Tuesday, December 26, 2006

UI President Search XVIII - Dec. 26-31

Revised and updated, Dec. 26, 9:00 a.m., 9:45 a.m.; Dec. 27, 10:00 a.m.; Dec. 28, 8:15 a.m.; Dec. 29, 11:45 a.m.; Dec. 30, 10:30 a.m.; Dec. 31, 9:45 a.m.

It turned out there was much more to report and comment upon this week than when, on Dec. 26, I wrote here: "I'm assuming there will be relatively little news on the UI presidential search front during this week, but what there is will be here."

EXTRA (Dec. 26): Meanwhile we have a post-holiday gift for you this morning with Bob Patton's editorial cartoons; and note that the "References" section at the bottom of Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search XVII - Dec. 18-25," December 21, 2006 (and updated thereafter) now contains one of the more complete collections of links to the full text of the documents related to the search (a number of which are hard to find elsewhere) and other related resources. (As additional basic documents are found they will probably be linked from there rather than whatever is the then current blog entry.)

EXTRA (Dec. 27): Autry Includes Gartner in Book Regarding "Right Decisions" and "Self Respect"; Links Added to Overlooked Earlier Stories

EXTRA (Dec. 28): This Morning's Commentary: Setting the Record Straight, Johnson Replies to Register Letter Writer

EXTRA (Dec. 29): Culver Asks Recruiters to Find Names of "Wise" Potential New Regents; Dean Johnsen Happy With Gartner-Dictated Presidential Search; UI Continues Secrecy Policy With Public Records; New President to be Announced (But Not Unveiled) in October 2007

EXTRA (Dec. 30): UI and Press-Citizen Debate: "What's a 'Public Record"; Gartner to Press-Citizen: "If It Weren't for the Honor I'd Rather Walk"; Being a Regent is Never Having to Say You're Sorry; and Secrecy and Speculation

EXTRA (Dec. 31): Happier New Year; Gartner Gazette's Gomer; Regents' Wreckage Press-Citizen's Story of the Year, and David Goodner's Top Choice

[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. 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 entry containing the summary of prior entries (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. And the fullest collection of basic documents related to the search is contained at the bottom of that blog entry under "References" in Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search - Dec. 21-25," December 21, 2006 (and updated thereafter).]

Commentary - Dec. 26 - "Patton's Pad"

Just as some of the more insightful commentary about the news -- and the mainstream media -- is found on Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show," so it is that some of the best editorial commentary is found, not in the columns and editorials, but in the editorial cartoons.

And one of the best collections of editorial cartoons regarding the UI presidential search has come from the pen of Press-Citizen graphic artist and editorial cartoonist, Bob Patton.

I'm about to describe five he's done since November 28 on this subject, show you one of them, and then give you a link to his Web site where all are displayed. (So why describe them? Because you may not make it to the site, and this will give you a clue as to which ones to look for.)

In chronological order:

Nov. 28 (as a result of a "caption contest"): Governor Vilsack is standing between two conference tables, behind which are the members of the Board of Regents. They are all holding hands. Vilsack is saying, "OK, let's hold hands, close our eyes, and ask ourselves: 'Who would Wellmark want us to pick?'"

Dec. 8 ("All this, and she's a Hawkeye Fan, Too! . . ."):
Two guys, one labeled "Regents" and the other "UI" (who holds a sheet of paper) are talking. In the first three panels UI is saying, ". . . I'm telling ya, this is the perfect candidate for President of the University of Iowa!" ". . . A Ph.D. with the strong background in health you wanted . . . a devoted fundraiser . . ." "Who's well-connected with U.I. and is popular with the faculty and staff!" To which "Regents" responds in the last panel: ". . .But didn't we fire Mary Gilchrist as head of the Hygienic Lab?" And UI replies, "An added plus! We don't have to pay her moving expenses!"

Dec. 12 ("Minority Retort"; in response to Regent Wahlert's quoted assertion that the only persons concerned about the Regents' statements and behavior are part of a vocal "radical minority"): Regent Wahlert, dressed as Marie Antoinette, and labeled as "Marie Ant-Wahlert," is holding a sign saying "Academic Freedom, Schmacademic Freedom," as she says ". . . Let the RADICAL MINORITY eat cake!"

Dec. 15 ("'Twas Beauty (and No-Confidence Votes. . .)"): Kong (who has somehow managed to tie a bow tie and is labeled "Regents") has climbed Old Capitol and is holding on by means of the flag pole atop the dome. Fighter planes are coming at him in an attempt to save the University. They are labeled "Faculty Senate" and "Johnson County Democrats."

