Tuesday, April 10, 2007

UI Held Hostage Day 444 - April 10 "In Infamy"

April 10, 8:15 a.m.

Another Presidential Search Update for Candidates Reading this Blog

"April 10, 2007, a date which will live in infamy."

Why, you ask, is the 444th day the Board of Regents holds the University of Iowa in captivity without a president a date of note, let alone one worthy of borrowing President Roosevelt's characterization of December 7, 1941?

Do you recall why many of the entries in this blog are headed "UI Held Hostage Day nnn"? (If not, read Nicholas Johnson, "UI Held Hostage" in "UI President Search - Jan. 1-7," January 1, 2007.) It's a play on "the Iranian Hostage Crisis." As the online "Jimmy Carter Library & Museum" begins its description of the story, "The Hostage Crisis in Iran,"
On November 4, 1979, Iranian militants stormed the United States Embassy in Tehran and took approximately seventy Americans captive. This terrorist act triggered the most profound crisis of the Carter presidency and began a personal ordeal for Jimmy Carter and the American people that lasted 444 days.
For the University of Iowa, the date was January 21, 2006. That was the day 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.

"Black Friday" was November 17, 2006. That was the day the Regents rejected all four finalists from their own search committee, called off the search, fired their committee members, and refused to say what they were going to do next. (For background commentary and links to news stories, see Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search I," November 18, 2006.) But the day the Regents seized the university was the day they knew that David Skorton was leaving and that they would have to find a new UI president. And that day was January 21, 2006.

And today?

Today is "UI Held Hostage Day 444."

These days it takes less than two weeks to find, hire and put in place a first rate basketball coach. It even takes less than two weeks to resolve a 2007 "Iranian Hostage Crisis" and bring 15 British troops home from their Iranian captivity.

And yet today, in 2007, it is still taking our Board of Regents longer to find a president for our university than it took the American government to get our hostages out of Iran over 25 years ago.

Oh, yes, dear candidates, you should also know that we're having a little trouble with our legislature on these matters, too. Governor Culver's four appointees for Regents' vacancies -- two Democrats and two Republicans -- all praised by the legislature's Republican leadership at the time they were nominated, are now in trouble. Democrats control the Iowa Senate, with 30 of the 50 Senators, but they need, and don't have, 34 to approve appointments. The Republicans threaten to use their votes to block either one, or all four, of the new Regents.

Why? "To make a point." And what point might that be? They have found a sudden need for a Regent who is a medical doctor, an academic, and who lives in Western Iowa. See Associated Press, "GOP leaders say 1 nominee doomed; Senators will reject regent candidate to make a point," Iowa City Press-Citizen, April 10, 2007 ("'In fact, immediately after they were nominated, Sen. Lundby praised the four appointees for being qualified and outstanding Iowans,' [Governor Culver's spokesperson Brad] Anderson said. 'It appears she has changed her tune for partisan, political reasons, and that's disappointing.'")

"[Senate GOP Leader Mary] Lundby said her caucus members are concerned that the current regent selections would counter a long-standing tradition that at least one regent be a medical doctor. Republicans also believe at least one regent should have strong academic credentials, and they are not willing to wait until the next round of appointments to get a western Iowa representative, she said." Rod Boshart, "GOP insists on new nominee; Governor rejects ultimatum on naming west Iowan to regents," The Gazette, April 10, 2007, p. 1A.

Senator Lundby, whose skills as an archeologist had gone unappreciated prior to her uncovering this "long-standing tradition," is from Marion, deep in the heart of eastern Iowa.

The Iowa Republicans' standard is a very hard one to meet in rural, western Iowa. For starters, while the people are among the best folks on earth, there are more hogs and cattle than people of any kind over there. There's a doctor shortage, not a surplus. And with no medical schools, even fewer doctors who are academics. Iowa's need is to place more doctors in western Iowa, not to remove one for the Board of Regents.

