University of Iowa student leaders offer feedback while university searches for new president

Students in various leadership positions shared some of their hopes for who will eventually take over Bruce Harreld’s previous role as president during the first UI presidential search committee listening post.


Jeff Sigmund

Old Capital as seen on April 13, 2020.

Brian Grace, News Reporter

University of Iowa students voiced that they hoped to see more focus on student interaction and support from the next UI president during the first of three listening posts hosted by the UI presidential search committee.

UI Graduate Student Senate Voting Representative Moala Bannavti said she felt like UI President Bruce Harreld did well interacting with faculty and administrators, but she would like to see more direct interaction with students on the part of the future president.

“Idealistically, they would have worked with all constituents on campus,” Bannavti said. “They would have done some work with staff, some work with faculty, some work with students both undergraduate and graduate.”

She said Harreld and university administrators could have done a better job responding to the Black Lives Matter movement this summer.

“The biggest thing that stands out to me that was just a turn off to our administration at large, but especially the president was with the Black Lives Matter marches that were happening in Iowa City this summer and the obvious to step up and speak on behalf of Black students,” Bannavti said. “There was a lot of ‘well we just need to trust the administration’ but it’s like, how can I trust an administration that refused to advocate for me?”

The search committee plans on holding forums in the coming weeks and as previously reported by The Daily Iowan, Sandra Daack-Hirsch encouraged members of the UI and the Iowa City community to participate in the process.

The focus of the forums and listening sessions, she said, will be to receive input from people outside of the search committee about what they are looking for in the next president.

RELATED: Presidential search committee to hold listening sessions

Thursday was the first of three listening sessions the search committee will host as they search for a new president. There are three separate listening sessions for faculty, students, and staff throughout December. There will be a campus-wide listening forum on Dec. 21.

Bannavti said she wanted to encourage the search committee to look for candidates who have experience with schools outside of the Big Ten, such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities and private universities.

“I don’t just think we’re talking about physical representation; I think we’re also talking about diversity of thought and diversity of background,” Bannavti said. “I just really want to encourage the search committee to look at candidates from a diverse typeset of universities.”

Undergraduate Student Government Director of Academic Affairs Regan Smock, who advocated for a pass/fail grading option this semester, said she had talked to students who felt their opinions weren’t being valued by the university.

She said she was interested in seeing someone appointed president who had experience in a variety of different departments and roles at another school.

“When I go into a meeting and I’m the only undergraduate student representing 24,000 people, it’s a big responsibility,” Smock said. “So, I think finding a way to strengthen that, especially if you’re someone who has experience working with every single piece of the university, is important.”

Undergraduate Student Government member Selveyah Gamblin said this year had been particularly difficult for students, and that the work the search committee does now will significantly impact future student classes.

“This is a very important decision for everyone, especially students looking at what’s happening and how important our voice is to you,” Gamblin said. “So, I just want to let you guys know, for some students this decision could mean if they transfer or if they stay.”