Faculty Senate makes recommendations to external-relations office

As part of their effort to reinstate central administrative reviews, the Faculty Senate recently released their report concerning the role and activity of the Office of the Vice President for External Relations.


Tom Jorgensen

The University of Iowa Campus looking west from Old Capitol and the Pentacrest.

Katie Ann McCarver, News Reporter

Faculty Senate members conducted the review over the course of the spring 2018 semester. The next office to be reviewed is the Office of the Vice President for Finance & Operations.

The report outlined ways in which the office was functioning efficiently and made recommendations for improvement, including the writing of a strategic plan for its goals and the establishment of more clear lines of communication.

Several recommendations suggested the office dole out some of its responsibility to other offices and use additional staffing.

“This is a strong unit, and one that has worked in a much more cohesive manner in the past few years,” the report stated. “At the same time, questions remain about whether or not the number of UI offices that report directly to the [office] is appropriate.”

State Board of Regents’ officials praised the office for its cooperation and efficient forms of communication but suggested a “less UI-centric view” from the Strategic Communications Office when addressing the needs of all regent institutions.

The report also said the Office of Government Relations — Federal Relations could consider the promotion of grant activity with federal institutions, as well as connecting more closely with Iowa alumni in the Washington area.

Although the UI Operations Manual states that each central-administrative office should be reviewed every seven years, the cycle was only recently reinstated. Faculty Senate President Russell Ganim attributed that neglect to numerous changes in leadership.

Ganim said the primary purpose of the reviews is to provide central-administration officers with an opportunity to evaluate their programs and explain its role, functions, procedures, and activities to the faculty.

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“This is an opportunity to learn about each other,” Ganim said. “The faculty normally don’t have a lot of interaction with these central-administrative offices.”

Because central-administrative offices have a direct bearing on faculty research and teaching, Ganim said, the reviews are an opportunity to gather information about their contribution to the university, in cooperation with the President’s Office.

“We have a very strong tradition of shared governance at the UI, which means that we conduct these reviews and we educate ourselves on how the university actually works,” Ganim said. “We want to keep that process open and transparent.”

To build on that culture of accountability at the UI, Ganim said, all central-administrative reviews are released in the form of reports so they can be accessed by the public.

Reviews are conducted by a committee consisting of a chair, faculty members, and someone from a peer institution. The Office of the Vice President for External Relations review external source was from the University of Wisconsin.

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Vice President for External Relations Peter Matthes said the review process was a wonderful way for him to think through with his team what the Office of the Vice President for External Relations was doing right and what needed to improve.

The self-study was helpful for operations in the office and opened an avenue for reflection to learn from the report’s findings and consider the suggestions it makes, he said.

“It was an opportunity to step back and think about how we can best serve the university,” Matthes said. “At the end of the day, the [office] exists to serve the university, that being the faculty, students, and staff.”

Matthes said the most exciting and helpful part of the reviews for him was for a larger group beyond the office he oversees to understand the opportunities and the services it offers.

“The university needs to help guide and direct,” Matthes said. “And that’s what these reviews are really there for.”

The report stemming from a central-administrative review of the University of Iowa Office of the Vice President for External Relations found the office succeeds in communicating the university’s strategic initiatives to varying audiences efficiently, but not without a few areas that could be strengthened.


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