A new threaded post on this topic can be found here. For previous posts about the Harreld hire, click the tag below.
For previous posts about the Harreld hire, click the tag below.
03/12/20 — I don’t know where J. Bruce Harreld and J. Brooks Jackson are, but even if they are lurking on the University of Iowa campus, they should both just stay out of Theresa Brennan’s way and give her whatever she needs to do her job. From the Daily Iowan’s Alexandra Skores: UI Hospitals and Clinics to open new clinic, conduct video doctor visits amid COVID-19 cases.
* The dissonance between academics and athletics is now deafening. From the Daily Iowan’s Brooklyn Draisey: Hawkeye Service Breaks cancels student trips.
So it’s okay for Iowa’s athletic department to send the men’s and women’s basketball teams off to various tournaments, and for the wrestling team to head up to Minnesota for the NCAA tournament, but domestic travel for academic purposes is being curtailed. Kind’a seems like revenue is the determining factor in which UI students are placed at risk. (Gonna be interesting watching Gary Barta — a great humanitarian and mentor of college athletes — explain himself if one or more students are hospitalized.)
* Sarah Hanson has been named the new UI VP for Student Life, replacing the interim Laura McLeran, who will now go back to black ops in the president’s office. Press release includes another disembodied quote from J. Bruce Harreld.
* Someone at the UI Office of Strategic Communication finally got around to writing up a very short press release about how the university completed the financial close on the UI P3 two days ago. Incredibly, however, despite using the words “financial close” in the headline, there is no mention of the fact that UI just pocketed $1.17B as a result of the deal. Instead, we are given yet another disembodied quote from illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld, which is of course also a lie:
“We’re pleased to have found an innovative way to bridge a meaningful gap in available resources in order to help continue delivering on our mission of education and research excellence,” says UI President J. Bruce Harreld. “We’re looking forward to our partnership with ENGIE and Meridiam and appreciate the involvement of university shared governance members, academic leadership, and the campus community during this whole process.”
As detailed endlessly in these virtual pages, the “meaningful gap in available resources” that Harreld takes pains to mention is itself a fraud perpetrated by Harreld.
* Well this is a relief: Big Ten Cancels Remainder of Basketball Tournament.
Apparently, somewhere in the office of the Big Ten Commissioner — which, in better days, usually focuses on denying any knowledge of decades-long sexual abuses perpetrated against student athletes on its storied campuses (so far Penn St., Ohio St., Michigan St. and now Michigan) — there is at least one person smarter than UI AD Gary Barta and UI Head Men’s Moron Fran McCaffrey, who should both be fired for cause for pushing ahead with plans to attend the Big Ten tournament. If that is the level of intelligence and concern that UI administrators in athletics demonstrate in the middle of a global pandemic, then we know everything we need to know about those individuals and their warped, self-interested and potentially calamitous priorities. (As a direct result of their greed and idiocy, Barta will now be given another raise by J. Bruce Harreld, for his steady leadership in a time of crisis, and Barta will give McCaffrey a raise and contract extension that locks him in for another decade.)
* The committee for the nationwide UI AVP-DEI search has been announced. Following the TaJuan Wilson debacle, Harreld initially tried to put off a new DEI search indefinitely, but that obviously exposed his false claim that he was a big proponent of diversity, equity and inclusion at UI. (In reality Harreld demoted DEI from his cabinet, then kicked DEI out of the president’s office altogether.) Fortunately for Harreld, one of his fixers — Russ Ganim — was somehow miraculously named as a co-chair for the new DEI search committee, which will now take an extraordinarily long time to fine just the right person for that critical job, thus also giving Harreld the extensive administrative delay he originally wanted:
The search will begin in April, with a new associate vice president expected to be named during the Spring 2021 semester.
You can’t make this stuff up.
* Apparently the crony Iowa Board of Regents is suddenly cognizant of the fact that a bunch of bodies may start piling up, and are now eager to pass the buck to the crony toads they installed at the state universities, who were all hired primarily to rubber stamp directives from the crony Iowa Board of Regents. From the Daily Iowan’s Katie Ann McCarver: Iowa regents consider policy change to give president emergency-authorization authority. Next up: J. Bruce Harreld authorizes a $200M public-private partnership for body bags.
* Remember back in October, when the Iowa Center for Advancement brought four of the previous UI presidents together, and they also let Harreld tag along? And when those presidents were asked what their toughest challenge was on the job, Harreld talked about how badly he was treated after it became clear that he lied his way into the job he now holds, which was granted as a result of a rigged search process by the Iopwa Board of Regents? Well this is the man who will now lead the University of Iowa’s response to a global pandemic.
* Looking ahead to the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic — which may yet leave us in a state of cultural limbo and ongoing risk — we can already see the contours of the economic shocks that the University of Iowa will have to endure. Whatever revenue is lost and cash expended in the near-term, in the fall there may also be a sharp decrease in enrollment depending on the aftereffects, and how safe the UI campus seems to students and parents who are considering enrollment. Any downward pressure on revenue will in turn provide yet another opportunity for Harreld and the board to increase tuition, but precisely because they have perpetrated a four-year cash grab by relentlessly hiking tuition there is no more elasticity in the system. Meaning a sharp increase in tuition, even if legitimate, may also prove to be a barrier to enrollment.
03/11/20 — Welp…the Iowa Board of Regents finally acted yesterday, belatedly, but now they have a new problem. By announcing that classes will be conducted online after spring break, 32,000 individuals from the sole coronavirus hotspot in Iowa will suddenly be traveling to four corners of the state if not the country, which is obviously not ideal. (The vain hope has to be that in the remaining days of this week, UI and UIHC will try to locate as many infected individuals as possible.)
What we did not learn yesterday was whether the UI public-private partnership closed on the contract that was agreed to three months ago, on 12/10/19. There wasn’t a peep anywhere, yet as reported by the Daily Iowan’s Katie Ann McCarver only five days ago, yesterday was the day and the deal kicked in at midnight:
Financial close in the partnership is slated for March 10, and the university will officially transfer management of its utilities system to ENGIE at 12:01 a.m. CT March 11, according to Thursday’s release.
The agreement between the UI and concessionaire Hawkeye Energy Collaborative, composed of ENGIE and Meridiam, involves an upfront lump-sum payment to the UI of $1.165 billion to manage over 50 years in an endowment fund, the DI previously reported.
Unless something changed in the last five days, that not only means the former UI utility workers are now working for a consortium of two French energy companies, but that University of Iowa just put a $1.17B check in the bank. Which is obviously a great relief given the economic shocks that UI is about to experience from the outbreak.
Finally what we also did not learn yesterday concerns the whereabouts of illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld, and why he has been completely silent since late February. No reported appearances, no reported speeches, not even a stray quote for close to two weeks, even as the coronavirus is now in Johnson County, which is home to UI. If Harreld is on campus he is clearly failing to lead, and if he is off campus there has been on explanation for his absence. (But either way, he’s still making $50K a month.)
* From the Daily Iowan’s Alexandra Skores: UI Health Care admits patient with COVID-19 in ‘critical condition’. (More here from the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, and here from the Des Moines Register’s Barbara Rodriguez.)
* The DI’s Marissa Payne has two stories out this morning about moving classes online at UI, and about the substantial uncertainties facing students as a result. (The cascading financial issues alone will reverberate well into the next academic year, for both students and university alike.) Note also that once again there is not a single mention of, let alone quote from, the UI president in either story. Where is J. Bruce Harreld, and why has he gone missing at this critical time?
* From the Editorial Board at the Daily Iowan: Editorial: Clearer communication needed from UI on coronavirus response. Again, as noted in recent posts, no place on the entire planet had as much lead time about the shockwave of disruptions emanating from China, yet the leadership at the Iowa Board of Regents and the University of Iowa — which, by their very nature, should have understood the magnitude of the coming impact — was frozen for weeks. I know none of these people are trained to deal with sudden systemic changes, and most of them are career bureaucrats, but we need to grant power now to people who can actually lead and get things done. (And once again, there is no mention of Harreld.)
* Assuming the UI P3 did conclude its financial close yesterday, here is a fun quote from the visionary J. Bruce Harreld himself, uttered on 12/09/19 and published on 12/15/19:
So, I sit down with Dan Collins and Tom Rietz and Dan is the chair of the accounting department for Tippie. The three of us met and I said, here’s what I’m beginning to see and to understand and how it would work. But boy, the risks of this are huge. And we need to be able to model how the financial markets may play out over 50 years. We need to be able to model how much money we would need to fund the gaps in our strategic plan. We need to — I can just keep going.
There are layers and layers and layers to this and so Tom, in particular, did an awful lot of modeling. In particular, once we started to get the structure reasonably well-defined, [we] started running various scenarios of a 2007, 2008, 2009: fiscal collapse, credit lock up in the US economy through P3. So we just look through scenario after scenario after scenario. This is not risk free, something like this will never be risk free.
* From the DI’s Marissa Payne: University of Iowa to move classes online for two weeks after spring break amid coronavirus outbreak. Given the cover-your-ass instincts of administrators generally, a tentative response was not unexpected. Unfortunately, this also makes clear that the primary concern at UI right now is not the physical health of the UI community, but protecting revenue — both in terms of minimizing the need for refunds to students, and avoiding lawsuits for criminal negligence in the future.
Notable in Payne’s report we also have the first ostensibly current action by UI president J. Bruce Harreld, who has not been mentioned in the press in weeks:
The UI message, signed by President Bruce Harreld and Provost Montserrat Fuentes, said colleges will share information with faculty following guidance from the Provost’s Office regarding virtual instruction.
Because Harreld has not issued even a single quote to the campus paper, however — let alone appeared on camera, demonstrating the high-profile leadership that this unprecedented crisis and his obscene salary demand — we are left to wonder if his signature was not produced in a mode made famous by the former Soviet Union.
* Some actual Harreld quotes here from the statement that was issued with his signature: All 3 Iowa universities suspend face-to-face instruction after spring break. No way of knowing whether he said any of that or not, and the end of the following sentence reads like it was written by a lawyer. On the other hand, this sentence also contains an easily disproved and self-serving lie, with are hallmarks of Harreld’s rhetoric:
We are making this decision proactively to maintain the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff, and patients and in conjunction with the governor and Board of Regents, State of Iowa.
As a factual matter, a proactive decision would have been made a month ago. This is a reactive decision, and a tentative one to boot.
* Okay…finally tracked down the statement that Harreld purportedly issued today, which was buried three layers deep on the UI Coronavirus Update page. Reads like an administrative press release/email that could have been written by anyone in the executive suite or the Office of Strategic Contagion. (Actually, it reads like multiple people contributed, and not at all like something Harreld penned himself. So I’m back to wondering where he is and what he’s doing.)
Update: Turns out there was an on-camera “media briefing” about the coronavirus outbreak today on the UI campus, at which Harreld did not appear. In his place — because Harreld has apparently been abducted by aliens — were Provost Montse Fuentes, perennial c-suite sidekick Rod Lehnertz, and Chief Medical Officer Theresa Brennan. (Listening to Lehnertz lead off with marketing blather — including pitching a “world-class educational experience for our students” — made me want to vomit.)
* We can see the root of the decision-making process at the University of Iowa by looking at the athletic side of campus — as reported by Mark Emmert at Hawk Central: Gary Barta: Hawkeye staff monitoring coronavirus news, but not changing tournament travel. Seriously, why would UI change its school-sponsored travel plans in the face of a global pandemic? It’s not like students athletes are made of the same genetic material as fans, who were just banned from attending March Madness in person. (So far the Big Ten is insisting that fans will be able to attend Big Ten tournament games, almost certainly because all of the schools want a share of the gate as well.)
Given that college athletes are immune to the coronavirus, and that the University of Iowa is certain nothing bad could happen as a result of stuffing all of those student athletes into airplanes and flying them around the country, why would the Athletic Director of a major college give up the television revenue and free publicity that comes with playing a meaningless sport for the gratification of people who like that sort of thing? In fact, here’s an Iowa coach putting it all in perspective:
“It’s business as usual as far as I’m concerned,” Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery said of his team’s preparations to compete in the Big Ten Conference Tournament starting Thursday.
Business as usual. Could not have put it better myself. (Ruh-ro, some people are busting out lawyer talk. That does not bode well.)
* Apparently the NBA’s plan to continue playing the season has hit a snag….
From 8:45 p.m. — NBA suspends season due to coronavirus.
So what happened? Well apparently, one of the players on the Utah Jazz was diagnosed with the caronavirus tonight, right before that game was about to begin.
But hey — at least UI AD Gary Barta, UI Men’s Head Brain Fart Fran McCaffery, and the revenue-obssessed cretins at the Big Ten still plan to keep playing games, because they know better than the epidemiologists and the CDC.
* From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller and Michaela Ramm: Hills Bank confirms it sponsored group in Egyptian cruise linked to Johnson County coronavirus cases.
* After dragging their asses for weeks, late today administrators at the University of Iowa recalled students from Spain, France and Germany. The problem? Hours later the Degenerate of the United States finally decided to act himself — and this is his plan: Trump suspends travel from Europe to US. Good job everyone!
03/10/20 — Gonna be real interesting to see if we get all the way through the day today with no public notice or mention of the financial close of the UI public-private utility partnership. Then again, given that next year’s state budget is still not finalized, and there’s a pandemic and whatnot, I can see why UI might not want to draw attention to the fact that they are now sitting on $1B in unrestricted cash. Having gone to the trouble of lying about the need for a massive endowment to fund the UI Strategic Plan — which will then be used to fund an annual $15M game show on campus, which was in turn already paid for by tuition hikes that were approved two and a half years ago — it would obviously be disappointing to UI administrators to see a cut in appropriations, let alone to have to spend any of that endowment saving lives.
* One strong suit at the Iowa Board of Regents and attendant university campuses is that administrators are really good at covering up their own incompetence and abuses using other people’s money. From the AP’s Ryan Foley: Iowa State Paying Admissions Official to Look for Other Jobs.
For the second time this academic year, a public university in Iowa is paying an administrator to stay home and look for other jobs as part of a legal agreement to quit and not sue.
An agreement that was reached in December but only recently made public shows that Iowa State University is paying former senior admissions official Consuela Cooper to telecommute until June 15 or until she finds a new job, whichever comes first.
The first occurrence, of course, was the TaJuan Wilson debacle at the University of Iowa, which clearly taught the entire regents system an important lesson. If you have a personnel problem that you don’t want to become public, just throw a bunch of state money at that individual to silence them, and you’re home free.
* Remember back in January of 2019, when illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld — who personally identifies as multi-cultural because a couple of his offspring married people who speak Mandarin — said that China was a “wonderful country“? Maybe not so much.
* To be clear, Mitch Daniels at Purdue is a hypocrite. While he relentlessly plays up his penny-pinching reputation, he has no problem taking the same kind of obscene salary that J. Bruce Harreld receives at UI, while simultaneously insisting that everyone else tighten their belts. Having said that, and acknowledging that there is a lot of credulous fawning in this fluff piece about Daniels — and also acknowledging that there are plenty of ways to bleed students while keeping tuition relatively low — this single fact is impressive: “Mitch Daniels has frozen Purdue’s tuition—at less than $10,000—for seven straight years.” Contrast that with the University of Iowa under Harreld, which is currently in the middle of levying nine tuition hikes over eight years.
* So if Harvard is closing its campus after spring break, due to the coronavirus, and J. Bruce Harreld has a Harvard MBA, does that mean Harreld — who has been completely absent in the face of the looming pandemic — will close the UI campus after spring break? Probably not. What he will do, however, is use the coronavirus outbreak as an excuse to increase tuition even more on any students that survive. (Gonna be some interesting lawsuits at colleges and universities which insist that students come back and continue taking classes and going to lectures.)
* Relatedly, it is genuinely fascinating watching elected officials and governmental appointees in the Upper-Midwest resist implementing changes that are happening on both coasts, even though it is a certainty that both the coronavirus itself and the resulting shock waves of disruption will arrive here in force. Nobody would do this in the face of a hurricane warning or even a tornado warning, but somehow a pandemic is reducing all of these people to quivering, cowering wretches. We had — and still have — more advance warning than any place on earth, yet even today the message is that everything is under control and you should just go about your regular daily existence.
* Underscoring the degree to which public higher-ed is already a profit-conscious industry, note also that there has been almost no sustained conversation about whether the spring NCAA sports — including particularly basketball and wrestling — should conclude with their usual national tournaments. This is not simply colleges and universities that are suppressing that conversation, however, but also the press and media, which profit handsomely from season-ending televised events. Once again, today the Ivy League threw a wrench into that conspiracy of silence by cancelling its own basketball tournament. Your move, Big Ten.
(If you’re bored, take a minute and scroll through the official NCAA March Madness twitter account, from which you would be hard-pressed to discern the unfolding global coronavirus pandemic. Never let a healthcare crisis get in the way of exploiting student athletes for money.)
* Private liberal-arts Grinnell College — which sits just off I-80 between Iowa City and Des Moines — is closing its campus and sending most of its students home. After spring break the 1,650 students on campus will finish the term online.
* From the Daily Iowan’s Marissa Payne, late this afternoon: Iowa regents ask universities to prepare to move class instruction online amid coronavirus cases identified in Iowa:
The state Board of Regents has asked Iowa’s three regent institutions to “move as quickly as possible towards the ability to deliver instruction virtually,” Regent President Mike Richards said in a statement Tuesday.
Richards said students, faculty, and staff should prepare for this eventuality this week before spring break. The universities will receive specific information no later than 8 a.m. Thursday.
As for J. Bruce Harreld at Iowa, we are past the point at which his absence can be excused. The Board of Regents and UI administration owe the UI community and the greater public an explanation as to why the unveristy’s genius president has been completely silent during this unfolding healthcare crisis. (More here on both Grinnell and the Board of Regents, from the Press-Citizen’s Aimee Breaux.)
* From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: Iowa’s public universities to move quickly toward virtual instruction amid COVID-19 fears.
The number of presumed positive COVID-19 cases in Iowa has grown to 13, state health officials announced late Tuesday.
The five more people who tested positive — still to be confirmed by federal officials — are among the same group that went on a cruise beginning in mid-February in Egypt. That means 12 of the 13 people in Iowa who have tested positive are in Johnson County, home of the University of Iowa and its 31,240 students. The other person is in western Iowa.
