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.
07/09/20 — This week the University of Iowa held another pair of entirely redundant, non-interactive, live briefings to inform the UI community about plans to open the campus in the fall. Apparent in the briefings yesterday and today — which were explicitly about the “student experience’, as opposed to academics or student safety — was the degree to which UI is indistinguishable from any business in the hospitality industry. And of course that’s particularly problematic because the hospitality industry has been decimated by the coronavirus pandemic.
While UI is pressing ahead with its plans, it is also clear that the United States as a whole is not only experiencing an explosion of COVID-19 cases, but no one in the hospitality industry has figured out how to do what UI and many other colleges and universities have committed to doing in August. There are no hotels or resorts operating at full occupancy, and there are no bars and restaurants conducting business as normal. And yet, academic administrators, including those at UI, insist that they can lick this problem, even as they have yet to demonstrate the viability of their proposed solutions.
Although one full hour was once again scheduled for each redundant briefing this week, the presentations only took a half hour or so each day — meaning out of two total hours listed on the schedule, at most thirty minutes of new-ish material was actually disseminated. (Overall, out of a total of six hours of scheduled briefings so far, the university has probably communicated about one hour of new, useful and actionable information to the UI community, with another four hours of largely redundant scheduled briefings to go.)
More here from Rachel Schilke at the Daily Iowan: Students expected to sign agreement to comply with COVID-19 guidelines in fall semester.
* In the context of recent edicts by Iowa’s governor, about how she alone has the power to impose a mask requirement in the state, it was notable that this week’s UI briefings once again affirmed that the University of Iowa — which is a state institution — will require masks on the the UI campus. Not only were students put on notice yesterday and today that masks will be required, but per an earlier briefing, and per a separate official notice yesterday, the same holds true for UI faculty and staff, unless they are alone in their office:
Reminder: Face coverings must be worn when working on campus
Everyone entering a university building is expected to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Unless otherwise indicated, you must wear applicable face coverings (cloth covering, disposable or cloth mask, face shield) when working on campus unless you are alone in a private office.
Now…I’m not a lawyer, and I don’t know the ins and outs of pandemic jurisprudence, but it seems a bit hypocritical that a state institution like the University of Iowa — which is overseen by a governing board appointed by the governor — can impose a mask requirement, while public officials cannot impose a similar requirement on the cities and counties they were elected to represent. In fact, if I was an elected official and wanted to impose a mask requirement, I would sue the governor and let her sort out that glaring inconsistency. (The University of Iowa has more than 32K students and over 10K employees, on a campus larger than the majority of towns in Iowa. It is quite literally a city unto itself, and in imposing a mask requirement is it either violating the governor’s edict or the governor is making an exception.)
* Over the past ten days or so, COVID-19 hospitalizations are up about 40% in Iowa, from 118 to 165. In eastern Iowa, Johnson County — home to the University of Iowa — has overtaken the larger Linn County, just to the north, in confirmed cases.
From Sebastian Lechuga at the Daily Iowan: Johnson County Public Health and hospitals respond to recent spike in COVID-19 cases.
* Michaela Ramm at the Gazette: Hospitals approaching COVID-19 rise for second time with more confidence. (Undoubtedly true, but here’s hoping they remain humble. What is happening right now in Texas, Arizona, Southern California and Florida may well be happening in Iowa by the end of August.)
* Hillary Ojeda at the Press-Citizen: Four Johnson County law enforcement officers test positive for, recover from COVID-19.
* Ten days ago, from the Press-Citizen’s Zachary Oren Smith: Coralville says protocols will keep swimmers safe this summer at public pool.
Yesterday, from the Press-Citizen’s Zachary Oren Smith: ‘How does she think we should proceed?’: Coralville City Council expresses frustration over Reynolds tying their hands on face mask mandate.
(If you’re not familiar with eastern Iowa, the University of Iowa resides in Iowa City, which is in Johnson County. Coralville is a smaller town that abuts Iowa City to the northwest, and also resides in Johnson County.)
* While the very white J. Bruce Harreld continues to drive persons of color away from the University of Iowa, and to dismantle and erode diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in his office, note that the University of California just appointed the first person of color to lead that massive institution. From Brakkton Booker at Iowa Public Radio: Michael Drake Will Be The First Black President In U.C. System’s 152-Year History. (Drake was most recently the president at Ohio State University, which not only pioneered the public-private utility partnership that UI replicated earlier this year, but is where former VP for Student Life Melissa Shivers fled when she left UI.)
07/07/20 — This past Friday, when University of Iowa sports announcer Gary Dolphin posted the only known interview in which illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld commented — albeit in passing — about the spate of discrimination charges against the UI football program, I assumed that the local sports reporters would all have something to say about the interview, even if only in passing themselves. Now four full days later, I have not found a single local sports reporter who has commented even obliquely about the interview, let alone linked to it. It is as if the entire local sports network was told that the time for talking about discrimination at UI is over, and to a man — and they are all men — the local sports reporters dutifully complied. (See the 07/05/20 update below for more.)
* From Randy Evans in the Storm Lake Times, on the same day of the Dolphin-Harreld interview: Stray Thoughts.
Barta’s handling of Griesbaum’s firing and his reassignment of her partner, longtime athletics administrator Jane Meyer, led to embarrassing gender-discrimination lawsuits against the university. In the end, the university settled the cases by paying the women $6.5 million.
In an article Sunday, the Cedar Rapids Gazette explored the disparities in how the cases of Doyle and Griesbaum were handled by Barta.
Griesbaum told the Gazette, “It’s very evident that Chris Doyle had an opportunity to coach differently than I did. Even to the very end, he was treated differently. I was not given the ‘thoughtful and sensible’ thing [that Doyle received], and that is completely riddled with gender bias.”
Once again the only people pointing out the obviousness of this bias are non-sports reporters and commentators. (Apparently the local reporters who cover sports know that their job is to sell the Iowa football program, not criticize it.)
* From Rob Howe at Hawkeye Nation, the same day as the Dolphin-Harreld interview: Focus Should Be on Hearing the Accounts of Former Hawkeyes.
* More statements from former Iowa players, as tweeted by Howe yesterday.
* Robert Read at the Daily Iowan: Iowa Athletics Department reports four additional positive COVID-19 tests.
* Elizabeth Merrill at ESPN: Coronavirus cases impacting resumption of Iowa high school sports.
* Proving that academics are not immune to charges of racism at UI, we have this from Aimee Breaux at the Press-Citizen: ‘Racist environment’: Dozens of students call on officials to address UI writing program.
* There is nothing funnier than watching one part of Iowa’s corrupt state government screw another part of Iowa’s corrupt state government. From Tyler Jett at the Des Moines Register: Iowa university leaders say state agreement with provider of free online classes agreement ‘raises concerns’.
College and university leaders are saying they were blindsided by a partnership between Iowa Workforce Development and a private company to offer thousands of free online classes to Iowans through the end of the year.
Both the governor and the Republican-dominated state legislature would like nothing more than to turn higher-ed in Iowa into an extension of workforce development. At some point one might assume that the equally corrupt Iowa Board of Regents would get tired of being played for suckers, but they’re all appointed by, and serve at the pleasure of, the governor, so they keep taking it.
* Vanessa Miller at the Gazette: Iowa universities see 2,000 fewer students this summer.
* Also from Miller: Professors and students in Iowa face virtual limits to education.
* Dan Drezner at the Washington Post: I’m a college professor. Here is what I think about college preparations for the coronavirus this fall.
* Matthew Scwartz at Iowa Public Radio: ‘A Nightmare’: Georgia Tech Faculty Push Back Against In-Person Reopening Plans.
* Harvard announced Monday (yesterday) that it will hold all courses online — presumably to protect faculty and staff — but up to 40% of undergrads will still come to campus. A key component of managing this influx is that Harvard will test each student for COVID-19 every three days, meaning the school will be in an excellent position to detect and suppress outbreaks with aggressive contact tracing.
