Michael Gartner has enjoyed a long, varied and sometimes turbulent career. "Michael Gartner," Wikipedia.org. What Iowans will best remember, in addition to his ownership of the Iowa Cubs baseball team (and hopefully his skilled writing ability and Pulitzer Prize), is his term as a member, and president, of the Iowa Board of Regents. The Board has responsibility for Iowa's three Regents universities: University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and the University of Northern Iowa.
Although no longer a member of the Board of Regents, his chttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifreative mind recently drew upon his experience and imagination to lay out a to-do list for his former charges. Because it is a long list, it was necessarily a long article -- by 600-word op-ed column standards -- about 3,000 words.
Asked by a local paper to respond in 400 words, it was necessary to pick a single proposal. I chose "governance" of universities, and Gartner's insistence that involving the faculty in "shared governance" should be abolished. I disagreed.
[For background, see American Association of University Professors, "Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities" (1966), and related information.]
However, as noted among the 400 words, there is a great deal more that Gartner wrote about with which I not only agree, but about which I have written myself, both here in this blog and elsewhere.
The brief response to his article is immediately below.
It is followed by Gartner's full presentation. This is done primarily in fairness to Michael Gartner, rather than leave the impression that 400 words adequately dispose of everything he had to say. But his piece is also included because it is an important contribution to ongoing discussion about the universities and the Regents. Having disappeared from the Des Moines Register's online site, it will at least be searchable and retrievable here. Of course, if Gartner, or the Register, object to its republication and request it be removed from this blog, it will be.
Iowa City Press-Citizen
(initially available online)
July 20, 2011, p. A9
In Sunday's Des Moines Register, former Regent Michael Gartner offered up a smörgåsbord of commands for Iowa's universities.
Demanding that "universities must change dramatically -- and quickly," as he did, is no more effective than it is specific. It's like telling the captain of the 1,132-foot Queen Mary 2 that he must turn her around "dramatically and quickly" without designating a reason, direction or destination.
Some of Gartner's ideas need better facts and serious rebuttal. Others you've heard before -- even from me.
But this time he had nearly 3,000 words; and I don't. Limited to one issue, I've chosen his assault on governance.
Gartner wrote, "The pleasant-sounding concept of 'shared governance' should be scuttled. ... (F)aculty political leaders insist they should help manage the institution -- but ... the concept has outlived its usefulness and is a roadblock to planning, to change and to effective administration. It institutionalizes mediocrity, stymies change and intimidates presidents, and it is a misuse of faculty time and energy."
As the student told the professor, "I have only one question."
"And what is that,?" the professor asked.
"What on earth are you talking about?" the student replied.
What does Gartner mean and how does he know? What does he mean by "scuttled," "faculty political leaders," "manage," "roadblock." What evidence does he have of "institutionalized mediocrity" or "intimidated presidents"?
Gartner owns the Iowa Cubs. Does his organization not take into account the wishes of fans and players? That's "shared governance," a 20th-century recognition that organizations have stakeholders as well as shareholders.
School boards and their superintendents have "shared governance" with administrators, teachers, parents, students and taxpayers. Why shouldn't the Iowa state Board of Regents and universities' presidents have shared governance with students, deans, faculty, staff, parents, students and taxpayers?
You want examples from business? Shared governance is a major component of most successful corporations. Involving customers through social media is just one example.
It's understandable Gartner didn't like the University of Iowa faculty's vote of "no confidence" in his regents. The NFL owners didn't like it when the players voted no confidence in them either.
But if the corporate CEOs Gartner wants as university presidents are good ones, they will be insisting on shared governance.
Shared governance in higher education began in 1920. There are even more reasons for it today, 91 years later.
Nicholas Johnson teaches at the University of Iowa College of Law and maintains the website www.nicholasjohnson.org and blog FromDC2Iowa.blogspot.com.
Des Moines Register and Altoona Herald-Index
July 17, 2011
Iowa's three state universities must change dramatically -- and quickly. The system has problems -- money and non-money -- that can no longer be addressed by raising tuition and lobbying legislators. Those remedies are played out.
On top of systemic problems, each university has unique challenges.
