Sunday, September 27, 2015

Seven Steps for Transitioning Universities


"Business Background: Enough for University President?" September 2, 2015-present (updated) [this is the blog post that contains the repository of documents, news stories, and opinion pieces regarding the Board of Regents' presidential selection process and early selection of Bruce Harreld]

Nicholas Johnson, "Hiring Candid, Courageous University Presidents; An Exchange with UI Presidential Finalist, Oberlin President Marvin Krislov," August 29, 2015 (with links to the 2006-2007 blog essays about the last Regents' presidential selection fiasco)

"UI's President Could Have Been Chris Christie," October 3, 2015

September 27, 2015, 8:00 a.m.

NOTE: (1) For Nicholas Johnson's related blog posts, see "Business Background: Enough for University President?" September 2-27, 2015 (and continuing; includes links to over 100 relevant documents, news stories and opinion pieces), and Nicholas Johnson, "Hiring Candid, Courageous University Presidents; An Exchange with UI Presidential Finalist, Oberlin President Marvin Krislov," August 29, 2015 (with links to the 2006-2007 blog essays about the last Regents' presidential selection fiasco).
(2) For others' columns in this Gazette Writers Circle presentation, see below.

Better Ways to Pick a New UI President

Nicholas Johnson

The Gazette, September 27, 2015, p. C5

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
‘Til it's gone

-- Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi

Iowa Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter says those objecting to his selection of Bruce Harreld as the University of Iowa’s next president “embrace the status quo of the past over opportunities for the future and focus their efforts on resistance to change instead of working together to make the UI even greater.”

Which would be worse: that he truly believes this, and is unaware of the rational objections to his process and choice, or that he has deliberately chosen to divert the public’s gaze away from his actions?

Since Harreld’s selection I’ve encountered no one who advocated UI’s personnel should “embrace the status quo.” Why would anyone reject “opportunities for the future” to become “even greater"?

If it looks, walks and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck. And this one looked, walked and quacked like a done deal since July. That’s when special treatment began for Harreld and his wife by the UI’s interim president and search committee chair, Regents’ president, and Governor Terry Branstad. The waste of money, people’s time, and embarrassment to legitimate candidates was significant. Legally, the Regents could have just picked Harreld in July – or brought four business persons to campus.

Chief executives of Yahoo, Radio Shack, Bausch & Lomb, and a Notre Dame football coach were fired for falsifying their resumes. Harreld falsified his. Either the Regents failed to vet, or just didn’t care. Harreld had zero academic administrative experience. His business record was mixed. He had never served as a Fortune 500 corporate CEO or governor. His public forum performance was embarrassing. [Photo: J. Bruce Harreld]

Those are a few of the understandable reasons for the negative response, and why it’s inaccurate, insulting, and duplicitous to suggest it was just academics’ desire to “embrace the status quo.”

Did the Regents deliberately set out to make it virtually impossible for any president to succeed, by destroying the trust faculty representatives had been building? If so, they could not have chosen a better process and candidate.

So here we are. If Harreld does not resign, if the Regents win legal challenges to their process, if the University does not lose its accreditation along with its reputation, what are our next steps?

Governor Branstad was a founding member of ALEC, a Koch brothers-funded right-wing organization writing, lobbying for, and enacting states’ legislation promoting the ideology of privatization and corporatization. ALEC has its own higher education agenda.

Those who wish to attack public higher education, or “transition” it to something else, deserve to be heard – but only if they will talk.

So let’s start with specifics. What exactly do Rastetter and the Governor want from Harreld’s “transitioning” the University?

Tenure, like lifetime appointments for judges, has been a centerpiece of the academy’s integrity. Increasingly, students are taught by untenured adjuncts. Do they want to do away with tenure entirely?

Do they want to apply profit-center analysis to class size, favoring 500-student lecture halls, or classes of 100,000 online students?

Is their education-for-jobs preference so great that they want to diminish or eliminate, UI’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences?

When policy is driven by ideology, rather than history and data, it can produce an ISIS-like destruction of a society’s greatest treasures. And “the university,” as an idea in virtually all nations and cultures, with its evolution over the millennia, is as worthy of protection from ideologically-driven destruction as Iraq’s antiquities.

It can be helpful for any organization to reassess its mission and performance from time to time – including the Board of Regents, given how far it has strayed from conventional board governance principles.

