A new threaded post on this topic can be found here. For previous posts about the Harreld hire, click the tag below.
10/24/20 — Following up on the discrimination lawsuit that will inevitably be filed against the University of Iowa by eight former football players, which we dealt with at length in the update just below, this article by Chad Emmert at Hawk Central is a good rundown of the fix UI is in: Threatened lawsuit poses pivotal moment for University of Iowa football, experts say, with no pain-free way out.
If the university agrees to a settlement, it would be viewed by the public as an admission of guilt and would likely spur similar lawsuits from former players, said two legal experts who reviewed documents about the potential case at the Register’s request. But allowing the matter to go to trial would potentially put Ferentz and his program under a cloud of doubt for months, making it difficult to recruit Black athletes and leading to depositions and cross-examinations of him and his coaching staff that could prove embarrassing.
Either path the university takes must include a further commitment to real change in the way Black athletes are treated, the experts said, or the reputations of Ferentz, Barta and any others involved will be damaged permanently.
After five years of mutual dereliction, disregard and ass kissing by illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld and UI Athletic Director Gary Barta, the university as an institution is suddenly weaving concerns about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) into every aspect of its messaging, including outright lying. For example, over the past year there have been multiple attempts to claim that diversity is one of the core concerns of the current UI Strategic Plan, when it is objectively not. From an Iowa Now article on 06/25/20, written by the UI Office of Strategic Lying:
As one of the four pillars of the University of Iowa’s strategic plan, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is a critical element of the future of the university. The UI has been taking steps within and beyond the 2019-2021 Excellence through Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Action Plan, but more immediate action is needed.
As regular readers know, and as the following screenshot attests, there are three main pillars to the current UI Strategic Plan, and diversity is not one of them.
But hey — when you’re in a white-hot panic because you precipitated your own discrimination disaster in the same year that the Minneapolis police choked the life out of George Floyd, maybe you can be excused for trying to lie your way out of your troubles, right? Except…when you think about it, that’s pretty much how the University of Iowa got into this mess in the first place, so maybe it would be better to own up to these problems, clean house, then get on with the business of actually being a good governmental citizen instead of faking it. Unfortunately, as just noted, J. Bruce Harreld and AD Barta have a particularly incestuous administrative relationship, in which they express mutual respect for each other while never holding anyone accountable for anything. That includes, particularly, Harreld offering slavish support even after Barta cost the university $6.5M in a gender discrimination lawsuit, at the same time that Harreld was kicking the DEI administrator out of his cabinet and out of the president’s office.
Ironically, however, because Harreld just recently announced his retirement — open-ended as it may be — the cross hairs may settle on Gary Barta if someone’s head needs to roll in a meaningful way, precisely because he is the athletic director, and ostensibly in charge of everything that happens in that department. (Again, in reality he’s a front for the head football coach, who calls the shots, but getting rid of Ferentz would trigger a $20M buyout, as well as infuriate Iowa’s largely white fan base.) Throw a few million dollars at the former players, cut Barta loose with more profuse apologies from the head football coach, who, in 2020, suddenly understands that racism is a bad thing, and maybe that will put things to bed until the next lawsuit drops.
In that larger context, what I would once again say to Iowa’s sports reporters — because once again J. Bruce Harreld’s name does not appear in Emmert’s otherwise excellent 2,200-word story — is that if you are not looking at the entire UI campus you are missing a big part of the story. In fact, unless the attorney for the eight former Hawkeyes is an incompetent, he will consider making the leap from athletics to a more general culture of discrimination and deceit across the university as an institution, and if he does that he will plenty of targets of opportunity. Like, say, the University of Iowa lying about diversity, equity and inclusion being one of the four main pillars of the current UI Strategic Plan, when it clearly is not.
10/21/20 — There is never really a dull moment at the University of Iowa, is there? Just when a certain person thought the pace of news might slow for a week or two, another bomb dropped on Sunday. Kicking off what turns out to be a sports-themed update, we begin with this report from Robert Read at the Daily Iowan: Eight former Iowa football players demand removal of Kirk and Brian Ferentz, Gary Barta.
Eight Black former University of Iowa football players are demanding monetary compensation and the removal of head coach Kirk Ferentz, offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, and Athletics Director Gary Barta, claiming they were subjected to intentional race discrimination by the coaching staff and administration in their time as Hawkeyes.
On behalf of the eight players — Akrum Wadley, Aaron Mends, Jonathan Parker, Marcel Joly, Maurice Fleming, Reggie Spearman, Kevonte Martin-Manley, and Andre Harris — attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons sent a demand letter to UI President Bruce Harreld, Barta, and both Kirk and Brian Ferentz on Oct. 5 in an attempt to “amicably resolve” matters before filing suit.
As Read reported, the university initially tried to firewall the news with a plucky statement from illegitimate lame-duck UI president J. Bruce Harreld:
“We appreciate some former athletes sharing insights on their experience while at the University of Iowa,” Harreld said in a statement. “Many of their concerns have been reviewed and addressed. And to be clear, any student-athlete that has left the university and did not obtain their degree is welcome to return and we are here to support them.
“There are several demands outlined in the letter and we are proud of the efforts made to date. We have a path forward that includes ideas and recommendations from many current and former students aimed at making the University of Iowa a more inclusive and better place to learn, grow and compete as an athlete. However, the university rejects the demands for money and personnel changes.”
Several hours later, however, Iowa’s head football coach, Kirk Ferentz, also issued a heavily lawyered statement:
“I am disappointed to receive this type of demand letter,” Ferentz said in a release. “Due to the threat of litigation, I am not able to address the specific comments made by our former players. As you may know, this past summer we made adjustments to create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for all of our student-athletes. These changes include both policies and rules, as well as an expanded leadership council of current players and a new advisory committee comprised of former players.
“I am deeply committed to helping everyone who joins the Hawkeye Football program reach their full potential on and off the field. My focus is now on our current players who are preparing for our first game this Saturday.”
As noted this past summer, UI made a big show of hiring a law firm to investigate the football program, including releasing the results of that so-called investigation. The promise and problem with hiring a law firm to investigate anything, however, is that it’s not actually a judicial proceeding. At the time that was obviously part of the appeal, because the university did not want AD Barta, illegitimate UI president Harreld, or head football coach Ferentz or his staff deposed under oath.
The flaw in the plan was that while the university could co-opt current players with the promise (threat) of playing time, and pacify fans and the press with the in-house investigation, that did not resolve the complaints of the former players who are now party to the letter, which promises (threatens) a lawsuit in which Barta, Harreld, Ferentz and others would be placed under oath. While the reaction to the letter among Iowa’s largely white fan base was predictably mindless and intermittently racist, the reaction from the press was more measured. In particular, Chad Leistikow at Hawk Central wrote a solid explainer on Monday: Examining the impact, timing, credibility of ex-Iowa football players’ demands.
Recall, there was a section about certain players being “blackballed” to NFL scouts by an Iowa coach. There were allegations of different punishments for Black and white players for similar rules violations. And there were also several former players who said that 21-year strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle (the only person to lose his job over the allegations) “should not be a scapegoat for the systemic issues in the program.”
While vowing to move forward and improve, Iowa accepted the findings of the Husch Blackwell report in late July.
So, in essence, the report left the door open for a lawsuit in which Ferentz and the university could be liable for discrimination based on race. It didn’t close it.
I was particularly glad to see Leistikow mention UI’s prior discrimination problems, including a large settlement in the athletics department in 2017:
While Iowa has unequivocally rejected the demands for money and personnel changes, it might feel pressure to resolve the lawsuit before it gets messier. Even if some of the claims by former players can be debunked by putting Kirk and Brian Ferentz on the witness stand, that would be viewed as a last resort.
The University of Iowa doesn’t want its high-profile coaches (and ex-coaches, in Doyle’s case) being deposed under oath about things like their politics, whether they’ve used the n-word (as has been charged about Doyle, who denied using racist terms) and their interactions with players over the last 22 years.
Don’t forget, it was just three years ago that Iowa tried to fight allegations of gender discrimination in the courtroom, and Barta had many regrettable moments on the stand. Iowa wound up paying $6.5 million to former administrator Jane Meyer, former field hockey coach Tracey Griesbaum and their attorneys.
Finally, while I agree with Leistikow’s conclusion, I would add a caveat:
One last observation: Iowa almost certainly won’t reach a point where it is forced to part ways with Kirk Ferentz. College football’s longest-tenured coach has earned the benefit of the doubt among key decision-makers and current players to lead the university through this messy but important chapter in Iowa football history.
That’s another reason why Sunday’s news seems to set the stage for a settlement.
What Leistikow did not say is that Barta or Harreld have earned the benefit of the doubt, and in particular I think AD Barta is on the hot seat. While Barta is ostensibly Kirk Ferentz’s boss, Ferentz makes $5M a year and is a generally beloved celebrity across the state, while Barta makes around $500K and is a perpetual screw-up. To whatever extent Barta has been a useful stooge and administrative shield for Ferentz, if the head coach decides he needs to throw Barta over the side to protect the family business, he won’t hesitate.
Likewise, with longtime ally J. Bruce Harreld having recently announced his (indefinite) retirement, Barta may no longer have invested bureaucratic cover from the president’s office. Given the alternative, Ferentz may also want to hire a new AD while Harreld is still on the job, instead of having to train a new, wild-card president who has ideas of their own. If that’s the case, both Harreld and Ferentz could be incentivized to get rid of Barta simply to improve public perception of their own commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.
Now flash forward to Monday, when the attorney for the former Hawkeye players responded to Sunday’s comments by Harreld and Ferentz, and it doesn’t look like there will be an amicable resolution any time soon. From Chad Leistikow at Hawk Central: Attorney for 8 Black former Iowa football players: Demands are not a ‘money grab’.
“Our monetary demand for our clients and the over 100 other impacted African-American athletes may be shortsightedly characterized as a money grab by some. But our demand is just, because the need for vindication and accountability is just. The need for meaningful change, and not mere administrative shuffles of Black employees for the sake of public relations, is just.”
The statement doesn’t explicitly say that the former players will move to a lawsuit.
But it said, “We look forward to vindicating our clients’ rights and holding all wrongdoers accountable in court.”
More here from Robert Read at the Daily Iowan: Attorney for eight former Hawkeye football players responds to UI rejecting demands.
* Also from Chad Leistikow at Hawk Central: Leistikow’s 5 thoughts: Players’ option to kneel for national anthem a big change for Iowa football.
Ferentz echoed that the national-anthem conversation — one that former Iowa offensive lineman James Daniels tweeted in June could be a needed game-changer for the program’s culture — has been a powerful positive for Hawkeye football.
“Nobody’s judging each other. They’re being a good team. They’re acting like a team should,” Ferentz said. “I’m extremely impressed with the way the guys have handled it.”
It wasn’t too long ago that Ferentz insisted that whatever the team did, everyone had to do the same thing in order to embody the teamwork he believes is requisite for success. It may genuinely have never occurred to Ferentz that his attitude was itself a reflection of white privilege — to say nothing of $5M in annual paychecks — and it clearly didn’t occur to him that America’s constitutional freedoms supersede sports. I don’t know what Ferentz actually thinks, and frankly I don’t care, but giving players the choice they should have always had is a positive step.
* From Erin F. Jordan at the Gazette: University of Iowa athletics spends $230K on hotel stays for coronavirus-positive student-athletes.
The University of Iowa Athletic Department has spent more than $230,000 since June putting about 180 COVID-19-positive student-athletes up in hotel rooms and paying for their food.
The total includes $192,713 on 1,665 nights in an undisclosed Iowa City area hotel between June 1 and Sept. 30, according to data the Athletics Department provided after a Gazette request.
On six occasions, or 48 night stays, student-athletes shared rooms. Deducting that from the total night stays amounts to 1,617, which divided by the total cost comes to about $120 per room per night.
The UI paid another $40,983 on per diem payments for student-athlete food while they were in hotel isolation.
