Sunday, May 06, 2007

UI Held Hostage Day 470 - Stealth Pres; Cable; Media

May 6, 2007, 1:40 p.m.

UI's Stealth President Update

There is more to report on the "Stealth President" scene since last Thursday's blog entry, Nicholas Johnson, "Shhh, It's a Secret" in "UI Held Hostage Day 467 - UI's Stealth President," May 3, 2007.

On Friday, the Press-Citizen picked up the theme with its piece, Editorial, "There Ain't No Such Thing as 'Hybrid' Openness," Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 4, 2007 -- that kindly included a link to my blog entry.

Much of Saturday's paper was devoted to Regents matters. Editorial, "New and Returning Regents Have a Lot to Accomplish," Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 5, 2007; Brian Morelli, "The Four New Regents Decide It's Time to Reach Out; Board Ready for a New Tone and a Fresh Start," Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 5, 2007;

Just as the Press-Citizen's outstanding Hieu Pham and other reporters occasionally have the paper to themselves, Brian Morelli was all over that Saturday edition. In addition to the general piece about the Regents on page one, there was a series reflecting interviews with each of the new appointees. Brian Morelli, "Campbell Brings Extensive Political Background," Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 5, 2007; Brian Morelli, "Evans Says Financial Training Will Help With Regents," Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 5, 2007; Brian Morelli, "Board Welcomes Farm Experience [Craig Lang]," Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 5, 2007; Brian Morelli, "Miles Excited to Make Difference," Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 5, 2007 [Miles is the Governor's choice for, and unanimous Board members' selection as, Board President Pro-Tem].

But Morelli's most significant article in terms of Search Committee II's secrecy is the page one, Brian Morelli, "UI to Issue Public Notice for Interviews," Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 5, 2007:

The University of Iowa presidential search committee will give public notice of the interviews with semifinalists, said Marc Mills, UI vice president for legal affairs and general counsel, in an e-mail Friday evening.

Those interviews then will be conducted in closed session, Mills said.

The decision about how the semifinalist interviews will be conducted comes after UI sought advice from the Iowa attorney general and after the state ombudsman and other open government advocates urged an open process.

Mills advised the 13-member search committee during a closed session of Friday's presidential search meeting. He and the committee had sought out the advice of the Iowa attorney general on whether the committee must announce the time, date and location of an imminent semifinal round of interviews.

. . .

Letters from state Ombudsman William Angrick and Kathleen Richardson, executive secretary of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, as well as media reports about open meetings laws prompted a lively 20-minute discussion among the committee members Friday, before the group entered closed session.

. . .

The search committee still has not decided whether to have on campus interviews for the final round.
So the UI lawyer briefed the committee in a secret, closed session about whether they could have secret, closed sessions. I assume that's one of the exceptions to Iowa's Open Meetings law, but I'm not now in a position to take the time to find which exception it is. (It's rather amusing even if it's legal.)

Here is The Gazette's take on the story, Gregg Hennigan, "UI Search Plans Kept Secret; Committee Mum on Open Interviews in Seeking President," The Gazette, May 5, 2007, p. 1B, 7B.
IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa presidential search committee is keeping secret, at least for now, whether it will conduct open or closed interviews with semifinalist candidates.

UI general counsel Marc Mills said in an e-mail to reporters Friday afternoon that, after consulting with the state Attorney General’s Office, he had provided the search committee legal advice on the applicability of the state open-meetings law to semifinalist interviews.

‘‘As I’m sure you understand, I am unable to share the substance of that advice with you,’’ Mills wrote.

Steve Collins, a UI engineering professor who chaired the 1995 committee that chose former President Mary Sue Coleman, said semifinalist interviews should be confidential, but he was confused why the process would not be disclosed. ‘‘I don’t fully understand the thinking behind this decision, but it would be useful for the public to hear as soon as possible what the process is going to be,’’ he said.
. . .

Bob Brammer, spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, said attorney-client privilege prevented him from commenting.

