A new threaded post on this topic can be found here. For previous posts about the Harreld hire, click the tag below.
01/16/21 — Last Thursday, the UI Presidential Search Committee announced that its next meeting will be held this coming Wednesday, January 20th. Scheduled from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., the meeting will, “include next steps in the search process, the presidential search website, and discussion of potential questions for semifinalists”. While there has been no official word that advertising for the Iowa presidency was placed as scheduled, on Friday (yesterday) the final text of the position description was added to the regent and university search websites, and that text also appeared as an advertisement on the Chronicle of Higher Education website.
More details on the UI presidential search from the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: Mount Mercy and University of Iowa following similar presidential search timelines.
* This past Tuesday the Iowa Board of Regents conducted mid-year evaluations for the institutional heads of the state schools. Because those reviews are held in closed session we never learn anything about the substance of the board’s deliberations except that no official action was taken, and that was again the case this year. With specific regard to the University of Iowa, this means illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld will keep cashing five-figure monthly paychecks, in exchange for doing little more than putting on a jacket and tie over his pajama pants when logging in for Zoom meetings from his multi-million-dollar Colorado chalet.
While classes are set to resume on the UI campus in only nine days, on Monday, January 25th, there has not yet been any official word about how the spring semester will be handled in the face of the raging COVID-19 pandemic. Although many if not most front-line healthcare workers at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics have received their first mRNA vaccination, and a few have already received their second, the vast majority of students, faculty and staff have not been vaccinated, and will probably not be vaccinated during the spring term. Given the increased number of infections, hospitalizations and deaths across the state and country, and the appearance of new, more easily-transmitted variants of the disease, the elevated threat level compared to last fall would seem to call for more stringent mitigation and suppression measures, but administrators at UI have been almost entirely silent about their plans.
In their defense, UI administrators must not only be cognizant of the state’s directives, and particularly those emanating from the demonic governor’s office, but they probably want to avoid repeating the debacle that occurred last summer and into the fall, when Harreld shot his mouth off about all the smart decisions the school was making, only to look like a colossal boob by the end of the term. As such, waiting until the last possible minute — when most UI classes will be delivered online anyway — is a good way to minimize exposure, and particularly so when a new federal presidential administration may also impact state and local decision making. For those reasons I expect last-minute announcements this coming week and into the beginning of the spring semester, as colleges and universities across the country recall millions of confused, fatalistic, and disease-carrying students back to campus, thus precipitating massive spikes in local cases, increased hospitalizations, and increased but plausibly deniable deaths in surrounding communities.
As regular readers may recall, following extensive genius-level deliberations by Harreld and his crack staff prior to the fall term, the university decided to stick its head in the sand (or elsewhere), and do zero entry testing for returning students, zero surveillance testing during the term, and to offer zero asymptomatic testing because that would cost cash money. (You can see J. Bruce Weasel actually lie to the UI Undergraduate Student Government here about providing testing to anyone who wanted a test, which never happened.) As to whether there will be entry testing, surveillance testing or asymptomatic testing during the spring term, I assume the same penny-pinching creeps who shot down testing in the fall have been hard at work over the winter break, arguing that the university must focus on the bottom line even if a few more anonymous individuals end up dead as a result. (Again, to be fair, that is also the governor’s rationale at the state level.)
Having said all that, back in early December, after a meeting of the UI Faculty Senate, it was reported that there would be increased asymptomatic and surveillance testing in the spring. Now little more than a week from the beginning of the spring term that change has not been confirmed, however, and no specifics have been announced to the virulent horde of humanity that is about to descend on the UI campus. At the same time, sister school Iowa State — which has neither a medical college nor medical center on campus, but is following the same schedule — is already testing its returning students.
* Also last Thursday, the University of Northern Iowa announced that Provost Jim Wohlpart is moving on after six years at the school. From Andrew Wind at the Cedar Falls-Waterloo Courier: Jim Wohlpart resigning as University of Northern Iowa provost to lead Central Washington University. In 2016 Wohlpart applied for the open UNI presidency, was not selected, then went right back to work as UNI’s provost without pitching a fit or making problems for new president Mark Nook. That is the way preparation and advancement in higher education is supposed to work, and I am happy that Jim Wohlpart is being rewarded for putting in the kind of honest and sincere effort that crony trash like J. Bruce Harreld slanders by his very existence.
* In various updates over the past several months we have taken a close look at the appointment of Liz Tovar as interim Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (AVP-DEI) at UI. While J. Bruce Harreld continues to pat himself on the back for appointing Tovar to that interim role, the university has been intentionally vague about whether Tovar is working full time or splitting time between academics and athletics.
As noted in recent comments about the first meeting of the presidential search committee, Tovar herself seemed to indicate that she was performing two roles, which would mean J. Bruce Harreld was once again obscuring his administrative hostility to DEI by asking a women of color to do two jobs. Now, in a report from the Gazette’s Erin F. Jordan back on 01/04/21, we have a clear answer to that question: University of Iowa’s Tovar takes diversity, equity and inclusion from athletics to campus.
In the Athletic Department, Tovar administers and analyzes the exit survey student-athletes take when they graduate or leave the UI. Results have shaped department decisions, such as the June hire of Broderick Binns as executive director of diversity, equity and inclusion for the Athletic Department.
As noted in prior posts, not only is Tovar not doing anything wrong, by all accounts she is doing everything right. The problem is not with Tovar, but with J. Bruce Harreld, who has repeatedly crippled the effectiveness of DEI initiatives that he otherwise extols by undercutting administrative continuity and support. Given the damage Harreld has done it isn’t surprising that the university would want to hide that fact that the school will be limping along with a part-time DEI administrator for the foreseeable future, but at least now the truth is out.
* This past Tuesday, Iowa’s governor took a short break from committing serial negligent homicide against Iowans to give her annual self-aggrandizing Condition of the State address. Despite over four thousand deaths due to the pandemic, and many more to come, Reynolds spent the bulk of her speech congratulating herself on the strength of the state budget, which is largely the result of having deprived citizens and communities of critically needed resources during a rampaging global health crisis. In the specifics of her proposed budget Reynolds threw a small bone at the Iowa Board of Regents, which will almost certainly not survive the Republican-led legislative process, even though she is the putative head of the Iowa Republican Party.
Reporting on the governor’s speech from Sarah Watson at the Daily Iowan: Reynolds’ state budget proposal underfunds public universities’ request; and from the Gazette’s Miller: Gov. Kim Reynolds proposes raising public university funding $45 million over two years.
* From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller on 01/08/21: Iowa State’s College Republicans report ‘fighting for America’ on day of Capitol riot. Fortunately, after glancing at the participation of Iowa State students who attempted to overthrow American democracy, ISU officials managed to see nothing that concerned them. From Miller on 01/13/21: Iowa State reports no indication ‘students were involved in criminal activity’ at U.S. Capitol. So now we wait to see if the feds arrest any of those militant Cyclones. (Historical note: this is the same state-funded university that couldn’t figure out that it’s own former president, Steven Leath, was routinely violating state law by repeatedly sticking the state with flagrant personal travel expenses.)
* Back in late December a judge blocked the University of Iowa from cutting women’s swimming at the end of the academic year. From William Morris and Hillary Ojeda at Hawk Central: Court grants injunction in Title IX case, blocks University of Iowa from dropping women’s swim team; and from Vanessa Miller at the Gazette: Judge blocks University of Iowa from cutting women’s swimming and diving.
* From Linh Ta at the Iowa Capitol Dispatch: Iowa’s college enrollment dropped in 2020. Trends point to a continuing decline; and from Vanessa Miller at the Gazette: Higher ed enrollment drops across Iowa.
* Reminding us once again that state government in Iowa is corrupt, and that the current governor has no allegiance to anyone but herself and her corporate backers, on 01/07/21 the AP’s Ryan Foley reported that the governor had used multiple government officials — including an employee of the University of Iowa — to shoot a promo for a crony COVID-19 testing company: Iowa governor, aides appear in PR video for no-bid vendor.
* From Jon Markus as the HechingerReport: More colleges and universities outsource services to for-profit companies. Includes mention of the UI P3.
01/10/21 — On this past Friday morning the University of Iowa Presidential Search Committee met for the second time, advancing the bureaucratic process that will lead to the replacement of illegitimate president J. Bruce Harreld. The main focus of Friday’s meeting involved working through the draft text of the requirements and position description that will be used in advertising the role. Although the meeting itself lasted a good two hours and twenty minutes, the vast majority of that time was devoted to a line-by-line reading and discussion of that text.
Of the twenty-one members, eighteen were online when role was taken. (The other three main have joined later.) While some members participated more than others, I didn’t get the feeling that anyone was trying to dominate the conversation, or that anyone was not being heard. As with the first meeting, this seems to be an amiable and inclusive group, and issues in dispute are decided on the merits and with respect. [The meeting begins at the 20:08 mark of this cued link.]
I searched for a draft of the text on both the Iowa Board of Regents website and on the search committee website, but was unable to locate a copy. Given that the document was visible on the livestream — meaning it was not considered privileged — it would have been helpful to make the same draft available to the public and the press because it was difficult to read off of a monitor, and would have been impossible to read on a smartphone. (People who were logged into the streaming app may have been able to zoom in on the document, but that was not possible for observers.)
Having spent some time wrestling with words myself (albeit generally losing), I was impressed by the way the committee patiently worked through the document, merging feedback from the listening sessions. It certainly wasn’t exhilarating viewing — though if you have strong feelings about the Oxford comma, you should stick around to the end — but the vast majority of the deliberations involved substantive issues, and I never got the feeling anyone was focused on anything other than producing the clearest consensus expression of what the role involves and what the committee is looking for in a new president. Prospective candidates who read the final copy should come away with a clear understanding of the committee’s priorities in replacing Harreld.
I was a bit surprised that there wasn’t more active discussion about requirements for the position, but in retrospect that clearly wasn’t the point of the meeting. The point was to resolve concerns about the draft, meaning if the committee was already in general agreement about the requirements then there wasn’t anything to talk about. Again, because I didn’t have a draft to consult myself, and because the text hasn’t been finalized, I can’t even say of a certainty what the requirements will be, but thankfully we have reporting on that from Rylee Wilson at the Daily Iowan: Search committee sets job description for next UI president.
The preferred qualifications for the next University of Iowa president include a doctoral degree, significant experience in fiscal management, a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and experience with an academic medical center.
There are more specifics in Wilson’s report, but the critical word in the quote above is “preferred”, as opposed to required. Because we don’t have the final text I will hold off commenting further until the position description is posted, but it must be noted that preferred qualifications leave the door open for candidates who fail to meet those ideals, which is how Iowa ended up with J. Bruce Harreld instead of being led by a real university president. (I generally agree with trying to attract the largest possible pool of candidates, but it must be acknowledged that doing so also involves the risk of subversion.)
