson, about 110 miles to the southeast.)
As noted in the previous post, the current president of Arizona State University, Michael M. Crow — who has held that position since 2002, for an almost unheard of tenure of fifteen years — is “the darling of the transformational change crowd” in higher education. If there is one university president who can and will tell you how you are doing it wrong, it is Crow — who is particularly keen on using online technology to increase enrollment and tuition revenue, while simultaneously decreasing burdensome personnel costs through the cutting of faculty and staff.
Crow has been successful at improving ASU in measurable ways, although it is also important to consider what he started with, which was not great. Add in the Great Recession — which kicked off in 2008, and gave Crow an unprecedented opportunity to gut programs in response to massive cuts in state appropriations — and while Crow has made positive changes, both luck and location (being an island in the expansive Desert Southwest) also played important roles. (It is not clear what happened to the greater higher-ed ecosystem in Arizona over the past fifteen years, but I’m guessing it isn’t pretty — and that’s aside from any damage done by for-profit schools in the state.)
In proximity alone, then — meaning Scottsdale, Tempe, and the greater Phoenix metroplex — we effectively have Stead and Crow in the same place at the same time. Because they are both movers and shakers in their respective fields, it also would not be surprising if they met at some point, whether at a conference or the local country club. More to the point, because Stead is an information vacuum and a major donor at Iowa, while Crow is a major exponent of transformational change in higher-ed, you can see how they might have end up chatting about ASU, Iowa, or more likely both.
So, do we have any proof that they know each other, or may have met? Well, in the September, 2006 issue of the Sonoran Quarterly — meaning nine years before Harreld’s appointment at UI — both Crow and Stead are listed as members of the pricey ‘Agave Century Club‘. (You can also find them listed in the 2009 and 2010 annual reports for the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.) More recently and more substantively, we have an announcement in September that the 2017 winner of the Lawrence R. Klein Award, which is given out by Arizona State’s W. P. Carey School of Business, was the Chief Economist at IHS Markit, Nariman Behravesh. Closing any remaining gap, the presenter of that award at the New York City gala this past October was none other than Stead himself. (I was unable to determine whether Michael Crow was in attendance.)
So we have Stead and Crow in proximity in Phoenix, and we have them connected by association to and through Arizona State and IHS Market. We also know that in 2015 Jerre Stead got a desert-hare-brained idea, even for someone used to taking control of businesses and bending them to his will. Specifically, in March of 2015, if not earlier, Stead proposed that the Iowa Board of Regents go dumpster diving for a business executive who had not worked in business for seven years, who also had no prior experience in academic administration or the public sector, and make him the president of a billion-dollar public research university. All of which again raises the question of where that idea came from, because even if Jerre Stead is an entrepreneurial warrior, that would have been an unprecedented fight had he decided to wage it on the up and up, instead of using treachery and friends in high places to deceive the UI community.
As it turns out, however, early 2015 was also an important time for Michael Crow, because that’s when his co-authored book — Designing the New American University — was published. And as it also turns out, not only did the timing of that book and timing of the 2015 UI search overlap to a remarkable degree, but in retrospect so did the intent of both of those endeavors. From the John Hopkins University Press web page for Crow’s book:
Given that there was a vacancy in the president’s office at UI for the first time in eight years, and that Iowa is a public research university, and that Michael Crow was at that moment publishing a book about how to “[reinvent] the public research university” as an “international academic and research powerhouse”, even if Stead and Crow had never heard about each other before, how likely is it that Crow’s book did not come to Stead’s attention? Or, put another way, how does Stead arrive at Harreld as his candidate of choice if Crow’s book is not part of the equation? Because no matter how I come at that question, I can’t make that conceptual leap without Crow’s book as the trigger. Stead is a smart guy, but even at his most ruthless he is not a radical. There had to be a template, an overarching plan into which Harreld would be plugged, for Harreld’s candidacy to make any sense. (It would be different if Harreld had volunteered to become the king of Iowa, but according to everything Harreld has said, he had to be begged to even consider the position.)
The publication of Crow’s book also changes the dynamic between Stead and Crow. Prior to publication, we need Stead and Crow communicating directly for Crow’s ideas to influence Stead. After publication — including pre-release copies that may have been in circulation well before the release date in March of 2015 — Crow is portable, and particularly in Phoenix his ideas are in the air. Everyone knew what a great job Crow had done at ASU, but in early 2015 his secrets were made available for $35 a crack. If you were involved in a presidential search at that time, would you have given Crow’s book a look? (We will have more to say about Crow’s book in an upcoming post.)
I don’t know if Jerre Stead had serious differences with Sally Mason during her tenure at Iowa. Maybe they were in opposition about the best course to follow, or maybe they were in fast agreement and blamed the faculty for standing in their way. What I do know, based on reading about Stead’s career, is that his success over fifty years in the private sector was predicated on installing people at the head of the companies he bought out or took over, who then did what he wanted them to do. What he had never done, however, was install someone at the head of a public research university, and I do not believe — no matter how he thought things should have been done at UI — that in early 2015 Jerre Stead had his own plan for designing the new American university.
Assuming that Crow did not simply put his name on a book that was written by his co-author, for much if not all of 2014 it was Crow who was thinking deeply about such issues. In late 2014, Sally Mason decided to retire some nine months hence, and that decision was announced in mid-January of 2015. The first review I have found for Designing the New American University is dated 01/25/15 — or ten days after Mason’s announcement — and comes from a pre-release copy of the work. (In that review it was noted that the book would be published in March, but it would obviously have been available to Stead earlier, had he requested an advanced copy from Crow, or had Crow wanted him to have one. Additional reviews, from mid-March to late May, can be found here, here, here, and here.)
The UI search committee was announced at the end of February, whereupon it did almost nothing through March and April. Only in May did the committee and the contracted firm get serious about prosecuting the search, which still did not begin in earnest until after the ads for the position appeared in June. And yet, consider what happened during those two quiet months….
First, Crow’s book hit the shelves in March, and was available to anyone whether they knew him personally or not. Second, on or before April 15th a ‘missing meeting’ is rumored to have taken place between Stead, Rastetter, Robillard and perhaps others, at Stead’s home in Scottsdale. One obvious question about that meeting has always been whether Harreld was involved, because Rastetter initially approached Harreld about the Iowa job back in March, after being tipped off about Harreld by Stead. We do not know whether Harreld attended, or may have been conferenced in, or may simply have been the subject of that meeting, but with Crow in the mix another possibility emerges.
While the purpose of that meeting — to map out the upcoming presidential search — makes sense, the location does not because Stead was likely working in Denver. Whether Harreld appeared in person or not, because he also lived in Colorado at the time, a Denver meeting would have made more sense. If Harreld did not participate, and the question was simply about getting Stead, Rastetter and Robillard in the same room for a little conspiratorial chat, it would have been even easier for all involved if Stead had simply dropped in to the Hawkeye state — perhaps on his way to or from Europe in advance of the merger with Markit. Even if the three co-conspirators were paranoid about secrecy, they could have met at any number of places in Iowa, including Rastetter’s private place of business in Ames, where Rastetter would later host secret meetings between Harreld and four other members of the board of regents. With Crow’s book having just been published, however, and Crow being local to the Phoenix area, the possibility that they may have met in Scottsdale so Crow could talk to Rastetter and Robillard in person about his big ideas must be given serious consideration.
To be clear, there would have been nothing illegal or even unethical about such a meeting, whether there was an ongoing presidential search or not. It’s always good to gather information before making a decision, and in 2015 Michael Crow was considered an oracle on the subject of transformational change in higher education. Where Rastetter, Robillard and Stead could get in trouble, however, is if they agreed at that time to run Harreld as their stealth candidate, with the intention of then using him to implement Crow’s reforms at Iowa. That would be a big problem because of a clause in the search firm’s contract [p. 72]:
The contract between the Iowa Board of Regents and its search firm, Parker Executive Search, was signed and dated on 03/13/15, by former regents CEO and Executive Director Bob Donley. Even assuming, as we have discussed in multiple prior posts, that Rastetter ultimately fixed the election in Harreld’s favor as a result of the secret regent meetings that he hosted at his private place of business in Ames, on 07/30/15, those meetings were more than ninety day after the signing of that contract. Not so, however, the rumored ‘missing meeting’, which took place on or before 04/15/15.
If Rastetter, Robillard and Stead all agreed that Harreld would be their done-deal candidate in April of 2015 — whether to follow Crow’s road map or not — they could have and should have ended the search at that time, thus saving the state taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. Instead, because they clearly did not have the courage of their transformational convictions, they proceeded with the search committee as a stalking horse, and used it to obscure their nefarious intent until the last possible minute. And yet, even as early as May it became clear that the search committee was contemplating something radically divergent. From the Press Citizen’s Jeff Charis Carlson, on 05/08/15 — just after the first brass-tax meeting of the search committee:
It would be interesting to know how long Robillard had been talking up Bill Gates on the UI campus, because that report was filed less than a month after the rumored ‘missing meeting’. As we now know, of course, not only did Robillard help hire a former businessman — albeit one who had never been a CEO — but he conspired with Rastetter and Stead to hire the same exact businessman that Stead floated to Rastetter in March, if not earlier. Meaning, again, that the done-deal search they ran looks to have been fixed well within the 90-day termination window specified by the contract with the search firm.
We do not have anyone on the record that the ‘missing meeting’ actually took place. The difficulty of confirming that meeting is that the rumored participants have all lied on the record regarding the 2015 UI search, so there is no reason to expect that they will suddenly start telling the truth about secret aspects of that scam. We also don’t know if Michael Crow met with Robillard and Rastetter even if they traveled to Stead’s place in April of 2015, but it would certainly be interesting if someone called him and asked.
Fortunately, here at Ditchwalk we are not constrained by any requirement to prove deception to a certainty, or even beyond a reasonable doubt. Unlike the burden of proof carried by the free press or the law, which is, necessarily, asymmetric to the rights of scum everywhere, here at Ditchwalk we are not concerned with what is possible or even plausible — which is the stock in trade of liars and cheats — but what is probable or most likely. In keeping with Occam’s Razor, we are looking for the simplest explanation that accounts for all of the relevant facts.
In early September of 2015, in a shocking turn, the Iowa Board of Regents appointed a carpetbagging dilettante as president of the University of Iowa. In the following weeks and months the conspiracy which led to that appointment was largely exposed, but one question that has not been answered is where the inspiration for that hire came from. In this post we have proposed what seems to be the simplest explanation: at another school, a transformational-change guru published a book at the exact same moment that the UI search was getting underway, and that guru may even have played a part in convincing Rastetter, Robillard and Stead to head down that road. In fact, precisely because Stead had already put Harreld’s name in play in March, it seems clear that Stead had already decided to head down that road himself, making his sales pitch to Rastetter and Robillard all but inevitable, with or without Crow’s direct participation.
Is it possible that Stead did not know Crow in 2015, or had never met him, or had never talked with him about the 2015 UI search? Yes. Is it possible that Stead knew nothing about Crow’s book, or at least never talked to Crow about his book? Yes again. Is it possible that the ‘missing meeting’ did not happen, or that if it did happen, they did not talk about Harreld, or if they did talk about Harreld, that Crow was not there? Sure — anything is possible. What is most likely, however, is that all of those things did happen, and all of those things not only contributed to the fraud that was committed during the 2015 search, they reflect the intent of that fraud — the objective of creating a new American university at UI, based on the ASU prototype.
