AAUP report condemns presidential search

By Stacey Murray

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The American Association of University Professors released a report today damning the process that led to the hiring of Bruce Harreld, and further consequences could include intervention from a regional accreditation agency or state officials, though the options are not finite.

The AAUP is an organization of roughly 47,00 professors and academics that advocates for academic freedom and tenure. Its investigation was led by an ad hoc committee consisting of members from across the country.

In the report, the AAUP concludes that not only did the state Board of Regents show a “blatant disregard for the shared nature of university governance,” but the committee faults the regents for tainting the office of the presidency at the UI.

“It is difficult to see how anyone of intelligence or probity would permit himself or herself to be considered for a future presidency in Iowa. In this, the board has done serious disservice to the people of the state as well as the institutions to which it owes the highest standard of care,” the committee said in the report.

Other details revealed in the report include:

• The board, Harreld, and interim President Jean Robillard declined to be interviewed by the organization.

• No more than five members of the same political party can serve as regents at the same time. According to the report, several regents appointed by Gov. Terry Branstad changed their party registration to independent to maintain the political balance.

• On Aug. 4, the committee decided that if Harreld was interested in the position, he would be pushed into the semifinal round. At that point, though, he had only submitted a résumé. Other candidates included statements of application and references.

• The committee disbanded after the selection of the four finalists, although national standards recommend faculty members participate through the selection of the president.

The report notes that the faculty and board have a tense relationship and poses questions meant to offer potential solutions for officials to mull. The Higher Learning Commission, the regional accrediting agency, could step in, or the way the board operates could change, either by electing the board or having separate boards for each university, though those are not the only options.

The committee praised Harreld for his response to the report, where he said he believes the process was “professionally executed” and acknowledges what he feels is the truthfulness of the report. He closes out his comments, which are included in the report, with:

“As I move forward as the president of the University of Iowa, please know I will continue to respect and engage in the shared governance at this institution, as I pledged to do before assuming my duties as I have done so far in my first weeks here.”

The board itself commented on the committee’s findings in a statement cosigned by Regent President Bruce Rastetter and President Pro Tem Katie Mulholland.

“We believe we ran a fair and transparent search process for president at the University of Iowa. Due to a matter of pending litigation, board members and board office staff have been advised by legal counsel to not provide additional comment.”

The nature of the pending litigation is unclear.

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