Among the issues that did catch my attention, there was an interesting tangential discussion about university foundations. As regular readers know, what used to be called the University of Iowa Foundation is now called the University of Iowa Center for Advancement (UICA), and the UICA does have a remit which goes beyond the typical higher-ed foundation. (That change in mission was in part due to J. Bruce Harreld’s autocratic decision to kill off the 150-year-old University of Iowa Alumni Association, and to transfer its mission — along with a $6M endowment — to the former UI Foundation.)
Another interesting discussion concerned an issue which was raised in these virtual pages several months ago, which is that UI does not need someone in the president’s office who is using that job as a stepping stone. Ideally, as was the case with former UI President Sally Mason, the next president will provide at least seven or eight years of stable and credible leadership. Despite claims by the administrative thugs who hired Harreld, and Harreld’s own self-aggrandizing pitch, there isn’t a lot of bureaucratic innovation that needs to be done at the University of Iowa. (Indeed, Harreld’s crowning achievement — the UI public-private utility partnership — was plagiarized directly from Ohio State.)
At the end of the meeting, co-chair Sandy Daack-Hirsch updated the committee on next steps, and the overall timeline remains in force. After a quick review of the agreed-upon changes, advertising of the position is still set to begin in mid-January, meaning next week or the week after that. Daack-Hirsch also said another meeting will take place in two or three weeks, just to get everyone on the same page about how the search process will play out. As of now the committee still plans to reconvene in mid-March to begin sifting through the applications and winnowing the candidates to a slate of semi-finalists. If everything goes according to plan, the next UI president will be announced at the end of April, and take office two or three months later.
01/07/21 — In the previous update, as has been the case with many posts over the past five years, we debunked a series of self-aggrandizing insinuations and prevarications by illegitimate University of Iowa president J. Bruce Harreld. It is of course completely in character for the retiring Harreld to attempt to invent a flattering legacy on his way out the door, no matter how false that facade might be, but as a factual matter the very nature of the position he fraudulently holds will make that all but impossible. When you are a pirate in the private sector it’s easy enough to keep your plundering under wraps as long as you avoid the long arm of the law, but not so in government — and particularly not when you were hired to be the very public face of a major state research university.
Even if you run from the press at almost every opportunity — as Harreld has done since he was appointed in early September of 2015 — that won’t prevent the press from writing about you, and from trying to understand what you are and aren’t doing to advance the organization you lead. Speaking of which, in anticipation of the coming legislative session in Iowa, the Gazette’s intrepid higher-ed beat reporter, Vanessa Miller, published the following story yesterday — with syndicated versions appearing in other state papers this week: Iowa Statehouse ‘frustration’ greets regents’ budget.
Although most of what transpires between the Iowa Legislature and the Iowa Board of Regents is little more than bureaucratic theater — because both bodies are ruthlessly controlled by the Iowa Republican Party — it still matters whether the players show up and hit their marks. And on that point J. Bruce Harreld has been derelict in the extreme:
Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, said the push for more state resources has been missing a key ally — Harreld himself.
Since being hired by the regents as UI president in 2015, Harreld has been “completely ineffective” in advocating for resources the UI desperately needs, he said.
Although Harreld has repeatedly made public appeals and presentations arguing for stronger support, Bolkcom said he has not met with state and local leaders.
“He’s just a no-show,” Bolkcom said. “He doesn’t really lobby for resources, so he’s not actually probably going to be involved in any of the work that leads up to getting a better appropriation.”
Harreld, who in October announced plans to retire after the board hires a replacement, has not met with the Johnson County legislative delegation in nearly three years, Bolkcom said.
Miller’s report includes the usual damage control from a beleaguered UI employee who is obligated as a condition of employment to excuse Harreld’s failings, but Iowa state Senator Joe Bolkcom would obviously know whether Harreld has been engaged with local legislators or not, and clearly he has not. In fact, as regular readers know, Harreld has paid mere lip service to increased legislative funding since he was hired, while leading an unrelenting crusade to increase tuition year after year. Not surprisingly, Miller deftly made that same point earlier in her report:
Harreld, in recent discussions with regents, aired skepticism of reversing the legislative funding losses and reiterated his support for resuming annual tuition increases — after the board froze rates this academic year given COVID-19 concerns and economic hardships facing students.
“At this point, this may be reality,” Harreld said, ”and the sooner that we deal with it, the better off we are.”
The reality is that J. Bruce Harreld is better off avoiding fights with the legislature and robbing students blind instead, which is why he routinely throws up his hands at requesting money from the state, then turns around and gouges students for cash in excess of any shortfall. In fact, over his tenure as Iowa’s illegitimate president, Harreld’s greatest success is undoubtedly generating roughly $2.5 in tuition hikes for every $1 in funding cuts. (But of course neither Harreld, his lackeys at the university, nor the Board of Regents ever talks about that lucrative annual swindle while decrying the lack of state support.)
I don’t know whether the Republican-dominated legislature and Republican governor can be convinced to increase appropriations for the state schools, but I do know that the state has fallen short of the board’s funding request every year that J. Bruce Harreld has been at Iowa. The good news is that Harreld is on the way out, and at this very moment a search committee is working to identify and nominate his successor. Once that happens, loyal Hawkeye employees will no longer have to spend their days making excuses for Harreld’s incompetence, and can instead devote themselves to more productive pursuits — like working to help the new president form positive relationships with influential legislators.
As for trying to manufacture a last-minute legacy of leadership before he hits the bricks, this tweet yesterday was painful to read, and not just because there is almost no one on the UI campus, and Harreld has been lounging at his multi-million-dollar Colorado chalet since Thanksgiving. As hard as it may be to remember, J. Bruce Harreld’s job was given to him by an act of administrative theft, which Harreld abetted and obscured — kind’a like stealing an election. So listening to this badly compromised man talk about “civil discourse and the respectful exchange of ideas [being] cornerstones of higher education and of this institution” comes off like a twisted joke.
Fortuitously, the second meeting of the UI Presidential Search Committee begins tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. A link to the livestream will be posted here.
01/03/21 — While we wait for the rescheduled second meeting of the University of Iowa presidential search committee this coming Friday at 9 a.m., I though we might ruminate on the age-old problem of allowing liars to establish the historical record. For example, while the average reporter might reasonably assume that illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld was possessed of some minimal degree of integrity by virtue of the office he fraudulently holds, over the past five years we have learned that Harreld seems almost intrinsically incapable of telling the truth, even when his lies are blatantly obvious the moment they are uttered. That neither the Iowa Board of Regents nor the university has ever seen fit to correct the record following one of Harreld’s self-serving discursions from objective reality is a curiosity worthy of investigation in itself, but here we will limit ourselves to the cultural cost of allowing Harreld to put himself forward as an honest broker when he is decidedly not.
As proof, here are two examples which were previously discussed in multiple prior posts. First, when Harreld was appointed by a small cabal of co-conspirators on the 2015 UI presidential search committee, Harreld’s response to press inquiries about that systemic abuse of power was that he was not only an innocent bystander — which was false in itself — but that he had no interest in the position until very late in the process, and had to be begged to even consider taking the job because he had so much going on in his incredibly fabulous life. Flash forward to today, however, and Harreld’s heroic narrative about why he came to Iowa now begins with a fervent calling to help save public higher education, to which he felt compelled to contribute.
Second, Harreld is now telling anyone who cares to listen that when he was initially appointed he did not have anyone to introduce him to major donors and other important constituents. In Harreld’s telling it was as if he was simply dropped off at a desolate UI bus stop with nothing more than a suitcase and a gritty Midwestern determination to save higher education from itself — but because other people failed him it took more than a year before he knew what he was doing. In the real world, not only is Harreld’s whiny claim laughable on its face given that the UI Center for Advancement could have and would have connected Harreld to every living Iowa donor at his request, but the three main co-conspirators behind Harreld’s rigged hire were the then-president of the Board of Regents, the then-UI VP for Medical Affairs and chair of the search committee, and one of the biggest donors to the university — who also happened to be one of Harreld’s old pals, and a former longtime business mentor. Meaning as documented endlessly in the press at the time, Harreld had direct or concierge access to every conceivable powerbroker in the state, including Iowa’s longtime governor.
While it is theoretically possible that Harreld’s memory is simply faltering, working against that hypothesis is the fact that Harreld’s newly invented narratives always seem to serve his momentary agenda, regardless of anything he may have said in the past. In fact, as regular readers know, Harreld is something of a savant at casting himself as a heroic visionary even when the utterance of such narratives gives pause about the veracity of his assertions. (Once again, here is Harreld’s infamous “lemmings” rant from this past summer, which will almost certainly never be publicly referred to by anyone at the University of Iowa or at the Board of Regents, let alone incorporated into the historical record of the university’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.)
For close observers of Harreld’s tortured tenure as the sham president of the University of Iowa, including beat reporters at the local, state and national level, it is understood that Harreld’s remarks must always be corroborated with other sources. Unfortunately, because of the very nature of the office he holds, reporters who are not aware of Harreld’s predilection for prevarication may understandably assume that he must possess some minimal measure of professional integrity, else he would not have that job. Indeed, the very conception of a rational universe implies that someone at the Board of Regents or at the university would correct Harreld’s frequent misstatements of fact, if not fire him precisely for violating the ethics and integrity of his office, yet other than an early sanction by the faculty assembly of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences that has never happened. Whatever comes out of Harreld’s mouth is allowed to stand, however preposterous or objectively false, so an unfamiliar reporter might be forgiven for assuming that Harreld must be an upstanding citizen, instead of wondering if the entire apparatus of state-sponsored higher education in Iowa was devoid of integrity, and solely devoted not only to keeping up appearances, but to protecting J. Bruce Harreld’s toxic ego needs.
Speaking of which, on Wednesday of last week the New York Times Magazine published an extensive feature story by Bruce Schoenfeld, titled, Was the College Football Season Worth It? In that article not only is Harreld mentioned four times, but his quotes provide important context for decision making that took place in the Big Ten Conference, of which Iowa is a member. Notably, however, one thing that is left out of the reporting is that Harreld was an early and public advocate of playing football despite medical uncertainties related to the pandemic, which would in turn have provided important context for Harreld”s reported comments and quotes.
In fact, Harreld was so eager to ally himself with football-obsessed pandemic denialists in the state of Iowa that in early May, even though he himself had closed the campus less than two months earlier, Harreld blurted out in a virtual meeting of the Board of Regents that he expected regular football practice to start up at the beginning of June. (Voluntary workouts began on June 8th.) By late August, after concerns about the pandemic prompted a majority of the Big Ten presidents to cancel the upcoming season, Harreld — along with his perpetually oily athletics director, Gary Barta — leaked information about Harreld’s vote to play the season, despite unknown medical risks to the coaches, staff and student-athletes.