Jerre Stead, Michael Crow and the 2020 Task Force
Even if everything happened as we have just speculated, and Crow pitched his paradigm to Stead, Rastetter and Robillard in Scottsdale — and perhaps other attendees as well — as interesting as that might be, and even as important as it might be, it’s still history. It is an explanation for the Harreld hire, but it is an explanation about the past, and if that was all it was this post would end here. As it turns out, however, that’s not the case. Whatever motivation Jerre Stead had to jam J. Bruce Harreld into the president’s office at Iowa, over and against the will of the vast majority of constituents on the UI campus, that motivation is also relevant to what is happening on that campus right now, and may in fact play an even bigger part in the near future.
As noted in several recent posts, and particularly the previous post about the 10/24/17 Faculty Senate meeting — at which Interim Provost Sue Curry made an idiot out of herself — Michael Crow recently came up in the context of the ongoing 2020 Task Force. That review is currently about halfway through, and is scheduled to conclude at the end of the current academic year, at which point Harreld and Curry will choose from among the recommended reforms.
From the 10/24/15 meeting minutes:
Three points here, which should be obvious from all of the above. First, no other university president gets a mention, making it clear that Crow and Arizona State have particular cachet with regard to “reorganizing experiences” at higher-ed institutions. Second, while Crow took over ASU in 2002, the single most important factor in his reorganization of that campus was a black swan — meaning the Great Recession in 2008. Because that was almost a decade ago, however, what Crow has to say now can hardly be characterized as “recent”. Third, because Crow wrote a book about his efforts at ASU, it is also likely that most of what he has to say is in that book, making it less important that he be contacted in person, compared to presidents who have not written about their administrative trials. And yet…in the Faculty Senate meeting minutes we have a clear and prominent reference to Crow and ASU, and no one else.
Perhaps that focus reflects Crow’s celebrity status in the higher-ed transformational-change space, or, perhaps it reflects an attempt by Curry, Harreld, or members of the 2020 Task Force acting on their behalf, to plant Crow’s name in the ongoing review. As to why they would want to do that, imagine that Crow really was the genesis of Stead’s decision to back Harreld as a stealth candidate in 2015. In that instance, one big advantage of giving Crow and ASU prominent mention in the final report of the 2020 Task Force is that it would then allow Harreld to pursue Crow’s plan as if he had just heard about it, as opposed to acknowledging that it was the basis of his hire. Harreld could even come out wholly in support of Crow and his “design” for the new American university, yet no one would ever suspect that they were the impetus for Stead, and later Rastetter and Robillard, to conspire to hire Harreld.
Because there is apparently no time to waste when conducting a campus-wide academic organizational review, the 2020 Task Force did not wait until winter break to follow up with Crow, or the spring semester, but instead conducted an interview sometime in the next five weeks. From the December 1st progress report for the 2020 Task Force:
No matter how many other presidents are subsequently interviewed, or what they have to say, Crow will feature in the final report, meaning Harreld can then claim that Crow’s plans reflect the interests of the UI community. That in turn will allow Harreld to push forward with Crow’s template even if no one other than the person who originally floated Crow’s name to the task force ever expressed any interest in what Crow is doing. (One obvious question for the members of the 2020 Task Force would be where the interest in Crow originated.) That is not to say that Crow hasn’t done good things at ASU, or that he doesn’t have some ideas which might be generally useful, but if interest in Crow is being ginned up to validate radical changes on the UI campus, that would obviously be contrary to the intent of any task force members who are acting in good faith.
As to the pace of the 2020 Task Force, which is not simply unrelenting, but has been prioritized over demonstrably more important issues at UI — like hiring a new dean at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, or hiring a new permanent provost — in the previous post I said the following:
What I did not say in the previous post, because I intended to raise the point here, is that there may also be one person not on the UI campus who has as much or more interest in pushing the 2020 Task Force than does Harreld, and of course that would be Jerre Stead. And the reason Stead might be eager to have the UI review continue apace — even at the risk of demoralizing or enraging the faculty, or disrupting the day-to-day functioning of the school — is that after fifty years in the business world, and a previous failed attempt to step back at IHS, Jerre Stead is finally retiring.
So what does Stead plan to do once he is no longer running a massive corporation? Well, we actually have that from an interview earlier this year, by David Hunn of the Houston Chronicle, on 03/10/17:
That is all so adorable and perfect that it is kind of a downer to think it might not be the full story. While spending more time with one’s family is what one often says in such moments, is it really likely that a man who got up at 3:30 in the morning, in order to work out and meditate before once again taking the reins of a global corporation, is simply going to start hanging around the house? Or is it more likely that Stead might busy himself with a hobby, or perhaps do some volunteer mentoring or consulting?
In fact, can we think of anyone who is tackling a big project, who could use Stead’s help? Someone that Stead could help do “great things”? Anyone? Anyone at all…?
Here is how J. Bruce Harreld characterized his relationship with Jerre Stead, just before taking office in early November of 2015:
As regular readers also know, however, during his candidate forum Harreld was asked, point-blank, if he had any prior business relationships with anyone on the search committee. Because Harreld knew he could not confess his long-standing relationship with Stead and still hope to have any credibility after the regents handed him the the job as a result of their rigged vote, he simply lied:
Harreld answered immediately, categorically — and falsely. Two months later, when he was poised to start picking up $4M over the next five years, he admitted that he had a longstanding relationship with Stead, who was on the search committee, and that they had “technically” done business with each other. Even if accepted Harreld’s blatant lie, however, that Stead had only been “a mentor” at “various stages” of Harreld’s career, that would not be particularly reassuring in the context of the 2020 Task Force.
As to why Harreld would view Stead as a mentor and not as a peer, remember that although Harreld worked at IBM and other name companies, he was never the CEO of anything, including a hot dog stand. Stead, on the other hand, has been the CEO of multiple companies, yet that only scratches the surface of his vast business experience. From the IHS Q3 call on 09/26/17:
Even the list of the acquisitions Stead made while he was at IHS only tells part of the story. From a Financial Times article titled Jerre Stead Was a Reluctant Chief Exective, by John Murray Brown on 03/21/16 [if that link prompts a subscription page, search for the title and click the link in the search engine]:
In the world of business Jerre Stead is a great white shark. He may not be the biggest shark, or the most aggressive, but he is an apex predator, and in the private sector that is not a knock. By comparison, however, and extending the analogy, J. Bruce Harreld would be one of those little sucker fish stuck to Stead’s chin. Which is to say that not only would Stead be Harreld’s mentor in any business context, but it is entirely possible, if not likely — particularly given his bumbling performance so far — that J. Bruce Harreld is also not qualified to reorganize the academic structure of a major research university.
Assuming that Stead was in business for 50 years, 200 acquisitions means he performed an average of 4 each year. Even if some of those acquisitions were small, each one required exhaustive due diligence, along with the kind of ruthlessness that most people associate with amputations or firing squads. With that background, and in the context of the ongoing 2020 Task Force, even if Stead wasn’t a UI alum or a big money donor, and had not personally helped to install a longtime mentee in the president’s office, let alone as a result of a fraudulent, taxpayer funded search, he might have something to say about that ongoing administrative process, and perhaps even something useful.
It could be that Stead really does plan to ride off into the sunset, but that seems genuinely unlikely because Jerre Stead is not your average big-money donor. In fact, he doesn’t consider himself a donor at all. From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller on 10/03/13, following the second of two $10M donations to — or rather, investments in — the Department of Pediatrics at UIHC, which was then named after the Steads:
Now, maybe this is just me, but I’ve never been able to read that quote without hearing it as a threat. Either give Jerre the performance he expects, or there will be consequences — like, say, having J. Bruce Harreld shoved down your throat. And for the record, no, that was not an off-the-cuff remark by Stead. From the Press Citizen’s Charis-Carlson, on 12/02/15, shortly after the recently installed Harreld decided to name the brand new UI Children’s Hospital after the Steads — without any of those business geniuses first insisting that a market survey be done to determine how much the naming rights were worth:
Here again, Stead uses the word “investments” to describe what anyone else would call donations. It is not an accident, and it tells us that Stead has serious expectations about how his money will be handled at the University of Iowa. Except, of course, when the toad president he installed decides to shovel tens of millions of dollars at him in the form of naming rights, at which point he’s fine with taking an eight-figure honorarium at taxpayer expense. (You can read more about Jerre Stead’s “investments” in Iowa here.)
As to the possibility that Harreld might ask Stead to kibitz on the 2020 Task Force, or that Stead might take an activist role, or that the point all along may have been to position the ongoing review for the moment when Stead retired from IHS — so he could take the lead in “reimagining” the UI campus — let’s look at what we know….
* In March of 2015 — conceivably even before the board signed its record-setting contract, because you can’t run a modern, professional search without pissing money away on a search firm — Jerre Stead floated the name of the winning candidate to Bruce Rastetter, who went right ahead and wasted $300K+ in taxpayer funds. (Had the search not been corrupt that would have been one thing. As it is, one of the only remaining questions about that corrupt process is when they settled on hiring Harreld.)
* Also in March of 2015, Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University — which is in Stead’s neck of the Arizona desert — published a book called Designing the New American University. In reality, that book could have been available to Stead in advance of the official publication date, perhaps as early as January.
* In April of 2015 Stead is rumored to have hosted a ‘missing meeting’ at his home in Scottsdale, for himself, Robillard and Rastetter — who were all on the search committee — and perhaps others. Whether Crow participated is not known.
* In early May of 2015, only a few weeks later, the chair of the UI search committee, Jean Robillard, started openly talking about hiring a CEO-type to run the school.
* In early June, Jerre Stead facilitated the first face-to-face meeting between Rastetter, Robillard, Matthes and Harreld, at the Kirkwood Community College campus. That meeting would remain secret until the weekend before Harreld took office.
* Mere moments after Harreld was appointed at the beginning of September, he lied about the origins of his candidacy. The next day, in the press, Stead told a similar lie that was designed to obscure their longstanding relationship and business history.
* Now, two years later — and only months removed from giving one of his IHS employees an award from Arizona State University — the name of Michael Crow, president of ASU, has bubbled up in the academic organizational review at UI. Among other recommendations that have yet to be determined, Phase I of that review has already targeted the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for major changes.
Taking all that in sum, is there really any question whether Jerre Stead — as a big-money “investor” in the “future” of UI — would be interested in helping to shape the final recommendations of the 2020 Task Force? In fact, given his relationship with Harreld, which they both lied about within twenty-four hours of Harreld’s appointment, it would be easy for Harreld to involve Stead in the remaining stages of the 2020 Task Force, if that’s what Stead wants. And of course Stead’s wife has been on the Board of Directors of the UI Foundation since 1999, meaning even if Stead wasn’t entitled to inside info as a big-money donor — I mean, “investor” — she would certainly have access to whatever he might want to know. (Harreld is an ex officio member of the UI Foundation board.)
Are there any prohibitions or restrictions regarding the type and amount of information that Stead’s wife or Harreld can pass along to Stead? Because if there aren’t, he may be privy to more information about the 2020 Task Force than almost anyone on campus, including the members of the Phase II committee. And while it’s possible that Harreld might want to call the shots on the gutting of CLAS himself, or reimagine the UI campus as an economic development engine, don’t forget that he is stuffing $4M in his pockets over five years thanks to Stead. That may be the main compensation from Harreld’s good-old-boy minders, who clearly hired him to do what he was told to do.
Put another way, if Jerre Stead wanted to take over the reorganization of Iowa’s academic structure, who would tell him no? Harreld? The Board of Regents?
In that scenario Harreld would get to work with his mentor, who is beloved on the UI campus, while the loyal and benevolent Stead would help Harreld “do great things”. And of course from the point of view of the board, Stead’s pricey wisdom would be showered on the university at no charge, not counting the tens of millions in naming rights that he received in 2015. The only people who might feel disenfranchised in that otherwise uplifting scenario would be those in the UI community who actually believe that the Board of Regents and UI administration will ever take shared governance seriously, which is how we got where we are in the first place. In reality, having Harreld bring Stead in to orchestrate the dismantling of CLAS, and the long-term slaving of the Iowa campus to the entrepreneurial ethos, is the logical extension of the abuse of power that landed Harreld in office in the first place. Call it Phase II of the Harreld hire, which begins with corrupting Phase II of the 2020 Task Force, then using the final report of the Phase II committee to legitimize the adoption of Crow’s template at Arizona State.