This concentration in Iowa City/Johnson County is not surprising for a whole host of reasons, but the fact that it is home to UI raises serious questions about now dispersing all of those UI students to far-flung locations, given that they will be coming from a town/city which is now the main hotspot in the state. To be clear, there are no good options here, but this is precisely why it was critical for the state and UI to act in concern and sooner rather than later, but that window of opportunity is now clearly lost.
I would also note that once again we have a report about IC and UI which does not contain a single mention of UI president J. Bruce Harreld, and I find that inexplicable. The man is being paid close to a million dollars per year — and will soon reach that seven-figure amount — and he hasn’t even issued a ghostwritten press release. Why is he not front and center as this crisis unfolds? Is Harreld sick? Has Harreld quit? Has he deserted his post? What happened to the transformational visionary, deep strategic thinker and organizational guru who — with the help of a small cabal of crony co-conspirators — lied his way into the job that he is now clearly not doing?
03/09/20 — So it’s late Sunday/early Monday as I write this, and the Australian stock market is off 7%. I mention that because tomorrow — Tuesday, 03/10/20 — is the financial close of the UI P3, when the University of Iowa officially borrows $1.17B on a false pretext, in order to then make scads of money in the markets. And sure, it is a little disconcerting that the bloviating UI president has made himself scarce during a pandemic, but nobody hired him to be a hero, or even to be responsible, or even to be mediocre. In 2015 the Iowa Board of Regents hired J. Bruce Harreld to tell lies in service of privatizing a state university, and here we are.
Oh — and speaking of borrowing money, this seems relevant somehow:
Hey just FYI, we now have negative real interest rates on the 30 year treasury. So if you have any very long term public investments that might have any positive return, we should probably consider doing them.
Still, I’m sure the university’s private sector partners — including particularly those mysterious Iowa investors no one will talk about because having cronies mooch money from state government qualifies as a trade secret now — are quite giddy at the prospect of locking up a long-term guaranteed return while the U.S. economy tanks.
* The core argument for public higher education is that in exchange for taxpayer revenue, public colleges and universities return what is called a ‘public good’: a broadly distributed value or benefit to those same taxpayers. (The Iowa State extension office is a good example.) Because we can’t have nice things, however, the money-grubbing entrepreneurial class has waged a decades-long war against the idea that we should expect any public good from state-subsidized institutions of higher learning, and instead insists that we should focus on money and profits and cash flow above all else — just like private-sector businesses do in the dog-eat-dog marketplace.
The very fact that the University of Iowa — which is not only an R1/AAU research university, but has a cutting-edge hospital and medical college on campus — has been effectively mute throughout the unfolding coronavirus pandemic, as opposed to taking a leadership position on local containment, makes clear that the entrepreneurial class has won in Iowa, and taxpayers should expect no public benefit from throwing hundreds of millions of dollars at the University of Iowa each year. Adding insult to injury, Iowa taxpayers are also paying the non-traditional president of UI a scandalous $800K per year (soon to increase to $1M), only for him to completely disappear during this unfolding public health crisis. In any legitimate function of government service this would constitute dereliction of duty and cowardice, and compel termination.
* Am already anticipating someone at UI saying the market crash and coronavirus pandemic represents a tremendous buying opportunity for the $1.17B loan the university will close on tomorrow. The only real question I have is whether Bro Bruce Harreld himself will make that nauseating claim, or someone else will do it.
* Five more “presumptive positive” cases of coronavirus in Iowa, bringing the total to eight. Whatever this says about the spread of the disease in Iowa, it is a scathing indictment of federal and state officials to have aggressive testing programs in place. People should lose their offices or jobs for this, if not go to prison for criminal neglect.
03/08/20 — The entire state of Iowa is effectively an old folk’s home, but for the past decade former governor Terry Branstad and current governor Kim Reynolds have relentlessly encouraged the easing of regulations and the exploitation of workers at care facilities for the elderly. What could possibly go wrong?
There is no one in the entire state of Iowa who is prepared to deal with something like this, even after weeks of advance warning. The elected and appointed leaders in state government and at the state’s two AAU universities are pom-pom waving hacks whose only allegiance is to the political and business cronies who put them in office. If you have elders in your family you are going to have to protect them not only from the coronavirus, but from the lethal incompetence of state and federal authorities. (Here is a good example of this incompetence at the federal level. At the state level, all you need to know is that Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds is a Trumpist Republican to the core, and takes her marching orders from the White House. If she has to choose between following Trump’s official line and putting your family at risk, she will put your family at risk.)
* For any of the brain-dead, morally bankrupt administrators at the University of Iowa who still listen to J. Bruce Harreld about anything, don’t do this.
* And speaking of UI, I was heartened to see that the cover of the new UI Alumni Magazine features an African-American basketball players from the 1970’s, along with a retrospective look at how we all came together over sports during the nastiness of the Civil Rights era and the Vietnam War, thus proving that diversity, equity and inclusion can’t possibly be a problem today. (Such a relief. I was so worried.)
* Apparently the announcement yesterday by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds that her crack team of crony coronavirus experts would be holding twice-weekly briefings was not enough to appease growing concern about the outbreak. I say that because Reynolds is now scheduled to hold a “news conference” tonight (Sunday), at which she will undoubtedly attempt to portray herself as in-command without contravening the insanity coming out of the Trump White House. Still, we should learn whether the wheels are going to come off completely in Iowa, or only partially, based on whether Reynolds can take and answer the most basic questions.
Update: There are three “presumptive positive” coronavirus tests in Johnson County, Iowa, from people who took a cruise in Egypt. Not a surprise that the virus is here and not a surprise it showed up first in Johnson County, which is of course also home to the cosmopolitan University of Iowa, which also sponsors trips around the world through the Center for Advancement.
* Speaking of UI, I looked back through press reports over the past few weeks, and the last comment I can find from illegitimate president J. Bruce Harreld is a quote on February 26th, but it’s not clear the quote was uttered on that date. So where is Bro Bruce, and why isn’t he out front on the coronavirus — particularly now that we know it’s in Johnson County?
* Unquestionably the most coherent statement of purpose regarding our collective response to the coronavirus from any individual in the state of Iowa:
But the danger of an overwhelmed hospital system is one reason public health officials are so concerned about the lack of testing. It’s also why they are so determined to slow the spread of the disease, to avoid a sudden, massive spike, even if they can’t stop it altogether.
“Flattening the curve means reducing the rate of spread in order to keep from completely overwhelming the health care system,” Dan Diekema, director of infectious disease at the University of Iowa Medical Center, told HuffPost via email.
And by “overwhelming the system,” he said, he means “bringing it to a breaking point where dire decisions have to be made, such as rationing ventilators and/or being unable to provide supportive care for some critically ill patients due to lack of capacity.”
Also a searing explanation about why you don’t run any hosptial — let alone a major public hospital — at 90% capapcity, while slashing medical and support staff. When you decide to do that as a money-grubbing administrator you are gambling, and sooner or later you are going to lose the bet you are making with other people’s lives. (Have I mentioned that the president of the Iowa Board of Regents, which oversees UIHC, is part-owner of a casino? I think maybe I have.)
* From the Daily Iowan’s Charles Peckman, Marissa Payne and Sarah Watson:
Iowa previously had no reported cases of the novel coronavirus, and state health officials had maintained that the state’s risk was low for an outbreak.
“While this news is concerning, it’s not cause for alarm,” Reynolds said during the news conference. “The most important thing that we can do right now is remain calm, understand the situation, and stay informed in the days and weeks ahead. We are committed to transparency and keeping the public informed.”
There are no state officials in Iowa who are committed to transparency. What they are committed to is keeping the state economy humming for their political and business cronies, so it won’t be long until Kim Reynolds is telling everyone to go out and buy thirty pounds of pink slime per-person.
The University of Washington said it would move to online classes for its 50,000 students. With colleges nationwide about to empty for spring break, students fear they might not be coming back.
The shock waves of disruptions emanating from Asia are now on the West Coast of the U.S. and in Western Europe, and will soon converge in the Midwest. The fact that UI is set to go on spring break after this coming week would seem to be a godsend, allowing for critical changes to be made during that week of relative downtime, yet I have seen no indication that the Iowa Board of Regents or UI administration intends to do anything except other than drag its feet until compelled to take action by the same federal authorities who only just this morning encouraged investors to “buy on the dips“. Which is to say that even though the entire executive suite at UI has been corrupted by the siren song of entrepreneurial expediency, someone not named J. Bruce Harreld needs to seize control of the university’s bureaucratic apparatus and maximize this rapidly closing window of opportunity.
* The UI Novel Coronavirus Updates page continues to improve, and yet…the school can’t resist the temptation to treat a global pandemic as a marketing opportunity. Here are the first two questions from the FAQ on that page, in order:
Is the University of Iowa prepared to respond to COVID-19?
Where can I find the most up-to-date information on COVID-19?
Why not throw in a link to officially licensed UI pandemic merch? (For the children, of course.)
If you’re not familiar with South by Southwest (SXSW), it is a large annual gathering in Austin Texas — meaning the Great Plains, meaning due south of Iowa. At the end of last week the promoters and organizers insisted they would not cancel the convention, almost certainly because they would have to refund tens of millions of dollars that had already been spent. And yet still I’m reading quotes today that there are no confirmed cases in Iowa so everything is fine. This is an IQ test and we are failing.
* While today’s outbreak reports may seem concerning, remember that state government officials still insist that Iowans are at low risk for the coronavirus virus, even though doing so is irresponsible and self-defeating. Then again, these are completely different Iowa officials from the ones who planeed to conduct sex experiments on citizens with severe intellectual disabiliites, so we are obligated to ignore common sense.
03/05/20 — Iowa Board of Regents cancels all university-sponsored international travel. (More here from Kelsey Harrell at the Daily Iowan, and here from the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller.)
* Late yesterday the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller reported on an audit performed by the State Auditor, which determined that a now-emeritus professor at the University of Iowa failed to report a conflict of interest for years if not decades. (More here from the DI’s Rachel Shilke.) On its face this seems like good oversight, and I don’t condone what the professor did, but in reading the details it not only seems like this abuse was hiding in plain sight, but UI — which is loaded with plenty of auditors itself — could have easily brought this matter to the attention of that individual years ago. All of which makes me think this is more about saving money today by cutting someone lose from an ongoing salary, pension and/or benefits, than it is about maintaining the letter of the law on a campus that is defined by deceptive practices, if not outright crimes at the highest levels of administration.
* The University of Iowa is reporting that all of the employees who had guns put to their heads over the holidays, when the school rammed through the privatization of its state-owned utilities, have either transitioned to working for UI’s private-sector partners (meaning they changed shirts), or accepted jobs elsewhere in the university. Transparency and justice for all. (Details and backstroy here from the DI’s Katie Ann McCarver.)
As part of the government-wide efforts to respond to the global outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus infection (COVID-19), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services intends to purchase 500 million N95 respirators over the next 18 months for the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS).
Anybody who thinks this is going to blow over in thirty days needs to resign from the Iowa Board of Regents.
* Granted, Arizona State University president Michael Crow is a self-promoting gasbag, but still — given that a new and potentially lethal coronavirus is making its way around the globe, it seems appropriate for any college or university president to put out basic information for students who are about to go on spring break. Speaking of which, not only haven’t I seen any mention of Harreld in press reports since his last DI interview was published on 02/16/20, but spring break at UI starts at the end of next week. (If Harreld is off working on his tan again, maybe someone at UI could just crank something out and sign his name, to at least keep up the pretense that the university cares.)
03/04/20 — I have had a tab open in my browser about this young man for the past three and a half months, and I have thought about him often while reading the latest round of self-congratulatory propaganda from the Iowa Board of Regents and/or University of Iowa, replete with crony back slaps and head pats. And all that time his parents and loved ones have been living with unimaginable grief. Sheriff: Body recovered from Iowa River had ID of missing student.
* After a month or more of stumbling, bumbling and downplaying the coronavirus threat, the messaging from the University of Iowa has finally improved to the point that quoted administrators are saying the right things. I would add that illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld has been notably absent in articles about the coronavirus impact on the university, but the truth is when tough decisions have to be made Harreld usually passes the buck to his underlings and makes himself scarce. And speaking of Harreld and messaging, we are once again well into a UI semester in which Harreld has failed to post even a pro forma, self-plagiarized or ghost-written welcome to new and returning students. That’s pathetic in its own right, but in the context of a global health threat it’s also a reminder that you literally cannot count on Harreld to get even the small things right.
* While the state of Iowa and its affiliated governmental agencies continue to promote the fact that no coronavirus cases have yet been detected in the state, it is worth noting that not only are the elderly disproportionately at risk from this new disease (and Iowa’s population skews markedly older), but the state has been notoriously if not criminally negligent in requiring nursing homes to have appropriate levels of licensed staff. Which is another way of saying that Iowa is particularly vulnerable to a pathogen which could end up killing multiple elderly patients at those facilities, much like the nightmare in Washington State. (Whether low-wage and minimally trained employees will continue to come to work if that means putting their own lives, or the lives of their family members, at risk, is yet another concern.)
* From the Daily Iowan’s Marissa Payne: Email to Tippie students says University of Iowa instructors are prepared to hold classes online in case coronavirus spreads.
The Tippie College of Business can probably get away with that because it’s a small college and there are a lot of data-driven courses. I don’t see any way the massive College of Liberal Arts & Sciences could complete all semester coursework via computer, which raises the question of whether different groups of students will be asked to face different levels of risk in order to get the credits they paid for. As for “University of Iowa officials” saying “they’re confident the state’s risk for the virus remains low”, anyone who actually said that on the record should be fired, along with the AWOL and derelict president of the university for allowing anyone to make that claim.
You know who is at low risk from the coronavirus outbreak? People stationed in Antarctica — but only if they shoot down any incoming planes.
* I mean look at the lede from this report by the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller:
The University of Iowa-based State Hygienic Lab has about 250 test kits for the spreading coronavirus and was expecting more, the lab director told reporters Wednesday.
If UI “officials” think “the state’s risk for the virus remains low”, then why does UI have any test kits, let alone more on the way? Shouldn’t UI give those test kits to states that need them, now that we know Iowans have some intrinsic immunity — perhaps from only traveling in buggies and living on farms without electricity? (Better yet, Harreld could sell those pointless test kits on Amazon at profiteering prices, and in so doing cover the made-up costs of the UI Strategic Plan for the fourth time.)
03/02/20 — The good news on the local coronavirus front is that after a solid month of treating even the most basic outreach like a tedious chore, as exemplified by allowing the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Updates page to languish, someone in the Office of Strategic Communication at the University of Iowa is taking time away from generating propaganda for illegitimate president J. Bruce Harreld and connecting people with reliable sources of information. The bad news is that despite the fact that UI, like Iowa State in Ames, is an R1/AAU public research university — but unlike ISU, also has a cutting-edge medical facility on campus — most of the information being communicated to the citizens of the state is still coming from the governor’s office and related agencies, which, incidentally, are also looking into sex experiments that the governor’s administration planned to conduct on severely disabled Iowans. (Because more than a year has passed since one of the governor’s old drinking buddies — who was running the Iowa Finance Authority for her — was also outed as a pervert, the average Iowan may not realize that sexual abuse is a persistent problem in her administration, but the governor’s credibility has still undeniably taken a hit, and deservedly so.)
All of which is to say that whether we’re talking about Harreld or the governor, the state has a massive credibility problem when it comes to being straight with the populace about anything, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. One person who could speak to both the UI campus and state with some authority — having so far avoided the stain of crony corruption which defines most of state government — would be UI’s VP for Medical Affairs and Dean of the UI College of Medicine, J. Brooks Jackson. Oddly enough, however, we haven’t heard anything from Jackson so far, despite the fact that he not only holds one of the most powerful positions on the UI campus, but one which obviously relates to public health. (Maybe he’s golfing? Or perhaps he’s busy lining up a corporate partner to privatize University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, like the University of Minnesota did when he worked there?)
* One of the reasons it would be good to get someone from UI out in front of the coronavirus threat is that we only have about two weeks before an attendant economic shock wave hits the Upper-Midwest. For example, a couple of days ago the annual Game Developers Conference — which attracts thousands of attendees from the global gaming community to the Bay Area each year — was postponed (and likely cancelled), and that is the leading edge of a wave of disruptions which are radiating from Asia to both the east and west. Similar disruptions have been happening for weeks in Japan and Korea, and the Middle-East and Europe, and it’s only a matter of time before they circumnavigate the globe and affect Iowa as well, including UI. In fact, to underscore the potential magnitude of these disruptions, note that there is currently a very real debate about whether Japan will have to cancel or delay the 2020 Olympics, which has been in the works for seven years.
Not surprisingly, similar conversations are just beginning about sporting events in the United States. Again, this past weekend a group voiced concerns that March Madness — the nationwide NCAA basketball tournament and expense-account orgy — would have to be modified in some way, perhaps by playing games in front of empty arenas. And of course that kind of half-baked problem solving merely presages the extent of the disruptions, and the difficult decisions, which will soon confront conflicted if not corrupt administrators all over the country.
How do you minimize transmissibility while still protecting revenue, which is really the only thing you genuinely care about? Playing college basketball in front of empty stands would still allow cameras to broadcast the games, but what happens if a player subsequently dies from coronavirus? And how smart is it, really, to fly groups of players back and forth across the country over the course of a month, merely to determine which particular group is this year’s anemic NCAA champion?
Who should ultimately make those fateful decisions? The President of the United States? The presidents of the respective schools? The athletic directors? The governors?
Of course the answer is that a television executive will ultimately make that determination, but only after he (it’s always a ‘he’) determines whether his network will have any legal exposure if somebody drops dead. Which is not to rip on greasy television executives, but simply to point out how weak and pathetic many college and university presidents are — and of course we have one of those at the University of Iowa, whose last great act of administrative heroism was trying to kill off any investigation into abuses against the UI Marching Band, before he got caught and had to reverse course. (And of course there was that one time UI actually tried to defraud thousands of Iowa students and families out of $4.2M in scholarships that the university was legally obligated to pay, but that was years ago now so we pretend it didn’t happen.)
The bottom line is that we have to slow this disease down so we can get a handle on what we’re dealing with — which we still don’t know — and the only way we have to do that is to limit transmissibility. So who will decide where the UI sports teams go for the remainder of the year, including the sweaty Iowa Men’s Wrestling squad? Who will decide about concert performances large and small on the UI campus? Who will decide about lecture halls and classrooms, where students are obligated to congregate to get the course credits they’re paying for? Will it be someone who is concerned about health, or a ratty little weasel who is only concerned about revenue generation?
