A new threaded post on this topic can be found here. For previous posts about the Harreld hire, click the tag below.
For previous posts about the Harreld hire, click the tag below.
04/04/20 — While illegitimate University of Iowa president J. Bruce Harreld basks in the glory of his la-la-land fantasies about online learning, cracks are starting to appear in the corporate infrastructure that is suddenly handling loads it was never designed to meet. From Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post: School districts, including New York City’s, start banning Zoom because of online security issues.
As noted in yesterday’s story from the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, UI does use Zoom and is aware of recent security problems. Now add corporate gaslighting and dirty tricks to weaknesses in any application or service, and we’re about to see an all-out war for market share in virtual/online learning — even though no one knows how long the spike in demand might last.
* Well that didn’t take long. Only a couple of days after the president of the Iowa Board of Regents (who is a former medical doctor) committed to having the state campuses open for business-as-usual in the fall, the governor of California said the following about the NFL season kicking off in August [full quote here]:
I’m not anticipating that happening in this state.
As noted below, it is going to be very hard for college football to kick off as scheduled if the NFL isn’t committed to the same timeline. In fact, even if the NFL tried to push ahead, public Division I programs would be under tremendous pressure to hold off until the pandemic was truly over. Again, I do understand that the regents and state schools want to keep people engaged on the chance that things break their way, but short of a sure-fire miracle vaccine, I don’t see any scenario in which that happens.
04/03/20 — Meant to note yesterday that the Iowa legislature announced it will extend its suspension of the current session until April 30th, which will in turn freeze the Iowa Board of Regents in place for another month. The next regular meeting of the board is in early June, and there seems to be a belief that the way forward will be much clearer by then, but I don’t think so. (And I’m not hoping I’m right.) With the new fiscal year set to begin on July 1st, and massive uncertainty as to revenues at the state schools, it will still be all but impossible to budget effectively. Then again, compared to the risks that UIHC is dealing with, and the difficulty it has in performing its usual and emergency missions — let alone the health risks workers there are now dealing with every day — these budgetary concerns are trivial. And I am really hoping the Board of Regents understands that and acts accordingly, because they are also the statutory stewards of that critical link in the state healthcare firewall.
Update: The decision today by the CDC to recommend that some people wear masks is a boon to the aims of the Iowa Board of Regents. In fact, I would not be surprised if UI VP for Medical Affairs J. Brooks Jackson makes another appearance soon and endorses masks — ostensibly as a means of helping to flatten the curve in Iowa. The benefit to the regents and to the state schools, of course, is that masks can be used as a part of the justification for opening up the campuses and going ahead with athletic events, with all the revenue that entails.
Imagine a sunny day in August…and a sea of mask-clad fans at Kinnick turn to wave at the kids in the children’s hospitals. Tears flow. Donors break out their check books. Carson King sees his shadow.
(If you’re confused about the utility of masks, the protocol is simple. If you want to wear a mask, wear a mask. If you feel sick and have to go out, wear a mask. Whether you wear a mask or not, however, maintain distance between yourself and others, whether they are wearing masks or not.)
* This is exactly the kind of information gathering and dissemination that should be reflexive at a public research university — Mapping available meals: Biomedical engineering senior creates website pinpointing food resources during COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, because of the calcified corporate mindset which dominates the executive leadership at UI, genuine outreach usually has to bubble up from the bottom. Even during a global pandemic.
* From the Daily Iowan’s Rylee Wilson: UI cancels summer programming through June 13. Heading into the end of the 2019-2020 academic year, and looking ahead to summer, it makes sense to take decisions like this as they come. Even assuming a miraculous reprieve from the pandemic, however, the summer programs in question are small-scale, and given the disruptions that have already taken place it’s probably easier to cancel those programs as well.
The real nightmare, in every respect, comes in July, when committed decisions will have to be made about the upcoming 2020-2021 academic year — or at least the fall term. Unfortunately, a big part of that nightmare for students, faculty and staff at the University of Iowa has to do not with the pandemic itself, but with the fact that the people who will be making those committed decisions — including particularly the president of the Iowa Board of Regents, the board’s CEO/Executive Direct, and illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld — have suspect integrity at best. Presented with, or having manufactured, any ambiguity about the healthcare risks associated with opening the UI campus, they will proceed because their crony minds are conditioned to loyalty to their superiors. And that’s before we get to all of the Ui boosters and fans who will demand that football season commence as scheduled. (Keep an eye on what the NFL decides, because that will put enormous pressure on the college game to follow suit.)
* Also from the Daily Iowan’s Rylee Wilson: Reynolds remains fixed against shelter-in-place order.
In a number of ways Reynolds has implemented the framework of a shelter-in-place order, and there are legitimate concerns about putting police and deputies at risk by requiring them to enforce a compulsory regulation. On the other hand, Reynolds’ messaging and the details of her orders lack seriousness. Speaking of which….
* From the Register’s Ian Richardson: Adult toy shop Romantix remains open in Iowa after state closes many nonessential stores. This would seem to be one of the “essential errands” that Reynolds wants to make sure Iowans can run during the pandemic, which in turn prevents her from issuing a shelter-in-place order.
* From the Daily Iowan’s Sarah Watson: University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics launches ‘virtual hospital’ to treat COVID-19 patients.
This is a good example of how a hospital with resources and reach can build out programs which help protect it from being overrun. From the perspective of UIHC the question isn’t who will get sick, but who will need hospitalization. By making sure that diagnostic process is both formal and proactive, they not only minimize what are called ‘poor outcomes’ in the healthcare industry, but they provide a great deal of reassurance to patients who are understandably frightened.
About 80 percent of those who contract COVID-19 will not need hospitalization, [Chief Medical Officer Theresa] Brennan said, so having medical professionals provide more care remotely will help conserve the number of beds available for patients in critical condition and allow the medical team to quickly intervene if symptoms worsen.
I have been using 15% as a general estimate for hospitalizations, but 20% at UIHC would not surprise me for two reasons. First, Iowa’s population skews older, and as a Level 1 trauma center UIHC is going to see cases that surrounding hospitals and physicians don’t think they can manage. Second, UIHC will probably be aggressive, again to make sure they stay ahead of the disease with each individual patient. (There will also be a great deal of learning going on with early COVID-19 patients, so it is to UIHC’s advantage as an organization to be proactive in providing care.)
* In his blather to the Iowa Board of Regents on Wednesday, Harreld made it seem like the sudden conversion of classes to online learning was not only seamless, but that the students were universally thrilled. (This is what you get when you hire an inveterate salesman to do anything.) The Gazette’s Vanessa Miller follows up today with a report on the reality of that transition for a number of students: Iowa universities deal with pros and pitfalls of online learning brought on by COVID-19.
04/02/20 — From yesterday’s regent meeting, a real jaw-dropper from board president Mike Richards — as reported by Dar Danielson at Radio Iowa: Board of Regents president gives upbeat message about the future of universities:
Richards says they will get everyone back to campus when they can. “I want everyone to know that we are planning on a full normal operation of our universities for the fall of 2020 semester. This includes in-person classes, re-opening of the residence halls, food service, and other campus services,” according to Richards.
As the article notes, Richards is a retired medical doctor, so even if he has forgotten half of what he new he should know better than this. As things currently stand, and in the absence of either a vaccine or large-scale herd immunity, there is no basis for assuming that the state’s university campuses — or any college or university across the country — will be back to normal by August. Even widespread and recurrent testing, both for the active virus and for acquired immunity, will not prevent outbreaks, and that’s particularly true in a community in which thousands of people are coming and going on a weekly basis — whether on trips, to games or home.
As noted in several recent additions to this post, the economic damage to the state from the pandemic will be severe, and I can understand why a political lackey would try to put the best spin possible on this situation. But that doesn’t make such spin valid or responsible — it just makes it pathetically predictable.
So is this a guarantee from the Board of Regents, not only to faculty and staff, but to students who may be thinking about enrolling? What rights do students have if they enroll on the basis on Richards’ promise, only to later find out that he was wrong? Are students locked in even if they feel they’re getting sub-standard instruction due to the limits of online learning? Or is that actually the point of Richards’ obscene optimism? To urge students to commit in order to shore up revenue for the state schools?
I would also note — in part because Richards conspicuously avoided the subject — that one very big motivation driving the reopening of the state campuses by August has to do with football, and the amount of money the state schools derive from gate and television revenue. We are very fortunate that both UI and ISU keep separate books for athletics, but the fact remains that the athletics programs burn through a ferocious amount of money that will not be there if games are not played. And yet, as with the question of holding in-person classes, there is no conceivable basis by which athletes will be able to safely practice and compete in five months.
04/01/20 — Looks like Bro Bruce is back, and ready to take credit. From a video introduction delivered by a UI associate professor:
“If you’re watching this video, then exactly what we thought might happen has happened. The COVID-19 coronavirus has spread through the nation. But fear not. We anticipated that this might happen. In fact, the University of Iowa, from President Bruce Harreld all the way down, had a plan in place, has been monitoring this situation very closely, and has put tools at the disposal of the faculty to migrate all of our courses from in-person meetings to online courses.
While it’s certainly reassuring that the brain trust at UI saw the COVID-19 pandemic coming a long way off, the weird thing is that I don’t actually remember J. Bruce Harreld talking about the coronavirus pandemic much over the past three or four months. And that’s particularly strange given that he is so tight with the Chinese government, has four Mandarin-speaking relatives in his family, and is himself a self-declared multi-cultural citizen by virtue of a couple of his children marrying Chinese citizens. (Good to know that the pro-Bro press offensive is now in gear, and we will be lionizing Bruce Harreld for his foresight at this time of great national concern.)
Still…if Bro Bruce knew this was going to happen, and UI had a plan in place, why did central administration wait until halfway through spring break to extend spring break for another full week? You know, because they could obviously see all of this coming, and Harreld was completely on top of things, instead of making it up as he went along like everyone else.
Update: I assumed that UNI and ISU also extended their spring breaks by an extra week, but listening to today’s meeting of the Iowa Board of Regents that doesn’t seem to be the case — at least at ISU.
* At today’s Board of Regents meeting, the current president and president pro tem — Mike Richards and Patty Cownie, respectively — were each re-elected to new two-year terms. (What is a little odd about that is that their six-year appointments expire next year, so unless they are reappointed by the governor there will have to be another election.)
* From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: Tenured faculty slide continues on Iowa’s regent campuses.
