University of Iowa provost search holds first open forum

Two open forums for the UI campus will be held to receive input on the ongoing provost search.


David Harmantas

Professor Russell Ganim (right), President of the University of Iowa Faculty Senate, leads a discussion with forum attendees during the provost search committee open forum in the IMU on Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018.

Elianna Novitch, Politics Reporter

The search for a new University of Iowa executive vice president/provost is surging forward, and the UI held the first open forum for the campus community on Aug. 23.

A group of around 30 staff, faculty, and graduate-student representatives came together to provide input on what qualities and expectations they have for the next provost. Leading the forum discussion was Senior Associate Director of Enrollment Management John Laverty and Faculty Senate President Russ Ganim.

Some of the main topics discussed were the importance of shared governance, the struggle with faculty retention, and the new provost’s approach to the new budget model.

Laverty said he believed the search for the provost has been good with shared governance in making sure to include undergraduate students, graduate and professional students, faculty, and staff.

“I think that one question to ask candidates is how they would function with shared governance. We have a very strong tradition of shared governance at the University of Iowa,” Ganim said. “I think that it’s safe to say that it’s been resurgent for the last two to three years, and we definitely want to keep that momentum going.”

When asked what issues the search committee should be honest about with the candidates, attendees pointed to the UI’s struggle to retain faculty.

“We are hemorrhaging faculty. Faculty are fleeing like rats off a sinking ship for private institutions mostly, and we don’t have the resources to retain them,” Chemistry Associate Professor Chris Cheatum said. “The provost is going to have to work very hard with [other administrators] to figure out how we’re going to find the money to keep our best people and to hire new people.”

According to a state Board of Regents report, in 2016, the UI had a 4 percent rate of faculty resignation; that dropped to 3.2 percent in 2017. The UI has worked to boost faculty salaries to help with retention.

In response to the struggle with retention, the new budget model of the university was also discussed. Under the model, deans of the different colleges are in charge of making budgetary decisions for their individual colleges.

“With the new budget model, you have to ask the question of whether or not the provost is going to take a hands-off attitude and just say it’s up to the deans to figure this out … or is the provost going to be a partner when these matters come up, and they obviously will,” Ganim said.

When asked what traits they would value in a new provost, attendees said they wanted someone who has an exemplary scholarly record and is collaborative, transparent, and a visionary.

Thursday’s forum was the first of two to be held by the Search Committee to gather input. The next forum will take place Aug. 27 in the IMU Iowa Theater.

Co-Chair of the Search Committee Gail Agrawal noted the importance of the campus’ involvement in the search process.

“Right now, it’s time to get serious,” she said. “We need your input. We need nominations. We need engagement with the process if we’re going to stay on schedule.”

The search process for a new provost began in March, nearly a year after the position was vacated by P. Barry Butler, who left the UI to become president of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida.

Sue Curry, the former dean of the College of Public Health, has served as interim provost since April 2017, and she will continue to fill the position until a replacement begins. 

The search comes at a time when the UI is conducting its academic 2020 review, a charge led by the Provost’s Office that involves a review of the academic structure of the university, that may lead to the breakup of academic units, such as College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.

The search firm Isaacson, Miller is overseeing the search for the provost along with many other searches taking place at the university, including the search for a dean of the liberal-arts school.