From Chad Liestikow at Hawk Central on 08/10/20:
According to the Dan Patrick Show, the Big Ten was set to cancel the fall sports season after a vote of university presidents Sunday night. Patrick reported that the vote was 12-2 to postpone the season until the spring, with Iowa and Nebraska being the only schools that voted to play on. The Register has confirmed that UI President Bruce Harreld supports playing but could not verify the accuracy of the 12-2 outcome.
From the Gazette’s Marc Morehouse, on 08/24/20:
Barta said he and Harreld were aligned on playing the fall schedule the league put out.
“He (Harreld) was working on behalf of our students and coaches, he was with me side-by-side to see if we could push this back,” Barta said. “Understand, there are still medical questions that I have and he has. He was aligned with me on working to push this as late as we could before a decision had to be made.”
As we now know, in mid-September the Big Ten reversed itself after implementing various testing protocols and medical studies, and voted to play a modified fall football schedule. (For Iowa, that schedule concluded last week with the university’s bowl game being cancelled because of COVID-19. Along the way, Iowa’s head coach, other coaches, staff and players were infected, but the team was reportedly still deeply disappointed that the bowl game was called off.)
Schoenfeld’s article, which concerns not college football generally but the Big Ten season in particular, chronicles the decision making process that went into first suspending then launching the 2020 season. Notably, in setting the scene, Schoenfeld pens five-plus paragraphs of exposition before introducing the following initial quote at the end of the sixth paragraph:
[Big Ten Commissioner Kevin] Warren was in charge of protecting all that, while making sure that he wasn’t contributing to a national crisis. On Saturday, he convened a call of the conference’s presidents and chancellors. He urged them to consult with the doctors on their campuses and hear their concerns. “He was spooked by myocarditis,” says Bruce Harreld, the president of the University of Iowa. “And that was then picked up by some of the presidents who have medical backgrounds. And they said: ‘Hey, this is really serious. This is more serious than Covid-19. And we don’t know a damn thing about it.’”
There are five things worth noting about that quote. First, it’s interesting that while Harreld routinely refuses to comment to local and national reporters about academic and institutional issues, when he’s chilling at his multi-million-dollar chalet in the Rockies over the holiday break, and New York Times Magazine calls for quotes about football, Bro Bruce has time to talk. Second, given Harreld’s documented proclivity for prevarication, asking Harreld to corroborate any historical event is almost certainly an exercise in mischaracterization, but one in which Harreld will unfailingly portray himself as wise or heroic. Third, given that Harreld supported playing months before the Big Ten initially cancelled the fall football season, meaning also months before myocarditis established itself as a pressing concern in the medical community, what Harreld is really saying here is that he didn’t particularly care — either earlier, or at the time of the vote — if there were medical uncertainties which might lead to injury or death for Iowa’s student-athletes. Fourth, we can see Harreld’s disregard where he chooses to invoke the word “spooked”, then asserts that “some of the presidents who have medical backgrounds” were likewise unnerved — as opposed to being legitimately concerned about potential negative health consequences from a novel and demonstrably lethal virus. Fifth, as noted by Schoenfeld in the second paragraph of his story, Kevin Warren is “[t]he first African-American commissioner of a major college conference”, which makes Harreld’s choice of the word “spooked” all the more concerning. (For the record, Harreld was so cavalier about the possibility that the pandemic might overrun the University of Iowa campus that he conducted zero entry testing for returning students at the beginning of the fall term, and no asymptomatic or surveillance testing during the fall term.)
Here is the second mention of Harreld in Schoenfeld’s story, from paragraph seventeen:
Morton Schapiro of Northwestern pointed out that the decisions of the conference’s presidents were typically presented as unanimous. Still, [incoming Ohio State President Kristina] Johnson asked for a formal vote. Warren scheduled that vote for Tuesday, urging the presidents to find time to discuss the issue with their athletic directors. That gave Johnson hope. But by that point, Iowa’s Harreld says, “the train had left the station, and there was nothing she could do about it.”
The train Harreld is talking about is the train of prudence and caution, as opposed to plowing ahead and playing football in the blind hope that no one would die along the way. As to why Ohio State’s president might lead the charge to play football in a global pandemic, that’s because unlike every other school in the conference, Ohio State regularly has a chance to play for the national championship, and as such generates a great deal of revenue and publicity for the also-ran teams in the conference.
The third Harreld quote appears in paragraph twenty-nine, and concerns the financial cost of foregoing the Big Ten football season. As Schoenfeld correctly noted in the preceding paragraph, football pays the financial freight for almost all of the sports on virtually every college and university campus across the country.
Without fans at football games, paying for tickets and parking and hot dogs, much of that income would be irretrievably lost. If the games weren’t played, the far greater television income would be lost, too. Across the conference, the ramifications already were being felt. Iowa started the year with 24 sports. “Twenty-one of them were underwater,” Harreld told me. “Football was subsidizing them.” By mid-August, the athletic department decided that four sports at Iowa had to be cut. Those turned out to be men’s gymnastics, men’s tennis and men’s and women’s swimming and diving.
There is a lot of innuendo and sleight of hand in this paragraph, and not just from Harreld. As just noted, football covers the costs for almost every other collegiate sport, and there is nothing remotely new about that during the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, Harreld’s use of the word “underwater” — and Schoenfeld’s use of Harreld’s quote — is clearly misleading in that regard.
As for the purported causality between revenue loss from the pandemic and the cutting of four sports at Iowa, Schoenfeld could have explored alternate explanations. As noted in prior posts, schools such as Ohio State found a way to weather the decreased revenue from football without cutting sports, raising two possibilities which are not mutually exclusive. First, Iowa and other colleges and universities may be using the pandemic as an excuse to kill off sports that their football-focused athletics departments do not want to subsidize, thus liberating more money for football-related expenses. Second, if the Iowa Athletics Department can’t withstand the financial shock of the pandemic, but other Big Ten schools can, that should call into question the leadership of the president and athletic director. Why didn’t the department have sufficient reserves to weather the short-term shock of an unexpected event? Is the department burdened with excess debt? (That line of inquiry would be particularly damning for Harreld, who was hired because he was a former business executive, and purportedly knew how to position Iowa for success.)
Harreld’s fourth and final appearance occurs in the twenty-ninth paragraph of Schoenfeld’s fifty-four paragraph, 6,500-word story:
The plan called for teams to play nine games in nine weeks, from the weekend of Oct. 24 straight through to the conference’s championship game on Dec. 19. To the athletic directors, who felt that cancellations were inevitable, scheduling games for nine consecutive weeks gave them no room to maneuver. They lobbied to start a week or two earlier. But the number of Covid cases nationally had started to rise after Labor Day, a second wave of infection that many experts had forecast. Based on what turned out to be a faulty assumption, Harreld says, the presidents figured that the infection rate would peak in the coming weeks, then fall again. So the later the conference waited to start playing football, they calculated, the safer the games were likely to be.
There is no direct quote here, so we don’t know what Harreld said specifically, but once again he is put forward as a reliable narrator of events in which Harreld was a participant. The problem with trusting Harreld in this instance — apart from the global problem of trusting him in any context — is that neither Schoenfeld nor Harreld explains where Harreld was on the continuum of faulty assumptions about the course of the pandemic. Harreld asserts that other people made bad decisions, but as one of the Big Ten presidents he would seem to be implicated in this particular error in judgment.
Fortunately, we don’t have to rely on Schoenfeld or Harreld to disclose Harreld’s jaw-dropping faulty assumptions about the pandemic — one of which occurred way back in the spring. From ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg on 04/30/20:
The Big Ten in late March announced a suspension of all team activities through May 4, at which point the ban will be reevaluated. Harreld on Thursday mentioned a “moratorium” that lasted through June 1.
“We’re ever so hopeful that this virus will be behind us at that point, and we’ll be able to get back into what we normally do,” he told the board. “We’ve missed spring practice.”
Whatever mistakes the Big Ten university presidents made in the fall, it is a cosmic failure on Harreld’s part that he assumed the worst of the pandemic might be over by early summer. Again, where Harreld asserted that others were later “spooked” by the possibility of myocarditis, and thus prioritized the long-term safety of student-athletes, coaches and staff over financial revenue and good-old-fashioned pandering to the masses, Harreld was a national leader in the race to dismiss the pandemic and get on with the rank objective of making money. And even after it turned out he was wrong, and the pandemic was still a threat throughout the summer, Harreld wanted it publicly known that he still voted to play the Big Ten season anyway.
Again, as an outsider to Harreld’s history of falsehoods and failed judgments at Iowa I do understand how Schoenfeld could be taken in, but perhaps this post can serve as a warning to others. If J. Bruce Harreld — who has made a habit of refusing to talk to those members of the mainstream press who know him best — is eager to talk to you, ask yourself why that might be. Because one thing we can say with certainty is that J. Bruce Harreld’s concern with telling the truth is incidental at best. What J. Bruce Harreld does care about is being portrayed as, and portraying himself as, a successful and credible university president, and Schoenfeld’s otherwise admirable reporting unfortunately lends credence to that self-aggrandizing charade.
12/28/20 — Yesterday I noted that the next meeting of the University of Iowa presidential search committee was scheduled for two days from now, on Wednesday, December 30th, from 9 to 11 a.m. This morning the university announced that the next meeting is being pushed back nine days, to January 8th at the same time. While a delay is not particularly surprising given the moderately aggressive timeline adopted by the committee, the length of the delay and the reason given for the delay do not add up.
From the university announcement posted to the Iowa Now website this morning:
The meeting was moved because additional time was requested by the search consultants, AGB Search, to draft the position description for the next president.
With the understanding that we will probably never know why the meeting was pushed back, the idea that an established search firm needs nine days to draft any document is absurd on its face. Even if both of the veteran representatives from AGB were indisposed, that’s a big company with long experience, including placing presidents at the other two regent universities over the past four years. If the UI search committee needed those same draft documents in twenty-four hours it would certainly get them, even if the text included placeholder copy or blanks to be filled in later.
The most benign explanation I can think of is simply that the holidays got in the way, despite the fact that meetings are taking place in a virtual setting. The most malignant explanation I can think of is that there is already a pitched battle over specifications for the position description, likely involving whether to make a doctorate or terminal degree required versus preferred. (The former constraint would have prevented illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld from even applying, while the latter would allow pretty much anyone to apply regardless of their academic background.)
