This past Friday, December 4th, from 9 a.m. until shortly after 11 a.m., the University of Iowa Presidential Search Committee held its first meeting, which was conducted in a virtual setting due to the coronavirus pandemic. (You can see a replay of that meeting here.) The meeting was important not only because it symbolically marked the beginning of the end of illegitimate president J. Bruce Harreld’s reign of administrative incompetence and malevolence, but because the substance of the meeting reaffirmed that implicit symbolism. Despite Harreld’s efforts over the past two months to insinuate himself into the search process following announcement of his retirement, which is contingent on the appointment of his successor, the members of the committee and others who spoke on Friday’s seem to have moved on. Indeed, over two-plus hours I heard only one passing reference to the rigged 2015 search that led to Harreld’s corrupt appointment, and zero mentions of J. Bruce Harreld by name.
To be sure, this does not mean Harreld has been neutralized as a threat to the committee. As detailed in the previous post about the search, the Board of Regents has still not disclosed whether Harreld will have a post-presidential role at the school and/or at the board, and that uncertainty alone may deter the best candidates from applying for the position. As noted in multiple prior posts, I also believe the simplest explanation for the board’s uncharacteristic willingness to empower the UI faculty to lead this search is that the board has already identified, and expects to appoint, an in-house candidate from the school, thus reducing the national search to shared-governance theater. All we have to do to find out is wait and see what the regents ultimately decide, but what cannot be denied at this early stage is that — apart from the conspicuous uncertainty about Harreld’s future — everyone seems to be doing what they should be doing to facilitate the recruitment of exemplary external candidates. It was just one meeting, and there is plenty of time for the wheels to come off, but after two hours of introductions and discussion the UI community and the committee itself should feel good about the prospects for a fair, open and inclusive search. [ Read more ]