It’s also true for American higher education in general, and the University of Iowa in particular -– all of which are already doing exactly that.

But there are some preliminary steps before picking a new institutional leader with “experience in transitioning other large enterprises through change,” as Rastatter characterizes Harreld’s qualification.

It’s necessary to begin by (1) involving all interested parties in an evolving consensus regarding, (2) an assessment of performance compared with output goals (e.g., what knowledge and skills do we want our graduates to have?), (3) identifying what may need changing, (4) what changes have already come about over the last 20 years, (5) researching what comparable institutions are doing in this country and abroad, (6) prioritizing what most needs doing, and (7) designing and testing some pilot projects.

Then pick the president.

Watch this space.

Nicholas Johnson maintains the repository of documents, news and opinions regarding this controversy at Contact:

The Gazette Writers Circle: What's the Future of Public Education? "On Sept. 9, members of the Gazette Writers Circle met to discuss the future of the University of Iowa and public universities, generally. Much of the conversation was influenced by the Board of Regents' decision to hire businessman J.Bruce Harreld, which had been announced the previous week. For more Writers Circle columns addressing that decision, specifically, see page 5C." [September 27, 2015, p. C1]

Nicholas Johnson's column in this presentation is reproduced, above.

Online versions of others' contributions included Mark Neary, "Create Common Vision for Higher Education," p. C1, and Wif Nixon, "Liberal Arts: What's the Value Proposition?" p. C1, both found at "Writers Circle: What is the Future of Public Higher Education?" September 29, 2015, 12:01 a.m.

Frank Schmidt, "Model University Leadership on City Managers and Mayors," The Gazette (online), September 27, 2015, 6:15 a.m.; hard copy: Frank Schmidt, "Model University Leadership on City Managers, Mayors," The Gazette, September 27, 2015, p. C4

Karla McGregor, "Will Tomorrow's Universities Prepare Students for Meaningful Work?" The Gazette (online), September 28, 2015, 2:32 p.m.; hard copy: Karla McGregor, "Will Tomorrow's Universities Prepare Students for More Meaningful Work?" The Gazette, September 27, 2015, p. C4.

For the online versions of the following September 27, 2015, columns: Bob Elliott, "Question the Process, Not the Person," p. C5, Shams Ghoneim, "Move Forward With Goodwill and Grace," p. C5, Bob Roelf, "Accept Harreld as UI President," p. C5, and Nicholas Johnson's column, go to "Writers Circle: Incoming University of Iowa President J. Bruce Harreld," September 28, 2015, 2:49 p.m.


Anonymous said...

From the recent revelations it is pretty obvious how this fraud unfolded. Rastetter had predetermined who his man was going to be. He involved his AgSummut office in Ames to sneak Harreld into the state to meet with Regents (has to be against open meeting law, but BR can say it was private, which then begs the question about conflict of interest). Rastetter also his targeted man meet the President of ISU, who has been on the Rastetter wagon for some time.

Robillard must have been involved, because he invites a retired IBM executive to lecture the UIHC administration. Why? To go over chicken recipes from Boston Chicken? What could Harreld possibly say to the UIHC? (although UIHC might have told him how to write an honest resume)

The sham search is then orchestrated to end with Harreld and an announcement on Labor Day w/e as if no one would notice.

How do the other candidates feel knowing that they were superfluous, simply a charade to disguise the search as legit? How hard did they study and how time did they invest? One was from Ohio State, so at least one other B-10 school will know how the fraud went down here. Do they have a case for a decision appeal?

Isn't there an accrediting agency that would be disturbed about such a fraudulent search? Aren't there standards a modern university is held to in running it's organization?

Wouldn't you love to hear these characters, under oath, tell us what happened? Where is Mary Masher? Joe Bolkcom? Bob Dvorsky?

Anonymous said...

Great point Nick about ALEC. Of course. Rastetter was unhappy that Sally Mason would not censure Jerry Scnhorr about climate change. (of course a Drake Law dropout knows more about science than a professor of science). So with deep ties to the Kochs, ALEC and agribusiness, and already controlling ISU, Rastetter goes to control UIowa. Control of research so that data unfavorable to ALEC & Kochs & SummitAG is suppressed (we saw that at ISU when Harkin moved his papers when someone tried to control the research). You also control the curriculum. Perhaps there will be red-jacketed censures to micromanage and control academic content.

