Monday, March 26, 2007

UI Held Hostage Day 429 - March 26

March 26, 7:30 a.m.

Understanding the University of Iowa

For the benefit of the regular readers of this blog who are actual or potential candidates for the UI president position -- and anyone else who may be interested -- I thought it might be useful to share some recent stories from one issue of one local paper that may provide a bit of insight into how to get and keep a job as UI President. Things you've always wanted to know but were afraid to ask.

Athletics and the UIHC. The most highly paid State employees in Iowa, by almost an order of magnitude, are our universities' athletic coaches.

In a take off on the oft repeated line that "the University Hospital is one of the nation's largest university-owned hospitals," some turn it on its head and say "the University of Iowa is one of the nation's largest hospital-owned universities."

Clearly, major responsibilities of any UI president relate to our health science institutions. (In fact, that was said by Regents President Michael Gartner to be the reason for rejecting all of the finalists produced by Search Committee I: they didn't have enough health science administration experience.) The UIHC is, if nothing else, one of Iowa's largest employers. And it is, of course, a great deal more than that.

Iowans are rightfully proud of the UIHC, and grateful when they need to use its internationally renowned staff and facilities to ease and extend their lives.

But when it comes to winning Iowans' "hearts and minds" -- or perhaps that's a bit of an exaggeration, let's just say Iowans' "hearts" -- nothing rivals the collegiate athletic programs.

For example, I've noticed over the years that far more Iowans show up for the football games in Kinnick Stadium than for the string quartet concerts in Clapp Recital Hall or the outstanding academic lecturers the University brings to town that speak in the student union (IMU).

So if you're a candidate for UI president you might give this matter some thought before you go into your interview. On the one hand there are faculty -- including some of those serving on Search Committee II -- who look to the president to put the brakes on the more outrageous excesses of the athletic program. (We are presently addressing the degree to which we want to fund the program with revenues from the gambling industry.)

Even a local legislator (quoted in the Brian Morelli story, linked below) is quoted as saying, "The president needs more oversight over athletics." But, unlike academic issues -- or even the selection of a UI president -- the selection of coaches is considered so important that it cannot be trusted to the faculty, the president and other administrators, or even the Board of Regents.

The selection of coaches is solely the decision of someone called the "Athletic Director." To provide a little more detail and understanding, give a read to Pat Harty, "Barta Says He's Ready for Challenge; A.D. Has Final Say in Hiring," Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 24, 2007, p. 1A.

So protective is the "A.D." of his coaches that the University has recently bought up dozens of potentially disparaging domain names that might otherwise have been bought and used for Web sites by critics of the coaches, teams and athletic program.

It's going to be kind of difficult for any UI president to break into this closed club, and virtually impossible to satisfy, simultaneously, the legislators, faculty, Athletic Department and the mobs we call "fans."

"Fit." Part of the reason a discussion of the coach-selection process is in the papers is because the Iowa basketball coach, Steve Alford, has just left for New Mexico. The reasons why are relevant to any new UI president, and not just because it's a part of understanding college athletics in Iowa.

It's also relevant to understanding what it takes to be successful in any job that functions in the spotlight in Iowa -- including the UI presidency. Yesterday's Des Moines Register story provided some clues. Rick Brown and Tom Witosky, "Alford at Iowa: What went wrong? Coach's era started strong, ended with a whimper," Des Moines Register, March 25, 2007.

One observer is quoted as saying, "
I never sensed a comfortability level between the Iowa populace, and the Iowa fans, and Steve.''

Another used the more common word,
"Looking back, it was just not a good fit.''

Iowans are remarkably welcoming, and seem to celebrate diversity -- religious, ethnic, nationalities from around the world -- as a casual drive through some areas of the state will reveal. But some individuals, whatever their background, find they "fit" in Iowa better than others. Learning what that means is tough enough for those who were born and raised here. For those arriving for the first time it can be a real challenge.

Alford never quite "got it." He was not "a good fit." Reading the Register's article to gain some insight as to why not would be time well spent for a UI presidential candidate.

Ambassador from UI to the state. Local legislators have now met with Search Committee II and let the committee know what they are looking for. According to Press-Citizen reporter Brian Morelli, "A primary theme from the local delegation was finding someone that will travel the state and one who finds more ways for UI to be a resource to all Iowans." Brian Morelli, "Lawmakers Weigh in On Search; Politicians want a president who communicates with state," Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 24, 2007, p. 3A.

