A new threaded post on this topic can be found here. For previous posts about the Harreld hire, click the tag below.
06/25/20 — So Bro Bruce and Rod Lehnertz talked at their cameras yesterday and today, largely saying a whole lotta nothin’, but we will get into that over the weekend. Until then….
* From the Gazette’s Lyz Lenz: The University of Iowa fires instructors and tells the rest to get back to the classroom.
* From Katie Akin at the Des Moines Register and Kylee Mullen at the Ames Tribune: Reopening and resurgence: Iowa restaurants, bars close because of employee coronavirus cases.
* From the Daily Iowan’s Chloe Peterson: Opinion | The University of Iowa must condense the coming semester.
* Following the announcement that Nadine Petty will be leaving UI in a matter of weeks — thus continuing the exodus of persons of color who were in leadership positions at the University of Iowa — the school has counter-announced yet another committee that they can point to as evidence that they care about diversity, when clearly they don’t.
* I don’t know how this story fits in with the recent leasing of UI’s utilities to a private French consortium, but if there’s one thing the university does not need right now, it’s a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak on top of the pandemic: New coronavirus health concern as colleges reopen: Contaminated water sitting in pipes.
* Continuing a story we have followed over the past three years, we have this from the Daily Iowan’s Jordan Winke: New clubhouse creates opportunities for Finkbine Golf Course. No word on the super-secret, public-private real estate development that is being put together on an adjacent piece of university property, and for which the new UI clubhouse seems to have been purpose-built — thanks to a generous donation from an out-of-state real-estate developer with familial ties to the university. (Note also that when Harreld was pimping this new clubhouse out to the Iowa Board of Regents and the UI community, he told one those senseless whoppers that he seems congenitally compelled to utter in pursuit of any objective.)
* From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: University of Northern Iowa, DMACC announce $1 million gift toward collaboration.
06/24/20 — From 2 to 3 p.m. today (Wednesday), and 10 to 11 a.m. tomorrow (Thursday), illegitimate University of Iowa president J. Bruce Harreld, and his trusty sidekick Rod Lehnertz, will put a shiny gloss on their tentative plans to host in-person classes in the fall, while simultaneously answering as few questions as possible. Among the questions I do not expect Harreld to address will be whether he intends to teach his leadership class in-person, whether he will hold normal office hours and be available for in-person meetings with students, faculty and staff — because emails, phone calls and video chats are so impersonal — and what the contingency plan will be if there is a widespread outbreak on campus. (Times and dates for other forums, which will extend into July and be led by other administrators, can be found here, along with a link to the UI YouTube channel, and an email address for submitting incisive questions that will be ignored.)
* The lying from central administration at UI is so pervasive it is often hard to keep up. One byproduct of that avalanche of disinformation, unfortunately, is that it is also easy to miss a lie that may otherwise be in clear view. Such is the case with the recent faculty layoffs, which once again betrayed the ‘shared governance’ lie that Harreld loves to peddle.
From a DI letter to the editor by Stephen Voyce and Loren Glass: Guest Opinion | UI English professors call for reinstatement of liberal-arts faculty.
The decision to fire these teachers was made without any regard for seniority, meaningful consultation with the affected departments, or negotiations with bodies on campus such as Faculty Senate. Had they done so, they would have encountered several alternative solutions. One department, for instance, unanimously agreed that had they been given the chance, they would have taken pay cuts to save their colleagues’ jobs.
Unfortunately, with a rat like Harreld in the president’s office, there will be a lot more of this.
* Speaking of which…the damage that Harreld and the corrupt Iowa Board of Regents are about to do to the University of Iowa will not only be organizational but also psychological. People who currently support each other will be pitted against each other, recriminations will flow, and morale will crater. In fact, we find a hint of what is to come in this report, from the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: University of Iowa faculty, staff cry foul on cuts.
And after three days of silence, Duck took their concerns to UI President Bruce Harreld — citing Harreld’s own recent comments promoting the manifold benefits of Iowa’s first-year rhetoric experience.
“The proposed cuts have decimated morale even as the university asks us to risk our health as the face of the university,” Duck wrote to Harreld. “Your deep experience in the business world will alert you to the bad business arising from demoralizing those very people whose job it has been to induct new ‘customers’ into the academic world at the University of Iowa.
“We strongly urge you to take swift action to encourage Dean Goddard to reconsider his untimely and unmerited cutting of our colleagues.”
Harreld, essentially, said he’s not getting involved.
“While I certainly empathize with your frustration, issues regarding resource allocation, size, and faculty composition are made by our deans,” Harreld wrote to Duck. “These are difficult times for all of us as we are once again facing tuition freezes and state cuts.”
As long-time readers know, Harreld imposed a decentralized administrative and budgeting process precisely to obscure his Machiavellian machinations, and this is a perfect example of that. At some point Harreld made clear what he wanted, and it was up to the deans to define the specifics. Now Harreld is playing innocent while people sharpen their knives and fall on each other.
Having said that, one ironic byproduct of Harreld’s impending administrative abuses, in combination with forcing the students, faculty and staff to return to campus, is that the impetus for protests will increase significantly. (And that’s before we start talking about how Harreld and central administration will respond to a substantial outbreak on campus.) Between the racism at UI and the pandemic, I would not be at all surprised to find Harreld once again hiding out instead of meeting the responsibilities of his office.
* One big tell about what central administration is up to at UI comes to us from the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC). While Harreld is already swinging the budgetary axe on the academic side of campus, in blunt contravention of his prior statements about shared governance, UIHC is not looking to lay off workers. Despite the sharp downturn in non-coronavirus patients occasioned by the onset of the pandemic, UIHC expects to recover all of its patient load and them some, meaning any personnel cuts would be momentary at best.
Instead of lopping off fingers and toes, then, UIHC is asking everyone to share the pain. From Adam Carros at KCRG-TV: UIHC cutting pay but not jobs to offset COVID-19 losses.
UIHC announced its plan to cut staffing costs to help make up an expected $100 million financial loss due to the pandemic. That loss is a combination of lost revenue during COVID-19 shutdowns and restrictions as well as added costs for protecting staff and patients.
The plan calls for all staff to take unpaid time off or give up paid vacation time, with higher wage earners bearing a bigger share of the pain.
By contrast, what Harreld is about to execute on the academic side of the campus will be a bloodletting, and many of those faculty and staff jobs will never come back. (Once you kill off a program or even an entire department, you never have to fill those jobs again.)
* Two days ago, only a few hours apart, both of these stories appeared as if completely unrelated to each other:
> From the Press-Citizen’s Mark Emmert: Iowa football: University announces halt of ticket sales due to coronavirus uncertainty.
> From the Press-Citizen’s Hillary Ojeda: UI Athletics Department reports 9 additional COVID-19 cases.
* Updating the Chris Doyle saga, apparently $1.1M plus healthcare for a year and a half for him and his family wasn’t enough. From KCRG: Former strength coach will receive around $200,000 more from separation agreement in benefits.
* From the Gazette’s Mike Hlas: What kind of football games would Iowa and Iowa State have without fans?
There seems to be a default assumption that college football will be played with or without fans, but I’m not convinced of that. Watching the numbers spike in Ames and Iowa City over the past few days, the idea of any city welcoming hundreds of opposing players and coaches, plus media into their community strikes me as ludicrous on its face. (We aren’t hearing a lot from municipalities right now, but I think we will — particularly if the trends continue to worsen across the United States.)
* Speaking of which…a characteristically terse and accurate headline from David Pitt at the AP: Virus cases spike among young adults in Iowa college towns.
* From USAToday — a really long list, which is already several days behind: College sports and coronavirus: Schools reporting positive tests among athletes.
* From the Gazette’s Lee Hermiston: Racial profiling ban still work in progress in University Heights.
* From Emma Pettit at the Chronicle of Higher Education: Who Gets to Teach Remotely? The Decisions Are Getting Personal.
* From Jessica Dickler at CNBC: Colleges cut academic programs in the face of budget shortfalls due to Covid-19.
* One of the programs mentioned in that CNBC article above is the University of Alaska, which was already going hog-wild with program cuts. As noted in a recent update, however, the president of the University of Alaska was recently chosen as the only candidate to take over the University of Wisconsin System, only to then withdraw from consideration for that post. Now, that same individual is also out at Alaska, almost certainly because he betrayed the fact that he was looking to get out anyway.
From Mark Thiessen at the Wisconsin State Journal: Jim Johnsen, who was sole finalist for UW presidency, resigns under fire from Alaska.
06/22/20 — Late last Wednesday an article appeared on the SeaCoastOnline website, announcing that the University of New Hampshire had just hired Nadine Petty as the new “chief diversity officer and associate vice president for community, equity and diversity” at that school. As to why that news is important to the University of Iowa community, that’s because Ms. Petty has been the executive director of the Center for Diversity and Enrichment at the University of Iowa for the past five years. Meaning, among other things, that UI has now lost the fifth individual over that same five-year span who was in a critical position to advocate for and implement diversity efforts at Iowa.
Following the stunning, bizarre and costly resignation of TaJuan Wilson last August, after only six weeks on the job as the new UI Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (AVP-DEI), the illegitimate president of the school, J. Bruce Harreld, announced that the AVP-DEI role would be left vacant for the foreseeable future. Adding irony to the new insult of Petty’s departure, Harreld reversed himself in March, at which point Petty was named co-chair of the search committee to fill that vacant post, only now she is leaving herself — long before that search process concludes. (In the staid world of administrative transitions, Petty’s departure from UI on August 3rd, and her start date at UNH on August 10th, can only be described as lightning-quick.)
There is a lot we could say about Petty’s departure, but I think the best course is to let Petty speak for herself. From the Daily Iowan’s Caleb McCullough and Katie Ann McCarver, this past Saturday: UI Center for Diversity and Enrichment Executive Director to depart for University of New Hampshire.
In regard to the UI’s progress on its diversity, equity, and inclusion goals, Petty said she has seen more movement in the last year than in the five years she worked on campus. Provost Fuentes recognizes the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion, she added, so she believes it will continue to be embedded in university culture.
“It has moved very quickly,” she said. “And I anticipate that will be the case moving forward … I do not anticipate it stopping or slowing. I anticipate more initiatives and I anticipate increased support for the DEI initiative across campus.”
As regular readers know, not only is the five-year time frame that Petty mentions relevant to her own tenure, but to Harreld’s as well. And in that context it’s not surprising that Petty refrains from mentioning Harreld at all, while specifically praising Provost Fuentes. (Harreld’s name does not appear once in the DI article by McCullough and McCarver.)
As it turns out, Petty was hired less than six months before a small cabal of crony co-conspirators rigged the presidential search and appointment process and imposed Harreld on the UI campus. Since late 2015 — meaning for the vast majority of the past five years — J. Bruce Harreld has been in charge at UI, yet the only substantive changes in diversity, equity and inclusion during the first four years of his tenure involved critical departures from the school, while Harreld was notably busy demoting DEI from his cabinet and kicking that position out of his office entirely. Only following the hire of Provost Montserrat Fuentes a year ago — to replace the interim provost that Harreld had hand-picked and kept in that position for two years — did Petty perceive that any gains were being made on the diversity front.
The argument could easily be made that illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld not only does not care about diversity, but that he sees it as an impediment to his own effectiveness. And we don’t even have to martial a complicated proof full of damning quotes — like Harreld’s recent claim that “behavior” is more important than “representation” — to make that case. Instead, let’s just look at eight UI faces that have dealt with various diversity and discrimination concerns over the past five years.
First, here are the faces of UI Athletic Director Gary Barta (who once famously discriminated against two women in his department, yet received no punishment despite costing the university $6.5M), J. Bruce Harreld and UI Head Football Coach Kirk Ferentz, who just found himself in hot water over racially divisive rhetoric and treatment in his program. Do you notice any similarity in the faces of those three men, all of whom routinely vouch for each other’s integrity and credibility?
