Tuesday, June 05, 2007

UI Held Hostage Day 500 - "Whaaa?"

June 5, 2007, 6:50, 7:45, 8:15, and 11:40 a.m.

Deeply Disappointed But Not Stunned

Folks, this is Day 500.

Ever since writing Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search: Campus Details," in "UI Held Hostage Day 497 - Search Schedule," June 2, 2007, a controversy has swirled around why Search Committee II would choose to keep candidates' names secret until the evening before they day they were to arrive for campus visits. There are, as of this morning, some 15 comments from readers attached to that blog entry -- some predicting exactly what's happened, and others speculating as to why. None are expressing much happiness about it all. (Comments are now coming into this blog entry as well, and don't miss State29, "Day 500," June 5, 2007.)

I, too, am deeply disappointed by what is going on but, given past performance, I cannot honestly claim to be stunned. It would, however, require someone with a much better imagination than mine to have predicted what's happened.

What might have been. It has been 500 days since the Iowa Board of Regents has known that those who desired the departure of one of America's preeminent university presidents had achieved their wish. Much beloved, multi-talented superstar David Skorton, who once said he was at Iowa for life, and thought a $300,000-a-year salary was "very generous" in a state where the average family income was in the $40,000 range, announced 500 days ago that he was going to become president at Cornell University. He left in a characteristically classy fashion, with no public criticism of the Regents. Cornell held him in a little higher esteem than did our Regents, and paid him a package roughly three times what our Regents thought he was worth.

Could we have had a smooth transition a full year ago, putting a new UI president in place the day Skorton left, at the end of the 2006 spring semester? Absolutely. Search Committee II, which first met in January of this year, and has scheduled on-campus interviews with finalists next week, has just demonstrated that one spring semester is enough to conduct and conclude a search.

At the end of Search Committee I's work, four finalists emerged. Among them was UI Provost Mike Hogan. Hogan is another educational administrator who has demonstrated his abilities locally -- and attracted quite a local following of admirers in the process (including me) -- and is highly regarded nationally and considered for university presidencies elsewhere. Indeed, as Brian Morelli reports this morning, following Search Committee I's work "Hogan was one of four finalists -- and by some accounts the favorite . . .." Brian Morelli, Hogan Not a Finalist for UI Post," Press-Citizen, June 5, 2007, p. 1A. [Morelli adds, "Hogan has been popular on campus. During the initial search, many on campus rallied around his presidential bid, including the students who created a Facebook group called Hogan's Heroes."]

Had he been selected one full year ago not only would we have avoided the national and international embarrassment of the past 500 days, we would have had a very smooth transition indeed from June 30 to July 1 of 2006.

"What were they thinking?" So what has Search Committee II decided to do? In spite of its number one priority on secrecy, the papers have been able to report that its final five include two sitting presidents and three sitting provosts.

Roughly six months ago, at the end of an extensive nationwide search of all available top flight educational administrators in the United States, Mike Hogan was deemed to be one of the four most highly qualified potential UI presidents in America. Think about that.

Now, a mere six months later, Search Committee II includes three provosts among its final five (not four), and Hogan -- one of four finalists last time, "and by some accounts the favorite" -- is not among them? To paraphrase the TV public service announcement, "What were they thinking?"

An understanding of the logic of including Hogan in the mix is not something limited to me and the UI students calling themselves "Hogan's Heros."

Morilli quotes Professor Steve Collins, a member of the Committee on the Selection of Central Academic Officials, as saying in response to the news that Hogan was excluded, "I am terribly disappointed to hear that. I think (Hogan) would have made a terrific president . . .."

Morelli continues, "State Sen. Robert Dvorsky, D-Coralville, said it seemed unusual that Hogan wasn't a finalist, particularly because the slate includes three provosts and two sitting presidents.

"'I hope people who were involved in the first process aren't being penalized in the second,' Dvorsky said. 'How much involvement did regents have in the process that wasn't public ? There were all the questions in the first search, now questions in the second. Is there regent involvement we are unaware of?'

"Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, said he found it surprising that Hogan is not a finalist . . .. 'I think Mike is a very viable candidate. I would expect someone with his background would make the finalists," Jacoby said. "After the process is over, I would be really curious as to what the criteria were for him not to be a finalist. Mr. Hogan is a very capable administrator."

