A new threaded post on this topic can be found here. For previous posts about the Harreld hire, click the tag below.
11/19/20 — One of the lesser-known traditions at Iowa’s regent universities involves waiting until the day after a regent meeting to drop news that might otherwise occasion comment or notice from the assembled dignitaries and press. Today’s relatively benign example of that venerable practice is the announcement that Amy Kristof-Brown has been appointed dean of the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business. One of three finalists for the position, Kristof-Brown was already serving as the interim dean, and as such there should be no transition period involved — and in the current context that is enough of a benefit to recommend the choice.
As noted in a recent update, what Tippie — and the entire UI campus — needs right now is stability. There is no perfect candidate who would have taken the UI College of Business to the academic stratosphere, but there are plenty of good people working there who need support, particularly during the chaos and uncertainty occasioned by the pandemic. As a side benefit, this appointment also relieves the campus of concerns that would inevitably have arisen if the university had appointed Harreld’s old Harvard bro to the post — so we got that goin’ for us too, which is nice.
More from Claire Benson at the Daily Iowan: Amy Kristof-Brown named new dean of University of Iowa Tippie College of Business; and from Vanessa Miller at the Gazette: University of Iowa names interim to business dean post after national search.
* As expected there wasn’t a lot of news from yesterday’s meeting of the Board of Regents, but what little news did trickle out was generally good. Despite recent advice from the illegitimate president of the University of Iowa, J. Bruce Horrible, that the regents should get back to hiking tuition on students and families as soon as possible — ignoring the societal, economic and familial trauma inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic — the board sensibly announced that tuition and fees will remain frozen through the current academic year. Not only was that the right decision on a humanitarian basis, in all likelihood it was the right decision on a financial basis, because increasing tuition for the spring would have discouraged some students from registering at all.
From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: Iowa universities will keep tuition frozen for spring, expect fall increases.
After couching this fall’s coronavirus-compelled tuition freeze with the caveat that rates could go up in the spring, Iowa’s Board of Regents announced Wednesday costs will stay put for the rest of the academic year — but not for next fall.
“Because of COVID-19, pausing the five-year tuition model for one academic year was the right thing to do,” board President Michael Richards said during a regents meeting. “But in balancing the financial needs of our future institutions, we are planning to resume the five-year tuition plan beginning with the fall 2021 semester.”
As for Harreld, he tried to save face by claiming that the board’s decision to keep rates flat in the spring was really what he was lobbying for all along, when of course it wasn’t.
University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld commended the decision to resume rate hikes at his institution and at Iowa State University, as both campuses Wednesday reported financial challenges from the pandemic and looming demographic headwinds.
“I strongly believe it’s the right thing to do,” Harreld said. “I’m very appreciative, President Richards, that you’re making the statement that after this freeze, we’re coming back into that model. I think it’s not only right for the universities, but it’s also right for families because it gives them a sense of predictability.”
Just to close the loop on Harreld’s ridiculous argument, note that it was actually the Board of Regents that came up with the lie that students and families love having tuition hikes foisted on them every year, as long as they know about it in advance, because “it gives them a sense of predictability”. If you were punched in the face on a regularly scheduled basis you wouldn’t like it any more than if you were punched in the face at random,, but this is the level of intellectual depravity we live with from the leadership of the board and the state’s flagship university. And or course it’s possible if not likely that the board will simply increase tuition more than already planned — which in itself is not a fixed amount, but an uncertain amount tied to legislative appropriations, which won’t be known until next spring.
From Eleanor Hildebrandt at the Daily Iowan: Board of Regents President says tuition will not increase in the spring.
Over the next few board meetings, Richards said the regents will release more details on how they will return to the five-year tuition model.
The five-year tuition model was approved by the regents at a June 2019 meeting. The model increased undergraduate resident tuition by 3.9 percent at the UI and a 1 percent increase for nonresident undergraduates for the 2019-20 academic year.
The 2019 model plans to increase the tuition at the UI and Iowa State University by 3 to 5 percent for the five years following 2019. Any increases above three percent would be based on state appropriation levels and inflation.
But still — setting aside all those caveats, along with Harreld’s obsequious fawning, in this moment of legitimate crisis the Board of Regents managed to do the right thing.
* In another bit of good news from the regent meeting, J. Bruce Harreld pivoted off his recent insinuations that the regents might keep him around to pursue public-private partnerships even after he retires, and instead tied that responsibility to a nebulous campus “group”. From the tail end of Miller’s report on the continuing tuition freeze:
Harreld, citing realities facing higher education across the Midwest and East Coast signaling shrinking pools of prospective students, highlighted his campus’ recent endeavor to partner with a private collaborative for operation of its utilities system, and suggested more of that could come.
“You should also know that I’ve asked and authorized a group to start looking for what’s the next public-private partnership across the University of Iowa,” Harreld told the regents. “We need several more of these to get better ahead of the fiscal headwinds.”
At this moment there are probably five hundred committees on the UI campus, looking at five hundred different issues, and that is the way it should be at a major public research university. That is a far cry, however, from the retiring university president intimating that he will slide into a powerful consulting role after he officially resigns. Over five-plus years there has not been a single moment where Harreld’s purported business genius contributed anything unique to the future of the University of Iowa, and that includes the vaunted public-private utility partnership that closed back in early March. (That deal was literally a knock-off of the exact same deal that concluded at Ohio State in 2017, and was concluded by the dual threat of Jones Day and Wells Fargo, and a cost to UI of roughly $12M in consulting fees.)
* Speaking of the search to replace Harreld, Vanessa Miller noted the following in a tweet from the regents meeting:
University of Iowa committee heading search to replace outgoing UI Pres Bruce Harreld will meet publicly for the first time Dec. 4.
Sooner is not only better, but given the now-commonplace nature of virtual meetings it should be relatively easy to get people together despite disparate locations and competing schedules. There is not only no reason for the committee to delay, but the search timeline should map quite well to the coming winter and — hopefully — spring liberation due to viable vaccines. If the UI presidency is advertised no later than February 1st, that will allow candidates several months to consider the opportunity while the academic cycle winds down, at which point we will also have more clarity about the financial toll from the pandemic. Making a hire going into the summer would be ideal, thus providing a natural period of transition for the incoming president to arrive, and for J. Bruce Harreld to get the hell out.
* On the subject of the presidential search at UI, this web page may be the best thing the Iowa Board of Regents has ever done.
* Also from Miller at the Gazette: University of Iowa shares ‘heartening’ vaccine news, as pandemic pressure mounts.
Setting aside the fact that we are still basing all of our vaccine optimism on competing corporate press releases which are engaged in conspicuous one-upmanship, the news so far is good, and the medical professionals at UIHC should be optimistic. Having said that, I would remind readers that only a week before the election the UI VP for Medical Affairs and dean of the College of Medicine all but promised local inoculations by the end of November, which clearly seemed intended to favor the now-outgoing president of the United States. For the time being, however, the pandemic is going to get worse, and perhaps much worse, and thankfully the CEO of University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics doesn’t seem to be playing politics.
After UIHC on Monday reported treating 85 COVID-19 inpatients there, Chief Executive Officer Suresh Gunasekaran on Wednesday told regents the campus is up to “100 patients in house” — a peak out of its total 850 beds. Before deploying a first phase of its surge plan earlier this month, UIHC had 100 intensive care unit beds.
That total has expanded under the surge plan, and Gunasekaran said to expect another surge phase next week. That could involve another increase in bed capacity, expanded access to its flu-like-illness clinic and more visitor restrictions.
Limits already in place restrict adult visiting hours to between 1 and 3 p.m., two hours shorter. Visitors also can’t stay during surgeries or procedures.
“These visitor restrictions are not anything that I take pleasure in,” Gunasekaran said. “I think it’s really important, when you’re having these kinds of things happen at the university, to have a visitor. But with the high positivity rate in the community, it just didn’t seem safe.”
For reference, I have been tracking various state and county pandemic statistics since March, and over that time the number of days per 100 Iowa deaths has ranged from twelve or more to a low of seven. Over the past month, however, that span decreased at times to six days, and as of today it decreased to three. (Reported deaths over the past 72 hours were 111.)
* An anonymous op-ed at Little Village: Letter from an Iowa City nurse: The situation is worse than you think. Stay home.
* Clinton Garlock at the Daily Iowan: Johnson County Ambulance Service experiencing staffing shortages and increase in potentially delayed service to Johnson County residents.
* Sabine Martin at the Daily Iowan: Iowa regent universities report four-year decline in enrollment.
* Lillian Poulsen at the DI: UI Office of the Vice President for Research postpones in-person research.
* Anne Blankenship at The Messenger: Sahai selected as a community star. In 2015, Subhash Sahai was one of four Iowa regents who were duped and lied to by five of their peers, who met with J. Bruce Harreld in secret during that rigged UI presidential search. Fortunately for Iowans, Sahai spoke out and helped expose the rot at the regents, even though the reprehensible former board president, Bruce Rastetter, repeatedly ridiculed Sahai in public.
11/18/20 — There is a virtual meeting of the Iowa Board of Regents today, during which the president of the board, Mike Richards, will apparently comment about tuition policy going forward. This follows public comment last week by illegitimate University of Iowa president J. Bruce Harreld, who argued that the regents should get back to increasing tuition on UI’s pandemic-traumatized students and families, because otherwise he won’t have the necessary financial slush to continue trying (and largely failing) to game Iowa’s national college rankings, thus papering over the very real reputational and organizational damage that he and the board have done to the institution over the past five years. As for the conspicuous sequencing of those statements — first by Harreld, now by Richards — this follows Harreld’s longstanding pattern of learning about information that will be released by the board in the future, then jumping the gun and floating that information himself, thus positioning himself in the public eye as the initiator of, rather than merely an early recipient of, said information.
Normally, in advance of one of the board’s regular meetings there would be a crush of press reports, but the pandemic has already prompted the board to push out most of the info that would otherwise have been disseminated today. Whether Richards reinstates the scheduled tuition increases that were frozen for the fall term, or leaves the freeze in place — or potentially even increases spring tuition over and above the expected amount, in order to recoup losses for the fall — I don’t think it will matter that much to the bottom line of the state schools, but it might make a big difference in determining who can afford to keep taking classes. And of course that in turn could negatively impact revenue even more if students are further disincentivized from returning to the restricted state campuses, which are already conducting most of their classes online.
As for Harreld, he will almost certainly continue his recent string of emotionally detached statements about the school’s future, even as the recent explosion of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths puts University of Iowa Hospitals, and its faculty and staff, at risk. In fact, barring some unexpected announcement, I think the big news today is that the board is not scheduled to hold another meeting until mid-January, when it will conduct the mid-year evaluations for the so-called ‘institutional heads’ at the state schools. After that, the next full board meeting is not until late February, meaning we could conceivably go three months without much new information. Then again, given that the spring term will kick off in late January, and the increasingly radicalized Iowa legislature will convene at about the same time, and Iowa’s demonic governor will be trying to scrub away the blood from the hundreds of additional Iowans that have died from her failed pandemic response, I wouldn’t be surprised if the board has to weigh in on multiple issues, either informally, through press releases and issued statements, or formally, in impromptu meetings. And that’s apart from developments in the recently launched search process to identify and appoint J. Bruce Harreld’s successor.
* Back in the summer the deranged president of UI, J. Bruce Harreld, gave his infamous “lemmings” speech, in which he derided other colleges and universities — including, obliquely, sister schools Iowa State and Northern Iowa — for failing to think through the implications of the pandemic for themselves. Among the conclusions Harreld and his crack team of pandemic specialists reached on their own was that UI should do absolutely zero testing of students when they arrived on campus for the fall, and UI should continue the fall term after Thanksgiving, albeit with all classes being delivered online through finals week in mid-December. Now having had four months to digest the wisdom of those rigorously determined decisions, the University of Iowa is reaping the benefits of the exhaustive process that Harreld used to reach those administrative conclusions.
First, the University of Iowa is already looking forward to welcoming ~30K students back to campus in the spring, but with a slightly different twist on testing compared to the fall. From Sabine Martin at the Daily Iowan: University of Iowa to expand COVID-19 testing capacity for spring semester.
The University of Iowa will have more COVID-19 tests available for students in the spring semester.
UI Campus Health Officer Dan Fick said at the UI Faculty Council meeting on Tuesday that the UI has been able to acquire more COVID-19 tests for the spring semester than acquired in August.
Fick did not specify how many COVID-19 tests have been secured for the spring.
A COVID-19 surveillance program with the UI College of Public Health and epidemiologists from the Iowa state hygienic lab will work to decide what the best method for students to get tested on campus is going forward, Fick said.