Now here are the faces of the five people who were directly involved in leading diversity efforts at the University of Iowa, but who left over the past five years. In the back row we have former Chief Diversity Officer Georgina Dodge, former interim Chief Diversity Officer Lena Hill, and former VP for Student Life Melissa Shivers, who was asked to function as interim Chief Diversity Officer while doing her regular job. In the front row we have former AVP-DEI TaJuan Wilson, who resigned after six weeks, and Nadine Petty, who will be gone in six weeks.
Do you notice any similarity between those five faces? How about any difference between those five faces and the three faces grouped above?
The reason I ask is because while those three UI faces keep getting in trouble — and in at least one instance, were found guilty of discrimination in a court of law — they not only still have jobs, they keep getting and giving each other new contracts and pay raises. On the other hand, the five UI faces grouped together had no apparent strikes against them, yet over five years each of those individuals left in turn, despite playing a critical role in fostering diversity at the University of Iowa. Which is to say that for some inexplicable reason all of the people who are trying to do the right thing at UI keep leaving, while all of the people who are doing the wrong thing — to say nothing about lying their asses off — get to stay and make each other rich. And I just can’t figure out why that might be.
06/21/20 — Despite the recent password protection of a town hall video from the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (see previous entry), we have reporting on the contents of that video from the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, who is the best higher-ed reporter in the state: If students don’t return, Iowa universities face more severe budget cuts, leaders say.
There is a lot to unpack in this article, but when I previously heard it myself the following passage struck me as particularly tone-deaf and exploitative:
One UI faculty member who identified herself as a woman of color said she recently was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition that makes her more vulnerable. She expressed “tremendous anxiety” about re-entering classrooms, said her experience with Zoom teaching was “very positive,” and is interested in teaching online permanently.
Answering her question about how to approach that, Goddard urged the woman start with “mental health counseling to kind of deal with some of the anxiety and understand that.”
“I’d also encourage you to think about trying to manage that because — as an underrepresented minority, a woman of color — you have a tremendous impact to students if you can overcome some of that anxiety and fear,” he said.
In the larger context of the ‘great whitening’ that is happening at the University of Iowa under illegitimate president J. Bruce Harreld, it is perhaps not surprising that a white dean might seek to exploit a person of color for branding purposes. Still, listening to anyone in a position of power not only dismiss valid concerns about what could amount to a death sentence, but imply that anyone who is concerned about dying from the pandemic needs to be seek “mental health counseling” is a scandalously bad look. (So obviously we should expect Goddard to get a raise and contract extension from Harreld in the near future.)
* As for the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic at CLAS, we have that from Josie Fischels at the Daily Iowan: 15 faculty members laid off within College of Liberal Arts and Sciences amid budget cuts.
* Note also this observation on Twitter, by former DI Editor in Chief Marissa Payne:
Also revealing is the dean saying he doesn’t see why people, especially nonresidents, would pay tuition to attend a bunch of online classes, hence offering in-person semester. But UI wouldn’t partially refund spring tuition, maintaining education quality was the same online.
It is a sobering reality, but college students are routinely lied to and exploited by people with advanced degrees. In fact, the case could easily be made that graduate school — like prison — is where one goes to become a more sophisticated liar.
* Among a spate of reports over the past few days about positive coronavirus cases in college football programs, there were two notable stories:
> Jordan Cohn at WGR550 Sports Radio: 25 of 28 Positive Coronavirus Tests at Clemson University Associated With Football Program.
> Tim Fitzgerald at 247Sports: K-State suspends football activities as COVID-19 concerns grow.
* As for the situation in Iowa, both Johnson County (home to the University of Iowa) and Story County (home to Iowa State) have seen increased cases lately, following long periods of minimal new COVID-19 infections. Whether these increases specifically relate to those campus communities is not clear, but both schools began voluntary college football practices on June 8th.
> From the Press-Citizen’s Hillary Ojeda: Johnson County sees uptick in COVID-19 cases, more positive tests among ‘younger individuals’.
> From David Mullen at the Ames Tribune: Health officials reported nearly 40 new cases in Story County over 24-hour span.
* Updating the saga at the Iowa football program:
> From Steve Batterson at the Quad City Times: Barta: Action eases potential recruiting issues.
> From Phil Mushnick at the New York Post: College football coach’s $1.1 million buyout epitomizes ridiculous trend.
* From Valeries Strauss at the WaPo: It looks like the beginning of the end of America’s obsession with student standardized tests.
* Finally, a harrowing look at the disastrous knock-on effects of the coronavirus pandemic, from Jan Hoffman and Ruth Maclean at the NYT: Slowing the Coronavirus Is Speeding the Spread of Other Diseases.
06/19/20 — Two days ago the University of Iowa announced its overall plan for the fall semester. As originally scheduled, and allowing for various exceptions, in-class instruction will begin on August 24th and continue up to the Thanksgiving break. After Thanksgiving, the final three weeks of the term will involve online classes and finals, thus significantly decreasing the possibility that members of the UI community will pick up the coronavirus on break and bring it back to UI/Iowa City/Johnson County. (Unlike Iowa State and the University of Northern Iowa, UI is not altering the start date or length of the semester.)
While that all sounds sensible, and might even be sensible if the university were not run by a money-grubbing corporate executive, there are some very large and reckless bets being made here. First, were the Iowa Board of Regents and University of Iowa serious about mitigating the health threats posed by the coronavirus pandemic, they would simply conduct all classes online during the fall term, instead of pretending that the pre-Thanksgiving portion of the schedule provides some sort of immunity. (Put another way, if coming to campus after Thanksgiving poses an increased risk of triggering an outbreak, then having everyone return to campus in August also poses an increased risk of triggering an outbreak.)
Second, even if the money-grubbing administrators at the board and UI insist on opening the campus in the fall, there should be an ongoing, parallel planning process which will facilitate the shift to robust and improved online-only courses if the pandemic once again intensifies. That is in fact the bare minimum of competence we should expect, but predictably Harreld and the board are falling woefully short. (UI and the board are betting that if there is a significant increase in COVID-19 cases next term, that will coincide with the start of ‘cold and flu season’. And yet right now, today, states like Arizona, Florida, Texas and Alabama are all showing sharp increases in cases that cannot be accounted for by increased testing, which objectively disproves the validity of a seasonal approach.)
At the state level, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds — who willingly sacrificed the lives of Iowans to facilitate meatpacking production — announced yesterday that Iowa is now in the “recovery phase” of the pandemic. That means she does not expect, and certainly doesn’t want to hear, that the pandemic will get worse again, and that means the corrupt Board of Regents and corrupt administrators at UI will do everything possible to avoid contradicting her deluded edict. Whenever things do get bad again — and they will, and the regents and university presidents are granting as much in adjusting their semesters — everyone will still be incentivized to deny reality.
* Speaking of the pandemic, I had intended to talk a bit today about an interesting ninety-minute video that was posted to YouTube in early June. The occasion of that video was a ‘town hall’ between leaders and members of the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS), and the subject concerned the steps that will be taken during the fall term to limit the possibility that students, staff and faculty will end up sick, hospitalized or dead. Ironically, as it turns out, one of the things I intended to say about that video was that despite the corporatization of the university — which was brought on by the illegitimate appointment of former private-sector senior business executive J. Bruce Harreld as president — it was reassuring that a state-run school was still willing to hold such information sessions in public, thus allowing taxpayers to follow the critical decision making process at this difficult time.
Unfortunately, because the University of Iowa is a de facto private corporation, and there is nothing Harreld values more than secrecy, that video now requires a login. Still, because I was able to watch the video twice — which included over 400 participants, and was visually comprised of a wall of Zoom faces listening to CLAS Dean Steve Goddard answer questions with varying degrees of candor — I can report the following details from my notes.
> At the 23:25 mark the average age of the CLAS faculty was mentioned, and if memory serves it was fifty or a little higher. While that is still outside the age at which COVID-19 deaths sharply increase, there is no end to reports about negative outcomes experienced by individuals in their 20’s and 30’s. So it stands to reason that even if people in their 50’s are not likely to die, they will be at substantial increased risk for both near-term and long-lasting insults to their health, if not also their bank accounts. (And of course if 50 is the average, there will be plenty of faculty who are considerably older.)
> At the 28:50 mark there was a funny sequence where Dean Goddard first argued against online courses, then slowly worked himself around to advocating in favor of online courses. In retrospect, this foreshadowed the announcement by UI that in-class instruction will be held until Thanksgiving, then the term will be completed using virtual classes and finals. (It really was funny, and I’m sorry UI decided that its publicly funded deliberations are protected from the public.)
> Around the 1:00:00 mark it was noted that CLAS expects to take anywhere from a 10% to 15% enrollment hit this year. With an enrollment around 16,000, that would mean CLAS would see a decrease between 1,600 and 2,400 students — significantly more than previously predicted by the lying UI president.
> At the 1:03:20 mark it was noted that revenue at CLAS will probably decline 10%, which the college itself will largely have to compensate for under the new-ish budgeting model that was implemented over the past two years. Not surprisingly, CLAS is already pushing through layoffs and other proposed cuts.
> At the 1:17:00 mark Goddard spent a long time explaining why the university couldn’t use any of the $1B it borrowed from a French energy consortium in early March, and by and large his explanation was bureaucratic crap. What Goddard put forward as a statutory restriction on that money was in fact a voluntary contractual limitation approved by the Iowa Board of Regents, which that body could repeal at any time. (As regular readers know, that money won’t be touched not because it is for the benefit of future generations, but because it’s a leveraged loan that must generate sufficient returns in the market to make payments on that debt.)
When Goddard was hired I had the impression he was in over his head, and had been chosen precisely because he would be a compliant toad. Another big strike against him is that he seems to compensate for a lack of gravitas by smiling all the time, but to be fair no one could have been prepared for a global pandemic. What remains to be seen is whether he is a serious academic at heart, and will protect CLAS, or whether he really was appointed precisely because Harreld expects him to fragment that college. (Don’t ever trust bureaucrats who smile a lot. Not only are they working you, they think you’re stupid.)
* A strong staff editorial from the Gazette: This is not a new problem for the University of Iowa.
* From Rob Howe at Hawkeye Nation: Researching the Kansas City Law Firm Investigating Iowa Football.
* From Jeff Johnson at the Gazette: Chris Doyle’s exit lands fairly quietly among former Iowa players on social media.
* From Todd Richmond at the AP, more on the zany attempt to hire a new president for the University of Wisconsin System: Regent leader selects Tommy Thompson as interim UW president. I don’t know whether the UW board is determined to rig the outcome, or whether no one with any academic heft has expressed interest in the job, but this shouldn’t be that hard. (The anti-education Republican Party in Wisconsin has done tremendous damage to UW over the past decade, and even with a sitting Democratic governor the Republican appointees on that board seem determined to do even more damage.)
* From Nicole Gaudiano and Dan Goldberg at Politico, on the difficulty of opening up K-12: ‘It’s just way too much to take on’: School systems struggle with the politics of reopening.
06/17/20 — With the local and national press having preserved the reputations of University of Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta and Head Football Coach Kirk Ferentz, reporters are now moving on to critically important cultural questions — like, whether Kirk Ferentz’s son, Brian, who is also on the coaching staff, can still blithely take over the team in monarchic fashion. Just because the entertainment industry commonly known as sports is devoid of ethics and integrity, however, we don’t have to play along and condone that sort of thing. Instead, let’s take a quick survey of what actually happened.
After allegations of racial insensitivity and discrimination were made against the UI football program, Gary Barta vouched for the integrity of Kirk Ferentz, and Ferentz returned the favor by vouching for the integrity of Barta. At that point they both agreed that the right thing to do was to give strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle $1.1M in state funds to go away, without asking him to first acknowledge that he did anything wrong in order to receive that cash. Proving that Ferentz and Barta were willing to go the extra mile, however, they also agreed that complaints against the football program could be investigated by an outside counsel — which the university and many journalists erroneously refer to as an ‘independent’ counsel, because that makes it sound more legitimate — which the university would select, pay for, and instruct as to the findings it wanted to receive. (The outside counsel will report to the University of Iowa’s General Counsel, and to the illegitimate UI president, who, in less than five years, has already given Barta two contract extensions and pay increases, one of which he bestowed after Barta cost UI $6.5M as a result of two gender discrimination lawsuits in 2017.)
