In the previous post we adopted fairness as the sole standard by which we would judge the election of J. Bruce Harreld to be the next president of the University of Iowa. We also noted different dodges that Iowa Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter, and acting University of Iowa President Jean Robillard, have been using to explain their preferential treatment of Harreld during the search process, and that their arguments always lead away from or obscure the question of fairness.
So. How do you steal an election? Well, if you’re Robillard, and you’re the chair of the search committee, and you’re Rastetter, and you’re also on the search committee, the first thing you have to do is corrupt the selection process. If you can’t get your candidate — freelance business consultant Harreld — through to the full Board of Regents, which Governor Terry Branstad has thoughtfully packed with political cronies for just such an occasion, then you can’t elect your stooge.
Though I know nothing about hiring anybody for anything, I’m reasonably sure that institutions like the Board of Regents and the University of Iowa hire people all the time, and as a result have mature guidelines and procedures for doing so. And in among all those mature policies I’m guessing there are a lot of do’s and don’t’s, and people on staff who are well-versed in those do’s and don’t’s, including some people called lawyers whose job it is to make sure the do’s happen and the don’t’s don’t. Because the last thing anyone wants in the middle of making a hire is for the appearance of impropriety, let alone actionable impropriety, to rear its ugly head.
Because I’m naive to such things, however, and cannot draw on real-life experience in this post, we’re going to do the next best thing, or the best thing if you prefer fiction to nonfiction. That’s right — we’re going to join an imaginary search committee fraught with the same aggressive recruiting and meticulous due diligence that tormented Robillard and Rastetter during their epic struggle to catch, land, and mount J. Bruce Harreld over the black-and-gold Iowa mantel.
So let’s pretend we’re members of a twenty-one person search committee in a parallel universe, which also happens to be looking for a new university president. I’ll play the part of Bruno Ratsnest, the head of the Board of Regency, which will elect the new president from four finalists chosen by the committee. You’ll be Jacque Bobblehead, the acting president of the university, and because of your loyalty to the regency you get the chair.
Although there are nineteen other members on the committee, because we represent and control both the regency and the university, and have access to crack staffers and legal teams at each institution, we decide to take the lead and do everything we can to conduct a fair search that meets not only every legal requirement, but every ethical test that might leave us vulnerable to the dreaded appearance of impropriety. We’ll not only do that from our point of view as aggressive recruiters, but from the perspective of meticulous candidates doing due diligence. Whatever happens, the one thing we will be sure of is that we are prepared for any eventuality.