And see Ashton Shurson, "Panel Passes on Hogan,"
The Daily Iowan, June 5, 2007 ("UI Faculty Senate President Victoria Sharp said . . . 'I think he would have made a fine president. He's a wonderful man'").

Here come the Regents. Meanwhile, as if this brutal rejection of Hogan was not enough, the Regents, having bungled Search I at the eleventh hour, is about to do the same with Search II.

They have decided they are going to arrive in Iowa City on the second day of a week-long Search Committee-arranged set of on-campus visits and interviews by five finalists. Brian Morelli, "Regents to Interview Finalists Next Week; Change in Plans Shifts Meeting to Iowa City," Iowa City Press-Citizen, June 5, 2007, p. 1A. They are, apparently, planning on conducting their interviews simultaneously along with the on-campus interviews. They may very well conclude their selection before those interviews are even over and Search Committee II presents them its report. This process will, at a minimum, significantly curtail (if not eliminate) the opportunity for any meaningful public input.

Here are some excerpts from what The Gazette reports this morning,

The regents will wait to select the president until the on-campus interviews are complete and the search committee, which is led by UI faculty and staff, submits its report to the regents, the source said. [NJ: This is a correction to what I hinted earler might happen.]

. . .

[T]he regents interview schedule might bring one more controversy. The dual interview process apparently would be a first in UI's history.

``It raises questions of who's setting the agenda for the interviews,'' said Steve McGuire, a professor of curriculum and instruction and secretary of the Faculty Senate.

The regents were criticized by many on campus after an initial regent-led UI presidential search last year was shrouded in secrecy and failed to choose a president.

``Given what happened in Phase 1 of the search, ... I think most of us are hoping we'll have a normal process in this stage,'' said Michael O'Hara, a professor of psychology and vice president of the Faculty Senate.

Also, the search committee had planned to release the name of each finalist the day before their visit. The regents' plan would mean at least two of those names would be made public earlier.

. . .

David Johnsen, chairman of the search committee and dean of the College of Dentistry, said he was not sure of the final schedule for the regents interviews. He would not say whether he thought public interviews with the regents during the same time frame as the on-campus visits would give some finalists second thoughts about the job.

``There's so many details that have to be worked out ... that I think it might be a little premature to speculate on this might happen or that might happen,'' he said.
Gregg Hennigan, "Regents, On-Campus Interviews Set Next Week," Gazette Online, June 4, 2007, 10:55 p.m.

[The matter of candidates' "second thoughts," to which Dean Johnsen refers, is serious from both sides. What kind of a person, already a sitting president or provost of a university, would want to leave where they are and take a job at which they would be governed by this Board of Regents? And from the perspective of the University community, why on earth would we want someone as president who either (a) is so unable, or disinclined, to do basic Internet research that they are unaware of what they are walking into, or (b) does know, but is so desperate that they are willing to take the job anyway?]

I hope the Regents don't try to tell us (as one has hinted) that this unprecedented simutaneous interview process is because of a scheduling problem. They've had 500 days to set up this meeting. They ought to have been able to arrange it by now.

No, I suspect something else is going on, but who will know before they decide to send the little puff of white smoke out the Old Capitol dome?
Even as originally proposed by Search Committee II it was weird enough: the University and Iowa City communities were for some inexplicable reason to be kept in the dark as to the identity of the candidates until the night before the day of their visit (with one candidate per day for five days).

Look, legally the Regents are empowered by the Code of Iowa to do damn near anything they want in any way they want -- as they demonstrate from time to time. (The only exception is their inability to brazenly violate other provisions of the Code of Iowa, such as the open meetings and public records requirements, now in litigation.) This is not about the common law, it's about common sense.

They are not legally required to use a search committee process. They would be foolish not to, but mere foolishness does not seem to be for them a concern of decisional significance. The point is, if they are going to use a search committee, to intervene and truncate its efforts during the final week of its six-month process is not only substantively serious, it makes them look really silly.

Hopefully, Jon Stewart won't get wind of all this or he'd be tempted to lead Comedy Central's "Daily Show" with the kind of publicity Iowa doesn't need.

Both Search Committee II and the Board of Regents have a lot of explaining to do. Whether they will show the public the decent respect of doing so between now and Monday remains to be seen.

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.

# # #

[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 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.

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...

Professor Johnson has stated it succinctly -- Search Committee II and the Regents have much explaining to do:

Why isn't Hogan among the finalists?
Why are the Regents suddenly barging in on the process?
What will you do to insure that the campus has a chance to express its opinion regarding the finalists?