Senator Grassley (who is "a good fit") makes a point of traveling to all of Iowa's 99 counties -- I believe his goal is "every year." Is that something you will be comfortable doing as UI President? It will be kind of tough building a "world class" university from the corn and bean fields, and hog lots, of western Iowa. And it may not even be your favorite vacation spot, let alone where you want to work. But the same legislator -- and a major leader of the Iowa Senate at that -- who told Search Committee II he wants you to exercise "more oversight over athletics" also commented about your beloved predecessor: "One of the things David Skorton did was make it around the state as much as possible."

Just a gentle suggestion: When you come to the interview you might want to consider bringing either a black and gold banner with some bird on it (unauthorized use of the "Herky" might subject you to suit by the "AD" unless you first purchase a license) and the motto "Have tractor, will travel," or a detailed memo on how this traveling obligation can be met without requiring you to actually leave your office. Possibilities: (a) use the Iowa Communications Network, which does go into all 99 counties 24/7 to engage in "virtual travel" or (b) hire a director of "corn and bean field relations" to do it for you.

Regents-Faculty Relations and "Governance." Governance is a science as well as an art; it is the subject of a significant body of literature. I have a Web site devoted to the John Carver model and what the Iowa City Community School District Board did in implementing it within our District. Nicholas Johnson, "Board Governance: Theory and Practice," 2001.

Of course, Carver's is not the only model, although many of its basic principles are universally applicable and have been used for everything from Fortune 500 corporations to school boards to non-profits and NGOs from large to small.

The most fundamental requirement is that a board member not just jump in and start doing whatever comes to mind. Board members will hopefully have taken the time to familiarize themselves with the literature, thought long and hard about precisely what relationships and responsibilities they want to allocate between each other, as well as between the board as a whole and the CEO.

Most of the time this will involve the board setting measurable goals (Carver calls them "ends policies") parameters of behavior for the CEO, and leaving day to day administration (the choice of means for the attainment of those goals) to the CEO.

Among the difficulties in applying this in the public university setting is that it's not always clear who is "the board" and who is the "CEO" in this environment. There is the legislature that appropriates at least a significant portion of the university's budget, there is the "Board of Regents" (with at least some oversight and goal-setting responsibility), the "President" of the university, but a university for which many (if not most) of the "policies" are created by the faculty, staff and students. Indeed, the faculty plays a role in the hiring of the president (even if not the football and basketball coaches, as explained above). So the State Legislature is kind of a "board," as are the "Faculty Senate" and "Faculty Council," along with staff and student organizations.

Part of the problem this past year has been that the President of the Board of Regents has often behaved as if he was the CEO of the university, and the other board members something in the nature of his vice presidents. That has not worked well, if at all.

But neither is the university president a CEO in the sense that the chair of the Joints Chiefs of Staff is the CEO of the military, or a Fortune 500 corporation president is the CEO of the company.

The most that can be said is that a university is managed and administered under a system of "shared governance." Indeed, that has been the phrase, and the practice, at major universities for nearly 100 years in the United States.

Another of the features in last Saturday's Press-Citizen was a presentation of five leading personalities on the UI campus, faculty members who have served on presidential search committees, and who have held elective and appointive positions on the campus. While primarily addressed to the four newest Regents, their essays are of equal value to presidential candidates who will need to come into their interviews -- and their new office, if selected -- with some sense of faculty expectations regarding governance -- both by the president and the Board of Regents.

Their statements are very much worth reading in full, which is why the links are provided here, but the quoted excerpts will give a sense of their perspectives.

Francois M. Abboud, "What can we learn?: 'The optimist in me finds several silver linings'," Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 24, 2007 ("the abhorrent behavior of the regent leadership that has brought upon itself irreparable damage").

Shelly Kurtz, "Most important lesson to be learned: 'The people's business should be done in public,'" Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 24, 2007 ("First, the regents should not be involved in the daily management of the university but should concentrate on setting the broader goals and policies . . .. Perhaps the regents should devote one of their upcoming meetings to a discussion of this distinction . . .. Governance models differ for the military, corporations, and universities and they should. What historically makes universities unique is the role employees who are faculty play in the model").

Steve McGuire, "New Regents Should Learn About Shared Governance," Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 24, 2007 ("A governance model, as opposed to controlling, produces quality . . .. I am sure that the new regents know that the UI campus hopes they will reconstitute a process of deliberation, recapturing the effectual powers and responsibilities of the Board of Regents from Michael Gartner's rule").