Were we concerned about asbestos or cancer from cigarettes, we certainly wouldn’t allow a private company to conduct such a self-serving investigation, yet when it comes to discrimination in an athletic program at a state-funded school, the ludicrous presumption by the sporting press is that everyone involved is honorable. As just noted, we have seen the UI Athletic Department prey on its own employees, and close ranks to attempt to destroy them in actual court, in only the past few years. And of course after losing one of those cases and settling both, the illegitimate UI president promised a campuswide employment practices review, which he then slow-walked and ultimately voided in order to use the funds that had been set aside for something else.
Like that recently aborted administrative oversight process, the University of Iowa will now provide a small window in which individuals who feel they were wronged will be obligated to out themselves >to< the school's hired-gun law firm, which is obviously problematic for student-athletes still on the team. (Here's how that implicit bureaucratic menace panned out for UI in the prior review process.) Nothing ensures a clean bill of health like the threat of reprisals, and given that we all just watched Barta and Ferentz skate on discrimination in their own premier program — again, with an able assist from the Iowa press — what student-athlete in their right mind is going to speak up, when it might cost them playing time?
To put all of this in historical context, it is also worth remembering how the same principals conducted themselves when thirteen Hawkeye football players ended up in the hospital in 2011, after punishing workouts caused severe rhabdomyolysis:
“How much did Ferentz care about those 13 guys?
Not enough to return to Iowa City and see them.”
While Barta and Ferentz both went into immediate hiding, and denied any knowledge of what happened, when it came time to destroy former UI Assistant Athletic Director Jane Meyer in court, they suddenly both had the most incredible memory for detail:
Ferentz described an instance during fundraising efforts for the $55 million complex that opened two years ago, when he asked Meyer for a drawing of what he was envisioning to show potential donors. He wanted something akin to the Oklahoma facility he had toured, which touted the Sooners’ football accomplishments with banners on the walls.
What he received was so unsatisfactory to Ferentz that he felt he couldn’t even use it.
“It was a memorable moment. I think we missed the mark on this whole thing,” Ferentz said of the architectural rendering. “It’s very generic on the walls and not really what we were trying to get. … It wouldn’t resonate (with donors).”
Ferentz said his disenchantment increased during construction as he was told they couldn’t add a nutrition station to the weight room, and issues arose with the sauna and the landscaping. He said he was told Meyer was the roadblock.
Ferentz said he was ultimately happy with the way the building turned out and that he never spoke with Meyer directly about his concerns.
Flash forward to the current debacle, and the same Kirk Ferentz who was traumatized by an “architectural rendering” once again has complete amnesia about any racial discrimination or harassment that may have occurred in his program, even though the coach he just cut loose was with him for twenty years — and was the same coach who also put thirteen football players in the hospital.
* From the Gazette’s Erin Jordan: University of Iowa to pay up to $675 an hour for athletics investigation. (I am confident these are the best ass-covering lawyers money can buy.)
* Ui student-athletes began practicing on campus on Monday, June 8th. Now ten days later, confirmed COVID-19 cases in Johnson County are showing the first small uptick in a month:
While that would be concerning in its own right, I have seen no reports of coordination between UI officials and elected officials in Iowa City or Johnson County, and that strikes me as potentially disastrous heading into the fall term in August.
* From the Press-Citizen’s Aimee Breaux: Faculty positions, pay on the chopping block as the University of Iowa braces for bleak fiscal year.
* From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: University of Iowa Children’s Hospital again ranked nationally, but loses some ground. Both UIHC overall and the children’s hospital in particular are capable of exemplary care, but the exodus and dilution of talent at the UI College of Medicine is hurting both institutions. That’s on J. Bruce Harreld and J. Brooks Jackson, and they need to pick up the slack.
* From Michelle Fox at CNBC: From dorm living to classes, here’s how college will be different this fall.
06/15/20 — Continuing the theme from Friday (see entry below), there was more high drama today from the UI Athletic Department, which Iowa’s local sports reporters once again fell for like a legion of saps. I would even go so far as to say that today was the kind of revealing historical moment that deserves a closer look, and yet — even with very real concerns about racial discrimination in play — we are still only talking about a college football program run by lunkheads. To that end, what follows is a short recitation of the day’s events.
After announcing over the weekend that AD Gary Barta would hold a press conference this afternoon, news broke this morning that the Athletic Department had reached a settlement with now-former strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle. In exchange for Doyle leaving the program — and, presumably, keeping his mouth shut about AD Gary Barta and UI Head Football Coach Kirk Ferentz — Doyle gets $1.1M in cash, healthcare coverage for his family for a year and a half, and he doesn’t have to admit any wrongdoing. Hopefully, this will now serve as a powerful lesson about crony corruption for the student-athletes who lodged complaints about Doyle’s behavior over the years. (You can read a copy of the separation agreement here.)
With that loose end tied off, Barta bravely met the press for about fifty minutes early this afternoon, and all I can tell you is that the response from the reporters was an abject disgrace. The more Barta expressed contrition and sobbed and blubbered, the more the press characterized him as heroic. In fact, between Ferentz and Barta I reckon no two men in history ever made more money crying during a four-day span. The most pathetic aspect of all, however, was that everyone attributed their tears to real remorse about the abuses they were either ignorant of or complicit in, instead of allowing for the slightest possibility that both men were genuinely traumatized about the possibility that they could have lost their cushy jobs. (If you want to read a more enthusiastic play-by-play as the press conference unfolded, you can find a particularly ragey Twitter thread here, and additional scorn here.)
The upshot — and here I think we can say the punishment indeed fits the crime — is that the same old white men who were in charge when the alleged abuses took place will still be in charge going forward. The only thing that has really changes is that the Iowa’s very white sporting press now thinks of those men as genuinely heroic figures, instead of as derelict or liars. (I don’t know if Barta just hands out bags of money or what, but if ten or twenty years some of these guys are going to look back on this moment in utter shame.) Even better, the so-called independent review that is about to commence will only last a matter of weeks, and will then be sent to illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld, who is also corrupt.
* From the Daily Iowan’s Robert Read: Iowa Athletics Department reports two more positive COVID-19 tests.
* On Wednesday the University of Iowa’s crack team of coronavirus-prevention planners will release their “policies and recommendations” for getting as many students back on campus as possible, in order to charge them max money. Given that no institution on the face of the earth has solved that problem, we should brace for a lot of euphemisms and dubious metrics of success.
* From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: Iowa’s public universities take $8 million hit from Iowa Legislature. Even after paying close attention to the state budgeting process for five years, I have no idea why the Iowa Legislature — meaning, specifically, the majority Republicans — subjected the regents to this punitive hit in the final hours of the session. The state has a lot of money in reserve funds, the board is already taking it on the chin from the pandemic, yet the legislature decided that a comradely kick in the groin was appropriate. (That the cuts are being left to the board itself does suggest some complicity, however, so perhaps this is the first salvo in what will be a barrage of targeted and predatory personnel and program cuts.)
* Also from the Gazette’s Miller: University of Iowa hospitals now running antibody coronavirus tests. From the report this looks like fully-validated and extremely reliable testing, as opposed to the coin-flip crap the FDA flooded the streets with because it wanted to look like it was doing something. Particularly in a hospital setting, the ability to identify people who presumably have at least some sort-term immunity would be a boon to patient care.
06/12/20 — Well that was exciting. After a week or two of uncertainty about the Iowa football program, the Athletic Director’s office and head coach Kirk Ferentz put forward an absurd narrative that local sports reporters went for hook, line and sinker. For the time being, at least, we will all collectively assume that Kirk Ferentz was completely oblivious to and apart from any racial discrimination that occurred on his watch over the past twenty years. In fact, he is being applauded for admitting that he was clueless, even though that in itself is a provable lie. Because exposing that lie would screw up the grift for everyone involved, however, the press will continue adding to the myth of a man who makes his money slamming the bodies of young men into each other, for the enjoyment of fans across the state.
* From David Mullen at the Ames Tribune: Iowa State University acknowledges 10 student-athletes have coronavirus.
* Speaking of willfully exposing young people to COVID-19, you should not only read this story, but take a good look at the damage that this disease did to the lungs of a woman in her 20’s, who had no underlying health issues. From Christine Herman at NPR: 1st-Known U.S. Lung Transplant For COVID-19 Patient Performed In Chicago.
* From David Li at NBC: Playing in a pandemic: Iowa’s restarting high school baseball and softball, knowing risks.
* An interesting op-ed from a Yale student on the Inside Higher Ed website: A Pyrrhic Victory? A Yale University student voices her concerns about reopening campuses in the fall.
* From Paul Brennan at Little Village: University of Iowa won’t change its fall schedule, will explain COVID-19 mitigation plans next week.
* From the Gazette’s Trish Mehaffey: Former head of Hillel House sentenced to 25 years for molesting 9-year-old boy.
* Over the past week or so in Iowa, the steady decline in new coronavirus cases has plateaued, which is not surprising given that the state is essentially open for business with no restrictions. Whether will we now see an increase in cases — and consequent hospitalizations and deaths — remains to be seen, but this story from the AP’s Ryan Foley seems ominous: Iowa buying 500 ventilators as second wave of coronavirus looms. (The best possible slant I can put on this story is that it’s just another scam in Iowa state government, and that money is being thrown at a Republican crony for devices that no one expects to deploy.)
* There were a number of stories about UIHC over the past day or two, the first two of which seem vaguely at odds:
> From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: University of Iowa hospitals issue urgent call for blood donations.
> From the Daily Iowan’s Natalie Dunlap: DeGowin Blood Center adapts to COVID-19 while running satellite drives.
> From KCRG-TV: UIHC nurses union rejects pay cut, freeze on raises in response to COVID-19.
* From Abigail Hess at CNBC: How student debt became a $1.6 trillion crisis.
06/11/20 — There were a lot of little stories yesterday, but the big news was the Iowa State Fair Board finally and belatedly deciding to cancel the fair for this year. Because corruption in Iowa state government is pervasive, the board couldn’t even come to that decision in compliance with Iowa’s Open Meeting Law, and instead rigged the decision-making process to shield everyone involved, including Iowa’s gutless governor. (As noted by Laura Belin at Bleeding Heartland, the Lt. Governor — who was to appear in the governor’s place — also bailed on that meeting.)
As previously noted, the state fair would have ended on the same weekend that Iowa’s three state universities were scheduled to welcome students, faculty and staff back to their campuses — effectively kicking off concurrent, four-month ‘state fairs’ at Iowa, Iowa State and Northern Iowa. As also previously noted, the decision to push ahead with on-campus instruction was made over a month ago, whiles the state fair board eventually came to the exact opposite conclusion. So the state fair is off but the state universities are on, and there is no one of the face of the earth who could square those two administrative decisions in the context of the coronavirus pandemic.
As if that scheduling irony wasn’t enough, however, on the same day that the fair was cancelled both Iowa State and Northern Iowa announced they would be moving their fall semesters ahead one week so as to end the fall term at the Thanksgiving break. That will preclude students traveling home or elsewhere during the holiday, then returning to campus with whatever communicable diseases they picked up while they were gone. But…that also means those two schools will now kick off right when the state fair would have been in full swing, which again makes no sense at all. (Notably, ISU President Wendy Wintersteen — who is also a member of the Iowa State Fair board by virtue of appointment to her office — also seems to have skipped yesterday’s meeting. Then again, given the incoherence of the decision to cancel the fair will opening Iowa State at the exact same time, I can understand why a purported academic might just want to hide.)
As for the University of Iowa, it is breaking with ISU and UNI and will begin classes on August 24th, as currently scheduled. That in turn means the campus will emptied for Thanksgiving and fill up again for another two or three weeks heading into December — which will also be deeper into ‘cold and flu season’. And no: I do not have the slightest idea why two of the state schools are doing one thing and the other school another, but it probably has something to do with greed. (There could be legitimate complications with the medical campus at UI, and UIHC, but so far we’ve heard nothing from any of the six-figure administrators at Iowa.)