Jerre Stead’s Hostile Takeover of the University of Iowa
You may have heard the term ‘activist investor’ over the past few years, usually in the context of activity on Wall St. What you may not know is that ‘activist investor’ is simply a cuddly euphemism for what used to be called corporate raiders — meaning people who take over companies by whatever means they have at their disposal, then either “turn them around” through mass firings and/or Chapter 11 bankruptcy, or break them up and sell off the pieces for more than the share-price sum of those parts. As ugly and dehumanizing as acquisitions can be, that’s the nature of the private sector — as demonstrated by Stead’s acquisition of IHS, in which 26 of the top 28 people were fired so Stead could replace them with his own management team.
By contrast, what is genuinely impressive about Stead’s takeover of the University of Iowa — in which he installed his own one-man management team at the top of the org chart — is that he pulled that off without having to make a substantial new investment. At most he may have ponied up an additional $5M just prior to the appointment of Harreld by the Board of Regents, yet only two months later the board granted him the naming rights to the new Children’s Hospital, which are easily worth tens of millions of dollars on the open market. And of course unlike the private sector, Stead doesn’t even have to pay Harreld’s $4M out of his own pocket, because the state taxpayers are obligated to pick up that $800K annual tab.
In fact, if we pull back and look at the Harreld hire in the context of Stead’s long experience with acquisitions, it’s clear that as early as March of 2015, Jerre Stead was envisioning and engineering a hostile takeover of a public university — his alma mater, in which he had already “invested” $50M — using both friends in high places and the loyal stooge who eventually took the helm. And of course in the two-plus years since Harreld was fraudulently appointed, Harreld has further weakened the leadership at UI by driving multiple members of the cabinet into retirement or to jobs at other institutions. As noted in recent posts, among the most critical impending and current vacancies are, respectively, the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which is the largest college on campus by far, and the provost’s office, which is currently staffed by Harreld’s own hand-picked flunky. Even the office of Economic Development and Research — which will be critical to the success of Harreld’s (and Stead’s) long-term plans to generate profits research — is vacant, with that VP title currently being held on an interim basis by the same Dean Keller who, among other things, was one of the four deans assigned to complete Phase I of the 2020 Task Force.
I don’t know if Jerre Stead counts the University of Iowa among his 200 acquisitions, but he should. Without spending much if any money (net), Stead took a controlling interest in a $5B public university, and is so doing decapitated the key shared governance positions on campus. More importantly, while Rastetter is six months gone from the Board of Regents, and Robillard just stepped back from the twin positions of Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the Carver College of Medicine, Jerre Stead is finally free to be more engaged with the $50M he has invested in his alma mater. That this opportunity has coincided with ASU President Crow being interviewed by the 2020 Task Force is fortuitous icing on the coincidence cake.
The one obvious concern would be that whatever Jerre Stead thinks the University of Iowa can be in the future, the calculus of successful activist investors is always the same. What is an asset worth now, and what will it be worth if it is taken over and restructured, or sold off in lots? What is the present value, what is the intrinsic value, and is there a positive spread between those two valuations?
From that narrow financial perspective, even a hopelessly naive advocate of education for the sake of education would have to admit that the University of Iowa could be making a lot more money, and that all it would have to do to substantially increase profits would be prioritize profit-making over education. (Duh.) For example, instead of keeping the price of tuition as low as possible, to help the maximum number of students lead better lives, if not alter the destiny of their entire families, the university could jack up the price of tuition to whatever the market would bear. And of course that’s exactly what Stead’s hand-picked management team proposed last summer: increasing the price of tuition 41% over the next five years — after having already jacked up tuition 12% in his first year and a half in office — because there are still plenty of students in Iowa who can and will pay that freight.
Once all of that new money starts rolling in, which in itself represents pure profit, that revenue can be devoted not to improving the education that students are already paying for, but to funding for-profit ventures. Which, by amazing coincidence, is also exactly what Stead’s one-man management team proposed last summer, in the guise of fulfilling the new, consensus-driven, shared-governance determined, research-intensive UI Strategic Plan. (Of the estimated $155M total cost of the UISP — all of which would be funded by Harreld’s massive tuition hikes — fully 82%, or $127M, would be spent on for-profit research.)
From the point of view of entrepreneurial types like Stead and Harreld, nothing could be more obvious. If you want more revenue, you have to invest in activities which generate more profit. That you can do so at a public university not by raising capital, which will expect to share in any future returns, but simply by gouging students and giving them nothing for their money, is awesome — but the basic dynamic is the same.
Still, it must be acknowledged that this mercenary approach does stand the public education model on its head. It used to be assumed that degrees from a public college or university — meaning an education which is defrayed by government subsidies for qualifying students — returned a benefit to the state, if not an actual profit, by indirect means. Specifically, students would get an education, go out into the world and live wonderful, profitable lives, and in so doing generate economic activity. That activity might result in increased in-state earnings, it might result in new businesses being created by those grads, or — as in the case of Jerre Stead — it might result in massive donations to, or “investments” in, the academic institutions themselves.
What Stead and Harreld are now doing is short-circuiting that old-school paradigm. Instead of giving a benefit up front in the form of lower tuition, then waiting for a consequent return on that investment down the road, Stead and Harreld intend to charge almost half again as much for the same education that students are getting now, then use that additional revenue as seed money for profit-making ventures. (In that new paradigm, education becomes a side business in which students are to be minimally trained, so they can be employed as cheap, white-collar worker drones.)
As to why Stead would be or even should be allowed to ride roughshod over shared governance at the state-owned University of Iowa — either directly, or through his proxy president, who rose to power as a result of a prior abuse of shared governance — some might argue that all of the money Stead has “invested” in the school gives him that right. As it turns out, however, by the usual metrics of the investor class itself, those people would be wrong. Yes, the $50M or so that Stead has given over the years is a lot of money — far more than most people will earn in their lives –but even $50M is chump change relative to the annual $4B cash flow of UI. (Most reporting on the university focuses on general education fund revenues, which, for 2017-2018 are about $740M. The university-wide budgeted revenues, however, show the true scale of the school as an enterprise.)
It is fairly common for activist investors to make a substantial purchase of outstanding shares in a company, precisely to gain a seat on the board of directors. At that point they can advocate for their agenda, including maneuvering for control of the board, which then allows them to hire a friendly CEO. What is not particularly common is for a measly $50M to buy a controlling interest in a $4B enterprise, yet that’s exactly what Stead pulled off. (At the very least, the Iowa Board of Regents should be replaced for selling out so cheap. Then again, fleecing yokels in Des Moines seems to be a staple of private industry these days.)
The real problem with all of this focus on profits, of course, is that at its core, the University of Iowa is not a business. It is, instead, an educational institution, even as it also has an academic research mission. What it is not, and what it was never intended to be, is an economic development engine in and of itself. That’s what the students are for: to produce a return on the investment that the state makes in their lives, but Jerre Stead and J. Bruce Harreld are clearly not satisfied with such noble aspirations, or long-term investments. Instead, they are determined to corrupt the premise of public education, to violate the tenets of shared governance which are the basis of any vibrant academic community, and to exploit and disadvantage students and their families in pursuit of objectives that are rightly the province of the private sector.
But it’s worse than that. Even if you are cynical enough to realize that you can jam your hand-picked stooge into the president’s office of a major public research university, your moral compass is supposed to prevent you from acting on that hostile opportunity. And yet, in 2015, the one big-name donor at Iowa who insists on seeing his generosity as an “investment”, had no problem taking control of the school the old fashioned way. Instead of making a public pitch for Harreld — or someone with Harreld’s background — as early as March of 2015, Stead did what entrepreneurs have always done when they can’t convince others that money is the only thing that matters. Jerre Stead cheated.
As a result, a completely unqualified man who could not succeed on the merits of his own candidacy became the president of the University of Iowa. That same illegitimate president is now poised not only to determine the academic organizational structure of the University of Iowa — a subject he knows nothing about — but perfectly positioned to bring his old mentor and minder, Jerre Stead, back in to help. With Michael Crow in the mix, and Stead with a lot of free time on his hands — unless his family likes to get up at 3:30 in the morning — it is not hard to imagine that the final restructuring Stead will be involved in, if not in charge of, will be the University of Iowa itself
As to when that might happen, we have that answer from Stead’s final quarterly conference call at IHS, on on 11/13/17:
Unless he checked out early, which doesn’t seem like his style, Jerre Stead’s last day at IHS is today: Friday, December 29th, 2017. After the long New Year’s weekend, the same man who regulated himself for fifty years by performing an average of 4 acquisitions per year, is going to have a lot of free time on his hands, starting Tuesday at 3:30 a.m. At the very least, I would expect that he will use some of that time to keep a close eye on his investments, if not actively manage his portfolio.
Well, holy ****.
I assume your Pulitzer can be sent to the address in the phone book.
One thing strikes me, though, as I’m reading. I’ve been to Scottsdale, and it’s not impossibly far away from Silicon Valley. It’s an annoying commute from SV, but it’s at least visible. Iowa, otoh, is not, and there are reasons why we have not become a Research Triangle. I think those ten years might also turn out to be a helpful thing. We’ve had ten years of New Iowan Austerity already, and things have begun to collapse. There isn’t really private money here to make up for the withdrawal of public money. So I don’t know how much appetite there’d be for an exciting new program of same.
While we may wind up seeing a whole lot of Jerre around campus, there are also limits to how far you can push any institution, and I think he may find the realities here rather frustrating. I suspect that Crow is already “the form of Crow” in conversation, and that the interpretation’s already had the nerves cut. I’m also looking at potential for cuts, both to wages/benefits and employee numbers, and while I imagine there’s still quite a lot of damage that can be done at the hospital, at some point the statehouse gets restive and wants to know why there’s so many danged lawsuits. At the university itself, end of the day, you have to staff the classrooms, advise the kids, run the dorms, etc., and there has to be some way for the kids to pay for school. We know a lot more about why online school does and doesn’t work than we did ten years ago, too, and it’s not a Ryanesque vision. We’re also far enough in hock now that revenue dips become a serious thing – we have to pay that money back.
You’re also right that in the scheme of things, Jerre’s money is pretty small at UI.
I’ve been waiting for big cuts for the last decade, and so far I’m not seeing them. My guess is that if a real slashing happened, we’d see a rather large exodus, staff and contingent faculty deciding that “above and beyond” was foolish, students and parents complaining loudly, and faculty also leaving because staff and teaching support was evaporating under their feet. And I really don’t know how you’d replace it. There’s not that many people here — we already have trouble staffing classrooms. I don’t know how you persuade able people to move to Iowa for $13/hr, no benefits, no security, to work in higher ed. Yes, I’ve heard the rumors about the secret benefits committee that’s not FRIC drawing up plans to slash benefits and pay, but when it comes to the implementation, I think things are going to turn out to be…inelastic.
But I guess we’ll find out.
Wouldn’t it be nice if all the Richard Floridas just stayed home?
One of the most interesting things about Stead’s career is that he clearly grasped and adapted to the tech age as a businessperson, when a lot of people of his age/generation were simply baffled into early retirement.
The inherent problem with that — in keeping with your post — is that he had to go to places other than Iowa to pull that off. So like you, I don’t see him porting a successful research model to the upper-Midwest, whether from Silicon Valley or North Carolina — home of the original ‘research triangle’. (He might try, of course, but it won’t work.)
