For the benefit of the regular readers of this blog who are actual or potential candidates for the UI president position -- and anyone else who may be interested -- I thought it might be useful to share some recent stories from one issue of one local paper that may provide a bit of insight into how to get and keep a job as UI President. Things you've always wanted to know but were afraid to ask.
Athletics and the UIHC. The most highly paid State employees in Iowa, by almost an order of magnitude, are our universities' athletic coaches.
In a take off on the oft repeated line that "the University Hospital is one of the nation's largest university-owned hospitals," some turn it on its head and say "the University of Iowa is one of the nation's largest hospital-owned universities."
Clearly, major responsibilities of any UI president relate to our health science institutions. (In fact, that was said by Regents President Michael Gartner to be the reason for rejecting all of the finalists produced by Search Committee I: they didn't have enough health science administration experience.) The UIHC is, if nothing else, one of Iowa's largest employers. And it is, of course, a great deal more than that.
Iowans are rightfully proud of the UIHC, and grateful when they need to use its internationally renowned staff and facilities to ease and extend their lives.
But when it comes to winning Iowans' "hearts and minds" -- or perhaps that's a bit of an exaggeration, let's just say Iowans' "hearts" -- nothing rivals the collegiate athletic programs.
For example, I've noticed over the years that far more Iowans show up for the football games in Kinnick Stadium than for the string quartet concerts in Clapp Recital Hall or the outstanding academic lecturers the University brings to town that speak in the student union (IMU).
So if you're a candidate for UI president you might give this matter some thought before you go into your interview. On the one hand there are faculty -- including some of those serving on Search Committee II -- who look to the president to put the brakes on the more outrageous excesses of the athletic program. (We are presently addressing the degree to which we want to fund the program with revenues from the gambling industry.)
Even a local legislator (quoted in the Brian Morelli story, linked below) is quoted as saying, "The president needs more oversight over athletics." But, unlike academic issues -- or even the selection of a UI president -- the selection of coaches is considered so important that it cannot be trusted to the faculty, the president and other administrators, or even the Board of Regents.
The selection of coaches is solely the decision of someone called the "Athletic Director." To provide a little more detail and understanding, give a read to Pat Harty, "Barta Says He's Ready for Challenge; A.D. Has Final Say in Hiring," Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 24, 2007, p. 1A.
So protective is the "A.D." of his coaches that the University has recently bought up dozens of potentially disparaging domain names that might otherwise have been bought and used for Web sites by critics of the coaches, teams and athletic program.
It's going to be kind of difficult for any UI president to break into this closed club, and virtually impossible to satisfy, simultaneously, the legislators, faculty, Athletic Department and the mobs we call "fans."
"Fit." Part of the reason a discussion of the coach-selection process is in the papers is because the Iowa basketball coach, Steve Alford, has just left for New Mexico. The reasons why are relevant to any new UI president, and not just because it's a part of understanding college athletics in Iowa.
It's also relevant to understanding what it takes to be successful in any job that functions in the spotlight in Iowa -- including the UI presidency. Yesterday's Des Moines Register story provided some clues. Rick Brown and Tom Witosky, "Alford at Iowa: What went wrong? Coach's era started strong, ended with a whimper," Des Moines Register, March 25, 2007.
One observer is quoted as saying, "I never sensed a comfortability level between the Iowa populace, and the Iowa fans, and Steve.''
Another used the more common word, "Looking back, it was just not a good fit.''
Iowans are remarkably welcoming, and seem to celebrate diversity -- religious, ethnic, nationalities from around the world -- as a casual drive through some areas of the state will reveal. But some individuals, whatever their background, find they "fit" in Iowa better than others. Learning what that means is tough enough for those who were born and raised here. For those arriving for the first time it can be a real challenge.
Alford never quite "got it." He was not "a good fit." Reading the Register's article to gain some insight as to why not would be time well spent for a UI presidential candidate.
Ambassador from UI to the state. Local legislators have now met with Search Committee II and let the committee know what they are looking for. According to Press-Citizen reporter Brian Morelli, "A primary theme from the local delegation was finding someone that will travel the state and one who finds more ways for UI to be a resource to all Iowans." Brian Morelli, "Lawmakers Weigh in On Search; Politicians want a president who communicates with state," Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 24, 2007, p. 3A.
Senator Grassley (who is "a good fit") makes a point of traveling to all of Iowa's 99 counties -- I believe his goal is "every year." Is that something you will be comfortable doing as UI President? It will be kind of tough building a "world class" university from the corn and bean fields, and hog lots, of western Iowa. And it may not even be your favorite vacation spot, let alone where you want to work. But the same legislator -- and a major leader of the Iowa Senate at that -- who told Search Committee II he wants you to exercise "more oversight over athletics" also commented about your beloved predecessor: "One of the things David Skorton did was make it around the state as much as possible."
