Tuesday, January 23, 2007

UI President Search Held Hostage Day 68 - Jan. 23

Jan. 23, 10:30 a.m., 1:00 p.m.

As predicted, the news this morning is that the additional UI Presidential Search II Committee members have been rounded up and the Regents are going to meet this afternoon at 4:00 p.m. (by telephone) to discuss whether to approve them or not.

(The meeting notice, dated January 22, and the agenda for that meeting, are now available from the Regents' Web site. Indeed, they may have been there yesterday at 5:00 p.m., when I said in the update of yesterday's blog that I couldn't find them. If that was the case I apologize for the error.)

This morning's stories in the Daily Iowan, Des Moines Register, Gazette, and Iowa City Press-Citizen -- along with a Press-Citizen editorial about the Legislature's review of Iowa's open meetings and public records laws -- are linked below.

Search Committee Issues

1. Who is -- and is not -- on Search Committee II? Now that the decision has been made to add seven rather than six to the original five (plus the chair) the Committee can no longer be referred to as "Regent Gartner and the Twelve Disciples." But it is still, at 13, exactly half the size that former Search Committee Chair, Jon Carlson, recommended. (See Nicholas Johnson, "UI Presidential Search Held Hostage Day 65 - Jan. 20," January 20, 2007.)

So what can be said about who is, and is not, represented? There seems to be a disproportionate number of those who are, in one way or another, representative of the sciences. The chair is dean of the College of Dentistry. The additional seven include an assistant to the vice president for research, professors of engineering, epidemiology, physiology and biophysics, and as the "student representative" a graduate student in biomedical engineering. The earlier five included professors of internal medicine and psychology. "Business" is represented in the persons of a finance professor and a former Maytag executive.

Which stakeholder groups are not so generously represented? There are no representatives from the UI's host community, Iowa City, as such. (Search I included the Iowa City mayor.) The University necessarily impacts on the community, its various governmental bodies, business and other local organizations -- up to and including its physical intrusion on historic neighborhoods. Any UI president should be someone who is knowledgeable about, and able to work with, a diversity of off-campus interests. Especially if the Regents and Committee follow through with their threat to grant confidentiality to any candidate who requests it -- thereby eliminating any on-campus interviews -- it will be very difficult even to educate the candidates about, let alone evaluate their ability to work with, the community.

Early rumors were that there might end up being no student representative on the Committee. It's possible the reason there are now seven, instead of six, to be added is because the six were on board before the Committee (and chair) reversed field and decided (perhaps because even Regents were complaining about the absence of students) that one should be added. In any event, there is now a graduate student proposed to be added. But there will be no undergraduate representative. Given the fact that undergraduates represent by all odds the majority share of the 30,000 students on campus, and given the issues they have with the University's administration that are distinguishable from those of every other stakeholder group, this would seem to be a major oversight.

The University is known internationally for its Iowa Writers Project and International Writers Program. Although there is to be an English professor on the Committee, he is not known to be associated with, or a representative of, those programs.

And speaking of "international," the University expresses interest from time to time in its international students, preparing students for a global society and economy, teaching additional foreign languages, and so forth. I'm unaware of anyone on the Committee representing those interests.

One could go on and on with this listing.

The point is that much more weight probably should have been given to Jon Carlson's observations about the value of larger search committees. The University of Iowa is a vast and sprawling institution with hundreds of programs and thousands of professionals. Whether from the standpoint of those interests, or from the legitimate need of candidates to be as fully informed as possible about the University, or the ability to tap "networks" of professionals around the country for possible candidates or evaluations of those we are considering, or simply having the pool of persons available to do the heavy lifting associated with a search, we're handicapping ourselves with this relatively small committee.

2. Who's calling the shots? Regents' President Michael Gartner has been quoted by Diane Heldt (as has been before) as saying, "I said to the dean, 'Do what you think is best.'" Maybe nobody cares, or even though they care they have no need or right to know, but the selection of the search committee members has occurred under as heavy a veil of secrecy as the selection of a UI president during the process of Search Committee I. What was the role of Gartner, or other individual regents, or some Board of Regents policy, or wish, arrived at in secret, and passed along to Dean Johnsen, either directly or by way of Interim President Fethke -- whether specific names or broad brush strokes of categories from which representatives would be drawn? What was Fethke's role? We'll never know.

3. What's next? Brian Morelli quotes Steve Collins (a former presidential search committee chair) as saying, "You get into trouble by not having a process laid out." He indicates that process needs to include, Morelli says, "strategies for identifying candidates, deciding how to narrow the pool, how to ensure diversity in the pool and whether to include on-campus interviews." And speaking of on-campus interviews, Regent Downer is urging that the Regents should at least discuss the requests and suggestions of the Iowa Ombudsperson -- until now somewhere between ignored and rebuffed by the Regents.
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[Note: If you're new to this blog, and interested in the whole UI President Search story, these blog entries begin with Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search I," November 18, 2006.
Wondering where the "UI Held Hostage" came from? Click here. For any given entry, links to the prior 10 will be found in the left-most column. Going directly to FromDC2Iowa.Blogspot.com will take you to the latest. Each contains links to the full text of virtually all known media stories and commentary, including mine, since the last blog entry. Together they represent what The Chronicle of Higher Education has called "one of the most comprehensive analyses of the controversy." The last time there was an entry containing the summary of prior entries' commentary (with the heading "This Blog's Focus on Regents' Presidential Search") is Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search XIII -- Last Week," December 11, 2006. My early proposed solution to the conflict is provided in Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search VII: The Answer," November 26, 2006. And the fullest collection of basic documents related to the search is contained in Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search - Dec. 21-25," December 21, 2006 (and updated thereafter), at the bottom of that blog entry under "References". A _______________ Blog Index of entries on all subjects since June 2006 (updated January 17, 2007) is also available.]

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Media Stories and Commentary

Terry McCoy, "Regents to Vote on Search Panel Today," Daily Iowan, January 23, 2007

Erin Jordan, "No regents nominated for U of I panel; The group that will conduct the university's presidential search apparently won't have any undergrads, either," Des Moines Register, January 23, 2007

Diane Heldt, "Proposed additions leave out undergrad; Regents board today will consider 7 new committee members," The Gazette, January 23, 2007

Editorial, "Time to Review the State's Open Meeting Laws," Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 23, 2007

Brian Morelli, "Regent, undergrad not on list; Regents may finalize search group today," Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 23, 2007


Straight Out of the Cornfield (David Goodner), "Exclusion of undergraduates from prez search committee is unfortunate, undemocratic,"
January 23, 2007


David Johnsen, "Presidential Search Update" [e-mail to University Community], January 22, 2006, 4:52 p.m.

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