Contrast that plan with the University of Iowa, which intends to bring 32K students back to the UI campus in August, but will only test symptomatically. Setting aside the fact that UI intends to hold a significant number of in-person classes, thus also putting faculty and staff at risk, lack of aggressive testing means the Iowa City-Johnson County area will inevitably be exposed to outbreaks which may go undetected for weeks.
* One advantage Harvard obviously has, however, is that it is stinking rich, with an endowment of over $40B — so it can quite literally afford to test its relatively small population of resident undergrads every three days. (Normal undergrad enrollment at Harvard is about 6,800, so if 40% is resident this year that would be around 2,700.)
Not surprisingly, not only do most colleges and universities not have the cash to test their students on a frequent basis, but affiliated athletic departments are affected as well. From the AP’s Eric Olson: Coronavirus testing a stress threat for athletic budgets.
* Jessica Dickler at CNBC: New rules for international students could cost U.S. colleges $41 billion.
07/05/20 — In order to properly interpret the July 3rd interview of illegitimate University of Iowa president J. Bruce Harreld by UI sports announcer Gary Dolphin, here is what you need to know about each man at this point in his career at UI.
> In 2015 not only was J. Bruce Harreld appointed to the Iowa presidency following a corrupt search process, which was engineered by the corrupt Iowa Board of Regents, but Harreld abetted that corruption by lying to the UI community himself. Over the first four-plus years of his tenure as president, Harreld followed those lies with others lies large and small, leading some observers to conclude that he is a pathological, congenital or compulsive liar. Combined with Harreld’s pugnacity, pettiness and toxic ego needs, his reflexive instinct to lie has substantially eroded morale on the UI campus, as well as the institutional reputation and national ranking of the school he nominally leads. To be fair to Harreld, however, he is largely a tool of the Board of Regents and does what he is told — including propping up the Athletic Department as needed.
> Since the mid-1990’s, Gary Dolphin has served as the ‘voice of the Hawkeyes’ for football and men’s basketball. While technically an employee of Learfield Sports, which handles broadcast duties for more than a hundred colleges across the United States, Dolphin is a de facto representative of the University of Iowa, and as such effectively works for J. Bruce Harreld. In that context, it is important to note that in early 2019 Dolphin was suspended from his duties for comparing a Black basketball player on another team to King Kong. While most people do not believe Dolphin is racist, that brush with career mortality does suggest that Dolphin might be particularly predisposed to make sure that Harreld the UI Athletic Department are happy with him and his work.
The full and exceedingly friendly interview between Dolphin and Harreld runs 27 minutes and 41 seconds. Because Harreld had yet to publicly comment on multiple allegations of racial discrimination in the UI football program even a month after they first appeared in the press, one might expect that the bulk of the interview would deal with that subject alone, including particularly the resignation of the long-time strength and conditioning coach under a cloud of specific accusations. But one would be wrong….
00:30-01:06 Dolphin frames his upcoming interview with Harreld by referencing the Spanish-flu pandemic of 1918.
02:04-02:36 Dolphin introduces Harreld, then asks Harreld what steps are being taken to ensure the safety of the campus when it reopens in August, given the coronavirus pandemic.
02:36-03:11 Harreld begins by slobbering — slobbering — over Dolphin, profusely thanking him for being a great Hawkeye. At the same time, however, Harreld not-so-subtly reminds Dolphin that he screwed up last year and almost lost his job as UI announcer, thus putting Dolphin in his place as a beholden subordinate.
03:11-03:17 Dolphin bashfully responds, and in doing so refers to Harreld as ‘Bruce’.
03:17-06:27 In explaining what the University of Iowa is doing to combat COVID-19, Harreld lapses into his recent mantra that what is happening in Iowa is different from what is happening elsewhere. While correctly noting that Iowa’s current metrics are better than a number of other states, Harreld then gets a little too excited — as is his braggardly wont — and says, of Iowa’s statewide response, that, “…we have been able to take care of anyone who gets the virus, and….”
And…as of this writing over 720 Iowans have died from COVID-19.
At the 04:48 mark, Harreld then says, “…anybody who is symptomatic, we’ll have enough tests to make sure we test them….” As most readers are probably aware by now, unlike many communicable diseases, COVID-19 is particularly dangerous because it becomes highly transmissible even before the onset of symptoms. For that reason, aggressive testing is important whether individuals are symptomatic or not, and that’s especially true for large populations in small spaces, including the classrooms and communal areas that predominate at colleges and universities.
06:27-06:37 Apparently oblivious to the sports focus of his own podcast, Dolphin follows up with Harreld by noting that the schedule for the fall semester has not changed.
06:37-07:50 Reprising prior public comments, Harreld emphasizes that he is putting the students first by leaving the schedule unchanged, even as fellow regent schools ISU and UNI are altering their fall schedules in response to the pandemic. Harreld frames this as protecting the earning power of UI students during the summer, but then again if he really wanted to make sure they were financially sound he could change the schedule to prioritize safety, while aslo giving students a pandemic discount. Beause what Harreld really cares about is generating as much revenue as possible — including by robbing the students blind — he omits that option from his response.
07:50-08:00 After listening to Harreld explain how some classes will be online and some in-person, Dolphin surprises Harreld by asking the same obvious and sensible question we recently asked in this very post. What percentage of classes will be online, and what percentage will be in-person? (See 07/02/20 entry below.)
08:00-09:02 Harreld’s startled and bumbling attempt to quickly change the subject is both hilarious and literal: “Uh…ih, ub, wub, eb, wuh — don’t think of it that way….”
Adding insult to injury, in trying to distract Dolphin from the question Harreld offers specifics which make clear that holding the majority of classes in-person will be almost impossible if social distancing is taken into account.
Finally, at the 8:26 mark, Harreld loops back and answers Dolphin’s question by saying that he doesn’t have any idea what percentage of the classes will be online or in-person in the fall — which is pretty odd for a guy who claims to be a whiz regarding numbers and data. (If you’re a reporter covering higher-ed, I would suggest you press the University of Iowa on the percentage of classes that will be virtual in the fall, because it may be well above 50%.)
09:03-09:28 Dolphin thanks Harreld for explaining how it’s all going to work out just fine, then informs the audience that Harreld “helped manage and run major corporations….”. Dolphin then asks Harreld how his “vast business background” helped him put together a “game plan” to deal with the pandemic.
(Importantly, as regular readers know, Harreld was never the CEO of anything, and spent most of his work life as a senior executive at various companies. While Dolphin did not misstate Harreld’s background, he also clearly wanted his audience to conclude that selling computers, pizzas or broiled chickens positioned Harreld to respond to a global health crisis, but he left it to Harreld to actually make that case.)
09:28-11:30 In responding to Dolphin’s softball question, Harreld first touts various aspects of his resume and work experience, none of which materially advantage him compared to any traditional college or university president who is confronting the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic. (Indeed, Harreld’s limited experience in academic administration, combined with his pathological focus on financial models, may well prove to be a costly liability for the students, faculty and staff at Iowa.)
At about the 10:16 mark, Harreld then claims he realized “very early on” that the University of Iowa was very centralized, and led the charge to decentralize the campus. As long-time readers know, however, the change from centralized to decentralized administration in higher-ed has been ongoing for decades, and was likely initiated at UI by the Board of Regents, not Harreld himself. (The industry term for decentralizing administration is ‘responsibility centered management’ — or RCM — and in higher-ed that movement reaches back over forty years.)
At the 11:08 mark, just as Dolphin is about to ask the next question, Harreld suddenly blurts out — perhaps to forestall the next question — that what he’s really good at is building teams. What Harreld does not mention is that when he first took office he imposed a twin-track, team-based approach to advancing the goals of the university, which he brought with him from the private sector, which failed in two years and had to be replaced. And of course that failure not only undercuts Harreld’s immediate point about being good at team building, but also his prior point about how his private-sector experience has been beneficial when applied to academic administration.
12:26-13:20 Dolphin returns and asks Harreld a softball question about the financial future of the school, after first framing the context in the same favorable way that Harreld would have framed it if Harreld was interviewing himself.
13:20-18:04 Harreld enumerates his list of routine funding grievances, while ignoring his complicity in shifting the bulk of the university’s funding from the state to students and families. (It’s like listening to Bernie Madoff gripe about government regulation of the financial industry.)
