The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Harreld on funding, scholarships, travel ban

The Daily Iowan met with University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld last week for a monthly question-and-answer session.
The Daily Iowan; Photos by Josep
University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld speaks during a sit-down interview with The Daily Iowan on Monday, Feb. 27, 2017. This was the first sit-down interview with the DI this semester. (The Daily Iowan/Joseph Cress)

By Daily Iowan staff

[email protected]

University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld sat down with The Daily Iowan last week to talk about state funding, scholarships, how the travel ban may affect Iowa students, and collective bargaining. Read the full transcript below.

The Daily Iowan: First, let’s talk about the “For Iowa. Forever More.” campaign that raised almost $2 billion through funding. Can you talk a little about that? What does this say about the UI’s reliance on private funding and donor funding?University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld: “Well, I think first of all you have to give credit where credit is due. It is a huge team here that has just done a wonderful job out of the last seven years here on campus. Sally Mason who launched it, alumni, the board of governors of the foundation, so I could go on and on and on. This was a real team effort. The original goal was $1.7 billion. They blew through it. Last March they blew through it. We knew that. But they continued, and I think what it shows — particularly during the period when I joined the campus, and you’ll remember when people were kind of asking a lot of questions — I think it actually shows that there’s just an enormous support for the university. It’s deep and ongoing. You can go to each college, because it wasn’t just 1.975 or whatever the actual number was; it wasn’t just that in total. It was actually each college had a specific goal. They all met their goal, and I would say a year and a half ago when I joined the campus, several colleges were behind, but they figured out ways to ramp up, and they also very importantly got alumni engaged in ramping up and meeting their goals. There are a couple colleges that at the last stage found major benefactors that have matching programs — you know, ‘I’ll put this amount of money in the pot as long as everybody else stands up and matches it.’ That worked wonders for several colleges. So it’s a broad, important program.

“Now to your next question. It was implied in your first question, which is what does that say going forward. I think we’re going to have a broader conversation, but I think the simple answer is probably research institutions are being — we’ve had this conversation — funded less and less by the state and federal government. They need to have their own fiscal bottoms, and I think this is the beginning of that. I think moving forward we’ll be more and more dependent upon philanthropy. I think the nature of the philanthropy is going to change. We came through an era with the floods and other things during those periods where we had a lot of infrastructure needs, and I think going forward it’s going to be much more programmatic, much more scholarships, much more faculty chair institutes. Like, we just announced a neuroscience institute — so it’ll be more around specific research, teaching, faculty, and student objectives as opposed to, ‘Let’s build a Hancher,’ or ‘Let’s build whatever building, [like] Voxman.’ So it’ll change in character.”

DI: That actually kind of relates to one of the other questions I have. You touched on obviously, I’m assuming that you’re thinking about the scholarships, the recent announcement that five scholarships would be cut because of state funding. I know that there’s a difference between state funding and donor funding, but are there any conversations that are happening that could lead up to students being supported more by the money that’s not coming from the state since that stuff is going away and could you talk a little bit more about that?

Harreld: “Let’s come all the way back. What happened in terms of these scholarships? … the simple story is we have the lowest tuition in our peer group per student. We have the lowest state appropriations per student among our peer group. We have the lowest administrative overhead among our peer group. And I can keep going, I think you’re beginning to get the picture. So when you come in and we were allowed to have a 2 percent increase in tuition, almost every penny of that went back to the state with this deappropriation. And I’m think even my wildest dreams, I never would’ve thought that the cuts would have been so significant. I mean, the first whack was $8 million, and now this past week they took another 1.2. When you’re at the stage we’re at and you take the $9.2 million out, we have to actually — and it’s not like it’s out one time. It’s not just 9.2; it’s every year going forward — and we’re back to 2014 sort of funding levels here, so we had to make some fairly significant changes and we tried to do it and I think we all know that we’re way behind in faculty salaries. We’ve had one year, so we’ve got to continue that. We’ve got to continue a number of student counseling issues that we’ve committed to. We’ve got diversity initiatives we’ve committed [to].

