Our new UI President Sally Mason formally starts tomorrow, Wednesday, August 1. As Diane Heldt reports, she won't have to wait long for issues to arrive.
Diane Heldt, "Full Plate Awaits New President; Mason Takes Office Wednesday at UI," The Gazette, July 30, 2007, p. A1
One of the most recent big UI issues in the news has been the Wellmark naming controversy. This morning's papers report on revealing e-mails among UI officials and faculty. Mason has not yet tipped her hand, aside from saying she's following the issue and that it warrants a full and respectful discussion.
Erin Jordan, "U of I dean: Wellmark offer 'small;' He called it 'not acceptable,' but officials almost approved proposed gift," Des Moines Register, July 31, 2007
Diane Heldt, "Offer 'Embarrassingly Small;' Dean Says Wellmark Gift Would Have Undervalued College," The Gazette, July 31, 2007, p. B1
Brian Morelli, "E-mails Shed Light on Debate; Wellmark in the Name, Amount of Gift Discussed," Iowa City Press-Citizen, July 31, 2007, p. A1
As I've often written here -- and as these stories, and the Snell column, immediately below, support -- it will be a shame if this is perceived as merely the "Wellmark-UI College of Public Health Naming Issue" when it is so much bigger and can more usefully be addressed in the larger context of the corporatization of higher education generally, and at the UI in particular. Whatever President Mason's focus turns out to be, it won't be long before we'll get a sense from her statements and decisions as to just how much further the "University of Iowa, Inc." is going to slide into the for-profit sector during her tenure.
Joel Snell, "For Some Companies, UI is an Attractive 'Brand,'" The Gazette, July 31, 2007, p. A4
Barbara Ankenbrand, "Instead of Naming Rights, Wellmark Could Help Poor," The Gazette, July 31, 2007, p. A4
Nancy McHugh, "Wellmark's Missing Chace for True Philanthropy," The Gazette, July 31, 2007, p. A4
Sam Osborne, "Selling Naming Rights Could be Great Idea," The Gazette, July 31, 2007, p. A4
Another issue, which I'm going to do my darnedest to try to keep on the radar, is the partnership between the UI athletic program and the gambling industry. Interim President Fethke -- to the best of my recollection -- indicated that he would announce the UI position with regard to the football program's partnership with the Riverside Gambling Casino, which has been a matter of concern to the NCAA. So far as I know, nothing further was ever said. Now it turns out the athletic program is back in bed with the Iowa Lottery, after supposedly "severing ties" (accomplished, one assumes, by arguing that "Gee, it's not us, it's those awful folks at Iowa State; we can't help it if we play them in football"). And what say you, President Mason?
Rod Boshart, "Lottery to Give Away Hawks-Cyclones Tickets," The Gazette, July 30, 2007, p. B7
A couple of other stories, in other than a higher education context, further illustrate the potential hazards along the road to corporatization.
Clark Kauffman, "Agency takes gifts from those it regulates; The Department of Elder Affairs accepts thousands from senior-care companies," Des Moines Register, July 30, 2007
Editorial, "Get to bottom of consultant's sweet deal; Why did state lower bar to award bonus?" Des Moines Register, July 30, 2007 (A consultant, hired to help the State cut costs and become more efficient, was paid substantially in excess of actual savings achieved -- contrary to the consultant's representations -- including bonus payments for its poor performance. Those are legitimate journalistic topics. But my more general question would be, "Why are we hiring a consultant in the first place?" Executives -- whether in the for-profit or non-profit sectors -- are paid the big bucks because of the skills they supposedly bring to the job. What more appropriate, central and essential skill than the ability to master what it is your institution is doing, and then move it in ways that will cut costs while improving outputs?)
Other items include an encouraging report regarding Regents' universities-community college cooperation and coordination. (In this case, a "2 plus 2" program enabling what I've long advocated: that we encourage Iowa's community college system to provide the freshman and sophomore years' education and then ease the students' transition to a junior and senior year at a Regents institution. The advantages to all are obvious.) Brian Morelli has another nice piece about Fethke's tour of duty, and the Register has an editorial regarding open meetings and public records (both State and federal) -- an issue with the UI and its Board of Regents (see, e.g., "Regents Dismissed from Suit," The Gazette, July 31, 2007, p. B3).
Editorial, "Community College Degrees Pay Off," The Gazette, July 31, 2007, p. A4
Brian Morelli, "Colleagues Say Fethke Didn't Let Office Stagnate; Interim Leader's 14 Months Full of Action, Controversy," Iowa City Press-Citizen, July 31, 2007, p. A1
Editorial, "Speed Up Access to Federal Records," Des Moines Register, July 29, 2007 (including sidebar, "In Iowa Shore Up Meetings, Records Laws")