Update: Here is the shock wave coming east-to-west, through Europe, as reported by the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: Iowa, Iowa State cancel popular study abroad programming in Italy. That this was not done weeks ago is a scathing indictment of the Iowa Board of Regents, and a reminder that UI and ISU are still well behind the curve in coming to terms with this disruption. This is a crisis which clearly calls for a proactive response, yet the state schools are engaging in administrative foot dragging.
We can also see how economics and revenue play into this foot dragging in this quote:
“It is our understanding that your program provider is developing protocols to allow you to complete as much coursework as possible for the Spring 2020 semester,” [UI International Programs Associate Provost and Dean Russell Ganim] wrote. “The University of Iowa and the Office of the Provost are committed to facilitating the completion of your academic work for this term.”
They’re committed because they don’t want to have to eat any costs as a result, which they might have to do if students can’t earn the credits they paid for. And this is a tiny example of the decisions that are going to play out around the globe, and in the U.S., and in Iowa in the coming months. We are just now at the beginning of March, and have two and a half months of the spring term left to go in the 2019-2020 academic year. The pressure on the Iowa Board of Regents — which, as a governing agency, is spectacularly ill-prepared to deal with a crisis of this consequence — will be to complete the term even if doing so inevitably puts people at increased risk of infection.
* Speaking of the greater cultural collapse of the Upper-Midwest, South Dakota is poised to kill off the faculty union at its state universities. This is obviously not a surprise, but it is a reminder that if you care about academic freedom or anything other than converting state institutions of higher education into engines of economic development for political and business cronies, you’re living in the wrong part of the country.
* When I point out that Iowa state government is steeped in crony corruption, this report from the Gazette’s Erin F. Jordan is a perfect example: State of Iowa signs $50 million computing contract without typical competitive bidding.
02/29/20 — While the UI P3 is, in itself, a scandalous betrayal of fiduciary responsibility to the citizens of Iowa, there is an unexpected satin lining in the fact that the University of Iowa is about to take possession of a billion dollars in cash. If the coronavirus pandemic proves truly tragic — meaning hundreds if not thousands of Iowans die as a result — the university is sitting on a massive pile of money that can immediately be diverted to prevention and perhaps even researching a cure.
Granted, such a diversion might require the legislature to step in and liquidate the endowment that UI intends to fund to generate revenue for the UI Strategic Plan, but as a factual matter that money will belong to the state, just like any other university asset. And of course neither J. Bruce Harreld nor any of his crack staff would want to explain why they were refusing to release that money in the face of a health crisis, when in fact — as detailed in a recent post — they already paid for the UI Strategic Plan many times over with tuition hikes, and consummated the UI P3 under false pretenses to begin with.
02/28/20 — I have made this point on multiple prior occasions, but in this period of global uncertainty it bears repeating. There is a reason you don’t hire money junkies like J. Bruce Harreld to squeeze every last dollar out of government institutions, and that reason has everything to do with the fact that government institutions, first and foremost, do not exist to generate revenue. Yes, you can certainly repurpose them to that money-grubbing end, and you may be tempted to do so in periods of relative calm or plenty, but in accepting that devil’s bargain you also inevitably expose governmental institutions to risks that make citizens less safe.
In pushing the UI P3 through to fruition in early December, illegitimate crony UI president J. Bruce Harreld had this to say about risk:
So, I sit down with Dan Collins and Tom Rietz and Dan is the chair of the accounting department for Tippie. The three of us met and I said, here’s what I’m beginning to see and to understand and how it would work. But boy, the risks of this are huge. And we need to be able to model how the financial markets may play out over 50 years. We need to be able to model how much money we would need to fund the gaps in our strategic plan. We need to — I can just keep going.
There are layers and layers and layers to this and so Tom, in particular, did an awful lot of modeling. In particular, once we started to get the structure reasonably well-defined, [we] started running various scenarios of a 2007, 2008, 2009: fiscal collapse, credit lock up in the US economy through P3. So we just look through scenario after scenario after scenario. This is not risk free, something like this will never be risk free.
The obvious question, of course — as the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the greater market bleed out this week — is whether J. Bruce Genius and his risk-management team considered a global pandemic while running their projections, and I’m guessing probably not. And yet even if you only have half a brain, like Harreld, you know that a key component of risk-assessment is acknowledging that you can’t actually model every potential risk, which is why it is generally not a good idea to borrow $1.17B and then put that money to work in the markets, on the literal hope that you can make back the principal and interest you need to pay in order to avoid defaulting on that loan.
(In the case of the UI P3, my assumption would be that the $1.17B is sitting in escrow in cash, and has not been directly impacted by the largest market selloff since the Great Recession, but with these clowns who knows? The blood loss on Wall Street may even represent a buying opportunity, but given that the financial close on the UI P3 is supposed to take place in the next two weeks, when does UI get into this market? One thing I can guarantee is that every private-sector party to the UI P3 is going back through the contract they just signed, to see if there is any wiggle room on committing money to that deal if they suddenly need a mountain of cash themselves.)
At University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, J. Bruce Harreld has had both the new and old management regimes running that medical facility at roughly 90% occupancy for years, while simultaneously drawing down the available nursing and support staff in order to generate as much revenue as possible. And I’m sure that all looks great on a spreadsheet right up until the premier medical facility in the state suddenly needs to accommodate a global pandemic, but doesn’t have enough beds or staff on hand to deal with even a moderate spike in admissions, let along a tidal wave of patients.
At the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics — the only hospital in the state certified to take on tertiary- and quaternary-level complex cases — daily occupancy typically hovers around 90 percent. At other hospitals in Iowa, the typical daily occupancy rate is around 50 percent, according to UIHC CEO Suresh Gunasekaran.
Even if you know nothing about the practice of medicine, imagine what the custodial responsibilities alone will be like if UIHC is dealing with a crush of critically ill pandemic patients. Does UIHC have enough trained housekeepers and cleaning and sterilizing personnel on staff, let alone sufficient individuals in reserve to take up the slack when some of those front-line workers get sick? And what incentive do those workers have to come to work at all if the hospital itself becomes an engine of contagion?
Those are all important questions, yet last time we checked in on UIHC the administrators were trying to figure out how to accommodate their own managerial incompetence by warehousing patients in a discharge lounge, so as to free up beds more quickly for new revenue-generating cases. (See 02/11/20 below.) Flash forward to today and the prospect of dealing with a global pandemic, and every lounge at UIHC could be become a discharge lounge — and I’m not talking about patients coming and going.
From the point of view of entrepreneurial hustlers like J. Bruce Harreld, the concept of stewardship is synonymous with being a sucker. If there’s money on the table you take that money and worry about the consequences later, and if things get really bad you just take your cut and move on, as he did when Boston Market imploded. Unfortunately for the people of Iowa, the state will still be saddled with a 50-year deal that could go belly-up even before it is consummated, and with a hospital that is understaffed and administratively unprepared for exactly the kind of national emergency that a governmental institution like UIHC should be ready to meet head on.
02/27/20 — A grab-bag of news today….
* In following the University of Iowa through the work product of local reporters, one thing I have learned — and have sympathy for — is that language itself can constrain what a reporter says, and that’s especially true if an organization or institution that is being reported on conducts itself like a propaganda operation. Case in, point, this short item today from the Daily Iowan’s Rin Swann, about a woman who was charged with attacking several staffers at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics:
According to the arrest affidavit, Johnston was a guest at the Behavioral Health Unit at UIHC. While there, Johnston punched a plastic hand dispenser and shattered it, creating an improvised weapon.
If there is one word in that sentence that jumped out at me it is the word “guest”, and I’m pretty sure from the context that the DI reporter didn’t choose that word herself. Instead, it seems to come from the “arrest affidavit”, but that really only kicks the can down the road. Whether or not you know anything about the Behavioral Health Clinic at UIHC, and whether or not the woman in question was admitted or presented voluntarily, people who are seen in that clinical setting are not guests, they are patients — yet somewhere along the line someone decided they didn’t want to use that word.
Clearly no one should be attacking anyone else for any reason, but once you cross the threshold into behavioral health it’s also understood that the whole point of such a clinic is that there are people who have behavioral problems, who may not only lose control of themselves but become violent — and everyone at UIHC knows that. So why was this woman described as a “guest” when it is self-evident from her actions that she needed help? Again, that doesn’t excuse what she did, but it is more than a little insulting to her — and telling of the marketing mindset of UIHC administrators — that this report makes it sound like someone went berserk at a day spa.
Invalidating human beings who are in crisis, let alone doing so when you are supposed to take care of people who are in crisis, is about as low as it goes, yet here we are.
(I intend to come back to this subject in an extended post, following the financial close of the UI P3 in the next week or two. UI routinely perverts words and language in order to portray itself in the best light, and that’s particularly pathetic at an institution of higher learning, where students would marked down for the same practice.)
* In between hawking merch and flacking for Casey’s breakfast pizza, Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand found time to propose a new law which I fully support. From Perry Beeman at the Iowa Capital Dispatch:
A bill pushed by Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand, a former prosecutor, would require jail terms for most public employees convicted of taking large amounts of money from taxpayers.
Sand said he wants to stop public employees — including, for example, state lawmakers and people working for schools, cities and counties — from treating their employers like banks offering no-interest loans. To Sand, that’s what happens when public employees embezzle money from taxpayers and are merely required to repay their employer without serving time in prison.
The corruption in state government in Iowa is entrenched and systemic, and includes a lot of people who think state, county and municipal treasuries are their personal bank accounts. Just because the people who embezzle money don’t do it at the point of a knife, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t spend time in the slammer.
* Earlier today there was a weird story out of Northern California which strongly suggested that Arizona State President Michael Crow might be in the running to head up the vast University of California system. Were that true it would be interesting on a number of levels, not the least of which is that it would signal the impending collapse of the UC system as a serious academic institution, and usher in the kind of entrepreneurial lunacy that Harreld has been practicing at UI. (The original inspiration for hiring J. Bruce Harreld almost certainly came out of the Arizona desert, where Crow practices his higher-ed voodoo, and where Harreld’s buddy Jerry Stead happens to reside.)
Mike Crow bailing for UC would also be an admission that he failed to elevate ASU to the ranks of AAU member institutions, which was something he pursued with evangelical abandon for the better part of a decade. Late today, however, ASU released a statement that Crow was not a candidate for the presidency at UC, and would remain at Arizona State. As to who floated the idea that the unabashadly self-promoting Crow might be in demand in CA, or looking to quit on ASU after effectively trapping himself there due to his gonzo fixation on revenue generation at the expense of institutional credibility…that remains a mystery.
Update: Did not realize both the UC and CSU systems were looking for new presidents. Relatedly, both systems are also playing the ‘secrecy’ card with regard to their searches, insisting they can only hire the best people if they do so behind closed doors with no accountability. (In the case of the UC search, they aren’t even faking a shared-governance process at the committee level.) I don’t know what will replace public higher education when it has finally been killed off by political and entrepreneurial parasites, but new college and university models focused on education (as opposed to revenue and vanity) should be iterated until something works.
* The Des Moines Register’s Barbara Rodriquez reports that the state of Iowa can now test for the coronavirus, but it is not clear whether the test kits Iowa received are the same ones that were just rejected by New York as flawed. (As a practical matter, the test kits are important for hospitals so they can diagnose people who are critically ill and begin the proper treatment protocols. There aren’t going to be enough test kits in the world to test everyone who gets the coronavirus and is symptomatic, let alone those who prove to be asymptomatic and may even test negative.)
* The Daily Iowan released an extensive fact-check by Kelsey Harrell, about whether Ohio continued to fund Ohio State after OSU, in 2017, also borrowed a billion dollars under the pretense of a public-private utility partnership. The DI ranks a specific statement by Harreld sidekick Rod Lehnertz as “Mostly True”, but with “a bit of a twist”:
The Ohio General Assembly budgeted conservatively from fiscal 2017 to fiscal 2019 to keep the Department of Higher Education funding at a flat rate instead of providing an increase, but funding was not cut during this period, Jeff Robinson, department director of communications, wrote in an email to PolitiFact.
Kudos to Harrell and the DI for getting into the weeds and holding UI administrators accountable for their public statements.
* From the Press-Citizen’s Aimee Breaux: University of Iowa cuts off travel to South Korea over coronavirus concerns.
02/26/20 — The Daily Iowan’s Julia Shanahan had a story out yesterday about a bill that passed the Iowa House, which would mandate in-state admission requirements at the UI colleges of Medicine and Dentistry. I flagged that bill for myself at the end of January, following a Gazettte story by Vanessa Miller, but during every legislative season that are a spate of bills aimed at the regent schools which never survive. The fact that this bill passed the House (on a party line vote) is notable not so much for the bill itself, which is effectively grandstanding, but for the targeted nature of the bill, and the legislature’s desire to tell the University of Iowa how to handle its business. At some point Iowa’s legislators — including legislators hostile to the idea of higher education in general — are going to pass something that not only does real damage, but which bigfoots the toxic crony political power that has been concentrated in the Board of Regents over the past decade. Update: The DI Editorial Board came out hard against the bill late tonight.
* In the same recent Daily Iowan interview in which J. Bruce Harreld said being a well-intentioned white administrator is more important than the lived experience of persons of color who might be hired as administrators, he also offered a rambling answer about why the new VP for Student Life will be selected from in-house candidates, instead of conducting the kind of national search which led to the hire of the truly excellent individual who previously held that position, who was also a person of color. Apart from covering his ass because people of color don’t actually want to work for a rich old prevaricating white man who says insane things about race in 2020, it’s worth noting that in searching for a new Associate Ombudsperson — as reported by the DI’s Mary Hartel today — the university will be conducting a nationwide search.
* In today’s coronavirus news we have lots of coronavirus news, including: the Press-Citizen’s Aimee Breaux covering the possible economic impact in Iowa; the Des Moines Register’s Barbara Rodriquez on the status of perparedness in Iowa; The P-C’s Zachary Oren Smith with preparedness in Johnson County, and a very helpful disease-centric report from the Washington Post, which may help you dial down your slowly (or rapidly) rising panic. (Fashion bummer: masks are for people who are already sick.)
02/25/20 — From the Daily Iowan’s Charles Peckman, more evidence that the University of Iowa is rapidly becoming a privatized government entity. On Monday (yesterday) the school announced it had hired Troon — an Arizona-based company specializing in club management, development, and marketing — to run the UI Finkbine Golf Course, including the snazzy new $10M club house that is being built as a result of a generous donation from Fritz Duda and his wife. No word yet on whether Duda or anyone associated with Troon is involved in the ongoing but very hush-hush real estate development that the university is also pursuing on adjacent university property.
* While the marginally helpful and dubiously titled 2019 Novel Coronavirus Update page on the UI website has not actually been updated since February 5th, the disease continues to spread around the globe, and most of the people who pay attention to such things don’t see any way it can be contained. In that context, I would simply revisit an earlier question, which is just how confident people are that J. Bruce Harreld and his corrupt administration are prepared to deal with a genuine crisis. It’s one thing to lie your ass off when you’re grifting for a public-private partnership or trying to steal scholarship money from students and families, but other than feeling to one of his multi-million-dollar homes, what evidence is that there we can expect any responsible leadership from a man who lied himself into the job he now holds.
If there is an outbreak on the UI campus, or in Johnson County — which has a very transient population — at what point does UI cancel classes, conceivably wiping out an entire academic semester? And who eats those costs? Do students get financial credit for courses that couldn’t be completed, meaning their tuition is covered for the next semester? If so, has Harreld squirreled enough money away in slush funds to take that hit, or would he have to tap into the principal of the UI P3 endowment?
(Of course I’m joking. If the profit picture at UI was even threatened by a pandemic, Harreld and the regents would pass emergency tuition hikes to cover any drop in revenue, with enough left over to fund new carpeting and office chairs at the board office.)
Update: More and apparently newer quotes from UI’s Stanley Perlman in this comprehensive piece from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and thankfully Perlman seems to be acting more like an academician and researcher than a flack for the Iowa Tourism Office:
Perlman, at the University of Iowa, said that the search for a treatment begins with one sobering fact: “We don’t understand the disease that well.”
To uncertainty about the disease — which is considerable — we can also add that China is the only country currently reporting that progress of the disease is slowing down. Given the motivation of the Chinese government to lie, and the ruthlessness with which the Chinese government can impose restrictions on infected populations, it may very well be that the claim is false or the response inhumane in itself.
Update: From the NYT a click-baity headline and an article with another quote from Perlman, who seems to be a go-to guy for quotes: How to Prepare for the Coronavirus.
Most of the specifics provided you probably already know, but it’s equally clear that in the past forty-eight hours — particularly after today’s CDC warning — that the potential risk is being upgraded significantly. Nobody talks about closing schools or cancelling events during flu season, let alone stockpiling food or detergent for washing clothes.
She also suggested finding the website for your local health department so you will have a reliable source of news.
Name the last time anyone said something like that during flu season….
02/24/20 — Catching up on a few items from last week….
* On Wednesday of last week (02/19/20), the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller reported on some of the early email traffic at ISU and UI in the immediate aftermath of the assaults against the UI Marching Band. As ever with the Iowa Board of Regents and its affiliated campus employees, the most immediate concern was of course keeping up appearances, denying anything happened, attributing blame elsewhere and generally acting like the kind of clubby administrative trash that seems to thrive in higher-ed. (While you’re reading the piece remember that within days both UI president J. Bruce Harreld and ISU President Wendy Wintersteen tried to cover up the assaults as well.)
* On Thursday of last week (02/20/19) the University of Iowa announced that Public Safety Director Scott Beckner will be retiring after four years on the job. (More here from the Press-Citizen’s Hillary Ojeda.) Of all of Harreld’s hires to-date, I would rank Beckner as second behind only Melissa Shivers — so it’s obviously interesting that both of those people will now have bailed on Harreld and UI.
* From The Lantern on 02/20/19 we learned that the Big Ten Conference continues its domination of the Sexual Predators in Athletics Award, now adding Michigan to the storied institutional abuses perpetrated at Penn St., Michigan State and Ohio State. Interesting if only because once again we find higher-ed administrators uniformly doing everything possible to enable sexual predators preying on students. (The legacy of institutional abuse in the Big Ten alone should be a national scandal.)