Where is your integrity, Search Committee? This is unacceptable. What a disappointment.

You owe us an answer.

Anonymous said...

faculty need to wake up. this is not the utopia you are always tryng to lecture about. it is realty. as nice a guy as hogan is, thats his problm. niceness threatens the bad guys. the bad guys do anything to keep the good guys from winning and the good guys wont stoop so low as to buy out members of the search comittee like fethke, robilard, and gartner have done.

Anonymous said...

O.K. Enough is enough. Now the Regents moved their interviews of finalists to coincide with the campus interviews, leaving no time for any meaningful campus feedback, let alone campus expression of outrage at Hogan's omission. This morning, the papers quote a number of individuals who express dismay at Hogan's omission. Rep. Jacoby is quoted as saying he will be interested after the fact to see what process the committee followed. This is all laudable, but I call on someone--ANYONE--with a shred of influence to demand even more! How about a review of the process BEFORE THE FACT--before this search committee's manipulation (with which undoubtedly not all committee members are complicit) prevails! This is the most cynical manipulation of process this campus has ever seen. It not only tramples Hogan's rights, but those of the campus and of every tax payer. This action makes a mockery of the principles behind laws such as open meetings and open records laws. If this action is allowed to stand we don't need those safeguards because they're meaningless. Come on! This is IOWA! We're not on the beltway. But if this action is permitted to stand we might as well be there!

Anonymous said...

First Anonymous,

The search committee will not explain anything. We simply have to recognize that they have not done their job. Your third question is the most important. They now need to guarantee us that we will have an opportunity to participate in this process, as they have been promising all along.

Anonymous #3

Anonymous said...

anonymous at 8:10:

What do you mean it "tramples hogans rights?" He hasn't any "rights."

This is a continuation of the utter disrespect for administrators of high integrity like David Skorton. Hogan is another high-integrity casualty of Michael Gartner's ego. His willingness to put all the cards on the table was one of the biggest threats that Wellmark has ever confronted.

Unless the legislature or Culver intervene, you can bet that the University of Iowa will (for all practical purposes) be the University of Wellmark within a year.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 2...Would you please explain what you mean when you claim that Fethke, Robillard, and Gartner have "bought out" members of the search committee? That's a pretty radical charge, and how would you know?

Anonymous said...

Here's the rumor confirmed confidentially by a number of sources who know (you can't expect anyone who knows to reveal his/her identify--this is all too cut-throat):

Gartner engineers the selection of Fethke as president, whom he can count on to do his bidding; Fethke hand-picks the search committee ensuring a requisite number of individuals loyal to him sharing his (and Gartner's) disdain for Hogan, and they install a chair whom they can expect to be accommodating to the "game plan" (perhaps unwittingly) as it unfolds; then (in one of many breathtaking examples of overrreaching as interim President) Fethke creates a VP for Medical Affairs (with precious little consultation) and puts Robillard in the post;
Robillard then promises at least one member of the search committee the plum of a not-yet-created position...count it up--all you need is a majority to squash the Hogan candidacy.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe all this hand wringing over a person that will have little bearing on the jobs of most employees at the UI. Especially tenured professors.

Face it, the job isn't administration. Doug True is an administrator. The UI President is fundraiser in chief and public relations face.

I am not sure why the Regents are so much more in the news now than they were in say 1977. Public interest in who the UI President is going to be would not have been high then. I think a lot of this is driven by the information age and the insatiable need for content. So, why is this news? Because the blogosphere and 24 hour media machines need content.

Anonymous said...

to john barleykorn:

Thank goodness your naivete, indifference and cynicism place you in the minority.

Anonymous said...

Barleykorn has a point the indignation is spread at the speed of light to a large audience.

Within the past two weeks the results of a poll of students at universities with large football programs were published. Very few students had ever met the football coach and a somewhat larger percentage had never met the president. It would have been pointless to ask if they had ever met a member of the BOR.

My guess is there would be have been no difference if the faculty had been polled instead of the students.

Anonymous said...

It seems clear that people care about this. Anyone who has been in the less-than-civil path of Gary Fethke or Michael Gartner should be very, very concerned. These people do not care about the University. They care only about themselves and they are now in the process of trying to put a clone of themselves into the Presidency.

The Committee on the Appointment of Central Officials should be weighing in on this! This process is a disaster and the search committee seems completely oblivious to that fact.