Peter Nathan, "Don't impose, but respect and consult and listen," Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 24, 2007 ("The regents have been criticized for . . . the attempt to impose a hierarchical governance system on what had been for many years a collaborative one. . .. The UI community believes that at least two regents apparently came into office believing that a different model of governance -- call it the top-down business model for want of a better description -- was called for. While this university governance model is not unique to these individuals -- it constitutes a growing, hopefully temporary, trend across the country -- it nonetheless represents a radical departure from past practices in Iowa").

Katherine H. Tachau, "To regain our trust, board must follow its own policies," Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 24, 2007 ("By following the board's published policies . . . and working with the Faculty Senate . . . the new board can regain Iowans' confidence").

Now, hopefully, you are still interested in coming to Iowa and becoming our UI president!

UICCU and "Optiva"

The UICCU-Optiva story is essentially behind us. There may be occasional additions "for the record," but for the most part the last major entry, with links to the prior material from October 2006 through March 2007, is
"UICCU and 'Optiva'" in Nicholas Johnson, "UI Held Hostage Day 406 - March 3 - Optiva," March 3, 2007.

# # #

[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. (As of January 25 the count has run from January 21, 2006, rather than last November.)

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.

Searching: 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 entries on all subjects since June 2006 is also available. And note that if you know (or can guess at) a word to search on, the "Blogger" bar near the top of your browser has a blank, followed by "SEARCH THIS BLOG," that enables you to search all entries in this Blog since June 2006.]

# # #

Media Stories and Commentary

See above.

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Anonymous said...

I posted this on our list-serve for

Annual Meeting of March 21, 2007

This can be labeled as an influencing editorial comment, before
I get into the details of the annual meeting itself.

The lead-up to the annual meeting had the apparent implication
that this "election" would be a complete and total
anti-Democracy sham, due to the continued alienation of most of
the shareholders from the decisions and management of OUR credit
union. But I had to attend the meeting to be confirmed on that
aspect. And it was.

First of all, as was evident on the Optiva name change vote
last January, of which hardly any mention was made at this
meeting, there is no way for 4,500 shareholders to arrive at
and park in this facility's parking lot. Even the hall will not
accommodate half of our 4,500 members, which I am sure is an
intentional aspect after the traffic jam prior to and during
the meeting to vote for or against the name change to Optiva,
and that traffic jam continued well into the meeting: traffic
was backed up on North Dodge well beyond the I-80 bridge.

Now, if you want to prevent enough votes from opposing
something, or supporting something, this location is one great
place to discourage two-thirds of the credit union's
shareholders from EVER AGAIN attending these important meetings.

IN ADDITION: if anyone wants to "stack the deck" by arranging
for their supporters to arrive and fill up the room in ample
time BEFORE any meeting's commencement, that leaves the balance
of anti-issue shareholders from attending the meeting and to
make their vote against (or for) any issue not desired by the
board. Once again, there is just NO WAY for the rented meeting
room and location to accommodate even two-thirds of the
shareholder members of U of I CCU.

This is a critical point, because quite conspiratorially and
intentionally, there never has been a provision to accommodate
even HALF of the POTENTIAL numbers of shareholders at any
meeting, should they decide to come for a critical vote,
because ALL VOTING MUST BE MADE IN PERSON, whereas most
organizations (corporations, non-profit organizations, clubs
and associations that I have been affiliated with) all
accommodate mail-in ballots.

The annual meeting of March 21st immediately took on the tone
of something not "right", because there were flyers on all of
the seats that were obviously propagandistic. I have already
had one baseless complaint about my partiality and "prejudice"
already, but there is no mistaking what the brochure was
intended for: to propagandize to obtain votes in favor of a
pre-chosen slate of sole "candidates", who were pre-selected
"by the board" with neither opposition nor competition being
provided in advance, and, that is a blatantly tyrannical
conflict of interest.

There is something even more important to mention here, about
these three "candidates. During the "candidate" introduction,
an inadvertently Freudian slip (I am sure) admission of further
conflicts of interest was mentioned about the business
backgrounds of several of the board members. I didn't write
the information down, since I was not expecting the information
to be divulged, but one board member is connected with a local
real estate firm, another with a local construction firm, and
a third with another regional financial institution! Red flags
and sirens, folks !!!! How does a credit union attract
qualified board members and officers without presenting at least
the image of a conflict of professional or investment financial
special interests ?????

