Sunday, May 20, 2007

UI Held Hostage Day 484 - May 20 - Back to Blogosphere

May 20, 2007, 11:45 a.m.

I haven't even had time to go through the last ten days' newspapers, let alone reflect on what happened during that time. I'll try to spread some of that out during the next week or so. Meanwhile, here are some random items.

UI's Stealth Presidential Search Continues

If you are one of the presidential candidates who is tracking this blog, hopefully you are better informed than I about where things in general -- and you in particular -- stand at the moment. But, if not, it looks like, from the stories of May 12, that interviews were held on May 13 and 14 (at an undisclosed location) with those ("less than 20") characterized as finalists as of Search Committee II's Friday meeting on May 11. So, I guess if you don't recall being interviewed last weekend you might want to give Dean Dave Johnsen a call and find out why not.

The on-again-off-again debate about transparency in Search II has continued. The position of Search Committee II is "we will only comply with Iowa's open meetings law if our candidates are willing to be law abiding -- but a few of what we think are our best candidates are scofflaws and we feel we need to accommodate them." I addressed this position before I took my blog break. My position was, in effect, "if you want to violate the law at least make a stab at coming up with a legal argument as to why all of its provisions are inapplicable to what you're doing." See Nicholas Johnson, "But Before I Do . . ." in "UI Held Hostage Day 472 - Beagle's Landing; More Secrecy," May 8, 2007.

What Search Committee II decided it would do -- over the objections of Iowa's governor and the President of the Board of Regents -- was that it would comply with a part of the notice provisions, but not all: they would reveal when they would be interviewing candidates but not where. As anyone, especially a group of academics, ought to know, the coordinates on any space-time event require both (a) a date and time (according to some agreed upon calendar and time zone (UTC or CDT)), and (b) a place (which, if on Earth, can be either "address" or latitude and longitude).

This is true whether you're inviting someone to an open house, an open election, or an open meeting. See Editorial, "Call for open meetings in UI search, governor; Don't follow attorney general's example," Des Moines Register, May 9, 2007; and Danny Valentine, "U of I to keep interview locations secret; Members of the presidential search committee say they are concerned about protecting candidates' identities," Des Moines Register, May 12, 2007.

As of yesterday, the Committee had decided to have some on-campus interviews of finalists, but wasn't yet sure exactly what that would mean -- in terms of how long they will be here, or who will know, let alone have an opportunity to meet and question them. Hey, folks, this is day 484; June 1 is just around the corner, and July 1 (by which the Regents are to have selected the ultimate winner in this marathon) is not far behind. We really need some decisions about this process (as we have needed them since last January). Kathryn Fiegen, "UI finalists will interview on campus; Search group decision unanimous," Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 19, 2007, p. 1A.

Meanwhile, Ms. Fiegen also reported on page one: "Emeritus Professor Sues Regents, Search Committee," Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 19, 2007, p. 1A (over their violations of Iowa's open meetings law).

There was a significant clause in a story in The Daily Iowan's last issue of the academic year.

The story involved Regents' President Michael Gartner's statement that Search Committee II ought to comply with Iowa's open meetings law. There are those who've belittled what they characterize as a convenient conversion by Gartner from a practice of secrecy to a preaching of openness. I say give the guy some credit: for creating the policy that emails among Regents will be posted to the Board's Web page, and for this statement solidly supporting compliance with Iowa's law. (My position is that if the law needs to be changed, as may be the case, that's something to be done by the Legislature, not by the boards and agencies on a case-by-case basis as they find it convenient to do so.)

But far more significant than any of that, in my view, is the following sentence from Matt Nelson's story in The Daily Iowan: "Gartner asked the committee to reconsider its decision to hold the meetings at an undisclosed site based on the history of the presidential search but emphasized that he spoke only for himself and not the entire board." (emphasis supplied)
Matt Nelson, "Panel to secretly interview UI president semifinalists," The Daily Iowan, May 11, 2007.

This is, to my knowledge, the first time that President Gartner has ever acknowledged the very basic governance principle that only "the Board" speaks for "the Board" and that individual Board members -- including the President of the Board of Regents -- have a governance obligation to make very clear when they are speaking for the Board and when they are just speaking in their individual capacity.

It could have just been an off-hand comment, but I am hoping that it may be a first step toward the establishment of a full-blown set of governance standards regarding: (1) measurable goals (what John Carver calls "ends policies"), (2) relationships between the Board and Regents institutions' presidents and faculties (taking into account the academy's tradition of "shared governance" -- and the need to provide an operational definition of just what that means), (3) what Carver calls "executive limitations," and (4) the Board members' own relationships, and self-imposed restrictions on their own behavior.

See Nicholas Johnson, "An Open Letter to Regents on 'Governance,'" in "UI Held Hostage Day 451 - Open Letter to Regents," April 17, 2007.

But before you get too hopeful about this, read State 29, "This Ought to Make Nicholas Johnson Laugh," May 18, 2007. It did. (The Board of Regents has apparently hired a public relations firm. There may be more on this later.) But it was bitter sweet because of its implications for governance: Apparently Regent Bob Downer was not even informed of this "Board of Regents decision," let alone given an opportunity to participate in it.


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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1 comment:

John Barleykorn said...

What, no response to your former boss saying the Board of Regents isn't bound by the open meetings law?

It is so hard to take the Press Citizen seriously. It is comical to watch them cry public interest when their ONLY interest is only to make as much controversy as possible to sell papers for the Gannett shareholders.

This whole thing is comical, and frankly I am ashamed to be a UI grad at this point. Did the Regents make a mistake blowing up SC I? Yes. The behavior of the University Community since has been childish and pathetic. NO ONE looks good here.