Sunday, April 29, 2007

UI Held Hostage Day 463 - April 29 - UI Update

April 29, 2007, 10:30 a.m.

Update for UI Presidential Candidates

Board of Regents. The Agenda for the Board of Regents May 1 meeting in Iowa City is now available as an online pdf file, as are the texts of some 46 agenda items themselves (item 23 of which indicates there will be an oral report to the Board from the chair of presidential search committee II) -- and as a reminder, all the emails from one Board member (or the executive director) to all Board members since February 2007 are also available online (some of which relate to May 1 agenda items).

Presidential Search Committee II. The Press-Citizen report of Friday's (April 27) Search Committee II meeting indicates that it revealed little new. Brian Morelli, "Search Ponders Latest Prospects," Iowa City Press-Citizen, April 28, 2007. Here are some excerpts:
"search committee members still are coming up with new possibilities and making the rounds with constituent groups.

"It's not out of the realm of possibility that you'd hire someone from the corporate world to lead a university, but it's extremely unlikely," said Gene Parkin, a search committee member and civil-environmental engineering professor . . ..

* * *

The search committee is narrowing in on a group of less than 20 for confidential off-campus interviews . . . [which] will be happening very soon.

. . . Still to be decided is whether those candidates would come to campus for public interviews.

[Committee member] Elizabeth Chrischilles . . . mentioned a process where the semifinalists' interviews would be videotaped and the recordings of the top four would be presented to the regents. The regents would then select the top candidate for a public interview.
Campus Security. Following the shootings at Virginia Tech, the University of Iowa had a couple of incidents of its own. On Tuesday, April 24, the Hardin medical library received emailed bomb threats. Librarians notified the campus police at 7:57, the building was emptied by 8:12, declared free of any danger by 10:54, and reopened at 11:02. The campus administration building, Jessup, was locked down during this time as well as a precaution, even though no threats mentioned Jessup. Stephen Schmidt, "Threats lock down 2 UI buildings," The Daily Iowan, April 25, 2007. A couple days later a student left class to notify campus police that another student was sitting in class with a ski mask on. The student was eventually found and released without charges being filed. Emileigh Barnes, "Ski-mask incident results in ban," The Daily Iowan, April 27, 2007; "No Charges Filed Against UI Student, Ban From Campus Dropped," The Daily Iowan, April 27, 2007.

So what can one say about these events? In large measure what I wrote in Nicholas Johnson, "Virginia Tech and Iowa Regents' Governance" in "UI Held Hostage Day 458 - Regents' Governance and VT," April 24, 2007: The University of Iowa record since the November 1, 1991, shooting has been as good as it has been because policies are reviewed and professionals are in place (as much or more than mere "dumb luck"); policies regarding student safety go far beyond protection from shootings and bombs (e.g., natural disasters like tornados and the consequences of alcohol abuse); knee-jerk, "post-dramatic stress disasters" focus on new "should-a" policies (rather than regular, routine, annual review of preventive policies) is precisely the wrong way to provide security; and, all the current confusion surrounding Regents governance, noted in the blog entry above, and in Nicholas Johnson, "An Open Letter to Regents on 'Governance'" in "UI Held Hostage Day 451 - Open Letter to Regents," April 17, 2007.

Note that the University already had under review the range of student safety policies and procedures.
Taryn Deutsch, "UI refines policy on violence," The Daily Iowan, April 27, 2007. And, as well as the library and Jessup lockdowns were handled, the campus police immediately reviewed how it went, with the Assistant Vice President for UI Police, Charles Green quoted as saying, "I think there's always room for improvement." Emileigh Barnes, "UI Reviews Reaction," The Daily Iowan, April 25, 2007.

The ski masked student case raised some questions about the balance between public security on the one hand and the privacy rights of "persons of interest" who have not been (and in his case, never are) charged with any offense. (His name had been released to the media.) This case will undoubtedly result in review of this issue as well. Editorial, "UI must strike right balance when assessing threats," The Daily Iowan, April 27, 2007.