Finally, bringing the conversation around to sports, Harreld applauds Athletic Director Gary Barta and others in the department for taking pay cuts in the face of expected revenue shortfalls, even as Harreld has made no similar concession regarding his own bloated pay package.
18:04-18:40 More than eighteen minutes into a podcast that runs less than twenty-eight minutes, and with the specter of racial discrimination and the reality of administrative upheaval hanging over the athletic department like a concrete blanket, Gary Dolphin finally says, “Let’s talk some Hawkeye football….”
Before asking a single question, however, Dolphin makes clear that Harreld is a “big supporter of Coach Ferentz and his program”, then deftly attributes the bulk of the accusations against the athletic department to the recently departed strength and conditioning coach. Harreld finally chimes in when Dolphin asks if he agrees with AD Barta that Kirk Ferentz is the exact right person to clean up the same mess that Ferentz now professes to have been oblivious to for decades.
18:40-20:28 Not only does Bro Bruce agree with AD Barta, but Harreld is deeply impressed with how Ferentz “owned it” when problems arose. That is doubly ironic because Harreld himself went into hiding for an entire month, and has historically done everything possible to avoid taking responsibility for his own mistakes, lies or abuses of power. (In fact, Harreld’s baseline response to controversy is to go into hiding, and if that doesn’t work to tell lies to cover up any complicity on his part.)
In a comical admission Harreld concedes that he wasn’t personally in any of the heart-to-heart meetings that Ferentz had with his team, but that doesn’t stop Harreld from describing those meetings — which he did not attend — as “tough”, and otherwise lauding Ferentz for being a courageous leader and a wonderful humanitarian.
From Harreld at the 19:19 mark:
Some people might’ve locked themselves in their office, um — and, kind’a closed the door. Not Kirk.
As for how Harreld handles conflict, see this story about Harreld fleeing from his office.
20:28-20:50 Having finally addressed the only conceivable reason why anyone would listen to Gary Dolphin interview J. Bruce Harreld, Dolphin goes back to serving as Harreld’s press agent and asks him to reflect on his years at UI.
20:50-24:06 Perhaps relieved that the hard part of the interview is over, Harreld launches into a heroic narrative about how he came to the University of Iowa because he was concerned about the state of public higher education. As it turns out, however, not only is there considerable evidence that this new narrative from Harreld is false — meaning once again that Harreld is succumbing to his instinct to lie, even when it serves no purpose — but if he is telling the truth that’s actually worse.
As long-time readers know, when Harreld was fraudulently appointed in 2015 he not only falsely claimed that he was obvious to the administrative abuses that the Board of Regents perpetrated in order to hand him the job, but he insisted that until the very last second he was at best ambivalent about accepting a position that he had nonetheless aggressively pursued for six months. From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, on 11/01/15:
J. Bruce Harreld did not want the job.
“Not at all,” he said.
When Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter called the former IBM and Boston Market Co. executive over the summer to ask if he would be interested in applying for the vacant University of Iowa presidency, Harreld promptly dismissed the opportunity.
“I had a lot of other things going on in my life that were either more important or more interesting,” said Harreld, who was living in the Colorado high country at the time, serving as a business consultant, traveling and spending time with his wife, four children and six grandchildren.
Flash forward four and a half years, however, and here’s how Bro Bruce describes his interest in the UI position at the 20:58 mark of the Dolphin interview:
My wife and I grew up in the Midwest. My wife and I are graduates of public institutions, and the more I looked at the data — and I was teaching at another institution out East…but the more we looked at it, the more I started realizing what’s happening across the country is this generational disinvestment in public higher education. And I think that’s a real problem for our country, and I think we need to talk about it a lot more, uh, and I think we need to vote into office people who support public higher education. You want to talk about lifting people up, that’s what public higher education has done for me, my wife, my whole family…as well as much of our country.
And so I had a little bit of a mission in my head, and I said, somebody’s got to go in and see if they can make a difference, and that’s the reason we’re here.
Even if you have only been reading Harreld-hire posts for a short time, you know that this new heroic narrative meshes perfectly with Harreld’s unquenchable ego needs. The obvious problem is that this new explanation is diametrically opposed to the narrative Harreld put forward four and a half years ago — and not just in a single interview, but consistently over months. So what is going on here? Why is Harreld suddenly telling a completely different story about the origins of his candidacy at UI?
One thing we can say for certain, whether we ever determine which narrative is true, is that J. Bruce Harreld — the current president of the University of Iowa — is a stinking liar. (Admittedly, if you’re from the higher-ed industry that may strike you as a pedestrian observation. Still, I persist in my belief that having lying trash at the top of the org chart of a $4B public university is not only bad for the institution, but bad for the entrepreneurial activity that said trash is trying to generate on campus.)
Given the implications, it would actually be to Harreld’s advantage if his new narrative turned out to be a lie, and his prior narrative was correct. The reason I say that is because Harreld’s old narrative shielded him from the charge that he not only lied his way into the UI job — which he did — but that he was involved much earlier than we know with one of the key co-conspirators who perpetrated that fraud. Specifically, from various interviews and legal depositions we know that Harreld was initially contacted by the president of the Board of Regents — who was also a member of the 2015 presidential search committee — in March of that year, while Harreld was ostensibly just starting his new career as a consultant. It is possible, however, if not likely, that Harreld had even earlier contact with another member of the search committee, who not only happened to be Harreld’s former business mentor, but who also lied to cover up Harreld’s rigged hire shortly after Harreld was appointed.
In Harreld’s new narrative, however, he leaps from the phone booth that was his old teaching job on the East Coast straight straight into his heroic role as the savior of public higher education in the Midwest, with no gap. Meaning he may indeed have already known at that time that he would be taking the reins at UI. And yet, from his resume we can see that Harreld did leave his teaching job in 2014 and set up a consultancy, which he also specifically referenced in his Gazette interview in late 2015. So was Harreld actually working for clients during that time, only to be approached by a lusty Iowa regent, or was his consultancy a cover story for the fact that he had already agreed to take the UI gig?
Again, we don’t know which narrative is true and which is a lie, but until two days ago we also didn’t have Harreld flatly contravening his earlier explanation.
Speaking of which — and proving that irony is dead — Harreld finishes his rambling response to Dolphin’s question by rhapsodizing about the values of Midwesterners.
24:06-24:28 Dolphin agrees with Harreld’s summation, then says he hopes to see “Bruce” around Kinnick Stadium on Labor Day weekend.
24:28-24:58 Harreld reminds the audience that he is doing everything possible to make sure the university will be able to expose student-athletes to COVID-19 on game day, so fans can watch young men bash themselves senseless for the financial benefit of the University of Iowa. (Selflessness incarnate from the savior of public higher-ed.)
24:58-25:10 Dolphin puts in a plug for the Labor Day game against Northern Iowa, then thanks “Mr. President” for dropping by.
25:10-25:12 The savior of American public higher education thanks Gary Dolphin in return.
25:12-25:18 Dolph announces that the show will wrap up after another break.
26:24-26:48 Dolphin frames the end of the show with a second note about the 2018 Spanish flu, about how Iowa played Coe in an empty stadium. He hopes the same fate won’t befall the Hawkeyes during this pandemic.
26:48-27:41 Iowa fight song.
Taking the conversation as a whole, two important and related takeaways spring from this in-house, carefully choreographed, and exceedingly friendly interview.
First, for a conversation that ran twenty-seven minutes and forty-one seconds, and marked the first public comments on the UI football program by the president of the university, Dolphin and Harreld spent two minutes and twenty-four seconds on that topic, the vast majority of which was devoted to pom-pom waving and hero worship. The bulk of the interview, instead, comprised repeated opportunities for Harreld to burnish his legacy in trademark fashion — meaning without regard to the truth.
Second, regarding student-athletes at UI who may have been discriminated against, including during Harreld’s tenure, there was not a single word of sympathy or empathy. Harreld’s entire focus was on supporting and promoting the very athletic department which perpetrated those abuses, which he did — as he did with Dolphin at the beginning of the interview — by slobbering all over Kirk Ferentz and Gary Barta. If you are a student-athlete at Iowa, and want to know if central administration cares about what you may have endured, the answer is no. What Bro Bruce Harreld cares about is protecting the boy’s club at UI, and student-athletes are on their own.
