Monday, April 16, 2007

UI Held Hostage Day 450 - April 16

April 16, 8:45 a.m.

UI Presidential Search Candidates' Update

Here's a recap on the last three Search Committee II meetings for you -- although now that the list has been winnowed to 30, you may not only already know much of what follows, you may even know if you're on that short list or not.

News from the March 30 meeting was that the Committee was looking at 120 possibles, would start evaluating once they narrowed it to 20 or so, and had not yet resolved the choice between total secrecy and on-campus interviews of finalists.

And retired Maytag CEO Leonard Hadley who, from this distance, has often seemed to be a positive force on the Committee was quoted as saying, "'people who keep on pressuring us to make the decision early have the cart before the horse.'" "Make the decision early"?! It's been 450 days! It doesn't make any difference whether the horse is in front or in back of the cart when the cart has no wheels. Terry McCoy, "UI Presidential List at 120," The Daily Iowan, April 2, 2007. That said, Search Committee II is clearly operating much more responsibly, expeditiously and openly than its predecessor was permitted to operate under Regents' leadership.

The story out of the April 6 meeting focused on the qualities Search Committee II is looking for -- with an emphasis on fundraising, which will likely come as no surprise to any candidate, especially as it comes from the President of the UI Foundation, Lynette Marshall. She is quoted as advocating that "Roughly 25 to 30 percent of the new UI president's time should be spent focusing solely on fundraising . . . both on and off campus . . . with approximately two to three days of travel per month . . . [and with] experience in medical fundraising because the UI's health-science resources are the focus of much of the foundation's efforts." She also suggested the next UI president should be "a good listener . . . inspirational and articulate, and willing to hear from the foundation's professionals . . .." Taryn Deutsch, "New UI leader to be fundraiser; Roughly 25 to 30 percent of the new UI president's time should be spent focusing solely on fundraising efforts for the university, some officials say," The Daily Iowan, April 9, 2007.

There was some disagreement regarding the questions candidates would be expected to address during the interviews. Committee Chair, David Johnsen, thought "it will be good to have customized questions for each candidate that plays to the person's strengths and weaknesses. [Committee member Ed] Folsom agreed, saying, 'The last thing we want is a set of rigid or formulaic questions.' Committee member and law Professor Jonathan Carlson disagreed - he said the state Board of Regents has approved a set of criteria and the committee must ask the same questions of candidates based on those standards." (See Taryn Deutsch's April 9 story, linked above.)

The Press-Citizen also weighed in on the qualities the Committee should be looking for someone who is: "capable of balancing the interests of the liberal arts with the practical results of the hard sciences. One able to keep up on the most recent discussions in modern poetry as well as to talk a good game with the big donors invited to the president's suite at Kinnick Stadium. An executive who not only can hobnob with the rich and famous but also can explain the purpose of the university to the average Iowan wondering why so much of his or her tax dollars goes for classes in sexuality or leisure studies. Someone who can give audience to all the groups on campus and still have time to spend at least three days a month traveling and nearly a third of his or her overall time gladhanding, cajoling and asking for money." Editorial, "Future President Needs to be a Lot of Things to All," Iowa City Press-Citizen, April 12, 2007.

The editorial continues with another couple of important points, including one well-phrased bit of advice for any candidate to consider: "The next UI president will be spending his or her first months (if not years) dealing with the public relations fallout that continues after the failure of last year's search -- an event that plays in Iowa City as the UI community trying to reign in a rogue Board of Regents but plays in much of the rest of the state as an example of what happens when the monkeys try to run the zoo.

The other is directed at Search Committee II: "We still think that a deal breaker for candidates should be whether they are willing to submit to an on-campus interview after the Search Committee II completes its two-day, off-campus, confidential, semifinal round. Without such a public demonstration of his or her willingness to be open, a new president may find it much more difficult to get Iowans to unclasp their tightly closed wallets and purses."

Last Friday's meeting, April 13, revealed that the list of 120 possibles has been narrowed to 30, the veil of secrecy is becoming ever more opaque, the possibility of on-campus interviews ever less likely, and that the secret interviews may be imminent. Brian Morelli, "UI search down to 30 names; Committee tight-lipped about candidates for university president," Iowa City Press-Citizen, April 14, 2007.

Chair Johnsen is imposing conditions of secrecy equal to those regarding troop movements in time of way. He is concerned lest any information regarding where and to whom the Committee might be looking might leak -- regions of the country, numbers by race or gender, sitting presidents and provosts, and so forth.

Two comments taken from Brian Morelli's story suggest on-campus interviews are less and less likely: "Johnsen said some in the pool have said they will drop out if their name is going to be exposed, others are entirely acceptable to openness, while others have interest in a range of scenarios for an abbreviated on-campus process. Johnsen said the goal is to retain the top tier of the candidate pool." Obviously, as has been suggested, if "the top tier" (i.e., sitting presidents at top universities) are the ones most likely to say "they will drop out if their name is going to be exposed," and Search Committee II's "goal is to retain the top tier of the candidate pool," the rather logical conclusion to draw from that is that we're not going to have on-campus interviews.

My own view, as I've expressed before, is that I would prefer a president who "fits," who is friendly, a good listener, and open with the faculty and public. I would not want to have one who constantly holds all the cards so close to their vest that you're not only never dealt a hand, you don't even know what game he or she is playing. If you share those views, it does not bode well if the candidate we hire starts off his or her relationship with the University with a refusal to visit openly with the campus inhabitants and insists that secrecy surround his or her every move before they even get here.

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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 Index
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1 comment:

Obadiah Plainman said...

I have been through similar searches as a candidate in these types of searches on a smaller scale. I signed a waiver requesting a closed meeting.

It was more about not wanting to announce to everyone at my current employer that I wanted out than wanting to be secretive with the people I would potentially be working with.