Unsaid is whether UI plans to do any entry testing when students return in the spring, but I don’t believe the efficacy of such testing will be the determining factor. Instead, the only reason Harreld will require entry testing is if he believes that’s the only way he can open the campus at all. If not — if the current explosion of hospitalizations has decreased — then I believe Harreld will just push ahead and deal with any resulting problems like he did in the fall, by clamping down after tuition payments are locked in.
Second, and unlike ISU and UNI, which will both conclude their fall terms at Thanksgiving break, the University of Iowa is about to send thousands of students home to their own pandemic-ravaged local communities during the worst outbreak of the pandemic by far, only to have a good share of those students then return to the UI campus even though classes will be online-only for the remainder of the term. As you might imagine, the decision not to end the fall term at Thanksgiving is now raising concerns at UI, and in Johnson County more generally, because the moron in the president’s office at the university locked everyone into this suicidal social mixing.
From the Daily Iowan: Students plan to return home for Thanksgiving break despite virus spread.
More than 1,800 students responded to a UI survey asking about plans for break — half said they would stay in Iowa City, said Campus Health Officer Dan Fick at a Faculty Senate meeting on Tuesday.
So far, no explanation from Harreld about how the lemmings at Iowa State and Northern Iowa were able to see this problem coming and avoid it, while Harreld and his crack staff walked UI into this nightmare.
* Rachel Schilke and Rylee Wilson at the Daily Iowan: With cases rising, University of Iowa officials warn Iowa hospitals will soon be overwhelmed.
* Cleo Krejci at the Press-Citizen: ‘Please advocate now to save lives’: Student, employee leaders at UI ask Board of Regents to support further action against COVID-19.
* Vanessa Miller at the Gazette: Mental health worries mount on Iowa’s public campuses.
* Meryl Kornfield (no, seriously) at the WaPo: Iowa governor, who belittled mask mandates, announces statewide mask mandate.
* Sarah Mervosh, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio and Tim Arango at the New York Times: How Iowa’s Governor Went From Dismissing Mask Mandates to Ordering One Herself.
* Zach Thompson at the Iowa City Press-Citizen: 40 deaths, 3,896 more COVID-19 cases as hospitalizations again hit new highs statewide.
* Between the announcement that a lawsuit would be filed by former Black Hawkeye football players, and the filing of that lawsuit last Friday — not-so-coincidentally on the same day as Iowa’s game against Minnesota — the number of players involved in that lawsuit increaed from eight to thirteen. Details from Robert Read at the Daily Iowan: Former Hawkeye football players sue the UI, Iowa football coaches alleging racial discrimination; and from Mark Emmert at Hawk Central: Lawsuit: 13 former Hawkeye football players claim Kirk Ferentz allowed racist culture. (You can download the complaint here.)
* Mike Kennedy at American School & University: States with the largest percentage enrollment drop in higher education, fall 2020. Iowa had the seventh-largest drop in the country.
* Danielle Douglas-Gabriel and Alyssa Fowers at the Washington Post: The lowest-paid workers in higher education are suffering the highest job losses.
11/15/20 — On Tuesday of last week the Iowa Board of Regents and the University of Iowa announced the full roster for the presidential search committee that will identify and recommend a small slate of candidates to replace outgoing illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld. Two days later, on Thursday, the board also announced the name of the executive search firm that will work with the committee to recruit, winnow and vet those finalists. Before we dig into the details of those related announcements, however, it is important to step back and view them not only relative to each other, but in the larger context of Harreld’s assertion that he will step down only after a successor has been appointed. (It is still not clear whether Harreld will remain president between his successor’s appointment and the new president’s first day on the job, but we will set aside that pertinent question, and other search-corrupting uncertainties about Harreld’s future, for an upcoming post.)
As noted in prior updates, on September 22nd Harreld informed the board of his intent to retire, his decision was made public on October 1st, and the regents officially accepted Harreld’s letter of contingent resignation during a short, nine-minute board meeting on October 5th. In his remarks during that meeting, Harreld repeatedly stressed the importance of conducting a deliberate search, which, he believed — because of uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic — could take a year or two to conclude. As noted in an update immediately following that October 5th board meeting, however (see the 10/07/20 entry here), Harreld’s call for a slow if not glacial search already seemed to be at odds with the board’s bureaucratic response to his unexpected decision to quit on the school, and thus on them. (The presidents of Iowa’s three universities are all employees of the Board of Regents.)
Quoting from that prior blog update:
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.
To underscore how aggressive the regents have been in organizing and implementing the search to replace Harreld, despite his repeated exhortations to slow the process down, this is what the university itself said a little over a month ago about the timeline for announcing the full committee, back when the co-chairs were announced on 10/13:
The committee currently is being formed, and names of committee membership will be presented to the Board of Regents at its Nov. 18 meeting.
As we now know, however, instead of announcing the full committee in the middle of this coming week, the board pushed the roster out the door at the beginning of last week — ten days ahead of schedule. Likewise, regarding the announcement of the executive search firm, the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller reported the following on Tuesday, in her write-up about the composition of the committee:
Board of Regents Executive Director Mark Braun is scheduled to announce the hire of a search firm and search timetable during the board’s meeting next week. The newly-announced search committee will begin meeting in December — at a date to be determined.
Again, as we know know, the announcement of the search firm was made only two days later, six days ahead of this week’s meeting on the 18th. Which is to say that for whatever reason, not only is the board not taking Harreld’s advice about conducting a leisurely search, but in lightning fashion the board already has all of the essential pieces in place. And on that point the board should also be applauded for getting the sequencing of those announcements correct, so as to be in compliance with the 2018 agreement between the UI Faculty Senate and the regents regarding best practices for presidential searches at UI. Whatever else might be going on in society, and whatever happens in the coming months with this search, the process is not only moving ahead, it seems to be firing on all cylinders, and the board and university seem aligned in their obligation and intent to replace Harreld.
You can see the full, twenty-one-member roster of the search committee here. Apart from the previously announced co-chairs, I initially recognized only five of the additional nineteen members, but took that as a good sign. What the University of Iowa needs, as an institution, is a diverse group of committee members who represent the faculty, staff and student constituencies on campus, not a gong show featuring a bunch of z-list pseudo-celebrities. The fact that this search committee is largely made up of individuals from the UI community itself, instead of local business and political cronies posing as respectable elders, is a testament to the sincerity of the undertaking. (In that regard, this committee is a sea change from the 2017 presidential search committee at Iowa State, which led to the appointment of ISU lifer Wendy Wintersteen.)
As noted in prior updates, my greatest concern was that the board would insist on appointing one or more of the four overtly political regents — President Mike Richards, President Pro Tem Patty Cownie, Milt Dakovich or David Barker — to the two slots reserved for members of the board. Thankfully, however, that did not happen. Instead, regents Nancy Boettger and Jim Lindenmayer were assigned to the committee, and given the alternatives I have zero complaints. Whatever their politics, Boettger and Lindenmayer are both serious about education, and have a history of involvement with educational issues and practice. (The fact that Regent Barker was not named to the search committee also removes any possible downstream conflict of interest if he rises to one of the board’s leadership positions next April.)
The third name I recognized on the committee was Cathy Glasson, because of her prominent role in union issues. That Glasson is on the committee came as a surprise precisely because she doesn’t take any prisoners, and has been at constant odds with the regents — particularly since the Republican legislature and governor stripped collective-bargaining from Iowa’s public-sector unions a few years back. (In any recent incarnation of the board, Glasson’s appointment would have been unimaginable.)
The fourth and fifth names I recognized were Liz Tovar, interim Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and Joe Yockey, the current UI Faculty Senate President, both of whom have been mentioned in recent updates. Again, not only do I have no complaints about either appointment, but both of them strike me as sincere in their efforts to advance the university as an institution, as opposed to their own reputations. (Over the course of Harreld’s tenure, a number of the Faculty Senate presidents were little more than willing doormats, but I don’t get that impression from Yockey. Even though he worked with Harreld on the public-private utility partnership that closed back in March, I think Yockey understands that the time for compliant collaborators is over. I am also hopeful that Yockey will not serve as a backdoor conduit to Harreld for information about the search, whether intentionally or inadvertently, because I do believe Harreld has come to expect such complicity.)
Several days after the roster was published I was reminded that I should have recognized one more name on the list. Not only is Ali Salem on the current committee, but he was a member of the 2015 search committee that led to Harreld’s sham hire. The reason I didn’t remember his name — apart from a slight change in the listing (‘Ali’ today, versus ‘Aliasger’ in 2015), is because his name never came up in the context of the abuses of power which took place during that prior search. Having someone on the current committee who had first-hand experience with that scandalously corrupt process is a boon, precisely because that individual will know if the current search starts to go off the rails for any of the same reasons.
As for the other thirteen members, they seem like an excellent cross section of the UI community both from a diversity standpoint and in terms of the constituencies they represent. While I am sure many of them are well-known on campus, from my perspective their relative anonymity is again a positive precisely because it means they have never been publicly associated with any of the abuses of power that Harrled himself has perpetrated over the past five years. In fact, those thirteen members are to be celebrated precisely because of who they are not.
Remarkably, not one of the twenty-one committee members is part of J. Bruce Harreld’s core team in central administration, and with specific regard to his two shadowy senior advisors I find that particularly reassuring. Instead, this committee is representative not of the university’s executive offices or of toxic entrepreneurial culture more broadly, but of the greater UI community that Harreld has so-often neglected and failed to lead. (Ironically, until recently Liz Tovar would have qualified as a member of central administration, but good-old Bro Bruce decided to kick DEI out of his cabinet and out of the president’s office. Squaring that irony is the fact that both of those callous decisions will likely be reversed before Harreld leaves office, thus providing more compelling evidence that he was and still is the wrong man for the job.)
At the tail end of the press release announcing the composition of the search committee there was also this intriguing note:
The search committee will hold its first meeting in December, with a date and time to be announced. All committee meetings will be live streamed.
Even allowing for the inevitable impact of the pandemic on the search process, and understanding that there will be times when the committee must meet in closed session because of obligations to confidentiality — which can indeed be integral to having open conversations with individuals who wish to make inquiries, without publicly announcing that they are looking to make a change — the idea that the committee meetings will be live-streamed would also have been unimaginable under the board’s prior leadership. As noted in updates and posts reaching back over five years, not only did the 2015 presidential committee use confidentiality as shield in order to corrupt that search, but the prior board president tried to do away with open searches entirely. Showing the current committee doing its work, and culminating in a respectable slate of finalists, is the best disinfectant possible against those self-interested thugs who insist that only a small group of crony insiders — almost universally old, white, wealthy and male — could possibly know who should preside over a massive public research university with 30K diverse students and almost as many diverse employees.
Of the many and varied constituencies on the UI campus I counted only two that seem to be without direct representation on the search committee, and one of those I would have missed without excellent reporting from the Daily Iowan. In a way it does make sense that UI Athletics is not directly represented in the search process, because athletics at Iowa is a separate and self-supporting financial entity. As a practical matter, Liz Tovar also came to the academic side of campus from athletics, and may still have some association with the athletic department. (The school has been conspicuously opaque on that point.) In any event, I don’t expect the committee to hire an anti-sports president, but there are some interesting implications. Between the athletic director’s decision to use the pandemic as an excuse to kill off four varsity sports — with J. Bruce Harreld’s public administrative blessings — and the lawsuit that was just filed against the school by former Hawkeye football players, the athletic department seems to be vying with central administration to see who can do the most damage to the university’s reputation in the shortest amount of time.
As to the other constituency that is not directly represented, we have that from Eleanor Hildebrandt at the Daily Iowan:
The only college that does not have anyone on the committee is the College of Education.
There are eleven colleges at the University of Iowa, and given the limited number of committee slots it isn’t particularly surprising that one of those colleges does not have direct or indirect representation. Having said that, in looking at the deans of those colleges, and in handicapping who might aspire to the UI presidency themselves, or be encouraged to apply by Harreld and his cronies in central administration, I have had Education dean Dan Clay at the top of my list for well over a month. Even if that is the case, however, I see no way in which it would advantage Clay or any potential backers to not have a representative on the committee, so again I think this is simply a numbers game, and the relatively small College of Education lost out.
The only remaining uncertainty about the search committee concerns what will likely be two ex officio members who will provide support services, who will almost certainly hail from the professional staff at the board office. In my admittedly limited experience as a distant observer over the past five years, these ex-officio members seem to be benign, except — surprise — in case of the rigged 2015 search (see the section marked ‘🚩 Ex Officio Members‘ here). In that notorious instance a high-ranking and politically connected UI administrator named Peter Matthes was included as a third ex officio member of the committee, affording him the opportunity to help facilitate the abuses of power perpetrated by the small cabal of crony co-conspirators who rigged Harreld’s hire.