07/03/20 — With today being not only a Friday but the first day of the three-day July 4th weekend, I naively assumed it would be a down day for news from the University of Iowa. What I am embarrassed to admit is that I once again forgot that illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld is one of the weaseliest weasels who ever lived, and as such would of course use a federal-holiday Friday to his weaselly advantage. To that end, behold the first pubic comments ever uttered by Harreld about racial discrimination in the UI football program, courtesy an exceedingly friendly interview with UI sports announcer Gary Dolphin.
We will dig into the full interview in the coming days — which, fair warning, is primarily a promotional reel for Harreld’s presidency, and consequently chock full of lies — but if you listen to the interview during the holiday weekend there is one thing you should keep in mind. Gary Dolphin is not a journalist, and as such Harreld has still not talked to the press about the UI football program. Instead, like all home-team sports announcers, Gary Dolphin is paid to provide the appearance of independence while doing everything possible to make UI look good. (Put another way, having Dolphin interview Harreld would be like having Harreld’s wife interview Harreld — though in fairness to his wife, and based on one of Harreld’s folksy anecdotes in the interview, I think she would have asked tougher questions.)
* As for Harreld’s gung-ho plan to open the UI campus in August he is still full-speed ahead, but out in the real world things are changing. From Tomás Mier at the Los Angeles Times: USC reverses robust fall reopening plans, asks students to stay home for online classes. For context, USC has about 44K students, 30% of which live in USC housing. By contrast, UI has about 32K students, of which only 25% live on campus. If USC is pulling the plug I would expect more schools to follow — both as August draws closer, and as the pandemic worsens.
* Anemona Hartocollis at the New York Times: Colleges Face Rising Revolt by Professors.
* Shweta Bansal, Colin Carlson and John Kraemer at the Washington Post: There is no safe way to reopen colleges this fall.
* Natalie Dunlap at the Daily Iowan: University of Iowa prepares for students to return to on-campus living by adapting residence, dining halls.
* Becky Phelps at KCRG-TV: University of Iowa Health Care seeing rise in staff testing positive for COVID-19.
* Hillary Ojeda at the Iowa City Press-Citizen: Eastern Iowa hospitals, public health departments prepare for COVID-19 case surge.
* On the same day that Harreld sat for an interview with the ‘voice of the Hawkeyes’ — who asked him multiple softball questions about his presidency and only one softball question about the football program — the crack marketing weasels at the UI Athletic Department had Head Coach Kirk Ferentz take a strong stand against COVID-19. Another bold move from the University of Iowa.
07/02/20 — Yesterday and today I listened to the University of Iowa’s updates about how academics will proceed in the classroom during the fall term. The most important observation I can make is that each of the hour-long presentations was about a half-hour long, and largely comprised various administrators reading from texts or PowerPoint slides, while generally conveying no new information. (First UI presentation here; second presentation here.)
Which is not to say that the repetitive messaging was without intent. The primary concern running through all of the official messaging from UI seems to be drilling it into the heads of the students that they are not going to get a cut in pricing no matter what happens. Whether the fall term is cut short or students end up with a full load of virtual classes, they are going to pay full price for that product, with no guarantee that the entire semester won’t be forced online again. (It is of course a sorry state of affairs when otherwise learned people are indistinguishable from grifters and shysters, but such is the state of higher education in America today.)
Following this new pair of redundant pandemic updates, it is also abundantly clear that the only reason these non-interactive presentations are being performed on successive days is to allow administrators to claim that twice as much effort went into community outreach as actually went into community outreach. Anyone who looked at the schedule would be forgiven for thinking that two solid and distinct hours of communication transpired yesterday and today, when in fact about thirty minutes of unique information was presented, about ten of which had any value. (Under illegitimate UI president J. Bruce Harreld, the University of Iowa consistently devotes a great deal of time and effort to faking transparency.)
* From Rylee Wilson at the Daily Iowan we get this report on Wednesday’s briefing: UI to finalize most classroom placements by July 17, some small courses will still be online. Between the presentations themselves and subsequent reporting, one of the more important questions would be how much of the teaching load this fall will actually be conducted in-person. While UI has repeatedly stated that classes over 50 students will be conducted virtually, it is not clear how such quantitative distinctions will be made in practice, and there are now multiple statements from UI administrators that smaller classes may be conducted in a hybrid mode, or online altogether.
From Wilson’s report:
Some classes with less than 50 students will be taught with a hybrid modality of in-person and online learning. [Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education Tanya] Uden-Holman said some lower-priority classes under 50 students may need to be taught online due to space limitations.
However one might calculate 100% of the teaching load in a normal semester at UI, what percentage of that load will be conducted face-to-face this fall, and what percentage will be online? Will there be some students who end up taking a full load of online courses, even if they are also paying for room and board? (Given that classroom assignments have yet to be finalized, and decisions about whether specific courses will be in-person or virtual still seem to be in flux, it is entirely possible that students will have to commit to dorm contracts before they know whether they will have to be physically present on campus to take their classes.)
Emphasis on returning to face-to-face instruction is a constant from Harreld and other UI administrators, and that is clearly being used to limit enrollment falloff by promising the in-class experience. And yet, we don’t really have any idea how much in-class teaching will actually be done. If UI is currently slated to provide 60% or 70% of the fall classes in a virtual setting, wouldn’t that be evidence of willful administrative fraud?
* Also reporting on Wednesday’s briefing, we get this from the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: University of Iowa students’ spring experiences highlight push for campus return.
Results released Wednesday from a UI Pandemic Response Survey — administered to undergraduates during the final two weeks of May — show about 7 percent of the 3,124 respondents who weren’t graduating in the spring or summer either are not returning this fall or aren’t sure about it.
Financial and health concerns were cited as the primary reasons for not returning, with academic-related issues also playing in.
Among the UI undergraduates who said they are planning to come back this fall, almost a quarter said they had health concerns and nearly as many reported financial constraints.
When UI went online in the spring, administrators swore there was no falloff in the quality of instruction because they needed to justify keeping the tuition and fee revenue that students were being charged. Now, heading into the fall, those same administrators are making the case that in-class instruction is better, because they need to justify keeping all of the tuition and fee revenue that students are about to be charged. (When you step back, the lies are so idiotic they’re actually insulting.)
* Faced with the very real risk of infection from teaching in-person classes, a group of UI faculty wrote an open letter to students at Iowa:
Many of your instructors are parents of small children. Some have underlying health conditions. Some are cancer survivors or are currently undergoing treatment for serious illnesses. Others are caretakers for elderly parents or partners. None of us can be certain that we won’t bring COVID-19 home, but many of us have nevertheless committed to returning to the classroom. Now, we also face the uncertain fate of our own careers and livelihoods.
While administrators are dictating terms to all involved, they are also placing the onus of responsibility on faculty, staff and students to prevent outbreaks. Because the best-laid plans will inevitably fail on implementation, it is all but guaranteed that the people who are compelling the relocation of approximately eight million college students nationwide will turn around and blame the victims when outbreaks do occur. Speaking of which….
* From Elissa Nadworthy at NPR: The Wild Card For An In-Person Fall: College Student Behavior.
To keep that from happening, schools have created robust guidelines — but those plans rely on a major wild card: students following the rules.
“That’s the conversation everyone is having right now,” says Anna Song, who studies young adult decision-making at the University of California, Merced. Many college students still have developing brains, so it’s not that they aren’t informed or that they don’t understand the risks — it’s that they’re wired differently. “They are highly sensitized to reward, especially in the context of peers,” she explains. Hanging out with friends is a pretty incredible reward, given that many students have been isolated for months.
When outbreaks occur — and they will — remember that the people who are responsible for those outbreaks are the administrators who compelled everyone back to campus. Negative outcomes are inevitable, but because the people who claim to be the adults in the room are fixated on generating revenue, they don’t care who gets sick or who dies. (Throw in new laws shielding administrators from legal liability, and university presidents can now generate money by killing people.)