As to how the universities plan to keep everyone safe from COVID-19, after requiring them to return to a relatively small campus and mill about, the intent seems to be to issue various administrative directives, then blame the students when those idealized instructions inevitably fail. From the Des Moines Register’s Charles Flesher: Fall semester starting early at Iowa State, UNI; students will be expected to wear face masks in classes.
Although Iowa State and UNI both say they expect students to wear face masks when social distancing is not possible, neither school said it would require face coverings to enter classrooms.
“We’re going to ask students to hold each other accountable,” said John Lawrence, chairman of the Iowa State committee that developed recommendations for the return to classes.
So there you go. As long as the students comply with the university’s vague guidelines, everyone will be safe. And of course if there is an outbreak, we will know the students let everyone down.
* While the Iowa Legislature is focused on corrupting democracy and making voting as difficult as possible in November, it is also dealing with the tedious chore of finalizing a budget — and that includes determining appropriations for the state universities. From the Gazette’s James Q. Lynch: Iowa legislators laying groundwork on $7.85 billion general fund budget.
Last fall, the regents asked lawmakers to increase their campuses’ general fund appropriations by $18 million — giving a $7 million bump to the University of Iowa and Iowa State University and a $4 million increase to University of Northern Iowa.
Gov. Kim Reynolds’ budget proposal in January recommended 3 percent more general education support for UI, ISU, and UNI — amounting to $6.7 million more for UI, $5.3 million more for ISU, and $3 million more for UNI, or less than what they asked.
On Tuesday, the House Republican budget plan called for state funding hikes at Iowa special schools in Vinton and Council Bluffs but kept the regents’ overall appropriations flat for fiscal 2021.
“During these challenging economic times, we appreciate the House proposing to fund the regent universities at current levels for FY21, with an increase for the special schools,” said regents’ spokesman Josh Lehman. “We will continue to work with the Legislature and governor’s office as the budget process moves forward.”
If the regents can get through FY2021 without having money taken off the table — including clawbacks, which could be triggered by plummeting state revenues — that will be a good sign. It won’t prevent the board from screwing the students down the line, or using the pandemic to justify opportunistic budget cuts and firings, but it’s better than the alternative.
* On the actual pandemic front, the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics are increasing efforts to interdict the virus, as opposed to relying on mitigation efforts which are now being repealed with abandon by the governor. From the Gazette’s Miller: University of Iowa to test all inpatients for coronavirus.
* There is a lot of info about the financial health of the University of Iowa in this Bond Buyer article by Yvette Shields: Ratings hold steady as Big Ten trio test bond market.
* Yesterday the University of Iowa was encouraged, by the provost, to engage in a work stoppage related to protests over the police murder of George Floyd. From the Daily Iowan’s Mary Hartel: College of Liberal Arts and Science Classes canceled on June 10 in observation of #ShutDownAcademia.
Ten months ago, the University of Iowa freaked out and demanded that employees refrain from endorsing or even promoting the local visit of Greta Thunberg, who would go on to be named Time’s Person of the Year. That the illegitimate president of UI, J. Bruce Harreld, was at the same time soliciting a $1.17B loan from a French energy consortium is apparently a coincidence.
* Now that the University of Iowa Athletic Department has reverted to the administrative black hole it has always been under Gary Barta — meaning we once again have no real visibility to whatever is happening — I found this Sports Illustrated article by Matthew Stevens interesting: After Expressing Previous Concerns, ‘About 40’ Illini Players Report For First Voluntary Workouts.
We have no similar reporting on the Iowa football team because everyone is weeping over what might happen to poor Kirk Ferentz — but one can still extrapolate.
* From Norman Lebrecht at Slipped Disc, a reminder that the pandemic is indeed still with us: A full assessment of the Covid risk of playing wind instruments.
06/09/20 — There is so much going on these days that I think it is important to step back and look at the big picture from time to time, to avoid being overwhelmed in the moment. Details and specifics are important, but without context we can’t really know what is happening and how things are trending. Even small acts of violence are to be condemned, but it is also important to notice what is not happening, because things could also be much worse.
At the federal level, Donald Trump’s fascist photo-op in Lafayette Park just over a week ago clearly backfired, and he is now in political freefall. While there were any number of former Republicans who were already antagonistic to his presidency, and most mainstream Republicans were already sitting on their hands and withholding support from Trump personally, we have seen a major public break from Trump over the past week from people like Mitt Romney, Colin Powell, and a slew of former military leaders who rejected Trump’s attempt to militarize the policing of Americans. To be explicit: the President of the United States did just try to turn the American military against the American people, but the signal from the military itself — as communicated by former officers who are free to speak out — was a sharp public rebuke to Trump.
On the coronavirus front, the federal government is pulling back from the pandemic and pivoting to other issues which seem more politically advantageous. This is also happening at a time when the general trend seems relatively good — at least compared to how awful it has been — but we still don’t know why things are getting better in some places while they are getting markedly worse in others. (Arizona in particular seems to be rapidly heading in the wrong direction.) It may be that there is a seasonal component to COVID-19, as there is with influenza and other ‘cold’ viruses, so things will generally trend better before worsening again. Because of the mass protests, however, we also don’t know if that will lead to an increase in cases in the coming weeks, but those protests do give elected officials a plausible excuse for any subsequent spikes or outbreaks. Couple all that with the manipulation and obfuscation of coronavirus stats in almost every state, and I don’t think we will be able to come to any firm conclusions about the progression of the disease for another six months — even as the disease itself remains a threat the entire time.
At the local level the convergence of the pandemic, the protests, complaints about the UI football program, and the intent of the Iowa Board of Regents to open the three state campuses in the fall, has produced its own kind of fog. After threatening to start a “war” a local protest leader found himself arrested on prior charges and shipped to another county jail, at which point the protesters suddenly stopped vandalizing Iowa City. Following a series of social media posts about racial bias in the UI football program, the head coach gave an interview which promised a lot of hand wringing and administrative paper-shuffling, and forty-eight hours later the conversation is now about whether the head coach himself is the victim in all of this. Add in the fact that the university just started ‘voluntary’ football workouts yesterday, and intends to hold on-campus classes beginning on August 23rd, and the pandemic is clearly only seen as an impediment to revenue generation, not as an existential threat to the lives of the people who study, work and compete at UI.
(It was reported yesterday, in the vaguest possible terms, that Iowa’s athletic department received its first positive COVID-19 test after testing returning players, coaches and staff. In reality that’s a good sign because it shows screening can be effective, but testing isn’t a foolproof solution to the problem unless it is aggressive. What everyone should be concerned about is not someone returning to campus with coronavirus, but an outbreak occurring in and escaping from a Hawkeye team. Unfortunately, not only has the university not promised to release information about future positive tests or outbreaks, but it already adopted a policy on the academic side of the campus which precludes such disclosures.)
At any other college or university, one might assume the president of the institution would step forward at a time of conflict and attempt to calm the waters, even if only out of self-interest. Because the University of Iowa does not have a real university president, however, I don’t think anyone expects illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld to do or say anything about the football program or the recent heightened vandalism during the nightly protests. In fact, we saw that only yesterday when the university pushed out a press release, ‘signed’ by Harreld, which foreshadowed the budget horrors to come while saying absolutely nothing about the protests on campus or the national furor over the football program.
I don’t know if XD/CEO Mark Braun and the crony leadership at the Iowa Board of Regents are popping corks over the pandemic, but nothing will accelerate the conversion of public higher education in Iowa into a profit-maximizing enterprise like the ‘tough choices’ they are about to attribute to COVID-19. And of course at UI the petty, bratty and vindictive university president now has carte blanche to settle old scores, weaken or wipe out programs and even entire departments, and otherwise satisfy his ego needs by punishing the institution he leads. I honestly don’t know what will be left when he’s through, and I don’t know what the future is for higher-ed generally, but at this moment of converging crises the exact wrong man is presiding over the University of Iowa, and from an academic and educational perspective he will prove to be the worst thing that ever happened to the school.
Not only can Harreld fire people outright, but he can now credibly threaten faculty and staff with termination if they balk at exposing themselves to COVID-19 this fall. From attrition alone, particularly among tenured faculty who might prefer to retire instead of risk their lives in class, the university will probably never be the same, and that’s before we get to the gutting of the arts, which require a lot of in-person instruction. (Pay close attention to the fact that Harreld’s entrepreneurial programs will all be preserved, if not expanded at the same time that faculty and academic staff in revenue-negative programs are being turned out in droves.)
06/08/20 — One of the fundamental rules of governance and political power is that leaders ultimately serve at the pleasure of the people. Even in modern-day China, which might well be characterized as a slave state for its authoritarian abuses, if the citizens decided en mass that they had enough, the regime led by Xi Jinping would fall. (Not without a great deal of bloodshed, of course, but it would fall.)
I mention this because down through history there is no end to the number of leaders who confused crony control of institutions with everything from personal privilege to divine right. And that’s true at all levels of politics, from national to regional to local. If you forget about — or take for granted, or abuse — the people you ostensibly serve, then one day they may come to your door with pitchforks and torches.
Between the pandemic and protests there is a lot going on right now, but even as a derivative effect it’s worth noting that the relatively meaningless athletic empire that Kirk Ferentz has ruled over at the University of Iowa for several decades is suddenly teetering on the brink. What everyone would have said, only a week ago, was an impregnable fortress of political and cultural power, is now fighting for survival by agreeing to everything the people (including the players) want.
To be clear, I don’t expect Ferentz to quit or retire or be fired, or for Athletic Director Gary Barta to lose his job, or for much of anything to change. After Ferentz’s press conference yesterday the myth-makers in athletics are rushing to support him — if not turning him into the real victim — but the threat is indeed real. Unlike any time in the past, Ferentz is having to give up power to stay in power. (I won’t be surprised if strength and condition coach Chris Doyle is sacrificed to that cause.)
The good news is that college athletics are, in general, a proxy for our money-grubbing culture, and as such change is probably easier in that context than in many others. While every head coach would like to have total control, most of them are willing to give up a little control in the margins in order to put millions of dollars in their banks.
The bad news is that what is happening in UI athletics is symptomatic of what is wrong with the University of Iowa as a whole, and we can see that clearly in the crony hire of the old white president, who wouldn’t have been considered for the job if a small cabal of co-conspirators had not rigged the appointment process. As a result of that perversion, UI now has an illegitimate president who, only a few months ago, pooh-poohed concerns about his “overly white cabinet”, while talking up the virtues of “behavior’ over minority “representation”. (As regular readers know, Harreld also demoted the Chief Diversity Officer position to the role of Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, changed the reporting structure so the AVP-DEI no longer reports to him, hired a new AVP-DEI who only lasted six weeks, then shelved any consideration of a new hire until recently.)
Perhaps not surprisingly, Harreld has been a ghost during the ongoing political unrest, only issuing press releases, and has had nothing to say about events in the athletic department. In fact, only this morning he pushed out a press release about budgeting, while avoiding any statement about the protests on campus or problems with the football team. I don’t know what kind of backlash it would take for Harreld’s insensitive remarks and corrupt hire to finally drive him from office, but like Ferentz he’s probably reassessing his comments and looking for a way to survive. Or, alternatively, for a way to bow out without looking like the biggest coward in the history of higher education.
* Due to the fanatical desire of the Iowa Board of Regents to generate revenue from university athletics, and despite the lethal pandemic currently ravaging the globe, and the turmoil in the UI AD’s office, today was the first day of ‘voluntary’ workouts by student-athletes on the UI football team. What could go wrong?
From Homero DeLaFuente, at CNN: More universities report coronavirus cases in athletics programs.
* From Business Insider: One of the big three rating agencies sees college enrollment down as much as 20% for colleges this fall.