Dec. 20 ("Wishful Thinking"): Four locals, and one labeled "Gartner" are standing in the "Meet Santa" line, with bubbles representing what they're thinking about asking from Santa. What does Gartner want? ". . . A New U.I. President . . . and a short leash . . ."

Here's the link to "Patton's Pad."

This morning's Gazette [Mary Sharp, "Top Stories of 2006," The Gazette, December 26, 2006, p. 1B] reports that the fifth most important story of 2006 in the judgment of readers (immediately following 4, the deaths of Iowans in Iraq, and nosing out 6, Touch Play machines) is:

"5. UI president
"University of Iowa President David Skorton leaves for Cornell University, and the search for his successor dissolves in confusion and anger after regents reject four candidates recommended by a search committee. The search starts anew in 2007."

A caption under a picture of Skorton says, "Finding his replacement has proven difficult." What a typo! As I wrote, in effect, in "Commentary - Dec. 24: David Skorton" (Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search XVII - Dec. 21-25," December 21, 2006 (and updated thereafter)), it's finding his successor that has proven difficult, finding his replacement, alas, is going to continue to be impossible.

As the Daily Iowan editorialized at the beginning of this month ("with luck the UI will have a president by the end of finals week"), after describing the qualities the editorial board wanted in the next president, "We [should] point out that our ideal candidate closely resembles Skorton. Indeed, this presidential search should not even be necessary." ["Next UI President Must Engage Students," linked below.]

Commentary - Dec. 27

"Additions to Links." These, now 18, blog entries regarding the UI President Search are the product of one person (me), otherwise employed, and operating without staff. Thus, it is inevitable that the effort to provide links to all media stories, editorials, blog entries, and basic references will occasionally have omissions (or duplications) and errors. The new section, "Additions to Links," contains some items I've recently uncovered or had brought to my attention. If you know of others, please do let me know. [Nothing is deliberately omitted except for repetitive stories, such as AP or unoriginal TV stories, for which the lengthiest original story is included.]

Autry and Gartner. When Jim Autry wrote in defense of Michael Gartner a reader responded with some information about their relationship.
James A. Autry, "Localized Storm Front Triggers Iowa City Squalls," Des Moines Register, December 24, 2006 (with reader response). We now have more on the subject.

James A. Autry and Peter Roy have published an e-book this month (December) entitled The Book of Hard Choices: How to Make the Right Decisions at Work and Keep Your Self Respect (New York: Random House, 2006), available from http://www.fictionwise.com/ebooks/ebook42683.htm.

The description says "James Autry and Peter Roy, experienced executives themselves, interviewed numerous leaders about the tough decisions they've made on the job. They spoke with people like former Starbucks president Howard Behar, Iowa Cubs owner Michael Gartner, and Governor Tom Vilsack of Iowa . . ." (and others).

I haven't read the book, but based on Autry's column, one would guess that he believes Michael Gartner has made the "right decisions at work" notwithstanding others' judgment that in the process Gartner lost his "self respect." It would be interesting to see if the referenced "tough decisions" evaluated for Gartner involve merely which pitchers to put in the game, or whether there is also a discussion of Gartner's Board of Regents' decisions -- and behavior.

Commentary - Dec. 28: Setting the Record Straight

There are a couple of letters to the editor in the Register this morning, linked below, one of which I thought required a response, reproduced below (and posted at the Register's online site as a comment following the letter).

First, the letter; then my response:

# # #
Employees aren't in charge

December 28, 2006

It's no big surprise that the faculty at the University of Iowa would like to lead in the selection process of their new president. While the professors attempt to make a case for this change, it makes no sense to this reader. Most any person outside of the academic community knows that the employees do not hire the boss.

The university is a business and should be run like one. Let regents President Michael Gartner, along with the Board of Regents, do his thankless job; let the professors go back to work doing their job; and keep the 2007 Iowa Legislature out of the picture.

Stu Bassman,

# # #

PostPosted: Thu Dec 28, 2006 7:44 am Post subject:

"Shared Governance" and Creativity

The false assertions regarding academic governance in Stu Bassman's letter are, nonetheless, certainly understandable, and in all probability not his fault.

But the issues are so important to the future of Iowa that his assertions deserve a respectful response.

Among the Regents, UI president, football coach and quarterback, who will "lead" the Hawkeye athletic program, including the selection and execution of plays in the Alamo Bowl this weekend? What is the "job" of each? The reality is that it is not "the job" of any one to the exclusion of all the others; each has a measure of responsibility for the Hawkeyes' athletic program.