To the extent this involves agricultural, rather than geographical, issues the Governor has provided as Regent-nominees one who is president of the Iowa Farm Bureau, one who is a graduate of Iowa's agricultural university (Iowa State), and another who owns (but does not live on) a farm in western Iowa. But, of course, none is an academic with an M.D. degree, so I guess they don't count.

Meanwhile, candidates for UI president, while you may never have a full Board of Regents to deal with, at least you will still have Regents President Michael Gartner. He's not going anywhere -- especially not to western Iowa.

Speaking of which, retiring blogger J.D. Mendenhall may have the best idea yet for resolving our hostage crisis. As he wrote, while waving goodbye, "I wish Michael Gartner would just name himself President of UI and get it over with." J.D. Mendenhall, "My Farewell Blog Post," JD's Blog Bites, April 8, 2007.

Ah, but I don't want you, gentle candidate, to be the "One [who] Flew Over the Cockoo's Nest" on your way to a university presidency elsewhere. I have good news for you as well.

Be reassured that you're not going to have to provide the university all that much leadership. We did pretty well in the latest U.S. News & World Report's rankings with no permanent president at all: 21 graduate programs in the nation's top 10 for their category. Just stay out of the faculty's way, and they'll end up making you look like a great university president. Editorial, "Rudderless UI sails on with high academics," Iowa City Press-Citizen, April 5, 2007.

And this morning's news is that Iowa City -- which is where you will get to live, after all, rather than Des Moines or western Iowa -- has once again received accolades -- as the Press-Citizen's outstanding journalist, Hieu Pham (who's all over today's front page), reports in "City ranked No. 5 for Best Smaller Metros," Iowa City Press-Citizen, April 10, 2007 ("Iowa City ranked as the No. 5 Best Smaller Metros in a special report by Forbes magazine").

So, as Jesse Jackson would say, "Keep hope alive." The farmers of western Iowa will get the corn planted (and be well rewarded
as a result of the Ethanol demand when it's harvested next fall), the legislature will eventually adjourn, Gartner's term as president has only one more year to go, and the University will continue to, as the Press-Citizen has noted "sail on," with or without a rudder.

Oh, and the odds are the University will decide to continue to benefit financially from gambling industry partnerships with our athletic program without your having to take responsibility for that decision. (See Nicholas Johnson, "UI Held Hostage Day 440 - UI Opposes Gambling," April 6, 2007.)

UICCU and "Optiva"

The UICCU-Optiva story is essentially behind us. There may be occasional additions "for the record," but for the most part the last major entry, with links to the prior material from October 2006 through March 2007, is
"UICCU and 'Optiva'" in Nicholas Johnson, "UI Held Hostage Day 406 - March 3 - Optiva," March 3, 2007.

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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. (As of January 25 the count has run from January 21, 2006, rather than last November.)

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.

Searching: 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 is also available. And note that if you know (or can guess at) a word to search on, the "Blogger" bar near the top of your browser has a blank, followed by "SEARCH THIS BLOG," that enables you to search all entries in this Blog since June 2006.]

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Media Stories and Commentary

See above.

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Nicholas Johnson's Main Web Site http://www.nicholasjohnson.org/
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Nicholas Johnson's Blog, FromDC2Iowa
Nicholas Johnson's Blog Index

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I see that someone on the P-C Letters page didn't cotton to your use of "rudderless" to describe the UI.

I'd agree, in a sense. It's worse than rudderless. We don't need an economics professor (who worships the Holy Free Market) as president, even for a day. We need someone who will return the UI to its presumed primary mission, which is NOT becoming THE BEST farm team for the NFL or "enhancing revenue" by all sorts of corporate trickery.

If any institution should deisply some modicum of idealism, it should be (I think) the institutions that teach our children. Our children will learn quick enough how money-grubbing and self-absorbed our society has become. Wouldn't it be nice if state universities actually marched to a different (healthier) drummer?