I will continue to add updates about J. Bruce Harreld and his illegitimate presidency to this threaded post. If this post scrolls you will be able to find it by clicking the link in the sticky post at the top of the home page. You can also bookmark this post, or search for it using various keywords and phrases, such as Harreld, fraud, co-conspirator, or carpetbagging dilettante.
For previous posts about the Harreld hire, click the tag below.
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….
* 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.