* I didn’t listen to the entire Iowa Board of Regents meeting today — which ran more than five hours — because we all need our sanity, but I did go back and listen to Harreld’s presentation again, and I did hear the presentations from the other ‘institutional heads’ while the meeting was streaming. In sum there was something oddly generic about those presentations, particularly given the gravity of the moment, but I think I have a better fix on that now. Normally, by the time the regents convene in April the budget for the coming fiscal year is set. This year, however, because of the coronavirus, the legislature suspended its work for thirty days — and that was only two weeks ago. With another two weeks to go, at minimum, and the world changing by orders of magnitude each day, and with the state’s Revenue Estimating Conference having punted on the impact of the pandemic in mid-March, everyone is flying blind, and that is anathema to an appointed board like the regents. So until they know the lay of the land, and what the governor wants them to do and say, they’re not going to do or say anything other than the bare minimum.
One thing that should be clear by now, if it wasn’t two weeks ago, is that this pandemic is absolutely wrecking the global, national, state and local economies. While the new fiscal year kicks off on July 1st, whether a budget is in place or not, the economic toll is already being felt, as testified to today by representatives from UIHC.
From the Daily Iowan’s Katie Ann McCarver: UI Health Care leaders say COVID-19 takes financial toll on system; focused on resources for patients, staff:
University of Iowa Health Care leaders said Wednesday that the enterprise’s response to combating COVID-19 is expected to take a financial toll of around $50 million, but they’re committed to maximizing resources and staff to deliver the care that’s needed.
Fortunately, of course, as noted elsewhere, UI is also sitting on $1B in cash, and will undoubtedly be compensated in whole or in part by the state and/or federal governments. But yeah…there really is a pandemic happening, and shocker — it’s costing everyone a lot of money up front and a lot of lost revenue on the back end.
Harreld’s talk begins at the 5:04:20 mark of the regent video on YouTube, and you can hear it queued up here. The whole thing runs about 11:08, but as noted above there are almost three minutes of Harreld thanking everyone like he just won an Emmy. For the sake of completeness I listened to the whole thing again, and for the first substantive public remarks that Harreld has given in a month and a half — comprising the same month and a half during which the world has been rocked by COVID-19 — it’s an amazingly salesy and peppy talk. Then again, having watched Harreld closely for more than four years, I can also say that I think it pushed the limits of what he is constitutionally capable of doing. (Listening to him strain to be emphatic or empathic is painful.)
The ticking time bomb, of course, as mentioned in a recent comment in this post, is enrollment for next year, and attendant revenues. And I honestly don’t have the slightest idea what will happen on the UI campus, or on any college or university campus across the country. What I can say is that without aggressive and accurate testing, there isn’t a chance in hell that life is going to get back to normal by the end of August, whether on the UI campus or anywhere else. We are not waiting for a hurricane to pass over, we are hiding — through social distancing — from a virus that is waiting for us. Without a vaccine or mass herd immunity, we will still be at risk.
03/31/20 — Okay, so tomorrow’s the big day. After being all but invisible for a month and a half, illegitimate University of Iowa president J. Bruce Harreld will present to the Iowa Board of Regents, and in so doing dazzle us with his private-sector leadership plan for surviving if not resolving the coronavirus pandemic. (How unfortunate it is that most colleges and universities are helmed by academic administrators, instead of a fearless captain of industry like Harreld.)
* Good community outreach here from UI, and good community reporting from the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: Coronavirus Q&A with University of Iowa experts.
* Also from the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: University of Iowa has treated 12 coronavirus inpatients.
* So Bruce Harreld did speak to the Board of Regents today, in their telephonic board meeting. Unlike the other presidents, however, he sounded like he was on the moon.
Also started his presentation with a long list of thank-yous, including profuse thanks to the board, then lapsed into his written remarks. And because he’s an irrepressible weasel, Harreld of course used the pandemic as an excuse to continue his sloganeering and bragging. (Seriously, I don’t know where he was calling from — I would guess Colorado — but his connection was terrible.)
An on-brand highlight: Harreld asserts that student education isn’t suffering at all because of the move to online classes. I would guess students probably disagree.
The entire presentation was short, largely pointless, and so bloated with hype that it struck me as normal for Harreld. Hopefully he is having minimal involvement in the actual COVID-19 response on campus, because I can’t think of anyone who would be more out of his depth when presented with an actual substantive crisis.
UI Hospitals and Clinics has treated as inpatients a total of 12 positive COVID-19 cases to date, six of whom still were in the hospital as of Monday. It has screened 4,690 patients for influenza-like symptoms via video visits or over the phone.
I think UIHC is holding up and doing its best, given the circumstances. One unfortunate byproduct of the lack of nationwide testing for COVID-19, however, is that many if not most hospitals are using flu as a screening tool, either through diagnostic questioning or lab work. The problem with that — and it is a big problem — is that there is consistent evidence that coinfection can occur, meaning a patient can have both seasonal flu and COVID-19 at the same time.
For example, if coinfection occurs at a 5% rate, then 235 of the patients who were screened by UIHC may have had both. Again, because of the failure of the federal government to ramp up COVID-19 testing I don’t think anyone can do anything about this right now, but if you or a loved one have been diagnosed with the flu, and the condition suddenly worsens, advocate aggressively for a COVID-19 test. (And feel free to point to the links above as evidence in support of that testing.)
* From the Gazette’s Erin F. Jordan: Grim projection shows over 700 Iowans will die from coronavirus by August.
The projections from the UW website mentioned in that article — which are available for each state, and for the U.S. as a whole — are indeed daunting. With more-aggressive social distancing, however, including a shelter-in-place order from the obstinate, intractable governor, Iowa could continue to flatten its curve. (By chance I happened on that site yesterday and the projections for Iowa were absurdly low. I have to assume there was some error in the underlying data, or compilation of same, because today’s numbers are what one might expect compared to other similar-sized states in the region.)
* From the Press-Citizen’s Zachary Oren-Smith: UI student wonders how to pay rent for a house he isn’t living in.
Having kicked students off the University of Iowa campus, UI seems to be doing the right thing for students who were living in on-campus dorms, by refunding them a pro-rated amount for room and board. Students who live in Iowa City in off-campus housing will still have to honor their year-round lease, but again, that’s not the university’s problem. Between those two substantial populations, however, there is a small group of students who live in housing units which are a public-private partnership between the university and a private developer, and that private developer — surprise! — is forcing those same students to keep paying for rooms they no longer need.
* From the Daily Iowan’s Marissa Payne: Iowa City hospitals ramp up efforts to test for and treat COVID-19 ahead of potential surge. UIHC’s Chief Medical Officer, Theresa Brennan, is steady in her decision making and messaging. As an organization, UIHC also seems to be proactive instead of reactive, and that’s a very good sign. The political foot-dragging in Des Moines and at the federal level is literally killing Americans, but UIHC is protecting itself, and that in turn protects the wave of patients who will inevitably end up there.
03/30/20 — According to the University of Iowa Academic Calendar, after two weeks of Spring Break (extended by one week because of the pandemic), classes resumed today, albeit online only. It is perhaps understandable — because of the distributed nature of the enterprise — that there isn’t a lot of notice being given of that milestone, but it has also been three days since there was a new post to the Campus Coronavirus Updates page, and illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld is still missing in action. (Harreld is still due to present to the Board of Regents on Wednesday, so definitely looking forward to his incisive analysis of the current crisis, and all of his whiz-bang solutions for same.)
* As to the pandemic, today’s data has Linn County with one more confirmed case (71) than Johnson County (70), and Polk (61) is coming up fast, but given that students were kicked off campus on March 18th — and Linn and Polk are both significantly larger in population — that trend isn’t particularly surprising. Even if Johnson County’s relatively slower progression of confirmed COVID-19 cases is partly due to sending 32,000 UI students home, that will still help protect UIHC and its healthcare workers.
* From this afternoon’s update to the University of Iowa Campus Coronavirus Updatespage:
Tuition is necessary to cover the University of Iowa’s ongoing operations, including retaining the faculty and staff needed to provide virtual instruction and online student support services. The university’s faculty will continue to deliver excellent instruction virtually, which allows students to receive course credit and stay on their educational path toward degree completion and graduation. For this reason, the university will not be refunding students’ tuition for the Spring 2020 semester.
The university understands this is not what students or their instructors signed up for at the start of the semester.
The University of Iowa is certainly not to blame for the pandemic, and there are obviously limited options for the current semester regarding monies already collected. On the other hand, if the financial predators at the Iowa Board of Regents and in the Iowa president’s office had not spent the past four years bleeding students with new tuition hikes and fees at every conceivable opportunity, this would seem a bit less opportunistic.
Having said that, the university is refunding — on a prorated basis — various fees including room and board. See the full post for more, and get what you’re owed. (And if the university puts roadblocks in your way, instead of doing everything possible to help you, then you should contact the Daily Iowan and let them know.)
Update: More here from the Daily Iowan’s Lauren White — UI will not refund students’ tuition during virtual instruction, will refund some housing and course fees — and from the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: University of Iowa, Iowa State to refund housing, dining, and fees.
* From the Press-Citizen’s Joseph Cress: Photos: University of Iowa campus remains quiet in Iowa City after spring break.
* From the Daily Iowan’s Charles Peckman: An ‘all hands’ approach: Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds asks Iowans to sew masks for health-care workers.
As President Trump’s guidelines for social distancing and shelter-in-place are announced this week, [Governor Reynolds] added, her recommendations will reflect those of the President.
The leaders of Iowa City and Johnson County need to step forward and make clear that Kim Reynolds’ loyalty and obedience to Donald Trump could not only get people killed, but lead to UIHC being overrun. If those leaders do not want to openly defy the governor, all they have to do is say that they would be issuing a shelter-in-place order if they were not precluded from doing so by Governor Reynolds, because they believe there is a risk of significant loss of life in Iowa City/Johnson County if residents do not restrict themselves to essential activities, such as seeking medical care of laying in supplies.
03/29/20 — Remember how J. Bruce Harreld appointed the dean of the UI College of Public Health, Sue Curry, as the interim provost for two years, and they took a coordinated run at dismantling the UI College of Liberal Arts & Sciences but got stuffed — then after that, Harreld parked Curry in his office with a make-work job that paid her $150K per year, and we never heard from her again? Wouldn’t you think someone with this background and experience would be an awesome asset during a pandemic?
Curry — known internationally as an expert in behavioral science and in translating research findings into health policy — will focus her NIH work on identifying and advancing areas of prevention research, according to the UI.
She’ll also advise on strategy and coordination between the federal institutes and prevention-related partners, though she won’t be directly involved in research or grant funding decisions.
Despite the ongoing health crisis I haven’t seen her name come up once, but maybe that’s because Harreld himself has been missing in action for more than a month.