That Matthes is still on staff at UI, and is currently one of Harreld’s senior advisors, is not particularly reassuring, but I still don’t expect anyone outside the board office to be appointed to the current committee in an ex-officio capacity. In fact, were I to speculate I would imagine that the board’s CEO and Executive Director Mark Braun, and the board’s Chief Academic Officer, Rachel Boon, would occupy those slots, as they variously have in other recent regent searches. That is not to say, however, that there are no potential problems ahead — particularly if Braun is part of the search — but again we will dig into those concerns in an upcoming post.
The Search Firm
in 2015 the Iowa Board of Regents continued its recent administrative practice and once again hired Parker Executive Search (PES) to help facilitate what would turn out to be a ruthlessly board-controlled and rigged search, albeit at the then-and-now-staggering cost of $200,000 — or more than twice what the board paid for either of two prior PES searches. While the board office had a long-winded explanation for why a $200K presidential search at Iowa was really a steal, even that amount paled in comparison to the total price. When the entire sham search ultimately concluded, and J. Bruce Harreld was appointed as the illegitimate president at Iowa, the cost to the state was more than $330K, which still has no parallel despite more-recent searches at Northern Iowa and Iowa State.
By contrast, almost six years after the 2015 PES contract was signed, the board once again continued recent administrative practice and signed a third-straight contract with AGB Search, albeit for the fair price of $90K. (To be clear, the total cost may rise to $150K or more, depending on the length of the search, but travel expenses should be greatly curtailed because of the pandemic.) Given that AGB also conducted the 2017 search at Iowa State at a fair-market price, and the 2016 search at Northern Iowa at a fair-market price, this contract seems like a reasonable deal and a good fit precisely because of that demonstrated and cost-effective prior performance.
Because AGB has been particularly good at facilitating hires while remaining in the background itself, the only other thing I can think to mention is that former UI president Sally Mason is one of AGB’s search consultants, but that should not be an issue. As was the case with the other recent AGB searches, I am confident Mason will be recused from the UI search, so she poses no threat to the integrity of the process even if prospective candidates touch base with her about her own leadership experience at the school.
For the time being, then, and to the credit of the board CEO/XD, the board leadership, and the co-chairs of the search committee, there is genuine cause for optimism that the University of Iowa will not only conduct a fair and open search, but attract the best available candidates despite obstacles presented by the pandemic. After five years of crony rule by J. Bruce Harreld it is time to find a leader who believes in the intellectual and professional meritocracy that is the very foundation of academia. The crony creeps had their shot, they blew it by picking a liar, whiner and quitter, and the university and its vibrant and resilient community have suffered enough.
11/14/20 — Whether illegitimate lame-duck University of Iowa president J. Bruce Harreld appoints an old Harvard pal as dean of the Tippie College of Business or not (see the 11/10/20 entry below), keep in mind that when Harreld was originally hired back in 2015, someone generous soul who was never identified slipped a tenure provision into Harreld’s original contract. As the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller reported on 09/04/15: New University of Iowa president ‘will not seek tenure’. The kicker to the contract provision, however, was that even if Harreld didn’t “seek” tenure, the good people at Tippie could force it on him because they loved him so much.
The five-year contract given to new University of Iowa President J. Bruce Harreld includes the possibility — subject to faculty recommendation — of a tenured position in the Henry B. Tippie College of Business.
But Harreld did not make tenure a condition of his employment and has said he “will not seek tenure,” according to UI spokeswoman Jeneane Beck.
Given that Harreld signed a three-year contract extension in 2019, it’s possible that this tenure provision was altered or even removed, so maybe someone should ask about that before Harreld starts passing out a job that could be conditioned on approval of tenure for himself. (Not overtly, of course, but behind the scenes, in wink-wink fashion.) Relatedly, while the Board of Regents and University of Iowa are moving ahead with the search for Harreld’s replacement, Harreld has been saying a lot of strange things about hanging around on the UI campus for years. In fact, the CEO/XD of the board allowed that if Harreld assumed a faculty role at UI, he could still earn out his $2.3M in deferred compensation — and what better way to do that then as a fully tenured six-figure professor at the very same time?
From the Press-Citizen’s Jeff Charis-Carlson, also on 09/04/15: Harreld tenure offer raises academics’ eyebrows.
Harreld, whose experience is in corporate leadership and not university administration, said in a public forum Tuesday he would not demand a tenure position as a condition of his employment. No such tenure provisions were included in the initial contracts for Iowa State University President Steven Leath or University of Northern Iowa President William Ruud, although such status was granted to Leath later.
The contract also promises that, if his tenure were granted, Harreld would continue to earn a salary as a faculty member that was “commensurate with the highest paid tenured professor in the College of Business, along with the usual fringe benefits accorded to all faculty at the University of Iowa.”
The highest paid business professor at UI is Daniel Collins, who is the Henry B. Tippie Research Chair in Accounting and makes $336,004.40, according to state salary records.
Some members of the UI faculty were confused over what to make of the news that tenure was an option for the non-academic Harreld.
“Most of the faculty I’ve spoken with today said that it’s a little insulting (to offer Harreld tenure),” said Bob McMurry, a UI professor of psychological and brain sciences. “It would have made sense to offer tenure to (the other presidential finalists) Krislov, Bernstein and Steinmetz. They were all accomplished scholars in their fields. … This seems perhaps a public relationship move on (the regents’) part.”
There’s more in the article, but the heart of the matter is that Harreld was given a tenure provision by an anonymous benefactor, even though Harreld said he didn’t ask for it or demand it. And this was done even as the president’s of the other two state universities were already operating without tenure — even though they were academicians, and Harreld was a burned-out business exec from the private sector. So again, maybe someone should inquire as to whether there is still a tenure provision in Harreld’s new contract, and if so, what it says. Because if there is, Bro Bruce is about to pass out a job that he could use to put some serious money in his own pocket.
11/13/20 — I am confident we will return to this subject in the near future, but I want to flag this news today precisely because it encapsulates so much of what is wrong with the way illegitimate, lame-duck UI president J. Bruce Harreld approaches his job. With the state on fire from COVID-19, and with the integrated state-wide hospital network under extraordinary strain and at risk of collapse — including the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics — the topic that business-genius J. Bruce Harreld wants to talk about most after popping out of his hidey-hole for the first time in a month is not how we can all help take the strain off the staff at UIHC, but about how the Iowa Board of Regents should get back to socking UI students with tuition hikes as soon as possible.
From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: University of Iowa president urges return to tuition-increase model.
University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld said Thursday he will urge a return to the five-year planned tuition increases that “created certainty for parents and families and students.”
In an address to Iowa City service groups Thursday, Harreld did not say specifically when he thinks the Board of Regents — with its president planning to discuss tuition at its meeting next week — should return to the tuition model, scuttled this fall by COVID-19 and the board’s decision to freeze tuition across its university campuses.
Referencing the state’s generational disinvestment in higher education, which has driven its support $8 million lower today than in 1998, Harreld cited the need to find resources elsewhere — like tuition.
“We’ve lost that here a little bit recently with the pandemic,” Harreld said Thursday of the tuition revenue momentum gained via the increase model. “And I really, really, really am encouraging the state and the Board of Regents to return to that.”
Setting aside the fact that Harreld’s self-serving and predatory “certainty” was appropriately abandoned by the board because of a global pandemic — which is, at this very moment, intensifying in Iowa — the board itself certainly understands the financial strain that the entire regents enterprise is under. For that reason, these remarks by Harreld serve no official or administrative purpose, and instead come across as nothing more than a sociopathic incapacity to related to the suffering around him. Indeed, nothing says privilege like blithely ignoring the illness and death across the state, and the extraordinary strain that healthcare workers are under on the UI campus, and whining about revenue following a tuition freeze that has lasted all of four months. J. Bruce Harreld — ever and always the wrong man for our time.
11/12/20 Nine days before the recent elections, the University of Iowa’s VP for Medical Affairs and dean of the College of Medicine, J. Brooks Jackson, published an unabashedly optimistic op-ed about the development of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. This past Monday, six days after the elections, Pfizer itself claimed amazing success, even though the data are preliminary and more and greater hurdles will inevitably follow — and that’s true even if the vaccine is as safe and effective as Pfizer claims it to be. Among the conclusions we might reach from this sequence of announcements is that because UI is part of the Pfizer trial, Jackson had an embargoed look at Pfizer’s preliminary results, which he then used to promote himself, the university, and incumbent elected state and national leaders who would have profited politically had that news been released by Pfizer itself ahead of the elections.
From Sam Meredith at CNBC: Pfizer, BioNTech say Covid vaccine is more than 90% effective — ‘great day for science and humanity’.
Pfizer and BioNTech announced Monday their coronavirus vaccine was more than 90% effective in preventing Covid-19 among those without evidence of prior infection, hailing the development as “a great day for science and humanity.”
“I think we can see light at the end of the tunnel,” Pfizer Chairman and CEO Dr. Albert Bourla told CNBC’s Meg Tirrell on “Squawk Box.” “I believe this is likely the most significant medical advance in the last 100 years, if you count the impact this will have in public health, global economy.”
As fantastic as the news was, however, it is worth noting that in Jackson’s ecstatic op-ed he also had the Pfizer vaccine being delivered by the end of November:
Anticipating we will have an effective vaccine, the federal government has already contracted with Pfizer and Moderna to manufacture and purchase hundreds of millions of doses. These would be distributed to the states for distribution to various health-care providers within the next few weeks. Freezers to store the anticipated 60,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine and 90,000 doses of Moderna vaccine have already been shipped to UIHC so that we could start vaccinations perhaps by the end of November.
Now again, I don’t know why J. Brooks Jackson — a state-funded healthcare expert — felt compelled, a little over a week before the recent federal and state elections, to promise a vaccine by the end of November, but it is worth pointing out that not even Pfizer believes it will be injecting salvation into anyone’s arms in the next eighteen days. That in itself raises damning questions about Jackson’s political motivation for publishing his op-ed ahead of the elections, but it also raises serious questions about whether Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds — whose pandemic response has been both a disaster and a sham — is also looking for a miracle solution to solve her own political problems. In fact, one of the great ironies about Jackson’s cheerleading is that while he was putting forward a best-case scenario, the governor’s failed pandemic policies were leading to the ongoing rapid increase in hospitalizations over the past month, which now threaten to take down the state’s integrated hospital network, including University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC). But you wouldn’t know anything about that if you were only listening to the dean of the UI College of Medicine and VP for Medical Affairs, as opposed to, say, the UIHC CEO, who is all but screaming for help.
Continuing from the CNBC report:
The analysis evaluated 94 confirmed Covid-19 infections among the trial’s 43,538 participants. Pfizer and the U.S. pharmaceutical giant’s German biotech partner said the case split between vaccinated individuals and those who received a placebo indicated a vaccine efficacy rate of above 90% at seven days after the second dose.
It means that protection from Covid-19 is achieved 28 days after the initial vaccination, which consists of a two-dose schedule. The final vaccine efficacy percentage may vary, however, as safety and additional data continue to be collected.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former FDA commissioner and a member of Pfizer’s board, told CNBC the vaccine could be available in limited use as early as late December and widely available by the third quarter of 2021.
Even assuming the vaccine is miracle-grade, and proves to be safe and effective across all age groups, widespread inoculations will not be happening any time soon. That in turn means the near-term focus for every citizen and government official should be beating the virus down as much as possible, yet we are not seeing that focus at either the national or state level. Instead, between the current president and the current Iowa governor, what we are seeing amounts to a murderous herd-immunity approach even as a vaccine may be on the way. (Meaning for the time being — at least in Iowa — you’re still on your own.)
* Isaac Hamlet at the Iowa City Press-Citizen: UIHC doctors involved in Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine trials say vaccinations still at least month away.
“Sometime in December would be when we’d be expecting the earliest approval from the FDA for emergency use authorization,” she said. “Then you have to start delivering the vaccine and start going into all the difficult [prioritization] decisions (Brownlee) was talking about.”
* From Laurie Garrett, writing for Foreign Policy: The Vaccine News Is Good. Here’s the Bad News.
The Phase 3 trial is not over. More than 4,500 volunteers haven’t yet had their second injection, or reached the one-week post immunization time point for COVID testing. And Pfizer has agreed to keep tracking all of the participants to see whether their immunity holds up for two weeks. So far, no side effects have been reported.
But let’s be clear about what this Pfizer study shows so far: For 90 percent of the volunteers who got the vaccine (as opposed to a placebo), SARS-CoV-2 infection did not occur for a study period of seven days.
Seven days. Nothing more is known.
As Garrett points out, all of the breathless reporting we have heard over the past week comes from one “corporate press release”. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong, but it is not independently confirmed science.
As Garrett also notes, the Pfizer vaccine is unique in a number of ways, including the fact that it must be consistently stored at roughly -100 F, which greatly complicates distribution. (More here in a recent reader comment.)
* Speaking of hard data, or the absence thereof…as has long-been suspected under demonic governor Kim Reynolds, the state of Iowa seems to be faking its coronavirus statistics. From the Gazette’s Erin Jordan: Iowa’s COVID-19 positivity rates may be even higher than state says.