One thing Stead could do, however, is prime the pump for a particular niche in Iowa by building out a workforce that was integrated/embedded into the higher-ed research schools. On that score, Iowa has been heading down the ‘big data’ road since at least 2013, which is when Iowa offered its first undergrad major in data analytics. Note also that Jerre Stead turned the CEO duties at IHS over to Scott Key in 2013, only to return and replace Key in June of 2015. (That is of course also when the Harreld hire was reaching peak corruption, and I’ve often wondered if Stead’s plans for UI were delayed because he took over IHS again.)
Speaking of Harreld, only a month before his rigged appointment, the push for ‘big data’ resources and degrees at Iowa became more pronounced. Ten months later, in the summer of 2016, we get Harreld talking up
‘big data’ in a Corridor Business Journal article titled, “UI’s Harreld says private partnerships may supplant state funding”:
While Harreld has yet to reveal any sexy research ties to big-name corporations, the build-out of the ‘big data’ program at Iowa continues to accelerate, and even Iowa State is getting into the act. On the UI campus, Iowa also killed off its full-time MBA program, yet it keeps adding more certificate programs and online programs and executive education programs — many of them aimed at ‘big data’ or ‘business analytics’. (In the past year, this seems to have become a point of focus for all of the Iowa regent universities.)
Throw in the recent $50M donation (investment) by the Ivys to the Iowa State business college, and the massive new Apple data center in Waukee (West Des Moines), and it’s not hard to go Illuminati on the subject of ‘big data’, which is always fun….
I agree that a complete overhaul of UI would fail, for all the reasons you note. But it wouldn’t be too hard for Stead to cleave off a section of the university for himself, now that he has Harreld calling the shots. He could establish a legacy in higher-ed which is predicated on his success in business, perhaps with another $50M in feel-good seed money, for which higher-ed admins seem willing to do just about anything these days…..
I don’t have a clear sense of how all of this plays out, but as you noted, at some point we are going to find out. Unlike private industry, at a public research university not only are people more likely to talk, but there are statutory reporting obligations that make it very hard to hide things for long. Harreld has a little less than three years left on his deal, and the 2020 Task Force won’t finish faking its final report until spring. At that point we will find out what kind of changes and cuts Harreld and Stead have been working up to for the past two years.
Ann Rhodes says
Have you considered the possibility that Michael Crow has his eye on the presidency of the U of Iowa? It would be a big step up from ASU and I believe that he started his career at ISU as director of economic development, where he played a little fast and loose with the truth on occasion.
He might be viewing contact with Stead, et al as valuable in moving up in the higher ed universe.
That’s a great question.
I ran across Crow’s early ties to ISU — both as an undergrad and later as a member of the faculty — but it had not occurred to me that he might try to leverage himself out of ASU and into UI. That idea does fit with the vibe I’m getting from the early pages of his book, however, which so far reads like a TED talk.
(I already see the book as an extended sales pitch not so much for Crow’s new ‘design’ for American universities, but for Crow himself — which is very much in keeping with how gurus talk about their subject matter. It’s not just that there is a problem, it’s that they have the answer.)
In a reply just above I also noted that there was a glitch in Stead’s succession plans at IHS in 2015, at about the same time he was pitching Harreld to the Board of Regents. It’s pure conjecture, but in a certain light it is not hard to see Harreld as a pinch-hitting president, holding down the fort while Stead pushed the IHS merger through with Markit. In that context, it might even be useful to have Harreld implement serious cuts, then resign in order for Crow to take the job.
(No explanation of how Harreld ended up as president at Iowa makes more sense than the idea that he was a last-minute substitution.)
The budget headline for the 2018-2019 fiscal and academic years in Iowa (July 1st to June 30th) is that there will once again be cuts at the two largest of the three regent universities. The good news is that those cuts will be significantly less than the mid-year clawbacks which were imposed during the previous cycle, or the additional cuts which were enacted for the current year. While we won’t know the final numbers for several months, and they could end up being worse, so far the news is not only better than it could have been, it is better than it initially appears. (UI specifics here, ISU here, useful context here.)
Of the $5.1M tentatively slated to be cut from the regent schools in FY19, $2.4M will come from UI and $1.9M from ISU. The better news, however, is that the governor has also proposed giving $7.3M directly to the Iowa Board of Regents, which would offset her proposed regent-wide cuts by more than $2M. From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, on 01/09/18:
From Marissa Payne at the Daily Iowan, also on 01/09/18:
While news of another $5.1M in cuts got a lot of attention, particularly given the much larger cuts which were imposed over the past and current budget years, as a factual matter the governor’s FY19 budget proposes an overall increase to the regents of slightly more than $2M. As to why the governor introduced a line-item shell game into the budget, or why the $7.3M regent appropriation was not tied to any specific expenditure, we will consider a few possibilities later in this post. Before engaging in any speculation, however, we will take a fact-based look at the governor’s proposed FY19 budget in the context of the ongoing debate over tuition.
As you may know, not only has the Board of Regents already put off making a decision about FY19 tuition for six months, it announced that even though tuition will finally be discussed at the February meetings, a final decision will not be made until June, only a few months before the start of the 2018-2019 academic year. To that lingering uncertainty we can also add the board’s long-term discussion about tuition, which also commenced last summer when the regents empaneled a Tuition Task Force. While no decision is expected until next fall, at the earliest, on the five year tuition plans that were proposed by each of the state schools back in August, understanding how appropriations and tuition contribute to the overall funding of the regent universities is critical to evaluating the need for any new tuition hikes.
(Both UI and ISU proposed annual increases of 7% in base tuition for each of the next five years. Totaling a 41% increase overall, those hikes would cost students an additional $2K to $3K per academic year as they compounded. Students who are currently in school, who graduate in four years, would pay $10K to $12K more for the same degrees they are earning now. Students enrolling later would pay $15K more if they graduate in four years.)
Making honest appraisals of tuition policy all the more difficult for students and their families — as we once again see with Casino Kim’s FY19 budget proposal — is that the governor, the state legislature, the Board of Regents and the universities themselves all make it as difficult as possible to track basic information, including particularly the amount of new revenue that has been or will be raised by tuition hikes. If there are any funding cuts, those are talked about endlessly, in dollar amounts — always using the regent-wide aggregate total — while tuition hikes are never talked about in terms of total dollars raised, but only in terms of oblique percentages.
In reality, although there were significant funding cuts in the 2017 and 2018 legislative cycles, the Board of Regents also raised tuition three times over the past two years, resulting in a 12% increase in base tuition at each of the regent universities. To that new influx of revenue we can also add the imposition of differential tuition for various degrees — a practice that is currently metastasizing at Iowa State — which resulted in an even greater windfall before any cuts were enacted. For the University of Iowa in particular, those hikes more than offset the total amount of cuts in 2017 and 2018, despite endless shrieking and moaning from the fraudulently appointed president, J. Bruce Harreld.
Because we now have financials for all of those years, however, it is relatively easy to document the overall appropriations and tuition picture, and in so doing demonstrate that UI is not suffering from cuts in state funding, despite Harreld’s non-stop propaganda to the contrary. Prior to the recent tuition hikes and funding cuts, tuition was held flat at all three regent universities for several years, as were appropriations. In order to establish a baseline for the hikes and cuts that came later, here are the numbers for the two years prior to the first of the recent tuition hikes.
General Fund Budgeted Revenues FY2015:
Tuition and Fees — $425M
Appropriations — $231M
Total = $656M
General Fund Budgeted Revenues FY2016:
Tuition and Fees — $433M
Appropriations — $231M
Total = $664M
As you can see, although appropriations remained flat, and there were no official tuition hikes for FY15 or FY16, tuition and fee revenue still increased by $8M, putting UI $8M ahead overall in FY16. (That increase likely reflects increased enrollment and/or increased fees.) Now consider FY17:
General Fund Budgeted Revenues FY2017:
Tuition and Fees — $460M
Appropriations — $232M
Total = $692M
Despite the fact that initial FY17 appropriations to UI actually ticked up $1M prior to the emergency clawbacks later in that cycle, the Board of Regents allowed Harreld to massively increase tuition, including imposing differential tuition, by $27M compared to FY16, and $35M relative to FY15. Even when the clawbacks for FY17 were subsequently imposed, however, they only totaled about $9M, meaning UI was still net-ahead in General Fund Revenues by $19M relative to FY16, and $27M relative to FY15.
General Fund Revenues FY2017 — after clawbacks:
Tuition and Fees — $460M
Appropriations — $223M
Total = $683M
For the current fiscal year, additional cuts were imposed on top of the clawbacks, which were made permanent. At UI, the total amount of those funding cuts for FY18 equals about $16M ($15.5M), and we see that reflected in the appropriations below, as compared to the initial appropriations for FY17. At the same time, however, the regents allowed the state schools to again increase tuition not once but twice, yet only the second of those two hikes was actually in response to the unexpected cuts which occurred in FY17. That means not only that the current-year numbers reflect all of the tuition hikes that have so far been approved, but they also account for all of the funding cuts that have been legislated.
General Fund Budgeted Revenues FY2018:
Tuition and Fees — $477M
Appropriations — $217M
Total = $694M
Despite constant whining from Harreld over the past two years, even after funding cuts that were compelled by mismanagement of the state budget, the University of Iowa is still significantly ahead in total revenue compared to baseline FY15 or FY16. Specifically, despite $15M in legislative cuts leading to reduced appropriations of $217M, the three tuition hikes that were approved — only one of which was in response to those cuts — increased tuition revenue $17M compared to FY17, $44M compared to FY16, and $52M compared to FY15. As to total revenue, whether we call it a slight increase or breaking even relative to the initial budget for FY17, as a factual matter the University of Iowa has not suffered any decrease in General Fund Revenues in the past four budget cycles.
Looking ahead, here are the projected numbers for FY19, factoring in the proposal from Casino Kim:
Proposed FY19 General Fund Budgeted Revenues — Governor Reynolds:
Tuition and Fees — $477M
Appropriations — $214M
Total = $691M
Relative to FY18 there is a $3M decrease in appropriations, producing a consequent $3M decrease in total revenue. And yet, that projected $691M total — which would represent the first decrease in five years — leaves out two critical pieces of information. First, because of Casino Kim’s shell game, the regents could cover the proposed $2.4M UI cut with the $7.3M that Reynolds has targeted for the board. It is unlikely the board would do that, of course, but it is possible — meaning UI would be out no money for FY19, despite officially having suffered a cut in the budget.
Second, and more importantly, the $477M for tuition and fees for FY19 is simply the FY18 total carried forward. We know that the board intends to talk FY19 tuition in February, then set the amount of any increase in June, and there is virtually no chance that tuition will remain frozen this year. Meaning that $477M will almost certainly increase by millions of dollars at the very least, which will in turn increase total General Fund Revenues by a like amount — more than compensating for the governor’s proposed cuts.
From FY15 to FY19-projected, state appropriations will have decreased $18M from their peak in FY17. By contrast, over that same time frame, and assuming a conservative $7M CPI increase for FY19, tuition revenue will have increased $59M. That reality also demolishes the contention that the recent tuition hikes were compelled by funding cuts, for two completely different reasons. First, the tuition hikes for FY17, and the first of the two hikes for FY18, came after two straight years of flat appropriations, of which FY17 was expected to be the third. Of the three hikes in the past two years, only the third hike was actually precipitated by cuts, while the other two were enacted to generate tuition windfalls in the tens of millions of dollars.
Second, even if we ignore the sequencing, the total amount of the three hikes in FY17 and FY18 alone — ignoring any increase for FY19 — equals 3.4 times the cuts we expect through FY19. Meaning those hikes did not simply compensate for those cuts, they raised tens of millions of dollars in new General Fund Revenues — and any FY19 hikes enacted in June will only increase that disparity. Throw in the fact that the state legislature could and should replace the funding that was lost due to the rolling FY17 and FY18 budget emergency, and if that happens the University of Iowa would be net-head $74M in total annual revenue compared to FY16.