* From the Press-Citizen’s Aimee Breaux: Head of COVID-19 testing, top researcher to answer the University of Iowa community’s questions Wednesday.
It is not just beneficial for the University of Iowa to do more of this, or even advantgeous with regard to branding and PR, but as a public research university it’s an obligation. UI has enormouse muscle and reach, but for the past month it has been as moribund as the clown prince at the top of the org chart has been derelict. Information that is of value on campus or in Iowa City may also be of value to citizens across the state, who still contribute mightily to Iowa’s annual budget.
* Cool story from the Gazette’s Erin F. Jordan: Massive mask delivery helps Johnson County hospitals.
03/28/20 — So the current plan of the gutless governor of Iowa, Kim Reynolds, is to blame the state’s inevitable and unfolding spike in coronavirus cases on college students who went on spring break. Governor Reynolds is engaging in this scapegoating primarily to distract Iowans from the fact that she has failed to lock the state down, which she continues to refuse to do despite the obvious need of such an order:
“What else would they have us do that we aren’t already doing?” Reynolds said defiantly after a succession of “shelter in place” questions.
As the Des Moines Register’s Barbara Rodriguez noted in a tweet today, however, many states have instituted shelter-at-home or stay-in-place orders, but Reynolds has not.
It may well be that college students played some role in transmitting coronavirus around the state, but the most likely reason for that would be that on March 18th — ten days ago — the Iowa Board of Regents closed the three state university campuses and sent 80,000+ students home. Whatever disease Reynolds believes dirty college students imported from Florida, Texas or other traditional spring-break hotspots, it is statistically much more likely that local students who were already infected then transmitted the virus to their communities across the state. (To be clear, the regents had no viable alternative, but if Reynold had instituted wide-spread or even targeted testing, it would have been possible to trap some of those infected students before her appointees at the board drove them into the general Iowa population.)
* Two stories from the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller:
Linn County sits just north of Johnson County, and is home to Cedar Rapids, the second-largest city in the state. There are a lot of UI employees who live in Cedar Rapids and commute to Iowa City, and there are a lot of CR workers who live in Iowa City (and in North Liberty, which is also in Johnson County) and commute to Linn.
(For a daily tally of coronaviruses in counties around Iowa, click here.)
03/27/20 — This is the kind of story that seems heartwarming, right up until you remember that the University of Iowa is sitting on $1B in cash in a pandemic. Which is not to denigrate the work of the volunteers, but simply to point out that it would be almost trivially easy — if there were anything other than reactive leadership at UI — to scale up this kind of production. You want more face shields? Well I know where you can find a whole county full of people who can’t go to work, who would love to contribute, and who would put face shields together sixteen hours a day just to keep from going mad. Source the materials, get them shipped to UI, break them into batches, print out some instructions, put out a call for volunteers, arrange for someone to drop off the parts and pick up the finished products and pow — an endless supply of face shields, or anything else UIHC might conceivably need.
* From the Daily Iowan’s Kayli Reese: Harreld says all UI employees will continue to be paid, some summer course[s] moving online.
The email and “message” from Harreld which are referenced in this story can be found here. As with prior presidential messaging over the past month, we have words attributed to UI president J. Bruce Harreld — including recitation of a four-year-old quote attributed to Sandy Boyd — and a typed Harreld signature, but no Harreld.
I don’t know why Harreld has been invisible since the pandemic began, while ISU president Wintersteen and UNI president Nook maintain public visibility on their campuses, but the end result is that the University of Iowa is rudderless at the worst possible time. If Harreld can’t or won’t lead the university in person, on campus, in an active way, then he should be cut loose by the Iowa Board of Regents. Rah-rah statements from a man who won’t show his face are underwhelming to say the least. (Relatedly, in six days Harreld is scheduled to give an in-person ‘oral report’ to the Iowa Board of Regents.)
* From the Daily Iowan’s Marissa Payne: With no shelter-in-place order in Iowa, Johnson County supervisors ask nonessential businesses to scale back operations.
* If you’re bored, run a Google search for “Wendy Wintersteen” (quotes included), the president of Iowa State University, then click the ‘News’ option at the top to narrow the hits to articles in the press. Next, look at the dates of the articles on the first page of hits, most of which will be measured in hours or days. Whatever Wendy Wintersteen is doing in response to the upheaval from the coronavirus pandemic, she is maintaining visibility to the public and to her campus community.
Now do the same thing for “Mark Nook”, president of the University of Northern Iowa — a much smaller state chool than Iowa or Iowa State. Again, most of the dates for the press reports will be measured in hours or days, indicating that President Nook, like President Wintersteen, is on the job.
Now do the same thing for “Bruce Harreld”, president of the University of Iowa. As of the posting of this note, you should find one article — the article mentioned above — that will be dated a few hours ago, while most of the rest of the hits will be dated in weeks. And if you think about it that’s a pretty remarkable feat, given that UI is not only the state’s flagship public research university, but home to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, which are a critical state resource in fighting the pandemic. And yet, as with all the other press mentions going back a month or more, even today’s mention of Harreld was nothing more than a press release from the school. In terms of Harreld appearing in public or speaking to the UI campus or even to the Daily Iowan, that hasn’t happened in a month and a half — while the entire country has been overrun by COVID-19.
03/26/20 — Gotta say…even after four and a half years of paying close attention to crony corruption at the Iowa Board of Regents and the University of Iowa, there are days when I am still gobsmacked by the flagrance. After keeping UI VP for Medical Affairs J. Brooks Jackson all but dormant in the face of an oncoming global pandemic, the political powers that be in Iowa suddenly decided to go to the UI tool shed and get themselves an ass-covering implement. Next thing you know, within the span of a few hours, Jackson is providing cover for Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and for Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, as if that’s his primary job, and medicine is just a sideshow. And of course from the point of view of those two politicians, that’s precisely why the state of Iowa is paying him a steep six-figure salary and a load of state benefits. To say whatever they need him to say in a pinch.
* After wasting the Iowa Attorney General’s time compelling him to research the question, Iowa’s power-mad and pathetically insecure autocratic governor wastes even more time publicly asserting that she will not allow local municipalities to enact shelter-in-place orders. The only problem with this deranged leadership gambit is that I don’t know what the hell she could possibly do to prevent local leaders from calling for citizens to shelter in place on a voluntary basis. Which is to say that she just made herself look panicky and powerless at a particularly inopportune time.
Update: Context from the Daily Iowan’s Riley Davis, regarding the hard line being taken by Governor Reynolds — who almost certainly does not have legal standing to prevent such local declarations, but could make it painful for municipalities which had the nerve to buck her royal dictates: Johnson County Board of Supervisors asks Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds for a shelter-in-place order.
The Johnson County Board of Supervisors approved 4-1 a decision to draft a letter to Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds Thursday, asking her to issue a shelter-in-place order for the state and to give Johnson County officials the authority to issue an order of their own if the need arises.
If the numbers get bad in Iowa City/Johnson County, no one is waiting for Reynolds to get permission from Trump to make a state-wide shelter-in-place declaration. If she’s smart, she will claim sole authority then cede that authority back to local leaders. Unfortunately, I have no basis from which to conclude that she will be smart.
Update: From the Press-Citizen’s Zachary Oren Smith: Iowa City mayor says he’s prepared to issue a shelter-in-place order if Gov. Kim Reynolds won’t.
Like I said.
03/25/20 — From the AP’s David Pitt and Ryan Foley: Johnson County Hospital Leaders Not Seeking Shelter in Place. There is a lot going on in this story, but what I find particularly interesting is that it contains actual current quotes from UI VP for Medical Affairs J. Brooks Jackson, who has been almost as invisible during the pandemic as the elusive president of the University of Iowa, J. Bruce Harreld. It is also worth noting that Jackson is a state employee, and is thus unlikely to buck the party line that starts with the governor and flows through her crony appointees at the Iowa Board of Regents to Harreld, who is Jackson’s superior.
So what firm stand did J. Brooks Jackson take with regard to sheltering in place, given his critical perspective as both a physician and dean of the UI College of Medicine?
Johnson County accounts for 43 of the state’s 145 positive cases, but Brooks Jackson, dean of the University of Iowa’s medical college and its vice president for medical affairs, said an order to stay in place may not be needed.
Jackson said Johnson County is younger and healthier than the overall population, has little mass transit and has far less population density than larger cities.
He said a shelter-in-place order would be “very disruptive” economically and would potentially threaten the supply chains and staffing needs of hospitals. Small businesses that provide key services might be forced to shut down, he said.
On the other hand, we also get this:
Jackson said public health officials should not rule out such an order, saying such a “drastic” step could be necessary if the situation gets worse.
So there you go. Not only does UI VP for Medical Affairs J. Bruce Jackson have a medical opinion that jibes with the governor, but he also has economic opinions that jibe with the governor even though nobody asked him and he’s not an economist. (In fact, Jackson comes very close to arguing that the ‘cure’ of sheltering in place would be worse than the ‘disease’ of coronavirus itself, which is downright Trumpian.)
Still, Jackson is a medical expert, and if he thinks Johnson County doesn’t need to shelter in place until things get worse, then who are we to point out that if things get worse, that will be — at least in part — due to the fact that Johnson County didn’t shelter in place. (As to the equally incoherent UI president J. Bruce Harreld, there are still no quotes from him in the press over the past month, about anything.)
Update: I just realized this story got a lot of exposure yesterday, including on local television in Eastern Iowa. The logical conclusion would be that Casino Kim got wind of those horrible UIHC staffers encouraging people to stay home, and someone from the governor’s office called Jackson and told him to countermand their plea. The things money can buy, even in a pandemic….
Update: Apparently the University of Iowa also loaned J. Brooks Jackson out to Iowa Senator Joni Ernst today for a tele-townhall, during which Ernst — a clownish and servile supporter of Donald Trump — actually distanced herself from his plan to put everyone back to work by Easter. As for what Jackson had to say, I have no idea and don’t really care, because he could have and should have been talking to the people of Iowa for weeks outside of any partisan political context.
* On the subject of taking actual proactive steps to prevent things from getting worse in Johnson County, and particularly at UIHC, we have this from the Daily Iowan’s Sarah Watson: UI health official says UIHC plans to ‘triple or quadruple’ in-house testing by next week.
While this is obviously good news, it’s also pretty daring given that the governor and her state medical director don’t think sick people need to be tested. Instead, they should just go home and rest, and maybe tune in to her daily pandemic briefings for reassurance. (Governor Reynolds has been wearing her glasses a lot lately, so you know she is paying very close attention to her image at this time.)