06/07/20 — Twenty-four hours later and the University of Iowa is still trying to regain its balance after former Iowa football players of color called out the program for racial bias. As a result of the avalanche of press coverage, the head coach has abandoned his strategy of controlling the conversation by issuing statements and videos, and will instead conduct a Zoom press conference this afternoon. At the very least, that should buy enough time for the higher-ups to figure out how to keep their jobs.
If there is a good sign for the university, it’s that the local sports reporters who cover the Hawkeyes are already following the lead of the UI Athletic Department and minimizing the scope of concern. Instead of looking at illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld and UI AD Gary Barta, or really even at head coach Kirk Ferentz, the journalists who make their own money covering Hawkeye sports are already providing a safe space in which the school can scapegoat someone, in exchange for glowing coverage about how the university listened and acted. (The relationship between sports reporters and the college teams they cover is inherently incestuous, and explains why momentous scandals like the decades-long sexual abuse at Penn St., Michigan St., Michigan and Ohio State was never outed by the reporters who covered those programs every day.)
One of the main beat reporters covering Hawkeye athletics is Chad Leistikow, who writes for Gannet’s Des Moines Register and subsidiary Hawk Central website. In putting out an extensive article yesterday, Leistikow didn’t even mention Harreld, and only mentioned Barta once in passing. At the Gazette — which competes directly with Leistikow’s outlets — veteran reporter Marc Morehouse also put out an article about the UI football program, and also failed to mention Harreld at all, while mentioning Barta once in passing. Two major beat reporters, two competing papers, yet they both reflexively advanced the interests of the University of Iowa in their reporting. (If you want to know why things never change in college sports, one very big reason is because the reporters who cover college sports have a vested interest in — if not a transactional relationship with — the people and the schools they cover.)
While I fully expect Ferentz to survive the moment, it is also important to remember that the campus is virtually empty. Whatever scolding Ferentz pretends to accept — while dictating those terms to himself through Harreld and Barta — the university is really only buying time until August, when classes are scheduled to resume and games are scheduled to be played. There will inevitably be protests when the fall term commences, the only question is how large and how loud they will be — but what happens now will have an impact on what happens then. (Which is why I think strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle is history, no matter how Harreld and Barta rig the review process.)
* Preferring the sneaky approach, as opposed to giving advance notice, yesterday the University of Northern Iowa — which is the third and smaller of Iowa’s state universities, along with Iowa and Iowa State — announced it would also begin ‘voluntary’ football workouts on Monday. This was accompanied with lots of promises about safety and compliance with NCAA guidelines and doing things the right way, and zero acknowledgement that they’re gambling with human lives in the middle of a lethal pandemic.
* Because the coronavirus pandemic is still raging in the background, the University of Iowa College of Public Health launched a modeling website which allows users to select various forms of mitigation, then see the consequent effect on the infection rate.
* If there is one serious obstacle to opening up schools in the fall — whether K-12 or higher-ed — it’s that sooner or later you have to get buy-in from the teachers, many if not most of whom are 30+ years old and thus at increased risk of serious outcomes from COVID-19. Unfortunately, from the point of view of those teachers — who suddenly had to give up their classrooms to brace for the pandemic — they are now being told to get back to work even though nothing about the pandemic has changed. They know the situation in late August will be no different than it is today, or was two months ago, and they know there are no protocols that will change that.
* Bringing the conversation full circle, last week the Des Moines Register’s Michael Bain published an excellent story about how Iowa’s governor, Kim Reynolds, gave permission to local school districts to play summer sports, even though the coronavirus continues to spread throughout the state. In doing so Reynolds is far out in front of any other state, yet Iowa took only minimal steps to mitigate COVID-19 when the pandemic hit. As a result, while the governor has kids, coaches and families out playing baseball and softball, we just passed 600 deaths in the state.
06/06/20 — Well that was quick. Less than twenty-four hours after the University of Iowa thought it had positioned itself on the side of right, against the mean-old Iowa City Police Department and the Iowa State Patrol — which used flash-bangs and tear gas against protesters a night earlier — the narrative has fundamentally changed. Indeed, only yesterday (Friday) morning,illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld and other senior administrators at UI released a statement expressing solidarity with the local protesters. (In the future, no one will know when that press release was issued because it was intentionally left undated, but for the record it was published on the Iowa Now website on the morning of 06/05/20.)
Likewise, in a carefully scripted public relations stunt later that day, the UI College of Medicine took a photo-op knee in solidarity with local and national protesters, thus literally bringing the medical campus into the picture. Yet despite all that, only a few hours later a former Hawkeye football player obliterated the facade of administrative concern at UI with a single post on Twitter. From the Daily Iowan’s Robert Read: Former Hawkeye James Daniels calls out ‘racial disparities’ within Iowa football program.
Former Iowa offensive lineman James Daniels Tweeted Friday night that there are racial disparities within the Iowa football program that must be addressed.
“There are too many racial disparities in the Iowa football program,” Daniels Tweeted. “Black players have been treated unfairly for far too long.”
As reported by Read and others, more fomer Hawkeye players of color quickly chimed in and supported Daniels’ statements. That in turn compelled a statement from UI Head Football Coach Kirk Ferentz, late on a Friday night no less, which acknowledged what the former players were saying, while simultaneously insinuating that the players were betraying some sort of code by speaking out in public. (More on that back and forth from: Michael O’Brien at KCRG; Chad Leistikow at HawkCentral/USA Today; Rob Howe at Hawkeye Nation; Adam Rittenberg at ESPN; RossWB at GoIowaAwesome.)
Needless to say, after weeks of carefully positioning the university to facilitate voluntary workouts by the football team, which are scheduled to begin in two days, and having plausibly responded to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, both the protests about systemic racism in America and this broadside by a former player have caught the university off guard. In the larger context of the national protests, and particularly the convergence of President Trump’s nationalism/racism with the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers, it is also important to note that white Hawkeye athletes took a prominent role in supporting Trump’s candidacy in Iowa in 2016. While the university took pains after the fact to characterize that support as unofficial, white athletes from several sports — including the star quarterback and members of the wrestling squad — made a point of supporting Trump not as private individuals, but as representatives of the University of Iowa. (Story here by the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller; video and reporting here from the Gazette’s Mike Hlas.)
Notably, that political event took place only three months after illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld lied his way into office. Because the corrupt nature of Harreld’s appointment was baldly apparent at the time, Harreld was himself the subject of protests on campus, which he responded to in the petty, bratty and vindictive manner that would become his trademark. From the Daily Iowan’s Tom Ackerman on 11/19/15 — only three weeks after Harreld took office: Harreld meets with graduate students.
Shortly into the meeting, a group of silent protesters filed into the back of the room, holding signs that questioned Harreld. One sign read, “Why should I trust you?”
When a protester asked Harreld to address questions written on the signs, he told her they should write more neatly next time.
Now maybe this is just me, but for some reason I don’t think the petty, bratty, vindictive president of the University of Iowa is going to shoot his mouth off at the protestors who are currently roaming Iowa City or the UI campus. But hey — if he wants to be consistent, he could certainly call out some of the tagging on the presidential mansion where he lives:
Obviously plenty to criticize there, yet so far — other than a few official statements with his name attached — we haven’t actually seen Harreld show his pugnacious face on campus, to talk to the protesters and listen and lead. Speaking of which, over the past year or two Harreld has grown fond of name-dropping and implicitly comparing himself to legendary UI President Willard ‘Sandy’ Boyd, who not only walked the walk at UI during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, but served ably for twelve years. Well, J. Bruce Harreld is getting his ‘Sandy Boyd’ moment now, yet as noted only yesterday I am confident Bro Bruce will fall far short of that challenge. I just didn’t think it would happen this fast.
Update: Real panic at UI now — so of course stand-up citizens Kirk Ferentz, Gary Barta and J. Bruce Harreld are looking for someone to scapegoat. Calling strength coach Chris Doyle!
Full report here from the Daily Iowan’s Robert Read, including lawyerly statements from Ferentz and Barta, and nothing from J. Bruce Coward: Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle placed on administrative leave.
06/05/20 — There is a long backstory here, but suffice to say that nothing scares illegitimate University of Iowa president J. Bruce Harreld more than the idea of racial unrest on the UI campus. So far — because UI students are not in Iowa City in numbers — Harreld and the university have been bit players in the protests/riots taking place around the country, but no matter what happens at the national level over the summer we can expect a serious conversation when the UI community reconvenes in the fall. And the one thing I can say with confidence about that conversation is that Harreld will screw up and make things worse.
As a gum-flapping narcissist in his own right, Harreld does not have the discipline to listen instead of talking. Sooner or later, and prompted entirely by his own ego needs, he will condescend to people of color on the UI campus, at which point he may trigger a more focused conversation about his own disinterest in diversity at UI. And even with three months to try to position himself as a friend of Iowa’s minority communities, nothing is going to erase his own track record in that regard.
* There was a bit of good news at yesterday’s virtual meeting of the Iowa Board of Regents, as reported by the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: University of Iowa hospitals boasts 99.7% coronavirus survival rate, amid financial woes.
“Our survival rates for patients who we follow from initial diagnosis of their coronavirus infection is 99.7 percent, which is among the best survival rates anywhere in the world,” UIHC Vice President for Medical Affairs Brooks Jackson told his campus’ governing Board of Regents on Thursday.
Looking closer that percentage, Jackson said, of 367 COVID-19 patients his hospital has seen from initial diagnosis — including hospitalized patients and those treated via UIHC’s at-home COVID-19 care — only one has died.
Jackson may have reported that statistic, but I would credit CEO Suresh Gunasekaran and particularly Chief Medical Officer Theresa Brennan for that success. The university really does have amazing talent, and as the only Level 1 Trauma Center in the state it also has incredible resources to bear, but leadership is also a critical factor. After a lot of screw-ups over the past decade (and longer), it seems like the medical side of the hospital is firing on all cylinders, and was able to meet the coronavirus pandemic head-on.
* From the Daily Iowan’s Eleanor Hildebrandt: Iowa State University begins exploring potential public/private partnership.
After the University of Iowa’s historic public/private partnership reached financial close in March, Iowa State University is now researching and evaluating its own opportunities for a public/private partnership.
ISU Interim Senior Vice President for Operations and Finance Pam Cain spoke about the university’s plans at a virtual state Board of Regents meeting Thursday. She said ISU’s overall goal in exploring a potential public/private partnership is to benefit the university and enhance the value of its utility system.
Staring into the abyss of a long-tern downturn in college enrollment, and now also anticipating a near-term financial shock from the coronavirus pandemic, the money junkies at the Iowa Board of Regents are doing what they do best. They are looking to take on massive amounts of debt in order to raise cash, thus pushing risk onto future generations.
To underscore the level of panic here, if not immorality, note that after the University of Iowa borrowed $1.17B in early March from a French energy consortium, the university insisted that none of that money would be spent in the present — even to deal with the pandemic — because that would rob future generations. This formulation was not only galling, but betrayed the fact that most of the money UI borrowed is actually needed to generate the payments that will be required over 50 years to pay that money back.
Having now seen how much national and international chaos can unfold in a matter of a few months, the Iowa Board of Regents is eager to increase debt and thus increase the state’s risk exposure to future events. If that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about these people and their priorities, nothing ever well.
06/04/20 — Well, it is finally Virtual Iowa Board of Regents Meeting Day, but I am not expecting any surprises. The board is plowing through its agenda at this very moment, which will include freezing tuition for the coming academic year, while at the same time giving itself the option of increasing tuition at any time — thus exploding the entirely disingenuous premise of “predictability”, which the board has used to foist tuition hikes on UI students for five years running. (The text that regent president Mike Richards will read at the end of today’s meeting is here; session audio will be available later via a link on the board website.)
After today’s meeting the board will retire for two months, then reconvene telephonically in late July — thus diligently maintaining social distancing, even as student-athletes on the regent football teams have been slamming into each other for weeks. After that perfunctory chat the board will then disappear for another two months, while the schools open up their campuses and put their football teams on the field in order to generate as much revenue as possible. Only in late September will the board finally — perhaps — meet in person, even as the students, faculty and staff will have been exposed to the risk of infection from COVID-19 for a month or more, at the direction of the board.