Even if Gartner and Fethke are successful at cloning themselves, the person will not last because there will not be confidence, trust, and support from the campus -- faculty, staff, or students.

Anonymous said...

What is unbelievably disturbing is the complete lack of student input. Yeah sure, the search committee has a student, but she doesn't even represent the majority of the type of students at the UI -- undergrads. We have had no voice in this process; probably because it is so well known that we support Hogan. The failure to incorporate student voice in any of this process (and now the regents are trying to hurry it up so we will have little if any chance.

This stinks.

Anonymous said...

What about the STUDENTS?

It was bad enough to see the composition of the current Search Committee lacking adequate student representation and ANY undergraduate student representation. Was a resolution passed by the All Student Assembly calling for an undergraduate on the committee not enough to convince the Panel that students WANTED to have a place at the table?

And now, yet again this panel continues to move forward without consideration of the students. Giving the UI Community one week's notice of upcoming on-campus visits is not nearly enough time for students to make their way back to Iowa City to take part in this truly important process. Does no one else see how problematic it is to hold these forums during the summer months when students are gone?

If this is our chance to meet the candidates and ask our questions, apparently the Search Committee cares little about the concerns of the students that this President will ultimately be responsible for.

Anonymous said...

The Students don't care who the President is. I know I didn't when I was there. I was more concerned with the downtown beer specials and chasing girls.

Its amazing to me still how much weight is being put in this position.

Yes, buts it's been 500 days. Yet it seems classes go on, payroll gets done, and construction projects go forward.

It is not being cynical to give a realistic view of what the position is today. The Vice Presidents and Deans are the ones performing nearly all the administration. The President is a press secretary, fund raiser and planner for the most part now. Sure, there are some administrative duties. Those are not the primary function of this position today.

Gone are the days of the giants like Virgil Hancher and Sandy Boyd. The University today is a more diverse entity with many enterprises that require a more horizontal administrative leadership structure.

Anonymous said...


You are wrong. We care. We are mobilizing and there is much more to student life than bars and babes. We have worked hard and we are not about to let a bunch of reagents forecast our futures.

There are giants -- Skorton was a giant. He and Hogan were an amazing team. That's what we need.

Maybe we have been too complacent. Maybe we dont quite have the politicall savvy yet. But we are going to have a voice in this.

We had faith in the process and the process has failed the students and the University.

As someone said earlier, "This sucks." But, we won't stand by.

Anonymous said...

How are the regents forecasting the future of students?

Show me how the president of the UI has ANY impact on being an undergraduate.

I have news for you. The Regents are the oversight board of the SUI. They make decisions regarding the university and lobby the legislature for funding.

If Skorton is as far back as you can go, you need to study the past and get some perspective here.

Anonymous said...

Now is not the time to complain or criticize the search process. Come for the interviews next week, listen to the candidates, provide feedback, and hope that an outstanding person will be chosen to lead the UI forward.

The President definitely fulfills an important role that has an impact on all students--even if they may never think it matters. The President matters to faculty. The President is relevant for the state and the greater community.

I'm sure the committee has spent countless hours in our service, so why not focus on the things we can do and not what might be upsetting.

Anonymous said...

Youngalum and Barleykorn,


"Give feedback, be part of the process, go back in history?"

All you have to recognize is that this is the Gartner-Fethke errata! Oh, I meant era!!

Let's recount the details:

(1) Search Committee 2 has had good intentions and has tried to run as open a process as possible.

(2) Gartner questioned the integrity of their open process at the AIRPORT INTERVIEWS -- what? This is the same guy who NEVER READ A FILE and discounted the Search Committee 1 recommendations!! And, let me remind you that Airport Interviews are standard! Ask Ben Allen at UNI!! (Or Geoffrey.)

(3) MOREOVER, Now, he is IMPOSING the Regents on the process for gaining University input. Let's make PUBLIC = EXPOSE CANDIDATES TO MORE PUBLIC interviews, when the purpose of this abbreviated, SEARCH-COMMITTEE determined process is to give the campus a chance to weigh in discretely?

(4) He is OBVIOUSLY setting this search up to FAIL, unless his candidate wins. This is no difference, although more devious than Search I.

(5) OK-- Obvious question -- how does he know who the committee is thinking about and how they measure up to the Gartner-Fethke interests. Here is your answer and I am there; I know:

Len Hadley: Gary Fethke HOLDS the ENDOWED Leonard Hadley Chair.