THE MEETING: I will hereby now transcribe somewhat from a copy
of (but not word-for word or in entirety) my notes of the
meeting of March 21st:

After they had a great band playing enjoyable music, as any
annual meeting might have, there was a "fluffy" home-folks
address of the board members up for re-election. Although it
would otherwise be a mere revelation of Charles Mason's recent
hip surgery a few days ago, an admirable fact that he had made
the effort to attend his candidacy election at the Annual
Meeting, it turned into "good ole boy" talk. I am not at all
nit-picking on this; when the meeting agenda appeared on the
screen, there was more audience-softening chat that went beyond
audience familiarity with the board by and in behalf of Dean
Borg, himself.

When the second item on the agenda was addressed, regarding
the reading and approval of the 2006 Minutes (unspecified in
any way otherwise), which I recognized was highly controversial
because there was no semblance of propriety: acknowledging
the March 23, 2006 Meeting minutes by reading the minutes was
immediately cancelled by voice vote. THE LAST OFFICIAL MEETING
OPTIVA, which was defeated by a special vote, NOT the 2006
whatever-meeting of March 2006 !! No mention at this Annual
Meeting was made of how the membership could get a copy of this
2006 Meeting Minutes, and, the minutes document was not approved
or disapproved by board vote. That is a violation of correct
meeting procedures. It is exactly like a cover-up in front of
the membership meeting with collaborating support from the
"membership audience".

On item 4, Report of the Directors, and the introduction of the
Directors by Chairman Borg: Mr. Borg advised us that page 11
of the annual report is the Chairman's message - - I had to go
back out to the reception tables in the foyer to find where the
annual reports were, and I was directed back into the meeting
room to the rear corner of the room, where I found some gift
"freebees" and raffle tickets, plus the annual reports, which
were being issued; no one had told anyone at the registration
tables outside where any of this was, I didn't even know about
the coffee and cookies in the back of the room !

The Annual Report itself, like the Optiva propaganda literature,
is basically a pamphlet of wasted expense. This Annual Report
is like no annual report I have ever seen: its information is
much too concise and abbreviated, focusing mostly upon member
borrowers with huge pictures. Out of the entire document, only
one page is actually the Annual Report Financial Statements,
and it does not even resemble the inclusive formats I was
presented with in my college accounting classes. It is mostly
a very expensive, fluffy, irrelevant non-document that is not
intended for discriminating, perusing, analyzing members of our
credit union.

In the introduction, as I said, lots of local business people
were identified as being on the board, something that does not
appear ANYWHERE in any of the credit union literature at the
Annual Meeting, including the annual report !!!! If you look
at the mix of board-approved candidates as to the red-lights
and siren business affiliations I mentioned previously, there
is a definite possibility for a conflict of interest, where
the possibility of a combination of operations for channeling
non-member real estate buyers into becoming member-customer
borrowers into the credit union finances, and / or of using
credit union funds to sustain development in a board-member's
company is an obvious investigative issue. This would require
a genuine corporate prosecutorial-level analysis to uncover
what is really going on in the offices of this "credit union".

We do not see common community people of substance on the board,
but rather, people of elite wealth and elite status, to be
expected of national corporations. The casual appearance of
the obvious arrogance and elitism by the board at meetings is
only the tip of the iceberg for our warning of things to come,
for it is documented that the board does the planning, without
any approval by the common shareholder members before
initiating actions.

Key phrases I heard from Mr. Borg at this meeting were: "...
the Board is a policy-setting role...", "...guiding and
directing the CEO...", "...collective guidance...". By the
past actions of the board with Optiva, it appears to be that
the board really interfering with the operation and management
of our credit union, far beyond setting policies and goals.
One reference was to a "NCUA", which I am unfamiliar with. I
have known about the NCUSIF, having been a credit union member
in various credit unions since 1969. But, in conjunction with
this acronym, the statement Mr. Borg made about the federal
oral report on the status of UofICCU is confidential and cannot
be repeated to the membership at this meeting really stunned
me. He did, however, obtain "permission" from the state
regulatory commission to use "parts" of pre-approved comments
to be represented at the meeting, which was read. Mr. Borg
also said that UofICCU ranks number 12 of 8,536 credit unions
in the nation. Does that ranking justify the seeming corporate
aggression-mentality we have seen in addressing our credit
union's progress into "the market" ????? And, which "market"??

I only mention item 4 on the agenda, because I think it shows
the questionable personality of Mr. Borg and of the board.
The drawing for the grand prize (a trip to Chicago for a
weekend, won by a credit union shareholder who lives in south
Illinois!) was conducted by a seated board member reaching into
the glass fish-bowl and drawing a ticket, and Mr. Borg, still
standing at the podium, then took the ticket and placed it into
a small but wrinkled lunch-size paper bag.

