Thursday, January 25, 2007

UI President Search Held Hostage Day 70 - Jan. 25

Jan. 25, 1:30 p.m., 3:40 p.m., 4:20 p.m., 8:45 p.m. (additional links)

Today's Most Significant Story

What is in some ways the most significant story in this morning's papers is found, not in an Iowa paper, but in the Albuquerque Tribune.

Why is that? What could it possibly be about?

What it's about is the best way to run a university's presidential search. (Susie Gran, "UNM finalists are doers, shakers, colleagues say," linked below.) [Links to additional of today's stories will be added later.]

The University of New Mexico is also looking for a new president. (And one item of interest for us is that our own Meredith Hay is among the finalists.)

But note what else.

The New Mexico Regents have run an open process.

They've now announced the names of the five finalists.

There will be on-campus interviews.

And not only are the finalists' names revealed, but much of their background as well -- what the Tribune calls their "baggage and bragging rights." And let me tell you, there's no sugar coating on the former. There are quotes from individuals at their present institutions regarding "the good, the bad and the ugly" about each. (Our own Shelly Kurtz had nice things to say about Meredith.)

All in all, it's about as far as one could get from the "confidentiality" surrounding our Regents-run (into the ground) Search I.

And they're not waiting a year to do it. The University of New Mexico is not "held hostage."

Moreover, there is significant faculty participation (and a Faculty Committee on Governance; something we don't have; not the committee, a rational working governance model):

"John Geissman, chairman of the UNM Faculty Committee on Governance . . . said the faculty will prepare a list of questions for the finalists to answer during campus interviews, which regents President Jamie Koch said will be arranged quickly. Regents want to name a new president in March. In the meantime, Geissman said he hopes UNM faculty with colleagues at the finalists' institutions will gather information about the candidates and scrutinize their performance."

Hopefully, our Search Committee II will have actually done some work by March (its first meeting is tomorrow, to plan its work) -- over a year after we knew we would have to find a successor to David Skorton. By that time New Mexico will already have its president -- possibly someone we could have had in 2006.

I urge every Regent, every member of our Search Committee II, to read that Tribune article and then, during a moment of silence pray that we can do half as well.

Oops, I Forgot Our Anniversary!

Did you ever forget your anniversary. What an embarrassment that is! Well, that's kind of how I'm feeling today.

Did you forget, too?

It was this last Sunday, January 21.

Surely you remember the date. That was the day, one year ago this month, that the University of Iowa community, and its Board of Regents, were put on notice that we would have to find a new UI president. See Franklin Crawford, "Cardiologist, computer scientist, jazz musician: David J. Skorton named Cornell's 12th president," Cornell University Chronicle Online, Jan. 21, 2006.

It's too painful to recount what a gem of a guy he was, and how I feel about our own Board of Regents contributing to his departure and resulting body blow to the University. And besides this is a "family blog" that we need to keep fit for children to read.

But it is worthwhile to recall the date, and to realize that, while I give the Regents the benefit of the doubt by saying this is only "Day 70" of the UI Held Hostage, it is, in fact Day 369. And, in that connection, I might note that the Crawford article, linked above, reveals that Cornell's recruitment was a "six-month search."

New Mexico. Cornell. What is it about Iowa?

The Elephant

This is a picture of the elephant in our park

This is a picture of the elephant in our board room

Michael Gartner has many redeeming qualities, not the least of which is his ability as a writer, a matter I've commented about before. (See "In Praise of Michael Gartner" in Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search XV," December 15, 2006.)

But his role as a collegial member of the Board of Regents, and his relationship with the University of Iowa, has left a good deal to be desired in the judgment of the UI faculty, staff, and students -- the organizations of all of which have independently passed -- in what I assume is unprecedented action -- resolutions of "no confidence" in the "Regents' leadership" (a euphemism for "Michael Gartner").

His term as president of the Regents runs into 2008; his term as a Regent until 2012.

Governor Culver shows no signs of pressing for his resignation. Culver's efforts to find regents to replace the four whose terms have expired (or, in the case of Tom Bedell, resigned -- in part because of Gartner) will be the first test of others' willingness to work with Gartner.

And what of potential presidential candidates? Is it not a disqualifying item if they have (a) not bothered even to inform themselves of this tension between the University and the "Regents leadership"? (b) What if they have inquired, and are informed, but are willing to serve anyway? Don't they need to be asked, "Why?" Are they just in it for the money -- a raise substantially above what they are now earning? (c) If they are unconcerned because they have a solution in mind, shouldn't they be asked to share that with us?

And don't we have to consider the possibility that we're confronting something similar to Mark Twain's and Groucho Marx' observation that, "I don't want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member"? Might it be the case that we don't want as UI president anyone who would be willing to serve under these conditions?

Just a thought.

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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 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

Susie Gran, "UNM finalists are doers, shakers, colleagues say," Albuquerque Tribune, January 25, 2007

Kurt Hiatt and Ashton Shurson, "UI May Lose Another Official," The Daily Iowan, January 25, 2007

Erin Jordan, "Retirees' perks at U of I spark yeas and nays; Some of the 160 who benefit receive office space and free parking," Des Moines Register, January 25, 2007

Diane Heldt, "Regent resignation finally accepted; Tensions over UI presidential search led to departure," The Gazette, January 25, 2007

Zack Kucharski, "Judge: UI must pay fraternity; $127,700 judgment also names state, UI official," The Gazette, January 25, 2007

Brian Morelli, "UI VP a Finalist for New Mexico," Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 25, 2007


State29, "The Open Process," January 25, 2007

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I bet the New Mexico doesn't have a Borad of Regents, whose head has a personality disorder.