* Speaking of developments that are not a surprise, we have this from the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: Iowa State investigating public-private utilities partnership, like UI. Loading up the state schools with debt isn’t a good idea, so the Iowa Board of Regents will almost certainly continue to do that, thus leaving it to future generations to solve the problems they’re papering over now.
* Following up on the recent, carefully controlled media blitz by the UI Athletics Department, yesterday there was a second story about head coach Kirk Ferentz that I inadvertently overlooked, and it contains an important nugget in the context of the nationwide protests/riots over the murder of George Floyd. From the Daily Iowan’s Robert Read: Ferentz: Listening, learning crucial right now.
I guess if I were to frame it out, I guess my goal, or my hopes, as a coach, is whatever we decide to do, and if it’s pertaining to that particular thing, I would just like to see our team to be together. Everybody’s taking a knee, or everybody’s at attention. Either way. The big thing is to be together, to me, on game day and present a uniform appearance as a football team.”
There are a lot of really small people wrapping themselves in the flag right now, in order to exploit racial divisions and broker power — including expanding their own social media platforms — but here Ferentz is notably not doing that, at least publicly. He isn’t saying the team will or won’t take a knee, he’s saying the team will decide and act together.
Is that true? Well, we will obviously have to wait and see, but it is important that Ferentz hasn’t thrown the team over to the right-wing fans who make up much of the base of support for the team. It is certainly likely that Feretnz and AD Gary Barta can compel the team to do anything they want, because they control playing time for each player, but they certainly don’t want a racial schism to develop on the team, and there really aren’t ‘two sides’ to Floyd’s death. So at least a tentative kudos to Ferentz for not foreclosing on the idea that the team may have something to say in support of the nationwide protests, whether he is doing that out of genuine humanity, or simply because the alternative would be worse.
* After initially announcing that the search for a new dean at the UI Tippie College of Business would be extended, the university is now announcing that a new search will commence. While the school is blaming the coronavirus pandemic, if they had landed a prized candidate that person would already have been given the job. (One of the things that illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld promised after lying his way into the job he now holds — in part, by leaning on his Harvard MBA for cachet — was that UI would become a ‘world-class’ university. More often than not Harreld has had trouble making even basic hires.)
* An excellent write-up and timeline here from the Daily Iowan’s Caleb McCullough, on last night’s protest and fireworks: Police use tear gas and flash-bangs on protesters marching toward I-80 in Iowa City Wednesday night. (More from the Press-Citizen’s Zachary Oren Smith: Law enforcement deploys tear gas at Iowa City protesters attempting to block I-80.)
06/03/20 — After the bigwigs at the University of Iowa all issued carefully crafted statements about the protests/riots — thus covering their backsides — today we are back to the much-more important question of initiating football practice in a manner that can plausibly be portrayed as responsible behavior during a global pandemic.
From the Daily Iowan’s Robert Read: ‘Personal responsibility’ key in returning to team facilities, Kirk Ferentz says.
Along with being tested, Ferentz said players and staff will have their temperatures taken before they enter the team facility. Medical surveys will be provided daily and wrist bands will worn in the building as a sign of clearance.
Ferentz said there is currently only one entrance being used to get into Iowa’s football complex, and that players and staff will also be evaluated before they exit the building.
Now, as you may or may not know, none of these protocols or practices will detect or prevent an asymptomatic individual from passing all of these checks and spreading COVID-19 throughout whatever facility they happen to be in. But it sure sounds serious, doesn’t it? Temperature checks! Medical Surveys! Wrist bands!
They did everything they could — except cancelling sports and holding classes online, which is the only way to keep people safe. Speaking of which….
Iowa State announced Wednesday that four student-athletes in two different sports are in quarantine and awaiting COVID-19 test results. Three Oklahoma State football players have tested positive for the virus, the school announced Wednesday, and 247 Sports reported that freshmen football players have been told not to report to campus.
More on Iowa State from Sam Stuve at the Iowa State Daily: Iowa State Athletic Director gives further details on the COVID-19 cases within the athletic department.
Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard spoke on the Murph and Andy Show on the radio station 1460 KXnO Wednesday afternoon about the COVID-19 cases within the athletic department.
Pollard began the interview stating he was not surprised by this and Iowa State isn’t the only school experiencing this.
“It’s not a surprise, there will be more I’m sure and we’re not the only ones, it’s the reality of the world we live in,” Pollard said. “We’ve decided as a society that we are all not going to live in caves, but rather deal with this virus. Our department is very thorough and deliberate about our protocols; we’ve been more cautious than our peers around the country with everybody’s rush to want to come back. The processes that our staff led our Director of Sports Medicine Mark Coberley have put in place have worked.”
So there you go. Real men expose young student-athletes to COVID-19, then assert that their failed protocols “have worked”. (This is the reality of the world we live in.)
* After months of hiding in their caves, Iowa’s legislators sucked up the courage to return to Des Moines and finish the session. From Paul Brennan at Little Village: The Iowa Legislature reconvenes, will consider protecting businesses from COVID-19 lawsuits.
…another priority will be giving businesses some form of liability protection against lawsuits from people infected with COVID-19 by their actions or on their property.
“Many people are hesitant to open whether it’s their school, their church, their college, their salon and so that’s one of the priorities coming back,” Whitver told Radio Iowa on Tuesday.
Among those eager for legal protections will be the Iowa Board of Regents, and not just because more and more athletes — and staff, and coaches — will become sick. There are tens of thousands of employees on the three state campuses, many of who are older and/or have a preexisting condition. If the regents end up killing a few of those people, the last thing the board is going to want is to have to shell out a bunch of money on top of taking that public relations hit.
* From Emily Bazelon at the New York Times: What Will College Be Like in the Fall?.
* From Lauren Hirsch and Annie Nova at CNBC: California sues Education Secretary DeVos for ‘failing’ to implement student loan forgiveness program.
* From Kelly Anne Smith at Forbes: For High School Grads During COVID-19, Gap Year Takes On A Whole New Meaning.
I have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. There is a whole culture built around ‘acceptable’ gap years. In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, however, you will be paying the same amount of money for a lesser product if you attend college this year. If you are just out of high school you should think seriously about saving your money.
06/02/20 — So apparently yesterday was a full-court press of old white men from the University of Iowa Athletics Department suddenly speaking out about the murder of George Lloyd, well after the fact, because they just couldn’t stay silent any more, and not at all because they had a vested interest in doing so, and then betrayed that cynical motive by acting in coordinated fashion. Accompanying AD Barta and head basketball coach McCaffery yesterday was head football coach Kirk Ferentz, but Ferentz chose to speak to his team first because he loves them so much, and not at all because he was worried that taking sides over Floyd’s death might be taken as an affront by Iowa’s great white rural masses who live and die for college football.
From Chad Leistikow at HawkCentral: Kirk Ferentz addresses George Floyd’s death with Iowa football players: ‘Change will begin with us’.
While Iowa athletics director Gary Barta and men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery have publicly addressed their feelings regarding the death of George Floyd, the dean of college football coaches had been notably silent.
However, 22nd-year Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz has indeed privately addressed the matter with his football team and staff. In a transcript of a Zoom call obtained Monday night by the Register, Ferentz expressed he was heartbroken and angry about watching video of Floyd being starved of air and ultimately killed by a white Minneapolis police officer who knelt on his neck.
Ferentz’s voice carries weight in this state; it has for decades.
Kirk Ferentz’s voice does carry a lot of weight in Iowa, which is precisely why it is notable that he sat on his hands for a week, until the start of next Monday’s voluntary workouts loomed large on the calendar. So better late than never, perhaps, but there is no profile in courage here. Having said that, I don’t think Ferentz is a malevolent force like illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld, or AD Barta, but he is an old white guy who makes a lot of money slamming young student-athletes — many of them persons of color — into each other for the entertainment of largely white Iowa fans. Which means what Ferentz did yesterday wasn’t so much a bold move on behalf of George Floyd, but a carefully orchestrated public relations event designed to make Ferentz look good.
* From the Press-Citizen’s Aimee Breaux, an update on recent changes at American College Testing, which is based in Iowa City: In response to pandemic, ACT looks for savings in payroll, eyes at-home testing.
* Don’t know what to make of this: Alaska official only finalist for Wisconsin system president. The Wisconsin System has been devastated by cuts over the past few years, and the board is as corrupt as the Iowa Board of Regents, so I have no idea if this is a good rigged hire or a bad rigged hire. What I can say is that either the Wisconsin board really wanted someone from the academic boonies, or nobody with any cred applied for the job.
06/01/20 — Another day, another old white guy at the University of Iowa doing his darnedest to keep his cozy little administrative empire from bursting into flames. From the Daily Iowan’s Robert Read: ‘Individually, one person at a time, we can make a change’: Iowa AD Gary Barta releases statement speaking out against racism.
Along with that short statement, Barta also released a linked video, which he says was “written by our student-athletes this past spring”. But if that’s true then the people who appear in that video — including student-athletes at the University of Iowa — were not talking about the murder of George Floyd by uniformed police officers, or the ongoing aftermath. So did Barta notify the people in the video that he intended to repurpose their words to this heightened cultural moment, or did he just avail himself of the nearest diverse group of young faces that he could hide behind?
As to why Harreld and Barta pushed out these statements on successive days, that’s probably because they were in such a rush to bring the Iowa football team back to campus for ‘voluntary’ practice next Monday, only now they have to navigate a social war zone. Should be fun watching them try to pressure the student-athletes to remain docile, and not dishonor the sacred UI brand.
(For those who are unaware of recent history at UI, a few years ago Gary Barta treated two women in his employ so poorly that he lost a discrimination lawsuit in court, at which point the university settled that case and another discrimination case for $6.5M. At that point Barta’s little buddy, Bro Bruce Harreld, then stepped in to cover Barta’s ass by blaming the entire university, after which he gave Barta a new contract and pay raise. So that’s two old white men in two days who want you to think they care about diversity, equity and inclusion, who demonstrably do not.)
* Hey — when it rains it pours. Now we get a short and eagerly empathetic statement from UI head men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery — another old white guy at Iowa — who clearly cares a lot about “student-athletes of color”. Not enough to preclude him from offering scholarships to his own two sons, and running a nepotism farm team I like to call the Fighting McCaffery’s, and thus denying those scholarships to other players — but still…you can tell that Fran is in a lot of pain right now, and not just trying to prevent unrest on his team or on the UI campus.
* The Daily Iowan’s summer editor, Josie Fischels, provides more context and info on Harreld’s statement from yesterday: ‘Together we must act’: UI leaders to release update to diversity equity and inclusion plan this week.
* In other news, the University of Iowa actually did the right thing regarding the Sanxay-Gimore House, which it had threatened to demolish a few years ago to make room for yet another monument to entrepreneurialism on the UI campus. From the Press-Citizen’s Zachary Oren Smith: Iowa City to move its oldest building across the street.
* From Alexandra Witze at Nature.com: Universities will never be the same after the coronavirus crisis. (Kicks off a week-long series about science.)
* On the enrollment front, apparently other countries may not want to send their young people to America to pick up COVID-19. From Preston Cooper at Fortune: Foreign Student Enrollment At U.S. Universities May Plummet This Fall. (Factor in the riots and not only will that drive enrollment down even farther, but Americans may actually start thinking about sending their own kids abroad.)
05/31/20 — As detailed exhaustively in prior posts, one of the truly corrosive administrative accomplishments of illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld involved kicking Diversity, Equity and Inclusion out of his office and out his cabinet, and instead foisting responsibility for those concerns onto the provost’s office and the academic side of campus. In that context, let’ us consider once again the following spectacular exchange from Harreld’s Daily Iowan interview on 02/16/20 — only three and a half months ago — in which he dismisses concerns about “representation” and instead focuses on “behavior”:
DI: Going back to the VP for Student Life search specifically, there have been some questions at those forums about the candidate’s role, should they be chosen for the job, in a predominantly white President’s Cabinet. With you, of course, being the leader of that core group of administrators, how would you ensure that the next VP for Student Life feels supported in that space, and that they also serve students from all backgrounds — whether they’re one of the candidates from an underrepresented community themselves, or whatever the situation may be?
