Wednesday, November 29, 2006

UI President Search X

Recap: Where Are We Now?

There have been, now, ten of these blog entries regarding the UI presidential search since the announcement by the Regents on November 17 that they were rejecting the search committee's final four, firing the search committee, calling off the search, and refusing to say what's next. The list of those entries, with direct links, below, can fill in the details for anyone who's interested. I won't try to summarize all of that here.

Of course, the current status is that the Governor and representatives of the Regents and UI constituent groups met Monday evening, and that following the meeting the "votes of no confidence" scheduled for Tuesday by the Faculty Senate and others have been abandoned (or at least postponed) on the basis of unrevealed reasons for confidence that the Governor will proceed with unrevealed measures, as a result of which unrevealed problems will be resolved in unrevealed ways.

(I have set forth my own efforts to come up with the least emotionally charged resolution to all of this under the heading, "The Answer," in Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search VII: The Answer," November 26, 2006.)

So while we wait to see what all this means, I will highlight what seem to me to be some important remaining issues.

1. The New UI Vice President Position and the Elephant in the Board Room: Wellmark. See the discussion under "The Vice President" in Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search IX," November 28, 2006. To understand the concerns here, this exercise may help: Imagine if the Governor was President George Bush, the President of the Board of Regents was Vice President Dick Cheney, and the company with seemingly disproportionate influence over University of Iowa contracts was Halliburton.

2. The Grievances, the Problems, Need to be Explained. See the discussion under this heading in Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search IX," November 29, 2006. The Regents' governance process is broken and needs to be fixed. There is some confusion within the public -- and perhaps even some elected officials and media -- that the conflict is all about the way the search was handled. That is far from the entirety of the problem; it is only the latest in a years-long string of other examples. Postponing or cancelling a "vote of no confidence" is one thing; postponing or cancelling the need to address these problems is another matter entirely. For starters, that list needs to be prepared and made public. Following that, Mark Schantz' suggestion (in a column from last June reproduced in yesterday's blog entry) of a Blue Ribbon panel to address these governance issues needs to be a top priority.

3. Timing is Everything. Also discussed in yesterday's commentary is the matter of timing. If the Governor does, in fact, get everything resolved and wrapped up in a week or two, and the Regents get a new president selected from the final four, that's one thing. But a common institutional "solution" to a mess like this is to shroud it in secrecy, and postpone any announcements, until the controversy dies down and folks are focused on other things. The way to do that in a university setting is to hold the announcements until nobody's on campus -- such as during the winter break that will soon clear out Iowa City. Hopefully, that's not a part of anyone's design.


This Blog's Focus on Regents' Presidential Search

Today's (November 29) is the tenth installment in this blog's report and commentary regarding the continuing saga of the Iowa Board of Regents' efforts to find a president for the University of Iowa. Here are links to the prior nine:

Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search I," November 18, 2006;
Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search II," November 21, 2006;
Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search III," November 22, 2003;

Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search IV," November 23, 2006;
Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search V," November 24, 2006;
Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search VI," November 25, 2006;
Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search VII: The Answer," November 26, 2006;
Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search VIII," November 27, 2006;
Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search IX," November 28, 2006.

Each contains links to the full text of such relevant reports, media stories, blogs and other commentary as I have found regarding the UI presidential search. Together I believe that collection of material to be the most complete available anywhere on the Internet. However, note that the references are not repeated from one entry to the next, so the lists in all the relevant blog entries must be checked to get the full collection.

The entries also contain some commentary of my own. For example,
  • The first contains, among other things, a summarized version of the facts, and a relatively long essay in paragraph 4 entitled, "What are the necessary qualifications for UI's president?"
  • The second includes my effort to identify eight separate categories of issues involved in these stories, provide a bit of legal analysis of Iowa's open meetings law, and reference a little history from Regent Michael Gartner's past.
  • In III I deal with the implications of the revelation that, among the reasons for rejecting the four candidates recommended by the search committee, these Regents, bedeviled by ties to health insurance company Wellmark in the past, may have nonetheless preferred the candidate they did because of her ties to a related health insurance provider. This story, of course, has implications for Governor Vilsack's presidential race, and the beginning of Governor-Elect Culver's term.
  • The fourth includes a contributor's list of Regents-Wellmark ties, and comment about what the Regents'-authorized search committee "Criteria Check List" reveals about the lack of early Regents' concern about health services experience, and some of the problems with search firms.
  • The fifth focuses on the UI's Provost, Michael J. Hogan, and what his rejection by the Regents (as one of the final four) reveals about the failures of the Regents' process.
  • In number VI the primary focus of the news, and my commentary, relates to Governor Vilsack's announcement of his meeting with Regent Gartner and UI officials in Cedar Rapids tomorrow, November 27.
  • In the seventh the discussion involved the revelations in Regent Bob Downer's column, and accompanying stories, regarding the role of Wellmark in President David Skorton's departure, and further evaluation of the perception that this Regents' mess is Governor Vilsack's Katrina as a presidential candidate, given his initial "stay the course" and "You're doing a heck of a job Mike" support of Gartner (which didn't even rise to sufficient importance for him to deliver personally, rather than through a spokesperson).
  • Number eight is limited to links to stories regarding the big story of that day: the closed meeting in Cedar Rapids with Governor Vilsack, and representatives of the Regents and UI constituent groups.
  • In the ninth my commentary touched on four issues: (1) whatever is decided with regard to the proposed "vote of no confidence," it's essential that the full list of grievances by the UI regarding the Regents behavior and process (that is, not just the way the search has been conducted) be assembled, documented, written up, and made public in order that all stakeholders may become aware of the issues that need to be addressed; (2) that the delay granted the Governor could turn into a way the issues can be deep-sixed by holding announcements until no one is on campus during the winter break, (3) that the current Regents' governance model is broken (with suggestions for repair provided from the reproduction of a column by Mark Schantz from last June), and (4) that the proposed new UI vice president position needs to be watched carefully for evidence of continuing efforts to put Wellmark-friendly in positions of conflict of interest.