Iowa COVID-19 positivity rates may be even higher than the state has reported to the public, and the explanation given by state officials doesn’t make sense — even to biostatisticians.
School districts across the state are using 14-day positivity rates to help decide whether it’s safe for students to go to school in person or switch to online learning. These decisions affect students, teachers and families who have to scramble to find alternative care for kids.
The 14-day positivity rates reported daily by the Iowa Department of Public Health are computed with a method recognized by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But since the state doesn’t report to the public some of the information it uses, Iowans trying to check the state’s work reach different conclusions.
For example, the state reported Monday that Linn County’s 14-day positivity rate was 22.8 percent. But when The Gazette used public data reported on the state’s COVID-19 dashboard and followed the state’s formula — individuals who tested positive divided by total individuals tested between Oct. 26 and Nov. 9 — the positivity rate was higher: 37.2 percent.
“The manner in which you’re calculating the 14-day positivity rate is correct,” Joe Cavanaugh, professor and head of the Department of Biostatistics at the University of Iowa, told The Gazette.
It’s really something watching Iowa’s governor lie to her own citizens, while at the exact same time the pandemic is leading to a harrowing increase in hospitalizations, and deaths are increasing as well.
* From a Gazette staff editorial: Iowa’s watered-down mask mandate won’t extinguish COVID inferno.
Reynolds can issue a statewide mask mandate like her colleagues in dozens of other states have done, and she doesn’t need to send out cops to write frivolous tickets. Instituting such a policy would send a strong message to Iowa that the pandemic is serious and we all must take precautions.
It really is something watching Iowa’s governor murder her own citizens, while simultaneously professing to use data and metrics to do the right thing, and insisting she is powerless to do anything else. I would say Iowa’s governor is going to get a lot of Iowans killed, but she already has. Over the coming months she’s just going to kill a lot more Iowans in service of her demonic herd-immunity beliefs — at least until that magic vaccine shows up that J. Brooks Jackson promised her.
* From Trish Mehaffey at the Gazette: Feds: Mask scheme swindles University of Iowa hospitals out of $1.6 million.
The head of a suburban Chicago biotechnology company swindled the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics out of more than $1.6 million for personal protective equipment it urgently needed last March as the coronavirus was beginning to unfold here, federal authorities say.
The equipment, they said, was never delivered to the hospital. Instead, they allege, the man used money he had defrauded from the Iowa City hospital and another university hospital to buy two Maserati automobiles and a Land Rover sport-utility vehicle.
Dennis W. Haggerty Jr., 44, who formed At Diagnostics with two partners in Willowbrook, Ill., at the start of the pandemic, made a deal with a “hospital vice president,” who isn’t named in Illinois federal court documents, on March 29.
Will be interesting to learn who that gullible “hospital vice president” was, and why UIHC threw one and a half million dollars at a start-up company they had never done business with before. Not only were there obviously insufficient controls in place, but clearly no one did the kind of minimal due diligence one would expect from that “hospital vice president” — so maybe they shouldn’t be a VP any more.
* Hey and speaking of creeps…remember how the University of Iowa skipped its own competitive bidding process and jumped into bed with Wells Fargo and Jones Day in its zeal to copy Ohio State’s public-private utility partnership? Well, it turns out that not only is Wells Fargo a serial bad corporate citizen, but Jones Day has no problem with abetting President Trump’s autocratic attempts to overthrow a fair and legal presidential election. (Maybe the University of Iowa should think twice about consummating deals with diseased private-sector partners.)
* Hey and speaking of irony, apparently the University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communications has a Twitter account that likes promoting paranoid tabloid trash in service of autocratic leaders.
* Turning to sports, we have this update from Robert Read at the Daily Iowan: Attorney representing eight former Hawkeye football players moving forward with lawsuit against UI.
The attorney representing eight former University of Iowa football players intends to move forward with a lawsuit against the UI over the alleged racial discrimination and mistreatment they experienced in their time with the Hawkeye program.
As noted in prior posts, I don’t see how UI takes this lawsuit to trial after their own softball investigation confirmed there was abusive treatment in the football program. Even if the awarded damages were relatively small, the reputational harm from a protracted legal battle — including putting Athletic Director Gary Barta, Head Football Coach Kirk Ferentz, and illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld on the stand, under oath — would be crippling.
More from Chad Leistikow at Hawk Central, and Jeff Johnson at the Gazette.
* Aishwarya Kumar at ESPN: The heartbreaking reality — and staggering numbers — of NCAA teams cut during the pandemic.
* Vanessa Miller at the Gazette: University of Northern Iowa suspends professional development assignments given budget woes.
* Rachel Schilke at the Daily Iowan: UI College of Law Dean takes leave to join Joe Biden’s transition agency review team.
Washburn was a good hire by Harreld, and immediately proved valuable to the school by blunting Harreld’s nutso vendetta against the Iowa Labor Center. This temporary appointment is also a good reminder that after eight years of White House leadership under Barack Obama, the Democratic Party has a deep bench of relatively recent administrators who can survey the damage under Trump. Between delaying the transition outright and all of the last-minute vandalism taking place it is going to be a mess, but one that can hopefully be cleaned up fairly quickly by people who know the lay of the bureaucratic land.
11/10/20 — Between the chaotic climax of the 2020 election cycle, the explosive intensification of the coronavirus pandemic in Iowa, and the tentative resignation of illegitimate University of Iowa president J. Bruce Harreld, the dire consequence of failed governmental leadership has never been more apparent. Because of the existential stakes in the presidential election, the sharp increase in hospitalizations and mounting body count in the state, and the bureaucratic machinations involved in the search to recruit and appoint Harreld’s replacement, it has been all too easy to overlook the extent to which corrupt leadership tarnishes even the most mundane aspects of managing a massive public research university. Decisions that should be made on the merits and accepted with a presumption of integrity, instead become laden with doubt and suspicion because of prior abuses of power, and that in turn poses a threat to the legitimacy and reputation of individuals who may be innocent in their own right.
As noted in prior updates, one immediate consequence of Harreld’s surprising, early-October announcement that he intended to resign as soon as soon as his successor was chosen (or took office; it’s still not clear), was that the search for a new, permanent Associate Vice Principal for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion collapsed, and was subsequently abandoned. At the same time, however, the ongoing search for a new dean for the UI Tippie College of Business continued apace, with virtual visits for the three finalists taking place over the past two weeks — just prior to, during and after Election Day. (For the time being you can see the search website here, though per execrable UI practice it will almost certainly be wiped as soon as an appointment is made, thus obscuring the historical record of that hire.)
Now, I don’t know who looked at the fall 2020 calendar and said, ‘Yes, let’s host those virtual candidate visits during one of the most frenetic and emotionally fraught two-week periods in American history’, but it’s impossible to look at that scheduling and not assume the intent was — as has often been the case under J. Bruce Harreld’s failed leadership — to drive interest and attendance as low as possible. If you want people to be involved in what you’re doing, and you know the fate of the nation will hang in the balance in late October and early November, then it stands to reason that you don’t schedule anything important at that time, but okay. The schedule was announced, the visits came off as scheduled, and as a result we now know the identities of the three dean finalists.
One additional historical wrinkle which deserves notice is that this isn’t the first set of finalists to be unveiled for this position. Back in May, when the pandemic was still expanding across the United States, the University of Iowa unveiled an entirely different slate of three finalists, who were also scheduled for virtual visits. Because the university was so irrationally optimistic that the pandemic would be neutralized by the fall, however, the search committee scrapped those candidates and instead opened up the search again, in order to host in-person visits on campus. Or at least that’s the official line about what happened, as reported on 05/19/20 by the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: University of Iowa extends business dean search after unveiling three finalists.
After unveiling three finalists for dean of the Henry B. Tippie College of Business — inviting them to participate in virtual campus “visits” via Zoom — the University of Iowa has decided to extend its search “to allow for on-campus visits in the fall.”
Despite unveiling the trio of finalists and engaging with them virtually across campus, the UI search committee determined “in-person visits are preferable.”
“Because it’s still unclear when traveling and gathering will be safe, the committee, along with Executive Vice President and Provost Montse Fuentes, decided to postpone the finalist visits to campus until fall and will continue working to attract a diverse pool of outstanding candidates,” according to the UI Office of Strategic Communication.
As regular readers know, Fuentes herself stepped down as provost only weeks later, for reasons that have never been explained. As to who really blew up the first Tippie dean search, it also stands to reason that if J. Bruce Harreld wanted the search to continue it would have continued, but we do know from a subsequent friendly interview that Harreld did hold to the deluded view that the pandemic would be wrapped up by the fall. So at the very least it seems fair to assume that Harreld decided to kick the first slate of finalists to he curb for whatever reason, and to use the pandemic as the excuse for doing so. (That was of course a rotten thing to do to the three people who took the time to apply for the position in good faith, who all agreed to the less-than-ideal, pandemic-compromised hiring process, but those are the risks you take when J. Bruce Harreld is making the decisions.)
Flash forward another four or five virulent months, and apparently Harreld and the university decided in-person visits weren’t so important after all, so they unveiled and hosted virtual meetings with a second set of three finalists, one of whom will be appointed as the new dean of the Tippie College of Business. The first candidate to be unveiled was the dean of the Cass Business School at City, University of London; the second candidate was the current interim dean at Tippie; and the third candidate currently “serves as senior associate dean for the residential MBA program at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business”. And honestly, if that was all there was to it that would be the end of this update, but because of J. Bruce Harreld’s inherently corrupting presence on the UI campus we must keep going.
At the end of October, following the virtual visit of the first candidate, the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller published an article about the culminating dean search in advance of the announcement of the second candidate: 3 finalists for University of Iowa business dean begin virtual campus visits. Six days later, however, after the interim UI candidate appeared in her virtual forum, and the third candidate was announced, Miller followed up with another story — Last finalist for University of Iowa business dean has forum — and here the subhead is particularly important:
He and UI President Harreld overlapped at Harvard
The third and last finalist for the University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business dean post — who UI President Bruce Harreld happens to know from his days at Harvard Business School — participated Thursday in a virtual public forum.
To be scrupulously fair to the third candidate, it is certainly not his fault that he once worked at another institution of higher learning with Harreld, who went on to infamously enrich himself by aiding and abetting a small cabal of crony co-conspirators in their theft of the UI presidency. In fact, even if the third candidate and Harreld had a chat or two about the open dean position, it is unlikely that Harreld acknowledged that he lied his way into the job he know holds, which will in turn allow him to appoint the next Tippie Dean. If the third candidate is qualified — and the search committee obviously believes that is the case, or they wouldn’t have made him a finalist — then the fact that Harreld and the third candidate crossed paths should not be disqualifying of the third candidate.
As for Harreld himself, however, at this late moment in the tedious saga of his failed administration, we can be forgiven if we doubt the sincerity of any utterance, and that goes double for his assertions in Miller’s article.
Steenburgh, among his academic and professional experience, worked from 2003 to 2012 as an assistant and then associate professor at Harvard Business School, overlapping with time Harreld worked there as a lecturer from 2008 to 2014.
In an email this week after Steenburgh was unveiled as a finalist, Harreld told The Gazette he and Steenburgh knew each other from being on the Harvard Business faculty at the same time.
“His appointment was in the marketing unit and mine was in strategy and entrepreneurial leadership units,” he said. “So, we traveled in very different circles.”
Were Harreld a man of integrity we might take his statements at face value, but of course Harreld is not a man of integrity. As regular readers know, during and after the rigged 2015 UI presidential search that landed him in the president’s office, Harreld lied about his own friendship and prior business associations with Jerre Stead at least four times, in order to obscure the conspiracy that led to his hire. Watching Harreld now attempt to distance himself from the third Tippie dean candidate, one cannot help but assume — unless one is a sucker — that Harreld is not telling the truth about their prior relationship, because that is one of the things Bro Bruce like to do when a prestigious, high-paying job is on the line.
Steenburgh’s professional experience also includes time as a manager at the Xerox Corporation from 1994 to 1997, while Harreld worked at IBM from 1995 to 2008.
“We also met many years earlier when he was at Xerox and I was at IBM,” Harreld said. “However, I had no involvement in recruiting him to the Tippie opportunity. In fact, we had not talked for many years until this morning.”
Harreld said although he’s guest lectured at Steenburgh’s current school, he “never met with Tom while there.”
Again, had Harreld arrived at UI with a sterling reputation, and spent the past five years proving himself to be a man of integrity, we would be relieved of any obligation to view these utterances as anything other than the gospel truth. Unfortunately, because Harreld was imposed on the university by a series of corrupt acts that he abetted, and because Harreld then spent the following five years lying his ass off about pretty much everything — even when it made no sense — we are indeed obligated to see how these specific disclosures might be technically true but intentionally deceptive. And of course that also inevitably involves the third candidate in the conversation, because he should be able to corroborate the fact that nothing hinky is going on — just as Harreld repeatedly did back in 2015, except Harreld was lying.