Regents President Michael Gartner and Executive Director Gary Steinke have weighed in once again on campus security issues in general, and arming campus police with guns in particular, published as a part of a Press-Citizen focus on campus security (look for April 28) with a number of opinion pieces. Michael Gartner and Gary W. Steinke, "Regents working on governor's request, studying facts before making decisions," Iowa City Press-Citizen, April 28, 2007. Their call for calm and considered evaluation of security measures is wise and appreciated. But the issuance of the op ed at all is still subject to the issues raised in "An Open Letter to Regents on 'Governance,'" and "Virginia Tech and Iowa Regents' Governance," linked above.

Provost Hogan. UI presidential candidates, I presume you have long since examined the Web site of our University of Iowa Executive Vice President and Provost, Mike Hogan. He is a truly outstanding educational administrator, and you can learn a lot about him, what he's done here, and what more needs to be done, from the links you'll find on that site. You'll especially want to read his "spring address" from last Thursday: Michael J. Hogan, "From 'The Sticks' to the Stars: The Iowa Way," Third Annual Spring Address, April 26, 2007.

UI Athletics Program Ties to Gambling Industry. And if you've been following this blog's coverage of UI issues, you'll recall the internal and external controversies regarding the ties between the UI's athletic program and the gambling industry, in particular the Riverside Gambling Casino and the Iowa Lottery. Well, it took quite a beating from the Faculty Senate, and even the President's Council on Athletics. But those expressions of campus approval can be ignored. "The deciders" are the Garys: Athletic Director Barta and Interim President Fethke. In an interview on April 20 Fethke said, "We'll have a response, a hard decision in a couple of weeks." Ashton Shurson, "Fethke discusses lottery, campus safety," The Daily Iowan, April 20, 2007. Since the two weeks runs out the middle of this week, I assume we can expect his answer then.

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More on Earthpork Although it would seem to be a no-brainer The Register found it necessary to repeat that "backers of the Earthpark environmental center . . . say they need to demonstrate to unnamed private contributors that there is state support for the project. The process should work the other way around: Earthpark should demonstrate that it has a solid financial commitment from private investors and local governments before asking other Iowa taxpayers for their support." Editorial, "Earthpark should assure private investment first; Then ask state taxpayers for support," Des Moines Register, April 24, 2007. Since then we've learned that the legislature adjourned without providing any state money for the project.

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. Since then there have been two major additions: Nicholas Johnson, "Open Letter to UICCU Board" in "UI Held Hostage Day 423 - March 20 - UICCU," March 20, 2007, and "'Open Letter': Confirmation from World Council of Credit Unions" in "UI Held Hostage Day 424 - March 21 UICCU," March 21, 2007.

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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. (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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Nicholas Johnson's Main Web Site
Nicholas Johnson's Iowa Rain Forest ("Earthpark") Web Site
Nicholas Johnson's Blog, FromDC2Iowa
Nicholas Johnson's Blog Index


Anonymous said...

"Things Don't Add Up -- Anomalies in the VA Tech Slayings"

by Salvador Astucia, April 27, 2007

As the world knows, April 16, 2007 was a horrific day in America. 33 students and faculty members died in a shooting rampage at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Virginia. At 7:15 am, two young people–male and female–were shot and killed in a Virginia Tech dormitory room at West Ambler Johnston Hall. Two and a half hours later, at 9:45 am, police responded to shootings at Norris Hall, but the doors were barricaded shut. Within ten minutes, they entered the hall and found 31 dead bodies and approximately 30 injured students and faculty members. Among the dead was a 23-year-old male, of Korean origin. His face was badly disfigured from what police concluded was a self-inflicted gunshot wound. There are conflicting reports regarding this young man's name. The Washington Post has referred to him interchangeably as Seung Hui Cho, and Cho Seung Hui. Most reporters are calling him Cho Seung Hui; however, on April 21, 2007 (five days after the slayings), the Washington Post published a front-page article entitled "An Isolated Boy in a World of Strangers" where they repeatedly called him Seung Hui Cho. One would think our best and brightest journalists could get a few basic facts straight before they conclude without question that this young Korean man was indeed guilty of committing mass-murder. One would think a basic point of agreement would be the name of the perpetrator. But why trifle with minor details like the name of a dead Korean who reportedly shot roughly 60 people with two handguns, left approximately 30 survivors, none of whom were able to identify him? But the media says he's guilty, so that's all that matters. Case close.