Although the meeting is being pushed back nine days, the next item on the original draft timeline involves placing an ad with the Chronicle of Higher Education on January 4th, followed by broad advertising for the position on January 14th. I don’t know what the Chronicle’s lead times are, but this scheduling change should not interrupt the advertising push too much, provided there aren’t any more surprises. (As noted in an earlier post about the search process, anyone who will even consider applying for the position of president of the University of Iowa has known about the opening since October 1st, when Harreld’s impending retirement was announced.)
The deeper concern about this delay is that it seems to imply that the deliberative process involved in drafting the position description will take place out of public view, instead of during the meeting that was previously scheduled for Wednesday. In the original timeline the next meeting closely followed the ten listening sessions that were held over the past two-plus weeks, and that meeting seemed to be devoted to distilling the criteria that would then be memorialized in the position description and advertising. Now, however, it seems that AGB will prepare a draft of those documents first, which means the takeaways distilled from the listening session will be used to inform those documents before the committee meets to discuss that community input.
Between now and the newly scheduled meeting on January 8th, it would be a good idea if the committee itself made clear why the scheduling change was made, and how that change will affect both the deliberative process and the timeline. During the first meeting the committee was quite effective at providing both information and reassurance, and it should not revert to administrative stonewalling. Whatever happened behind the scenes, the dull explanation put forward in today’s unsigned university press release is insufficient both bureaucratically and in the historical moment.
12/27/20 — The second meeting of the University of Iowa presidential search committee is scheduled for this coming Wednesday from 9 to 11 a.m.. At that meeting the twenty-one members will discuss the qualifications and position description that will be used to advertise the role for the next two and a half months, from early January through mid-March. That committee conversation, in turn, will be informed by a series of campus-wide listening sessions which took place over the past two-plus weeks, allowing UI stakeholders to express their opinions about any and every facet of the ongoing search.
When the first of those listening sessions took place a little over two weeks ago I tried to log in and follow the conversation, but no matter how I approached the sign-in process I was unable to connect. Only after studying the explanatory text on the page linked above did I finally notice this requirement, which was sandwiched in a short paragraph of login instructions:
You will need a Hawk ID and password to participate.
What that meant was that only students, faculty and staff would be able to participate in, or even observe, the listening sessions, and it was the latter restriction that gave me pause. While selecting a new president at Iowa is certainly university business, the University of Iowa is a publicly funded school, and as such the public also has a vested interest in that process. Eleven days later, on the day of the final listening session, the higher-ed beat reporter for the Gazette, Vanessa Miller, published the following story: University of Iowa presidential search sessions limited public participation.
From the lede to Miller’s report:
A committee searching for the University of Iowa’s next president this month held a series of 10 virtual listening sessions — with its last one Tuesday — seeking faculty, staff and student feedback about what the campus wants in its next leader.
But none of those Zoom sessions were open widely to the public or recorded for public release later — despite the broad public interest in Iowa’s oldest university. Such in-person sessions for past searches have been open to the public.
The virtual sessions also come after the UI’s 2015 presidential search drew widespread criticism and even litigation settled with a UI payout and a promise to be more transparent in future presidential searches.
Here at Ditchwalk we can’t get enough transparency in state government, and that’s particularly true regarding machinations at the Iowa Board of Regents and its subsidiary campuses. We are also big fans of Iowa’s Open Meetings law, which Miller discusses in her piece, and we take a dim view of the way many governmental bodies — including the regents — routinely skirt the spirit of that law while plausibly adhering to the letter. (Specifically, the nine regents almost never discuss any matter before the board in open session, yet somehow routinely conduct votes on complex matters after short, scripted statements are read into the record. Meaning the substantive work and conversation clearly takes place out of public view, in contravention of the intent of the Open Meetings law.)
Ideally, the UI search committee’s listening sessions would have been open to the public, and at the very least they should have been recorded and available for public review. It is also important, however, to acknowledge the complexity of the decision making in this pandemic year, and to contrast the current search with the bastardized 2015 search process, which led to the illegitimate appointment of J. Bruce Harreld. As Miller noted, although the 2015 listening sessions were open to the public, that search still triggered several lawsuits which argued that the board and search committee violated the Open Meetings law — and one of those suits compelled substantive changes:
The 2015 presidential search, [Iowa Freedom of Information Council executive director Randy] Evans noted, led to a sanction from the American Association of University Professors and lawsuits, including one accusing the UI search committee of holding inaccessible off-site interviews with semifinalists; closing meetings in violation of proper procedures; inappropriately shuttering some discussions; and making decisions in secret that should have been made in the open.
The UI in that case denied wrongdoing but agreed to pay its accuser $55,000 in attorney fees via a settlement that required, among other things, future UI search committees to post meeting notices and agendas; livestream all open portions of meetings; and retain recordings online for 90 days.
There is no question that the 2015 UI presidential search was corrupt, and that abuses of Iowa’s Open Meetings law took place in service of that corruption. Because we don’t yet know if the current search is corrupt it is impossible to conclude whether omission of public listening sessions will be material or inconsequential, but it is worth remembering that the Open Meetings law is not merely about transparency for the sake of transparency, but about making sure state government functions in the public interest. In the case of the current presidential search, that means making sure the search process produces the best slate of finalists, and that the most qualified candidate from that group — as determined by shared governance and an open, consensus-driven process — is appointed to that important office.
Limiting the public’s ability to participate in what purports to be a consensus-driven and open search inherently undermines the public interest, and after the 2015 debacle the board and current committee should have had heightened awareness about how such limitations would be perceived. Having said that, the pragmatic question is whether limiting public input into, and visibility of, the UI listening sessions will materially damage the integrity of the search, and there are compelling reasons to believe it will not. That doesn’t excuse the omission of the general public from the listening sessions, but it does make it much less likely that the decision to omit the public is part of an overt attempt to corrupt the search, and was instead simply the result of a myopic administrative brain cramp by the board and search committee.
As noted above, although the 2015 listening sessions were open to the public, that search was objectively corrupt in multiple ways, so transparency itself is not sufficient. In fact, not only did the search chair of the 2015 search — UI VP for Medical Affairs Jean Robillard — open all of the listening sessions to the press and general public, but even before the full committee was announced he sought input at a town hall meeting, which you can still see here. Despite that purported transparency and openness, however, the end result of that corrupted search was a done-deal appointment for a stealth candidate who was one of the committee member’s old business cronies, resulting in a massive black eye not only for the regents but for the university itself.
In fact — and in counterpoint to the current presidential search — the 2015 committee also included two slots which were reserved for members of the general public. (You can see the nominations and applications here, and notice of the appointment of those two members here.) Despite this enthusiastic embrace of public input, however, Robillard and several other co-conspirators still managed to pass J. Bruce Harreld along as a finalist to the waiting board, where a done-deal vote in Harreld’s favor was already assured.
From the 2015 presidential search alone it should be clear that there is no intrinsic correlation between public involvement in a search and the validity of a search. That does not mean, however, that we should not expect presidential searches to be both open and fair. (Put another way, we wouldn’t want to reward the Board of Regents for running a corrupt search in 2015 by allowing the board and current committee to run a secretive search in 2020.)
With regard to the listening sessions for the current presidential search, not only were all of the usual concerns in play, but the pandemic required a significant divergence from past practices. Instead of meeting in a physical space available to the public, and perhaps recording those sessions for later broadcast, the listening sessions would have to take place virtually, and that presented several problems. First, would there be technological or security constraints which necessarily limited participation, and how might those be resolved? Second, and relatedly, would public participation allow trolls or griefers to disrupt the proceedings from anywhere around the world? Third, would broadcasting the sessions live preclude involvement, because people might not say things to the internet that they would say in a meeting room on the UI campus.
When I realized I wouldn’t be able to listen in on any of the ironically named listening sessions, I made two assumptions. The first, which proved largely correct, was that the primary reason for restricted access had to do with the technological and security concerns enumerated above. The second, which proved incorrect, was that the board and committee would make one session available to the public, while also allowing credentialed press to virtually attend all of the sessions in that professional capacity.
What I also knew was that along with the scheduled listening sessions, the committee had a web form that anyone can use to send thoughts and concerns to the committee, and that should be available until the next UI president is announced. (That form also includes the option of being contacted by a committee member, so there is an opportunity for dialogue.) As for press coverage, while the commercial press was excluded from the listening sessions, the University of Iowa’s student-run paper did provide coverage by Rylee Wilson on 12/24/20: University of Iowa faculty, students, push for president with academic background. (If you’re not familiar with the Daily Iowan, it is as good as any commercial media outlet in Iowa, and better at providing coverage of the university than any paper other than the Gazette.)
What we want from the current presidential search at Iowa, and did not get in 2015 — despite input from and active participation by the general public, and open access to listening sessions by the press — is an inclusive process that is free from corruption. Having said that, the ways in which restricted listening sessions impeded that goal are thankfully quite narrow. Had the board and committee included one virtual listening session for the general public, with a published passcode for basic security, that would have negated concerns about public participation. Likewise, had the few interested and credentialed members of the commercial press been given a pass to attend the listening sessions in a virtual capacity — just as credentialed press are often screened before covering other aspects of state government — that would have prevented at least one factually accurate story from being published about how the current search process is less than open. (In the latter case I place the blame squarely on Josh Lehman, Senior Communications Director at the board, who should have seen that coming.)
In the grand scheme of things these are small mistakes, but the search committee’s goal should be making zero mistakes even if the regents are asleep at the media switch. To that end, I would encourage the search chairs in particular not just to think about the interests of the UI faculty, or of the broader UI community, but of the public. (Contrary to conventional wisdom about the fraudulent 2015 search, not only was a high-ranking university administrator critical to that scam, but it is possible if not likely that members of the UI faculty — including members of the Faculty Senate — also abetted that six-month rolling abuse of power.)
By almost every measure the current committee is running a good search so far, but this is also the easy part — and if basic mistakes are being made when it’s easy, that raises concerns about what will happen down the road. Those who are not card-carrying members of the UI community, but who, for whatever reason, have an interest in the university, not only hope but have an expectation that the faculty, staff and students will advocate for them as well under the aegis of inclusion. We already have enough people at the Board of Regents and in university administration who believe their status gives them license to shut others out. We don’t need others joining them.
12/21/20 — Two and a half months ago the illegitimate president of the University of Iowa, J. Bruce Harreld, announced his retirement, pending appointment of his successor. While Harreld himself pegged the timeline for the resulting presidential search at a minimum of a year, the search committee convened for the first time two and a half weeks ago, and in so doing adopted a schedule which would see the next president appointed on 04/30/21 — seven months after Harreld’s announcement. To that time frame we can add a two-month transition before the next president takes office, during which Harreld has insisted he will remain in power, ostensibly to benefit his successor with critical institutional knowledge that he has gleaned over what will, by then, be close to six years of vacillating leadership ranging from inconsequence to outright failure.
