I will continue to add updates about J. Bruce Harreld and his illegitimate presidency to this threaded post. If this post scrolls you will be able to find it by clicking the link in the sticky post at the top of the home page. You can also bookmark this post, or search for it using various keywords and phrases, such as Harreld, fraud, co-conspirator, or carpetbagging dilettante.
04/08/20 — A nice piece here from the Daily Iowan’s Marissa Payne, with photos from the DI’s Katie Goodale: Empty University of Iowa campus, Iowa City ‘eerie’ for those in town.
04/07/20 — From the Daily Iowan’s Addie Bushnell: Hawkeyes studying arts struggle to adapt to distance learning:
[Avery] Nabholz isn’t the only Hawkeye feeling the effects of COVID-19 mitigation efforts. Dance and music majors no longer have a space to practice, art students lack important materials provided by the university, and many professors have had to completely rewrite their syllabi as the UI community adjusts to remote instruction.
One of the most damaging aspects of J. Bruce Harreld’s premeditated lie that online instruction at UI is just as good as on-campus instruction, is that it invalidates the students, faculty and staff who are suddenly having to confront the limits of online learning — to say nothing of doing so during a global pandemic. And yet that is who Harreld has always been: a crony team player who lies in exchange for $50K a month in taxpayer dollars. It would be infuriating if it wasn’t so predictably pathetic.
Leadership — real leadership, which J. Bruce Harreld knows nothing about — doesn’t come from keeping up appearances and projecting a utopian fantasy onto the world around you. That’s what family members do when they deny trouble in the family, and that instinct in itself can be damaging for individual family members who are suffering. None of this was Harreld’s fault, but his public response — literally the only substantive comments he has uttered in close to two months — diminishes him to the point of irrelevance. If people show you who they are in a crisis, then J. Bruce Harreld is the crony tool we thought he was all along. After four-and-a-half years on the University of Iowa campus, he has developed zero empathy for the students who toil there, and continues to represent his crony minders with single-minded zeal.
* I have no idea what this means, but it doesn’t sound good. From today’s coronavirus presser with the governor and her crack pandemic staff — including Iowa Department of Public Health Deputy Director Sarah Reisetter:
“We are working on modeling and we are looking at an agreement with the University of Iowa College of Public Health. We’ve been actively working to get that agreement in place. The first part of that work will involve analyzing existing models – like the University of Washington model that we’ve talked about,” she said.
The plan, Reisitter said, is that once the existing data has been analyzed then work developing or a new or modifying an existing model. That process could take some time.
“We are working on it, we don’t have it in hand yet but is an active work in progress,” she said. “In terms of the modeling and the forecasting that does take some time. It’s not something that can be done in a day or two.”
At the end of last week the governor and her team teased the rollout of their own pandemic model, which they said they would reveal this week. I have no idea what Reisitter means by an “agreement”, or why some agreement would be necessary with the University of Iowa, when it is in fact owned by the state. Having said that, it is also clear that the governor’s response to the coronavirus pandemic is largely political, and UI probably does not want to be roped into providing pseudo-scientific justifications for the governor’s strategy. With the school having already pimped out J. Brooks Jackson to defend the governor’s actions, it may be that the university wants some distance on whatever model the governor will claim has great scientific merit, even as it spits out numbers and projections favorable to her political future.
* There will be a lot of stories like this around the U.S., but there is also a critical difference between how Iowa and Minnesota are responding to the pandemic: Gophers athletics revenue could see $75M hit from coronavirus:
The University of Minnesota Board of Regents’ emergency meeting Tuesday estimated the coronavirus pandemic could strip Gophers athletics of anywhere between $10 million and $75 million.
Using “very early estimated revenue losses,” the U outlined three scenarios in how the department’s finances might unfold amid uncertainty on when regular athletic activities could return in the COVID-19 crisis.
Whatever hell the Minnesota regents feel they’re about to go through, here we have a sober assessment of what might happen in the coming months, and that assessment comes — appropriately — from an emergency meeting of that board. Now contrast that with this Pollyanna statement from Iowa’s regent president only last week:
[Mike] Richards says they will get everyone back to campus when they can. “I want everyone to know that we are planning on a full normal operation of our universities for the fall of 2020 semester. This includes in-person classes, re-opening of the residence halls, food service, and other campus services,” according to Richards.
