To say that the recently implemented presidential search at the University of Iowa is going well would be both an understatement and insufficient. It is an understatement because the Iowa Board of Regents not only seems determined to honor the letter of the 2018 agreement that was hammered out with the UI Faculty Senate in the protracted aftermath of the rigged 2015 presidential search — which resulted in the illegitimate appointment of J. Bruce Harreld — but also the spirit of that agreement. While the board obviously has a vested interest in ensuring that a competent and qualified individual is chosen to replace Harreld, and by statute only the regents can ultimately make that decision, the winnowing of applicants to a small slate of acceptable candidates is also a matter of self-determination for the UI community, which is now ably represented by a majority of the twenty-one committee members who are charged with that responsibility.
Indeed, in contemplating the initiation of the search, the composition of the committee, and the pace of the process so far, all signs are so uniformly encouraging that it is tempting to conclude that this search — unlike the 2015 search — cannot be corrupted. Unfortunately, while the 2015 search committee was subverted from the inside by a small cabal of co-conspirators, it is also possible for bad actors to negatively influence the current search from the outside. In fact, as noted in recent updates, we have already identified at least one individual extraneous to the current committee who, over the past two months, has repeatedly attempted to impose his will on the ongoing search, and of course that individual is none other than J. Bruce Harreld himself.
Making Harreld’s recurrent attempts to influence the search process all the more remarkable, when Harreld’s resignation was announced on October 1st, contingent on the appointment of his successor, the president of the Board of Regents issued an uncommonly blunt statement — which, as far as I can tell, has no precedent at the board. From Rylee Wilson at the Daily Iowan on 10/02/20:
Richards specified that although Harreld will remain president during the search process, he will not have input as to who is chosen as his replacement.
“I’ve had that discussion with him and he will not participate in any manner in the selection of the new president,” Richards said.
Despite Richards’ conspicuous and explicit prohibition, that has not prevented Harreld from repeatedly shooting his mouth off about the current search, including during the nine-minute board meeting at which Harreld’s letter of resignation was formally accepted. Between Harreld’s open-ended retirement date — as opposed to a date certain, which his predecessor, Sally Mason, specified when she announced her own departure — and his repeated comments about how the search should be conducted, as well as broadcasting his desire to hang around indefinitely as a mentor to the new president, everything Harreld has done over the past two months has increased uncertainty about the context in which the search is taking place. As we will see shortly, however, this impudence should also come as no surprise because Harreld has multiple overlapping motivations for influencing the outcome of the search, including the fact that Harreld’s own bastardized presidency resulted from an arrogant and elitist administrative mindset that is not only hostile to the academic tradition of shared governance, but which explicitly rejects fundamental precepts of equal opportunity. [ Read more ]