* On Friday of last week (02/21/19) it was reported that Wells Fargo agreed to a $3B settlement in a civil case, which was brought against the bank after it committed wholesale fraud against its own customers. Wells Fargo is of course the financial services company which was given millions by the University of Iowa in exchange for brokering the UI public-private utility partnership.
* From the Press-Citizen’s Aimee Breaux, late today, we have this: Three University of Iowa fraternities under investigation for campus violations. It is a measure of both J. Bruce Harreld’s incapacity as a university president, and of his loyalties as a frat boy, that while he had no problem persecuting the Iowa Labor Center and no problem blowing millions of literal dollars waging war against Moder Piping in the courts — and getting his ass handed to him every step of the way — Bro Bruce doesn’t really seem to care that the frats on the UI campus routinely thumb their noses at his authority. And of course now that Melissa Shivers is gone, and one of Harreld’s ‘senior advisors’ is filling in as interim VP for Student Life, and Harreld has yet to pick whoever will have to clean up this latest mess from among the four internal finalists for the position, it is unlikely that Harreld is suddenly going to step in and do the job he’s being paid to do.
02/17/20 — Every once in a while we get a harrowing glimpse into just how twisted and fragile the mind of J. Bruce Harreld actually is. How dependent Harreld is on denialism, and on perpetuating a fantasy in which he himself is never responsible for any wrong — including, for example, perpetrating serial tuition hikes on a discredited pretext like funding the UI Strategic Plan. In the bat-clogged belfry that is Harreld’s cranium, it is literally not possible that any University of Iowa students would protest his administrative abuses of power.
From the Daily Iowan’s latest interview with J. Bruce Harreld, here is the first question and the first part of Harreld’s immediate reply:
DI: At the Feb. 5 Board of Regents meeting, some students, a few of them from the University of Iowa, protested tuition hikes and support for underrepresented students on campus. They shared that higher education access is limited with tuition rising, particularly to underrepresented students — creating a barrier. So, what is your response to those concerns?
Harreld: Well, they have all the right in the world. It’s really interesting because I frankly did not recognize any of our students. Clearly a couple said they were students of ours, and they clearly spoke up, so I’m not challenging that. But, I think one of the issues I’ve noticed is when I ask them where they’re from, they’ve been from other universities or other colleges in the state. So, I’m really not so sure. I counted 32, and I don’t know how many of them are from the University of Iowa.
The clinical word for this is ‘invalidation’, and it is a rhetorical gambit that Iowa’s two-bit, shyster president routinely perpetrates in his speeches and comments to the press. What is particularly notable here, however, is not simply that Harreld is invalidating any UI students who did protest at the Board of Regents, but that he is also calling the staff of the Daily Iowan liars, because the question clearly states that “a few of [the students were] from the University of Iowa”. If Harreld knows for certain that no UI students protested at the board he could have simply said so, but instead he insinuated and invalidated as a means of sowing doubt and insulating himself in the process. (Which, now that I think about it, reminds me of someone….)
As to the idea that the belligerent president of the University of Iowa “did not recognize any of [the] students” as hailing from UI, that would hardly be surprising given that there are 32,000 students on campus, and it is unlikely that Harreld has made a close study of all of their faces. The fact that it clearly did not occur to Harreld that what he was saying was ludicrous is an additional concern, particularly given that when he is not memorizing student photos he is borrowing billions of dollars from foreign countries while lying about that too. But I digress….
(To underscore how completely deranged Harreld’s claim is that he can identify all 32,000 UI students on sight, note that ten months ago, in April of 2019, Daily Iowan videographer Ryan Adams asked students on campus whether they could identify Harreld — meaning after he had been on the job for three and a half years — and fifty percent of those questioned could not.)
As for the rest of the DI interview, which is equal parts embarrassing and colonial…is this J. Bruce Harreld calling former UI VP for Student Life Melissa Shivers lazy?
One of the reasons I decided not to go on a national search was for the reason we’re stout [sic] and starting to focus on it. We don’t need to have someone join us and spend six months or a year to come up to speed and get to know people. We will have somebody from our midst, hopefully. We’ve kind of started with that search process. But in other positions, all your points are well taken. I think what we need to do is when somebody joins our campus, we need to help educate them.
We’ve actually got some of this pretty well documented now, because if you go back, we have a long history of student and university-wide surveys on a number of these issues. So, we can analytically see our thoughts and concerns in a number of areas and see how they’ve improved. I think we’ve also got action plans and strategies in a number of areas. So, we need to orient new people to our campus.
But I also think it also falls on the new leaders that we put in these positions, if they’re sitting in their office and don’t get around, and don’t go to various groups and engage and listen in small groups and big groups, so it has a lot to do with who we hire. Hopefully we’re hiring people who are collaborative and are comfortable working around campus.
Or is that Harreld calling TaJuan Wilson lazy? (I honestly can’t tell. Maybe both, because each of them abandoned him after he deigned to give them a job?)
If you’re a fan of unintentional comic relief, I offer this bit of jaw-dropping obliviousness, from the unqualified carpetbagging dilettante who was jammed into the president’s office by, among others, his buddy Jerre Stead:
This may be an academic issue across the United States, where we actually have a tendency not to hire and promote from within. We actually go to the outside and bring a new leader in. Then we go through this phenomena, where they’re coming up to speed, and we’re coming to speed to get to know them, and they become productive. Now imagine what happens to the people who were here the last 10 years, and they actually see somebody coming over the top of them. Actually, in a sense, we’re stifling that growth of the development of people.
Well, at least the development of those people who didn’t already bail — like Meilssa Shivers and Tajuan Wilson, and another twenty or thirty leaders before them. (I guarantee you that not for one second did Harreld realize he had just disqualified his own hire. Which is of course doubly oblivious because after he was appointed, Harreld quite literally acknowledged that he would have to serve an extended apprenticeship just to know how to do the job he had been hired to do. And of course now, four-plus years later, the ongoing DEI disaster on campus makes clear that the university will never make up for that lost time.)
If you’re not in the mood to laugh, but would prefer to feel steam coming out of your years, there’s this bit of wisdom from a very rich, very old, very white man who got his job the old-fashioned way — by having other rich old white men give it to him on the sly:
DI: Going back to the VP for Student Life search specifically, there have been some questions at those forums about the candidate’s role, should they be chosen for the job, in a predominantly white President’s Cabinet. With you, of course, being the leader of that core group of administrators, how would you ensure that the next VP for Student Life feels supported in that space, and that they also serve students from all backgrounds — whether they’re one of the candidates from an underrepresented community themselves, or whatever the situation may be?
Harreld: If they’ve got an open mind, have an appropriate skill set, and have a broad set of collaborative skills, they’ll be fine. I think in a lot of this, we’re trying to find another Melissa, and I think that is a mistake. Melissa is Melissa. She’s wonderful. But now we need to find somebody else that can actually do the job here. So, now we’re focused on how we have just an overly white cabinet. We’ll be fine. So, if this is the only position on campus in the senior leadership that will actually improve our diversity, we’re really in trouble, and I don’t buy that. Behavior is most important. Representation is important, but behaviors are by far more important.
So there you go. If white people have an open mind and behave themselves, that more than compensates for the life experiences of people of color — at least according to Boss Harreld.
Finally, although this is by no means the end of the interview, I’ll leave you with this flagrant, bald-faced, self-serving lie by illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld:
You know that we had that $14 to $16 million gap every year in our Strategic Plan. And that’s how we got to the $15.
And, and where did the gap come from? We have a Strategic Plan created in 2016. It had originally three key platforms and we had the fourth of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
You can see the 2016-2021 UI Strategic Plan here. The three objectives of that plan are Research & Discovery, Student Success, and Engagement, and there is no fourth. And of course Harreld either knows that, in which case he’s lying again, or, he doesn’t know that, in which case his brain is melting — except for his phenomenal ability to identify all 32,000 Iowa students on sight.
02/15/20 — The Press-Citizen’s Zachary Oren Smith published an extensive story yesterday about the Iowa City City Council, and their long-running debate about whether a new, close-in student housing complex should be limited to eight stories, or allowed to climb to fifteen stories. There are a lot of dynamics in play in that debate, and Smith covered most of them, but if you read the piece it’s also worth considering how that massive new project (800 units and 1,500 beds) will impact the University of Iowa’s dorm prices and fees, along with other private-sector developers who currently have, or are poised to develop, student-housing in IC. (And of course one of those private-sector developers would be none-other than frisky regent David Barker, who is almost certainly poised to become the new board president, perhaps as early as this May.)
That the university and private-sector companies and individuals will inevitably be impacted by what the city council decides, however, is not sufficient cause to deny those additional seven stories to the developers of the project in question. From the point of view of the students there are better landlords and worse landlords in Iowa City, but from the point of view of the city itself the more people who live downtown not only means a more vital downtown community, but some of the residential houses that have been subdivided into rabbit warrens could then also be returned to single-owner status, thus making those neighborhoods less transient and more invested. (For over thirty years the Iowa City City Council got this exactly backwards, and instead built parking ramp after parking ramp to attract people to downtown who did not live downtown. Not surprisingly, because of the ease of access to suburban shopping malls, that bass-ackward approach did not work.)
As to the question of cost for students, and concerns that this new housing project may constitute luxury housing for rich kids, it is also important to remember that there are no people in the student housing market — whether in the private sector or at the University of Iowa — who care about students. The only way students will ever benefit is through heated competition between off-campus housing and that provided by the university, and in that regard this project raises the stakes considerably. Will fifteen-story apartment buildings be a blight on the skyline? Of course, but that’s what a downtowns are for. That’s where you build up, so you don’t have to tear down residential housing in the surrounding neighborhoods. (Just having that many new, close-in apartments coming online would also probably prevent UI from manufacturing its own housing crisis — and thus maximizing its revenue — by overbooking dorms, which inevitably leads to students being warehoused in lounges while the university cashes all of those fat housing checks.)
Update: The Iowa City Council approved the fifteen-story plan on 02/18/20. Will be interesting to see how the University of Iowa responds.
* Remember back in 2018, when the University of Iowa suddenly announced that it would be closing a bunch of moribund centers and institutes on campus, only one of the centers — the robust Iowa Labor Center — conducted valuable outreach, and there was immediate pushback from across the state, but illegitimate University of Iowa president J. Bruce Harreld made it his personal mission to kill off that center anyway, including repeatedly slighting and deriding the center’s director? Well, yesterday the Gazette’s Thomas Friestad provided incidental context about why pro-business forces in the state were eager to see the Labor Center silenced. Because it pays.
02/13/20 — From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: University of Iowa debuts $100,000 ‘distinguished professor’ rank.
During the first five years of their new appointment, distinguished professors will receive $20,000 annually to support research, teaching, and scholarship. The money will come from the UI Office of the Provost, although UI officials did not immediately clarify for The Gazette how the funds were made available.
Only collegiate deans can nominate faculty, and the provost’s office has encouraged them to suggest “women, underrepresented minorities, and other groups historically underrepresented in their discipline.”
Always good for morale to throw a relatively trivial amount of money at patronage and tokenism. Keeps people hungry — and compliant. (Also, I can actually feel Iowa’s U.S. News ranking increasing.)
02/11/20 — The insistence of state employees and university officials in publicly positioning University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics as part of a deeply conflicted industry — instead of featuring the care-giving and lifesaving aspects of that institution — continues apace. As this report today from the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller makes clear —
Audit finds hourslong delays in University of Iowa hospital discharges –the people running UIHC really do just see it as a profit mill, albeit one that grinds through patients at an ever-increasing rate, squeezing out every penny until they have no more value:
To address transportation-related barriers to patient discharge, auditors suggested creating a “discharge lounge” and more consistently including patient transportation plans “as part of upfront care team discussions.”
UIHC managers said they’re developing the lounge “as an area where patients can await arrival of transportation once discharged,” freeing up beds earlier for patients waiting to be admitted.
A lounge! How nice! Maybe a piano player in the corner, free snacks at the bar, and discounted bandages for your draining wounds!
To be clear, this isn’t a patient problem, it’s a UIHC problem. Because there aren’t enough people to discharge patients on time, the geniuses at UIHC are thinking about creating a holding pen for people who haven’t been cut loose from the paperwork, but are otherwise preventing the hospital from billing the next patient for room, board and services. (What is left unanswered is whether UIHC is actually delaying discharges because they make money doing so — perhaps by maximizing provisions in government-funded healthcare reimbursement rates.)
But it gets worse:
In that auditors found UIHC does not have any contracts with medical transportation companies, “resulting in varying levels of service available to the hospital when these services are required to discharge a patient,” they suggested the hospital pursue more formal arrangements.
UIHC management reported plans to issue a call for proposals from companies interested in becoming a preferred medical transportation provider
“Participating vendors would be asked to charge standard rates in exchange for being included on a preferred vendor listing,” according to the audit.
So the good news is that warehousing people in discharge holding pens will also create a new market, which UIHC can then tout as yet anoher public-private partnership. (Kickbacks anyone?)
Having said that, one thing we know for sure, following endless exploitation by the Athletics Department and UIHC itself, and widely publicized donations in the millions, and hearts swelling nationwide because of the feel-good ‘wave’ at Kinnick Stadium, is that none of this will negatively affect the sick kids at the children’s hosptial, because that would obviously be indefensible:
The UI Steady Family Children’s Hospital currently has just one social worker per inpatient floor.
“Pediatric patients often require specialized social services support throughout their stay rather than only at the discharge process,” according to the audit. “When social workers are occupied by these pediatric-specific tasks, nurses often pick up the discharge processes typically assigned to social workers, such as finding facilities, arranging medical transportation, and working with insurance companies.”
Here’s a radical idea. Instead of solving the discharge problem by creating holding pens that will also take up valuable space (unless UIHC just plans to park people on the sidewalk in wheelchairs, perhaps behind a painted line), and then using that as an excuse to create and manage/police/exploit a complicated transportation hub that also gums up traffic, why not just hire the damn people you need to do the discharging in a timely manner? Or is that an outmoded way of thinking about how to run a business?
02/10/20 — Yes it does:
“Corporate culture warps people,” said Mihailis Diamantis, a University of Iowa professor who specializes in corporate crime. “They’ve been placed in institutions that facilitate lawbreaking and predispose them to break the rules.” Since 2009, the percentage of employees at large companies who report that they’ve been pressured to commit ethical breaches has doubled. In a 2015 study, more than half the auditors for the country’s largest companies said they had been asked to falsify internal audit reports. In Ernst & Young’s 2016 Global Fraud Survey, 32 percent of American managers said they were comfortable behaving unethically to meet financial targets.
Relatedly, I think the growing mania for hiring unqualified private-sector business executives to run government agencies is a desire not for better business practices, but for more corrupt business practices. Case in point, I do not know what role the illegitimate University of Iowa president, J. Bruce Harreld, played in attempting to defraud thousands of UI students and families of $4.2M in scholarships that the university was legally obligated to pay (because neither the Iowa Board of Regents nor the Iowa Attorney General thought that attempted fraud worth investigating when it was exposed), but until a small cabal of co-conspirators rigged Harreld’s hire in 2015, I’m pretty sure no former Iowa president ordered people at the university to commit felony fraud against the students themselves. And of course now we can add borrowing $1.17B from a foreign energy consortium, after Harreld brazenly lied about the basis for that deal for the great majority of 2019.
02/09/20 — Remember how a University of Iowa student died in 2017 at an out-of-state fraternity formal, and the UI Greek community immediately imposed a self-ban on alcohol to prevent the university from coming down on them even harder, only nobody learned anything and the frats kept breaking not only their own ban but subsequent prohibitions placed on them by the school, and as a result nine fraternities were banned in fall of 2018, but many of those frats just kept doing what they had been doing all along, and through all that J. Bruce Harreld — a fratboy himself — made former UI VP for Student Life Melissa Shivers the public face of discipline on the UI campus, rather than taking the heat himself, which in turn prompted the Iowa City Press-Citizen to name Shivers Person of the Year, while Harreld never publicly backed her even as the frats defied her authority, and now she’s gone?
From the Press-Citizen’s Aimee Breaux: Police visit house of UI frat that faced deferred suspension three times in one week.
UI officials investigated Phi Delta Theta for providing alcohol to underage members and violating the institution’s ban on providing alcohol at organization-sponsored tailgates.
The University of Iowa instituted a ban on alcohol at Greek events in 2017, following the death of a University of Iowa student at a fraternity formal event in Missouri.
University of Iowa officials have not yet responded to questions of whether they are aware of the charges and whether the charges would affect the fraternity’s deferred suspension status.
So there we go — just another higher-ed success story from transformational UI president Bro Bruce Harreld, who is so desperate to fill the vacant VP for Student Life position that he first tried to force an internal hire at the end of last semester, then plugged one of his two senior advisors into the job on an interim basis, but is still eschewing a national search in favor of a panicky promotion from within. What could possibly go wrong? (Meaning aside from irritating the Iowa City Police Department by making them clean up messes that Harreld doesn’t want to deal with himself.)
02/08/20 — Beset by everything from outward population migration to weak economic indicators to cultural rage, the consequent intellectual hollowing out of the Upper-Midwest affects everything from politics to business to education, and all in a negative way. Not surprisingly, the powers that be in those three areas of regional influence are collapsing into themselves at an ever-increasing rate, trying to make up for lagging revenue by converting state assets into ready cash. To whatever extent the state of Iowa has already begun gutting public higher education in service of that goal, the University of Wisconsin System is not only joining the club, but determined to catch up in a hurry.
Not only will the next president at UW almost certainly be a mediocre business crony like J. Bruce Harreld at Iowa, but like Iowa State in 2018, on multiple occasions, the University of Wisconsin is now selling the names of buildings to corporate ‘donors’. Funny stuff:
“It all comes down to the perception of how much influence that company will have,” O’Guinn said. “You don’t want a company preventing you from doing science in the public interest. It’s in everybody’s best interest that the production of knowledge stay walled off from government and corporate interests.”
At the University of Iowa, J. Bruce Harreld just borrowed $1.17B from a European energy consortium after lying about the nature of that deal in multiple ways over the course of a solid year. While that deal was still hanging in the balance, the University of Iowa not only refused to acknowledge that Greta Thunberg — who would go on to be named Time’s Person of the Year in 2019 — even existed, but barred anyone on faculty or staff from even mentioning that she would be giving a speech in Iowa City, which is where the University of Iowa resides. On the exact same day that the University of Iowa finally received formal approval for its massive loan from a foreign energy consortium, however, the lapdog UI Faculty Senate announced passage of a “climate-emergency declaration“.