As for Harreld’s claim that he had “no involvement in recruiting” the third candidate, Harreld could have told someone else to recruit the third candidate precisely to maintain plausible deniability. Not only can we infer that Harreld would know the value of proxy ploys from his decades in the private sector, but that’s exactly what Jerre Stead did in putting Harreld forward for the UI presidency in 2015, and for the same reason. Stead hoped to maintain plausible deniability about his central role in hiring Harreld, and to Stead’s nefarious credit he managed to do so for several years, until a lawsuit compelled testimony under other from one of Stead’s key conspirators.
Likewise, when Harreld says, “we had not talked for many years until this morning”, that could be as little two years, and depends heavily on what Harreld meant by “talked”. Did they have any email exchanges even if they didn’t speak on the phone? Were any individuals acting as go-betweens, precisely to allow Harreld to make truthful but misleading disclosures? And as for Harreld saying “he never met with Tom while” speaking at Virginia, that clearly doesn’t omit the possibility that he met with the third candidate at other times, or even extensively on prior occasions.
As unfair as these concerns may be to the third candidate, this is what inevitably happens when you give important responsibilities to someone who lies all the time. It makes it hard to know when that person is telling the truth, and that in turn casts a shadow on others in their vicinity, even if those individuals have done nothing wrong. It is certainly true that the third candidate knew Harreld was president at UI, and that clearly didn’t dissuade the third candidate from applying, but that doesn’t mean the third candidate is part of a scam. Unfortunately, given their history and multiple paths crossed, it is also possible that no conspiracy needed to be undertaken in order to make the third candidate the front runner. A wink here and a nod there and golly, what a coincidence that one of Bro Bruce’s old pals becomes the new Tippie dean.
On that point there are two procedural concerns we might also raise. First, as noted regarding other searches at the regent universities, there is great value in going last, particularly if there is something to hide. The fact that the third candidate in the Tippie dean search is the one that Harreld knows personally — which then necessitated Harreld confessing those prior associations — means that information was relegated to the last possible minute by whomever made that fortuitous scheduling choice. Second, we should not lose sight of the fact that one of Bro Bruce’s old pals only has a shot at becoming dean of the Tippie College of Business because Harreld and UI blew up the previous search and rejected all of the prior candidates. If we were in a particularly dark mood, we might even wonder if Harreld and UI blew up the prior search precisely to make it possible for the third candidate to take the job in a subsequent crony-centric search.
It should also be noted that while the perpetually reclusive Harreld routinely refuses to speak to the press, and has been completely silent about the recent massive increase in COVID-19 cases across Iowa — which threaten to collapse the state’s integrated hospital system, including University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics — in his email Harreld was positively gabby about his prior interactions with the third candidate. In that context it seems tempting to assume that Harreld already knew he wanted to choose the third candidate for the position, else why bother, but we should obviously wait for the appointment process to play out.
Still, it is beneficial that Harreld offered so many specifics, because not only can the third candidate corroborate all of those prior interactions and points of contact, but he can also confirm that there are no other associations between them. And obviously that would be good to get on the record before Harreld makes a decision, so we know we can trust the third candidate, who will certainly be around long after Harreld is gone. (I think everyone would agree that the University of Iowa does not need any more black eyes when it comes to rigged, crony job appointments.)
If there is any salve to all of this uncertainty, I think it would be very hard for outgoing, lame-duck, quitter Harreld to hire one particular finalist if the Tippie faculty and staff clearly preferred another. That is not to say Harreld won’t do so out of some tortured notion of brotherhood, but breaking with the college itself would replicate the corrupt nature of Harreld’s own appointment, thus setting the new hire up for failure while Harreld himself was skulking out the back door. (The easiest fix, of course, would be for Harreld to appoint one of the other two finalists, thus taking all of these issues off the table. Again, however, I think there has to be significant buy-in from the college, and it may be that the third candidate did come across as the most effective and impressive.)
Having said all that, it is useful to step back and remember what we’re really talking about here. Between the state of Iowa collapsing into conservative revivalism, and the Republican state legislature and governor gutting funding at every opportunity, and the Republican-dominated Board of Regents slowly converting all three of the state universities into job training academies for corporate America, I’m not sure it really matters who ends up getting this job. It should, of course, and the best person should be hired, but between Harreld’s own failed leadership, the headwinds facing higher-ed generally, and the collapse of Iowa state government into one-party rule which is hostile to education and science, the new dean will be hard-pressed to make a difference no matter how qualified they are or how long they have the job. Someone has to shuffle the papers, and make sure the school maintains accreditation, but without a real university president fighting for funding, and for the integrity of the school as a research university, the entire institution is destined for the same level of mediocrity that Harreld himself has embodied for the past five years.
More about the third candidate’s virtual forum from Claire Benson at the Daily Iowan: Tippie dean forum | Leader of University of Virginia residential MBA program Tom Steenburgh emphasizes fundraising, diversity, equity, and inclusion actions.
11/09/20 — Iowa as a state is so fundamentally corrupted by the Republican Party’s menace and degradation that this is where we are.
From Lillian Poulsen at the Daily Iowan: University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics do not have staff available to combat COVID-19 crisis.
The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics is sounding the alarm, asking for hospital employees that can work from home to do remote work to preserve staff at the hospital as the pandemic increases in Iowa.
In a statement sent to faculty and staff on Monday, UIHC Chief Executive Officer Suresh Gunasekaran and UI Vice President for Medical Affairs Brooks Jackson said they are making changes including measures to increase the number of people working from home and changing the cost reduction of unpaid weeks and vacation.
“We have entered a new stage of the pandemic in Iowa. Hospitals across our region and the state have reached, or will soon reach, capacity,” the statement said. “While some hospitals may have bed capacity, they do not have the staff available to provide necessary patient care.”
Between Demon Kim Reynolds, the corrupt Iowa Board of Regents, and the deeply compromised president of the University of Iowa, their individual and collective dereliction and silence is going to get a lot more Iowans killed.
11/06/20 — It is a genuine historical coincidence that the rapid expansion of the global coronavirus pandemic and the culmination of the most-recent American election cycle both occurred in 2020. That is not to say, however, that those contemporaneous events did not impact each other greatly, and in so doing reveal not only horrifying truths about the leaders we have in this country, but how unexceptional half of the American people are in their petty vanities and grievances. Having watched both the president of the United States and the governor of Iowa feed inflammatory political rhetoric to the Republican party faithful throughout the pandemic, while their own failed healthcare policies led to the illness and death of voters including their own, I am no longer naive to the banal roots of genocidal regimes such as Nazi Germany or the Khmer Rouge. Tell the disgruntled masses that they are right to be aggrieved, and do so with pugnacious conviction, and they will be so thankful that you validated their malign psychology that they won’t mind if you kill a family or two down the street — whether directly, in assembly-line fashion, or by proxy with a disease.
As you are undoubtedly aware today, even if you have, quite sensibly, been hiding under a rock for much of this year, toward the end of October the coronavirus pandemic rapidly intensified across the United States, and particularly in the Upper-Midwest, to the point that it is now raging out of control in Iowa. Were you to glance through press reports you would see cold weather cited as the prevailing factor — even though, as I write this, it is an absurd seventy degrees in Eastern Iowa — because as temperatures cooled in the fall more people began congregating indoors. Omitted from that tidy non-political explanation, however, would be the fact that in response to this newly emergent and undeniable healthcare emergency, which was predicted well in advance by healthcare experts, both the president of the United States and Iowa’s governor did nothing except increase the tempo and fervor of their co-dependent campaigns to preserve Republican political power.
With all that as context, in recent posts about the nascent presidential search process at the University of Iowa, which will hopefully identify a superior successor to illegitimate and failed UI president J. Bruce Harreld, I noted that the Iowa Board of Regents is nothing more than an extension of the reality-denying Iowa Republican Party. One byproduct of that political perversion, unfortunately, is that the board’s stewardship of the university, and particularly the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics — of which the board members are statutory trustees — takes a backseat to political expediency. And of course in the coronavirus pandemic that expediency has already had lethal consequences. (The case counts have spiked so much in Iowa over the past three days that it now seems self-evident that state officials were throttling that information ahead of Election Day.)
In two recent updates (see the 10/31 and 10/27 entries below), I noted that J. Brooks Jackson, dean of the UI College of Medicine and VP for Medical Affairs at the University of Iowa, released an op-ed one week before the elections, which parroted irrationally optimistic rhetoric coming not from the coronavirus task force at the White House, but from the president himself. In Jackson’s view, whatever was happening with the pandemic was effectively moot because a miracle vaccine was all but assured by the end of November. And yet, at the same time, more and more medical experts and hospital administrators in Iowa — including particularly at the University of Iowa, where Jackson works — were sounding the alarm about a rapid increase in statewide hospitalizations, which not only has the potential to overwhelm individual hospitals, but the entire integrated healthcare network, of which UIHC is the undeniable cornerstone.
From early October to Election Day, it is also important to note that following J. Bruce Harreld’s brief and embarrassing appearance at the nine-minute Board of Regents meeting on October 5th — when he officially submitted his pending resignation, while simultaneously lobbying for the right to control the presidential search — we heard nothing from Harreld at all. Nothing about the rising threat to UIHC, and nothing about protecting healthcare workers at the hospital or the students, faculty and staff on the UI campus. In fact, between Harreld’s silence and Jackson’s cheerleading, it has been left to individual medical professionals at UIHC, and, of late, the CEO, to sound an increasingly dire alarm at the rapid increase in hospitalizations, which will soon be followed by an increase in deaths.
From a guest opinion by UIHC CEO Suresh Gunasekaran, released the weekend before the elections, which was widely reported by most of the major news outlets in Iowa:
We are again in danger of losing control of this pandemic in Iowa. Our COVID positivity rates skyrocketed twice before, but this is the first time we have seen rates this high while also dealing with record patient hospitalizations.
Iowans have previously risen to the challenge to flatten the curve. The question now, is whether Iowans can rise to the challenge a third time. Personally, I believe that we can. But it will require immediate behavior modification by each one of us.
The health of every Iowan is at risk, COVID-related or otherwise.
The fact that the governor of Iowa, the lieutenant governor, the Board of Regents and the lame-duck president of the University of Iowa were either silent about, or in flagrant denial about, the current and predicted explosion of hospitalizations, while the dean of the UI College of Medicine and VP for Medical Affairs was promoting a Trumpian vaccine fantasy, is bad enough. It is not the job of the UIHC CEO or staff-level healthcare experts to get Iowans to adopt personal practices that will mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic, but that’s where we are in a state completely corrupted by a political party that is willing to cart patients into hospitals and dump bodies into graves to preserve its own supremacy. What I want to point out in this update, however, is that this isn’t simply murderous abdication or opportunistic political exploitation on the part of the Iowa Republican Party, it is provably soulless, conscienceless, remorseless hypocrisy.
It may seem like ancient history because of the pace and potency of recent events, but only a little over two months ago — following equally predictable spikes in COVID-19 cases on the three regent campuses, after the board insisted on calling the students back to school — Iowa’s governor, Kim Reynolds closed the bars in six counties to beat back those outbreaks. From Ian Richardson and Nick Coltrain at the Des Moines Register: ‘I don’t make these decisions lightly’: Gov. Kim Reynolds closes bars in 6 counties amid coronavirus spikes.
“While we still know that this population is less likely to be severely impacted by COVID-19, it is increasing the virus activity in the community, and it’s spilling over to other segments of the population,” Reynolds said.
So back in August, Governor Reynolds ostensibly took aggressive action in response to an increase in positive COVID-19 cases — not hospitalizations, and not deaths — to prevent those infections from causing problems in the greater Iowa population. (In reality, of course, what Reynolds was concerned about was keeping the state’s three universities from having to close again, thus crippling revenue generation from those economic engines.) There was no increase in the number of people being hospitalized, as there is now, yet Iowa’s deeply concerned governor insisted on closing bars in six counties, while UI’s derelict president went to great lengths not only to publicly advocate for those closings, but to portray himself as the agent of the governor’s decision. (See the 08/30/20 entry here.)
Now, however, two and a half months later, with hospitalizations and deaths on the rise, Governor Reynolds just spent the weeks leading up to Election Day denying that there was any threat to Iowa’s hospitals — including state-owned UIHC — while devoting the rest of her time to knuckle-dragging politics. To the extent that Iowa’s governor is a rabid political animal that flagrant dereliction isn’t surprising, but it does make clear that her claim to have acted in the best interests of Iowans back in August was a self-interested lie. Not only did she just take the opposite stance prior to the elections — when the situation was exponentially worse — but the only continuity between those two administrative responses was the political benefit to herself and her party.