* As to why teachers at all levels might prefer not to be exposed to COVID-19, it’s not just the lethal threat posed by the disease. From Pam Belluck at the New York Times: Here’s What Recovery From Covid-19 Looks Like for Many Survivors.
* And speaking of things that administrators at the University of Iowa don’t want to be held responsible for, we have this report from the Gazette’s Miller: University of Iowa ‘will not be liable’ for COVID-19 spread in residence halls.
* From Katherine Perkins, Ben Kieffer & Matthew Alvarez at Iowa Public Radio: Employee And Labor Rights During COVID-19. (Not only is this an informative article, but several years ago J. Bruce Harreld made it his personal mission to kill off the UI Iowa Labor Center and to fire Director Sherer and her small staff.)
* From Kate Payne at Iowa Pubic Radio: Some UI Faculty Raise Concerns Over Budget Cuts, Reopening Plans, As Coronavirus Cases Increase.
* We get the national perspective from Michael T. Nietzel at Forbes: June Brought More Faculty Layoffs And Growing Pushback.
* In an attempt to change the narrative from discrimination to victimization, the University of Iowa Athletic Department announced that a bunch of very rich state employees would take marginal and temporary pay cuts in response to projected revenue losses from the coronavirus pandemic.
> Vanessa Miller at the Gazette: Hawkeye sports shave millions from budget; Ferentz and Barta take pay cuts.
> Robert Read at the Daily Iowan: Iowa AD Gary Barta announces $15 million in budget reductions, plan assumes football and basketball seasons will be played with fans.
While whining from Gary Barta is insufferable at the best of times, now that people are actually dying from COVID-19, and the university is putting people at risk by pushing ahead with the cultural entertainment known as collegiate athletics, it is proof positive that the man simply has no self-awareness.
* As for Barta changing the narrative, that fell apart when another former Hawkeye football player posted additional damning allegations in a Facebook post. (More on that here from the Gazette’s Jeff Johnson.)
* This is a particularly good column from longtime local sports reporter Pat Harty at HawkFanatic: An explanation for how and why Kirk Ferentz allowed this controversy to happen.
* The Gazette’s Michael Ramm takes a look at the recent increase in coronavirus cases in Johnson County: Did protests cause the spike in local COVID-19 cases? Here’s what experts say.
* As to how we get from where we are to where we want to be, there does seem to be a growing consensus that we should protect bartenders and instead expose teachers to COVID-19:
> German Lopez at VOX: Close the bars. Reopen the schools.
> Helen Jenkins and William Hanage from the Washington Post: We can reopen schools in the fall — if we close bars and gyms now.
(Interestingly, none of the people advocating for this shift in policy seem to be K-12 teachers.)
* With regard to local K-12 issues:
> From Natalie Dunlap at the Daily Iowan: Iowa City Community School District Board discusses four models for returning to school.
* Finally, as your reward for pushing through to the end of this legion of links, a moment of pandemic zen: Western Dubuque baseball season suspended by COVID-19 in middle of game against Cedar Rapids Washington.
06/30/20 — As the slate of linked headlines below attests, a lot of higher-ed news dropped over the past few days on a variety of fronts. Before we get to all of that, however, a followup to the first update in this post, which dealt with the back-to-back non-briefings conducted last Wednesday and Thursday by illegitimate University of Iowa president J. Bruce Harreld and administrative sidekick Rod Lehnertz. (You can see press reports about the first of those briefings here from Lillian Poulsen at the Daily Iowan, and here from Vanessa Miller at the Gazette.)
I spent some time this weekend trying to understand why Harreld was espousing a crackpot theory in which “this virus isn’t the same in Iowa as it is in Delaware, or New York, or California”. I thought maybe that was a fringe theory from right-wing websites, or perhaps someone had floated the idea on Fox News, but I couldn’t find anyone else talking along similar lines — and that’s saying something given the spectrum of insanity on social media. What Harreld is asserting is not just crazy, it hails from a frayed fringe of thought about the coronavirus pandemic, and yet he made the same claim on successive days.
While that is obviously problematic for the University of Iowa, and particularly so because it means the school has to defend itself not only from the coronavirus but from the lunatic in the president’s office, I think Harreld’s statements are also problematic for the corrupt Iowa Board of Regents. Specifically, having assertions like that on the record, on video, could be a considerable liability if someone at UI is maimed or killed by COVID-19. Even if the board was confident it would prevail in a subsequent civil suit, do the regents really want this man explaining his crackpot theories in court?
But of course the board itself is also now implicated because Harreld’s statements are in full public view. Either the regents would have to claim they had no idea what Harreld said — meaning they were derelict in their oversight responsibilities — or their silence in response would be interpreted as tacit agreement with Harreld’s ravings. In either case, leaving Harreld in office, in charge of the UI response to COVID-19, would inevitably be seen as bureaucratic complicity, regardless of the rationale the board put forward. And that could end up costing them a great deal of money.
* In terms of buzz, the big story over the past few days was a Facebook post yesterday from former UI football player Akrum Wadley, who described his time with the Hawkeyes as “a living nightmare”. Having just jettisoned former strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle, and passed the responsibility for a follow-up investigation to an outside law firm that will nevertheless be paid by UI and answer to UI, it is a good bet that UI Athletic Director Gary Barta and Head Football Coach Kirk Ferentz thought the heat for past misdeeds was off, but that is clearly not the case. And the fact that all it took was one player speaking up — instead of waiting for an invitation to a private interview from the university’s hand-picked investigators — suggests Ferentz is truly on thin ice.
The obvious problem, however, is that the two people higher than Ferentz on the UI org chart are not only both compromised themselves, but they are gutless. AD Barta discriminated against two women in his department and ended up costing the university $6.5M to settle both suits, after losing one in court. And of course administrators of color have been fleeing central administration at UI since Harreld took office. Because neither man has the fortitude or standing to fire Feretnz, and the Board of Regents won’t get involved, the only practical out would be for Feretnz to resign in exchange for $20M in cash — but why would he do that if he can’t be dislodged? (More on all this from the DI’s Robert Read, Mark Emmert at Hawk Central, and Adam Rittenberg at ESPN.)
* Continuing the football theme, Hawk Central’s Emmert also published an in-depth look at the law firm conducting the ongoing investigation: A look inside the investigation of the Iowa Hawkeye football program.
* Underscoring the degree to which local sports reporters really don’t want to look at the big picture at the University of Iowa, we also have this story from the Gazette’s Erin F. Jordan: Advocates: Double standard in ousters of Chris Doyle and Tracey Griesbaum. (It is more than a little ironic that AD Barta railroaded Griesbaum out of her job by leveling the same kind of accusations that former players are now leveling at the football program.)
* Although Harreld and the Board of Regents are racing to open the UI campus in August, and the athletics department is gearing up for a regular season, the ongoing outbreaks in states like Texas, Florida and Arizona, and the broad increase in cases across most of the United States, are prompting second thoughts at other schools.
> Ray Goedeker at the Scarlet and Black: Grinnell College cancels athletic competition for Fall Term 1.
* From Sarah Watson at the Gazette: Johnson County sees highest single-day coronavirus case increase.
* Katie Ann McCarver at the Daily Iowan: Some Iowa City businesses suspend in-person service once again as COVID-19 cases spike.
* Natalie Dunlap at the DI: University of Iowa prepares to protect thousands of student employees from COVID-19 in fall semester.
* A Little Village LTE from Caleb Klipowicz: TAs are not disposable.
* Speaking of disposable personnel at the University of Iowa, only ten days ago the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) laid off fifteen employees. Since then there has been a fair amount of pushback about those terminations, particularly in light of the financial largesse that the university is showing in other regards. (One big complaint was the $1.3M payout to now-former UI strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle, who left the program under a cloud of allegations that he discriminated against Hawkeye players of color. While athletics and academics keep separate books at Iowa, the optics on that payout were clearly bad.)
It is also worth noting that while the cuts came from CLAS, they have all the hallmarks of J. Bruce Harreld’s bullying practices in the private sector, particularly as revealed in an interview in 2012:
Public hanging of non-performers and culture change resistors was done in order to send a message, but this was done sparingly.