It is a certainty that Iowa’s board is thinking ahead about necessary contingencies, but the public messaging could not be more unrealistic. No emergency meeting scheduled, promises the board president clearly can’t keep, and yet that’s perfectly consistent with how the crony Board of Regents does business. There isn’t any need for deliberation because the board doesn’t deliberate. It just does what it’s told by the governor’s office, and the governor has yet to commit to action.
* From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, an update on pandemic patients at UIHC: University of Iowa caring for 17 coronavirus inpatients.
* From the Daily Iowan’s Riley Davis: UI professor researches how to cope with the stress of working from home.
* I don’t trust the pandemic numbers from China at all, but if you want a counterbalancing glimpse at what life is like when a city comes out of lockdown, this is a fairly sober assessment even if it isn’t the whole story: China Ends Wuhan Lockdown, but Normal Life Is a Distant Dream. Even though our federal and state governments faltered for months, we still got a jump on what Wuhan experienced, so the damage here should not be as great. The virus will persist, however, and because of that our collective efforts at mitigation will necessarily have to continue.
04/05/20 — From The Courier’s Kristin Guess: On campus to online: UNI professors embrace internet instruction. Note particularly this comment about instructional quality in the time of the coronavirus:
“I don’t know that I’ve ever been more impressed with the people I work with,” said Ryan McGeough, Ph.D., Cedar Falls native and head of the communications department at UNI. “Students are getting what we promised — a high quality education — and we recognize that most of these students didn’t sign up for online classes.”
Now compare that last bit to this, from Harreld’s scripted remarks to the Iowa Board of Regents three days ago [5:20:25]:
So what does that mean for our students? Simply put, that means that their educational experience at the University of Iowa is not suffering at all, with our shift to a hundred percent online learning, and they can be assured the top-flight academics they’re used to are and will continue.
As to where this concerted emphasis about the quality of online learning is coming from, we don’t have to be online rocket-science students to figure that out. Were the state schools to acknowledge that the quality of instruction was less than it had been when students were on campus, students might rightly want some of their money back. Unfortunately, the very thought of refunding revenue from tuition and fees would give the regents and university presidents a collective heart attack, so the schools are out in force, making clear that there is no basis for any assertion that the online cobbled-together online education students are getting now is anything other than first-rate.
And we can see that linkage clearly in this announcement from Iowa State, about costs that the school will and will not refund:
“We will not issue refunds for tuition and mandatory fees,” [ISU President Wendy] Wintersteen wrote in an email to students on Monday. “While the transition to virtual instruction represents a significant change, both for you, and for our faculty, we are committed to offering a high-quality educational experience, and maintaining similar levels of academic rigor regardless of how your courses are delivered.”
Although the motive for insisting that online courses are just as good as in-person classes is consistent at all three state schools, the critical question is whether that is, strategically, a smart argument to make. Personally, not only do I think it is not smart, I think it is potentially much more damaging to the regent universities over the long haul than any risk of individual or class-action litigation over the quality of instruction during the remainder of the 2019-2020 spring term. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the Iowa Board of Regents should be making exactly the opposite argument about online instructional quality, but we will get to that in a moment.
To be painfully fair to the regents and university presidents, they may also be looking ahead to the 2020-2021 academic year, and the possibility that the campuses will not be open in August — despite this week’s bold promise to the contrary by regent President Mike Richards. Were the state schools compelled to continue online-only classes in the fall, the marketing weasels at the state schools would want everyone to claim there would be no diminution of educational excellence in order to keep students enrolled, while the execs would still be freaked out that students and families might litigate tuition and fees in that environment. By aggressively asserting that online instruction is just as good as in-class instruction, the regent universities may indeed feel — ironically –that they are inoculating themselves against such threats from their pesky students.
