Wednesday, June 06, 2007

UI Held Hostage Day 501 - Search Saga Continues

June 6, 2007, 7:05 a.m., 8:50 a.m., 1:40 p.m.

UI Presidential Search Saga Continues

Following the University of Iowa presidential search saga? Curious to know just what the hell is going on?

1. Read the June 5 blog entry, Nicholas Johnson, "Deeply Disappointed But Not Stunned," in "UI Held Hostage Day 500 -- "Whaaa?" June 5, 2007.

2. Even more significant in some ways, read the Comments readers have attached to that blog entry (use the direct link, above, and scroll down to the bottom of the entry). There are 19 comments as of 7:00 a.m. this morning. Some reflect either (a) a prize-winning storyteller's imagination to rival that of a John Grisham, or (b) information from some very knowledgeable inside sources. Why the media has not followed up on some of the allegations these comments contain baffles me. If even half of what is alleged is true, there is more than one Pulitzer Prize embedded there, just waiting to be investigated and written up.

3. Like to have even more background, and know the 500+ day history of this saga? Look for the links provided under the heading, in bold: "[Note: If you're new to this blog, and interested in the whole UI President Search story . . . (They will lead you, ultimately, to links to many of the basic documents and news stories.)

4. I'll have a little more to say later in the day, but those are the leads to your basic sources as of now.

Today's stories include:

Erin Jordan, "U of I Provost Hogan Not a Finalist; Interviews Planned with 5 Contenders for Presidency," Des Moines Register, June 6, 2007.

Brian Morelli, "Regent Interview Sessions to be Open," Iowa City Press-Citizen, June 6, 2007, p. 1A.

Ashton Shurson, "Regents to Interview Finalists Next Week," The Daily Iowan, June 6, 2007.

Gregg Hennigan, "Prior Commitments Affected Schedule for UI Interviews," The Gazette, June 6, 2007, p. B3. [During June 6 go to the online newspaper, and use dropdown menu to go to page B3. In future days, use dropdown menu to go to the June 6 issue.]

A Letter to the Editor from Regents President Gartner, with some interesting implications (to be addressed later today) is short enough to reproduce in full:
There is one vote to each regent

Aw, c'mon! Your story says, "Gartner has said" the finalists from the first search for president of the University of Iowa were rejected because they "lacked sufficient health-care experience, which he said would be necessary to oversee University Hospitals." And then you add, "However, many disputed that reason, saying in fact Gartner nixed the search when his preferred candidate, former Syracuse University provost Deborah Freund, did not make the list of finalists."

As you noted, the vote to reject the finalists was 6 to 2, and as you didn't note, all four regents on the Search Committee were among the six "no" votes. As your reporters well know, each regent has one vote; no regent has the power to "nix" anything.

Michael Gartner
Iowa state Board of Regents
Michael Gartner, "There is One Vote to Each Regent," Iowa City Press-Citizen, June 6, 2007.

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Erin Jordan has done sufficient investigation to contribute the most by what of who is, and is not, among the finalists. She reports that, "Purdue University Provost Sally Mason apparently is one of those finalists," and "mentioned in academic circles in connection with the U of I search are Nancy Zimpher, president of the University of Cincinnati, and Larry Penley, president of Colorado State University." By checking with other possible candidates she has managed to exclude "Richard Lariviere, provost at the University of Kansas. Other provosts who said Tuesday they are not U of I candidates are Rodney Erickson of Penn State University; Linda Katehi, University of Illinois; E. Thomas Sullivan, University of Minnesota; and M. Duane Nellis, Kansas State University."

Gregg Hennigan reports on the scheduling. "Regents Executive Director Gary Steinke said . . . three of the nine regents had unbreakable personal commitments on the preferred meeting dates of June 16 and 17, . . . 'And because this is one of the most important decisions that the regents will make, all regents wanted to be, and certainly should be, present during the interviews.'"

So if "the regents’ interviews . . . will begin the afternoon of Tuesday, June 12, and continue through the next day," but "Steinke said the regents will not make any decisions before the on-campus visits are finished and the search committee has submitted its report," and (as Morelli reports) "the committee plans to hand off that report on the morning of June 16," and the Regents can't meet on the 16th or 17th, just when are they going to meet to make their decision?

"He [Steinke] said the regents would meet 'very soon' after the campus visits to discuss candidate qualifications, though he did not know when."

And just when might that be? How much improvement can we expect to find in the Regents' schedules during the, say, two weeks following the interviews next week? For this information we have to turn to Ashton Shurson's story this morning. She reports, "Gary Steinke, the executive director of the regents, said June 12 and 13 are the only consecutive days the regents can meet until the end of July."


1. June 13th. I have to take some responsibility for this June 13th interview session. In discussing the Regents' desperate need to focus on a governance model, I noted, among other things, Michael Gartner's unilateral announcement to the Regents that its agenda for the previously scheduled June 13th meeting was to be "strategic planning." I politely reminded the Regents that they had a decision to make before July 1 regarding the next president of the University of Iowa, and that unless they had a lot of other meeting days blocked out during the end of June that they might want to give a little attention to that agenda item as well. Nicholas Johnson, "Regents, Governance, PR Firms, Strategic Planning, Presidential Selection, and June 13," in "UI Held Hostage Day 487 - Governance Regents Number One Priority," May 23, 2007.