Media Stories and Commentary

Editorial, "Regents Should Reconsider Four Finalists for UI President," The Daily Iowan, November 29, 2006

Danny Valentine, "Search Still Up in Air," The Daily Iowan, November 29, 2006

Erin Jordan, "Regents ties stir concern at U of I; Critics fear insurer could be affecting presidential
Des Moines Register, November 29, 2006

Erin Jordan, "Session Fuels Optimism About Presidential Hunt," Des Moines Register, November 29, 2006

Steve Collins and Carroll Reasoner, "Obey golden rule of openness in U of I search," Des Moines Register, November 29, 2006

Diane Heldt, "Willing to wait; No-confidence votes postponed in search for new UI president,"
The Gazette, November 29, 2006

Editorial, "UI and Regents Should Talk Out in the Open," Iowa City Press-Citizen, November 29, 2006

Brian Morelli, "No-confidence vote off for now; 'Fruitful' meeting with Vilsack eases tensions between regents, UI," Iowa City Press-Citizen, November 29, 2006

Brian Morelli and Associated Press, "UI's Hogan Finalist for Presidency at UD," Iowa City Press-Citizen, November 29, 2006


Krusty Konservative, "What is the Board of Regents Agenda?" November 29, 2006

J.D. Mendenhall, "Ode to My Alma Mater," November 28, 2006

State29, "Do You Know What I Mean?"
November 29, 2006

State29, "I Don't Want to Work, I Just Want to Bang on the Drum All Day,"
November 29, 2006
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Nicholas Johnson's Main Web Site
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Nicholas Johnson's Blog, FromDC2Iowa
Nicholas Johnson's Blog Index


Anonymous said...

I heard that some of the other local legislators are concerned with Vilsack's run for president interfering with his role controlling the regents. The radio version of this report - - said that Dave Jacoby felt the same way.

Anonymous said...

I think it is interesting that the current 'new veil' of secrecy, now endorsed by leaders of the faculty rest on this assertion 'I am confident that Governor Vilsack will ___'.

For a logical group what logical thought leads to that conclusion? This is a Governor that has stubbed his toe several times along the way. What successful action can anyone point to that Gov Vilsack has effected with regard to higher education in Iowa?

One can imagine a President Vilsack with David Gartner as Sec of State; John Forsyth as Sec of HEW...

Anonymous said...

I, too, am annoyed by faculty leaders in maintaining the Holy Shroud of Secrecy.

Seems that power sharing is tough, all around.

So much for logical consistency, something one would hope a law prof would be able to abide by.

Anonymous said...

Ah yes; And yet, ANOTHER SECRET MEETING IS UNDERWAY! Fethke will has arranged to meet with Deans and the Evil Duo (GW) of the Board of Regents and their most unfortunate shill (A). Where's the Search Committee? Where's President Kurtz? Where's President Greer? Where's President McElligott? Why have they not been invited to this dance Who is now running the zoo, now?

We need the leadership to stop the wait until January now. Already the Board is slipping back into their gamespersonship and treating some of the brightest people in our state with such incredible disregard and disrespect that all of the State should be ashamed to find that we have a Governor this far "in bed" with the insurance industry as represented by this sorry set of events.

Go ahead -- declare your candidacy and see if your own state can support it in light of all of this.

Anonymous said...

Prior Anonymous--

What? By what authority do you have this information? I think you should at least let us know your credentials. Vilsack will formally launch a presidency bid tomorrow. I think by your tone that he is your target and not Gartner and the others. Vilsack promised an open process. Let's give him a chance to revive this mess and not undermine his possibilities to lead us (and make Iowa a leader).

Anonymous said...

First, Nick -- thanks for this BLOG. It is the best source of thoughtful info and mostly, thoughtful discussion. The comments sometimes are varied in content and speculativeness, but seem to be born out within a day or so by DMR, Gazette, or PC....

Let me start with the fact that some of us are electing anonymity because there are real legal, job, and social implications tied up with butting heads against the power elite of this state. I'm one. Call me chicken, but one that wants not to lose a job...I like it here and don't want to have to leave.

OK. So, Regents have another secret meeting. Why? Is this a ploy to delay the search into the holiday break when most everyone is away?

I am worried, who of these four would stick around? Probably only Hogan -- I know, delaware wants him. BUt, let's be real -- this whole thing has him as too risky for them to pursue right now. He has been gracious and never publicly stated he would remove his name from the Iowa search. So, delaware (like Iowa) know that he is still interested in remaining at Iowa. He is the ONLY solution -- skill set (including the silly medical part); integrity; fundraising ability; faculty confidence (mostly, OK some are worried that he values undergrad education -- but then, they pay the bills, since the State has recused itself of that responsibility).

Here's the real probelm I see... Regents wait until after the holiday break and meanwhile, some major searches that are simply too good for Hogan to pass up emerge. (I've heard that the State of Washington has one and that other R-1s (Delaware is good, but not in that league) are underway or near). How many qualified candidates with an impeccable record of integrity like Hogan are out there? Ultimately, they will get him, if Iowa plods along and ignores the competition.

So, while I think we can avert some of these others for awhile, I agree it is only a matter of time...

Let's stop the secrecy
Let's have some open meetings
Let's get the JOB DONE!

This is an incredible University. The sooner we finalize it all the better for all -- it is embarrassing to have our dirty laundry aired this way; even if it does mean that it will FINALLY get into the washing machine!