Final forum proves interesting


Things get testy at final presidential finalist forum.

By Austin Petroski
[email protected]

The state Board of Regents could look outside academia for the next University of Iowa president.

Bruce Harreld spoke on Tuesday in the IMU Second-Floor Ballroom and laid out his plan to change the core of the UI in order to “make great greater.”

Harreld’s UI-provided résumé lists him as managing principal of Executing Strategy, while his LinkedIn listed him more recently as a adviser to General Motors. He has also served as a lecturer at the Harvard Business School and in leadership roles at firms including Boston Market and IBM.

“This is an amazing opportunity for me,” Harreld said. “It’s truly different than a lot of others.”

Harreld walked freely about the stage, unlike the other candidates, who stayed at the podium for their speeches.

“I am here because I have helped other organizations, big and small,” Harreld said.

He noted that the UI is known for its many firsts in involvement with women and minorities.

He also said the UI shares many of the same problems as companies, except that students are the customers.

“You need to prepare yourself for what’s coming ahead,” he said.

Harreld said the rising cost of college for students has affected them in many ways. He asked the audience to think about how many students are unable to attend college because they cannot afford it.

“Schools are becoming country clubs,” he said.

He also noted the value of investing in a college education.

“Do we know how to measure value of a liberal-arts education?” Harreld said.

Being the president of the UI means he will have to dig into the problems of the university, he said.

“Part of the job as a president is, are we asking some of the tough questions?” Harreld said.

Research will be a mainstay if he is chosen to be president of the UI, he said. He compared the job to working at IBM and noted that increasing research was always a priority.

“We can cut other things to maintain research,” he said.

Tuesday’s turnout was one of the largest audiences for any of the presidential-candidate forums, and questions were numerous and wide-ranging. The conservation became heated and contentious at times.

“Are you a performance artist?” one speaker asked.

Harreld was asked about whether he could support state funds flowing from the UI to the other two public universities. He answered he could imagine scenarios in which the UI wouldn’t need the resources as sharply.

He was also asked to give his thoughts on distance learning.

“I’m more enthusiastic about hybrid learning models,” he said. “Distance learning has an enormous dropout rate.”

Questions on how he would respond to controversy on campus were also asked.

“Transparency,” he said. “Get the issues out as quickly as possible.”

Tension rose after Harreld said he didn’t have a response to what he could do as an administrator to improve the moral and climate of inclusion in faculty and students.

UI student Kyle Williams noted the testy atmosphere.

“There was a lot of hostility from the people asking questions,” Williams said. “They treated him like an outsider. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.”

Several UI faculty members declined to comment to The Daily Iowan on their thoughts regarding the forum.

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