In the context of the ongoing presidential search at UI, however, what we also need to acknowledge is that under J. Bruce Harreld’s illegitimate and disgraced leadership, the University of Iowa cannot currently be considered an institution of higher learning in any meaningful sense. When the highest levels of academic administration are in lockstep with a murderous political regime — whether by abetting its goals or falling silent — and even the UIHC CEO has to be careful about what he says while trying to prevent his hospital from being overwhelmed, it is clear that reason and science mean nothing. (The only thing worse than learning that Harreld was ordered to keep quiet and complied, would be learning that he fall silent of his own cowardly volition.)
Iowans won’t have the opportunity to replace Kim Reynolds at the ballot box until 2022, and it says something very dark about the citizens of the state that they are likely to retain her no matter how many Iowans she kills. In the context of the search to replace Harreld, however, the members of the search committee specifically, and the UI community more broadly, have an opportunity to insist that candidates have the moral and ethical steel necessary to prevent the university from succumbing to the will of her murderous administration. We may never get to the point where the Iowa Republican Party is rounding up people of a certain type and sending them off to mechanized slaughter, but as of this writing we just passed 1,800 dead in Iowa, and Kim Reynolds’ failed leadership is planting roughly 100 Iowans in the ground every eight days. If a candidate isn’t willing to speak out about and advocate for the administrative independence of the university before they get the job, then — like J. Bruce Harreld — they don’t belong in the president’s office at Iowa.
* From Vanessa Miller at the Gazette: University of Iowa hospitals enacts first stage of surge plan as COVID-19 cases skyrocket.
* A post-election video from UIHC CEO Suresh Gunasekaran on the UI COVID-19 website.
* Gage Miskimen at the Gazette: Nearly 5,000 new cases, over 800 hospitalized as Iowa’s COVID-19 records continue.
* Vanessa Miller at the Gazette: University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics urges families to skip traditional holiday gatherings to spare state’s hospital system from COVID-19 surge.
* Cleo Krejci Hillary Ojeda at the Press-Citizen: Johnson County’s 14-day positivity rate tops 10% as the virus runs rampant statewide.
10/31/20 — Lotta news on a lotta fronts, so let’s do this….
* On Thursday the Iowa Board of Regents released the list of membership slots which will be used to populate the University of Iowa Presidential Search Committee. The overall size of the committee, at 21 seats, is as expected. As to the composition, there are some positives and negatives, but mostly uncertainties, because it matters greatly who ends up filling the specified positions. (The members of the committee will be announced on November 18th, in conjunction with the next board meeting.)
From the Iowa Now website:
• Co-chair Sandy Daack-Hirsch, associate professor and interim executive associate dean of the College of Nursing
• Co-chair John Keller, professor in the College of Dentistry and dean of the Graduate College
• 7 faculty members
• 3 staff members
• 3 students
• 1 diversity, equity, and inclusion campus leader
• 1 member from the Office of Medical Affairs
• 1 faculty athletic representative
• 1 alum
• 2 members of the Board of Regents
When I first read that list I assumed the Board of Regents had, in characteristic fashion, gone back on its word about granting half of the slots to faculty. As discussed in prior posts, that promise was memorialized in the 2018 non-binding agreement between the regents and UI Faculty Senate, which was negotiated in order to remove the University of Iowa from a list of institutions sanctioned by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). And of course that UI sanction came about because of the corrupt 2015 presidential search, in which the then-board president and others — including several high-ranking UI administrators, and a UI alum — conspired to rig the appointment of the illegitimate, failed and now retiring J. Bruce Harreld.
In my initial faulty math I counted the seven faculty and two co-chairs as nine total faculty, overlooking the obvious representative from athletics. Adding that member got me to ten faculty, but ten was shy of half, and I could not see how to ascribe another member of the faculty. What I forgot, however, is that higher education is basically impervious to interpretation by anyone outside the order, meaning it is probably understood by all that one of the other classifications — say, the “1 member from the Office of Medical Affairs” — will inevitably be faculty as well.
In any event, I was fortuitously reminded of my obliviousness by Eleanor Hildebrandt at the Daily Iowan: State Board of Regents announces UI Presidential Search Committee composition.
Half of the committee tasked with searching for candidates for the next head Hawkeye will be faculty members.
The state Board of Regents announced the makeup of the presidential search committee Thursday, which includes 21 people including 11 individuals with faculty appointments, three staff members, and three students.
The committee meets the required amount of faculty members to have according to University of Iowa Faculty Senate’s Best Practice for Faculty Engagement in a UI Presidential Search that was developed following a no-confidence vote by the branch of shared governance during UI President Bruce Harreld’s hiring
Assuming that the final faculty member will eventually be revealed, it is a genuinely good sign that the Board of Regents followed through on its promise, and overall the composition of the search committee is positive. Fully 18 of the 21 members will be students, faculty or staff at UI, meaning whoever is ultimately appointed that choice will — at least on paper — have been decided by the current UI community. Again it matters greatly who the specific members turn out to be, and that’s particularly true with regard to the two regents, but the very fact that the board is only appointing two regents, as opposed to four, is a big step in the right direction. (As to who those regents should not be, they should not be any of the Republican fixers on the board, meaning current president Mike Richard, president pro tem Patty Cownie, holdover Milt Dakovich who helped to rig the 2015 search, and relatively new regent David Barker, who is not only a full-on Republican Party operative, but will probably become the next president of the board in April, prior to the conclusion of the search.)
Given that the last UI VP for Medical Affairs corrupted the 2015 search from top to bottom, I would prefer not to see the current VP for Medical Affairs on the search committee, and that’s true whether or not he turns out to be correct that a safe and effective vaccine will be available to Iowans by the end of November. Having one member represent the vast medical complex at UI, however, strikes me as fair, and the same is true for athletics and for “1 alum”, which really means the UI Center for Advancement — which was also indirectly complicit in the rigged 2015 search. If the people who are chosen are sincere, this will work. If key members turn out to be shysters, then we’re going to have problems because they’re shysters.
Having said that, I do think the structure of this committee will preclude the remorseless abuses of power that took place in 2015. I also believe that failed search, the ceaseless whiner who ended up being appointed, and the pandemic are all converging to remind everyone that this is a critical decision with far-reaching practical implications, and it is not the appropriate forum for ideological agendas, political or otherwise. The University of Iowa is a major public research university, and its reputation has been run into the ground for the past five years. Even if only out of professional self-interest, the members of this search committee should be focused on finding someone who will advocate for the institution first, not last.
* From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: Iowa State, University of Iowa tally some losses in U.S. News global rankings. Onward and downward with J. Bruce Harreld.
* Two days after the UI dean of the College of Medicine and VP for Medical Affairs all but guaranteed a Pfizer vaccine by the end of November, the head of Pfizer tapped the brakes on speculation that the vaccine trial was racing ahead. From Katie Thomas at the New York Times: Pfizer C.E.O. All but Rules Out Vaccine Before Election Day.
Pfizer’s clinical trial is testing the vaccine in 44,000 people, half of whom will get a placebo. The trial’s protocol, or blueprint, allows for an initial look at results after at least 32 people in either the placebo or vaccinated group have developed Covid-19. If more than 26 of those people are in the placebo group, then the vaccine is considered likely to be effective.
Dr. Bourla had repeatedly predicted that the initial analysis — which is conducted by an outside board of scientific experts — would come by the end of October. But on Tuesday, he said those 32 cases of Covid-19 had not yet occurred, a sign that the trial is progressing more slowly than the company had estimated. He also said the outside panel would need at least a week to analyze any results, making an answer before the election unlikely.
It is of course possible that the Pfizer trial will conclude sometime in November, and a safe vaccine will be approved on an expedited basis, but that still doesn’t tell us what the efficacy will be, or whether it will be delivered in a single shot, multiple shots over time, or even require a booster on an annual basis. All of which is to say I’m still not sure why Jackson is so optimistic, but when the Pfizer CEO steps on your message only two days later it’s probably time to rethink your strategy. (A good explainer here on vaccine efficacy.)
* And speaking of medical affairs at the University of Iowa, on Thursday we got this report from the Gazette’s Michaela Ramm: Iowa hospitals will be overrun by surge in new cases, says UIHC epidemiologist.
The situation in Iowa is critical after a spike in viral transmissions has driven record-breaking number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients statewide, said Dr. Jorge Salinas, a leading infection control specialist at UIHC.
As of Thursday morning, 605 patients infected with the novel coronavirus were in hospitals across the state, including 135 in intensive care units and 56 on ventilators. That’s the highest rate of patients ever seen throughout the pandemic in Iowa.
And as a result, the state’s hospitals will be overrun with sick patients “very soon,” Salinas said.
As you can see, there seems to be some divergence between the ultra-positive dean of the UI College of Medicine and VP for Medical Affairs, and those individuals at UI who are responsible for providing and managing front line medical care. And they aren’t the only ones who are concerned.
* From Sabine Martin at the Daily Iowan: Faculty Senate concerned about uptick in COVID-19 cases at the UI. While the numbers on the UI campus, and in Johnson County, have been low, the viral load across the state is starting to push into areas where it has been held low. Meaning the question isn’t whether things will get worse on the UI campus, but how much worse, before classes are dismissed for the fall term at the beginning of Thanksgiving break.
* As to the spring term, which will kick off after a two-month break, this is a smart column from Signe Nettum at the Daily Iowan: Don’t bring us back.
I believe that because we still do not know what is going to happen this winter and beginning of spring — will we get a vaccine? Will it even be effective? Will we have more cases now that the bars are open? Did the efforts the university implemented this semester actually do anything? — the University of Iowa should automatically assume that the greater majority — if not all classes — will be moved online this semester until Iowa, and the U.S as a whole, has a hand on COVID-19 and spreading issues.
It should be genuinely concerning that at this very moment in time there are two completely different pandemic narratives coming from high-ranking medical officials at the University of Iowa. On one hand we have the dean of the UI College of Medicine and VP for Medical Affairs saying everything will be fine by the end of November, while medical officials and epidemiologists at UI are increasingly vocal about the immediate threat of increased COVID-19 hospitalizations.
From the Gazette’s Michaela Ramm: Local officials plead with public to follow COVID-19 safety measures as cases rise.
As the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City becomes stressed from the record-breaking hospitalizations, the facility is making operational changes not seen since the beginning of the pandemic, in anticipation of an influx of patients.
Beginning Friday, and if there is an anticipated bed need, UIHC may reschedule select nonemergent surgeries and procedures that require recovery in a hospital setting, officials said.
“Unfortunately, as COVID-19 numbers in the state continue to rise, this is what we need to do,” UIHC CEO Suresh Gunasekaran said in an email to The Gazette. “We are committed to caring for all Iowans’ health care needs, but the only way we can continue to do so is if we get the pandemic under control, and that requires every citizen to take responsibility for following the safety guidelines.
“If we fail to control the pandemic, all hospitals will be vulnerable to being overwhelmed going into a traditionally busy winter season. We are making these changes to ‘buy some time’ for Iowans to follow safety guidelines and ‘flatten the curve’ before it is too late,” Gunasekaran said.
A vaccine, and particularly one that was highly effective — meaning on the order of 75% or more — would be a game-changer, but despite cheerleading from Jackson and others at UI, the school cannot possibly make plans for the spring term which rely on such hopes. In fact, in the context of the intensifying viral spread across the Upper-Midwest, including Iowa, I don’t know how the university can send 30K students home if three-plus weeks, then call them all back to campus two months later. If there is a vaccine in play, and the federal government is under new leadership, maybe that’s possible, but right now I think central administration has to be thinking about starting the spring term online, even if that hurts the bottom line.
* From Megan McSweeney at KentWired, ten days ago, we got a glimpse into the reason why former UI Provost Montserrat Fuentes stepped down after a little more than a year, only to then be given a made-up job in the president’s office at UI at full salary: Former Iowa provost Montserrat Fuentes gives Kent State provost presentation.
Montserrat Fuentes believes Kent State’s values fit well with her own, an issue she faced in her previous position at the University of Iowa.
Fuentes is one of three final candidates for the position of senior vice president and provost, and gave the final presentation Tuesday morning.
In June 2019, she was named the provost of the University of Iowa. Only a year later, she was reassigned to serve as a special assistant to the Office of the President.
The University of Iowa Human Resources website does not list “special assistant in the Office of the President” as an official job at the university, but it does list “special assistant to the vice president” with a market range of $50,012 to $106,086. Fuentes has continued to earn the vice president-level salary of $439,000.
The reason for her reassignment was not disclosed by Fuentes or the University of Iowa.
Fuentes said she was looking for complete alignment of values and believe she found that at Kent.
“I was looking to put myself in a position where I saw an alignment of my values and the direction that the institution is going, and that’s where I am right now.” Fuentes said. “I want to be able to put values into action, our words into action.”