Now, if you have studied how magicians perform their tricks
before an audience, Mr. Borg smilingly placed the paper bag
down and BEHIND the dais, and out of most of the audience's
sight (including out of my line-of-sight), and then after a
brief moment of perhaps five seconds in what appeared to be
minor jiggling of the bag behind the dais, he raised "the" or
"a" paper bag back up into view, and he awkwardly placed it on
the table in front of the dais, joking that he didn't want
anyone to think he had switched the ticket with a ticket of
his own. Of course, conspiracy-theory wise, it could have
been the switch of a pre-selected ticket, but I just do not
know. If this was meant as a humorous joke by a Chairman of
the Board, it was very immature and wayward behavior, and you
can judge this very stupid act for yourself. As for me, I
think it indicates the mentality of how the board operates.

Agenda items 5, 6 and 7 went quickly, identifying the election
requirements of the candidates: 18 years of age minimum,
willing to serve, must agree to and take an oath of
confidentiality and ethics requirements, and take a board oath.
Then the three "candidates" nominated by the board were

Agenda item 8 was for nominations from the floor "with a
second" on the nomination. Caroline Dieterle, of New Pioneer
Co-op, was thus nominated and carried by a second to the
nomination. From the presentation by Fred Nims, I could only
support making two of my votes, one for Nims and one for
Dieterle, of the four candidates, thus I lost a vote.

The candidate statements verified my choices. Charles, or
"Charlie", Mason has been a member of our credit union since
1972, but I heard no statement that would indicate his
appropriate qualification for re-election. Dean Borg said he
had a "...passion (-is-) to serve the underserved." Fred Mims
was the only board-approved candidate who presented what I
would consider to be a forthright campaign speech presentation
by any of the board members, and he has been a member of our
credit union for 30 years. Yes, I do not know the man, but I
like Fred Mims. He acts and sounds "boardmember" to me.

Then came Caroline Dieterle. With an entirely modest and
sincere community-member presentation, she said that she moved
to Iowa city in 1968, and has served and is serving on the
board of the New Pioneer Co-op. She was very believable in
her presentation as said she really believes in the Democratic
process, and that there are things that can be done to involve
and include the general membership. She mentioned that there
was a $5000 cost to the Co-op to mail ballots to all of their
members, which enabled all members to participate in the
Co-op's voting even if they could not attend the meeting. She
further pointed out that the Linn County credit union mails
its ballots to shareholders. She wants to focus on better
marketing (-in reference to the name change purpose??-) and she
complimented the credit union board and management for their
excellent financial management. I really dislike having to
say this, because Caroline's message was totally impressive,
but, in light of this board, she sounded like an "outsider",
and that speaks volumes about the nature of this board and how
it disregards our membership.

On agenda item 15, Tim Taffee brought up a complaint that
nominating form mailing is required to be done to every member
30 days prior to a board election. One of the board members
sternly said that for 45,000 members it would be too involved
and too expensive, and that they are not required by the law
to have mail-in nominations.... AND THERE WAS RAMPANT APPLAUSE
FROM THE AUDIENCE !!!!!!! Was this room a "stacked deck" of
pro-board attendees ??????? Who would give up their right to
nominate someone AHEAD OF THIS MEETING ?????

The meeting ended at 7:13 PM Standard Time (that is 8:13 PM,
if you use Daylight Stupid Time).

Ronald Kinum
group list-serve facilitator

Anonymous said...

Oh my Lord...Just drop it.

For YEARS no one so much as gave a damn about these annual meetings. Now because of a poor name change you go are playing the old anti-democratic song. I wonder if the whole Iowa City Socialist Sect would have cared if it had been to a more benign name like "Hawkeye Area Credit Union"?

"Real liberty is neither found in despotism or the extremes of democracy, but in moderate government."
- Alexander Hamilton

Anonymous said...

I do not want to turn this into a forum of argumentation, our University of Iowa Community Credit Union Shareholder Association Group Organization certainly has attracted enough of that.

Your rude counter-statement, sir, is exactly what got Adolf Hitler elected in Germany. I have been through several take-overs, only one of which was unsuccessful. It is the callously complacent people who have the most at stake and who have the initial ability to prevent tyranny who are the victims. This is absolutely no different.

This impropriety has only come to light in the Optiva transgression. I have "editorialized" in our Association list-serve about this on several occasions because this is too important to allow OUR credit union to be subverted and taken-over by a scheming group both in our board of trustees and by their supporting followers who are also shareholder members.

Anonymous said... did not even take more than one post to use a Hitler or Nazi Comparison. (A weak weak fallback). Godwin's Law.

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