As yet another reminder of the many reasons why the Iowa Board of Regents should kick Harreld to the curb sooner rather than later, and preferably as soon as his successor is appointed, in this post we will take a close look at a number of exchanges from Harreld’s recent extensive interview with the Daily Iowan, which was published on 12/13/20. Because if there is one thing that will not benefit the new president or the school it is having a prevaricating prima donna play a pivotal role in transitioning the university to the future. (Kudos to the DI staff for asking excellent follow-up questions throughout the interview.)
For example, consider the following initial exchanges between the DI and Harreld, which probably read as innocuous — yet on closer inspection reveal multiple evasions and deceptions by Harreld:
The Daily Iowan: So where are you Zooming from here today?
President J. Bruce Harreld: I’m in Colorado right now.
Let the record show that on the day this interview was published — which was almost certainly one or more days after the interview was conducted — the University of Iowa was about to begin finals week, albeit in a virtual context due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
DI: I know at the beginning of the semester, some people on social media had said they were wondering if you were in Colorado or on campus. I’m curious how much time you spent on campus?
Harreld: I was on campus the whole semester. Middle of August, I was on campus. I mean, I saw some things also, when with some of the protests and they came to the house and said, ‘Oh, he’s not there.’ No, I was there. And then I left about two weeks ago, roughly.
This is the instinctively petty, bratty and vindictive J. Bruce Harreld that the university has been obligated to tolerate since his corrupt hire back in 2015. Apparently triggered by the Daily Iowan’s second question, and in particular the context surrounding that question, Harreld made two assertions of fact then went on the attack. And yet on its face the first words out of Harreld’s mouth — that he “was on campus the whole semester” — were demonstrably false, because by his own admission he was already back in Colorado before finals week commenced.
As for Harreld’s claim that he was on the UI campus in the “middle of August”, that is correct, but doesn’t tell the whole story about why the UI community had no idea where Harreld was over the summer, or during the lead-in to the fall term. That Harreld then used that fact as a springboard to change the subject, and to attempt to discredit others because of a perceived slight to his work ethic, is textbook Harreld both in attitude and execution. All Harreld had to do was say that working remotely as a result of the pandemic made it hard to keep track of where people were, but he couldn’t do that because his malign temperament won’t allow him to do that. Instead, it was important for Harreld to portray campus protesters as fools for implying that he wasn’t on campus when he was.
So what was the erroneous accusation that was made against Harreld back in August, which — three and a half months later — he felt compelled to mention in defense of the fact that he was not on campus in mid-December? What Harreld was probably referencing was a protest group which marched from the center of the UI campus to the president’s residence on 08/20/20, to protest the resumption of in-person classes during the pandemic. (Adding irony to insult, while it was unknown to the campus at the time — and indeed, Harreld and his administrative team suppressed that information to induce students to return to campus — the university began the fall term by offering 74% of course hours in a virtual setting, and over the first few weeks that number rose to 80%. Meaning most of the classes at UI were being offered online, but the protesters — as well as the greater student body, which had been promised a ‘traditional on-campus experience’ despite the pandemic — did not know about that until they had been suckered back to school, and comparisons could be made in the aggregate.)
That specific August protest took place on a Thursday, with classes set to begin the following Monday, on the 24th. While Harreld was correct that he returned to the UI campus in the “middle of August”, what he left out is that there were no reported sightings of Harreld on the UI campus after mid-April, when the school released a couple of quickie motivational videos that were shot in the Senate Room of Old Capitol, on the UI Pentacrest. And that includes Harreld being persistently absent during the racial unrest that followed the police murder of George Floyd in bordering Minnesota, which repeatedly and directly impacted the UI campus for months afterward.
While Harreld did participate in virtual meetings over the summer — likewise “Zooming in” from his multi-million-dollar chalet in the Rockies — there were roughly four months when no one saw him on the UI campus. So why wouldn’t protesters have speculated that he might not be in town in mid-August, particularly when he had neither the guts nor courtesy to meet with them when they marched to the president’s residence? If he wasn’t home at the time, or was hiding in the basement, and the university had not announced his return to campus, why would anyone have assumed he was back after being absent for four months? (In an update on 08/25/20, I noted that the earliest indication Harreld was back in Iowa City came from a video that was apparently shot six days earlier, on 08/19/20. If you didn’t see that video, however, and didn’t know how to decode the date of production, you would have had no idea that Harreld had returned to the UI campus in mid-August.)
As for the final sentence in Harreld’s belligerent response to the second question from the DI, you have probably already surmised that his admission that he “left about two weeks ago, roughly” further obliterates his false assertion that he was “on campus the whole semester”. Again, the DI interview was published on 12/13/20, but because of time required for transcription it was conducted one or two days prior at the very least. So when Harreld acknowledges that he left about two weeks before the day the interview was conducted, that would have been in late November. And of course late November is when Thanksgiving takes place, which this year was on 11/26/20 — or almost exactly two weeks before the interview was likely conducted. Meaning Harreld probably went home to Colorado for Thanksgiving, then simply never returned to the UI campus.
For context, note also that while UI’s fellow regent universities, Iowa State and Northern Iowa, decided to end their fall terms at Thanksgiving because of risks associated with COVID-19, Harreld decided to stick with Iowa’s normal fall calendar. In fact, Harreld not only insisted on sticking with the same schedule — which would necessarily force students, faculty and staff to choose between staying put or traveling over the Thanksgiving weekend, thus increasing the likelihood of disease transmission during what turned out to be a sustained spike in the pandemic — but in his infamous “lemmings” rant last summer Harreld lambasted “other universities” for their failure to think critically about such issues. As it turned out ISU and UNi were correct, and Harreld was a blithering idiot for forcing members of the UI community to make such a difficult holiday choice.
The one scheduling concession Harreld did make to the pandemic was that all classes would transition online after Thanksgiving (though at that point +80% were already online), and in the interview the DI staff noted as much prior to asking their third question about Harreld’s present location:
DI: Around the time as classes went all online. Do you think that that’s a fair question for people to ask, if the president is on campus?
Given that the DI interview occurred prior to finals week, and that Harreld admitted he left campus “two weeks ago, roughly” before the interview even took place, then his claim that he was “on campus the whole semester” was both objectively and preposterously false. Even though thousands of students were still living in the campus dorms, the vaccine rollout at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics had yet to begin, and multiple Hawkeye sports teams were still competing around the country, by his own admission Harreld bugged out weeks before — yet still claimed to have been “on campus the whole semester”. (Five days after Harreld’s DI interview was published, on 12/18/20, it was reported that Head Football Coach Kirk Ferentz, who was still on campus, tested positive for COVID-19.)
Continuing with the DI interview, the next question introduced a change in topic:
DI: The presidential search has started with a committee meeting earlier this month. What do you think about the presidential search planning to be finished by April 30? What are you planning to do if a new president is selected by that time?
Harreld: I think it’s wonderful, and I think it will be fast from other searches I’ve watched and other things I’ve heard, but who knows? What I would do is what I’ve always said I would do: I will stick around. I don’t think the committee should feel rushed. I don’t want them to feel rushed. I want them to take their time to find the next great leader for the institution, and then I will help that individual transition into their role. And that could take a week, that could take a month, it’s up to them. I do believe there’s some value — when I joined, there was no one to really introduce me to a lot of people, not only on campus, but also in the state, and even across the country, to major donors. And I am more than willing to do that. That will be up to my successor. And she or he will determine, and if they say, “Thank you, but not needed” — fine.
In the two and a half months since Harreld announced his contingent retirement he has clearly caught on that the search process is moving much more quickly than he predicted, and to his credit he is saying all the right things instead of being a mope. And yet, Harreld is also still peddling his sad-sack lie — previously discredited here — that he was administratively abandoned and left to his own devices after his fraudulent hire. (Give yourself bonus points if you laughed when Harreld said, “…the next great leader…”. The man never misses an opportunity to pat himself on the back for a job poorly done.)
DI: And if you do end up helping with that transition — if the successor wants that — what will you do if the new president has a different opinion or direction that they want to take the university in?
Harreld: Agree with them. Help them make it happen. It’s the same thing I tell my students in (Presidential Leadership), which is you have a direct responsibility to always express your opinion and to do so professionally and as fact-based as you can.
Over five-plus years I cannot think of a better example of everything that is wrong with J. Bruce Harreld than this pearl of wisdom about responsibility. Only moments after lying his ass off about the situation he found himself in when a small cabal of co-conspirators imposed him on the UI campus, Harreld turns around and says, without irony, that people should express their opinions “professionally and as fact-based as” possible. Even if you believe in ‘do as I say, not as I do’, that old saw is the literal definition of hypocrisy, to say nothing of the antithesis of genuine leadership.
Speaking of which, and continuing with Harreld’s response:
And so if I have a difference in opinion — I think most of us have a difference of opinion on a lot of things — I will express that. And at whichever point the president says, “But I want to do something different.” I’ll say, “OK, let me help you.” My daughter is actually working on finishing her Ph.D. on the topic of followership. And you go to the bookstore or Prairie Lights and see all these books on leadership, and she has correctly, I think, identified that most leaders spend most of their time as followers. And there should probably be some books written on how to be a good follower. And I think this issue you’re on is one of the things I’ve tried — most of my life I’ve been reporting to somebody, and in almost every situation, there’s been some difference of opinion. And it has to be very clear who the decision-maker is. And once the decision-maker decides, I think it behooves all of us to say, “OK, let’s go.”
This idea that Harreld keeps putting forward, that he will play a pivotal transitional role, is either delusional or another indicator that the regents have not been forthcoming about Harreld’s post-presidential status. Whenever his successor is named, at that point Harreld will have only one responsibility, which is to act as a caretaker until the next Iowa president takes office. The idea that the incoming president might announce some momentous change in policy during the transition, which Harreld would then implement as the interim president, isn’t just absurd, it is narcissistic melodrama.
Pivoting to another topic that regular readers know well, the DI staff continued:
DI: The Associate Vice President for DEI candidates withdrew after your early retirement announcement in October. What is the way forward for campus DEI initiatives, and why do you think there has been this turnover?
Harreld: Great question, and thank goodness we have such a capable leader in Liz Tovar. And I think the answer to your question is Liz Tovar for the foreseeable future. She’s fully invested. She’s doing a great job. I get great reports of the broad membership of the community. And I think very importantly, when I talk with her, she’s not viewing it just as a little piece of time, or just as an interim. She’s really, really making a difference and doing it for the long term.