Just a gentle suggestion: When you come to the interview you might want to consider bringing either a black and gold banner with some bird on it (unauthorized use of the "Herky" might subject you to suit by the "AD" unless you first purchase a license) and the motto "Have tractor, will travel," or a detailed memo on how this traveling obligation can be met without requiring you to actually leave your office. Possibilities: (a) use the Iowa Communications Network, which does go into all 99 counties 24/7 to engage in "virtual travel" or (b) hire a director of "corn and bean field relations" to do it for you.
Regents-Faculty Relations and "Governance." Governance is a science as well as an art; it is the subject of a significant body of literature. I have a Web site devoted to the John Carver model and what the Iowa City Community School District Board did in implementing it within our District. Nicholas Johnson, "Board Governance: Theory and Practice," 2001.
Of course, Carver's is not the only model, although many of its basic principles are universally applicable and have been used for everything from Fortune 500 corporations to school boards to non-profits and NGOs from large to small.
The most fundamental requirement is that a board member not just jump in and start doing whatever comes to mind. Board members will hopefully have taken the time to familiarize themselves with the literature, thought long and hard about precisely what relationships and responsibilities they want to allocate between each other, as well as between the board as a whole and the CEO.
Most of the time this will involve the board setting measurable goals (Carver calls them "ends policies") parameters of behavior for the CEO, and leaving day to day administration (the choice of means for the attainment of those goals) to the CEO.
Among the difficulties in applying this in the public university setting is that it's not always clear who is "the board" and who is the "CEO" in this environment. There is the legislature that appropriates at least a significant portion of the university's budget, there is the "Board of Regents" (with at least some oversight and goal-setting responsibility), the "President" of the university, but a university for which many (if not most) of the "policies" are created by the faculty, staff and students. Indeed, the faculty plays a role in the hiring of the president (even if not the football and basketball coaches, as explained above). So the State Legislature is kind of a "board," as are the "Faculty Senate" and "Faculty Council," along with staff and student organizations.
Part of the problem this past year has been that the President of the Board of Regents has often behaved as if he was the CEO of the university, and the other board members something in the nature of his vice presidents. That has not worked well, if at all.
But neither is the university president a CEO in the sense that the chair of the Joints Chiefs of Staff is the CEO of the military, or a Fortune 500 corporation president is the CEO of the company.
The most that can be said is that a university is managed and administered under a system of "shared governance." Indeed, that has been the phrase, and the practice, at major universities for nearly 100 years in the United States.
Another of the features in last Saturday's Press-Citizen was a presentation of five leading personalities on the UI campus, faculty members who have served on presidential search committees, and who have held elective and appointive positions on the campus. While primarily addressed to the four newest Regents, their essays are of equal value to presidential candidates who will need to come into their interviews -- and their new office, if selected -- with some sense of faculty expectations regarding governance -- both by the president and the Board of Regents.
Their statements are very much worth reading in full, which is why the links are provided here, but the quoted excerpts will give a sense of their perspectives.
Francois M. Abboud, "What can we learn?: 'The optimist in me finds several silver linings'," Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 24, 2007 ("the abhorrent behavior of the regent leadership that has brought upon itself irreparable damage").
Shelly Kurtz, "Most important lesson to be learned: 'The people's business should be done in public,'" Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 24, 2007 ("First, the regents should not be involved in the daily management of the university but should concentrate on setting the broader goals and policies . . .. Perhaps the regents should devote one of their upcoming meetings to a discussion of this distinction . . .. Governance models differ for the military, corporations, and universities and they should. What historically makes universities unique is the role employees who are faculty play in the model").
Steve McGuire, "New Regents Should Learn About Shared Governance," Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 24, 2007 ("A governance model, as opposed to controlling, produces quality . . .. I am sure that the new regents know that the UI campus hopes they will reconstitute a process of deliberation, recapturing the effectual powers and responsibilities of the Board of Regents from Michael Gartner's rule").
Peter Nathan, "Don't impose, but respect and consult and listen," Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 24, 2007 ("The regents have been criticized for . . . the attempt to impose a hierarchical governance system on what had been for many years a collaborative one. . .. The UI community believes that at least two regents apparently came into office believing that a different model of governance -- call it the top-down business model for want of a better description -- was called for. While this university governance model is not unique to these individuals -- it constitutes a growing, hopefully temporary, trend across the country -- it nonetheless represents a radical departure from past practices in Iowa").
Katherine H. Tachau, "To regain our trust, board must follow its own policies," Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 24, 2007 ("By following the board's published policies . . . and working with the Faculty Senate . . . the new board can regain Iowans' confidence").
Now, hopefully, you are still interested in coming to Iowa and becoming our UI president!
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.
[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.]
Technorati tags: football, athletics, academics, high school, college, University of Iowa, education, K-12, leadership, university president, Michael Gartner, Iowa Board of Regents, UI president search, Nicholas Johnson, FromDC2Iowa
Nicholas Johnson's Main Web Site http://www.nicholasjohnson.org/
Nicholas Johnson's Iowa Rain Forest ("Earthpark") Web Site
Nicholas Johnson's Blog, FromDC2Iowa
Nicholas Johnson's Blog Index