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.
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.