The first and most obvious problem with all of this defensive positioning is that what the regent schools are saying is, objectively, a lie. The instruction that students at UI and the other state schools will now receive will indeed suffer because of the move to online education, and how could it not? The idea that an entire university could suddenly shift to online learning across its entire campus, with no lead time, yet continue to deliver the exact same quality, is an administrative fantasy at best — and that’s particularly true for students in the performing arts, including collaborative disciplines such as theater, dance and music.
As to the threat of litigation, it is indeed possible that one or more students, parents or guardians might sue for a partial refund if the state schools acknowledged that instructional quality will suffer online, but that’s not the question. Setting aside the cost of bringing such a case, which would almost certainly exceed any potential benefit on an individual basis, the critical question is whether such litigation would succeed, and I think the answer — decisively — is that it would not. The reason is that the COVID-19 pandemic is a real crisis, and in responding to that emergency the state schools could not only claim exigent circumstances, but make a very strong case that they responded heroically to what was effectively an act of God. The schools could even point out that they did not simply vacate the remainder of the semester and pocket the tuition and fees they had received to that point, but instead moved heaven and earth to ensure that the semester itself would not be lost academically.
As for the upcoming 2020-2021 academic year, if the state schools are compelled to continue online courses in August, an admission today that online learning is less than optimal could be met with a commensurate discount in the fall. Because the state campuses would cost significantly less to run, it’s not even clear that the schools would necessarily lose money even if they made it cheaper to enroll. As for the University of Iowa specifically — and as detailed endlessly in these pages — it has been clearing $35M or more each year as compared to 2016 baseline, and that’s apart from the $1B in cash that the school is sitting on since the UI P3 closed in early March. With regard to both overall revenue and cash flow, the University of Iowa could clearly afford to offer a cut in tuition for the fall semester if online classes continued, and that’s true even if the pandemic abated during the term and on-campus classes resumed.
Given the obvious near-term legal, financial, marketing and recruitment advantages in insisting that online courses are just as good as in-class instruction, why would Iowa’s regent universities want to make the opposite case? Well, the answer to that question is so harrowing that if you work for the Board of Regents, or in central administration at one of the state schools, you should probably stop reading now. Because whenever the pandemic lifts, and the world gets back to normal, we are not only going to see the second great virtual land-rush to build out online learning and take market share, but at this very moment every college and university in America is — for the first time — actually making the case for permanently shifting away from on-campus education. Which in turn raises a lot of pointed questions about what we will do with all of the resort-like campuses that higher-education has built up over the past twenty years or so, in an arms race to entice young human beings to reside and study in close physical proximity.
From time to time I have written about various aspects of the online learning question — see here and here, and even a pre-Harreld post from back in 2014, titled, Online Education and the Commitment Problem. The one key factor that keeps online education from truly doing battle with campus education is that there is still almost universal agreement that if you are committing to the full-time pursuit of a two-year or four-year degree, doing so in-person is simply better. Not more convenient, certainly, and obviously not cheaper, but as an intensive process of personal development, online classes simply cannot compete with in-person classes and instruction. And yet incredibly, Iowa’s regent universities are now emphatically insisting that is not the case.
Now…I know what you’re thinking. Perhaps this is an opportunity for Iowa’s public universities to seize online market share themselves, thus not only enduring but capitalizing on the pandemic. And in fact, here is someone from the University of Iowa making that very point, in an article by Emily Nelson on the Iowa Now website — only four days ago:
“We might find that students and faculty learn a little more about the benefits of teaching and learning online,” Cargill says. “Faculty who may have resisted teaching online before might realize, ‘Yeah, this actually works quite well. I might do this more in the future.’ That, in turn, allows the University of Iowa to increase its reach in the state and nationally. We can offer courses to individuals who wouldn’t normally be able to take them because they can’t come to Iowa City.
The first problem with that line of thinking is that at this exact moment in history every college and university in the United States is thinking the same thing. Not only are they all eyeing the online market with renewed interest, however, but prominent schools with national brand names would instantly crush any of Iowa’s state schools in a competitive marketplace. (Add to that their ability to leverage prior associations with powerful companies like Amazon and Google — which would be all too happy to help build out a national online higher-ed monopoly — and there is zero chance that the University of Iowa could establish and hold an online beachhead over time.)