Now, as to Casino Kim’s $7.3M line-item for the regents, and what that money is for, we have this from Anne Krapfl at Iowa State, on 01/11/18:
Given the scale of the regents enterprise, which is measured in billions of dollars, it would be grandiose to call $7.3M or $7.4M a slush fund. The fact that Casino Kim wants to give all of that money directly to the board itself, however, is unique for two reasons. First, the budget for the regents — meaning the staff at the board office, and expenses for the nine volunteer members — is about $4M, but the state only appropriates $1M or less for those costs. The board then makes up the difference by taking the rest of the money it needs from appropriations to the state schools. (For FY18 you can see all of that here, on p. 32.)
Second, even if $4M is being given to the board to cover all of those costs directly, that still leaves more than $3M that is “unassigned”. So what is that extra money intended to cover? Well, in the quotes from Miller and Payne the board requested an additional $12M for FY19, over and above the standing appropriations, and that was in fact the board’s official request. Back in September, however, the board actually floated an initial ask of $16M. From the Press-Citizen’s Jeff Charis-Carlson, on 09/18/17:
So what was the extra $4M for, when the board considered asking for $16M?
Whether there was an additional $800K in padding which rounded out the early request to a full $16M, or that total was a generous approximation, the $3.2M number quoted above is quite specific. If we couple that $3.2M with the $4M or so necessary to fund the board office, that gives us $7.2M, which is obviously very close to the $7.3M and $7.4M totals that have been quoted for the regent line item in Casino Kim’s FY19 budget. If we actually go to that budget, however (see p. 83 here), we find that the “unassigned” line item for the board is $7.25M, or almost exactly what we would expect if that amount was intended to cover the $4M cost of running the board office plus $3.2M in debt service.
As to why Reynolds would play that shell game, there are several reasons. First, by providing the regents with $7.25M directly — meaning 7.25 times the amount normally appropriated to the board — Reynolds would in fact give them a massive slush fund relative to their usual budget restrictions. And that’s particularly true if the board then turns around and still takes the usual $3M or so from the state schools to offset its operating costs, which would free up a commensurate amount from that $7.25M line item.
Second, if the board does pay its operating costs out of that money, Casino Kim’s shell game will put more money in the budgets of the state schools while still allowing them to cry poverty, and that in turn will give the regents an excuse to raise tuition for the fourth time in three years. Specifically, if the board no longer takes $3M or so from money appropriated to the schools, then the schools will have that much more money in the bank, even as they can claim to have been victimized for the third straight year. What looks like a $5.1M cut on paper, then, could be as little as $2M, and that’s before any new tuition hikes are factored in, which will inevitably put each of the regent universities well into the black for FY19..
So there you go. What you have been told by the Iowa Board of Regents — and, if you are a student at the University of Iowa, by J. Bruce Harreld — about the need to raise tuition to compensate for funding cuts, is a lie. While there have indeed been funding cuts over the past two budget cycles, and there may be some small cuts in FY19,, the largest of the tuition hikes over the past two years was enacted before any cuts, and more than compensates for the total amount of those cuts by itself. In sum, for each $1 lost to state cuts, the board has actually allowed the regent schools to take $3.5 out of students bank accounts, which brings us to a final point.
The Board of Regents has said it will discuss FY19 tuition in February, but not commit to any increase until June — meaning, once again, that students will not know the amount they need to budget until a few months before the school year kicks off. The board is refraining from making an early commitment because of uncertainty about the final budget numbers, but not out of any sense of responsibility to the students. The FY17 clawbacks which were imposed on the regent universities were wholly out of scale to the cuts across the rest of the Iowa budget, because the legislature knew the regents could simply raise additional revenue by hiking the cost of a degree. For that same reason, there may be additional cuts to the FY19 budget, which would then allow the regents to gouge the students even more than they are planning to do right now. To their way of thinking — which, coincidentally, has been the board’s way of thinking since J. Bruce Harreld was fraudulently appointed in 2015 — if the board can replace each $1 cut by the state with $3.5 from student bank accounts, let alone turn around and blame the state for that theft, why would they not?
Iowa State University spent much of last year searching for a new president, to replace the old president, who left to take the head job at Auburn. That the old president routinely violated board policy, school policy and state law, while using Iowa State’s two state-owned aircraft for personal trips, may also have factored into his departure, but in any event the 2017 presidential search gave the school an opportunity to truly start anew. Unfortunately, because Ames is a small, insular community dominated by crony political and business interests,, instead of new blood the Iowa Board of Regents ultimately appointed Wendy Wintersteen — a high-ranking administrator under the former president, a loyal friend of the corporate interests which dominate the campus, and an ISU lifer — as the transformative ‘new’ president of that venerable land-grant school.
Wintersteen was appointed on 10/23/17, and took office on 11/16/17. Remarkably, despite having been on campus for decades — and thus also on campus last summer, when the Board of Regents convened its vaunted Tuition Task Force — Wintersteen made it through the selection and appointment process without once taking a firm stand on tuition. Even more remarkably, she was never pressed on the issue even though interim ISU president Ben Allen appeared before the task force in August and proposed annual 7% hikes for five years straight, or a 41% overall increase. Most remarkable of all, however, was that after Wintersteen took office in mid-November, she still had nothing to say about the cost of tuition at Iowa State, even as that issue was clearly the most pressing topic before the board, and on the ISU campus..
Finally, last Tuesday, Wintersteen broker her silence on the critical subject of tuition, as reported by the Register’s Kathy Bolten, on 01/16/18:
While woefully late, it is nonetheless good to have Wintersteen on the record, particularly ahead of the February regents meeting at which tuition for the 2018-2019 academic year will be discussed for the first time. (For the third straight year, a final decision on tuition will not be made until June — meaning only a few months before school begins.) As to the substance of Wintersteen’s remarks, there are two things to note.
First, and most obviously, is her use of the phrase “at least”, meaning a 3.5% increase is the minimum she expects. Depending on what the board decides, the hike could be higher, or even a lot higher, yet still fall short of 7%. The second problem with Wintersteen’s tuition position is that it is not actually her position. Instead, the idea that there will be a 3.5% tuition hike at Iowa State comes from state relations officer Kristin Failor.
(If you are not familiar with the role of state relations officers in the Iowa regents system, an SRO is assigned to each of the state universities, where they function as spies for the regents, and, by extension, for the crony business and political interests which have corrupted the board. Case in point, here is Failor selling out the Iowa State community in furtherance of the corporate interests of the state’s largest utility. Your tax dollars at work.)
Thanks to Jillian Alt at Iowa State Daily, we have Failor expressing her own views about tuition on 11/01/17 — meaning just after Wintersteen was appointed, but before she took office:
As to why Kristin Failor was breaking news about Iowa State tuition when Wintersteen was presumably able to speak for herself — and qualified if not obligated to do so as president-elect — we have no explanation. From Wintersteen’s remarks last Tuesday, however, if we start with the 7% increase proposed by Allen, then look “somewhere in the middle” as suggested by Failor, we end up with a 3.5% hike, which is what Wintersteen finally found the courage to predict last week. Yet that specific number — which, it should be noted, only seems like a win for the students because of the preposterous 7% hikes that Allen proposed last year — is not the most important aspect of Wintersteen’s appropriated tuition position.
Implicit in the comments by both Failor and Wintersteen is an assumption that whatever the tuition increase next year at Iowa State, that hike will represent a repudiation of the annual 7% hikes proposed by Allen, but that is not the case. To understand why, we have to revisit the UNI presentation before the Iowa Tuition Task Force back in August. At that meeting, Regent Larry McKibben — the chair of the committee — clearly stated that no final decision would be made on the five-year plans from the state universities until the fall of 2018. Meaning even last summer, the Board of Regents knew that whatever the tuition hikes might be for the 2018-2019 academic year, those hikes would be determined long before any of the five-year plans were announced. (As to why Failor and Wintersteen have both asserted a linkage that does not exist, that’s because the five-year plan put forward by interim president Allen did originally start with the upcoming academic year [p. 18], but as just noted the board subsequently changed the timing. More on the Tuition Task Force here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.)
Along with parroting what Failor said about the tuition increase to expect for next year, Wintersteen also gave the Iowa State community — and in particular the student body — the same wrong impression Failor gave about ISU’s five-year plan, which is that there is no longer any threat of 7% hikes. Regardless of any increases that are discussed in February or approved in June, until the board announces that the 7% hikes proposed by ISU have been rejected, or Wintersteen officially withdraws ISU’s five-year plan, it is not only possible that 7% hikes will be approved for the following five years, that is still the only long-term plan on the table for Iowa State.
In Bolten’s report, Wintersteen also responded to the governor’s proposed budget for FY19, which runs concurrent with the 2018-2019 academic year:
As noted in the previous post, Iowa State’s share of that $5.1M decrease [see p. 64] would be $1.9M. Meaning out of a total appropriation to the school of well over $200M [p. 83], that $1.9M equals less than one percent (.0095) — but even that doesn’t tell the whole story. If Wintersteen’s plan is to absorb half of that cut, meaning she will cover that amount without making cuts herself, then she is talking about finding $950K in a total budget of more than $650M, when tuition revenue is factored in. That $950K equals .0015 of the overall ISU budget or less.
As it turns out, however, even Wintersteen’s plan to absorb half of the proposed cuts is not original, but instead hearkens back to funding cuts from last year. In that case, not only was the former president forced to deal with cuts of significantly greater magnitude, but those cuts — appropriately termed ‘clawbacks’ — occurred in the middle of the budget cycle. From Iowa State’s Anne Krapfl, on 02/02/17:
If Iowa State could absorb $4.2M a year ago, and Wintersteen only needs to find $1.9M in savings in the current budget cycle, why is she saying she can only absorb half of that relatively small amount? And of course the obvious answer is that her statement was simply a public relations reflex. Instead of being thankful that ISU will only lose a projected $1.9M — despite the abject disaster that was the state budget in FY2017 — Wintersteen has positioned herself as a victim, even as the words coming out of her mouth make no practical sense. (Absorbing the entire $1.9M cut for FY2018 would, at most, require a twenty-minute meeting with the new interim CFO.)
As also noted in the previous post, Governor Reynolds included a unique $7.2M line item for the regents in her proposed FY19 budget, meaning the board could simply pass $1.9M back to Iowa State if it wanted to. As to why the governor would engage in such a shell game, first by cutting the budgets of the state’s two largest universities, then providing the means by which they could be made whole behind the scenes, that would allow the presidents of ISU and UI to complain that they were being victimized for the third year in a row. That in turn would provide a plausible justification for raising tuition for the third year in a row.
Because university presidents can never pass up a chance to raise tuition, the newly minted ISU president is indeed claiming she can only absorb half of a projected $1.9M cut — which may be recouped via backdoor bookkeeping shenanigans — even as her disgraced predecessor absorbed more than twice as much. That Wintersteen does not seem to know that the five-year plan put forward by interim president Allen is still in play is equally problematic, and raises serious questions about whether she was chosen to lead because she was the best candidate, or because she is a willing stooge. (What is clear is that either Wintersteen and the board are not on the same page about the status of ISU’s five-year plan, or they are on the same page, but are both intentionally misleading the ISU community about that status.).