“So any way, you go around the horn, you’ve got to find what is the appropriate place in the long term. So we ended up realizing that since 2014, we put into the system of scholarships that were not need- or merit-based, and so we actually went in and said we need to take those out. All of us feel terrible about that, but it’s the right thing to do. We have to do something, and that’s what we chose, and I think it was like with a surgical knife, we found the place that would — anything we do was going to be painful — but we found something that would actually be the least painful. I’ve talked to some of the families and they don’t agree that it’s painless. It’s not.

“So then, could we replace those. Of course. We raised in this last campaign a number of specific dollars for scholarships. Should we do more of it? Absolutely, we should do more of it. We actually spend every dollar that we get for scholarships against scholarships. There is also a misconception, which is that we can move money in the foundation around any way we would like to. I don’t know anybody who gives — a few, very few, give money into general funds and say let the president or somebody else allocate — but 99 percent of our money is going up against this building, this college, this something, and it’s called donor intent. If we start moving money around independent of how the donors have intended us and directed us with the money, it’s dangerous. We’re using everything we can exactly as we should. Could we raise more? Of course, and we will.”

[Editor’s note: As of March 1, the University of Iowa announced these scholarships would be reinstated to students. Read the story here.]

DI: Do you think there’ll be any kind of push toward encouraging donors to give to that general area instead of specifics or anything like that, or is that possible?


Harreld: “Well, when you say general, I always get nervous when it’s too general, so we actually create a fund for Iowans, for example, or Iowan students, or we create a fund for scholarships for Iowa’s business students or medical students. Yeah, I think we need to start doing that. Yes, absolutely. Or it could be Michiganders. I know why Iowa’s so important, but I think will we actually start putting efforts against specific scholarships? Yes. The more targeted it is, I think the better, because then it actually allows us to fulfill the wishes with more specific intent.”

DI: Obviously, it’s a crazy time for everybody, specifically for a lot of international students. I know you’ve made some comments on things like the travel ban when that was happening, but I was wondering if you have anything to say to University of Iowa students who may feel worried or uneasy about things happening nationally?

 Harreld: “I’m worried and concerned too. I think the simple thing — let me back up. I think there are two clusters of issues: one is the international students that are in those seven countries, specifically what the travel ban — which is now I think being reconfigured into something new, and I have no idea what that looks like — but I think it was originally configured, I was pretty outspoken, I wrote several letters. I think it was not the America I know. I think it was poorly executed and I personally wouldn’t be surprised if it were illegal. We have 86 students from those seven countries here on our campus, and I believe eight of them are undergraduates. The rest are graduate students or post docs. Some of them are physicians in our hospital. We had two sessions, and I’d say about half of them showed up. We had a Friday session and then a next Monday session, and roughly I’d say about half of them showed up. People who understood the immigration process, we had attorneys in the room, myself, and I will say every person in the room had a unique story, and I’m glad we did it that way rather than just making these large statements — which we did — but you have to get under it. And everybody had a slightly different story, and so we could now start helping specific individuals so we could say to one young man, an undergraduate who had a summer job, back in the region, and we could said, ‘Given what we currently see, if you leave for that summer job, you may not be able to come back for your second year. So, you’re going to stay here this summer. And we’ll give you a job, we’ll give you a place to live in a dorm and what have you.’ So that’s one set of people and I think we’ll see how that evolves, but I want to make sure they all understood they’re welcome here. We’ll do all that we can to protect them. And I understand, I would be fearful too.

“Then there’s the DACA students, and I think that’s a very different set. It has some of the same characteristics of uncertainty. As I’ve been meeting with those students just saying, ‘Hey, let us help you,’ so we have legal aid services — but again, we don’t know who they are because we don’t collect that information at the time that they’re vetted. Any students who are thinking about applying here, it’s not part of the admissions process, so they’re as welcome as anybody else is given the admissions standards we have. Just saying, ‘Here’s their status’ is not even on the form. So we’re kind of in a weird unusual position because we don’t have the information, therefore they need to reach out to us, and then the question becomes, ‘Would you give the information that you don’t have out.’ That’s a weird question. We don’t have it.