As noted in prior updates, I despise the code of silence in higher-ed, which routinely allows administrators to avoid accountability. I also understand that Fuentes is limited in what she can say — even to a prospective future employer — without violating her separation agreement from UI, yet here the inference is clear. Whatever Fuentes was told when she was hired by illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld, she was subsequently asked to betray her values. And between Harreld and Fuentes, I would take Fuentes’ word over Harreld’s every time.
Unfortunately, as reported last week by the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, Fuentes lost out on the Kent State job: Kent State opts for interim over University of Iowa past provost. While Fuetnes is still being well-compensated by Iowa — meaning she’s not out on the street — it can’t be fun being in the professional limbo she is in, and I hope she is able to find a new position soon. As to what Fuentes is actually doing at UI, however, we got more insight from an extensive companion piece published by Miller on the same day.
Fuentes now is charged with assessing COVID’s impact on other higher education institutions and evaluating what they’re doing to navigate the pandemic, in helping to inform Iowa’s planning through the shifting landscape, according to Kregel.
If that sounds vaguely familiar, Miller noted that is essentially the same make-work role that another former UI administrator was also given when he resigned after only five weeks:
She began her UI tenure the same day as then-Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion TaJuan Wilson began his short stint on campus. Wilson — having been hired after a lengthy yearslong search that necessitated two interims — abdicated his post after just six weeks on the job.
Like Fuentes would do nearly one year later, Wilson signed a settlement taking a special assignment in the UI Office of the President — where he continued earning his six-figure salary while being allowed to look for other jobs off campus.
In departing for Georgia Southern University earlier this year, Wilson prepared for UI a presentation on what other campuses are doing around issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion — similar to Fuentes’ assignment, but for diversity measures.
Between Fuentes and Wilson it is entirely possible that the University of Iowa — under crackerjack former business executive J. Bruce Harreld — will pay out three quarters of a million dollars to two former high-ranking administrators in exchange for two meaningless reports.
* While Fuentes and Wilson were legally required to be circumspect in their statements about why they resigned, we have enough comments from both to know that concerns about institutional integrity and diversity were involved. One group on the UI campus that was not muzzled by a contract was the committee which recently disbanded the search for a new Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (AVP-DEI), and the members of that committee had some very pointed comments for central administration, if and when a new AVP-DEI search is undertaken. From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: ‘Disappointed’ disbanded University of Iowa committee makes suggestions for next diversity search.
“Further, we make recommendations for the current presidential search, given the central role that our next president will play in the success of DEI efforts on campus.”
The group also suggested changes to the actual diversity leadership position at the center of the search, giving its next hire more power and “the necessary authority, resources, job security, and regular access to senior leadership to catalyze DEI-related change and help create an anti-racist campus and community.”
“It is critical for the person in this position to report to and meet regularly with the president; to serve as a vice president, rather than as an associate vice president; and to be a member of the president’s cabinet,” according to the group’s letter.
Those recommendations align with questions the university’s last, but short-lived, associate vice president of diversity posed in departing UI after just a few months on campus.
That AVP-DEI, of course, was Tajuan Wilson. (The full recommendations from the disbanded committee are attached to Miller’s report, and they are withering.)
* Also from the Gazette’s Miller: University of Iowa resumes diversity training after pause. After flinching due to craziness from the Trump administration, and incurring yet more wrath from the UI community for timidity in the face of a racist and authoritarian administration, the brain trust at UI is now forging ahead, albeit with that self-inflicted wound.
* A few weeks back, illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld stated that the endowment funded by the UI public-private energy partnership was poised to make its first grants to the UI community. Last week we learned that’s not actually the case. From the Iowa Now website on 10/22/20:
Though the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the grant process for distributing funds generated by the University of Iowa’s utility public-private partnership (P3), the group established to manage the campus use of funds from the P3 proceeds is ready to return to the process and soon will announce how members of campus can apply.
The UI Path Forward Steering Committee, co-chaired by Interim Executive Vice President and Provost Kevin Kregel and Vice President for Research Marty Scholtz, is finalizing the criteria and process for applying for the first round of grants; the criteria will be released to campus later this semester.
It is not at all surprising that Harreld’s self-aggrandizing announcement turned out to be false. What is a bit surprising is that the university corrected that statement itself in short order. While it would probably be too much to hope that Harreld is already back in Colorado, and serving as president in name only until his successor is found, it is a good sign that the university is correcting his excesses more quickly. (Over the summer Harreld made a number of ludicrous statements about the COVID-19 pandemic, none of which were retracted or corrected.)
More context here from Natalie Dunlap at the Daily Iowan: Criteria and process for applying for P3 grants to be released later this semester, and Vanessa Miller at the Gazette: Pandemic delays first University of Iowa allocations from its public-private utilities partnership.
* Although Harreld’s resignation announcement ostensibly caused the collapse of the search for a new Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the ongoing search for a new dean at the Tippie College of Business has not been negatively impacted by Harreld’s announcement. (As a practical matter, of course, if you’re a dean you have your own delineated sphere of influence, while the position of AVP-DEI is not only in flux on the UI campus, it could conceivably change yet again with the appointment of the next president.) From Iowa Now: UI announces first candidate for Tippie College of Business dean.
Additional context from Mary Hartel at the Daily Iowan: Tippie Dean search continues, three finalists to virtually visit campus, and from the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: 3 finalists for University of Iowa business dean begin virtual campus visits.
* In a recent update I mentioned that back in the spring, at the last minute, the Republican-controlled Iowa legislature stripped $8M out of the budget for the Iowa Board of Regents, only weeks after the state received $1.25B from the pandemic-related CARES Act. Along with $4.3M in CARES Act funding that was recently pushed out to college campuses across the state, the governor just granted another chunk of change specifically to two of the regent universities. From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: Iowa commits $2M to COVID-19 vaccine collaboration for Iowa State, University of Iowa.
* This is a smart Gazette guest column from former UI professor and former FCC commissioner Nicholas Johnson: Treat college football in Iowa like big business.
What’s the win-win that preserves football while getting the elephant off the campus?
How about what the University of Iowa did earlier this year when it contracted away its power plant to a for-profit, private utility?
Remove the football program from the university; recognize it as the part of the entertainment industry that it is. Let it lease the Kinnick Stadium, related land and structures, the “Hawkeyes” name, and associated assets.
This farm club could pay its coach, and players, whatever its corporate board wished and employees could negotiate.
This has been a kick of mine over the past five years as well, albeit largely driven by the liability threat and physical cost of CTE, which no institution of higher learning should be associated with. For whatever reason: cut sports loose entirely, make it a separate legal entity, and charge whatever the traffic will bear for the branding and facilities.
10/27/20 — Last week we took a close look at the University of Iowa Athletics Department, in advance of what would turn out to be a typical late loss on the football field, following numerous blunders from players and coaches alike in a program that prides itself on getting the basics rights. In this update we will take a look at healthcare at UI, and particularly the way University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC) is preparing to deal with Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds’ failed COVID-19 policies, which have produced rising cases, hospitalizations and deaths across the state. Even allowing for her pig-headed reputation, until this past weekend it was not clear why Iowa’s governor was refusing to change course, or even to hold press conferences and defend herself, given that her policies had objectively failed the people of the state, but on Sunday we got one possible answer in a guest column in the Daily Iowan.
Titled COVID-19 Vaccine Could be Weeks Away, the timing, contents and even the authorship of that guest opinion were odd, particularly given the larger context of both the governor’s failed policies and the national elections already underway. While signed by two individuals with active associations with UI, the disparity in rank between them is jarring to say the least, particularly given the authors’ firm and optimistic assertions.
—Ava Johnson, Research Assistant, Major: Human Physiology, CLAS, U Iowa, Class 2022 junior
—Brooks Jackson MD MBA, Professor of Pathology and Dean, Carver College of Medicine, Vice President of Medical Affairs, University of Iowa Health Care
It may be that the junior signatory wrote or at least researched the bulk of the piece because the senior signatory is presumably a busy man, but in any event the implicit uncertainty of the relationship between the authors makes it considerably more difficult to understand what is actually being said. For that reason, and meaning no disrespect, in this post we will assume that the guest opinion is not simply the personal view of both authors, but an official statement from the UI VP for Medical Affairs and dean of the UI College of Medicine, regarding the expected timeline for a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine. That a UI VP-dean dropped this optimistic guest opinion one week before Election Day and its looming national and state consequences, and while Iowa’s governor is under siege for her administrative failings, may simply be coincidence, but it is worth nothing that the Trump administration also threw up its hands on Sunday about containing the virus, and instead focused attention on the hope for vaccines as well.
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Sunday that the US is “not going to control” the coronavirus pandemic, as cases surge across the country and nearly 225,000 Americans have died from the virus.
“We are not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas,” Meadows told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”
Given the lead time required for publication, I have no idea whether J. Brooks Jackson’s guest opinion in the DI was specifically coordinated to drop on the same day that the White House Chief of Staff pivoted to surrender, but Jackson clearly does believe we are very close to a safe and effective vaccine. From the DI guess opinion:
FDA approval for use of the vaccine will require that the Phase III trials demonstrate safety and at least 50 percent efficacy. The Pfizer trial is a month ahead of Moderna having enrolled close to 44,000 subjects, including 265 subjects enrolled at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics since July involving mostly health-care workers and students. It is likely that the number of transmissions in the trial necessary for review will be achieved within the next couple of weeks. If safety and efficacy are shown, the FDA could approve emergency use 2-4 weeks later according to Moncef Slaoui, head of the federal Operation Warp Speed COVID-19 Vaccine initiative.
Anticipating we will have an effective vaccine, the federal government has already contracted with Pfizer and Moderna to manufacture and purchase hundreds of millions of doses. These would be distributed to the states for distribution to various health-care providers within the next few weeks. Freezers to store the anticipated 60,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine and 90,000 doses of Moderna vaccine have already been shipped to UIHC so that we could start vaccinations perhaps by the end of November.
Notwithstanding the copious qualifiers in the two paragraphs above, one reason Iowa’s governor may have fallen mute of late, while simultaneously refusing to change course despite objective evidence of her failure, is that someone may be whispering in her ear that she is about to receive a safe and effective vaccine that will render containment and mitigation moot. Unfortunately — and J. Brooks Jackson certainly knows this — even if a vaccine is approved for emergency use in a matter of weeks, Iowans won’t be lining up any time soon because of the complexities of production and distribution. And yet the whole point of Jackson’s guest opinion is that we should expect a vaccine to be available by the end of November.
Compared to his predecessor, who rose to wield unchecked power in 2015 during and after the rigged presidential election that he also chaired, it has been hard to get a fix on Jackson because he does not play a prominent public role despite his dual titles. Indeed, even in the context of the pandemic, Jackson has not been the primary source of public information from UI about the disease or its treatment, and has largely remained silent except regarding the possibility of invented interventions, about which he has been resolutely upbeat. From Radio Iowa in late September:
The University of Iowa’s Vice President for Medical Affairs, Brooks Jackson, says he is encouraged about the prospect for a COVID-19 vaccine.
“The data emerging on the leading COVID-19 vaccine candidates currently in large phase-three clinical trials in the U.S. looks very promising,” Jackson says. Jackson says Iowa is doing its part. The U-I is one of the sites in the Pfizer COVID-19 trial and he says they recently completed the target enrollment for the trial.
Jackson says they are starting to plan for using a vaccine. “And while it is difficult to predict the timing of vaccine approval — we are beginning now to work to plan for the logistics of COVID-19 vaccine distribution in coordination with the Iowa Department of Public Health,” according to Jackson. “This groundwork will ensure that we will be ready to administer rapidly, one or more COVID-19 vaccines when the time comes.”
Jackson made his comments during the Board of Regents meeting Wednesday.
From a solo guest opinion by Jackson in early September, which ran in both The Gazette and the Des Moines Register:
Here is some of the good news going on in Iowa that shows there really is light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel:
1. Vaccines for COVID-19 may be closer than you think
A vaccine would make it easier for our immune system to quickly recognize the virus and create antibodies to fight it — potentially protecting us from getting sick or keeping those who do get sick from becoming severely ill. Scientists have readied several potential vaccines for testing in record time. This feat is truly remarkable — vaccines usually take years to develop and test, but we may have one or more within six months.
Go back farther in time and we find Jackson rooting not for a vaccine but for various therapies, including convalescent plasma. To be fair, however, in the greater scheme of things — and particularly with real pandemic experts on hand at UI — this administrative cheerleading may be how Jackson can best support the overall cause. (By training Jackson is a pathologist, not a virologist or epidemiologist, and of course someone has to handle the coordination of therapies, vaccines and clinical trials behind the scenes.)