It is quite likely that 15 faculty were fired at CLAS to send a university-wide message: conform, or you will be labeled a culture-change resistor and lose your job. Fortunately, the UI community has a number of concerned and devoted individuals who are aware of Harreld’s duplicities. From a Little Village LTE by Lois Cox, Ann Rhodes and Katherine Tachau: COVID-19 budget cuts are leaving faculty — and education — out to dry.
The budget model that permits Pres. Harreld to disclaim responsibility was adopted only a couple of years ago. Though it may offer advantages in terms of fiscal planning for a large institution, it does not absolve the university administration of its duty to engage in shared governance with the faculty. Sound reasons support the academic imperative that the faculty have the primary role in making decisions about an institution’s educational program, even in times of financial crisis.
Concerns with the recent layoffs don’t end there. From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, today: University of Iowa council for women airs concerns about disproportionate layoffs.
The University of Iowa’s own Council on the Status of Women is airing concerns over the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ commitment to diversity after learning 12 of its 15 layoffs were women — including three women of color, two first-generation college students and at least two single mothers.
As detailed in these virtual pages over the past five years, women and persons of color are routinely marginalized if not driven from UI, while white males who have actually perpetrated ills against the UI community are rewarded. From the athletic program to central administration, the appointment of J. Bruce Harreld — a rich, old white male, who was singularly unqualified for the position he now holds — has ushered in an era of white male supremacy.
To underscore the incoherence if not hypocrisy of the recent CLAS layoffs, and of Harreld’s bleating about revenue losses from the coronavirus pandemic, yesterday the Gazette’s Miller also published this story yesterday: University of Iowa eyes new, upgraded campus signs. While UI is a massive operation, and no money has been committed to this plan, it is worth noting that there have so far been few if any cost-cutting or cost-saving initiatives announced, even as the university is slashing jobs in anticipation of a revenue shortfall from the pandemic. Notably, this is in sharp contrast to the steps Harreld took during a state budget shortfall several years ago, which included a campus-wide construction moratorium designed to conserve cash. Today, however, the pandemic seems to be perceived not as a financial threat, but as an opportunity to cut programs and payroll, particularly for employees from protected classes.
* From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller: University of Iowa nurse recalls ‘low level of dread’ in pandemic’s early days.
* From the Gazette’s Lyz Lenz: ‘Unusable’ coronavirus tests results plague Test Iowa.
* Robert Read at the Daily Iowan: UI Athletics Department reports five positive, 17 negative COVID-19 tests from past week of testing.
* Hannah Smothers at Vice: Over 150 College Athletes Contracted Coronavirus After Being Pressured to Practice.
* Terry Nguyen at Vox: Colleges say campuses can reopen safely. Students and faculty aren’t convinced.
* Jessica Dickler at CNBC: In the wake of Covid-19, college dorm life gets a makeover.
* From Michael D. Smith at the Atlantic: Are Universities Going the Way of CDs and Cable TV?
I honestly can’t think of a single aspect of the modern higher-ed industry that is worth saving. Schools have become resorts instead of academic communities, and even the publics are bleeding students for revenue and crippling them with debt. I have no idea what will replace the current system, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be entirely online. There is tremendous benefit to meeting in person, but not at obscene expense.
At the faculty and staff level, I would encourage academic research and preclude commercial research. If you want to go into business, go into business. If you don’t have the guts — like J. Bruce Harreld didn’t have the guts after he left IBM — I don’t want you imposing your entrepreneurial colonialism on a hostage student body, which you can repeatedly hit with tuition hikes for funding.
06/28/20 — On Wednesday and Thursday of this past week, illegitimate University of Iowa president J. Bruce Harreld and voice-over announcer Rod Lehnertz co-hosted live, hour-long online briefings, ostensibly aimed at updating the UI community about the ongoing development of plans to open the UI campus in the fall. Although those briefings conveyed little or no new information about mitigating the lethal threat of COVID-19, Harreld still made several eye-popping claims that we will detail momentarily. The overarching question to keep in mind as you read this post, however, is whether Harreld made those statements to legitimize his objectively reckless decision to compel in-class instruction during a pandemic, or because he is losing touch with reality.
The first indication that these briefings were performative in nature, as opposed to substantive, came in the initial announcement of the briefing schedule. Although the briefings would be conducted live, not only would questions have to be submitted twenty-four hours in advance, but there would be no opportunity to interact with Harreld or Lehnertz during the briefing. So why have live briefings at all?
The simplest answer is that rambling from an outline for an hour is a lot less work than scripting, shooting and editing a concise and informative video. And that’s particularly true with a diva like Harreld, who enjoys nothing more than expounding on how smart he is. Couple that baseline narcissism with a deceptive bureaucratic sales pitch and Harreld is truly in his element, as he was during both broadcasts.
And yet…even though Harreld decided that he and Lehnertz would perform live, their presentations were not only scripted as to administrative content, but as to byplay, like a drama. Meaning the presentations were not simply performative, but theatrical in intent. But again, we will get to all that in due course….
For future historical context, it is also important to know that after a period of minimal virus activity, new coronavirus cases in Johnson County — which is home to UI — began to climb over the preceding week or so, for reasons that are still not clear. Perhaps the lifting of restrictions on bars and restaurants was a factor, or the commencement of UI football practice in early June, or maybe the protests over the murder of George Floyd played a part. In any event, Harreld and Lehnertz were aware at the time of their briefings that coronavirus cases were starting to climb, and unlike the first wave of infections in Iowa, the demographic largely responsible for that increase was young people. Meaning precisely the age of the students that Harreld would be calling back to the UI campus in the fall. (More on the cause of that increase from CBS2’s Shannon Moudy on 06/24/20, meaning the day of the first live briefing, and from the Gazette’s Michaela Ramm on 06/25/20, meaning the day of the second live briefing.)
Note also that even as cases were suddenly rising in Johnson County, and being driven by the same age demographic that dominates the UI community during the academic year, at this moment the campus is still desolate — meaning things will get exponentially worse when the students do return. Given that set of facts, however, Bro Bruce is still pushing ahead with plans to reopen in August, thus inviting 32,000 students back to Johnson County from all points of the compass. If you wanted to you could not propose a more reckless agenda during a pandemic, and yet that was the entire point of both of the hour-long scripted briefings.
While the advertised topic of the Harreld-Lehnertz briefings was indeed the “presentation of the overall plan” to reopen the UI campus, that plan had already been released — first via multiple emails to campus constituents, then more widely by reporting in the local press. Having now listened to both briefings in their entirety, however, the actual objective seems to have been using them as a mid-pandemic branding and marketing opportunity, with a side helping of Harreld’s toxic ego needs, and a sprinkling of Harreld’s insanity.
Specifically, out of each hour-long briefing Harreld spent the first fourteen minutes or so reprising both prior testimony before the Iowa Board of Regents, and prior comments to the Daily Iowan during his regular interviews with the student paper. After communicating nothing of substance about the “overall plan” to reopen the campus, Harreld then ceded the live-stream each day to Lehnertz, who concluded the majority of each briefing largely by reciting additional information that had previously been released by the school. In sum, I think there were five or six specific questions about the “overall plan” that were primarily answered by Lehnertz, yet even the majority of those had been previously addressed in official communications.
The reality of the back-to-back briefings is that the bulk of the blather was devoted to painting the University of Iowa in a good light. Take out the superlatives, the marketing hype, the scripted, self-congratulatory byplay and all of the information that had previously been disclosed, and in each hour there was probably three or four minutes that was worth listening to — and that’s being generous. And of course if you’re going to paint the university in a good light, you might also paint J. Bruce Harreld in a good light, even if you’re J. Bruce Harreld and have to do that yourself.
