Tuesday, January 16, 2007

UI President Search Held Hostage Day 61 - Jan. 16

Jan. 16, 7:50 a.m., 11:30 a.m.

There's more to report today, but because it may be awhile before I can get to it I thought I'd start your day on an upbeat note with at least one item that returns us, once again, to that distinguished publication, The Chronicle of Higher Education.

UI's own Kembrew McLeod, that wonderful colleague who thoughtfully got us a trademark on the expression "freedom of speech" so that at least they can't take that away from us (he will soon have a book-length explanation coming from Minnesota Press), is at it again, seeking Regents' approval for the corporate sponsorship of his class this past semester -- complete with the design for a tweed sports coat covered with Nascar-type corporate logos. (Disney was the only corporation to complain.) As you might suspect, the effort was inspired by the new business focus at the UI in general, and in the Regents' presidential search in particular. It's linked below.

(The piece has already been picked up and reproduced by Sivacracy.net, and I suspect it will be all over the Internet before long.)

And the bloggers are going after Michael Gartner again:

State29 notes that "While university budgets were being slashed, Michael Gartner got nearly a million dollars to renovate his baseball stadium." State29, "Show Me the Money," January 15, 2007 (a follow-up to his earlier "A Financial Barrier is Interest?" linked yesterday), with a link to State29, "Michael Gartner's Principal Pork," August 11, 2005 (the Iowa Cubs' ballpark is called "Principal Park").

Ronald Wesley Maly passes along a suggestion from one of his readers that I won't describe in detail but the substance of which is suggested by his headline, "Omar from Osceola Has a Suggestion On Naming the Executive Crapper," January 15, 2007.

Brian Morelli adds some quotes from Senator Dvorsky in his article this morning ("Sunshine Laws May Get Review," linked below) to Tom Witosky's story in yesterday's Register ("Secrecy Triggers Review of Laws"), commented about and linked from yesterday's blog entry.

"'There are questions about what were the regents looking for and about Wellmark, Iowa Health Systems and Des Moines health operations and the selection of a (UI) president and Mr. Colloton's involvement. That is all swirling around,' Dvorsky said. 'The reason there are so many rumors is that regents are trying so hard to violate open meetings laws. If they were more open, then people wouldn't be so distrustful.'"

As for John Colloton's e-mails, "Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, said he doesn't understand why the University of Iowa is not providing University Hospitals Director Emeritus John Colloton's documents, which have been sought through open records requests.

"'The question there is if Mr. Colloton still has a secretary and still uses the offices of the university, it is awfully difficult for me to see why he doesn't come under the public domain,' Dvorsky said."

It's a sentiment consistent with that of Regent Arbisser, quoted in yesterday's blog entry from Mason Kerns' Daily Iowan story, and linked from that entry. And see Tony Leys' story in this morning's Register, linked below, regarding secret meetings of the Polk County public hospital board.

Michael Gartner has a letter to the editor in the Des Moines Register this morning responding to the Register's earlier concern about meetings by e-mail. His point: at least e-mails can provide a paper trail that phone conversations and conversations over coffee or lunch do not.

He's right about that. Moreover, I think it would be a real tragedy -- with all the advantages of the technological marvel we call "e-mail" (e.g., its speed; the opportunity for a-synchronous communication; the added thought that does (or could) go into its composition; and, yes, the record it provides) -- if its use were to be discouraged by overly cautious lawyers' legal opinions or legislative revisions.

On the other hand, the use of e-mail to evade the requirements of the open meetings law ought to be -- and in some jurisdictions is -- a violation of the law.

It would be possible to have a "meeting" by using computers (as the Regents often have meetings using the telephone, in a conference call). This would require that they all be online at the same time, and that there be a place and means by which the public (and media) could be present to watch the online discussion as it is taking place. It would also require compliance with the other requirements of the open meetings law: prior announcement that the meeting is to be held, when and where, how the public can follow the online discussion, and what the agenda will be.

There was another problem with Regent Gartner's use of e-mail, aside from the fact that (in my opinion) it was a violation of the open meetings law. It was not a synchronous exchange. As I understand what happened, Gartner sent an e-mail to all Regents posing some questions (one-to-many). They each responded to him (many-to-one). He then announced (one-to-many) what they had, in effect, agreed to. So far as I know (and, as always, I may be wrong) no Regent objected to this procedure -- although my own view is that each had a responsibility to do so. For the net effect was that Gartner was the only one who knew what each individual was saying; this was not the group discussion contemplated by any law creating a multi-person board or commission. It was unilateral control by the President of the Regents.

Thus, it's far too facile for Gartner to say in his letter, as he does, that e-mail "ensures there will be a public record." That's neither the issue nor an adequate defense for what he did.

The DI has run Kelsey Beltramea's story about Mary Gilchrist's suit, alum Shirley Nelsen provides a bit of the reaction to the Regents' disaster from a Seattle perspective, and Al Miller thinks the Regents don't pass the smell test, all linked below.

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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 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 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

Kembrew McLeod, "An Educational Prank," The Chonicle of Higher Education, January 15, 2007

Kelsey Beltramea, "Gilchrist Pursuing UI Lab Complaints," The Daily Iowan, January 15, 2007

Shirley Nelsen, "UI Deserves Stellar President," The Daily Iowan, January 15, 2007

Tony Leys, "Hospital board's private meetings face criticism; The sessions were 'informational' only, Broadlawns' chairman and lawyer say," Des Moines Register, January 16, 2007

Michael Gartner, "For the Record: E-mails Leave a Trail," Des Moines Register, January 16, 2007

Al Miller, "Doesn't Pass the Smell Test," Des Moines Register, January 16, 2007

Brian Morelli, "Sunshine Laws May Get Review; Dvorsky Cites Regents, UI As Reasons," Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 16, 2007


Wesleyvaday (Ronald Wesley Maly),
"Omar from Osceola Has a Suggestion On Naming the Executive Crapper," January 15, 2007

State29, "Show Me the Money," January 15, 2007, with a link to State29, "Michael Gartner's Principal Pork," August 11, 2005

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Gartner's letter about the use of e-mail misses the point (as did the original editorial). Using e-mail is fine.

The problem with this board is that there are no public discussions. Gartner notes that the Regents meet only 8 times a year. True, but he fails to note that those meetings are normally scheduled for two days, or a day and a half. The Regents have at least 100 hours a year available to them to discuss important matters. They use almost none of them for that purpose. Most meetings involve numerouse presentations, followed by 9-0 votes. Many meetings finish early.

Maybe Gartner was pointing out not that there weren't enough hours, but that the time between meetings was too long. For a board that deals with board-level issues instead of day to day operations, that's not a problem. For this board...