Nevertheless, since the young man's name is a question, I will refer to him as Cho for the remainder of this article. Besides the anomaly of Cho's name, I have noticed lots of inconsistencies and peculiar occurrences regarding the Virginia Tech slayings. The "case closed" mentality centers around the fact that a package was received by NBC News a few days after the slayings, allegedly sent by Cho before he reportedly committed mass-murder and took his own life. The package reportedly contained a video tape of Cho spewing hateful remarks. It also contained voluminous documents, including two plays he authored, and other writings that espoused extreme political views, according to NBC News. He reportedly mailed the package to NBC News in between the two sets of killings, an event that is highly questionable in its own right. Upon receipt of the damning package by NBC, all serious investigations essentially evaporated. Did it occur to anyone that Cho had been set up to take the blame for the actions of others?

Here is a summary of questions and anomalies I have gathered so far:

1. How could one person kill 30 people in a matter of minutes?

2. No eye-witness identified Cho as the shooter.

3. Jay Leno publicly compared Cho to Lee Harvey Oswald.

4. Matt Lauer and the Washington Post claim Cho believed the U.S. Government murdered ex-Beatle John Lennon.

5. The news media has collectively labeled Cho an insane person, but with little evidence.

6. Emmanuel College professor, Nicholas Winset was fired for facilitating a discussion about the Virginia Tech slayings and the pros and cons of gun control.

7. There are conflicting accounts about the clothing worn by Cho while he was allegedly shooting his victims.

8. Why would a Korean–of all ethnicities–shame his family the way Cho did?

9. Cho was reportedly a loner, but Korean men are often shunned by Americans because of vast cultural differences.

10. Why did Cho commit suicide by shooting himself in the face?

11. How do we know it was Cho who mailed the incriminating video and documents to NBC News?

12. Why is Karl Thornhill not a suspect for the double homicide on the morning of April 16, 2007?

13. Could a satanic cult near Blacksburg have been involved in the slayings?

14. Why did Bush endorse witchcraft within the military shortly after the slayings?

The following points are the same issues previously raised, but with additional commentary:

Point # 1. How could one person kill 30 people in a matter of minutes? According to the news media, Cho shot approximately 60 people at Norris Hall, 30 of whom died immediately. Cho had no training in firearms and only used two handguns. Had he used a machine gun or a bomb, the high casualty number might not seem so strange. But he only used two handguns, and apparently no one tried to overpower him. One would think that with approximately 60 shooting victims, at least one would have successfully overpowered him. No one is questioning how he accomplished this task, but it seems like an impossible feat for one person with no firearms training.

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Anonymous said...

Prof. Johnson,

You refer presidential candidates to Provost Hogan's speech. That speech demonstrates why he remains the best candidate for our president's post. He obviously "gets it" when it comes to balancing the benefits of a liberal arts education with the economic needs of the state and our excellent health science programs.

It is ridiculous that the Regents are spending more money when the right person for this job is in our backyard (and has been all along). It is only Michael Gartner's warped, vindictive ego that has kept us from having a president all of this time. Hogan is the right person for the job and his grace in light of the incredible disrespect Gartner and Wahlert displayed is strong evidence that he has the skill, knowledge, and integrity for the job.