As has become a staple for Harreld over the past year or so, he once again took particular and repeated pains to implicitly compare himself to legendary UI president Sandy Boyd, which was and is as pathetic as it sounds. Not only was Sandy Boyd president during my first year of college, but my family had ties to the school for much of his twelve-year tenure as president. To paraphrase former Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen, who famously roasted former Indiana Senator Dan Quayle during a vice-presidential debate in 1988, J. Bruce Harreld is no Sandy Boyd. (Harreld’s fixation on Boyd is all the more pathetic precisely because no one other than Harreld makes that comparison, and no one ever will. Where Boyd repeatedly showed up, in person, to lead the campus during times of enormous cultural strike, Harreld’s signature move is disappearing when the heat is on — as he did recently during social unrest over the death of George Floyd, and following allegations of racial discrimination in the UI football program, which Harreld has still not addressed.)
At around the 13 to 14 minute mark on both days Harreld ceded the stream to Lehnertz, who promptly launched into a thirty-minute PowerPoint loaded with more thanks, more history, more superlatives and more hype, all designed to sell the magnificence of the university to people who already attend or work there. (You can’t take the weasel out of a marketing weasel.) While conveying copious amounts of information that had already been released, Lehnertz also answered a few general questions while ceding the floor back to Harreld for various self-serving or ego-driven observations. Lather, rinse repeat, and in less than an hour on each day the otherwise pointless live briefings were successfully concluded to no actual benefit.
And yet…along the way, and particularly from Bro Bruce, there were a number of concerning pronouncements that do deserve notice. For example, at the 6:22 mark on the first day, Harreld accused other higher-ed institutions around the country, including Iowa’s peer institutions, of being “lemmings” in their response to the coronavirus pandemic. Not only was that broadside implicitly self-serving, but even as Harreld was clearly speaking in his capacity as the illegitimate president of the University of Iowa, he also repeatedly stated that what he was saying was “just me” — suggesting that his position was not shared by other UI administrators, or perhaps even by Lehnertz. (Proving that his pugnacious point was not a fluke, Harreld came right back to it the next day.)
Whatever you think of J. Bruce Harreld, he is not a stupid man. He may be a liar, a cheat, or even deranged, but when he rants about how other institutions are mindlessly copying each other, while UI is thinking things through, he knows full well that the decision to open any campus in the fall is antithetical to human health. Moreover, because schools were vacated when the pandemic first hit the U.S., there is not and cannot be any evidence which suggests that opening a major university during a pandemic is a good idea, yet condescending Bro Bruce is all-in on doing just that. It’s the worst kind of intellectual hypocrisy, yet Harreld doesn’t bat an eye in placing blame while excusing himself. Everyone else is stupid, UI is smart, and J. Bruce Harreld insists he can find a safe way to bring 32K+ students together on a college campus during a lethal pandemic.
After denigrating the entire higher-ed industry, Harreld followed that up on the first day with a bizarre pronouncement that I guarantee you have never heard from any expert who is trying to fight COVID-19. From the 7:33 mark on 06/24:
Well, the one thing I’ve learned from a lot of our professionals on the CIMT [Crisis Incident Management Team] during this period, is — is this virus…is not the same, coast to coast. It’s not even the same in Iowa. Iowa does not have one pattern. And I think one of the smart things Iowa did was broke up Iowa into different regions, and started to think about ’em [in] different regions.
Now if that strikes you as nutty, that’s because it is nutty. What does Harreld mean by “one pattern”? I have no idea, but I can say with some confidence that COVID-19 doesn’t care about whatever patterns Harreld perceives, real or imagined. The virus in one part of Iowa is the same as the virus in other parts of Iowa, or across the country and around the world. More importantly, the tools we have for fighting that virus in any location are identical and blunt, and on that point every expert agrees.
Proving that what Harreld said on Wednesday was not a momentary lapse of sanity, he returned to the same point the next day, at the 6:48 mark on 06/25:
We need to pause and understand that this virus isn’t the same in Iowa, as it is in Delaware, or New York, or California. In fact, even in Iowa, um, it’s different in one region and in the next, so we need to think through what’s important and critical for us, and how we manage these reopening issues uniquely for us — not for some other institution somewhere else across the country.
If Harreld simply wanted to make the point that each academic institution will have to tailor its plans to its specific circumstances, no one would object. But that is obviously not what Harreld said on either day, and the fact that he expanded on the subject twenty-four hours later makes clear that the president of the University of Iowa — an R1/AAU public research university with a budget of $4B — is out of his mind. (Indeed, while watching the far-away look in Harreld’s eyes, as he described how the virus is different in different parts of the country, my mind kept flashing on Jack D. Ripper’s famous discourse about precious bodily fluids.)
Even if Harreld was trying (and badly failed) to make some granular point about slight variations in the SARS-CoV-2 genome, which inevitably develop over time, there is no difference in how the virus must be confronted by humanity. Fighting COVID-19 requires social distancing above all else, with additional defenses such as masks or face shields when social interactions cannot be avoided. Indeed, the very fact that Harreld is calling everyone back to the UI campus in August only underscores Harreld’s derangement, because doing so violates the first tenet of that prescription. (Unfortunately, the chain of crony corruption in Iowa is so strong that it would not matter if Harreld believed the coronavirus pandemic was caused by fluoridation. The regents will never remove Harreld from office, even if his crackpot theories about COVID-19 put people in the hospital or get people killed.)
A bit later, at the 8:46 mark on the first day, Harreld lapsed into yet another self-aggrandizing anecdote that has quickly become a staple for explaining what a thoughtful guy he really is. That is of course the story of how he came to realize that the concern he should focus on during the pandemic was keeping people safe — which really shouldn’t be much of an epiphany if you have any capacity for sympathy and empathy. And yet, Harreld not only believes that to be a powerful example of his capacity for intellectual and philosophical exploration, but he once again also ignored the obvious fact that if he was really concerned about safety first, he wouldn’t be opening the campus and exposing students, faculty and staff to the risk of illness and death. (One recurrent problem with Harreld’s lies is that they only hold up if you ignore reality.)
This in turn led to the following claim by Harreld at the 10:27 mark, which he did not bother to substantiate — but then again, how could he?
There are a lot of examples of institutions who have taken a lot of care, and going through a lot of details, on how they reopened – safely.
Really? Well that’s certainly wonderful news, but…what institutions is Harreld taking about? Well, Harreld did not say on the first day, or on the second day, and will probably never say because none of the institutions he might point to would be academic institutions in the United States. And we know that because all of the schools and colleges in the U.S. have been closed since the pandemic hit in early spring, and even outside the U.S. schools are struggling in countries that have done a much better job of mitigating the virus. (At this very moment the U.S. is now also going backwards in half our states or more, making it likely that any of the institutions Harreld was alluding to are also faltering as well.)
Following a few more minutes of primping, posing and rambling, Harreld turned the presentation over to Rod Lehnertz, who immediately began thanking people himself, and repeating things Harreld had said, or that had otherwise already been communicated to the UI community. Still, between reading the slides in his PowerPoint and reciting upcoming schedules instead of answering pertinent questions, Lehnertz did make a few ridiculous statements himself, albeit nothing close to the lunacy exhibited by his boss. For example, at the 17:25 mark you can hear Rod claim that Iowa has “always been touted as a strong university with respect to shared governance”. And that’s hilarious because Iowa was sanctioned by the AAUP for two years for violating shared governance as a result of the rigged 2015 search that led to Harreld’s corrupt appointment. And Lehnertz knows that.
After five different history lessons about UI, and about what happened back in the spring, Lehnertz did break a bit of news by announcing, at the 29:47 mark, that any students who have underlying vulnerabilities should contact Student Disability Services, which has no money and a small staff that will be overrun by concerns and requests for help. And Lehnertz also knows that. (I don’t even know if UI Student Health can keep up with the issues that will inevitably follow from opening the campus, and I think it is inevitable that mental health services will be overwhelmed — particularly given constraints on counseling.)
To grasp the degree to which the entire presentation was scripted, at the 31:38 mark on the first day Rod Lehnertz explained why classes would be going online after Thanksgiving. However, when Lehnetrz finished and moved on to the next bullet point, Harreld jumped in around the 32:26 mark to explain why classes would also be starting at the previously scheduled time in August, instead of moving up a week with Iowa State and Northern Iowa. In making that apparently impromptu explanation, Harreld asserted — again, without any substantiation — that he decided not to move up the start date for the semester because “a number of students” have “summer internships or summer jobs”, and ol’ Brucey did not want to complicate their lives.
