What the next University of Iowa president will inherit

As University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld prepares to hand the presidency to the next in line, many obstacles remain for the one who will fill his shoes.


Katina Zentz

UI President Bruce Harreld answers questions during an interview with The Daily Iowan in the Adler Journalism Building on Monday, December 9, 2019.

Alexandra Skores, Managing Editor

While University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld’s reign comes to a close, the 22nd president of the UI will be inheriting many obstacles as they step into the role.

COVID-19 has placed a large burden on the UI’s budget — with a $65.4 million cut in funding from the state Board of Regents, as previously reported in The Daily Iowan. Not to mention, the UI Athletics Department projected a $40-60 million deficit after the confirmed start of the Big 10’s football season.

Another question in the air that remains as Harreld steps back includes the public-private partnership deal that he signed in December 2019 for a $1.1 billion upfront lump sum to the UI with ENGIE/Meridiam, a deal that is anticipated to grow to $3 billion in over 50 years. Some have speculated that it could be utilized to help operational financial pressures that COVID-19 has placed on the UI.

Following the killing of Minneapolis man George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement, calls for racial justice had spread around the United States, including in Iowa City and the UI with frequent protests demanding action from government officials.

Administrator turnover has been a key obstacle within the last year in Harreld’s time at the UI. Currently, the UI has faculty members in many areas of campus holding interim positions while searches continue on. According to Harreld in an interview with The DI, the searches will still continue, despite his departure. Searches currently include filling the roles of Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, the UI provost, the liberal-arts school dean, and the Tippie College of Business dean.

Despite the challenges the next president may face, Harreld will remain around campus until the role is filled, even if the search continues longer than his current contract, set to end in 2023.

“We can search the country, the world for a great leader, that fits us,” Harreld told The DI. “If that takes a little bit longer, we have the time. I have committed to stay with the board through my contract.”