* From the Daily Iowan’s Eleanor Hildebrandt: UI Admissions Office’s efforts to attract prospective Hawkeyes move online. There will obviously be a lot of this across the higher-ed industry, but from the details we can also glimpse the outline of the central problem. No one has the slightest idea how the coronavirus pandemic will affect society moving forward, or when things will get back to normal. Two months? Sometime this summer? In time for the fall term in late August? Later? Ever?
No one knows, and that uncertainty will, in itself, drive down new enrollments — particularly if there is a sustained recession, and students and families are suddenly short on cash for college.
03/24/20 — The agenda for the upcoming regent meeting on April 1st has been posted, and there are two items of note. First, the board will be voting for the president and president pro tem who will serve the next two years, which may or may not mean a change in leadership. Currently, Mike Richards — who has two years left to serve on his six-year term — is the president, and Patty Cownie is the president pro tem. Recent appointee David Barker has all the hallmarks of a president-in-waiting, however, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he moved into either position.
(I don’t know if the pandemic has changed any behind-the-scenes calculations, but Richards — who said he didn’t even want the job when he was initially voted in as president — used to be a doctor, and as such might have a better sense of the decisions that will need to be made across the regents enterprise in the coming months. Having Barker and his economic experience riding shotgun could also be of benefit, or Barker could take over if Richards wanted to resign, and someone like Lindenmayer, Boettger or Dunkel could move up to pro tem. In any event, given the academic upheaval I would be a bit surprised if the current leadership remained unchanged.)
Second, as usual toward the end of each academic year, the ‘institutional heads’ as they care called — meaning the presidents of the regent universities and schools — will present reports to the board. Not only will it be interesting to see if UI president J. Bruce Harreld appears in public for the first time in over a month, but we may finally get some sense of what he has been doing over that time, at a cost to the state of more than $50,000. Or is Harreld the new TaJuan Wilson at the University of Iowa — meaning someone who is being paid to do effectively nothing?
* A letter-to-the-editor from the Daily Iowan: Guest Opinion: Iowans, we stand with you, UI Hospitals and Clinics CEO writes.
* An important advance, not to be abused — from Kate Payne at Iowa Public Radio: UIHC Now Has In-House COVID-19 Testing, But Officials Warn It’s Still ‘Limited’. (More here from the DI’s Naomi Hofferber, and here from the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller.)
* From the Daily Iowan’s Marissa Payne: Dubuque County resident is first in Iowa to die from COVID-19, governor reports.
03/23/20 — In early March, the Iowa State Auditor’s office announced the conclusion of an extensive secret audit into the professional conduct of a now-emeritus professor at the University of Iowa. The official conclusion was that there had been a conflict of interest, but the auditor’s office noted the university was also derelict in its handling of the inquiry. At the time (see 03/05/20 here), I speculated that, “this is more about saving money today by cutting someone lose from an ongoing salary, pension and/or benefits, than it is about maintaining the letter of the law on a campus that is defined by deceptive practices, if not outright crimes at the highest levels of administration.”
Yesterday, the Daily Iowan published a letter to the editor from the professor in question, which forcefully denied any wrongdoing and asserted rights to ongoing compensation. Meaning if the university wants to cut that particular professor loose and profit in the process, they’re going to have to take him to court, or convince the Iowa Attorney General’s office to do it for them. As to who’s in the right, however, I don’t think we will ever know the answer to that question because of the university’s sloppy controls.
Of greater interest is the fact that the university tried to use the state auditor to do their dirty work, and how that office may now look on both future inquiries from the school and on its own obligation to investigate the university itself. Notably, UI does have an extensive auditing staff, and when pressed the Board of Regents can pull additional staff from the other state universities — as they did when they whitewashed the misconduct of former Iowa State President Steven Leath, with an able assist from the former Iowa State Auditor. That the school chose to involve the new state auditor, however — who isn’t a crony tool, and genuinely doesn’t seem to like people who are corrupt — may have been a considerable miscalculation both in this particular case and over the long haul. Because if there’s one sketchy university professor that deserves a secret, long-term investigation, you never know what other long-term secret investigations might turn up if the auditor’s office really decided to start digging.
* A few items from today’s Coronavirus Campus Update at the University of Iowa:
Items Needed at UI Hospitals & Clinics
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, UI Hospitals & Clinics is in critical need of the following items.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) including:
• N95 Masks
• Isolation/surgeon masks
• Face masks with attached eye shield
• Full face shields
• Isolation gowns
Have I mentioned that the University of Iowa is sitting on a billion dollars in cash, which can be put to any use by the university itself?
The biggest impact can be made through monetary donations to the UI Center for Advancement, which provides support for the hospitals’ most urgent needs.
Have I mentioned that the University of Iowa is sitting on a billion dollars in cash, which can be put to any use by the university itself?
* From the Daily Iowan’s Kelsey Harrell: UI launches emergency funds for students, health-care providers.
Have I mentioned that the University of Iowa is sitting on a billion dollars in cash, which can be put to any use by the university itself?
* From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: Iowa university foundations raising money for coronavirus-affected students.
This probably seems like a swell thing that all of the wonderful, magnanimous, selfless people at the various foundations are doing, and of course it is not objectively bad that they are trying to help negatively impacted students. The problem is not that they’re helping, but that these foundations are effectively implementing a shell game at Iowa’s public schools — although to be fair, that’s pretty much what they do even when there isn’t a pandemic. While closely affiliated with their respective institutions, to the point of exclusivity, the fact remains that the foundations at Iowa, Iowa State and Northern Iowa are private non-profit corporations, not agencies of the state.
To see why that’s a problem, note that students at the three state universities pay money — in the form of tuition and fees — to their respective schools for services rendered, and on an annual basis that comes to well over a billion dollars in revenue. So the students shovel money in the front door of the schools, but when a pandemic hits they don’t get help from the schools, even though the schools are holding all of that money. Instead, the affiliated non-profit foundations start shaking a tin cup to generate additional revenue, even though each of the state schools could write a single check that would crush any amount of anticipated private giving.
So why are the state schools offloading all of this concern for students onto their foundations, which must then go out and scrounge new dollars? And of course the answer is because the soulless misers at the Iowa Board of Regents and at the state universities do not want to return any of the revenue they have already received. And why would they? They’re not in the business of taking care of the students at the state schools, they’re in the business of pretending to take care of the students. When the students actually need someone to take care of them, the state schools pass the buck to their affiliated foundations and stick their bony fingers in their ears.
And by the way, have I mentioned that the University of Iowa is sitting on a billion dollars in cash, which can be put to any use by the university itself?
* From the Gazette’s Erin F. Jordan: UIHC has considered using residence halls for staff housing as part of coronavirus response.
Speaking of saving money, imagine the cost savings from giving empty dorm rooms — which have already been paid for by students who can no longer take in-person classes on campus — to healthcare staff at UIHC, instead of putting those staffers up in hotels or having to reimburse that cost. (As to whether the students who paid for those rooms should be reinbursed by the school, that probably won’t happen until someone files a lawsuit to pry that money out of Iowa’s hands.)
03/22/20 — As reported by the Gazette’s Erin F. Jordan, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics put out an “urgent request” this morning for donated face shields, to help protect support staff.
Apropos of nothing, have i mentioned that on March 10th — meaning twelve days ago — that the University of Iowa took possession of over $1B in cash, of which $999M is completely unrestricted as to use? Because I keep thinking that were the Iowa Board of Regents and UI not led by thumb-sucking sycophants, those failed leaders would be doing things like buying the supplies and machinery to actually make face shields or masks or anything else, even if materials had to be flown here by mercenaries. (If you haven’t noticed, the complete collapse of the federal response to COVID-19 has now pitted states against each other in the hunt for resources.)
But alas, in the corrupt crony Republican hierarchy that has crippled our nation and state, one must follow the proper chain of command at all times, and definitely leave great heaping mountains of cash unspoiled by the fight for human survival. One day, and hopefully soon, Ui will be able to turn to that massive stockpile of currency and finally implement the gong-show grant process that illegitimate university president J. Bruce Harreld implemented, after lying about the need to do so for years on end.
03/21/20 — From the Daily Iowan’s Rylee Wilson: 23 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in Iowa, 5 in Johnson County. I won’t be posting a lot of coronavirus numbers because I figure people who want them can find them, but today is a reminder that if there is a lull in new cases — as there was in Iowa City/Johnson County over the past twenty-four hours — it probably won’t belong until there are new cases, and maybe a great deal more.
Whether you are a concerned citizen or a member of the working press, it is understandable that you might want to highlight any data lulls in order to give people hope, but I would encourage you not to do that. If you want to report the facts at any given time, try to do so dispassionately, but better would be to simply avoid jumping on any data that represents a snapshot in time. Between the scandalous lack of broad-based testing, and the inexorable transmission of the virus itself, it is logical to assume that low numbers at any given time simply reflect limited testing, not a lessening or suppression of the underlying disease.
I don’t have a window into the future, but it strikes me that if you told people winter was coming, only they didn’t know what winter was, they might have a hard time getting their minds around how that change of seasons would impact their lives. Worse, however, by far, would be telling them it was sunny and warm on December 15th, because they might rightly conclude that winter was almost over, when it was just getting started. The coronavirus pandemic is not going to be over any time soon, and if you have the discipline it will be better for you, your family, or for the public at large, not to start thinking about spring, because spring is a long, long way off.
* From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: University of Iowa hospitals rewards employees amid coronavirus crisis with lump-sum payments. The bonuses amount to $300 for each of 11,000 employees, which can be looked at in two ways. All told that’s $3.3M, which is not only a lot of money, but pretty much what Carson King roped in for the children’s hospital last year. On the other hand, $300 isn’t a lot when the job you’re doing might get you killed.
Relatedly, it is a testament to the workers at UIHC that they are still doing their jobs, let alone after UI and the Iowa Board of Regents took gleeful advantage of the legislative gutting of public sector unions a few years back, and happily kneecapped the rights of many of those workers. One might even say the workers are the heroes in this story, while the profit-obsessed bureaucrats who oversee UIHC — and who have stretched it to the breaking point in the interim — should do some serious soul-searching about their personal and professional ethics. (I jest, of course — because they don’t have souls.)
While Miller’s article is relatively short, we do get a harrowing glimpse at just how thinly stretched UIHC already is:
Employees involved in direct patient care and services are allowed to keep working — even if they’ve recently taken a cruise or been to a hard-hit country — so long as they stay asymptomatic. Other UIHC employees who’ve engaged in those high-risk travels should stay home and isolate.
Go ahead and think about that for a minute….