Forget perception. The reality of public higher education in the Upper-Midwest is that it has already been corrupted by profit-seeking corporate interests. Unfortunately, as the most talented and productive faculty and staff move on to less-corrupt pastures in the Sun Belt and on both coasts, it is only going to get worse.
02/07/20 — One of the things I learned after J. Bruce Harreld and three co-conspirators stole the presidency of the University of Iowa in 2015, is that propelling yourself to the top of any org chart — whether legitimately or through illicit means — confers incredible benefits, not the least of which is that you then get to speak for and about anyone that you abused on your way to the top. Harreld did this routinely after he was appointed, and still does this, by characterizing people who oppose him as unprofessional, ignorant, or just plain nuts. Today we have a sterling example of this power one step down, in the personage of UI AD Gary Barta, who once destroyed the lives and careers of two women in his employ, at a cost to the state of $6.5M, yet never apologized.
Despite the fact that UI president Harreld and ISU president Wintersteen conspired to kill off any investigation into the assaults against the UI Marching Band last September, and the athletic departments at both schools necessarily contributed to that attempt — while spitting at each other, no less — here is how Barta is now describing the outcome of the just-concluded investigation, which was actually compelled by band members who would not be ignored. From Mark Emmert at the Des Moines Register today:
Barta does not oversee the band. But he said he, along with University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld, have met with the musicians, and he believes they are satisfied with the outcome.
“I get the sense that they appreciate how hard we’re working on this. They had a great experience the rest of the year,” Barta said.
Is that really how the band feels? Or is that the whole band, in aggregate, versus the people who were actually assaulted? And given that Barta doesn’t oversee the band, why is he taking time out of his busy day to let the world know how the band really feels? And of course the answer is because it advantages him, whether what he’s saying is true or not.
* The bulk of Emmert’s story concerns the fact that the UI Athletics Department closed out last year with a $5.7M profit:
For the second consecutive year, Iowa’s athletic department brought in millions of dollars more in revenue than it spent.
And that is allowing Hawkeye athletic director Gary Barta to build up a reserve fund that is now roughly $4 million, he told the Register on Thursday.
“One of the goals I have is to get it to $10 million,” Barta said. “There’s no mandate. We’re going to have debt service to pay every year. I want to make sure that, if we ever have a year where we fall short, we can pay our bills.”
So Gary Barta wants to build himself a $10M slush fund, and hey — who wouldn’t want $10M lying around when student athletes are suddenly quasi-empowered to make money?
What is particularly funny about this — meaning in a bureaucratic sense, not a comedic sense — is that only a few years ago, before teeny-tiny Bro Bruce Harreld realized that he works for BMOC Barta, there was actually a fairly public conversation about athletics contributing money to academics for the betterment of the school. Personally, I argued against that because Iowa’s athletic books are effectively separate from academics, and we wouldn’t want that flow of money to reverse if athletics found itself on the financial ropes, but MBA Harreld had a better idea. (You can follow the arc of that story in three links: 2016, 2017 and 2018.)
Now, here we are in early 2020, and in the reporting I have seen so far neither J. Bruce Harreld, Gary Barta, nor any of the sports reporters covering that beat have even raised the question of whether athletics should hand some of that money over to academics. It’s good to be the king.
* I don’t want to beat the messaging problems at UI to death regarding the coronavirus outbreak which originated in China, but the 02/05/20 update on the Iowa Now website is not progress:
The Iowa Department of Public Health will not be releasing the county or the region of Iowa where the persons being tested reside. The recommended actions for the public are no different than for any respiratory virus, including the flu.
The risk to the general public remains low at this time, as influenza is a much more significant threat to Iowans right now.
Raise your hand if you remember all of the times that flu season rolled around and the University of Iowa cancelled all of its programs in China. The risk from influenza may be greater for Iowans right now, and perhaps even greater in an absolute sense, but people are not panicking. They are watching what healthcare officials are doing, and healthcare officials are taking extraordinary steps to combat the coronavirus, which they do not take during flu season. (Which either means coronavirus is much worse, or we should routinely be constraining human interactions during flu season.)
02/06/20 — Just flagging the following report from late last night, because it goes to the heart of the next substantive post on the UI P3.
* From the Daily Iowan’s Kelsey Harrell: Iowa lawmakers question UI president on utility system public/private partnership. I don’t know whether Iowa’s state legislators are generally oblivious, or if they — like the governor — are in on the whole ‘regent theater’ scam, but the end result is the same. The Iowa Board of Regents lies with impunity and the students end up paying the price. (Also, as mentioned elsewhere, I think David Barker will be the next president of the Board of Regents, probably in May. And what that guy is going to do to accelerate the privatization of the state’s public schools will make Rastetter, Richards and Harreld look lazy.)
02/05/20 — There was a one-day meeting of the Iowa Board of Regents today, and with it came the usual barrage of news….
* The most interesting story comes from the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, reporting on an extended investigation conducted by the University of Iowa and Iowa State, following assaults on the UI Marching Band just after the annual Cy-Hawk game last September. The official conclusion is that there wasn’t enough evidence to file charges against anyone, but there were still plenty of mutual pats on the bag for a job well done. As regular readers know, however, both illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld and legitimate ISU president Wendy Wintersteen initially conspired to quash any investigation of those assaults.
On Wednesday, UI officials told The Gazette their police department has no incident reports related to the Saturday game in Ames. ISU has not responded to requests it provide any police reports from the game.
When asked Wednesday about the issue, UI President Bruce Harreld said he thinks his institution has “investigated it as thoroughly as we could” and hopes for better behavior going forward.
“I would hope both schools sit down and think about safety for our fans and our players and our bands and come to some agreement of what the protocol is in Iowa City as well as in Ames,” he said.
ISU President Wendy Wintersteen also renewed her call for mutual respect between the opposing teams’ fans.
“We really want — whether we are at Iowa State or the University of Iowa — that our fans respect the band, our players and each other. That’s our goal for everybody.”
When allegations first came to ISU’s attention, Wintersteen said, her institution began an inquiry that she believes has been completed.
So who shattered that denial-fest, and compelled UI, ISU and the corrupt Board of Regents to take a closer look? Well, that would be several of the abused members of the UI Marching Band, who spoke out after it became clear that the people they trusted to deal with those incidents were in fact determined to look the other way in service of making money off of sporting events. (Yet another moment in the sorry administration of J. Bruce Harreld, in which we learn that the only people he really cares about in Iowa are the people who cut his checks.)
* As for the Board of Regents meeting itself, students from all three of the state schools interrupted today’s meeting to protest the onslaught of serial tuition hikes that began four years ago, and are slated to continue for another four years irrespective of state funding. Weirdly, after being victimized and taken advantage of for years, the students did not accept an offer from regent CEO/XD to talk about their concerns somewhere else — as also reported by the Gazette’s Miller:
Students from across Iowa’s three public universities on Wednesday shut down a Board of Regents by interrupting its afternoon session with loud chants, songs, personal stories and demands for a tuition freeze — pleading for a response, “Yes or no, will you implement a tuition freeze?”
At no point during the hourlong impromptu protest during the board’s regularly scheduled meeting at its office in Urbandale did any of the nine regents publicly respond to the dozens of students.
None of the university presidents spoke up either, and all three left the room at various times — as did Board of Regents President Mike Richards and the board’s Executive Director Mark Braun, who said he pulled aside members of the student group to try to coordinate a later discussion.
“I offered to them to sit down and figure out how we can get something worked out where there can be a dialogue, back and forth,” Braun told The Gazette after the board adjourned the meeting about an hour early. “They demanded that the board respond today.”
Because the regents are bound by state law to discuss only items outlined on their previously released agenda — and issues central to the student concerns weren’t on this week’s agenda — members couldn’t discuss them, Braun said.
There is just nothing quite like a group of weaselly bureaucrats using a sunshine law to avoid talking about something that is happening in the moment. Speaking of which, if Mark Braun dropped dead of a heart attack in the middle of a regent meeting, would it be a violation of state law to dial 911 because his heart attack was not on the agenda? Unfortunately, I’m afraid so. (The law is the law.)
* Also at the regent meeting — and also as reported by the Gazette’s Miller — the University of Iowa unveiled plans to build a new hospital on land the school owns in North Liberty, which is to the northwest of the main UI campus:
The initial 300,000-square-foot building proposed for the first phase of development on the nearly 60-acre site in North Liberty would include a “level 4 emergency treatment center,” urgent care services, outpatient clinics, diagnostic services, surgical suites, and acute inpatient beds.
A proposal that on Wednesday went before the Board of Regents notes the development is aimed at improving patient access and easing congestion at its packed main campus.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Some of you are thinking, ‘Gosh, UIHC is always pleading poverty, yet they never seem to run out of money for building new facilities!’ It’s a real poser, isn’t it? I mean, anybody else and you might start wondering if they were just flat-out lying all the time — like, say, UI president J. Bruce Harreld.
Others are thinking, ‘Wait a minute — wasn’t the Iowa River Landing built to “improve patient access and eas[e] congestion at the main hospital”?’ And of course it was, but can you really every have too much improvement and easing? Building a whole new hospital out in North Liberty, which is also right by the Oakdale Correctional Facility, will be a win-win unless it goes massively over budget. Speaking of which….
As for the cost of this new mini-hospital, the fully-transparent executives at UIHC managed to omit even a guesstimate about what they will be spending. (You can read more about the project starting on p. 4 here.) For context, the new 14-level children’s hospital is 500K square feet and cost $360M, after it went $100M over budget. So plan on UI blowing about $150M on this new facility, plus another $50M in change orders, cost overruns, mismanagement and outright waste.
Some of you may also be wondering why UI just announced that it was partnering with an out-of-state healthcare company to build a rehab facility, when it could obviously build its own rehab facility at this new mini-hospital. (More on that partnership here, from the DI today.) From the Gazette’s Miller:
Although Encompass more than a year ago announced plans to build its first inpatient hospital in Iowa — without collaboration or coordination from UIHC — the two entities since joined forces, with UIHC faculty agreeing to staff the facility.
The two parties will split the $27 million capital expense 50-50, according to UIHC Chief Financial Officer Bradley Haws. And the official UIHC entity partnering with Encompass on the project is UI Health System — a nonprofit created to support UIHC’s clinical, academic, and research programs.
Adding to the expanding health care options in Johnson County is another new 40-bed inpatient rehabilitation facility being built in Coralville via collaboration between Mercy Iowa City and Kindred Healthcare, of Louisville, Ky. The $7.5 million project next to Mercy Coral West at 2769 Heartland Drive is scheduled to open this summer.
The State Health Facilities Council in 2018 approved certificates of need for both that project and the Encompass what appeared to be the same thing, and UIHC CEO Gunasekaran told The Gazette he agrees there are enough patients to fill up both.
UIHC decided to get involved because it requires a certain degree of complex care for many of its sicker patients.
“The reason we’re partnering with Encompass is we’re going to provide the physicians for that rehab hospital so we know the Iowa Rehab Hospital, which is our partner, will be sophisticated enough to take our patients,” he said.
What Gunasekaran is saying here is that Mercy and Kindred are yokels, and as the CEO of UIHC, who would know better? (For more on the “sophisticated” happenings at UIHC, see this story.)
* In other news — as reported by Annie Fitzpatrick at the Daily Iowan — the University of Iowa announced that it had “canceled all programming in China” because of the coronavirus outbreak, which obviously seems like a good idea. From a related story by the Gazette’s Michaela Ramm:
Two Iowans who recently returned to the United States from China are being tested for novel coronavirus, the state public health department announced.
Testing will take several days, but both unidentified individuals are under voluntary home confinement as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducts monitoring for the respiratory virus that has sickened thousands in China and across the world.
* Finally, only three days after TaJuan Wilson concluded his obligations to the University of Iowa, he was announced as the “first associate vice president for inclusive excellence” at Georgia Southern University. (Update: more here from the Gazette’s Miller on 02/06/20.)
02/03/20 — The Iowa Board of Regents is touting the fact that “over half” (52%) of the students at the three state universities are now graduating in four years. A closer look inside the numbers, however, shows that the recent collapse of diversity, equity and inclusion at the University of Iowa is not limited to administrators and faculty.
From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller today:
While white students — collectively across the three universities — have a four-year graduation rate of 54 percent, up from 51 the year before, regent students identifying as racial or ethnic minorities have a four-year graduation rate of 41 percent, down from 43.
Six-year graduation rates for racial and ethnic minorities also dropped, the report said from 65 to 62 percent.
ISU, however, reported bucking the reversal in some subcategories, with its Hispanic, black, and Native American students achieving record four-year graduation rates, according to the most recent data.
“These records speak directly to the work the university has been doing to address the attainment gap between our multicultural and white populations,” ISU’s part of the report said.
But ISU collective racial and ethnic minority graduation rates — in the four- and six-year categories — dropped, as did minority graduation rates at the UI.
Yes, those records certainly do speak “directly to the work” ISU has been doing, and by extension to “the work” at UI, and what those records make clear is that non-white students at both schools are falling farther behind.
UNI was the only of the three campuses to report an increase in its six-year graduation rate for racial and ethnic minority students — from 55 to 59 percent. UNI officials heralded the “positive indicators” of progress toward its diversity and inclusion goals.
If those are “positive indicators” at UNI, then how would we describe the data from ISU and UI? (Hint: those would be ‘negative indicators’.)
* As you may or may not have heard, there is a new (and, importantly, non-profit) news outlet in the state called the Iowa Capital Dispatch (sign-up here). Led and staffed largely by former Des Moines Register reporters and columnists, I have been hopeful that the ICD would fill the conspicuous void which charitably describes the Register’s all-but-nonexistent coverage of the Board of Regents. (The Register feasts on and dominates sports coverage at all three state schools, but is notoriously derelict in covering administrative machinations — to the point where it is hard not to see a direct profit-driven correlation between those two stark extremes.)
On Friday we got our first indication that the ICD won’t be ignoring the Board of Regents, in the form of a from Clark Kaufmann: UI builds ‘public trust’ in Iowa charities, but without oversight.
The center tells Iowa nonprofits that “your listing on the register shows Iowa and the nation that your nonprofit makes a concerted effort to operate efficiently, effectively, and ethically.”
But officials at the center acknowledge they make no effort to review the nonprofits’ financial audits, tax returns, board structure, executive compensation or policies. If an organization has had its tax-exempt status revoked by the IRS, it might still appear on the Register of Accountability.
In fact, some of the entities that appear on the register aren’t nonprofits at all. They are for-profit companies, such as the Windsor Heights retail store Sports Fitness, and the consulting business Elizabeth Weinstein & Associates. There are also taxpayer-funded governmental entities on the list, such as the City of Council Bluffs, the Warren County Attorney’s Office, and Iowa Workforce Development.
02/02/20 — From the Daily Iowan’s Naomi Hofferber, on 02/01/20:
The Stonewall riots kicked the UI into action, UI President Bruce Harreld said at the event, leading to the creation of Spectrum UI — the longest running and first established LGBTQ university organization in the U.S.
Harreld and his wife, Mary, recently shared their experiences with their daughter’s gender transition in a UI Health Care video that resonated with members of the community.
“I’m very proud — this campus, you have the right to be who you are,” he said. “We will support you. We will do all the things we can to support you. Period. Full stop.”
The UI president mentioned the ways that the UI has supported LGBTQ rights, while also encouraging the community to keep pushing for equality.
“You need to keep pushing us,” he said. “So that’s part of this journey… My wife, she is [sic] leaned over after this evening’s performance and said, ‘Yeah, it’s one thing to tolerate it for a while, but at some point, by golly, you need to stand up and fight for yourself.’ This is what Stonewall’s all about. And we may think this is over, and it’s not, as we’ve just heard. This is a journey that will continue, and it’s an important journey.”
Now let’s look at how J. Bruce Harreld — the illegitimately appointed, crony, white, male, hetero president of the University of Iowa — has actually supported the LGBTQ community in his role not as a loving father or audience member, but as the administrative head of a major R1/AAU public research university.
* In 2016 the University of Iowa was sued for gender and sexual discrimination by a former employee of the UI Athletics Department, who specifically cited abuses by then-and-current AD, Gary Barta. Despite fighting the case tooth and nail, including lining up the pseudo-legendary football coach and other high-ranking athletics administrators to testify against the plaintiff, the jury found the university guilty, and it wasn’t even close:
Lundgren, chosen by fellow jurors to be the forewoman, talked Friday with The Gazette — one day after the verdict in the three-week trial.
She said the jury spent 10 hours over two days methodically going through each of Meyer’s five claims: gender discrimination, sexual orientation discrimination, retaliation, equal pay violation and whistleblower violation.
“Two to three of the counts we didn’t need to spend a lot of time,” she said. “It seemed ‘for sure this happened,’”
Ultimately, the jury was unanimous Meyer had proved her case by a “preponderance of the evidence” on all five counts. The group awarded Meyer $1.43 million for lost wages and emotional damages.
* In the aftermath of that crushing verdict, the University of Iowa — meaning J. Bruce Harreld — quickly decided to settle that case and a related case at a cost of $6.5M to the school.
* As to what happened to Gary Barta, not only was Barta not fired or reprimanded or punished in any way, but gutless, spineless, craven J. Bruce Harreld went out of his way to minimize Barta’s culpability, while smearing the entire university at the same time:
A Polk County jury found the university guilty of gender and sexual discrimination in May, which was followed by a settlement by the university, Meyer and Griesbaum — who had filed a second lawsuit in the same court. The university agreed to pay $6.5 million in the settlement.
Harreld then ordered a universitywide review of employment practices, beginning with the athletic department. UI’s president said Thursday, though, that it became quickly apparent that whatever issues that led to UI losing the lawsuit were not limited to athletics.
“It became quite apparent to me that it wasn’t just the athletic department,” Harreld said. “There was a lot of other people and parts of the university in that whole process. The General Counsel’s office was in that, the office of the President was in that. This notion it was just the athletic department is a nice story, but it’s a lot more complex.
“I decided we would bring in an outside group to evaluate our employment practices. What does that mean? It means how we hire, how we compensate, the feedback process and the termination process. Not only in the athletic department, but across the academic institution as well as the hospital.”