After insisting that Iowa’s athletics budget was so cash-strapped he had to kill off four varsity programs, Barta blew a quarter million dollars on hotels and room service for sick student-athletes.
* More stellar Gary Barta decision making, from Robert Read at the DI: Iowa, Gonzaga men’s basketball teams will officially compete Dec. 19 in Sioux Falls. If you aren’t up on your COVID-19 hot spots, South Dakota is among the worst states in the country on a per-capita basis, so of course AD Barta wants the men’s basketball team to travel there and back in confined vehicles. (The way things are going, the CDC may encourage Iowa to fire Barta as well.)
* From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: Title IX complaint against University of Iowa demands new women’s sports like wresting, rugby. As you can see, Gary Barta has his plate full in the UI Athletics Department.
I think this is a smart move on the part of the plaintiffs, because at the beginning of August Iowa’s wrestling coach, Tom Brands, came out strongly in favor of women’s wrestling at Iowa. In September Brands talked about women’s wrestling again, this time in the context of an upcoming Hawkeye Wrestling Club meet at the new Xtream Arena in Coralville:
Brands also told The Des Moines Register that certain athletes from the 2020-21 Hawkeye collegiate roster will be competing.
“You’re going to see Hawkeyes with eligibility on the mat, and that’s exciting,” Brands said. “We’re demonstrating that there’s a lot of value in the Hawkeyes. We’ll have some women’s flavor as well. Women’s wrestling is important to our program. We’ll have a good blend.”
And yes — that’s the same event where the Hawkeye Wrestling Club also announced that they will be allowing a “limited number of fans” to attend.
More here from Austin Hanson at the DI: Women’s swimmers amend Title IX complaint.
* As noted in a prior post, William and Mary not only adopted Stanford’s rationale for slashing athletic programs — as did the University of Iowa — but in multiple instances W&M actually copied Stanford’s messaging word for word. A few weeks ago that brain cramp prompted the resignation of the W&M athletic director, and now W&M is acknowledging that those cuts also broke the law. Eddie Timanus at USA Today: William & Mary will reinstate three women’s sports: swimming, gymnastics and volleyball.
10/18/20 — After a bit of administrative cross-talk, which we will take a closer look at momentarily, the recently initiated search to replace illegitimate University of Iowa president J. Bruce Harreld is rapidly taking shape. On this past Tuesday, following mixed signals over several weeks between Harreld and the professional staff at the Iowa Board of Regents, the board announced the co-chairs of the search:
The Board of Regents, State of Iowa has announced that Dr. Sandy Daack-Hirsch, associate professor and interim executive associate dean of the college of nursing, and Dr. John Keller, dean of the graduate college, will serve as co-chairs of the University of Iowa Presidential Search Committee.
The search committee will include representatives from a wide variety of UI constituents, including faculty, staff, students and alumni. The committee currently is being formed, and names of committee membership will be presented to the Board of Regents at its November 18 meeting.
As reported by Rylee Wilson at the Daily Iowan on October 1st, however, this was not the original plan:
Harreld said the conversation in the search for the next UI leader should start with the campus community. He told the DI on Tuesday he has confidence in the two leaders who will be named co-chairs of the presidential search committee.
“I think the first thing that needs to happen is the board needs to let the university run this process and define what they are looking for,” he said. “Now, the board should have input in that, that’s understandable. The first draft of that should be at the university level.”
Board of Regents Spokesperson Josh Lehman did not name the co-chairs, writing in an email to the DI that the names of all of the search committee members will be publicly announced at the same time.
Whatever the board’s original intent after Harreld notified them on September 22nd of his intent to resign, pending selection of his successor, the regents quickly ran into two problems. First and most obviously, as demonstrated by the quote above, while the board has sole statutory authority to hire new presidents at the state schools, Harreld immediately began shooting his mouth off about how the search should be conducted, as if he was leading the process. And that included Bro Bruce letting the cat out of the bag that he already knew who the co-chairs would be, which directly contradicted a public statement by the CEO/Executive Director of the board, Mark Braun, as reported the same day.
From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, also on 10/01/20:
Among the best practices outlined in the 2018 agreement is one stressing the board “should consult with the search committee chair or co-chairs on the use of a search firm.”
Braun told The Gazette, “We will be following the best-practices protocol,” and more specifically said he will identify a chair or co-chairs to consult with before signing any search firm.
As regular readers know it was perfectly in-character for Harreld to leak the fact that the co-chairs had already been chosen, because Harreld is a percolating cauldron of toxic ego needs. (No one ever spent more time positioning himself to look important.) As Harreld also made clear, however, while he may have no statutory role in choosing the next Iowa president, that won’t prevent him from sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong. And that’s a big problem for the UI community, because Harreld is in prime position to influence individual members of the search committee, including the co-chairs. Precisely because Harreld will continue to preside over the university for what could be years, even if he is precluded from interfering with the search committee directly, he will still be in position to punish or reward members of the search committee behind the scenes, through direct or indirect administrative means.
The second problem the board ran into had to do with the 2018 agreement referenced in the quote above. In order to end the two-year-long sanction of the University of Iowa by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), for abuses of shared governance during the rigged 2015 presidential search that led to Harreld’s sham appointment, that agreement was hammered out between the UI Faculty Senate and representatives of the Board of Regents. Because of specific wording in that agreement, however, the board was obligated to inform the co-chairs of the search committee about the board’s progress toward hiring an executive search firm to facilitate the search — and yet the board publicly launched the process of hiring a search firm before the co-chairs were announced, or even ostensibly chosen.
The good news — and I think it is very good news — is that after all of that the regents self-corrected in only a few days, and everything is now as it should be at this early stage in the search. Even better, the board also avoided a problem with the 2016 UNI search and 2017 ISU search — as detailed in this post: The UI Presidential Search Committee in Context — which was the appointment of unequal and inherently oppositional co-chairs. In fact, while the current process is on pace with the rigged 2015 search that led to Harreld’s bastardized hire, there the similarities with recent searches thankfully end, and my hope is that co-chairs Daack-Hirsch and Keller will keep it that way by remaining cognizant of the threats against them.
To that point, while the co-chairs are both long-time members of the UI community, and are aware of the abuses of power that took place during the 2015 search, they were not involved in that search and may not know details which are critical to understanding why that search went awry. With the co-chairs and board now focused on filling out the rest of the search committee — which will be revealed at the next full meeting of the board on November 18th — it is critical to keep those details in mind, not only to protect the search during member selection, but to be able to articulate those threats to the full committee when it is formed.
Because the regents have sole legal authority to hire presidents at the state universities, it was necessary for the UI community — as represented by the Faculty Senate — to negotiate the 2018 agreement with the board. As a factual matter, however, of the four people who were central to the corrupt 2015 search at Iowa, only one was a member of the Board of Regents. Former board president Bruce Rastetter did indeed orchestrate the bureaucratic conspiracy that led to Harreld’s corrupt appointment, including enlisting the support of four other regents — two of whom were not on the search committee — in a key secret meeting with Harreld. Notably, however, the other four regents on the nine-member board were not informed about those secret meetings either by Rastetter or any of the four regent accomplices, all of whom then compelled the oblivious and outnumbered regents to vote unanimously in favor of Harreld. (Only weeks after Harreld was appointed did the four innocent regents learn that they had been duped by the president of the board, and only then through press reports about the corrupt search.)
While Rastetter did use his power as board president to install a crony toad in the president’s office at Iowa, he also had a full partner on the inside who eagerly betrayed the UI community. Former UI VP for Medical Affairs Jean Robillard was not only appointed sole chair of the 2015 search by Rastetter, and in return dutifully shaped, warped and corrupted the search to spirit Harreld through the selection process as one of four finalists — who were then sent to the board, where the final vote was rigged — but Rastetter also appointed Robillard as interim UI president for the final critical month of the search, and two transitional months until Harreld took office in early November. That meant not only that Robillard was the sole spokesperson for the otherwise confidential search process, but as interim president he was able to use the full public-relations might of the school to defend the search when stories began to leak that the outcome was rigged. (Fortunately, on at least one notable occasion, staff at the UI Office of Strategic Communication not only refused to confirm one of Robillard’s ass-covering lies, but refuted it outright.)
In his capacity as search chair and/or interim UI president, Robillard not only abetted Rastetter indirectly, he disbanded the 2015 search immediately after the four finalists were selected, thus depriving the committee of its traditional role of vetting the finalists. Likewise, Rastetter and Robillard added then-UI chief of staff Peter Matthes to the search committee in an ex officio capacity, which allowed Robillard to use Matthes to facilitate the process of greasing the search for Harreld. And of course when Robillard became interim president, Matthes — who has been a senior advisor to Harreld for the past five years — then became Robillard’s chief of staff during the critical final month of the search, and the subsequent two-month transition.
The third co-conspirator in the rigged 2015 search was Jerre Stead, a prominent alum and megadonor who was appointed to the search committee as a representative of the UI Foundation — now known as the UI Center for Advancement. Not only did it turn out that Stead introduced Harreld to Rastetter, but following that introduction Stead facilitated a covert face-to-face meeting between Rastetter, Robillard, Matthes and Harreld, then worked with Rastetter and Robillard to shepherd Harreld through the search committee to the five friendly votes waiting at the board. Only later did the public learn not only that Stead and Harreld were longtime friends and peers from the private sector, but that they had actually worked with each other as well.
The fourth conspirator to rig the 2015 search was J. Bruce Harreld himself, who lied to the UI community on at least one occasion prior to his appointment, and on at least three occasions after his appointment, to obscure his prior relationship with Jerre Stead. (Stead returned the favor by lying to the press, the pubic and the UI community the day after Harreld was appointed, for the same reason.) Five weeks after Harreld took office at a cool $50K a month, Harreld then rewarded Stead by naming the new children’s hospital after the Stead family.
What most people think of today as an abuse of power perpetrated by the entire Board of Regents, against the University of Iowa, was a far-reaching convergence of corrupt individuals representing four distinct constituencies: a five-member majority of the board, at least two high-ranking University of Iowa administrators, a powerful alumni donor, and the eventual winning candidate himself. Meaning it is not enough for the co-chairs of the current search to remain vigilant about abuses by the board, they must remain vigilant about abuses by everyone, including each other and members of the committee yet to be appointed. The good news is that Rastetter is no longer a member of the board, Robillard is no longer a member of university administration, and Jerre Stead is closing in on 80 years old and probably has better things to do than closely associate himself with another five or ten years of incompetent leadership.
The bad news — and it is potentially very bad — is that one of the 2015 co-conspirators not only remains a threat to the current search, but has almost certainly already attempted to influence or ingratiate himself with Daack-Hirsch and Keller. And of course that would be outgoing illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld himself, who seems determined to take a leadership role in the process by which his successor will be chosen, even though current board president Mike Richards specifically and publicly told Harreld to butt out. From Rylee Wilson’s Daily Iowan article on 10/01/20:
Richards specified that although Harreld will remain president during the search process, he will not have input as to who is chosen as his replacement.
“I’ve had that discussion with him and he will not participate in any manner in the selection of the new president,” Richards said.
Having paid close attention to the Board of Regents and the University of Iowa for the past five years, I can say with confidence that this statement is not merely unusual, it is unprecedented. Not only does the board normally do everything possible to avoid airing business in public, but even when its university presidents commit abuses of power, violations of school or board policy, or actually break the law, the board’s reflexive response is to remain silent, or, if pressed, offer unwavering public support. To have Richards explicitly state that Harreld “will not participate in any manner in the selection of the new president” is not merely a rebuke to Harreld, it is a warning to the co-chairs of the current search that Harrled is a threat to the integrity of their committee.
To be sure, this does not mean the search chairs can trust Richards or any other member of the board. What it does mean is that the full empaneled committee has been given explicit permission, by the president of the regents, not only to refuse to engage with Harreld about the search, but to inform the board if Harreld attempts to insinuate himself in that process. As such, the co-chairs should formally notify all members of the committee that Harreld not only has no standing regarding the search, but any attempt by Harreld to discuss the search with members of the committee is to be reported to the co-chairs, so that information can be passed to the board.