As noted in prior updates, there is no question that Liz Tovar has established herself and earned the respect of the entire UI campus in very short order, under fluid and difficult circumstances. What Harreld leaves out in his adulation, of course, is not only that he repeatedly refused to appoint an interim AVP-DEI, but that he delayed the search for a new, permanent AVP-DEI as well. So yes, the university is lucky Tovar agreed to step in and provide leadership where Harreld had perpetrated chaos and uncertainty, but that wasn’t actually what the DI reporters were asking about.
I expressed to the search committee my frustration with how they got to where they got to. I frankly don’t fully buy it, but I have to be respectful of that committee, and where they got to as a committee. I mean, this was a period where I said — probably in late July? Don’t hold me to that, but somewhere in that time period — I said, “Look, I would be glad to have this report to me.” I went to the search committee and said, ‘But you should take a look at this.’ Because if it then means we have to cancel the search and start all over and take another — however long that would be, say, nine months — that could be an issue. That could be a problem because I think we need leadership now.
When I say that Harreld is a reflexively petty, bratty and vindictive man, here we have another example, and we’re only at the sixth question in the interview. The rich, old, white, male president of the University of Iowa is allowed to express exactly zero frustration about the recent AVP-DEI search, and not just because he blew that search to pieces himself with his surprise retirement announcement. Everything about the AVP-DEI position over the past three-plus years has been an administrative disaster precisely because Harreld undermined that role, kicked the position out of his cabinet, and changed the reporting structure so the AVP-DEI reported solely to the provost. No one else did that — Harreld did that, and those decisions constitute a series of insults to the UI community.
Not only should no one care whether Harreld ‘buys’ anything about the AVP-DEI search, he damn well better be respectful to the disbanded committee, which was working to clean up his mess. And no, last summer Harreld did not argue that the position should report to him, he merely agreed that the ongoing search made such a change potentially disruptive. Yet even all of that doesn’t explain the staggering magnitude of Harreld’s duplicity.
Here again is J. Bruce Harreld — from an earlier DI interview published on 09/29/19 — explaining why he changed the reporting structure in the first place, to preclude the AVP-DEI from reporting to the president’s office:
DI: The UI often looks to its peer group to make comparisons on things. I did the same thing and looked to other universities’ structures, and I found that seven out of 10 of these peer universities report to the president. Why is the UI now proceeding with having the person in this position report to the provost instead of to you?
Harreld: Largely for what I just said. There’s two reasons, one is we have a provost who is really interested in these and wants to take action, and secondly the DEI action plan itself has a set of faculty training and a promotional set of issues embedded within it that are very faculty-related so for that reason we put it to the provost office. I will say in most corporations around the world, affirmative action, and diversity, equity, and inclusion issues are a part of [human resources], so if you actually went out and polled IBM or where I used to work or most of the companies in the state you’ll find it is an issue within HR and there are different models out there, the question is what do you need to get done.
This is the relentless menace of J. Bruce Harreld. Not only did Harreld kick the AVP-DEI role out of his cabinet and out of his office, but in defending that decision in the context of an academic institution he reverted to his corporate experience, and in so doing further dismissed diversity, equity and inclusion as an HR problem. Then a little over a year later, in the most-recent DI interview, Harreld turns around and expresses indignation that he has to “be respectful to that committee” for a problem that he alone created.
Continuing with Harreld’s ass-covering response in the current interview:
And hence the reason right about that time period I asked Liz and Kevin, who this position reports to — Kevin Kregel, our provost. He asked Liz to step in on an interim basis. The search committee said, “We do not want to restart the search. We have great candidates. And we think we will be able to get a top-notch long-term leader to campus.” I said, “Fine.” I then a few weeks later started my retirement. And the search firm said something that I still struggle with, which is ‘Even though it’s reporting to the Provost, few candidates will be interested in pursuing the University of Iowa until they know who the next president is.’ Hmm, OK. Why didn’t you say that to me earlier? But we didn’t. And so now here we are.
As longtime readers know, the entire premise of J. Bruce Harreld bastardized, corrupt, rigged, illegitimate hire was that unlike longtime academic administrators who were actually qualified for the position, Harreld purportedly made up for his vast deficits by being a genius at organizational strategy. In fact, Harreld recently trotted out that repeatedly disproved premise as a justification for the Board of Regents keeping him on in an advisory role after he leaves office. And yet now we are supposed to simply accept that Mr. Strategery could not anticipate that uncertainty about who the next president would be might negatively affect an ongoing search — let along the process to fill a role that Harreld himself has repeatedly destabilizing over years. Tell me again — why does this arrogant, contemptuous boob still have a job?
So I think it’s going to be a while. I mean, until we get a permanent head of DEI. But at the end of the day, why on Earth are we so concerned when we have such a great leader with Liz Tovar? I start there and I end there because I think she’s a really talented individual, and she’s really doing a fantastic job. And yet, I don’t like where we are either. But we are where we are.
Over the past five-plus years J. Bruce Harreld has made a despicable habit of obscuring his own hostility to DEI by hiding behind talented and dedicated women of color, and Liz Tovar is the latest in that long line. Harreld is indeed fortunate that Tovar was willing to step in at a critical moment not only during his failed presidency, but in the history of the university. As to why everyone is concerned about the utter chaos that Harreld has intentionally perpetrated for years, which has continually disadvantaged people of color and other disenfranchised groups on campus — gosh, that’s a real poser.
DI: When the new president is selected, would you consider moving the interim AVP for DEI position to report to the president? Would you recommend that for the new president?
Harreld: Yeah, I’ve recommended that over the summer for us. But I was told we shouldn’t do that because it would lengthen the search. Now that we’ve canceled the search, and we have to start all over, it’s going to take as much time — so there is no more search committee, there is nobody in the system already.
Watching Harreld attempt to take credit for encouraging the university to overturn his own prior, unacknowledged decisions is nauseating. Again, not only is there no record that Harreld recommended last summer that the AVP-DEI position report to the president, but Harreld is the person who changed the reporting structure several years ago, so the AVP-DEI no longer reported to the president. It is understandable that Harreld does not want to own his hostility to DEI, and would instead prefer a narrative in which he is the savior of DEI on the UI campus, but the record on his decision making is clear. When given the authority and opportunity, J. Bruce Harreld did everything possible to divest the UI president’s office from long-standing administrative obligations to diversity, equity and inclusion.
And so yeah, I would actually recommend that it does report to the president. But I will tell you, the number of other organizations do not have it reporting to the president. And so again, I would be respectful to the new leader. A number of other organizations have this as an important, critical component of their human resource team, and embedded in that, which could also be — I mean, I’ve grown up, most of my life the diversity organizations have been part of HR teams. And for obvious reasons, because of the recruiting, the retention, and the other policies that are in there. So again, I would be respectful. I would make the recommendation that in our environment — given the start and stop for over how many years now that we’ve gone through here — that it is really, really important and should report to the president. On the other hand, the president has all the right in the world to make the decision.
Again, here we are over a year later, after Harreld’s decision to change the AVP-DEI reporting structure bit him in the ass on multiple occasions, and he is still whining about how a “number of other organizations” do not have that role reporting to the president. In this histrionic assertion — which runs counter to his own statement that he now thinks the role should report to the president — we see Harreld not only continuing to discount academic peers, but to extol the virtues of corporate life, where rich, old, white men are allowed to foist such tedious obligations on the HR department.
The DI reporter(s) then followed up with a stellar question:
DI: Is it possible, or would you consider, restructuring the interim position so that Liz Tovar reported to you?
Harreld: No, because I’m not going to upset the process here. We’ve already got it in place. I mean, if there were a really important reason to do that, like there’s something that isn’t going to get done without my imprimatur. I talk to Liz on a frequent basis. I have no concerns. She’s got my number, she calls direct, we meet together. So I don’t know what that solves other than optics. I want to leave it to the next president to do as she or he thinks is appropriate. And I think if I move it now, it’s kind of jumping it. It may not be fair.
We will momentarily set aside Harreld’s concern about being fair to the next UI president, even though he didn’t have any concerns about being fair to the UI community while downgrading the DEI position to that of an assistant vice president, and kicking that lesser role out of his office and out of his cabinet. If J. Bruce Harreld really thought the AVP-DEI position should report to his office he could do that today — right now, as you’re reading this — and if the next president didn’t agree they could change it when they took over. Because kicking the AVP-DEI role out of the president’s office a second time would probably be politically untenable, however, what Harreld is really doing by dragging his feet yet again is making it as easy as possible for the next president to also not have the AVP-DEI role report to the president’s office, despite the strong recommendation of half of the recently disbanded AVP-DEI search committee. But it’s even worse than that.
As previously noted, earlier in the same interview Harreld went on a false rant about how he personally wanted to change the AVP-DEI reporting structure back, so the position would report to the president again, but darn if he was prevented by the AVP-DEI search committee. Now, however, with no search committee in play, and none expected until after the next president takes office, J. Bruce Harreld has a brand-new excuse about why he can’t change the AVP-DEI reporting structure, even though he’s the president and he believes that would be the right decision. There is literally nothing preventing him from acting — indeed, in reciting how wonderful his interactions with Liz Tovar have been, one might assume she was already reporting to his office — but because Harreld is so concerned about being fair to the next UI president, by which he necessarily means being fair only to a president who would not want the AVP-DEI reporting to the president’s office, Harreld is once again giving an administrative middle finger to the University of Iowa campus. (This is also yet another indicator that the ongoing presidential search may already be a done-deal, and that the board and Harreld will install a like-minded internal candidate who does not want, or will be told they do not want, the AVP-DEI reporting to the president.)
DI: There were a couple of faculty members of color at a recent Faculty Senate meeting who felt as if they were not included in some of the campus development of recommendations and overall campus DEI efforts. Do you have any kind of response of how inclusive the administration has been with developing some of these ways forward for DEI?
Harreld: Yeah, I’m glad they spoke up. It’s interesting, I haven’t gotten an email from them, nor has Kevin, to sit down and talk.
As regular readers know, the instinct to discredit and invalidate is central to Harreld’s toxic persona. Because the individuals in question did not contact Harreld in person, Harreld wants you to believe they weren’t really serious about change, when they probably didn’t contact him because he’s the biggest obstacle to change on campus. Notice again what Harreld leaves out in his selective history:
Having said that, we have a big table and everyone’s welcome to it. How did we get to where we are? We actually did a fair amount of surveying. We had a number of town meetings, we actually created the original action plan that Melissa [Shivers] delivered and Lena Hill (former Director of the Center for Diversity and Enrichment) started. And so it was a pretty broad community input, and then we’ve updated it several times since then. So, to the extent anyone feels like they haven’t been involved in the process and consulted — goodness, I had multiple small group meetings at the house in late afternoons for several months listening to faculty, not just of color — underrepresented and first-generation. So if anyone feels like they haven’t been included, shame on us. But everyone’s welcome.