The one problem with that role, however, particularly given the two formidable titles that Jackson wields, is that he has remained conspicuously silent about the governor’s failed policies, even as more than 1,600 Iowa bodies have piled up over the past eight months. (Jackson acknowledges the deaths, but doesn’t contest them.) From Lillian Poulsen at the Daily Iowan on Monday, following up on Jackson’s statements in his guest opinion: University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics prepares for COVID-19 vaccine expected in November.
Jackson said the Pfizer vaccine trial has moved faster than any previous trials for vaccines, which may be why people are skeptical that the vaccine will be ready so soon. He said there are a couple of reasons why this vaccine will be ready this year.
“This new virus is causing a significant amount of hospitalizations and mortality,” Jackson said. “Additionally, the technology has advanced incredibly quickly from being able to come up with a vaccine within a couple of months.”
With the successes from the first two phases of the trial, the Pfizer vaccination should be safe after receiving emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration in a few weeks, Jackson said.
Jackson said Pfizer expects to determine the efficacy of this vaccine as early as next week, but they want at least half of the trial subjects to have received their second dose of the vaccine at least two months before they release it to the public.
J. Brooks Jackson seems convinced that a safe and effective vaccine will be approved in a few weeks at most, and be available to Iowans by the end of November. The good news is that we won’t have long to wait to find out whether Jackson is right. The bad news is that while Jackson felt compelled to drop an optimism bomb on the public this past Sunday — while the governor who writes his checks is being hammered for her failings, and while the equally beleaguered president of the United States is throwing in the towel on containment — he has had almost nothing to say about the failings of our elected leaders or in support of UIHC employees. And for those reasons it is hard to believe that Jackson isn’t playing politics himself.
* While J. Brooks Jackson is clearly in a happy place, in the real world the situation in Iowa and across the country is deteriorating quickly. Not only are cases, hospitalizations and deaths headed in the wrong direction in Iowa, but in other states the hospital systems are starting to break down. In advance of a similar fate in Iowa, medical professionals and administrators at the UI who are not named J. Brooks Jackson are sounding the alarm.
From the Gazette’s Michaela Ramm this past Friday: Iowa hospitals fear overwhelming patient surge if coronavirus cases continue to climb.
The spike in new novel coronavirus cases in recent weeks has driven a record number of sick patients into hospitals across the state. Over the past week, Iowa continuously has reached new highs in the number people hospitalized with the virus, topping off at 545 total patients as of Saturday morning.
Does that indicate the state’s hospitals are at risk for being overwhelmed?
“That’s the difficult part,” said Suresh Gunasekaran, chief executive officer at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. “None of us have a crystal ball as to how it’s going to spread and what each hospital is going to be able to do.
“But I would certainly say that it very much is possible to overwhelm hospitals.”
UIHC is such a massive operation it would likely be the last hospital in the state to fall, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be stressed. On the Iowa Department of Public Health website the state shows hospital numbers by region, and in RMCC 5 — which contains Johnson County and thus UI/UIHC — there has been a noticeable increase in open beds over the past few weeks. This in turn suggests that UIHC may, for the second time, be slowing non-COVID-19 medical care in order to increase resources in advance of another substantial wave. (The percentage of available beds has been quite low for months, because hospitals in RMCC 5 have been able to treat non-COVID-19 patients along side pandemic patients, but that is clearly changing.)
Through the summer and into the fall the available beds have been around 325 or so. Now, as cases rise across the state, 452 beds are suddenly available in RMCC 5, and that’s intentional. Even if J. Brooks Jackson expects rainbows and unicorns by the end of November, the people who are providing patient care know they are in for an extended fight.
* Like the 1980’s farm crisis, which never really stopped, there was a severe nursing shortage in the 1980’s that also never stopped. Even today, year after year, you can find headline after headline referencing this never-ending crisis, because there are never enough nurses to fill available jobs. (Curiously, this would seem to fly in the face of supply and demand, particularly given that BSN’s make good money, but I digress.)
In a normal year this omnipresent shortage simply means nurses end up going where the money is, while states, cities and facilities that are cash-strapped struggle to cover their basic staffing needs. Normally this persistent shortage isn’t a big problem for the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics because it is generally well-respected and pays decent money, despite the fact that Republican thugs in the state legislature slashed public-sector collective-bargaining a few years ago. Now, however, because of high demand due to the pandemic, and because UIHC is overseen by the Iowa Board of Regents, which is run by the same Republican political machine that slashed collective-bargaining rights, the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics are running up against a staffing shortage right as the Republican governor’s murderous COVID-19 mitigation polices are proving completely ineffective.
From Eleanor Hildebrandt at the Daily Iowan: University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics is hiring more temporary nurses to help fill gaps left by retention issues.
In an email to The Daily Iowan, UIHC Public Relations Manager Laura Shoemaker said these additional nurses are hired temporarily while staff nurses are hired and trained. She said 160 nurses joined the ranks of UIHC in the last few months and are currently in orientation, with more filling in for the meantime.
“Agency nurses will help fill the gap for us until we get everyone fully onboard, which can take a few months,” Shoemaker said.
Also from Hildebrandt at the DI: Unions at Iowa universities vote to recertify for bargaining power, frustrated with election process.
In 2017, the Iowa Legislature passed a law that changed how unions attain collective bargaining power. Instead of being able to negotiate indefinitely, unions must hold a recertification vote every time a contract is renegotiated.
To remain certified, more than 50 percent of the union must vote yes. Any member who chooses not to vote, turns into an automatic ‘no’ vote.
This is the level of administrative depravity that passes for governance in Iowa, and it is no wonder that the state has trouble attracting qualified professionals. Even if doctors aren’t unionized, they would rather have highly trained and invested staff, as opposed to waves of agency or traveling nurses coming and going. And of course having a stable workforce also improves patient care, which lowers the risk of mistakes and decreases costs from accidentally butchering a patient here or there. (Which the people of Iowa then pay for.)
From Natalie Krebs at Iowa Public Radio News: ‘Very Problematic:’ COVID-19 Hospitalizations Continue To Hit Record Highs In Iowa.
Jorge Salinas, an epidemiologist at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, said he fears if numbers continue to rise at this rate, it could overwhelm hospitals like his.
“We’re doing extra efforts. We’re hiring people from outside of the state. And our people are working extra shifts to not leave Iowans without the care they need,” he said.
Salinas called the increasing number of COVID-19 infections in the Midwest “very problematic” and said at the current transmission rate, UIHC risks being overloaded by patients coming from as far as western Illinois and Wisconsin.
He said COVID-19 transmission rates have increased across the state, especially in rural areas, and it’s led to an increase in demand for hospital beds. He said that could overwhelm UIHC’s health care workers.
“Remember that these people have been working very hard during this entire pandemic – six months, seven months, eight months,” he said. “There’s no end in sight for these health care workers. They’re tired.”
In a sane world we wouldn’t have to worry about a facility like UIHC being towed under by COVID-19, because it has incredible medical muscle. Unfortunately, not only is the illegitimate, lame-duck president of the University of Iowa completely subservient to the Republican-controlled Iowan Board of Regents, but the regents are the statutory trustees of UIHC. Combine all that with the fact that the failed COVID-19 policies of Iowa’s Republican governor — who controls the Board of Regents — are driving a sharp increase in hospitalizations, and there is literally no sane person in the bureaucratic pipeline who has the power to prevent a medical catastrophe. (We may get lucky, but luck is all it will be.)
From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: UIHC health care workers call on Iowa leaders ‘to step up’ after record COVID-19 hospitalizations.
UI health care workers highlighted in their statement the ever-growing tally of UIHC employees who’ve tested positive — which has reached 637 to date, including four who reported positive results Tuesday.
“We and all workers on the front lines of the fight against COVID need Iowa’s leaders to step up and provide the personal protective equipment and the resources necessary for us to care for Iowa,” according to the statement.
As also noted in Millers’ report, Iowa’s governor augmented her COVID-19 horror show by diverting $21M in federal pandemic funds to update a state computer system. Fortunately for Iowans, the state auditor checked up on that expense and determined it was not allowed under federal guidelines for those funds. From Laura Belin at Bleeding Heartland: Auditor: Iowa governor misused $21 million in COVID-19 relief funds.
Governor Kim Reynolds erred in directing that $21 million in federal funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act be used to cover the cost of a software system purchased before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to State Auditor Rob Sand.
Sand announced on October 19 that he and the U.S. Treasury Department’s Inspector General “have advised Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds that her decision to use millions of CARES Act dollars to help implement a new software system for state government was not an allowable use of the funds.”
So here’s a question. If you were an ICU nurse, and specifically a nurse with expertise in treating COVID-19 patients, and you had any other options, would you come to Iowa to work in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic? Because if J. Brooks Jackson is wrong and a vaccine doesn’t show up by the end of November, there is no Plan B. Iowa won’t just be another state with bad outbreaks, it will be a state where the hospital system breaks down.
Former UIHC employee says
That opinion piece by Dr Jackson has left me wondering exactly what game he’s playing, especially since it contradicts the much more cautious messaging coming from Dr Fauci and other public health officials re: vaccine availability. Approval is only the first hurdle; obviously, it will then need to be distributed out across the country, and there isn’t enough vaccine currently for everyone, so some sort of triaging for healthcare workers and the elderly would probably occur before the young and healthy readers of the DI would have the chance at receipt. This just seems like a PR disaster for UIHC.
Not only is manufacture and distro a normal problem for vaccine rollout, this one…I don’t see how it’s going to happen. Look at the conditions necessary to keep the vaccine active:
Here’s what’s going to happen with this: once it leaves the hands of the specialists, all bets are off when it comes to keeping the vaccine as cold as it needs to be to not fall apart. Millions of people will be injected with spoiled vaccine and will then go about their business unprotected, and the anti-vaxxers will have a field day when cases amongst “vaccinated” spike. The pharma people are in no way idiot- and poverty-proofing this enough, because they’re not accustomed to dealing with normal American healthcare workers, and their social circles are full of PhDs from prestigious universities, people who actually pay attention. It’s going to be the pharmaceutical equivalent of Common Core.
Stupid will rule the day. Or, rather, the failure of complexity. When we say that people were “left behind”, it’s about this: we’ve made the fancy systems that run things far too complex for most people to handle. Asimov spotted the problem a long, long time ago.
Almost no one on the list is from arts and humanities, despite CLAS’s still being the largest college. It’s all health sciences, sciences, engineering. Dance seems to have someone on almost every committee since their turn on the 2020 committee, which is a little weird when English has over 10x the majors. No postcards from History or Classics in a very long time. If not for Cunning’s routine involvement on these committees I doubt we’d see Philosophy there, either.
It’s all pretty weird and shortsighted when you consider that the university’s major asset is still the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, which only exists so long as writers are willing to live here, and the further you push the place towards Purdue or Alabama State, the less amenable it is to writers. The Workshop doesn’t have to be here, and I’d be surprised if they didn’t have suitors. I don’t know why the Workshop would stay in a place that’s increasingly anti-intellectual, is 200 miles from any cultural center, has drifted far from any interest in the arts and humanities, lives under a government that’s hostile to civil rights, and is also going to make it a dangerous hassle to get an abortion if you need one. I can think of lots of more hospitable places for a famous writing program.
Says to me that it’s better than last time, but we’re still trying to stake it all on biz-and-health-sci, which are expensive fields, and a corporate landscape that doesn’t exist anywhere nearby. Back when we were looking for a new CLAS dean, and the Stony Brook guy came to talk, I had a look at his “bring corporate money” efforts…even in New York, this isn’t easy. It works well in Cambridge for good reasons: you can walk from MIT buildings with the smart, wealthy-alumni-donor-supported academic STEM people to the hedge-fund buildings with the smart money people. They all get lunch at the same restaurants, all talk. When they have an idea, the right kind of lawyers are nearby, too, and so are the well-connected, wealthy HBS management types. These are advantages we don’t have. I think it is very, very important, before you build, to understand whether the ecosystem you’re building in is capable of supporting what you’re trying to build.
I understand that there aren’t a lot of other options: tax money and tuition money. I also get that we’re hearing almost nothing in this state about long covid, despite other place in the world and long-hauler groups showing us what we ought to expect, given the population’s age and condition. We’re not just going to lose a lot of people; we’re going to have a very large number of newly disabled people. We’re already bad at taking care of disabled people here. I have genuinely no idea how this state will cope with having many more seriously disabled people, but I don’t imagine that the answer will be “well”.
I wonder if we’ll wind up doing the Detroit model, where the entire hanging-on of the place is down to one extraordinarily wealthy man who’s decided to make a project out of propping up the university with his business.
As a reminder: the Iowa City Community School District recently passed a $200M bond measure and has been busy borrowing and spending the money. Our ability to pay that money back depends on this area’s doing well, which hangs entirely on the university’s doing well. If we go the Carbondale route, we’re in a lot of trouble.