Further, the co-chairs should determine what action will be taken if one or more committee members do act as proxies for, or conduits of information to, Harreld, both for breaching the confidentiality of the committee and for aiding Harreld in violating a directive of the president of the board. Without such a provision — perhaps augmented by the addition of several alternates in case there are expulsions, or the process drags on and members are forced to withdraw — Harreld could attempt to sabotage the current search if it is not to his liking, or to the liking of the crony political and business interests that levered him into office. (The administrative equivalent of upending a board game when you know you’re going to lose.)
* From Eleanor Hildebrandt at the Daily Iowan: Presidential search committee co-chairs look towards process with confident, inclusive mindset. Part of the job of any chair or co-chair of any administrative body is to say all the right things, and so far Daack-Hirsch and Keller are saying all the right things. The process of working with the regents to fill out the search committee will not only be crucial, as the corrupt 2015 search showed it could determine the end result even before the candidate recruitment process begins. Still, having two members of the faculty lead the search is a good start, and if the regents adhere to the 2018 agreement there is every reason to believe an honest and fair search can take place, despite inevitable attempts to corrupt the process.
* Vanessa Miller at the Gazette: University of Iowa diversity training review nears its end. This is what happens when an organization has weak leadership at the top.
* Austin Hanson at the Daily Iowan: Hawkeye Wrestling Club to allow fans at Showdown Open. While University of Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta is not named in the story, this event would not be taking place if he wasn’t on board. And yes — watching a weaselly university administrator work around the university’s COVID-19 restrictions in order to drive revenue is as pathetic as it sounds.
* Abigail Hess at CNBC: Georgetown University report finds Joe Biden’s free public college plan would pay off within 10 years.
* Amelia Nierenberg and Adam Pasick at the New York Times: Community College Enrollment Is Way Down.
* Derek Newton at Forbes: Three Things You Need To Know About The New Fall Enrollment Numbers.
10/16/20 — As you probably heard, on Tuesday the Iowa Board of Regents announced the co-chairs of the search committee that will replace illegitimate University of Iowa president J. Bruce Harreld, and I intend to follow up on that development this weekend. In the interim, a slew of UI and higher-end links for you to peruse and click.
* From the UI Office of Strategic Communication: AVP for DEI search ends after Harreld retirement announcement. This was a big concern after Harreld’s open-ended announcement. By insisting that he will hang around for another year or two if the presidential search drags on, Harreld has effectively taken the entire campus hostage to his toxic ego. What he characterizes as a magnanimous and long-overdue focus on succession planning is in fact the opposite, because the limbo the university finds itself in is not conducive to searches and hires. It is undeniably a good thing that Harreld will be gone, but until a new president is hired the campus is now frozen in time with a disreputable lame-duck at the helm.
More reporting on this story from the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: University of Iowa ends diversity head search after candidates withdraw, and Sarah Watson and Rachel Schilke at the Daily Iowan: University of Iowa ends search for associate VP for diversity, equity, and inclusion after candidates withdraw
* Notable in the Iowa Now story about the collapse of the AVP-DEI search was repeated reference to interim AVP-DEI Liz Tovar, and particularly so by the interim provost, Kevin Kregel, whom Harreld unilaterally appointed to a two-year term last summer:
Interim Executive Vice President and Provost Kevin Kregel says the university has a strong interim AVP for DEI in place, and campus will move forward under Liz Tovar’s leadership.
“In the short time since Dr. Tovar was appointed interim associate vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion, she has already made a significant impact by listening to and engaging with many parts of campus,” says Kregel. “I am grateful for her service and leadership, and look forward to her continuing in this role.”
In July, President Harreld acknowledged that while many members of campus expressed the importance of a new AVP for DEI reporting directly to the president instead of the provost, changing the job description would mean delaying the search. He said such a delay was not acceptable to members of the campus community or the search committee.
“The university is not without significant challenges related to diversity, equity, and inclusion,” says Kregel. “I am confident Dr. Tovar will help lead us through these challenges, but we must remember that the responsibility for advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion belongs to the entire campus community.”
Omitted from this rosy scenario is the damning fact that J. Bruce Harreld not only kicked the AVP-DEI position (formerly known as the Chief Diversity Officer) out of his cabinet, but also changed the reporting structure from a dual report to the president and provost, to the provost only. Also note that Tovar’s initial appointment was a loan-out from the athletics department, to which Tovar thought she would be returning at the conclusion of the now-cancelled search for a permanent AVP-DEI. From the early-August announcement of Tovar’s shift in administrative responsibility:
“I’d like to thank Interim Provost Kregel and President Harreld for selecting me to serve our campus in this vital leadership role and support our university on a broader scale,” says Tovar. “I appreciate the continued and unwavering support from Gary Barta, director of Athletics, during this temporary move. I truly look forward to fulfilling the role and responsibility of the associate vice president for DEI, as well as assist university leadership with finding a permanent leader.”
To be explicit, I have zero concerns about Tovar handling the AVP-DEI role on an extended interim basis. I also believe she would be an exceptionally strong candidate for the role on a permanent basis when Harreld is finally gone and a real president takes office. (If you are unfamiliar with Liz Tovar, I would encourage you to read the relevant section in the minutes of the 09/01/20 Faculty Council meeting (p. 2). Not only is she clearly qualified, but her initiative and sincerity are readily apparent.)
By what, in retrospect, now seems more than a coincidence, the Daily Iowan also reported on Tovar this past Sunday. (I suspect Tovar was ‘made available’, and the DI did not know in advance that the AVP-DEI search would be abandoned four days later. From Mary Hartel: UI Interim VP for Diversity Equity and Inclusion looking to expand initiatives at Iowa.
As a result of recent social unrest regarding systemic racism nationally and across the UI campus, Tovar said, people are engaging in conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion now more than ever before.
This subject has taken a lot of time in her interim role, Tovar said, and she thinks it is a good thing because people need to learn how to respond to what’s going on in the community and at the national scale.
“Cross-cultural communication is key to our success,” Tovar said. “And we want to make sure that people aren’t just talking but they are also educating themselves on topics that they may not have previously thought about in the past. And then also it’s all about movement. What are you going to do differently now than what you have done in the past as well?’
That is in fact an extremely good question, because if there is one thing we have learned over the past five years it’s that J. Bruce Harreld has no interest in administering diversity, equity and inclusion. We know that because Harreld burned through four women and one man in key diversity positions — most of them in the role Tovar now occupies — and all of them were persons of color. (At one point Harreld even asked a woman of color to do both her own job and to handle the AVP-DEI role as well.)
(Pictured top-left to bottom right: Georgina Dodge; Lena Hill; Melissa Shivers; TaJuan Wilson; Nadine Petty.)
Every indication is that Tovar will indeed do an excellent job as the interim AVP-DEI, but from Kregel’s comments in today’s official notice about the disbanded AVP-DEI search, and Harreld’s comments in Sunday’s DI report, the one part everyone seems to be leaving out is what Liz Tovar wants. Again, it was only a few months ago that she agreed to step in to help Kregel and Harreld solve a problem of their own making, but to do so on a temporary basis. Now, because Harreld’s open-ended retirement just blew up the AVP-DEI search, Harreld and Kregel are talking like they intend to leave Tovar in her new role for a year or two, because that solves yet another administrative headache for them. (Worse, Harreld’s comments in Hartel’s DI report could be construed as publicly dangling the AVP-DEI position on a permanent basis, in order to get Tovar to commit to staying in the interim AVP-DEI role for an extended period.)
You would think this was not something white administrators needed to hear in 2020, but persons of color do not exist to obscure or compensate for your own incompetence. Whether you’re a lame-duck university president or an interim provost hand-picked by that same duck, you don’t get to just grab the nearest qualified person of color to plug administrative leaks. For the past five years the University of Iowa’s treatment of administrators of color — including particularly Meiissa Shivers, who was better at the two jobs she was asked to do than Bro Bruce has ever been at anything — has been disgusting. So when it comes to Liz Tovar now, the question is not what she can do for UI, but how the school can support her so she can be successful for the entire UI community, and not just solve another short-term public relations problem for two white administrators. (And that includes making sure that Harreld, Kregel and AD Gary Barta do not have Liz Tovar herself doing two jobs now for the price of one.)
* Morgan Ungs at the Daily Iowan: University of Iowa shared governance expresses concerns with halt of diversity, equity, and inclusion training.
* From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: University of Iowa student leaders call for prompt resumption of diversity training.
* Also from Miller at the Gazette: Parents, athletes rip Hawkeye Athletics for promotion featuring cut programs.
Parents, supporters and University of Iowa athletes who recently learned their sports will be eliminated are outraged over a promotion that began this weekend for “HERkys” female athletics that incorporated images of women’s swimming and diving — two of the four sports cut.
“I’m stunned by the lack of compassion the U of Iowa continues to show its female student athletes,” Michelle Puccini, mother of UI freshman swimmer Alexa Puccini, wrote at 12:02 a.m. Monday to Barbara Burke, deputy director of UI Athletics, senior women’s administrator and HERkys founder.
Bob Bowlsby did such a good job as athletic director at UI that he was hired away. His replacement, Gary Barta, is like a piece of toilet paper you can’t shake off your shoe.
* Cleo Krejci at the Iowa City Press-Citizen: Hundreds of students disciplined at the University of Iowa, in some cases over conduct at Iowa City’s bars. When the pandemic is over let’s all remember this story — and others like it from across the country — when colleges and universities go back to insisting that they can’t do anything about binge drinking at their schools. When it looked like it would cost them cash money, higher-ed administrator suddenly had no problem hunting students down and threatening them with reprisals.
* Miller at the Gazette: University of Iowa fraternity, sorority on probation for COVID-19 violations.
* More Miller: New COVID-19 cases at University of Iowa stay low, even as bars reopen.
* Double-bonus Vanessa: University of Iowa engineering institutes must give ‘indirect’ research funds to college. There has been no more-abused word at the University of Iowa during J. Bruce Harreld’s tenure than ‘align’, but here it seems apt. I am also given to wonder, however, if this shift — which is no doubt disruptive for the affected parties — did not somehow play into the long-delayed search for a new dean, which was only completed this year. (The old dean stepped aside, and yet remained on staff for well over a year and half.)
This story is also a weird twist on the claim by Harreld and others that budgeting has become decentralized at UI, and that colleges and departments have been incentivized to become self-sufficient. Gonna be hard to ask people to beat the bushes for money if the first thing you do is beat the hell out of them and take that money away.
* From the Clemson University Tiger: Clemson University has the most cumulative positive COVID-19 cases out of any university in the United States. Included in the graph accompanying this story is the University of Iowa, and a number of other large universities. The problem now is that in a month or so those schools will export their disease-ridden students back home for Thanksgiving, and the outcome will be indistinguishable from a fiendish plan in which COVID-19 infections were incubated in a population of carriers and then intentionally distributed across the country. Higher-ed in all its glory.
* On a related note, the CDC noted recently that young people — K-12 and college-age — seem to be engines for transmission, and infections in those age groups are precursors for hot spots and outbreaks among older demographics. Unfortunately, as Kaiser Health News reported, the contact-tracing of college students is difficult if not impossible: COVID Takes Challenge of Tracking Infectious College Students to New Level. So all you families out there with college students coming home, have fun at Thanksgiving.
* And finally, we now know that fall freshman enrollment was off 16%, as reported by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.
10/12/20 — A long and strong post looking at The UI Presidential Search Committee in Context. Read it in chunks when you have nothing better to do, and feel free to jump around if you get bored.
* In other news, the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller has been busy — as usual:
Six University of Iowa Greek chapters on interim suspension following COVID complaints
Iowa State to start random student COVID-19 testing (Don’t miss the subhead.)
Save Iowa Sports group struggles to be heard at University of Iowa
* A Gazette guest column from Ron Kaminski, Vickie Nauman, Matt Purdy, Dave Carpenter and Mark Kaufman: A plan to restore the four sports axed by the University of Iowa.