03/20/20 — After another bout of protracted silence from central administration at the University of Iowa, there is a new press release on the Campus Coronavirus Updates page: To the UI community: A message of thanks, appreciation, and perseverance. Following the format of the spare statements released to-date, this new release is signed by both illegitimate president J. Bruce Harreld and by Provost Montse Fuentes, yet once again the tone and voice strike me as coming from a third party. (To be clear, staff authorship is normal in any executive setting, let alone one in which the principals are dealing with a global pandemic.)
While we once again have Harreld’s signature to look at, however, this constant pairing of Fuentes with Harreld strikes me as a tell. Specifically, there is no reason J. Bruce Harreld — who is apparently still being paid an obscene annual salary while other people sign his name — could not present himself to the campus in pictorial or video form, and in so doing earn at least some of the taxpayer dollars he has been pocketing for the past four-plus years. That is in fact one of the primary obligations of the position: to act as the public face of the institution, whether on game day or during a global pandemic. Yet over the entirety of the past month we have exactly nothing to show for the money the state is spending on Harreld — save a few typewritten signatures — even as the entire campus has been rendered uninhabitable by a plague.
Again, I do not know what happened to Harreld — where he is and what he is doing or not doing — but dribbling out signatures every week or two is wearing thin. If Harreld is retiring or being fired or fighting termination or sick or mentally unfit, the Board of Regents has an obligation to explain his now month-long absence. (And no, claiming you were too busy working 20-hour days doesn’t cut it. If you’re the face of the institution you have an obligation to meet that responsibility, and you aren’t.)
* From the Daily Iowan’s Kelsey Harrell, a write-up of the press release detailed above — but pay particular attention to the accompanying photograph: ‘Hawkeyes persevere’: President, provost address UI community amid COVID-19 spread. When the campus paper has to reach for a month-old file photo of the university president, while a global pandemic bears down on and shutters the entire UI campus, any pretense that Harreld is actively doing his job is shattered. The simplest explanation that is consistent with the minimal facts as I know them would be that Harreld decided to bail after the UI P3 was approved, getting out on what he thought would be a high note. Instead, the pandemic exploded between then and the financial close of the P3 in early March, catching the Iowa Board of Regents with their Harreld down.
03/19/20 — Yesterday Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds released two videos with the Iowa State Medical Director, Dr. Caitlin Pedati, both of which seem focused on explaining why most Iowans don’t need to be tested for the coronavirus, instead of explaining why Casino Kim has failed to ramp up state testing to maximal capacity. From the Daily Iowan’s Rachel Shilke: Governor, top Iowa health official: most Iowans will not need to be tested for COVID-19.
[Pedati] added that if people who might have COVID-19 are going to be told to just stay home and get rest, there is no reason for them to be tested.
This statement by Pedati is not only demonstrably false, it seems intended to absolve Reynolds of any responsibility for the lack of critical testing capacity that Iowa needs in order to fight this highly transmissible pandemic. If people who are sick at home are never tested for COVID-19, then they will never know whether they have gained at least temporary immunity, or whether they should continue to practice social distancing. How could anyone become a medical doctor — let alone an epidemiologist — and not know that?
* From the Daily Iowan’s Marissa Payne: University of Iowa dentistry student self-identifies as first positive COVID-19 case on campus.
* One of the most notable features of the month-long disappearance of illegitimate University of Iowa president J. Bruce Harreld, is that the school itself has done absolutely nothing to prove he’s on the job or concerned about the campus during this trying time. And we know the marketing weasels at UI can project that kind of image when they want to, as demonstrated by these two tweets of Harreld passing out snacks in the exact same room one year apart. (I’m not saying they’re good at it, but they can do it.)
Well not only did February come and go this year without the usual Harreld-passes-out-snacks pic, but we haven’t seen any pictures of Harreld manning the phones in a crisis, or studying disaster plans on his desk in a crisis, or standing before a window deep in thought in a crisis. And there’s an actual crisis!
So again — where is J. Bruce Harreld?
* From Perry Beeman at the Iowa Capital Dispatch, a report on today’s press conference with Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and State Medical Director Caitlin Pedati: Reynolds: Widespread coronavirus testing isn’t needed. It is disappointing but not surprising that Reynolds and Pedati doubled down on the irresponsible position they took in videos released yesterday by the state. In thinking about why they are so committed to a course of action which is objectively antithetical to slowing the spread of the coronavirus, I think the most likely explanation is that they don’t want to imply that the Trump administration has done anything wrong — which is inevitably what they would end up doing if they said testing should be widespread in Iowa, because of course the federal government failed to ramp up the necessary supply of tests and testing facilities in advance of the pandemic.
(I do understand that the state can’t meet total demand if everyone requests a test, but every sick person should be given a COVID-19 test at minimum precisely to identify those people who will then be immune to the virus at least for some time. And that’s especially true for healthcare workers.)
As to the specific advice being given by Reynolds and Pedati, I have yet to see anyone ask either woman if they have been tested, or if anyone in their families have been tested, and if they would have anyone in their families tested if those family members came down with a cough or a temperature. And I’m guessing the official answer from both would be no, while the unofficial answer would be you betch’a, because they’re in positions of authority and power while Iowans are basically roadkill to them.
Still, there was one bit of good news in Beeman’s report, which is that the State Hygienic Lab is now running a third shift, which it should have been doing days ago if not earlier. Even at that, however, the number of tests in Iowa that have actually been run is still minimal, in a state with a population of 3.17M. Good job team.
* From the Press-Citizen’s Aimee Breaux: Students and families scramble as campus housing exodus begins at Iowa universities, colleges.
03/18/20 — Here’s a poser for all you higher-ed administration fans. The current concern regarding the coronavirus is about how to finish the spring term with some semblance of integrity and accountability in the academic process. Many if not most of the grades that will be passed out in May — not just at the University of Iowa, but across the country — will come with an asterisk, and will reflect compromises and shortfalls that would not be tolerated in a non-pandemic year.
This problem is not unique to higher education, of course, and may in fact be less consequential compared to elementary and secondary education, where foundational skills are built. If you miss the final third or quarter of fifth grade, ninth grade or your senior year in high school, what did you miss that you might need in your next grade or work life or college? Fortunately, except for graduating seniors the entire public grade-school system in the U.S. has five months to figure out how to absorb this shock throughout the educational pipeline, so as to be able to remedy any academic shortfalls when school begins in late summer.
At the college and university level, the vast majority of coursework for the current term will be concluded during the current term, with no need for remedial coursework in the future. That does not mean all of that coursework will be done well, or even that students will satisfy all of the stated requirements for those courses, but between now and the beginning of the 2020-2021 fall term, college students should be prepared for any subsequent coursework and instruction whether in math, computer science, medicine, law or any other academic discipline. (College students are not required to be in class eight hours a day precisely because they do most of their coursework on their own, and in the coming year higher education will lean even more heavily on that factor.)
On the academic front, colleges and universities have an inherent advantage because in-person instruction is already less important to their educational missions. With regard to the coming school year, however, elementary and secondary education in the United States is not only largely a function of federal and state government, but the entire nationwide educational apparatus is effectively free to anyone who signs up. Whatever happens in the coming months, any children in your family will move in lockstep with a broader state and/or national plan to respond to the coronavirus, and other than moving to a different district or putting your kids in private schools you won’t have to make any decisions about what is best for those children. You may not like the decisions that others make — either at the level of politics or administration — but you won’t have make those decisions yourself.
Unfortunately, that isn’t the case for colleges and universities, whether state-supported or not. If you are a student yourself, or the parent or guardian of a college student, each year you must make affirmative decisions which may also involve a large-scale disbursement of cash. Making matter considerably worse in the current context, however, you must also make those decisions well in advance, and six months is not uncommon. Meaning whatever is happening right now in the spring term of the 2020-2021 academic year, while primary and secondary students are wondering if they will even have a summer, college students and their families are obligated to make critical decisions and long-term commitments in the face of culture-crippling uncertainty.
Both for the current and coming academic years at the University of Iowa — as a result of decreased demand compared to recent academic cycles — the initial admissions deadline was and currently will be May 1st, or a month and a half from now. In prior years, however, when demand was greater, that same deadline was as early as March 1st, or two weeks ago. Meaning even as we are trying to get our minds around the cultural implications of the coronavirus pandemic, we are already confronting deadlines related to the normal higher-ed enrollment process as well.
So here’s the question for you higher-ed admin aficionados. As a result of the still-unfolding pandemic, which is unlikely to resolve itself before college classes begin in the fall, and taking into account the critical importance of social distancing as the only current means of slowing the spread of the virus, what sort of enrollment drop should the University of Iowa anticipate for the 2020-2021 academic year? And of course the reason that question is important for any college or university is because a substantial drop in enrollment comes a consequent decrease in revenue from tuition and fees, which will be measured in the millions if not tens-of-millions of dollars.
Currently, the University of Iowa derives about $478M (64%) of its general fund budgeted revenues from tuition and fees, meaning even a ten-percent decrease in enrollment would cost the school roughly $50M. Because most of the currently enrolled students will likely continue their education at UI in some fashion — because there is nowhere safer to go if they want to remain in school — the bulk of the falloff may be in freshman admissions, but there are also economic factors in play. If parents or guardians are suddenly unable to work, there may be no money for college tuition this year whether students are enrolling for the first time or well along in their degrees. And again, in a normal year students and families would have to start making those decision now or in the coming weeks, and yet we don’t even know how we’re going to get through the next five months.
Fortunately, as daunting as this enrollment question may be for other schools, the University of Iowa is perfectly positioned to meet this issue head-on thanks to the foresight of the Iowa Board of Regents. As regular readers know, from time to time I have given UI president J. Bruce Harreld gentle ribbing about the fact that he had no prior experience in academic administration or in the public sector. As the regents were quick to point out when they rigged the 2015 presidential search in Harreld’s favor, however, he did have a Harvard MBA, and decades of experience as a senior executive in the private sector. And that is why I now believe Harreld and his crack staff are already working overtime to predict how much enrollment will fall off for the coming year term, and ensuring ways to cushion the financial shocks from that loss of revenue.
How fortunate the University of Iowa is to have a man of Harreld’s singular organizational insights, strategic genius and constitutional steel at a trying time like this….
* And speaking of Harreld and his decision making, did’ja notice the stock market just lost one third of its value? Kind’a makes one wonder about the decision to borrow a billion dollars from a French energy consortium and gamble it in the same marketplace, yet I’m guessing no one will ever acknowledge that the UI P3 was a bad idea. In fact, I expect the same individuals who took that unnecessary and indefensible risk to now crow about how they ‘bought on the dip’, because the market collapsed while they were still in cash. (If you think that’s the right way to run a state university, you’re going to love the damage that regent David Barker does in the coming years.)