Harreld: If they’ve got an open mind, have an appropriate skill set, and have a broad set of collaborative skills, they’ll be fine. I think in a lot of this, we’re trying to find another Melissa [Shivers], and I think that is a mistake. Melissa is Melissa. She’s wonderful. But now we need to find somebody else that can actually do the job here. So, now we’re focused on how we have just an overly white cabinet. We’ll be fine. So, if this is the only position on campus in the senior leadership that will actually improve our diversity, we’re really in trouble, and I don’t buy that. Behavior is most important. Representation is important, but behaviors are by far more important.
Personally, I’m still astonished that a very old white man — who only managed to land himself in the president’s office at UI because of his crony connections to a small cabal of other old white men — would just come right out and say something like this, but okay. Perhaps Harreld’s very white and largely old superiors at the Iowa Board of Regents, and in the governor’s office, are just fine with the idea that “representation” has no real value. Now that the United States is blowing up over the murder of a black man by a white police officer, however, with protests and riots across the country, it also not particularly surprising that Bro Bruce decided to issue a statement today, along with his hostage provost, announcing the impending release of an update to the university’s DEI ‘action plan’.
Now, if you’re not familiar with the UI DEI action plan, it’s a largely meaningless document which Harreld routinely refers to in order to obscure the fact that he intentionally ejected diversity, equity and inclusion from his own office. So while he may not be concerned with hiring people of color into positions of power in his presidential cabinet — because well-behaved white people are just as good, if not better — he is once again willing to wave pieces of paper around which speak to a higher good that he himself does not believe in. In that spirit, then, and in the face of a rapidly accelerating cultural crisis, Harreld is announcing that some time later this week he will one again wave those pieces of paper around, only this time in the apparent hope that they will keep people from actively protesting. And I would assume that includes Iowa’s student-athletes, many of whom are set to return to campus one week from tomorrow.
05/30/20 — If I learned anything over the past five years or so, in the aftermath of the rigged hire of J. Bruce Harreld as illegitimate president of the University of Iowa, it is that if you really want to know what’s happening at the Iowa Board of Regents or its subsidiary universities, all you have to do is follow the money. Speaking of which, for all the wailing that the UI Athletic Department is already doing about the revenue it expects to lose to the pandemic — and it will certainly take a hit — that hasn’t dissuaded the school from spending. Which is to say that so far business as usual is business as usual.
From the Daily Iowan’s Robert Read: UI asking regents to approve new women’s soccer complex. Without making any judgment as to need, if you are plowing ahead with a $3.9M investment for a collegiate soccer team in the middle of a global health crisis, then objectively you do not have any real problems. Because if you did have real problems you would be pushing that project back and hoarding cash, and that clearly isn’t happening.
* Recently you may have heard that a number of colleges and universities are abandoning the ACT and SAT altogether. In the context of higher-ed that is interesting in itself, but on the economic side it is particularly relevant to Iowa City, Iowa, which is home to ACT. And as expected, those academic decisions are having a big impact on business at that company.
From Valerie Strauss at the WaPo: Testing giants ACT and College Board struggle amid covid-19 pandemic.
In Iowa City, ACT, Inc., chief executive Marten Roorda, who aggressively lobbied against the UC decision, is suddenly out of his job. The organization posted a news release on its website announcing Roorda’s departure without saying why he was leaving and introducing Janet Godwin, the chief operating officer who is a 30-year veteran at ACT, as interim chief executive.
ACT also announced that it was taking “a series of cost-cutting measures to enable it to continue to serve students into the future, despite the current negative business impact of covid-19.” And, it said, no one would get a raise next year while some fringe benefits would be reduced. “Further cost reductions are expected,” it said.
Given the downturn in nationwide enrollment that was already anticipated, to say nothing of the negative enrollment effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the ostensible and burdensome ranking service that ACT provided may simply be unnecessary in the higher-ed industry going forward. Whether ACT survives or goes the way of the buggy whip I don’t know, but testing is probably not a growth industry in the near term.
05/29/20 — There will be a lot of news spilling forth today because the Iowa Board of Regents finally posted the agenda for its “virtual” June 4th meeting in Iowa City, and because the Iowa Revenue Estimating Conference is meeting today in Des Moines, in anticipation of the legislature reconvening on June 3rd. In terms of long-term effects, the most important news today is contained in this document from the board’s agenda, which details the names and titles of the people who will now begin dismantling Iowa’s three independent state universities under cover of the coronavirus pandemic, and remaking them into a single system focused on revenue generation and the funding of entrepreneurial ventures with tuition and fees. In effect, the Iowa Board of Regents will be converting public education into a quasi-governmental corporation which sells degrees in order to generate more and more profit for the state — both directly, and indirectly through startups, intellectual property, sponsored programs, and other business mechanisms. And as long as the individuals named on that document continue to get paid, they won’t stop it.
* The official numbers informing today’s meeting of the Iowa Revenue Estimating Conference are here. In typical fashion, the head of the REC, Dave Roederer, was idiotically optimistic, but the numbers themselves don’t lie. (I don’t believe the losses at the tail end of FY2020 will trigger clawbacks — opportunistic or otherwise — but FY2021 is going to be tight.)
From the Des Moines Register’s Stephen Gruber-Miller: Iowa expecting $65 million year-over-year drop in revenue due to coronavirus.
From the AP’s David Pitt: Panel says virus reduced $360M from next year’s state budget.
One thing to keep in mind is that just because Iowa’s governor is pretending the worst of the pandemic is over, that doesn’t mean the worst of the pandemic is over. In fact, we have no idea about coronavirus transmission when K-12 and colleges are in full swing, because in-class education stopped in its tracks in mid-March. We are all still guessing about what happens next.
* From Kelsey Harrell and Katie Ann McCarver at the Daily Iowan: UIHC expected to take unprecedented $100 million hit this fiscal year due to COVID-19 with more losses on the horizon.
Interesting additional info in the .pdf version of the presentation that UIHC will give to the Iowa Board of Regents at next week’s meeting.
* Two days ago the following tweet appeared from the Corridor Business Journal, complete with a large photo of a photogenic woman, and a smaller and wildly out of date picture of illegitimate University of Iowa president J. Bruce Harreld:
Register now for the CBJ’s Mid-Year Economic Review. The June 24 live webinar will examine how the economy has changed in 2020 and discuss challenges facing Corridor businesses. Panelists include Bruce Harreld of @uiowa and Lura McBride of @VanMeterInc.
For those outside Eastern Iowa, the ‘corridor’ in question is actually a marketing name for the economic union of Iowa City (home to UI) and Cedar Rapids, which sits about twenty miles or so to the north. What is particularly ironic about asking Harreld to shoot his mouth off at such a gathering is that only a year or two earlier, Harreld devoted himself to destroying the reputation of a venerable Cedar Rapids company called Modern Piping. In fact, along with impugning the integrity of Modern Piping in the press, and in public testimony before the Iowa Board of Regents, Harreld blew millions of dollars trying to fight Modern Piping in court over their performance on a bungled, botched and badly managed UI construction project, and lost every case every time.
Proving that hell hath no furry like a toady scorned, Harreld finally succeeded in exacting revenge by pissing away $4M in state money to ban Modern Piping from future UI projects. So yeah — I can’t imagine a better speaker to explain to the corridor business community how to position themselves to advantage for the remainder of 2020. First, make sure you have plenty of government money to throw around….
05/28/20 — One interesting byproduct of the sociopathic disregard that Iowa’s governor has for human life, is how her bloodless attitude informs the leadership at the University of Iowa. Only recently we discussed how illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld believed that the entire pandemic might already be behind us by now — which would have allowed him to put the football team on the practice field, and launch the fall semester as if nothing had happened — even as COVID-19 shows no sign of abating, and we have no treatments or cure. Coincidentally, yet perhaps also inevitably, today’s malevolent UI administrator is none other than UI Athletic Director Gary Barta, who seems to have the same brain damage.
From the Daily Iowan’s Robert Read: Iowa AD Gary Barta not ruling out full capacity of fans in Kinnick Stadium this season.
Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta said Thursday on a video conference that he is not ruling out Hawkeye football games being played in front of a full capacity Kinnick Stadium this season.
“I’m still, and my staff are still, planning for several different scenarios.” Barta said. “And the scenarios we plan for seem to change by the hour, by the day, by the week. But as of today we are still planning to open Kinnick up and have as many fans join us as want to join us. That’s one of our scenarios and we haven’t closed that scenario down yet.
By way of review, while the university has already committed to crowding +32K students back on campus in order to generate multiple COVID-19 outbreaks in the fall, even Harreld recognizes that cramming a lot of people into a relatively small space would be asking for trouble. And he’s a dolt.
From the Daily Iowan’s Josie Fischels, on 05/12: UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences planning for large classes to be at least partially virtual.
Fall courses with an expected enrollment of 50 or more students are planned to be offered in either blended or entirely online modes. A blended course could include an online lecture paired with an in-person discussion section or lab, according to the email.
So on the academic side of campus it has already been determined that a group of 50 or more will require mitigation, but because he’s money-grubbing garbage Gary Barta is still trying to figure out how to jam 70K fans into Kinnick Stadium — because after the game most of them will head home and get sick or die somewhere else. But it gets better.
From the Gazette’s Marc Morehouse: Iowa AD Gary Barta says the goal is a full Kinnick Stadium this fall, but that path isn’t going to be easy or clear.
The two big takeaways: Barta said the UI is looking into numerous ways to mitigate the risk of contracting the virus. He also pledged transparency on what Iowa is doing to mitigate.
“Once fans know what we’re doing to mitigate, then they’ll make a choice to attend or not attend and they’ll also make a choice to protect others around them,” Barta said.
Now…let’s take a moment and marvel at the fact that the UI Athletic Director just made it optional — “a choice” — for a fan in one seat at Kinnick, or Carver-Hawkeye Arena, to “protect others around them”. As to why he may have done that, however, I can think of two reasons. First, the university doesn’t want to police disputes between people who are or are not wearing masks or face shields or coughing or vomiting all over the people in the seats around them. Second, as a general objective, the university wants to preclude any legal liability from consequent injury or death, and as such intends to make clear that if anyone gets sick or dies after attending a Hawkeye sporting event, it’s their own damn fault.
* Update 5/29/20 — Rob Howe at Hawkeye Nation posted a full transcript of Barta’s presser. There is plenty more insanity to go with the quotes above, but Barta does know what he’s doing. Whatever perspective reporters want to adopt as a frame, Barta makes sure there are plenty of handy quotes which serve the university’s revenue-generating interests.
05/26/20 — A busy ten-day run is coming up for the higher-ed news cycle in Iowa. Following the Memorial Day weekend — which came early this year — the coronavirus pandemic is effectively over from a bureaucratic point of view, both at the federal and state level, and individual citizens are now on their own. And among those individual citizens, of course, are the students, faculty and staff that make up the higher-ed communities at the University of Iowa, Iowa State and Northern Iowa.
On this Friday, Iowa’s Revenue Estimating Conference will report on its best estimate of the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on Iowa’s economy. On Monday of next week the University of Iowa will put football coaches on the field and symbolically ‘kick off’ the 2020 season, primarily as a means of helping J. Bruce Harreld save face for his failed prediction that practice would begin on June 1st. On Thursday of next week the Iowa Board of Regents will convene for a “virtual” meeting on the UI campus, and I still do not know what that means. (Will the regents be present but the meeting closed to the public? I dunno, but clearly the regents don’t feel like it’s safe to come out and play.) The very next day, Friday, the long-suspended session of the Iowa legislature will reconvene in Des Moines for what will certainly be an abrupt session as legislators also attempt to shield themselves from COVID-19, while still passing all sorts of abusive, party-line laws which provide liability protection for business and government. Finally, on Monday of the following week — meaning June 8th — the Iowa football players will be ‘allowed’ to participate in ‘voluntary’ workouts, which are of course both a test of loyalty and an opportunity for the university to use said loyal athletes as lab rats.