Nationally, since 1920 the concept of "shared governance" between university faculties and their governing bodies (including the selection of university presidents) has been formalized in principles approved by the national associations of both professors and governing bodies.

This "shared governance" approach has produced recent UI presidents internationally recognized for their academic leadership, and hired away at two-to-three times their UI salaries by some of the most prestigious universities in the nation. Thus, it is not that "the professors attempt to make a case for this change." The professors were making a case (and persuasively in my opinion) for sticking with a UI and national traditional practice that has produced an extraordinarily successful track record. It is the Regents who failed to make a case for their proposed change, made it anyway, and thereby produced the Katrina-like chaos that has followed in their wake.

It is true that "Most any person outside of the academic community knows that the employees do not hire the boss." What that fails to make clear, however, is that those inside the academic community also fully well know that. While it's not clear what "lead in the selection process" precisely means, I know of no professor who does not understand that it is the Regents who "hire the boss," not the "employees." Indeed, as UI Faculty Senate President Shelly Kurtz started his statement in support of the Faculty Senate's 62-1 "no confidence" vote, "Let me begin by emphasizing that the Faculty Senate fully recognizes that the Regents have the statutory responsibility to select our next president."

Of course, both Michael Gartner and the faculty should "do their jobs." The issue is: what are those jobs? How do they relate one to the other? What kind of governance model might be designed that would best recognize both the legal responsibilities of the Regents and the "shared governance" responsibilities of the faculty? (Reflect again on the roles of the UI president, football coach, and quarterback.) Unfortunately, there is no detailed governance model in place at this time. And the changes the Regents would like to bring about have not yet (according to Gartner) been thought through and articulated.

What does it mean to say that "the university is a business and should be run like one"? Clearly, there are many business principles and practices -- such as budgeting, human relations, marketing techniques, or management information systems -- that are universally applicable to for-profits and non-profits alike, including the smallest Iowa town's city council, the churches and other non-profit organizations we work with, and the global "non-governmental organizations" or NGOs. No doubt about that.

But even for-profit businesses recognize that in any business -- especially one dependent upon well-educated, creative personnel -- 19th Century, top-down, authoritarian, hierarchal, "cracking the whip" management is counter-productive. It just doesn't work. It's not profitable. Creative persons and skilled labor can easily find work elsewhere, and will. "Retention" needs to be a top corporate goal.

And that's why a walk through the offices of groups in a creative advertising agency, advanced weapons systems design, computer software and videogame suppliers, composers, writers, or comedy teams for TV shows, leave the three-piece-suit, buttoned-down executives shaking their heads. How is it that those billion-dollar ideas come from the ping pong tables, empty pizza boxes and coffee cups, of individuals in shorts, sprouting a three-day-growth of beard, as likely to be working at 3:00 a.m. as 3:00 p.m.? But they do. So the wisest executives, in the most profitable creative firms, practice "shared governance" -- if, indeed, there is any "governance" of such individuals at all.

By contrast, many university professors look remarkably corporate. But like their for-profit-sector former students, those faculty members are also in the creative business. And wise academic administrators, and governing bodies, know they need to be treated accordingly. So, OK, let's run the University of Iowa like a business; but let's make sure we know what business it's in.

[If you're interested in learning more about UI's governance and presidential search, The Chronicle of Higher Education says that the blog, FromDC2Iowa.blogspot.com, has "one of the most comprehensive analyses of the controversy" -- as well as links to virtually all of the stories, editorials, columns, and basic reference documents.]
For additional information: www.nicholasjohnson.org and FromDC2Iowa.blogspot.com

# # #

Commentary - Dec. 29: Culver's Search for "Wise" Regents; Gartner Dictates New Presidential Search; UI Sticks by Secrecy; UI President to be Announced (But Not Revealed) in October

Culver Seeks Wise Men for Regents

Governor-Elect Chet Culver has a lot of appointments to make, and he's said he wants to appoint the wisest Iowans he can find. Three or four of the appointments involve vacancies on the Board of Regents in early 2007. Like most newly elected governors, Culver has a recruitment team to help him find qualified candidates.

As luck would have it, Hallmark was there to record the moment when the two women on Governor-Elect Culver's staff who are responsible for Regents appointments, but who may have misunderstood Culver's request, met to discuss the possibilities.

[This image represents a portion of a card in the Hallmark Saturdays series ("The casual way to connect from Hallmark") which is copyright by Hallmark. It is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational, comment and parody purposes only. Any other use may require advance permission from Hallmark; see http://www.hallmark.com.]

But seriously, folks . . .