Despite ongoing uncertainties about tuition and funding, the middle-ground hike that was originally staked out by Failor, and subsequently embraced by Wintersteen, does alter an important dynamic that held last August, when the five-year plans were announced. At that time the board broke with longstanding tradition and said it would allow the three state universities to diverge on price, because they have different missions. In reality, however, while the academic focus at Iowa State, Iowa and Northern Iowa does differ in significant ways, both ISU and UI have over 30,000 students, both are major research institutions, and both are members of the AAU. Northern Iowa, on the other hand, is not only much smaller (enrollment 12,000), but in keeping with its origins as the state’s teacher’s college, it is a regional or comprehensive university, meaning its primary mission is undergraduate education, with very little research.
In that context, when the five-year plans were unveiled last August, both Iowa State and Iowa were in lockstep despite differences in their core academic competencies. Specifically, even though the board allowed the schools to diverge on price, somehow both schools — completely independent of each other — proposed the same 7% tuition increases for each of the next five years. (UI actually proposed 7.08% hikes, compared to ISU’s 7% — see p. 27 here.) By contrast, UNI proposed multiple scenarios contingent on various levels of state funding, but even in the worst-case scenario the requested annual increases were significantly less than 7% (p. 18 here).
To the extent that any similarities and differences in the five year plans were motivated by similarities and differences in the size or mission of each school, however, one critical factor compelled ISU and UI to remain consistent in price. While there are significant differences between each of the state universities, there are also points of overlap, including individual colleges on those campuses, and degrees offered by those colleges. If two of the regent schools offer the same degree, but that degree is cheaper at one of those schools, then it would be expected that students would gravitate to the cheaper option. (As noted in prior posts, that’s a particular concern for the UI College of Education, because if UI raises the price of its degrees 41% over five years, while tuition at UNI increases half that amount or less, then students who want to go into teaching will inevitably choose UNI over Iowa — perhaps to an extent that UI’s College of Education will not be able to survive over the long haul.)
There are valid reasons to allow the state universities to diverge on price, but doing so necessarily introduces price competition into the dynamics between the three schools. That reality in turn explains the conspicuously similar five-year proposals from ISU and UI, which diverge in price by less than one tenth of one percent each year. In particular, because both universities have business and engineering colleges, and both universities recently added a highly lucrative ‘differential’ surcharge to degrees from those colleges, they cannot risk competing with each other on price. To do so would inevitably mean that the higher-priced school would wane over time, because paying more for the exact same degree would be foolish.
With that in mind, now consider the competitive implications of the statements from Failor and Wintersteen, who explicitly took a 7% hike off the table for 2018-2019.. While we do not know whether the five-year plans from ISU and UI are still in play for next fall, we do know that when those plans were prepared last summer, they were expected to commence with the coming academic year. Now, however, ISU expects a 3.5% hike (or more) for 2018-2019, while we have no update from the University of Iowa, whose president has aggressively pressed for 7% hikes starting next year. While the board may indeed put off the five-year plans until next fall, and implement smaller consistent increases at all three schools for the coming academic year, as it currently stands ISU and UI are out of sync on price.
It may be that the board will clarify all of this in February, even as it refrains from setting any rates until June. As it stands right now, however, absent some indication that the board will keep rates the same between ISU and UI, the pricing being proposed by the two schools means Iowa State may be a significantly cheaper option for students who are considering enrolling at either university. And of course that also means equivalent degrees at Iowa would become more expense than the same degrees at Iowa State, which would probably be more than a little irritating to students who are already enrolled at UI.
As for Wintersteen, her views on tuition for next year not only come from Kristin Failor, but include an assumption that the previous five-year plan is off the table when that has not been confirmed by the board. That in turn means Failor and Wintersteen are leading current and prospective ISU students to believe that the risk of massive tuition hikes is gone, when it is clearly not. More to the point, as president of Iowa State, it would seem to be in Wintersteen’s purview to announce that the original five-year plan is now void, yet she herself has not taken that obvious step. Likewise, Wintersteen’s response to the proposed budget cuts comes from the previous administration, yet given the relatively small amount that response doesn’t even make sense.
Had Wintersteen been taking a test instead of giving an interview, at best she would have received partial credit for her responses, then been expelled for plagiarism.
In August of 2017 the Iowa Board of Regents empaneled a Tuition Task Force, for the express purpose of “facilitat[ing] public discussion regarding the issue of tuition at Iowa’s public universities”. In particular, the board wanted to avoid multiple hikes in a single year, or hikes only months before the start of a new academic term. Those concerns were prompted in part by mid-year budget cuts in Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17), which required the regent universities to return tens of millions of dollars that had previously been appropriated by the state.
I say “in part” because at the end of FY16, only months before the start of the fall term in the 2016-2017 academic year — which, like the state fiscal year, runs from July 1st to June 30th — the Board of Regents approved massive tuition hikes at all three of the state schools, for no compelling reason whatsoever. State appropriations had been flat or risen, no one knew the state economy was about to collapse, but because the board had frozen tuition for several prior years, they apparently felt they had the right to catch up on all that niceness by taking tens of millions of dollars out of student bank accounts. Which is to say, as preamble to this post, that even though the regents are currently taking it on the chin, there are no good guys in this story. Whether we’re talking about the regents, the governor or the majority party in the state legislature, they are all screwing the students at Iowa’s public universities. The only thing they ever really disagree on is who gets to keep the majority of any new tuition revenue.
The first hint last summer that the board’s big plans might not pan out occurred when the Tuition Task Force had to cancel its initial and most important meeting, because the governor would not accept the board’s invitation to present her views on tuition, nor would she allow the heads of a number of state agencies to speak on that subject. Following her snub, over the span of ten days each university presented a five-year tuition proposal which was purportedly prepared independent of the others, making it all the more astounding that both Iowa State and Iowa asked for 7% annual hikes over five years, or a 41% increase in tuition overall.
While push-back to those shocking proposals was swift, and continued into the fall and winter, one very big problem with even putting those plans on the table — beyond the fact that they were coordinated, if not dictated by the board, to avoid open price competition between the two schools — is that they signaled a willingness on the part of those schools and the board to abuse the students in service of revenue generation. Despite the task force pageantry, there was not a shred of pretext that such hikes were necessary to ensure continued accreditation or educational sufficiency, and indeed the hikes were sold as necessary for continued AAU affiliation or economic development. If approved, the regent institutions — and particularly ISU and UI — would generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue each year, while the rest of the state was left to squabble over insufficient tax revenue as a result of massive corporate tax breaks. In that context, even before the regents settled on the five-year plans at each school, why would the governor and state legislature not take tens of millions of dollars off the table under any pretext, so as to be able to spend that money elsewhere?
Complicating matters, at the first five-year presentation, which was from UNI, task force chair Larry McKibben pushed the adoption timeline out to this coming fall at the earliest, meaning hikes for the coming 2018-2019 academic and fiscal years would be separate from those long-term plans. To his credit, however, in early September, after all three plans were disclosed, Regent McKibben came out in support of cost of living adjustments at most. From the Press-Citizen’s Jeff Charis-Carlson, on 09/07/17:
Several months later, ISU State Relations Officer Kristin Failor — who took on a quasi-presidential, interim, policy-making role shortly after new ISU president Wendy Wintersteen was appointed, but before Wintersteen took office — said she thought tuition hikes for the 2018-2019 academic year would be in the 3.5% range. That was half the amount previously requested by the school, but still above the rate of inflation, which was and is running about 2.2%. More recently, Wintersteen agreed with Failor’s estimate, though she is holding out hope for more than 3.5%. (By contrast, at the University of Iowa, J. Bruce Harreld has never backed off his request for 7% hikes.)
The first reading of any proposed tuition hikes for the coming academic year will take place at the next scheduled regent meetings, on February 21st and 22nd. The final determination however — and there clearly will be hikes this year — will not occur until the regents meet in June, meaning once again the board will be approving last-minute increases despite having set out last summer to avoid doing so. The main reason for that delay, as it was for the hikes that were implemented last summer, as well as the mid-cycle ‘clawbacks’ which occurred last year at this time, is the ongoing state budget disaster, which first became evident in late 2016, following a failed estimate by the state’s Revenue Estimating Conference.
Despite assurances from Governor ‘Casino Kim’ Reynolds, last year’s budget debacle has carried over to the current budget year, necessitating another round of mid-cycle cuts ahead of debate on next year’s budget. When Reynolds unveiled her proposed FY19 budget several weeks ago, she also specified a slate of de-appropriations that were needed to balance the budget for the current fiscal year. Those clawbacks were necessitated by the state’s failure to resolve a much larger deficit last year, which required borrowing funds that must now be paid back.
On p. 64 of the governor’s FY19 budget, Casino Kim proposes reducing the current FY18 budget for the Board of Regents by $5.1M. That cut represents money that was already appropriated and distributed, which the regent universities — collectively — will have to return to the state, either by absorbing those cuts internally, through savings, or by making budget cuts themselves. (For FY19, the governor’s budget seems to make that $5.1M cut permanent going forward, yet there is also a new line-item for $7.2M, which is to be given to the board office itself.)
Overall the governor’s FY18 clawbacks total $27, are are intended, along with other adjustments, to zero out a projected $35M deficit for the current fiscal year. Last week the Appropriations Committee in the Iowa Senate released its own budget, which not only calls for $52M in cuts for the current year — or almost twice as much as the governor — but a whopping $19M decrease in the current regents budget, or almost four times the $5.1M proposed by Casino Kim. (Those dueling mid-year de-appropriations are in addition to roughly $10M that was cut from the regents budget at the beginning of the FY18 cycle, along with $20M or so which was de-appropriated in FY17 and made permanent for FY18. Meaning even before we get to the battle between the governor’s cuts and the senate’s cuts for FY18, the regents have lost a collective $30M in appropriations since the beginning of FY17.)
Having said all that, and as detailed in multiple prior posts, over the past two years the regents have not only raised tuition more than enough to compensate for all of those cuts — including the cuts currently being proposed by the Senate — but with no provocation the board initiated the first and biggest round of recent hikes in the summer of 2016. If the regents have taught the governor and legislature anything over the past two years, it’s that if you want a lot of new revenue, all you have to do is hit the state’s students with compulsory hikes. No messy fights about tax policy — just a gun to the head of tens of thousands of hostages who are already enrolled.
It should not be surprising, then, that in combination with the ongoing budget debacle, which is now in its second year, that the state wants a big chunk of the revenue that the regents have given themselves over the past two years. Even better, all the state has to do to effectively take that money is cut state funding by a like amount. The regents will still be net-ahead regardless of the cuts the governor and legislature settle on, and they will be even farther ahead when they enact the next round of tuition hikes in June.
You can see the specific cuts proposed by the Iowa Senate on p. 2 here. While steep, the difference between the UI cuts proposed by Casino Kim ($2.4M), and those proposed by the Senate ($8.7M), is only $6.3M, meaning the damage is not as bad as it looks compared to the regent-wide totals. As to what the final, negotiated cuts will be for each university, it is also worth nothing that where Reynolds tries to zero out the FY18 budget, the Senate bill leaves the state with a $35M surplus. That projected surplus not only means the extra $25M in cuts proposed by the Senate are unnecessary ($52M, versus $27M by the governor), it also means the $19M in clawbacks to be taken from the regents are not necessary.
Again, there are no heroes here. What we are witnessing is a fight over who gets to keep the majority of the money that has been fleeced from students and their families over the past two years, which will then be offset by money that is fleeced from the students in June. The regents want to keep it all for themselves — not for education, but largely to fund economic development and for-profit research at Iowa State and Iowa. Casino Kim wants another $5M from the regents, on top of prior cuts, while the Senate wants an additional $14M, or $19M total. Yet even in the worst-case scenario, and before next year’s revenue-generating hikes are approved, the regents will still be ahead.