In fairness (to myself), when I wrote that I simply assumed that Search Committee II, knowing of the Regents' scheduled meeting, would have its finalists selected by May 25 -- or June 1 at the latest -- in order that the campus visits (if they were to be held) could be scheduled for this week (June 4-8), the Committee's report could be prepared over the weekend (so as to process campus input), presented to the Regents on Monday, the Regents interviews could be held Tuesday and Wednesday (June 12 and 13 -- as, indeed, they are to be), and the Regents' selection could be known that Wednesday evening after their meeting.

So now I am left with some questions.

2. Why was there not more coordination between Search Committee II and the Regents? Following my May 23 blog entry at 11:55 a.m. suggesting the Regents best give some attention to their schedules, Gary Steinke emailed the Board members at 1:58 p.m. Presumably they answered him relatively promptly. Was that information not immediately shared with Search Committee II? What integration of scheduling was undertaken at that point? Why are we in this unprecedented mess after 500 days of searching for a president?

3. When, precisely, do the Regents plan to make this decision -- for the past six months scheduled to be completed by July 1? Since it is not to be made by the weekend of June 16-17, but it has to be scheduled for sometime, what is the rush about crashing Search Committee II's party next week? What is the necessity for destroying the carefully negotiated procedure? Why not have the Regents interview such candidates as they wish during a day or so prior to whatever meeting they schedule for making the decision?

Consider the discussion in Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search: Campus Visits Details," in "UI Held Hostage Day 487 - Search Schedule," June 2, 2007, regarding the candidates' needs not only for pre-visit secrecy but for extremely short visits. I don't buy it, but responsible folks tell me it's true. So let's take it as a given for this discussion.

The candidates' names are going to be known next week. Indeed, with the Regents crashing the party, their names will be known before they arrive on campus, and for a longer period thereafter. But even if the Regents hadn't come next week, all the names would have been known by Thursday night.

My point is, the names will continue to be known -- the candidates and their home institutions will continue to be kept in limbo -- until such time as the Regents make their final choice. That being the case, what conceivable benefit is it to the candidates (aside from the avoidance of one additional trip -- which they had probably assumed was in the cards anyway) that they see the Regents next week rather than at a subsequent, less chaotic interview prior to the Regents' decision?

In other words, in benefit-cost terms, I understand the downside, the cost, the negative impact of the Regents' crashing the party. What I don't understand is the "benefit" of their doing so.

4. "How does this mess things up? Let me count the ways." I have never been a big fan of Search Committee II's approach to secrecy, or its withholding the names until the night before the candidate arrives, or the five times in succession 24-hour campus visits. But the point is, it was an integrated plan. It had been thought through. It served purposes thought by committee members to be important. And it is a plan totally disrupted by the Regents' presence. Candidates whose names would not have been revealed until Wednesday or Thursday night will be known earlier in the week. Those scheduled to participate in small closed meetings with the candidates whose campus visits were scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday -- or who had planned on attending their open, public sessions during the afternoon -- will now need to choose between attending the Regents' interviews of all candidates and what they'd originally intended to do. What will be the impact -- from the standpoint of both the Tuesday and Wednesday candidates and the campus community -- of these conflicts? At a minimum there will be less time for members of the University community to prepare and submit their input.

5. Responsibility and technology. In the nature of things, the kinds of people appointed to the Board of Regents are the kinds of people with very full schedules. In addition to their jobs, it's highly unlikely service on the Regents is the only contribution of their time to community service. It is a job, as I used to describe my service on the local school board, that "may not pay anything, but at least you get a lot of grief." So I am both really grateful for Regents' willingness to service, and I'm somewhat understanding of the pressures they confront.

But . . .

(a) If one is going to take on this additional time consuming burden, I think that carries the responsibility to make the time, to cancel other commitments if necessary, such that one can attend meetings. Especially is this so at the beginning of one's term, and with regard to one of the most significant tasks the job entails. And doubly is this so when this is "UI Held Hostage Day 501." This is not just another boring agenda item. This is the primary, major effort to regain some of the prestige and respect formerly accorded the State of Iowa and its universities. I am disappointed.

(b) Driving across the state is a drag. I don't look forward to driving to Des Moines, and for me it is a straight shot down Interstate 80. And I know it's tough to find dates when 9 busy people can get together. We had a similar problem when President Carter appointed me as a White House Advisor to help put on the White House Conference on Libraries and Information Sciences in 1979. That group of White House Advisors ended up getting a bunch of early portable computers with built-in printers, the TI-765s, and keeping in touch by email. If we could do that 28 years ago members of the Iowa Board of Regents ought to be able to use the much more sophisticated telecommunications technology available to them today. Video conferencing is cheap and easy today. It's widely used in corporate America for interviews, and increasingly in the judicial system for, among other things, depositions. Shy of that, the Regents have used conference calling for meetings before. Sure, it's not as satisfactory as being physically present. But it's a lot more satisfactory than busting up a well planned and scheduled week of campus interviews, or further postponing the selection of a University of Iowa president -- a decision that is already a year overdue.

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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