Gartner Meets Privately With Dean Johnsen: Search Committee Size, Members, Selection Date to be Regents' Call; Delay to Continue; Details Remain Undisclosed

The more things change the more they remain the same -- as Diane Heldt reports in this morning's Gazette, linked below.

Apparently the members of the Board of Regents are still willing to let Michael Gartner run the show unilaterally, without involving them, without group process, and in secret.

Is that legal? Absolutely. Does it violate the open meetings law? No. Are the Regents allowed to totally dominate the search process? Yes.

Once again, the issue is not "who's running the university?" (Although there is an issue as to whether the answer is "The Regents" or "One Regent.") The issue is, as suggested above, the need for wisdom: openness, collegiality, cooperation, communication, and sound, "business-like" management.

1. The perpetuation of the casual approach to delay. Institutions need CEOs. Boards have the responsibility to find them and put them in place. It was one thing for the Regents to be casual about finding Skorton's successor while he was still on the job, last spring, and the UI still had a president, even if a lame duck. It was a little less responsible to continue the delay throughout the summer and fall, while the University was functioning with an interim president. It has been (in my opinion) absolutely indefensible for them to continue their casual approach to this, their primary responsibility, following their rejection of the four finalists Nov. 17 -- without regard to how one feels about the propriety of that action. Indeed, they said on that occasion they didn't know what they were going to do next or when they would decide what they would do. I believe they should have gone into emergency session and stayed there until they decided how they were going to clean up the mess they had made. There is no reason why, if a second search was what they wanted, that the second search committee could not have been in place by Dec. 1.

This attitude continues. When will the search committee be named? Heldt reports, "Their [the regents] next regular meeting is Feb. 6-7 in Ames, but the regents might hold a special meeting in January to deal with the search, he [Dean Johnsen] said." Note that (a) Gartner is not even prepared to say when the members will be chosen, (b) it could be as late as February, and (c) we're just talking about the selection of the search committee members -- not meetings of the search committee, not the search for presidential candidates, not the work of the committee.

2. Regents to determine size, membership of search committee. One can't blame Dean Johnsen for this. He's caught in the middle. The Regents have the power, and Gartner's selected Dean Johnsen to facilitate it for them. What's a dean supposed to do? To borrow a lyric from a song in the musical "Oklahoma!," "I Can't Say 'No,'" "Whut you goin' to do when he talks that way,
Spit in his eye?"

But I thought a part of the purpose of this second search was to heal things, to involve the UI community, and to have a search committee with no regents on it. No one's confused: the ultimate selection of the next UI president rests, and rests solely, with the regents. But this is the search committee! If some of the regents would be more comfortable eliminating the UI community entirely from this process -- in violation of over 85 years of a national, and UI, commitment to "shared governance" in the selection of UI presidents -- why not just come right out and do it directly? Why beat around the bush?

Don't the Regents even trust the UI community in general, and Dean Johnsen in particular, to select the members of a search committee, to determine how many are necessary to ensure that all the hundreds of programs and projects of this very large institution are represented, and to decide when they will be chosen and start work? How much additional direction and control of the search process will the Regents in general (or has Gartner, in particular, already) provide the committee?

3. Secret, one-on-one, micro-managing. Can the President of the Board of Regents talk in secret to any UI employee he wants to, any time he wants to, about any subject he wants to without violating the law? Absolutely -- with very few exceptions. Again, the questions are not whether it is legal; it is. (a) One question is whether it is good board governance practice, and another involves (b) our current conditions.

Good board governance policy mandates that (a) Boards (of any kind, including Regents) are most properly concerned with policy, not day-to-day operations, (b) Boards relationships with CEOs, and others at their institution, are the result of action by the entire board, not individual members thereof, and (c) when potential Board action is being deliberated, that meeting should be open to the public and media. Gartner's Wednesday meeting with Dean Johnsen violates not one, but all, of these principles.

The Governor-Elect has called for more openness, more compliance with the spirit of the open meetings law, in general -- and in particular with regard to the Regents. Some legislators -- and even regents -- agree. Many papers' editorial boards have criticized Regents' secrecy; one paper is even in litigation over these issues. Many of those Iowans following these issues agree. Much of the suspicion, speculation and soured relations between the UI community and the Regents involves secrecy. So why on earth would Gartner want to poke a stick into that wasp nest, now, of all times?