* Well that was quick. Yesterday the Iowa Board of Regents gave the board president the power to declare a state of emergency. Today, he’s declaring a state of emergency. From the Daily Iowan’s Lauren White:
“As I issue this state of emergency, the Board recognizes that each of our institutions is unique,” Richards said in the statement. “The Board is working with each institution to make individual decisions of how to implement any changes that work best for their campus.”
With regard to the University of Iowa specifically, one might think that the current president — J. Bruce Harreld — would be front and center at a time like this, but one would be wrong. Still, we did get an update on the UI COVID-19 FAQ today, and Harreld’s name was signed at the bottom, so apparently he is still employed by the board.
* From the Daily Iowan’s Brooklyn Draisey & Kayli Reese: UI announces spring break extension, virtual learning for rest of semester.
Spring break will be extended until March 30. Instructors will use the extra week to work on transitioning to a digital format, according to an email to UI students. Students in classes with clinical components or fieldwork will receive more information from their academic program leaders.
In addition to classes going online, most on-campus housing and all dining halls will close Thursday. According to the email, procedures for move-out and transition policies will be provided to housing residents through email by Thursday and published on the UI Housing and Dining website.
“We realize that not all students have alternative housing and dining options, and we will continue to accommodate students who cannot immediately return to their permanent residence,” the email stated.
Gonna be tough not to reimburse students for room and board for the rest of the semester, which is going to run into the millions of dollars. The good news is that not only does UI already have four more annual tuition hikes already approved, but it’s sitting on a billion in cash. So let’s make sure no one at UI dawdles about returning those payments, which students now need in order to eat and find a place to live.
* From Jason Clayworth and Barbara Rodriguez, writing for the Des Moines Register: Sick Iowans denied coronavirus screenings; test criteria and public info under scrutiny. After a decade of under-funding critical services in Iowa, primarily to pass tax cuts for corporations, former governor Terry Branstad and current governor Kim Reynolds have weakened the state such that it will implode in the face of a widespread healthcare crisis. As with so many of Iowa’s political leaders, those two vandals gambled with the lives of Iowans in order to enrich their political and business cronies, and as such we now have no capacity to withstand what is coming.
As I noted several days ago (see notes below for 03/16/20) Reynolds should already have authorized a third shift at the state hygienic lab, instead of offering pathetic statements like this:
“Today, a second shift is being added to the State Hygienic Laboratory to expand our testing capability,” she said. “Our daily capacity for running tests will now be increased from 54 to 108 test per day. And when the situation warrants, we are ready, at that point, to add a third shift so that we can run tests around the clock.”
Clearly, the situation already warrants testing at maximum capacity in Iowa, yet every step of the way Reynolds has denied the reality we find ourselves in. She either needs to catch up or acknowledge she is over-matched and resign. The way she is going right now she’s going to get a lot of people killed, and I’m not talking about the rich liberals she loathes in Johnson County. I’m talking about the most conservative rural parts of the state, where there is little or no local healthcare even in the best of times.
* From the Register’s Barbara Rodriguez — a look inside operations at UIHC, and the decision-making going on behind the scenes. Note also that even at 1,200 words, there is not a single mention of J. Bruce Harreld in the entire piece.
* I don’t know why illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld disappeared from public view, let alone at this critical moment, and I don’t know why the UI campus is being conspicuously mum about his absence, but I do think we can rule a few things out. For example, I don’t think he dropped dead because absent a loony lapsed-insurance caper there wouldn’t be any reason to keep that news secret. It’s possible he had a medical issue, or maybe elective surgery and he’s simply recovering, but again — why keep that secret? For the simple sake of continuity you would think notice would be given, he would take some time to recover, then return. Perhaps he got himself in trouble somehow, whether for any number of reasons we have discussed in the past, or some new debacle, but the Iowa Board of Regents has never shown the slightest interest in holding Harreld accountable for anything — meaning he would have to be in trouble with some other authority, which nonetheless also agreed to keep those concerns secret. (That’s the kind of thing other state agencies tend to do in Iowa, for crony reasons that I vehemently detest.)
Anyway, I have no idea what happened to Harreld, but all that got me thinking about the order of success at the University of Iowa, which you would not only think would be a thing, but would be a pretty obvious thing after the mass murder that was committed at UI on 11/01/91. After initially perusing the UI Operations Manual, however, I was surprised that I came up empty, because that’s a very comprehensive manual as such things go. Only when I did a broader search did I find what I was looking for on a UI web page titled Continuity of Operations Plan, which is a sub-page of the Critical Incident Management Plan.
From way down at the bottom of that Continuity of Operations page:
Executive delegation of authority
The delegation of authority for the UI executive administration will normally be as follows:
• Executive Vice President & Provost;
• Senior Vice President & University Treasurer;
• Vice President for Student Life.
Had you asked me to name and order the delegated positions after president, I’m pretty sure I would have gotten all of them wrong. Even after four and a half years of following UI and the regents closely, I would have assumed the Provost was not second in command precisely because the regents ignored the provost completely during the corrupt 2015 presidential search that led to Harreld’s hire — even though that particular provost had worked at UI for three decades. Instead, the board positioned the VP for Medical Affairs not only as the chair of the corrupt search committee, but also as the interim president during and after that crony appointment.
As to the third title, I don’t even think that’s the right name for that job any more, but okay — it’s the treasurer, and I probably wouldn’t have guessed that either. The fourth position would absolutely not have been on my radar, but it’s also interesting because Harreld was recently in a rush to appoint a new VP for Student Life, which finally transpired just a few days ago. As to why he was in a rush I don’t know, but between a very new provost and a vacant VP for Student Life, the executive cupboard would have been very bare if the president himself proved unavailable for whatever reason.
Confirming that this is indeed the order of success, we then have this:
Contacts emergency lines of succession (in order listed)
• University President
• Executive Vice President & Provost
• Senior Vice President & University Treasurer
• Vice President for Student Life
• Vice President of Research
Finally, we have the following order of succession for UIHC, which is of particular interest because — shockingly — the VP for Medical Affairs is once again nowhere to be found, and I would never have guessed that in a million bazillion years:
University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (in order listed)
• Director and CEO
• Associate Director, External Relations and Legal Services
• Senior Associate Director & Interim Chief Operations Officer
So there you go. If J. Bruce Harreld is out of commission for some reason, or out the door, the person actually running the University of Iowa at this critical moment in history is the new provost, who seems personable and capable, but has only been on the job for nine months.
03/17/20 — From the Gazette’s Michaela Ramm: University of Iowa Health Care reduces ‘non-urgent’ surgeries, certain clinics:
Starting Monday, the number of surgical cases in the operating rooms will be reduced.
According to the email, critical and emergency surgeries will take priority, but “elective and non-urgent surgeries will be postponed.”
In addition, UIHC has suspended a number of other clinics — including its outreach clinics, the Wendell Johnson Speech and Hearing Center and its cardiac and pulmonary clinics — for the next three weeks.
This is important, and I am glad to see that UIHC is getting up to speed and anticipating, rather than waiting. I don’t know who is driving this — Brennan or Jackson; it doesn’t matter — but they need to keep freeing up resources. UIHC will take a revenue hit, but the school is sitting on a mountain of cash and there are no good options.
Speaking of which, just because there is a global pandemic that doesn’t mean people will stop drinking and driving and running into things, triggering EMT’s and emergency care. What we can all do, however, is stay off ladders and leave the power tools alone while we’re hunkered down. Be careful, because any medical attention we need will consume resources needed elsewhere. If you’re symptomatic then advocate for yourself, but other than that, do what you can to avoid having to go to the doctor.
* Still no spring welcome message from illegitimate UI President J. Bruce Harreld, let alone any evidence that he is still in Iowa City, presiding over the university during this time of crisis, but the UI Office of Strategic Communication does want you to know about the latest U.S. News rankings for graduate and professional programs. And yes, the U.S. News rankings are a racket in themselves, but given that we don’t have March Madness this year, maybe we could seed the various specialties into a 64-program playoff bracket.
* From the Des Moines Register’s Ian Richardson and Stephen Gruber-Miller: Iowa lawmakers grant Gov. Kim Reynolds expanded power as they suspend legislative session due to coronavirus. Reynolds now has more authority to legally slosh money between state accounts, and another $500K was appropriated to the State Hygienic Lab at UI to facilitate testing. Will definitely be interesting to see if she limits the exercise of her new powers to the coronavirus pandemic, or whether she abuses that emergency authorization to help business and political cronies even as citizens in Iowa succumb.
* Less than eighteen hours after Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds said Iowa would remain “open for business”, she has now ordered restaurants, bars and casinos to close. While it probably wasn’t fun having to backtrack on her own pronouncement in less than a day, not only did she do the right thing for whatever reason, but Reynolds’ belated decision making is now converging with the belated decision making of doltish left-leaning types like NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio — meaning it’s likely that we have finally arrived at the best consensus course of action. (That she ordered casinos to close is not insignificant, because Iowa casino owners hold considerable influence over Reynolds.)
* Following Casino Kim’s order today, non-critical employees at the University of Iowa are now being directed to work remotely. Relatedly, all of the former UI employees who are now running the power plant and water-purification utilities — which are both life-critical and under the control of a private-sector French consortium — are not subject to this directive, so they may all get sick and be unable to work.
And speaking of being unable to work…it is also worth noting that today’s UI directive — which is unprecedented in the 170-year history of the school — was signed by Cheryl Reardon, head of HR at UI, and not by university president J. Bruce Harreld, who is missing in action. At some point we are going to find out what happened to Harreld, and the fact that the entire apparatus of state government obscured and covered up his dereliction of duty is going to look even worse than it does right now.
* From the Daily Iowan’s Kelsey Harrell: Iowa regents approve policy change allowing president to declare state of emergency for institutions. Something to keep in mind about this meeting is that the regents also went into closed session, and I’m not clear why that was necessary. The amended text was made public, so what happened on the sly?
* Baffled by this — published around 3:20 p.m. today — from Des Moines Register staff:
March 17: A coronavirus patient who had been hospitalized at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics has been discharged.
Molly Rossiter, a spokeswoman for the Iowa City hospital system, confirmed to the Des Moines Register that a patient who was admitted in recent days was discharged Tuesday.
Rossiter did not release any other information about the patient, including whether the patient has recovered.
The hospital announced Sunday that the patient was admitted. In a news release, it said the individual was infected with the virus through community-acquired transmission, another term for “community spread” that is used to describe infections from an unknown source.
That patient was kept in isolation while at the hospital, and those caring for the individual were properly protected.
The hospital system is separately treating another patient who tested positive for coronavirus. That patient was admitted on March 11, according to the hospital.