Harreld continued that he thinks, “this is a wonderful time to pause and make sure there’s no discriminatory practices and policies.”
* Not only did Harreld refuse to hold Gary Barta accountable in any way, but two years later Harreld rewarded Barta with a massive raise and contract extension.
* As for the employment practices review, as discussed below and endlessly in other posts, that review was subsequently slow-walked for two full years, then funding was poached, while the reporting requirements for any faculty and staff concerned about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) were actually designed to discourage people from speaking out for fear of retaliation.
Add to all that the fact that Harreld electively demoted DEI from his cabinet and kicked the CDO/AVP-DEI position out of the president’s office altogether, and the very premise that Harreld is fully behind the LGBTQ community is rendered as hollow as the legitimacy of his administration. There is an exceedingly small set of people that J. Bruce Harreld cares about, and the vast majority of LGBTQ individuals on the UI campus do not belong to that protected class. As long as the LGBTQ community doesn’t confront the white, male, hetero leadership culture on the UI campus, J. Bruce Harreld will happily exploit that community for public relations reasons, even as DEI collapses and minority resignations spike, but that’s as far as he’s willing to go.
01/31/20 — With the Iowa Board of Regents meeting next week on Wednesday, and other University of Iowa items in the news, there are a number of issues to track….
* In an earlier note I said TaJuan Wilson had come off the UI books in mid-January, but I was off by a couple of weeks. As the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller reported last night, Wilson’s employment with the University of Iowa ends today, even as he officially resigned from the job he was originally hired to do almost six months ago:
Wilson, 33, resigned from his position as UI associate vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion on Aug. 9, 2019, just weeks after he began. Under a settlement with the Board of Regents, he stayed on in a special assignment that wraps up Friday.
The deal allowed him to continue earning his $224,000 salary. It let him work off site and look for another job “during working hours,” although he had to be available for consultation if needed. So far, the UI has paid Wilson $185,559.85, a total that includes salary, benefits and moving expenses.
Whatever prompted Wilson to resign after only six weeks on the job, the Board of Regents and University of Iowa were so eager to make sure the details never got out that they paid Wilson a quarter million dollars while he was ostensibly working on special projects for transparency hero Peter Matthes. So what was Wilson doing all that time, at considerable expense to the state? He was preparing two PowerPoint presentations.
Wilson sent two PowerPoint presentations — one 17-slide report on sexual assault prevention efforts at Iowa’s peer institutions and the other on diversity efforts among that peer group — on Jan. 12 to UI Vice President for External Relations Peter Mathes.
He compiled the reports during his roughly five months as “special assistant to the vice president for external relations” — a position created for Wilson after his abrupt resignation.
The Gazette report doesn’t link to the presentations, but Miller has seen them and reports this:
In one of two PowerPoint presentations that former University of Iowa diversity chief TaJuan Wilson created while on special assignment, he posed a question to the UI: Would his successor be “a direct report to the university president?”
Toward the end of that 37-page report, Wilson reflected on UI diversity efforts, possibly shedding some light on what motivated him to abruptly leave after only six weeks on the job.
Among a list of 18 “questions to consider” he made in the report, Wilson asked: “Are we honest about where we are, and are we operating with integrity and transparency?”
Not only are those important questions, but as regular readers know the illegitimate president of the University of Iowa, J. Bruce Harreld, was adamant that changes in the reporting structure at UI not only had nothing to do with Wilson’s sudden resignation, but that Wilson was never promised a direct report to the president. From a Daily Iowan interview of Harreld on 09/30/19:
DI: The associate VP for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion used to be in the president’s cabinet reporting directly to you. When Lena Hill and Georgina Dodge were here, their positions in the UI organizational chart were reporting directly to you, so why now are they reporting to the provost? Was that change intentional?
Harreld: No, we probably changed that quite a while ago and then Lena was actually on the cabinet and then Melissa was on the cabinet when she became interim and I started restructuring the cabinet from almost from the day one I got here. We had a number of other people on the cabinet as well, and I started making a tighter, smaller group, so it wasn’t with TaJuan or anything. We’ve been trying to get smaller and smaller as a group for a while now. We asked Melissa who was already on the cabinet that they take the DEI activities. So, I don’t view that one way or another as a substantive change. And to be sure, the offer letter that went to TaJuan never included that so that wasn’t a change. He knew that going ahead.
Unfortunately, because Harreld is a serial prevaricator we can’t take his word for anything, and because the University of Iowa takes it orders from that same serial prevaricator, we don’t have any corroboration about the offer that UI originally made to Wilson. And yet here we are, with Wilson on the way out, and it sure seems like Wilson is disputing Harreld’s characterization:
In one of two PowerPoint presentations that former University of Iowa diversity chief TaJuan Wilson created while on special assignment, he posed a question to the UI: Would his successor be “a direct report to the university president?”
As a factual matter we already know the answer is no, because at some point Harreld did demote DEI from his cabinet, then kick DEI out of the president’s office altogether. As a result, the new AVP-DEI position that Wilson briefly filled has now been foisted on the provost’s office, as if only the academic side of the university needs to be concerned about diversity, equity and inclusion. (You can read more about TaJuan Wilson’s resignation in prior posts here, here and here, and relatedly here in the context of the subsequent departure of Melissa Shivers.)
* Toward the end of Miller’s report on Wilson, she ties in new data from the Iowa Board of Regents regarding faculty resignations at the University of Iowa. Before we get to actual data, however, it is important to note that the Board of Regents effectively stalled the reporting of faculty resignations for two years, ostensibly because they decided to fold that information back into the larger annual human resources report. One problem with that assertion is that the board also seems to have made another change to the reporting of that data, and to have diminished the amount of overall information that will now be released. (Specifically, that data is now presented in a single graphic at the end of this executive summary, and in slightly more detail at the end of the full human resources report.)
The more recent reporting change that the board made was to break out resignations at UI into two groups: clinical (medical) and non-clinical. (You can see that on p. 1 here, in an infamous pair of graphs that do not actually line up on the y axis.) That new breakout was apparently designed to counter the narrative that J. Bruce Harreld’s fraudulent appointment triggered an exodus at UI, because the aggregate numbers did show that was the case. Now, however, the board is no longer breaking out resignation numbers at UI between clinical and non-clinical, suggesting that non-clinical resignations have spiked on the greater campus, and it is that increase that now needs to be obscured.
All of which brings us back to this, from the Gazette’s Miller, in yesterday’s report on Wilson:
The UI reported 26 minority resignations last year, or 32 percent. That was the campus’ highest minority resignation total and percentage in at least five years.
Weird, right? The Iowa Board of Regents hired a crony white man who had no prior experience in academic administration or in the public sector to run a state research university, and that white man subsequently demoted DEI from his cabinet and kicked what was the Chief Diversity Officer position, and is now the AVP-DEI position, out of his office, and people of color or other minority populations are increasingly looking for work elsewhere. And yet I am confident that the university would anonymously insist that there is no correlation between any of these events.
* On the UI P3 front, I recently pointed out that no one has explained what will happen if more than $15M or $16M is generated in any given year from the resulting endowment. While the UI Faculty Council and Faculty Senate busy themselves with fleshing out the allocation process for all that loot, it’s worth remembering that the group that will decide how much money UI gets each year is a three-person board that was established when the UI P3 was approved in early December.
You can see a description of that three-person board on p. 20 of the UI ‘informational webinar’, which was given a week before the approval meeting, and that board is specifically referenced at the 27:30, 43:00 and 55:20 marks of the webinar video. Although Harreld said in the webinar that the makeup of the governing board of the UI Strategic Initiative Fund was up to the regents, the board was approved one week later as originally described in the webinar:
The Board will consist of three members:
• An appointee from the State of Iowa Board of Regents
• Senior Vice President for Finance and Operations at the University of Iowa, and
•A member of the faculty of the University appointed by the Faculty Senate for a four-year term.
For reasons that are not explained but can be assumed, the Board of Regents is now amending its policy manual to included the following text:
A member of the Board of Regents serving as Board President, President Pro Tem, or Chair of the Investment and Finance Committee shall not be eligible for appointment to the University of Iowa Strategic Initiatives Fund Board of Directors during the term of their appointment as President, President Pro Tem, or Chair of the Investment and Finance Committee.
While this would seem to be an attempt to avoid some sort of internal conflict of interest, in reality these prohibitions mean nothing. Given that the members of the Iowa Board of Regents are political appointees, and the current board has been corrupted by the dominant political party in Iowa over the past decade, it doesn’t matter which board members can or can’t sit on the three-person board for the P3 endowment. Whoever that person is will inevitably take orders from that political machine, and specifically from the board president.
As to the other two board members, while it would seem on paper that there are two members with a vested interest in making sure UI gets the most money out of that endowment, the current VP for Finance and Operations works for the current corrupt president of the University of Iowa, who gets paid by the corrupt Board of Regents, so there’s is zero chance that the VP for Finance and Operations will buck any decision the regents want him to make. As for the board member from the Faculty Senate, that person is not only going to lose a lot of 2-1 votes, they are also going to spend a lot of time in closed or executive session, which will be imposed by the other two board members to obscure their decision making. (If you’re involved in shared governance at UI — by which I mean actually trying to govern, instead of just covering for Harreld’s abuses — see his hilarious response to concerns about transparency at the 55:20 mark of the webinar.)
* In the four-plus years that I have been reading reports and documents from the Board of Regents, I have had recurrent trouble parsing some of the ‘Personnel Appointments’ that appear in the agenda items for board meetings. Specifically, when one person ends up doing two jobs, or takes over a different job in an interim capacity, there is never any explanation as to how that affects their overall salary. For example, here’s the notice that Harreld’s other senior advisor, Laura McLeran, will now be the interim Dean of Students, because the University of Iowa still hasn’t been able to hire a Dean of Students after two years and two failed searches:
Appointment: LAURA MCLERAN as Interim Vice President for Student Life at an annual salary of $254,991, plus $5,000 monthly, effective January 1, 2020.
So is McLeran no longer one of Harreld’s senior advisors, or is she now doing two jobs? If she’s doing two jobs, is that new money her full state salary, or is she also banking whatever she is currently making as a senior advisor, and will now also be making another quarter of a million as Dean of Students?
In this notice we also get a sense of the absurd routine largesse of executive compensation at the University of Iowa from the inclusion of “plus $5,000 monthly”, as if that’s a parking allowance or something. Not only is there no explanation of what that extra $5K is for, on an annual basis that amounts to a $60K (or 25%) increase over and above her “salary of $254,991”. (Most people would probably agree that $60K a year would be a decent job for anyone in the real world, but at the University of Iowa it’s the equivalent of couch change, and treated as such.)
* I don’t know how much influence Harreld had over this plan, which took shape shortly after he was hired, but if you want to see what happens when you try to make sweeping changes based on lofty ambitions, take a gander at this hot mess.
* Finally, here’s another one of those headlines the University of Iowa does not need: Univ. of Iowa researcher says majority of U.S. public is safe from coronavirus.
I think the quotes attributed to Perlman in this piece come from a prior article and/or UI press release, but you can see how this stuff hangs around. For contrast, here’s the NYT today:
Coronavirus Live Updates: U.S. Issues ‘Red Alert’ After Week of Skyrocketing Infections
The United States issued a Level 4 warning, its highest, urging Americans to avoid travel to China. Officials said the number of new cases had risen tenfold in the past week.
The only thing preventing the University of Iowa from properly managing and facilitating reporting about the University of Iowa is the University of Iowa. Confidence is high.
01/29/20 — From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: Iowa State bringing home students, barring travel to China amid coronavirus fears. UI is “urging communication” (whatever that means) and “discouraging travel”. Given the incubation period, we now get to wait a week or two to see if the outbreak already arrived in Iowa before those decisions were belatedly made.
* Having succeeded in jamming the UI P3 through to fruition in early December, the University of Iowa is now moving on to doling out the happy millions that will ostensibly be generated in perpetuity by an endowment which has not yet been created. As reported last night by the Daily Iowan’s Alexandra Skores and Marissa Payne: UI faculty discusses early stages of public/private partnership allocations.
While it is factually correct that Harreld and his crack team of entrepreneurial brigands have projected that the UI P3 endowment “will grow over 50 years to an estimated $3 billion”, almost $2.3B of that total (see p. 18 here), will go right back to the foreign energy consortium which provided the $1.17B loan to begin with — leaving only about $700M in total projected profits over a half-century, or about $14M per year. But of course if the economy tanks, or the endowment craps out, or someone down the line eats into the principal, then UI will be upside down on the loan and lose money, which students and/or the state will have to make up.
I don’t know whose idea it was to have Peter Matthes — who is one of Harreld’s two shadowy ‘senior advisors’ in the president’s office — talk to the faculty about how open and transparent the allocation process will be, but that choice of message and man was ironic for two reasons. First, on the message front — and as just detailed in Part 7 of the multi-part post on the UI P3 — the entire development process was premised on obfuscation and deceit, including outright lies from Harreld himself, prior to ramming the approval through with brute bureaucratic force. Second, as to the man, the last star turn that the normally invisible Matthes had in the press was just over four years ago, when he was reported to be managing crony no-bid contracts for political operatives in the state, under the nose of the previous UI president. At about the same time all of that was disclosed in the press, however, new crony president J. Bruce Harreld promoted Matthes to senior advisor, so don’t put a lot of stock in any promises Matthes or Harreld make about openness and transparency.
Speaking of which, nowhere in any public comments about the UI P3, or in any documentation, have I found even a single member of Harreld’s crack team talking about what happens if the UI P3 endowment generates more than $15M or $16M in a year. That’s what Harreld sez he is hoping to generate if the economy doesn’t crumble beneath his feet, but why is that amount capped? If you want to see how open and transparent Harreld and Matthes really intend to be, ask them that question, then get them to commit to the answer in a legally binding contract. Because if you don’t, then in a good year tens of millions of additional dollars are going to walk away from that risky endowment, and no one at UI will have to account for where that state money ends up. (The very fact that Harreld claims to have considered every possible contingency regarding the P3 endowment, yet no one in his office has addressed this question, is proof positive that Harreld and his administrative crew do not want to have to answer the question, or they would have asked and answered it themselves as part of the development and approval process.)
* After two years of suspense, we now know who is funding the new $10M clubhouse at the UI Finkbine golf course. As reported yesterday by the Daily Iowan’s Kelsey Harrell, the financing is coming from “Mary Lee Nagle Duda and Fritz L. Duda”, after whom the new facility will now also be named. (More here from the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller.)
To most people those names probably mean nothing, but UI is leaning heavily on the “Nagle” component because the Nagle family name carries some cachet in Iowa City. Given that it is their money to do with as they please, and the state isn’t spending any taxpayer money to fund this project — and the UI Athletic Department’s book are effectively separate in any case — none of this would seem to be a problem. Which of course also raises the question of why this charitable gift was keep secret for so long.
Concerns with the Finkbine project were never about the golf course or the club house per se (though it should be noted that J. Bruce Harreld took time out of his busy schedule to personally advocate for a new clubhouse, including by lying about the number of golf courses around the Big Ten), but about the fact that the new club house was going to be part of a larger real estate development at that location, which the university wanted to turn into a public-private partnership. Although that plan fizzled, we learned fairly recently that the university is still pushing ahead with that for-profit development, and has already specified components of that project even though there is ostensibly no developer attached.
The obvious concern all along has been that there might be some crony linkage between a mysterious benefactor throwing $10M at the new Finkbine golf course, and deriving future profits from the for-profit development on adjacent UI land. So who is Fritz Duda, and what does he do when he’s not marrying into the Nagle family? Well, it turns out Fritz “is the owner and founder of the Fritz Duda Company, a real estate investment and development company,” which raises questions about whether Mr. Duda is involved in the adjacent development. Is the Fritz Duda Company paying for UI to move ahead on that project? If not, is that money coming out of the university’s own budget?
01/28/20 This substantive press release/post on the Iowa Now website, regarding the coronaviris outbreak, is obviously much better than the initial statements from UI officials (see notes for 01/25/20 below), but the central problem remains. After turning the Iowa Now website into a propaganda organ for J. Bruce Harreld’s corrupt administration, what confidence can people have that this update is accurate and complete?
Credibility — whether personal or institutional — is fragile, and Harreld himself has destroyed the authority of the public facing integrity of the University of Iowa. For people who aren’t paying attention, maybe that’s enough, but the damnable fact is that the more you pay attention to what UI says, the more you have reason to doubt what UI says….
More here from the Daily Iowan’s Rin Swann, in a late update on the DI website. Again, much better overall from UI, and a reminder that when they stop behaving like conscienceless marketing weasels, the communications staff and spokespeople can actually serve the campus and public.
* I’m sure there will be more local reporting on this story shortly, but for now it’s worth noting two concerns about this new public-private partnership between UIHC and an Alabama healthcare company. First, if the prior plan to outsource dialysis at UIHC had not failed, this would be the second substantive privatization of UIHC services in less than a year, giving cause for concern that the entire University of Iowa Health System is on the block. Second, because of UIHC’s size and effective monopoly status in Iowa, it can crush local healthcare providers with a wave of its hand, as this new partnership will now do to local companies and individuals who currently provide rehabilitation services in the area.
That in turn is also why all of the routine whining coming from the UI and UIHC executive suites is so pathetic. Harreld and Gunasekaran hold all of the cards, and routinely treat local companies and healthcare providers like crap. You don’t grow a vibrant community in any sense by throwing your weight around and leveraging your government status to drive deals with out-of-state healthcare providers. On the other hand, that’s exactly what you do if you’re effectively breaking up and/or privatizing a government institution.
Update: a closer look at this murky deal from the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller:
The project is pitched as a 50-50 partnership, but UIHC did not immediately release details on how much of the $27 million capital cost would come from the UI Health System budget.
It also was not immediately known whether the Board of Regents must approve the partnership.
One of core objectives of private-equity vultures and other parasitic entrepreneurs is exploiting and water down brands which have genuine merit or value, and that seems to be an increasing focus of J. Bruce Harreld and now Brooks Jackson (UI’s VP for medical affairs):
UI Health Network is a new brand assigned to entities owned 50 percent or less by UI Health System, and this new hospital is the first time that network brand is being used, according to UI officials.
One obvious question, of course, is why UI/UIHC went looking for a partner in Alabama. Was there an RFQ/RFP process driving this deal? Were bids accepted? Or did corrupt government officials in Iowa simply cut a deal that benefits them in some way, either personally, professionally, or both?