“So I hope that answered these two sets, and then we’re going to have to keep working through this. Who knows what’s happening at the state or federal level, and case by case we’re going to have to work this through. But I want everyone to understand we don’t establish immigration policy; we don’t enforce it. We’re here as educators. Everyone’s welcome. I think our attitude is we’ll do everything we can to help individuals, and also our attitude is the people who are guests in our country are better off when they touch base with our culture and they see the love and support they get from our community, and wherever they go in the world, they become friends.”

DI: So you mentioned this with one example of a student. Are there any talks about programs that could actually offer those things for students over the summer and things like that?

Harreld: “We actually know who the eight students are in undergraduate, so yes. Our original plan was to block off a dorm and we’ll get them a job and we’ll put them in summer school. That’s a nice pattern, and the only issue that I’ve heard recently is one of the fraternities actually raised their hand and said, ‘Hey, we could use a portion of our house. We’d be glad to have them over the summer.’ So whether it’s a dorm or some other [way]. Yeah, we’re absolutely doing that.

“Similarly, the thing I learned is when I sit with you and you tell me your situation, that you’re getting ready to get married and that your fiancée is in one of those seven countries, now we can start trying to figure out, ‘Should you go there or should she come here,’ whatever. So everyone is a specific situation, and I think out of 86 students we can figure out how to deal with them individually. In some cases, we’ve said, ‘You’re going to stay for another year post-doc,’ etc. Some decided actually with their new degrees, they’re ready to go back. Some have said, ‘I’m ready to go back, but I don’t think I can come back,’ but they may not be able to come back here. So fine, we’ll help you. Anybody who thinks that they’ve got a need, raise your hand and come forward.”

DI: I know that you have extensive knowledge on this because you’ve made some statements, but it’s a big issue on campus: collective bargaining. I was wondering if you could just reiterate those statements here and your stance on the student reaction?

Harreld: “There’s been a narrative that’s tried to emerge that we don’t support graduate students. Graduate students are great. You can’t keep doing what we’re doing, without them as students. There’s not an AAU institution period that doesn’t have a really high regard for graduate students and really and undergraduate students are really impactful to their work, teaching, and research, so we’ll do everything we possibly can to continue supporting our graduate students, period. Next then we get into the specifics of the collective bargaining agreement and then we get into how the state has changed the dynamics of how they’re negotiated.

“And I’ll just say a couple things. At one point, there were people saying I was avoiding those conversations. Well, those conversations need to be at the negotiation table. There were a lot of students trying to come to my office or sitting around my office. I’m actually not a party to those negotiations, they’re with the Board of Regents. And we need, as an administration, to be quite careful that we don’t disrupt those negotiations or tamper with them. We’re in a very dangerous zone, so every time I met with students and they say, you know, ‘We want to talk to you about this.’ No, the time and the conversation is back to the negotiating table. They’re a little bit in that mode right now as I understand that they were made an offer on wages and they haven’t responded, and that’s fine. That’s up to them, but I can’t make any of that.

“Then there are the benefits. The benefit package we have actually — John Keller, the dean of the Graduate College, and Josh Schoenfeld, the president of the Graduate and Professional Student [Government], brought a note last Monday saying, ‘Here are the benefits.’ We’ve actually grandfathered the existing health benefits out for another 18 months. I think ultimately we want to put those students in our own pool because they’ve got benefits and better economics, but we’ll cross that 18 months from now. Secondly, we’ve actually increased the fees reimbursement. It was 25 percent; I think we’re now at 50 percent. I’m also hearing narrative that we’re doing something around holidays. No. No. Christmas is still Christmas. We still have July Fourth. I don’t know where all that’s coming from. There’s a narrative, this — I don’t know — maybe fear-mongering or something that’s going on. It’s just not true. Very important. We’ll continue. They think they know what the benefits are and then the salary discussions are going to have to be at the negotiating table.”

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