* Speaking of which, if you’re still under the binary illusion that people either die from COVID-19 or have a mild case, take a moment to read the following:
> A 05/14/20 NYT editorial from Mara Gay: ‘I Wish I Could Do Something for You,’ My Doctor Said.
> A 05/24/20 report from the AP’s Ryan Foley: Waterloo father, 35, recovering after nearly dying of COVID-19.
While college and university campuses teem with students in their late teens and early twenties, the majority of faculty and staff at any institution of higher learning are in their 30’s or older. Putting a large group of socially active students — who also know they are at relatively low risk of serious negative outcomes — in contact with a large group of people who could have a severe reaction to COVID-19 is insane on its face, and once again reminds us that the precipitating factor in opening up campuses for the 2020 fall term is not healthcare or even education, but revenue generation.
* On that point, even if you are a young student you should think about avoiding in-class, on-campus instruction for the 2020-2021 academic year if at all possible. (And that goes double if you are on faculty or staff, but that obviously presents significantly greater obstacles compared to students taking a year off.) In this case, however, the primary reason for doing so relates to your own financial welfare, which is precisely what college and universities don’t want you thinking about.
If you are concerned that a ‘gap year’ might look bad on your transcript, please understand that anyone who tells you that is not worth listening to about anything — and that would be true even if there wasn’t a lethal pandemic on the loose. Schools were already loosening enrollment requirements prior to the pandemic, as the pool of recruits began to shrink nationwide, and they are going to have their doors wide open for the foreseeable future.
If you enroll at a four-year college or university for the coming year, whether as an on-campus or off-campus resident, you will be paying full price for a product that will inevitably be diluted in quality because of the pandemic, to say nothing of making it much more likely that you will become sick or make others sick. If you can live at home and take online courses through a much-cheaper community college, I guarantee you will never regret that choice. Even if you pay for your own place, however, taking online courses through a community college, or even a few part-time, online-only courses at a four-year school, will save you precious dollars at a time when the economy may yet spiral into a depression.
05/23/20 — After a lot of really dumb comments from illegitimate University of Iowa president J. Bruce Harreld over the past month or so, we have entered a blessedly quiet period leading up to the next regent meeting on June 4th. That meeting is still listed on the Iowa Board of Regents website as a “Virtual Meeting originated from the University of Iowa”, and I honestly still don’t know what that means. Will the nine regents and XD/CEO be in Iowa City in person, but the meeting will not be open to the public? Because if that’s the case I’m note sure why the board would make everyone travel for a meeting that could be done telephonically, and yet the meeting itself is not listed as telephonic, as is customary on such occasions.
In any event, while the Board of Regents still seems to have some concern about the lingering pandemic, the University of Iowa has announced that not only will athletics gear up at about the same time, but the University of Iowa intends to use Iowa’s coaches, staff and student-athletes as lab rats, to help dial-in Iowa’s untested mitigation policies. While the families of UI’s student-athletes are understandably a bit nervous, if you want playing time for your kids the university has to know your kid is loyal and willing to sacrifice.
From the Daily Iowan’s Josie Fischels: University of Iowa to begin phased reopening of select campus operations.
Select coaches and staff will be returned to Iowa’s Department of Intercollegiate Athletics beginning June 1, according to the update, while football student athletes can return beginning June 8 to participate in voluntary workouts.
Men’s and women’s basketball student athletes can return for voluntary workouts beginning June 15. The email stated that all student athletes who choose to return will undergo a formal clearance process supervised by UI Health Care medical staff.
One thing we have not yet heard is how UI has altered its athletic waivers and enrollment contracts to ‘respond to’ the coronavirus pandemic. By which I mean, of course, added language which shields the school from legal liability if a student, staff or coach becomes sick, is hospitalized, or dies. Given that UI is ready to put non-employee test subjects (student athletes) through “voluntary workouts” in a couple of weeks, one would assume the UI Office of the General Counsel, if not also the legal staff at the regents office, have already nailed these new provisions down, and would thus have them available for perusal by the press. (New clauses in employment contracts would also be necessary, but as a ‘personnel matter’ could be shielded from the public.)
In any event, it looks like Bro Bruce’s promise to have football practice underway on June 1st is a bust, and even when players return on June 8th they won’t be engaging in official team activities. Perhaps not surprisingly, there is also a meeting of the Big Ten Conference’s ass-covering coronavirus committee scheduled for the 7th, during which the long-term plan to play football will probably be revealed. And then it will be time for Head Football Coach Kirk Ferentz to decide how eager he is to get himself killed by hanging out with a bunch of socially active college students.
* There are several short reports out this morning (here and here) that make it sound as if UI also just announced that it will be holding in-person classes in the fall, but as regular readers know that is not the case. That statement was included in a post on UI’s Campus Coronavirus Updates page (which now has yet another new name, because why not) on May 1st.
The University of Iowa plans to resume face-to-face instruction this fall.
I don’t know whether various news outlets and even some members of the UI community have not been paying attention, but the fact that UI will be holding in-person classes on the UI campus for the fall term is not only not news, the regents made that clear with regard to all three state campuses during their meeting on April 30th.
* There were a couple of stories this week about University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. First, from the Press-Citizen’s Aimee Breaux: University of Iowa Hospitals losing $20M-$30M every month as fewer Iowans seek health care amid COVID-19 pandemic. While UIHC is clearly not generating the same revenue compared to before the pandemic, money can be recouped in a number of ways. What matters right now is not only that UIHC was not overrun during the initial shock from the coronavirus pandemic, but that the hospital seems to have provided excellent care while keeping its own staff relatively safe. (There have been reports of UIHC staff being infected, but no reports of deaths.)
(Relatedly, from Lyle Muller at the Des Moines Register: More than $500M in federal aid heading to Iowa hospitals would cover only half their COVID-19 losses. The pandemic is going to put a tremendous squeeze on the bottom line of every business in America, and the healthcare industry will not be spared. There will be personnel cuts and closures, and the truth is we haven’t even gotten to the real economic pain that will follow. It is also possible, however, that there will be more stimulus pumped into the country’s financial system to ward of an entrenched depression.)
Second, we have this report from the Gazette’s James Q. Lynch: UIHC encourages Iowans to keep washing hands, social distancing, because it has worked. At a public research university defined by the crony obedience of its toady president — who will not and indeed cannot talk to the local or national press without revealing himself to be a colossal boob — it has been extraordinarily reassuring not only that UIHC CEO Suresh Gunasekaran has routinely made himself available to answer questions, but that his answers are always care-focused and health-focused even when he is talking about financial issues.
After a wobbly first year, it feels as if Gunasekaran has not only filled his role, but accepted personal responsibility in a way that J. Bruce Harreld is incapable of doing. While central administration at UI is anonymously pursuing branded masks and kicking the football program into gear, Gunasekaran is once again out front, reminding people to wear masks, wash hands and continue to social distance so we don’t give back the local gains we made against the pandemic over the past few months. (And he is almost certainly doing that, in part, because he knows what’s coming, when Bro Bruce floods Iowa City and Johnson County with +32K students in August.)
* Speaking of medicine and UI, there was a report out today that the University of Iowa expects to receive approval for a new COVID-19 test which people can self-administer at home. From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: University of Iowa researchers expect their coronavirus at-home spit test to be approved within weeks. While the test will be sold “at cost”, which is expected to be “below $100 per test”, it is not yet clear whether the FDA will authorize the test without restriction, or under an emergency exception (EUA). Unfortunately, because Harreld has infused a lust for entrepreneurial ventures into the academic bloodstream at UI, what should be greeted as prideful news must instead be met with skepticism, and particularly if an EUA is granted.
A related concern is that UI could also use this in-house test to ‘prove’ that the UI campus is safe, and that could involve serious conflicts of interest. Especially given Harreld’s track record at UI — and particularly the attempted theft of $4.2M from UI students and families in early 2017 by administrative fraud — the university itself cannot be trusted to use in-house tests to prove that individuals in the UI community are disease-free. At the very least, the State Hygienics Lab (SHL) — which, unfortunately, is also on the UI campus — should conduct rigorous validation tests of the UI spit kit to certify that the tests are accurate.
Additional concerns involve how these kits would be processed because the SHL is already working around the clock, and how data from this program would be integrated into reports from the Iowa Department of Public Health, which also includes data from the murky TestIowa program. It is also possible that @UIowa might charge itself for these tests, and that the regents might purchase tests to use at the other state universities, thus broadening conflict-of-interest concerns to include accounting practices by the board. And of course given the sketchy audit that the regents conducted when former ISU President Leath was found to be using a state airplane for personal business, the Iowa State Auditor should certainly review any such transactions.
* Over the past few weeks it has become abundantly clear that the main driver of bureaucratic decision making throughout Iowa state government is revenue generation, not public health. We see that in the zeal with which Iowa’s governor is relaxing restrictions to spur supply and demand, both of which will shore up tax revenue. We see that in the zeal with which the Board of Regents has already committed to in-class instruction in the fall, to shore up tuition and fee revenue. And of course we see that in the zeal with which J. Bruce Harreld has pursued football practice at UI, in order to generate as much money as possible from both television and gate revenue. If money is involved, and the state gets a cut, then it’s a damn fine idea even in the middle of a pandemic.
Proving that thesis, Iowa’s court system — which, so far, is not an entrepreneurial enterprise — just extended its ongoing suspension of jury trials. From Laura Belin at BleedingHeartland: Iowa Judicial Branch not rushing back to normal practices.
Under an order Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Susan Christensen issued on May 22, in-person bench trials will remain on hold until July 13, and jury trials won’t resume in Iowa until September 14.
In terms of prevention, it would be much easier to conduct a jury trial using social distancing and other mitigation protocols — perhaps with the aid of technology — than it would be to put 100 athletes on the training field or in the weight room, even with staggered start times. Breathing heavily and shedding sweat, to say nothing of physical contact, are vectors for disease transmission, yet on the same day that the courts put off any possibility of a jury trial for four months, UI was gearing up for football practice in coming weeks. And yet that’s really only the beginning of the dissonance we will see from government officials in Iowa.
Early last week Ohio cancelled its 2020 state fair, followed Friday by Minnesota — even though Minnesota’s state fair doesn’t take place until September. So far, the Iowa State Fair is still scheduled from August 13th to 23rd, and the very next day classes commence at the three regent universities on the 24th. Given that athletics are about to begin at the state schools, and students will be moving back to campus on the final weekend of the fair, it will be very hard for the fair’s governing board — which, notably, includes Iowa Governor Reynolds and Iowa State President Wendy Wintersteen — to cancel that ten-day-long celebration of agricultural excess. At the same time, cancelling would also make clear that the regent universities cannot be made safe regardless of any testing and social distancing protocols.
As to what the Iowa State Fair board will ultimately decide I have no idea, but such is the insanity of state government in Iowa. What I can say is that in Iowa City (Johnson County), which is home to the University of Iowa, the city just cancelled fireworks for the 4th of July, and the downtown Englert Theatre just cancelled the previously rescheduled 2020 Mission Creek Festival in September, and is now aiming for 2021. And yet on the UI campus, which occupies much of the center of Iowa City, J. Bruce Harreld insists that the pandemic games begin.
So glad you are calling out Kirk Ferentz. Listening to his half-assed apologies and clear mis-truths was cringe worthy. Generally Ferentz comes across as a decent guy (compared to other D-1 football coaches – Mike Gundy and Mike Leach are two that come to mind as complete creeps) and I suspect Ferentz is nice to the press.
In turn, the press gives him a pass even when he doesn’t deserve it (Ed Cunningham being the exception). Too bad there are so few guys with integrity like Cunningham and more sell-out than anyone can count.
Keep up your honest observations. They are appreciated.