If the Regents want to micro-manage the search committee -- which they have the legal right to do, however counterproductive it may be -- let them do it in a meeting at which all the Regents are present, a meeting open to the public and media, a meeting at which all who care can know of the exchange between Gartner and Johnsen. (I would simply note in this connection that UI Faculty Senate President Shelly Kurtz has offered to bring faculty from each of the Regents' institutions to such a meeting for the purpose of sharing the pros and cons of past presidential search procedures. That gracious proposal was turned down cold by the Regents; so cold, in fact, that they refused to be personally involved even in its rejection -- they handed that task off to their staff director).
UI Sticks by Secrecy

Both Erin Jordan ("UI Refuses to Release Presidential Search E-Mails," linked below) and Diane Heldt ("More Documents Released in UI Presidential Search," also linked below) addressed a recent public records request for John Colloton's search-related e-mails. But as you can tell from the headlines, they took a little different tack on the story.

John Colloton served in UI hospital administration roles from 1958 through 2000 -- 42 years. For 23 of those years he was the hospital's director. For the past five years he has been a member of the board of directors of Wellmark. He currently has an office in the hospital which he regularly uses, phone, email account and a personal ($50,000-plus) secretary -- all of which are provided at UI expense. But he does not, personally, draw a salary. Are his emails to major players in the UI presidential search "public records"? The University -- after delaying its response beyond the statutory deadline -- says "no," relying on an Iowa Attorney General's ruling.

I like John Colloton, and I'm not going to undertake another analysis of the Iowa open meetings and public records laws. All I'll say is that the reason this would make a good final exam question in my Cyberspace Law Seminar is because there sure are some strong arguments one could make in opposition to that Iowa Attorney General's ruling.

UI's New, Secret President to be Announced (But Not Unveiled) in October 2007

Ken Fuson, who tells us that his "Annual Fearless Predictions" are "much anticipated" (certainly by me), has somehow found a mole inside the Board of Regents who was willing to reveal to him their plans regarding the next UI president. As Fuson reports in this morning's Register (Ken Fuson, "Fuson's '07 Picks: Will Pundit Perform Prediction Perfection?" Des Moines Register, December 29, 2006), the prediction for October is that:

"The Iowa Board of Regents announces a new president for the University of Iowa, but refuses to identify who it is. 'This is the only way we could get someone of this caliber,' the regents said in a news release. Worried faculty and students call for a no-confidence vote when the mystery president appears on campus wearing the Jason mask from 'Friday the 13th.'"

Commentary - Dec. 30: UI-PC Spar Over "Public Records;" Gartner Would Rather Walk; Regents Never Have to Say They're Sorry; Secrecy and Speculation

Public Records

Regardless of whether a court would find his analysis correct, I think the Press-Citizen's Jim Lewers has put his finger on the relevant language, as quoted in the Press-Citizen's story this morning, linked below.

Iowa Code Sec. 22.1 provides the following definition of "public records": "3. As used in this chapter, 'public records' includes all records, documents, tape, or other information, stored or preserved in any medium, of or belonging to this state . . .."

The Press-Citizen reports that the UI's legal support for its secrecy claim regarding Colloton's e-mails was that he "does not have any public duties at the university and his communications do not memorialize the discharge of any official functions."

So we're left with questions of both fact and law.

The legal question (in my opinion, off the top of my head, without having read any cases or done any other legal research or having read the Attorney General's opinion) turns on the meaning of the comma after the word "medium."

A "medium" would include the hard drive on a computer or network server or tape or other backup system for either.

(a) If the Iowa legislature intended to make the decisive factor (in deciding what records in public buildings are, and are not, "public records") a function of whether the medium in which they are embedded is one "belonging to this state," then any and all writing stored on facilities owned by the University -- regardless of how personal, and regardless of the author -- will be "public records."

(b) If, however, the language between the commas is intended to only further define and modify what is and is not a "record" or "document" (as distinguished from a "public record") -- specifically, to include, in addition to documents on paper, those only existing and stored in electronic form -- then one might argue that the decisive factor is not whether the medium (whether paper or hard drives) is "of or belonging to this state," but rather whether the document is "of or belonging to this state."

If the former interpretation, everything on UI computers and backup media is a "public record." If the latter, only documents "belonging to this state" would be public records.

That, of course, would still leave an open question as to the UI's claim (within limits) of what documents, created by those using its facilities, are or are not "of or belonging to this state." My impression (not based on review of UI regulations) is that the University pretty much takes the position that any and everything flowing over, or saved on, its facilities is subject to its monitoring and approval. There are also contractual provisions, I believe, regarding employees' property rights in intellectual property created using university facilities and paid time. So there would be at least an argument that every private email on UI computer facilities -- regardless of who created it -- is "of or belonging to this state."

Thus, under some legal interpretations, it would become relevant whether the Colloton e-mails involved the use of UI facilities. That's a fact question.