As I wrote back in 2018, while looking at Mike Crow’s empire-building at Arizona State University:
(In such scaling, however, there are trade-offs which are not necessarily good for every student, or for the higher-ed industry. First, there will be a lot of market consolidation, meaning many small colleges will go out of business. Second, consolidation means education will be controlled more and more by fewer and fewer people, who may be primarily interested in making money. Third, as physical locations come to mean less and less, branding will ultimately dominate, meaning ASU could take the lead, only to be crushed by Harvard, Yale, or Facebook University. Don’t laugh.)
Again, it is perfectly understandable that invested individuals at the University of Iowa, or at the other state schools, might want to put the best face possible on the sudden shift to online instruction. From a strategic perspective, however — meaning at the level of central administration — not only is it unlikely that UI could take appreciable market share in the online learning space, but the most pressing problem facing UI is actually exacerbated by efforts to convince students that their online courses are just as good as in-person classes. Instead, what the University of Iowa and the other regent schools should be laser-focused on today is laying the groundwork to persuade large numbers of pandemic-traumatized students to come back to campuses where they will be required to mill about with people who might inadvertently kill them.
Whatever the classical barriers to entry for the higher-ed industry, the coronavirus pandemic strikes at the heart of what most people find attractive about campus life. Where gatherings large and small are a hallmark of the collegiate experience — from sporting events to lecture halls to bars to dorms to restaurants and cafeterias — all of those activities now constitute a threat which can be instantly alleviated by pursuing online coursework. Which is of course great in the current compulsory context, and an absolute nightmare for college and university campuses across the country when students and families are deciding what to do about enrolling for classes in the fall.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a life-altering experience for everyone, and if students and families think they can get the same degree online that they were getting by showing up on campus and paying for room and board — which is precisely the message the Iowa Board of Regents is currently sending — then some of those student will understandably gravitate to the safer option. Compounding that problem, however, once students decide that an online degree is equally viable, they will also look beyond Iowa’s borders, and past the monopoly that the Board of Regents holds on four-year universities. At that point UI’s frequent plea that its over-priced, in-state degrees are still cheaper than its academic peers will be truly meaningless, as more and more students begin to shop for their education based on the actual cost of the coursework.
So how many current and prospective UI students might opt out of a state university in the coming year, even if totally honest and credible people like regent president Mike Richards or illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld swear up and down that the campuses are perfectly safe? Well, I obviously don’t know, but even a drop in enrollment of several hundred students would constitute a significant loss of revenue at any of those schools. (Currently Iowa State has about 36,000 students, UI about 32,000, and the University of Northern Iowa about 12,000, so even a one-percent drop as a result of the coronavirus pandemic would be a meaningful hit.)
Unfortunately, the instinct to lie, and the attendant conviction that any lie can be neutralized by a subsequent lie, is so ingrained at the Board of Regents, and especially in the leadership at the University of Iowa, that there is no chance anyone will start telling the truth to the students. They are and will always be cash cows, and if duping them obligates those in power to moments of incoherence, that’s a small price to pay. Having said that, a culture-seizing, campus-closing global pandemic is not your run-of-the-mill opportunity for squeezing a few extra bucks out of the student body, and insisting that online instruction is just as good as in-class instruction may not be a smart move when the bulk of your business model is predicated on the latter.
* From the Daily Iowan’s Rin Swann: UI science students adapt to online classes, loss of in-person labs:
Students like Wofford and their instructors are grappling with how to transfer labs, which often require experiential learning and student participation, to an online format because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Curriculum changes vary by instructor as they adapt to teaching remotely and shift their syllabi in the middle of the semester.
Kaia Johanningmeier, a second-year student majoring in geoscience and secondary-science education, said her physics lab was canceled entirely and her semester grade will be an average of her past lab scores.
So there we go. Proof positive that Iowa’s online classes are just as good as the on-campus classes they replaced — as personally promised and attested to by illegitimate Ui president J. Bruce Harreld, during last week’s presentation to the Iowa Board of Regents.