There is a management problem in Iowa City -- where faculty politicians in effect run the University of Iowa. There is a looming leadership problem in Ames -- where the visionary Greg Geoffroy is stepping down as president of Iowa State University. And there is a money problem in Cedar Falls -- where legislators short-change the University of Northern Iowa by about $50 million a year.
All this comes at a time of strife and partisanship on the nine-member Board of Regents, where president David Miles and president pro tem Jack Evans on Tuesday stepped down from their leadership roles under pressure to make room for Gov. Terry Branstad's financial backer Bruce Rastetter and loyal supporter Craig Lang.
I was a regent for a little over six years, until April 30 of this year. For nearly three years, I was president. I dealt with the men and women who officially run the schools -- and those who unofficially run them. I spent time with presidents and legislators and faculty members and shop stewards and students. I learned a lot, and I left with clear opinions.
State aid to universities needs to be redirected
All three universities are very good at many things. And the University of Iowa medical complex is very good at almost everything. It is well-run, understands its mission, produces first-rate doctors and first-rate research, and generally pays its own way. One reason: It's run by those who are paid to run it, not by the doctors or the nurses or the patients or the help.
But change is needed elsewhere in the $4 billion-a-year regents enterprise.
Perhaps most important, the dwindling state aid must be redirected. Now, graduate schools, which should be self-sufficient, drain away money that should be used for in-state undergraduates. One yet-unpublished study says Iowa's dental students receive $1,171 in subsidy per student credit hour -- in contrast to $71.90 per credit hour for liberal arts students. That is not the intent of state appropriations.
The most cherished tenets of academe, particularly "shared governance," need to be challenged -- and probably thrown out. Assets need to be redeployed into education and out of ancillary activities. Course offerings and majors need to be slashed, the teaching load needs to be increased, more courses need to be taught by professors instead of graduate students, and the number of academic "centers" needs to be reduced. Athletics needs to be reined in and restructured. The relationships among the three universities need to be refigured. New partnerships need to be explored. And the increase in tuition for undergraduate youths from Iowa has to be slowed or stopped.
Those should be the elements of a 10-year strategic plan. The "givens": We must keep three fine universities. We must expect state aid to continue to decline, as it has in seven of the past 11 years. And we cannot offset that decline by continuous tuition increases.
Faculty members have too much clout
Most of all, the universities and the regents need focused, firm, fair -- and united -- leadership.
The pleasant-sounding concept of "shared governance" should be scuttled. Shared governance once meant that faculty ran curricular matters and administrators ran management matters. Now, faculty political leaders insist they should help manage the institution -- but woe to the administrator or regent who wants to have a say in the classroom.
The concept has outlived its usefulness and is a roadblock to planning, to change and to effective administration. It institutionalizes mediocrity, stymies change and intimidates presidents, and it is a misuse of faculty time and energy. Professors should teach or do their research. Presidents and provosts and deans should manage. Regents should govern.
When I was confirmed for the board, then Senate Majority Leader Stew Iverson called me aside. "Find out for me," he said, "whether the regents run the University of Iowa or the University of Iowa runs the Board of Regents."
I found out.
Example: The University of Iowa is a complex, $2.5 billion-a-year institution where the president -- like most presidents -- must spend nearly half her time raising money and most of the rest dealing with legal and financial and athletic and alumni and real-estate and political and housing and student and parent and other issues. Yet when a committee was named to find a successor to David Skorton in 2006, the faculty members made clear they would block any candidate who wasn't a full-fledged academic -- and they had that power through "shared governance."
Thus, Jim Leach, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 30 years, was laughed off the prospect list by the academics because he was not one of them. Forget that he was a graduate of Princeton with a master's degree in Soviet politics from Johns Hopkins and further study at the London School of Economics. He didn't pass muster -- so he ended up first on the faculty of Princeton, then head of an institute at Harvard and now chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities. And Iowa got as president an accomplished academic -- the provost from Purdue -- who has had to learn to be a broad-based manager through on-the-job training.
Similarly, faculty members at Iowa State have made it clear they want an academic to succeed Geoffroy. The search committee will see to that; it has nine academics among its 18 members along with two doctors, two students, two regents, and three business people. It has no union representative. Jim Leaches need not apply. (Or Tom Vilsack. Republican leaders on and off the regents are paranoid about Vilsack, amazingly believing he would leave a Cabinet post he loves for Iowa State -- a thought that sends shivers down their spines. And probably down his.)