For context, here’s Harreld doing his insincere “shame on” routine way back on 08/31/15, during his candidate forum, the day before being handed the UI presidency in his own done-deal vote by the regents. In that particular instance Harreld was trashing Sally Mason’s six-point plan to fight campus sexual assault, which Harreld later took credit for completing without mentioning Mason at all. As for the current interview, and any mention of the unilateral decisions that he made to free his office from any obligations to DEI, Harreld also left all of that out.
And I saw your article. I wasn’t in the Faculty Senate meeting when this was raised, but I would just say, “Hey, look, thank you for speaking up. But can we kind of get to the solutions? Can we get to what we are not doing?” And clearly, they will probably say, “Well, you’re not including me in the discussion.” Well, we want to include you, so please come along on the journey. But beyond that, what else are we not doing? And one of the reasons this is now in the Provost office is because we all agree. Two years ago, one of the critical issues that we needed to address was the training and retention and recruitment of faculty. That was like — boom — big issue. And so we said, “Then it really does belong.” And I applaud Monste [Fuentes] saying it belongs in the Provost office. I still agree that’s a big issue and a very important issue. And what we seem to do is not get started.
The phrase ‘contemptible swine’ comes to mind here for invoking the name of Montse Fuentes — the former provost who stepped down after only one year, who is prevented from articulating the reason for that departure because of the settlement agreement she signed with the Board of Regents. Still, in recent reporting by the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller we did get some insight into why Fuentes left, and not surprisingly it had something to do with diversity, equity and inclusion. From a report by Miller on 10/27/20, following Fuentes’ job interview at Kent State: Former University of Iowa provost takes questions about why she wants to leave.
When asked why she wants to leave the University of Iowa after only one year, recently-reassigned Montse Fuentes — now “special assistant to the president” after stepping down from UI provost — told the Kent State University community “I’m looking for the opportunity to have complete alignment with my core values — my commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
“I’m very excited about the prospect of joining Kent State, where I feel like there is complete alignment with those values,” Fuentes said during an Oct. 20 public presentation for the Kent State community as part of its search for a new senior vice president and provost.
(Fuentes was subsequently hired as the president of St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, and will start there on July 1st.)
As for Harreld’s frustration that people weren’t providing him with solutions, we know from the very interview that Harreld was giving that his claim was factually incorrect. From the moment the UI community learned that Harreld kicked the AVP-DEI role out of his cabinet, there was pressure to rescind that decision, and that decision was rescinded. Now there is also pressure to return the AVP-DEI role to a report to the president, and that will likely be changed with the next president, because the current president is a two-faced weasel. Finally, it has also been recommended that the AVP-DEI role be elevated to a full VP position, and after all of the damage Harreld has done I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens as well.
Again, and despite the distraction of Harreld’s whining, scapegoating and ass-covering, the DI followed up with exactly the right question:
DI: Do you have any plans for how to get started? Or concrete steps moving forward?
Harreld: I’m investing every moment of energy I’ve got in Liz because she understands it. She’s got a great rapport with a lot of people across the community. She’s working, I think quite effectively, with — I thought — faculty, and she’s got some great plans for training and recruitment and retention. So I’m on her team.
So Mr. Big Ideas, who was hired because veteran academic administrators purportedly did not have the capacity for visionary strategic thinking, and who was deeply disappointed if not outright offended that people were not proposing solutions themselves — or at least solutions he agreed with — had no solutions to offer himself when asked. (What a galactic yutz.)
With another 4,000 words yet to go, the interview turned to the pandemic and other topics. Quoting selectively:
DI: So shifting gears a little bit, this obviously has been a really difficult semester for everyone to navigate as we’ve talked about earlier. At the start of the semester, the University of Iowa and Iowa City made some national headlines for outbreaks of COVID-19 cases, which campus health folks have noted are the result of off-campus behavior. How do you and the university plan to avoid a similar outbreak when bringing students back for the spring?
Harreld: … But one of the things we’re really thinking about is more surveillance testing as people come back to campus.
At the beginning of the fall term, under Harreld’s direction — after he thought it all through, unlike those “lemming” schools that just copied each other — the University of Iowa did no entry testing or even surveillance testing of returning students. As a result, the true extent of positive cases in the UI community was never documented, which was almost certainly Harreld’s objective.
From Harreld, responding to a follow-up question about the pandemic:
Harreld: … I understand food service is still a problem and the frustrations there, but we haven’t had a single student in the hospital. We haven’t had a single case where we can find transmission from students to faculty members — which was a big fear for a lot of the faculty — and I can just keep going. And I think that’s because of the community at large, stepping up, changing their behaviors, which is never easy to do.
The reason no students have been hospitalized so far is partly due to the suppression and mitigation measures employed on the UI campus, and partly due to blind luck. As for finding no documented cases of “transmission from students to faculty members”, that’s primarily because 80% or more of all credit hours were delivered online, but also partly because UI only did symptomatic testing. Meaning an asymptomatic and untested student could have made a faculty member sick, but because Harreld insisted on as little testing as possible, he can now take credit due to willful ignorance.
Once again the DI staff followed Harreld’s extensive response with another incisive question:
DI: Quick follow up question. So with this surveillance testing, I remember at the beginning of the year at a meeting you had said maybe people who are asymptomatic would be able to be tested, but I don’t think that quite ever materialized until it looks like next semester. And at a September regents meeting you had said that the amount of testing was preventing us from, or in your opinion was not enough, to warrant in-person classes. I guess I’m wondering: what was keeping us from being at that testing level earlier this semester?
During a virtual meeting with the UI Undergraduate Student Government, Harreld did indeed promise that on-demand, asymptomatic testing would be provided to all students. (You can see him do that in a video link here, under the 09/13/20 entry.) As noted by the interviewer(s) at the DI, that never happened.
Harreld’s rambling response to that DI question runs 500 words, and other than the following bit of self-aggrandizing heroism the rest of it tap dancing:
I fought the federal government to be honest with you on this. I think there should have been better standards on testing.
Yes, please be honest. Or as close as you can get.
From another excerpt, this time in response to a back-and-forth about the Test Iowa program — during which, incidentally, Harreld repeats a false rumor, then encourages “somebody” at the DI to “double-check” the things that come out of his mouth:
Harreld: The State Hygienic Lab. And they’ve gone from one shift to two shifts to now three shifts.
The third shift at the State Hygienic Lab was added in mid-March.
On the subject of the UI budget:
DI: Other public universities have predicted budget cuts with fewer state appropriations and more losses for fiscal 2022. Are you anticipating having to make drastic budget cuts? And if so, what would be prioritized?
Harreld: … Thank goodness we did the P3, and we’re in the process now of releasing what we’re calling a “year zero,” a half amount of money for some key projects.
Two points. First, during Harreld’s meeting with the Board of Regents on October 5th, two and a half months ago, he said pretty much the same thing. As the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller reported later that month, however, the process for determining those allocations was still in flux, and there has been no word lately that the situation has changed:
UI President Bruce Harreld, when discussing his retirement with the Board of Regents earlier this month, said, “We’ve got the allocation of P3 monies for the first time here in the next few weeks.”
But UI officials Thursday indicated the allocation could take longer than a few weeks.
They reported via a campuswide communication that a group established to manage those P3 funds, as they are called, “is ready to return to the process and soon will announce how members of campus can apply.”
A Path Forward Steering Committee — co-chaired by Kevin Kregel, Interim executive vice president and provost, and Marty Scholtz, vice president for research — is finalizing criteria and details for those interested in applying for a first round of P3 grants
“The criteria will be released to campus later this semester,” according to the UI Office of Strategic Communication.
It is now the end of the semester and I have not heard of any allocations being made, or even that applications for aid are being accepted.
The second point is that ever since the P3 closed in March, Harreld has insisted that money generated by the P3 will not be used to compensate for costs associated with the pandemic — which was the point of the question from the Daily Iowan. In mentioning the P3 in that context, however, it sounds like things may have changed in the past few months, whether Harreld wanted them to or not.
Finally, I found this beyond parody — though Harreld does in fact reach the correct conclusion:
DI: We had just a question on what kind of metrics you’re using to determine when we should return to normal campus activity, or ramp up maybe doing more in-person classes.
Harreld: … I mean, you don’t want me making up policy with an engineering business background. Period.
If you didn’t click through the first time, here is Harreld’s “lemmings” rant from this summer.
12/18/20 — The degree to which dishonesty has become foundational at the University of Iowa under illegitimate president J. Bruce Harreld cannot be overstated. There is no truth, there is no reality, there is only the narrative of lies that administrators want to tell, even if those lies are self-evident.
Relatedly, from the 04/20/30 entry here:
After finishing her short reply, however, Harreld once against started talking, then he got excited about talking, and then — out of nowhere — he suddenly announced that the University of Iowa would be starting fall football practice on June 1st. (Full context here.)
From a tweet moments later by the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller:
University of Iowa pres said athletes planning to resume practice, including footballers, June 1. ‘We’re hopeful that this will be behind us at this point.’
Now, if you have followed Harreld’s presidential tenure at all, you know he loves the big, self-aggrandizing announcement. If he knows something, and he thinks it will make him look good, even if he’s supposed to keep his mouth shut it just eats at him and eats at him until it busts out. And as you might imagine, this particular bust-out is already turning into national news — at least in the sports world — because it marks the first Division I football school that has made such a declaration. (I honestly expect his statement to be walked back or ‘clarified’, but we’re a couple hours out now and it hasn’t happened yet.)
Indeed, from his prepared remarksabout how painstakingly responsible UI is being in assessing classes for the fall term, you can see that football was not on the agenda. And yet here we are, suddenly blazing an impromptu trail while the state of Iowa has yet to hit its ‘first peak’. Even for a crony tool like Harreld that’s a problem, because if ‘student athletes’ can come back to campus from all points of the compass, why can’t regular students return? (Also, even if we assume that younger people are less likely to die, head coach Kirk Ferentz is sixty-four years old, and if Harreld ends up killing him that’s obviously a bad look.)
Whether Ferentz recovers or becomes just another COVID-19 fatality in Iowa, remember that back in mid-April, business genius Bro Bruce thought the pandemic would be over by early June.
12/17/20 — This past Sunday the Daily Iowan published its most-recent extensive interview with illegitimate University of Iowa president J. Bruce Harreld. We will take a closer look at that interview in the next post, but for the time being see if you can spot the reflexive lie that Harreld told in his first three exchanges with the DI — which he then exposed himself in the same reply.
