Sunday, January 14, 2007

UI President Search Held Hostage Day 59 - Jan. 14

Jan. 14, 2:30 p.m., 8:40 p.m. (additional sources linked)

The big news today is that there is no news.

Why is that news? (a) Because it's the first time I can remember that there hasn't been some development in the ongoing saga of the Regents, the UI presidential search, Wellmark, John Colloton, open meetings and public records. (b) Because the way in which this second search is dragging on can't help but cause one to speculate as to why it's taking so long.

It was November 17 -- "a date that will live in infamy" -- when the Regents announced they were calling off the search and disbanding the search committee.

It took the Regents one full month after that, to December 18, before they chose to announce -- not another search committee, but the name of their choice for chair of a new search committee, Dean David Johnsen.

It took the chair until January 8 to come up with names for the search committee -- ah, but not the names of all members of the search committee. Only 5 of the 12 disciples were revealed.

Moreover, they were not really actually named. They were merely nominated. The formal "naming" has to be done by the Regents. As it happened, they had a meeting scheduled for January 11, at which they decided to go along with the choices of their hand picked chair (choices in which they, or Interim President Fethke, may have already played a role).

Now it's back to Search Committee II, its chair and five members, to come up with an additional six names for what the Regents have decreed will be a 12-person search committee. (A major issue at this point is whether the Regents will make the mistake of not insisting there be a student on the committee -- at this point a desidedly possible omission. David Goodner, linked below, has a blog entry about it.)

But whenever the 5/12ths committee gets around to that task will still not be the end of it. Those six will also have to be approved, and ultimately selected, by the Regents.

But when will that be? The Regents don't just hold "meetings" (their euphemism for "a phone call") at any old time -- unless Regent Gartner chooses to. They have eight meetings a year, and the next one is not until sometime in February.

If six new members can be found, and if the Regents find them acceptable, and if the 12 can then find a time when their schedules are such that they can all meet, Search Committee II will be able to hold its first meeting around a month from now, an organizational meeting presumably, at which they can plan when and how they're actually going to get down to business.

Thus, it seems that, a year having already gone by since the Regents knew they were going to have to find a new UI president, the Regents will have taken an additional roughly 90 days before they will even have the first substantive meeting of Search Committee II.

Now one possible theory for the unconscionable delay is that the Regents' behavior, somewhere between excessive casualness and foot dragging, is the result of a degree of incompetence that constitutes nonfeasance or malfeasance in office. I do not hold that view, nor do I wish to.

But the alternative theories are not much better -- that someone has a hidden agenda that is well served by this delay. Perhaps it's Regent Gartner. Maybe Wellmark. Maybe Interim President Fethke, who may well end up serving as "interim" president for a term that rivals that of many "permanently selected" university presidents.

We have already seen the creation of the "new VP position that isn't really a new position" -- at a time and in a way that guarantees that the next UI president will have nothing to say about it. And, as the Press-Citizen's editorial noted yesterday, linked below, it's still not totally clear exactly why that was done, or even what was done, and who benefits and who loses.

Are there other plans that have already been carried out, or are about to be, along with no more public disclosure than the Regents provide with closed meetings or email exchanges in lieu of meetings?

We know that Regent Gartner earlier wanted to get a "strategic planning" process started before UI had a president or the UNI president had much time on the job. Is that still going on? Will there be a new UI strategic plan in place to greet the new UI president (if one can ever be found under these circumstances)?

These aren't attractive hypotheses as reasons for delay either; but they're preferable to the alternative.

I'm sure there will be some who will say, "Oh, it's no big deal. These things take time."
(a) I wouldn't find that explanation satisfactory for the first search. I'm told it, too, was to be concluded by July 1 -- July 1, 2006 -- and it went on until November, nearly a year after Skorton's announced he was leaving. Universities need presidents. When a new one needs to be found it is, in my view, a matter of some urgency that should be undertaken as such.
(b) But put my view of the time consumed with Search I aside. This is Search II. Even if the casualness of a summer holiday on the beach is appropriate in a presidential search that ends successfully, Search I was not such a search. We're now "starting off backing up." If we could ever afford delay, we certainly cannot now.

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[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.
Wondering where the "UI Held Hostage" came from? Click here. For any given entry, links to the prior 10 will be found in the left-most column. Going directly to 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 time there was an entry containing the summary of prior entries' commentary (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 in Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search - Dec. 21-25," December 21, 2006 (and updated thereafter), at the bottom of that blog entry under "References". A Blog Index of all entries since June 2006 is also available.]

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Media Stories and Commentary

Editorial, "Flesh Out the Details on UI's New VP Position," Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 13, 2007

Darwin Danielson, "Calls Already Coming in for UI President's Job," Radio Iowa, January 11, 2007


Open Country (Maria Houser Conzemius), "UI Plays Fast and Loose With Records,"
January 13, 2007

David Goodner, "The Makeup of the New UI Presidential Search Committee Should Include a Student," January 12, 2007

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Maybe they are waiting for Governor Culver to do something about the bag of rotting garbage Tom Vilsack left on his desk.

My recollection is that Regent Bedell resigned so the Governor Vilsack or Culver could appoint a new president of the BOR. Furthermore the appointments of Arbisser, Becker and Wahlert expire in March and it is not likely they will be reappointed.