Setting aside the fact that students at ISU and UNI probably also have summer internships and summer jobs — meaning the basis for Harreld’s decision making is idiotic on its face — it is probably also true that Harreld spoke to very few students, if perhaps only one student, or maybe zero students, and instead made that decision for other reasons. (The most obvious reason would be money, and particularly the profit he might generate by limiting the duration of in-class instruction while still charging full price for the entire term.) In any event, flash forward to the 35:24 mark on the second day, and to Lehnertz making the same explanation from the same slide, and once again Harreld jumps in (around the 36:20 mark) as if he just realized he had something to say.
As it was on the first day it is complete theater, though this time it comes with a subtle rewrite because Harreld adds “working on the farm” to his earlier concerns about summer employment. (It’s so hokey and pure-Harreld that it’s hilarious, yet that pandering addition also cripples his argument even more. However many UI students there are working on farms, there are ten times that many at Iowa State, and ISU is still starting a week early.)
The entire one-hour live-stream on the first day, Wednesday, lasted about forty-five minutes, meaning Harreld and Lehnertz could have answered additional questions or otherwise made use of that scheduled time, but they weren’t there to have a conversation or even to educate the campus. They were there to sell their half-baked, quarter-formulated plan to open the campus in August, and once they plowed through all of their scripted material they didn’t have anything else to say. Except for Harreld….who added this at the 44:10 mark on Wednesday, as the curtain was coming down:
Typically the virus…uh, uh — the virus…the flu…does spike, early — early…I don’t know what early is — in the February-March time frame, for Iowa.
As ever I make no claim to know what is wrong with Harreld’s brain, mind or both, but when you’re the president of a public research institution and you make a declarative statement like this, you’re supposed to know what the hell you are talking about. And clearly Harreld does not know, because flu season in Iowa can show up any time starting in October or November, and there can even be overlapping spikes of different influenza strains in a single winter. Does Harreld just make crap up to suit his momentary agenda, or does he hear a fact one day then remember half of it the next? Again, I don’t know, but this is the man who is making life-and-death decisions about how to protect the UI community from a global pandemic.
With few exceptions — again amounting to a few minutes at most — the live presentation that Harreld and Lehnertz gave on the second day was no different from the presentation they gave on the first. One very welcome divergence did occur at the 46:47 mark on the second day, however, when Bro Bruce finally confirmed that he will co-teach the President’s Leadership Class. If Harreld’s reckless decision making is going to put students, faculty and staff at risk, then he needs to be exposed to those same risks himself.
The second-day running time stretched to a whopping fifty-five minutes, almost filling the hour, and yet — as repeatedly noted — there were only a handful of differences in the material that was covered. That in turn brings us back to an earlier point, which is not only why these ‘virtual updates’ were conducted live, but why there were two. Given that there was no interaction with viewers, and the presentation from the first day was posted online before the presentation on the second day, what was the point of the second presentation?
The only answer I can come up with is that Harreld and Lehnertz conducted two nearly identical presentations simply so they could later claim — perhaps when their plans disintegrate and the UI campus turns into a hotbed of coronavirus activity — that they did twice the outreach they actually did. And to be honest they will probably get away with making that claim even though the presentations are largely redundant, because almost no one other than me will ever watch both.
Having said that, it is important to stress that whatever responsibility Rod Lehnertz has for events on the UI campus during the upcoming academic year — and by extension in Iowa City and Johnson County — he is not calling the shots. In the end, whether Lehnertz is a decent person or another menace, he answers to Harreld, and it is with Harreld that responsibility lies.
Unfortunately, even now we already know — definitively — that Harreld is not up to the task of protecting either the university or the surrounding communities. To see why, note that during a normal academic year the students at the three state campuses show up in late August, then almost immediately get a break when Labor Day rolls around. In fact, back in the day the first day of classes often occurred in the middle of the preceding week, meaning the first week was only three days, followed by the three-day Labor Day weekend, then a four-day second week. Over the years, however, the start date at all three schools was advanced to the Monday before Labor Day, and because Labor Day is always on the first Monday in September that meant at least one full week of classes before the three-day weekend and four-day week second week.
Because September 1st is a Tuesday this year, that means the original academic schedules at all three school included two full weeks of classes before the three-day Labor Day weekend — which, in the context of a global pandemic was obviously a recipe for disaster. Not only would there have been two weeks in which to foster community spread on the state campuses, and throughout the surrounding municipalities, but any infected students who then went home for Labor Day or to their favorite vacation destinations would take COVID-19 with them, and uninfected students might pick up the virus on their trips. And of course that is precisely why all three of the regent universities have already adopted strategies to prevent the same kind of travel disaster following Thanksgiving. (ISU and UNI are ending their semesters after Thanksgiving, while UI is going online for the final three weeks of the term.)
Along with advancing their semesters an additional week to compensate for lopping off the back end of the fall term, however, both Iowa State and Northern Iowa made another interesting change to their schedules. In order to disincentivize travel over the Labor Day weekend, both programs will hold classes on Labor Day itself. [ISU notice here; UNI schedule here.]
So would you care to guess which of the three state schools won’t be holding classes on Labor Day — thus encouraging students to do what they usually do and bug out for home or to a favorite vacation spot, after two weeks of classes? If you guessed the University of Iowa, you’re right!
Only at UI — where just this week the megalomaniacal president railed about “lemming” schools, and copycat administrators who fail to think for themselves — will students have a three-day Labor Day weekend after spending two full weeks getting acquainted, both on campus and off. Only at UI — which draws tens of thousands of students from across the state, and almost six thousand students from nearby Chicago and greater Illinois — will students be incentivized to hit the road, either picking up a virus they didn’t have or taking one with them. Only at UI — where central administration fancies itself a trailblazer in COVID-19 mitigation — has the president of that august institution failed to plug this gaping pandemic hole, even as he touts his decision to end in-class instruction after Thanksgiving in order to prevent travel-related infections and outbreaks.
To understand how completely overmatched J. Bruce Harreld is by the life-and-death historical moment he finds himself in, if you have not followed this blog closely you may believe Harreld was once the CEO of a major corporation, when the truth is he was never the CEO of anything. You may also think Harreld has a PhD in one discipline or another, when the reality is that he topped out with a Harvard MBA. You may even assume that he must have practiced what he preaches by starting and running a few business at some point, but after he left IBM he spent the next seven years as a part-time lecturer at the Harvard School of Business. (When he was hired at UI, even Harreld himself acknowledged that he would need “coaching” and “mentoring” to do the job — and he did, and he still does.)
The reason J. Bruce Harreld was appointed to the presidency at the University of Iowa had nothing to do with his pedestrian accomplishments in the private sector, or with his run-of-the-mill academic achievements, and everything to do with the fact that he was the little pal of a very rich Iowa alumnus, who was himself a CEO multiple times over. Like the senior executive Harreld had always been, he was hired by the Iowa Board of Regents to do whatever they told him to do, and what the board wanted him to do more than anything was to squeeze every drop of revenue that he could out of UI. And to Harreld’s credit, from day one he tackled that problem with zeal, albeit primarily by brutalizing students with tuition hikes year after year.
Even as the pandemic rages, and Harreld devotes precious time to comparing himself to Sandy Boyd, what he explicitly intends to do is to put the UI students, faculty and staff at risk in order to generate as much revenue as possible. Harreld will accomplish that not only by driving enrollment as high as possible, and compelling the students back to campus, but by using the pandemic as a cynical excuse to cut programs and payroll, further eroding the academic reputation of the school. Driven by his toxic ego needs and lack of any qualifications relevant to the current life-critic context, Harreld will continue to profess — if not actually believe — that he knows how to safely navigate the pandemic, while other universities mindlessly follow each other like “lemmings”.
And yet having now read this post you know that’s not the case. An unqualified if not deluded man is at the helm of the University of Iowa, and he is going to make a lot of people sick in the coming months. If we are lucky — and we have no right to expect that we will be — he won’t end up killing one or more members of the UI community.