10/09/20 — In this update I had intended to write about the process of selecting a search committee to replace illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld, who recently announced that he would be stepping down as soon as his successor is chosen. Over the past forty-eight hours or so, however, I realized I want to publish those thoughts in a proper post which can be linked to directly, so I am now aiming to have that up for Sunday or Monday. (I will also post that link in this thread so you won’t miss it.)
* I noted in the previous update that an executive order from the Trump administration prompted some colleges and universities — including, unfortunately, the University of Iowa — to falter on the diversity, equity and inclusion front. Wednesday evening, Hannah Pinski at the Daily Iowan posted a compelling column on the failure of Iowa administrators: University of Iowa needs to value diversity, equity, and inclusion.
In fact, the University of Michigan has spoken out about this order. President Mark Schlissel wrote the university was “dismayed” by the order, calling it “a direct violation of our right to free speech and has the potential to undermine serious efforts to acknowledge and address long-standing racist practices that fail to account for disparate treatment of our citizens throughout our society.”
But we haven’t heard from President Bruce Harreld on the issue.
Thursday morning, following days of pushback on the UI campus and in media and social media, illegitimate outgoing UI president J. Bruce Harreld, and other UI administrators, finally found their voices. From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: University of Iowa condemns Trump order against diversity training.
University of Iowa administrators Thursday condemned an executive order issued by President Donald Trump that has led them to pause all campus diversity and inclusion training for fear the programming could risk federal funding.
The Gazette and others reported this week that the UI was putting the training on hiatus for two weeks while it reviews the programming to see if it violates Trump’s order barring training that involves race and sex “stereotyping” or “scapegoating” for federal workers, contractors and grant recipients.
The ban appears to affect, among other things, implicit bias training that has become commonplace in private and public diversity efforts.
“We have heard from many on our campus regarding the chilling effect of Executive Order 13950 — and we agree with you,” according to a message from UI President Bruce Harreld, Interim Provost Kevin Kregel and Interim Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Liz Tovar.
I don’t know whether Iowa’s cowardice originated with Harreld or with the political trash that runs the corrupt Iowa Board of Regents, but it is worth noting that Iowa State and Northern Iowa ducked as well:
Iowa’s public universities annually amass hundreds of thousands in federal grants for research from, for example, the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Department of Education and NASA.
The universities also annually have thousands of students on some form of federal financial aid.
Iowa State University and University of Northern Iowa have said they’re reviewing the matter, as has Gov. Kim Reynolds’ Office.
With Election Day only three and a half weeks away, with most academic administrators firmly committed to never taking a stand on anything, and with the Iowa Board of Regents wholly owned by the Iowa Republican Party, I get why all three of Iowa’s state schools choked on their collective whistles. But they still choked.
* Also from the Gazette’s Miller, an extensive report on higher-ed enrollment: Iowa’s higher enrollment cliff just got closer.
“Forget the pandemic for a minute, and go back to the demographics,” Johnstone said. “We have an infrastructure that was built for one kind of activity and a certain number of people, and now we’re asking everything involved in that infrastructure — from physical to talent and services and everything else — to pivot to be different.
“And what the pandemic did was accelerate it.”
By virtue of their collective mass and monopoly status in Iowa, the regent schools will be the last institutions of higher learning to bear the brunt of a significant downturn in statewide enrollment. And it is also possible that there may be a short-term surge when the COVID-19 pandemic is largely resolved. The higher-ed landscape, however, will be forever changed.
* From Sara Moninger at Iowa Now: Outreach office shifts focus to engagement, gets new name.
In higher-ed there are a lot of longstanding traditions built up around pretending that the whole enterprise isn’t driven by money. Granted, there are always bills that have to be paid, but at major public universities like the University of Iowa there are also monuments to be erected in exchange for fungible dollars. To that end, for example, what would be called fundraising in any other industry is called ‘development’ in higher education, so as not to make the marks — er, the generous donors — feel uncomfortable about being squeezed.
Even when you hear that someone has given money for a specific academic purpose — say, to perpetually endow a ‘chair’ in a specific department — that means the school doesn’t need to fund that position any longer, so administrators can give themselves more money. And yes, it’s not all about grifting, and people really do donate for the right reasons, and students really can be aided by scholarships and such. But not only is there a lot more scamming than there should be, euphemisms such as ‘development’ open the door to further lucrative abuses of language, and that brings us to the subject of ‘engagement’.
Do a search for ‘engagement’ on most college and university websites and you will probably discover that the word has two meanings. One meaning relates to what, almost universally, used to be called outreach, and that involves trying to make the world a better place by passing along knowledge and informational resources from the school. Not surprisingly that is particularly important at state universities, which are subsidized by taxpayers, because that type of engagement is a way to pay back the citizens of the state. (The Iowa State extension office — officially called Iowa State University Extension and Outreach — is an excellent example.)
The other meaning of the word ‘engagement’ — surprise — turns out to be yet another euphemism for higher-ed fundraising. And from the perspective of the marketing weasels on any campus you can see the appeal of the resulting confusion. Instead of coming right out and admitting that they’re trying to induce or compel people to give them as much money as possible, ‘engagement’ seems downright respectful and giving in itself.
Because the current UI Strategic Plan was developed under the watchful eye of a marketing-weasel president, we can see this intentional ambiguity on full display in a document where engagement is one of three overarching campus priorities. In the engagement section of the plan (see p.17), both the outreach and pocket-picking components of engagement are co-mingled, which means the school gets credit whether it gives knowledge to the world or hoovers money out of people’s pockets.
From p. 22:
Annual percentage of alumni supporting the University of Iowa through philanthropy.
2021 GOAL: 15%
I mention all of this as context because the rebranding of the office detailed in the Iowa Now article — from the old UI Office of Outreach and Engagement, to the new UI Office of Community Engagement — doubles down on that ambiguity. The new website looks benign, and most of the content seems to deal with knowledge flowing from the school to the surrounding community and state, or with networking among alumni, but it also opens the door to confusion. And unfortunately, after watching Harreld run scam after scam for the past five years, my guess is that the long-term objective is to now use this newly rebranded office to generate revenue. (Oh — you want knowledge from Iowa’s tax-subsidized flagship university? Here’s our fee structure.)
* Elissa Nadworny and Sean McMinn at NPR: Even In COVID-19 Hot Spots, Many Colleges Aren’t Aggressively Testing Students. Among the many grievous cultural failings exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, we have learned that the vast majority of the higher-ed system — as many have alleged for decades — is little more than a nerdy segment of the hospitality industry. Despite a pretense to reason and academic rigor, science was the first casually on campuses across the country, as administrators scrambled to protect revenue and limit expenses, including avoiding costs associated with testing. It should be a national disgrace, but because those same money-grubbing administrators can also cut off funding to any academics who try to talk out of (pardon me) school, this is the last you will probably hear of it.
* Jillian Kramer at the New York Times: The Virus Moved Female Faculty to the Brink. Will Universities Help? Not if it costs them money.
10/07/20 — One week ago tomorrow, in a surprise announcement, the illegitimate president of the University of Iowa, J. Bruce Harreld, revealed to the UI community and greater public that despite having two and a half years remaining on his contract extension, he intended to step down:
This past summer, I informed the Board of Regents of my desire to retire as soon as a successor can be appointed. In these discussions, I made it clear that I love our institution and will do everything possible to make the transition smooth and successful. I committed to them that I will stay until a new president is hired.
What Harreld meant by “this past summer” is unclear, but from a Daily Iowan interview with Harreld prior to the announcement — which was embargoed, then published the same day — we learn that Harreld had been talking with board president Mike Richards about retiring. As always, we can’t trust what Harreld or the board says, but in this instance I don’t think it matters when he decided to quit on the school. What matters is that after a five-year hostile takeover J. Bruce Harreld is giving up, and whether he decided to leave a couple of weeks ago or a few months earlier is immaterial to the relief the entire campus clearly feels.
As reported by the DI’s Rylee Wilson, on 10/01/20:
Richards told the DI that the regents did not ask Harreld to retire, and were somewhat caught off guard by his decision.
“It was a little bit of a surprise to us, in a heartfelt way,” Richards said. “He’s worked very hard and made a lot of significant changes at the university and improvements. I believe that he had been thinking about doing this, according to just talking with him, maybe next summer, but then he felt because of the COVID deal it might take a little longer than anticipated.”
As detailed by the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, also on 10/01/20, Harreld sent official notice of his decision to the Board of Regents on 09/22/20, which was in fact the last day of summer. At that point the clock started ticking on the board’s obligation to find Harreld’s replacement, and the board wasted no time by scheduling a meeting for this past Monday, during which Harreld’s retirement letter would be accepted and the search for his successor would officially commence.
While I am still fuzzy about whether Harreld will be gone when the next UI president is appointed, or only when the next president takes office on their first day on the job, Harreld has been insistent that he will stay as long as necessary. And not because he is in any way angling for part or all of the $2.3M in deferred compensation that he will otherwise forfeit by cutting and running before his current contract expires, but because he is a selfless, caring man who believes passionately in the importance of orderly transitions of power. Even though, he’s the one who yanked the rug out from under the regents, who thought they had a reliable president at UI until 2023. (Surprise!)
Speaking of which, as noted in Wilson’s write-up of the Harreld interview, and as expanded on that same day by Mary Hartel at the DI, Harreld was not only bailing on his contract — thus compelling the board to initiate a presidential search during a lethal global pandemic — but was doing so after destabilizing the most important administrative components of UI’s governance structure. Not only is the school in need of yet another permanent provost because the last one Harreld hired stepped down this summer, after little more than a year on the job, but the school also needs a new dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences — the school’s largest college by far — because the dean Harreld also hired last year got in trouble and was recently demoted. Throw in the ongoing dean search at the Tippie College of Business, and yet another search to find a new Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion — because the previous office holder quit on Harreld after five weeks — and one would be forgiven for thinking that what Harreld was retiring from was a stinky block of bureaucratic Swiss cheese.
To underscore the far-reaching implications of Harreld’s chaotic decision making — which often has nothing to do with what is best for the school, and everything to do with what is best for Harreld, including covering his ass for prior administrative mistakes — let’s take a closer look at the provost position. After refusing to hire a new provost for two years, and instead using an interim provost to attempt to dismantle the university’s organizational structure, Harreld finally hired a new permanent provost a year and a half ago. Unfortunately, that new permanent provost — who was by all accounts able and engaged — stepped down under mysterious circumstances, only to then take a manufactured posting in Harreld’s office at full salary. To fill the again-vacant provost role the executive vice provost and senior associate provost for faculty — who had himself only been elevated to that position the year before — was named interim provost.
But wait — there’s so much more! We now know that J. Bruce Harreld was talking to the board about retiring as far back as last summer. So why did Harreld promise the new interim provost two years in that role, ostensibly to “provide stability“, if Harreld knew he might be leaving in less than a year? Why would Harreld impose an interim provost on a new president when Harreld could have begun a new search immediately, or simply appointed someone on an open-ended basis? (Given that the new interim provost simply moved up, it wouldn’t have been too hard for him to move down again, and of course he could have applied for the provost position himself is a search was initiated.)
While Harreld is now endlessly talking about stability and a smooth transition of power, the reality is that in announcing his own impending retirement, in failing to retain the former permanent provost, and in demoting the former CLAS dean, Harreld has compromised the three most-important leadership positions on campus. What manner of opportunistic abuse might take place now that the university is gutted — particularly with the regents’ ad-hoc committee snooping around, looking for institutional vulnerabilities? Who is minding the store now that Harreld is already halfway back to his multi-million-dollar chalet in the Rockies, where he will almost certainly spend most of his remaining months?
In anticipating Monday’s board meeting my hunch was that it would be quite short. Indeed, I speculated on social media that it might comprise a perfunctory six minutes, or only as long as necessary to meet the board’s statutory obligations under Iowa Code. What I did not anticipate, however, was that we would get a clear view of the board’s intentions going forward, let alone a bravura display of egotism and delusion from J. Bruce Harreld himself.