What if an employee uses their own, personal laptop computer, and private (non-university) email account? Presumably any official documents created -- if "of or belonging to this state" -- would be "public records" nonetheless, even if created from home and on the hard drive of a privately-owned computer. Certainly this would be true if the laptop was used at work, connected to the UI network via ethernet cable or wi-fi (even though the document was never stored on UI storage media).

Presumably, private documents and e-mail, unrelated to UI business or employment, created at home, on privately-owned equipment, on the employee's own time, and never stored on UI facilities, would not be considered "public records" under any interpretation of the law. However, as it gets closer to the UI -- a private laptop that uses the UI network (but not storage), a UI-owned computer (but a message that is not stored on UI facilities), to a UI computer and a message stored on UI facilities -- the legal issues change.

Gartner Would Rather Walk.

This year Time magazine picked all of us Internet users as its "person of the year." But in past years it chose such persons as Hitler (on the cover six other times), and Stalin (twice).

Following the lead of this granddaddy of the "person of the year" publications, the Iowa City Press-Citizen has decided that it, too, need not limit its nominees for "Person of the Year" to those with a "positive impact on the community."

Thus it is that one of those among the paper's "Bumper Crop of Finalists" was someone it acknowledged was "reviled" and whose "effect on the UI community has been . . . tornado-level chaos." "Even when [this nominee] is the smartest person in a room, he hasn't been smart enough to refrain from pointing out that fact [while] waging a war against the UI faculty, staff and students, and encourag[ing] UI's critics to view academics as people who do little work for exorbitant pay."

The Press-Citizen concludes, "Because [the nominee's] abrasive impact has alienated so many, we hope he resigns his [position]. But we have to acknowledge his ability to make things happen."

Fortunately, the Press-Citizen's Board rejected this finalist, disbanded its search committee, started a second search with a new committee, and approved that search committee's recommendation of Rudolph Juarez as the Press-Citizen's "2006 Person of the Year."

There's no record of Hitler and Stalin ever complaining about being selected, but "WWGD"? ("What would Gartner Do?" That's right, the "G" is for "Gartner" not "God.") I would imagine that Gartner -- upon being informed of the Press-Citizen's consideration of him for its prestigious "Person of the Year" recognition, but also informed of its description of his qualifying characteristics -- might borrow a line from Mark Twain on contemplation of being tarred, feathered and run out of town on a rail, "if it weren't for the honor and glory of the thing, I'd just as soon walk."

Now that's something that would take him longer to get from Ames to Iowa City than Wahlert's private plane.

Being a Regent is Never Having to Say You're Sorry

Have you ever wondered why Michael Gartner has never uttered a recorded word of recognition that he might have played a small part -- just a tiny little small part -- in creating the problems surrounding the Regents-UI relationship? Or why Governor Vilsack insists on "staying the course" with his Regents President? Could it be that they, like President Bush, believe it's inappropriate for anyone in such a powerful position to admit mistakes or say they're sorry? Or maybe, even given Gartner's extraordinary ability as a writer, he can't quite find the words.

Whatever the reason, I came upon the following speech the other day and thought I'd offer it up as an example they might reflect upon, or even use to model their own remarks. It's sort of a "Happy New Year" speech, so it's timely. I'm sure the author wouldn't mind if either of them used it word for word. Aside from changing the references to "Iowa," and the omissions, it's pretty much as the author delivered it.

Can you guess who it was?

# # #

Ladies and gentlemen, it's great to be back.

What a difference a year makes - what happened?

People recently have said to me, "I bet you wish you were back in the . . . business?"

I say, "No, not for a minute."

This is still the best job I've ever had. It's an honor to serve the people of Iowa and a joy to serve the people of Iowa and to stand here with you at the start of this new year.

I've thought a lot about the last year and the mistakes I made and the lessons I've learned.

Now it's true that I was in too much of a hurry. I didn't hear the majority of Iowans when they were telling me they didn't like the search process. I barreled ahead anyway when I should have listened.

I have absorbed my defeat and I have learned my lesson. And the people, who always have the last word, sent a clear message -- cut the warfare, cool the rhetoric, find common ground and fix the problems together. So to my fellow Iowans, I say -- message received.

I haven't for a moment doubted our fundamental agenda -- . . . to prepare our state for the extraordinary changes to come.

So, as we begin the new year, I stand before you here tonight happy, hopeful and wiser. And I'm confident that Iowa has the innovative spirit to address the challenges we face here at home and as part of a dynamic global economy.

We made unequalled investments in education -- a record of 50 billion dollars this year.