In response to this blatant attempt by the state’s elected officials to poach millions of dollars from the board, after the regents went to all the time and trouble of extorting that money from their own students, Mark Braun — the recently appointed XD/CEO of the board, and a regents lifer — released a strong statement cautioning the Senate about its clawbacks. That followed a milder statement which Braun released earlier, in response to the governor’s significantly smaller proposed cuts. Lest we start thinking that Casino Kim is ‘less bad’ than the Senate majority, however, note that while Reynolds is not trying to end the year with a surplus, that does not mean she’s an honest broker. In fact, every budget is a shell game, and it is entirely possible that the $5M in cuts that Reynolds proposed could allow her to increase spending elsewhere. As to what the governor might spend that money on, we got a heads-up from the Register’s Mackenzie Ryan, on 01/02/18:
Flash forward to the end of last week, and Reynolds openly acknowledged that she would like to see state funds diverted to what is largely religious education. From Ryan, on 01/25/18:
Also quoted in Ryan’s piece was a state senator:
In this context, any difference between the cuts proposed by Reynolds and the final cuts put forward by senators like Chelgren, is really about how much money to divert from the regents to other causes, not whether to do so. From later in Ryan’s report, regarding K-12 education:
If Chelgren’s name sounds familiar, he has been in the press several times over the past year. For example, at the start of last year’s session, Chelgren introduced a bill that would have regulated the hiring of university faculty by political party. From the Register’s Brianne Pfnannestiel, on 02/20/17:
What made Chelgren’s bill spectacularly stupid and ironic was that then-governor Butcher Branstad routinely evaded a similar constraint when packing the Iowa Board of Regents with political cronies, and Chelgren should have been aware of that precedent. While the nine-member board can, by law (p. 2), have no more than five members who belong to one party, and that restriction in state code was written when there were only two dominant parties in state politics, because Branstad had no scruples, he figured out not one but two related ways to avoid the intent of that law. First, he appointed not only Republicans and Democrats, but also Independents, meaning he could reduce the number of Democrats without exceeding statutory restrictions on the number of Republicans. Second, all a Republican had to do to get appointed even if there were already five Republicans on the board, was switch their political affiliation to Independent or Democrat.
Following that bit of legislative malpractice, in early March of 2017 Chelgren was also caught falsifying his resume. From the AP, on 03/02/17:
Fortunately, Kristin Failor’s husband, Ed Failor — who was a spokesman for the Iowa Republican Party at the time — cleared up any misunderstanding:
Nine months later, at the end of last year, Chelgren was also featured in a story about state legislators who sponsored legislation to enrich themselves. From Liz Essley Whyte and Ryan J. Foley, writing for the Center for Public Integrity and Associated Press, respectively, on 12/06/17:
Regarding the current budget debacle, it is not surprising that Iowa’s fundamentalists and libertarians are pushing an allied anti-government agenda in the state house. We’re seeing the same thing with the Trump administration, and appointments like Bossy DeVos at the — wait for it — Department of Education. If there is a way to weaken, cripple or tear down government, and particularly public education, the fundamentalists and libertarians will find it, and taking money from the Iowa Board of Regents simply furthers that objective. (Once again we must acknowledge the political instincts of former governor Branstad’, who saw the writing on the wall and quit on Iowa in the middle of his term.)
To be clear, however, this is not an education-only assault in Iowa. Last year, under the pretext of small-c conservatism, the fundamentalists and libertarians wiped out a collective bargaining law that no one had campaigned against, and few people disliked. This year, along with diverting money from public to private education, and attempting to legislate “biblical literacy“, the fundamentalists and libertarians are also determined to further cripple the justice system in Iowa, which often stands in the way of fundamentalist and libertarian agendas. (More on that here, here and here.)
So what happens now? Well, in proposing an extra $25M in cuts over and above the $27M in cuts proposed by the governor, and in also proposing to end the year with a $35M surplus, the Senate Appropriations Committee not only gave Reynolds political cover for her cuts, she can now take even more money from the board and other departments, while credibly claiming that she talked the Senate down from its $52M assault. For example, if she ‘convinces’ the Senate to take $10M in regent cuts, that’s half of what they want but twice what she proposed, so that makes her look good while putting an extra $5M in play — which is of course the whole point of that tag-team charade. Not doing the right thing by taxpayers, or for students or patients or victims, but to put on a show — government theater — in which one faction plays the antagonist so everyone else looks good by comparison.
Unfortunately, while some of the players in this farce look good relative to others, and the Board of Regents is playing the victim card to the hilt, relative to most of the people in the world they all suffer from a catastrophic lack of credibility. Not one key player in the current budget debate — at the board, in the governor’s mansion, or in the legislature — has demonstrated a genuine commitment to education at the state universities. What they have all demonstrated is a desire to take money from the bank accounts of students and their families, then fight like rabid jackals over that revenue.
Way back in August it was known that this would be another tough budget year. For that reason, the Board of Regents could have committed to only approving an inflation adjustment — currently running about 2.2% — along with a dollar-for-dollar increase to account for any actual decrease in state funding. No extra padding, no increases to fees or differential tuition, just a CPI hike plus a compensatory increase in case there were any cuts. And of course the regents could still make that announcement in February.
Instead, however, while the governor and legislature fight about who gets to take how much from the regents, the board wails and moans even as it refuses to make a tuition commitment for another four months. Even after they finally talk specifics in February, they have said they will not lock in next year’s hikes until June, which raises an obvious question. Why not?
The answer, of course, is that the board wants to reserve the right to gouge the students once the final numbers are clear for this year and next. As long as they wait, they can not only recover whatever the governor and legislature glom onto, but two or three times as much, thus profiting while deflecting blame for that abuse. (That is also why the regents obscure and suppress revenue projections from hikes that they do approve, because they don’t want anyone to know they’re looting student bank in excess of any purported justification — as was the case with the massive hikes that were approved in the summer of 2016, which were predicated on a mere $1.7M shortfall relative to the board’s request for an increase in appropriations.)
Longer term, the prognosis for the Board of Regents, and UI in particular, is even worse. While Harreld is demanding a 41% increase in tuition over five years — even though most of that money will be diverted to research and economic development — he is also driving the regents toward a financial cliff that will make the past two years look like a credit union picnic. To see why, consider the following data points, from a recent Daily Iowan editorial by Lucee Laursen, on 01/25/18:
Laursen makes a number of excellent points, but that 81-percent stat is a nightmare. To see why, consider that Iowa is currently turning away only 19 percent of the applicants to the school — meaning it is a lot closer to having more seats than students to fill those seats than most people realize. While under-enrollment is always a concern, when more and more of the revenue that is necessary to keep the university running comes from tuition and fees, and state appropriations are unlikely to increase, then any decrease in the number of students means a hit to that critical funding stream.
Even if appropriations stay flat over time, colleges and universities tend to build out facilities and services when enrollment increases, using that increased tuition revenue — and increases in tuition — to do so. If tuition revenue starts to fall off, however — as happened recently at the University of Missouri, which saw a 35% drop in freshman enrollment after racial unrest at its flagship campus — the only way to replace that lost revenue is by increasing tuition for any students who do enroll or remain. That in turn disincentives new students to enroll, because they won’t want to pay a price-premium for degrees that were cheaper the year before — which is exactly what Harreld is proposing at UI. Add 41% to the current price of a UI degree, and that in itself may be enough to drive enrollment down, thus eroding any revenue gains even as prices go up by almost half.
As noted in multiple prior posts, Iowa is also vulnerable to changes in tuition policy in other states, including particularly Missouri. Were that state to offer in-state tuition to Iowa residents, in an attempt to recover from their own 35% drop in freshman enrollment, that single decision — which the state of Iowa has no control over, yet should anticipate — could poach thousands of prospective UI students. Where is the long-term thinking on these issues? Where is the awareness that enrollment could — almost necessarily will — fall off at some point, as other states compete more aggressively?
It is easy to make fun of Mark Chelgren because he is a clown. The problem in Iowa government, however, is that we have Chelgren-grade leadership at every level, which is why the current budget debacle and crisis at the Board of Regents are not surprising. At the University of Iowa, we have a president who could not have been appointed on the merits of his own candidacy, so the former regents president and several others conspired to jam him into office using a fake search. In the governor’s office we have a governor who was also handed the job she now holds. At the board of regents the entire board was appointed by the former governor, the majority of them not because they knew anything about education, but because they were loyal political cronies who could be counted on to vote the way they were told.
What everyone is hoping for now is that the state economy will magically heal itself, so no one will have to deal with the leadership problems that got Iowa into this mess in the first place. Like crew moving deck chairs on the Titanic, the Iowa leadership brain trust, including those with authority and responsibility over higher education, are merely moving piles of money around. What is needed is a refocusing on education at the state universities, instead of concerns about research and economic development — which merely reinforce the belief in legislators that the regents no longer need state funding to crank out degrees.
Last Tuesday a press release announced that Lon Moeller, long-time faculty member and administrator at the University of Iowa, is leaving his dual roles of “associate provost for undergraduate education and dean of University College”. After twenty years of service to UI, Moeller is heading to Embry University in Florida, where he will become the new provost and senior VP for academic affairs. Perhaps not so coincidentally, Moeller will be working for former long-time UI administrator and provost P. Barry Butler, who left UI himself last March after thirty years of service, following his appointment as president of Embry.
For the past two and a half years, following J. Bruce Harreld’s fraudulent appointment as president in the fall of 2015, there has been a steady stream of departures from UI, including many high-ranking, long-time administrators who have took a great deal of institutional knowledge with them. From the point of view of Harreld and his collaborators on campus — as well as the corrupt Iowa Board of Regents, which used a fake search to jam Harreld into office against the will of the vast majority of the UI community — these departures would probably be characterized as weeding out “culture change resistors” who were committed to the dreaded status quo. While obviously uncharitable, it is understood that any new leader — even one installed by a demonstrable conspiracy — would want to bring in their own team, and in that context it makes sense that Harreld would have made personal changes to ensure that everyone was ‘on the same page’.
The problem is that Harreld did make changes almost immediately, yet the stream of administrators (and faculty, and staff) who have chosen to leave has continued unabated. In fact, the list of names is now so long that it is almost impossible to keep track. Thankfully, in her reporting on Moeller’s impending departure on 01/30/18, the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller included a number of people who have already departed or will be leaving at the end of the current term — including two additional deans:
The obvious explanation for this upheaval in the executive suite and in academic leadership is that Harreld is clearing the decks for the campus-wide reorganization that is currently in the planning stages. And of course as noted in recent posts, interim provost Sue Curry is herself at the heart of that process. (More on Curry’s devoted furtherance of Harreld’s machinations here, here, here and here.)
The obvious concern is that the sheer number of departures betrays an institutional sickness arising from J. Bruce Harreld himself. Whether Harreld is impossible to work with, openly hostile, or simply incompetent, at some point the outflow of individuals who were previously committed to the school should have already raised concerns at the board, yet to this point the regents have been complicit in their silence. (The obvious explanation for that, of course, is that what Harreld is doing is in keeping with the board’s wishes, if not the direct result of its dictates.)
In the recent history of the regents enterprise, what is happening at the University of Iowa has only one parallel, and that parallel raises red flags. To my knowledge, despite two new presidents at the University of Northern Iowa in the past five years, there has been no exodus at that school. Likewise, following Steven Leath’s appointment at Iowa State in 2011, that school did not undergo protracted administrative turnover. In fact, the only major changes at ISU took place after Leath left last year, at which point the interim president — a former UNI president and old hand at Iowa State — cleared out multiple administrators whom Leath had elevated or installed the preceding year.
To find a parallel with what Harreld is enacting or causing at UI, we have to look at the Board of Regents itself, and a wave of departures in the summer of 2015. As reported by the Gazette’s Miller, on 07/01/15:
As we now know, of course, Donley lied to Koppin to compel her to retire, which in turn prompted a lawsuit by Koppin last year. Six months later, the board settled that lawsuit rather than risk further exposing its history of corruption at trial.