The entire meeting runs 9:20, and if you haven’t seen it I encourage you to do so. I may come back and transcribe the whole thing at some point, but that would still leave out the tense nonverbals from the regents, which collectively struck me as particularly damning. (The board president, Mike Richards, appears in shirt sleeves, without a jacket, as if he’s merely ticking off another item on his daily to-do list.)
Also, pay attention to the absence of salutations and well-wishes from the regents, made all the more deafening when Harreld pontificates about how the regents should conduct the search. And of course a high point is the moment where Harreld’s lower lip hangs down and he mopes about how he didn’t have the support he needed when he took over, which is why he’s so keen to make sure the next president benefits from a robust transition. (For those who are unfamiliar with Harreld’s rigged hire in 2015, not only did Harreld have no prior experience in academic administration or in the public sector, he also had not problem taking a job that he wasn’t qualified for. In fact, Harreld himself openly acknowledged that he would need to be “coached” and “mentored” by members of the UI community, just to be able to do the job he had been hired to do. Now, five years later, Bro Bruce is butt-hurt about not having had enough transitional support, after he personally helped a small cabal of co-conspirators steal that job for him.)
Maybe the most interesting takeaway from Monday’s board meeting was the rapidly increasing gulf between what Harreld is arguing for and what the board is doing. When he announced his open-ended retirement last week, Harreld emphasized that he was willing to stay on for another year or two if that’s what it took to hire the right person, particularly given the coronavirus pandemic. At that time, the board acknowledged that the search could be time consuming, and that Harreld’s timeline was not unrealistic.
Only five days later, however, during the Monday board meeting, Harreld further extended his possible unrelenting tenure by offering to stay on even after a new president was hired, so as to give said new president the benefit of all of Harreld’s university-destroying wisdom. In response, however, not only did the individual members of the regents have nothing to say, but the schedule the board has already laid out for the search process is faster than the rigged search 2015 — and not just by a day or two.
In late 2014, Sally Mason informally notified the Board of Regents that she intended to retire at the end of July, 2015. Mason’s public announcement took place on January 15th of 2015, then the board met — as was just the case with Harreld — five days later on January 20th, and officially launched the search for Mason’s replacement, including the process for hiring a search firm. A month and a half later, on 03/12/15, a search firm was hired, and the first meeting of what we later learned was a thoroughly corrupted search committee took place on 03/25/15, just over two months later.
Now compare that to the initial timetable for the search to replace Harreld, as contained in the Request for Qualifications for search firms that was released by the board on Monday:
Tentative Schedule of Events
October 5, 2020 — RFQ Issued
October 16, 2020 — Firm’s Questions Due
October 21, 2020 — Responses to Firm’s Questions Issued
October 26, 2020 — RFQ Responses Due
October 30, 2020 — Short List of Firms Identified
November 4-6, 2020 — Interview Process of Final Firms
November 13, 2020 — Award of Contract
As you can see, the board anticipates signing a search firm in less than six weeks, where the same hiring process took eight and a half weeks in 2015. Meaning whatever Harreld’s plan is to stick around as long as possible, the board seems to be going in the opposite direction, and looking to hire his replacement as soon as possible. And why not? Maybe the pandemic will slow the overall process, but putting a committee together shouldn’t be a problem, and there have to be plenty of seasoned administrators who would love to take on the challenges at UI, particularly after Harreld lowered the bar of expectations to the floor. (Seriously, apart from the corrupt Board of Regents making life a living hell, and the legislature and governor cutting your budget every time you turned around, what better situation could you walk into in a plague?)
Having a search firm signed prior to Thanksgiving break, which is when the entire UI campus will go online-only though finals in mid-December, would mean a full two months during which the campus was relatively quiet. Between Zoom meetings and winter break, which was extended an extra week this year because of the pandemic, there exists a large block of time that a search committee could put to concentrated use in expediting the search process. (In the next post we will take a look at the problems that will inevitably arise during the selection of the search committee, and they are considerable — including Harreld’s clear desire to get his grubby, discredited mitts involved.)
Still, only seven days out now from Harreld’s announcement the trends are blindingly clear. Harreld is doing everything possible to slow down and extend the search and transition, while the Board of Regents is mashing the accelerator. From the glaring lack of commentary or well-wishes by the regents during Monday’s exceedingly short meeting, I get the distinct feeling that they would like to rid themselves of this clown as much as I would like to see him go. While it is important to proceed carefully, particularly given the board’s proclivity for corruption, the entire 2015 search took about seven and a half months from inception to rigged fruition, so there is no reason a new president could not be announced by the end of the spring term, leading into a fortuitous — and hopefully Harreld-free — transition over the summer.
Yes, the pandemic will be a factor, as will the damage Harreld has done to the standing of the university over the past five years, but UI is still an R1/AAU public university, and presiding over such a campus would be attractive to many academic administrators. Whether a safe and effective vaccine will be available will probably also be known by the time the application process is opened next year, and that may provide candidates with further inducement to consider UI. The university won’t be out of the woods just because Harreld leaves, and the regents will remain a formidable threat, but nothing gets better until Harreld is gone, and thankfully looks like the regents agree.
Reporting on Monday’s meeting from: Vanessa Miller at the Gazette; Eleadnor Hildrebrandt at the Daily Iowan; and Cleo Krejci at the Iowa City Press-Citizen.
* Speaking of Iowa’s former provost, I was glad to see this from the Gazette’s Miller: Former University of Iowa provost among finalists for Kent State job. If it’s a job Fuentes wants to get, I hope she gets the job.
* Prior to contracting COVID-19, the president of the United States passed a white-nationalist executive order clamping down on diversity training in the federal workforce. Because the University of Iowa gets hundreds of millions of dollars in support from the federal government, the university is pausing its own diversity training programs for two weeks to avoid being in default of that order. Not surprisingly, this has prompted a great deal of appropriate frustration and outrage, but in the scheme of things I don’t think it’s a major blow to diversity, equity and inclusion efforts on campus. It’s not a good look, certainly, but other than picking a fight that could cost the school a massive amount of money because the current occupant in the White House is jacked up on drugs — over and above his baseline insanity — I’m not sure there are any good options.
Reporting from the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: University of Iowa pauses diversity training after Trump executive order, and from Julia Shanahan at the Daily Iowan: University of Iowa will halt diversity, equity, and inclusion training after White House Executive Order.
* Also from the Gazette’s Miller, a thorough recounting of how we got to this point, and the economic forces at play: University of Iowa looks for Hawk Shop, bookstore partner.
* Chloe Peterson at the Daily Iowan: Current, former Hawkeyes reflect on their experience in the men’s swimming program.
* In killing off the Iowa men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams, Gary Barta also threw away a bunch of money and publicity. From Braden Keith at SwimSwam: Greensboro Expected to Replace Iowa City as Hosts of 2021 Men’s NCAA Swimming & Diving Championship Meet.
* Michael T. Nietzel at Forbes: The Three Lessons That 2020 Has Taught Every University President. Quite the grouping here:
Call the roll. Jerry Falwell, Jr. out at Liberty University. Bruce Harreld suddenly ending his tenure at the University of Iowa. And Jay Golden, stepping down under questionable circumstances after less than one year as President of Wichita State University.
10/04/20 — As difficult as this may be to fathom, if you are reading this on the morning of Sunday, October 4th, it has only been seventy-two hours since illegitimate University of Iowa president J. Bruce Harreld admitted that he was the wrong man for the job and threw in the towel. In that intervening period there has been a bit of news elsewhere, but in the main I have been thinking about how the corrupt Iowa Board of Regents will rig the hire of Harreld’s replacement, much as they rigged Harreld’s appointment in 2015. Before we go to that dark place and remain there for the next ten months or more, however, I want to address a rumor that began making the rounds shortly after Harreld admitted that he is incapable of leading UI to success during and perhaps after the pandemic.
While nothing about the timeline of Harreld’s decision to retire can be believed — either as presented by Harreld or by the Board of Regents — for the moment we are left with one important fact. Whatever else may happen in the coming weeks and months, the situation we face now is one of replacing a sitting president, not appointing an interim president. That could certainly change as soon as tomorrow, if Harreld and the board come to some mutually beneficial agreement, but for the moment Harreld will remain president until his successor is selected, and perhaps also for a transitional period.
The rumor I heard was that former six-time Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, who resigned as U.S. ambassador to China only a few weeks ago, might be named to replace Harreld either on an interim or permanent basis. We cannot say for certain that those options are off the table, because if Branstad decided he wanted an easy half-million dollars in cash the Republican Party wouldn’t think twice about throwing another million or two in state funds at Harreld just to get rid of him. While I certainly don’t know Branstad’s financial situation, and UI was Branstad’s undergraduate alma mater, it would be genuinely out of character for him to turn into a money-grubbing sleaze in old age, and that obvious patronage probably wouldn’t help the sitting governor — his protege, Demon Kim Reynolds — when she runs for re-election in two short years.
As to the idea that Branstad might want to preside over UI for other reasons, such as boredom or ego gratification, it is worth nothing that between his initial four-term gubernatorial reign and his two-term return engagement, he was in fact the president of Des Moines University for six years. Were Branstad not the longest-serving governor in U.S. history it might then be noteworthy that Des Moines University is quite small relative to the University of Iowa, but having run an entire state for decades I don’t think the executive responsibility of running UI would be beyond him. I do think, however, that at his current age of 73, Branstad probably has better things to do than be ground down by the pandemic, by his own party’s insistence on destroying higher-education, and by the factional forces in play on any university campus.
Among the dubious alternatives, the most likely scenario would involve Branstad serving as interim for a year or so, much as former UNI president Ben Allen was brought back to serve as Iowa State’s interim president, after the disgraced then-president made the surprise jump to Auburn. But again, if Branstad was champing at the bit we would have already heard that Harreld was leaving in short order. Instead, we are in the situation the Board of Regents found itself in when former UI President Sally Mason announced, in January of 2015, that she would resign that coming August. In that situation the board went immediately to work, named a search committee, rigged the search in Harreld’s favor, then imposed J. Bruce Harreld on the UI campus to the utter detriment of the school.
The reality, however, is that shortly after Mason announced her retirement she all but disappeared from the UI campus. In that vacuum various players stepped to the fore, including particularly the future and current CEO/XD of the Board of Regents — at least until he left UI to accept a transitional position at the board, which was specifically created for him and skirted Iowa law to pay him more than he was legally allowed to make — and former UI VP for Medicine Jean Robillard, who not only also served as chair of the corrupt search committee that led to Harreld’s rigged appointment, but took over as interim president when Mason officially retired on July 31st. Unlike Mason, Harreld’s departure date is open-ended, but as with Mason that doesn’t mean Harreld will actually be on campus doing his job. In fact, as regular readers know, it’s not at all clear that Harreld ever moved to Iowa at any point in the past five years, and he seems to have spent most of the past-six pandemic months roughing it at his $6M chalet near Vail, Colorado.
All of which is to say that just because Terry Branstad probably isn’t taking over that doesn’t mean minions of the Republican Party, or current long-time UI administrators deeply enmeshed with the Board of Regents, won’t be up to all kinds of mischief even if Harreld is off working on his tan. So keep an eye on the board’s elves and the usual subjects in central administration, and don’t let your guard down. Between now and the appointment of a new crony president at UI, a world of hurt can still be done to the university in the next twelve months, particularly with a lame-duck, disinterested or absentee president at the helm, and the board’s ad-hoc committee still running around looking for administrative efficiencies.
* Important context here about Harreld’s tenure at Iowa and the damage he has done, from Mary Hartel at the Daily Iowan: Searches for academic administrators to “keep moving” as UI begins search for new president. While Harreld and the regents are claiming Harreld did great things, most of his so-called accomplishments could have and would have been achieved by a qualified academic administrator if one had been hired instead. Worse, because Harreld won’t actually be leaving until next summer at the earliest, the school is now hamstrung regarding key administrative positions.