And we made our schools healthier by becoming the only state in the union to ban sodas and junk food from our schools. . . .

All of which brings me to tonight.

Over the years, some remarkable governors and some remarkable men and women who have served on the Board of Regents have addressed the needs of the people. . . .

In the face of massive change and huge challenges, they built the foundation of our state's prosperity. They built the schools and the universities that became the envy of the world.

. . ."

Can you imagine an elected or appointed official saying anything like that? Well, at least one did. Can you guess who it was?

These remarks are taken, for the most part word for word, from California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's January 2006 "State of the State Speech" to the California Legislature, January 5, 2006 -- following which his poll numbers -- that dropped from 57% to 34% approval in one year -- reversed direction and he handily won re-election by roughly 1.5 million votes.

Power may corrupt, but humility and apology can empower. Just a thought.

Secrecy and Speculation

A blog entry in "Open Country" (Maria Houser Conzemius, "UI Advised Not to Release E-Mails, Dec. 29, linked below) prompted an anonymous reader to put up a couple comments charging that "Ms. Conzemius' blog posts are regularly full of terrible factual inaccuracies and wild speculations" -- among other things. Following which they carried on an exchange.

I'm not going to get into a "who shot John?" over this. I'd rather just say, "I'll hold your coats while you and him fight;" although I do think Anonymous has come on a good deal stronger than is warranted by the "factual inaccuracies" he or she points to (and he or she provides no support for the "regularly full" of inaccuracies allegation).

So the primary reason I even bother to mention this is that it stands as yet one more example of the consequences of the secrecy that seems so central to the Regents -- and the University's -- way of doing business.

When an institution insists on secrecy, on denying information to those for whom it is important, that institution is not really in a position to complain when interested individuals rely, instead, on the only straws they can grasp: the related information that is confirmed, intuition, inference, and rumor.

Commentary - Dec. 31: Happier New Year; Gartner the Gomer and Story of the Year

Why "happier" rather than "Happy New Year"? Because this blog has become, over the past six weeks, focused on the UI President Search. And, I'm sad to say, I don't see a reliable source of happiness coming our way in that department in 2007.

On a very long list of people who could be doing something, anything, to make it better, I cannot find one who is doing so. Not: Michael Gartner, a majority of the Regents, Governor Tom Vilsack, Governor-Elect Chet Culver, the Democratic Party-controlled Iowa Senate. As I've written earlier, up this page, "the more things change the more they remain the same." It seems that Gartner is still calling the shots, his way -- a way that, in this one Iowan's opinion, disserves the people of Iowa and their once-great educational system.

So when it comes to Regents' governance of education in general, and their selection of a UI president in particular, it looks like the rest of us will have to pin our hopes on modest, incremental improvements -- hopes for a happier New Year than the one we've just endured.

Gartner as Gomer.

The Gazette regularly publishes an editorial feature of "Homers" (good news) and "Gomers" (bad news). Today it has its Homers and Gomers of the year 2006, and ranks Gartner as the number one Gomer. Under a sub-head of "What a Mess," the item reads, in its entirety:

"WHAT A MESS: The search for a new University of Iowa president fizzled amid allegations of secret agendas and bullying tactics.
UI faculty, staff and students expressed general disdain for and a lack of confidence in the state Board of Regents, particularly its chairman, Michael Gartner. The rancor attracted some national attention, leaving many concerned about the long-term ramifications on the UI’s reputation as well as the short-term troubles the state might have in attracting the best candidates to fill the position vacated by David Skorton."

The Press-Citizen's year-end "2006 in Review" picks of top stories chose, as number one, "Skorton leaves; UI president search fails." The editorial board leaves little doubt how it feels about that story, as the following excerpt illustrates: "Now, nearly a year after Skorton's surprise announcement, the university has spent more than $200,000 to demonstrate just how disastrous a presidential search can be."

And Register blogger David Goodner's list of "The Top Ten Iowa Stories of the Year" put at the top of the list -- that's right: "1. President of the University of Iowa David Skorton leaves for Cornell, Board of Regents mishandles search for his replacement."

The full text of all are linked below.