Someday this will be a case study of how a political interest group tried to control an entire state university system. Iowa, Wisconsin, Kanasas...and on it rolls....

Karla Tonella said...

"Tenure, like lifetime appointments for judges, has been a centerpiece of the academy’s integrity. Increasingly, students are taught by untenured adjuncts. Do they want to do away with tenure entirely?" Actually, yes. These are the same people, generally speaking, including current US presidential candidates, who rail against unelected lawyers, i.e. Justices of the Supreme Court(s) both Federal and State. It is the very fabric they want to rip apart -- of "liberal education" which they see as "liberal" only and civil society and the rule of law.

Anonymous said...

Tenure, meaning a professor has 'academic freedom' really means he/she cannot be dismissed without due cause. It has been eroding for years. Profs on the outs get bad teaching assignments, crappy offices, no raises, no secretary etc etc. In the same way that the decline of unions means middle class workers don't have protection or bargaining power, decline of tenure means yearly contracts, fewer benefits, and fewer raises.

Doing away with academic tenure fits conservative (ALEC) vision two ways 1. more admin freedom for bargaining and finding the lowest pay for faculty; 2. control of the other words administration can say teach my way or the highway.

Anonymous said...

The ALEC/Koch idea is interesting. Rastetter and his buddy Ryan are long associated with the Kochs (Rastetter sold one of his businesses to the Kochs). And the Kochs and ALEC are infiltrating academia;

Florida State conducted a sham search to install an ALEC president.

Does the University pledge to uphold the AAUP? How many violations of AAUP protocol did Iowa violate? The local AAUP has condemmed the search.

Is the academic leader, Robillard,pledged to maintain certain standards, say form the AAUP? Could there be liability on his part for leading a sham search? There have been lawsuits over this

So why would Robillard be involved in a sham search? Looking over that big new children's hospital, he can imagine his name on it. And who approves naming the Robillard Childrens Hospital? Bruce Rastetter and the BOR.

Anonymous said...

Trends like this (young Republicans concerned about the climate)are worrying the heck out of the agbusiness/Koch/ALEC/fossilfuel crowd. They need to win more young hearts and minds and do it by hijacking higher education.

Anonymous said...

So why is it 'illegal' or 'immoral' for some public officials to use email for private business and others not? Apparently in Iowa it is clear (according to the DM Register) official emails are not to be hidden.

Yet the Regents conducted (hid) their state business clearly via private email and on private property (private business property)

Anonymous said...

It will be interesting to see what happens next at UIowa.

The right thing, the moral thing is to re-open this search. It was illegally executed with private meetings, on private business grounds. There was a favored candidate, pulled through a fixed search without regard to the important groups of faculty, alumni and students. The President as hired under false pretenses (inaccurate or deceptive, or falsified CV and credentials).

Not sure if the right thing or the moral thing works anymore with this leadership.

The BOR and Branstad can decide to do the moral right thing themselves. Doesn't appear that is the case.

Branstad and Rastetter can bow to public pressure and pretend to be moral and justified while re-opening the search.

Or Branstad and the BOR can simply stonewall it, refuse to the do the right thing and force this president down UIowa's throat. Nothing can be done about that.

Do this leadership really think faculty and students will come to or stay at a school that is so morally corrupt at it's highest levels? Do they really think parents and students don't pay attention to how the place operates? Amazing.

Anonymous said...

Robillards comments today are laughable. This dude is getting paid back big time. Like anon says something will be named after him.

Saying Harreld is the right man at the right time is like saying some dude who played college baseball, but is a retired big time track athlete can come in and manage the Chicago Cubs to the World Series. Ridiculous. There is no evidence Harreld will be successful; he has no track record on this.

Where is the common good? Where is President Robillard looking out for his 33,000 students and thousands of faculty? Not.

We know Branstad and Rastetter and this crew will not do what's good for everyone. Pollute the air with pig smell...who cares? Deny climate science so fossil fuels kill the earth....big deal. Kick out the mentally ill...they have low voter turnout. Sell weapons to people who slaughter students...oh well, it's a free country. Sell more guns, and ag products. Collect more Govt money for subsidies.

Free for capitalistic irresponsibility, controlling for social behaviors.