Second presidential finalist stresses engagement, improvement

By Austin Petroski

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University of Iowa presidential finalist Michael Bernstein laid out his four academic themes for the UI on Aug. 28 if he is chosen to be the next university president.

Bernstein, the provost of Tulane University of New Orleans, spoke to a gathering in the IMU Main Lounge and outlined his vision for the future of the university.

“I’m excited and inspired at an opportunity to join the Iowa community,” Bernstein said.

His first theme called for enrichment through engagement, telling the crowd, “Always insist, Why?” he said.

His second point involved place-based identity. “Build and sustain areas important to our identity,” he said.

Social innovation and entrepreneurship was Bernstein’s third theme and integrating discovery the fourth point.

“Utilize facilities, link science and engineering, build Iowa’s contributions, sustain great traditions of excellence,” he said.

Bernstein said he envisions putting Iowa on par with the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Michigan.

“Aspire to always be an elite university but not an elitist university,” he said.

The first question of the evening regarded affordability for UI students.

Bernstein said he wants to “develop new financing platforms for families and sustain lifelong learning for all members of the Iowa family.”

Bernstein also described his plans to diversify the student body at the university.

“Enhance faculty diversity, enhance student diversity,” he said. “These are all interconnected.”

In addition, he stressed addressing sexual violence on university campuses.

“This is an issue of vivid importance,” he said. “We know that a lot of violence is associated with alcohol and drugs; we need to educate the student population about what appropriate sexual behavior is.”

Another issue that bubbled up was underage drinking.

“We have to educate students about the reality that they have to be careful, prudent,” he said. But he noted that “alcoholic-beverage-control has always been a challenge.”

Bernstein was also asked about how he would make the UI more student-, faculty-, and staff-friendly.

“My instinct would be to work with our leadership; how we do things at a university is just as important as, if not more important than, what we say,” he said.

UI student Dexter Golinghorst, a member of the UI Student Government, was impressed with Bernstein.

“I think he did a great job of addressing the issue, how he will work to make college more affordable,” Golinghorst said.

Yet some faculty members believed they had questions left unanswered, particularly regarding how he planned to advance the prestige of the university.

“I think he seemed to avoid the question,” said Bob McMurray,a UI professor of psychology. “He only saw a financial solution.”

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