Clearly, Harreld shouldn’t be hiring anyone into those jobs, but that means the new president will inherent a slate of interim administrators and be delayed another year before having their own people in place. The best of a bunch of bad options would involve launching searches sooner and then allowing the new president to choose from among the finalists for a given position, but how do you entice the best candidates when they won’t know who they would be working for until Harreld is gone? Incredibly, even with his resignation, J. Bruce Harreld has crippled the University of Iowa for another two years.
* I flagged this article in a prior post, but because of Harreld’s retirement announcement and the consequent board meeting Monday, it deserves attention by anyone who is justifiably concerned about the upcoming corrupt search process. From Lindsay Ellis, Jack Stripling, and Dan Bauman at the Chronicle of Higher Education: The New Order — How the nation’s partisan divisions consumed public-college boards and warped higher education.
The result was the rise of a board with a penchant for power struggles, whose politically connected members imposed their wills on campuses and inflamed conflict in the name of fiscal responsibility or civic principle.
That quote references the governing board of the North Carolina System, but don’t be fooled. The reason the corrupt Iowa Board of Regents does not have fractious debates is not because everyone agrees about doing the right thing, it’s because the Iowa Board of Regent is a top-down operation that brooks no dissent. Between the CEO/XD and the board president, the modern Iowa Board of Regents — as re-imagined by Terry Branstad in 2010 — is a well-oiled and co-opted arm of the state’s powerful Republican Party. The fact that Iowa’s regents never, ever disagree, and that the president is now always a high-dollar donor to the Republican governor, makes that political corruption abundantly clear. (Regents are appointed to six-year terms, meaning even if Kim Reynolds loses her bid for reelection in 2022, it would take two terms for a Democratic governor to undo the political stranglehold that the Republican Party has on the board.)
* Sarah Watson at the Daily Iowan: When did past University of Iowa presidents leave the institution?
* Mark Emmert at Hawk Central: Save Iowa Sports group has a plan, and believes university president Bruce Harreld will listen. This is a smart plan, which may or may not profit from Harreld’s announcement that he may or may not be retiring in the next year.
* Brian Grace at the Daily Iowan: UI students discuss the pandemic-tinted rent landscape in Iowa City.
* Vanessa Miller at the Gazette: Gov. Reynolds says Johnson and Story county bars can reopen Monday.
* Shawn Hubler at the New York Times: Colleges Learn How to Suppress Coronavirus: Extensive Testing. This is brutal:
When one employee tested positive, Mr. Brand said, [Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa] quickly tested every contact, including nearly all of the students in the block cohort. A half-hour’s drive away, the University of Iowa, which has cited “a false sense of security” in opting against mass testing, has been among the state’s most persistent coronavirus hot spots.
One of the genuine accomplishments of J. Bruce Harreld is that he managed to turn an R1/AAU public research university into an anti-science joke.
* Pat Forde at Sports Illustrated: Notre Dame’s Leadership Is Failing Its Students.
10/02/20 — If you are reading this post I assume you didn’t find your way here by accident, and that you already know that illegitimate University of Iowa president J. Bruce Harreld announced his resignation yesterday morning. As you might imagine, that news prompted a flurry of reporting, and we will get to all of that in the coming days and weeks. For now, however, i think it’s important to stress that Harreld did not in fact announce that he is resigning immediately or even soon, and it is entirely possible that Harreld will still be the president of the UI in two years. Which is to say that if you think things are going to get better at the University of Iowa any time soon, they are not.
What Harreld said, specifically, is that he intends to resign as soon as the corrupt Iowa Board of Regents completes its presidential search process and hires his replacement. Harreld could have said he was stepping down immediately, he could have said he was stepping down at the end of the calendar year, he could have said he was stepping down at the end of the academic year, but he did none of those things. Instead, Harreld specifically said he would not be leaving office until his replacement was ready to serve, and the soonest that could conceivably happen would be next summer, and probably later in that season than sooner.
Even if the Board of Regents presses ahead with all deliberate speed, you should expect that Harreld will continue blundering his way through gaffes and debacles for at least ten months, and that’s assuming a best-case scenario where he doesn’t go berserk with rage and try to wreck the place on his way out. Having said that, because of the oddly conditional nature of Harreld’s resignation, and the board’s apparent if not inexplicable acceptance of Harreld’s terms, the nine regents could also drag their collective eighteen feet indefinitely. Meaning it’s entirely possible that Harreld could remain in office for two years or more, and you don’t have to take my word for that.
From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, yesterday:
[Board of Regents President Mike] Richards said Harreld wanted to announce his departure early to give the campus plenty of time to find a replacement without the need for an interim. And while the board would like to have a new leader in place by next fall, Richards said, Harreld is aware the search could take longer.
“He has appropriately said it could take a couple of years,” he said. “Maybe more, maybe less.”
If you are wondering why J. Bruce Harreld would make a big deal out of announcing that he was retiring, only to then slap multiple caveats on that announcement — including the possibility that he just might hang around for another two years, which the regent president confirm — that’s obviously a good question. The first point I would make is that neither Harreld nor Richards feels any obligation to be honest with the public about what they are doing, so we shouldn’t trust anything they say, either. The second point I would make is that there are complexities to Harreld’s employment contract with the board, specifically regarding a substantial sum that may or may not be owed to him if and when he leaves, which could paint all of this jockeying and posturing in an entirely different and predictably money-grubbing light.
While it would certainly be fun to parse quotes and speculate, the reality is that this is the opening salvo in a bureaucratic melodrama that will play out over months, so there really isn’t any imperative. In fact, standing back and waiting for the story to develop will probably be more fruitful, simply because we currently have no reliable information. On that point, we will also save ourselves the pain of listening to a bunch of disreputable administrators pat each other on the back and commend each other for going above and beyond.
Speaking of which, in only three days we will get a massive helping of that nauseating, privileged, mutually congratulatory behavior during a hastily scheduled virtual meeting of the Iowa Board of Regents on this coming Monday, October 5th. From the agenda for that meeting:
UNIVERSITY OF IOWA PRESIDENTIAL SEARCH
1. Accept the retirement of J. Bruce Harreld as President of the University of Iowa effective upon the employment of a successor president.
2. Authorize the Executive Director, in consultation with Board leadership, to do the following:
a) Advertise for, select and enter into an agreement with a search firm to provide consulting services for the University of Iowa Presidential Search;
b) Establish a Search Committee for the University of Iowa Presidential Search;
c) Develop a process and timetable for the University of Iowa Presidential Search.
The Executive Director shall report to the Board on the status of the University of Iowa Presidential Search during the November meeting.
If you are holding out any hope that the Iowa Board of Regents will run an open, fair and honest presidential search at the University of Iowa, that will never, ever happen because there is just too damn much power and money in play. Even after having been sanctioned by the AAUP for rigging the 2015 search that led to Harreld’s appointment, the board will stack the committee, rig the process, and make sure that their preferred candidate emergence victorious. Which is not to say that the UI community should simply roll over for more abuse.
If you are concerned about the upcoming search, or simply want to understand the process better to anticipate how it will be corrupted, you can find the issue discussed in section 2.1 of the regents’ policy manual. In order to extricate the University of Iowa from its sanction for the corrupt 2015 search, the UI Faculty Senate and members of the board also collaborated on an aspirational document which will, in the end, have no actual force during the upcoming search, because the regents are rabid political animals and hold all of the statutory cards.
AAUP: Rebuilding “Iowa Nice” in Shared Governance: From Sanction to Collaboration
Preamble: Report of the University of Iowa Faculty Senate’s AAUP Sanction Removal Committee
Report: Summary of Best Practice for Faculty Engagement in a UI Presidential Search:
With the above cautions in mind, and details of the eventual transition yet to be determined, it is nonetheless true that something important did happen yesterday. J. Bruce Harreld was hired, ostensibly, because he was a business genius who — among his many credits — helped “chart [IBM’s] transformation from near bankruptcy“. After four easy years on the job at UI, the Board of Regents were so happy with his performance that they gave their boy wonder a three-year contract extension, which he eagerly took, committing him to the University of Iowa until 2023.
Now, however, in the middle of a global pandemic, and facing the inevitable financial wreckage to come, the board’s boy wonder has pissed himself. Instead of sticking around to help the University of Iowa recover — much as Sally Mason did for eight years, after the UI campus was wiped out by flooding — the same cocky creep from the private-sector who trash-talked Mason and claimed to be a turnaround expert is cutting and running when the going gets tough. Well not only does that define J. Bruce Harreld as a coward and a failure, but it tells us that the people who originally hired him in 2015, and the people who gave him his contract extension last year, failed in their judgments. Unfortunately, to get Harreld to finally drag his carcass off the UI campus, we will now have to rely on the same failed governing board to pick the next president of the University of Iowa.
In the links below you will find the news of Harreld’s resignation largely as it rolled out, which you can click through at your leisure. More to come as I work through them myself.
UI ITS: Statement from Harred
Iowa Now: President Harreld announces plan for retirement
Iowa Regents: University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld to Retire
Daily Iowan: Harreld to retire, opening search for new University of Iowa president
Gazette: University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld retiring early
Gazette: University of Iowa community looks to campus future in wake of Harreld’s departure announcement
Gazette: Timeline: Bruce Harreld’s five-year tenure at University of Iowa
Chronicle of Higher Education: U. of Iowa President Will Step Down Early After Controversial Tenure
Press-Citizen: University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld to retire; will remain in office until a successor is named
Press-Citizen: A timeline of Bruce Harreld’s time as president of the University of Iowa
AP: University of Iowa president to retire as college faces leadership drain, COVID-19 challenges
Inside Higher Ed: Iowa President Ending Difficult Term With Early Retirement.
CBS2: University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld announces retirement
Iowa Public Radio: UI President Harreld Intends To Retire As Soon As A Replacement Is Found
KCJJ: UI President Harreld announces retirement
Go Iowa Awesome: UI President Bruce Harreld to Retire
Quad City Times: University of Iowa president to retire
10/01/20 — In following the gaffes, abuses of power and outright scams perpetrated by illegitimate University of Iowa president J. Bruce Harreld for over five years, one of the most important sources of information about Harreld’s malevolent intent has always been the semi-regular interviews that he himself gives to the university’s campus paper, the Daily Iowan. Particularly given Harreld’s pathological reluctance to speak on the record with virtually any local or national reporter, or with anyone at all unless they are a complete homer for UI, the lengthy interviews that he does give to the DI stand out in stark counterpoint. So much so, in fact, that I have always wondered if he is legally obligated to conduct those interviews, or required to do so by the corrupt Iowa Board of Regents in his furtherance of is role as the fake president of the school.
On the other hand, because Harreld is both a shyster and a cauldron of toxic ego needs, it is also possible that he sees the Daily Iowan interviews as an opportunity to both admire himself greatly and to unveil whatever hostile agenda he intends to pursue during the current academic cycle. In that context, I had been wondering lately if Harreld may have balked at that tradition this year — perhaps as a result of his new contract — because it was already late September and the DI had not yet published the first Harreld interview for the year. Consistent with prior practice, however, on Tuesday night the DI posted a short article featuring various comments Harreld made during an interview with the DI, so hopefully we will get a more extensive transcript in coming days. For the time being, we will parse the quotes we have.
From Sabine Martin at the DI: Harreld says University of Iowa should not bank on a vaccine for next semester, expects to remain mostly online.
As students adjust to the COVID-19 afflicted fall semester at the University of Iowa, UI president Bruce Harreld said the spring semester will likely look very similar to the fall.
Harreld said the UI should not count on a vaccine being available during the spring.
“I think we need to assume there’s not going to be a vaccine until maybe well into the summer, if then. Therefore, I think it’ll look largely like what we’re looking at now,” Harreld said in an interview with The Daily Iowan.