From the AP, on 10/26/17:
Critical to that settlement was the fact that the two men who instigated the mass exodus in the summer of 2015 — former regents president Bruce Rastetter, and former XD/CEO Donley — were no longer on the board. In between that house cleaning, however, which included general counsel Thomas Evans, who had over a decade of experience, and the pair’s subsequent departure, the board blazed an impressive trail of autocratic abuses and crony corruption. The purge itself occurred while the corrupt 2015 UI search was underway, and only two months before Harreld was fraudulently appointed. Three months later, just after Harreld took office, the board granted one of Harreld’s co-conspirators — UI alum and megadonor Jerre Stead — the naming rights to the new UI children’s hospital, without first performing due diligence on the considerable economic value of that gift. The following spring the board refused to offer the UNI president a new contract, effectively driving him out of office and compelling a $100K search, for no stated reason. The following summer, the board approved massive tuition increases based on a pretext, including new differential tuition and fees, then buried the total amount of revenue raised at each school. Then next fall, Rastetter fronted Leath over a million dollars so Leath and his wife could purchase land that they otherwise could not afford. Several months later, when Leath’s travel abuses burst into the public eye, the board and the rest of state government conspired to protect him while he made restitution, at which point Leath then took a higher-paying job at Auburn.
As to the idea that mass departures in themselves may signal sickness, in his first official act, Harreld lied to the press, the people of Iowa and the UI community about the origins of his candidacy. Only days later, he submitted a budget request which had been rigged by Rastetter weeks before. A month after taking office Harreld pushed through the renaming of the UI children’s hospital for his old pal, mentor, coach and fellow Coloradan, Jerre Stead. A month later Harreld was outed for having signed a new contract with head football coach Kirk Ferentz on the sly. Months after that he pledged his heart to Athletic Director Gary Barta, despite the fact that Barta’s department was facing multiple gender discrimination lawsuits and investigations. Next, Harreld tried to jam the creation of the new UI Strategic Plan into a few weeks at the busy end of his first spring semester on campus, then that summer he jammed a massive slate of tuition hikes through with board approval — while simultaneously delaying the hire of desperately needed mental health professionals for under-served students. In his second year Harreld then tried to steal $4.3M in previously awarded scholarships by changing the terms of the deal after the fact, including clandestinely altering the UI website to bolster his case. Flash forward a few more months, and Gary Barta lost one of those gender discrimination suits, costing UI $6.5M.
Based on its own recent history, the current Board of Regents should be more than concerned not only about the brain drain at UI, but about what may be going on behind the scenes. Between the ongoing AAUP sanction which resulted from the sham 2015 search, the loss of experienced administrators, faculty and staff, and Harreld’s own bungling and abuses, the board has more than enough cause to ease him out of office, if not fire him outright, yet Harreld soldiers on.
As to why Lon Moeller may have felt compelled to move on from Iowa, as opposed to simply leaving for greener pastures in Florida, we get a clue from an obscure document on the UI website. Although the entire campus is included in the ongoing review of Iowa’s academic organizational structure — which was initiated in January of last year, and is now under the watchful eye of interim provost Sue Curry — last April a Collegiate Review Committee specifically reviewed and reported on Moeller’s University College. (The Phase I report of the 2020 Task Force, which is now in Phase II, was not completed until September.)
From the Executive Summary of the 07/05/17 final report:
Even though the 2020 Task Force was already underway, and charged with reviewing the academic organizational structure of the entire university, the Collegiate Review Committee was subsequently charged with “analyzing the organizational structure of University College”. At the same time, we also learn that almost a year earlier, without any review, Harreld moved the Division of Continuing Education under the UC umbrella, meaning Moeller also became responsible for Iowa’s online offerings. (For reference, you can see the UI Strategic Plan here.)
I don’t know why University College merited a separate review before the broader task force assessment was completed — particularly when everyone swears that the 2020 Task Force has not reached any firm conclusions — but the UC committee itself was not shy about making recommendations. Because DCE is the point of the spear in terms of UI’s online programs, and UC is critical to student success, that also means University College will be a critical component of Harreld’s strategic plan to replicate Mike Crow’s success at Arizona State. (We will have more to say about all that in several upcoming posts about Crow’s book.)
At the time of the UC review, Moeller was wearing two hats. I also have no idea what the UI associate provost for undergraduate education does, but as the dean of University College, not only was Moeller responsible for multiple programs, but his portfolio was only increasing, including taking on initiatives which go to the heart of Harreld’s long-term plans. Perhaps not surprisingly, on p. 13 of the UC review, the committee included the following recommendations, among many others:
Whatever is or is not going on with the 2020 Task Force, last summer — and as much as a year earlier — University College was already being reconfigured to take a more active role in aspects of the university that Harreld wants to focus on. Those include, specifically, online and distance learning (opening up new revenue streams), students success (gaming rankings), and engagement (generating new revenue from donors). In suggesting that Moeller’s dual roles be split, the review committee implied that Moeller would only be able to perform one of those jobs in the future, and it is entirely possible that Harreld let it be known that he would not be continuing as dean of University College.
Rather than become the full-time associate provost for undergraduate education — which, even if we don’t know what that job involves, would clearly be a big step backwards — Moeller may have decided to move on. Setting aside any speculation, however, we do know that University College will soon be without a dean. As to who will take Moeller’s place , that question leads back to a conundrum we wrestled with before….
When former provost P. Barry Butler left in early 2017, it was reported that the interim provost would not be eligible to be named as the permanent provost. A short time later, Sue Curry — then the dean of the UI College of Public Health (CoPH)– was named as the interim provost. Flash forward to last summer, and although neither Harreld nor Curry made any announcement about launching a search for a new provost, a search committee was formed to find a new CoPH dean.
The obvious question is where Curry ends up now that her old job is being filled, and she is reportedly ineligible to become the permanent provost. The equally obvious answer is that Harreld may simply name her as the new provost anyway, despite the prior proscription. In fact, given Harreld’s history of lying to the university, it is not hard to imagine that he offered Curry the provost position on a permanent basis to entice her to leave CoPH in the fist place. (We can rule out Curry becoming dean of the College of Law because she is not a lawyer, and we can rule her out as the new dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences because that search just got underway last week — meaning that position won’t be filled by an interim, as had initially been proposed by Curry.)
One other possibility has to do with the ongoing 2020 Task Force, which included the following in its original charge in January of 2017:
Given that the Phase I task force report already concluded (p. 3) that colleges which are “over-large and disparate in the assortment of academic units” are disadvantageous, it can be assumed that the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) will be hacked apart, because it is the only college on campus that meets those criteria. That does not mean, however, that a new college will necessarily be created, because the amputated departments could be given to other colleges, to increase their budget and/or enrollment. And that would again mean that interim provost and wayward dean Sue Curry would still have nowhere to go.
Now, however, with the resignation of Lon Moeller, an open deanship has suddenly and miraculously appeared at University College, which also happens to be a prime position in the new go-go, for-profit knowledge enterprise that Harreld intends to implement at UI. That perch would not only give Curry a new home, but because the UC report was finalized back in early July — about three and a half months after Curry was appointed interim provost — it is much more likely that Harreld may have promised her that position in advance, in order to convince her to leave the College of Public Health with no apparent place to land.
The obvious counter to all of this speculation is that yet another ‘nationwide search’ may be undertaken to find the exact right available person to lead University College, but that’s not what the press release said. In fact, the press release — which, ironically, was penned by Sue Curry herself — ends with a line that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense:
Not only is there no mention of any search — which, as interim provost, Curry herself could initiate — but in talking about “the position”, Curry assumes that the dual roles Moeller is vacating will remain coupled, when that was not the recommendation of the UC review committee. What we do know for certain, however, is that as of this moment there is an open dean position at UI, at the exact moment when former dean Curry has nowhere to go. Was Lon Moeller driven out to make room for Curry? I don’t know, but unlike a lot of mysteries at the University of Iowa, in this instance all we have to do is wait to find out.
To a guy like Stead, Liberal Arts is useless, Education is perfunctory, and Law boring.
Stead wants revenue. Stead loves revenue. Stead operates like private equity. What produces revenue? UIHC, Engineering, and possibly Pharmacy and Public Health (outside of football).
The hot rumor is that the UIHC is in such grave financial straits that the private sale/take-over/lease option is on the table. Robespierre, I mean Robillard and Cates are retiring; senior faculty are being shown the door like some death squad has taken over. And new hires are all clinical.
With an investment already, Jerre Stead could become the new private equity coordinator of the megahealth casino known as the UIHC.
I first started wondering about UIHC being taken private almost exactly two years ago — way back before the Ditchwalk Twitter feed went berserk. Nothing in the intervening time has convinced me that the idea is off the table, and of course only last September UIHC announced that it was throwing $150K at a consultant to see what their options were. From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, on 09/03/17:
Only two weeks later the Gazette’s Erin F. Jordan reported on 09/19/17 that Iowa City’s Mercy Hospital — which is tiny in comparison — was anticipating layoffs:
That in turn occurred about six months after Mercy backed out of a planned merger with UnityPoint, and instead joined an alliance with the Mercy Health Network out of Des Moines.
I don’t know what UIHC’s bottom line is like these days, but I do know that it should be much improved from a year ago unless everyone involved is flat-out incompetent. The reason I say that is that not only has UIHC been raising its rates 6% per year for years (and is poised to do so again this year), but last year the fundamentalists and libertarians in the Iowa legislature voided Iowa’s collective bargaining law and stripped that right from many of UIHC’s employees. As a result, the hospital received an unexpected windfall which will increase profits every year going forward.
I can easily see Stead playing a part in brokering that kind of sale, but I wonder if a private partner would let him keep his name on the Children’s Hospital given its visual prominence, as well as the fact that he didn’t actually pay for it when it was gifted to him. (He had contributed money earlier, but there was no market study done by the Iowa Board of Regents to determine its worth, meaning the board effectively gave Stead tens of millions of dollars in marketing exposure.)
Another interesting factor is the recent hire of Brooks Jackson to take over whatever is left of the place after Robillard’s rule. One of the problems Jackson had at Minnesota was that UM sold off its own hospital to a private partner, which crippled the school’s ability to use that facility as a teaching hospital, to conduct research, etc. (If UIHC is sold off, and Jackson didn’t know the hospital was in play, he’s going to start thinking he’s cursed.)
Making such a purchase or ‘partnership’ palatable is the fact that Robillard spent years (decades) crushing competition in the area. By the same token, however, that should mean UIHC is in a dominant market position — which it is. So how could it possibly be bleeding profits? (In 2016, at least on paper, UIHC was making money hand over fist.)
If I had to guess, I would speculate that the new Children’s Hospital not only came in way over budget, but that the damage was much worse than was last reported over two and a half years ago, just as J. Bruce Harreld — Jerre Stead’s little buddy — was being fraudulent appointed president of the school. At that time, that project was $70M over budget, and the hospital did not open for another year and a half as construction continued into early 2017.
Finally, it’s odd that there is no Faculty Resignations Report in the agenda for the upcoming regents meetings. That usually comes out at about this time each year, and in the past two years it has revealed a hemorrhaging of faculty at the College of Medicine. One positive from selling UIHC however, is that the Faculty Senate might no longer be dominated by representatives from the CoM — who, inexplicably, have more representatives than any other college on campus — and would fall more under the sway of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, as it should.
BTW a month or two ago, rumor has it that a very very private dinner was held at IRP with top UIHC administration and others. Very tight lipped. Privatization planning dinner?????
BTW, Sue Curry is neither an intellectual giant nor an academic legend. Her CV looks pedestrian. At best. http://www.public-health.uiowa.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/sue_curry_bio.pdf