The decision comes a day after state ombudsman William Angrick II and the Iowa Freedom of Information Council sent letters to Attorney General Tom Miller asking for an open hiring process. Angrick said Friday he hoped the process eventually is disclosed. ‘‘I am not particularly concerned that we have a deliberation taking place,’’ he said.
. . .

[Search Committee II Chair, David] Johnsen said they’d address whether finalists should come to campus for open interviews when the time comes. Faculty, staff and student leaders have advocated strongly for public, on-campus interviews for finalists.
The Register's stories are Erin Jordan, "Ombudsman Asks for Clarification on Secrecy Rules," Des Moines Register, May 4, 2007 ("'To me, the determinable factor is not individual preference, mere inconvenience or even potential embarrassment,' [Ombudsman William] Angrick wrote. 'The standard is higher than that; it is needless injury that cannot be repaired.'"), and Erin Jordan, "U of I search panel gets advice on secrecy; A lawyer says the group will give public notice of interviews with candidates for the school's presidency," Des Moines Register, May 5, 2007 ("'We will give notice of the interviews of the semi-finalists,' [UI general counsel Mark] Mills said in an e-mail Friday evening. David Johnsen, dean of the College of Dentistry and chairman of the search committee, said earlier this week that announcing the interviews could jeopardize the confidentiality of some candidates. If the dates of the interviews are made public, the absence of high-ranking officials from their home universities on those dates might indicate they are in the running for the U of I post, Johnsen said.")

I guess this will mean that the announcement of the place and time of the interviews will be announced 24 hours in advance -- because it is a meeting governed by the Iowa Open Meetings law -- at which Search Committee II will immediately go into secret closed session for the interview itself. This will give the media a fighting chance at investigating and guessing at who is under the burkas the candidates will be wearing into the meeting room.

Meanwhile, I guess that every university president or provost in the United States who needs to travel around that time will need to come up with an iron clad explanation for where they are going and why -- in order to avoid the obloquy and serious harm to their reputation and effectiveness that would necessarily follow from the public suspicion that they would actually have been considered a candidate for president of the University of Iowa, something similar to the horror surrounding the Hindenburg dirigible crash 70 years ago.

This whole secrecy business is getting "curiouser and curiouser" and coming to resemble Alice in Wonderland in other ways as well.

Update on Qwest's Cable Grab Bill

As of May 3 Qwest's cable bill -- passed by the Iowa Senate and House with the help of about $190,000 in campaign contributions -- was still sitting on the Governor's desk unsigned. See, Jason Clayworth, "Cable law faulty, advocates say; Lawsuits targeting franchise fees in jeopardy, they fear," Des Moines Register, May 3, 2007.

Today's Most Significant Story or Column

Today's most significant story or column is Rekha Basu, "World news that unites is missing," Des Moines Register, May 6, 2007.

Why? Because it's the media addressing one of the most serious defects in American media: Its failure to report to Americans what we need to know about all (or at least a significant sampling) of the peoples with whom we share this planet. She provides some classic examples of what our media does and does not report.

Ironically, I am spending this weekend (in part) doing my job as a judge in the Project Censored compilation of the year's "Ten Best Censored Stories." I'll have more to say about Project Censored later, once our selections have been made. For now, if you'd like to know more, just check out the Project Censored Web site.

Interestingly, all the stories Ms. Basu notes as significantly ignored by American media are stories that I knew about. How did that happen? I listen to the BBC, and visit its Web site. (My Web site also contains a "Global Media" page full of links to a sampling of the world's media.)

This is truly perhaps the most significant issue of our times, my friends, because it's no longer true that "what you don't know won't kill you." It's precisely what we don't know that is killing us, and will continue to. Our need to know what's going on around our planet is scarcely limited to our commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We're talking about things we need to know with regard to global trade as well as global terrorism, global war as well as global warming.

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. Since then there have been two major additions: Nicholas Johnson, "Open Letter to UICCU Board" in "UI Held Hostage Day 423 - March 20 - UICCU," March 20, 2007, and "'Open Letter': Confirmation from World Council of Credit Unions" in "UI Held Hostage Day 424 - March 21 UICCU," March 21, 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 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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