Because it is apparently the season for administrative inanity at the University of Iowa, today we were also graced with what purports to be a joint message from Harreld and his hand-picked interim-provost-for-life, Kevin Kregel: President Harreld and Interim Provost Kregel: A message at semester’s close.
From the second paragraph of that joint statement, see if you can spot any indication that this was not in fact a joint statement when it was written:
In light of the strange times during which we close our fall semester, I would like to both reassure you and provide some advice:
I am also confused about how this sentence made it to press not only with the two highest-ranking campus administrators closely collaborating on the text, but with the UI Office of Strategic Communications at their individual and collective editorial disposal:
A bright future on the horizon, despite the difficulties and fears, and the distances we find between us.
Honestly, it’s like the university is just beaten down, and isn’t even trying any more. Speaking of which…one obvious related question would be whether Kregel has designs on the Iowa presidency himself, and whether Harreld intends to support Kregel’s candidacy by giving Kregel an elevated platform from which to speak in that regard — as long as Harreld gets co-credit for Kregel’s messaging.
12/11/20 — Thoughts on last week’s inaugural meeting of the UI Presidential Search Committee, including the moderately aggressive timeline, the feedback process, a deadline that isn’t actually a deadline, and the ways that committed creeps can defeat the best of intentions: UI Presidential Search Committee Meeting #1.
12/08/20 — Well this is interesting….
From Sabine Martin at the Daily Iowan, today: COVID-19 pauses University of Iowa strategic plan. As noted in several prior updates, I have a queasy gut feeling that a majority of the Iowa Board of Regents, in covert collaboration with illegitimate University of Iowa president J. Bruce Harreld, has already decided to appoint an in-house candidate as the next president of UI. I have also speculated that Dan Clay, the dean of the UI College of Education — who was appointed by Harreld, and shares the same entrepreneurial ideology — may be that done-deal candidate. And that in turn is why I find it interesting that Clay is being given a prominent role in talking to the press about the development of the new UI Strategic Plan, when he isn’t one of the two co-chairs overseeing that process.
UI College of Education Dean Dan Clay, a member of the strategic planning group, said he wants to take advantage of lessons the university has learned from the pandemic to better serve students. He said all the UI colleges worked on their own individual strategic plans to create a basis for the university’s overall plan.
“All of the colleges have their updated and refreshed strategic plans,” Clay said. “But, having said that, COVID-19 has changed a lot of things about how we do our work. We’ll have to go back to our strategic plan and make sure that it incorporates that information, so we best prepare students for success as teachers in the future.”
“I think there is a more acute awareness of people in all aspects of our society about the impacts of race and racism,” Clay said. “So, when we look at our strategic plan, we are going to look at it with a fresh set of eyes around how we are addressing those issues in our academic programs, in our research, in the way we engage with our communities.”
Then again, given that the UI Presidential Search Committee announced its moderately aggressive timeline only last Friday, which has the board making a final appointment less than five months from now, on April 30th of next year, it would be none too soon to get an in-house candidate as much visibility as possible, whether or not they are slated to be chosen. Like Wendy Wintersteen at Iowa State, you want to make sure there is a lot of enthusiasm for in-house candidates, because that makes the choice easy even if it isn’t rigged, and easy to sell whether it’s rigged or not. By the time the virtual on-campus visits for the finalists take place in late April, an in-house candidate could be a widely known commodity, while external candidates will be coming in cold.
The UI Office of Student Services will collect anecdotal information from students to understand the challenges that they face, Clay said.
“We also administer satisfaction surveys to our students and send surveys to school districts that employ our students to learn more about where they think our students have strengths,” Clay said. “So, we have multiple methods to collect information from our key stakeholders.”
Maybe it’s my cynical hearing, but it almost sounds like he’s running for something….
12/02/20 — The first meeting of the University of Iowa Presidential Search Committee takes place this Friday, December 4th, at 9 a.m., and will be live-streamed. (You can find the meeting notice and agenda here, and a link to the proceedings should be posted on that same page in the coming days.) While the internal dynamics of the search committee look encouraging, the current and illegitimate president of the school — J. Bruce Harreld — is casting a long and disruptive shadow over the process, despite having been told not to do so by the president of the Iowa Board of Regents.
In an extensive post — J. Bruce Harreld and the UI Presidential Search — I took a look at the main motivations Harreld has for muddying the context around the search process, including vanity, money, crony loyalties, and a committed disinterest to diversity, equity and inclusion. Having already stated that he will be hanging around the UI campus for two more years at least, regardless when the new president takes office, I believe it is incumbent upon the search committee to assert that it the sole authority in matters of the search, and to clarify any uncertainty about Harreld’s future role at the university or with the regents.
11/29/20 — The casual disregard with which Iowa’s governor, Kim Reynolds, has consigned so many citizens of the state — many of them elderly, and unable to care for themselves — to a suffocating death, and so many front line healthcare workers to consequent psychological trauma and subsequent ills, can only be described as evil.
From Zach Thompson at the Iowa City Press-Citizen: 45% of Iowa’s COVID deaths attributed to long-term care facilities as 35% report outbreaks.
* Inevitably, as cases spike, there is a point at which they will start to come down even if the government’s response has been incompetent, and that holds true for hospitalizations and deaths. What the press seems to have a hard time with, however, is that these increases and decreases are not like the weather or a stock price. Instead, they are a tally — a toll — and with specific regard to deaths there is never a moment when COVID-19 victims will recover, heal and move on.
Unfortunately, the tendency to see the pandemic as alternately good news and bad means no matter how derelict the governor’s response, and no matter how many Iowans die as a result of her failings, she can simply wait until the tide turns once again and claim that things are looking up — and she’s not the only one doing this. From a guest column in the Iowa City Press-Citizen by UI VP for Medical Affairs and dean of the College of Medicine, J. Brooks Jackson, who loves him some opportunistically optimistic rhetoric: UIHC stands ready to lead Iowa through this COVID-19 crisis.
It’s important to note that the number of hospitalized patients across the state has declined by more than 200 inpatients from over 1,500 patients just a couple of weeks ago — a positive sign, although Thanksgiving gatherings could cause coronavirus numbers to increase again.
The problem with this good news, and by extension Jackson’s entire public response to the pandemic, is that one of the main reasons for this decrease in hospitalizations is that Iowa’s integrated hospital network is freeing up resources and staff by once again cutting back on elective surgeries, and once again treating more non-ICU COVID-19 patients at home, instead of on an inpatient basis. From Michaela Ramm at the Gazette: Coronavirus home treatment program helps prevent hospitalizations at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
* Continuing with the theme of cultural disappointments, we have this from the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller:
Sounds like time for double-secret probation.
11/24/20 — Happy Thanksgiving, everyone — and if you live in Iowa, here’s hoping the lethal administrative failings of Iowa’s demonic governor do not kill you or someone you love….
* From Linh Ta at Iowa Capital Dispatch: Iowa hospitals will see ‘New York City-style collapse’ says epidemiologist.
On Nov. 15, [nurse Eric] Hosiak said his unit tried to order more body bags after some were used by another unit. He said his unit was told they could not order more because they were being saved for another unit.
“That’s the first time in my eight years that I’ve ever heard that we were low on body bags,” Hosiak said.
A month ago Iowa’s COVID-19 black widow — Governor Kim Reynolds — proclaimed, in advance of Election Day, that the state’s integrated hospital network was doing just fine. Well it wasn’t then, and it’s much worse now, and as a result the governor is not only killing Iowans by the score, she is grinding down hospitals and healthcare workers when they are needed most.
* Speaking of failed leadership…last summer the illegitimate president of the University of Iowa, J. Bruce Harreld, went on a deranged rant about how other colleges and universities were behaving like “lemmings” about the pandemic, while UI — under his disciplined leadership — was exhaustively deliberating each and every decision. Well, as a result of all of that deep original thinking, UI is now sending thousands of students home for Thanksgiving break, only to then welcome them back to campus and to Johnson County at the worst possible time, thus ensuring more disease transmission from social mixing. Meanwhile, at Iowa State and Northern Iowa — two of the lemming schools that Harreld obliquely derided — their semesters will be over, and because of their foresight they won’t be actively generating additional COVID-19 cases on campus next week.
Making this administrative idiocy all the more absurd, Harreld and UI tried to split the difference during the planning stage and declared that all post-Thanksgiving classes would be online only. Unfortunately, because Harreld aggressively sold the idea of a ‘campus experience’ to students in the fall, and there are football games yet to be played, many students will still return to the UI campus and Johnson County after Thanksgiving, even though they don’t have to do so for academic reasons. (Note also that roughly 80% of all credit hours this term were delivered online only, but that didn’t stop Harreld and his crack team from encouraging students to return in August, and to bring their checkbooks and debit cards with them.)
From Cleo Krejci at the Iowa City Press-Citizen: Just ahead of Thanksgiving break, in-person classes end at the University of Iowa.
At a time when COVID-19 cases are rising across the state, in-person classes for the more than 30,000 students at the University of Iowa are coming to an end for the remainder of this fall semester.
That means many students in Iowa City have a choice: they can remain on-campus, in the residence halls, apartments or elsewhere — or travel off-campus and continue their studies from outside of Iowa City until the semester ends in late December.
This fall, approximately 5,000 students live in university housing and close to 13,500 more live in Iowa City and Coralville, according to UI data. Students are able to remain in the residence halls while classes take place virtually up until Dec. 19.
From the Daily Iowan:
The university advised those in the UI community who are seeing family members over break to create a plan beforehand, especially if those family members are at a higher risk for COVID-19 complications. 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.
Behold the visionary leadership of business genius J. Bruce Harreld.
* As was the case at the inception of the fall semester, when no entry testing was conducted as students arrived at UI, there will also be no testing of students prior to or after Thanksgiving break. Fortunately, however, the university is changing course for the spring term, and organizing surveillance testing to better understand what is happening on campus and in the surrounding community. From p. 9 of the 10/13/20 meeting minutes for the UI Faculty Council:
The university is now in the process of developing a surveillance testing program. A committee has been formed to craft how the surveillance testing will proceed. This committee includes Jorge Salinas, the UIHC epidemiologist; Dan Diekema, the director of the UIHC Division of Infectious Diseases; Paul Natvig, the directorof Student Health; Dan Fick, the Campus Medical Officer; and Edith Parker, the dean of the College of Public Health. In response to a question, President Yockey further explained that surveillance testing would involve testing a random selection of people across campus to try to identify asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic individuals so that, based on this data, planning for outbreaks can be carried out.
The lemmings are taking over — and it’s about time.
* Yesterday the Iowa Board of Regents released the agenda and meeting notice for the first meeting of the UI Presidential Search Committee. That meeting kicks off at 9 a.m. on December 4th, and a live-stream link will beposted on this page prior to that meeting. More info here.