Schools waste money on search committees
Search committees are costly and, often, a waste of time -- or a sham. A board should have in mind one or two possible successors for each president, and a president should know whom he wants as his next lawyer or provost or finance person without having to go through a search.
Jean Robillard, the outstanding vice president for medical affairs at the University of Iowa, was not picked by a search committee but simply was tapped by Gary Fethke, who in 18 months as acting president of Iowa accomplished more than his predecessor or successor. "There was no search committee formed to pick Jean Robillard, just a few great conversations with a bunch of people who were on the same page," says Fethke, who had been dean of the business school.
That's how good executives operate.
Similarly, when Robillard wanted a dean of the medical school, he named Paul Rothman. "I didn't want to do a formal search since I knew Paul and could probably not have found someone better in the country," Robillard says. So why waste time and money? He did, however, use a search to find Ken Kates, the equally competent head of the hospital.
Sally Mason, Iowa's president, knew she would appoint Carroll Reasoner last fall to move from acting general counsel to general counsel, which she told the Board of Regents. In the next breath, she said she intended to appoint a search committee -- wasting time and resources and misleading any person who would be on it and any "candidate" other than Reasoner. After questioning by regents, she waived the process.
"Academia can learn a lot from private industry," Robillard says. That's one reason business-school deans -- Gary Fethke, Ben Allen -- often make good presidents.
Professors are not in classrooms enough
One thing academics could learn is to concentrate on their strengths and shed weaknesses and "businesses" that aren't central to their mission. The mission is teaching and research at Iowa and Iowa State and just teaching at UNI.
Thus, it's strategic and financial folly for the University of Iowa to own a $150 million painting (which hasn't been on campus for three years and probably won't be for another three) when that money could be redeployed into full-tuition scholarships for about 1,000 Iowa undergraduates each year till the end of time. Similarly, why do universities own golf courses?
There are hundreds of academic and research "centers" in the regents system - the University of Iowa alone has nearly 300. They proliferate like rabbits -- and have the longevity of elephants. Each should be looked at every two or three years to determine if it is central to the mission of the school and economically justifiable. Iowa alone has around 150 majors and programs for undergraduates, from Sanskrit to microbiology, from "informatics" to theater arts. All of this must be streamlined; the universities can no longer be all things to all people.
At the same time, the teaching load -- six hours or less of classroom teaching per week (up to nine at UNI) -- must be increased. "We went too far in reducing teaching loads," a professor at Ohio University wrote the other day. "Faculty members preferred research or leisure to teaching, and believed the path to vocational success was through publication, not teaching and counseling young students."
The three Iowa universities employ around 7,500 faculty members, some 5,300 of whom are full-time. Yet, at Iowa the full-time faculty spends just a third of their time in teaching-related activities (the figures are 40 percent at Iowa State and 58 percent at UNI), and only 46 percent of undergraduate student credit hours are taught by tenured or tenure-track faculty. The rest are taught by graduate assistants (22 percent) and adjuncts and the like. The figures are only somewhat better at ISU and are considerably higher at UNI, where research is not emphasized.
Research is vital, but so is teaching.
The work load must go up and the workforce down if the universities are to have a future providing effective and affordable education to Iowa high-school graduates. More than half of those 5,300 faculty members are tenured and all but guaranteed lifetime jobs.
Once a noble concept to ensure academic freedom, tenure now is another practice that stifles change, discourages innovative teaching and reinforces the status quo. It has outlived its usefulness, says Jim Lubker, the retired provost at UNI, who thinks about such issues.
More oversight needed for athletic programs
Athletics, too, has to be examined. Iowa has and Iowa State soon will have an athletic department that pays its own way, at least by some calculations. That's good, but beside the point. Athletic revenue is not part of the universities' general funds -- it is looked upon the way dormitory funds and hospital charges are accounted for -- but it should be considered the property of the institution, not the athletic department.
All university revenue should come into one pot, and every department should have to justify its spending. The University of Iowa takes in $66 million in athletic revenue, but that doesn't mean the department should have the unsupervised right to spend that. How can it justify paying the women's basketball coach a sum more than three times the revenue of the sport? Why shouldn't it return $10 million to $15 million to the general fund? Is it right that the four highest-paid state employees are coaches at Iowa and Iowa State? (One way of looking at it: The Iowa athletic department spends about $100,000 per athlete every year.)
