"Business Background: Enough for University President?" September 2, 2015-present (updated) [this is the blog post that contains the repository of documents, news stories, and opinion pieces regarding the Board of Regents' presidential selection process and early selection of Bruce Harreld]
Nicholas Johnson, "Hiring Candid, Courageous University Presidents; An Exchange with UI Presidential Finalist, Oberlin President Marvin Krislov," August 29, 2015 (with links to the 2006-2007 blog essays about the last Regents' presidential selection fiasco)
"UI's President Could Have Been Chris Christie," October 3, 2015
September 27, 2015, 8:00 a.m.
NOTE: (1) For Nicholas Johnson's related blog posts, see "Business Background: Enough for University President?" September 2-27, 2015 (and continuing; includes links to over 100 relevant documents, news stories and opinion pieces), and Nicholas Johnson, "Hiring Candid, Courageous University Presidents; An Exchange with UI Presidential Finalist, Oberlin President Marvin Krislov," August 29, 2015 (with links to the 2006-2007 blog essays about the last Regents' presidential selection fiasco).
(2) For others' columns in this Gazette Writers Circle presentation, see below.
The Gazette, September 27, 2015, p. C5
That you don't know what you've got
‘Til it's gone
-- Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi
Iowa Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter says those objecting to his selection of Bruce Harreld as the University of Iowa’s next president “embrace the status quo of the past over opportunities for the future and focus their efforts on resistance to change instead of working together to make the UI even greater.”
Which would be worse: that he truly believes this, and is unaware of the rational objections to his process and choice, or that he has deliberately chosen to divert the public’s gaze away from his actions?
Since Harreld’s selection I’ve encountered no one who advocated UI’s personnel should “embrace the status quo.” Why would anyone reject “opportunities for the future” to become “even greater"?
If it looks, walks and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck. And this one looked, walked and quacked like a done deal since July. That’s when special treatment began for Harreld and his wife by the UI’s interim president and search committee chair, Regents’ president, and Governor Terry Branstad. The waste of money, people’s time, and embarrassment to legitimate candidates was significant. Legally, the Regents could have just picked Harreld in July – or brought four business persons to campus.
Those are a few of the understandable reasons for the negative response, and why it’s inaccurate, insulting, and duplicitous to suggest it was just academics’ desire to “embrace the status quo.”
Did the Regents deliberately set out to make it virtually impossible for any president to succeed, by destroying the trust faculty representatives had been building? If so, they could not have chosen a better process and candidate.
So here we are. If Harreld does not resign, if the Regents win legal challenges to their process, if the University does not lose its accreditation along with its reputation, what are our next steps?
Governor Branstad was a founding member of ALEC, a Koch brothers-funded right-wing organization writing, lobbying for, and enacting states’ legislation promoting the ideology of privatization and corporatization. ALEC has its own higher education agenda.
Those who wish to attack public higher education, or “transition” it to something else, deserve to be heard – but only if they will talk.
So let’s start with specifics. What exactly do Rastetter and the Governor want from Harreld’s “transitioning” the University?
Tenure, like lifetime appointments for judges, has been a centerpiece of the academy’s integrity. Increasingly, students are taught by untenured adjuncts. Do they want to do away with tenure entirely?
Do they want to apply profit-center analysis to class size, favoring 500-student lecture halls, or classes of 100,000 online students?
Is their education-for-jobs preference so great that they want to diminish or eliminate, UI’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences?
When policy is driven by ideology, rather than history and data, it can produce an ISIS-like destruction of a society’s greatest treasures. And “the university,” as an idea in virtually all nations and cultures, with its evolution over the millennia, is as worthy of protection from ideologically-driven destruction as Iraq’s antiquities.
It can be helpful for any organization to reassess its mission and performance from time to time – including the Board of Regents, given how far it has strayed from conventional board governance principles.
It’s also true for American higher education in general, and the University of Iowa in particular -– all of which are already doing exactly that.
But there are some preliminary steps before picking a new institutional leader with “experience in transitioning other large enterprises through change,” as Rastatter characterizes Harreld’s qualification.
It’s necessary to begin by (1) involving all interested parties in an evolving consensus regarding, (2) an assessment of performance compared with output goals (e.g., what knowledge and skills do we want our graduates to have?), (3) identifying what may need changing, (4) what changes have already come about over the last 20 years, (5) researching what comparable institutions are doing in this country and abroad, (6) prioritizing what most needs doing, and (7) designing and testing some pilot projects.
Then pick the president.
Watch this space.
Nicholas Johnson maintains the repository of documents, news and opinions regarding this controversy at http://tinyurl.com/qfok7f6 Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Gazette Writers Circle: What's the Future of Public Education? "On Sept. 9, members of the Gazette Writers Circle met to discuss the future of the University of Iowa and public universities, generally. Much of the conversation was influenced by the Board of Regents' decision to hire businessman J.Bruce Harreld, which had been announced the previous week. For more Writers Circle columns addressing that decision, specifically, see page 5C." [September 27, 2015, p. C1]
Nicholas Johnson's column in this presentation is reproduced, above.
Online versions of others' contributions included Mark Neary, "Create Common Vision for Higher Education," p. C1, and Wif Nixon, "Liberal Arts: What's the Value Proposition?" p. C1, both found at "Writers Circle: What is the Future of Public Higher Education?" September 29, 2015, 12:01 a.m.
Frank Schmidt, "Model University Leadership on City Managers and Mayors," The Gazette (online), September 27, 2015, 6:15 a.m.; hard copy: Frank Schmidt, "Model University Leadership on City Managers, Mayors," The Gazette, September 27, 2015, p. C4
Karla McGregor, "Will Tomorrow's Universities Prepare Students for Meaningful Work?" The Gazette (online), September 28, 2015, 2:32 p.m.; hard copy: Karla McGregor, "Will Tomorrow's Universities Prepare Students for More Meaningful Work?" The Gazette, September 27, 2015, p. C4.
For the online versions of the following September 27, 2015, columns: Bob Elliott, "Question the Process, Not the Person," p. C5, Shams Ghoneim, "Move Forward With Goodwill and Grace," p. C5, Bob Roelf, "Accept Harreld as UI President," p. C5, and Nicholas Johnson's column, go to "Writers Circle: Incoming University of Iowa President J. Bruce Harreld," September 28, 2015, 2:49 p.m.