Harreld backlash shows no signs of stopping

Harreld+backlash+shows+no+signs+of+stopping

Hannah Soyer
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New University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld’s appointment has been met with much resistance from faculty, students, and community members, and with good reason.

Recently, a petition on Change.org was started by UI student Brad Pector to dismiss Harreld from the presidency. As of the time of publication, 696 people had signed. “I started the petition after hearing three similar conversations, which I was not a part of, condemning the new president, all in the span of about two hours,” Pector said.

The very fact that a petition has been started and already has gained this much momentum is telling that the appointment of Harreld as the new president is not reflective of what the UI community wants.

There are many signs that Harreld is not fit to be the new president. Most alarming to me is his response to a question he received at a recent open forum about Sally Mason’s six-point plan to curb sexual assault: “I read the six-point plan. I can’t remember all six points. Shame on me. I have a two-letter plan. N-O.”

Pector, along with many other students whose angry posts I have read on Facebook, also shares this concern. “It’s about creating an atmosphere in which people learn and respect each other with empathy, celebrate difference, and value each other beyond financial reciprocity,” he said. “It’s about the women and minorities that will not be represented in his ideas or practice. The corporate U.S. business standard does not support them, and I highly doubt he will. He has no idea how to create an inclusive community. His job history supports the opposite of that: strategically market for capital gain; subjugate others for personal success.”

Harreld has no former experience as an academic, or at least none that will help him in his new role as UI president. Harreld has spent 33 years working in the business world as vice president of strategy and marketing at IBM and a corporate executive position for the restaurant chain Boston Chicken, now called Boston Market. After this, he spent six years teaching at the Harvard Business School.

The American Association of University Professors surveyed University of Iowa faculty and students about their opinions of Harreld, and the results are telling: Fewer than 3 perhaps said they believe Harreld is qualified to be president. When asked about the three other presidential finalists that were candidates for the position — who were all academics at other universities — more than 90 percent of those surveyed said they were qualified to hold the position of president.

On top of this, Harreld is slated to make $590,000 per year starting Nov. 1 of this year. Former UI President Sally Mason made $525,828 in June 2014, after seven years of being president. Why is Harreld’s salary so much higher than Mason’s? Because of his corporate connections? Because he is a man? Like many of the other questions raised in regards to his appointment as president, maybe we will never get a straight answer.

I don’t know if Harreld’s corporate business standards will inform his decisions as a president for a public university, but I do know that him being appointed after only 2.6 percent of faculty approval clearly signals that the state Board of Regents is disregarding what the constituents of the UI feel is best for them. This is upsetting and incredibly undemocratic, to say the least.

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