* Given the self-described “multi-cultural background” of J. Bruce Harreld, and his consistent unqualified support for China — which he characterized as a “wonderful country” just little over a year ago — I’m gonna drop this here for future reference.
01/27/20 — There is a short write-up today on the Inside Higher Ed (IHE) website concerning the conclusion of the employment practices review which illegitimate president J. Bruce Harreld launched two years ago at the University of Iowa, in response to gross abuses of power in the Athletics Department. (Those abuses ultimately cost the state $6.5M after UI lost one of two related court cases that were then settled for that amount.) While few people outside or even inside the higher-ed industry will ever read that article, it’s probably doesn’t help the university’s image to have a headline like this appear anywhere, let alone on a website devoted to higher education:
Iowa Employees Report Discrimination, Bias and Retaliation
Over the course of that two-year period we now that the University of Iowa slow-walked, then ultimately poached funding from, what Harreld promised would be a thorough campus-wide review. From recent reporting we also now know that one of the things Harreld and Chief HR Officer Cheryl Reardon did to diminish any reports of abuses — which Reardon herself then dismissed as “anecdotal” — was to insist that the purportedly independent legal firm conducting the review compel respondents to “give their full name and employment unit”. As a result of that clear if not thuggish disincentive, as the short IHE report today makes clear, the university can now claim that only a small percentage of the people who were contacted did report any abuse:
Over 18,000 employees were invited to take part in an online survey as part of the study. Of those, only 102 — about half a percent — chose to participate.
On the other hand, among those who were not dissuaded by the administrative implicit threats from Harreld and Reardon, fully 56% did report abuses:
In order to take part in the survey, employees were required to give their full name and employment unit. Fifty-seven of the 102 participating employees “stated concerns of inequitable treatment based on protected class,” the firm reported. The concerns included unfair treatment based on race, age and gender. Faculty also reported incidents of favoritism and poor treatment by managers.
In fact, the conditions under which UI employees could report abuses were so antithetical to the purported aims of the campus-wide review, that even the legal firm itself was more than a little queasy about validating or signing off on the rigged outcome:
The firm noted in the report that fear of retaliation may have prevented some employees from participating in the survey or complaining to others.
Two things stand out here. First, in purporting to investigate concerns about retaliation, the University of Iowa adopted reporting practices which implicitly carried the threat of retaliation, and there is no conceivable scenario in which Harreld and Reardon could ever claim to have been oblivious to that negative effect. Second, the complaints and concerns which were lodged by individuals who were not dissuaded by Harreld and Reardon’s implicit threat of retaliation go to the heart of the collapse of diversity, equity and inclusion at the University of Iowa, which Harreld himself demoted from his cabinet and subsequently booted out of the president’s office. The net result for Harreld and Reardon, however, is that they now have a taxpayer-and-tuition-funded list of the people on campus who will be most likely to ’cause trouble’ on the DEI front at the University of Iowa, which they can systematically use to enact retaliation, or to compel others at UI to deprive those people of power and opportunities, thus driving them from the school.
01/25/20 — One thing that keeps coming back to me about the crony corruption at the Iowa Board of Regent and the University of Iowa is that the messaging apparatus at those institutions has been corrupted as well. The big problem with that is that when you’re used to hyping and lying, you don’t actually know how to tell the truth when it matters, or even why it matters.
* In the spate of press releases detailed below in the notes for 01/23/20, the University of Iowa announced the conclusion of a two-year employment practices review — which was, in turn, launched as a result of AD Gary Barta destroying the careers and lives of two women in his employ. The university also announced that as a direct result of that review, UI would be implementing required training for about 3,000 supervisors.
The project results from campus feedback and recommendations from Iowa’s employment practices review, which was completed this month.
One big problem with that sequencing, however, is that illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld, and his loyal Chief HR Officer, Cheryl Reardon, not only decided to embark on that training program six months ago, but they diverted money from the employment practices review to fund the training that will now take place. From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, back on 08/08/19:
The UI now is “paring back the scope of the review” — which was to start with athletics and then move to academic and operational units, as well as UI Health Care — “to focus on the more immediate need of strengthening supervisor training,” according to the UI Office of Strategic Communication.
“The review will continue, but we are redirecting some of our resources to developing a proactive training model,” Cheryl Reardon, chief human resources officer and associate vice president, said in a statement. “This decision reflects the findings of the employment practices review thus far and the input we’ve received through the Working@Iowa and recent campus climate surveys.”
As to the final report on employment practices at UI, that UI press release took great pains to minimize the systemic problems that were uncovered, at which point Reardon then invalidated the statements of those UI employees who risked responding to the law firm that conducted the review:
“I want to thank the employees who took the time to come forward and share their experiences in order to help us improve,” says Reardon. “While anecdotal, this feedback underscores the importance of the diversity, equity, and inclusion action plan and the need for new training for Iowa supervisors. These initiatives are designed to address proactively and consistently expressed concerns like those reported in this review.”
Obviously we now have good cause to wonder if UI’s Chief HR Officer, Cheryl Reardon, also trivializes reports of sexual harassment or abuse, or gender or racial discrimination, as “anecdotal”, but here we will limit our derision and disgust to the matter at hand. Speaking of which, here is how the that same final report was described by the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller yesterday, on 01/24/20:
Few University of Iowa employees would reveal their identities as required to participate in a review of the institution’s personnel practices, but many of those who did told of workplace discrimination, hiring bias and fear of retaliation.
“Many employees stated they feared retaliation if they complained about unfair treatment,” according to a final report, released Friday, from Fredrikson & Byron P.A., a Des Moines law firm hired by the UI to conduct an employment practices study.
“Employees expressed that they did not trust the university, their supervisors, or (human resources) to protect them from retaliation.”
So the same university administrators who launched the employment practices review, because the Athletic Director discriminated against two women in his employ, and then retaliated against them when they pushed back against his discrimination, instituted a review process which required people to identify themselves in order to be included in the final report. At which point the Chief HR Officer, Cheryl Reardon, then devalued those courageous employees by trivializing their input as “anecdotal”. (I think we can fairly assume that the number of people who spoke up was suppressed by the requirement to identify themselves to an administrative bureaucracy which is known for using retaliation against employees. That Bro Bruce gave Barta a contract extension and raise after the fact also didn’t help.)
* A few days ago I ran across news that a coronavirus was not only on the loose in China, but had already escaped to other countries. Yesterday I then read this story, about an infected individual who was quarantined in Chicago after returning from China in mid-January. Because Chicago is in the Midwestern neighborhood, and because the UI campus still hosts a fair number of Chinese students despite fall-off over the past few years, I found myself wondering whether the corrupt, propaganda-driven administration of J. Bruce Harreld would be able to effectively respond if a local case did occur. And of course the answer — informed by everything from his rigged hire to the Visin debacle to Harreld’s deranged belief that he has a “multi-cultural background” because he has “four Mandarin speakers in my family” — is the last person you would want giving orders in a genuine crisis.
The good news, of course, is that the University of Iowa has a major medical facility on campus, which teaches and practices cutting-edge medicine, so you might think experts there would be able to address concerns in level-headed fashion. Sure enough, as news of the Chicago quarantine spread yesterday, the press rang up UIHC for quotes, and in the main the first sober responses acknowledged uncertainty while making clear that UIHC is aware of the threat. From KCRG via AP:
“It’s certainly a confirmation of something we worried about,” Dr. Stanley Perlman, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Iowa who has done research on SARS and MERS, told ABC News of the human-to-human transmission cases.
Perlman told ABC News while it made sense that the outbreak started in a Chinese fish market, if there was no person-to-person transmission, it should have ended quickly, once the market was closed and fumigated.
Perlman cautioned that experts don’t yet have a good read on how severe the virus is.
“It’s a concerning development, but we don’t know the level of contagiousness or the number of cases,” he said to ABC News.
A bit later in the day, however, UIHC started to lose control of that narrative, as attested to by this Press-Citizen headline:
University of Iowa is prepared for coronavirus, says epidemiologist
If you read the whole article you won’t actually find a UI epidemiologist saying UI is “prepared”, because of course one can only prepare so much. (All of Southern California is prepared for a massive earthquake along the San Andreas Fault, but that doesn’t mean a lot of people won’t end up dead or badly injured when it finally busts loose.) So where did that headline come from?
University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics epidemiologist Dr. Jorge Salinas said the hospital is developing screening tools and has procedures in place for potential patients.
“For this specific matter, the hospital is in close communication with state officials,” he said. “And, the university is a designated treatment center for high consequence pathogens.”
It’s not hard to see how “has procedures in place” in the copy became “is prepared for” in the headline, but when you’re an institution like UIHC you have to be as vigilant about that kind of rhetorical creep as you are about pathogens. Unfortunately, as the headline to a follow-up report from KCRG made clear, UIHC fell down in that regard:
UIHC Professor of Microbiology and Immunology: It’s not likely Iowa will see a case of coronavirus
Again, that’s not exactly what the body copy says, but you can kind’a-sort’a see where the headline came from:
“We really don’t know that much yet,” [Perlman] said. “We have to learn more about how the virus is transmitted, but unless you have recently been to China or have been in contact with someone who has, the odds are almost zero that you will get sick.”
The fact that the “odds are almost zero” certainly does mean “[i]t’s not likely Iowa will see a case of coronavirus”, but consider what happens if a case does appear in Iowa, or on the UI campus. Even if that isn’t exactly what the epidemiologist in question said, the press is reporting that UIHC officials say there is no cause for concern, even as it is abundantly clear that there is reason to be concerned. Is that the proper positioning for a major medical facility that could be called upon to comment about an actual incidence of coronavirus? (More here, here, here, here and here.)
Again, when your entire communications apparatus has been devoted to hype and lying for years, it’s hard to tell the truth in a responsible fashion. I think UIHC gave it a go, but they still ended up promising more than they can guarantee. And that means if a patient infected with Wuhan coronavirus is found on the UI campus, the university is an immediate disadvantage because the hospital effectively promised that wouldn’t happen.
* Following up on the most-recent post about the UI P3 (Part 7), the Daily Iowan published a letter to the editor on Thursday, 01/23/20, which pushed back against the idea that shared governance supported that plan. Notably, that LTE also addresses a concern that will be the focus on Part 8:
The main concern which faculty raised at every meeting, and to which no one from president on down had a satisfactory response, was how this scheme would affect state appropriations. What’s to stop the Legislature from reducing them in proportion to the millions of dollars we will now be competing over in the coming years? The answer: Nothing.
I have added a note to Part 7 pointing to that LTE, which affirms a number of points raised in that post, including the degree to which Harreld has perverted the meaning of ‘shared governance’.
01/23/20 — Now that J. Bruce Harreld and his shared governance supporters have the approval of the UI P3 in their rear-view mirrors, it looks like Harreld is relieving himself of a bunch of constipated administrative obligations….
* Yesterday the Daily Iowan’s Marissa Payne reported that the search for a new Assistant Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (AVP-DEI) is officially back on. Not so coincidentally, the former AVP-DEI finally came off the UI books after being paid for six months, despite having resigned under mysterious circumstances after only six weeks. The new search is scheduled to begin in April, but that probably means this will be yet another example of J. Bruce Harreld’s infamous hiring stalls, and the position won’t actually be filled until late next fall — if then.
* Because J. Bruce Harreld kicked the UI diversity officer out of his cabinet, while grinding through four such officers in four years, the University of Iowa has lately been on a crusade to prove that central administration is not racist. The main means of achieving that objective seems to be touting the so-called DEI Action Plan, which, at any other school, would simply be business as usual in the twenty-first century. At UI, however, the DEI Action Plan is an endless opportunity for heavy use of bold-face fonts and bullet points, as this Iowa Now post attests.
* With UI AD Gary Barta having overcome two gender and sexual discrimination suits that cost UI $6.5M, it is now apparently the perfect time to close out the campus-wide employment practices review which J. Bruce Harreld initiated after losing one of those cases in court, then settling both. This termination comes after Harreld effectively stalled that campus-wide review for two years, then poached funding from the review to provide training sessions through HR. (Note that this report also includes more bold font and references to DEI, even as the man who perpetrated the original abuses continues to be employed at the university and worshiped by Harreld.)
* And here is today’s simultaneous announcement that the money that was and is being poached from the sudden conclusion of the largely toothless employment practices review is funding what the university is now belatedly characterizing as mandatory training, because — as you can see from all of the press releases — the university is serious about prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion, at least in their messaging.
* Even though the University of Iowa effectively put a gun to the head of a hundred-plus employees by ramming through the fake privatization of the university’s utilities (over the holidays no less), the university itself is here to report — using intentionally deceptive euphemisms — that those employees have “actively engaged with” the new private-sector energy partner. Kind’a like how hostages engage with captors, after being sold out for cash.
* Continuing the theme of time and money well-spent, the Gazette’s Erin Jordan reports that the FAA is investigating what prompted the University of Iowa to fly a brand-new ‘drone’ — which had an eighteen-foot wingspan, and weighed one hundred pounds — into a yard near the Iowa City Airport, thus converting that vehicle into a smoking $300K hole in the ground.
* As context for most of the items above, note that J. Bruce Harreld specifically kicked diversity, equity and inclusion out of his cabinet, and demoted the position from Chief Diversity Officer to Assistant Vice President for Diversity, Equity and inclusion, because he felt that office and position was an obstacle to his own success. From the DI interview Harreld gave on 09/29/19:
DI: The associate VP for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion used to be in the president’s cabinet reporting directly to you. When Lena Hill and Georgina Dodge were here, their positions in the UI organizational chart were reporting directly to you, so why now are they reporting to the provost? Was that change intentional?
Harreld: No, we probably changed that quite a while ago and then Lena was actually on the cabinet and then Melissa was on the cabinet when she became interim and I started restructuring the cabinet from almost from the day one I got here. We had a number of other people on the cabinet as well, and I started making a tighter, smaller group, so it wasn’t with TaJuan or anything. We’ve been trying to get smaller and smaller as a group for a while now.
If you know anyone who’s thinking about applying for the AVP-DEI position at the University of Iowa, be sure to let them know that J. Bruce Harreld doesn’t want diversity, equity or inclusion getting in the way of cutting deals out of the executive suite. On the academic side, yeah, whatever — but nobody is to impose those concerns on J. Bruce Harreld and his small, tight cabinet.
01/22/20 — Articles/links of interest:
* From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, more on the Iowa Board of Regents flouting the law.
* A flattering report from the University of Iowa itself on all of the things the school is doing to make first-generation students more likely to succeed, which omits any mention of how students are being brutalized with serial annual tuition hikes, which of course causes them to incur more debt and to drop out. (You don’t get credit for putting bandages on people you abuse.)
* From the Daily Iowan’s Charles Peckman, a look at UI Counseling Services, which has been and remains scandalously underfunded. Again, if you keep raising the cost of tuition on students you’re going to stress them even more, with a consequent increased in demand for services that J. Bruce Harreld and his executive team don’t want to pay for.
* And speaking of tuition-raising dilettantes from the private sector, the University of Wisconsin has paved the way to hire their own private-sector dweeb. The fact that the UW governing board excluded faculty from the search committee altogether — as opposed to simply limiting them to inconsequential representation, as was done when former regent president Bruce Rastetter rigged the 2015 UI search — is as bad a sign as there is in higher-ed. (The hollowing out and cultural collapse of higher-ed in the upper-Midwest continues apace, and over a staggeringly short amount of time.)
01/15/20 — From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, a now almost routine reminder that the Iowa Board of Regents, as a body, is corrupt:
Although Judge Jeffrey Farrell conceded in his ruling this week that the facts in the case “scream out for something greater than a cease-and-desist order,” he noted, “The case is not that simple.”
“This is a clear instance of one party winning by engaging in an illegal practice,” he wrote. “(The Board of Regents) learned that it would be advantaged in negotiations if it could delay long enough for the legislation to pass. That is exactly what it did.
If the Iowa Board of Regents needed twenty bucks for booze it would just beat the hell out of someone in an alley.
01/14/20 — This report from the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, on Casino Kim’s proposed regent funding, does not surprise me, because as Miller points out the legislature is not obligated to — and often does not — follow the governor’s recommendations, even though the governor in Iowa has line-item veto power. Personally, I will be surprised if the legislature funds Ui at the same level as ISU, let alone at a higher dollar amount, because UI is about to be ‘paid’ $1.17B in cash from the UI P3, which ISU and UNI do not have access to. With this budget Reynolds can look magnanimous while the regents can still play the disinvestment card at all three schools, and then jack up tuition that much more. (The reality is that ISU and UNI got hurt last year because of plummeting enrollment and subsequent hits to tuition revenue, while UI fared much better. Even at that, however, tuition revenue at UI fell off by about $5M.) Given that the board already has four more years of tuition hikes in the pipeline, and UI is now obscenely cash-rich, I wouldn’t be surprised if UI gets less money than ISU or even UNI, with any difference split between those two schools.
01/13/20 — The schedule of open forums for four internal candidates for the UI VP for Student Life position has been posted. That position became vacant last fall when Melissa Shivers suddenly announced that she was leaving UI for Ohio State, which in turn left a gaping credibility void on multiple administrative fronts. True to form, however, rather that launch a national search to find the best person for the job, Bro Bruce Harreld immediately announced that an internal candidate would be promoted by the end of last semester, following a panicky search. As it turned out, however, jamming an important appointment through at such a busy time of year proved to be problematic even for Bruce the Fixer, so Harreld instead pushed the appointment process out a couple of months, while naming one of his two ‘senior advisors’ as interim VP for Student Life until the position can be filled with whomever Harreld already wants in that role. (Anyone who thinks the UI P3 is going to heal the sickness at the heart of UI, even if it produces astounding returns, needs to have their head examined.)
01/13/20 — As we slide into another legislative season, it is important to keep two things in mind about appropriations to the state universities in Iowa. First, and as a general observation, almost all of the communications, and a good deal of the policies, emanating from the Iowa Board of Regents, are intended to deceive the public. Second, and as a specific example, when the board recently approved five years of prospective annual tuition hikes, and implemented the first hike last year, those hikes were approved regardless of any subsequent increase or decrease in appropriations. Meaning the board granted itself five annual raises even if the state also shovels money at the state schools, which of course makes it much less likely that the state will do so, which will then allow the regent schools to cry poverty even as they rake in more money. Important context as you read this report from the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller.