The subhead to the DI story reads: “…the spring semester will likely be similar to the fall, with mostly virtual instruction”. The body copy does not have a direct quote from Harreld about “virtual instruction”, but assuming that the subhead is accurate — and the body copy does supports that specific inference — it is interesting that we are only a little over a month into the fall term and Harreld is not only already talking about the spring semester, he is doing so in a decidedly different manner than the bait-and-switch scam he ran this summer. Instead of promising students a “campus experience” teeming with in-person classes, then delivering 74% online classes on the first day of the fall term, Harreld seems to be presenting a more honest appraisal of what the spring term will look like when it begins in four months.
Harreld said he was concerned if the UI moved all classes online, students would be at a higher risk of dropping out.
“We have such a large percentage of our population that is either first-generation or underrepresented minorities, and the data says they tend to drop out in a normal environment at a higher rate, and if we go online, what would their persistence be,” Harreld told The DI.
There have been protests and two sick outs organized throughout the semester calling for the UI to hold classes entirely online.
“The concern I have, if we really care about the underrepresented generation, and first-generation students, then we need to find a way to have it both ways and give people a choice,” Harreld said.
“It’s costing us more to do what we’re doing, than if we were all online,” Harreld said.
As regular readers know, if Harreld cared about first-generation and minority students he would not have implemented five abusive tuition hikes over his first four years in office, with another four already approved for the remainder of his contractual obligations. (Yes, the regents have held tuition flat so far during this pandemic year, but the board reserves the right to increase tuition at any time, and has already approved minimum hikes for each of the next three years which can also be increased with a simple vote.) First-gen and minority students tend to be from families with lesser means, which means recurrent tuition hikes hit them especially hard — and of course from all of his nifty data Harreld knows that. But that didn’t stop Bro Bruce from pounding those students year after year, even as he now hopes to use those same battered students as a shield to avoid moving all UI classes online.
As to Harreld’s assertion that providing the current mix of 80% online classes and 20% in-person classes costs more than offering 100% online classes, that’s not the question. The question is what the cost would be to the school if all of those online classes were being taken by students living off campus or at home. As a result of J. Bruce Harreld’s summer recruitment scam, there are thousands of students living in the UI dorms, paying for room and board and a la carte services on the UI campus, even as they are taking most or all of their classes online. Suckering students back to campus when he knew most of the classes would be online was in fact the point of Harreld’s ruse, and he didn’t do that because he cares about first-gen and minority students. What Harreld cared about then — and the only thing he cares about now — is generating as much revenue as possible.
Johnson County’s COVID-19 infection rate is currently 11.1 percent. Harreld said that in order to have in-person instruction, Johnson County is going to need to have an COVID-19 infection rate of 5 percent or lower.
Once again, as he has been doing for weeks, Harreld insists that Johnson County is on fire with COVID-19 cases, which prevents him from providing more in-person classes for the first-gen and minority students he cares so much about. And yet, as has been repeatedly noted in these virtual pages, the University of Iowa asserts that there are very few active COVID-19 cases in Johnson County, and even fewer on campus. Well if both of those things are true, then the positivity rate of 11.1% that Harreld quoted on Tuesday necessarily derives from minimal testing — but of course we already knew Harreld was limiting the school to only conducting symptomatic tests, so that shouldn’t come as a surprise. (Watching university staffers routinely post COVID-19 statistics which directly counter the arguments being made by their own illegitimate president is emblematic of Harreld’s leadership.)
* Also on Tuesday we learned that J. Bruce Harreld’s bait-and-switch scam began to fall apart only weeks after the fall term commenced. From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: University of Iowa RAs demand ‘hazard pay’ for COVID-19 threats.
The UI has seen a sharp uptick in residence hall students canceling housing contracts so far in this semester — different from any before it due to COVID-19 and the complexities it created.
Between the start of dorm move-in Aug. 14 and the extended deadline to request contract release without penalty Sept. 10, UI Housing and Dining processed 696 cancellations. It has processed another 15 since, for a total of 711.
As noted in prior posts, not only was lying to the UI student body a betrayal of Harreld’s responsibility as president, but even setting aside his administrative malfeasance it wasn’t a particularly smart move given that he also wants those same students to return in the spring. So how are things looking for next semester?
Of the 696 students who canceled before deadline, 378 have said they plan to return to live on campus in the spring, Stange said.
Although the novelty of this semester makes comparison difficult, Stange said, 133 students canceled their housing contracts between Aug. 17 and Dec. 21 last fall.
So a bit more than half of the students that Harreld suckered back to campus this fall, who then cancelled their dorm contracts, have already said they won’t be returning in the spring, and we’re still only a month into the fall term. We have two and a half months of classes yet to go this semester, as cold and flu season kicks off, then another migration home after Thanksgiving. Two months after that, in the dead of winter, Harreld’s plan is that UI students will eagerly flock back to campus or the surrounding community, to take another slate of largely online classes they could complete just as easily from home — or from somewhere that isn’t below freezing and overrun with COVID-19, like the state of Iowa will be.
Oh — and while we’re at it, most of the students who were suckered into living in the dorms this year were freshmen, including the same first-gen and minority students that Harreld professes to care so much about. Because those students and their families have, on average, fewer financial assets to draw from — particularly compared to the multi-millionaire poser in the president’s office — Harreld’s bait-and-switch cost them thousands of dollars many of them don’t have to waste. Which is not to say it’s surprising that Harreld is using people under duress from his own corrupt administrative acts to justify those corrupt administrative acts, but it is certainly revolting.
* From Mary Hartel at the Daily Iowan: While the UI continues to offer in-person classes, thousands of students are operating entirely online already.
At the University of Iowa this semester, more than 2,500 undergraduate students are holding their classes all online.
As groups of students and faculty have criticized the UI’s return-to-campus plan and protested in-person classes, the university has reported more than three-quarters of undergraduate classes are already held entirely online.
Given that roughly 80% of all credit hours at the University of Iowa are being delivered online this fall, it’s likely that most of the students who are taking at least one in-person class are only taking one in-person class. If that’s the case, it’s also worth wondering if that wasn’t actually part of Harreld’s bait-and-switch plan, because it provides at least some plausible deniability for calling the students back to campus. And of course in asking that question we can also see why Harreld would not want to go fully online in the fall, because that would then set that precedent for the spring, and then why would anyone come back to campus and spend their money in the vending machines or buying extra blankets? What a racket….
* As noted on multiple prior occasions (see 08/28/20 entry here), J. Bruce Harreld has repeatedly — and falsely — asserted that Iowa’s flu season begins in late February or early March. In reality, flu season in Iowa begins when the weather turns cold, which is why real doctors start encouraging people in September and October to get their vaccinations. Fortunately, while Dr. Harreld is spreading false healthcare information, on Monday the real healthcare experts at UI announced a slate of opportunities for students, faculty and staff to receive this year’s flu vaccine. And shockingly, those campus opportunities begin in late October and early November, as opposed to the late February or early March time-frame falsely asserted by the illegitimate president of the University of Iowa.
* Vanessa Miller at the Gazette: University of Iowa reports hundreds of COVID-19 complaints, as police respond to house parties. While case counts are remarkably if not suspiciously low in Johnson County, we also apparently have an army of narcs taking to a UI web form to report violations on campus, and wild parties throughout the surrounding community.
UI has created an online form for community members to report violations of campus health and distancing guidelines and “student behavioral expectations” – which everyone was expected to agree to following per-semester COVID-19 training new this year.
Since Sept. 11, when UI reported 256 complaints of failure to social distance, wear a face covering, follow guest policy expectations, and comply with quarantine and isolation orders – 36 of which were verified, 106 of which were cleared, and 114 of which were pending review – the university has taken another 452 more complaints.
This level of reporting almost seems incentivized, and it would be interesting to know who is logging all of these complaints into a system that most students are probably not even aware of. As for the raft of police reports about parties, not only can no one be surprised given that Harreld begged the governor to close all the bars in town, but in a few weeks it will be cold enough that all of those outdoor parties will be indoors, in closed spaces with poor ventilation.
* Following up on the Title IX lawsuit by four members of the terminated Iowa Women’s Swimming and Diving team, some informative quotes from the students — as reported by Jay Kidwell at OurQuadCities: Iowa Hawkeyes swimmers next move.
* Moss Brennan at the Wautaga Democrat: Appalachian State student dies with COVID-19. No preexisting conditions for the denialists to seize upon. Just a kid who shouldn’t be dead.
* Rylee Wilson at the Daily Iowan: UI professor accused of domestic abuse assault.
* Vanessa Miller at the Gazette: Iowa sorority sister on college life amid coronavirus: ‘Kind of disappointing’.
* Also from the Gazette’s Miller: Religious freedom fight still taking on University of Iowa.
* An important deep dive from Lindsay Ellis, Jack Stripling and Dan Bauman at the Chronicle of Higher Education: The New Order: How the nation’s partisan divisions consumed public-college boards and warped higher education.
* Kelly Meyerhofer at the Wisconsin State Journal: Failed UW System presidential search cost $216,400.90. If you follow higher-ed at all, you will be amazed by this:
The System won’t be able to recoup the amount because the contract with the company that organized the candidate search didn’t specify nonpayment if the hiring process failed. The contract also doesn’t require the search firm to conduct a second search at a reduced price. A new search will likely cost at least the same amount.
The UW System was decimated by former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who was not only a miserable human being but at the time one of only two state governors without a college degree. Having said that, this kind of negligence is simply inexcusable, and whoever failed to include these boilerplate protections should be terminated.
* I.J. at the Economist: Creative-writing courses have increased in popularity and prestige.
09/27/20 — As suspected, on Friday another shoe dropped regarding the termination of four varsity sports at the University of Iowa, so I am glad I put off this update a few days. As noted in prior posts, illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld and Athletic Director Gary Barta are using COVID-19 as an excuse to kill off four non-revenue sports that Barta doesn’t want to have to pay for, thus liberating $5M in the athletics department budget going forward. While there will certainly be near-tern financial carnage from the pandemic, in the long term Barta can use that money for whatever he wants, which of course means spending it on football.
As also previously noted, there is a group of former alums who are not happy with Harreld and Barta, and they have set out to expose Iowa’s administrative backstabbing and rescind the decision to terminate those sports. On this past Tuesday that rapidly growing group — now named Save Iowa Sports (SIS) — announced that it had secured substantial initial hard pledges in support of the four programs slated for demolition. From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: Save Iowa Sports raises $1.65 million.
A group of 500-plus University of Iowa athletes and alumni are reporting raising in a single day “hard pledges amounting to $1.65 million” toward saving the campus’ four recently-axed sports — swimming and diving, men’s tennis, and men’s gymnastics.
“That is just the beginning,” the Save Hawkeye Sports group said in an open letter Monday to UI President Bruce Harreld. “We want to make sure that these sports are restored in the short term as we work on longer term solutions for how to continue in perpetuity.
“This is what Hawkeyes do, we come together.”
The announcement by SIS also called out the Iowa Board of Regents for its refusal to meet with or even hear from the group, and that was probably not a coincidence given that there was a regent meeting scheduled for this past Thursday, during which the state’s athletic directors would present their budgets for cursory board approval. On Wednesday of last week — meaning the day before the regent meeting — UI AD Barta released a new, updated budget that he intended to submit to the board, after he was forced to scrap the apocalyptic version he had been promoting to anyone who would listen. Specifically, prior to the recent announcement that the Big Ten will play a slate of eight football games this fall, Barta was pushing doomsday numbers that would have required (or legitimized) taking out a loan of $60M to $75M. Now, with the anticipation of significant revenue from the TV rights for Hawkeye football, Barta had a new prediction.
From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: University of Iowa expects football resurrection will pare down deficit, but cut sports to remain eliminated.
The resurrection of Big Ten football — even in a limited capacity, with a truncated schedule and no fan revenue — could shave tens of millions off an anticipated $75 million University of Iowa athletics deficit during this pandemic-plagued year.
But downgrading the massive losses to between $40 million and $60 million will not save the four sports UI Athletics last month announced will disappear at the end of this academic year, UI Athletic Director Gary Barta told the Board of Regents on Wednesday.