I’m all for patient confidentiality, and if someone who is positive for COVID-19 wants to leave a hospital setting and recover at home that’s fine with me. But that’s not the context we’re being given for this news. Someone was admitted to the hospital with a positive test for the coronavirus, and was discharged three days later? UIHC can and should provide more information to the public — for example, by explaining the relevant policy parameters, which can be stated because they apply to all patients.
Update: There is a bit more information in this report from the Press-Citizens’ Aimee Breaux, which makes clear that the discharged patient above must be the same person identified by name in the following story. And I say that because Breaux’s report confirms that there were only two people at UIHC with coronavirus, and one is still there.
* From the Daily Iowan’s Kelsey Harrell: Iowa City DJ from Star Entertainment diagnosed with COVID-19.
The times/dates don’t line up exactly with the story just above from the Register, but there are a lot of similarities so this may be the patient in question in that story.
03/16/20 — From the Daily Iowan’s Marissa Payne, yesterday evening: UIHC treating second COVID-19 patient, one a case of community spread in Johnson County. As you can see, we’re rapidly running out of comforting qualifiers. First there were no cases in the state, then there were only travel-related cases in the state, then there was community spread in Des Moines, and now we have community spread in Iowa City/Johnson County and there is no going back. Whoever infected this new patient at UIHC had five or six days to infect others before this patient became symptomatic, and some of those other newly infected people are now infecting others. The state is finally — belatedly — catching up and closing down pubic schools, yet even at that the governor has not ordered that action to be taken, but simply recommended that it occur.
If you’re wondering what you can do, the only thing you can do is minimize exposure to other human beings. That’s it. Less exposure is better, any exposure carries risk.
If you’re wondering how long this is going to go on, we won’t see a change in the progression of this disease until more people develop immunity, and that means months.
* While this information is curiously omitted from the online biography of regent president Michael Richards, as noted on many prior occasions he is in fact part owner of a casino. Whatever ethical compromises that omission signifies in itself, and whatever concerns one might have about a casino operator calling the shots for tens of thousands of students, faculty and staff at Iowa’s public universities, it is also worth noting that prior to Richards’ foray into the hospitality industry he was also a medical doctor. And of course as a doctor he certainly had at least some distant awareness of the way in which gambling might negatively impact human beings, yet he still decided to transition from healing to dealing.
Setting aside any judgment about Richards’ life choices, however, it is worth nothing that even though the Board of Regents — under Richards’ direction — announced that it will transition to online courses for at least two weeks following spring break, it not only does not look like Richards’ casino has closed, but there seems to be a number of upcoming events and promotions aimed at people who are 50 years old and older. And of course that seem a little odd in the current healthcare context, in which a global pandemic seems determined to kill off people who are older rather than younger. While private-sector employers are of course exempt from any dictates or recommendations from the governor, this jarring difference in the public and private conduct of regents president Richards does prompt related questions about the former UI staffers who recently transitioned to a foreign employer following the University of Iowa’s public-private utility boondoggle, and how those workers may also be at significantly greater risk because their private-sector bosses are free to gamble with their lives as well.
* On the day of the UI P3 approval meeting at the Iowa Board of Regents (12/10/19), at the last possible minute, the University of Iowa’s illegitimate president, J. Bruce Harreld, announced that some of the private investors in that deal were actually from Iowa. Not only did the university refuse to name those investors, however, when questioned by the press immediately after that rushed meeting, but one of UI’s main partners — the French company ENGIE — also claimed any investor information was proprietary. And yet, despite that united front, those refusals apparently do not mean investors in the UI P3 are prohibited from outing themselves — which brings us to Hannon Armstrong.
From a Business Wire press release today: Hannon Armstrong Makes $115 Million Preferred Equity Investment in the University of Iowa’s Transformative Utility System Project. Based out of Maryland, Hannon Armstrong does not fit the definition of an ‘Iowa investor’, but it is notable that they are eager to be publicly known for their equity participation in the UI P3. In fact, that self-disclosure undermines claims by UI and ENGIE that they themselves are treating investor information as propriety, and instead makes clear that the Iowa investors in the UI P3 are not being disclosed because those investors do not want their identities known. That, in turn, means the state of Iowa isn’t so much following the law or even following board or school policy, but voluntarily obscuring the sourcing of a great big pile of private-sector money for the benefit of those investors. So what do those Iowa investors have to hide, and why is the University of Iowa — a public university — aiding those investors in remaining anonymous?
* From Clark Kauffman at the Iowa Capital Dispatch, a very on-brand headline quote from the Iowa governor: Reynolds: I want Iowa to remain ‘open for business’.
While there are a lot of big numbers in the press about test kits, and about ramping up the production of test kits even more around the country, the only thing that really matters is how many test kits can actually be processed in a day. And it’s not a lot:
“Today, a second shift is being added to the State Hygienic Laboratory to expand our testing capability,” she said. “Our daily capacity for running tests will now be increased from 54 to 108 test per day. And when the situation warrants, we are ready, at that point, to add a third shift so that we can run tests around the clock.”
The State Hygienic Lab — with its circa 1990 website — is part of the University of Iowa, and as noted previously the university is currently sitting on $999M in cash that could be used to increase the state’s testing capacity immediately. Whether there are enough tests to process yet or not, that testing capacity should be maximized now, and if there is excess capacity it should be used to process tests from border towns in neighboring states. The very fact that I even have to suggest that, however, is more evidence that Reynolds cannot catch up to what is happening in Iowa, but we don’t have any more time to waste. Just do it.
03/15/20 — Lauren Ratliff at Iowa State Daily had an article up on 03/10/20, about a bill in the Iowa legislature that would allow the corrupt crony Iowa Board of Regents to shield even more information from the public, under the pretext that said information was proprietary. Such a perversion of state government is not a surprise, of course, because state government in Iowa exists primarily to facilitate commerce — even at the literal and figurative expense of taxpayers and citizens, respectively — but it is worth noting that the actual language in the incomprehensible revisions to the underlying statue would also make the proposed changes retroactive.
That’s important, because the Board of Regents and University of Iowa clearly do not want to disclose who the secret Iowa investors were in the UI P3, and they very well might have to do that down the road if legal action is brought against them. With this provision, they would be able to make a stronger case that they cannot be required to disclose who those secret Iowa investors are, even if the Board of Regents or University of Iowa actually violated policies or laws during the secret bidding process.
(Also, I have to say — reading assurances from regent spokesman Josh Lehman is like reading assurances from White House spokeswoman KellyAnne Conway.)
* From the Daily Iowan’s Caleb McCullough: Iowa Legislature will pause for at least a month after community spread of the coronavirus confirmed in Iowa.
This is a big deal not only because it protects the Iowa legislature as a functioning institution — meaning everything from the elected politicians to appointees and professional staff — but because it pushes critical decisions out until we have more information. Unfortunately, even though the United States is going to be a different place in thirty days, I think the damage in Iowa will lag the outbreaks which are now mushrooming on both coast. So far we are still pretending this is not an inevitable and predictable crisis, and that response in Iowa means we are more likely to follow Italy’s disease trajectory than any other country. (Between Governor Reynolds’ current foot-dragging, and the decade she and former Governor Branstad have devoted to cutting healthcare in the state, in combination with Iowa’s aged population, you could not have a better recipe for a protracted and catastrophic outcome.)
03/14/20 — One thing we learned early on about illegitimate University of Iowa president J. Bruce Harreld is that he simply does not have the bearing or temperament to be the public face of the school. And of course given that Harreld was a second-banana (at best) in his corporate days, and he was hired by the Iowa Board of Regents to be a lackey, it is not surprising that he falls short in the command and leadership departments. Without someone telling him what to do he wouldn’t know what to do, so it’s not surprising that he has made it a habit over the past four years to avoid the press, except for regular interviews with the student-run Daily Iowan.
In this historical moment, however — even as deeply cynical as I have become about my alma mater — I am absolutely astonished that we have not had one photograph of J. Bruce Harreld on campus in over a month. Not a snap posted to Twitter, not a routine photo in the DI — nothing to indicate that Harreld is on campus and doing his job, let alone that he is in command and leading the university through the coronavirus crisis. Over the past week we did have press releases issued with quotes from Harreld, but it’s not even clear when those quotes were obtained, and I can’t find anything that seems necessarily current. So where is J. Bruce Harreld?
By comparison, it only took me a few moments this morning to find a recent picture of Iowa State President Wendy Wintersteen, performing exactly the kind function a university president performs on a day-to-day basis. Taken only six days ago, the occasion of that photo and accompanying story wasn’t even pandemic-related, but concerned race, ethnicity and discrimination. So there’s Wendy Wintersteen — but where is Harreld?
In the span of one week the University of Iowa gave two high-level press briefings on the coronavirus, and Harreld attended neither. (The first was on March 4th, the second on March 11th.) In fact, if you watch the thirty-minute video of the second briefing, Harreld’s name is mentioned exactly zero times, and I’m not sure how that could transpire without a conscious effort to do so.
Between the four UI administrators who spoke and answered questions, not one of them said, “President Harreld has decided…”, or, “President Harreld wants you to know…”, or even, “President Harreld is unable to attend, because…” Instead we got an unending stream of abstractions about the campus decision-making process: “The University of Iowa determined…”, “The university made the decision…”, “…we…”, “…our…”, “…our officials…”, “…central administration…”. Multiple references to the university, but not a single solitary mention of Harreld by name, and again I have to ask — given everything that transpired in the past week, how is that possible?
What is not possible is that senior executives at the University of Iowa — including particularly the provost — are oblivious to Harreld’s whereabouts. If he is on campus and giving orders and doing his job then there was no reason for all of those UI administrators to omit that information from the news conference, yet they uniformly chose to do so. Conversely, however, given that Harreld’s name was universally omitted, and decision-making at UI was abstracted to omit his office, it seems possible if not probable that Harreld is not on campus and not actually doing the job he is still being paid to do, which is something the press might want to inquire about directly.
Three months ago Harreld had no problem being the lead song and dance man during the UI P3 Informational Webinar, and he was right there, out front, during the slap-dash UI P3 approval meeting. The most recent photo of Harreld that I have been able to find, however, accompanies his DI interview on 02/13/20, which was published on 02/16/20. In that interview, which was just over a month ago, Harreld also makes an odd reference to completing the in-house hire of a new UI VP for Student Life while he is still in office — which doesn’t make a lot of sense given that he recently signed a four-year contract extension that should take him to 2023: “So, I wanted somebody — I want to get to it quickly. I want to get to it in my tenure, and I want to get to it and start changing the dialogue about the ability of developing our leaders.” The new UI VP for Student Life was appointed two days ago.