01/11/20 — There are a lot of things one might say about this story yesterday from the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, which was also reported out later in the day by the Daily Iowan. As a general rule, however, relative to the administration of the University of Iowa we are focused not on people who make mistakes, but on people who are serially incompetent, routinely derelict and/or corrupt. So while this particular individual obviously made some poor life choices, we are going to allow that people really do have ‘wake-up calls’ in life, that it is possible to avoid making the same potentially catastrophic decisions in the future, and that this person will hopefully get the help they need.
Conversely, from the point of view of the University of Iowa as an employer, let alone as a institution of state government, it is worth noting not only that policies should obviously have been in place to prevent this sort of oversight in the hiring process — meaning as a separate issue from the question of the hire itself — yet UI actually failed to meet this same test two years ago. From Miller’s reporting on Friday, 01/10/20:
UI officials said they were not aware of Racevskis’ arrest at the time of his appointment. And, when hiring from an internal applicant pool, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences does not require a criminal-background check.
The first thing to note here is that “UI officials” took pains to single out the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS), as if CLAS has a separate hiring policy relative to the rest of the university — which, if true, would seem to warrant an explanation in itself. Second, on the point of when a criminal background check is and is not required, note that this same issue came up in the disturbing case of Jeffrey Nock, who was also an internal hire, but not in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. In the Nock case, not only was he given a new contract at the Tippie College of Business even after the university’s own department of public safety issued warnings to him about sexually harassing women on campus, but Nock also had a prior serious complaint lodged against him through the Iowa City Police, which the university did not know about because it never asked. (More on the Nock debacle here, here, here, here and here.)
In the Nock case, the university was so invested in protecting his role at the business college that Nock was ultimately terminated not as a result of disclosures about his prior conduct, but because women actively protested the fact that UI was determined to employ an individual who had been warned, by the university’s own campus police, not to enter specific buildings on campus. And yet now here we are a year and a half later, and we have yet another example of the university’s obliviousness to employee interactions with local law enforcement, even when those interactions are part of the public record, and could easily be ascertained. Whose fault is that?
The obvious answer is that it is the fault of Cheryl Reardon, who is and has been the Chief HR Officer at UI since September of 2016. If you know you have a problem, and you fail to rectify that problem, then by definition you have failed in your responsibilities. And clearly one of the core responsibilities of any HR department is determining whether or not individuals who are being offered a job have had any prior interactions with law enforcement, and what those interactions were.
As to how Reardon came to be the Chief HR Officer at UI, we know from prior reporting by the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, on 09/22/16, that she was appointed without a search by the current and illegitimate president of the university, J. Bruce Harreld, after he himself had been on the job for less than a year. Reardon was then also immediately charged with implementing changes to the UI HR Department which were recommended by a task force led by…wait for it…Cheryl Reardon. As reported by the Press Citizen’s Jeff Charis-Carlson on 09/23/16, this was the most important component of that reorganization:
The president of the University of Iowa is reorganizing the university’s human resources offices into an independent organization that will report to the President’s Office directly.
To lead this new organization, UI President Bruce Harreld is appointing the person who chaired the committee that recommended the reorganization.
Notwithstanding the persistent incapacity of UI to determine who has and has not run afoul of law enforcement, this cozy administrative relationship has produced benefits for Harreld and Reardon. Most notably, after the University of Iowa settled two sexual and gender discrimination cases for $6.5M, Harreld immediately instructed Reardon to initiate a multi-phase, campus-wide review of employment practices. Now, over two years later, that meaningless review has progressed only through the first and smallest phase, and is now having funds diverted to pay for other initiatives in the — wait for it — HR department.
Along with a demonstrated lack of seriousness about diversity, equity and inclusion, and a lack of seriousness about preventing discrimination on campus — even after forking over $6.5M for prior abuses — we can now say, definitively, that the UI HR department, and the university generally, is completely derelict in performing even the most basic background checks on its own employees. However you want to apportion blame for those failings to the administrative tag team of Harreld and Reardon, the only conditions I would impose are that neither is blameless, and Bro Bruce’s share should not be less than fifty percent. (Does anyone think UI is a ‘world-class’ institution under Harreld’s leadership? No, no one thinks that.)
One of the very real problems with people who have a lot of big ideas — to say nothing of big egos — is that they tend not to be very detail oriented. When you can’t make even routine contact with law enforcement, or write up a set of policies which require employees or prospective employees to disclose contacts with law enforcement, then you’re failing in your responsibilities. And that’s particularly true if you’re the head of HR, or the person who hired the head of HR without conducting a search. Something isn’t working at the University of Iowa, but because we know J. Bruce Harreld is incapable of holding himself responsible for anything, it would seem incumbent on Cheryl Reardon to either take the lead and solve this persistent problem, or resign.
01/09/20 — Back in early October, the University of Iowa — which was, at that time, racing headlong to conclude a secretive public-private utility partnership — went into an absolute panic about the fact that Greta Thunberg (who would subsequently be named Time’s Person of the Year) was appearing in Iowa City. Members of the UI staff and faculty were explicitly told they could not use any official UI communications to talk about or promote Thunberg’s visit, as reported by the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller on 10/04/19:
“We cannot use our channels to publicize or promote policy change,” replied Jason Kosovski, director of marketing and communications in the Engineering College. “We are always free to publicize our research, even if it has policy impacts, but Greta’s visit does not fit under the umbrella of university research.”
He stressed faculty and staff not use college, center, or department channels to promote Thunberg’s visit.
“I have consulted with UI Government Relations, and they have emphasized that this event does not fall within the scope of something we can promote,” Kosovski wrote.
Today, however, the University of Iowa’s Center for Diversity — along with the UI Department of Performing Arts — is promoting a “Stonewall 50th Anniversary Celebration” on Twitter, on Facebook, and on the university’s own website. While I personally think that’s great — even as I also wonder if this is part of J. Bruce Harreld’s efforts to distract people from the fact that his administrative commitment to diversity is atrocious — I cannot help but think that even on the UI campus, let alone across the greater reaches of the state, some people might deem such a celebration to be political, or “advocat[ing] for policy change” at the university or across American.
Specifically, how does the “Stonewall 50th Anniversary Celebration” fit “under the umbrella of university research”? Because if the answer is that it fits in a historical context, I’m pretty sure Greta Thunberg’s visit to Iowa City could also have been promoted in that context. Except of course for J. Bruce Harreld’s determination to borrow $1.17B from a foreign energy consortium, so he could then gamble that money in the markets. (You never want to upset the people you’re borrowing from.)
01/07/20 — Annual beat coverage from the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: Regents to review university leadership. Four years ago, when I first started paying attention to how higher education actually works, and particularly so in Iowa, I naively assumed there were real assessments and deliberations in these meetings. Now I tend to think the regents and university leaders sit around and giggle about whatever they got away with in the previous year, then game out their schemes for the coming year. Speaking of which….
Having just borrowed $1.17B at UI to make inherently risky bets in the markets, and backed by a governor whose primary goal is cutting services and outsourcing care in order to facilitate corporate tax benefits and programs for the business community, the next obvious target for the regents and toad Harreld would be the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics — which, coincidentally, the new CEO just talked about in a couple of interviews over the past few days. (Becker’s Hosptial Review here; Gazette here.) And of course the idea that UIHC might be on the block, or wedded to a corporate partner through yet another sham public-private partnership, got a big boost last year when UIHC hired a Navigant consulting executive as its inaugural ‘chief growth officer’. (If you want to make UIHC attractive to potential corporate bidders, there is no better way to do so than by putting a corporate drone in charge of reshaping UIHC’s structure from the inside out.)
01/06/20 — As noted in the previous post (Part 6 of our ongoing, multi-part look at the UI P3), the entire con hinges on pretending that the University of Iowa is being paid $1.17B, instead of taking out a massive loan for the same amount. It’s not even a particularly sophisticated scam, but because everyone involved is playing along — from the governor right down to the shared-governance leadership at UI — it seems quasi-compelling even as the truth is blatantly obvious. Case in point, UI says that the ‘financial close‘ of the deal will take place in early March, roughly 90 days after the ‘commercial close’ on 12/10/19 — but even the term ‘financial close’ is a euphemism. Here’s how a trade website describes the same milestone in the headline to a paywalled article about the deal: University of Iowa utility P3 debt close expected Q1. ‘Financial close’ = ‘debt close’. The UI P3 is a loan, and Iowa intends to pay that loan back, plus make a profit, by investing most of that leveraged (borrowed) $1.17B in the markets.
12/31/19 — This unsigned year-end summary of the UI P3 in the Gazette is disappointing not because of what it includes, but what it leaves out. Even J. Bruce Harreld himself — along with everyone else involved in the plan’s formal approval — acknowledged that there are real risks, but you wouldn’t know that from reading this assessment. So yeah, not only was the deal itself a win for Harreld, even if it ends up costing Iowans tens of millions of dollars over the next fifty years, but Harreld couldn’t have asked for more favorable treatment in this instance if the UI Office of Strategic Communications wrote this year-end summary themselves. (And we also still have no proof that the remaining $999M will be placed in an endowment, without any other cash being diverted to fund near-term objectives.)
12/30/19 — Jonathan Muller started a new blog here. Fortuitously, his second post addressed a question I had been wondering about, which was how to evaluate the current extended stock market run in the context of the UI P3. It certainly seems like any subsequent university endowment will be ‘bought’ at a market high, but until today I didn’t realize just how high.
12/30/19 — It would be easy to dismiss this terse little letter to the editor in the Gazette, concerning the UI P3, but you shouldn’t. J. Bruce Harreld’s fallback for the entire P3 is that if the private-sector company does not do a “first-class” job, UI has the legal right to bail on the partnership. Unfortunately, there are two huge problems with portraying that as a contractual advantage for the university. First, if UI bails before the $1.17B loan is paid back, with interest, the school — and thus the state — are still on the hook for all of that money. Second, as the LTE points out, the private-sector partner could effectively kill the P3 at any point simply by failing to perform, meaning it is the private-sector partner who actually controls the fate of the partnership. If, in true private-equity fashion, they can bleed any profits from the partnership early on, and they are guaranteed a return on their debt capital over fifty years whether the partnership fails or not, what incentive would they possibly have to be good stewards of Iowa’s state resources?
12/27/19 — Another personnel departure at the University of Iowa — this time at UIHC. Is $440K a lot of money? Of course. On the other hand, the strength coach for the University of Iowa football team makes $800K per year, and he’s not even a doctor. On the other-other hand, UIHC probably freaked out and tried to throw a lot more money at Dr. Chen when they realized he was serious about leaving, but he probably wasn’t leaving because of the money. Iowa’s inability to keep someone with Dr. Chen’s talents on staff is symptomatic of much greater ills. (Note also that after blowing off the most recent faculty resignations report — ostensibly to fold those numbers into the comprehensive human resources report — the Board of Regents has still not released those FY2018 numbers.)
12/27/19 — Three interesting and related articles in the Gazette — one yesterday, two today. From Vanessa Miller, a look at how the legalization of marijuana in Illinois may affect the regent campuses in Iowa. From Michaela Ramm, a story about how the state of Iowa will now mail a free opioid overdose-reversal kit to Iowans. From Robert Connelly, writing for the Quad City Times, a short piece about how Western Illinois University is exploring a cannabis curriculum. (UIHC is involved in the naloxone program.)
12/27/19 — One of the most important things I have learned over the past four years, while following the bureaucratic corruption at the University of Iowa and Iowa Board of Regents, is that there is often no connection between knowledge and action at those institutions. Where education and research are, philosophically, premised on truth, the administration of higher education in Iowa is largely premised on whim and vice, with students paying for the privilege of being victimized by both motives. Then again, Iowa isn’t alone in this basic betrayal.
From Kathryn Miles, writing for the MIT Technology Review on 12/17/19, in an article concerning the installation of high-tech ‘assistants’ (listening devices) on college campuses, and even in college dorms:
Administrators at some of these schools told me they believe Alexa will bolster enrollment and reduce dropout rates. Several also said they believe voice technology can increase their students’ success and boost their overall happiness.
Now, if you know anything about higher-ed, you know that: “bolstering enrollment” drives revenue; that “reduc[ing] dropout rates” improves rankings; that “[student] success” is a feel-good euphemism for anything that generates revenue and/or improves rankings, that “boost[ing] their overall happiness” is snake-oil grade marketing hype posing as concern for student well-being. Which is of course why that sentence includes “…they believe…” twice — because none of the people pushing these devices have any actual data to back up their self-interested claims.
(Flagged for the topic, for a stray UI mention, and for the mention of Arizona State, which bodes ill for UI students. Given J. Bruce Harreld’s tech background at ‘BM’, and his propensity for selling off the university — when he isn’t giving pieces of it away to his crony pals — his first move here will probably be changing UI leases to allow these devices to be installed by administrative fiat.)
12/25/19 — The Gazette’s Vanessa Miller has a story up today titled, University of Iowa opts against multimedia marketing partner. While it isn’t particularly surprising that UI is now characterizing itself as ‘opting out’ of a process which it initiated — like ‘opting out’ of asking someone on a date — it is worth noting that for those proposals which do not include UI borrowing a billion dollars at interest — and at significant risk to the university — Harreld’s vaunted P3 initiatives are now a perfect 0-3. (Characterize that.)
The first high-profile P3 attempt to fail @UIowa involved a 44-acre Finkbine real estate development. The second high-profile P3 attempt to fail involved dialysis services @UIHC. And now the third high-profile P3 attempt to fail involves the marketing of the entire UI campus. (The university is still apparently looking for a private-sector company to >run the UI Finkbine golf course, with its snazzy new $7M mixed-use club house, which was largely funded by a single anonymous donor. That club house, in turn, sits next to the 44-acre real estate development that nobody wants to partner on, which UI is now continuing to develop, apparently with its own money — which is probably a violation of both university and board policy, if not also state law, which prohibits competition with private industry.)
12/16/19 — So much information about the UI P3 was disclosed over the past two weeks, including the 1,800 page contract, that it is going to take a while to log everything, let alone understand it in context. The good news is that we now have a better understanding of the lies that were told during the development process, including Harreld’s consistent and utterly inexplicable lie that the P3 would not involving leasing any state assets. The bad news is that the Iowa Board of Regent is effectively its own governmental oasis, and if it wants to abet the deception of the public by its own employees there is no other agency which can curb the board’s excesses and abuses. The upshot is that we now simply have to wait to see if Harreld’s gamble pays off or cripples the university, but that in itself goes to the heart of the problem. No concerned steward of state resources would have suggested or approved that gamble in the first place.
12/10/19 — A good explainer from the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller here, covering today’s belated disclosures and breakneck approval of the UI P3. Bottom line: the University of Iowa — and thus the state — is not only borrowing $1.16B from an international consortium, in order to invest as much as $999M in the markets, but profits from those investments will be required to repay that money. That’s called leverage, which none other than Warren Buffett, among many, has long cautioned against. To say that this is a risky plan would be an understatement, and in the context of state affairs it qualifies as reckless. Note also that about 22% of that $1.16B is coming from investors in Iowa, which means they will be generating a personal profit at state expense. Not surprisingly, the board currently has no plans to disclose who those investors are, so we can presume conflicts of interest.
12/06/19 — Despite the fact that the Iowa Board of Regents said, only yesterday, that they would be reviewing four final bids over the weekend, today’s short update from the AP confirms that the University of Iowa has already selected a winner for its public-private utility partnership, and negotiated a contract with that winner — and, as Harreld alluded to in the UI webinar on Tuesday, is already working with that winner. (This P3 process is throwing off so much radiation right now it’s hard to see how it ends well.) Related op-ed from Iowa Senator Joe Bolkcom here. Report on Bolkcom’s concerns here.
12/05/19 — I don’t know what is behind this hiccup in the regents’ approval process of the UI P3 — as reported by the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller — but it is definitely a divergence from the glide path the board laid out as recently as two days ago. Now, instead of next week announcing the winner of a bidding process that already concluded, we’re being told, laughably, that the regents will receive four final ‘bids’ this week, then choose the winner after crunching the complex financials for all of four days at most. Notably, this new plan is a carbon copy on the rigged 2015 presidential search at Iowa, where four finalists were sent to the Board of Regents, which had already determined who would win. Update: In this video from the UI P3 ‘informational webinar’ this past Tuesday, you can see, definitively, that the university has already started working with a specific company, which means the statements from the regents today are lies of commission.
12/03/19 — You can see the full webinar by following the link below. It was about what was to be expected, yet so much less. No indication about who the UI P3 partner will be, or how much the ‘up-front payment’ will be, even though UI knows the answers to both questions. And no one from the Board of Regents asked, so we know the webinar was staged to provide some plausible deniability about fiduciary responsibility. As reported by the Press-Citizen’s Aimee Breaux, after putting forward a blizzard of projected financials today, the university hopes to receive board approval for the P3 only hours after finally revealing the critical elements — and it can be assumed that the regents will faithfully comply. (There is no scenario in which a legitimate governing board would participate in such a rigged process, or approve a plan after only being informed of key specifics hours earlier.)
12/03/19 — The University of Iowa’s absurd ‘informational webinar‘ for the Iowa Board of Regents, covering the pending public private utility partnership, is today at 2 p.m., and you can watch the live proceedings here. If you’re up to speed on the general premise of the P3, what you should be listening for are not outright lies — which could conceivably constitute a fireable offense, or even a violation of state law — but key omissions or elisions around issues and information the university and/or board does not want to disclose. The very fact that the regents do not even want to appear in the same room as the administrators from UI, however — and are instead conducting this passive ‘receipt’ of the webinar by technological means, gives us insight into just how radioactive this plan is, even before divulging any of the details. (If you’re not from Iowa, UI is about two hours from the board office by car, and administrators routinely make that trip multiple times a year for board meetings and other obligations.)
11/26/19 — The Gazette’s Vanessa Miller has a story out today about how the Iowa Board of Regents intends to jam the UI P3 through in short order. It is not surprising that the regents waited to announce these new meetings in the shortest time allowed by state law, but it is revealing — as is the fact that $150M in bond debt will be retired when the deal goes through. For the past year Harreld and the hucksters at UI and the board have all promised that any upfront payment would be put into an endowment, while no one raised even the slightest possibility that any of that money would be used to pay off bonds. This is the kind of naked deception that passes for entrepreneurship in Iowa these days.