“The great news didn’t fix the problem,” Barta said of the Sept. 16 conference decision to kick off a shortened football season the weekend of Oct. 23-24.
Despite the fact that the University of Iowa — which is a public, government-run institution — does make a good deal of financial information available, one of the first things I learned about power at UI is that it is proportional to the ability to obscure and control money. Here however, with Barta’s new estimate of the losses that the athletics department will ostensibly incur as a result of the pandemic, we can actually see Barta put his thumb on the scale to make sure the four terminated programs stay dead. Where Barta’s prior estimate of the loan he would need to take out was between $60M and $75M, even with a massive infusion of revenue from football Barta is now anticipating a shortfall between $40M and $60M.
The problem with those numbers is that there is no universe in which the prior floor of $60M without football revenue could possibly coincide with his new ceiling of $60M with football revenue. And because that’s not possible, we know Gary Barta is not talking about real numbers, but instead pushing a worst-case scenario at every turn, at least in part to justify killing off four varsity sports.
As for J. Bruce Harreld, the entire premise of his corrupt hire in 2015 was that he was a business genius who could solve the toughest problems in higher education. Well here we have a legitimate crisis, and Harreld’s solution is to sell out four sports for a relatively trivial $5M in cash starting next year, which will also coincidentally ingratiate him with his athletic director and head football coach. To understand why that in itself is an admission of failure, all we have to do is look at Ohio State University, and the response of its Big Ten president and athletic director to the exact same circumstances.
From Bill Rabinowitz and Joey Kaufman at the Columbus Dispatch: Ohio State athletics projects $107 million deficit in 2021 fiscal year.
The Ohio State athletic department projects a $107 million deficit because of the COVID-19 pandemic in its fiscal year 2021 budget, the university announced Wednesday.
Ohio State said its 36-sport program, the largest in the country, “will remain intact” with scholarships fully funded as well as complete support services.
In their financial arguments before the board, and indeed in the act of cutting four varsity sports, what Harreld and Barta have demonstrated is that they are administrative mediocrities. Their very inability to keep the UI Athletics Department intact during the COVID-19 pandemic makes clear that they should be terminated for incompetence, but of course the Board of Regents has its own problems with mediocrity so there won’t be any changes any time soon. Because Harreld in particular is a petty, bratty and vindictive man, however, he couldn’t simply allow Barta to read through the numbers, express sadness, and leave it at that. Instead, at the end of Iowa’s presentation to the board, Harreld had to trivialize and invalidate the UI alumni group with mean-spirited and disingenuous byplay:
REGENT PRESIDENT PRO TEM PATTY COWNIE – I hope you get the money someplace
GARY BARTA – Thank you
BRUCE HARRELD – We do too but that’s not going to happen
COWNIE – I know. (Laughs)
BRUCE HARRELD – I’d love for a Regent to make a motion to fund this.
(4 seconds of silence)
BRUCE HARRELD – Okay, lets move on.
Among the uninformed on social media — including, unfortunately, a fair number of local sports reporters — this was seen as a strong stand by Harreld. In reality, it was a punk move by a man who is given to prevarication and deceit. To see why, note that even as Harreld was calling for a motion from the board, he knew that the regents do not dictate which sports are played at each of the state schools. In fact, in that very same meeting the president of the board felt compelled to make that point explicitly.
From Robert Read at the Daily Iowan: UI Athletics Department projects $40-60 million deficit despite football’s return, four cut sports remain eliminated.
“The presidents of the universities determined what sports are played at their universities,” regent Mike Richards said. “We do not specifically budget for any particular sport.”
As regular readers know, Harreld is a weak man with toxic ego needs, so it wasn’t surprising that he manufactured an opportunity to portray himself as a tough guy while talking crap about others. The fact that he could also ingratiate himself with AD Barta, and by extension UI football coach Kirk Ferentz, was icing on the cake for a man who desperately wants to be popular. And of course what better way to be a popular university president than to slash sports and denigrate people who support them?
As to why Harreld and Barta are so adamant about making sure four terminated sports stay dead, that’s because they know a competent president and athletic director could easily find the money to continue to support them, despite the serious near-term toll from the pandemic. Even if you wish a group of loyal alums would go away and leave you alone, however, in what world does it make sense to antagonize former Hawkeyes — including former student-athletes and coaches — and drive wedges into the UI community? Five years from now, or five months, you may want their support for something you’re doing, but they will all know you’re a two-faced snake.
Proving that Save Iowa Sports is not playing around, on Friday it was announced that four members of the UI Women’s Swimming and Diving Team were suing the University of Iowa for gender discrimination. (You can read reporting on that suit here from Ryan Foley at the AP, Mark Emmert at Hawk Central, and Vanessa Miller at the Gazette, and a copy of UI’s largely cut-and-paste response from the Office of the General Counsel here.) I don’t know if the courts only care about parity in terms of the number of men’s and women’s sports on a given campus, or the total number of male and female athletes, but if there are additional protections, one question that deserves more scrutiny is why Gary Barta refused to talk to the targeted programs before announcing his decision, while at the very same time he was talking to other athletic directors about the decision he was contemplating.
Specifically, by complete chance I stumbled over an odd story last week about William & Mary, having to do with their own decision to cut multiple sports: Amid financial concerns, W&M to discontinue seven sports following the 2020-21 academic year. After taking that gut-punch, however, members of the Wiliam & Mary community noticed that the wording of the W&M announcement bore a striking resemblance to the wording at another school that had also announced a slate of athletic cuts: Statement regarding communications about the future of Division I athletics at William & Mary.
As the leader of William & Mary Athletics, I affirm that the department’s and university’s integrity is paramount. I acknowledge the concerns raised by some members of the W&M community regarding the athletics communications on September 3, specifically the similarities to those of other institutions.
As we prepared to announce the very difficult decision to eliminate seven varsity programs, we consulted with professional colleagues and peers at several institutions, including Stanford University. We were seeking to engage a thoughtful process, then communicate those actions as respectfully as possible. Our goal was to emulate best practices, not imitate. We clearly fell short of the William & Mary community’s standards.
This mea culpa apparently proved insufficient, precipitating an additional communication: Communications process regarding the open letter on athletics.
Despite good intentions – in part because of the effort to seek best models for sharing difficult decisions – the communications process ultimately broke down. Many of the athletic departments that have eliminated sports share freely with one another in an effort to use best practices and approaches, and learn from each iteration. The main purpose of consultation was to ensure the utmost clarity and compassion in communicating very distressing news.
The idea that colleges and universities might work together not only to abolish individual sports, but to perfect the language of abolishment, while at the same time shutting out their own constituents, would never have occurred to me. While I had heard about the earlier bloodbath at Stanford, after reading the William & Mary communiques I went back and looked up the date of Stanford’s program cuts. The news that Stanford was terminating eleven varsity sports broke on July 8th, and included a heartfelt open letter and a comprehensive FAQ. (It was apparently these documents — and particularly text from the FAQ — that William & Mary then plagiarized.)
On August 21st the University of Iowa announced its own, smaller slate of terminated varsity sports. Included in the website version of that announcement was an open letter and FAQ. Unlike William & Mary, however, the University of Iowa avoided copying and pasting the Stanford texts, yet there are sufficient similarities in form and substance to make it likely that UI was one of the schools sharing information both as to method and message.
The Stanford FAQ had twenty-four questions, and the UI FAQ seventeen, but as you can see there is considerable overlap:
SU: 1. What decision was announced today related to Stanford Athletics?
SU: 2. What was the process that led to the decision?
SU: 3. What alternatives to these sports discontinuations were considered?
UI: Did the athletic department consider all other options prior to discontinuing sports?
SU: 4. Why is this being announced now?
UI: Why are we making the announcement now?
SU: 5. Why are so many sports being eliminated?
6. If donors step forward, can any of these sports retain their varsity status?
SU: 7. What does this decision say about the stability and future prospects of Stanford Athletics?
UI: How does this decision reflect on the stability of UI Athletics?
SU: 8. Will there be more varsity sport reductions, layoffs or furloughs in the future?
SU: 9. What is the impact of these changes on gender equity and Title IX?
UI: What impact do these decisions have on Gender Equity and Title IX compliance?
SU: 10. What is the impact of these changes on student-athlete diversity?
UI: How does this decision impact diversity within the department?
SU: 11. How many student-athletes, coaches and staff members are directly affected by this decision?
SU: 12. How will the affected student-athletes be supported?
UI: How will you support the student-athletes whose sports are being discontinued?
SU: 13. How will the affected coaches and staff members be supported?
UI: How will UI support the affected coaches and staff?
SU: 14. Why were 20 staff positions eliminated now if the teams are going to continue to compete this year?
SU: 15. Why were these 11 sports selected for discontinuation?
SU: 16. Were these sports selected because they have not been successful?
UI: Why were these sports chosen for elimination?
SU: 17. Will any of the sports transition to club status?
UI: Will any sports transition to compete as a club program?
SU: 18. What will happen if one of the teams is unable to field a full roster or the upcoming season is interrupted by COVID-19?
UI: What are the plans, given the unknowns of COVID-19 if a sport program is unable to field a full, competitive roster?
SU: 19. How much money will the Department of Athletics save as a result of this decision?
UI: How much money will be saved with the elimination of the four sports selected?
SU: 20. Why doesn’t the university use some of its endowment to keep these sports?
SU: 21. Athletics has its own endowment and a number of generous donors. Why not tap into that money to keep these sports?
UI: Could the university and athletic department utilize endowments to retain some or all the programs?
SU: 22. Why didn’t Stanford launch a fundraising campaign to fund these sports before making these decisions?
UI: Were any fundraising campaigns considered prior to sport elimination, and could a group of donors raise the money to reverse the decision?
SU: 23. Did inflated coach salaries and excessive spending in football and men’s and women’s basketball lead to these decisions?
SU: 24. How will Stanford Athletics use the savings recognized through these decisions?
UI: What will the resources allocated towards these programs be utilized for?
UI: With the Big 10’s decision to return to play, what impact will this have on the current year Athletics budget and sport sponsorship decision?
UI: What happens to the incoming students in the affected sport programs? If they opt to withdraw from UI will they receive a refund on their deposit?
(For those Stanford questions that do not have a direct analogue in the Iowa FAQ, the texts below the Iowa questions often answer the remaining Standford questions.)
If there is one aspect to the local story where I think Iowa’s sports reporters have fallen down, it is in connecting the dots between Stanford’s PR push after axing eleven sports, and the consequent wave of other universities using Stanford as a template for their own machinations and justifications. In that context, this Barta quote from a story by higher-ed beat reporter Cleo Krejci at the Iowa City Press-Citizen is particularly damning: University of Iowa projects ‘tens of millions’ in athletics losses due to the pandemic.
Barta said that the financial challenges were so great that it was not feasible to raise the money needed to keep the programs. He consulted with athletic directors from around the country in making the difficult decision, he said.
So the official position of UI AD Gary Barta is that he couldn’t possibly have talked to the affected stakeholders, but, he did take time out of his busy day to talk to other athletic directors about…what exactly? If Barta had any hope of saving the four programs he has targeted for termination, there would have been every incentive to talk with affected stakeholders — particularly if doing so might have advantaged him after the pandemic subsided. More to the point, if the problem Barta was trying to solve was budget related, then even if the cause of UI’s shortfall was causing similar problems at other schools, what would those other AD’s know about Barta’s budget?
On the other hand, if the problem Barta was trying to solve was not how to cover the budget and save those sports — which he could have called Ohio State to find out — but how to justify killing them, then conspiring with similarly inclined AD”s would make sense. And that’s particularly true if Barta talked to Stanford, which is a question someone should ask. As for the Title IX suit, it would be interesting to have depositions from that group of conspiring AD’s to see if they talked about how to avoid or minimize Title IX risk, particularly by axing male sports along with women’s sports. I don’t know if Title IX suits can be filed as a class by teams at different colleges and universities, but we clearly do have multiple admissions from multiple schools that their athletic directors conspired against individual teams on their own campuses.
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