Media Stories and Commentary

Editorial, "Gomers: What Went Wrong; What a Mess," The Gazette, December 31, 2006

Editorial, "2006 in Review; Skorton leaves; UI president search fails,"
Iowa City Press-Citizen, December 31, 2006

Erin Jordan, "U of I refuses to release presidential search e-mails; The school says messages to and from a longtime administrator regarding the search for a new leader shouldn't be public," Des Moines Register, December 29, 2006

Robert Anderson, Daryl Beall and Willard Jenkins, "Recruit more international students to Iowa," Des Moines Register, December 26, 2006

Dennis Peer, "U of I Problems Will Be Long Lasting,"
Des Moines Register, December 28, 2006

Stu Bassman, "Employees Aren't in Charge,"
Des Moines Register, December 28, 2006

Diane Heldt, "UI Presidential Search Leader Encouraged by Positive Feedback,"
The Gazette, December 29, 2006

Diane Heldt, "More Documents Released in UI Presidential Search," The Gazette, December 29, 2006

"UI Complies With Public Records Request; No Documents from Colloton Released,"
Iowa City Press-Citizen, December 30, 2006

"Press-Citizen's 'Person of the Year;' A Bumper Crop of Finalists: Michael Gartner,"
Iowa City Press-Citizen, December 30, 2006


Matmann22, "Yet Another Posting About People Abusing the System," December 26, 2006 (detailing and discussion of Regents' search expenditures)

Open Country (Maria Houser Conzemius), "UI Advised Not to Release E-Mails," December 29, 2006 (with testy anonymous reader comments and exchange)

David Goodner (Register's "Straight Out of the Cornfield" Blog), "The Ten Most Important Iowa Stories of the Year (Eastern Iowa Edition); President of the University of Iowa David Skorton leaves for Cornell, Board of Regents mishandles search for his replacement,"
Decemeber 30, 2006

Additions to Links

Editorial, "Next UI President Must Engage Students," Daily Iowan, December 7, 2006

Erin Jordan, "Vilsack Speaks With U of I Leaders" [online: "U of I Leaders: Vilsack Stepping Back"]; Also, the Faculty Senate president says he thinks the Board of Regents is trying 'to intimidate' professors," Des Moines Register, December 10, 2006 (with Reader Comment, "Throw the Bums Out!")

Letters, "After this, will top candidates consider coming to university?" Des Moines Register, December 3, 2006

Robert F. Anderson

Dana Hartsock

Jon Shelness

J. Robert Hopson, "Forsyth's Saga," Des Moines Register, December 3, 2006 (with Reader Comment, "This Statement is Incorrect")

James Tomkovicz, "Vilsack Laid Foundation," Des Moines Register, December 3, 2006

Editorial, "State, Regents, UI Must Go Forward," Iowa City Press-Citizen, December 3, 2006

Maria Houser Conzemius, "Still Time to Fly Home and Fire Gartner" [online as "Gov. Vilsack, fly home and fire Gartner'], Iowa City Press-Citizen, December 16, 2006

John L. Baker, "Search Firms Do More Than Just Provide a List of Names," Iowa City Press-Citizen, December 6, 2006

David Tigges, "Regents Beyond Mending Fences," Iowa City Press-Citizen, December 6, 2006

Krishna Das, "Iowa City's Regular Routine," Iowa City Press-Citizen, December 5, 2006 (excerpt)

Mary Maher Sturm, "Regents Are a Bunch of Clowns," Iowa City Press-Citizen, December 4, 2006

James A. Autry and Peter Roy, The Book of Hard Choices: How to Make the Right Decisions at Work and Keep Your Self Respect (New York: Random House, 2006), available from http://www.fictionwise.com/ebooks/ebook42683.htm (includes dicussion of Michael Gartner)

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Anonymous said...

Here is a description of James Autry's coaching prowess:
"Mr. Autry does high level executive coaching on a very selective basis. This coaching focuses on management and leadership issues ranging from conflict management and/or resolution, to hiring and termination decisions, to interpersonal relationships with employees, peers, and managers."

Now his comments on the Regent's controversy:
"Apparently a slow-moving hysteria front with intermittent naiveté drizzle and strong showers of self-righteousness has passed over Iowa City...Or the ongoing witch-hunt against the regents...I can't leave out the Register's role in sensationalizing as well as legitimizing all the faculty whining and foot-stamping. Apparently some of those self-righteousness showers fell on your building...Finally, I must say I have many friends in the academy...I have learned to avoid them in groups such as committees and senates."

Does this spell out h-y-p-o-c-r-i-t-e?

So Mr Autry is going to focus on management and leadership issues, by calling people hysterical, naive, whiny, and self righteous. That ought to solve alot of problems, and promote smooth relationships too. Very respectful too.

Does it spell out a-r-r-o-g-a-n-t too?

I would say anyone interested in real leadership advice to apply Mr Autry's advice about academic committees and Senates to his book:

AVOID HIS E-BOOK! Probably not worth the e-tubes and e-pipes it is written on.

Nick said...

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