Regents select Harreld
By DI Staff
Amid the applause came a cry of “For Shame.”
After interviews and a 90-minute deliberation, the state Board of Regents unanimously selected business consultant Bruce Harreld as the 21st president of the University of Iowa, displeasing members of the university community.
The choice is intended to shake up the “status quo” at the UI and bring the institution from “great to greater.” Harreld — known for his experience with corporate turnaround, growth, and culture change — held leadership positions at Boston Market, Kraft Foods, and IBM but has no academic administrative experience. He also taught at Harvard Business School. Virgil Hancher is the last UI president who served without prior administrative experience.
Harreld was selected over more conventional candidates Ohio State University Provost Joseph Steinmetz, Tulane University Provost Michael Bernstein, and Oberlin College President Marvin Krislov.
After the decision, Regent President Bruce Rastetter said at a press conference that he believes Harreld will be a good fit for the UI because of his diverse skills and leadership style.
Harreld will go on the clock in November with an annual salary of $590,000 plus a five-year deferred compensation plan with $200,000 added annually. Former President Sally Mason — who came to the UI after serving as provost at Purdue University — had a $525,000 salary.
Harreld was first revealed as a finalist on Monday and attended a contentious public forum followed the next day, complete with interruptions, at least one sarcastic question from a faculty member, and eye-rolling.
One community member asked, “Why did you even apply for this job?”
The environment was so hostile, the university released a joint statement from the UI Faculty Council, Staff Council, Student Government, and Graduate and Professional Student Government that said while they appreciate exchange of ideas, “many constituents were embarrassed by these comments and felt they were not characteristic of the UI community as a whole.”
Several faculty members have spoken out to condemn perceived issues with the speed, transparency, and pool diversity of the search process.
“It’s very hard for me to see how this was an open process whatsoever,” said psychology Professor Bob McMurray.
A 21-member Search Committee comprising faculty, staff, regents, student leaders, and others was appointed by the regents to lead the process with private firm Parker Executive Search.
“The university community was gratified that three highly qualified individuals visited the University of Iowa and vied for our presidency,” said psychology Professor Ed Wasserman. “In the interests of full accountability, the regents owe it to the citizens of the state of Iowa to explain why they failed to select any of these three candidates to lead our flagship university.”
An informal survey conducted by the UI chapter of the American Association for University Professors found virtually no support for Harreld, Steinmetz came out on top in the survey.
Some 379 faculty members and 171 others provided a response. The survey asked respondents about one candidate at a time, and Harreld received the most answers.
Only 1.8 percent of the faculty who participated and 2.6 percent of other respondents in the survey found Harreld to be qualified, and he ranked the lowest by far in every scored category.
Various organizations released statements following Harreld’s appointment expressing their discontent with the regents’ choice.
“The board’s hiring of Harreld underscores their view of the university as a business rather than an educational institution…We are opposed to a president who cannot effectively advocate for raising the quality of education at the University of Iowa and who is neither qualified nor equipped to fill the position for which the Board of Regents has appointed him,” said Ruth Bryant, the COGS press and publicity head.
The regents stood by their choice.
“We did our own research and stood with the candidate,” said Regent Sherry Bates. “I have full confidence in him at the University of Iowa.
During a Thursday press conference, Harreld was also asked about the elephant in the room: the faculty’s lack of faith in him.
“Help me fill in the things we need to work on,” he said. “Without faculty, an institution like this doesn’t exist.”
UI Student Government President Liz Mills said she is “disappointed with the [limited] amount of that student opinion was taken into account during this process.”
“I’m eager to hear the new president’s stance on various issues at the university,” she said.
Former Regent Robert Downer participated in the search that brought Sally Mason, now president emerita, to the UI.
“The search did run for a shorter period of time then previous searches, but this is not necessarily undesirable. When you have an interim president, momentum tends to come to a standstill,” Downer said.
But there are strong, conflicting opinions regarding Thursday’s announcement.
“I think we are on the path to grow faster than previously,” Rastetter said, but the general faculty opinion seems to be much different.
“What a sad day for the University of Iowa,” said history and gender studies Professor Leslie Schwalm.