* Speaking of recent events, the Iowa Board of Regents has announced that it will hold a special meeting on Tuesday, March 17th, to make a change to its policy manual in ostensible response to the coronavirus pandemic. When I first read about that change a couple days ago, however, I misinterpreted the intent as a grant of emergency powers to the individual university presidents, and that is not the case. Instead, the change in the regents policy manual will grant emergency powers to the board president, as follows:
New Section 1.1.E – Emergency Authorizations
The President of the Board of Regents is authorized to determine a state of emergency exists at one or more of the institutions under the jurisdiction of the Board of Regents based upon circumstances that pose an imminent threat to the health or safety of persons or property at the affected institution(s). In the event of an emergency, the President is authorized to take such action as may be necessary to safeguard persons or property at the affected institution(s); including, but not limited to, suspension or waiver of all or any portion of the Board of Regents Policy Manual and administrative rules. The President shall seek Board of Regents ratification of any actions taken pursuant to this subsection at the earliest practical time, but in no event later than the next regularly scheduled meeting of the Board of Regents.
In retrospect, the reason I misunderstood who was being granted what new power is because the board president already has complete control over the regent system. In terms of leadership, the other eight appointed regents are little more than doorstops, and I can say that with certainty because in over four years of paying close attention to the board there has only been one instance in which even a single regent balked at the autocratic decision making by the board president and/or board CEO. (That occasion involved J. Bruce Harreld’s rigged hire at the University of Iowa in 2015, but even then the duped and aggrieved regent accepted the excuses of the president.)
Not only is there never any dissent or even debate regarding actions taken by the nine-member board, but the presidents of the three state universities work for the Board of Regents, meaning the board president already functions as their de facto boss, despite the fact that the president’s statutory powers are quite narrow, and in all other respects the nine members of the board are equal in power. Because the university presidents answer to the board president and CEO, and because the board injected what are, effectively, regent spies (state relations officers) at each of the state schools over the past decade, it would seem completely unnecessary to add the proposed text to the regent policy manual because the board president — and, by extension, the governor — already has complete control over the entire regents system.
Still, there are two scenarios where I can see why a board president would want to grant himself (or herself) this unbridled authority. First, instead of having to announce a meeting a week in advance, then adhere to the requirements of Iowa’s Open Meetings law, the board president will now be able to immediately impose any decision on the pretext that “the health or safety of persons or property” are at risk, after which the full crony board will approve wholeheartedly. Second, and of particular interest at this moment, this new policy would allow the regent president to effectively act as a university president if there was a vacuum of leadership at one of the state schools. And on that particular basis I would again suggest that members of the press inquire about the whereabouts and disposition of one J. Bruce Harreld.
(I don’t know what kind of lawyering was done on the text above, but I am hard pressed to imagine any way in which the “healthy or safety” of “property” can be compromised. As such, it is entirely possible that someone decided to use coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to broaden this proposed change even more, to the point that any threat to state property can be used as an excuse to invoke this extra-statutory policy provision. What exactly is “property” in this context? An entire building? A room? A pane of glass? If someone breaks a state pencil in half does that meet the test? And who decides of that test was applied improperly?)
* From the Daily Iowan’s Sarah Watson: Regents direct universities to recall all faculty, staff, and students out of the country. (Full UI press release here.)
Another belated decision compelled as much by deranged proclamations from the White House as anything else, but still, this shouldn’t be so hard. Responding to a global pandemic and trying to minimize disruptions are mutually exclusive propositions. If you’re in a position of leadership then lead — don’t manage your way through this.
* I may be getting a little punchy, but I believe — in the initial version of this report from the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, yesterday — that the immediate disposition of the uncommitted $999M from the UI P3 was unknown. In any case, today the parking of those funds is detailed as follows:
A UI spokeswoman said 70 percent of the money was invested in money market accounts, “which are not subject to the volatility of the investment markets” being seen now amid fears of the effects of the novel coronavirus on the world economy. The other 30 percent was invested in fixed-income accounts.
“Over the next year, the Strategic Initiatives Fund is using a thoughtful and measured approach by allocating capital slowly and systematically from the money market fund into a diverse basket of asset classes,” the university said.
So there you go. A billion dollars in cash that will either be invested in a chaotic and risky marketplace using a “thoughtful and measured approach”, or used to save lives using a courageous and humanistic approach. Golly…what will Iowa’s flagship public university do?
* I know public officials are pressed to say something, and the press won’t let up until they do, but the resulting narrative in Iowa is not good. Yesterday public officials were taking solace in the fact that all COVID-19 cases in the state were related to travel, and there was no in-state community spread. Less than twenty-four hours later we get the following from Governor Reynolds, as reported by the Daily Iowan’s Sarah Watson: Iowa case of coronavirus found without connection to travel, signaling a start of ‘community spread’.
Making matters infinitely worse, Queen Kim seems to be taking the Trumpian wait-and-see approach to mitigation, combined with a measure of jaw-dropping insanity:
The governor also didn’t call for K-12 school closures like more than a dozen other states have directed, citing Centers for Disease Control guidelines. The CDC guidelines lay out three tiers of school actions if the virus is found in the schools. If a student, faculty, staff, or visitor test positive positive for the virus, the CDC directs schools to suspend for a few days for cleaning to stop the spread of the virus.
If you are listening to the CDC at this point you might as well have your face pressed up against Donald Trump’s ass. Iowa’s population skews elderly, and old people are being hit hard by this coronavirus. Cleaning surfaces in schools and skipping classes for a few days does nothing to mitigate that virus that may have been spread between children, who may then take that virus home to their elders, only to reintroduce it to the school when classes resume. And I shouldn’t have to explain any of this.
If you are trying to slow the spread of this pandemic while also minimizing cultural disruptions then you will not slow this pandemic. So you should maximize disruptions.
03/13/20 — From the Daily Iowan Editorial Board: All Hawkeyes need to prepare for coronavirus.
* From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: University of Iowa hospitals screening patients and visitors before entering:
Beginning Friday, all patients and visitors before entering the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics will be screened for symptoms of acute respiratory illness — in the institution’s continued escalating response to the spreading novel coronavirus.
We will put this in the ‘better late than never’ category, which means this should have been done sooner.
* While the University of Iowa did its very best to downplay the financial close of the UI P3 three days ago, as a result of that deal the university is now sitting on $999M in cash, free and clear. While UI president J. Bruce Harreld had planned to use that money to fund an endowment — which would in turn produce $15M annually, to be divvied up in a gimmicky grant process — the pandemic now sweeping the globe is clearly the most important priority. The obvious question, of course, is not whether to put some of that money to immediate use, but how.
To underscore just how much money $999M actually is, consider that UI could take $50M in cash from that total and still have $949M left over. Moreover, that $949M could still be invested in an endowment, the annual proceeds of which would then repay that $50M over the next few years, resulting in only a short-term delay of the grants. (It is inconceivable that anyone on campus would protest such expenditures if the money went to help fight the pandemic, and the UI Faculty Senate should encourage the president’s office to make use of all available resources, including the windfall from the UI P3.)
As to what the university could do with that $50M, the first priority is obviously the health of the campus, but close behind is the financial solvency of UI students who are now faced with choices no one could have anticipated. For example, while the dorms at UI will remain open — and that’s a good thing — some students may have no option but to stay in the dorms because they have already contracted for room and board, and have no cash in reserve. In such instances the university should offer to refund any contracted services on a pro-rated basis for the rest of the spring semester, if students want to opt out of those services.
On the health front, the following note appeared in an AP wire story two hours ago, but I have not yet found any additional information:
Chief medical officer Theresa Brennan said UIHC is working to develop an in-house test for coronavirus but that will take time.
I don’t know what it will take to develop an in-house coronavirus test at UIHC, but I would imagine more money might shrink the amount of time involved. Fortunately, here we finally have an opportunity for J. Bruce Harreld to shine, because — as noted by Harreld himself back in June of 2016 — he is jacked into American industry at the highest levels:
“I know a lot of people in corporate America, so I’ve asked them to come and take a look at what we’re doing, and see if it might play a role, and if they’re looking for a partner,” Mr. Harreld said.
As it turns out, Harreld also knows a lot of key players in China and around the world as a result of his years at IBM, and as such should be able to make the right calls to get Theresa Brennan whatever she needs. Sure, there will probably be some opportunistic price gouging by Harreld’s private-sector peers (supply and demand and all that), but even if Harreld needs to charter a commercial cargo jet to deliver the critical equipment, the Iowa City Airport just happens to have an old WWII runway that can handle almost anything.
The bottom line is that whatever does or does not happen on the UI campus over the coming weeks and months, money will not be an obstacle. In fact, the university is in the enviable position of having effectively unlimited and liquid financial resources at a critical time. For that reason, if there is one thing I think we can all agree on, it’s that no one is going to want to watch bodies stack up at UIHC or across the state, while the University of Iowa hoards a mountain of cash that could have saved lives.
* If you’re confused about why people are having a hard time getting tested for coronavirus even if they are symptomatic and have been exposed to people who have coronavirus, that’s because the medical community is rationing tests. From the point of view of healthcare providers it would obviously be useful to know whether anyone does or does not have coronavirus, but given that there are a limited number of tests, they have to narrow the criteria to the point that a diagnosis will almost certainly be positive. And a big part of that is that each new positive test gives them fresh trail to follow, allowing them to identify more individuals who are also more likely infected.
By analogy, depending on your preference, COVID-19 tests are either Elaine’s sponges from Seinfeld, or the new leads from Glengarry Glen Ross. They are not simply useful, they have a value in themselves precisely because of their rarity. The fact that COVID-19 tests should not be rare, and should not be rationed, is also obvious, but because we live in third-world country run by ass-covering cowards at every level of government, this is our reality. Which is, again, a good reason for J. Bruce Imposter to break the glass and throw everything he has at in-house COVID-19 testing at UIHC, so we can stop rationing tests and get a fix on this unchecked pathogenic foe.
* A write-up on the financial close of the UI P3, from the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: University of Iowa closes $1.2 billion utilities deal.
* From the Daily Iowa’s Kelsey Harrell, this is good outreach by the University of Iowa, but the school is still catching up to where it should have been weeks ago: University of Iowa public-health experts talk COVID-19, ways people can stay healthy. The initial UI response to the coronavirus outbreak was marketing driven, pimping out quotes from Iowa researchers — which, even at the time, were often patronizing or naive — instead of providing actionable information to the campus and surrounding community. Again, the failure of leadership is harrowing, but that’s what you get when you hire a private-sector brigand to run a public-sector research university. Everything is simply another opportunity for exploitation, even if people may die as a result.