Sharon Scheibe: Gary Fethke's former PERSONAL ASSITANT is the "support staff" for this committee

Susan Shullaw: Special reporting line to Fethke -- the "communication strategist" for the committee ( PLEEEEZE!)

So, wake up. This has been fixed all along. Now the Regents impose themselves to "hurry it up" and the result is that they make the decision. Whoops -- Gartner's decision! Egos, egos, egos.

Don't you dare say we don't care. This committee has been hung out to dry by Fethke and Gartner. This is a shameful situation and good people will be tarnished. Bad guys win.

I HOPE that the new regents are smart enough to recognize this manipulation. Remove Gartner and Remove Fethke. It is so gall darn obvious it is embarrasing!

Anonymous said...

I can't believe the innocence...

Gartner puts Fethke in place to be his puppet. We have candidates coming in six days and the campus is in turmoil. Several search committee members are now bought out. Miles won't confirm that the regents are interviewing next week, but Garnter and Fethke are acting like Paris Hilton at a nightclub opening ("Oh yes, we are interiviewing and its public! Come see us!!") Sheesh! What an absolute rodeo! Here's the best advice I have:

Are you thinking that this is not fixed?

Are you thinking that Gartner and Fethke have not cut a deal?

Stay away from Iowa it is a cesspool.

Anonymous said...

The last two postings are exactly right. The naive advice from an earlier poster that "now is not the time to criticize the search" is precisely the kind of attitude Gartner-Fethke are counting on. Yes, lie down and let the steam roller complete its work. THE ONLY WAY TO MAKE THIS GOOD IS TO INTERVENE IN A VERY ROTTEN PROCESS AND ROOT OUT THE ROT! If we as a campus don't care enough to make enough noise to convince the Governor and/or the legislature that there's a problem worth their intervention (yes, that's a long shot) we will be stuck with what we "deserve." I vehemently disagree with what the above quoted poster said: NOW IS THE ONLY TIME WE (FACULTY, STAFF AND STUDENTS) HAVE LEFT--WE BETTER WAKE UP AND REALIZE IT AND NOT ONLY CRITICIZE THE SEARCH BUT TAKE SOME CONCERTED ACTION TO MAKE THE POINT IN A BIG WAY!

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget: Fethke couldn't do it all alone on campus. A few of his on-campus "helpers" have been identified already. But the design and weaving of this web has been accomplished together with two other top adminsitrators whose complicity (in some cases merely acquiescence) was required. They have not been Hogan's "friends" for all of the reasons Gartner/Fethke et al oppose him. There's not enough space or time here to talk about all of those related, internal "collaborations" that have occurred to bring about this seemingly air-tight, flawless scheme. Aside from Hogan's other qualifications mentioned before: if we don't get a "clean" candidate like Hogan, who also knows the score, we're out of luck. If we don't get someone who knows the inside players, we will never get out of the morass. That's another reason why we can't be satisfied with any other "good" candidate produced by this flawed process.

Anonymous said...

Professor Johnson:
Your blog is performing an invaluable service for this campus. Would you consider doing two more things for us? 1: Could you somehow consolidate your very thorough entries on the most recent concerns related to Search II, and the related relevant comments, into one section of the blog, so that less internet-savvy individuals could easily find the info? 2: And then, could you send the link for this info to the Regents--especially to the new ones; to the Governor's Office; and most importantly to the final candidates? Campus-based individuals who would wish to do so are at great risk. Your blog contains information that is not available anywhere else, and is critical to understanding the situation fully. Thank you for anything you can do in this regard. Finally, let me add to the comments made by another poster regarding search committee members and staff who could be part of the Fethke manipulation: Rothman has been offered the Deanship of the College of Medicine; England has been offered an Assistant VP for Medical Affairs position (these positions do not yet exist but are being developed by Fethke and Robillard in consultation with Gartner); Professor Sa-Aadu is a professor in the Business College where Fethke was dean; Cheryl Reardon is an Assistant VP to Meredith Hay who is Fethke's ally and widely known to detest Hogan. If nothing else, these cozy connections don't look good and given the search result, it is understandable that the motivations of some of the committee members are being called into question.

Anonymous said...

There are about 16 or 17 anonymous comments so far. I would like to suggest again that posters identify themselves as other and use some pen name so we can keep things straight.