In this era, no institution -- university, business, city -- can go it alone. Partnerships and alliances are everything. Iowa, Iowa State and UNI are good at forming partnerships with one another and with outsiders. But efforts must increase. Universities must eliminate duplication. Are two journalism schools necessary? Is there unnecessary duplication in engineering and business schools? Why shouldn't every class be available over the Internet to every student at each school? (Some ideas aren't so great. I suggested to then-Gov. Vilsack that students be admitted to the system, not to any one school. "Who would get the football players?" he asked.)
Rising tuition costs must be dealt with
Most of all, the universities must not keep raising tuition. Ten years ago, tuition and fees at the universities were around $3,100 a year; today, they are around $7,500. If you figure the value of a college degree goes up 11 percent annually throughout life, as compared to the earnings of a person without a degree, $7,500 is still a steal -- but only for those who can afford it.
The cost of education, including room and board and books and travel, now is around $20,000 a year. To be sure, the universities set aside as much as 20 percent of tuition income for student aid -- but that's not all for the needy or in-state students. Students graduate with so much debt it will take as long as 20 years to pay it off. Others simply can't afford college. What's more, it now is cheaper for some students to attend private colleges, where the chances are a student will graduate in four years. At regents schools, only 42 percent graduate within four years.
There are many reasons.
At Iowa, one reason is the culture. Nationwide, about 34 percent of college students are binge drinkers -- persons who have five or more drinks at least every couple of weeks. At Iowa, where weekends often start on Thursday noon, the figure is 64 percent -- down 6 points in a year but still nearly twice the national average. Iowa ranks ninth among "top party schools," according to The Princeton Review. That is not a good thing. One solution: schedule required courses for Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings.
If culture is the unique problem at Iowa, money is at UNI. The main purpose of state aid is to subsidize the education of undergraduates from the state, and UNI is woefully shortchanged. State aid is divided roughly 40-40-20 among Iowa, ISU and UNI, for reasons lost in history. Iowa receives $17,628 for each state undergraduate, Iowa State gets $10,802, and UNI gets $7,502. If the money were allocated fairly, $48.5 million would be redirected to UNI, mainly at the expense of Iowa.
This just adds to woes of UNI, a fine and well-led school. It must spend millions a year subsidizing athletics -- or else drop athletics entirely -- because it gets little or no television or bowl money but still has the expenses of intercollegiate competition. With Iowans comprising 93 percent of its student body, it gets little out-of-state tuition -- out-of-state students by law must pay more than the cost of their education -- to subsidize the in-state students. And it has a small base for fund-raising. The Legislature should change the formula.
Politicization of regents is not a good thing
But most change does not need legislative approval. The regents and presidents simply need to take back the reins of governance from governors, legislators and, especially, faculty members who have grabbed many levers of control. You can't change things if you're not in charge, and the regents and the presidents aren't always in charge.
The faculty senate basically runs the University of Iowa, the faculty union has an outsize voice at the University of Northern Iowa, the Legislature has begun meddling too much, and the two most recent governors -- Democrat Chet Culver and Republican Terry Branstad -- have wanted a say in the governance that they are not entitled to under the law. This has led to a politicization of the board for the first time.
The power of the board is clear. It shall "make rules for admission to and for the government of said institutions, not inconsistent with law," the Iowa Code says, as well as "manage and control the property, both real and personal, belonging to the institutions." It also hires and fires presidents and officers of the schools, hires all employees, and sets all salaries. It's hard to imagine any board with broader powers.
But a couple of years ago the board allowed Culver and Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, to talk it into putting a partisan labor issue on the agenda -- a labor agreement for university construction -- and the result was a predictable 5-4 vote along party lines, the first time in memory there was a party-line vote on anything. (The regents can have no more than five members of any one party. At the time, there were five Democrats. Now, there are five Republicans, three Democrats and a no-party member.) Branstad was elected and badgered Dave Miles out of the board presidency. This meddling is a bad thing.
Yet none of these issues -- money, structure, leadership -- is unsolvable. A determined board, strong presidents, and a watchful but non-meddling legislature and governor can work together on a blueprint for success.
The goal is simple: make the universities as good as they think they are.